Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Koran

To say the least, the Koran is an interesting piece of work. Revered by over a billion people as the word of God dictated directly to the Prophet Mohammed, it is the foundation on which has been built the largest religion of all time. To followers, the very fabric of the book binding merits honorary status requiring owners to place a copy of the Koran in a supreme location, above all other texts, and is to be handled with meticulous care when removed for the purpose of reading. The great sanctity so many render to the Koran separates it from all other literature, surpassing even the Christian Bible in terms of the sheer devotion with which so many commit so deeply. When American troops placed copies of the Koran in a pile to be burned, deadly riots ensued. While a similar act by non-Christians burning bibles would certainly stir consternation, such an act would not motivate masses to seek to murder the offenders. The Koran is more than simply the Muslim Bible. The role it plays in the Muslim world is without compare in any other religious culture. The closest comparison to it might be the way American institutions subordinate themselves to the U.S. Constitution. Servicemembers and politicians swear oaths to it, and it is considered the revelation of self-evident truth of what is right and to be upheld, at all costs. Any incursion on guaranteed rights of expression and freedom of religion is met with opposition by the full forces of the American state, mobilizing people and resources in a manner befitting the ultimate priorities this document commands. But not even the U.S. Constitution proclaims itself divine, and even provides a means of amendment in recognition of its own imperfection. The Koran is a divine entity, believed to be pronounced words both infallible and immutable. It can be discussed, but Islam does not allow it to be challenged or to change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Deserving Better

When you take on a position of leadership, it comes with the responsibility to be mindful of those who fall within your sphere of influence. You may get elected for who you are, who you know, and what you have done in the past. If you want to go further,who you pay attention to has to change. You have to take into consideration people's legitimate stake in altering the status quo, because whatever we have in place today won't work forever for everyone. It is easy for me to think of a "for instance" of law that doesn't work for people who deserve better from legislators, and in particular those who stood against them.When a person needs medical attention, and there exists a substance that is helpful without being harmful, our leaders should not be standing in the door, keeping physicians from aiding the recovery of patients. An allegiance to keeping around legal barriers to accessing a substance that is readily available through illegal distribution only benefits a few special groups of people: The criminals selling the stuff on the black market, the people banking overtime in a vain attempt to incarcerate the drug merchants, and the merchants of man-made drugs who do not want the competition of an unpatentable, natural occurring agent. My children and yours will or will not smoke dope according to their character development. Availability under the status quo is plentiful, as the black market reaps the high margins sustainable only by the barrier to entry provided by our current scheme of enforcement.It is a tired argument to make that children will be adversely affected by providing patients in need a substance that will help them. Nothing beats the black market when it comes to the distribution of mind altering substances to minors. And kids really do not give a flying frijole what the statehouse has to say about their means of recreation. From the callous way legislators dismiss the needs of ailing patients, our children would be fools to look at the sausage factory in Hartford for moral leadership. Coming from a law enforcement background, it is easy to drink the Koolaid that makes you believe in the goodness of locking up people involved in the marijuana trade. If you want to write laws, you should consider the plight of someone who volunteers to donate a part of their liver to save a friend, then suffers extreme GI issues that are made worse by prescription pain killers. Is this person a criminal for taking something to help her get better? This law is changing due to the leadership of those who saw the wisdom of putting the needs of a patient above the wants and desires of crooks, cops, and pharmaceutical companies. Voters need to be careful to elect leaders who have the agility to change when what we are doing is not working for people whose skin in the game is nothing less than their own skin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A road well ridden

On the road

On my own

Out of earshot

of other folks.

Free to stop to hear

pond frogs chirping.

I pause to take a picture

of animals along the way

The cattle stop and look

then hurriedly saunter away.

They are used to people

who quickly pass on by.

They must think it strange

to see someone stay.

I took to the path

somewhere in the middle.

I will follow it till I don't

and the path will stretch on without me.

Nothing binds me to travel

where I do not wish to go.

The road rises with the ridge

Until it meets a cliff.

A tunnel carves a passage

through the ancient rock.

It s entrance is dark as night.

The exit far from view.

Make your way with faith and a light

and then see sunlight anew.

Along the way I'll take breaks

as my body tells me to.

I hope to leave before

the journey breaks my body.

The sound of wind through mid-spring trees

arises like a choir of leaves.

Whatever water rested there

is shaken free by the breeze.

I take a detour for shelter's sake

as grey clouds turn black.

Nature has the final say

on how long I ride this road.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stop funding obesity

Obesity is becoming more and more common, and especially among the poor. This promises to eviscerate the quality of life of people who otherwise could be expected to thrive. This is not a situation where the solution can come from government doing for people what they can not do for themselves. Rather, people, individuals and families, will have to change their own lifestyles from what is prevalent today.

If we are going to continue to share the risk of illness across a greater community, then the incidence of the co-morbidities of obesity must be much lower than what they portend to be, looking at current trends. Failure to improve our nation’s health will undermine radically the extent to which the public can provide healthcare to those without the means to acquire these services on their own.

Simply continuing to provide aid to low or no income people without seeing improvement in their health status is unsustainable. The gravitation to a society where people in good health contribute all of their resources to prop up those in failing health is not likely to proceed long on this path before upheaval undoes the connection between the haves and have-nots.

It is time to require those who receive health coverage from the state to comply with interventions to reduce childhood obesity. We can not afford to take on responsibility for a demographic train wreck, and why would we want to try? Compassion alone should motivate us to put in place requirements that are in obvious need, and absent of which widespread catastrophe can be expected.

Mere objection to change will not prevent changes from occurring. Given the unsustainablility of the status quo with respect to aid to the poor, change is not only in order, it is inevitable. We can actively alter our course, or allow things to drift in high seas towards a rocky shore. And no one is isolated from the ravages of the demise of families in our community.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Storm before the Calm

The Storm before the Calm

Across the river
from the beach
where cars can come and park
lies a split of land
between the river and the bay
that is swallowed by the sea each day.

A ribbon of sand
is the only land
where the river and bay
stand side by side.

In the bay are rocks and surf
big enough to break a boat.
Although small enough to see across
many sailors have been lost.

The mouth of the river is almost a pond
except the current is strong.
The wind is enough to fill you sails
but only boat wakes make for waves.

This spit is a place on earth
walked only by those
who take a boat to reach it.
The trip makes clear the mind
so the heart is free to enjoy it.

When the tide gets high
foam rises
as waves break against waves
headed in opposite directions.
Then together both bay and river rise
till no land divides them.

When I die
burn me so no water is left within me.
Carry my remains to this spit
so my friends and family will know it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

John versus the Board of Ed, et al

The acrimony surrounding the state of our school down the road is almost as upsetting as the conditions inside the school, itself. This sort of upheaval, dividing parents and administrators, including calls for dismissal and wide-ranging expressions of disgust are not an unexpected response when the fortunes of our children are at stake.

We have to keep in mind that the problems presented by the loss of discipline in the classroom are not entirely due to anything the school system has or has not done. The chaos inside the minds of children reflect long-term trends in our society, and are especially concentrated in the lower strata of the socio-economic spectrum.

Typically, we live in these separate strata, and so the problems of one seldom matters to the occupants of another. Racial divisions have long existed along these lines of separation, and the injustice of people of different races attending separate schools is something Americans have worked to solve since the days of Brown v. the Board of Ed.

The desire to move to a color blind culture is the noble imperative behind the legislation that put children together in the same classrooms who before were not. And out of this, the collision that occurs is to some degree the inevitable pains of merging across distinct sets of experiences and expectations.

Out of control behavior by students is nothing new in our schools. My first teaching job was at a school for emotionally disturbed teens that charged $51,000 a year to take these children off the hands of parents and school districts that could afford the tuition. This kind of mania is not isolated to the lower rungs of the economic ladder. However, the frequency and youth of students given to these outbursts is noticeably greater in communities where more children have fewer parents with less education and income.

Our integration of school children is an attempt to break the isolation of minorities in settings that tend to lead to a cycle of poverty. And so we have, after redistricting, more and younger students who are not coping with the classroom setting to the point that the entire student body suffers a consequence. What used to be somebody else’s problem is now ours. And the classrooms that were supposed to be a ticket to a better life succumbs to the chaos that happens when a critical mass of students decide to tip the apple cart just for the hell of it. I saw this happen on many occasions in Haddam Killingworth in the 90s. It is happening today in Farm Hill, but to a degree that is orders of magnitude worse – to the point where it can no longer be tolerated if learning is to occur at all.

We cannot, and should not look to keep people separated by geography that mimics economic, and in turn racial differences. But we must separate the students who disrupt the education of others, and stand to learn nothing in the process. After so many strikes, you have to leave. When violence occurs, and threats are real, even a child does not have the right to stay.

We want the new families at Farm Hill to have an opportunity to send their children to a school where their children can learn and lead to a new future. Redrawing lines on a map without addressing the challenges this poses falls short of meeting the needs of all our children.

Setting standards for student conduct required to earn a seat in a classroom is necessary, overdue, and nowhere in sight in this district. Children can and will respond to adult leadership, as they will falter without our clear and considerate guidance. Until students are clear on what they absolutely can and cannot do in a classroom, this school will not be where I send my children to get their education.