Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"CHANGE"

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Change


My how things do change
As we grow, we become more sure
At the same time, however
We need each other more

I once sought everyone’s approval
Though I claimed I needed no one
On a constant quest for validation
Those wretched days are done!

Over time as we mature
We gain the wisdom of age
Use a different set of standards
To objectively gauge…

To gauge our self-reliance
As well as our self-worth
For these are important qualities
Not bestowed upon us at birth

We need to search for these things
Deep within ourselves
A quest that takes a lifetime
And one that often delves

Into places that we fear to tread
For fear of exposing our traits
Not all of which we own up to
As we wrestle with our fates

I’m no longer afraid of what people think
I seek no one’s approval
But I readily acknowledge the fact
That I do need other people

I need at least one who’s on my side
No matter what may be
And now that I’ve found her, I’m at ease
For she’s watching out for me


Tom Kenney - 2006










“IF”


If only I could…
If only I had…
If I…
If You…
Then…

Many of us are burdened by these questions
These doubts
Many of us are burdened by emotions
We can’t sort out

Most of us have some sort of regrets
Of which we can’t let go
Most of us have some sort of remorse
For things only we know

Some of us are caught up in a depression
That’s entirely self-imposed
Some of us spend our days searching in vain
For a door we’ve already closed

We’re trapped by our past
These mistakes we’ve amassed
Lead to being swallowed
By the shadows they cast

All of us need help to understand
That it’s okay
All of us need to let go of our fears
If we’re to find our way

IF…



Tom Kenney - 2006










YOU…&...ME


You speak to me
Get no reply
You get angry
And ask me why
Still no response
Now you sigh…
Are you even listening

You need conversation
Not a blank stare
You look at me wondering
Is he even aware
I’ve been talking to him
Silently you swear…
I can’t take it anymore

The number of times
This scene is played out
Increases over time
Getting worse, no doubt
One day without warning
You hear yourself shout…
Talk to me, just talk to me!

I snap to attention
And only slightly perceive
I’ve pushed you to the point
You feel the need to leave
To preserve your own sanity
And you just can’t believe…
I don’t notice your frustration

So you shift your attention
To your personal dreams
But this only magnifies
Just how separate we seem
Drifting further apart
You just want to scream…
I feel like I’m alone!

I feel your presence
Though I seem miles away
Sometimes I get lost
In thoughts of the day
You think I’m distant
But I’d just like to say…
You’re always in my heart

I may not seem interested
In what’s on your mind
But that’s so not true -
And I think you’ll find
You’re my most trusted ally
Every day I find…
I depend on you more than ever

Though I always have an excuse
As to why I don’t react
The way you think I should –
I have to face the fact
That I take you for granted
And fail to interact…
In the way that will save me!

For you are my true companion
I need you in my life
I thank God every day
That you chose to be my wife
You’ve made my world so easy
And saved me from my strife…
I need to make you see

You are my inspiration
You are my guiding light
You’re always there to inspire me
To continue with the fight
I need to show you once again
That I can do what’s right…
Love you, cherish you, listen to you!



Tom Kenney - 2006










Revelation…Revolution…Resolution


Change never comes easily
There’s no simple solution
It seems it’s always a struggle
Revelation…revolution…resolution

First you need to recognize
A need for evolution
Then attempt to make a change
Revelation…revolution…resolution

Sometimes you must crush old ideas
Like an idea execution
To make way for a new way of thought
Revelation…revolution…resolution

Solutions must be agreeable to all
No fear of retribution
If you want it to take hold
Revelation…revolution…resolution

Such as abandoning our wasteful ways
And minimizing pollution
Making our world a greener place
Revelation…revolution…resolution


Tom Kenney - 2007









Hope In Their Vision


I have hope for this world even still
As each generation forces its will
Over tired old ideas which make us ill
There’s hope in their vision…

While my peers look on in cynicism
We still feel the sting of racism
While we haven’t even addressed sexism
There’s hope in their vision…

I see more and more people relating today
In a more respectful and natural way
Seeing past all the stereotypical clich├ęs
There’s hope in their vision…

We’ve learned from all our parent’s mistakes
How empty promises are easy to make
But without commitment we’re merely fakes
But there’s hope in their vision…

It was Martin’s “dream” that people saw
That forced Civil Rights to be passed into law
But as a standard for people still had its flaws
But there’s hope in their vision…

Despite changes through our good intentions
They seem to continue our racial separations
And don’t really encourage better relations
But there’s hope in their vision…

It seems we can only take things so far
Before we are stymied by who we are
But our children can hopefully raise that bar
There’s hope in their vision…

Children are born with no hate in their hearts
Innocence and kindness is there at the start
With our guidance a new course they can chart
For there’s hope in their vision…


Tom Kenney - 2006

ILLEGAL ALIENS

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(It’s No Fun)
Being An Illegal Alien



Immigrants from other countries have built the United States of America into the country it is today. My family, on both my mother’s and father’s side, immigrated here from Ireland four or five generations ago. Many of us can trace our ancestry back to the ‘old country’ to just two or three generations past. This is the unique blend that makes America great – the ‘melting pot’. In recent years, however, we’ve been forced to limit the number of immigrants we allow to settle here. This is the result of an influx of illegal aliens.

Unfortunately illegal aliens don’t contribute to the improvement of our country – our states – our communities. Because they are here illegally, they don’t pay into the social security system, and don’t pay income tax to the federal or state governments. They wind up taking from the system – without contributing to it in the first place. For this reason, and for the obvious post 9/11 security issues, we need to secure our borders and more stringently enforce our immigration laws.

With illegal immigrants crossing our borders at an increasingly alarming rate, we seem to have taken away the power of the police officers on the street to detain someone for being here illegally. In the name of “political correctness” it is my understanding that these officers are not even allowed to ask them for immigration papers that document their status. Even when an illegal alien is arrested for a crime committed in this country and has no identification, he is not necessarily in danger of deportation under current law. He may very well end up in our correctional facilities, draining the taxpayers of this country even further, without being deported. This is simply not fair to the American taxpayer. This is also not fair to the thousands of prospective legal immigrants waiting their turn to move their families to this country in pursuit of the American Dream.

The families of illegal aliens are burdening an already overtaxed system – schools; subsidized housing; food stamps; welfare; healthcare. These programs are a necessity for Americans who are under privileged and are fighting for survival. They are not meant to be the bail-out for illegals from other countries. Many of these illegals work ‘under the table’ at lower wages than companies would have to pay for documented immigrants or American workers, thus taking jobs away from Americans - who must then rely on the welfare system.

When I realized that the biggest winners in this game were businesses who could save money on their payroll and healthcare costs, it suddenly became clear why President Bush has been so sympathetic to the plight of the illegal alien. The fact that the Republican’s big business buddies are realizing a benefit from this situation, AND the bleeding-heart leaders of the Democratic Party (who want to take care of everybody) can enact programs that make them seem that they care about poor people, makes this an issue with no end in sight.

I don’t apologize for the fact that I don’t seem to have any sympathy for this cause, I’ve witnessed the abuse it creates first hand on the streets of Providence. Many (not all – but many) of these people overtax the government’s resources, AND incredulously, they feel they are entitled to everything they take! The school systems of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket are suffering tremendously because of an overabundance of children of illegals. Some surveys state that the number of children of illegals in these systems could be as much as 22%.

22%!!?? That means that almost one quarter of the children being taught in these systems are here illegally. Most, if not all, of these students are surely being provided free lunch and breakfast. Many of these students are being bused to school. Many of these students are in need of special programs such as English as a second language – not to mention having to be taught other primary subjects in Spanish. All at the taxpayer’s expense!!

I understand how we, as a nation – a state – a community, got caught up in this cycle. We don’t want people in this bountiful country to be forced to go without the advantages of basic services and education - especially the children. There has to be a limit, however. I say we’ve reached the limit when our own kids and our own families suffer because of our desire to help everyone in need. When our children’s futures are jeopardized by a lack of a quality education because the system is overwhelmed. When our families do without because daddy’s hard-earned paycheck is going toward tuition payments to private schools because the neighborhood public school has lost it’s accreditation – or worse yet, is just plain not safe! These are all signs that we’ve gone too far in catering to people who are breaking the law and infringing on our generosity.

The biggest slap in the face, to me, is that many of our own children and loved ones go without proper health care because healthcare insurance is just too expensive. At the same time the families of illegals are covered under various government sponsored programs! How absurd is that!!??!!

$$MONEY$$

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$$MONEY$$


A couple of years ago a man walked into the lobby of Providence’s Public “Safety” Complex with a gun in his pocket. This came at a time when the nation was at “Code Orange” – an elevated state of security. Did I hear someone say how could this possibly happen? I’m glad you asked, because I can answer that question with one word.


$$MONEY$$


Also, a while back there was a firetrap of an old building with over 300 people jammed into a space probably more suited for half that number. This club was operating with the express knowledge of the town officials of West Warwick. At the time this was taking place, there were a ‘total’ of 11 firefighters protecting the entire town – and no paid Firefighter Detail working at the club. How could the town officials allow this to happen?


$$MONEY$$


Recently there was a major fire station in the Garden City section of Cranston that the city was planning to shut down. This was in spite of the fact that the nearest fire stations to this site were over a mile away in either direction. This was also in spite of the fact that this is perhaps the most densely populated area in Cranston, especially during shopping hours. How could any mayor propose such a thing?


$$MONEY$$


Recently the City of Providence has gone through a renaissance. We heard this from the former mayor – we’ve heard this from the present mayor. We’ve added numerous new buildings that attract thousands of additional people to the city each and every day. The Convention Center, the Providence Place Mall, the Westin Hotel, and the Marriott Courtyard, to name a few. PC, Brown University, Johnson & Wales, and RISD all have new additions that continue to draw more people into this city on a daily basis. Not to mention the expansion at Rhode Island Hospital – or the new construction at Waterplace Park and the old Masonic Temple – or the addition of a large upscale housing development behind Providence Place Mall. Did I mention Water Fire?

With all these new developments and the added influx of people this brings to our capitol city, surely the police and fire departments have been staffed with more people and apparatus to maintain the same level of protection each citizen and visitor in Providence received ten years ago. No? How can that be? The mayor is downsizing these critical public safety departments, you say. No way, that can’t be. Really? Why?


$$MONEY$$


Unfortunately, for Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer of West Warwick, and former Mayor Steven Laffey of Cranston, money is the only issue. You see, holding the line on taxes translates into taxpayer loyalty – and votes. This may be the attitude I expect from my accountant, but it’s not the view I expect from the person responsible for my protection. These men, unfortunately for all of us, fill both roles for their constituents.

Each of these men will tell you that their actions, in the incidents mentioned above, never compromised the safety of the public. To each of them, I say “hogwash”! It seems incredulous to me that politicians can continue to make statements that they know are untrue, especially when it comes to public safety – and not be held accountable.

In the incident at the Providence Public Safety Complex it was reported that there was a metal detector packed away somewhere in the building – but no one was exactly sure of its location. The fact is that there had been two metal detectors (still in the cartons at the time of this incident) since the building was opened. Setting up the detectors, however, would require that the city would have to pay an employee to monitor the entrance at all times. The solution? Leave the detectors in the boxes; of course!


$$MONEY$$


In the case of The Station fire, the issue is crystal clear. Many more people died that night than would have if the Town of West Warwick had simply manned their fire apparatus with the NFPA’s (National Fire Protection Agency) suggested minimum standard – 4 firefighters per truck. In West Warwick they (still) man their trucks with 1 or 2 men on each piece of apparatus. Mr. Bauer, the former Town Manager, stated after the fire that additional manpower on the first arriving fire trucks that night wouldn’t have changed the tragic outcome. He further stated that the NFPA standard for staffing on fire apparatus was ridiculous. He bases his statement on a thorough knowledge of the duties and job responsibilities of firefighters by riding the trucks for how many years? Did you say, none? How can he possibly know the business of firefighting better than the NFPA? Oh, he’s a politician – I understand now.

He had to know that these statements were false. He had to know that he was lying to the public on this issue. He also felt, I’m sure, that it was his responsibility to the citizens of West Warwick to protect the town from being held negligent in the protection it provided that night – indeed, every night. That could lead to litigation against the town – and possibly against him personally. This was not the first time in recent memory that lives were lost to fire in this town, where staffing of their fire department was questioned as a contributing factor to the tragic outcome. In 1995, five people perished in a house fire on Highland Street in that town. The issue of staffing was thought, by some, to be a factor in not being able to reach those victims in time. The issue was swept under the carpet by town officials; they maintained their fire apparatus were adequately staffed.

In the case of The Station fire, most of the victims were trapped in the front doorway and the front alcove just behind the doorway. With only 3 firefighters arriving in those first critical minutes, they could do nothing more than the civilians on the scene had already done – try, unsuccessfully, to pull the victims free. The victims were packed together too tightly to be readily removed. If each of the first two fire trucks to arrive had 4 men aboard, there would have been 8 fully equipped firefighters available to rip down the door frame. Once the door frame was out of the way, all 8 of the men could have pulled free the scores of victims trapped there. Many of these victims would have probably survived if they were pulled out quickly enough. Time is always the firefighter’s enemy during the initial stages of an emergency.


$$MONEY$$


In Cranston, the mayor was determined to shut down the Garden City Fire Station despite what it would have done to increase response times for emergency vehicles in his city. The only thing that kept him from succeeding was the terms of the contract between the city and the firefighter’s union. This mayor tried the same tactics against the city’s crossing guards, who were also covered under a union contract. He tried to fire them, in breach of their contract. He knew that there was no legal way for him to succeed, but he challenged them anyway. His contention was that the children didn’t need crossing guards to stay safe – all they needed were “lime green” crosswalks. Lime green crosswalks? Was he kidding? Apparently not, because he had them painted on the city’s streets. The proper way for him to handle that situation would have been to wait until the contract expired. He then could have decided not to renew the pact unless major concessions were made on the union’s part. As usual, this mayor tried to get his way – no matter what the cost in unnecessary legal fees paid by the taxpayers – right away.


$$MONEY$$


In Providence, despite the tremendous growth this city has seen in the past 10 years, there are the same (or less) number of public safety personnel trying to do the job. The out-of-town response to fire department calls has grown to the point of being ridiculous. Just ask Providence’s neighboring cities and towns. There has been a need to ‘stack’ police calls. This means that the dispatchers hold emergency calls until a patrol car is free to respond. This has led to cases of delayed response to many police calls – domestic disturbances, MVA’s, assaults, etc. In some cases, a delay of over an hour!


$$MONEY$$


I firmly believe in fiscal responsibility in government – I’m a taxpayer, too. I’m also a Providence Firefighter. I know what my job responsibilities are, and I know that I can’t perform my tasks adequately alone – or with just one or two additional firefighters on my truck. In order to carry out my responsibilities to the best of my ability, I need to arrive on the scene as part of (at least) a four-man crew. If you live in Providence, your life may depend on it. Firefighters and Policemen are this nation’s, this state’s, this city’s first line of defense.

A message to the politicians of this state - public safety is not the area to cut spending. Find other alternatives. But if you do decide to cut back staffing in your police or fire departments, level with your constituents. Tell them, “I’ve had to make some difficult decisions in order to hold the line on spending. You and your loved ones may not be fully protected in the event of a life-threatening emergency, but you won’t have to pay any additional taxes”.

At least give them the choice!

$$$$$$$$$$$

IGNORANCE IS THE ENEMY

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Ignorance Is the Enemy


Our world is made up of what some call a melting pot – a mixture of many different races, religions, and cultures. In the midst of these groups are further subdivisions – gender, age, education, social status, etc. All these groupings are but a few of the categories that divide us as people - categories that serve to pit us against each other every day of our lives. They remind us that we’re different.

As human beings, we are all different. This should be cause for celebration. We all want to feel like we’re special, after all. But although we are all different, we each also share many common traits with other individuals with whom we have no known association – physical, spiritual, intellectual, etc. While it’s true that we long to be special, we also want to feel like we fit in. This is the paradox of human beings. We long to be unique - but we want to be the same as everyone else.

The familiarity we enjoy being a part of a group with similar characteristics brings us comfort – makes us feel safe. We feel we belong with these people – we understand them because they’re just like us. This is the reason that different nationalities tended to settle in different neighborhoods within the same city when they came to this country in the first place – why different races seemed to find their own unique areas of town to call their own. The more we know about those who surround us, and the more we feel that they are just like us, the safer we feel. This is our ‘safety net’.

We need to come to the realization that we need people who are different than us to arrive at a better balance. The young can gain wisdom from their elders. The minority community can share their experiences during years of oppression with those who have never fallen victim. Members of different religions can discover the common beliefs of their faiths rather than concentrating on the differences. We can truly learn more from people who are different, than we can learn from people who share the same characteristics as us.

There are those, however, who carry the ‘safety net’ concept to an entirely different level. Some of these people regard anyone who is different as the enemy. They want nothing to do with the people they consider unlike themselves. They don’t understand these people’s language, their customs, or their ways of life. These ‘safety net’ people allow their own ignorance to dictate their existence – and thus, the existence of others. Ignorance breeds misunderstanding. Misunderstanding breeds fear. Fear breeds contempt. Contempt breeds hatred - which ultimately triggers violence.

This cycle has been repeated over and over again throughout the course of human history; and it’s bound to be repeated in the future. Our ignorance and our paranoia guarantee it. We can, however, stop this cycle in our own lives. The way to accomplish this is through open-minded education, communication, and experience. Once we understand another human being as an individual, we realize that for all our differences we also share a number of common traits. The recognition of this common ground breeds understanding. Understanding breeds security. Security breeds comfort. Comfort breeds acceptance – which ultimately leads to harmony.

All of us are guilty of some level of prejudice, of bigotry, of bias. We can’t help it, we have been taught this behavior by past generations. It’s our obligation to future generations to eliminate passing it forward. Unfortunately, it’s now the accepted state of our world. Not the ‘politically correct’ world (the world that doesn’t offend anyone at all -that world doesn’t really exist anywhere yet); but rather the real world (the one in which we live). Every group of individuals has a predisposed bias favoring their own group(s) and opposing any group that is different. This type of favoritism is understandable, even commendable, when it relates to family, but it shouldn’t be carried forward to the treatment of one stranger over another.

No single race, gender or religious group has the market cornered on discrimination. We need to accept the fact that we’re only as good as our own character – our own actions. We are not better (or worse) than someone else merely because we’re part of a group. Being a man, or black, or Jewish, or a senior citizen, doesn’t make a person better than someone who’s not.

Being firefighters and police officers, I believe we have a unique opportunity to witness the character (or lack thereof), of people from all walks of life. We serve, and encounter, every ethnic and economic group in our community, many of them during their darkest hours. We can witness first hand that pain and fear make no distinction regarding race, religion or sex – or social or economic standing. There was a movie released this past year titled CRASH. This movie dealt with prejudice and discrimination from many different sources. It, in my opinion, accurately portrayed people’s preconceived biases as one of society’s most common traits!

Ignorance of history dooms us to repeat it. Ignorance about our neighbor influences us to distrust him. Ignorance of our enemies leads us to war. Sometimes our leaders play on our ignorance to direct us in the path they’ve chosen. There are many documented cases where this has happened to nations – the present war in Iraq is a perfect example of this. President Bush and his administration played on our fears and our lack of understanding of the possible link between Osama Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein to garner support for his personal vendetta.

Fortunately for us, the tide seems to be turning – even if ever so slowly. Information is always the key to such changes. The abundance of information readily available to individuals has never been so great as it is at the present time – with 24-hour news channels and the internet being available in virtually every home in America. The young people of the 21st century seem to be much more open minded toward different cultures than previous generations. We can all remember a time (not so long ago) when interfaith marriages or interracial dating were a big deal. Most of the kids today don’t even see these things as unusual, and this is a good thing. Soon America, and the rest of the world, will be a true melting pot.

This interaction between people with different backgrounds spreads understanding of other customs and practices – other points of view. Equal treatment of all people in everyday situations is the key to making this mistrust of each other disappear. This means equal hiring practices, equal enforcement or our laws, and equal opportunity in all aspects of our society. We all seem to forget that our individual actions are as important as the actions of our elected officials – we all can make a difference. After all, public policy will always reflect what the general public demands – even if it seems to change at a snail’s pace. This is especially true at the local level, so don’t be discouraged – let your opinion be heard by your local legislators. Let them know what they’re doing right, as well as what they’re doing wrong.

Let’s all take an active role in eliminating ignorance in our own community – and in our own household.

Stay safe!