Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Epidemiology of Gun Violence as it Relates to Mass Shootings

I've been wondering a lot recently about our country and mass shootings. But it's not so much about the acquisition of the weapons as it is about the chosen crime, or rather the chosen mode of the commission of the crime. What is it about our country, society, mores, and/or dominant culture that makes someone want to shoot several people at once? Seriously, there are multiple options for committing mass murder that don't involve being at the crime scene during the commission of said crime, and probably lessen, or at least prolong one's discovery. Further, is it the possession of high-powered weapons and artillery that drives one to commit such atrocities, or does the need for the aforementioned accoutrements drive one to seek them out? And just how wigged out does one have to be to just walk into a place with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon and just open fire with no regard for being seen or killed, as well. No, I'm not making light of the hundreds who/that have lost their lives in such a manner, but that is so death before arson or bombing, which if you watch international news, is so not the case in other developed countries. Think about meth. How long were we just using over-the-counter medications to alleviate cold and sinus symptoms and discomfort before we decided that we could use them to make one of the most ugly-making, self-destructive recreational(?) drugs ever? It's almost very chicken-or-the-egg-like. So, you've got a need to kill a lot of people at once, get super high, or do something else that is morally embarrassing, weak, detestful, distasteful, self-destructive, or nihilistic, and we bear in mind that necessity is the mother of invention. What will it take for a simple rock or stick to be a weapon of mass destruction, and the simple marijuana plant growing in the back yard provide your buzz? What is the x that makes one want to do things the hard way? Love of a challenge? Just wondering.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nature versus Nurture

Just some random thoughts relative to what I've seen and thought relative to MY magic city... If someone did a treatment about Montgomery a la the Wire, what would define Montgomery? What are the things, people, places, that make Montgomery Montgomery? Years ago, we thought the Montgomery Advertiser was a 55 year old, white, Republican male. What would Montgomery be? A black unwed mother. A parisienne immigrant? One of our country's landed gentry? Or, just a regular Joe? Would the piece be in retrospect during the Folmar years? Would the hot spot be The Player's Club or Adams? Who would the main characters be? I think of all the former heads and executives of our local media and the influence they wielded. These are the people who can actually establish the city's priorities and agenda, incite meaningful discourse and call individuals, as well as city leaders to task. Okay, like the WHHY-Y102 DJ that fought for us to keep the David Letterman show in our market. Awesome. The Wire had its drug trade, lost industry and deep political underbelly, good and/or bad. These are the things that make up the day-to-dayness of the city. What would those things be in Montgomery? All of my questions and observations come from a certain psyche and generational perspective. It's a generation that came of age in a time that didn't require the proposal of a bill to deter young men from wearing their pants down around their, well you know. Family Planning clinics were a given, and their funding was not up for debate--at least not publicly. No one in my circle of friends cared about Mormons or Mormonism. They were just the white people brave or caring enough to actually come into our neighborhoods, on bicycles no less. Yes, it totally freaks me out that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Yes, it's out there. I said it. I probably feel the way Protestants felt about John F. Kennedy relative to his Catholicism during the Presidential race of his generation. I grew up in a segregated Montgomery. My elementary and junior high schools were full of white teachers, but not white kids. Neither were in the neighborhood that my family purchased a home in. I really didn't experience integration until senior high, which was 1982. Remember having secret crushes on cute white boys (I guess this question would only be applicable to straight black women) and not saying anything or acting on it simply because--gasp!--they were white? Is today's Eastdale Mall tomorrow's Normandale? Or would that actually be Eastchase? Who knows maybe the Main Street retail concept works better, I don't know, downtown. Random thought: Staunton, Virginia's branding of their downtown revitalization was one of the neatest I'd ever seen: The Big Dig. In any case, again just rants and raves in relation to where I am and what I've seen. And it all started with Wikipedia. Nature versus Nurture...the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits...The view that humans acquire all their behavioral traits from "nurture" was termed by philosopher John Locke, and purposes that humans develop from only environment influences. Thank you for circa 1972 - 1985 Montgomery County Public School System and teachers.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Chamber, Commerce and the Montgomery CVB

Quite often, while out and about in our fair city, I will look around and marvel at the development that has taken place over the years. Seriously, sometimes I am truly amazed with the efforts of our downtown revitalization, as well as the retail developments on the east side of town. I think of the events that the city plays host to each year, and how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy book festivals, Jubilee, food festivals, minor league baseball and stadium food, with beer even. And while in my Montgomery induced stupor, I wonder what it would take to entice others to come and enjoy all that Montgomery has to offer. I'd like for others to take in and take advantage of our state's capitol, the city we are fortunate enough to call and consider home. A couple of days ago I had another epiphany: if we would only work as hard as we can to develop, grow and build the best city that we possibly can--physically, socially and ideologically--just for us, without regard to what tourists might want, we will enevitably develop a city that others will want to visit or live in because its development and growth will be based more upon on actuals that conjecture. But today, I pondered another reason people should flock to our city--democracy. Montgomery, again, is the seat of the state's government and Dexter Avenue is ideal for protesting--very orderly and respectfully, of course--the causes of the day. It would be super cool to cultivate a mini D.C., an area that people associated with free speech, the right to assemble, and strategically run lots and lots of paid-in-advance issue advertising because our politicians are right here. Another plus, we have more than enough lodging to accommodate those who want to visit for their cause. A $5 million hospitality investment is already underway. This is not a call for civil disobedience, but rather civil engagement in the democratic process. Perhaps being labeled a progressive isn't about liberalism or conservatism. Maybe it can be about encouraging the discourse, welcoming challenging viewpoints, and courting the unconventional.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kids Need Discipline and Infrastructure

Hats off to acknowledging the need for vocational education, or votech as we used to call it. (Although I do have to say I cringed when I read the line in the MAJ, "The idea is to give more options to students who are unsuccessful in a traditional environment...") However, this is 2012 and not 1982. What will be put into place to insure a steady and engaged, enthusiastic and willing group of students, and enough so that this investment is maximized, as well as justified? What will the offerings be that will make it seem a viable option and worth the while of the students? Will certain students be tracked into it, or will the curricula and offerings put the demand for an opportunity to be a part of the program on par with the demand for a slot in some of our area magnet schools. Any input forthcoming or expected from our area's largest employers, e.g. the State of Alabama or Hyundai, which is the size of a small rural or northern city in itself? Our district is being inundated with options, ideas and examples of new avenues and venues for education--new schools, charter schools--all within the day-to-day workings of a Lee, minimum standards not being met, and the addressed knowledge that many of the system's current students are not on track to graduate. And further, what is enrollment currently like overall? How are birthrates and population shifts trending? There doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of household growth in the more established parts of the city. I mean I could be wrong, but it seems that the only thing we have to contend with as far as population growth and shifts are the sprouting up of neighborhoods in the outlying areas of our MSA, I.e. Hampstead, the Waters etc... For me, that appears to be an advantage, possibly allowing us to focus our attention and our funds on addressing and investing in the improvement of our current facilities and programming as opposed to embarking on an overly ambitious and possibly not expedient building plan. Quite often, our strategies seem like a zip drive, as opposed to a Windows patch. They address, gather and store without actually providing an executable in the form of a solution or a fix. However, much like a zip drive, fortunately, they don't appear to add to it. Be mindful, K-12, plus seven to eight years is a career. In about 20 years there will be a need for quite a few people to work on that $94 million (?) airport expansion. We saw the turn out for that, and that's just one example of what I can only hope is not a growing sense of apathy or active disassociation regarding what goes on in our city. The epiphany and ah ha moment: realizing today's schoolchildren are the future's employees public and private, small businesses, employers with 50+ employees, and initiatives that get completed on time, within or over budget. Yes, that group of second graders at Winton Blount Cultural Park is a part of your future. One kid at Montgomery Academy could be the determing factor of whether or not there will be a Jubilee. It's time to get selfish. A commitment to their future is a commitment to yours. So shop, spend, get involved. It is all about the jobs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Noblesse Oblige and the Beatitudes (or Be Attitudes, Phonetically Speaking)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Matthew 5:3-11
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you for my sake.

The Church and the State are separated…really. Or, is it really?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stereotypes Exist for a Reason

I have to admit, I don’t know much about the details regarding the Trayvon Martin case, if that is indeed what it is now.  Unfortunately, regardless of how it is resolved, there will still be one less black male and another other race male that will have to live with the fact that he took a life.  No, this is not about Trayvon.  It’s about our level of responsibility relative to how we are viewed, perceived, judged and treated.  I’m not going to address the exceptions, those adverse issues, incidents and prejudices that arise despite our best attempts at civility towards our fellow man, and those that are not going to like or have an affinity for you no matter what.  This is strictly about holding ourselves to a certain standard, and being honest about our actions and manner.

Relative to honesty, perhaps it was easier to navigate through behavior and attitudes during the Jim Crow era because you’d know exactly where you stood. The phrase politically correct wasn’t even in the lexicon. And please don’t take offense to the Jim Crow reference. This is in no way intended to denigrate or lessen the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. Again, it’s about honesty.
It seems the more we try to regulate and legislate civility, the less we strive to be truly civil.

 The previous example may be a little extreme, but think of others. Today’s schoolchildren don’t have to experience not getting a valentine from everyone, or being picked last for the team. There is no stigma relative to the teenager walking around pregnant in middle school or high school.  What is the expectation, or what can we aspire to if we can’t truly acknowledge how we feel because everything has to be right and fair?  It’s like affirmative action and set asides in relation to behavior and standards.

Perhaps we’ve expended so much effort over the last few decades telling our children what they can do, that we neglected to tell them what they can’t.  Is it possible to make others feel that certain options are accessible without imputing a sense of entitlement?  Is that how we cultivate a work for it ethic?  Again, how can we talk about raising the bar and reinforcing positive, acceptable behavior that allows one to progress when attempts to be just have all but taken the bar away?
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but some of them don’t end up on coffee tables by happenstance.