Wednesday, April 4, 2018


It was fifty years ago today, April 4, 1968, that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.

The event which shocked the nation received much news coverage.

Later that evening, Robert Kennedy, who was running for the Democratic Party's nomination for President, addressed a predominantly black crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Standing on the back of a flatbed truck and setting aside warnings by police that they might not be able to protect him if the crowd became incensed, he shared the sad news.

The night before his assassination. Dr. King gave what is considered to be the second most well-known speech of his life, second to his 'I Have a Dream' speech, the 'I Have Been to the Mountaintop' speech. 

Some have noted that his comments in this speech suggested he knew his time was short.  It may have been simply knowing the stir he was causing likely made his being a target more apparent to him as time went on.  (It has been reported that Dr. King joked about his death with his aides, even commenting he would not make it past the age of forty.)  In his new book, Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours, journalist and author Joseph Rosenbloom writes, "In the words to follow, King had nothing more to say about the storm [that was going on outside].  Yet you could say that the storm still had something to say to him."

Below is his full forty-three-minute speech, delivered on April 3, 1968.

The next day, he was gone.

In many ways, the dream that King had has still not fully come to fruition.  Long gone are the days of "Blacks Only" accommodations, mass numbers of segregated schools, and Jim Crow.  Being judged on one's character, not their skin color, is seen more often.  However, skin color still remains, for some, the de facto litmus test for "justified" hatred and senseless murders.

It's just that the murders are now done more often with guns than with ropes.

While it seems that steps are being made backwards in the past several years (i.e. senseless murders, rolling back voting rights), steps are still being made forward.  This country cannot afford and must not allow a return to a time and place that Martin Luther King, Jr., and others marched against.  Today, we remember and honor the life of a man who wanted change so monumental that it was perceived that violence was a necessity, but who stood tall without it.

Fifty years ago, they killed the man, but they never killed the dream.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Movement of a Generation: MARCH FOR OUR LIVES

This past weekend, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, led a march on Washington, D.C.   The March for Our Lives united hundreds of thousands of students and non-students, young and old alike, in a powerful call for the ending of gun violence and the banning of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. 

Organizers were estimating up to a half-million participants for the D.C. march ... they got 800,000.

Washington, D.C., was not the only place where a march was taking place.  Across America, there were hundreds of marches, but beyond that, marches took place around the world.  People marched against gun violence, in countries that do not have gun violence as we do, on every continent except Antarctica.  (Well, it is a little chilly down there.)

While there were those, including the NRA, who were condemning the students, the students received lots of support from a myriad of individuals and groups.  Politicians and celebrities marched in several locations across the country.  A group known as Veterans for Gun Reform put together the following video in support of the cause...
The survivors/organizers even made the cover of TIME magazine ...
© 2018 TIME magazine

There was no shortage of signs at the march ...

There were several powerful speeches throughout the day.  I'd like to highlight four of them.  The first is from David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland massacre...

Next, we have Naomi Wadler, from Virginia, who is eleven years old. Yes, eleven!

The biggest surprise for me, and certainly for the crowd as well, was this nine-year-old girl...

Perhaps the most powerful speech of all contained the largest amount of silence. Here is Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez...

The key here -- and this is certainly not lost to these student activists -- is getting out the vote in November for the 2018 midterm elections.  As David Hogg noted in the first video above, voter turnout of actual registered young people is historically low.  As he said, "No more!"  That has to change for change to happen.

During the school walkout day back on March 14th, I saw reports of schools having the opportunity to register to vote at some point during the school day.  At the march in D.C., and I would suspect at many or all of the other marches across the country as well, there were opportunities for the youth to register to vote.  Can they sustain this movement for the next twenty-eight weeks until Election Day?  Time will tell, but they seem very determined to do so.

The next step is the Town Hall for Our Lives initiative (in conjunction with a group called Town Hall Project).  Scheduled for April 7, town halls with political leaders and their constituents will be organized, and if a current politician does not show up, his/her opponent will be invited instead.  Additionally, another school walkout day is planned for April 20, which is the nineteenth anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.

The graphic below is a link to the page on the National Conference of State Legislators' website that details voter pre-registration -- registering to vote before the age of eighteen as long as the voter will be eighteen at the time of actual voting -- in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.  States have several locations where you can register to vote [i.e. departments of motor vehicles, public assistance offices, armed services recruitment centers] ... or you can register at the March for Our Lives website.

As I mentioned when I wrote about the March 14th school walkout day, I am so very impressed with these students.  I watched the majority of the March for Our Lives and teared up, and sometimes flat-out cried, by how moved I was.  The opposition they face is strong and plentiful, but their resolves seems strong and plentiful ... and they are not afraid to call someone out on being on the wrong side of this issue!

While not the first school shooting, the shock of the nation following the Columbine massacre was like a earthquake beneath our collective feet.  School shootings continued and were joined in a sustained chorus of funeral dirges by shootings at locations other than schools, such as movie theaters, open-air concerts, churches, etc.  Many people thought something would certainly get done in Congress after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School over five years ago that resulted in the death of children six and seven years old.

A number of newscasters and commentators have used the phrase This, somehow, feels different this time (or variations of it) in discussing the #NeverAgain movement that arose out of the chaos in Parkland, Florida.  It certainly does.  Perhaps it was a case of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School simply having the resolve to turn around and fight back, like a boxer that takes a hell of a punch from an opponent, but turns back and gets right back in there.  Maybe these students are ready, finally, to go the distance.

Maybe they are the answer to all of these years of thoughts and prayers.

Here is one final thing I would like to offer, a shout out, if you will.  This anthem, released in 1970, seems appropriate for the youth in this movement in 2018.  The song is The Jackson 5's cover of Diana Ross and The Supremes' 'The Young Folks' from the brothers' second album, 'ABC'.  March on, youth of America!  Those in power better listen up and get right or else get out of the way.  (The lyrics to the song are below the video box.)

You better make a way for the young folks
Here we come, and we're so alive.
We're here for business, buddy, and don't won't no jive.
Brighter tomorrows are in our eyes
You better make a way for the young folks

We say Yes and you say No
We ask you why and you close the door
My old friend, I thought you knew by now
You can't do that to the young folks

You might not like it, but I've got to tell you
You better make a way for the young folks

We're marching with signs
We're standing in lines
Protesting your rights
To turn out the lights in our lives

Here's the deal
Accept it if you will
We're coming on strong
It's our turn to build
My old friend, I thought you knew by now
You gotta make a way for the young folks

You may not like it, but I've got to tell you
You better make a way, you better make a way,
You gotta make a way for the young folks
© 1970, George Gordy and Allen Story / Motown Records


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hashtag of the Day: #ENOUGH

Yesterday, in cities across the United States, students walked out of school in solidarity against gun violence and the lack of effort by politicians to combat it.

There were several signs of solidarity outside of the protests, too.  Commentators and activists were, for the most part, singing the praises of the students.  Even the U.S. children's cable channel Nickleodeon showed its support for the protests...

As you heard in the last of the four videos above, not every school was in sync with the protests.  Some threatened punishment -- the most frequent one I heard was detention, but I also heard of threats of suspension -- for any students who went outside to protest.  It is, we need to be mindful, against school rules to just walk out of the school for anything other than a school activity, a fire drill, going home sick, or the end of the day, and many students were willing to accept the punishment for their actions.

Allow me to highlight one school who felt the right to publicly assemble, standing up for your rights, and wanting to be safe in school are not that important.

This is the entrance to Council Rock High School North.
It is located in eastern Pennsylvania, in the town of Newtown, roughly thirty miles north of Philadelphia.

The school administrators there felt that joining the protests was a no-no, so they decided to block the front door entrance.  (A student at the high school took these pictures.)
(Can you say fire hazard?)  In addition, they put the school on lockdown from 9:30 am. to 10:30 a.m.   The time of the protest, in each of the time zones, was 10:00 a.m. 

Conflicting reports stated that the students could exercise their right to protest, but then they were told that morning that any who did exit the building would receive "disciplinary consequences".  The high school's Community Relations Specialist said that the desks were put where they were to facilitate "a system for student accounting after the event".  In other words, a means by which they could take down the names of those who participated, so they would know who would receive those "disciplinary consequences".

Still, a number of students went outside to join in solidarity, anyway.

© 2018 Newtown, PA Patch

The principal of the high school said that there were reports of non-students possibly entering the building, so they needed to exercise caution.  Fair enough, although creating a potential fire hazard seems an odd response.  The principal did decide that, since the students who did protest were so well-behaved, he'd waive any consequences for them after all.

If a school wanted to give detentions for students who protest, fine and dandy.  It is their prerogative and the students are, after all, breaking a school rule to do so.  That is a small price to pay for standing up for something that includes, but is larger than, yourself.  That is an act of bravery.

I did not watch the video, but I did see a thumbnail for a video on YouTube, in the right-hand preview column, of a Fox News commentator saying that these walkouts were not an act of bravery.  (I will not say who because I feel confident that that commentator's voice is not alone on that network.)  Look back in this country's history for a moment.  Look at the protests -- whether marches, school walkouts, or school sit-ins -- against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The students' voices, joined in with by many others over time, put enough pressure to eventually get us out of that war.  The East Los Angeles high school walkouts fifty years ago, which protested unfair treatment in schools for Mexican and Mexican-American students, was a continuing echo of just because you are in the same building, it does not mean you get treated the same.  Look back to the R.R. Moton High School walkout in Farmville, Virginia, in 1951, when black students protested that not even the buildings were the same.  (The high school had erected tar-paper shacks built on a campus to try and accommodate a student body 2 1/2 times of what it could handle.) 

What about the Birmingham Children's Crusade in 1963, which protested segregation?  It included scenes of schoolchildren being forcibly blown around by high-pressure fire hoses, being attacked by police dogs, and being beaten by police.  Images of these were spread across the country, angering much of the nation and creating a backlash.  That was a huge part of the desegregation movement in the country.

Just about all of these, and others, to be sure, took place before this commentator was even born.  Does that excuse his ignorance?  No.  And yet, it is ignorant to say that the long tradition of protesting, which includes student walkouts, does nothing ... that they never accomplish anything.  Very, very few changes, whether stemming from a walkout or otherwise, come quickly, of course.  Tenacity is key ... and these kids have tenacity.  I sat, watching the images of those students yesterday, sometimes with tears in my eyes, feeling very proud of them.  What they have accomplished so far (i.e. major retailers stopping sales of semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles, a Republican governor [Rick Scott from Florida] signing a gun control bill [albeit a weak one] thus bucking the NRA) from just their protesting is nothing short of amazing.  They have accomplished more than the grown-ups (i.e. politicians) in a short period of time.

And yet, more, much more, still needs to be done.  These students will fight for it.  Yes, they will fight for it!  They are on the right side of history and they will fight for it!

To that Fox News commentator, I say that sitting behind a desk on a TV set and delivering divisive, revisionary, and ignorant commentaries is not an act of bravery.  These students shouting ENOUGH! and doing something about massacres, however, is!


Monday, February 26, 2018


Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center.  It was on February 26, 1993, that the United States received what would be its first wake-up call with a terrorist attack on American soil.

I was living in Astoria in Queens, one of New York City's five boroughs, at the time.  I was home at the time the bombing occurred and noticed that almost all of the television channels were out.  The only two channels on the air were a home shopping channel (go figure) and the local Spanish-language Telemundo channel.  The Telemundo channel was all news and broadcasting in Spanish and English since all of the other channels, which had antennas atop the Twin Towers, had been knocked out because of the blast.  (All of the channels didn't come back on air until around 8:00 p.m., that evening.)

Below is an episode of the short-lived A&E series 'Minute by Minute' from 2001, which recaps the incident from twenty-five years ago today. 


Friday, February 23, 2018

Word of the Day: POSITION

So often in politics, but not exclusive to politics, the question of What is your position? comes up.  Whether asked during an interview or stated on a website, what someone's or some group's position is, is important to people.

Let us look at four examples of what some positions are (as I see them):

Below is a letter from the National Rifle Association addressed to judicial candidates in the state of Wisconsin asking for their positions on the Second Amendment.

The highlighted sentence says: "If you choose not to return a position letter, you may be assigned a '?' rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues."

Position:  Try to get what you want through intimidation.

Here is another example.  Below is a tweet from President Trump from yesterday.

Position:  1) I appreciate the NRA's support, and 2) death-for-profit is patriotic.

Another example.  A close-up of Trump's notes for his "listening session" at the White House two days ago revealed something very interesting...  (See point 5.)

Position:  I need to appear as though I give a damn about the masses.

Finally, a video for an example.  This is from a town hall hosted by CNN in Florida that aired live two nights ago, and features a student who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School confronting Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  (Note Rubio's dodging the question, and how he answers the question without actually answering the question.)

Position:  I need the NRA's support to stay in office, so I'm not doing anything against them.

Finally, these four positions are examples of the current and long-standing overall position of too many politicians...
Position:  We're not interested in saving lives by ending mass shootings.



There were many opportunities to raise red flags and act upon them regarding the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but it never happened.  Those opportunities were not just over the course of days, weeks, or months -- all of which can be ample time -- it was over the course of roughly eight years.  It even included law enforcement authorities receiving more than twenty phone calls about the shooter, and going to the shooter's residence nearly forty times since 2010.  Even the shooter's first host family -- he was an orphan as of last Fall -- warned law enforcement officials about the shooter.

Some of the students at the high school are praising the FBI, saying they were among the first responders.  That is true.  However, it is also true that the FBI failed to act in time to stop this from happening.  Local law enforcement did not do enough.  School staff did not do enough.  While all of those entities are doing the right things now, as they should, they all let their guard down.

Sometimes, there is no guard (read as "legal authority") to be held up, as in states and/or municipalities not having laws or statutes in place to deal with these serious situations.  In Florida, however, there is something on the books called the Baker Act (or Florida Mental Health Act of 1971).  What the Baker Act allows for is a person who is deemed mentally unstable (as the Act defines it) and is deemed a danger to self or others (also as defined in the Act) to be involuntarily committed for evaluation.

The Baker Act is on the books.  The Baker Act was not invoked.  Our guard was let down.  The massacre took place.

The shooter also commented on a YouTube video last Fall, writing, "Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter."  The poster of the video alerted YouTube, which removed the comment, and his local FBI office.  The FBI did nothing until after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Then, they contacted the video's poster, telling him they thought the person who posted the comment months earlier might have been the shooter because the name of the person who posted the comment matched the name of the shooter.  (The video commenter's YouTube ID was the shooter's name, spelled exactly as it should be, without any creative spelling.)

In response to the YouTube comment and subsequent investigation, FBI Special Agent In Charge Rob Lasky stated, "No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment.  There was no connection found to South Florida."  Perhaps, even after all of the problems with, and reports about, the shooter over the better part of a decade, his name was never put into any database to be found.

Relevant law enforcement databases exist.  The shooter's name might never have been entered into any of them.  Our guard was let down.  The massacre took place.

Now, it has been reported that a sheriff's deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School waited outside the school building where the shooter was for four minutes before entering.  (The shooting lasted six minutes.)  Protocol states that any first-to-arrive law enforcement official must engage an active shooter, whether to distract, to injure, or to kill.

The deputy was required to engage the shooter immediately.  He did not.  Our guard was let down.  The massacre took place.

Two other plots for mass school shootings around the time of the Stoneman Douglas shooting were stopped from coming to fruition.  The day before the Valentine's Day carnage in Parkland, a grandmother called 911 and showed the responding officers her grandson's writings about committing a mass murder.  He possessed a rifle and grenades (all legally) and wrote how he could hardly wait to get "the biggest fatality number" he could.  In Vermont, State Police conducted a two-day investigation into an eighteen-year-old individual that resulted in his arrest one week ago today for wanting to commit a school mass shooting.

In the above two examples, people took notice, raised red flags, local authorities acted, and massacres did not occur.  They show that, when everything functions as it should, lives are saved.

However, too many lives are being lost because we far too often are letting our guard down.



On Tuesday this week, the Florida House of Representatives, with students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sitting in the gallery, shamefully voted down taking up the issue of a ban on assault weapons.  Even with survivors of a terrifying attack, the likes of which none in the Florida House had to endure as a high school student (or likely ever) themselves, refused to do the right thing, voting 36-71 against.

One day later, that same legislative body had a bill introduced as its first official response to the shooting.  Bill HB 839 would require every public school in Florida to display the state's motto of "In God We Trust" in a "conspicuous place".  This bill passed the state's House overwhelmingly by a vote of 97-10, followed by a standing ovation in the chamber.  (There is also a similar bill in Florida's Senate that has not been taken up yet.)

That's it.  That is the Florida legislature's initial response to the murder of seventeen high school students.

While much of the blame can rest on Republicans, although both parties have dropped the ball on gun control, this bill was introduced by a Democrat, Rep. Kim Daniels (pictured above) from Jacksonville.  Daniels also runs the online ministries Kimberly Daniels Ministries International and Spoken Word Ministries as well as the online school Word Bible College.  

In introducing the bill, Rep. Daniels stated, "[Jesus] is the light and our schools need light in them like never before."  She added, "We cannot put God in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us."  If implemented, Daniels said that it would be "so simple, just saying put a poster up to remind our children of the foundation of this country."  While acknowledging Florida has "gun issues", Daniels said that addressing "issues of the heart" is more important. 

I agree that politicians have been described as having black hearts or being heartless regarding gun control, but her approach in the House is not, in my opinion, the most effective way to go about it.

Let us look at this: Mass murders of school students, from elementary school to college (as well as teachers and other adults in non-school settings), are allowed to go on and on.  The people are crying out for change.  The politicians, at large, give them none.  It is a hot button issue.  The separation of church and state is also a hot button issue.  (Although I'm sure Rep. Daniels and many of her colleagues will simply say, hey, it's the state motto, but the way she has couched this negates that argument.)  Not to mention the piece of church-state separation being the ongoing argument on whether or not the United States is a "Christian nation".  So, the answer to one hot button issue is to inject another hot button issue?

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, your desire to legislate the display the state's motto of "In God We Trust" in every public school in Florida in a "conspicuous place" as a response to mass carnage is conspicuously shallow.