Monday, August 19, 2019

In A Series

It took about four days.
Four days into the new school year before our public personae came out.
For the first three days, the biggest concern our staff had to deal with was the occasional kindergartner missing their mom. And a few first graders too. Mostly we were able to go about the business of starting a new school year. Reminding students that bathroom trips should be confined to recess and lunch, not scattered throughout the day as the notion came to them. Likewise, these periods of play, called recess and lunch, would be punctuated by the sound of a bell. The bell would signify the cessation of play and the resumption of the business of learning.
And for the first three days, business was good. Great, even.
Then, day four arrived. Along with it came the associations of friends who had forgotten that they were mortal enemies just a few months before. Into this mix came the new kids, some of whom determined that the best way to make a name for themselves was to strike out on their own and find a way to disrupt the pleasant order imposed over the playground and hallways. This brought on the following conversation with Mister Caven.
"So, at your old school, did you sometimes have trouble getting along?"
"Yeah."
"How did you deal with that?"
Silence.
"Well, I'll bet that if you got into a fight at your old school, you probably had to get a call home."
Shrug.
"You had a pretty good start this week. Did you make any friends?"
Shrug.
"Well, you don't have to be friends with everyone," I suggested, "but it would be nice."
Yet another shrug.
"So I'll let you know: If you have trouble getting along with anyone, I'm happy to help."
No shrug.
"Not just me. Any grownup here. They would much rather have you getting along than getting in fights."
"Yeah."
"So, if you need help, before it becomes a fight, you come and find me. Or any other grownup."
"Yeah."
"You promise." I looked for his eyes, and stuck out my hand.
He shook it. "Okay."
Day four.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Tao According To Steve

How is Steve King doing? Haven't heard from him in a while.
Not Stephen King, the master of the macabre and author of the Stephen King Book of the Week club. He's been busy churning out fiction as is his way.
Steve King, Representative from Iowa, Republican, and font of all things truly offensive is doing what he has been doing for as long as I have been aware of him: Spewing horrifying nonsense out to a populace who seems not to be able to get enough of it. Since 2003.
2003. Sixteen years of stuff like this: "I don't want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name—whatever their religion their father might have been, I'll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States – I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam? I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11."
What has Congressman Steve done for the people of Iowa's fourth district lately? How about this one: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest?” King asked while speaking to a group of conservatives in Urbandale, Iowa. “Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place and whatever happened throughout culture and society, all these different nations,” the elected representative continued, “I know I can’t certify that I was not a part of a product of that.” This was his way of justifying his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Even Congressman Steve might be a product of such a union. 
Important note: Steve King was not booed off the stage. Instead, these comments simply became yet another in a list of bizarre but somehow not offensive enough statements to have him removed from Congress. Representative? Is this what the fourth district of Iowa is made of? Up in Wyoming, Republican Representative Liz Cheney (daughter of "Dick" Cheney) called Steve's comments "appalling and bizarre." 
Now that's saying something. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Wretched



I thought I had heard it all, but then I read the comments of Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, about the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Mister Cuccinelli insisted in an interview with CNN that the poem referred to "people coming from Europe." The poem being referenced was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 as part of a fundraising campaign to construct a pedestal upon which Lady Liberty might stand. It reads"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." It concludes, "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Acting director Cuccinelli suggested that this was a direct reverence to European immigrants because, "people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class." Earlier in the day, in an interview with NPR, Acting director Cuccinelli was asked about the wretched being welcome on our shores to which he replied, "They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
It doesn't scan very well as poetry, but it certainly gives a better picture of how our current administration feels about immigrants. The author of the original, Ms. Lazarus, might not have agreed. She was inspired not so much by the rush of immigrants from Europe, but from Russian Jews fleeing anti-Semitic violence in their homeland. "The New Colossus" extols "world-wide welcome." Poets are notoriously less conscientious about details than they are about images, and so she callously left out things like how to get a Green Card. 
You're welcome here if you can stand on your own two feet. You will not be welcome if you become a public charge. Which is a little confounding since there are plenty of Americans born and raised on these shores who become a public charge and we don't send them anywhere. Which may be the next phase of this administration's plan: Deport the Homeless. Send them to a third country where they can await processing while the rich get richer and the poor get cast aside. 
Anybody else interested in getting a bronze replica cast of the plaque that can be installed somewhere in the Oval Office? 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Grand Teacher

Math Problem:
If a young man leaves his home at 7:55 AM travelling with his five year old daughter at an average rate of five miles an hour on a one percent grade, and both of them have had breakfast and a full night's sleep, and the father is a former student of mine, does that make me old?
Extra credit: Does this question make me judgmental?
The young man who came up and introduced himself in that now very familiar way, "Hey Mister Caven, remember me?" Which is always a tough place for me to be, since the person asking that question already has me at a disadvantage because they remember my name and my size, shape and hairline has remained somewhat consistent over the years that I have been Mister Caven. These youngsters who show up with their facial hair and heights above three feet do not tend to look anything like their pre-adolescent selves. After a moment, I can see through the way-back filter the shorter, softer version of the person quizzing me about someone they were once upon a time.
In this example, the young man introduced himself as one of my former fourth grade students, which gave me more of a window, and more clues to our math problem. It has been about twelve years since I taught fourth grade, having returned to the computer lab in 2007. That would make our mystery guest twelve years older than when I was teaching him as a ten year old. That would make him approximately twenty-two. If he has a five year old daughter, which we can assume since she is starting kindergarten, then he became a father when he was seventeen.
Or so.
Which is that moment that my mind begins to stray from the mathematics and I find myself wondering how this came to pass. Just because I waited until I was thirty-five to become a father doesn't mean that is the absolute correct answer. Parents are a club of people who care for children. A father who takes his daughter to her first day in kindergarten with a full stomach and a smile on her face sounds like he fits that bill. Just because he found himself doing that job before he finished high school does not necessarily make him less qualified than someone who waited until he was middle aged. Like me.
And since I was this kid's teacher, that makes me partially responsible. And now I will see what I can do with my grand-student.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Test Of The First

A fourteen year old has had their YouTube channel taken down for violating the video site's hate speech policy. To wit:
 Hate speech is not allowed on YouTube. We remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on any of the following attributes:
  • Age
  • Caste
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender Identity
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Immigration Status
  • Religion
  • Sex/Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Victims of a major violent event and their kin
  • Veteran Status
Not allowed. Like forbidden. The video that was the final nail in the teenager's YouTube coffin was titled “Pride and Prejudice,” and began with the young narrator saying that Pride month was “thirty days of AIDS-carrying paedophile victims patting themselves on the back for their lifestyle.” Which seems to have ticked off a couple of the items on that list. This is the same young woman, who goes by the tag "Soph," who produced an anti-Muslim video that included these lines:  “I get raped by my forty-year-old husband every so often and I have to worship a black cube to indirectly please an ancient Canaanite god — but at least I get to go to San Fran and stone the s*** out of some gays, and the cops can’t do anything about it because California is a crypto-caliphate.” And somewhere in there I think I lost track of the list. 
Soph's reaction to being cancelled by YouTube? She posted a picture of a gun on Twitter with the comment, “YouTube headquarters here I come.” This was, in the words of Soph, "a joke." 
All of which leads me to believe that I am old and horribly out of touch. 
Fourteen. 
Maybe they're too young.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Secondly

A twenty year old man was arrested at a Springfield, Missouri WalMart, not for shoplifting, but for wearing a ballistic vest and armed with a loaded rifle. He referred to his merry prank as "a social experiment, designed to test his Second Amendment rights. 
Dmitriy Andreychenko was taken into custody and charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree. This lead me to the obvious question: What would be a terrorist threat in the first degree? How close to killing people would one have to be before that line was crossed? When does a threat stop being a threat and become action? 
“I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment.This is Missouri," he explained. “I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out.” He was carrying an AR-style rifle and had a handgun attached to his hip, which was also loaded. While in the store, he appeared to be taking a video of himself with his cellphone as he pushed a shopping cart. An employee then pulled the fire alarm to alert customers to leave the building, and an off-duty firefighter took him into custody until police arrived. 
I am curious why he didn't start with his First Amendment prank, which would probably have consisted of walking into a crowded movie theater and shouting, "Fire." But making sense of this kind of thing really becomes pointless when you start to reel through all the clowns out there making a point of carrying their guns into shopping malls and fast food restaurants. Last time I checked, there is no "common sense" dictated by the United States Constitution. James Madison probably didn't think it was necessary to include the Right to Breathe Oxygen or ban scary circus clowns from daycare centers. Some things really ought to go without discussion. 
But, since Mister Andreychenko and some others may have missed it, our country is currently being plagued by young men with automatic weapons and Americans are dying while we fumble around in the metaphorical darkness looking for that metaphorical light switch that will make the message clear: No one needs an assault weapon to shop at WalMart. No one needs to wear body armor to shop at WalMart. 
I don't remember which amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right to act like a putz. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Occam's Razor

Quite often, in this space, I take note of those who have contributed so much to society and culture who have passed on. Today I will  not be doing that. I will be discussing the death of Jeffery Epstein. Contributions to society? Pretty much out of the question. Scourge to society? 
Yeah. That. Scourge.
If you have missed any of the scourge, know that Jeffery Epstein was an American financier and convicted sex offender. You can decide for yourself which of those was the most scourge-ish. I can tell you that he was in jail on federal charges for sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. This came in the wake of having already served thirteen months on a work release program for soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an under-eighteen girl for prostitution. It would seem that stint did little or nothing to discourage him from his predilection for underage girls. And his insistence on spreading that taste to those closest to him. And those who could  afford it. 
On August 10, 2019, Epstein was found dead in his cell. This was after being put on suicide watch three weeks earlier. Authorities reported the death as "an apparent suicide." Which is where all the excitement began. "Apparent?" Doesn't that just reek of conspiracy? Who would have anything to gain from the death of this grungy excuse for a human being? 
Donald Trump.
Bill Clinton.
Prince Andrew.
The rich and the famous. 
Why not conclude that someone had him killed?
That's what our "President" did. Which is horribly ironic, since he was busy pointing a finger at Bill Clinton that could just as easily be pointed at his orangeness. Which makes such a great story. A whole lot better than the story that says this horrifically flawed human being who was almost certainly going to be put away in prison for a very long time based on new allegations that were unsealed last Friday. Awful stuff about keeping teenage sex slaves and that one of them was instructed by and Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell to have sex with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and former US Senator George Mitchell, among others. The list of suspects continues to grow. 
Or maybe this was one of those rare occurrences in which the bad guy did everyone a favor before he could hurt anyone else. A year wait for a trial. All manner of ugly revelations could be made and more lives could be destroyed. Don't get me wrong. I am firm in the belief that there are still plenty of lives that could use a little ruining. But I'm pretty sure they'll get around to doing it all by themselves. 
Just like Jefferey did.