chasing monsters

“We are each other’s harvest;
we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks


(the setting sun in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2017)

Like most folks I imagine, here on the east coast, I awoke yesterday to learn that a horrific tragedy had unfolded while I had slept..taking place out west.
In Las Vegas to be exact.

Shock, disbelief, raw and numb…
were just a few of the words used to describe my initial bleary eyed
reaction.

Readying for the day I gravitated between the television and my phone just
trying to glean the latest news coming in as I tried making sense of what
I was hearing, reading and seeing.

My son and I had a day of traveling on our agenda so once in the car, with me driving,
he pulled up the local Atlanta Channel 2 Action New’s live feed so we’d be able to
see and hear the President address the nation.

All I could think about was here was one more president coming before a somber Nation,
once again, to offer words of solace and comfort in the face of madness.
How many times has Trump already done this?
How many times had President Obama done this?
How many times had President Bush……

Below the streaming live feed my son kept watching and reading the scrolling comments
coming into the station from its viewers. He read some of these to me….
and I was sickeningly appalled at the words he shared.

There were no words of bereavement, no words of sorrow but rather words and feelings
from viewers expressing disdain and mockery.

From disgusting, vile and derogatory remarks about the President and his family to the
notion that this latest massacre equated to mere payback to whites….
I was quickly reminded why I shun social media.

One viewer finally expressing what I was feeling—“is there a way in which I can turn
off these terribly offensive and insensitive comments and just listen to the President?”

My son turned his phone off as the comments were simply too distracting…
too inhumane really, too monstrous…so we continued our drive mostly in silence as our minds worked to absorb the enormity of these latest events.

Later in the afternoon, as I finally made my return journey home alone,
I did something I normally don’t do while driving…I turned on the radio to the news.
I usually prefer to drive in silence, lost in my own thoughts sans any music or chatter..
but today was different… I wanted to hear and feel what the Nation, my Nation,
was experiencing.

I caught the live press briefing from the White House.

There is a big difference when listening to something verses watching it—

With the visual imagery being non existent, the words take on more of their true
intended purpose.

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came to the podium and offered words of both sorrow and condolence.

She began the briefing by talking about Puerto Rico and The US Virgin Islands and of the ongoing efforts to offer the necessary aid and support to help in the recovery efforts
for these islands following the deadly assault by the hurricanes.

Next her voice began to waver and crack as she began to speak about our common bond
as Americans and the unity of our shared humanity.

She addressed the current unfolding events coming out of Las Vegas.
She shared the various stories of the heroic acts offered during the melee.
The selfless sacrifices freely offered from stranger to stranger throughout the
surreal shooting.
The stories of those who offered their own bodies as shields in an attempt to protect others.
Such acts she noted recalled the verse John 15:13….
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Once finished she turned the remaining time over to the gathered reporters fielding their questions.

I don’t know.

One would think that the heaviness felt from this emotional observation would have been enough to take the wind out of the sails of that most caustic room of reporters.
One would have thought the enormity of what had recently unfolded, just as it continued
to unfold, would have been enough to soften even the most callous and anti-Trump
reporter. One would think, that while our Nation was currently experiencing a tragedy
of epic proportion, it would be reason or should and would be reason enough to have a quieting effect…
but it didn’t.

They did wait until the second question however before falling into their typical
patterns.
The questions began immediately over gun control.

Ms Sanders quickly reminded those in the room that this was a time of National
reflection, National mourning, a time of coming together in our collective
sorrow all the while as the investigation was currently active—it was all too fresh,
too raw and it was NOT the time nor the place to begin the questioning of or for
revisiting policy decisions or for the attacking of a president….the tit for tat of typical partisan politics.

And yet question after question, reporter after reporter began the litany…
There were those who pushed Hillary Clinton to the forefront of conversation with her
less than sympathetic knee jerk tweets regarding the NRA, there were those who revisited the President’s comments from 12 years ago regarding gun control….
on and on they went.

It all reminded me of a friend of mine who just won’t ever take to hearing the word
“no” for an answer.
She’ll turn and twit her query ever so until she gets the answer she wants to hear…
and that’s what this Q & A reminded me of—-someone determined not to hear the word or words “no” or “not now” as they turned and twisted their words over and over,
again and again as they desperately worked to have their affirmative moment…

And yet time and time again, Ms Sanders stoically redirected the focus to the current moment—
to the pain we are all experiencing….not to the what ifs, not to the would haves,
nor to the should haves….

I think I would have just thrown my hands in the air and walked away.
They just didn’t get it—they didn’t get that this is not the time nor the place….

There is however a time and a place…
but today, right now, was / is not that time nor that place for bickering over policies
failed or not. It is not the day to point the fingers.
It is not the day to be accusatory.
It is not a day of politics.
Not the time nor the place for right or left or anarchist…

For today is the day we sort through the shock as we allow ourselves to grieve.
Today is the day we mourn the lives lost and the lives forever changed.
We allow the pain and yes we even allow the anger…
As we mourn another lost piece to the puzzle of our American innocence.
As we digest that life once again, will never be the same as we knew it.

Yet as a Nation, we seem to have forgotten to allow ourselves our own grief.
The press leads the way, our politicians follow suit as now an angry and hate
filled Nation begins the ugly rhetoric.

Did we better grieve or mourn more honestly before this social media of ours—

Before the distractions and the million of tiny soap boxes we each now
climb upon offering up our hateful and accusatory 2 cents as if anyone is really listening…

When was it exactly that we became this way…?

I ponder these thoughts as I hear of the gut wrenching yet heroic tales of selflessness
offered from stranger to stanger—
sheltering, protecting, offering aid to strangers in the crowd… each
caught in the middle of a nightmare.

As a Nation we must allow ourselves time as well as permission for our collective
sorrow, for the shock, for the disbelief and for our own very humanness…
rather than heeding the call by those now jaded and who have forgotten that we are
more than right, more than left, more than anarchist…eschewing their cries in the meida or on social media to gather the pitchforks in pursuit of the monster—
because in our haste, we might just be chasing after the wrong monster…

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort
and relieve your sick servants, and give your power
of healing to those who minister to their needs,
that those for whom our prayers are offered may be
strengthened in their weakness and have confidence
in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

(Book of Common Prayer)

desensitized

Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.
For the Strength of Youth

These data suggest very strongly that participating in the playing of violent video games by children and youth increase aggressive thought and behavior; increase antisocial behavior and delinquency; engender poor school performance; desensitize the game player to violence.
Leland Yee
former California Senator

Today the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer and tobacco.
David Grossman
Israeli author

DSCN1192
(gargoyle downspout Adare Manor / Adare, Coutny Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Desensitize–a transitive verb—meaning: to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically: to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it

Two recent articles about children and young people have each catapulted the word desensitization and its meaning to the forefront of my radar leaving me greatly troubled.

As a retired educator articles which showcase the current and various growing concerns for and of our youth certainly catch my eye as I spent a lifetime living out those very concerns on a daily basis. As any educator will tell you, teachers not only “teach” they also nurture, mentor, direct, guide, care for, comfort, coach, discipline, lead, encourage, help…etc.

Teaching is not a one subject fits all sort of job.
In fact teaching is not a job at all but rather a vocation or a calling. You have to care about kids and their well being in order to want to teach. Those in it for either a paycheck or some sort of job security need look elsewhere.

As a veteran classroom teacher, who spent my entire career working at the high school level, I am very much aware of the often fragile and tenuous tightrope our adolescents walk in their daily lives.

Any parent and educator alike can tell you that raising and educating kids is no easy task especially given today’s growing technological pull and social media draw that is blanketing our youth.

The first story I read yesterday.
It was an article examining a link between the alarming rise of teenage suicide and that of social media usage.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/02/11/is-social-media-fueling-national-epidemic-teen-suicide.html

I found the article both disturbing as well as telling— as I forwarded it to several teachers and counselors who are currently still working with various school systems.

It has often been noted that many in this generation of kids have a very difficult time actually talking to people. It is often observed that they do not make eye contact easily or readily nor are they capable of carrying on any sort of lengthy conversation with a free flowing dialog.

They can be in a room filled with their family or friends yet will be more engaged on their phones rather than those sitting by their side. They will actually opt to text a person in the very same room rather than ask a verbal question or make a verbal comment.

There is a frighting and rapidly growing disconnect between reality and virtual…with kids often preferring the virtual.
Maybe because its as if they feel they can control the virtual better than reality.

Yet the correlation between kids, their social media usage and an increase in the suicide rate is something that should have us all concerned…..

The second article, which includes a short video clip, I actually read today having spotted it on the BBC.
It was an interview conducted by a BBC reporter of two young Syrian boys aged 8 and 10.
The boys were only two out of hundreds who have been living in IS occupied areas of Syria.
Luckily for these two boys, they have made it out of Syria and hopefully out of harms way.

The interview begins with the 8 year old aptly demonstrating how to put on a sucicide vest with as much ease as he would have kicking a soccer ball.

He told the reporter how they had often witnessed beheadings. They would be called by loudspeaker to come witness what was taking place as IS members would behead, in the boy’s case, a neighbor.

It is reported that IS is actually rewritng the textbooks used in classrooms…changing dates as well as “current” geographical maps.

The children, yes young children, are put through a variety of physical military type training and obstacles courses while actually being shot at and yelled at as they maneuver the course.
Of which is probably the most disturbing clip in the video.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35552391

Between our own kids who are drowning in a sea of social media, violent video games and a huge Spiritual disconnect and then the children who fall under the harsh and brutal regimes of hate spreading their insidious indoctrination of hate and destruction all around the globe our future as a human race is looking neither hopeful nor promising…
We need, for their sake as well as our own, to take our children back….


All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

#OPTOUTSIDE (ps. I don’t tweet)

“Whenever you go out-of-doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp…”
Elbert Hubbard

DSCN1104
(Killarney National Park, The Ring of Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Most of you know I’m not a participant with this whole social media business…
This little blog being my sole contribution…
And whereas I am not a big fan of this global obsession, I was however taken aback recently by something that quickly caught my eye…

Most of you know that I also despise this whole “black friday” materialistic consumerism fanatical obsession business that is sadly indicative of our country’s “gotta see it, gotta have it” shopping and gathering addiction—a time when “normal” folks turn into “zombiesque” crazy people who think standing in long lines, pushing and shoving at the crack of dawn, or the wee hours of the night, while waiting to “get a deal” which if the truth be told is really no deal at all as you should begin to consider the mark up of everything you want….is the quintessential good time idea of Thanksgiving….

Somewhere along the line someone has fed us all a crock of crap trying to tie in manic behavior with a day that was originally set aside for all of us Americans to remember what it is that we are truly thankful for….

enter the tweet—- #OPTOUTSIDE

REI, a national outdoor enthusiast shopping haven has taken a bold step this “black” Friday and I for one applaud them wholeheartedly.
This large-scale retail business type company, who would normally be setting up their door-busters, their markdowns, their sale items, their on-line cyber sales, their sea of employees hired to handle the onslaught of shoppers… yada yada yada…., are closing all their stores nationwide Friday with the hashtag line of “opt outside”

The gist being—they are encouraging everyone to stop the madness—
Rather than heading out for hours on end, shopping till you drop, thinking you have to have these items for survival, thinking that you’re saving and beating the markup game, leaving friends and loved ones in your wake as the dust flies off your wheels as you race out of the house to the mall…spending countless hours caught in traffic, spending money you really shouldn’t waste, circling like a buzzard in search of parking, lingering in lines for hours with folks who will quickly push and shove you out of their way…are instead encouraging everyone to head outside to the great out of doors in order to try something new and novel—-enjoying being outside.
You remember–fresh air, Mother Nature, up, out and moving…

May we all consider what is our true priority this holiday season…

http://optoutside.rei.com/join-us/