Friday, February 22, 2008

Juvenile Murderers, should age minimize the punishiment?

Question: At what point can someone hide behind the implicit innocence of being a child? I ask this as I ponder many situations when we use the term “child” to point finger of blame, or to turn the finger of blame away from someone that has committed a societal wrong, a heinous crime. Do we go too far in the categorizing of age and the predominance in identifying age as the acquitter or wrong, or a definer of wrong?

I will begin by focusing on an incomprehensible crime against a young boy that brought joy to my neighborhood. My children were his playmate, and the friend of his siblings. I was schoolmates with his mother. Ultimately I would become deeper friends with her and her partner. My daughters, well unfortunately and honorably they would be his pallbearers. The young boy was Christopher Meyers, his murderer, Timothy Buss.

I was told months prior to Christopher moving into our small neighborhood that Timothy Buss was released from prison after serving only 12 years of a 25 year sentence for the brutal murder of Tara Sue Huffman. I was told by Tara Sue’s brother that he was out and that some of his family still lived in the neighborhood that I lived in. A quiet small safe neighborhood only 60 miles south of Chicago along the beautiful Kankakee River might no longer be a safe haven. I remember all too well Tara Sue’s brother warning me to keep an eye on my kids, not to let them roam freely in a neighborhood where a monster might return. I told my neighbors about it, they told me I was paranoid…

When we discovered Christopher missing, my heart ached, I was sickened. I told my family that the authorities needed to look for Buss, to find Buss. I told the Sheriff the same thing as we were all looking and praying for evidence that Christopher was okay, that he was just displaced. Christopher was found on the 15th of August, brutally murdered miles from his “safe haven.”

Timothy Buss was 27 when he returned to his old neighborhood to once again perform unconscionable acts against an innocent little boy. Christopher was raped, sexually mutilated and stabbed over 50 times and then buried in a shallow grave. Buss murdered Tara Sue Huffman when he was 13 years old and she was only 5. He raped, sodomized and bludgeoned her to death then stuffed her into a barrel in a landfill. He only served 12 of the 25 years he was sentenced. He was viewed as a child? I say he is a monster.

Now he is serving out his sentence, he did receive the death penalty, and additional counts added on. This time the court made sure he will not ever be released.

Now before us is another case a heinous crime against not one, but three, a husband, wife and an unborn child. All murdered in the safety of their own home. The crime against this family, the devastation of the woman’s sisters, parents, nieces, nephews, friends for generations to come is real, it is as alive as it was the day they received the unfortunate news. The man’s family and friends for generations to come is alive and haunting them as they are all facing the reality ~ the murderer is about to be released.

Nancy Bishop-Langert and her husband Richard Langert along with their unborn child were shot to death by a 16 year old neighbor boy. Originally sentenced to life without parole this is now being overturned and the family is facing the release of this man, who is being released because he was a “child” at the time of the murders. The details of the crime are relevant in that it was cold-blooded and calculated.

So the question remains, at what point does age matter? Are we delusional in our society to determine how we treat mentally ill adolescence? On one hand we say that a child past the age of 12 is unable to receive child services in the same manner as when they were dependent children. Then we say it is acceptable and fair that a young woman 16 year old has the right to seek an abortion. Depending on the issue, we determine what age is appropriate. Should age be the determining factor in the punishment assigned to a heinous criminal, a monster? Yes, they are human, but clearly we are surrounded by the potential of repeat offenders. Timothy Buss is an example, we risk every day exposing ourselves to violent offenders when they are released from a prison sentence when there was a heinous crime against humanity.

Please visit my dear friend’s website and see the work that she is doing. In this election year, ask yourself “are you truly protected in your safe zone?” Be informed! go to the juvenile LWOP and read more about it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Beam ME up Scotty!

Can you imagine? A child sitting in the classroom, visibly bored, trapped in the mundane. The clock ticks, one, two, three…Mrs. Smith announces, “Sally Smith, your mother will be picking you up at 2:05 for your orthodontist appointment, please proceed to the office…” The mind of the fidgeting 4th grader races to the game boy sitting in his book bag back in his locker. He thinks of nothing more than beating his last score, when all of a sudden it happens… Ms. LaLuna is suddenly standing before him, looking him straight in the eyes. He shakes his head, pinches himself, wonders, “am I imagining, is a figment of my imagination, am I in one of my gameboy games. This is cyber-dude!”

His mind is now captivated, no longer thinking beyond the classroom, beyond the moment. Mr. Chorak said there would be a visitor, I imagined someone to tell us about standardized testing and how important it is to “try your best, test matter!” But this, this is unreal!”

No this is not unreal this is possible. It is plausible. It is necessary. Imagine for just one brief moment how transforming it could be. A virtual teacher, no a virtual specialist dropping into a classroom to take over the lesson to teach about a concept that children of all ages struggle with, whether it is fractions, the Revolutionary War, a literary device…it matters not. What matters is that the classroom is keeping pace with the world around the child. We must move to the point that we recognize that we do not teach math, science, reading, history, but we teach the child, the individual.

The business world spends thousands upon thousands of dollars to initiate best practice in delivery forms that will intrigue, enhance, capture the adult student, yet we ignore what best practice in education for children, adolescence and maturing adolescence. We are ignoring research on how the mind of a young person works. The biorhythms of our students, how we learn must be at the forefront of education.

Virtual teachers, it is plausible, technologically possible, and probable. The time has come. This will never do away with the primary educator in the classroom, but it will further the instruct ability of children around the world. Teachers in the classroom in the “real” are necessary as facilitators, but to expect any one person to deliver day in and day out all the information and instruction that a pupil needs in the course of a school year limits the overall development of a child at any given time. We can embrace the tendency of the human capacity to learn. Research shows that most humans learn best through visual delivery (videos, media, etc) of information. The engagement of this type of process is forthcoming and as an educator I am thrilled at the idea of being delivered to a classroom in Beijing on a Friday afternoon to share poetry with a group of 12 years old students! Now that is cyber- DUDE, Scotty beam ME up!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Power of Music and Finding your own Beat!

As I approached my heart quickened with the sound of drums, all sorts of drums keeping a steady 4 – 4 pattern. Not all the patterns were the same, some of them fast, others slow, the timbre was varied but the rhythm was sustained. I turned the corner to find children dancing with anticipation over the possibility of getting to hold stick in hand. The growing fervor of drum and beat was moving them beyond containment. Weaving my way through little ones, no taller than my thigh, I looked past the man at the door, ahead to see a circle, and an inner-circle where adults all focused on their task, the task to blend their independent pattern to greater meaning. Amidst the growing turbulence was a peace. Those sharing their beat were calm, peace shown on their faces. They were one with a greater power.

"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. " H.D. Thoreau

There was no fear of losing pace with companions. It was a safe zone, a place where individuality was brought together in a circle, a continuum, and so the music played on. I was asked at one point (we all were) did I experience any enlightenment? Yes, I did, for one brief moment my dream of being a drummer was fulfilled. For that one moment in my own continuum I was free, free to pound out “my” rhythm, my existence was real. I was free to be me and part of the band.

I set out on a path yesterday to join a friend who is giving his entire life to establishing a Music Wellness Initiative, Eric Myrzyn, Executive Director of My commitment to him is to spread the word of MWI, to support him as a friend as I would any friend. It is also because I believe in MWI. I have had the privilege of being a musician with the organization. I have seen firsthand the power of music as a healing tool. The undeniable power of music to bring people together, to transcend hatred, pain, cruelty, brokenness and to bring about unbridled joy is evident. Yesterday I was supposed to be an observer. I was just someone bringing back information and hopefully a degree of clarity to a man who seeks to promote wellness. I came away with far more. I was inspired again. Music is a common language. Music is a language that holds unifying power. The organization that sponsored the drum circle and day of music melding towards greater understanding is Music Crossroads through a Recreational Music Making Partnership, located in Indianapolis Indiana, the crossroads of the United States. It was pointed out to me that music recreation is that of being “re-created” through music. No matter whether a child hearing a familiar song, or a performer learning a new musical phrase, a guitarist focusing on attaining that difficult chord, a drummer with a new progression, you enter into the movement one way and exit re-created.

My kudos go out to Matt Carter of Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, John Fitzgerald of Remo, Inc for leading the “marchers” and providing the percussion instruments, The Shepherd Community Center for sharing their space and the thigh high percussionist, The Indianapolis Foundation, inspiring philanthropy and Albert Schnazi of Integrated Solutions for facilitating an afternoon of enlightened dialogue.

It is no mistake that yesterday morning as I was reading scripture and asking the Lord what He wanted me to know that day that he brought me to 2Chronicles 34:12 “All those (Levites) who were skillful with musical instruments were in charge of those who carried burdens, and they directed all the workers in every kind of labor…” yes, we are called. If the Lord calls musicians to lighten the load, make the burden less, then I guess that is the who in the vast puzzle of life, and I indeed was enlightened!


Monday, February 11, 2008

First of many "America's Best Kept Secret"

It seems that every time I begin to think about the politics of the United States, I am drawn back to my Senior Thesis, written in 2000 in order to obtain my degree in history from Olivet Nazarene University. For an entire year I pondered what I was to write about. I wasn’t your run of the mill history student, as I was more interested in the way that people thought, why they did what they did, and how that psychology drove forward human development. With that in mind I began to search for that morsel of delectable, historical musing that would keep me interested for the next year of research and development towards the right to obtain that much coveted BA in history.

After some reflection, one question kept coming back over and over again. Why was the women’s movement abandoned by W.E.B. Dubois at a time when there could have been advancement for all people in America? What was his motivation given his leading role in as a social scientist? This question came to mind a few years earlier as I was doing research for a literary analysis of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, by G.B. Shaw. My curiosity was piqued and it never really left me. The question led me to a man that would gain my attention, and to this day, I ponder the role that W.E.B. DuBois played in the history of the Black man in a country that would betray not only him, but the Very people that he believed should have immediate integration without delay. I look forward to sharing with you my discourse on a man that shared for the first time with the world, the “Soul of Black Folks.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described it best, “history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of man.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"The Notebook" Old School Love and Real Love, does it exist?

The Notebook: I realize that this movie came out some time ago. It is true I am not an avid movie watcher. For me catching a flick a couple years after the release does happen sometimes, okay most of the time. It is my norm. But that is okay for me, as I really do not run with the crowd. In fact I have this tendency to run away from the crowd. I just do not like to do what everybody else is doing until it is my doing. That to most means I am out of the loop.

The Movie: It was to many the love story of the decade. Many people told me “go see it”…”just see the movie”…”you have to see it!” For others it was a nice depiction of true love and the American way. To others it was shmarmy, a little too sappy at best and a little too unrealistic for a society that has a divorce rate of well over 50%, and an increasing number that classify themselves as domestic partners of both the heterosexual and alternative type. So, first love being last love? Hmm, that is a bit much don’t you think? Cynics would agree that that type of love and marriage too? Poppycock! (okay I dated myself)

If you look a little closer into the characters you see truth about relationship and the promises we make or fail to make to ourselves at the core. First prevalent truth revealed. It is that the first person that you love, I mean really love, will be the last person that you really love. Some will say there are many people that you will love in your lifetime. Common thought is there are many fish in the sea. Few people buy into the “Penelope and Odysseus” story line. So you could argue this point, or you can identify different classifications of love. The love that Noah had for Allie in the movie was a total commitment to a promise. That was his truth. He could include another woman into his life, his house, but could never promise again that which he promised his one true love. He would not find home.

The bigger point is this, how many of us do not really love, those which we think are our first love? Far too often people marry out of pressure, identifying themselves with the, “it is the thing to do.” Many feel that they cross the point of no return in relationships so they hang on for dear life, or emotional death. The fear of hurting another and putting their feelings, wants first is not putting them first. You are actually putting yourself, your guilt, your pain before their own in many ways. Eventually if you are not really in it for the reasons that you should take a life partner, then it will implode! You will both end up hurt anyway.

Noah asks Allie “what do you want?” She is faced with a decision to go with the one she truly loves or the life that she thinks she loves and a commitment to marry another. Discernment when we must make a choice is indeed a very hard thing. Whether is entering into anything, job, major purchase, relationships, etc., we can be deluded into believing we feel something we think we feel. We want something we think we want. Believe something we think we believe. It only becomes right when it all aligns, when what we feel, want, think, and believe comes together. It is then that a promise can be uttered. Then a commitment backs the promise. Through that we can see absolute truth revealed in our lives.

Sometimes I wonder if we rush so much into relationships for all the obvious reasons that we ignore obvious reasons why we should not, only denying ourselves that Noah and Allie love. Did Noah indicate anything to Allie in his youth that he would care for her and make her home even when she did not remember him? Was there anything that he did which indicated to Allie that he would continue communications even when she forgot home? Yes, he did, he was a promise keeper. He kept first the promises to himself and then to the ones he loved. He made home and knew that it was the essence of her that would fulfill it and he knew that it was her presence that made home for his heart.

Okay, so it was a movie, but it was more than a movie. It is a glimpse at something lost in our culture. We do not love for love’s sake. We do not marry with the intent to fulfill promises. We do not keep promises. More importantly, we make promises we should not make in the first place. Prenuptual agreements, contracts, keep us all in a state of mind that a promise, a word can be abandoned with a blink of an eye. Believe me, I am not saying divorce, break-ups are not sometimes necessary. I have been down that road. What I am saying is this: We have set ourselves up to avoid the ability to make a long-lasting loving relationship with a promise at the core. We go about it the wrong way. What is necessary to have a sustaining relationship with another person? What is needed in order to nurture the relationship to a place of health and growth? I know for myself it is about time. I struggle to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends and work a full-time job, and take care of me. How can I possibly give all that is necessary to nurture the man in my life, nurture the relationship if I have to schedule it in? It is all something to ponder. There is nothing worst then feeling alone with someone in the other room, or worst sitting on the couch with you.

As for this romantic, I do believe that love like Noah and Allie’s exist. Maybe, just maybe, we do not always get it. Or, maybe, just maybe, we let the “one” pass us by. Fear of taking a chance and just going up to the one we are drawn to and saying, hi! We convince ourselves we are silly. Giving up too soon and listening to others around us when they say, oh, he/she is not for you, there are a lot of fish in the sea, find another to fill your time. But then again, that kind of thing only happens in movies.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday rantings about health care, the primary election, and other ME points