Preface: This post was originally written on September 11, 2015 on my old WordPress blog and is reposted here by me today May 23, 2016.
Every year since the eleventh of September 2001 we have taken then time to remember that moment forever frozen in infamy. I can remember exactly where I was—doing community service in a bad part of town as punishment for my chalked ID—as most people alive on that day can, but I’m a teacher now and I teach teenagers, children, some of whom were born a year after that event and only understand it conceptually, much like we—my generation—understood the assassination of JFK or the bombing of Pearl Harbor conceptually.
I can remember listening to the radio in my calm and flippant manner thinking it was some kind of a prank. “This has got to be a joke” I thought to myself, “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen here.” But, the next channel on the radio was saying similar things, then people began talking about news footage of the first tower in flames. Soon after it became harder and harder to call our loved ones. I remember watching the news and in rapt suspense, terror, and awe waiting to see if the second building was going to fall, then the first. I remember the sense of camaraderie and national pride permeating the country for the weeks immediately following the attack. It was so nice to see people going out of their way for one another, to see everyone helping and supporting their neighbors and strangers alike. Despite my anger at the tragedy that had befallen my fellow Americans and the lose suffered by so many, I felt happy and proud of our ability to come together and, well, love one another in the midst of event fueled by so much hate.
My middle school students today, have no concept of any of this. They have as much attachment to this event as I did to the assassination of JFK. I understand that it was bad. I understand it touched so many people deeply. I understand the idea of the hope that he represented being ripped away from so many. I even understand the psychological idea that relates to the loss of one’s king as a loss of a protector, father figure, and unifying force. But, I also understand how my cell phone works and if you left me on a deserted island there’s no way I can make one and call you. I simply lack the experience needed to take the abstract concept and make it concrete and tangible.
9/11 for most of these middle school students is just another holiday so to speak. I heard a student say “Again? We do this every year.” So, with that I ask what do we speak about when we speak about 9/11? What are we remembering and why?
The terrorists’ hijacking the planes, and flying them into the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon are obvious I think. But, we can focus on the hatred and anger brimming over from those radical Islamic groups or we can look at the human aspect of all of this.
Our Heroes: The heroic men and women who ran into burning and collapsing/collapsed buildings to save the lives of complete strangers. Those heroes who tossed their lives in action that day, who died years later due to exposure to chemicals at Ground Zero (my Uncle being one of them), and those who are still alive today and still smell the burning flesh of the victims or see the dead bodies and their limbs spread all over the rubble (my father and many close friends included). Each one of these individuals has or had a family who loves/loved them. A lot of them are still suffering because of their innate love of people, their need to protect, their humanity drove them into danger when instinct told them to stay away. I think this is humanity at its most noble. We should do more for these noble protectors than we have done. But, at the very least let us remember their sacrifice and talk about what it took to do what they did and how they’ve been effected by their time down at Ground Zero. Let us never forget our heroes and the physical, mental, and spiritual sacrifices they made.
Lovers: We so often forget the star-crossed lovers destined to be parted by the events of that day. The new lovers and the old, the fiancees planning their weddings or just about to be married or the couples married for 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 plus years and the poorly connected phone calls made to attempt to say a lifetimes worth of I love yous in a fraction of a moment. Or those who could not get through and who left their last words in a voicemail to be played by their surviving partner for years to come. Let us never forget those lovers lost to the flames of war.
Families: Those families who were ripped apart suddenly and unjustly by an angry family of radical zealots whose hatred of all things American blinded them to the fact that they were committing the same atrocities they blame America for. We need to remember the fathers who never got to take their sons or daughters to their first baseball game. To the moms who never got to teach their daughters to put on make up. To the daughters who won’t have their father their to see them marry the person they love. To the sons who will never have their father there to model the strength needed to raise a family. Or, to just sit around on the couch and watch a movie and argue over who finished the popcorn. Families, whether biological (or not) are what make our lives richer. They are the life blood of every culture, or nation and on that day so many were irreparably damaged. Let us never forget those families sundered.
Innocence: Up until that day our country had never really been the focus of such a devastating act of violence. We had been in wars, but since the country was founded we had only fought the Civil War on American soil. All other wars had been fought abroad. Our isolation from the rest of the major world powers had kept us protected for most of the 825 years prior that day from such attacks save Pearl Harbor, but that was a military base, this was a civilian economic center. Before that day many people believed that we lived in a rosey world understanding that terrorist and bad things happened but never experiencing it, but on that day it all changed. Most of America lost its innocence. Let us never forget the innocence we once had and how it was stolen from us without our consent.
Perhaps if we remember these things and teach our children the human aspect of that event along with the history we can truly do justice those those loved ones lost that fateful day, September the 11th 2001.
Preface: This post was originally published on an older blog site of mine in 2015.
This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time now. It’s not the state of our economy, or Donald Trump’s presidential run, although that will tie in later. What I’m worried about is the current state of the men in our country.
I am 31 years old. I was born in 1983. I grew up watching Full House, Family Matters, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Boy Meets World, and reruns of The Brady Bunch. This is important because so much can be said for television representing life and also influencing the lives of its viewers. The dad’s in Boy Meets World, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, and Growing Pains were all strong assertive males. They treated their wives and children with respect, they made mistakes, but owned up to it and in the end always did what was right by their family. Not only did these men treat their family with respect and dignity, but they treated others the same way, thereby reflecting their own sense of self-respect and self-dignity. Danny Tanner and Carl Winslow are a bit more on the comedic side, nevertheless Danny Tanner was both mother and father to his girls. Yes, he had the help of Uncles Jessie and Joey, but each of them represented other sides of the male spectrum to work together with Danny’s nurturing side. Joey was funny, childlike, and caring. Jessie, was calm, cool, and collected, a rebel with a heart, and when the time came for him to become a husband and father he did. Full House represented the multitude of variations on what it means to be male. Carl Winslow, was a good guy. He worked hard for his family. His wife was clearly smarter than he was. He was sometimes made to be butt of many jokes, namely when he was robbed while sleeping on his own couch. The Carl Winslow character while being somewhat buffoon-like at times is caring, respectable, and wise in others. Many a times has he given Eddie, Laura, and Steve great advice about life, or listened to their problems and been there for them when he was needed. We all make mistakes. A man does not need to be the strongest guy in the room, or the smartest, or the noblest, but he should be able to stand up for himself, take care of those who are important to him, treat others with respect, and help others when he is needed.
More and more we are seeing men take a back seat to their wives. They hide behind their superior lady, because she made the plans, she is smarter, she deals with the details, while he watches the game, or plays Xbox. This is not to say that delegating responsibility in a relationship is a bad thing, on the contrary, it’s wonderful and you can see the difference in couples who share the weight of responsibility in the relationship and those where one party is in control. This is not about disempowering women, but about making men worthy of such ladies. And in so doing creating a balance where both strong men and women can exist together in harmony.
There are men out there who embody this kind of calm assertive male: Colin Powell, Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon, and Alexander Rodriguez to name a few. There are many others, and you do not need to agree with these three. I chose them because they are all humble, helpful, hardworking, they are respectful of their roles in life, of others, and of themselves. We hardly focus on these types of people. We give our attention to those who scream the loudest, who berate and belittle the most people, who sleep with the most ladies, who acquire the most money, who are able to extend adolescence well beyond their teens and twenties. It’s not to say that we should not speak out mind from time to time, and that we should not make money, and that if we date a lot of women that those are bad things, because their not. We should be able to speak our minds from time to time, but their is a time and place to do so. It should not be done whenever and where you feel like it without consideration for the people around or the current situation at hand. Make all of the money you can, but do so ethically. Don’t intentionally hurt people in the process. Date a lot of women, but don’t treat them like objects, don’t lie to them, and don’t cheat on them. Treat them with respect and if the relationship ends it ends, but treat people with the same respect that you’d want extended to yourself, your mother, or your daughter.
How can we begin to change things? Well for starters, make better choices. Before you do something or say something think about it for a few seconds first. Don’t just react to a situation, make a choice about what you want to do in that situation. Stand up for yourself. The next time someone comes up to you and treats you poorly, stand up for yourself. Set boundaries. Of course this stems from how much confidence you have in yourself, so join the gym, or a martial arts studio, a boxing gym, start going to yoga, meditate, go for a run, find something that you’re good at, something that brings you happiness and do it. A little bit each day goes a long way towards building up self-confidence. And, once you’ve got that standing up for yourself and setting boundaries about what you will allow and won’t allow become that much easier. Begin taking care of yourself. Before you can take care of others you need to be healthy yourself. Having a healthy and strong body and mind out you in a position to handle so much more of what life will inevitable through at you. So, eat healthier meals and begin to meditate regular. There are apps and websites dedicated to both of these endeavors. I personally like The FourHour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It’s hub of great information and inspiring people. Help people. Take some time to help someone who can’t help you in return or just help someone next to you without thought of reciprocity. Help Bob, the guy in the office who always makes mistakes every once in a while. Don’t carry the guy, but give him your hand if he falls down. If that’s too difficult right now then make it a point not to stomp on the next guy who falls and we’ll move little bit by little bit towards eventually extending that hand to help. You can think of it this way, be the kind of guy you’d want to run into if you were ever down on your luck, you lost everything, your dog died, and your best friend slept with your girlfriend. Wouldn’t you want to meet a guy who was kind, treated you with respect and dignity, and extended his hand to help lift you up and get you back on your feet? I know I sure would. Let’s all work toward being the best men we can be. Let’s start by:
Thinking before we act.
Standing up for ourselves.
Strengthening our bodies and our minds.
There are some excellent books out there on this topic. I’ll link to two of them.
Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax and The Road to Character by David Brooks.
Author's Note: This was originally published on a previous blog of mine in February 2018 in the light of a number of school shootings. This piece was written as a personal response to the debate going on at the time about whether or not to arm teachers in schools.
In the wake of the school shooting in Florida on 14 February 2018, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of chatter around the idea of teachers being incentivized to carry guns in the classroom. However, before I get into why this is a bad idea, I want to disclose some personal facts. One, I have experience with guns and I shoot a few times a year. I mainly shoot long barrel weapons, i.e. rifles, which are generally more accurate because of the long barrel, although that’s all relative to the distance of the target. Second, I am a teacher. I have been for five years now. Third, I have been involved in the martial arts in one way or another since I was three years old. I’ve also worked security details and bounced on several occasions working my way through school to become a teacher. I have a good deal of friends and family who are teachers, in law enforcement, in the military, and/or security. Below there are links to various news articles, studies on stress factors in firing a gun, and a video from from former Navy Seal Battalion leader Jocko Willink on firearms training.
And now I begin my argument. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” said Mike Tyson, and it’s true. Stress changes everything. Try writing with a pen or pencil after being in a heated argument and see how steady your hand is. For most people it won’t be so steady. Heart rate increases under perceived stress. Fight, flight, or freeze responses kick in under perception of a threat. Now, these things can be trained out, but they require time in similar situations so that the individual learns how to breathe, and think under such elevated types of stress. We see this is sports, martial arts, especially ones that allow for live training, the military, and some law enforcement units. But, for the average person, they’re operating on their genetic predisposition to stress and their level of physical conditioning to get them through those situations. Here’s why this is important, I’ve seen teachers lose their composure when a teenager gets in their face. A child, without a weapon, without any lives on the line, still can’t handle it. (I also know of teachers who have broken up fights without breaking up a sweat, but these guys/gals usually have spent some time in the martial arts, but there are always exceptions.)
Let’s look at how often we come across stories of police hitting bystanders. I don’t have the exact number, as it varies from locale to locale, but we all know it happens more than we’d like. Why does this happen? Mainly, for two reasons, one, police officers are usually required to qualify with their firearm once or twice a year, and a good number of them don’t fire their weapon at all for the rest of the year. Those who are in special units or in areas where they’re more likely to pull and fire their weapon would naturally train with it more than someone who patrols a nice neighborhood with little to no incidents of violence. It’s just human nature. So, these police officers pull their weapons under a highly stressful situation and miss their target by feet, not inches. Imagine if there were 20-30 children within a few feet of a gunman. Now imagine someone with significantly less training or experience in these kinds of high stress and violent situations firing a weapon that with the shake of the hand to the right or left could miss its intended target and kill or seriously injure an innocent bystander, in this case a child.
I have teachers who still can’t properly use a SmartBoard or comparable piece of technology because they either a) don’t have the time together trained on it, b) don’t care to know how to use it outside of it’s most basic function, c) don’t use it at all, or d) break it whenever they touch it. I don’t want these people carrying guns into a school where I’m teaching or my child is attending. It’s the wrong answer to a very serious problem.
Teachers barely have enough time or training to keep up with the pace in which this world is changing. Their job is to teach, to educate. If they wanted to carry guns and shoot people they would have been police officers. Perhaps we can take that money and spend it to create highly functional within local law enforcement to operate as the line of defense for our schools. Perhaps they could set up a command post on school grounds or inside the building where they work with school security to get to know the students and their habits. Maybe even put some of that money into hiring more psychologist and counselors to help those students who may be in anyway close to approaching or just contemplating that kind of behavior.
I have no issue with beefing up protection around schools, I mean this is where we send our children after all. My concern is that the focus is directed. There is a larger conversation to be had about gun regulation across the various states of the union, but that isn’t this post. Let’s work together with those already in position to protect and serve to find a safe and effective way to protect our students and our teachers. Let teachers teach. Allow students the opportunity to learn in a safe environment. Let’s not think we can we can paint spots on a house cat and call it a leopard. The time, effort, energy, and funding it would take to transform the average teacher into a, well citizen solider is high. Just look at what it costs to train a new recruit in the military. Then they’d need to maintain their level of proficiency. Because, I certainly wouldn’t want a teacher in a classroom with a gun who only shoots once a year on the day a shooter came into school, the bodycount would just start rising as more shits were fired.
In closing, I think we need to have a conversation as a nation about guns and how to keep our children safe while they’re attending school. I don’t think arming teachers is the solution. Everyone is ready to fight until they’re actually in one. I don’t want to find out that one of my students, one of my friends’ children, or in the future my own child was shot by a teacher who shot well at the range but lost it under the pressure of a live shooter and the potential loss of life he presented. Let’s figure this out together. Let’s understand there are much more effective ways to protect our children than to attempt to train and arm teachers.
Jocko Willink on Training Guns as a Martial Art (Video)
(Quora) How long does it take to get decent at shooting firearms?
Training with anxiety: short- and long-term effects on police officers’ shooting behavior under pressure
Ready, Fire, Aim: The Science Behind Police Shooting Bystanders
As Gunman Rampaged Through Florida School, Armed Deputy ‘Never Went In’
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