From a prosperous nation
That matters little now
Squints to see
In the dimming light.
Manually, as the
To a halt.
Parents in the hall,
Wait, beyond nerves,
But still desperately
His eyes meet theirs.
"Jeezus, I tried,"
He mutters in his language.
"God knows I tried."
Silently, he hands the baby
To its parents for a final
And he goes to a
If this moved you, beyond politics, consider sending a donation to Doctors Without Borders.
How many babies must die?
How many parents must cry?
How many unknown
Must be buried alone?
Before we turn
To a better way,
Before we learn
And see the light of day?
Wars are in store?
Blowing in the Wind
Speaks to us today
Just as it did then.
Has nothing changed?
Maybe the singer, the man
Has a more jaded eye,
Having won a prestigious prize
Perhaps he no longer cries.
Is he still aware?
Does he still care?
An allegory for our times, our nations
There once was a bully. At his last school, he had been bullied himself, outcast and had few friends. His parents had him transferred to another school, so that wouldn’t happen anymore. So what did happen?
He became a bully.
“ I’ll show the other kids right away that they can’t do anything to me. I’ll give back as good as I get,” he promised himself. So he entered the new class noisily, told a kid he was sitting in his seat and had to move. The other child looked surprised but moved to a different desk.
At recess, some kids gathered. The bully saw they were friends. So he chose a different area, brought out a ball, and announced loudly,
“This circle is for the real people.”
That intrigued some of the other students. And besides, the bully had the best ball. So they joined him and soon were playing a new game he taught them: The Bully Game. One child was chosen to be the bully. That child would throw the ball hard at them and they would all run. The one who was hit was the next bully.
This small group of children began to play in that circle every day and chased away anyone who wanted to join. They didn’t mind that their circle was small and that the other children stayed away from them.
One day another boy wanted to join the group. He was friends with a boy in the circle, who petitioned for his acceptance. So they let him in. But halfway through recess, the boy needed to pee. He stepped out of the circle.
“Hey, you can’t leave until the bell rings,” the head bully called.
“But I have to pee!”
“If you want to be one of us, you’ll wait until the bell rings.”
“That’s not fair. You’re just a bully.”
“A bully, am I? Come here!”
The other boy walked over to the bully, who hit him in the stomach.
The boy ran out of the circle. He told his friends what had happened. They conspired to confront the group. They stood all around the circle and called out, ”Down with the bully!”
The children in the circle all huddled around the bully. “Here, I’ll take care of them,” the bully boasted. “I am the leader. I know what to do.”
The bully looked at the children all around the outside of the circle. “I can handle this,” he told himself. Then he said to the kids inside the circle,
“Hey, my friends. Each of you choose one kid and chase him away. Hit him in the stomach if you have to.”
But his followers just stood there. They had joined the bully to play a game and to be cool. They wanted to belong. But they had friends outside the circle. They weren’t going to hit them.
The bully looked around. What was going on? Why weren’t his followers chasing the other kids?
What should he do?
Well, the bully became the child he was for a moment. What do children do in school when they need help?
“I’m telling,” he yelled. He ran out of the circle , hit the other boy in the stomach, then found the yard duty teacher.
“Those kids are being mean to me and my friends,” he said, pointing. “I need you to tell them to go away.”
“Let’s go over there so I can see what’s going on,” the teacher answered. She walked over to the circle with the boy.
“See?” he said. They are all standing on my circle.”
“Who said it’s your circle?” the other boy retorted.
“Why did you hit me?”
“You were breaking the rules. You were nasty to me.”
“Because you were being a bully. Anyway, why can’t me and my friends play in this circle, with the ball?”
“Because you’re not like us. You don’t play like us.”
The teacher stepped in. “I’m’ glad you two are talking about it and not hitting. But I think it might help you to have a mediator. Do you agree to that?”
The two boys looked at each other and nodded.
The bell rang. The teacher told all the children, in and out of the circle, that they could go back to class. She kept the two boys with her and walked to an empty room. Then she called for a restorative justice helper. This was an older child trained in how to help others resolve conflicts The school had found that other children often worked better as mediators than did the adults in authority. The older children didn’t have any hidden agendas and were trained to be objective and keep their feelings out of it. They understood how it felt to be a child.
So two older children came as counselors, a girl and a boy. They followed the protocol and had one boy tell his side without interruption then the other boy. Then the counselors asked some questions. How did that make you feel? Why? Why did you do that? What were the results? Were you happy with the results? If not, what could you have done to change that? Soon both boys calmed down. They realized they both had the same need, to have friends. And they realized they could have the same friends. It didn’t have to be one or the other. And the counselors suggested that leaders, truly effective leaders, are those who lead not through coercion but through shared aims. In the end, the boys agreed, they just wanted peace on the playground. They were tired of bullying and being bullied.
Now they had to come up with a solution. They decided that each would talk to his followers, say he had been wrong in his actions and ask for their forgiveness. Then he would show his followers the new way. They could all still have their own friends, but the friends wouldn’t belong to a group. They would agree that the playground was there for all to use. The two boys would set up a system of sharing the balls and other equipment equitably.
When the two boys had agreed, the counselors wrote up the agreement. The two boys signed.
Meanwhile, they had missed the second recess, and the teachers all noted how much calmer the recess had been.
The next day, the two boys, with the assistance of the counselors, called their friends together. Each talked to his own following. Then the two boys walked their own group over to the big circle.
“This circle is for everyone,” they said. “If someone is already here with a ball, playing, you may join their game. But you must play by the rules. If you are here first, you may choose the game but you must let anyone join.”
The two boys looked around. “We are now friends,” they said, shaking each other’s hand. “We will not bully anyone and we will help anyone who is being bullied. You can be friends with either or both of us. But we will not allow anyone to be ostracized. (they had just learned this word from their counselors). If you agree to this, raise your hand. If not, just go off and play.”
The boys watched. The other children looked at each other. One child raised their hand. Then another, then another. Soon they all had their hands raised.
The two boys looked at each other and smiled. They gave each other a high five. And the other children all followed suit.
Now it would be good to say that the schoolyard ran in peace forever more. But that, of course, is not the way of children, or adults for that matter. However, it can be said that while there were little playground disputes, they were resolved quickly and while there were groups of children who joined together with similar inclinations, nobody was ever excluded again and any would-be bullies were dealt with quickly and with compassion so that the schoolyard ran smoothly for years to come. And as for the bully? He was much happier now that he had friends and didn’t have to hide behind the bully mask.
Would that the same could be said for the adults, our nations, our world.
Musings on a Comic Strip by Patrick McDonnell
A chained dog says "That chain says everything about him and nothing about me."
That says it all. And it could be referencing so many situations.
The dog being considered a bully because it runs up to people, when it is just friendly. Or the owner can’t be bothered to spend time with his dog, so he just chains the dog up.
Prisoners: give them a trial, jail them, then lock them up and throw away the key. Don’t worry about rehabilitation, justice… They must be “punished” in the name of justice. Judges often refer to the victims and the need for them to find “closure.”
A man at Santa Rita was jailed for a minor infraction. He was later found dead and had apparently been dead several days. How is that possible? Because he was indigent and couldn’t pay bail, he paid with his life for peeing in public.
Animals: be afraid of a “wild” animal and put it down because it is foraging in your garbage or picnic food in its own habitat. Or one animal hurts a human. We don’t know who started it, because the animal doesn’t speak our language and we can’t be bothered to learn its language. When it comes to animals injuring humans, the animal is automatically wrong. And often euthanized.
Schools: restrain the kid acting up, suspend them, don’t talk to them or find out what went wrong. Don’t try to calm them down but put them in a restraint hold. Then send them home. I have seen this happen more than once unfortunately.
My personal bully: shut me up, make me feel guilty, say I’m the problem, which says tons about her and only about me that I am chained by guilt and need to free myself.
And what happens when the chained one resists? Often bloodshed and the chained ones pay with their lives. Sometimes, bloodshed and the chained ones cause the bloodshed. And maybe sometimes both sides come to their senses.
What is the alternative? Often, kindness and understanding. I know in school that calming a child down, listening to them, works wonders. How many times would I say to the adult, “First, let go of him. For your own sake. Now I’ll take over” And I would take the child to a calm place, give him space to wind down then talk and listen. Or in a squabble, the Kindergarten teacher way is to bring both kids together, let each have their say, then ask them for possible solutions. When all agree, they shake hands and often go off as friends. This is now called restorative justice in the high schools. Kindergarten and preschool teachers invented it.
In schools, suspension is the go to result, because it is quick and easy and removes the child i.e."problem" for a day or two. Or expulsion. But it rarely works. The school has no control over what happens at home when the child is suspended. Perhaps the parent makes the child sit in their room all day, emerging only at mealtimes. And maybe the parent talks with the child and the child writes an apology, a truly felt one. But sometimes the parent hits the child or even takes the belt to them, or disagrees with the school and takes the child shopping to make up for the school “hurting”them. Or the child must stay home alone while the parent is working. None of which addresses the original problem and situation. Expulsion simply transfers the problem from one school to another.
Corporal punishment is illegal for good reason and never works. It just sets up an us versus them attitude. I have seen children brag about the belt welts on their back,, gain status for it among their group, and thus continue the behavior that caused the punishment.
A dog may need to be restrained to avoid it attacking. Don’t tie it up. Instead, put it inside, in a warm bed, talk to it quietly, make it feel secure. Then retrain. Same with a child. Same with a crazy person with a knife or gun. Keep everyone safe. But that does not mean punishment for punishment’s sake. Show them a better way, one that will produce more desirable results for them
And for some, those who have emotional problems beyond simple solutions or further restraint, a sheltered environment, may be necessary. But that is to be decided, by experts, after the incident, when cooler heads have prevailed on all sides. A dog may be retrained by a shelter and a compassionate foster parent. But it takes a lot of patience and work. It is not for everyone. A child may be placed in a special home or school if absolutely necessary. If a mountain lion enters a schoolyard, it must be removed, both for its sake and the safety of the children. It is wild and cannot and should not be trained. But it can be captured humanely to return it to a wild environment where it can thrive and be wild and free.
Other times, the danger is only perceived. My bully was a threat only because I allowed it. The danger was my own psyche taking on the burden for no good reason. The solution was simply to ignore her as much as possible and get away from the toxin as soon as possible.
In short, for all, if you label them as bad, that justifies any action you take against them. For the other is the enemy, the bully, the bad dog. Try to understand them and their actions, and then you can try to help rectify the problem. Get them to calm down, see you not as the enemy, then you can sit down together and discuss solutions rationally. With those over which you have authority, such as dogs and children, you become their protector, mentor or friend. The best revenge is kindness. If the other accepts it.
If that is not possible, simply remove yourself from their company and seek other circles, other places where people treat you well. Avoid badmouthing, don’t stoop to their level, remain silent. They, individuals or countries, will soon see that they are isolated, not supported by anyone, and will either stew in their own bile or change to rejoin civil society.
Being ignored makes the enemy angry. Usually they want war. Ignoring the enemy is sweet revenge and removes you from the problem. It helps the victim, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the underlying problem. Better, if possible, is kindness. Kindness is the ultimate revenge, but it is not revenge. It is meeting trouble with a positive attitude that might, just might, change the other person, animal, group, or nation. It often means swallowing one’s pride, letting things go, which can rankle the victim. But if true change in the other happens as a result, is the following peaceful meal not worth the bitter swallow?
None of this is news, of course. Prophets and religions have been advocating this for years. But in these troubled times, it bears repeating and rephrasing.
End of Season
The last apples have been picked
The last pear hangs on the tree,
Ready to be picked, by me
The deer, or the squirrel
Whoever first shall be.
Clinging to the drying branch,
Gold tomatoes split and fall
To the ground before they’re picked.
One tomato heavily
Hangs on a scraggly plant too tall.
Behind rain freshened leaves,
I can just see yellow
Fruit on the lemon tree,
Buds on the mandarin
And an oval kiwi.
One season begins
As another ends,
Endless cycle of rebirth,
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall,
With the spinning of our Earth.
So too, this year, may war cease,
May our precious Earth know peace.
Today I picked
The last pear
On the tree
Before the squirrel.
It was so juicy.
And I picked
The last large
Round red tomato.
I ate slices on
A slab of dark bread.
It tasted of summer.
Shoots up from the ground,
Two red and white striped
Blossoms to enjoy,
And thinking of all those in the world who will go without
Due to war, famine or poverty.