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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

The effects of living amid gunfire

Nationwide reading stats say that only one in three can read at grade level. Of all the 4th graders in the U.S. only 1/3 of them can read at a basic level of proficiency which would put them at grade level.

But studies have shown that in just one year students with an effective teacher are able to improve by one grade level. These effects are so significant that the “achievement gap” between low income and/or minority children and their wealthier or white peers can effectively be erased by only three consecutive years of highly effective teachers.

Michelle Rhee
C.E.O. Students First

“The evil life is really the thoughtless life.”
-- The Dhammapada


In defense of loose gunfire laws the National Rifle Association has seemingly very little to say about the contingent problems gun mythology produces in cities - the perversions of civility that only guns can introduce. In parts of New York, the sound of gunfire assumes the tenor of background noise, enervating communities and drastically reordering the rhythms of everyday life.

Interviewed people responded to the issue with: it’s like hearing an ice cream truck, or airplanes overhead, or nearly everything else that is part of the sound track of existence.

“My son is 3 and he can tell the difference between a firecracker and a gunshot,” said one parent. “They are very similar sounds. That’s crazy.”

One 50 year old man stated he heard gunshots outside his window on consecutive nights. From what he could tell, a teenager was shooting in the air with no particular ambition. By the time police would arrive to investigate, the boy would be long gone…

Typically lost in discussions of gun control is the social cost of all this attendant anxiety. Patterns are disrupted, life is constrained.

Living amid guns requires imposing a curfew on yourself. For some of the women interviewed that was 7 p.m., for others it was 8 or 9 p.m. Many people no longer feel safe being out after dark. If you are making dinner at 8 and you’re missing an ingredient, the only reasonable thing to do is “substitute” said one woman. “Understanding the social politics of the world around you is essential,” a 40 year old man said, “so that you know who has an issue with who and can get out the way when you see a dispute forming.” “And” he added “so many of these beefs have their roots in nonsense.”

Epidemiological studies in the recent years have confirmed what ought to surprise no one: exposure to violent communities predisposes people, especially the young, to post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and so on. There are the immediate public health costs of treating gunshot wounds and then we must figure in the cascading costs of treating- or more perilous- ignoring all the various ancillary conditions to which gun cultures give birth.

“The first time I ever saw a shooting I was in fourth grade” a tall boy with a Mohawk announced when he overheard me talking about guns.

“What grade are you in now?” I asked: “Sixth” he said.
-- Ginia Bellafante

In case you don’t get it, let me put it to you this way. I have a girl at QUEST who has just been diagnosed with anger issues, P.T.S.D., and depression. At the age of 14 she witnessed Schenectady police shooting and killing a man armed only with a butcher knife, in midafternoon on State Street. That was a year ago, actually the anniversary of this shooting is coming up very very soon.

She tells me that this plays over and over in her head and she cannot seem to escape it. She has written about it and we talk about it. But because of her so called behavior issues she is being placed in special ed. This is a bright and gifted child who can-not seem to escape the violence surrounding her.

Throwing away Zen mind is correct. Only keep the question, “What is the best way of helping other people?”
-- Seung Sahn

Talking now about disabilities and codes. I notice things poorly done or completely ridiculous: now that I am affected. Like when you are trying to make it to the ladies W.C., it is always (I have yet to see an exception) the second bathroom down the hall couldn’t there be at least be a few instances where the women precede the gent’s?

And, one of my biggest peeves is the handicapped stall is the very last one in the row. What is that about? One of the biggest offenders are those on the Thruways, and those are on very long aisles indeed. And then there’s the cuts for wheelchairs, often handicapped parking is a long way from the cuts, those of us with canes or walkers cannot navigate the curb, (at least I can’t) unless there is a post to hang on to.

And what’s with the toilet seats only half way attached to the base toilet. And making the handicapped stall the only one equipped with a baby changing table is absurd. There are a few handicapped stalls and multiple others. Sometimes us folk in need have real issues with bladder control. On State Street the handicapped spaces are down by the movie theater; that is a long walk from the rest of that area; come-on-now we tire easily and have pain walking at all.

And the walk- lights, even the most able bodied people can barely get across the wide intersections. Those of us with physical restrictions put our life in our hands when and if we try to use the crosswalks. Who said there was plenty of parking downtown? Not within my walking limits. These things should be designed with the oversight of real people with real disabilities.

As I can see it now everything is done just to get by as cheaply as possible. Just to squeak by. I know another dining spot which is simply not accessible at all, to get to the dining area you must go up two stairs, they get around this by putting one tiny dining table near the bar and the front door. But and this is a huge one -- the W.C. facilities are up the stairs, through the dining area and all the way to the back.

I rarely go downtown anymore. It is simply too difficult to navigate. And not enough goodies to work so hard to get. It is simply not handicap friendly and it is about time someone said so.

And as for some banks, with all their many deposits they seem to not care for anyone at all. One bank in particular, their entrance doors are so heavy that if I am having a major difficult day and am carrying my purse I have to wait and ask for help from whoever shows up to go in. Secondly they used to have a nicely proportioned desk with chairs for two people to sit comfortably while they did their monetary paperwork. Not just a narrow counter, papers only at one end and no chairs.

I have heard countless people complain and we grumpily exchange complaints as we stand or lean on the imitation desk. Even the clocks with time and date are rarely up to speed if they are working at all. These are cheapo time pieces, I don’t even know where you can find digital time pieces that have never and will never work.

And with that I come to a nice story. Getting in and out of a car is sheer hell but one young man has made it his mission to make sure I leave my auto daily. And Whizz you know who you are. Tall skinny, wearing braces and hair that sticks up, usually covered by a baseball cap. He comes to my window every day and says, “Ready-Need some help?”

The folding chair is waiting for me in the lot and I have a cushion to sit on, he carries my phone and purse and paperwork, and the free arm is put out at a jaunty angle for me to lean on “Easy, easy” he says “No rush.” And there we are promenading down the parking lot and we are both feeling like a million dollars. This troubled youth who is secretly a knight in shining armor.

This is my last blog for a few weeks, I am going on my annual trek to Nova Scotia and coming back to surgery. I will be here for 1 week between and will try to pump out one blog and tell you my fears and hopes. See you in September.

“All is well, practice kindness, heaven is nigh.”
-- Jack Kerouac

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