Why I attended a Trump rally

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AMSOIL arena – Duluth


I was recently given tickets to attend the Trump rally in Duluth, Minnesota last night. Given the controversy around the issues occurring on our southern border, I felt like this was my closest opportunity I might have to put myself in a place to show resistance to his actions and the impact he is having on our society and populace. I thought just being part of the gathering of protesters would be sufficient to try to get my point across. I brought a couple of signs with me, that I wanted to hold in rallying support of the opposition. IMG_9316

This billboard stayed in my car because attendees were not allowed to bring signage into the convention. I actually had visions of someone taking a bat to the back window of my car where I had it visually placed, but we parked quite a distance away from the rally so it was not noticeable. I believe that merits the experience I had at this, my first presidential rally. I brought a former student of mine, a decade past his graduation, someone I knew had similar views to my own. We talked about what we were about to experience, but really frankly had no idea what we were about to encounter.

In all honesty, I genuinely believed if I found myself in the arena I would find similar minded people to rally around as we listened to 45 spout the same rhetoric he has for the entirety of his presidency. I was never so wrong in my life. We encountered protesters along the way, in fact, delightfully I ran into another former student holding a wonderful sign of protest – a biblical verse – Matthew 25:34-46. I made it clear to her I had tickets to go inside, but I was on the side of the protesters. We caught up for a few moments, I took her picture and told her there would be a lot of people back home, happy to see her posture on this day. The response from social media indicated I was correct.

This morning, in reflection on the experience, I do believe if I had just driven up to protest I would have been completely satisfied on one level. Having tickets to go inside the arena and experience the rhetoric from 45 is one thing; however, the greater takeaway as my companion pointed out was the mob-mentality of the audience.There was absolutely nothing this leader of our country could say that would diminish the rabid nature of the crowd’s reaction to his every word.

I suppose in reality that is a normal reaction to a crowd of supporters. There was just something different about this energy, and that is what I struggled with for the entire time we were in the convention. We left about fifteen minutes before the end because I frankly could not stomach any more of the speech. Again he talked about similar topics of his concern – numbers in attendance, creating more jobs for African-Americans, the fake-news media section that he encouraged his audience to provide a unifying roar of boos and catcalls, and of course a chant of ‘lock her up’ to get the crowd on the same page. In addition he was adamant toward making a point of isolating any protesters that he then had promptly escorted out of the convention.

At one point he criticized a long-haired protester, asking whether he was a man or woman, telling him to go back home to his mom and get a haircut. I was a little concerned the people I am close to in my life, might fear it was me because I presently have long hair, but it wasn’t me – I was the one standing nearby that kept my eyes down for the majority of the speech and occasionally would clap three or four times so those around me wouldn’t get a sense that I wasn’t there for the right reasons. He once asked the news media to pan the crowd, and I diligently stooped down and pretended to tie my shoes. I was wearing sandals.

That is what I was truly most nervous about, becoming exposed. This was no environment to oppose the speaker, I mean, even a look in the eye felt like exposure, and I did fear for my safety. This is the first presidential convention I have ever attended, but I do not think that is a normal attendee reaction no matter the side of the fence their views might land. (Perhaps people will now reference the Democratic convention of 1968 in Chicago and rightfully so, but was that about party or their angst toward the police at the time? I was nine years old, I only remember the television coverage and some horrific story about Dan Rather’s behavior in a taxi ride.) I watched the room lather with 45’s constant berating nature and bully tactics that were not presidential in any regard.

His speech was about him and his accomplishments thus far. Yes, one can argue that he has made strides with North Korea, but we really don’t know the long term impact, outside of the hostages being released, that is huge. But beyond that what is the impact? There were no reassuring words on his part, in fact at one point he said, ‘maybe it won’t work, we just don’t know.’ My student at that point  said to me later I think that is the first time he had ever heard Trump go back on a declarative statement. I couldn’t argue.

We decided to leave around 10 or 15 minutes before he finished, partly because I was feeling anxious and partly because we weren’t hearing anything new, and we knew the crowd control was going to be crazy leaving. I said to my companion, I could feign a heart issue in the event people questioned our departure but beyond specific glares and questionable expressions, we were free to leave early.

We got outside and found a good amount of protesters awaiting the end of the convention. I won’t say thousands because that wouldn’t be true, but there were numbers, and despite feeling like that is where I should have been standing, a part of me was glad I did stand inside to experience the speech. Here’s why.

I’ve always believed it is important to listen to both sides. I was raised in a family that supported both sides of the ticket and were always able to dialogue about all the relevant issues no matter the stance. I don’t believe in the vision of Donald Trump. I think it is a sham and he has no idea what the ramifications of his rhetoric have on our society. Or maybe he does, and if that is the case, that is an even scarier prospect. He made a comment last night about no families being split up at the border last night, and I haven’t read the news today, and I have no comment on that, all I can do is think about the weeks before hand – the damage is done.

In conclusion, it was the mindset of the people walking into the arena that frightened me more than anything else. I saw a young woman of no more than twenty wearing an American flag that blended into a confederate flag. Why?!? IMG_9321What is it we are trying to create in our society today? What is it this man is doing to the sanctity of our country that is built around the tenet of supporting everyone, no matter their background, or religious affiliation or color of their skin?

 

 

I’m generalizing now, so it is time to finish my point.  Ironically, I’m listening to David Bowie’s ‘This Is Not America’ as I write my last words.

So why did I attend this convention? I was given tickets. I live less than 200 miles away. I wanted first hand to see how we are reacting to this man’s hand on our country’s rewards and ills, and last night I experienced that fraction of populace that supports his ideals. Correct, he is our president, my president and as an American I am asked to respect the office of the POTUS, but listening to a man simply try to lather a crowd with ill meant rhetoric and sad commentary on our society while constantly patting himself on the back is not what is going to lead us in the right direction. The reality of this movement leaves me scared and bewildered.

I can only be grateful that I was in the audience with a mindful companion, because quite frankly I don’t know how I might have handled being in the AMSOIL arena in Duluth alone.

Thanks for listening, and for anyone questioning my loyalties or political leaning, trust me they haven’t changed, if anything they have been strengthened. Let’s go forward … somehow.


Pictures are my own

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‘Speechless’ by The Moving Co.

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Last night we went to see the play ‘Speechless’ performed by The Moving Company at The Lab Theater in downtown Minneapolis. I wanted to see the show (Best Play of 2017 – StarTribune) because it is being produced by former members of Theatre De Le Jeune Lune, namely, created by Steven Epp and directed by Dominique Serrand. In reading a preview I was further intrigued by the premise, no words, only movement interwoven in the music of Brahms, Schubert & Tchaikovsky.

In reading the synopsis, “SPEECHLESS follows five brave souls as they navigate through grief, loss, and disbelief” -The Moving Company, I found I was immediately drawn by the history and creative nature of Jeune Lune and these players’ ability to demonstrate an avenue of experimental theatre often missed by many, but for those that dare, the reward outstanding. Last evening was no exception.

The night began with the company of players, five actors walking out into the stage, and intermingling with the audience while the lights slowly fade, their expressions all appearing earnest and welcoming, almost lonely in their need to connect, to only simply, say something. One actor as they centered, slowly opened his mouth for a certain utterance, and then simply backed away in pained disbelief. They all then lighted accordingly began their performance with the music moving their soul.

What transpired over the next 90 minutes was rather incredible in this relevant statement upon our society and its loss of ‘hope’ as would be one of the only tangible motifs I could easily draw conclusion upon. Throughout certain movement and precise acuity the actors then told the story of a society lost, grieving, finding relief, looking for motion, looking for someway to seek comfort inside a world of crumbling and disheveled chaos that only continued to unravel. Everything they touched seemed to fall away and even shatter in literal testament of the destruction their lives would now endure.

Yet, the beauty of ‘Speechless’ is that as their world tore apart, they kept finding ways to mend, even realizing that while the best of their world lay in fragments if they brought their energy together, there then, people could somehow find some new grounding to within the magic of the human condition piece together their lives.

Through a remarkable array of dance, acrobatics, layered meaning and finally the utterance of body and soul that had me imagining Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ the players slowly found themselves together and with the meaning of hope, they did discover spring again, and planting seeds finished the night in a spectacular rainbow of meaning that showed the audience, once again, love is everything.

This is certainly a special piece of theatre playing through the 10th of June. If you are curious, I assure you, there is reason to find out why. Go.

Different Set of Eyes

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Yesterday morning, while sitting in a writing lab with a student, we both received notifications at the same time, about the Houston tragedy – Tragedy in Texas – and we talked for a minute or two of our sadness. We exchanged the usual, it keeps happening, oh that’s scary, terrible, any number of coined phrases that are now attached to school shootings. But then I turned to her and I asked her,

“How do you feel about that?” and I looked her directly in the eye.

She paused for a moment, and then replied, “I’m sorry, but the first thing I think about is White people,” and she tried to restrain a natural smile, not one of happiness but one of timid reality that she lives in every day. See this young woman is Latina, and her mindset does not comprehend such an acceptance of school shootings. She believes the ‘mental health’ attachment is just another way of protecting the White community.

I looked at her and said, “You’re right.” But I was just beginning to think about the reality of her words. I couldn’t get past it the rest of the day. In my class later on in the morning, when the subject came up, there she was again, and this time her response was that society just allows it to happen because they can wrap it around a ‘mental illness’ label. I wondered if the rest of our society might see it as clearly as she does. I thought about her world.

In her scope of reasoning she has other concerns. Number one, she lives in a world where ICE is constantly knocking on her door, her friend’s door, family, acquaintances who every day wake up wondering if this is the day – will someone today lose their rights and feel the anxiety of having their family, lifestyle ripped apart. Certainly, it is a different measure than the immediacy of a school shooting leaving the slain to disrupt the lives of their family and friends, but hers is a unique pain.

I honestly don’t believe there is a concern in her world that anyone she is close to would ever resort to bringing a weapon to school and gunning down anyone in their presence. But I do think she walks around school, with her observant insight, wondering what next. What will be the next offense that will bear down on her society.

I’ve thought about my conversation with this young woman for the last 24 hours. She has given me new insight into what it is each of us thinks about every day, what are our central concerns, who do we worry about, and rather, when we think of an emotional commitment, what end holds confidence in our survival? Where she might be in constant motion trying to balance her world, her education, her work life all in a genuine effort to survive in America as a Latina woman, I’m on the other hand thinking about what plans I have for the weekend, and how can I pace my grading through the end of school year.

I don’t worry about losing my family to an immigration sweep. I do worry about school shootings, and I am constantly confused by how it continues to occur and how our society is gradually hypnotized into this absurd level of acceptance. She on the other hand holds a very sharp and poignant answer that when the rest of us stop and think about it, reveals a posture in our society that seems easily put aside.

Perhaps we are erring when we simply call it mental health rather than privilege.


photo taken from Pinterest

I’m Upset About a Coffee House in Philadelphia

Last night, I turned on the news and there was increasing coverage everywhere about the Starbucks incident with two African-American men being arrested for ‘trespassing’ in a local store. The incident has gained national momentum and attention to the degree that the CEO has met with the two gentlemen and proclaimed a day of sensitivity training for nearly 8000 stores. I listened to Don Lemon on CNN interview the CEO and ask him whether or not he really believed that ‘one day’ would be a sufficient amount of time to desensitize the discriminate nature of this revealing expose of racism in our country. The CEO didn’t have an answer but expressed an emotional reaction to the controversy.

In a followup after the interview, Don Lemon brought on W.Kamau Bell to speak to the general reaction and commentary of the CEO, Kevin Johnson, of Starbucks. Bell hosts the exceptional series, United Shades of America, (Season 3: Premieres Sunday, April 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT) on CNN.

To be clear, I’m a white guy reacting to an issue that impacts black people every day, not just an isolated incident in a Philadelphia coffee shop, and that was the general pitch of Don Lemon and W. Kamau Bell’s final commentary. In a manner of speaking they theorized how might a white CEO of a major industry empathize with the reality of racism in today’s society. Certainly, Kevin Johnson is putting a face on a possibility, but I think our society needs to realize that is only a start. Much like the students of Broward County and their efforts to raise awareness in a privileged society, I listened to their final words because I personally am looking for an answer.

I know racism exists. I know I have my own prejudicial misgivings. I think what bothers me the most is when people seem to suggest that not talking about it will just make things better, make things go away. The reality is, by not having dialogue, the resentment, the frustration, the explosive backlash becomes a greater concern than if there were a conversation. The discussion takes time though, takes courage, demands commitment from all people involved.

I think what Lemon and Bell are suggesting is that too often we bandaid the issue, and it rises up again. Tonight, in social media a friend of mine indicated that everything is about hate. What if we actively turned that around? What if we made everything about love? What if we got past the idea that it is easier to despise than it is to put effort into understanding? What if instead of declaring the Philadelphia incident as an anomaly, we admittedly took action to recognize such discrimination exists? We don’t have to define it, we simply have to accept the reality of our society’s ills and the need to open our hearts to admitting the surface level of fear that creates such a problematic mindset is real and not overstated by a liberal versus conservative party of thinking.

I can’t help wonder what it might be like to create dialogue between differing parties without onlookers with agenda and attitude to tear down the chance to allow people to learn from one another rather than destroy opportunity. Seems idealistic certainly, but its really. If we understand each other, we can look one another in the eye. If we remain afraid of one another, then the wall will remain in tact.

In Philadelphia an individual seemingly, well quite obviously overreacted to a normal gathering of two human beings who began their day never imagining their world to be turned upside down by a discriminatory motive. Let me restate that. The two gentlemen in Philadelphia began their days completely aware that at any moment their lives could be marginalized by racial profiling because of the color of their skin. However, in their lives, they have learned it is a necessary reality for them to constantly be aware of a negative circumstance unfolding right before their very eyes.

That happened in a Philadelphia Starbucks, and the two individuals wrongfully arrested created a hailstorm of controversy that speaks to what certain cultures have to accept and go through every day. I’m a white guy, and I don’t have to experience this, but I see it. I’m a teacher and I have students of every race in my classroom, and the one thing I demand of my day, is that every individual in my room is respected as much as the next person. The two gentlemen in Starbucks need to have been treated as equally as anyone else in the store.

The need exists, the dialogue, communication, desire to understand must begin. We cannot continue to simply look away.

CBS Sunday Morning News Gaffe – April 15th, 2018

Melissa DePino - Starbucks - Philadelphia

Melissa DePino – Philadelphia – Starbucks


I’m disappointed in the CBS Sunday Morning news article on the Starbucks empire this morning (April 15th, 2018). Clearly, when the producers first put together the article on Howard Schultz’s successful coffee career, correspondent Mo Rocca didn’t anticipate an incident in Philadelphia would overshadow his focus upon the success of the Starbucks entrepeneur.

(At this writing I am not able to find a link to the Mo Rocca article to share).

When Kai Ryssdal, the CBS Sunday Morning host this week, introduced the article, he initially took the time to report on the ‘breaking story’ of two African-American males being removed in handcuffs from a Philadelphia Starbucks for what appears to have been two Black men sitting in the coffee shop without making a purchase. Further research, NPR article  would suggest they were waiting for a friend to arrive, and when asked to leave, declined, and police were called.

From there the incident blew up and a young woman, Melissa DePino, caught the entire incident on her phone – thus creating this viral video, none of which was covered in Mr. Ryssdal’s initial introduction on CBS Sunday Morning.

Here is where my issue arose. The host introduced the already in place article with a controversial telling of an actual Starbuck’s incident in Philadelphia that in my eyes trumped (sic) the fanfare of the Starbuck success story. Discrimination is not successful, and it is also not talked about. Instead, it remains an afterthought.

I believe this was a missed opportunity by Kai Ryssdal, despite his attempt to include the incident, what was his motive? Was he told by the producers of CBS Sunday Morning News that we must include this incident before running the article on Starbucks, or did he do it on his own? I think the issue of priority raises serious questions about our society and how we choose to neglect or emphasize topics that do touch on sensitive issues versus those that will satisfy the majority of a news article’s listeners.

In her own retelling of the incident, Melissa DePino states in her interview, this would not have happened to her. In other words, because of the color of her skin, she would not have been asked to leave the store without a purchase. Personally, I agree with her, and being a frequent coffee shop connoisseur I can speak frankly and say I have had many meetings with people in coffee shop where either myself or my associates did not make a purchase and in all cases we were never approached to leave – certainly the police were not called to intervene. That would not happen.

In looking at the story and the incident itself, the two men removed did not protest the directives of the police and left without incident while the shop patrons all watched with concern, question and interpretation. Since, Starbucks has issued an apology on Twitter, and the men have been released and the incident is under review. That is all fine, and all should happen, but it still brings me back to my frustration with the CBS article and more specifically how we handle such situations in our society.

We don’t.

We choose to focus on moving away from important dialogue rather than facing it head on. Perhaps this was a golden opportunity for Kai Ryssdal to address the issue of discrimination and make this week’s news story a commentary on the continuing issue that occurs and impacts people of color throughout our society.

I am convinced had Rysdaal rather than run the article on Howard Schultz and his successful career, instead turned the next five or six minutes into a discussion and commentary of the Philadelphia incident there would have been controversy. Producers would have changed jobs in the coming week, and Rysdaal might have risked his own opportunity for further hosting opportunities in Jane Pauley’s absence.

My question is why not take the risk? Why not say we’re going to run the Starbucks story next week, because we have a situation that merits discussion today, that has more impact on our society than we would like to understand. I guarantee there would have been a ratings spike of viewership that would have stayed, rather than change the channel after Ryssdal slapped a band-aid on the discrimination and jumped immediately into the cacao fields of the Starbucks empire.

I’m disappointed that when we see opportunity we choose not to address the important issues of our society that are relevant. I’m saddened by the reality that the dialogue on discrimination continues to take the backseat to anything that will allow us to quickly move away from the issue rather than face it head on.

Let me be clear, until this last paragraph I have not used the word systemic to describe an issue in our society that clearly exists, but I did today watch a major news outlet – CBS News – pass by a wonderful opportunity to recognize the need for dialogue in our extremely mosaic world. The conversations if they cannot occur on a national or international level certainly will be far more difficult to create on a local level. However, they need to. Today Kai Ryssdal and CBS Sunday Morning missed an opportunity.

Where do we begin?

 

When A Mass Shooter Commits Suicide

I feel lost and helpless, out of control,

I cannot fathom the pain that is now endured

by the family, the friend, the community,

the loss of life so random and unexpected,

… and this has nothing to do with the shooter.

 

I’m left in a fury of angst and simple confusion,

I know the emotional drain of being human,

living out our purpose and striving to be,

and like Hollywood, just when we realize …

… and this has nothing to do with the shooter.

 

I think we all think about how a person’s day begins,

the same as yesterday, perhaps a sweet happiness,

or even probably the angst of having to be the machine,

another day of social squabbles and night’s end purpose.

… and this has nothing to do with the shooter.

 

All of these moments we’ve all felt together,

we know the sense of sunshine in the morning,

we understand the beauty of a co-worker,

the laughter of a memo, the reality of our family.

… and this has nothing to do with the shooter.

 

There isn’t a day when we are awoken

by the silly notion of our mortality, when thriving

seems to be our goal. There is no reaction

to the possibility our life will be taken with random …

…. AND THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOOTER!

 

THIS PART has everything to do with the shooter,

because those lives, those people that were so important

to everyone far beyond the trigger of your cowardice,

deserve an opportunity to COME TO LIFE AND WATCH,

WATCH YOU SUFFER INDIGNITY, YOUR FLAWED PURPOSE ON DISPLAY!

Why School Shooting Awareness Matters

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Recently, our high school (not Kentucky) went through a serious protocol called A.L.I.C.E. as a national preventative for school shootings. The word is an acronym for the following: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE).

While as a teacher I have gone through many safety initiatives over the last twenty years that evolved from the Columbine tragedy (April 20th, 1999), this particular program seems to have the most impact. For the last two years, we have viewed a video training session designed around ALICE made by and for the students of our high school. The focus of preventive school shooting training is impactful and effective in letting students know that the concern is real.

In Kentucky, a community is reeling in tragedy. Reportedly, they are close-knit, so early in the morning did the shooting occur that the parents holding crosswalk signs are presently in tears, standing on the sides of the road in wonder. To them, right now, this is very real.

A few days after our training to close the semester before the holiday, a meme revealed present students holding ‘mock’ rifles and guns with the message, ‘don’t go to school today.’ Because social media is culpable, the students were found immediately and the disciplinary process is in motion. The incident created a stir throughout the school and district because, we are a close-knit community, and though our expanse is evident, everyone still does know each other.

What’s important to recognize is when such a tragedy occurs, people we are close to are impacted, in such a regard as there is no measure of one community to another’s reaction. We all have the same emotive responsibility when it comes to the safety of our children.

This commentary has nothing to do with gun control, or the right to bear arms being threatened by a liberal stance on weaponry and our 2nd amendment. This is about our students knowing the reality of our society, and their parents, our parents, our friends and relatives beginning to see just how pervasive this behavior is in our world today.

We turn on the news, and there is tragedy everywhere — terrorism has found a place in our lexicon that is no longer stunning, it is a way of life. We need to know that school shootings do not need to be nor should ever be accepted as a ‘way of life’ a reality that we have to get used to in our world. There is an opportunity to continue preventative manners to such horrific incidents as occurred in a Kentucky high school this very morning.

That measure occurs at home. As parents, as adults, as friends and neighbors we have to take the time to educate our children about the value of life and love. Our kids are inundated with the constant of a violent society, so left to their own devices they will act upon their impulses. We might only hope that having conversations with our children will reduce the potential for such an outcome in any community.

We need to look at all aspects of mockery, and reminders as seriously as the incident themselves. We must keep our children safe by assuring those closest to us that this behavior or resolution to an issue at school is not acceptable. We must have the conversations, while tonight we grieve the loss a close-knit Kentucky community must endure in light of the commonality of a school shooting.

Let’s teach our children the educational value of social media as an outlet for keeping our lives safe and fulfilling rather than one of haunting fantasy and impulsivity. Let’s keep our kids safe.