Fall's This, That, and the Other

It is impossible not to be horrifi ed by the shooting of a 15-year-old student at Cape Fear High School late last month.

All of us, including this mother of three, kiss our Precious Jewels goodbye on school mornings as they head for the school bus or the carpool. We hope they will have a successful day both in class and in their social scenes. We might fret over looming band, forensic, soccer or cheerleading tryouts, a scary test they are facing, the often vicious atmosphere on playgrounds and in lunchrooms or some other anxiety transmitted from child to parent.

I suffered more of the above than I like to recall.

I cannot, however, remember a single day when I sent a child to school fearing he or she might be shot on campus.

The shooting at Cape Fear High School occurred with professional educators doing their jobs in close proximity on what was, by all accounts, a normal school day. Nothing seemed off kilter, just students, teachers, and administrators going about their routine and responsibilities two months into a school year.

Then came a shot from nowhere, aimed, apparently, at no one.

What a mystery is the human brain!

Even more, what a mystery is the teenaged human brain!

Current science suggests that it takes decades for our brains to come into their own — for our judgment to catch up with the stunning physical capabilities of our bodies. If we are honest with ourselves, all of us remember some really stupid action we took because we could and because our young brains did not snatch the behavioral reins and say “Whoa!”

So what are we to make of what happened at Cape Fear?

No suggestion of adult slacking has been fl ated nor has any hint of teenaged provocation. The incident appears so ill-conceived, so random and so completely avoidable that it could only have come from a teenaged brain.

Those teenaged brains have changed many lives, including their own, forever and now they must live with the consequences.

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The ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement, now camping out in New York City and in many other places around the country, is all about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It expresses this sentiment, in part, by saying the richest 1percent is making all the decisions for the other 99 percent of us, although the concept remains a bit sketchy.

OWS does have a point about the dangers of pronounced financial inequity in any society.

Richard Wilkinson, a retired British medical school professor of social epidemiology and author of The Spirit Level has studied the social health differences in nations with high disparities in wealth and those whose wealth distribution is more level, and the news is not good. Says Wilkinson about countries with signifi cant gaps, “Mental illness is say, three times as common. Life expectancy is lower. Teenage births are much, much higher, rates of violence as measured by homicide are much higher.”

There are many ways to calculate and assess wealth, of course, and much discussion about the importance of rewarding merit in any culture. It is worth noting, though, that by many measures the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the United States is among the largest in the world in industrialized nations, and that gap — by almost any measure one uses, is growing. Our rich are indeed getting richer and poor, poorer.

Cheery news, n’est pas?

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When they perceive dear old Mom is a tad ornery, my Precious Jewels call me Andy, shorthand for Andy

Rooney, everyone’s favorite curmudgeon.Rooney, now 92, retired last month from his long and award winning career in journalism, which culminated at CBS. For 34 years and 1097 broadcast essays, he harrumphed on camera behind a walnut table he made himself about all the t11-02-11-margaret.jpghings that drove him — and many of us — crazy. How do you feel about annoying relatives, pricey bottled water, unwanted and unreturnable Christmas presents, multiplying brands of cars and milk? How about the cost of groceries and gas and grandstanding politicians?

Andy was not shy about what he thought on these and a smorgasbord of other topics big and small. He gave voice to what many of us were thinking, too. In his last grumpy essay on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, Rooney bid farewell to his friends, viewers, and fans.

He also requested that if any of us see him out to dinner somewhere that we just keep our good wishes to ourselves and let him enjoy his meal in peace.

As we say in the South, bless his sweet heart.

Photo: Rooney, now 92, retired last month from his long and award winning career in journalism, which culminated at CBS. For 34 years and 1097 broadcast essays, 

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