Arming Politicians with Action

I imagine a moment when an announcement over the P.A. system declares:  “This is a lockdown, not a drill.”   Immediately I close the classroom door, lock it, turn off the lights, hunker down under the tables with my students, and stifle their cries.

Should this scenario be part of teacher training courses?

Apparently so because already teachers in America go through these lockdown or active shooter drills each year.

I have experienced two real lockdowns at Hoover High School though no actual threat materialized.

As if the demands of the job aren’t already stretched to incredible lengths, now teachers have to absorb the remote yet real possibility that one day a nightmare may appear in their classroom.   And those educators need to run through in their minds how they will actually handle a situation they don’t ever want to face.

If the perpetrator shoots into the room, do I barricade the door and, if so, can my students help me move heavy items to do it, do we pray under the tables that he won’t see us, do I physically try to take the shooter down, knowing my life and the lives of my students are at risk, or do I actively ignore the current lockdown procedures and make a run for it?

Wednesday night CNN held a televised town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, a 20-minute drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where the Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 students and teachers occurred.

The arena holds more than 20,000 people; the high school has over 3,000 students.  No one was harmed in the arena due to security measures in place.   Those measures should be replicated at every single school in America.

It would be easier to secure schools than pass stronger gun laws.

President Trump should hold an emergency meeting with his advisers and develop a plan that can implement immediately.  Unfortunately, we have a President who needs to have a cheat sheet—“I hear you”—on how to show empathy for grieving parents, and who believes arming teachers is the way to go.

We are all tired of the cell phone footage of students crouched under desks in terror, the anguish in the parents’ faces upon awaiting the news of their children’s safety, the candlelight vigils, the funerals, the signs, the pleas, the demands to do something, do something, please, please, do something.

Students who study the dangers of driving under the influence are aware that every 15 minutes in the United States a person dies from a car crash.   However, during that same time, a person dies in a gun-related incident.

While cars are regulated for safety—seatbelts and airbags are credited with lowering the auto fatality rate—guns are not.

The number of deaths, 26, and the young age of the children, 6-7 years old, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut along with President Obama’s tearful statement led many to believe that that would be the watershed moment, the turning point when politicians would finally act to stop the rampant gun disease; 200 shootings and 400 deaths later, nothing has happened.

What number of deaths will it take to get everyone’s attention:  50? 100? 500?  Maybe the death of a prominent politician’s child or grandchild?

Yet Congress has no problem passing legislation to expand the rights of gun owners.   Last December the House passed HR 38, Concealed Carry Reciprocity, allowing those with guns to travel from state to state and legally carry their weapons.

I pray that I never hear again “this is a lockdown” and that anyone I love ever hears that.   Children should not attend school even with the remotest possibility that they may not return home.  Yet in today’s climate, the first sound of an administrator speaking on the P.A. makes everyone jittery.

It is not about blue states vs. red states, Democrats vs. Republicans, pro-gun vs. anti-gun.

It is about having a country where the safety of its children is paramount, a priority superseding a citizen’s right to own a gun.


Motown Remembered

Since the holidays, I have been on Motown Memory Lane.   My wife and I were in the San Diego area after Christmas and saw “Motown the Musical” which premiered on Broadway in 2013.

The play takes place in 1983 when a TV extravaganza celebrating 25 years of the record label was being assembled.   As the story of Motown founder Barry Gordy unfolds, flashbacks of the singers and groups are played out with vintage arrangements, costumes, and choreography of over 40 hit songs.

If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s listening to this music, or are familiar with it from movies, TV shows, and commercials, it is remarkable to realize how magical was Hitsville, USA.

Seeing the musical inspired me to watch the Motown special for the first time since it aired in May of 1983.

Taped at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, “Motown 25:  Yesterday, Today, Forever” won a Peabody Award and an Emmy.  Hard to believe that it has been 35 years since the special was produced.

It is worth watching again mainly to see a unique event:   most of the headliner artists on stage singing together at the end of the show.

The number one moment most recall is Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk for the very first time.  However, there are other special moments such as when Marvin Gaye sits at the piano playing extemporaneously as he talks about the history of black music before doing an emotional rendition of “What’s Going On.”

There’s the reunion of the Miracles with Smokey Robinson, and the Supremes with Diana Ross.   And the battle of the boy choirs, the Four Tops vs. the Temptations.

Dennis Edwards, Temptations’ lead singer at the time, died last week at age 74.   While not an original member (over the years there have been dozens of personnel changes), he was viewed as the most vibrant of the lead singers.

Incredibly, the Four Tops remained together from 1953 to 1997, with the same four men.  Today, only Abdul Fakir is still alive while Otis Williams is the only original Temptation left.

When researching the history of Motown, it is tragic to learn how many artists died before their time:  Michael Jackson (50), Mary Wells (49), Marvin Gaye (44), Temptations’ Elbridge “Al” Bryant (36) and Paul Williams (34), Supremes’ Florence Ballard (32), Tammi Terrell (24).

If you have time on Valentine’s Day, consider paying tribute to Motown by listening to some of the songs:

The Temptations’ “Get Ready”

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Shop Around”

Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”

Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life’

Mary Wells’ “My Guy”

Diana Ross and The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go”

The Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving”

The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”

With the passage of time, it is worth noting that all these talented musicians did not use one obscenity in any of their songs.  And they dressed to the nines, women in dresses, men in suits.

B.B. King once said that it was important for him to wear three-piece suits while performing, and not wear street clothes on stage.

Today’s artists could learn from these masters on how to elevate their work through their language and appearance.