Police officer at scene of mass shooting
A police officer walks near the location of a mass shooting during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park. REUTERS/Mike Blake

It’s a chore these days to stay positive.

On Jan. 20, five depressing stories were featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune before I even got past page 2. And the report about the horrors taking place in Ukraine, as Russia continues to target and murder innocent civilians, was not even among them.

First, on page 1 above the fold, was the story about reaching the nation’s debt ceiling and how a handful of Republicans are refusing to raise or suspend the cap, forcing the Treasury to enact extraordinary accounting maneuvers to keep the government afloat.

This, despite the fact that both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for tax cuts and increased government spending for decades of programs using money that’s already been allocated and approved by previous Congresses.

In the cross-hairs are Social Security, Medicare and other essential programs that provide necessary financial aid to those in need.

Second, also on page 1, the transgender rights issue in Santee has blown up nationally into an ideological attack by anti-trans groups that have embraced the false narrative that individuals with male genitalia are using women’s locker rooms at YMCAs by “claiming” to be women in order to commit some kind of deviant act.

Trans women don’t come out as trans to stalk non-trans women. They just want to live their authentic lives in peace.

Are there exceptions? Possibly. But outliers certainly exist in the cisgender world also, where there are men who actually do stalk women.

This is naked (pardon the pun) fear, exposing a lack of knowledge of what it means to be transgender. It’s not a choice; it’s who they are.

After I pleaded for empathy and greater understanding on a Facebook page focused on the Santee incident, this was a portion of a response to me: “You are extremely uneducated and a joke of a straight female. Someone like you should be jailed for life or deported to China.” 

China? Is that where supporters of transgender rights should relocate to?

“Get a life and if you have children, they need to be taken away from you immediately and permanently for your lies and child abuse.”

It goes on and on, but you get the idea. Clearly, an abundance of hate and a closed mind make dialog impossible.

Undoing the Damage

Third, page 2 of the Jan. 20 paper featured a story about the state of Florida rejecting an Advanced Placement course on Black Studies for its public high schools. The Florida Department of Education told College Board, which administers all AP tests, that the course could not be offered — because it’s presenting material that’s not “historically accurate” and therefore violates state law.

“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” the statement read.

No law was cited that the AP course allegedly violated or even what was objectionable in the curriculum.

Fourth, on page 2 was a story about the storm damage California has sustained these past seven weeks, and what climate change is doing to our planet.

How to undo the damage done and protect our planet for future generations seems a hopeless objective, given our present course.

Fifth, the story on page 2 about the death of David Crosby … well, you have to have grown up in the 60s to be totally teary-eyed over this news.

Crosby and his fellow musicians left a life-changing mark on rock history for many of us. He and fellow CSN members Graham Nash and Stephen Stills graced us with some of the best harmony, haunting lyrics and spiritual melodies the rock generation has ever provided.

So that’s the news from Jan. 20, 2023.

Then, on Jan. 21, the news media reported another mass shooting that killed 10 and wounded 10 more, at a celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year at a venue near Los Angeles.

“Once again, the nation wakes up to a despicable act of violence and a reminder that safe spaces do not exist,” said March For Our Lives in a statement on the killings. “There is no corner of America untouched by the trauma of our worsening gun violence epidemic.

“Young Americans don’t know any other world, but we know that this isn’t normal. We won’t just grieve; we will fight like hell for the living.”

This is our world today.

Remembering Roe v. Wade

Looking forward is no better.

Jan. 22, 2023 was the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court that made abortion legal. It should have been a day of celebration for Americans who support a woman’s right to control her own body.

But the court’s conservatives overturned the landmark decision seven months ago, to much joy for those who are gleeful about taking away a woman’s reproductive freedom.

The anti-choice movement (please don’t call them “pro-life”) may have won at the high court but they didn’t win over the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans (it’s a majority, by the way, if that counts for anything) who support the rights of women to make their own choices about their bodies. 

This is best illustrated by the midterm elections last year that saw many pro-choice voters mobilized to ensure anti-choice politicians were defeated. It’s the only bright spot behind a very big dark cloud.

Lastly in my list of news for the week, but certainly not least in importance, is the recognition of Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The alarming rise in virulent antisemitism, as documented by the Anti-Defamation League — and the number of young people who haven’t been taught the lessons of the Holocaust and others who deny it even happened — makes this day a sad remembrance of what can happen when negative stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews as scapegoats for the world’s problems are advanced.

I often think back to 2015 when terrorists stormed into the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12, injuring 11 more. French citizens bravely proclaimed “Je Suis Charlie” to show solidarity against the attack.

Because ultimately we are all Jews … or Muslims or gay or trans or Latinx or Asians or poor or Brown or Black. We are all of these. Because so little separates us from one another, except for invented divisions that force us to see “the other” as different, to be feared and despised.

A two-part documentary on the Holocaust, titled “The Assembly,” was produced by Hershey Felder and stars eight graduates of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts who traveled to Poland to visit the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, Jewish cemeteries and ghettos.

According to a Union-Tribune review, the students admitted how little they knew about the Holocaust before traveling to Poland, which speaks to how this film could – and should – be integrated into high school history curriculum.

The Coming Dawn

And so, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27, this is what we’ve got. We can despair, or we can come together and protest intolerance, hate and violence.

Even partisan politics can be overcome if we stop and listen to one another with respect.

The lyrics David Crosby sang in his famous song “Long Time Gone” echo for us today:

“Speak out, you got to speak out against the madness. You got to speak your mind, if you dare.”

We can change much of what’s wrong in the world by opening our hearts with compassion, letting go of unwarranted fear of others who are different from us, embracing the fact that so little separates us from our fellow humans, and speaking out against hate.

The only thing on my bad-news list that cannot be changed is that David Crosby cannot be undead. The rest is for us to decide.

The lyrics from “Long Time Gone” when Crosby sang these words — “The darkest hour is always, always just before the dawn” — offer hope that a new day is possible.

But only if we speak out against the madness … if we dare.

Opinion columnist and education writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at [email protected].  


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Ellen Bullock