Tag Archives: Newtown

America, it is time to choose

US President Barak Obama will deliver his inaugural address on Sunday, January 20, 2013. What can Obama learn about leadership from a previous present – John F. Kennedy – in the aftermath of Newtown, Connecticut? A lot. How might JFK have responded to the challenge of gun violence? We might wonder if he would say, “We choose to end it?”

That’s right, it’s time to make another Kennedy/Obama comparison. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I question the validity of comparison. The Kennedy/Obama parallel has long been refuted by stronger arguments than we need to revisit, Besides, this isn’t a comparison so much as it is a lesson.

One of the last major US gun control initiatives was in 1968.  It was propelled by Kennedy’s assassination. President Lyndon Johnson – who Obama could learn a thing to two about getting bills passed by the US Congress and Senate – signed it into law. Interestingly, this omnibus crime bill included a ban on mail order guns. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald with a mail order gun.

JFK Assassination

Rifle used to kill Kennedy

America can choose to end it’s gun control crisis. After all, if you believe, they put a man on the moon.

Canadian writer and Director Stephen Hall, shared these thoughts about JFK, America and choice.

Whenever I hear politicians, or their designates, describe problems as “complicated” — as Jay Carney did earlier today when asked about the WH response to the Sandy Hook shootings — I am reminded of JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon…” speech. I consider it a lesson in how to approach solving ANY problem — whether it is complicated or not.

First, JFK said “we choose to go the moon in this decade and do other things…”

He didn’t say “we’ll TRY to go to the moon”. He said “we CHOOSE to go to the moon”. So, the first part of the lesson is that solution to a problem — even a really complicated one — actually starts with something that is quite simple: a choice.

A choice isn’t an aspiration. It isn’t a goal. It isn’t even a target. It’s a selection between options. And, in this case, like so many other supposedly “complicated” problems, it was a binary choice: go to the moon or don’t go to the moon. Which one is it?

Solve the gun problem or don’t solve the gun problem. Which one is it?

After stating that they had chosen to go to the moon and to “do other things”, JFK said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

“Because they are hard”. I love that line.

JFK had no allusions about how difficult it would be to achieve the choice of going to the moon, but he was boldly confident that it was an achievable choice, and the work that was required to realize that choice was something that Americans enjoyed doing. At that time in history, choosing to do big complicated things was a trait that defined Americans.

But now things are different. They’re “complicated”.

If America is to reclaim its role as a country that happily chooses to do big complicated things BECAUSE they are hard, and because they have the mettle, tenacity and intellect to be able to choose to do them, then it must stop whining about the problems being “complicated”.

It must simply choose to do the things that need to be done.

And then do them.

– Stephen Hall, Canadian director and writer

Newtown, Connecticut; the last puppet show?

Ronnie Burkett is a life-long friend, an award winning and world-renowned puppeteer. His one-man Theatre of Marionettes is genius, exploring the darkness of life in our bewildering world. It is an art form that reaches back to the very beginnings of storytelling, to the very beginning of our self awareness.

Do you remember your first puppet show? Do you remember the wonder of it all? Do you remember laughing at the funny antics of the strange people and animals and all sorts of things? Do you remember when you first realized that puppets were on strings?

Throughout the long history of puppetry – with irony, humour and metaphor – it has been a mysterious hero against tyranny, a wry wink at society’s morals and norms, an expression of hope and a champion for children.

Ronnie’s puppet shows are for adults. The origins of his craft childish. But Ronnie doesn’t do Disney’s Pinnochio – even though his creations are cousins of the puppet who wished to be a boy and the fuzzy, lovable Muppets that all 20 of those poor children adored.

Here are their names. Here are their ages. Again, I am stopped in my tracks. I believe within the specific exists the universal, and the only way I could read those names and ages was from that specific age myself. So, this is me, between age 6 and 7. I’ve had a long conversation today with that self, and some decisions and promises have been made. If you want to go find a picture of yourself at the same age as these 20 child victims of semi-automatic gunfire were (as well as their 6 adult protectors), it’s an interesting private chat to propel personal politicized adult reaction.224828_197492963712953_662783654_n I happen to love this picture more than any other of my life, and I also tend to love that 6-7 year old version the most, so I listened. It may surprise you to take a moment to find your own picture and think on this horror from that perspective. Just a thought, as you read these names and ages:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi,6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rosseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27

So i did what Ronnie suggested and knew the exact picture I would use. My sister and I.
brenda_me1

I know Ronnie to be a learned and worldly man who has remained wide-eyed and childlike. He is a man who has been playing with puppets his whole life. How great is that? His art demands the rare skill and imagination to create worlds; magical worlds that we first remember visiting as children. There is a profound and poignant metaphor in puppetry, and what Ronnie has to say about Newtown has been a struggle – even for such a brilliant artist as him – that is deeply personal, melancholy and angry.

I didn’t know what to do with myself when I heard the news of the sacrifice of children to the continued delusions of gun loving legislators and lobbyists, so I cleaned the studio. I mopped the floor three times, because I needed to DO something. I tidied everything, because I could not look at chaos (even – or especially – chaos of my own making), and this was my only way to feel there was some sense of order. And while putting books back on the shelves, I noticed the front endpaper in Puppetry Yearbook 1937; inscribed to British puppeteer William Simmonds by American writer, publisher, puppeteer Paul McPharlin in 1938, and subsequently bearing the bookplate of The Hayward Marionettes (British, as well). 74092_197176213744628_1818237520_nWhile none of those people are still on the planet, the book bearing their names ended up in my hands, in Canada. This is why I love these books. Again, for a brief moment, I felt responsible for, and connected to, a history that does bear repeating and reflection and remembering, not the madness of repetitive history and laws that should have been amended a long time ago and deserve not a moment of my respect.

The artist breaths life into inanimate objects. Manipulating them. On strings. I imagine him in his workshop – like Geppetto – surrounded by the heads, bodies, legs and arms that he will make lifelike but never alive. And then I imagine the horrific carnage of mangled angels left dead by a deranged devil

I know Ronnie wishes he could breath life into those 20 lost children in quite Connecticut and cut the strings of those puppets who are to blame.

In an email to me, Ronnie wrote:

Funny, isn’t it…the moments, unexpected until they appear, that re-politicize us? So many things happen that grab my attention, but when something grabs my heart in such a visceral way, I know I am changed again, whether I wanted or expected such change. These 20 dead children have propelled me into many, many thoughts.
Ronnie