Friday, August 31, 2007

Sometimes a voice, by Chip Mosher,
Las Vegas CityLife

Mom's Comment: I made a conscious decision not to go to this Neighborhood Meeting because I knew that the subject of Circle Park would be brought up. And a lot of these people from this neighborhood are truly vicious.

The last Neighborhood Meeting at the Fremont Middle School was suppose to be about the burglaries in the neighborhood. And also about the murder of a man in his home near Baker Park in November 2006.

But instead, the subject quickly turned to the homeless in Circle Park when one woman yelled out to get rid of the homeless. "Take them to your house!" and other comments of the like by neighbors were yelled out of turn throughout the whole meeting.

But when my son very respectfully asked when Circle Park was going to be reopened, the president of one of the neighborhood associations (Gregory Brown) told my son that he couldn't speak out of turn. He then physically assaulted my son by shoving his hands against my son's chest from inside the classroom all the way out the door.

This all happened in front of the police, Councilman Reese, the city attorney, news cameras and dozens of other witnesses but nothing was done about it. Can you imagine what would have happened if my son had done that to Brown?

So, I'm glad I missed the recent Neighborhood Meeting. These meetings are only put together for the hateful to spout their venom toward the homeless and poor.

Thankfully we still have some decent folk like long-time resident Mary Alderman. My utmost respect for you, Ms. Alderman.

And Chip, thanks for filling us in on the meeting!

Sometimes a voice

by Chip Mosher

IN MY CLASSROOM I HAVE two posters to remind me the human race survives by its sheepishness. On a sociopathic planet born of a psychopathic universe that couldn't care less whether we live or die, the herd mentality has served our species well. To be fruitful and multiply is the human way. Occasionally, though, there are glitches. Like when our tribal instincts lead to intense group paranoia where horrible things happen, and the human herd goes collectively crazy. ("Kill all faggots!" "Exterminate the Jews!") Because genocide's just another word for no one left to kill. And we love it that way, once we've been reduced to a frenzy of communal insanity triggered by irrational fear.

The posters on my wall are of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, two men who persistently stood up and, consequently, stood out from the flock. Kind of what one might expect in a high school classroom. But what is the lesson?

Last year, a new teacher waltzed into my room to study these posters, trying to divine the mystery behind reaching kids' minds.

"How nice that you teach students to grow up and be like Martin Luther King and Malcom X!" he said.

"Are you fucking crazy?" I asked. "I should be arrested if I taught my kids to hasten their own deaths, as Malcolm and Martin did. Neither man lived to 40. I want my students to have long, happy lives."

I explained to him what I actually teach my students is that most likely a day will come in their lives when their own family or group -- be it a church, political party or gang -- might want to do something brutally wrong which could have grave consequences. On such a day, I tell students, they will have to make a choice -- to remain silent with the herd, or to raise a voice and, without rancor, insistently ask a question or two: Is this what we should be doing? Is this who we are?

Many a lynching might've been avoided if one person who grew up with and knew everyone committing the dastardly deed stood and said he believed these friends and neighbors to be good people, and murder was not what they really were about.

Of course, those irrational folks could have turned on the person speaking out for justice and, no longer finding him to be one of them, lynched his complaining ass, too. Thus, such choices have never been easy. Even among relatives and neighbors. Especially among relatives and neighbors.

I mention all this because I saw such courage demonstrated at a town hall meeting recently. This gathering was held at the old Bishop Gorman High School, recently sold to the Clark County School District and renovated into the Eldorado High School Freshman Preparatory Academy, on Maryland Parkway, located in the Huntridge/Marycrest neighborhood downtown.

Although the meeting was about residents' concerns regarding public school buses regularly delivering 1,200 students to this academy, at one point the community discussion veered off topic to the subject of the controversial closure of Huntridge Circle Park, down the street from the school. In November 2006, this park was shut down following a stabbing death there. It hasn't reopened since. After one woman shouted to "keep the homeless out of the neighborhood by keeping the park closed," Las Vegas Councilman Gary Reese, whose ward includes the park, announced that a federal court ruled in the neighborhood's favor to limit park access to the homeless.

"The good people finally won one in court," said Reese, implying the homeless are "bad people."

Suddenly, long-time resident Mary Alderman stood and, with genuine passion, said: "This is my neighborhood. I've lived here all my life and enjoy having that park, and want it back. Millions were spent to 'rejuvenate' it. Now it just sits with hideous 'Park Closed' signs everywhere. I know some people think keeping it closed will keep the homeless away, and I disagree with that. Is it worth not having a park at all? Homeless people are people, too. I have lived in this neighborhood all my life and have never had a problem with anyone, homeless or otherwise. I think the age-old 'do unto others' applies here. Hopefully, we can get back to that, at least in this part of town which I am proud to call home."

Sometimes, all it takes is a voice. Hopefully.

Chip Mosher is a simple classroom teacher.

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