• allisontgruber

Ever since the massacre

Ever since the massacre, I begin my daily meditations with twenty-two tones on my sound bowl, one for each of the dead in Texas. This event strikes close to my heart as an American, a human, and a person who has spent 20 plus years teaching in American Classrooms both at the college & k-12 levels. What can I say? I loved classroom teaching, and I loved young people.

I struggled academically in high school, and sometimes college. Now, in my mid-forties, I finally know "why," and I know that if I had grown up at a different time -- say, now-ish -- I might have had an IEP, a 504, special helps that would allow me to do well as I always wanted to. Alas, it was the 1980s & 1990s. No one knew how to help a girl like me. I am happy that students now have the help available, and my hope as a human is that every child who needs special helps in the archaic American Education System can access said help.

My own struggle as a student of American Education was a gift in the classroom, for I never saw any student as a student who "could not do." The greatest joy was helping reluctant kids -- kids who'd been told they were "bad" or "stupid" or "unable" -- find an inroad with the Language Arts. The look on a child's face, particularly on the face of a child who hasn't heard such things often in relation to themselves, when you say, "Damn, man. That's solid!" (I said this often with my high schoolers when they did something superbly well), the expression on the kid who is the recipient of praise for efforts, particularly in areas that are challenging for them, is a joy unlike any other. That kid's expression, when such breakthroughs occur, is a glimpse of God.

What happened in Texas, when 19 students and two of their teachers were murdered in their classroom by a male human with a gun, was not a glimpse of God, mot an act of God, but an act of Man, and a glimpse of the Objective Evil man alone is capable of. What happened in Texas happens all the time in America alone. What happened in Texas is, in fact, a thing that American Educators have considered every day of their teaching-lives ever since Columbine.

Once, during an Active Shooter Drill in The School on The Mountain, where I taught high school English & Creative Writing for many years, I looked at my students huddled in the dark. One was crying. "It's okay. Just pretend," I mouthed to her. And I thought, "fuck the school's policy. If there was an actual Active Shooter, I'd send the kids out that window . . . " There in the dark, waiting for the Top Secret Knock, I was thinking hard, planning hard for what I'd actually do if there was a gunman in this school. "Out the window onto Ft. Valley . . ." I plotted. And always during such drills I, the teacher, considered my young charges, "Would I die for them?" And my answer was always, "Yes, I would die for them, but what good would it do?" Because if a motherfucker comes into the school with a semi-automatic, we're all dead.

You cannot plan for such events. There is no formula to save you against the kind of guns the Texas shooter carried into that Elementary School before he shot up all those babies. And they are babies. If you've worked with children, you know that virtually all young humans up until about age 25 act and think like children, and that below the age of 15 a child is still very much a baby.

One thing I know from lived experience, 20 years in the American Schools, is this fact: 99.9% of all children are NOT "broken psychopaths." Most children are not pre-broken, rather the adults in their lives break them, and if the child has special needs, if the child is anyway divergent, that breakage wrought by adults can create in the child a meanness that is almost impossible (though not entirely) to fix. In my years as an Educator, I met two students who were pre-broken. Both were expelled from the schools where I taught for either exhibiting violence or threatening violence.

In most cases, though, even when a child exhibits aggression, the child is not broken but reacting to a feeling they don't yet know how to manage. Often, when a child acts aggressively, this is a survival mechanism for forces at play in the child's life that we, the teacher, might know nothing about. Once, in a classroom, I stood toe-to-toe with a tall, but very young, male student who was fixin' to hit me. I was sober by then, practicing Buddhism in earnest, and I stood before him and spoke softly to him, reminded him of the ramifications of what he might do. And the boy backed down, and then he wept. This was pandemic times. I did not report the event. He was a good boy, and in some situations where it pertains to American Youth, the police, the authorities, even admin will just bring them far more trouble and suffering than is warranted for a childish outburst.

But I was once that kid who wanted to hit, who wanted to weep, and I didn't need police, or the principal, I needed love and compassion as all children need. And sometimes I got love and compassion even when I was difficult. And sometimes I got anger and frustration when I was difficult. And sometimes, when I was a kid, people just stopped paying attention to me altogether; now I've grown up to keep blogs.

Children do not make life worse for adults. Adults often make life worse for children. Children are without blame, and all they are doing is following our lead, or if scrupulous, precocious, scrutinizing & critiquing our lead . . .

The dead children and teachers in Texas are the fault of American Adults. All of us. The progressive, the moderate, the conservative. The zealot, the secular, the indifferent. All who have failed to bring greater love and compassion into the rearing of our children, and we are all they have, are complicit and guilty of the massacre in Texas. We mis-educate our children. We fight petty fights over children's education and upbringing. We miss what matters because we choose to remain ignorant. We belittle teachers. We spread unfounded, insidious, cancerous rumors about American Education and American Schools. We fail and fail and fail to pass any gun laws because the Gun Lobby pays for the boats and properties owned by our congressmen and their kin and their kind.

What to do? Vote, volunteer time, initiate meaningful discourse . . . All of these things are "tries," not "do." What to do? When the news broke -- fifteen dead, now twenty-two -- I followed my new path for the treatment of sorrow: I went to my rocking chair, my rose quarts mala, my sound bowl. Refused, for another day, to give myself over to bitterness, rage, and fear. And that is after all a necessary aim of all Fascists: to reduce the citizenry to so much bitterness, rage, and fear that they can no longer see their lives clearly, much less see clearly their own humanity. Scary stuff, reader. Dead scary.

Go in Love, hooligans.

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