Sunday, March 25, 2018

Gun Violence (of all kinds) is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things

The Austin #MarchForOurLives yesterday was a major march in our city, attracting some 20,000 participants, according to estimates by organizers as reported in the Austin American-Statesman.  The march organizers, as was the case in the extraordinary DC march, were primarily high school students.  It was so inspiring to march from our City Hall, up Congress Avenue to the Capitol and to hear all the speakers, including a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla. and students from LASA and LBJ High Schools in Austin.

I hope that students will continue to think critically about all aspects of gun violence, including the terrible gun violence of US war and militarism.  Enlistees as young as 17 are issued assault rifles and trained to think of their weapon as their most valuable companion.  What does this kind of training do to young people?  Why are the mass shootings in war considered acceptable?  As the US continues to increase military spending in its federal budget, what effect does this have on the young people in our country and around the world?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

SOY visit to McCallum HS

Hart, Tami and I were happy to have a SOY table today at McCallum HS. We added the #MarchForOurLives to our Peace Wheel, and the reflection question was, "What legislation would you support to reduce gun violence in the US?" Students gave a variety of written responses, which I will include here. The Penny Poll results showed the largest percentage vote for Health Care at 21% of the budget, followed by 19% each for the Environment and NASA, 17% for Education, 12% for Humanitarian Aid and 12% for the military. We had our full range of t-shirts and also buttons for students to earn doing the t-shirt challenge. Thank you to all Knights! Here are the student responses:
"Strict background checks because everyone doesn't deserve or need to have a gun. Guns are a weapon that should be strictly used to protect yourself."
"I would like a yearly psych evaluation on all gun owners, much harsher restrictions placed on semi-automatic rifles, and a raise of the age for gun owners to 21. People should require a license for the manufacturing of guns."
"A legislation that makes it harder to get guns, ex: more background checks, checks for mental disorders, checks for any extremely violent tendency."
"To teach people gun safety and how to properly use them."
"Support of Social Darwinism"
"1. We need to have a better way of people getting their gun license. 2. Try to make schools more secure."
"All the members of the government should support and come together to end gun violence."
"More background checks. No Fly No Buy. Age restriction to 21."
"Mental Health"
"Background checks"
"Raise age requirement for purchasing a gun."
"Background check. Automatic rifles limited. Invest in safety devices on guns, such as print (finger) lock. Age limit on buying guns."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Books, Not Bullets -- students walk out and speak out

photo by Carolyn Kaster, AP
March 14, 2018 -- What an inspiring day of nonviolent student protest across the US and also by students in solidarity around the world.  Here is a report from NBC News along with a couple of the thousands of photos being posted from these moving demonstrations organized by students. 

PARKLAND, Fla. — They solemnly spilled onto the high school football field, holding signs protesting gun violence and wearing shirts that read "March for our lives." They waved at a crowd of onlookers who had gathered to show support.
Exactly one month after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, survivors of the massacre joined tens of thousands of students across the U.S. by walking out of school on Wednesday morning.
The mass protests were held at 10 a.m. local time in each time zone and lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims. Organizers said the purpose was to highlight "Congress’ inaction against the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods."

An estimated 185,000 people in 50 states were expected to join the walkout, with around 3,100 schools planning to participate, an organizer with the Women's March told NBC News.
The marches ranged in size. At Terre Haute North Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana, organizer Elisabeth Downing said over 60 students stood in silence, many wearing orange — the color representing support for tighter gun laws.
"No matter what you decide the action to be, we just want action," said Downing, a senior. "We’re tired of thoughts and prayers, and we’re ready to finally do something."
In Rhode Island, where a nor'easter on Tuesday dumped up to a foot of snow in some places, students weren't able to march outside. About 250 students at Pilgrim High School in Warwick instead walked from their classrooms to the auditorium.

"That could have been us. We were the same age as the Parkland kids," said a co-organizer, Karly Evans, a senior. "It was a very emotionally moving experience to be part of."
Emily Lower, a senior from Central High School in St. Joseph, Missouri, said a few hundred students showed up to the walkout — "way better than we expected."
“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face," she said. "To see that many kids engaged and what their voices could accomplish and seeing the masses, it was an incredible feeling."
At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, the walkout lasted 30 minutes — 17 minutes for the Parkland victims, and 13 for each victim of the massacre at the high school in 1999. During the half-hour of silence, students released red, white or blue balloons, one at a time, in memory of those killed.
In New York, some protesters gathered outside Trump Tower, including Cinthia Sierra, a 16-year-old from the Leadership and Public Service High School in downtown Manhattan.
"It literally can happen to any school, anywhere in the country. School should be a place that's safe. It felt like we're all using the voices that we have," she said.

Not every school was supportive of people leaving class. In Clayton, Missouri, students were warned they would be given detentions for walking out — but they came out in the hundreds anyway.
In Washington, a crowd in the thousands gathered, holding signs toward the White House reading "Books Not Bullets" and "Fire Politicians, Not Guns."
At the stroke of 10 a.m., the crowd sat down en masse, their backs to the White House, and then stayed silent for 17 minutes. Afterward, some marched to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was among a handful of Democratic lawmakers to greet student speakers.
"The NRA has held Congress hostage for so many years now," Warren told MSNBC. "These young people are here to set us free."

In Parkland, the crowd cheered as students exited the high school and gathered in the center of the football field. Some onlookers yelled "We love you!" to the students.
Harrison Sanclemente, 42, of Parkland, held up a white sign with black letters saying "Support our kids."
"All they’re asking for is safety. It should be a no-brainer,” he said.
After the walkout, a 17-minute prayer service was held at a local park.
Anahelena Natera brought her 9-year-old daughter, Ella, who knows Stoneman Douglas students from her drama camp, where many are counselors.
Natera said she sees the student-counselors "as friends and I see them as role models — and what role models to have. They're amazing."
Heather Taylor, 15, a freshman at Stoneman Douglas who was in the building during the shooting, said Wednesday that she was glad the community had been galvanized by the tragedy.
"I just hope we can get better gun control. I hope that happens," she said. "I hope people see we’re really trying and we’re not going to stop."
Kalhan Rosenblatt reported from Parkland, and Elizabeth Chuck, Ethan Sacks and Jonathan Sperling from New York.
The hashtags #NationalSchoolWalkout and #Enough for Wednesday's protest and gun reform have thousands of tags on Instagram, with users uploading by the minute.
photo by Andrew Harnik, AP

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Protect Kids, Not Guns -- Worldwide student walk-out, March 14, 2018

Reports are coming in from the widespread student walk-outs today calling for firm gun control legislation that would value the lives of kids over the protection of guns.  Even in other countries as disparate as Tanzania, Israel and Iceland, students are taking time out from school to recognize the importance of this issue to students in the US and to recognize the organizing done by so many students on this issue.  Nonviolence is powerful!  More power to the students!

students gather to speak out at the US Capitol building, AP photo by Carolyn Kaster

Friday, March 9, 2018

Courageous Women

Image result for photo, amelia boynton
From the Jon S. Randal Peace Page:
For Women's History Month:
She never got to finish her journey that day. She was marching peacefully along with some 600 protesters for voting rights when policemen arrived with tear gas and billy clubs. The protesters would be beaten, and she would be left bloody and unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Her name was Amelia Boynton, the date was March 7, 1965, and the incident on the bridge in Selma would draw national attention, eventually being called, "Bloody Sunday."
Boynton, a former teacher, had invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma. Dr. King and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference would meet and set up headquarters at Boynton's Selma home, where they would plan the Selma to Montgomery March.
When they got on the bridge, she remembers the troopers brutally attacking them. "I felt a blow on my arm that could have injured me permanently had it been on my head," she would say. "Another blow by a trooper as I was gasping for breath knocked me to the ground and there I lay unconscious. Others told me that my attacker had called to another that he had the "damn leader." One of them shot tear gas all over me."
A newspaper photo of the middle-aged housewife, lying on the ground, left for dead, shocked the entire nation. Boynton also suffered throat burns from the effects of the tear gas. Bloody Sunday would prompt President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, with Boynton attending as the landmark event's guest of honor.
Boynton, who later would be referred to as Amelia Boynton Robinson, would continue being a voice for civil rights, touring the United States "to defend the rights of all humanity to progress — material, moral and intellectual."
She would remind younger people of the importance of history, saying, "It’s important that young people know about the struggles we faced to get to the point we are today. Only then will they appreciate the hard-won freedom of blacks in this country."
She added, "You can never know where you are going unless you know where you have been."
Her son, Bruce Boynton, who he himself had been arrested for trying to eat at a white lunch counter at a bus station, would say of his mother, “She’s done so many outstanding things that a lot of people don’t know."
Boynton was known by many as the “Matriarch of the Voting Rights Movement."
She was the first African-American woman to run on the Democratic ticket for a seat in Congress from Alabama. Although she didn’t win the election, she did garner 10 percent of the votes at a time when only 1 percent of the voting population was made up of African Americans.
She was a member of the brave Courageous Eight and one of the first African Americans registered to vote in Alabama.
She would be awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom.
On August 26, 2015, Boynton Robinson would die at the age of 104.
But before her death, she was able to finish her journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Selma Voting Rights Movement 50th Anniversary Jubilee. In her wheelchair, she was accompanied by the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama, holding her hand.
Close friends and family would say, she died, harboring no animosity for anyone, not even those who might have hated her for the color of her skin.
She had said, "I was brought up by people who loved others. I love people. We had no animosity. We had no feeling that we hate anyone."
"Only until all human beings begin to recognize themselves as human beings will prejudice be gone forever," she said. "People ask me what race I am, but there is no such thing as race. I just answer: "I’m a member of the human race."