It’s Always About the Children

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Trump continues the four-year tradition of foreign leaders inserting themselves into Syria’s labyrinth-like war.  The chemical attack against Syrian rebel forces, was the worst the area has seen in years. International outrage came swiftly. Trump defined his decision to drop United States missiles and destroy the Syrian airbase as a strong response to this attack.

The international community needed to respond to this horrifying attack against civilians. I don’t agree an attack made solely by the US was the correct answer. If the US wanted a strong response against Assad, a united response including Congress and the UN would have added substance to this decision.

Now, instead of standing together against Assad, the US is forced to defend the attack. Some of the questions facing Trump-Was the attack more political than humanitarian? Trump looks strong while the present administration faces scrutiny about their relationship with Russia and Putin. Or worse, is Trump deflecting the questions on Russia with an attack? A tactic he’s mastered.

The problem I have with the US attack on the Syrian airfield, isn’t the action, but Trump’s response.

If Trump wanted to send a strong response to Assad and the world, why is he hiding behind a child? He told the world  this was a response to an attack on “innocent civilians…even on beautiful babies.” I truly believe the chemical attack moved him. But he must understand civilians and yes, even babies, will forever be the victims of poor decisions made by their leaders.

Does Trump care about the children’s lives? Maybe, probably yes. The pictures were horrifying. Was his reason for invading Syria humanitarian? No, I don’t believe him.

He held the power to save those beautiful babies, but he chose to ignore them. These are the same innocent civilians he banned from entering the US.

If he cares about children, why does he also ignore the needs of the children here?

His proposed attack on the Federal Budget, cuts $54 billion “to large parts of the federal government.” This offsets spending in the defense department. The only agencies not facing cuts or program eliminations are-Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.  Is this the action taken by a President who cares about children? I guess removing housing, education, medical care, transportation, and food from families will make America great again.

His strong response to refugees, the budget, and the Syrian government ignores the innocents.

This is not the response of a strong leader I can believe in.

Missed Opportunity at New Trier’s Seminar On Race

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The documentary, New Trier: Tip of the Spear is filmmaker and New Trier parent, Paul Traynor’s film about the controversy surrounding New Trier’s Feb. 28 Seminar Day of Race. The subject is how conservative national activists attempted to insert their own agenda into New Trier’s grassroots community.

New Trier compromised and hosted separate locations for opposing views on seminar day. Their answer to the debate wasn’t a solution. It  was a lost opportunity for students to learn how, and why, opposing groups must connect.

This year’s seminar theme was- “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights.” Two National Book award winning authors, Colson Whitehead and Andrew Aydin, were the keynote speakers. Students picked from over 100 workshops dealing with such topics as; civil rights activism, housing rights, civil rights in sports, Native American rights, and gospel music. New Trier teachers spoke on specific moments or people in history, and outside speakers discussed their disciplines, and what changes they hope their work would accomplish.

At first, arguments remained local. Some parents argued the seminar reflected an unbalanced liberal view of racism. They wanted more discussions about economic inequality and less about racial inequality.

Traynor showed how this discussion moved from economic inequality and became a heated protest about inserting a ‘different world view’ into the seminar’s agenda.  The Christian-heavy and conservative undertone of this new agenda pitted parents against each other.  Parents siding with the seminar’s original mission argued the day was an opportunity to foster understanding between races. I noticed the issue of economic disparity was dropped from the discussion, and replaced with charges of racism on both sides.

Traynor explained the voice calling for the ‘different world view’ was not the original main opposition.  The push did not come from the parents of New Trier students, but was spearheaded through a few vocal parents backed by the Illinois Family Institute.   This conservative group’s mission is “Promoting marriage, family, life, and liberty in the Land of Lincoln.” After reading the page my opinion is, they will promote you if you are Christian and straight.  Another conservative group, ALEC also became involved in the controversy.   They work with a corporate governing board to pass legislation benefitting corporations at the expense of the public sector and social programs.  Traynor’s film asked-What do these powerful and national conservative organizations gain by weighing in on a local school matter? Especially when the actual number of parents in opposition to Seminar Day was very small?

Traynor believed these organizations took the grassroots approach as the next step towards dismantling our public-school system. The documentary showed it’s not possible to attack a respected and wealthy school, like New Trier, on economics or low test scores. But it is possible to subvert the school system by attacking their politics. This divides the members of the community and gives them an opportunity to insert their own agenda into the community’s politics. Taynor’s opinion is this will eventually lead to charter schools and vouchers; systems and policies which promote the mission and enrich the coffers of these organizations.

He backed up his charges with solid research. I urge you to watch the film, because he explained the process in more detail than I am able to on this post. I applaud Traynor and the New Trier parents for not backing down. They called out the bullies, and refused to let them hijack the mission of Seminar Day.

But I still have my reservations. The goals of the seminar were to help “students better understand how the struggle for racial civil rights stretches across our nation’s history, that people of diverse racial backgrounds were involved in each chapter in this history, and how previous civil rights movements connect with the issues that we are discussing today.” The staff of New Trier tried to reach these goals with a wide range of workshops.

One of the “issues we are discussing today” is race and economic inequality. New Trier compromised and allowed students to opt-out of seminar day and attend a discussion off campus. The day-long, off-campus workshop was led by conservative businessman and pastor Corey B. Brooks. I agree with the addition of another diverse voice into the workshop, but New Trier failed the students by holding it off-campus.

They lost an opportunity to create a connection between “previous civil rights movements with the issues we are discussing today.” They lost an opportunity to listen, to learn, and to discover together.  They lost the opportunity to debate progressive and conservative views in an academic setting. They lost the opportunity to learn how to act as one governing body. Allowing Mr. Brooks to hold his own seminar off-campus physically separated students with opposing views from each other.

My message to New Trier- You were a poor example of the process of conflict resolution.

The Illinois Family Institute and ALEC used the argument of economics to gain a foothold. They promoted the narrow, corporate, and separate Christian views they uphold. These groups are effective because they give the impression they are listening to people who feel shut out. New Trier had an opportunity to point this out, and had an opportunity to show the students the art of listening.

I don’t remember who said this, so I’ll paraphrase, “Conflicts aren’t necessarily searching for solutions. But conflicts arise from the struggle to be heard.”

We need to understand just who is listening. And why?

The One I Didn’t Want to Write

26books.3951xI gave up on moving forward because that meant something gets left behind. I decided to  just move.

Yes, it’s been awhile. I started this blog almost a year ago, with the intention of commenting on the events I saw happening around us. You should have heard from me at least twice a week, but it’s been almost nine months.

I thought of picking up again without any explanation.  Because explanations have a nasty way of sounding like excuses. And anyone who knows me, knows my zero tolerance for excuses. Just get the job done.

My readers supported me through my silence and continued to check in on me. Thank you. You deserve more than a new post, you deserve an explanation. Or as much as I detest this-an excuse.

After a long illness, my mother died on June 11th. My sisters and I expected it, but also didn’t. Together we helped Dad plan the funeral. He continued his independent life-86 year-old and living successfully on his own. We were happy to notice he started to tolerate the extra attention we forced on him.

He downplayed his health problems, but he began to need more attention.  At the end of September he attended my birthday party, and  he sat in my backyard celebrating with a cheeseburger. A month later  he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He died November 3rd. My sisters and I thank God his heart gave out before the cancer caused him too much pain.

We planned another funeral. We packed up their home. It sold, and we closed on it this week.

I went to work, continued school, leaned on my family and friends, and a part of my life stopped. I kept up writing for school, but I stopped thinking about this blog. Well, not completely. I knew I’d be back.

I wanted to write  a beautiful memorial to them; I know how to do that. I thought writing one would help put it all behind me.

I kept putting it off. I’m struggled to find the words to acknowledge the fact they are gone, but still next to me. Or maybe I’m not ready to see the words. So instead of waiting to move forward, I’m going to just move.

It helps that  my year hasn’t been consumed with sadness. Life does go on thanks to my patient husband, sisters, and friends. And wine.  Our families celebrated weddings, birthdays, and holidays. In other words, I ate a lot of cake! It’s different, but it’s good. We are okay. And I’m learning to make room for  a grayer area in my life; a place for excuses.

I still don’t have the words to properly memorialize  Mom and Dad , but I am ready to write.