Starting College at Age 70

Note: This is a revision of a piece I wrote six years ago when I started college. I have edited it and revised a little but the principles are the same.

STARTING COLLEGE AT AGE 70

22, Oct 2013

Revised 5, Sept. 2019

Early this past spring, while enjoying an evening of solitude, I got to thinking about what I should do with the rest of my life. I had considered going into senior housing or a retirement center, but the idea troubled me. I asked myself was I really that ready to give up and surrender to old age? I could say I had a mental and emotional war with my feelings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been on my own since I was fifteen, the idea of giving up my freedom now was simply too terrifying to contemplate. So what can I do with all the free time and minimal funds I have? Then I remembered the words of one of the sweetest people I know, Jina, a Korean girl who, along with her husband Bin, had rented a room from me while she was completing her Master’s Degree at Washington University here in St Louis. She said, “Papa, you go to college. I be so proud of you!”

College? I’m thinking about starting college at age seventy? Last time I was a full-time student was in 1959 when I punched my English teacher for hitting me. I left school, and he got suspended. Now, fifty-four years later I’m thinking about fulfilling my dream of going to college full time. I may be crazy but hey, why not try it? Just no coed dorms and shower rooms, I’m too modest, and I’d be too much competition for the young dudes. This could be fun!

Feeling as though I was setting out on a long trek, my first step had been deciding to pursue my dream. The next was to acquire the means to. Step one was pretty easy, step two was going to be difficult, if not impossible, or so I thought. Being retired and living on just my social security check doesn’t leave me anything extra for frills such as an education. The weak economy had wiped out what little money I had saved, and I’m not named an heir in anyone’s will. Then how does an old man with no money find the funds to go to college? If he’s smart, he looks for the same resources a young man does. In my case, it was the Financial Aid section of the St Louis Community College website where I learned about FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). FAFSA is a gateway to many different sources of educational funding for students of all ages, and it was step two for me.

Basically, there are two ways to apply for FAFSA funding. The first is meeting with a financial aid advisor at the college and the second going online to the FAFSA website to apply. They both have advantages and disadvantages – I chose the website as it was more relaxed and I could go at my own pace. It took me about thirty minutes to complete the application, and an hour later, I received an e-mail notification that I had been approved for funding and assigned a student identification number.

Did I mention I did this at about midnight on a Saturday night? You read that right, I had taken a significant step towards realizing a lifelong dream on a Saturday night. I had no idea what I wanted to study, nor did I care at that moment, I just wanted to call somebody and shout it out, I AM GOING TO COLLEGE! Not a good idea, most of my friends are in bed at ten, so I chose option two, a bourbon Manhattan and the late news.

I had to wait until June to take step three, the ACT Compass evaluation testing. (I’ll cheat a little here and do a copy-paste so the information is correct.)

“ACT Compass is an untimed, computerized test that helps your college evaluate your skills and place you into appropriate courses. ACT Compass offers tests in reading, writing, math, writing essay, and English as a Second Language (ESL). You will receive your ACT Compass test results immediately upon completion of testing, and your score report will include placement messages informing you what courses you should take and how to register.” “ACT Compass is not used like a traditional test. There is generally no “passing score.” Rather, ACT Compass scores indicate areas in which you are strong and areas in which you may need help. Thus, ACT Compass can identify problems in major subject areas before they disrupt your educational progress, giving you the opportunity to prepare more effectively for needed courses. You and your institution can use scores from ACT Compass tests to prepare a course of study that will be appropriate, relevant, and meaningful for you.”

June arrived with the late rains of April and the ACT Compass evaluation test. I was in a state of nervous excitement as I went to the Assessment office, where I signed in and got instructions on what to do. Then a lady ushered me into a computer lab (a room which has desks with computers on each) and assigned me a seat. I’m not a computer geek nor do I type well, so I was very thankful the test was not timed. It was interesting though: easy to read, thorough and not graded. Once I was comfortable with the keyboard I dug my heels in and did my best. It took a while to complete, but that didn’t bother me, I was having fun and actually learning something new. When I was done, I had to wait while the lady printed out the results for me. My high school math scores were midline, college math was almost non-existent but English comprehension, and composition were 94 and 97 respectively. That took me completely by surprise.

Step four was Student Orientation day! Then came butterflies in the belly. The first significant challenge for me in college was: what do I wear to go to school? I’ve worn uniforms or work clothes all my life. I probably have only one nice shirt and pair of pants. How could I go to school and impress everyone if I wasn’t dressed cool? Scary as it sounds, I decided to just be myself but cleaner. Arriving on time, I found the conference room without a problem and immediately decide I’m the oldest person within a hundred miles. I see bright, shiny young faces everywhere. I knew they were all staring and talking about me I remember it. Oh well, I’m a pretty impressive guy, so I joined the throng, listened to the somewhat dull introduction, received the handouts and waited in line to see a counselor. When my turn came, I was asked what courses I planned to take, and I said, huh? I hadn’t considered exactly what classes I wanted to take, I was just happy to be invited to learn. We talked about my ACT Compass scores and what they felt I should do, I said ok, let’s do it. Next thing I knew I was sitting at a computer signing up for American History, Philosophy, Honors English and Algebra. I was committed or should have been. I hadn’t been a full-time student since 1959, and I had signed up for twelve credit hours of college? I hear Jina’s beautiful voice, “I’m so proud of you Papa!” That did it, bring it on.

My next stop was for my student ID card and parking permit. This was an easy one. I just needed to prove I was me, have my picture taken and sign all sorts of papers. My official ID card was mailed to my home in about three weeks. Final stop of the day was Financial Aid. I had come prepared with copies of my online applications and related confirmations. As I handed the paperwork to a pretty young lady at the front desk, she looked at me as though I were insane. “Your paperwork is all in perfect order! I just need you to sign two forms, and you’re done. Welcome to Meramec.” Guess I got that part right.

Walking out of the office, I felt a little overcome. After so many years my dream was close to becoming reality yet something seemed to be missing. I meandered around campus for a while orientating my mind and spirit to the alien environment. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would actually feel once I started classes, I just had to know what it felt like to walk on campus. Everything was so different and yet warm and inviting. I decided to just sit under a tree to watch people and listen to the wisdom of nature. As I sat there thinking, I noticed something to my right that seemed out of place. There, under a small bush, lay a weather-worn paperback book with torn cover. I picked it up to see if it had an owner’s name in it – nothing. A student needs books to help learn (insert light bulb here)! I am now a student, I need books so that I can learn!

Step five was the college bookstore, but I didn’t have the money to buy the books I needed, or so I thought. Since it didn’t cost anything to browse the shelves for the books I would need, that’s what I did. I could always come back when I had the money. As I was browsing a clerk offered her assistance. I told her I was a new student getting orientated and was looking for the books I needed for my classes. I showed her my class schedule, and she picked out those available. When I told her I didn’t have the money to pay for them yet, she asked me if I was getting financial aid. I said yes, and she asked to see my student ID card, which I didn’t have yet. Then she asked if I had a student ID number and that I had. She entered my student number in the bookstore computer system, and much to my amazement told me I was approved for a bookstore account which meant I could get books on credit until my financial aid funds were released at the end of the fifth week of class. All I needed was my official ID card, and that wouldn’t arrive for three weeks. I was both excited and a little disappointed. I wanted a textbook. I did have enough cash on me to purchase one of the required novels. So I did just that. Head high, shoulders back and proud as a peacock I strutted out of the bookstore holding my very own requisite college book. I was finally an official student.

Finally, step six was first day of class, and I was about as nervous as the Grand Dragon of the KKK at a Martin Luther King rally: I think I would fare better though. Walking into class, I got those stares, you know, the ones that said “what’s he doing here. Is he someone’s grandpa? Maybe he’s the janitor.” Nope, sorry kiddies, I’m a student too. In class, we did self-introductions just like back in the 1950s Each student said his/her name and maybe a little about themselves. My turn comes, and what do I say? Come on Papa, do the obvious, tell them what they’re wanting to know. “I’m Dick. I’m seventy years old, and I’m realizing a lifelong dream of going to college.” Reactions ranged from applause to stunned silence and a few, “No way man, you ain’t that old.” My favorite was the “Awesome dude!” Regardless what was said, the tone I felt was one of acceptance and warm greetings and it was genuinely Awesome Dude!

Step seven, at long last, I was in college and ready to learn. Unfortunately, I was learning things about myself that threatened to compromise my education. First is hearing, I am gradually going deaf. My hearing was damaged years ago when I worked as a paramedic/emergency vehicle driver. The driver’s cab of emergency vehicles was not insulated sufficiently to mute the sound of the sirens mounted on the roof, directly over our heads. No one thought of taking precautions to protect our hearing. I developed Meniere’s disorder, a fluid imbalance in the brain which presents as tinnitus, vertigo, and progressive hearing loss. Just when I have the chance to realize my dream it may not come because I couldn’t hear and couldn’t afford hearing aids. To my good fortune, the college has helpful people, and I was steered to the Access office where they do more than their best to help disabled students. The Access staff outlined what I had to do to get help. I needed doctor’s letter stating I have an impairment and current Audiograph test results to verify the primary diagnosis. Once everything was done and approved, they provided me with an electronic amplifier to use in classes and letters to each professor instructing them to work with me. Things were going good until another issue arose. I cannot do algebra. I carefully listen to the lectures, take copious notes, do as much of the homework as I can but cannot retain the formulas long enough to pass the quizzes and exams. Back to the Access office and this time it wasn’t so easy.

Short term memory loss is pretty common to all ages but increases as you grow older, what I’m experiencing isn’t the same. With short term loss we usually remember within a short time, not now, this time it’s a total block. As my doctor told me, “You may be experiencing a cognitive impairment. We need to set up an appointment with a Neuropsychologist for a complete evaluation.” Earliest I can get is 12/10/13, just before end of semester. The Access office can only give me limited assistance until a final diagnosis is made, I’m screwed in algebra. My hopes and dreams of becoming a space explorer are gone. But I refuse to give up trying.

Am I going to stop at step seven? No, each new challenge is a chance to learn something new. I came to school to learn. I am learning at school. I will remain in school to learn for as long as the Spirits allow me to. I’m a fighter! Today, if I were asked the most important thing I’ve learned in the process of starting college at my age, I would have to say – know yourself and do not be afraid to voice your limitations. If you are considering enrolling in college, please take the time to meet with the counselors in the Access Department well in advance of the start of classes to discuss your challenges and the support available to you.

Ode to Fallen Warriors

Each day, as I rise, new world to see,

            My heart more leaden has fate denied.

What trials once faced, burdens we bore,

            That creations of our loins so oft deny.

Did our battles and toil, once new path generate,

            Our longing for peace, no longer unique goal?

Have those we nurtured, bled for and cried,

            Our hopes and dreams for them denied?

Were I less stronger, more feeble and weak,

            I would still step to challenge against the now.

For within my heart, my mind doth decree,

            No, no more, shall psychosis again rule.

We fought the fight, not to surrender the day,

            Our longing for tomorrow, forever in command.

 To those who refute wisdom of the ages,

            I stand now to declare you at fault for this time.

For in your arrogance, no grace do you bare,

            No honor your cuirass to shield, your weapon dull sword.

Awake young neophyte, your future you threaten,

            Possess the clues your forebears provide.

Look into your soul, for your battle is within,

History your guide, the lessons are all there.

Tomorrow can be yours if yesterday is remembered.

Assume

Let’s break down the word assume: Ass U Me. How’s that sound now?

Sounds to me like you and I are both asses if we assume, but we do it, almost every day of our lives. Ever wonder why that is?

My guess, based on my experience and obvious lack of information along the way, is that we’re too easily influenced by hype, need for acceptance and just plain lazy asses.

I have, or I should say had, because I think they disowned me for reasons they either refuse to state or seem to have some form of proof of my guilt, in either case, none that I know of are aware of the big picture, but they assume I am guilty as charged.

I will be the first to admit there are issues, many of which I’m guessing none of these assumptive rejectionists are well informed about, nor do they care to be. What they do care about it their ability to speak freely on matters pertaining to me as though they are experts on my life and philosophy.

What fools we be, to bend the knee, and blindly reject what we refuse to see.

I’ve learned that through writing and, probably more importantly, editing, the value of citations (aka cites) to substantiate a point; example:

“Jimmy stole Johnnie’s laptop! He should be arrested!”

First question that comes to my mind now is, how do you know this is true?

“Umm, er, ahh, well Johnnie told me.”

Second question, how does Johnnie know?

“I dunno, but he said he did.”

Pretty classic assumption on the part of junior, but not provable in court, unless of course, Johnnie has a pic, a recording, or a witness, all of which are, in essence, citations.

Had junior said, Johnnie said, “Sally saw Jimmy take his laptop, you would have a citation.” (OMG, I’m dating myself with those names; can’t wait to mention Spot.)

The issue is this, an assumption is nothing more than unproven idea based on no facts.

In writing, especially college level, citations are critical to every paper a student may write. If you’re quoting (citing) a comment in a book, you need to identify the book, author, page(s) and other information that allows the reader to access your proof.

In a court of law, what is a witness? Basically, a witness is a living citation. (I’m stretching the definition, but hey, if you’re starting to understand better, it’s worth it.

So let’s take this a step further with Credible Citations. Obviously, in our little scenario, Johnnie is not a very credible witness cause he “dunno.” He is assuming, not proving his claim.

In writing, one must employ credible citations or risk being challenged for plagiarism (stealing someone else’s ideas, work, etc.) which can destroy your hopes of ever being truly believable.

Would this be a credible citation: “Sally said, Johnnie said Jimmie took his laptop?” Nope, why look at the spelling of Jimmy. Small error, but a critical one, especially in court.

How about this one: Sally said Jimmy showed her his “new” laptop and she saw Johnnie’s name scratched on the bottom. Yes, you have witness and source point for verification.

The same principle holds true when writing example: “We have only just begun to fight.” With the quotation marks, we are claiming it as a direct quote, not an assumption. Now we need to show who or what we’re citing and where we got it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1936, https://patriotpost.us/documents/284. This is a very simple format, college level formats are more detailed, but it gives you a path to the statement.

Learning to cite, or if you prefer, quote people, places or things in your life decreases a tendency to assume facts are true, rather than proving them because assuming makes an ASS of U and ME.

Assumptions are the tools of the trade for those wanting to control people. “You must believe me because I know everything.” But cannot prove anything but you must assume I do.

Everyday, I hear people demanding we make assumptions on matters because their information comes from polls, experts and people who know. What pools, what experts and what people, they rarely provide those details.

I think the most tragic and demoralizing display of assumption by propaganda came with the attack on the Covington Catholic High School student who simply stood and smiled at someone harassing him, and his fellow students. Allegedly, through the use of well edited video, propagandists manipulated the situation to make it appear that the student was the culprit in this incident. As a result, assumptions were made by many radical extremists that the high schools kids were at fault and threats were made against them. Thankfully, an unedited version of the incident showed that the high school students neither physically nor verbally assaulted anyone but, because the original edited video was shown by mainstream media without citation, it was assumed to be correct and the threats keep coming.

The result of these assumptions may affect innocent people for years to come. It could have been avoided, but no wanted to verify until it was too late.

Repost! Columbine Essay

06-21-15

Second Repost:  This was done for my first Psychology Class

PLEASE NOTE: At the present time this program will not let me insert the actual autopsy reports mentioned in my essay. If you feel them important, please contact me and I will provide the link to them.

Nov. 17, 2014

“Columbine”

An Amateur Psychological Autopsy of Co-dependent murderers.

At 11:19 a.m. (UTC-6), April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and his friend Dylan Klebold brought hell to the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado when they walked through the doors of Columbine High School. By 12:08 p.m. they, along with twelve students and one teacher were dead and twenty-four others were injured (twenty-one by gunshot).

When assigned to read “Columbine”, David Cullen, 2009, Twelve, Hatchette Book Group for our final essay, we were directed to choose either Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris to complete what I refer to as an Amateur Psychological Autopsy of our choice. When I read this in our instructions the very first thing that occurred to me was, sorry professor no can do.

Between 1966 and 2014 there have been eleven major mass murders committed in the United States, each involving guns and having ten or more innocent deaths. The significant variable in those cases is only one event involved more than one proactive killer and that was Columbine, where two, perhaps even three disturbed young men went on a rampage.

I believe Columbine had three killers – Dylan, Eric and Kle-arris, the psychological malevolency created by their co-dependent relationship.

In comments from Susan Klebold’s (Dylan’s mother) essay published in the November 2009 issue of “O”, The Oprah Magazine, she references a theft committed by Dylan and Eric:

“Their theft had shown that under each other’s influence they could be impulsive and unscrupulous. Could they also—no matter how unbelievable it seemed—be violent?”

            This one statement raised a lot of questions for me.

Then Mrs. Klebold went on to say:

“No matter what he (Dylan) did, he was driven to win—and was very hard on himself when he lost.”

“His adolescence was less joyful than his childhood. As he grew, he became extremely shy and uncomfortable when he was the center of attention, and would hide or act silly if we tried to take his picture. By junior high, it was evident that he no longer liked school; worse, his passion for learning was gone.”

“He was quiet. He grew irritated when we critiqued his driving, asked him to help around the house, or suggested that he get a haircut. In the last few months of senior year, he was pensive, as if he were thinking about the challenges of growing older. One day in April I said, “”You seem so quiet lately—are you okay?” He said he was “just tired.” Another time I asked if he wanted to talk about going away to college. I told him that if he didn’t feel ready, he could stay home and go to a community college. He said, “”I definitely want to go away.”” If that was a reference to anything more than leaving home for college, it never occurred to me.”

What Ms. Klebold did not appear to realize, or perhaps failed to recognize was that over time, most probably beginning in early puberty, Dylan was displaying classic symptoms of an early onset dysthemic disorder in the form of chronic depression with suicidal tendencies. (Here too, a question arises, were Dylan’s symptoms exacerbated when he and Eric Harris became friends?)

“”At Columbine High School, Dylan Klebold envied the social successes of the school’s athletes. In his journal, he wrote, “I see jocks having fun, friends, and women.” In another entry he wrote, “I hated the happiness that they [jocks] have.” In contrast, he wrote about himself as being so different from everyone else that he seemed to believe he was not truly human or capable of functioning like a human being.”  Murderous Envy, What is the role of envy in school shootings?” Published on May 27, 2009 by Peter Langman, Ph.D. in Keeping Kids Safe.

Eric Harris, on the other hand was the direct opposite of Dylan. An extrovert on the surface, Eric was charismatic, clever, exceptionally intelligent, and very adept at hiding his true self. He appears to have learned at a young age how to manipulative people to attain his goals. He had talents and skills that might have made him a success in life but his was a tragic path – why?

Unlike Dylan’s parents, Wayne and Kathy Harris, the parents of Eric have not been as forthcoming in their comments about their son. Mr. Harris was a career Air Force pilot who retired when Eric was twelve and the family moved to Littleton, CO. Up until this time, Eric was thought to be a normal kid, doing normal kid stuff like playing soccer and wearing in-style preppy clothes, but that began to change when he met Dylan.

Was it love or evil at first sight?

Excerpt from Dave Cullen’s Blog, FEBRUARY 25, 2010 7:06PM

“Meeting the Mauser’s:  Why did Harris’s take Eric to psychologist?

Were there no psychologists at the “juvenile diversion program”? “Wayne was mystified by his son.[1] Wayne and Kathy accepted that Eric was a psychopath. Where that came from, they didn’t know. But he fooled them, utterly.”

““He’d also fooled a slew of professionals. Wayne and Kathy clearly felt misled by the psychologist they sent him to. The doctor had brushed off Eric’s trademark duster as “only a coat.” He saw Eric’s problems as rather routine. At least that’s the impression he gave Wayne and Kathy.”  They shared that perception with the Mausers. “Other than the van break-in, Eric had never been in serious trouble”, they said. He and Dylan were arrested in January 1998 and charged with three felonies. They eventually entered a juvenile diversion program, which involved close monitoring and various forms of restitution.””

“”Eric rarely seemed angry”, his parents said. “There was one odd incident where he slammed his fist into a brick wall and scraped his knuckles. That was startling, but kids do weird things. It seemed like an aberration, not a pattern to be worried about.””

“Wayne and Kathy knew Eric had a Web site, but that didn’t seem odd. They never went online to look at it. “I found them kind of incurious,” Linda said.””

One might come to wonder if they were wearing blinders or were simply oblivious to what Eric was really like and really doing.

It is said that opposites attract; that may be true on the surface however I believe that commonalities are the adhesives that bond people. In the case of Eric and Dylan the commonality was Kle-arris, the malevolent, unseen cancer created by their disturbed minds. I believe there may have been clues.

Dylan Kle-Arris Eric
Depressive Disorder, DSM-V -296.34 Severe With Psychotic Features Extremely volatile combination. Antisocial Personality Disorder, DSM-V Antisocial/Psychopathic
Avoidant Confrontational
Introvert Apathetic Extrovert
Quiet Vocal
Rage Dangerous Volatile
Pensive Apathetic Unreflective
Uncomfortable with attention Apathetic Wanted the attention
Lost interest in school Strong student
Anger issues – No DSM Major Anger Issues Anger issues – No DSM
Inferior Confusion Superior
Paranoid Apathetic Ruthless
Anxiety prone Cold blooded
Major depression issues Suicidal Depression
Feelings of rejection Amplified emotions Feelings of rejection
Feelings of entitlement
Autopsy Toxicology screen negative for drugs. Fluvoxamine has been known to induce violent behavior in some patients Autopsy Toxicology screen positive for fluvoxamine (Rx) Luvox[2]
Submissive/Beta Threatening Dominant/Sadistic
Self-effacing Self-centered Narcissistic
MIDC Scale 7: Reticent Pattern MIDC Scale 1A: Dominant Pattern
MIDC Scale 5B: Contentious Pattern MIDC Scale 2: Ambitious Pattern
MIDC Scale 1B: The Dauntless Pattern
MIDC Scale 9: The Distrusting Pattern MIDC Scale 9: The Distrusting Pattern MIDC Scale 9: The Distrusting Pattern
Dependent upon Eric  Co-Dependent Killer Dependent upon Dylan

I believe that both Klebold and Harris suffered from congenital neurobiological disorders which, had they never met may have taken them on much different paths in life. Admittedly, Eric’s path may not have been radically different than Columbine but that is something we will never know because they did meet either in the seventh or eighth grade and, hypothetically the seed of Kle-arris was planted.

During the years prior to the Columbine attack is can easily be argued that Eric was the dominant leader however Dylan, via his more reticent nature was also a force to be reckoned with. Dylan had unpredictable fits of rage that may have fed Eric’s dominant/sadistic nature adding to his own rage at the inferior world. I believe this may be seen in the types of wounds inflicted on their victims with the high percentage of head and neck wounds as though they’re saying you are not beautiful like us.

Much has been said about the victims and how they died but little has really been said about the deaths of Dylan, Eric and Kle-arris. They died, kneeling together on the floor of the Columbine High School library of self-inflicted gunshot wounds the nature of which suggests to me, one final act of defiance.

“Final Anatomic Diagnosis” of post mortem examinations.

On reading Dr. Galloway’s report, it struck me that Eric knew long before he committed suicide how he had to do it to prove to the world that he was “The Man!” He was in control right up to the end when he placed the muzzle of the shotgun into his mouth, positioned it to do the most damage and pulled the trigger. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47Wf_RfRJTI ) Warning, graphic.

NOTE: These are footnotes:

I do not believe Eric wanted anyone to get into his mind while he was alive or dead. Dylan, on the other hand used a large caliber handgun which he placed against his left temple and fired. It is quite possible he chose this manner to preserve his face so that in death at least he might be handsome.

Dr. Galloway’s report on Dylan mentions aspiration of blood. This is only possible if the respiratory system is functioning, ergo Dylan did not die immediately as Eric did. Did he know what he’d done, did he feel any remorse, and did he finally find peace from his torment? I sincerely hope they both did.

[1] I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Harris was afraid of his son as well as mystified.

Closing:

I chose to write my essay on Eric Harris, the psychopathic murderer who led his best friend, Dylan Klebold into a web of deceit, terror and mass murder. In writing this essay I discovered Eric Harris, a troubled young man with an intense anti-social personality disorder that appears to have doomed him almost from birth. Despite what anyone, even Eric might think he was not in control of his actions because he saw no need to be. He was not in control of his feelings because he didn’t have any. He was not in control of his future because he saw none.

Had Eric not met Dylan when he did, would things have turned out differently? Maybe, but then our world is filled with chronically depressed Dylans, Eric may have found another or simply acted alone. In any event, I feel that Eric was born without a conscience and he died without one.

Were Dylan and Eric also victims? There is only one logical answer – Yes.

As sure as some children are born with congenital malformations of their organs, Dylan and Eric were born with congenital malformations of their minds.

Mother’s Day

I was asked to repost this and another paper I wrote during my first year in college.

Sunday, three A.M. a full moon illuminates a forest alive with night creatures. Their eyes aglow as if in wonderment as our emergency beacons pierced their world. Only the sounds of our engine broke the silence as we raced through the night. No need for the siren. We were ten miles from the nearest major road, fifteen from any community and hadn’t seen another vehicle since leaving the hospital garage.

My partner, a trainee, scanned the road ahead for a sign of our contact while I wondered what we were rushing into.  Our only information was a call received by the dispatcher requesting an ambulance to an isolated rural area. The caller did not reveal the nature of the emergency and his location directions were vague. He said someone would meet us on the main highway. That made me nervous! I decided to radio the dispatcher for police assist. Unfortunately for us, that meant a town constable at home in bed twenty miles away. On the plus side, the dispatcher at the time was my wife.  As she still liked me back then, she decided to request assistance from the Sheriff’s office and two other police departments from adjacent jurisdictions.

Suddenly, headlights flashed in front of us. A large, dark car pulled out from the shoulder of the road, its driver waving frantically as he turned onto a narrow, gravel township road forming a dust cloud between us.

Maintaining a safe distance back, we followed the dust cloud at a slower speed allowing my partner time to note any landmarks he could radio to the dispatcher.

Abruptly, the dust dissipated revealing the dark car with its mysterious driver stopped next to an open grassy area.  A dirt drive wound its way up to what appeared to be an old basement dwelling set good eighty yards from the main road.  We stopped a few feet behind him.  As I exited our rig in an attempt to approach and question the driver he silently pointed toward the dwelling then sped off down the gravel road.

My attention turned to the house. It was built on a low knoll, had large front windows and, thankfully, was well lit both inside and out.

“Something is missing!” I whispered. “No vehicles, people, dogs or movement.”

Slowly we inched our way up the drive. When almost parallel to the dwelling, it made a sharp right to an exterior wood frame, enclosed stairway atop the knoll. There, in the glare of our floodlights lay the body of a woman. Dressed in a blood-stained, pale green nightgown, her head turned away from us; she appeared to be sleeping,  but it was an illusion. An obvious gunshot entry wound to the back of her head told a different story.

Immediately, my instincts and training took control.

“Shut off all our lights, give me the radio and get your ass out of this rig now!” I yelled to my partner. “Hide in the woods beyond the tree line!” Next thing I knew he was running fast and low towards a large pine tree.

I radioed the dispatcher, “We have a D.O.A with G.S.W.!  We need help fast!”  *

Now, what do I do?  Sitting in a darkened ambulance, on a small rise next to an illuminated earth home, I was a sitting duck. If the shooter was still there, one well-aimed bullet could have hit me or the large oxygen tank and I am history.

What if there are more victims inside? What if they are still alive? Call it brave or insane; I had to know. It was my job to save lives.

Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the shadows to the stairwell. Standing to one side, I held it high above my head to disguise my position and exact size as I peered through the door. Looking down inside, I saw a single, bare bulb ceiling light, a child’s bicycle in a corner and a second body at the foot of the stairs. As the woman’s, it was face down in a pool of dark, clotted blood. It was a man with a gunshot exit wound in the back of his head.

The bicycle – is there a child here?

Against all policy, I descended the stairs, stepped over the man’s body and entered the living room to a scene of rage and anger. Furniture overturned, appliances were broken, dishes shattered and personal items everywhere but no child.

Cautiously I searched the remaining rooms. I saw a lifestyle of modest income and means but no child or other bodies. I was relieved.

Retracing my path, I exited the house to call in what I’d seen. As I reached the radio to give the dispatcher update, the dark car returned. As if in slow motion, it appeared on the gravel road and turned onto the grassy area in front of the dwelling.

Cutting my report short, I waited and watched. The car stopped, and the headlights went dark. The only light was from the house and beautiful, setting full moon.

I could hear the radio in the ambulance as the dispatcher is telling me the closest police unit it still fifteen minutes from our location.

Estimating the distance from my position to the car at forty yards, I realized I did not have many options.

I saw one person, the driver sitting behind the wheel staring at the house seemingly ignoring me.

Was this a neighbor, friend, relative, curiosity seeker or…?

I had to know! I could not be out here in the middle of the wilderness trapped by my fears.

Heart in throat, I walked to the car while keeping my flashlight trained directly on his face.  I got within ten feet when he suddenly turned on the interior dome light and looked at me. He was young, late teens, early twenties, long black hair, average size and scruffy appearing. He had a strange, peaceful look on his face, a calm as though his burdens were gone.

As I attempted to talk to him, I visually searched the interior of the car with my flashlight. He had no less than eight guns and what appeared to be hundreds of rounds of ammunition scattered over the seats.

He asked me, “Are they dead?”

I believe so.” I replied.

“Good!” he yelled as he slammed his foot onto the gas pedal and sped through the grass to disappear down the gravel road.

There was a return to silence as a soft glow in the east announce\d the rising of the sun.

It was going to be a beautiful Mother’s Day – for most.

G.S.W. = Gunshot Wound

D.O.A. = Dead on arrival

Diversity – A Political Illusion

 

Seems that everywhere I look today; I see diversity promoted as the panacea for all human ailments. I think I even saw a sign in a health foods store proclaiming; “Diversity: A Miraculous Cure for Acne!”

Yes, I bought an eight oz bottle. No, it did not work, but then I don’t have acne so that could explain it, right? Maybe I didn’t use enough? However, the label does not say how much diversity I need to use to cure anything, let alone acne.

I confess, I’m sarcastic, but I’m desperate.

What is Diversity?      It’s an impossible dream, a fantasy an illusion!

Being the good student I claim, I researched the concept of Diversity beginning with synonyms and antonyms. I found 367 synonyms and 91 antonyms. Whoa, talk about a percentage variance – I was amazed. Even more so, I was stunned by many of the antonyms such as equality, agreement, community, equivalency, harmony, understanding, and union. Almost seems to me that Diversity is the antithesis of the historical spirit of America.

America was built on a perceived idea of diversity with a premise of Freedom of Religion. The tragic part of that was, initially, there was no Freedom of Religion.

Freedom of Religion was not the law in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans came to America so they could practice their religion as they pleased. However, they did not allow other settlers the same religious freedom. Settlers who did not follow the Puritan ways were not allowed to own land in the colony, and were often sent away.”  (Magliocca & Mele, n.d.)

Has the concept of Freedom of Religion improved since the Puritans? For the most part, yes it has, but I fear for its survival. Even now, a President who claims to espouse the Diversity of America’s Freedom of Religion is actively attacking that freedom by attempting to silence certain religious groups and promot\ing others.

There is Diversity in silencing Diversity.

Is there Diversity in Freedom of Speech?

“Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.”  (“Freedom of speech,” 2016)

Since it’s inception, the U.S. Supreme Court has been challenged to define what “Freedom of Speech” entails.

Freedom of speech includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

 

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    Schenck v. the United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).
  • (Federal Judiciary, n.d.)

Given the American penchant for lawsuits, I’m pretty sure this is a shortened version of a very long list of cases presented before the Supreme Court regarding Freedom of Speech. The problem for my old mind is the second portion of this list with its restrictions.

When one opinion of an argument mandates restrictions on another opinion, is that not censorship? Is that not suppression of Diversity?

I’m going to jump forward to the present time – fall, 2016, a time of major disruption in our world caused by Diversity? Yep, I said it, Diversity is a primary cause of all our ills – care for an explanation? Glad you asked.

Diversity, true Diversity does not exist – it’s an illusion.

Examples:

  1. Certain cultures (A) in our world feel pedophilia is an acceptable practice, however, many others (B) do not. Immigrants from culture A moving to culture B may wish to continue their practice while members of B culture refuse to allow it. Which culture is being more Diverse?
  2. Political party (A) believes in Freedom of Speech for everyone regardless of what may be said while party (B) believes in politically appropriate censorship. Which party is more Diverse?
  3. The mayor of City (A) believes in allowing illegal/undocumented immigrants to settle without fear of deportation while the Mayor of City (B) believes the exact opposite. Which city is more Diverse?
  4. A black, female Principal of an elementary school in Oregon determines that the Pledge of Allegiance will no longer be said in the school to aid in “Diversity.”

If only one child wants to say the Pledge, is he/she allowed to based on her “Diverse” request? Is the Principal teaching true “Diversity?”

Since the Principal is the only black, female principal at the school, is she truly “Diverse?”

Were I to continue this list of questionable “Diversities.”, I would most assuredly run out of printer ink and paper long before I ran out of examples. I believe the reason for this is “Diversity,” as claimed and declared by manipulative people is strictly an illusion meant to mislead the innocent and control a population.

Does the wind care about “Diversity” when it erodes the soil?

Does the weed in the garden fight against the flower for nutrients and water neither ceding to the others “Diversity.”

Do the predators show “Diversity” when hunting prey?

Do people habitually recognize and fully honor the “Diversity” of others?

Is the genuine recognition and acceptance of true “Diversity a common human endeavor, something we only address when the need arises or an illusionary political tool?

My Dream

My Dream – My Reality

Recently I had a very unusual yet comforting dream. I’m in an expansive, unfurnished room with high stamped metal ceiling and well worn, plank hardwood floor that creaked as I walked. Large, double hung windows, some with arched transoms literally covered the walls on all sides making me wonder what held the roof up. Looking out the windows I could see the tops of trees and the glow of the setting sun on the horizon. It was all very reminiscent of Adams Grade School in Minneapolis, where I attended first and second grades. Scary building, even scarier teacher.

Without warning, I’m outside alone, walking through a stand of bald white birch trees. The calm air is brisk and filled with the smells of autumn. The only sounds I hear are my boots crushing the multi-colored carpet of fall leaves. It’s peaceful!

My reverie is broken by the appearance of a large dark cloud above me. Is it going to rain? I look to the sky – the cloud is a shadow that hovers over me. It’s a big bird and he’s not from Sesame Street. His enormous wing span, crest, shape and prominent black talons tell me it’s a raptor. A silver colored eagle on steroids with a wing span large enough to shade Chicago is hanging fifty feet above me! Am I wrong for thinking this is unusual?

He’s gazing intently at a nest in a rather small white birch tree directly in front of him. As I watched, another silver eagle lands on a second nest in the tree. How odd I thought, there are two nests in the same tree? Avian apartment complex or condo?

No time to explore my thoughts of the nests, there’s something nudging my right lower leg. My gaze chases the nudge to a fluffy bundle of white and grey fur staring up at me through the brightest yellow-gold eyes I’ve ever seen. Awwwwww, a wolf pup -it’s so cute. Just wish it would stop rubbing its cold, wet nose on my nice silk socks.

Movement on my right – more fluff bundles. Awwww they’re adorable!!

Another form emerges from the trees behind the fur balls. It’s an ebony giant with the cold, dark stare of “are you being mean to my kids?” As her green-gold eyes drill holes in my brain all I can think is, God, I hope she’s eaten already!!! Big Mama is here! Awww, she’s scary!!

Again, an abrupt change. Now I’m in a large utility type building. There are tools and parts everywhere. It’s has a dank odor of lubricants and animals? I don’t sense any animals – no dogs, cats, giraffes, yet there is a definite feral musk permeating the air.

I edge myself along a wall looking for an exit. A door, yes, I’m out of this place. Well, as soon as the brown bear cub moves I am. Think I’ll go see what’s behind door number two. Damn, he’s got a brother! One last door and it’s?

Why am I laying on my back in a pile of dead leaves?

Why is there a large brown bear standing over me drooling on my face as she sniffs?

Would this be a good point for me to be terrified?

My alarm goes off. Time for coffee, toast, school and wondering. Was it only a dream or was it a message.

Throughout the ages, humans have attempted to understand and interpret dreams. Archeological digs in modern Iraq have uncovered cuneiform tablets inscribed with the pleas of ancient Babylonian Kings for visions to guide them in war. Looks like they won some and lost some.

In the Bible, Genesis Chapter 41, Joseph interpreted the pharaoh of Egypt’s dream of seven fat and seven lean cows as seven years of abundance followed by seven of famine. His interpretation saved the land from famine. He went from prison to palace for that one. Nice call there guy.

In early spring of 1876, weeks before the battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull, holy man of the Hunkpapa, Lakota tribe, participated in a Sundance, the most sacred of all Lakota spiritual ceremonies. During his ordeal of personal sacrifice, he received a vision of “Blue coats falling from the sky into camp…” He related this to his tribe with a warning, “Do not take scalps, or steal from the enemy dead.”

On June 25-26, 1876 General George Armstrong Custer along with 288 soldiers and scouts “fell” from their mounts under a sustained attack by the combined forces of Lakota, Cheyenne and other allied warriors.

The first part of Sitting Bull’s vision came true. Unfortunately, members of the various tribes did not heed his warning about taking from the dead. Within a year, the second portion was also realized when avenging forces of the U.S. Cavalry had either captured, killed or driven the remaining Lakota people north into Canadian exile. They should have listened to all of Sitting Bull’s dream, it was real!

So, are dreams for real? Are they message or entertainment? While researching for this paper, I discovered that modern science has no concrete explanation for dreams or their meanings. Interpretation is left to the dreamer.

Personally, I prefer to accept the common Native American belief that dreams/visions are real. They guide, teach and, when necessary punish us.

So what do I think my dreams mean to me?

The old building was sent to remind me of lessons past and yet to come. I am told that despite being older, I still have room to learn and share knowledge.

The bald white birch trees shed their leaves every year in hopes of renewing the next. They do not mourn their loss but rather rejoice in the knowledge that from something old, comes something new. They await the sleeping time when the white blanket of snow will cover them that they may rest for the new growing time to.

Many Lakota people consider silver to be the healing mother of metals. I feel the silver eagle scenario represents my need to heal and rise above my problems. I am offered a higher plane of existence and knowledge.

Wolves are symbols of enduring relationships, the family unit and loyalty. As the pups examine me, the alpha matriarch stands watch over everyone and everything. Her mate unseen, waits in the shadows, ready to leap to the defense of his family.

The wolf pups speak to me of how the younger students here in school check me out. Cautious but curious about my presence in their domain, they approach. I smile at their attempts to hide the need for recognition and attention but welcome their friendship and knowledge.