Shepherd’s Men on Memorial Day

dscn1866-copy.jpg

People entering the welcoming area of the Shepherd Center at the end of the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day, my son and family, and members of my son’s Boy Scout troop attended and participated in welcoming the Shepherd’s Men to the final destination of their multi-day run at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  Members of my son’s Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew in Snellville served in the Honor Guard, posting colors (flags) for the event.  The Shepherd’s men are military veterans – both men and women – who raise awareness and funding to support veterans’ concerns, including those such as suicide, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.

dscn1905.jpg

Members of the Shepherd’s Men at the Shepherd Center following their 2017 Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

This year, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the final destination of the Shepherd’s Men Run that began in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location where one of the airplanes from 9/11 went down.  Their multi-day run that ended on Memorial Day was also in remembrance of and to honor civilians who lost their lives in that plane crash. The Shepherd’s Men each wore a 22-pound flak pack, symbolizing the 22 American veterans who commit suicide every day.

The welcoming ceremony included speakers who were wives and/or mothers of veterans, including the wife of a veteran who had traumatic brain injury and came to the Shepherd Center for treatment and the mother of one young soldier who tragically committed suicide without showing signs of being depressed or suicidal.

dscn1885.jpg

Members of Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew 548 from Snellville, Georgia as Honor/Color Guard for the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

Other speakers at the event included administrators of the Shepherd Center as well as an Atlanta City Council member.  There were also two singers who sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to remember those who’ve died in service to our country.  Many members of the Atlanta Police Department, including those mostly riding motorcycles, also provided an escort for the Shepherd’s Men as they arrived at the Shepherd Center.

The event was poignant, memorable, and sensitive to veterans and their families who are experiencing struggle with physical and mental illnesses, and those who have experienced personal loss and grief.  It was nice to be present and be a supporter of this event and cause that is so important for the support of our veterans and their families.

Advertisements

Thoughts on Some Recent Societal Violence (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Talking, writing, and/or teaching about violence in society, and ways to reduce it, are always sensitive issues that tend to stir up many emotions in people.  Unfortunately, many times, emotions sometimes get the best of people regarding situations, and those situations escalate into those that only fuel maladaptive and/or harmful conduct.  Two recent situations that I would like to address include the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, and the killing of a 12-year-old boy (who was holding what appeared to be a real gun) by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.

As a person who tries to view all sides of a situation or issue, I am one who does my best to think through it before addressing or weighing in on the subject.  My approach is the same in regard to the two above-identified issues.  Knowing that these are sensitive and controversial issues that have created tragedy and turmoil, my approach is one that tries to consider and share different perspectives.  These, of course, are views that others may or may not agree with, and I understand that.

Admittedly, regarding Charlie Hebdo, I know little about this company, but can already see that the satirical cartoons published by it may be offensive to particular people.  First, as a Caucasian, Christian, and Westerner, I understand and appreciate people’s freedoms of speech, expression, publication, and the arts.  Even if what is expressed is offensive – and certainly, there are plenty of publications and art mediums out there that are offensive – there are protections on them that are guaranteed by official government documents in many countries.  For people whose cultures may be middle eastern and/or who practice religions other than Christianity – such as Islam, for example – their upbringing may create views that clash with the majority, including rights enacted within countries in which they live.

I am not condoning, nor do I support any kinds of harassment or terrorism – in any forms – however what I am saying is that increased tolerance, understanding, and sensitivity toward peoples and cultures that are not the majority in particular countries must be exercised.  People who commit terrorist actions appear to believe they are actually doing a good thing.  In the case of those who died as a result of the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo, it seems that the terrorists were acting as martyrs, willing to sacrifice their own lives in seeking vengeance and retaliation (but what they likely believed was justice) for insults to Muhammad and Islam.  In their own way (that most likely view as twisted), they believed they were doing the right thing, even though it is completely against Western values in this regard.

An issue closer to home – in Cleveland, Ohio – about which I read, online, today is about a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a police officer.  The boy had been holding and/or carrying what appeared to be a real gun, but was apparently a replica of a gun that sure looked real to me.  I’ve also read about situations in the past in which boys who hold guns, including toy guns that appear to be real, have been shot by police.

First, I express my condolences and sympathies for the boy and his family about his untimely and tragic death.  This is certainly an unfortunate and devastating occurrence that could have been avoided and prevented.  But, what drew me to reading this story are the many questions that I have about it.  First, why is a child holding what would appear to be a real gun?  Wasn’t he taught not to hold anything that would remotely appear to be a weapon?  Why does he want to hold it to begin with?  And, hasn’t he been taught that police officers are trained to shoot to kill in these types of situations?  This boy’s actions were like inviting suicide.

With all of the recent bad news about incidents involving police officers around the country, we must also remember and keep in mind that there are many truly good and helpful police officers who place their lives on the line every day in service to others.  Sometimes, it seems that police in some areas have resorted to using increased and unnecessary force.  Requiring that police are competent in training regarding the de-escalation of violent and potentially violent situations is necessary.  Also, police minimizing, covering up, and/or excusing situations that are clearly wrong and/or which could have been prevented or improved upon only serves to increase public distrust of the very people who are supposed to protect us.

So, that brings me back to the boy who was holding what did appear to be a real gun, but was not.  Parents must educate their children that our society has drastically changed.  In today’s generation, there was the horrific tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in which so many were killed, including children.  In my generation, I noticed the change when the violence at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred.  In a prior generation, the change may have been more noticeable as a result of the students who were killed by authorities at Kent State University in Ohio.  What I’m saying is that police don’t play – they can’t.  Police sometimes have only split seconds to decide on what actions they must take – shoot or not shoot.  And, in my understanding and observations, police typically shoot to kill.  They don’t shoot to wound or they may end up being those who are killed.

Therefore, and as tragic as it is for the young boy who was killed, and his family, children must be taught these things.  Guns and weapons – and things that look like them – are not toys.  In this day and age, people aren’t playing, especially police.  It is up to adults to educate children to act in their best interests.  Yes, this boy did a stupid thing, but it is something that could have been avoided.  Because he did not, he tragically paid for his mistake with his life.  How many more children will be killed by police for holding fake or toy guns because they have not been taught otherwise, are taking unnecessary and dangerous risks, and/or don’t care?  People have to remember that police are going to shoot first, and will shoot to kill – that is their training, otherwise they will become the one who falls.

There are many other situations of violence that have occurred in our society, especially recently, that I could address here, as well, however these are two that have captured my attention because of the manner in which they could have been prevented in the first place.  So, while there is freedom of speech, press, and arts in the West, those from other cultures who now live in Western society may have differing views.  Sadly, they are willing to sacrifice their own lives, take the lives of others, and create turmoil out of situations that they appear not to respect, tolerate, or understand.  Increased tolerance, respect, and sensitivity is needed on all sides in order to improve relations between people of differing backgrounds and cultures.

Lastly, people must not invite tragedy to occur.  The boy in Cleveland who was holding what appeared to be a real gun, but which was not real, lost his life because of his actions.  This boy was wronged by a society and culture that either did not teach him that holding what appeared to be a gun was extremely risky and dangerous, or it was not instilled in him enough that he not do such a thing.  While the boy should have been old enough to understand some consequences and risks regarding his actions, parents must also do more to educate and instill in children not to do such things that invite escalating repercussions that might involve loss of life, regardless of whether the person taking the life was a police officer.

May all who have died in these situations rest in peace, and may society learn from these situations so that they do not continue to occur.

References:

Ahmed, B. (January 8, 2015). Charlie Hebdo and the alarming evolution of terrorism.  ThinkProgress.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/08/3609528/paris-terrorism-evolution/

Cleveland boy, 12, shot and killed over fake gun (January 23, 2015).  CBS News.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cleveland-boy-12-shot-and-killed-by-police-over-fake-gun/

Bullying, Abuse, and Suicide Risk Among Students: Ignorance is Bliss for Disbelievers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, a man commented on one of my blog posts that I made last year regarding a particular school in which bullying (and worse) occurred by children and adults toward other children.  What was so shocking to me was that the man basically stated that he was physically abused by religious at a parochial school during his childhood, and he inferred that children should currently be treated more harshly (infer more abuse and violence) than what they already endure in many schools.  In responding to the man – and seeking to provide information for his understanding of the seriousness of the issue – I stated to him that bullying, abuse, and violence is extremely serious in the United States.  The United States has the highest child mortality rate of any Western country.  And, in the United States, Texas is the state with the highest single mortality rate (about 4%) of any state.

Why isn’t the American public outraged about that?!  Why do more people not stand up for and protect children, nor seek to listen to, hear, and understand them?  Why is it so easy for so many people to minimize, overlook, ignore, and discredit children?  It is no wonder that so many children and youth commit suicide when they do not receive the assistance and/or protection that they need from their families – or other adults, and then, experience bullying, abuse, and/or violence at school.  Children and youth are so vulnerable.  They are growing and developing, and are going through stages of their lives in which they are most fragile.

Too many people believe that children and youth should be harmed – and then, they call it discipline or disciplinary action.  Children and youth need support, care, kindness, understanding, and compassion.  How does American society expect children to grow and develop in a healthy manner when many of their role models, teachers, coaches, and/or other adults bully and harm them?  What is worse in a Catholic or religious faith-based school is when the expectation is that children are to be valued and appreciated, but are bullied and harmed by many of the very adults who are charged with protecting them.  The situation is not restricted to faith-based schools, but is present in all too many schools in the United States, both public and private.

I believe that much of the issue relates to the toleration, acceptance, encouragement, and promotion of violence – particularly media violence – within our culture.  So many television shows, movies, and other programs that have been deemed “entertainment” are so horrific that I have rarely watched them, now, over a period of many years.  Yet, for many people, the more violence they view, the more they want.  It is as if there is a competition in the United States in media and entertainment to produce more and more violent shows and movies.  That would not occur if people did not spend so much money to view violence, to play violent video games, to participate in sports that are violent, etc.

Thus, I have broached a few more topics about which most people do not want to contemplate, talk about, or take action to prevent or eliminate.  These are, however, issues that must be brought into the open and discussed if there is any hope for improvement in regard to them within our culture.  One person who takes his or her life due to bullying and abuse is too many.  Yet, there are dozens of children and youth who commit suicide in the United States, with such deaths continually on the rise.  Last I knew, there were about 135 reported deaths due to suicide in the United States in one recent year.  There are likely many more that are not reported.  And, many of these children and youth who commit suicide have been bullied and harmed at school, by their peers and/or teachers.

I have taken the liberty to post several links regarding children and youth who have committed suicide in such circumstances so that the man who posted his comment, saying that my article was “stupid” can have a better understanding that when someone is dead, the situation is too late to improve – and is far from “stupid.”  For this man, ignorance is bliss.  Following, therefore, are just a few of the 100s of links on the Internet (in no particular order), all of which I retrieved on April 30, 2014, related to children and youth who have committed suicide due to bullying and/or abuse experienced at school from their peers and/or teachers:

“Bullied 10-year-old girl commits suicide.” http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Girl+Commits+Suicide+On+Camera&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=7A9D5FDFA0071FC8A1657A9D5FDFA0071FC8A165

“Suicide of Amanda Todd.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince

“Suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamey_Rodemeyer  (One of my student teaching experiences was at a school that he attended, Heim Middle School, in the Williamsville (New York) Central School District.)

“Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school.”  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/gay-ottawa-teen-who-killed-himself-was-bullied-1.1009474

“Suicide of Kelly Yeomans.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Yeomans

“Girl commits suicide after boyfriend sends her naked photos to fellow students, Family receives $154K from school.” http://news.asiantown.net/r/26323/Girl-commits-suici–100-e-after-boyfriend-sends-her-nak–101-d-photos-to-fellow-students–Family-receives–154K-from-school

“Girls, 12 and 14, arrested in death of bullied Florida girl who killed herself.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/15/girls-12-and-14-arrested-in-death-bullied-florida-girl-police-say/

“How a cell phone picture led to a girl’s suicide.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/07/hope.witsells.story/index.html

“Georgia middle-schooler commits suicide after bullying, being called ‘snitch,’ dad says.”  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17616979-georgia-middle-schooler-commits-suicide-after-bullying-being-called-snitch-dad-says?lite

“Bullying allegations probed after boy, 15, commits suicide after first day of school.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/29/bullying-allegations-probed-after-boy-15-commits-suicide-after-first-day-school/

“Anti-gay bullying cited in Georgia teen’s suicide.”  http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide

“My bullied son’s last day on Earth.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/23/bullying.suicide/  (It is difficult to believe this already happened five years ago; I remember the news about it.)

“Ex-teacher gets 30 days for rape of girl, 14; judge says she was ‘older than her chronological age.’ ”  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ex-teacher_gets_30_days_for_sex_with_student_14_judge_says_she_was_older_th/  (I am aware that the National Organization for Women made a formal complaint against the judge in this case, desiring his removal as a result of the sentence that he gave this man.  The girl committed suicide.)

“Teacher Kidnaps, Rapes Boy.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/video?id=7390696

“Mary Kay Letourneau.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Letourneau

“Columbine High School massacre.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

These 17 articles represent at least 29 people who died, either by suicide or homicide, in relation to bullying and/or abuse by peers, or abuse by teachers.  The articles also represent at least two other survivors of abuse who remain living.  The victims and survivors in each of these articles are reason enough why bullying and abuse must be taken more seriously, and be prevented and eliminated, especially in our schools.  Hopefully, the man who commented on a different one of my blog posts in relation to this issue no longer views it as “stupid.” 😦

As a result of the comments made by the particular man in regard to a prior post relating to these issues, I have been inspired to create a new LinkedIn group, “Stop Youth Suicide.”  I created the group today, and promoted it within 30 LinkedIn groups, and invited 70 people on LinkedIn from around the world to join.  Six fellow LinkedIn members – most of whom are mental health professionals – have already joined the group as of 5:30 PM Eastern Time today.  I have also promoted the group on Twitter, and will continue to do so.  Today, I have also gained additional followers and “likes” on Twitter as a result of creating this group.  (As of 1:30 PM Eastern Time on May 4, 2014, there are 55 members of the group!)

The comments made by the particular man – and the thoughts and attitudes of so many regarding these issues – definitely reflect the need for increased understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and support toward children and youth, especially those who are contemplate, attempt, and/or commit suicide as a result of bullying and abuse, that which is especially experienced at school from peers and adults.

Gun Law Expansion Causes Georgia to Regress, not Progress (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Last evening, upon watching the national evening news, I was shocked to learn that Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal signed a new bill, called the Safe Carry Protection Act, into law, going into effect as of July 1, 2014.  Georgia House Bill 60 will allow permitted gun bearers to keep and carry guns into many churches, schools zones, portions of airports, government buildings, and bars.  Representative Doug Holt of Georgia’s 112th district introduced the legislation.  It has been stated that the gun lobby initiated and secured the enactment of this law, with many critics being strongly against it.  I am also one of those critics who is strongly against it.

An attorney in Georgia once told me that it is better not to keep or bear arms.  Why?  Because doing so creates the potential of using them, and of injuring others and/or taking their lives.  While I believe it is certainly important for people to have the ability to protect themselves, there is no need to expand gun rights in the United States.  Business owners, school officials, and church leaders should not be forced to be responsible to make decisions regarding whether or not people are able to carry guns onto their property and into their buildings.  It should be a no-brainer that people should not be allowed to carry guns into these venues, unless they are highly trained, and are paid as security personnel or police to maintain the safety of the venue.

What is also important to keep in mind is that just because a person carries a gun, does not mean that he or she is trained in using firearms, nor has the self-control necessary to make decisions that are in the best interests of everyone should a situation become heated or violent.  Further, anyone could walk into a venue, carrying a gun, and not have a legitimate permit.  It seems to me that the “Safe Carry Protection Act” only creates the potential for environments that are less safe and less protected.  Owning, having, carrying, and maintaining guns only creates the higher potential for using them, and therefore, for seriously injuring or killing people.  More guns means more potential for violence, period.

In his speech at Ellijay, Georgia yesterday, Governor Deal quoted Thomas Jefferson as well as the United States Constitution on many occasions.  He basically affirmed Jefferson’s values and beliefs related to Americans having the right to keep and bear arms, in order to protect themselves from the tyranny of the government.  Is our government tyrannical?  I thought we lived in a republic that practiced democratic values.  Must people be handed the right to keep and bear arms everywhere?  Indeed, critics of the new law have dubbed it the “guns everywhere” law.  Allowing a greater number of people to legally carry guns into so many venues creates the potential for a lawless state.  In Georgia, the right to keep and bear arms has appeared to become the foremost of its citizens inalienable rights, and wrongly so.  My legislators have not correctly supported or promoted my beliefs and values regarding these measures.

Have the people so quickly forgotten the many tragedies that have occurred throughout our nation as a result of the use of guns to injure and kill others?  Those tragedies, on a national scale, that quickly come to mind include those at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Columbine experienced the killings of 15 individuals, including the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.  In Newtown, Adam Lanza killed 28 people, including himself, on a tragic day when our nation lost so many innocent children and dedicated educators.

Another incident that comes to mind is when I was a teacher in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and a young teenaged boy hijacked a car, placing the vehicle’s owner at gunpoint, then driving the car to the school at which I worked, and entering the school that was in session for the day.  The school went on lockdown, and police with dogs searched the school for the boy.  It was believed that he was armed when he entered the school (although he was not armed at that time), and when he attempted to flee the school, police had their guns drawn on him as he attempted escape through a side exit.  It is because of incidents such as these that better security is needed at our nation’s schools, for example, rather than allowing seemingly anyone to carry guns almost where ever they please.

In short, if more people are allowed to legally carry guns into more buildings and venues in Georgia, including government buildings, schools, and churches, then I will definitely feel more uncomfortable, less safe, and less protected.  Further, allowing guns to be carried into bars only creates the potential for more harm to occur.  We already know that mixing alcohol with weapons has the potential to cause violence, such violence that is unnecessary.  Indeed, many people will likely feel much less safe and protected in the very locations and venues in which such protections are virtually guaranteed, such as particular government buildings for example.

Expanding gun laws and rights in Georgia – or anywhere in the United States, for that matter – is a step backward, not forward.  We no longer live in the 1700s, where it was “every man for himself.”  Our government is not tyrannical, and we do not need to protect ourselves from it with guns.  In fact, it is our government on which we rely for protections against those who do not abide by reasonable laws.  The Safe Carry Protection Act is not a reasonable law.  This law has proceeded to throw the baby out with the bath water, and takes Georgia one step further into creating a lawless state in which it will, again, be every person for themself.   Repeal this law before it is too late, causing more lives to be needlessly lost because of it.

References:

Columbine High School massacre (2014).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

Copeland, L., & Richards, D. (April 23, 2014). Ga. governor signs ‘guns everywhere’ into law.  USA Today.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/23/georgia-gun-law/8046315/

Georgia House of Representatives (2014).  Doug Holt.  Atlanta, GA: Georgia House of Representatives.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/member.aspx?Member=128

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (2014).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting

Sayers, D.M., & McLaughlin, E.C. (April 23, 2014). Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches. Atlanta, Georgia: CNN.com.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from  http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/us/georgia-governor-signs-gun-bill/index.html