I have been sitting with a lot of thoughts for a while now, about the cultural changes that are occuring in our country and the rise in discrimination, segregation, hate and violence against one another. As someone who has always been offended by injustices I have stood up to support causes I believe in but in turn have sat down more often. I don’t feel I have done enough to help make changes in the lives of those on the margins; those who are quote, “different.” I know I can do more and I am sure I’ve copped out of opportunities to help others for a multitude of reasons; fear of taking risks, laziness, overwhelm. But I feel we as a collective have reached a point of absolute identity crisis. I don’t think we know who we are and I’m not sure we are willing enough to admit to being other than what we think we are.
I believe we are falling and falling hard. And as a result, I believe we have lost our moral compass in this country. And it leaves me with many questions. Is it too late to recapture a sense of union? I might have thought a global health crisis would do it but I was way wrong. Are we becoming a country with elected leaders who decide basic human rights for others like what has happened and is happening under non-democratic nations? Are people so filled with hate, confusion and or ignorance that they are willing to allow state governments to dictate how another person should live their lives or die because protecting them properly would lose them favor with lobbyists? #supporting the owning of guns, any guns, is more important than saving the lives of children who will continue to be lost due to inaction on basic gun safety initiatives that most of the country including gun owners favor? Is anyone who is anti-gun laws really internalizing that children’s lives are ENDING. It’s too late to save them with thoughts and prayers!!
The same people who want all the children to be born only to then forget about them once that event has been completed because they are black, brown, disabled, queer or other. Is being murdered in a classroom at 6 years old the new “natural” cause of death? It’s certainly the new number one cause of death for kids under 18. What must it take to have the politicians to be affected enough to do something? Is it that it hasn’t been personal enough for supporters of child flesh disintegrators like AR weapons of war? Have we become so numb to death and murder? We lost 3000 people on 9/11 and there are memorials and “never forget” signs. Those lives seemed to matter and for good reason. Yet (with no disrespect to those 3,000 because I believe they should be remembered) 1,000,000 people died from Covid and no one speaks of them. I see no bumper stickers in their memory.
How are we not mortified over the enactment of book banning in states in order to control and decide for children what they can read? Has hypocrisy lost its meaning or consequence? For example, on one hand saying that it’s a parents right to decide for their children what is best for them and then with their actions, state governments decide what a child can’t read or what type of child can’t get appropriate healthcare which then raises the potential of putting them in life-threatening danger.
Do we refuse to heed the lessons of history and recognize what the incremental stripping of rights by governments can lead to? Are we so lax that we can allow the gradual deterioration of human rights, the proliferation of isolation and discrimination against certain groups such that, if you believe in facts, history suggests and forshadows the eventual suffering, possible torture and or genocide of these “unfavored” humans? #NaziGermany, #Mussolini, #North Korea and on and on? Do we really believe that a governor has the right to dictate over those that voted him into power? Are people really ok with that? Is this the United States of America? A place patriots love to espouse was founded on the idea of freedom yet actually live according to a mission statement buoyed by lie upon lie, clan against clan, bullying by its leaders and hatred for those that are different.
I wonder, based on history and how people have been convinced to follow an ideology that wasn’t not germane to their nature, if it is quite likely for many of those people whose beliefs and behaviors align with the previously mentioned undemocratic traits, that they wouldn’t align if those in power weren’t telling them to do so. This then suggests manipulation by fear; the oldest con in the world. Scare tactics. It’s worked forever and it is the common denominator to all of this. If A happens then B will surely happen. And if you don’t believe it, your way of life and your life itself are in jeopardy. Hate is built from ignorance. I believe we are all born basically good. But ours is a society of tearing down the least of us. It’s a strong current that can understandably sweep up those who aren’t paying attention to its power. I believe we are stronger together and that our natural genetic code, if you will, says to be there for one another because life is hard.
How common is it to see someone fall and a stranger be right there to pick them up? Happens all the time! Did that stranger ask that person if they were gay or straight? Pro-life or Pro-choice? For gun-control or an NRA member? A democrat or a republican? MAGA or not? What religion they espoused or no religion at all? No. They just reached out a hand because that’s what a community of people do. Without marching orders and being told what to fear we generally smile, wave, open doors and allow someone to go ahead of us in our everyday lives. And not even a thought of pulling a gun on them.
So why are we so filled with hate? Why do we think we can decide for others how to live their lives? Why do we continue to allow politicians to remain in power without holding them to account when they begin to show dictatorial tendencies and commit crimes for which you and I would go to prison?
The vast assault on those that are different is historic in this world and in this country. Quote “different” people continue to be threatened by those that see them as different or other. For this to happen it presumes a supposed norm or acceptable type. But who decides that? And why does it have to be? I mean there are many breeds of dogs and cats yet a true hatred for a breed seems unlikely; perhaps a preference but not an actual discriminatory dismissiveness based upon it. Even when it comes to the color of the dog. If you had a golden labrador and a black labrador who were both thirsty would you NOT give water to one or the other based on their color? Probably not because you’re more than likely just seeing two dogs.
We all bring our personal experiences to how we look at one another and I’m not saying we need to love everyone we meet but base that dislike upon how they treat others and not by the surface of their appearance, be it how they look, skin color, clothes they wear, who they choose to identify as, what they choose or don’t choose as their religion or who they choose to love.
This moral deterioration as I’m calling it is impacting our children negatively and will only get worse in my opinion if the trends away from human rights continue to be the rule. Educationally. Socially. Societally. Morally. There are things happening, new laws passed and the absence of laws passed that are alarming to me.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that are happening that indicate how far the broken moral compass of many is dictating the trajectory of the moral compass of the collective whether you support them or not. I want to focus mostly on the impact on children but it is obviously larger than that so I may paint outside the lines a bit in that regard.
The Issues that are out front and center that are changing the direction of America are such things as: Disability Rights. Book banning. The right of children to learn real history; and this includes slavery and the Holocaust and Roberto Clemente and Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement and the realities of the Civil War and on. Anti-gay laws. Anti LGBTQ+ bills and laws. Medical freedom of choice being stripped from targeted groups. And finally the lack of gun laws that can protect and save the lives of school children who live in fear that they may die on any given day which is leading to mental illness beyond the scope of anything we’ve seen; they don’t want to go to school because they are no longer seeing the point of the risk. Can you blame them?
Disability rights have been in place for decades now. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity operated by recipients of federal funds. Section 504 is enforced by the U.S Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
The Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 (ADA) broadened the definition of disability in the ADA as well as in Section 504.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 IDEA is the federal law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.
Under IDEA, there is the “Least Restrictive Environment” requirement.
Under federal and state law, children with disabilities must be educated in the “Least Restrictive Environment” (LRE). The Least Restrictive Environment requirement means that to the maximum extent appropriate for each child, children with disabilities must be educated with children who do not have disabilities, and children with disabilities must be educated in regular education classrooms unless the nature or severity of the disability prevents them from receiving an appropriate education in that setting, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. The requirement also includes a strong preference, though not an absolute mandate, for students with disabilities to be able to attend the schools they would have attended if they were not disabled.
The suggestion of these laws is that the first placement for a child entering school should be in an inclusive classroom. After which there are annual IEPs and mandated committee meetings with parents to determine placement for the next year. This is how it is written to work. But it isn’t how it works. There still exists a great degree of discrimination and segregation with the New York City school system being one of the worst offenders. Tune in next week when I will be interviewing Olivier Bernier, a father of a son with Downs Syndrome, as we speak about his documentary on inclusion which focuses on his son, Emilio’s class placement and his parents’ fight for his inclusion. The film is entitled FORGET ME NOT, and I invite you to watch it prior to listening to the interview. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him, send them to my email, specialedrising.com by Thursday May 25, 2023.
I want to read to you parts of an article from GLAAD.ORG about the new Gov. DeSantis’ Anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Florida and then from HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN and an article entitled: Gov. DeSantis Signs Slate of Extreme Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills, Enacting a Record-Shattering Number of Discriminatory Measures Into Law
On one day DeSantis signed into law a package of anti-LGBTQ bills that make the residents of the state less free and more dangerous for everyone, especially LGBTQ people, youth, and families. The legislative session was historically discriminatory. A statement from DeSantis’s office describes the “Let Kids Be Kids” bill package with incorrect and unsubstantiated anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Among the many false and baseless allegations in the signing statement, DeSantis cited: “Permanent mutilating surgical procedures” (in fact, surgery is not performed on minors), “gender identity politics” (in fact, studies that include the existence of and contributions of LGBTQ people in history is not “politics”); and “protect[ing] students from having to declare their pronouns” (in fact, all children and adults use pronouns). The name of the “Let Kids Be Kids” bill package is also disingenuous: The package of bills deprives transgender and nonbinary youth of affirming and potentially lifesaving healthcare, denies them access to public and school facilities, denies them the chance to play on sports teams with their classmates, and restricts the ability of children to learn about the breath of American history, which includes LGBTQ people.
- Signed into law HB 1521 that would make it difficult or impossible for transgender Floridians to access appropriate restrooms, domestic violence shelters, correctional institutions, or other spaces that match their gender.
- Signed into law SB 254 that bans gender-affirming medical care such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy for transgender youth, and also enacts obstacles for adults to access treatment.
- Signed into law HB 1069 that bans trans students from being able to use their correct pronouns and allows anyone in a school district to flag classroom or library material that contains sexual content for potentially permanent removal.
- Signed into law HB 1438 that bans minors from drag performances with hefty penalties for establishments that might violate its provisions.
- Signed into law HB 225 that gives the state government control over the Florida High School Athletic Association “to ensure women’s sports are protected,” which is right-wing code for anti-trans sports bans.
DeSantis took down a Department of Education website that supplied educators, parents, and students with anti-bullying resources. The page featured links to federal government anti-bullying initiatives (stopbullying.gov), information on creating safe spaces for LGBTQ young people to receive support from school staff, and additional information from national leaders in combating mental health crises and suicidality among LGBTQ students.
He vetoed all funding for LGBTQ programs from the $101 billion state budget, including $150,000 for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse Massacre and $750,000 to house homeless LGBTQ children, as well as funds for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center.
He signed an anti-discrimination order for state employees that excludes protections for LGBTQ people. The order pledges that his administration will prohibit discrimination in employment based on “age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability” for government employees and contractors. The order does not include protections based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
From the INDEPENDENT.CO.UK: Republican lawmakers in Florida have sparked outrage after passing a bill that LGBTQ advocates say will strip trans children from their parents’ custody.
SB254 — which one former lawmaker has called “fascist” legislation — would allow the state to rip children from their parents when they are “at risk” or “subjected” to gender-affirming health care. The bill is written so that even a child of Floridian parents living out of state could trigger the law.
She said bills like Florida’s make it “impossible for transgender people to go about their daily lives like everyone else,” and that it invites abuse and hostility from the public.
“This is state sanctioned discrimination against Florida’s vibrant trans community,” she said.
SB1438 empowers the state to take punitive measures against businesses that host LGBTQ friendly shows or drag performances. It also gives the state the power to prohibit minors from attending events it deems “inappropriate.” Minors will be barred from events even if their parents consent, a policy that flies in the face of Governor Ron DeSantis’ educational agenda that favors parental consent to an extreme degree.
Many families in Texas already keep folders of their medical records and doctor recommendations with them out of concern of being reported to authorities for supporting their trans kids. Families in Texas aren’t alone — with dozens of states attacking trans youth, including some which have proposed criminalizing medical care, it is an unfortunately common practice. No one should have to pick up their family and move just to support their kid and access medical care. And while families in Texas are considering this, they are all asking where is safe for them as 39 states have introduced legislation attacking trans youth this year. .
As of April of 2023 these states have banned books from schools and libraries: 13 districts in Florida banning books, followed by 12 districts in Missouri, 7 districts in Texas, and 5 districts in both South Carolina and Michigan. The majority of these books have to do with black history and gay and lgbtq+ themes.
Books are being removed from Florida classrooms and libraries because they are “pornographic, violent or inappropriate.”
Books that have been banned in Florida include:
- Biographies of Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente that Duval County admitted to removing from shelves for nearly a year, along with 177 other books from a collection of diverse books.
- And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about two male penguins raising a chick.
- Stella Brings the Family, a picture book about a girl with two dads.
- When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball, pulled from open shelves temporarily after one person complained about it.
- Forever, by Judy Blume
- Booker Prize winner The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
- Dozens of books that include LGBTQ+ themes, protagonists of color, or that touch on race or racism.
There are more claims vs reality to cite but I’ll let you explore that further on your own. I’ll include the articles on the resource page of my website for you to read.
Finally, let’s talk about the number one killer of children, guns. Here’s some background and facts to know.
Gun control is an issue throughout the world, with each country having the sovereign authority to regulate firearms within its borders. The vast majority of industrialized countries have strict gun-control regulations. For example, Japan places restrictions on the possession and use of all firearms except in limited instances (e.g., hunting, athletic events, and research). Canada permits the possession and use of firearms for competitions and target practice, but it forbids the possession of handguns unless an individual can show that a handgun is needed for self-defense. The United Kingdom has banned handguns altogether and limits the possession of firearms to activities such as hunting, target shooting, pest control, and slaughtering. Meanwhile, Germany permits the ownership of certain firearms so long as an individual meets the requirements for a firearms ownership license, which include that the applicant be age 18 or older and have expert knowledge in the handling of firearms and have the necessity to possess such firearms.
The following is from Thetrace.org; a media outlet who’s sole intent is to cover gun violence in America.
Since 1899 there have been at least 465 million guns produced or imported for the US market. We’ve gone from around 50 million guns in 1950 to over 450 million guns in 2020.
When we charted gun manufacturing and imports alongside annual gun deaths going back to 1968, we found that when gunmakers ramped up production, gun deaths rose.
a Swiss-based research project – estimated that there were 390 million guns in circulation in the US in 2018.
Gun ownership rates vary significantly across countries, reflecting a diverse range of cultural, legal, and historical factors. The United States has the highest gun ownership rate with 120.5 firearms per 100,000 people. Yemen follows behind with 52.8 firearms per 100,000 people. There are more guns than people in the U.S., and There are also more than twice as many guns per person in the U.S. than the country with the second most.
Not dying from gun violence is a human right with Gun regulation as the solution to the murders and killings: Why can we not follow these basic human rights proposals that other countries do and show lower death rates due to guns? A majority of Americans are in favor of gun control.
57% of Americans surveyed said they wanted stricter gun laws – although this fell last year – according to polling by Gallup.
The UN has set up international guidelines that states can put in place to incorporate into national laws on firearms control.
These international standards recommend prohibiting any possession of firearms without a license; that states should register all firearms; and that unlicensed possession should be treated as a criminal offense.
More facts from BBC.com: There have been more than 200 mass shootings across the US so far this year (2023), according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed. Their figures include shootings that happen in homes and in public places.
We have the highest % of gun related killings of any country by far; 80.5% compared with Canada at 40, Australia at 11 and England/Wales at 4%. Is this not screaming in our faces how basic gun regulations can satisfy the gun lover and keep families intact and not mourning the death of their child whose lunch they had just packed 4 hours earlier? The numbers and the realities of this crisis or disease is overwhelming and frankly I had to stop researching because it seems so insane and unnecessary and was making me physically ill.
I was a classroom teacher for 30 years. I remember when you could go to work in a school and only be thinking about how to reach your students. How to teach them to read better and be better people to one another. To teach them how to handle the ups and downs of being a kid. I didn’t consider myself a front line worker who was putting his life on the line to teach children how to add. The thought didn’t cross my mind. But then the change came and there I was. Huddled in a corner like a mother bird protecting her eggs during a lockdown drill which could have been real. We weren’t permitted to know in order to follow the training precisely. I was now a teacher who was preparing myself to stand in front of an assault rifle to save the children in the corner. What a joke? Once my body was eviscerated the children would be next. The gun supporters want teachers to carry guns. No teacher wants to carry a gun!! Hear this! We want less guns! The gun supporters want more guns and less doors!! That’s how pathetically far they will take their argument just to keep guns available. It’s sick, selfish, ill-considered thinking that shows the lack of respect for the life of children who, again, they want to be born but won’t protect afterwards, and for teachers who are underpaid and overworked as it is. Now you want them trained to shoot a weapon when we’ve already seen how security guards with guns are no match for the power of an AR 15, which like its military version, is designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers. The National Rifle Association calls it “America’s Rifle.” Just Offensive
I could recite a list of all the mass shootings in schools, malls, movie theaters and on but you know them. How long will we be allow this to go on? This is a moral crisis
If you are impacted by this episode and want to make a difference get involved. Volunteer to get out the vote. Canvas for politicians who will work to stop the madness. Write your legislators and vote. Contact organizations like Sandy Hook Promise and volunteer or make a donation to push to change gun laws. Protest and speak out. Parents regarding school services and appropriate placement for your child, don’t accept what doesn’t feel right for them. Question the system and if it takes due process to change things in favor or your child go for it. I know it’s an extra burden. I know it can be a pain. I know it takes a long time and can be costly. Do what you can. Do what’s comfortable but know how important your voice is and if you can, talk to friends to encourage them to act.
Peace and Keep Rising!