Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dear White People: Columbia University wants to know what you think about the issues of the day

Columbia University's Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) wants to find out what white and partially-white folks in Cheyenne think about their role in society.

They came to the right place as Cheyenne is mostly white and partially white, ethnically speaking. The latest census figures for Laramie County, Wyoming, shows that 89 percent of the population checks the Caucasian or "white" box under the question about race.

I haven't yet received the results from DNA testing from ancestry.com, but I can attest I am probably all-white, or at least mostly white. I would love to see a percentage come back showing I am partially sub-Saharan African or Latino or Asian. But anyone can look at me and say, "Damn, I've never seen anyone so white." If I didn't have freckles where I was kissed by the sun, I would be so white that I would glow in the dark.

One more thing. I could be a little Basque on my maternal grandfather's side. He came from Ireland but had a very un-Irish name in Hett. Some genealogical research by my cousin showed that the name probably was de la Hett, possibly from the genes of a Spanish Armada sailor or maybe one of the French soldiers who occasionally ventured into Ireland to join the Irish in a doomed uprising. Ever read "The Year of the French?" I'm not giving anything away to say that it ends badly.

So I am European of the northern variety with maybe a dash of southern Europe.

Which brings me back to the Columbia University INCITE study. At the county Democratic Party convention at LCCC a few weeks ago, flyers circulated that promoted a survey for white people. Here's the basic text:
Columbia University is conducting a study here in Cheyenne on race and ethnicity, specifically about how white or partially white people think about their own race/ethnicity. If interested, you can take their survey by going to www.cheyennestudy-columbia.org/participate/ 
How could I resist? I went to the site and filled out the survey. It included questions about race, religious preference and political affiliation, among other things. I checked "none" for religion. This is a tough one for me. I do not go to church. But I spent my early life in churches and catechism classes and Catholic schools. I spent much of my adult life working hard at being a Catholic who believes in the social justice gospel. It was a losing battle. So I don't go to church. Shoot me. Fortunately, the bill to allow firearms in churches did not make it through the crackpot legislature this year. But it may in 2019.

I invite my fellow Cheyenne residents to fill out the survey. It would be fun to skew the results in favor of liberals. Imagine the eggheads at Columbia looking at their results and deciding that Cheyenne, Wyoming, was the most liberal place on the planet, more so than Boulder, Colo., and San Francisco and some of those college towns in Vermont. Wouldn't that be an eye-opener?

So take a fifteen-minute break and fill out the survey. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, May 07, 2018

A broadside is designed to get a reader's attention

Broadside published by University of Minnesota Press, 2018. 
I received a broadside in the mail this week. A broadside is a printed sheet that promotes a larger work, such as a book. Propaganda broadsides were plastered on walls throughout the colonies during the War for Independence. The London Times distributed broadsides of famous British literary works to soldiers in the World War One trenches. The idea, it seems, was that a bloke absorbed in Shelley or Wordsworth would not notice he was being blown to bits.

Some publishers still print broadsides, mainly of poetry. I have some of those from David Romtvedt and Bill Tremblay, among others. They usually are printed in support of a collection. Flash fiction is suited for broadsides but I don't know if that is a thing or not.

I received a broadside from University of Minnesota Press promoting Sheila Watt-Cloutier's book "The Right to be Cold: One Woman's Fight to Protect the Arctic and Save the Planet from Climate Change." The broadside was a prize offered to like UM Press on Facebook. I liked and I received. See the image above.

This broadside did its job. I did not know Watt-Cloutier's work until the envelope landed in my mailbox. She writes about climate change from an Inuit's point of view. The Arctic nation is almost invisible to us in The Lower 48. My knowledge of people in the Arctic centers around the term "eskimo" and all that it entails: igloos, kayaks, dog sleds, walrus-hunting, "Nanook of the North." My education on Arctic peoples comes mainly from 1950s-era National Geographic magazine which, as we all know now, was a very one-sided view of the world.

I plan on reading Watt-Cloutier's book. I will order it from UM Press. I looked through its catalog and was impressed by the scope of its publications. It includes works on an array of topics, focusing on the culture of the upper Midwest. I know as much as that region as I do about the arctic, although I have walked the intriguing streets of Minneapolis and read a number of books from excellent Twin Cities publishers Graywolf, Coffee House, and Milkweed. 

I watched a TED talk by the author. I read one of the author's postings on the UM Press blog and watched one of her TED talks. She made me see the effects of global warming on humans. We hear a lot about the effect of rising sea levels on coastal populations. When it comes to the Circumpolar Region, we hear more about polar bears than we do about the humans who have lived there for centuries. I live in a high dry climate, albeit one that will be affected by shorter winters. This will impact outdoor recreation and hunting and all of those people that depend on those for their livelihoods. But the Inuit need solid ice for their hunts. As the author says, they risk drowning by falling through the ice that once was solid beneath their feet. And efforts of environmental groups have affected their lives in real ways. It's easy for a city boy in Cheyenne to support bans on seal hunting thousands of miles away. If fact, it's easy for this non-hunter city boy to cast aspersions on hunters of the deer and antelope I see as I travel Wyoming. 

In the days of sailing ships, a naval broadside was meant to get the attention of and possibly demolish another ship. A printed broadside is meant to get your attention and educate you in the process.

This one did its work.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The biggest surprise of Trump's presidency? Melania tends Michelle's garden

I strolled around the Clay Paper Scissors Gallery last week admiring the "In The Garden" exhibit. It's all about growing things, one of my favorite subjects. It is spring, after all, but the snow falling outside my window annoys me. April showers bring May and June flowers, so let it snow. I will get around to gardening eventually. The anticipation of planting is almost as good as the real thing. I am a spring and summer guy. The warmth is part of it. But I have come to believe that i revel in this act of creation that begins with warming days.

Is there a gardening gene? My father was a grower. He spent his last years tending the gardens at St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Fla., the church where Chris and I were married 36 years ago. His father grew on a farm and tended an impressive garden at his house in Denver's Park Hill. His specialties were roses and tomatoes. If he could have produced a tomato shaped like a rose, he would have been a happy man.

I thought of creation this morning when Venezuelan-born chef  Lorena Garcia was asked what person, living or dead, she would like to share a meal with. Michelle Obama was her answer, a woman who inspired her. I think of Michelle's White House Kitchen Garden. It was meant to be a creative place where Michelle educated children about healthy lifestyles. Veggies and herbs harvested from the garden went to the White House kitchen and local food banks. Grow your own food, eat your own food. The First Lady was a proponent of children's health. She wanted schools to stop serving junk in their cafeterias. She encouraged schools and communities to plant gardens. She wrote a book.

Most of us thought that our junk-food-eating president would rip out Michelle's garden when he took office. We wondered what might go in its place. An oil rig? Golf course? A McDonald's? Surprisingly, the garden remains. First Lady Melania Trump still oversees tending of the garden. School kids come in to help with the harvest. Surprised the hell out of me. It did not surprise me that Melania wore a $1,380 Balmain plaid shirt at a garden harvest last September. I guess you could say she also is growing the market for high-end gardening attire.

But I continue to hope that America's garden will not be destroyed during Trump's presidency. He has, however, done his best to roll back environmental regulations, cannibalize public education, and slash government programs that assist millions. He needs some gardening advice, although I doubt that he will listen.

When you plant a garden, you create new life from the ground up. When you paint a painting, you introduce the world to a new vision, your vision. Creative writing, song composition,  sculpture. All creative enterprises. It takes a long time to become adept in your chosen area. There is little monetary payoff along the way and maybe never. But still you create because that is what you are called upon to do.

In a time when every blessed thing is commodified, I find hope in Melania's garden. Seeds are sprouting today at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps they will take root someday in the Oval Office, the entire West Wing, all over D.C.

This kind of creation keeps hope alive.

And get over to Clay Paper Scissors at 1513 Carey Avenue in downtown Cheyenne and view garden-themed artwork by artists Win Ratz, Lynn Newman, Wendy Bredehoft and many others. There is some neat mixed-media work by Gillette's Heidi Larsen and some unique felted flowers by Cheyenne's Melanie Shovelski. If you're in the market for a garden furniture, check out Gary Havener's native pine and willow benches. For more of Bredehoft's cut-paper-and-wood "Botanics," see her show at Cheyenne Botanic Gardens gallery.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Democrats have to ask themselves: When do we get mean?

Wyoming Sen./Dr. John Barrasso is a hyper-partisan ass-kisser.

We see him looming behind Mitch McConnell every time the Senate Majority Leader utters another ridiculous pronouncement. There's Barrasso, nodding and looking somber. Bobble-head Barrasso. This is the same senator that refuses to have public meetings around his state to explain his behavior. The citizenry has conducted congressional town hall meetings around Wyoming. On the stage are chairs with photos of Barrasso, Cheney, Enzi. That's as close as these public servants will come to a face-to-face with the electorate. Some of their peers in other states have been yelled at for their Triumpist policies. Egos have been bruised. Ask Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. He's used to fielding softball questions from true believers. Instead he got tough questions. Other people yelled at him for his bad behavior. He retreated back to the safety of the D.C. Beltway.

Wyomingites know how to tell shit from Shinola. You have to be older than me to know that Shinola is a shoe polish popularized by GIs in World War II. Shinola was handy and durable, great for those GI shoes and boots. GIs were adept at coining phrases, especially those that targeted inept officers, the guys sending them out to get killed. Not knowing shit from Shinola was dangerous. Funny, too, a fine play on words.

Wyomingites used to be able to tell shit from Shinola. Not any more. Congressional leaders now blow smoke up our asses and we inhale. That expression comes from cockfighting, where humans used to blow smoke up a rooster's ass to goad him into fighting harder. Cockfighting has fallen out of favor but the phrase remains and comes in handy in the political arena. Trump is a master at blowing smoke up people's asses. It incites his conservative base. Angers his opponents.

What is you can tell shit from Shinola? What if you resent having smoke blown up your ass? You have to find other candidates to vote for.

Try Gary Trauner. I canvassed neighborhoods for Gary when he ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and 2008. Trauner came within 1,000 votes of beating Barbara Cubin the last time she ran. Remember that Cubin's husband was ailing and she spent more time outside the Beltway than within. Even Republicans were irritated at her inattention to her job. Trauner hit the hustings and talked to voters. Lots and lots of voters. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Contrarians. People of many stripes voted for him. They crossed over the line between D and R and voted D.

Those were the days. Now we have an impenetrable wall between D and R. Just look at the 2016 election. Three of our best public servants were defeated by a wave of voters who came to vote for Trump the Savior and pushed all of the R buttons. I speak of Floyd Esquibel, Ken Esquibel, and Mary Throne. The Red Wave elected the bad ones and carried off the good ones. And we Democrats didn't work hard enough to get out the vote. Shame on us all.

Gary Trauner runs in 2018 to unseat Sen./Dr. Barrasso. Trauner drew about 50 people to his "listening session" in Cheyenne. Attendees asked great questions, the candidate had convincing answers.  He said he was going to talk to all people. His philosophy seemed to mirror the Dems' 2016 plan of "when they go low, we go high." One questioner challenged this philosophy, wondering if there isn't a time to "get mean." Republicans, notably out-of-state PACs, serve as unregulated attack dogs for Republican candidates and those candidates can disavow any connection with them. Meanwhile, voters minds are being swayed by right-wing paranoia. You know, the stuff you hear on Fox and talk radio. In 2016, these are the people who showed up at the polls in droves. Dems eagerly anticipated election night victory parties. As a volunteer offering rides to the polls, I picked up and delivered exactly one voter to a polling place. His vote, whatever it was, was overwhelmed by the Red Tide.

Will there be a blue wave in 2018 that lifts all boats? Gary Trauner will be in one of those boats. I will help him row, or paddle, or steer, or sail, or whatever else you do in a boat in this godforsaken windswept desert. But I am just one person.

My advice to you: help us roll with the tide. This should be the ideal year for The Dem Blue Wave. But you have to show up. Take a look at Trauner's web site. He says that this campaign is "all about leadership and integrity." Let's prove him right.

If you'd like to see my blog posts from Trauner's 2006 and 2008 campaigns, go to the search box on my right sidebar and type in Gary Trauner. There are a bunch of them, and not all are masterpieces. I do like this one. But they do give you some perspective on the temper of the times in 2006-2008. Remember 2008? We elected the country's first African-American president. It was only ten years ago but now it seems as if it happened in an alternate reality.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

This isn’t the first time that National Guard units have been sent to the border

1916 cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, via National Archive Berryman collection. Not sure if the Uncle Sam of 2018 can jump the massive wall that soon will be built at the border. 

Guys in white pajamas shot at my grandfather. That’s the way he told it, anyway. Or maybe it’s just the way I remember his stories. For a few months in 1916-17, Grandpa and his troop of Iowa National Guardsmen faced Pancho Villa’s irregulars across the Rio Grande. He told us that the white-clad Mexican fighters couldn’t shoot straight but Iowans in their spiffy regulation uniforms weren’t much better. They didn’t know it yet, but they were practicing for the big show in France. The U.S. entered the war about a month after Grandpa and his unit returned to Iowa.

Trump isn’t the first commander-in-chief to send National Guard units to the U.S./Mexican border. It’s different this time because Trump is in a snit about not getting enough funding from Congress for his stupid border wall. During the campaign, Trump promised rabid rally crowds that he would build a wall and by gum, he will get his wall, or else your husband or cousin or daughter from the Iowa National Guard will spend the next year trying to snag the caravans of Mexicans that Trump imagines are invading the U.S.

Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa did invade the U.S. in 1916. His seasoned troops invaded Columbus, New Mexico, and killed 18. Villa lost almost 100 men due to the shiny new machine guns employed by U.S. troops. Villa fled back across the border, leaving Americans in a panic. Pershing’s troops, aided by the first airplanes used by the U.S. in combat, pursued Villa through northern Mexico. They killed a few of his lieutenants but never snagged Villa.

Trooper Raymond Arthur Shay, Iowa National Guard, Iowa City. He and his farm-boy cohorts knew how to ride and care for their horses. They spent most of that southwestern winter dismounted, swatting flies, and taking pot shots at insurgents. Prior to this border expedition, the farthest Grandpa had been from home was basic training at Camp Dodge outside Des Moines. He was a farm boy, oldest of nine kids. Now here he was, hunkered down on the banks of The Big Muddy and the big fool told him to push on – or at least to keep firing at the tiny men in pajamas he could barely see. Their horses weren’t much good either, as this guerilla war was unsuited to cavalry charges. Horses did come in handy for the U.S. Army patrols sent into enemy territory to find Villa. As far as I know, Grandpa never made it across the border.

Four years before, General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, commander of this Mexican Punitive Expedition had wrapped up another war like this. In 1911-13, he waged what most considered a successful campaign against the Muslim Moros in the Philippines. In Pershing’s view, the Moros were pajama-clad insurgents worth fighting. But not these poor, undisciplined Mexicans. Pershing grew increasingly frustrated. His hands were tied by Congress. Politicians -- always coming to the border on their junkets. Reporters in tow asking stupid questions. There was no winning under these circumstances. This refrain would be echoed decades later by other U.S. generals in other wars. You know, Vietnam.

At the end of January 1917, Pershing abandoned the border foray. The following winter, Grandpa, now a newly minted second lieutenant, found himself in France eyeballing German trenches across a bombed-out moonscape. World War I trench warfare, with its machine guns and barbed wire, rendered obsolete any “Charge of the Light Brigade” operations. Still, the Iowans had shipped over with their horses as cavalry looked fine on parade days. One spring morning, a resurgent General Pershing staged an inspection and picked the unit’s best mount to ride. It belonged to Lieutenant Shay. That was the high point of the war for him, his favorite story, and ours.

Other stories weren’t quite as romantic. Dismounted, in the trenches, poison gas washing over doughboys as they struggled to don their gas masks. Never enough time. Enough of the gas seeped into Grandpa’s lungs to cause some harm, but not enough to get him sent home before the Armistice.

Grandpa’s gas mask and helmet rest in a box in my basement. Photos, too, of him and his troopers in France. Photos of Grandma – his wife -- and her nursing school graduating class. I think about them and their war when I drive down Cheyenne’s Pershing Avenue, as I do almost every day. Cheyenne, a military town, became the adopted home for the globetrotting General Pershing. He married Helen Frances Warren, the daughter of Wyoming’s first U.S. Senator, and served at Fort D.A. Russell, now F.E. Warren AFB. Their home is now a living museum, preserved for future generations. The base itself is a national historic site, home to war trophies from the Philippines and the old airfield where World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker cracked up his biplane and almost died. It also was the training site for Spaatz’s Flying Circus and the U.S. Army’s airmail service -- Charles Lindbergh was one of its first pilots.

The Pershing family experienced its share of tragedy. If you take a stroll through Cheyenne’s historic Lakeview Cemetery, you will come across a large grave marker for Frances E. Warren and her three daughters, ages 3, 7 and 8. In 1914, Gen. Pershing left his wife and four children at the Presidio in San Francisco to take over command of a brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas. Things were heating up at the border and the general was there to plan for the inevitable. In August of 1915, Pershing received a telegram that his wife and daughters died of smoke inhalation at a Presidio fire. Only his 6-year-old son survived.

Pershing Avenue starts at F.E. Warren AFB and runs straight through town past the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center where the aging Lieutenant Raymond Shay spent some of his last days. The road ends on the east side of town. If you know where to look, you can see Minuteman III missile sites out on the prairie.
     
Combat casualties were minimal in my grandfather’s World War I unit. They were surpassed by deaths from infection and disease, especially from the Spanish flu. Grandpa’s lungs deteriorated from gas attacks. After he returned to the States, he recuperated for months in an Iowa Army hospital. When he took a turn for the worse, the Army transferred him to Army Hospital Number 21 – soon to be renamed Fitzsimons Army Medical Hospital after a hero of the Great War. The dry Denver climate, famous for its healing properties, may have helped his recovery. He really took a turn for the better when he met my grandmother, an Army nurse. He and Florence Green married in 1921, stayed in Denver, raised a family, and lived a good long time.

Now Grandpa and Grandma share a plot at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Wonder what they would make of our boy Trump.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Writing and gardening -- two peas in a pod

One of my former state government colleagues advised me about retirement. He retired years before I did and was confronted with many volunteer offers. His wife, in a stroke of genius, advised him to take out his appointment calendar and write "No" on each page. She wanted him free to travel and spend time together.

I was tickled to see this same person on the list of volunteers for the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. It's a long list -- 88 in all, according to volunteer coordinator Amy Gorbey.  She's the energetic person who keeps tabs on us all. I had taken the couples' advice and held off volunteering for my first two years. For the most part, anyway. I did some volunteering for the Democrats leading up to the 2016 election. We all know how that turned out. I was asked to become part of several boards but declined. I wanted time to write and I that's what I got.

Over time, I feel a need to reconnect with humans. I figured I could have my morning writing time, in solitude, and then spend afternoons greeting visitors and otherwise helping out at the new Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and its new Grand Conservatory.

Thus far at the CBG, I've picked up sticks on the grounds, detritus from spring wind and snow storms. I snacked with some of my fellow volunteers. On Saturday, I staffed the front desk. I greeted many people, most from Cheyenne but others from Colorado and elsewhere. Most walked through the conservatory in less than a half hour and exited. Some lingered. One couple brought in their lunch and ate on the second floor that overlooks the many growing things on the main floor. One young woman carried a book as she disappeared into the gardens. One gentleman had a phone photo of a plant on the third floor and asked me what it was. I sent him and his question over to the horticulturalist. One attendee who exited a baby shower with an armful of gifts, said she was from Torrington and loved the CBG, wished her town has something similar. Not likely, considering the work that went into planning the conservatory and getting the voters to approve a sixth penny amendment to fund it. Cheyenne is the only city of its size to have such an amenity. Some might call it a lifestyle enhancement, as it gets bragged about by the Visit Cheyenne and C of C folks. Voters have approved initiatives for the CBG, a new airport facility, the public library. But they keep rejecting a recreation center. There are as many reasons for these issues as there are voters. Maybe I will explore them in a future column.

The CBG has been treasured by residents since it began its life 40 years ago as a simple greenhouse on U.S. Hwy. 30. Almost every growing thing you see in the city was planted by someone. The only naturally occurring plants belonged to the short-grass prairie. Native Americans and settlers found trees along waterways. In fact, you could I.D. a water source when parched travelers sighted trees off on the horizon. Snow-capped mountains lured people to the West but it was snow melt that brought prosperity. How it was harnessed is one of the West's great stories. Sad ones, too.

I like growing things. Not enough to be a farmer but enough to be a fair-weather gardener. That activity has something in common with writing. You prepare the soil, plant seeds, fertilize and water, and eventually harvest. If you don't like each of these steps, then why bother? I can buy tomatoes at the grocery store and farmer's markets. I can check out books at the library and even buy a few at my local neighborhood bookstore. Why grow my own?

I like the act of writing. It's fun, it's frustrating. After I spent a lifetime writing millions of words, i have finally arrived at a time when I'm pretty good at it. This is the harsh truth of any creative endeavor. There is no quick way to become good at something. This is a definite drawback when it comes to selecting college majors and making a living. But if it gives you meaning, you can't avoid the inevitable. Horticulture majors have a leg up on English majors, unless those well-read folks decide to parlay their knowledge of Emily Dickinson and magical realism into a law school admission.

You can grow a book. You can grow a garden. They both take time and attention, both in short supply in 2018.

Get more info on the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens at https://www.botanic.org/. Tips on writing? So many resources. The act of writing is a prerequisite for the other stuff.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Another generation betrayed by those who should know better

This Saturday, thousands of young people will stage the March for Our Lives anti-gun violence rally in Washington, D.C. Expecting huge crowds, officials have changed the opening day of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to Sunday, March 25. This also marks the beginning of tourist season for D.C. Spring is gorgeous. The cherry blossoms that surround the tidal basin are spectacular. But this year, the weekend's focus will be on ways that we can stop the slaughter of our children in their schools.

I can only guess at the pain that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students from Parkland, Fla., feel as they watch their elders dither over gun control. These are the results you get from us – hypocrisy and betrayal. The students’ adversaries are monumental. Its structure will have to be dismantled brick by brick.

I imagine what would have happened if a gunman had entered my Florida school 50 years ago and murdered 17 of my classmates and teachers.

The year, 1968. The school, Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach. We 17-year-old juniors have Valentine’s Day on our minds. I hoped I had bought just the right thing for my girlfriend. My girlfriend might have been contemplating the very same thing. Basketball season was winding down and it looked like my Green Wave team was going to win the conference. We had all given up something for Lent. Chocolate. French fries. Cussing. Fear of eternal damnation kept us chaste so there was no reason to give up sex, although we joked about it. Spring break was on the horizon, as was summer, and we were thinking about summer jobs and days on the beach.

We had an open campus. Anyone could walk in and did. Moms delivered forgotten lunches and homework. Visitors dropped by at any time. We would have been sitting ducks for a killer.

It never happened at my school and never has. If 17 of my classmates had been killed, I would have known them all – we had fewer than 400 students in four grades. One of the dead or wounded could have been me. I like to think that I would have been a hero no matter what. I have nothing to base that on because I had never faced a shot fired in anger – and I still haven’t. We would all be devastated. We would be looking for solace and answers.

What would adults have told us? Don’t worry. This is an aberration. The gunman was crazy. It will never happen again.

And we would have believed them.

That was our first mistake. It wouldn’t be our last.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., would be gunned down in Memphis. Our school’s mostly-black neighborhood would not be safe. Riots would erupt on Second Avenue which, during those segregated times, was where the black population lived.  

On June 6, Robert Kennedy would be murdered by an assassin. I idolized the Kennedys. RFK and JFK were imperfect human beings. But I was a teen looking for some heroes.  

Florida native Charles Whitman murdered 16 people, most of them from a perch at the University of Texas tower, in July 1966. Not the first mass murder but the fact that it was a former Marine sniper made news. And he was a very angry white man.

On Valentine’s Day 1968, the Tet Offensive was just winding down in Vietnam. Surely this meant the end of a failed experiment, one that was claiming the lives of my peers and many Vietnamese. The war dragged on for another seven years. Our elders, “the best and the brightest,” insisted it was the right thing to do.

None of the adults gave us the real facts about sex. Parents and nuns and priests decided that fear was enough of a deterrent. They were mostly correct, although at least one of our female classmates missed part of the senior year with an unplanned pregnancy. You would not be surprised that pregnant teens found the same censure at public schools. It just wasn’t done. The boys were never blamed.

We knew betrayal, we didn’t yet have a name for it. Members of our generation possessed a simmering rage. That was a problem, because the Summer of Love and the Age of Aquarius had dawned. Peace, love, and understanding. If that was true, how come people were filled with anger? Blacks vs. Whites. Cops vs. pot smokers. Rednecks vs. hippies. Viet Cong vs. the U.S.A. Irish Catholics vs. Protestants. Jews vs. Arabs and almost everyone else.

Flash forward to the present. Seventeen killed and a dozen wounded at a Florida high school. The only ones making sense are 16- and 17-year-old classmates of the dead at Douglas High School. Adults in positions of power are dangerous fools. They spout nonsense that get their children killed.

Betrayed. It’s déjà vu all over again.

It may have its roots in the betrayal that ignited our generation. That was never resolved, or forgotten, just buried as the years passed. We weren’t the first. It’s possible that adults of every generation betray their children. Over time, we lose touch with our values and our kids pay the price. You can say that every generation needs to experience hardships to find out the true nature of the world. Center for Disease Control figures come up with 1.55 million deaths from firearms in the U.S. from 1968-2016. This includes the span of many generations. Wouldn’t a smart, caring community have come up with some solutions by now?

Good people do bad things. Bad people do bad things. That’s an old story. But why do we make it easier for anyone to buy an AR-15, walk into a school, and shoot down 17 people? Haven’t we learned our lessons by now? Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. The list goes on and on. If we don’t do something about it, we betray our children. If we do something about it, we betray only the NRA and our thick-headed politicians.

The choice should be clear. More betrayal, the generational rite of passage? Or do we do something new and different and constructive?

Which will it be?