The Burden of Death in Schools

“It has to stop. And spare me your Second-Amendment arguments. It’s all you’ve got. If you don’t have any other practical solution than MOAR GUNS, then you don’t get to participate in the conversation about what we do next to make this stop.”
— Jennifer Gadd

I’m the son of a teacher, and indeed my close family is full of teachers. I’ve been through school, from day one and on to the end of high school, and my wife and I have seen our two children go through school in similar fashion.

And I am—we are—blessed with the good fortune of living somewhere that guns, or even the awareness of guns, let alone the risk of being attacked and killed by someone with a gun, in schools or elsewhere, has never, ever, needed to be part of our daily lives.

We have fire drills, but never gun drills. We have political arguments about school funding, but never about any form of need, imagined or otherwise, for having weapons in schools.

I don’t doubt for a moment that any single one of our teachers would go to any lengths, do whatever they could, whatever it took, give their life if needed, to protect their students in the event of a school shooting. But I am grateful for the fact that, so far, while for years and years school shootings and other mass killing sprees in America continue to make weekly headlines in our news, they do not have to.

I cannot begin to imagine what living with this kind of prevalent fear feels like to a child, or a teenager, or a teacher. What I can imagine is that it doesn’t help with learning, or teaching. Even if your own school wasn’t attacked this week, then the all too familiar news flashes about massacres at schools just like yours, mass murders of children just like you, must weigh heavily on their minds, and constantly remind them that “this could be you”, indeed that “your turn is coming”. Such a burden I imagine would be a destructive challenge to any learning process. Children in any country deserve so much better than that.

American school teacher Jennifer Gadd has quite a lot to say about the situation:

Please read on, and continue to Facebook to Like and Share.

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All Your Social Media Are Belong to US

The Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security now want visitors to USA to surrender their social media login information before being allowed through security.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” [Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly] told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

Right, so this rotten idea pretty much wipes the United States straight off of my list of places to visit, until the whole thing is declared irreversibly dead and cremated. No, it’s not about whether I have anything to hide, it is about the fact that I have no intention of giving any of the cretins seated in or working for the Trump administration full access to and control over any of my Facebook, Twitter, blog or email1 accounts. I don’t bloody trust them!

1) Email is not quite social media, but with the merging of messaging services and social media, the boundary is becoming more and more blurred. I hardly ever get personal emails anymore; most private messages go through Facebook, and fewer and fewer people can even tell those things apart.

It’s been suggested to me that you could simply wipe the contents of your phone or laptop, and once through security, you can then download everything from an online backup service. Or you could simply leave your devices at home. However, this won’t make any difference.

Because it’s not just about what might be stored on your phone or laptop; they want your Facebook password, Twitter password, Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress blog, Reddit, WhatsApp, Flickr, Snapchat, you name it. And you might as well forget right away the thought of lying and saying that don’t have any. These are the DHS, the NSA, FBI and other American security agencies; you can pretty much count on them knowing if there are social media accounts related to your person. And regardless of whether you have any of your devices physically with you, once you provide them with your login info, they can then log into your accounts on their own computers, with full access to not only see, but also delete, modify, or post content on your behalf, as well as downloading your entire history of posts for later scrutiny, as well as your contact lists.

Moreover, and this is equally or perhaps even more important, they can also view friends-only content on your friends’, family members’ and acquaintances’ profiles, as well as restricted content in closed and/or secret groups and forums, so that it’s not just your own privacy which gets compromised and violated, but also that of anyone you know, on any social network platform that you happen to use.

This, to use a metaphor, quickly escalates from the equivalent of ripples on a pond, to the equivalent of an ocean–wide monster tsunami which kills and injures tens or hundreds of thousands of people almost immediately, and destroys highly polluting industrial installations and nuclear power plants for long term damage.

Although the general rule is that you should never post anything on the Internet, whether public of private, that you don’t want anyone to see, and although you may be careful about what you post, it is highly likely that a good number of, say, your Facebook contacts are posting personal details about their lives, or even about lives of other people they know even if you don’t, that were never intended for the public eye (including but not limited to opinions, feelings, political views, likes and dislikes, loves and hates, references to their own or others’ emotional or mental issues, criminal offences, relationship status and/or history, much of which oneself wouldn’t consider even remotely serious), and which might be used against them by sufficiently skilled and motivated adversaries such as lawyers and security agencies.

Considering the principle of Six Degrees of Separation, it is highly likely that insight into the social network profiles of a small number of people, would reveal “useful” and possibly damaging information about a significant number of other individuals.

To use a slightly different metaphor, the dent in your own personal privacy may be as insignificant as the tiny, round hole left by a hollow point fragmenting bullet on one side of a water melon (or someone’s forehead, if you want the morbid version), but that is practically nothing compared to the explosively splattered mess which is the exit wound on the other side (and a personal word of caution: do not google images of this unless you have a very strong stomach).

Know what other country was formerly at the top of my list of places not to visit? Saudi Arabia. Many reasons, but one being that they’ve declared me to be a terrorist. Why? Simply because I’m an atheist. Mind you, with the religious fanatic leanings of the GOP, the prospect of getting banned from USA for simply being an atheist doesn’t seem all that far fetched anymore.

It Ain’t So Bad Here

So it’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but as the author puts it, “a work in progress”, aiming for an ideal goal which, though perhaps not quite entirely reachable, helps guide us towards an increasingly beneficial society which works for, if not absolutely everyone, then at least as many as possible, and leaves if not no-one then at least as few as possible behind.

A crash course in social democracy by Ann Jones

We’re not strangers to praising ourselves and our own ways — as would be the case of most any nation and flavour of government and social structure — but we’re also willing to take that self-praise, and also, perhaps especially, that of our governing powers telling us how wonderful we are, with the appropriate amount of grains of salt.

Outside praise, however, is a measure that enables us to see how we look from the outside. It’s kind of heartwarming, and makes me appreciate what we have even more.

Again, not perfect, but I’m grateful for what we’ve got, for the freedoms, equality, security and benefits that are the cornerstones of the society that I’ve been lucky enough to be born into. I only hope that we possess the collective wisdom to carry on the good work, and keep building and improving on that which we have.

This year is an election year. Vote with your heart AND with your brain.

The Necessary Rainbow

First and foremost:


… to all LGBT people I know, as well as those that I don’t, both in America and everywhere else. Hopefully this monumental change in USA, as of June 26th 2015, will have a positive influence on nations around the world that have yet to catch up and do the right and civilized thing.

Source photo from NASA, Apollo 17.

I offer this simple, rainbow-endowed Earth-From-Space picture as an expression of my wholehearted support of something that quite honestly shouldn’t need it, simply because it ought to be anybody’s right to love and marry whoever they like without shame or restriction, and without interference and protest from people who really, really ought to mind their own bloody business, and particularly keep their noses out of other people’s homes and bedrooms.

The fact that it takes a vote or a court order in order to allow consentual love and marriage between adults, regardless of gender or colour or anything else is a tragedy, as well as a travesty, born out of intolerance, bigotry, fear, ignorance and twisted religion, not necessarily in that order, separately or combined, and shows that as a civilization we have a long, long road left to travel before we eventually reach maturity. At least this is another one of those small, small steps that show those of us who care that we are moving forward, on the right path, edging ever so slowly closer to that horizon.

Best of luck to us all.

Well said about Obama’s health reform

“Obama’s health reform came through, despite the fact that many Americans have fought for the right to end up living on the street if they get sick.”

(Knut Nærum, “Nytt på Nytt”, 26-March-2010,
translated from Norwegian)

Well, actually I think it says more, and rightly so, about those opposed to the reform. I just watched Michael Moore’s “Sicko”, and that left me even more convinced that the American health system up to now has been total madness. Oh well. Guess that makes me a Socialist.

Original: “[Barack Obamas helsereform] ble vedtatt, selv om mange amerikanere har kjempet for retten til å havne på gata når man blir sjuk.” (Link: Nytt På Nytt, 26.03.2010, ca 13’09” into the program)

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