Ain’t No Money in the Middle

“All I want in life is clarity, and transparency, so I know who is doing what, and to whom, at all times. My only real enemies in life are liars, and they’ll do everything to stop me because they want the contamination to continue, because it’s comfortable for them, or completely ignorant mindless fools who believe every word they read in a daily rag.”
John Lydon, Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored


This has been a painful week. I’m not going to lie. It feels like we’ve descended into the world of the Mad Hatter, where nothing is real and logic is devoid. We spit, claw, and feud with each other even as the burden on our hearts threatens to destroy us.

Monday, morning Nashville experienced what has become an all too regular occurrence. A private Christian school in an affluent suburb of Nashville was attacked by a shooter that reportedly was born a woman, but as of late has identified as a male. As a result, seven people are dead. Three children and four adults.

Why do any of the aforementioned adjectives matter? They shouldn’t, but in a world that has become increasingly tribal, they suddenly do. It’s not enough to just mourn, we have to do so in a way that reflects our political mores.

Nashville is a city where everybody seems to know everybody, or at least have a peripheral relationship. In my case, the headmistress of the school, who lost her life, is the mother of a woman who taught school at my kid’s elementary school. The young man played baseball in the same league as my son. One of the children was the daughter of my mother-in-law’s optometrist. I’m not unique, connections to the victims run in similar veins throughout the city.

My children are not much older than those who lost their lives on Monday. It was this time last year that we were dealing with our own gun threat.

A child at the middle school they attend brought a gun to school. It was discovered after a bullet fell out of a backpack, and the young lady who brought it was allowed to go to the bathroom and discard it. The school, despite claims by the administration, was not locked down until after the child was in a police car heading out of the parking lot.

In short, it was mishandled and then lied about. And nobody blinked an eye or felt compelled to march downtown in protest. The capitol chambers weren’t seized while legislators were berated to do something now. Bathrooms weren’t blocked from entry by young men. After all, it was just a pistol, and, by the grace of god, nobody died.

Guns in Metro Nashville Public Schools are a much more common occurrence than any would care to admit. Often only discovered by accident. Newsflash, a gun brought to school can take just as many lives as an active shooter.

But I guess on that day last year, there were no state representatives who had brought their bullhorns to work. There were no mad moms and their children who “hoped to “shame” lawmakers into action.”

“We need them to act,” said Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, to the crowd yesterday in reference to Republican lawmakers who hold a supermajority in the state House and Senate. “We need to hold them accountable.”

I guess he didn’t feel that way the week before when a bill was up in the state House that would have allowed private schools to enter into contracts with local law enforcement officials to provide school resource officers to the private schools. The measures passed by a vote of 92-7. Jones was among one of the 7 “nay” votes. Somebody must have left the bullhorn at home that day.

No justice, no peace.

As my kids have gotten older, their issues have become more complex. My daughter will share her pain, and in response, I’ll leap to share my experience and advice. I’m well-intentioned, but I piss her off. “Dada”, she says, “I know you know how it feels, but you don’t know how I feel.”

I have had to work hard at just, shutting up and listening. Taking my cues from her and sharing when she wants. I still have the need to jump in and unleash my superhero skills to solve the issue. Most times she doesn’t need a superhero, just a dad that will value her and her feelings.

The same holds true for those impacted by Monday’s horrific events. There is a tweet I saw, of a mother and her children at the capitol on Thursday that said, “So proud, we managed to pull all of this together in just three days.”

Do the math. That means on the day those people lost their lives people were crafting ways to use their death to push their political agenda and plan how that loss could be capitalized on. Like former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

Personally, I find it offensive. If you don’t, that is up to you, but for myself, the fact that we never took time to listen to the families, to fully grieve before leaping to rip each other to shreds in the service of politics, is heart-rending. It only serves to compound the tragedy.

If it is truly about life and death, where were you on this day a year ago?

We have spent more time over the last week vilifying politicians than we have the person who actually pulled the trigger. At the end of the day, that is who is responsible for the day’s horrific events. I’m extremely saddened that nobody was able to intervene before they thought shooting up a school was the only option, but still, they committed the action, and responsibility lies with them.

Back to those aforementioned adjectives, there are a lot of people who fit those descriptions. There are a lot of people who are mentally ill, and suffering. There are a lot of people who are angry and feel marginalized. Only a tiny fraction of those folks take the step of killing their fellow man. It is imperative, that we talk about how they got to that final destination. Not only for our safety but also for our humanity. Because safety without humanity is not really safety.

In 1977, at the Hubert Humphrey Building dedication in Washington, D.C., former vice president Humphrey spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection of a government: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

I’m not so sure we are doing so well.

I understand the need to take immediate action, but it has to be the right action. The appropriate action.

Nearly a decade ago, I promised myself I would never write mad. I began to realize that my opinion didn’t have to be the first opinion, it just had to be as well thought out ad I could make it.

There was a time when I was afraid if other voices entered the conversation before mine, it would become irrelevant. I’ve since learned that some issues remain eternally relevant.

Let’s stop a minute though and look at the solutions that are being pushed forward. They are solutions that were crafted in a world that existed 30 years ago, a world that arguably is longer relevant.

Red flag, laws, I’m hesitant to allow the classification of people without proper consideration of how it can be applied in the future. Do you realize that America is among the leaders in the world in the use of anti-depressants? And that was before COVID. Might behoove us to figure out why?

Much like with books, I’m not convinced you can effectively ban guns. I can sit in my living room and order delivery of whatever I want in the time it takes to mix a Tom Collins. Add in that we’ve spent the last two decades reinforcing the belief that government is inept, and I doubt people are going to be quick to concede their personal safety to an entity they don’t trust. So banning does nothing but makes us feel good.

The supposition that, just because people don’t express anger and grief in the same manner as us, they somehow don’t care as deeply is a misnomer. There is a saying in AA that says, “Don’t judge people’s insides by their outsides.”

But we continually argue the personality, over the message, And thus the vitriol grows. To the benefit of none of us.

But let’s be honest, there is no money in the middle. Think about how much money has been raised by politicians in the wake of Monday’s events. Members and organizations on both sides have seen checks written, to save our rights or defend our children. Being prudent, deliberate, and listening, doesn’t pay the bills.

This is a tweet from the day of the shooting by an employee of MNPS. It wasn’t the only one with similar sentiments making the rounds that day, and it was echoed by other MNPS employees.

So where does it all end? What’s the end game?

Tennessee is a Republican state, a status afforded by regular elections. Governor Lee won re-election by a large margin. Agree or disagree, for whatever reason, and whether I like it or not, the state’s citizens voted them into place. No amount of excuse-making, griping, and shaming, is going to change that.

Do you know what changes it? Crafting a message that resonates with people and developing people who can deliver it in a credible manner. Get out the vote. It’s been my experience that people run toward something a lot faster than they run away from it. Lately, the whole Democrat message has been about running away from something. I know that’s not going to win me any new fans, but it’s gotta be said.

On Tuesday night, I stood on a ball field less than 5 miles from the Covenant School. I watched as my son, did his thing on the mound. Joking with the umps. Egging his coaches on. Throwing strikes. laughing with teammates, while needling the opposition.

I’ve always marveled at how the ball field serves as his personal playground. It is a place that seldom fails to bring him peace.

It’s a cold night, and we parents shiver on the sideline. We catch up on events from the last year. We marvel at how much the boys have grown. Most of these boys have played together in various incarnations for years, so we are all very familiar with each other.

The game isn’t really competitive, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the ritual and everything that comes with it.

It hits me as I stand there, last week a young man’s family was standing by a dugout less than a mile away doing the exact same thing. Hope springs eternal, and I’m sure there wasn’t a thought that this would be the last time they would share in this indulgence. That these families wouldn’t come together again until it was time to bury one of their own.

I can’t shake that feeling. I’m mad. I’m depressed. I am short-tempered and combative. I’m reactionary. I’m deeply disappointed. But my feelings are just a fraction of what the families of seven victims are feeling, and my feelings must never supersede theirs.

We all need to spend a moment letting each other grieve. To quote Nashville CM Bob Mendes, “It’s been such a difficult week in Nashville. Everyone is so sad and distressed. Consider checking in on friends & family to see how they’re doing.”

Instead, we fight.

My favorite times are those after games when my son and I ride home from the ballpark, sharing analysis on the just concluded ball game. Sometimes we talk about runs he failed to push across the plate, or pitches he failed to make. At times he offers excuses, and at times they are legitimate, but it always comes down to, if you want to be the guy, you gotta be the guy. No matter what the circumstances.

It’s time for all of us to do a whole better at being “the guy”. Being the guy means listening to voices that express different views. It means finding common ground where none seems to exist. It means explaining things to people in a way they understand. It means considering that others may have ideas we have never thought of. It means extending grace to others.

I often get criticized for being one of those awful “both-side” people, but it’s a badge I wear with pride and I will continue to explore ideas and relationships from all sides. I’ve always found purity tests repugnant.

A number of years ago, I was a part of a public school advocacy group that question my commitment because I regularly talked with members of the charter school community. My response was, “If you think I’m going to submit to your purity test, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.” Needless to say, that relationship ceased to exist.

For many years, I chastised myself and felt I could have handled it better, and I could have. But critical thinking means that at times we’ll reach conclusions that differ from those we love and respect, in times we can’t just change our ideas, nor forget that they are people that we love and respect.

Let’s try to make a plan for winning the peace.

– – –

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Categories: Education

4 replies

  1. Beautifully thought out and stated. Thank you for this.

  2. Beautifully stated, TC. Thank you for this.

  3. A lot of wasted words & energy. Nothing will improve in America re: school shootings. Uvalde showed us you can have a pack of cops at the school and they can choose to do nothing. The SRO in Parkland ran from the scene. No one cares anymore, so kids will just keep getting slaughtered. The sooner America can be erased from the maps, the better.

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