Monday, January 7, 2013

Knee Meet Jerk

A knee jerk reaction is defined as:
an immediate unthinking emotional reaction produced by an event or statement to which the reacting person is highly sensitive; - in persons with strong feelings on a topic, it may be very predictable.
Synonyms (or perhaps more accurately, symptoms) include:
pavlovian response, absence of thought, automatic reaction,gut reaction, involuntary impulse
So what do you think? Generally speaking ... a good or bad thing?

Now tell me what you think of this.

A 17-year-old high school student has been suspended (and might face expulsion) for writing a dark poem that mentioned the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Her "crime" was, perhaps, one line in the poem; namely a statement that she understood what drove Adam Lanza to do what he did.

But since I'm a big fan of context, let's see how the poem actually read.

They wanna hold me back.
I run, but they still attack.
My innocence, I won't get back.
I use to smile.
They took my kindness for weakness.
The silence the world will never get.
I understand the killings in Connecticut.
I know why he pulled the trigger.
The government is a shame.
Society never wants to take the blame.
Society puts these thoughts in our head.
Misery loves company.

Her poem actually reminds me of something I read in a high school English class. An assigned reading. I can't quite recall now whether it was meant to be a suicide note or something written and handed in by the young man as part of a class assignment, shortly before he hung himself but I believe the latter.

At any rate, that poem has stuck with me my whole life. Not the exact words, of course, but the ideas, the pictures and thoughts remain bright in my mind.

Written in the the third person, the poem told the story of a little boy who started school so full of energy, curiosity and a desire to learn. So full of life. It goes on to tell what the school experience was like from his perspective and although my memory falters in some places, the ending remains crystal clear. Essentially, from his perspective, school had sucked all the colour out of life (starting with things as simple as being repeatedly told to "colour within the lines" in the primary grades), emphasizing demanding conformity in writing, dress and actions. It the end, it sucked the very life out of him.

That was assigned reading in a high school English class and despite the subject matter, it was a very good poem. Both from the perspective of how it was written and because it accomplished what I believe literature, at its best, is meant to accomplish: it made you stop and think. To this day, that little boy still comes back to haunt me.

Now, you might quite rightly point out that poem was assigned in a different time - a time when "school shootings" were unheard of, at any level. In a more innocent time, a time when parents felt safe sending their children to school. When horrors such as Sandy Hook were unimaginable, even in the movies. So it was.

But one of my immediate reactions when I first read that poem (which has stuck with me to this day and makes me think that it was something the young man handed in at school before he took his own life) was to wonder why ... why no one had paid attention to what he had to say, why no one could hear his scream for help, why he was simply given a grade and handed the poem back.

Much like reading the article about Courtni Webb and her poem makes me wonder why.

Why, if the school took this matter so seriously, did they simply suspend her? Did anyone sit down and actually talk to her before this decision was made? Was the first question that crossed administration's mind really "Should we suspend her"? Really? Seriously?

Did it occur to anyone to actually express some concern about the girl, herself? If the poem is to be interpreted as the school so obviously has, shouldn't there have some concern for the state of her mental health? Did we learn nothing from Sandy Hook? Other than that lesson pounded into granite for so many years? Cover. Your. Ass.

But you know what?

I really doubt whether anyone talked too much to Courtni about what she may or may have been thinking when she wrote this poem. But realizing that I am only basing this on the short interview I've watched where Courtni explained the poem, how about if you tell me what you think.

Sociopathic killer? Potential mass murderer? Possibly, I suppose. We are all well aware that we live in a world where anything, indeed, is possible.

Or, perhaps, merely (an apparently bright) high school student using her writing to work through her feelings?

I didn't hear a threat of violence in her words. Which has to make me wonder if the blunt mechanism of suspension was not used because she supposedly somehow violated a zero-tolerance policy or because of a perceived threat of violence, as alleged but simply to "punish" the young woman for her lack of good taste in writing such things so soon after all those little children were so senselessly murdered.

Either way, whether Courtni was actually contemplating violence or simply writing a poem, threatening and intending to threaten no one, if that poem caused concern for those who knew her, the first priority should have been (and should continue to be) her mental health.

Knee. Meet. Jerk.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's Baaaack ...

That's right - your dreams have been answered. Year in a Blog is back.

You know the drill ... the first sentence (or paragraph, depending on my mood) of the first post for each month of 2012. Drum roll please ...

January 2012 - Come on. I double dog dare you. Try it. Forget twenty times. Just once. As fast as you can.

February 2012 - Wow, check this out - a man who was upset that a Tennessee couple unfriended his adult daughter has been charged with killing the couple.

March 2012 - I really shouldn't be here. The hour is late ... very late ... and I have to work tomorrow. But that is what happens when you spend a couple of hours floating around the internets, reading and responding to tributes to a man you've never even "met". But that you knew so well. Oh well, something tells me sleep will be a might bit difficult tonight this morning anyway.

April 2012 - Time goes on. As does life, doesn't it?
And although time doesn't really heal all wounds, it does tend to provide a protective coating, a scab, if you will. Which, I suppose, is why it hurts so bad if and when that scab, for whatever reason, gets ripped off.

May 2012 - Today's the day. It's here. It. Has. Arrived. Most definitely. I think.

June 2012 - I've always suspected it. And now I have proof! All Some good things do come to those who wait.

July 2012 - So, here we go again ... what's up with some people's apparent need to define words however they think they should be defined, either because it suits their own immediate purposes or ... it gets them in the news, perhaps? Hell, if I know.

August 2012 - 1. It's too hot.

September 2012 - There was absolutely no doubt when I stepped outside on Sunday - we have definitely entered my favourite time of the year.

October 2012 -  crickets

November 2012 -  I must admit I am quite disappointed in myself.

December 2012 -

Happy New Year

But remember, what we write is up to us: