Dear World . . . Using the power of Birthday Wishes

It’s still my birthday month, plus today is the fabulous Andra Watkins’ birthday, which multiplies the power of birthday wish magic in immeasurable amounts, so I have a few birthday wishes I’d  like  to share.

But wait, you say . . . if I share the wishes then they won’t come true. The wishes I want to share aren’t my personal, private wishes, but wishes that affect many other people. So maybe, if other people agree with my wishes and we all use the power of wishing and birthday magic together, some of the wishes come  true.

So let’s blow out some candles, find a falling star, and make a wish or two for the good of all:

There's powerful birthday wish magic in Andra's decadent looking dessert.

There’s powerful birthday wish magic in Andra’s decadent looking dessert.

 

Wish #1: Educational Sanity

“Whimper, whimper, whimper.”

I pull myself out of my hard-won deep sleep (after a 3 hour bout of insomnia) to the sound  of my daughter whimpering as she crawled into my bed for a  morning snuggle.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

She buried under the covers moaning and mumbling something.

“What? I don’t understand?”

“I’m not ready for MCAS long essay. I wish we didn’t move here. I wish I went to school where I didn’t have to take  these tests.”

“These tests are everywhere Sarah. You’ve taken them everywhere, they are  just more emphasized this year.”

“But Massachusetts is in the name of the test.”

“Well, yes, but every state has these stupid tests. That’s the problem. I just want you to do your best and not worry about it. These tests mean nothing about you as a student.”

“I feel like I’m going to fail.”

“I’ll be proud of you if you just try. I don’t care  about these tests. They have nothing to do with you and everything to do with a broken education system.”

“I’ll try, Mommy. I’ll try.”

Okay, so maybe this wish is a little personal. My heart breaks when I see my daughter losing the joy of learning to her stress over achieving some mandatory score on a mandatory test that proves nothing than the fact that these kids know how to take tests. They aren’t learning how to think, to be creative, to challenge themselves . . . they are learning how to take tests.

I wish for a complete education overhaul that does not treat education like a business and teachers like servants who only win rewards if they prove numerically that students are improving, when we all know learning can’t always be proven by graphs and charts. I wish for an education system that embraces creative learning, challenges and questions societal norms, and incorporates all the things I’m passionate including learning through the arts.

Does anyone else wish for some educational sanity?

Wish #2: Governmental Sanity

Okay, since I’m already wishing for the impossible,  I might as well wish for the ultimate impossibility of  a sane and functioning government here in the United States. I am probably naive. I simply do not understand why greed and hatred have such a powerful hold over officials who are supposedly elected to represent the will of  the people. I don’t understand why a body of people can continue to get paid and not fired when they aren’t doing their jobs. I don’t understand why 1/4 of 1/3 of the government (as in 1/2 of the congress which is only one half of one branch of the government) has held us hostage for so  long and can demand unrealistic cuts in the name of more money for the richest few in a country where everyone is supposed to be equal, and get away with it. I don’t understand why we are still fighting for equality for women in 2013. I don’t understand why immigration is such as an issue in a land full of one time immigrants.

I don’t understand anything. I feel we are being ruled by insanity lately, although I must say that some of the people I know who are labelled as “insane” or “crazy” would make wiser choices than many of our elected officials.

It’s a simple wish, bring some sanity back before the US. government destroys everything.

More wishes to come . . . 

I don’t want to overwhelm you with my long list of “soapbox” birthday wishes, but I will explore more for  the next few days, until my birthday month is officially over (although I am actually celebrating into April when I go to my birthday concert so maybe the wishes will continue).

If you knew the power of birthday wishes or any wishes would work, what would you wish for to make this world a better place?

. . . their cries were heard . . .

For this weeks 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, I am putting my poetry skill to the test. Join me in this challenge, it is inspirational and fun, although this weeks challenge is leaning toward the depressing. 😉

Shots rang across the water aimed at children

            . . . their cries were heard . . .

Animals fled the destruction of their home
            . . . their cries were heard . . .

Millions died in the name of purity
            . . . their cries were heard . . .

Thousands harmed as Mother Nature screams
            . . . their cries were heard . . .

Young people dying by their own hands because of their difference

            . . . their cries were heard . . .

There, cries were heard . . . but too often ignored.

Painting by Michael Horsley-Millman http://www.horsley-millman.co.uk/index.html

Bullying . . . It’s Not Just for Kids

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

Image via Wikipedia

We live in a land of Bullies.

No, I’m not just talking about the bullying of the school years that has become such a prominent story in the news. That bullying, I believe, is a result of the world we live in. The bullying of the teen years becomes more horrific because of the additional challenges of a changing body. It is amazing anyone survives.

But, that bullying or the feelings that come from it don’t disappear in adulthood. It’s not like we achieve a miracle age where nothing can bother us anymore. Think about it. Have you ever looked in the mirror (both literal and figurative) and disliked what you saw? Perhaps you see fat, or age, or gray hair. Perhaps you see insecurity, unhappiness, failure. Perhaps you see loneliness or defeat.

Whatever you see, you are not looking through the eyes of reality. No, you are looking through eyes of insecurity–of all the fears, doubts, and discouragement you have witnessed throughout the years.

Those are the feelings that come from bullying.

I still carry in me the shy, insecure girl of my youth. I still carry within me the lonely girl who felt on the fringe of all groups, and never really felt like she had friends. I still carry the girl who never felt like she was quite good enough.

Of course, I recognize my accomplishments. I know that I have had successes in my life. But all it takes is one snub, or one feeling that I’m not invited to sit at the cool kids table, and that little girl comes out again.

But remember, those snubs are from adults, not children.

I just spent the last half hour watching anti-bullying videos created by high school students of a friend of mine. Students created these videos for an anti-bullying campaign/contest. If you would like to view them and/or vote here’s the link to the Facebook Page. And it is those videos that made me realize that we never grow out of bullying or feeling bullied. We just learn to internalize it, and hope that the behavior remains inside.

But it doesn’t.

So what can we do? We can work on being kinder to each other and setting a good example. We can remember how it felt when we were younger, and use those memories to create a better world. We can tune out the voices of the bullies and embrace who we are faults and all.

We can look in the mirror and accept ourselves.

Bullying is not just for kids, but neither is prevention.

Here’s another thought about bullying that everyone should read from The Life of Jamie.

A Glee-full Discussion of Bullying

I just finished watching yesterday’s Glee and my initial reaction was “Best Glee ever!” Sometimes, I admit, I only pay attention to the show long enough to catch the songs and productions as the storyline loses me about 50% of the time. Yesterday’s show, however, had the delightful combination of meaningful story combined with great music, a fabulous guest (Carol Burnett), fun production numbers, and Sue Sylvester.

Through the entire show, I reflected on its messages about bullying, and about the inability of the school to protect this young man in any substantive way. That little dose of reality lent some gravitas to the show, and is sadly, too true. I applauded, in my own mind, Sue’s stance at the end, that she would rather resign the principal-ship in protest and serve as protective eyes in the hallways. But then, the end came, and Kurt announced he was leaving the school. He announced that he was escaping the bullying he was facing in the only way he could, by going to a school that has a zero tolerance policy.  And my heart broke. And my anger was raised.

After that, I read one of my blog subscriptions, a woman who writes eloquently about Schooling Inequality, and has focused recently on the rash of gay suicides. Today she wrote about Queer Youth and Cultural Products, reflecting on the “It Gets Better Campaign”. Reading this entry made me think about Kurt as a Cultural Product. In many ways I think he is representing the struggle faced by GLBT youth daily in our country. But, for that reason, it makes me angrier that he has to run away; that his only hope for safety is to escape to a private boy’s school. This is probably a sad truth in many of the public schools that face bullying, but it is a disgusting truth. Schools can not, or maybe simply do not, do enough to protect these children. That is simply wrong! I hope, in the fictional world of television, that an alternative solution is found.  At the same time, though, Glee tries in some ways to be true to the world as it exists, so I don’t know what that solution will be.

In Schooling Inequality, she also included this video, which could be such a powerful part of the solution.

Sadly, though, I see the fight to get this kind of programming into public schools as a long drawn out one.

I need to find a way to be part of the change that schools need. Lives are at stake.

Wearing Purple

 

Purple color

Image via Wikipedia

 

My family is wearing purple today. I haven’t noticed if anyone else is wearing purple, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t.

I have a dream of seeing the streets of someplace like New York filled with purple. Streets filled with Spirit! Streets filled with the idea that people have the right to love who they like, believe what they like, worship as they please without being bullied, abused, or tortured. Streets filled with people who recognize that every life is valuable, and would never push someone to end his/her life.

Is that a realistic dream?

I dressed in purple today because I want to believe in the possibility that human nature is not as wicked and petty as it sometimes seems. I want to believe that we can be filled with joy, love, and support for one another.

I asked my daughter to wear purple because I want her to know that it is okay to love whoever she wants to love. I also want her to learn to stand up against bullies when she sees them. She’s only seven. She doesn’t quite understand, but she heard what I said and embraced the purple.

My partner chose to wear purple for his own reasons, but I am sure they are similar to mine.

My family wore purple today because we believe in the power of spirit and the value of life.

The Culture of Bullying

 

Bullying on IRFE as of March 5, 2007 (the firs...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Bullying!

The word echoes through the air these days.  Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the  pervasiveness of this issue.

I want to do something about it.

This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used “Ozymandias”). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog http://bullypoems.wordpress.com/ (thank you to that blog writer).

The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.

Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.

More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.

Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that’s for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.

The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.

The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!

How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don’t see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.

Now, I’m sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous however.

If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.

I hope we can do it.

With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens \”it gets better\”, we can.

Another important link about this: http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/it-will-get-better/

And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/they-taped-their-roommate-and-outed-him-on-the-internet-now-hes-dead/

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