Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pierre, or: A Cautionary Tale

Let’s get it over with, shall we?

Be it known that, on this eighteenth day of February in the year 2018 I, Julia Jackson McCready of Village Green/Town² am running my annual “Why You Should Care About CA Elections” Post.

I do it every year.

And most of you don’t care.

You have your reasons. You don’t have time, it seems irrelevant, you’ve been rebuffed by members of your local village board or your CA Rep. You’ve been turned off by long, crushingly boring meetings.

You don’t care.

Let me introduce you to Pierre, whose tale is told by Maurice Sendak. There’s a read-aloud with illustrations, or, if you prefer, a musical setting.

Pierre doesn’t care.

He doesn’t care, and he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t care until life pretty much passes him by and he is left to contend with a hungry lion. Having practiced nothing in his short life but not caring, Pierre has no useful skills with which to navigate this situation.

Friends, don’t be Pierre. If you live in Columbia and allow community involvement to pass you by then the day will come when you are confronted with your very own hungry lion and you, too, will have no useful skills.

Small decisions and big decisions are made every day in Columbia. They have an impact on how we live today and in the future. If we don’t get involved then it will be the hungriest lions who make those choices for us. And they are perfectly satisfied with a Columbia where you don’t care, because it consolidates their control of the outcomes. If you know anything at all about James Rouse and the mission of Columbia, you probably know that was never the goal for how our community should be run.

Contact your Village manager to learn more about serving on your Village Board. Follow this link to learn more about serving on the CA Board of Directors. (CA Rep)

Pierre had to cool his heels in belly of a lion before he came to the conclusion that he cared. What will it take for you?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Good Old Days

Recently there were some energetic conversations online in response to this news:

Delegate Hill is set to propose a bill banning tackle football for children under the age of 14

I’m in full support of this measure. Study after study is showing us the debilitating long-term effects of even mild concussions on growing athletes. This bill doesn’t solve everything that needs to be addressed, but it is a start. Turning the tide against traumatic brain injury has to start somewhere. 

Many of the responses were negative. Amongst the objections to this bill was a particular argument that I’d like to address today. In essence, the objection looks like this:

The state has no right to interfere with my role as a parent to decide whether or not to let my child play football.

My response is that the state has the right to create protections for citizens when there is a preponderance of evidence that there is a public health risk.( Try Googling “sports concussions public health”.)

For example:

Child labor laws
Pure food and drug act
Seat belts and car safety seats

It used to be quite common for children to work in factories to help support the family. Should the state have had the power to intervene? Have we forgotten that children routinely lost fingers and limbs and even died in workplace accidents due to poor working conditions and fatigue from working inhumane shift lengths? Would you shake your fist against the state for taking away your right as a parent to decide whether your child should work under these conditions?

I don’t think so.

I read a short piece (more like a slideshow) this morning about what life was like fifty years ago.  It’s exceptionally relevant here. One hundred children died each year from chicken pox. There were no heart transplants. It made me think about how many things we rely on today are based on scientific research and innovation.

Why do some people draw a circle around football and decide that science does not apply?  They are choosing to apply emotion and nostalgia instead of reason. And there can be no rational discourse under those circumstances. How on earth could any parent put on the armor of righteousness to proclaim,

It’s my choice to subject my child to repetitive brain injury and a lifetime of suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

It is my belief that this is only possible if one uses “feelings” as a guiding principle. And if that is what you insist on doing, I would like to make this request. If you, or your spouse, or your child are diagnosed with a serious illness, I would like you to receive whatever treatment was “state of the art” fifty years ago. Or maybe even whenever you went to high school.

Would you do that? Would you fight for the right to receive identical care to someone in, say, the 1970’s or ‘80s? No? Why not?

You say you’d want to receive the best researched, most innovative, cutting edge, up to date treatment available?

Hmm...Why is that?

Why do I support a bill to limit tackle football in young people? Because we know more now than we did fifty years ago. And, as Maya Angelou said so succinctly:

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

We do know better, and we need to start doing something about it to protect our kids.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Extra Recess

Yesterday was an unusually warm day for February. At my school we decided to have extra recess for our youngest students. The sky was clear and the sun was warming the day. When it passed 65 degrees we let children take their coats off.  They ran, climbed, jumped, played in the sand, swung high on the swings and created their own pretend games of all sorts.

Play is the true work of childhood. They were doing their jobs.

Yesterday I saw many anguished parents asking our school system, “What are you doing to protect our children?” They wanted specifics. They wanted to hear that the layers of protection are impenetrable. Perhaps they are influenced by remarks like these:

@JudgeJeanine: "We need to protect kids, & that means we've got to have metal detectors, we've got to have experienced cops..., & we've got to be able to have perimeter controls. We've got to have teachers who can carry a weapon & react to this kind of nonsense." 

I saw the above post on Twitter, along with this response:

That's a prison. You're describing a prison.

Schools should not be prisons. Teachers should not be armed guards. Children should be able to have extra recess on a warm February day.

Turning our angry demands to the school system in response to these tragedies may be understandable, but it is largely misplaced. While our schools have a responsibility to provide and maintain safe environments for students, they cannot possibly prevent the kind of onslaught from automatic weapons which is making school shootings more and more frequent.

If you have fears, and anger, questions, and demands (as well you should) then direct them to the people who are truly responsible: your elected representatives. If you would give anything to make sure your child returns home safe at the end of each day, then get involved with groups advocating for common sense gun laws.

It is the responsibility of our elected officials to make sure that our communities are safe enough that our schools do not need to be turned into prisons. Don’t let them off the hook. Don’t make this the schools’ fault. Time after time teachers, administrators, and school staff have shown remarkable heroism and some have even given their lives in the protection of children in their care.

If we unleash our anguish on the schools we are essentially saying that we don’t believe that anything can be done to turn the tide of mass shootings. We can’t change that, so let’s change the schools.

I call bullshit.

 If we want to protect our children as much as we say we do, we need to be willing to direct our energies at the source. Destroying schools as places of growth and learning because we feel we can't protect our children any other way is both cowardly and counterproductive.

The teachers and staff at your child’s school are there to help them learn and grow. They will do anything in their power to nurture and protect them. Support them in their work.

Make our communities safer for schools.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

More Than A Taste

In an episode from the original Star Trek, “A Taste Of Armageddon”,  

the crew of the USS Enterprise visits a planet whose people fight a computer-simulated war against a neighboring planet. Although the war is fought via computer simulation, the citizens of each planet have to submit to real executions inside "disintegration booths" to meet the casualty counts of the simulated attacks.

Every time another mass shooting occurs the story of this particular episode rises in my mind. Over and over I have heard people saying that these deaths are the price we must pay to maintain the freedom to bear arms. We mustn’t give that up, they warn. All of other other freedoms hang in the balance. 

Step into the “disintegration booths”, my friends. Or better yet, send your children. This is the price we must pay. It’s too bad, It’s so sad. We send our thoughts and prayers. It’s too soon to talk about change. Don’t politicize this tragedy by challenging the established order.

We have our rituals, our liturgy of mass shooting responses. There are protocols to follow. They must be followed to the letter and none of them include preventing this from happening again.

And so it happens again.

Armageddon is the place where the final battle between good and evil will be fought. Feeding our children and our loved ones into the insatiable maw of gun violence without giving our all in the battle seems like we have already ceded the fight.

Step into the booth. Your turn may be next.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Best Valentine Ever

Today I’m celebrating the best Valentine Columbia ever received.

Five years ago I was eating delicious Mexican food outdoors on the San Antonio Riverwalk, drinking frozen Midori margaritas, listening to strolling mariachi musicians and following every tweet from the CA Board meeting.

2/14/13 is the night that the CA board voted to give us a park worth coming to again and again. To the eight board members who were brave enough to cast those votes: thank you.

Here’s the drink I was drinking while hanging on every update from Columbia.



Something about that vibrant green, eh?

Plans for this season’s children’s programming at the Chrysalis are firming up. I’m pleased to announce that’s I’ll be back doing music and movement dance parties for young children again this year. We had so much fun last summer. If you have young children or grandchildren, I hope you’ll come by to join in the fun.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Seize the Day

Musical theater students at Reservoir High School need your help. They are trying to win the rights to be the first amateur production of “Newsies” by participating in a contest run by Playbill. It’s one of those vote early, vote often community click contests.

Surely Howard County can rally around these kids and their dedicated teachers. Right now they’re in second place behind a performing arts school in Elkhart, Indiana.

Here is the link:

You can learn more about the contest and what Reservoir would be winning. Also, each school made a video. Reservoir’s entry is at the bottom. 

If you have a musical theater kid you have probably heard of “Newsies”. The original Disney movie took my house by storm when my older daughter was a teen. Now her younger sister is an equally big fan of the theatrical version. Trust me, you want to see a local production of this. It’s a fun show with some valuable themes about standing up for what’s right and persisting even when things get tough.

Vote every day until February 25th. I am pretty sure you can vote on multiple devices. (Not sure about that bit.) I’m hoping that by posting this on the blog we can widen the circle of support and help push their efforts over the top.

Now is the time to seize the day
Stare down the odds and seize the day
Minute by minute that's how you win it
We will find a way
But let us seize the day

“Seize the Day”, Music by Alan Mencken, lyrics by Jack Feldman

Monday, February 12, 2018


Good morning, Monday. You come too soon. My bed was warm and sleep was deep and I’m just not ready for you yet.

Last night we lost power briefly at my house. It was out less than a minute. Of course the first thing I wanted to know once it was restored was whether anyone else had the same experience. Facebook was full of, “Did you lose power just now?”We pondered what might have made that happen. Columbia does have those famous underground power lines, you know.

It seemed to me that so much of life is wanting to know if others share our experience. We want to know that are not alone. Yes, we want to know why, but it almost feels more important to establish kinship first.

Last night a bunch of Columbia folks shared something all together at the same moment. It was not a crisis. More like a minor inconvenience. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in moments like that, we could stop and think how important our kinship as members of one community truly is?

What have you done for Columbia lately? What has Columbia done for you? Do you even think about it? Is the concept of Columbia relevant to you?

Surely Columbia has to be about more than underground power lines.

Where was I when the lights went out? Well, I guess I was in a Columbia state of mind.