The Pilgrimage Of Douglas High School

The students at Douglas High School are on a pilgrimage.

It has gained a lot of momentum.

And as our country begins to see the younger generations start to assert their voices, many in Washington D.C. are having a hard time letting those new leaders “take a turn” at deciding what their country should be like.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s rather stunning lack of true leadership during the CNN town hall meeting in Florida on February 21st showed not only the glaring disconnect between lawmakers and their constituents; it showed the two-faced nature of many politicians and their loyalties.

This two-faced characteristic is sometimes linked to the Roman god named Janus, who is shown with two faces. Overtly, many like Rubio seem loyal to those whom they supposedly represent. This is what they show publicly. In reality, it seems like Rubio and company are really loyal to those who fund them. This is what they display through their actions, or lack of action.

In the English language, there are words that can have multiple meanings denotatively and connotatively. Sometimes those meanings can be in complete contradiction to each other. These specific words are called “contronyms” or “Janus words.”

R.E.M. ‘s song “Pilgrimage” plays with one of those Janus words: “clip.”

They called the clip, a two-headed cow

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“Clip” can mean to attach something to another object like using a paper clip or clipping two things together. It can also mean to cut something off like with fingernail clips.

In “Pilgrimage” that “two-headed cow” could be the divide between the very two elements that separate those young activists from Douglas High School and the politicians like Rubio who aim to keep the status quo. And one of those heads is literally calling out the other one for its hypocrisy, its “hate,” and its “broken lips.”

The word “pilgrimage” itself suggests a spiritual quest, mostly one that is a physical journey to some holy place for fulfillment of the soul. And starting with a trip to Tallahassee and the Washington D.C. and culminating with various pilgrimages outside of schools to show support of gun control laws, what is happening is the beginning of spiritual quest for the soul of this country being led by those taking their “turn.”

Most of the politicians who stand in the way of these young leaders and their pilgrimage use a pharisaical façade of holiness and religious piety. They use double-speak explain their actions in terms of freedom to have arms. They literally are “speaking in tongues.” That outward and vain show of religious expression is covering up an empty morality, one that makes the world “take a turn for the worse” and allows us to “keep our hate.”

There definitely is momentum. These young people are taking their “fortune.”

And making sure that the political status quo “will not last.”

 

“Pilgrimage”

Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune

Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck with pilgrimage
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worst
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, a two-headed cow

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune

Speaking in tongues, it’s worth a broken lip
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck with pilgrimage
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worse
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, a two-headed cow

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Pilgrimage, pilgrimage

Speaking in tongues, it’s worth a broken lip
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worse
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, two-headed

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Pilgrimage, pilgrimage

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune

 

 

Douglas High School and the Fight Against Dystopia

If you walk into my daughter’s room, you will see that she has amassed quite a collection of books. They are not for decoration. They are for reading.

And re-reading. Just look at the spines if you need evidence.

Among the bookshelves are her Harry Potter books, tattered from consistent use for over ten years, and multiple series like Divergent and the Maze Runner. In fact, on Friday she went to the theater to see the last Maze Runner movie just released. Today we went to the book store for her to purchase the next book in that series.

I believe that most young adults who read what may be called dystopian literature find worlds that they would work very hard not to be actualized.

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My daughter is not one to dwell on what the future might pessimistically hold. She is one who knows what she does not want the future to be like.

She reads the news. She keeps up with current events. She volunteers. She speaks her mind.

She is aware.

While we have certainly had conversations about the massacre at Douglas High School this month around our dinner table and around the house, she probably has had as many chances to talk about it in venues her mother and I are nor present at. And that’s a good thing. I want her talking about issues like that and feel comfortable forming her own opinions and seeking the viewpoints of others.

She is not that far from being 18 years of age. She will then be able to vote. She will be able to buy cigarettes. She will have been old enough to legally drop out of high school. She will be old enough to enlist. In some states, she could legally buy an AR-15.

Many young ladies will have become mothers at 18 years of age.

But she already has a voice and has a vision of what she would like her world to be like. And she is witnessing young adults her age start to use their voice to affect change in their country and in their world in a very direct manner.

When I walk in the halls of the school where I teach, I come into contact with young adults who as experts of their own lives have experienced events and challenges that would simply baffle the middle-aged man writing this post.

Yes, our schools need more guidance counselors. more social workers, more security, more psychologists, and more resources. We need a lot of things to help make sure that what happened in Parkland, FL is not repeated.

Our schools also need to remember that students have voices. We need to give those voices authentic audiences.

When you are a teacher who views the profession as a calling and an avocation, then you know you have a love for what you do and the connections that you have with people day by day help build the humanity of the world you actualize.

I wonder if the teachers at Douglas High School have any idea how much in awe teachers like me are of their resilience and their dedication. Even more so, I am in absolute astonishment of what kind of school culture they are helping to establish when the very students who have survived this horrific ordeal have the voice, support, and the drive to instantly take action and make sure that something like this does not happen again.

It’s as if these young people have read those same books on the shelves of my daughter’s book cases, lived through an ordeal that would break me in so many ways, and fought to avert a future that would allow this to happen again.

It’s as if they have been given opportunities to speak for themselves in classes, been allowed to question things, and given chances to develop and show leadership.

Great schools are not defined by walls and physical boundaries. They may be identified by a mascot or certain colors, but what defines a school is the community and culture that pulses there.

A school is defined by its people.

And they are growing and strengthening that community by reaching out over state lines, age differences, and political affiliations.

What is happening in this country right now is not directly from a book, but it sure will be written about in years to come.