Enough Is Enough by Steve Hemmert

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What does it take for a person to realize that something needs to change? When looking at the issue of guns in America and the problems that have come from it, much of the population seems to be very passive about it. Guns for America is a convenience, used for hunting and self-defense. However guns have become as addicting and abusive as alcohol, drugs and tobacco. The more you shoot around the more likely you become addicted for life. And for those wishing to inflict harm on society with the use of any gun, they never realize what they have and who they are shooting,

….until they are gone. Then we all wake up. And unless we take the initiative ourselves, we go back to sleep until the next shooting occurs.

Don’t we care about our children more than our guns? 🙁

Here’s one guest piece, written by Steve Hemmert, which looks at how gun-related incidents can change a person’s mind in a flash. How he looks at guns now in comparison to back then you can and should have a look.

 

The text:

 

With some hesitation born of nostalgia, I turned in two AR style rifles to the Miami Police Department as part of their gun buy-back program today.

As a former U.S. Army Infantry officer, I was well trained in the use of, and felt very comfortable with, the M-16/M-4 platform. I have always considered myself a responsible gun owner. My 14 year old daughter and I built one of the ARs- from scratch- together.

But after the events of last month, I have decided enough is enough.

How can we, as parents, force our kids to live in a world where they have to be afraid of being killed at school? 
My daughter recently told me that her plan is to only wear sneakers to school from now on, in case she needs to run. And I realize that, unlike some of my neighbors, I am lucky to still HAVE a 14 year old daughter.

Enough is enough.

There is no valid need for any civilian to own an AR. They make terrible self defense weapons because they can’t safely be stored in a condition that makes them available to use quickly, and the rounds penetrate walls too easily. They aren’t hunting rifles (it’s not even legal to shoot a deer with one). I know very well that my little AR is never going to be used to stand up to a government that has tanks and heavy machine guns. And God forbid someone steals them and uses them to kill more innocents.

Any honest gun owner will admit that the only lawful reason to own an AR is because they are fun to shoot (and they ARE fun to shoot).

But my desire- and the desire of all the other AR owners out there- to have fun toys no longer outweighs the value of the 17 lives that were taken down the street last month. Or the lives of countless other people whose lives have been taken by these toys- these weapons of war.

So, I am done.

The gun industry of today is just like the cigarette industry of a few years ago. Pushing a dangerous product that has no benefit to society. It took a long time for us to stand up to the cigarette industry and call out their lies and their political influence. But now it is a dying industry. We can do the same thing with the gun industry.

I will no longer be a pawn for their profits.

Now that I have eliminated the hypocrisy of these guns from my house, I feel comfortable calling on our government to ban them. We need the same legislation that has been so effective in Australia. Outlaw the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic centerfire firearms with removable magazines and require the legal owners of those firearms to turn them in for compensation with a year. Provide amnesty during that same year for illegal owners of those guns to turn them in. Then make it a 10-20-life offense to be caught with one.

It may not get all of these guns out of the public’s hands. But it will make it a hell of a lot harder for a deranged 19 year old to get his hands on one.

I want to be part of the solution.

Fl Fi USA

For Jacob

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On a cold fall night a porch light is on

All is silent, the sun makes its leave

Onto the next morning, leaving us behind

We wait and we wait for our child to come home

But still we feel alone……

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

People are talking memories as the stars come out

It gets colder and lonelier as we wait for our child

To come home to a warm house and open arms

But still he’s out and about……

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

People are out, armed with torches and flames

We become worried, filled with regret and remorse

Wondering what went wrong as it gets darker.

We call out his name as the street lights are lit

But still, not sound or a whimper…..

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

The media is now in force,

Collecting facts and faces and getting the word out

But still, not a sign, not a trace……

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

All our family and friends gather around

Over an open fire, and it’s completely dark,

Talking about a child’s dreams and ambitions

But all on the fritz because he’s been gone like a blitz……

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

The police are involved, the suspects are questioned,

We speculate and assume, we start campaigns

For justice and humanity but with one purpose:

To bring our child home even though he’s not there yet….

 

On a cold fall night, another porch light is turned on

Politicians and children’s advocates storm the capital

Demanding changes to laws to protect children’s rights

And put those responsible behind bars for good

We do this in our child’s name,

Though he still has not come home.

 

Every cold fall night, porch lights everywhere go on

We all call out our child’s name, never giving up

It’s colder and windier but the town lights are the brightest

In hopes he’ll be home soon….

 

On a cold fall morning, a porch light goes out

The sun has risen, the sky all blue and hue.

Our child has come home and into our hearts

We don’t know what happened, or who or how.

The bottom line is he’s home for good

And we can now forever be at peace.

Amen.

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This poem is written in memory of Jacob Wetterling, whose remains were found on 1 September, 2016 after having been kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and gone missing for almost 27 years. I was 12 years old when the incident occurred in St. Joseph, Minnesota, located three hours north of Jackson, where I grew up. The kidnapping sparked an outcry by parents and children’s advocates demanding tougher laws to protect children from predators and register sex offenders after having spent time in prison. Still, thousands of children are reported missing in the US and Europe every year, more than half have yet to be found. Jacob had many dreams of being an athlete, just like everybody else. However Jacob did much more as he helped us define what a good parent can and should be- protective of their rights but also fostering their growth so they can be whatever they wanted to be. From a parent’s point of view, he has our thanks. While the person, who led police to his remains, has been put in custody and will most likely be put away for life, the bottom line is Jacob has come home to rest. It is in my hope as well as others, that the Wetterling family, who have been proud advocates of children’s rights for almost three decades, finally find peace after many years of searching for him. Our porch lights will forever remain on in Jacob’s memory……

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To the unknown person who created this with many thanks….

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A Tribute to Peter Lustig

If there was a question I would have had to ask my high school German teacher had the chance been there, it would have been this:  Frau Schorr, instead of showing us that teenage soap opera TV series with Thomas, Claudia and Andrea living in Hamburg, why not show us a real German TV film, like this one?

As we didn’t have youtube at that time, and the internet was at its infancy, it did make sense to order video tapes where available to learn the basics of German. Today however, if there was a TV show to recommend, Löwenzahn would be right on top of the list of shows where people learning German should watch, because it features not only natural and funny dialogs in Germany, but some very creative ideas and facts in the fields of science, technology, arts and history.

And today, we are paying tribute to the creator of Löwenzahn (literally translated as Dandelion), Peter Lustig, who passed away yesterday at his home near Husum at the age of 78. Lustig was born in Breslau in the former German state of Schlesia (now part of Poland) and started his career early as a TV journalist. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, it was Lustig who reported on John F. Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin in 1961 and because of his close proximity to the US President, here was the result:

After working for the American radio station AFN, Lustig had many small roles in radio and TV shows in West Germany until the public TV station ZDF asked him to star in the TV series that featured the beloved dandelion. Together with Helmut Krauss as the ecentric and sometimes narrow-minded but clumsy neighbor Parschulke, Lustig starred in 197 episodes of Löwenzahn over the span of 25 years, ending with his final bow in 28 October, 2007 as guest star.

Since 2005, Guido Hammesfahr has taken over the role in Löwenzahn as Fritz Fuchs, but Krauss has remained with the show well after Lustig left the scene and retired. The new version with Fritz Fuchs was mentioned in the Files on occasion, including this article produced in 2014. Characteristic of Peter Lustig were his blue overalls– he had 35 pairs including a black pair he wore at a wedding- and two famous comments:

  1. Klingt komisch aber ist so- “Sounds weird but it is that way.”
  2. Du kannst jetzt abschalten- the closing where he encouraged viewers to switch off the TV and do something creative outside.

I was introduced to Löwenzahn by a student colleague a few years ago, as we were working on a project to find the best TV shows for kids in Germany. My daughter was four at that time and we had just purchased a flat screen TV for our flat. Knowing about her, she recommended the TV show as she grew up watching Peter Lustig and his mentality of explore, create and impress- the same mentality that Fritz Fuchs has adopted for his show.

Since that time, it has been on the menu of the TV marathon, my daughter has every Sunday morning. To the colleague who recently had a baby of her own, she has my thanks and for those who want to know why Löwenzahn should be introduced in the classroom instead of the Thomas, Claudia and Andrea in Hamburg adventure, here are the Top 10 reasons why:

  1. The very first episode of Löwenzahn, produced in 1980:
  1. The second episode of Löwenzahn: Peter meets Parschulke:
  1. Peter is one of the first hosts to talk about saving energy:
  1. Peter makes Lebkuchen:
  1. Peter and Parschulke dance and sing on the volcano:
  1. Peter tours the garbage facility looking for one of Parschulke’s lost garden gnomes:
  1. Peter rides the tram and convinces the city to continue serving the tram route:
  1. Peter and Parschulke are in a soapbox boat race, except one of them cheated in the race. Can you find out who?
  1. Die Reise ins Abendteuer: The adventure trip- A 25th anniversary special looking at Peter Lustig through the years. The three-part series were the last episodes for Peter Lustig as host.
  1. Lebenswandel (2007) Like Star Trek Generations, produced in 1996, this generations episode has Fritz Fuchs and Peter Lustig together solving a very old inventive case. This was the last time Lustig made his appearance on TV before retiring from the business for good.

And as Lustig mentioned to Parschulke at the end of the show: This time travel adventure only happens once. It was a pleasure havin Lustig present us with all of the discoveries, many of which were not even thought of before and after learning from him, we better understand. Looking at Lustig’s career from an author’s point of view, I see an adventurer showing us the unknown, regardless of how it was done and how boring it had been perceived at the beginning. And even though he spent time with the series Sendung mit der Maus (the TV show with the Orange Mouse) prior to his marquee appearance in the show, because of Lustig, many shows, including the Mouse have used Löwenzahn as a reference to be creative and entertaining and find ways to bring a boring or even a “debatable for viewers” topic to light and make it interesting for the viewers of all ages. Now wonder why Lustig received the Cross of Merit in 2007 by then German President Horst Koehler, the same year he retired from the TV scene.

And now you have the reasons why Löwenzahn should be in your teaching curriculum when teaching German as a foreign language as well as other classes in school. There are a lot of interesting topics that have been covered with many more to be covered with Fritz Fuchs at the helm as the show is in its 37th year. Because of Lustig, the show provides viewers with the best of both worlds because of the esay access to the German language but also to the known which if presented in a creative and entertaining fashion, like Lustig did during his 25 years with the show it will be an interesting topic to watch and later discuss.

And so I close this tribute with many thanks to Peter Lustig for Löwenzahn and for leaving a slot open for many children and parents to watch the show every Sunday morning. But also for giving us some interesting facts to learn about. In today’s world full of politics and ignorance, we do have some people that are teachers at the heart, even if they are entertainers in the end.

And keeping this in mind, we come to the end of the article and I say, “Abschalten und Tschüß!” (Shut it off and farewell). 😉

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The Flensburg Files would like to dedicate this article in memory of Peter Lustig, thanking him for his work. He will be missed by many but also remembered for his pioneering efforts. Thoughts, prayers and condolences to his family, friends and millions of fans.

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In School in Germany: Children of Divorced Parents

Tunnel of Uncertainty

 

 

This entry starts off with a quote to keep in mind: Life is one long tunnel with uncertainty awaiting you. Run as far as you can go and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

The key to success is to have a permanent support group that is there for you whenever you need them. For children, the support group consists of family, such as parents, grandparents and siblings, but also your distant relatives. Yet suppose that is nonexistent?

Divorces have become just as popular a trend as marriage, for in the United States, an average of 3.6 couples out of 1000 people divorce every year, eclipsing the trend of 3.4 couples tying the knot out of 1000. This trend has existed since 2008, despite the parallel decrease of both rates since 2006. In Germany, 49% of married couples split up after a certain time, which is four percentage points less than its American counterpart, but five percentage points higher than the average in the European Union.  Reasons for couples splitting up much sooner have been tied to career chances, lack of future planning, the wish for no children, and in the end, irreconcilable differences.

While the strive for individuality is becoming more and more common in today’s society, the effects of a divorce can especially be felt on the children. In Germany alone, more than 100,000 children are affected by a divorce every year with 1.3 million of them living with only one parent. The psychological effects of a divorce on a child is enormous. They lose their sense of security when one parent has to leave and may never be seen again. In addition, families and circle of friends split up, thus losing contact with them. Sometimes children are the center of many legal battles between divorced parents which can result in intervention on the legal level. They feel isolated and sometimes engage in risky and sometimes destructive behavior, especially later on in life.  When one parent remarries, it can be difficult to adjust to the new partner, even if that person has children from a previous relationship.

In school, children have a sense of difficulty in handling homework and other tasks and therefore, their performance decreases. Furthermore, they can become more unfocused and agitated towards other people, including the teacher- sometimes even aggressive. Depression, anxiety and indifference follows. Surprisingly though, adolescents are more likely to process the affects of a divorce better than children ages 10 and younger. Yet without a sense of hominess and love, children of divorced parents feel like running through a long tunnel of uncertainty, with no end in sight, as seen in this picture above.

During my time at the Gymnasium, I encountered an example of a student, whose parents divorced a year earlier. He was a sixth grader with potential, yet after the parents split up, his performance, interest in the subjects and attitude towards others decreased dramatically, causing concern among his teachers. While I had a chance to work with him while team-teaching English with a colleague who is in charge of the 6th grade group, one of things that came to mind is how schools deal with students of divorced parents.

In the US, intervention is found on three different level, beginning with school counselors and peer groups on the local,  psychologists on the secondary level, who help both parents and children affected by the divorce, and the tertiary level, which involves forms of law enforcement, should the situation get out of hand.  In Germany however, according to sources, no such intervention exists, leaving the parents on their own to contend with the effects of the divorce, and teachers (many with little or no experience) to deal with the behavior of the students, most of which is that of a “one size fits all” approach, which is not a very effective approach when dealing with special cases like this one. Reason for the lack of intervention is the lack of personnel, cooperation and funding for such programs, with areas in the eastern half being the hardest hit. However such programs, like teacher and counselor training, peer programs for students and divorced parents, team teaching and even 1-1 tutoring can be effective in helping these children go through the processes and get their lives back in order, getting them used to the new situation without having their studies and social life be hindered. Without them, it is up to the teacher to help them as much as possible. Yet, as I saw and even experienced first-hand, teachers are not the wonder drug that works wonders on everybody. Their job is to present new things for students to learn and to help them learn and succeed. Therefore additional help to deal with special cases like this one are needed to alleviate the pressure on the teacher and the students.

 

This leads to the following questions for the forum concerning children of divorced parents and intervention:

1. Which school (either in the US or Europe) has a good intervention program that helps children affected by family tragedies and other events, and how does that work in comparison to the existing programs in the US?

2. Have you dealt with children of divorced parents in school? If so, how did you handle them and their parents?

3. Should schools have such an intervention program to help children like these? If so, how should it be structured? Who should take responsibility for which areas? What kind of training should teachers and counselors have?

Feel free to comment one or all of the questions in the Comment section or in the Files’ facebook pages.

 

I would like to end my column with the conclusion of my intervention with my patient. When I and my colleague team-taught, we did it in a way that one of us worked with him, while the other helped the others in the group. Being a group of 23 sixth graders who had English right after lunch, it was a chore and a half, but one that reaped an enormous reward when I left at the conclusion of my practical training. That was- apart from a standing ovation- a handshake from my student with a big thanks for helping him improve on his English. Sometimes a little push combined with some individual help can go a long way, yet if there was a word of advice to give him, it would be one I got from a group of passengers whom I traveled with to Flensburg a few years ago:

Things always go upwards after hitting rock bottom.

In the end, after reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, one will see relief and normalcy just like it was before such an event. It is better to look forward than looking back and regretting the past.

 

Author’s Note:

Here are some useful links about children and divorced parents in both languages that can be useful for you, in addition to what I wrote in this entry. Two of them was courtesy of one of the professors who had dealt with this topic before and was very helpful in providing some ideas and suggestions on how to deal with cases like this. To him I give my sincere thanks. Links:

http://www.familienhandbuch.de/cms/Familienforschung%20Scheidung_und_Trennung.pdf

http://schulpsychologie.lsr-noe.gv.at/downloads/trennung_scheidung.pdf

http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/thesis/2009/2009landuccin.pdf

 

Happy Children’s Day

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When was the last time you did something special for your child? Did you take him/her to the zoo to feed the animals, throw a party and invite his/her friends over, or made a special treat for him/her? If it has been a while and you have not had a chance to make a child happy, then today is the day. While we have special days of celebration for mothers and fathers, today is Children’s Day, where we take pride in our children and do something really special for them.
The interesting part about Children’s Day is that for the most part, they are celebrated on two different days: 20 November and 1 June, which is today. The one on 20 November was based on an proclamation by the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva in 1953, which was later supported through an agreement with the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, calling it Universal Children’s Day. Five years later, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN and signed by all its members 30 years later.
While Universal Children’s Day is still being proclaimed by the UN to this day, most countries in the world celebrate Children’s Day independently instead of celebrating it with the UN- Canada is one of a handful of countries that have Children’s Day on the same day as the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The main date of celebration is 1 June, as an International Day of Children was proclaimed in 1950, based on agreements made by countries in the former Soviet Bloc, including East Germany. When Communism made a rapid descent to oblivion beginning with the Berlin Wall falling on 9 November and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former states continued to celebrate Chidren’s Day on 1 June. East and West Germany had their Children Day celebrations on two separate dates: 20 September in the western half and 1 June in the eastern half. Since the Reunification, the country has still celebrated Children’s Day on two separate dates. Officially it follows Canada’s suit, yet still the former East German states celebrate on 1 June.  Interesting enough, the USA is one of only a few countries where Children’s Day is recognized in regions within their own boundaries. Although Children’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in June since President George W. Bush introduced it in June 2001, many communities, states and churches celebrate either earlier or later, thus making the national holiday obsolete. And is there a country that does NOT celebrate Children’s Day or even recognize Universal Children’s Day? You betcha, and alarming enough, you find this on European soil- in Great Britain. With claims that it is a holiday that is wasted and keeps children out of schools, as Gordon Brown claimed during his time as Prime Minister, Children’s Day is not celebrated in the UK, although its western neighbor, Ireland, celebrates this day on 25 March. (Makes me wonder whether current Premier David Cameron should set an example for others like Brown to follow….)
So what do children do on this special day? It varies from country to country. In places like Ecuador, Albania and Bulgaria, children receive gifts from their parents and other family members. In places like Australia and New Zealand, they organize activities around annual themes that deal with domestic issues and children. In some places, like Mexico, children are honored with activities, parades and other events. Bulgarians promote children’s safety by driving with their lights on all day long. In Vanuatu, children make speeches addressing the issues like child labor and abuse, while being honored through parades, etc. In Paraguay, Children’s Day is in connection with the anniversary of the infamous Battle of Acosta Nu on 16 August, 1869 where the army of 20,000 men crush an army of 3,500 children ages 6 through 15 who were fighting a battle already lost. It is a national holiday to commemorate the atrocities that were committed by the Brazilians during the five-year war. While the children can visit the zoo for free on their special day in Slovakia, they are treated like kings in Thailand, where a theme is created by the government and children can tour all aspects of the Thai regime and other institutions. And yes, they can use the public transport and visit the zoos and other places for free as well.
While the churches in the USA honor their children during a Sunday church service- as agreed upon through first the Universalist Convention in Baltimore in 1867 and later through the proclamation by now former President George W. Bush- in Germany, children usually receive presents from their families and schools and kindergartens arrange for field trips and other events to make their day special. After all, the children are the future and efforts are being made to encourage families to have children. This includes many states providing funding for parents who take maternity leave for up to three years, as well as for constructing kindergartens, renovating schools and hiring teachers. Even companies are constructing kindergartens and encouraging their workers to work and take care of their children, a mentality that is for the most part unthinkable in other places, like the US and the UK.

There is a reason for that, which is the fact that Germany, like many countries in western Europe is on the decline in terms of population. At the moment, the population is at 79 million, down from 82.3 million in 2000. The causes of such a decline are emigration to other countries, the population is aging, and lastly, the working conditions which discourages people from creating families. Henceforth beginning in 2005, the government and the private sector began taking a proactive stance and created measures to encourage people to have children. In the seven years since the initiative was started, we have seen a moderate increase in the population but only in areas where the job prospects are at their highest- in technology areas, like Jena, Dresden and Frankfurt, as well as in large cities in the northern parts of the country, including Berlin, Hamburg and other areas. Even big cities like Nuremberg and Munich are seeing population growth as a result of these measures. Whether this will offset the population decline remains to be seen, but Germany is taking steps in the right direction to replenish the population.

Regardless of the reasons for having children, we should take advantage of Children’s Day and look at our young ones for who they are, treat them like king and help them along the way. After all, we are the ones responsible for our children’s future and the children are the ones who are leading the way to one that will be better than what we have at the moment. I would like to close this entry with a Thai saying that states: “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”  We have taken many steps to foster the children’s development. We should enjoy the day and take pride in the next generation that will lead the way after we are gone. Enjoy this day, everyone.