The Broad is Back!

June 24, 2016

Southern Hospitality

So yes, I’m back in the US, but I still have some culture shock because now I’m living in Tennessee, in an area some folks refer to as “the buckle of the Bible Belt”. My mom’s dad was a Southerner from Virginia, but as he lived in NYC and I lived in NYC, there’s very little Southern influence in my upbringing.

We see America becoming more and more homogenized thanks to television, the internet and less poverty. But there are still regional differences.

Southerns are polite. Southern hospitality is a real thing.

People take the time to say hello to strangers. I am addressed as “ma’am” by strangers and even by acquaintances. People use please and thank you on a regular basis. And instead of calling each other “idiots,” “jerk-offs” or “stunad” (I come from the NYC area so lots of Italian influence), it’s “bless your heart”. Basically, it means the same thing (geez you’re being an idiot), but it’s so much nicer to hear. To be fair, it’s also used when people are overworked or doing something difficult, but I get it a lot at work when I trip over something or break something.

My students are polite and helpful. The young couples living on both sides of my Mom have offered to help her if she ever needs it, and I have yet to encounter someone surly behind a counter or serving in a restaurant.

Now, before you tell me that people in other parts of the country are polite, good to elders and all the rest, I actually agree with you. I’ve always encountered great folks and had good neighbors in NYC. My students were a mixed bunch, but if I ever asked for help, someone would help me. I think New Yorkers would give the shirt off their back to help people–but we can be curt, rushed, and sometimes even potty mouthed. Imagine that.

Down here, I’ve never felt rushed (of course as a  New Yorker, it’s pretty difficult to make me feel rushed. I’m usually the one doing the rushing. And I don’t hear much cussing at all. Even I’ve cleaned up my act and only drop the F-bomb around my family. And some people at work. And some young people. Mostly.

I find myself constantly trying to slow down my pace. It’s not easy, but I realize that I unintentionally fluster folks when I move or talk or speak my thoughts too quickly.

This slowness in Southerners has led to the stereotype that they are not so smart. One of the easiest ways for an actor to portray “dumb” is to assume a Southern accent. Well, bless your heart, you just go right on and believe that one. Southern folks encourage it. The easier to pull the wool over your eyes and fleece you.

The smartest person I ever knew was my grandfather, the southerner, so that’s not something I’ve ever believed. And I’ve taught local students long enough to know that there are sharp brains here. Polite and slow speaking, but never confuse that with slow thinking. I mean, really, think of all the brilliant American minds that have come from the South. Google if you must.

Many folks from other parts of the country often stereotype Southerners as “hicks” or “rednecks” or ünsophisticated or flat out ignorant and violent because many have guns, support the 2nd Amendment, hunt and fish. Many are also religious, conservative, and patriotic.

I have no problem with hunting and fishing, and many of the folks I know who engage in those sports eat what they catch and appreciate the lives they are taking. Guns are tools, not toys or weapons to be used during crimes. Is there gun violence? Yes. Are there accidental shootings or intentional murders? Oh, yes.But it’s a small portion of the gun owners who are shooting and killing.

I’m no NRA member, and I support tighter controls on who has access to guns and what type of guns people have access to. One of my favorite lines in film is spoken by Samuel L. Jackson in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown: “The AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every m—–f—– in the room, accept no substitutes.”

It’s a rare situation when one has to kill everyone in the room. And I understand that if we ever need to overthrow the government as a militia, an AK-47 would be handy to have. There is a conflict there for me. But then there’s Orlando and and and. I know guns don’t kill, but people do, but we allow some crazy people to have those guns. It’s a conundrum, but I don’t think it’s just a Southern problem.

I grew up in a very patriotic family. Anyone who’s read my blog in the past knows that I love my country deeply. That doesn’t mean I follow my government blindly. Being around patriotic folks doesn’t bother me. Being around blind followers of anything does. And I have seen that attitude on both sides of the Mason-Dixon.

I can be conservative about some things, but I’m incredibly liberal about others. I do believe very much on self-reliance, but I also believe in safety nets and social programs to help those who need it. So again, this isn’t something that bothers me. Some of my own New York relatives are conservative Republicans. As long as people are respectful and open to learning facts instead of soundbites, we’re good.

When it comes to religion, I have no problem with people’s religion. I have no problem with people asking me where I worship. I have had fewer problems dealing with my Christian friends questioning my beliefs than with my atheist friends questioning my beliefs. Most Christians pray for me. Most atheists mock me. Guess which I’d prefer?

I have a problem with people’s religion being codified into restrictive laws, and that’s something I’v had to deal with here, but only tangentially.I don’t teach young people, and I refuse to teach young people because of the things I’m not allowed to talk about. That’s something that bothers me, I admit.

I currently work for a domestic abuse and sexual violence prevention organization, and the folks who do programs in schools are not allowed to use “gateway words” like sex, alcohol, drinking and so on. It frustrates them and makes the kids laugh. “Gateway words”? Seriously? Religion getting in the way of science is something the rationalist in me can not understand and will not accept.That’s a big culture shock for me.

Overall, though, I enjoy the slower pace, the friendlier faces, the openness. The guns were prevalent where I can from, too, so nothing new there. Even concealed carry permits don’t really bother me. It’s not like the armed folks in NYC were wearing the guns on the outside of their clothes.

In upcoming blogs, I want to look at some of the things that flummox me and have my students laughing at me.

May 31, 2016

So Two Years Later…

In August 2014, I posted what I thought would be my last The Broad is Back when I moved to Dubai. Once I left, I wrote A Broad Abroad Again, which chronicled my life in Dubai and 10 days in the UK. Last summer stuff happened, as it does, and I ended up not going back to Dubai. And I also ended up an adjunct in Tennessee, living with my mom and my ill son. I have not blogged since the last “A Broad Abroad”.

A dear friend kept asking me if I was going to start up again, but I was swept up in other things, and this year’s presidential race has left me disenchanted with American politics, and frankly, with many of my fellow Americans. We are more polarized than I ever remember, and yes, I do remember the 1960s. Politics today is striking me as much closer to the brash irrationality and power mongering of the 19th century, so I refuse to blog about that.

I am, theoretically, working on a novel, the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written, about being an under-employed academic in America, caretaking for the generation above and the generation below. Seriously, it’s a comedy. That’s fulfilling many of my writing needs, but obviously not enough.

I’ve been wondering if I should restart this blog, observations on American culture, or if I should retool and reboot my other, daily blog, Patchouli Haze. It’s been two years since I’ve written for that one. It’s more thoughtful, more didactic, but neither are what I am feeling now.

Living in America’s South, in the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” has been an interesting experience, and I don’t mean interesting as a pejorative. I definitely find things of interest. Something tells me that the The Broad is going to be back. I’ve spent a year observing a different culture, so perhaps it’s time to start writing again.

Did you miss me? Probably not. But yes, I admit, I have missed you.

January 29, 2014

Thank You, Mr. Seeger

“I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American.” ~ Pete Seeger

America lost one of its greats this week with the passing of Pete Seeger. Not everyone will agree with me, but many of us who criticize government policies and social mores have heard the same criticism as the one he comments on in this quote.   Knowing that we we in the company of someone like Pete Seeger made it a little easier.

 

But criticism never shut up Pete Seeger. He fought for a more equal, just and fair America since he was a teen singing around the country during the Depression until the very last year of his long and productive life.

 

Politics aside, Seeger also played an important role in keeping folk music alive in America. Folks songs are an important part of a culture, and thanks to the efforts of people like Seeger, much of our heritage has been saved.

 

When I lived in Europe, I would often give one of Pete Seeger’s children’s albums to new parents to give them something “American” to celebrate their child’s birth. I was given one when my son was born, and we wore that tape thin singing together in the car.

November 12, 2013

Learning a Cornerstone

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

So begins one of the shortest yet most powerful presidential addresses in American history. And this year, it will be 150 years old. And younger generations don’t know a word of it.

The bulk of today’s post is by my favorite guest blogger, my cousin Dolores, a very aware and involved woman.  You can tell we’re related sometimes! Today she sent me this email, so I’m sharing here because it’s important.

Ken Burns, famous producer of some outstanding documentaries, was a guest on Morning Joe this morning talking about a new project he has put together celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  He set up a website that you can access –www.learntheaddress.org  – & he has an incredible array of people each speaking a sentence or two of the speech….every living President does it, in addition to a varied group of well known celebrities.

He talked about a boys school in Putney, Vermont – all of their students are dyslexic & he said each & every student has memorized the speech.  He also said one of the saddest statistic is that 83% of college graduates do not know one word of the speech!!!  Unbelievable.
November 19th is the anniversary of that speech….might be a wonderful idea if every parent and grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. accessed that speech for their loved ones…..explained it, give its context, & ask their children to learn it!!!

September 2, 2013

A Call for Labor

Because today is Labor Day, I want to make a plea for those who would labor in this country but who can’t. I want to make a plea to bring manufacturing back to America.

We keep saying the jobs of the future are in technology. Many of them are. And factories don’t need as many people as they used to before robotics. But because Americans want to buy cheap, cheap, cheap, we’ve taken bread out of our neighbors’ mouths.  And hurt the country in the long run.

Why should a company pay a living American wage to a craftsman or a worker when work can be done in a developing country by someone with no union, no laws protecting workers? I may be thought naive because I’m going to answer, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Our country prospered when our working class prospered. When a “working man” or in many cases a working woman, could support a family with an honest wage. I hear many people blaming the unions. Hogwash. Unions got you a weekend and safe working conditions. Unions make sure you’re compensated if you’re injured at work.  Is there corruption in unions? Yes. Is there anywhere humans are that does not have corruption? No. Unions, churches, governments, corporations. It’s humans who are corrupt, not unions.

Since I’ve been back in America, I’ve gone through countless small appliances, clocks. chairs, the list can go on and on. Things break. They just stop working. I’m not saying one country or another is doing shoddy work, and I often think, in my paranoid moments, that companies do it on purpose to up their bottom line. But I know I would rather pay more for something that will last than keep throwing things in the trash. Living in a disposable world is wrong on so many levels.

But I’ve started to look at labels very carefully. I’m buying more things built in Germany, Switzerland and England because I want better quality. Yes, I’m paying more, but in the long run, I am sure I will save money.  I would rather buy things made in America in order to support my fellow Americans. But I can not find them!

I’ve said it before, more than once. If a clever person opened a factory here and made kitchen appliances, he or she would make a mint. Yes, I would pay twice as much for an American made toaster. I did it already for an English made one.

Not everybody wants to go to college.  Not everybody wants to work in an office. I’ve never worked in a factory, but I’ve worked in a factory lunch counter. It was not pleasant. It was hard work. But it was 9-5 with a regular and good paycheck.  The more skilled workers got paid more, which makes sense, but they had jobs. Now the jobs are gone.

Don’t tell me that working for a subpar wage with no health care or retirement benefits at a big box store is less stressful or easier on people.

My late father-in-law was a machinist in a mill. He and my mother-in-law raised nine kids on his paycheck. It was tight. Very tight. He supplemented his income with providing much of his own food with gardening, hunting and fishing, but his children were fed, educated and went on to good lives. But there’s no mill anymore for any of them to work in. The area they live in has been hit hard economically, and not just in this century. Things were getting bleak there in the 80s and they’ve never truly bounced back.

There are only so many tech jobs that can open up.

We’re being sold the story that we live in a service economy. That the jobs have moved overseas and there’s no getting them back. Why not? Prices will go up if people get paid a living wage. Americans have to say well, I will pay $6 for quality that will last instead of $1 at the dollar store. I’m no stranger to dollar stores. But how many times have I thrown out things in a matter of months and then had to replace it?  That’s false economy.

I feel like I’m on a soapbox right now. There are so many issues that are part of this problem. But I know there are people who want jobs and we keep telling them: “There are none. Learn a new skill.”  We have the factories, shuttered, many being turned into luxury housing for those in the professions. Housing is good. But so are jobs. Why repurpose a factory into housing when we could reopen it and start bringing in jobs?

I’m not an economist, so what the hell do I know? I read, though. I know history, though.  We see what happened to Detroit. We’re at a crossroads. Time to start a revolution in thinking about this country. Americans have to wrest America back from corporations and governments, local, state and federal, that pander to their needs.

August 28, 2013

One Summer that’s Not Fading Fast Enough

“The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

On today’s 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, it is more than appropriate to quote from it.  This is a speech that looms large in my life. I was only two when it was given–and at the time, I had a brand new baby brother in the house, Just two weeks old. The actual speech didn’t register.

But as I’ve mentioned in the past, I was blessed to have a mother and grandmother who believed in equality, who raised me to know that we’re all brothers and sisters, end of story.  So Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, these were childhood heroes whose influence stays with me today.

I’ve taught this speech in many settings for decades. Over 22 years ago, in a memorable public speaking class of adult women (there were just no men in that course), all at least a decade older than me, we watched the video of the speech. All of us sat there, tears streaming down our faces, not just because of the beauty of the words and the eloquence of the speaker, but because we realized the dream hadn’t been achieved yet.

In the past 50 years, there have been some cool days–some thought that summer was ending–but it never seems to stick. People say to me, but the president is Black! Two secretaries of State have been Black. Look at Oprah!

Yes, I know this is not the America of my childhood. Things are better. Marginally. But I teach in schools that are predominantly non-white. I see the difference between the lives of Black folk and White folk every day. More Black young men got stopped and frisked in NYC last year than there are young Black men in NYC. My students get to college primed for lives of mediocrity, and it breaks my heart.  Ask them. I go on rants weekly, because I expect magnificence, not mediocrity.

I live in a country that is not fulfilling its great promise, and this infuriates me. Yesterday, in my other blog, I also quoted Dr. King: “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”  I was writing about my students, but it stands for my country, as well. I love this country, truly and deeply, but I am sadly disappointed in the place it has become. Or perhaps I am disappointed in the place it has not become.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are in worse condition than they have been in decades, and a disproportionate percentage of non-White folks are on the poor end of the spectrum.  The middle class, the hope of America, is disappearing at an alarming rate. I like to think that it’s not a racial problem, but a class problem, but that’s me ignoring facts I don’t like.

How can I look my students in the eye and say we were ever on an even playing ground? Me? The green-eyed blonde? That they have the same opportunities as my child, my nieces and nephews? That it’s no harder for them? That people aren’t pre-judging them?

Actually, I do know the truth quite well, as my son has a Arabic name. Try being a 20-something young man with an Arab name on your passport in this country.

There are glimmers of hope. Proportionately speaking, young people today don’t “see” race. They understand that it’s a meaningless societal construct. After all, these are the kids raised by my generation, and many of us bought the message of the Civil Rights Movement.

There are other indicators of progress, but for every indicator, there’s something to remind us that it’s dangerous in this country for people of certain complexions.  A Black young man in a hoodie is perceived as a thug. A White young man in a hoodie is perceived as a skater boy. A Black young man in a nice car is perceived as a drug dealer. A White young man in a nice car is perceived as a hard worker or the scion of rich parents.

On the other hand, a young Black woman dressed in sexy club clothes is seen as tart. So is a young White woman. Ah, equality. I oversimplify there. Black professional women aren’t always seen in the same light as their White peers.

So the conditions of the summer of ’63 stretch out. Many of the things I’ve read in the anniversary of the March on Washington have asked: “What would Dr. King think?” No one can answer that. The one person who had the deepest insight was Coretta Scott King, a brave civil rights activist who probably knew her husband’s true attitudes better than any of the rest of us. But married people can tell you, even wives don’t always know how husbands will react. And anyway, she’s gone, too.

I think he’d see some progress, but not enough. Not enough. That promissory note  has yet to be redeemed.

July 10, 2013

Past Wisdom

Looking through some inspirational quotes today, I found this:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” Franklin D Roosevelt

When I read it I thought, “Oh dear. How will this decade, this century so far, be judged?”  We’ve done a very good job adding to the abundance of a few, but we’ve actually made it harder for those who have little.

That’s just not right. Now of course, I am the result of two generations of Roosevelt Democrats. Perversely, I actually like his cousin Teddy better and will occasionally call myself a Roosevelt Republican (which, by the standards of today’s GOP, means not a Republican at all), but I do think FDR’s administration tried to do something to help people.

My mom’s cousins and my great uncle were in the Civilian Conservation Corps, giving them work during the Depression. Social Security was introduced making retirement easier for many of my older relatives who would have ended up living in poverty once they could no longer work.

But now I live in an America where corporations have the rights of  people, very rich people, even though America was never supposed to be an oligarchy. I have a government that bails out banks and huge corporations because they are “too big to fail,” while saying those corporations should be allowed free reign to drive the economy. Make up your mind, corporations. Do you want federal help or freedom? If the free market says you fail, why then you should fail. Companies have failed since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Why not now?

Like many Americans I have reached a tipping point. I’m well beyond the “last straw” phase. The camel’s back was broken years ago, so now each fresh illustration of a world gone mad just pushes me further into despair.

Today’s Washington Post headline: “Wal-Mart says it will pull out of D.C. plans should city mandate ‘living wage'” summed it up for me. Wal-Mart has done more to ruin this country than I care to think about. People who work there full time still need government assistance. It destroys local businesses and has forced many American manufacturers to either move to China in a bid to keep costs low or plain put them out of business.

The 2oo5 documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price pointed out some of the problems caused by this behemoth but it’s not the only critic. Google “Wal-Mart dangers” and you will find articles from the New Yorker, BusinessWeek and MSN Money, a report from 60 Minutes from 1996 as well as reports from a number of watchdog groups. But the mainstream media seems to be aware of the threat Wal-Mart poses. But Americans still flock there to save a few dollars, dollars that then flow back out of their pockets to support Wal-Mart through taxes and lost opportunity.

Six years ago I started this blog to chronicle my return to America after 12 years abroad. I have gone from happy to be back to wanting to leave more than anything. This kills me because I truly love my country. But I had a better life in the three other countries I’ve lived in. Since I’ve been back it’s been six years of working part time or temporary jobs because in spite of my PhD, 23 years of teaching experience (during which I’ve won teaching awards), there are few jobs to be had. Twice I’ve had to turn down college teaching positions because I couldn’t afford to live on the salaries offered.

One college president even told me, “This is really a position for someone who has someone else in the household bringing in a second income.” Yes, truly, that was said to me.  And this was not at a small, private college. This was at a state school.

I’m looking for positions in other fields, but it’s not easy. I send out over 75 job applications a year–sometimes closer to 150. (The real lesson here is not to earn a PhD in the humanities. Seriously.)

Oh, America, what’s to become of you? Have we taken nothing from the past? The path we are on is not a viable one.  What is my son inheriting?

 

July 4, 2013

A Thought about a Declaration

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” From the Declaration of Independence of the thirteen united States of America

I really can’t say it any better than this section of a document written 237 years ago before this was the United States. We were just united. This is what we’re celebrating in America today.

And this is a very long segment from that Declaration, one of the main documents forming American culture. But when I read it today, it makes me think. And it makes me think hard.

I do think that the American form of government is a fine one. But I have to wonder if the Government itself is protecting our citizens and allowing us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Daily I see a “long train of abuses” done in the name of the American people that are actually causing nearly irreparable harm. Change is scary. Revolution is a hard word. The men who wrote this document knew that they were taking a destiny-changing step. They were either about to change the world or die trying, quite literally. Had the revolution failed many, if not all, would be hanged as traitors.

I would truly hate to see armed conflict in this country. But I also hate to see my country run by corporations and oligarchs. And from what I see, this is what it’s become. Maybe I’m alarmist. Maybe I’m crazy. Or maybe I’m just paying attention.

I believe in the ideals of this nation. I love this nation. But when I see what’s happening to my nation, my heart breaks.

We need change, change we really can believe in. A number of times in my adult life, I’ve thought there was going to be real change. But so far all I can think is: “The king is dead. Long live the king.” A few things change, but nothing of substance.

I know this isn’t very cheery and holiday-ish. I should be barbecuing and picnicking with family. And later today I will be. But I couldn’t let this solemn and important day pass without voicing some very real concerns. If we want another 237 years–another 50 years–something has to change.

*****

This is another blog inspired in part from Patchouli Haze, my daily inspirational blog. I realized that it had turned dire, so I moved it here and expanded.

May 24, 2013

Politics as Usual

“Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with nowadays.” ~ Will Rogers, June 27, 1931

Rogers has got to be one of my favorite commentators in American history.  The man was not only funny, he was dead on accurate in his comments. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. He said this over 80 years ago, and now it’s truer than ever.

Today I read an opinion piece by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, Where Money Talks,” about the power of money and the power of the monied in Washington. Depressing reading.  I like to believe I live in a meritocracy. I also like to believe in fairies. But no, I live in a plutocracy as the statistics in Milbank’s piece amply demonstrate.

And as that 80 year old comment shows, it’s been like this for a long time. It’s been like this from the beginning: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton–not exactly paupers.

I also like to believe that the Founding Fathers were a tad more idealistic than the current crop. Of course, they all literally put their lives on the line for treason, so they had to believe in something strongly enough to risk their necks.

Being back in America for the past six years has been illuminating. Depressing, too. I honestly don’t recognize my country.  Even Jefferson warned that America shouldn’t allow the rise of an aristocracy of corporations, and the people who run them.

As an observer, I really do think the tipping point is approaching. Occupy Wall Street was an early shot across the bow, and I do think it will take a few more years before anything more organized happens. But the unrest and anger is palpable to anyone paying attention.

As usual, Washington is not.

May 9, 2013

Anger, Injustice and Guns: a deadly mix

It’s strange how my “crunchy granola” blog often kick starts ideas for this blog. Today I just wanted to discuss anger, but then I realized, this is something worth discussing at length.  The Buddha quote got me started, and a few paragraphs are the same, but this take a different, darker direction.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~Buddha

I’ve always loved this quote because anger was, is, one of my personal demons.  So many times when I listen to my students, I hear so much barely suppressed anger that it’s no surprise that many of them are involved in incidents of violence.

Just this week, the topic of fighting came up in our class discussion. They actually asked me if I had ever been in a fight, and since I don’t lie to my students, I said, yes. Shocked (seems professors have never been children), they wanted to know when. I said something like not since before high school. Again, they were shocked. That long ago?

These are students who routinely see violence. Many come in with black eyes, broken noses, broken hands, split lips. My students have seen violence on the street, and a sad minority have seen friends killed in front of them. Mostly the young men, but sometimes the women. This is not hyperbole, but then I teach in New York City. As their writing teacher, I get to see some of their saddest and scariest memories. It’s an honor to read them, but some days, emotionally shattering.

The discussion evolved into learning to keep our cool and choosing not to engage.  They weren’t ready to embrace this stance at all. In life, I told them, we almost always have the choice not to engage. We can ignore or even diffuse the situation with calm or humor. Some thought that choosing not to engage showed weakness.  Perhaps in certain neighborhoods it does, but I’m not preparing my students for life in those neighborhoods. For most of them, I’m preparing them for a life in corporate America.

I know that learning to control anger is a lifelong process, and I know that for student who grow up in a world of violence and inarticulate rage in so many people, it’s even harder.  As a society we deplore violence; we preach against it and vilify guns.  While I have no problem with stricter laws about who can get their hands on weapons, I also see that this isn’t the answer to America’s violence problem. There are countries that have lots of guns. The much-bandied statistic that Canada has almost as many guns as America is well known to people who pay attention to the gun control debate.

When I lived overseas I realized it wasn’t so much that Americans have too many guns. It’s that Americans are more willing to use them than people from other countries.  Americans are relatively quick to kill.  I’ve often tried to trace why this is so, but that is a project for when I have more time on my hands. A lot more time.  And I’m sure it’s not just one thing, but a mélange of factors.

But today I realized that anger must be a significant part of that deadly mix.  Anger in my students can be understood—they come from under-employed, under-educated, un-respected neighborhoods. They are surrounded by angry people, and it builds and builds.

And in this country, right now, anger is growing and growing in more segments of society. People who were safely middle class no longer are. More families are holding on by fingertips, facing unbelievable stress thanks to money. Housing, education, medical care and pensions are threatened, while corporations earn more and more money.  This anger translates into hotter tempers and the word “desperation” is used much more often than it used to be.

It’s senseless, mass shootings that outrage America and galvanize the gun debate, but these account for only a small percentage of gun deaths in this country. In the US in 2010, there were 11.078 gun murders. I was a bit suspicious of that number till I saw that in New York City alone, in 2011, there were 515 deaths classified as homicide. Of those, 61% were killed by guns. That’s 314 people in one city in one state.

This growing anger and dissatisfaction is growing yearly since I returned to America five years ago. I’ve written in this blog about whether or not we were like Rome, but more and more, I’m reminded of Versailles.

As a nation, this anger needs to be addressed. Where there is justice for all, there will be freedom from much of the violence.  Anger management and social justice are overwhelming topics, so they are often shelved. It’s time to bring these topics to the table.

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