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When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Dad yells at me all the time about this.

“THAT BLOG IS SUCKING UP YOUR LIFE!” he says. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU!”

Mostly he’s yelling because I don’t know what’s happening on Fox News, but he has a point. I don’t usually know what’s up in the world. I mean, if it’s something HUGE, I do. Because it gets posted on Facebook or something. Or someone is talking about it at work. Or Dad yells at me about not knowing about it when I call him. (Listen, though, a lot of what he yells about are things like “DON’T YOU KNOW THAT IF YOU HAVE A LIBRARY CARD THE GOVERNMENT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE?” This explains, in Dad’s mind, why he doesn’t have a library card. I said, “Dad, you don’t read books, I think this explains why you don’t have a library card, not the government thing…” and he was all “NO NO GOVERNMENT TRACKERS!!!” so I dropped it.)

Oh, look at the old-fashioned card! I like this. I would like a hundred of these. I'd make them into wallpaper. Think of the history!

Oh, look at the old-fashioned card! I like this. I would like a hundred of these. I’d make them into wallpaper. Think of the history!

So we get to thank Mom for telling me about the news story I’m talking about today. Thank you, Mom, for understanding I don’t have time to watch the news. Well, I suppose I COULD watch the news. But it’s kind of depressing and if I do watch the news, I watch the local news. I like to know what’s happening around me, I guess. I used to keep up with the news on Twitter. I should probably get back into that someday. I miss you, Twitter, I’m sorry I’ve been ghosty. I’ll come back someday. I’ll put on a pretty dress and everything. Witty repartee. Sarcastic asides. It’ll be great.

Today, Mom said, “Did you hear someone got kicked out of school for poetry?” and NO, I had not heard that. (It was like a week ago. Probably you all know about this. I guess it was on the Today Show or something. Who watches the Today Show? People who work different shifts than I do. People who don’t work. I don’t know, I don’t watch the Today Show.)

So I looked it up on the internet. Which was kind of a difficult task because Mom was all, “It was a student from Vermont and it happened yesterday” and it was actually a student from California and it happened two days after Christmas…but it’s Mom, she has kind of a strange sense of reality at times. I don’t get it from the neighbors, you know.

So for those of you who aren’t in the world, like me, here’s the scoop.

A seventeen-year-old student in San Francisco wrote a poem about the school shooting in Connecticut. It wasn’t for an assignment. According to what I’ve read online, one of her teachers “found” it – I have no idea what that means, did she drop it? Leave it somewhere? Throw it away and the teacher pulled it out of the trash? I find this whole thing suspect – and was SO SHOCKED by the content she brought it to the administration. The student was promptly suspended, and it will be decided when school starts on Monday if she’s expelled or not.

What did she say, in this poem that wasn’t even turned in as part of an assignment?

“I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger.”

The school said they have a “zero tolerance approach to violence, the threat of violence” and a “violation of any one of these rules can result in dismissal from school.”

They are also called the Life Learning Academy, so already I’m sure they’re some sort of crunchy granola hippie school, yo. They are also somewhere called “Treasure Island.” I feel like this is not a real school.

"We are often tossed, but we never sink." I feel like this is a euphemism for something.

“We are often tossed, but we never sink.” I feel like this is a euphemism for something.

OK, now, I’ve rambled a little bit. What thoughts have you got in your mind about this girl’s poem, hmm?

I don’t especially want to talk about the tragedy in Connecticut. I’ve avoided it up until now, for the most part.

Here’s the thing. Do you think everyone that writes not only believes everything they write, they act on everything they write? And do the school administrators believe that?

Even the seventeen-year-old girl was all, "It's like Stephen King. He doesn't act on everything HE writes." EVEN THE KID GETS THIS. COME ON, PEOPLE.

Even the seventeen-year-old girl was all, “It’s like Stephen King. He doesn’t act on everything HE writes.” EVEN THE KID GETS THIS. COME ON, PEOPLE.

The girl’s poem went on to talk about how we live in a society that causes such things to happen. It didn’t lionize a mentally-ill man who walked into a school and murdered people. It was a piece of creative writing. One, I think it is important to note (again), that she wrote for herself, not for a class assignment.

I write a lot of things I don’t publish. Things that aren’t for anyone’s eyes but mine. A lot of this stuff is so I can work out the twisty place that is my head. Some of it’s poetry, some of it’s diary-type stuff, some of it’s rambly shit, but it’s mine. And if anyone read it, I would ALSO probably be suspended. FROM ALL THE PLACES. And possibly LIFE.

Was she trying to work out in her mind how such a thing could have happened? Maybe.

Also, the girl was seventeen. The tortured poetry that came out of me when I was seventeen…well, I don’t know if anyone wants to talk about that. For the love of Pete, you all remember seventeen, right? EVERYTHING is doom and gloom and you push EVERYTHING to the edge and ALL THE THINGS SEEM SO SO SERIOUS AND DIRE. Seventeen! I wouldn’t go back there for all the money in the world. Or a date with Ewan McGregor, even.

"Not even for ME, Amy?" "No, not even you, my beloved Ewan. Not even you."

“Not even for ME, Amy?” “No, not even you, my beloved Ewan. Not even you.”

I don’t think she was saying she understood how someone could walk into a school and start shooting children. I think she was saying she understood how things could get to that point.

And I don’t think that’s any different from how hard it is for me, all these years later, to think or talk about what happened at Columbine, because as bad as I feel for everyone who died (and I do, oh, how I do, please don’t think I don’t) I feel bad for the two boys who were pushed far enough that one day they decided that the only way to make that stop was to take guns to school.

Because I’ve been pushed that far. I spend eight years of my life being pushed that far. I never brought a gun to school, but I’m not going to tell you I didn’t have some severely violent fantasies. You get pushed, you know? You just get pushed and pushed and pushed and you can’t do anything about it and you can’t get out of the situation and you start thinking thoughts that aren’t even your own. Crazy thoughts. Thoughts about self-harm and thoughts about harming others. And some people do that, and some don’t, and I’m not passing judgement on those of us who made it through that and those of us who didn’t. And the people that find it so easy to vilify bullied students who handle it in a violent way – well, I have to assume they’ve never been in that situation.

So could I have written a similar poem about Columbine? Yes. Absolutely.

Should this kid be kicked out of school for this? No. She should not. She didn’t walk around inciting violence. She had no history of violence. She wrote a poem. For (from what I can tell from these articles, although it’s strange and vague) herself. And now she’s facing expulsion.

Where do we draw the line? What are we teaching our kids with things like this? That censorship is ok? That they should keep things all bottled up inside? That certain things are ok and certain things are art and certain things aren’t? Not to create? Not to have feelings? That some feelings are valid and some are wrong?

Let's let her decide big questions like this for herself in college, ok? That's where big questions belong.

Let’s let her decide big questions like this for herself in college, ok? That’s where big questions belong.

I don’t know. I don’t know what to even say about this. She didn’t say people deserved to die; she didn’t celebrate death. She simply empathized. She said she understood how such things could happen in our society.

And in certain situations, I understand it as well. I think anyone who was bullied can’t help but put themselves in this situation.

She seems to be handling it well. She’s a self-possessed kiddo. Good for her. At seventeen, I would have been curled up in a little ball of weepery on the floor. (Or shouting at someone in charge. I randomly had rabble-rouser moments in my teens. Once I staged a huge sit-in because I thought something was unfair. Looking back, it was a ridiculous thing – they cancelled our class trip because of the misbehavior of the class before us, and I thought that was unfair to us, because WE weren’t the ones that misbehaved – but I was very good at leading people, apparently. Or people just wanted to not go to class. Or when I’m on a tear, I’m all kinds of charismatic. Because almost the entire class participated in that. And I was totally the one who got in trouble for organizing it. I’m still kind of proud of that.)

There was a lot of grown-up Amy hiding out in wee-Amy, waiting to get out and play. I like to think back on that and smile.

There was a lot of grown-up Amy hiding out in wee-Amy, waiting to get out and play. I like to think back on that and smile.

There are a lot of things wrong here in this country. We’re broken in a lot of ways. Let’s not compound that by stifling our artists, ok? Let’s not kill the dreamers and the thinkers and the creators. Let’s not do that. Because if we do that, if we take that step, we’re lost. If we  stifle all that is beautiful in the world, what’s left? A world I don’t want to live in. A world with nothing left to look forward to. A world with no hope left in it, like Pandora’s box if she didn’t close it quickly enough.

Let’s close the box before the hope gets out. We don’t have much left, we need to hang onto something.

(Title is a quote by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Thought we should have a poet for the title today.)

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

35 responses to “When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

  • sj

    I am HORRIFIED by this story.

    Man, it’s so good that people couldn’t get into my head when I was a teenager. Although, I think they’d have seen a lot more thoughts of self-harm than of actually hurting anyone else.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I think most of us were like that as teens. Well, at least, those of us who were thoughtful, intelligent, maybe a little quieter, you know?

      I also am kind of surprised it happened in San Francisco. They’re pretty good to their artists out there. I guess political correctness trumps poetry? Would this be political correctness? I don’t even know. It seems more Big Brothery than anything.

      Like

  • mfennvt

    I hadn’t heard about this, so thanks for writing about it. It’s ridiculous that this girl could get kicked out of school for writing a poem. Speaking of King, he even brought up after Columbine that if people had read what he was writing in high school, they’d have thrown him in jail or an asylum, so yeah, way to miss the point, authority creeps. I’ve always been disappointed that King pulled Rage from print, because I think it might have actually been a help to bullied kids, instead of an inspiration for murder, but I understand why he did pull it.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I love “Rage.” I also understand why he pulled it – but I’m glad I had a copy of my own.

      I have teenage Facebook friends (relatives, theater people) and their angsty posts make me both sad and smile. But they’ll outgrow it, you know? It’s the age. It’s not something we need to vilify them for. It’s something they go through. We all did. We were a soup of emotions at that age.

      Like

  • becomingcliche

    Good grief. If I was penalized for all the stuff I wrote in middle school, I’d be tippity-tap-typing this from behind doors locked from the outside. I am disgusted at the administrators who are patting themselves on the back and saying to themselves “Look at us not tolerating a dangerous student!” meanwhile a kid gets pounded to a pulp and terrorized in a locker room.

    Like

  • elaine4queen

    do a THING about it. like a petition. or something.

    i don’t know, Amy! SAVE HER!

    Like

  • Kelly Naylor

    Wow, all kinds of triggery here, you know? The stuff I wrote when I was seventeen? Oh boy… today, I’d get expelled at the very least. Violent fantasies? Yes, please… I’ll take three dozen to go.

    But words have mostly gotten me through some awful, awful times. I write them down. Some don’t even make any sense, some are babbly weirdness, some are a little scary. Some… oh, the some that turn into beautiful things that make me weep with amazement when I read them! Those words come from the same place as all the other words.

    There was time time when I didn’t have words, after my daughter died. I just couldn’t even get words out. Not even one. But I had paint and ink and rubber stamps and bits of paper and glue and fabric and so now I have artwork, too.

    Sometimes life still wants to make me crazy, and now that I found ALL THE WORDS again, I’m writing. I channel the stuff that Society says is “inappropriate” into my writing. I’ve kind of been in a frenzy about it, since I wrote over 55,000 words in 2012… and that was just for my fiction characters.

    Writing words is GOOD. Expelling kids from school (even THINKING ABOUT IT) for trying to work things out with words, for trying to make sense of these crazy world in which we live… well, I have words for that, but they’re not nice words.

    Good thing I have some fictional characters who can say those not very nice words for me.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I’m with you. I’ve worked a lot of things out with words. It’s how I’ve handled my pain for years. It used to be in spiral notebooks; now it’s on the laptop. I write when my head’s messy. It helps. It helps me to sort. And sometimes I look back on it and cringe, and sometimes I look back on it and cannibalize it for other things, but I’ve never regretted writing it. It gets it out of me.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching our children that words are a coping mechanism. They’re a better coping mechanism than fists, or worse.

      Like

      • Kelly Naylor

        I came across some old journals recently. Wow. Cringe-worthy. But a few nuggets of “Whoa, I was having a genius moment there.”

        I’ve passed that writing stuff out thing on to my daughter, and she uses it when she remember (i.e., when she’s not under the influence of drugs or alcohol). She mentioned recently that she, too, had been looking back through old journals. Being a youngish person, she doesn’t quite have perspective on a lot of things, but she said reading the old journals made her realize just how far she’s come in the past couple of years. (Getting weepy-eyed) My baby’s growing up.

        Like

        • lucysfootball

          I feel the same way about looking at my old writing – mostly cringey, but every once and a while, I think, “wow, nice one, young me!”

          Keeping journals is a great practice. I’m glad your daughter is doing that.

          Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    You only watch local news? I don’t watch news at all, but I read international news. I do not want to know what’s going on locally. Also, the local journalists can’t write. It’s an affront to writing, really.

    (And I know; I’m skirting the issue. I’m trying not to get angry.)

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I used to be more up on things. I haven’t been recently. I should get back into that. I did like being aware of what was happening. But yes, I love knowing what’s going on in my area. I live in a really interesting area. And our local news is kind of awesome.

      Don’t get angry. Skirt the issue all you want. Big old hoop skirts.

      Like

  • 35JupiterDrive

    I’m speechless. And I’m rarely speechless.

    Like

  • Heather

    Great post. You know, when we’re taught that we can’t express ourselves with words, serious things can happen. People wonder why these kids blow up. I’m not saying this girl will lash out because of this, but being told that we should keep our feelings all locked up and hidden causes serious problems. Especially for boys. Sigh.

    Maybe if the administrators of this school got tossed once in a while, they wouldn’t be so uptight. Sheesh.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Absolutely. I don’t think they thought of the repercussions of this, beyond “OMG POTENTIAL VIOLENT OFFENDER!” I get we’re all scared right now. I get it. I do. But this isn’t the way to go about anything.

      Like

  • Alison

    Oh geez. I can’t even. As a teacher, I can tell you that school administrators are acting out of fear–they’re terrified that another shooting will happen at their school, and that afterward it would be said that THERE WAS A WARNING SIGN and THEY DID NOTHING TO STOP IT. They’re trying to cover their asses, but as y’all said, this was not the right approach. At all. I agree that stifling artistic expression is absolutely the wrong way to go. Whatever happened to talking to the kid before jumping to discipline? It seems pretty clear that she would have been able to explain. Okay, stopping now.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      She’s very well-spoken and literate, and apparently has no discipline issues. There was no reason for this. None at all. Other than fear. Which we all have right now. Like I said, I get that…but this is taking it too far. Not everyone’s a potential school shooter or terrorist or unibomber. Some people are just 16 and angsty.

      Like

  • Sphinx Akashaa Duncan

    Stars and Stones! Seriously? This is disappointing. If people had found all of the poetry and short stories and song lyrics I had written while in High School, I’m pretty sure someone in a white coat would be studying a very medicated version of me that would be encased in a plastic cell, a-la Hannibal Lector.

    It’s a serious shame that this girl is being unjustly penalized for responding to the shooting in what could have been the only healthy way she knew how. For some of us, this is what art is and has always been: An outlet, a form of self-therapy for when shit gets too intense for us to handle in any other way.

    If we keep this up we’ll be looking at the kind of Dystopia where art of any kind is banned or made illegal unless sanctioned by the Government or whatever we have that passes for it at that time. All I can think of is the government illustrated in the movie “Equilibrium”, but without the cool Gun-Kata sequences. Nothing but sedated drones that simply exist and do not live.

    That’s not a world I care to live in.

    *gets off soapbox and drags it away*

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Agreed. All of it. It smacks of Big Brother, doesn’t it? Watching our every move, us not daring to write anything, say anything, without the fear of repercussions?

      It scares the hell out of me.

      Like

  • 35JupiterDrive

    This reminds me of the idea of the chilling effect regarding surveillance and living in a state of surveillance. Even if no one ever gives another kid a hard time for a poem, there’s the potential of a chilling effect because this kid got a hard time for it. Not good.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Agreed. I tried to find out what happened yesterday – it was supposed to be the day she found out if she was expelled or not – but there was nothing online about it that I could find at all. I wonder if the school let her back in because of all the publicity, but refused to let anyone talk about it?

      Like

  • Weekend Linkroll « M. Fenn

    […] When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie. Lucy’s Football has a little something to say about the latest teenager who’s being censored by her school. Because stopping students from writing down their private thoughts will end school shootings. *sigh* […]

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