How To Avoid Blogging: Have Something Difficult to Say

I’ve been looking at a pile of scribbled notes and dog-eared copies of The New Yorker for some time now. The issue of gun control has been weighing heavily on me, but I did not want to simply state my position or argue a point that many people may already have made many times over. It took a book on war to bring me around to what I’ve realized is the fundamental focus of my thoughts and my desire to write about this topic for other writers.

As many of you know, I’ve been very slowly going through How Yoga Works and reveling in the, well, revelations. My current mantra is “Plant the Seeds.” Yes, the title of one of my earlier blogs and directly related to that book. When I feel sad, or more importantly, overwhelmed and scared as I am prone to be, I pause my thoughts and say “plant the seeds.” Basically, just changing the thoughts but with the more important component of the new thought taking hold and growing into a more positive and fruitful behavior over the long run. I’m telling myself for the first time ever that nothing has to be the way I see it–at least not the negative. A challenge should be met, not eluded. OK, OK, enough, you get it already.

So, how do I go from How Yoga Works to addressing gun control as a moral and ethical requirement of us all? By reading Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse. Big change in content, huh? I have a long-standing interest in history, especially war. It began more as an interest in how the areas we now call specific countries have formed and changed over the centuries in direct relation to the wars waged on or by them.

When I imagine myself as a draft-age male in 20th century America, I especially shudder at the prospect of going to Vietnam. I have no doubt that I would not have survived. At least not intact. The more I know of that war, the more horrified I am by the volume of atrocity unleashed in an offensive measure. I’m not saying bombing Hiroshima was a righteous act, but let’s agree that the U.S. would not have had to face making the choice if the Germans, then the Japanese did not swing first. Feel free to disagree. My point is that I cannot really comprehend the disbelief that people have over the fight against gun control when texts like Kill Anything show us how absolutely disinterested our government has been in our well being before and how many soldiers were not appalled or horrified by the orders they received to “kill ’em all.” When you note how much lower on the scale of value women, children, and the elderly have been than the average male, the surprise should be even less. Rape is a weapon of war and that has been wielded as readily as guns and grenades. Now, anatomy is one thing. It is what it is. But we can limit access to extraneous weapons and punish the inappropriate use of both. Hunting and lovemaking really cannot be compared equally with slaughter and rape.

My yoga teacher reminds me often that we all have our own universe to manage. Not that we stand alone, but we can only tend to our own world. We can plant the seeds and try to help others tend to their own goals so that all of us work in conscious harmony, but “we cannot plant the seeds for others” as she likes to say. I really understand now what “everyone in their own time” means. So, the discussion of each person’s rights is what I keep coming back to. How is one person’s rights more important than the safety and rights of the whole? Let’s face it, I have the right to live, don’t you? If restricting gun ownership and the type of guns allowed in public means I have a greater chance of exercising my right to live, then what is the problem?

If you are wondering what my world is like–how I’ve come to my perspective—I’ll tell you. My husband and I are gun owners. My husband hunts. We don’t buy meat raised in the realms of agribusiness, but we’ve not gotten to the point of becoming vegetarians. We would rather do without though than buy a cellophane and Styrofoam package of questionable quality meat from a questionable source. We plant the seeds of ethical farming even if we have not–yet–gotten to the point of sparing some animal lives. Still, I have no problem having to restrict access to our guns if it means preventing someone from accidentally or purposely harming others. I would love to have a central armory where we have to house our weapons and sign them out. If you are not planning on committing  a crime, what’s the problem with structure? Your freedom? I have freedom too: To live safely. Really, most of the NRA types sound like kindergarteners who were absent the day they learned about sharing and taking turns. I mean, really, you HAVE to have 100 rounds in an automatic or semiautomatic weapon at arm’s length? Are you sure you are not planning on committing a crime?

The April 15th issue of The New Yorker, has an article in the “The Talk of the Town” section entitled “Shots in the Dark.” The main question here about stepping up to the plate about gun control seems to be about taking risks. Who is willing to stretch out his/her neck and stand up for common sense and the right for the rest of us to live? Perhaps we are being abandoned because some members of Congress are not willing to risk losing their seats in the next election? Perhaps the Senate would not uphold any substantial changes. They like the cushy lives that playing with the pro-gun boys support. The column mentions Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s position (of all people!): ‘[A] right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose’ is not how the Second Amendment should be read. It does not “confer” this unadulterated view of absolute freedom. Last I checked, absolute freedom from control was anarchy or, no, wait, infancy.

Is this a new ideology for me? No. One of my most vivid memories of my freshman year of college is unwaveringly arguing against the whole of my first-semester composition class the point that I did not mind stricter criminal laws if that kept the predators and other unsavory characters behind bars longer. I did not mind having to watch my own behavior if that meant others stayed in jail. Yet, the rest of the class wanted as much freedom as possible even if it meant less jail time, or none, for offenders. Wow. I mean, I’m not saying we need to live in a police state, but why is it so hard to be responsible for your own actions and look out for your neighbor? And, no, I’m not saying our justice system isn’t damaged, but let’s work on the whole, not just give up and let everyone run amok.

Bottom line: I’m willing to curtail some of my own freedoms in order to ensure that the bad seeds are thwarted as much as possible. I’m also for reading as much about as many things as possible so that my range of knowledge includes seemingly disparate subjects such as spirituality and war crimes.

Of course, nothing will end violence, but everything can be done to limit it and access to its most effective tools. No one can plant the seeds for cruel, troubled, or misguided souls, but we have to do our best to keep these people limited to small container gardens until they are ready to do their share. We don’t need a whole field of perennials setting the wrong seeds on the wind.

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Plant the Right Seeds

Plant the right seeds in your students as you endeavor to plant them in yourself.

What seeds? Well, I’m still reading How Yoga Works–very carefully and slowly. I’m savoring every bit of it and doing my best to restructure my own perspectives on life by practicing what the instructor in the text, Miss Friday, directs her students to do. The seeds are of course not actual plant seeds, but metaphors for right behavior. Good habits take root and grow and these beneficial plants then spread more seeds. Hopefully, you can influence others to rotate their own inner crops and let the bad seeds die off while the good hold fast and flourish.

I’m doing my best to crowd out the bad seeds that many events and choices in my life sewed deeply. The more I read this text, the more often I actually cry. I am in mourning for what I did not know and for the things I cannot undo. I’d have written “yet” and the end of the last sentence, but I’m learning that there are some things we cannot change because it takes the participation of others to allow the soil to become fertile for change. Well, maybe the “yet” still stands. The others involved may come to their own desire for change and allow me to participate.

Planting the seeds sounds easy enough, right? It depends upon where you are in your own stage of life. My current thought process as a professor and tutor is to try to offer some of the wisdom I am endeavoring to retain and practice to my students and hope that these seeds take hold somehow, someway, someday. I can ‘t make them be ready, but I can’t cheat them of the chance to learn if they are ready now. I don’t presume to be a master by any means, but I can’t be anything but an observer if I don’t act consciously.

Planting the seeds in my college students is a tricky matter. Not everyone is in my classroom for the same reasons. Some are there under duress frankly. The composition courses I teach are mandatory. Not everyone likes to write. Fair enough. Not everyone is in school to learn and many are there to “buy” a degree so they can be “qualified” for a job. What they learn seems to be secondary to the framed paper on the wall. I have to weed through (no pun intended) and see if I can find a way to reach them all–to help them value themselves enough to value what they can learn even in core requirements seemingly unrelated to their major.

There are times when students are unable to meet the requirements of my course or focus regularly on tutoring sessions. The reasons can range from not being properly prepared educationally, to not caring enough to want to bother, to not having the confidence to think they can do this. Maybe life threw them a physical or emotional curve ball and they just don’t know how to regroup. At these times, what seed is it that I should plant to help them for their sake?

It would be easy to let them make their decisions and let them take the consequences. So I could let a student who has not participated all semester suddenly drop a bulk of back logged coursework on me so he can graduate on time. What about the quality of the work? I could work hard to lead him to the good grade and go easy on him because life just got harder or his GPA is balancing on my final click of the mouse. Who are these decisions really benefiting? These last options seem pretty cushy really for the student. But what about real life after school?

Let me tell you about real life. I was a student. I had serious setbacks. I did not get coddled. I had to take the hits, financial and educationally to catch up. I had to face the reality that no one was obligated to change standards and requirements just because I could not meet them. Sound harsh? Sound like a grudge? Sound like I’m taking it out on them? Nope. My falsely smoothing the path now will plant seeds of false expectations for later and that, my friends, would be a disaster. My bleeding heart now could lead to a lost job and lost opportunities later on. I must plant the right seeds for their sake.

This does not make me very popular sometimes with parents or colleagues. Often, their goals are for the student to stay in the time frame expected and with the grades demanded rather than earned. Somehow, education for education’s sake is getting more and more lost in the mix. Colleges tend to worry more about attrition rates rather than the reputation that comes with the quality of learning the person holding a degree with the school’s name represents. There is no big picture. No thoughts about the reputation of the family or the university later on down the road when a degree from this place is not respected and when the person fails at bigger challenges later on. The seeds planted so often are for now and not always for the student. My desire is to have my students and clients value now, for the sake of now. I want them to value what they have in hand and demand of themselves that they earn their grades, degree, and respect the right way. I plant the seeds of responsibility and reality while doing my best to overtly acknowledged their discomfort and fear.

I do care, that is why I challenge the  shortcuts and compromises. I hold onto the good seeds that were planted in me early on and the seeds I am endeavoring to plant now. These were and are very much about self respect and earning–not demanding–something and having to redo or revisit what I could not complete the first time around. While I mourn for the losses that the bad seeds produced, I look forward to letting go of them and continuing to plant the right seeds in the fallow soil. With any luck, some will be cast beyond my own fields.