Middle School Behavior – Bad Choices & the Adults Who Support Them

So far not much information has been revealed about the middle school boy who confessed to throwing an object at the presidential motorcade. What information has been provided is that he implicated four others (when I was a kid the terminology would have been “squealed on”). The thrown object being described as a “block of wood”, a “wooden block” and a “2×4”. One had me picturing a scrap from a project, another made me think of the abc/123 wooden cubes my kids had and the final description has me visualizing an entire board. I’ve attached a photograph of the evidence to clarify.

While I’ve only read about the incident via multiple online news and social media sources, I have to say that I am fascinated by how some adults are reacting to the incident. Who are these people who affirm this sort of behavior and what would their knee-jerk reaction be to a middle school kid who was shot by a Secret Service agent as he raised his arm to throw an unknown object? Yet there in my Twitter Feed were responses such as; “too bad the car didn’t flip.”, “For once spare the rod, spoil the child.” and “then a hero comes along.”. It’s as though people don’t realize that around the world children are used to execute the plans of adults. Or perhaps they do realize that and are okay with children being used in this way, as long it supports their political views. I feel like these people may be among the same group who badmouth law enforcement and graphically describe what they would do if confronted by an officer and live to regret it when their own children are in that situation and react as their adult role models taught them to. Those situations don’t typically end well. It’s quite possible the children involved in the motorcade incident were only acting upon what they thought would please their parents. While political conversations and current issues were frequent discussion topics in my home growing up, I can think of no situation where my parents would have condoned any sort of verbal or physical attack to either express ourselves or advance our agenda. I’ve never felt hampered by being taught to be respectful of everyone, despite having differences of opinion.

I am curious if this fella will receive the same notoriety as Ahmed Mohamed, the boy whose teacher alerted the principal when the clock he had built in a pencil case beeped during class. Despite signs along our highways encouraging citizens to be vigilant if they see something they find suspicious, the English teacher and principal whose jobs involve educating and protecting students, were vilified for their caution. While the clock ultimately was innocuous, were it to have actually been an object that posed a threat they likely would have been heroes for acting or perceived co-conspirators for allowing it to be present. We live in a strange age, where it’s popular to attack authority for doing what is in their job description and  throw caution to the wind and embrace the stranger whose intentions are unknown. Ultimately Ahmed received an educational scholarship, a tweet from the POTUS and visit to the White House. At one time he had a 15-million dollar lawsuit going. The sort of lawsuit that might make future school administrators less cautious and put lives at risk. My guess is this current motorcade incident garners an eventual POTUS Tweet but no White House visit during this administration.

I’m wondering if Dr. Phil is trying to get these kids and their parents booked and if they are competing with late night talk shows doing the same. We have embraced and rewarded bad behavior and made celebrities out of people simply for being rude or contrary, while at the same time we’ve challenged and demonized  others for simply asking questions. I am stupefied by how the basic standard of what being an adult is has changed and I’m concerned for what that means not only for these children but all of the other kids witnessing this decline in basic decorum.

It’s likely attorneys will line up for exposure and perhaps try to spin the impulsive actions of a middle-schooler into some sort of political commentary. Was the boy an environmentalist making a statement about the logging industry or a politically active kid making a donation to be used in the construction of a border wall? Perhaps we will find out the source of the wood was 84 Lumber, a business nobody in the Midwest knew about until they took out a Superbowl ad, which was movie-quality but told nothing about the company or the products they sell. Maybe the whole thing is some marketing scam.

Call me cynical but I tend to question the motivation behind what everyone does and on whose behalf they are actually doing it. Was this just a kid acting on a dare or impulse or is he a patsy being used to see how the Secret Service would respond to an unruly group of children? Simply a test run with a sinister motive for a future attack is a possibility that will be examined. Some might assume I’m paranoid but security can’t be too cautious in a week when Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half brother of the leader of North Korea died in a Malaysian airport attack. The scenario sounds like something out of an American crime drama series that has proverbially “jumped the shark”. The plot twist being an innocent vacationer from Vietnam being duped by thinking she was participating in a prank with his buddies when she sprayed him with a poison mist.

For those finding this wood tossing behavior acceptable, what if it were a kid throwing an object at their vehicle as they drove by? Would they be okay with a child doing the same thing to a police squad, a firetruck or an ambulance? What if it were someone throwing something at their elderly parent’s car or their own child’s school bus? If there is some new rule book about when antisocial behavior is acceptable or even endorsed I am totally out of the loop on that. Are the people in favor of self expression through violence willing to accept it when it’s directed towards themselves?

If this motorcade situation had happened when I was in middle school, chances are it would have been a group of four socially confident boys goading a socially awkward outsider into doing something stupid for their amusement. The boy acting out would do whatever the kids he admired wanted because of the naive anticipation of some implied acceptance. I’m not suggesting the child should not be held accountable, simply pointing out that it’s possible he’s more of a victim here than some mastermind architect of an attack on the president of the United States. My husband, a greater cynic than myself thinks perhaps it is simpler than that “It could be just a little asshole looking to get fame.”.

I long for the good old days when poison mist was found only in James Bond films, most adults didn’t endorse the actions of “little assholes” and kids seeking attention tried out for the school talent show. I wonder if we’ll ever know if his parents are horrified by his action or proud of him.


Strong Candidates, Accurate News, A Sense of Unity…What’s Lacking in ’16


I voted yesterday. Nothing you can say will sway me now. I’m an election judge, assigned to a precinct other than my own and so while at City Hall I went down and got in line and voted. So it was with new eyes that I looked at the cover of the Star Tribune newspaper today and found yet another article that failed to report simply facts. This was not in the opinion section, it was presented as news and it was distasteful and slanted in ways that I’ve come to expect but find myself still disappointed by. “Iowa Reverses Course, Tilting Toward Trump” read the second headline above the fold. The story is accompanied by four color photographs; a man* looking out the open driver-side window of his pickup truck who is not against a woman president “just not that woman, is my opinion.“, a woman in an American flag T-shirt, identified as a Clinton supporter, a young man wearing a motorcycle helmet with his sweatshirt pulled up to reveal a Trump T-shirt and a man the paper identified as Somali who is critical of Trump’s immigration laws. The paper didn’t clarify if the Somali man is a US citizen or even eligible to vote or state if polls verify if those polled meet that criteria.

As I was drinking my coffee, I about spewed it while reading just the first paragraph: “If Republican Donald Trump pulls off a win in Iowa this year, it’s because this presidential swing state still has plenty of voters like Daryl Hovden* -old, male, white and angry.” The article then went on to describe him as a 60-year old farmer. The article didn’t describe the 67-year old Clinton supporter as “old”, “white” or “female” or describe her temperament. My 21-year old son has told me that since middle school that the only group of people he has heard described negatively in an academic setting is white men. As though achieving equality will somehow be garnered by putting down a group of people based on their skin color or gender, neither of which they have control of. Here was further conformation of his childhood observation, right on the front cover of what was supposed to be an unbiased newspaper. How would people respond if the paper described Hillary as an “old white woman”? She is after all eight years older than the farmer, despite being the younger of the candidates.

Then to add some level of credibility to the article it quotes David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and a former political journalist in Iowa “Iowa is mostly white, only about 25 percent of its residents have college degrees, and it’s one of the oldest states in the country.” going on to say “I’ve just described to you the profile of the typical Trump voter.” The reality is that it added no credibility, just because he said something doesn’t make it true and the Star Tribune could have quoted him and then noted that in fact despite his experience as an Iowa journalist that his knowledge of Iowa appears off. As the twenty-ninth state in the Union, 56% of the states are older than Iowa. Fluff and opinion and inaccurate history and me shaking my head at all of it. My frustration comes from months and months of poor journalism, slanted commentary and less than factual reporting. I have no issue with my friends and acquaintances having opinions but the standard for news used to be the presentation of facts and my greater frustration is with my fellow citizens accepting or simply not caring that they are being manipulated by this constant stream of misinformation under the guise of it being news.

The other thing I have found particularly offensive this election cycle is the value assigned to different citizens, as though people who are college educated make better voters. That is until one is courting the immigrant population and looking for their votes. Suddenly old people are not valued voters. My immigrant grandfather came to this country with an eighth grade education. After a number of years he became a citizen and made a better life for his family.  When he voted, the vote he cast carried no less weight than that of the ancestors of those who arrived on the Mayflower or any greater weight than that of a more recently naturalized citizen. The divisiveness that this sort of commentary creates is neither helpful in promoting a candidate nor will it lead to unity after the election. The reality is that life experience and personal values are of greater impact on how one votes than their race, gender, religion, physical location or some other real or perceived arbitrary designation. Enough with the trying to marginalize people based simply on who they are. For a generation that has grown obsessive over anti-bullying, it is amazing how quickly it comes back into use when it comes to politics. Stealing signs, damaging property and shouting hateful slurs goes beyond first Amendment rights. This campaign cycle has brought out the worst in this country and what used to be a patriotic exercise has turned into an ugly melee.

Even when I was a kid, I understand that voting was a serious issue. Though I also understood that the process could be fun. My earliest political recollection was being taught to shout “Hurray for Goldwater!” by the older woman who lived next door. I had no idea who Goldwater was, I was not yet two and therefore ineligible to vote. I do recall going with my mother while she voted when I was little, my earliest recollection was at the Catholic church on the next block from our house but eventually it was moved around the corner from where I lived to the Congregational church. I loved going into the booth, my mother cautioning me not to touch any of the levers and I especially enjoyed when she pulled the arm that closed the curtains making a secret voting fort. I was probably eight or nine years old before I realized that “The Wizard” was not in a voting booth when discovered by Toto. I assumed that his saying “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” meant give the guy some privacy, he’s trying to cast a secret ballot!

My mother was a stay at home mother, she had circle meetings with ladies from church, reunion meetings every five years with her high school classmates and other than that campaigning for local politicians was her only other social activity outside the home. I recall in the fall of 1968 that we “voted” for president in my kindergarten class, I remember thinking it was a futile gesture since our votes didn’t count. My senior year of high school a classmate and I were selected to go over to the State Capital to be trained in registering voters at our high school. With typical government inefficiency they spent the morning welcoming us and telling us how wonderful we were for being there, they provided us with cookies and drinks and after distributing the completely self-explanatory materials released us for lunch and told us we would be covering the registration process when the session resumed that afternoon. With little discussion needed, my classmate and I gathered the materials and departed for a lunch in downtown Minneapolis, accompanied by several cocktails. In those days asking a teenager for an ID in the middle of the day was much like asking for one in Minnesota today when someone is voting, it just didn’t happen!

Now that I have regaled you with my election related musings from before I was of legal voting age, I am ready to get back to some of the other issues that rankle me this election cycle. If there were one thing that I would throw myself behind getting onto a future ballot it would have to be limits on campaigning. We don’t need two years of disruption, distractions and disrespectful discourse unrelated to what a candidate’s platform consists of. Lets save millions of dollars and not have donors sought after in exchange for future favors and possible pardons. Campaign in place, nobody needs to go anywhere to communicate with others now. The fuel costs alone to fly candidates, staff (and the news people that cover them) could be put to better use in many other ways. I understand that candidates used to stop in every town and give speeches from the backs of trains to gathered crowds but that was in the days where we stored ice chunks from the winter in saw dust to use to keep our food cold and the buggy whip industry was thriving. Times change and our campaigns need to as well. Besides the fatigue this campaign has brought to our nation there has also been way too much time away from work as our elected politicians are out campaigning for either their own next term or on behalf of others from their party. I’ve never had a job where I got to leave to go out campaigning while I was being compensated for work I was not doing. The American people are footing the bill for this irresponsible behavior (which is poor role modeling of a work ethic) and it needs to stop.

I’d also like to see term limits, if it works for the president I think it should be considered for other offices, especially at the federal level. In smaller municipalities or positions that are not deemed full-time jobs I’m not as concerned but at the higher levels I think we would see more effort if a person didn’t believe they had a lifetime to accomplish an objective. These positions were not intended to be careers. That being said, there would be no need to pay a lifelong retirement salary were a person to only serve two terms.

My son will vote for president for the first time this year. He is disappointed by the options he has to choose from and because of that I am disappointed for him as well. My greatest hope is that in his lifetime he will have the opportunity to get behind a candidate he feels proud to support and be ecstatic when they win or even feel the deep disappointment of the loss of a fantastic candidate who’s selfless and motivated to serve for the betterment of all. It’s disheartening when that choice is not on the ballot.