Our Culture Inchoate: Guns. #18
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Honoria Torres on the calling of Teachers, March 2018.
CONGRESSWOMAN TORRES SPEAKS AT COUNTY NEW JERSEY TEACHER OF THE YEAR AWARDS DINNER, MARCH 2018, EASTFIELD HILTON BALLROOM
Congresswoman Torres: Thank you, everyone, thank you. Former Governor Snope, Superintendent Mitchell, Principals, teachers, and aids… thank you all for allowing me a precious few minutes to speak with you this evening. I am humbled and appreciative of this opportunity.
I don’t have a formal role tonight. I don’t know who the hard-working recipients are, except I am certain I am not one of them.
These are awards that have great impact on the recipients’ lives, and the lives of those around them. What is most impressive about the awards is that it comes from peers. It is not a popularity contest; it is a meritocracy by those in the arena.
I was a teacher in this county for a dozen years, and I have attended a few of these dinners. I love it all. I never won, and in fact I was only nominated twice. But I enjoyed the camaraderie, the hairdos, flowers and glam shots, the prosecco, and even these lousy talks.
I am not presenting, so I speak with you tonight as one who has walked in your shoes. Who appreciates you. Who always has your interests, and your students’ interest, at heart. Teaching is more than a job or a profession. It is a calling. Everyone here has answered that call. Everyone here has sacrificed their talent, treasure, and sometimes dignity and sanity in an effort to protect America’s greatest asset… her children.
Everyone here also knows my story. My mother worked in the kitchen and as a crossing guard for almost 30 years at the same school. She is my hero. From her I learned the value of personal sacrifice for the greater good and safety of our children.
A few weeks ago a school was butchered by a crazy kid with a rifle. The fact that it was avoidable makes it even more tragic.
School shootings are an outrage and a plague on the public psyche.
Our first reaction is to “do something.”
These events of evil happen not because of any one single legal, moral, medical, or societal construct fails, but because of several seemingly unrelated lapses of adherence or common sense.
I want to state that I remain a strong proponent of the Second Amendment and am a proud member of the NRA.
(Scattered boos and applause)
Allow me to consider several aspects that come to the surface that may shed light on root causes, all related to our American value system.
We don’t pay our teachers enough. The first story of Parkland, Florida, is of a coach positioning himself directly in the line of fire to protect students from the gunman. I suspect this hero was trained in emergency procedures, but that jumping in front of a hail of bullets is not on that checklist. His last conscious act, like other teachers before him, was to sacrifice his life to provide a few seconds of escape for children. Who among us is capable of this final act of courage? I know you are. I pray I would be able.
We don’t respect our teachers enough. The daily hyped up media reports stories of students, kids, asserting their rights in the classroom, and the teachers are being brow-beaten, humiliated, or stripped of authority in public. This is a grave sin: without a mantle of respect for teachers, in all reasonable situations, students supported by misguided parents flaunt their unearned and unformed values on everyone. Teachers are bullied by both students and parents. Why are we surprised when kids bully each other?
Growing up I was more afraid of my mother’s wrath than that of any teacher. If my folks learned of a teacher’s displeasure in my behavior, I had hell to pay. Is that the case now? Or do students, aided by the media, make merry in a “gotcha” false accountability?
Parents and the media must trust our teachers more than they do now; teachers are willing to die to protect their charge and should be given complete authority and support in the classroom. We should also consider allowing the willing and the skilled among them to be armed.
Another aspect: Local detectives and federal authorities are the best trained arbiters of facts and clues and securing of evidence. Part of that process is diving into the background of the accused. I suspect patterns will scream off the pages of found documentation in this Parkland case: a fractured home life, impulse control requiring medication, detached from communal activities, callous to life, bullied, mocked, a loner.
These are all potentially root causes and should be addressed separately and collectively. There is much anecdotal information within a three week period of the Parkland shooter that has me shaking my head, but without a social or family net it appears prevention would have been unlikely without direct intervention. The suspect’s history of erratic and weird behavior now looks glaring in the carnage at the school, but who is ultimately responsible for his acts? He is. More than a few of his intimates are praying for the ability to turn back the clock, just one month, or years ago. Who among us has the prescience to recognize he or she may be sitting next to someone’s personal cauldron and can intervene? That act of intervention, however awkward, will take less courage than jumping into a hail of bullets.
And Hollywood doesn’t help. Since film became the medium of choice, fantasy, and education a century ago, it has been fascinated with the darker side of mankind. We pay to view film, waste time to laud it, and spend moral equity rationalizing it. Good guys who protect the innocent are not the stuff of money-making blockbusters. Bad guys are glorified, and most conflict is resolved at the point of a gun. Adults, for the most part, can separate major and minor, and fact from fancy, so restricting Hollywood’s ability to make money should not be diminished by fiat. Parents should use more discretion in what their children watch. At issue is the unformed value system of kids, and teenagers are kids, who still possess self-control problems. Video games are worse, because they appear to be completely disassociated from the human connection, the last string between acting on evil impulses and stifling them.
I like westerns, my favorite genre. My apparent hypocrisy is separated by knowing that these films are for escapism and amusement. Can we honestly say that most R-rated films, which teenagers attend in droves, are good for their unformed character? It is ironic that the Hollywood beneficiaries of movie revenue largesse and armed personal protection are the first ones to scream for gun control. That is serial hypocrisy.
And the emotionalism. The reflexive action of any rational adult after these evil occurrences is to “do something.” We could, we can, and we will. Much has been done in recent years by school districts across our land, and credit goes to local school authorities and local teachers’ union representation.
Legislation cannot fix everything, and some would argue it changes nothing in substance. Everyone supports gun legislation, especially the laws we already have on the books. Even the NRA would support reasonable legislation going forward. The operative word is reasonable, and the debate becomes hysterical on that one thought.
Gun ownership it does not confer a right to attack anyone and should never be rationalized as such. Weapons used for attack or intimidation is a crime and must be dealt with swiftly, and if need be, severely.
A reasonable question: how did the Parkland shooter acquire an AR-15? Allegedly it was purchased legally. Between his age, his history, and the hollow vacant look in his eyes… am I the only one who sees this?... a flag should have been raised.
Murder, and the evil heart behind it, is not caused by guns.
America, look in the mirror. No respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life is a root cause. We are a selfish, self-absorbed people, whose personal idea of identity is warped by no respect for the most fragile among us, and no respect for authority, let alone each other.
Treat others as you wish to be treated. Protect the most innocent of human life, without rationalization of an individual right of convenience. It isn’t about changing laws, but of changing hearts, minds, and values. Love your neighbor. Want to do something? Start there.
There is no debate that parents and teachers and coaches shape our children’s intellect, friendships, and capacity for good citizenship. The capacity to love and care for others.
Parents and teachers both, first and foremost, set the example. There is no greater responsibility.
Then parents point the way, through faith and family and greater ideals.
Teachers create the paths, roads, and highways of the mind for the students.
Teachers support the greater ideals of their charge. Many students grasp a subject and try to cut their own path through the thatch. It’s the teacher who sharpens that blade.
Thank you for sharpening the future of America. Thank you for defending our children. Thank you, again and again and again for your calling. America loves and respects you all.