Okay, it’s time to take a break from the vague, descriptive narratives and talk about something we can all easily understand without straining our brains. This whole JFK Jr. thing is really confusing me. Now I’m not a totally heartless guy, I feel for the Kennedy family. This is quite a tragedy and I can’t imagine having to go through something like that. But what I don’t understand is why CBS had live coverage of the entire thing all day Saturday. Why is this the biggest news story since the height of bombing Kosovo? Sure, he’s the son of JFK, he’s rich, he’s a Kennedy. But frankly, I don’t care that much about him. How many people die in plane crashes all the time, and the whole nation doesn’t stop and wait for every detail. Maybe I should correct that, the entire news media doesn’t stop and wait for every last detail. I don’t think the average American is too concerned about this whole thing. An online poll on cnn.com showed that 81% of the respondents thought there was too much news coverage (of a total 80,000 people). Now sure, that’s just an online poll, but that’s a pretty high percentage. People often refer to JFK’s days in the Whitehouse as Camelot, and subsequently JFK Jr. has been called America’s Prince. I hate to break it to ya, but America has no royalty. Not in name and not even in sentiment.
It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring. And he better wake up, cuz he’s gonna be wet pretty soon. We’ve had a lot of rain here in Chicago the past several days, and that tiny little river that lazily snakes through Judson–well, it isn’t so tiny, and it isn’t so lazy anymore. I think it dreams of taking over the campus. Right now it’s flooded the front yard of one of the dorms, and the basement of my dorm is flooding. There’s something that makes you feel kind of powerless when you see all that raging water.
The thunder echoes outside, and my thoughts overflow with ideas. Where to begin, where to begin?
Shel Silverstein died today at the age of 66 from a heart attack. You probably remember some of his books of poetry, A Light in the Attic, or Where the Sidewalk Ends, with the silly illustrations. I remember them from second grade, and reading about the man with two heads, complaining that when ‘I want tea, he has to pee.’ The best children’s writers seem to be a little out there.
Speaking of writing, what do you think of the piece I wrote for the Table Tent in yesterday’s pondering? I had a lot of fun writing that. This weekend I read another small chunk of L’Engle’s Walking on Water (nope, I’m not done yet), and what stood out to me was how we are losing the ability to equate work with play. When kids play, they play hard. They play intently. They’re actually doing work. How come we can’t work like that? Well, while writing that piece, I worked. And I had a blast. L’Engle also talked about how writing is tough and you really have to work at it sometimes. She said that so many books out there are just rough drafts. Well, I usually settle for rough drafts, but I raked this thing over with a fine tooth comb and tweaked everything to make it sound right. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the way it was. It just makes you feel good to refine something like that.
So who are you? What do other people see you as? Mary Ellen Ashcroft spoke in chapel today, and part of what she talked about was how we categorize people. He’s a jock, she’s a prep, he’s a nerd, she’s a punk, he’s conservative, she’s just out there, he’s a Calvinist, she’s a feminist, etc. How unloving is that? Do we like to be put in a neat little box like that. I certainly don’t. So why do we do it to others? And I’m certainly guilty of this too. We shouldn’t dismiss people and categorize them based on one aspect of their life. People are unique, and we should take the time to get to know them better, rather that just stick them in some category. I’ve noticed that the people I know the best I can’t categorize. They don’t fit in any category. I have a silly notion that’s true with everybody.
Lately I’ve read several articles about the Columbine shootings, and it’s really made me think. In some senses, I rejoice, because these articles have been confirming the fact that a girl was martyred in that school, something the news media ignores. Not that I’m rejoicing in death, but when someone dies like that, it deserves to be heard. Her action can inspire thousands. But what I feel is sadly lacking from these articles is a call to action. I found this quote rather ironic, “Another student, Rachel Scott, seventeen years old, had just days before performed in the school play, cast in the role of an outcast, a student searching for herself in a world of peer pressure and popularity contests.” The writer was trying to show what a real person Rachel was. And yes, it’s sad that she died. But playing the role of the outcast? The very words ring in my ears. Outcast. Who were the outcasts? Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I’m not trying to justify their actions, but it seems that people need to realize just how important it is to reach out to people. If Jesus Christ had been at Columbine High, who do you think he would have had lunch with?
As the horror unfolds, it seems I can only ask questions. What is wrong with this country when such a thing can happen? What is wrong with people when they stoop to such a level? What is wrong with the rest of us that we let them stoop so low, and never stop to think of them?
Cassie Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, and William “Dave” Sanders, we cry for you. It breaks my heart to hear the 911 tapes, and hear the shots in the background. The shots could have been the bullets that ended your lives. They could have been the bullets that wounded someone. The more I hear of this tragedy, the more it breaks my heart. The picture of a bloody, wounded student pulling his way out a broken window will never leave my mind. When humanity stoops to this level, we must stop and ask ourselves what is happening. When young children can see the graphic carnage on the evening news, we must ask ourselves just what we are doing.
Here’s some more thoughts on the shooting in Colorado. I wrote the following piece for the Table Tent:
I sat in the quiet of my room, enjoying a chance to stop for a moment. How was I supposed to know that somewhere else gunshots were shattering the silence? With anger, rage, and confusion, two students strode through the hallowed halls of their school, firing shots and throwing bombs. Blood flowed, people cried, and part of me died. Now the questions are being asked, and everyone’s coming up short. How do you know someone would take their life, and the lives of 13 innocent? The answer seems painfully clear to me. They were outcasts. Alone in their thoughts, they struck back in the only way they could. Did anyone stop to reach out to them? The blame is now being cast on lax gun control laws and violent TV shows, which certainly share the guilt. But what about you? What about me? Did we stoop from our righteous lives to show love to the outcast? Or did we ignore them, leaving them to wallow in their hate? Seven school shootings in the past two years. And those are only the “safe” suburban schools that the news media cares about. The problem isn’t desensitized violence, easily available weapons, and deadbeat parents, although they all contribute. The problem is the Christian who refuses to make a difference.
“Is there anybody out there? Does anybody care? Are the people really there? Is anybody seeking? Does anybody see? Or are they deaf and dumb like me?” (‘Anybody Out There’ by Burlap to Cashmere)
I took a moment today, well a half hour really, to be quiet. I had a very busy day today, and at the time I was folding my laundry. My townhouse was empty, and for some reason I didn’t put a CD in or turn the radio on. I just folded in silence. Although my mind kept racing, it still felt very peaceful. Who would have thought that elsewhere gun shots were shattering the silence?
The increase in student violence in the past two years is shocking. It’s hard to believe that the worst killing spree in United States history was done by high school kids–to their fellow students. I know that people everywhere are in shock. Some people will blame deadbeat parents, violent movies or video games. But ask yourself, could you have prevented something like this? No one expects their children to do something like this. Do you know yours wouldn’t? People treat people like crap nowadays, and this is just one of the repercussions. God have mercy on us all.
Ever feel like you’re putting your head down on the chopping block? At times it feels that way, but somehow I know that God has it all under control. I can feel a hand on my shoulder, and despite all logic, I know he can make it work. Some how, some way, the peace will come. Rest your head on my shoulder, and it really will be alright.
The pondering is kind of sporadic tonight, just to warn you.
The bombs are falling, the missiles are launching, and my young eyes are opening wide. People are dying as America, the great superpower of the 20th century flexes its military muscle. Supposedly it’s in order to save lives. To stop killing. Killing to stop killing? It doesn’t make any sense, but I suppose it’s the last option. The Serbs are fighting for Kosovo, a land they lost in a bitter war with the Muslims 600 years ago. Calling it the ‘grave of their liberty,’ they want it back. A sort of monument to their pride. So they butcher and kill the ethnic Albanians who make up 90% of Kosovo, an ethnic cleansing by none other than Christians. Or at least that’s what they call themselves. Why are wars always fought in God’s name? How often do you think God has put his stamp of approval on a war? And so the United States steps in, the mighty hall monitor of the world that we are, and tips the scales to stop the slaughter. Will there ever be an age in this world where people aren’t suffering? Where bombs aren’t falling? Where gunfire isn’t echoing through the night?
This relates to a lot of what I’ve said about the traditional way things are done. Why is it that everyone wants security? We all go off to college so we can have a nice, well paying job and be able to easily provide for ourselves. We want to work for the rich company, so we can make a lot of money. We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness, yet we all chase it. Why doesn’t anyone want to work in the slums so they can make a difference. Yeah, there are people who do want to do that, but the vast majority are going for the money. What good is your money if others are suffering? You can’t buy them love. You have to put forth an effort to see that a difference is made. You have to make that difference. Yet all we want is a nice job, in a nice neighborhood, with a nice house, a nice car, a nice wife, and raise a nice family. You know what? Nice sucks. Jesus lived a radical life. He didn’t have a nice job, live in a nice neighborhood, live in a nice house, ride a nice horse, have a nice wife, or raise a nice family. He didn’t have any of this nice crap. So why do we chase after it? I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad, but should that be our goal? Since when is average mediocrity a worthwhile goal? Is that what Christ has called us to? I don’t think so. Satan may call you to such a nice life, because then you’re too comfortable to worry about anything he’s doing.
A friend asked me today what I want to do. What a profound question. What do you want to do with your life? I suppose it’s especially poignant now because I can actually chase those dreams. This is the time in your life when you have the choice of whether or not to make those dreams a reality. The scary thing is, I’m not too sure what I want to do. I don’t have a list of things I want to do that’s been growing in my head for the past six years. I don’t know if I could rattle of five or six things that I really want to do. I don’t know if that’s bad or not. I suppose it makes me more ample clay in the potter’s hands. I know I want to write a book. Or books, however things work out. But what else? I don’t know. This one could require a little thought.
Ah, what a day. Spring Break is coming closer, and I can certainly feel it. The big assignments are done and there’s not much left to do. A week of doing nothing will soon be upon me!
It’s been a pretty intense day in another sense as well. I guess NATO has ordered strikes against Yugoslavia, and they could come at any time. In fact, by the time you read this it could have already happened. Bill Clinton had this to say about why the U.S. was participating in the strike, “If our country is going to be prosperous and secure, we need a Europe that is safe, secure, free, united, a good partner for trading, wealthy enough to buy our products and someone who will share the burdens of taking care of the problems of the world.” Now that’s a mouthful. What’s he really saying? First off, he’s saying that we have every right to attack Yugoslavia because we want a united Europe. Why do we want a united Europe? Because we need someone to buy our crap. That’s a lovely reason to launch missiles and drop bombs. Does it make a whole lot of sense to preserve your economic well being by flexing your military muscle? If your economy is that troubled, and our isn’t, then I think you’re in way over your head. A few bombs and missiles isn’t going to do you much good. And don’t forget, we need a united Europe to “share the burdens of taking care of the problems of the world.” Since when was it our business to take care of the problems of the world? I realize that the United States is a superpower, and we have the power and the responsibility to watch out for the little guy, so to speak. But are we really solving the problems of the world by throwing bombs at them? Bullets and explosions don’t seem to solve any problems.
Another thing I’ve thought about today is the idea of community living and the “proper” notion of family life today. In America today you’re expected to get a job, get a house, get married, and raise a family. That’s your purpose in life. Of course variations exist, but that’s the gist of it. Economically, that doesn’t seem like the smartest way to run things. Especially when most jobs today require a college education, which usually means entering the work force with a substantial debt hanging over your head. Then you’re expected to buy a car, house, and all the rest? In my Concepts of Community class we’ve been reading a book called “Walden Two” which is really opening up this idea of community. Today in class we discussed a few real communities that are based on the fictional Walden Two. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to join some exclusive community in Mexico or Virginia, but I do find the idea intriguing. Why is it that Americans are expected to do it on their own? Why isn’t community living an accepted way to live? Why is it such a foreign concept to graduate college and live with a small group of people, pooling and sharing your resources? It sounds so simple and easy, but it’s not an acceptable way to live in America. Why is that? Wouldn’t such an arrangement be so much easier on those involved? It would ease financial burdens and provide closer circles of friends. Perhaps I’m just dreaming in an idealistic world. I’m a college student though, that’s what I’m supposed to do.
And finally, I found the following quote while I was looking at my old high school’s web page. This was on the main page of the West Bloomfield School District. If you know anything about West Bloomfield, you’ll think it’s pretty funny.
“Avoid the fuss. Take the Bus. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s convenient. Be Cool. Take the BIG YELLOW LIMO to school. Let us do the driving. Let your parents sleep in.”