On April 20th, 1999, two teenage boys, ages 18 and 17, shot at a group of people. In the end, they killed 13 people, injured another 24, and then committed suicide. It took place at a high school in Colorado and made national headlines.
On Junes 16th, 2006, two teenage boys, ages 17 and 16, shot at a group of people. In the end, they killed a thirteen-year-old girl, and injured two other girls. It took place in New Haven, Connecticut and hasn’t made national headlines.
What is different about these two incidents? The second shooting took place at night and wasn’t at a school. Only one person was killed, instead of 13, and the assailants did not commit suicide. Yet local papers report that this is part of the senseless violence that has resulted in twenty people being shot, three fatally in Connecticut.
I have a daughter who will turn 13 next month. I cannot imagine the horror and outrage I would have if she were shot down the way Ms. Cole was shot down. I would expect the outrage to be widespread.
I would expect people to talk on TV about the causes of the shooting and how future shootings could be prevented. Some might blame the violence on TV, or in video games, or in various forms of music. They would lead efforts to address these causes by calling for a chip to be put in TVs to prevent youngsters from watching inappropriate shows, they would try to ban or at least limit the sale of violent video games and they would rail against musicians with lyrics they didn’t approve of.
So, what is different here? Well, Jujuana Cole was black. She lived in an area where there are not enough jobs and where people are poor.
We need people that will fight against the conditions of poverty with at least the same vigor and vehemence as others have fought to ban violent video games and lyrics they don’t approve of.
A month ago I wrote about ‘Shooting our own Dream Dozen’. This was an idea I had about trying to find a replacement for West Wing, based on candidates for local office. As I worked on the Lamont campaign and saw volunteers making their own videos about Ned, it struck me that we should all be out making videos of our favorite candidates and sharing them online.
It doesn’t have the drama of West Wing, but maybe some future videos will. Meanwhile, I hope to be putting up videos of other State Legislative candidates. Hopefully, some of you will too. If you’re really interested in this, I’d encourage you to check out the Citizen Filmmaking track at the Media Giraffe Project Conference at University of Massachusetts on June 29th.
When I moved to New York City after college many years ago, I hung out with many young artists working on refining their craft and getting discovered. I would go to tiny black box theatres around town and view performances people would quite rightly call their work. These performances were probably more work for the audience to sit through than for the actors to perform and this probably explained why the actors frequently outnumbered the audience.
However, these tedious evenings would sometimes pay off with unexpected beauty. One such moment was when a friend performed a monologue based on Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The memory has come back to me recently in two different guises.
The actress spoke about having had a child and giving it up for adoption. She lived in the same town and spoke wrenchingly about seeing the child grow up and wanting to reach out, to tell her secret, to help the child. Now, instead of finding myself amongst tortured artists struggling with their craft, I find myself amongst tortured middle-aged men struggling with broken families and derailed careers.
One friend is struggling to get his career back on track and in his current poverty is fighting with his ex over child support and visitation issues. His daughter has just become a teenager and it has been ages since he has seen her. The other day he mentioned that he had found her ‘MySpace site’. In it, she spoke about how she missed her long walks with her father, even though she won’t currently speak with him on the phone.
The second memory is perhaps a little less obvious. Today, I received an email from Gina Coggio. I talk a lot about her class and recently went to visit them to talk about blogging. She has put up some of her students work on the web. Please, do yourself a favor and find some time to sit down and read some of the students work.
There is some beautiful writing there and I hope you stop by and comment on the students work. The blog has a little bit of a feel of the Spoon River Anthology. I believe that the actress that did the stirring monologue based on Spoon River Anthology went on to become a priest and uses her dramatic skills from the pulpit now. Whether or not any of the students will go on and become the next Edgar Lee Masters or perhaps the next Nikki Giovanni, the ability to write well is something that will be valuable to them, no matter what they end up doing.
More importantly, whether it is the performance of my friend years ago, or the writings of Gina’s students today, there is beauty in the representations of people’s struggle to bring meaning to difficult situations.
Today was Fiona's last day of school. Afterwards, many of the kids went to Chestnut Hill Park. The kids were not the only visitor to the park today. This snapping turtle came out to sun himself for a while before heading back into the nearby stream.
Originally uploaded by Aldon.
(Cross posted at My Left Nutmeg.)
This afternoon, Chris Murphy had a conference call with bloggers to announce his new Web Video. He spoke briefly about how they made the video. It was not scripted out but was simply him talking extemporaneously to the camera. There was a desire to not be cookie cutter.
Key messages of the video are to talk about Chris’ deep connection with the district and to focus on the positive. All of this comes in the context of MoveOn’s advertisements and Nancy Johnson’s attacks on Chris.