Will My School Be Next?

Los Angeles     There’s a point when people get numb.  Not so much used to something as feeling it is inevitable.  Reading the news about another school shooting, this time in suburban Houston where more young people were killed, I was most struck by a young woman who was interviewed while sheltered saying, “we wondered when this would happen here.”

How chilling.  To think that part of the current generation’s experience of their time in a suburban public high school includes not just football games, endless exams, proms, and the questions of what happens next in life, but wondering if you could be killed by random violence.  That’s part of the package now, and after watching the protests from young people in Florida after the tragedy there, there seemed some hope of change.  Even Florida seemed to be getting the message.  Maybe now, Texas might.

I say “might” because although this constant expectation of random violence is now an increased part of public school education, it is not a new phenomenon in the suburbs.  Worse, the expectation of potential violence has been a common part of the program in many large, urban high schools for years, and other than finger pointing from the conservatives, it never prompted reforms or gun control.

The President ordered flags at half-staff in Texas and elsewhere, but that’s neither program nor prevention.  In fact, the little said in the wake of this most recent tragedy makes me feel that the level of resignation has risen.  It has probably gone past young high school students watching friends and classmates killed for no reason to have now infected all of us.  This is the way America is now.  This is what happens and will keep happening.

Where is the tipping point that forces changes in mental health programs and support for alienated and troubled young people?  Where is the program that makes it harder to access guns and restricts them sufficiently to insure both public and private security?

I don’t know, but I can’t believe we are going to continue to watch the body count rise without demanding and forcing change.


Pigs Flying in Florida as Even Republicans Call for Voting Reforms

voting lines in Miami 2012

New Orleans   Yes, it snows in July in Florida.  Yes, pigs are on the runway in Miami getting ready to fly, and it is not because of loosening travel restrictions in Cuba, but because finally after more than a dozen years of being the case study for anti-democratic vote suppression and election chaos, even Republican governor Rick Scott has finally decided that Florida should not be the laughing stock of the electoral world.

I’m not saying that they he or the Republican Party in Florida have decided that they should endorse democracy or a citizen’s right to vote.  That would be way too radical for them!  Being for democracy would include making it easier once again for citizens to register to vote, and that’s way over the line.

But, at least they have decided that some of the more obvious obstacles that they had put in the way of voters like cutting the number of early voting days, taking away the Sunday before Election Day which had been so popular with African-American voters and larding up the ballot should be reformed.  Election supervisors had guaranteed that these changes would create long lines and total disruption, and the fact that the whole country waited for days, yes DAYS, after the last Presidential election to finally know whether Obama or Romney won the state (Obama did of course), must have been the last straw.

Well, maybe not the last straw.  That straw might have been a report by University of Florida professor of political science, Daniel A. Smith, which was released the same day as Governor Scott’s epiphany.  The report established that black and Latino voters were disproportionately affected.  Hello, was that not the point?!?  Almost half of black voters voted early, no longer trusting the election process, but then caught in the maelstrom of long lines to such a degree that more than a half-million voted absentee, lengthening significantly the waiting time to tally the final results from around the state.  According to a story in the Times,

Absentee ballots cast by blacks were twice as likely to be rejected as those by whites.  Racial and ethnic minorities also cast a disproportionate number of provisional ballots and saw them rejected at higher rates.

And to think that the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court has questioned whether there should still be Department of Justice review of voting matters in southern states?!?  The only real question should be whether or not all 50 states should have a departmental and judicial review to ensure access, equity, and fairness.

This is Florida, so this is a baby step.  We will have to watch this.  Keep remembering how hard it will be for these pigs to fly.