Sunday, April 2, 2023

Mail bag

      The defeated former president, Losey L. McLoser, being indicted for one of his lesser crimes on Thursday completed wiped Monday's Nashville school slaughter off the American mind as a topic of consideration.  It vanished like a ball in a magic trick. Which makes me doubly glad for this letter, one of the more thoughtful I've received in a long time.

Dear Mr. Steinberg:

     Even more quickly than usual, our national attention has turned away from the most recent school shooting in Nashville. Trump’s indictment has provided convenient cover, and no doubt, the NRA welcomes the distraction. 
     But the heart-broken families of those three innocent 9 yr. olds are finding little solace in the headlines. Their babies are gone. They have already become part of the statistic that makes gun violence the number one killer of youth in the United States. 
     “Almost forgotten,” you wrote just days after the shooting. “Nobody really cares . . . we allow this situation to persist . . . We’re complicit . . . Better to wait for something even more horrible. We know that’s coming. Yet we do nothing.” 
     As a retired school administrator, I can no longer do nothing. Offering thoughts and prayers, participating in demonstrations against gun violence, calling elected representatives, sending donations to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation all feel like useless gestures at this point. 
     Like you, I have been following the rising arc of gun violence in our schools since Laurie Dann penetrated the cocoon of safety we thought our schools provided. Then Columbine and Sandy Hook and Parkland and Uvalde. The names roll off our tongues so easily. More evidence that we have made death-while-being-a-student a national norm. 
     I write to you today, Mr. Steinberg, to suggest a way to shatter that norm, to share an idea for action whose time has come. Actually, it’s long overdue: A nation-wide school strike until Congress passes a law to ban assault weapons. I propose that students and teachers refuse to return to school this fall unless a law is passed. This gives our slow-walking legislators time to pass a law and kids and staff time to mobilize with real leverage. Is this too drastic? Let’s ask the loved ones of the hundreds of victims of school murders. Let’s ask the parents of those lost 9 yr. olds in Nashville. As a lifelong educator, the last thing I want to encourage is the loss of precious learning time, but we can no longer conduct business as usual while wondering where the next school shooting will be, wondering what town we will add to our insidious vocabulary list of shooting sites. We cannot settle for thoughts and prayers. We must interrupt the cycle of violence killing our kids and doing irreparable harm to our system of education that is already buckling under the residual damage of the pandemic. 
     Mr. Steinberg, you and I met years ago when you generously took the time to attend a gathering of COR, the Catholic Schools Opposing Racism organization I began in response to the brutal beating of Lenart Clark by Catholic high school students. For ten years, we brought thousands of kids and teachers together to dismantle the racism embedded in our school system, and I’d like to think that we chipped away at some of the hatred and transformed school practices. We surely did not end racism in Catholic schools, but we did not content ourselves with doing nothing, with accepting racial violence as a norm because it was just too big a problem to tackle. 
     These days, I have continued to teach as a literacy volunteer for mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, mostly undocumented. (Immigration reform is another big problem crying out for drastic action, but that’s the topic for another time.) I mention this only to draw a connection to the book we’re reading together, Elie Wiesel’s Night.
     What a privilege it has been to engage a group of adults in a meaningful discussion of the Holocaust, some of whom had never heard of it. A privilege, yes, but an overwhelming responsibility to expose the evils of antisemitism in history and as it thrives today. Last year, I had the honor of reading The 1619 Project with a couple of the students who wanted to learn the history of this country. These are challenging topics for speakers of all languages, but I don’t believe we should shy away from them because they are too big, too difficult, or as some Florida school boards suggest, too depressing. In my humble opinion, educators must not avoid the big issues; we must dive headlong into them. Avoidance would be the essence of having low expectations for students and would handicap them from developing as critical thinkers. 
     How else will schools in the United States ever develop critical thinkers among students who currently spend more time practicing hiding in school closets during active shooter drills? 
     Racism. Anti-Semitism. Violence. Our gun-sick culture. We must not avoid these issues. We must not settle for doing nothing because these problems are too overwhelming, too entwined in the greed and grievance that polarize our national discourse. 
     It is my hope that some angry teenager, or some exhausted teacher, or some exasperated school administrator will consider with seriousness the possibility of launching an effort to energize a collaborative school strike because we can’t settle for school violence as usual come September. Congress must act to ban assault weapons, or we refuse to go back to school. 
     We no longer wish to be complicit, Mr. Steinberg. A desperate measure for this desperate time. 
     Thank you for listening, and thank you again for taking the time to show up all those years ago, Mr. Steinberg. You, Sir, are the real deal — a journalist unafraid to probe the big issues. I am grateful that you use your voice for good, unafraid to be bold, unwilling to do nothing. Please help once again by printing this idea however you see fit. I remain hopeful that someone will run with it, maybe garnering the support of Senator Chris Murphy or Cory Booker, maybe Gabby Giffords or Michael Pfleger or David Hogg or X Gonzalez or Ashbey Beasley. 
     Sincerely, Patty Nolan-Fitzgerald


  1. What a wonderful plan! Lysistrata like. Would love to have it in effect. 4 grandkids, all concerned with the shootings. thoughts and prayers just don't work.

  2. Of all the 2nd amendment-themed editorial cartoons I've seen, this one pretty much took my breadth away:

    Unfortunately, a nation-wide school strike would happen in blue states; red states would sit it out. We don't have enough electoral votes to swing an election, let alone change the minds of red state legislators. The only way to change anything, I think, is to vote them out, and good luck with that.

    If the hideous deaths of 20 children at Sandy Hook (was it Sandy Hook? I'm losing track) didn't sway minds, what would a school strike accomplish? I realize we need to do all we can, but I don't think there's much we can actually do until Republicans grow a spine. And I so don't understand that. A large majority of people believe in sensible gun control, even in red states. I just don't get it.

  3. As we watch our system of government faltering before our eyes, we have to come up with lasting solutions. What 0about mandatory voting? If non-voters lost certain privileges or paid huge fines, could that be a way forward? The complacency vacuum that allows grifters to usurp the power is killing us....It's a numbers game. If enough people don't bother to vote, care, pay attention and participate, like any neglected structure, it decays. Strikes and protests don't seem to have enough impact, especially where guns are concerned. We're growing numb to the horrors and that's the biggest problem.

  4. At last! Something to do…plan to circulate this

  5. Perhaps a Greta Thornberg-like strike: every Friday.

  6. In the 60s, a demonstration, or a movement for a better society could be enough to foster change. Unfortunately the dreamers that populated that time have become woke to the comforts of dollars in their lives, so an appeal to their better natures is futile. Only an attack on their bank accounts will move them. Targeting the corporations that fund the NRA politicians, attacking the value of their shares is the only route to curing America of its addiction to guns. This will take determined effort and personal sacrifice. Are the American people up to such a task? Compare JFK's inaugural address to a Trump rally screed or Ron DeSantis on the stump for the answer.

  7. With all due respect. This would be a lot to ask of children ,some as young as 5, teachers, staff and families.
    Especially so soon after the pandemic.
    It wouldn't hit the gun industry in their pocket, which is all they care about.

    Statistics show over the last few years purchase of firearms has risen amongst liberals and progressives.

    Maybe a call for people, all people to give up their guns and ammo. Turn them in. Destroy them. And pledge not to buy anymore of this product of death.
    Worked with tobacco. Didn't end the dying but reduced it.

    And isn't it the job of adults to protect children, not the job of the children?

  8. That is a great idea no doubt, but I’m sure, will go the way of our good wishes and prayers.

  9. Why does every imaginable solution, most of them perfectly well-intentioned, seem inconceivable and beyond reality in 2023 America? Voting best possible answer IMO; but again, that damn reality aspect...

  10. An interesting idea, presented in a very nicely crafted letter.

    I look to the smoking bans as an example of something that I would have thought impossible that has come to pass, in more places than I'd have imagined. But, not via a federal statute, it must be noted. How was that accomplished? Can the nature of the efforts toward those initiatives be adapted to the gun issue?

    A brief look at the map in this article will give you some idea of where you *might* be able to get folks to go for a school strike. And the many places where you probably couldn't. Most of these states line up about where you'd think they would, given the red / blue divide. The interesting case, to me, is Ohio. What a strange 17 years it seems to have been there. Now, pretty much a solid red state that thought J. D. Vance would make a good senator, but still rational enough in 2006 to pass a statewide smoking ban. It's just remarkable to me that those Buckeyes went from going for Obama twice in 2008 and 2012 to 53.3% voting for the Biggest Loser in 2020, increasing his percentage by 2 points over 2016. Ay-yi-yi!

    1. Tell me about it. Since I came to Ohio from Chicago in '92, it's been Clinton twice, Bush 43 twice, Obama twice, and Orangy McLoser twice...both times by an eight-point margin.

      Ohio used to be the "swing state"...and its picks mirrored those of America as a whole. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. The last Democrats to win the White House without winning Ohio were FDR in 1944 and JFK in 1960. Starting with LBJ in 1964, the presidential candidate who wins Ohio wins the election.

      In the last three decades, I've watched my adopted state go from blue to purple to red to deep red. I call it North Missitucky now. The big urban areas are shrinking Blue Islands in the Red Sea. The Bible-thumpers and the yahoos in the southern part of Ahia put Vance in the U.S. Senate (Please pass the vomit bag). They also have an iron grip on the Statehouse in Columbus. We're not yet as awful as Indiana (West Missitucky). But give us time. We do have casinos, racinos, and sports gambling. But recreational weed is still forbidden. And we're overdue for a gay massacre or a school shooting. Any day now.

      Worse still. Ohio women (including the ones whose fathers have impregnated them with turkey basters) will soon have to go elsewhere for reproductive freedom, on our new Underground Highway. That's known as "going camping" and "camp guides" willingly volunteer to transport the "campers" to out-of-state "campsites." Buffalo and Pittsburgh are only an afternoon drive from here. Sweet Home Chicago is six hours away. We just bought a new car.

    2. OOPS. Accidentally deleted a few important words. Starting with LBJ in 1964, and continuing through 2016, the Ohio winner also won the election. Prior to 2020, it also had the longest consistent perfect streak of any state, voting for the winning presidential candidate from 1964 to 2016 — a streak that ended in 2020. Sorry about that.

  11. Reader Debra Klein wanted to post the below, but was having trouble, so I'm doing it for her:

    I think this is an excellent idea to carry forward. And for everyone who says it won't make a change, watch the American Experience program, "The Movement and the Madman" where two huge protests influenced Nixon to back down from a massive escalation of the Vietnam War in 1969 and not employ nuclear weapons. We can make a difference if we all work together. Here’s the link to the program description: Watch The Movement and the “Madman” | American Experience | Official Site | PBS


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