During Pride Month, a Very Unhappy Anniversary.

Pulse Club Anniversary - Twitter

Two years ago this day, a deranged gunman entered and shot and killed 49 people, wounding 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. These people are in our hearts and thoughts; we ought not afford their attacker the attention he sought. Yet, in this outburst of lethal hate, love prevails, just as it did at the nightclub. After all, in the name of a comic book anthology, “Love Is Love.” This book comes with a hearty recommendation.

In a thoughtful tribute, the New York Times today remembered the victims and survivors of this atrocity. Indeed, these are lives lost or forever changed. Shamor v’zakhor: observe and remember.

This year was different from last. Since then, there was the tragic Parkland shooting. Indeed, Marjory Stoneman Students were present, with a very important message to tell. A photo anthology from the Orlando weekly captured the moment. Yes, guns are the problem. or at lease a major part of it. An interactive graphic shows the number of shootings that have occurred in 5-, 10-, 15-mile radii from the Pulse nightclub since this day two years ago. there were 175 shootings within 5.2 miles , 199 shootings at 5.8 miles, 282 shootings at 7.5 miles, all the way up to 392 shootings at 15 miles. Across the nation, deaths by firearms – both shootings and suicides – that is 93 deaths on an average day.

The day after the tragedy, commentator and writer John Pavlovitz penned a beautiful, haunting poem on his blog. “The Forgotten Children Killed in the Pulse Shooting.”  The 49 victims were human beings, loved and treasured by their parents.

“Not statistics, not people groups, not causes or culture war symbols, not illustrations or examples or stereotypes or case studies.

Children.

Someone’s children.”

Or, in the words of Janusz Korczak, these adults who were once children, were:

“individuals who are people, not people-to-be, not people tomorrow, but people now, right now, today.” 

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Cruelty – There Is No Other Word for It

Liberty Turns Her Back on Immigrants

Lady Liberty turns her back on immigrants. That is the thought that came to mind while gazing out the window of the Great Hall on Ellis Island, the gateway to America for so many immigrants (including my grandparents).

 

Upon hearing and reading reports of children being forcibly removed from parents seeking immigration asylum into the United States, a combination of tears and anger compels me to write this column. The promised piece on the leadership of children over the school-shootings crisis will appear in this space soon.

There is no other word for it: Taking children away from parents seeking asylum from countries plagued with deadly violence, such as Honduras, and taking them somewhere across the nation is inhumane. In fact, there are no words. Though government actions harmful to children are by no means new, civil liberties attorneys are declaring that the current situation is unprecedented, “cruelty with no bounds.” An article in the New Yorker, calls it a form of state terror.  Medical and child-welfare experts point out that the emotional and psychological damage to these very young children is likely to be permanent.

What will happen to these children?

Chief of Staff John Kelly said in an interview on NPR, “The children will be taken care of—put in foster care or whatever.” In response to all the anguish along our southwestern border, Mr. Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the President justify the actions of ICE as a means of deterrence. For parents fleeing their home countries out of fear of life-threatening violence? (And those minors being members of MS-13 and other gangs? Only a minute portion is involved, according to The Marshall Project.) Well, just days later, reliable news sources such as NPR’s Frontline report that some 1,500 children are “missing,” unaccounted for. What will happen to their distraught parents? The nightmare is unfathomable, yet it is actually happening.

Liberty in ChainsThe ACLU, acting on the findings of Lee Gelernt, the group’s Deputy Director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project (as featured in the MSNBC clip), regarding a mother from the Congo who was separated from her young daughter for months, recently filed a national class-action lawsuit,

All of us, not just as caring Americans, but as caring people, must speak up! Finding both elected officials is very easy; all information can be found at one place, at USA.gov. And be sure to include other notable people, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is easy to fall into despair. However, the collective “small” actions each of us – regardless of political affiliation – can do, such as writing letters and discussing this critical issue, both in person and online (such as in blogs or on social media) could well make positive change. Indeed, it is often the only thing that does.

Here is my letter. Please feel free to borrow as much as you like!

Upon hearing and reading reports of children being forcibly removed from parents seeking immigration asylum into the United States, a combination of tears and anger compels me to write. Taking children away from parents and taking them somewhere across the nation is inhumane, beyond words. Civil liberty attorneys are declaring that the current situation is unprecedented. Medical and child-welfare experts point out that the emotional and psychological damage to these very young children is likely to be permanent.

Chief of Staff John Kelly said on NPR, “The children will be taken care of – put in foster care or whatever.” Well, just days later, reliable news sources report that some 1,500 children are “missing,” unaccounted for. Members of the Trump Administration justify the actions of ICE as a means of deterrence. For parents fleeing their home countries out of fear of life-threatening violence? What will happen to these children? What will happen to their distraught parents? The nightmare is unfathomable, yet it is actually happening. This is not the America to which I pledge allegiance! This is not the land of the free!

Sir (Madam), I urge you to do everything in your power to take action with the agencies responsible for this abhorrent outrage. All of us, not just as caring Americans, but as caring people, must speak up!

The (Deafening) Sound of Silence

Save the Children (Tim Spencer)

The message of this mural on a building in Philadelphia caught my attention for its raw power. The occasion may have been different, but the message is the same.

 

Monday, May 21. Mark this date. Only days after the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, residents and officials are holding a moment of silence in respect to the ten innocent people killedShamor v’ zachor – honor and remember. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what must be done.

May 21… 20 years ago. Before there was Columbine. Before there was Newtown. And Parkland. A student killed two others at Thurston High School in Oregon. Exactly 20 years ago….

Each of these shootings has shocked the nation… and the world. One of the most heart-rending moments was when Paige Curry, one of the students, was interviewed. “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This could not happen at my school?’” Her response was direct and chilling. “No. It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here, too.” Was the shooting at Santa Fe “yet another shooting?” Are such tragedies becoming routine? Is this the new normal? “This is not normal and must never be accepted as such,” said Charles M. Blow of the New York Times.

After the silence, we cannot be silent. We must remember. And, more important, we must take action. And that will be the topic of columns to follow.

Is it really such a burden to have a sibling with Down syndrome?

For those of us who have worked with this population, their often sunny disposition makes our days brighter. For these children, a supportive and affirming sibling brings that sunshine right back.

I am River

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One of the biggest worries you will have when your baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome is what will happen to your other children. What will having a brother or sister with a learning disability mean for them? Will their childhoods suffer? Will they be burdened in adulthood? Will they feel resentful for the responsibility that will be placed upon them?

My eldest son is only 5, and even though I can see the beauty in their relationship and the accepting and kind little human that Skyler is becoming, I was really eager to speak to some siblings who are further down the road in their journey. I wanted to hear from them what it’s like as an adult and what it meant for their childhood.

Is it really so negative to have a sibling with Down syndrome? Is it really such a burden? Did they really miss out in life…

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On Behalf of a Ten-Year-Old Girl: “Is This Who We Are”?

Apple Picking 5

 

“Is this who we are?” The title of this op-ed piece is very apt. It follows on an article in Buzzfeed, which describes a 10-year-old undocumented girl with a severe developmental disability. The girl, born in Mexico but brought to this country when she was three months old, was detained after she just had emergency surgery. So, I ask the same question: “Is this who we are?”

 

There are ways in which we can take action. The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a campaign to contact elected officials; the effort has been gaining publicity on Twitter and other social media channels via the #FreeRosa hashtag. We cannot remain silent. It’s not who we are.

 

Special Schools in England Not Only Respect the Child, They Practice It

A School Where Nobody's Judging YouThere are at least two takeaways from this excellent article:
* The importance of being nonjudgmental
* Adults must look at the big picture: there are often events in that child’s life that led to the current situation.

Children are not disposable. As Korczak said, one must never, ever abandon a child in need.

This fine article appeared in the October 17, 2017, edition of The Guardian.

A Boy and His Dog, Both with Disabilities, Share Their Boundless Love

Back in 2015, my younger daughter told me about a book she was reading and with which she became entranced. It’s about two misfits, a little boy and a huge dog. Both have physical disabilities. And as each is endowed with a great heart and heaping dose of empathy, they understood each other perfectly. As I love both animals and children with disabilities, I had to buy a copy and read it. I am very glad I did.

 

Haatchi and Little B

Book reviewed: Wendy Holden, Haatchi & Little B (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2014). ISSN 1250063183

He remembered the deafening roar of the train as it rumbled over him. Left for dead, an abandoned dog whimpered in the chilly night air. Fortunately, a kind-hearted rail supervisor spotted him and alerted the local animal welfare authorities. A series of veterinarians, nurses, animal shelter personnel, and animal advocates did everything they could to restore normalcy in his life. Everyone who met this dog was taken in by his large amber eyes, which belied his gentle nature. They did all they could for this unusual dog, but they could not save one of his hind legs and tail, making walking and communicating a major challenge for him. Now the problem was who would adopt a three-legged dog, an Anatolian shepherd, a breed most people associate with aggressiveness; even as a puppy, he was a very large dog. Those who met him knew he was a gentle giant. At one of the sanctuaries, the staff realized how loyal this dog was. They thought of a much-loved canine folk hero in Japan, an Akita named Hatchiko, who waited for his owner at a train station, even many years after he passed. They decided on an Anglicized variant, Haatchi. Little did they then realize that the name would suit him perfectly.

Will Howkins has a son, Owen, a boy with a very rare genetic neuromuscular disorder. The one dog he had was sweet-natured, but it was not in his nature to cuddle. Will and Kim, Owen’s mother, had divorced; Will was the boy’s primary care taker. Several years, later, Will met Colleen on line; like Will, Colleen loved dogs. One day, while browsing the Internet, Colleen was smitten by the face of an Anatolian shepherd staring back at her with enormous almond eyes. When the couple visited the dog in person, their feelings of love were even stronger. But how would Owen, Colleen’s “Little Buddy,” or “Little B,” react to a dog so much larger than he. They would have to give it a try. Little B was very shy and withdrawn, but when he and Haatchi met, they were in love; Owen became much more lively and outgoing. Soon, the story of the little boy and large dog spread, millions of people having viewed their account on Facebook. This is the book behind the story.

Haatchi and Owen had adapted to their disabilities, overcoming a great deal of painful surgery. The two inspired each other with their determination and positive outlook. Throughout the book, each experienced many more setbacks and challenges. In fact, the “happily ever after” is the astonishing positivity of all members of the family. Nobody knows the long-term future of either Owen or Haatchi; for now, however, both are extraordinarily grateful for what they have. That is the story of the family with the boy and his dog, who inspire each other—and will inspire anyone who takes the time to absorb this very enjoyable and highly readable true story.