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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Violence’

Yesterday was a day for the record books. In a 6 to 3 ruling, the SCOTUS ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, passed when I was a junior in high school, also covers gay and transgender rights. Now, along with the rest of us, the LGBTQ community cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. ANY workplace. HALLELUJAH!

It was a glimmer of light in a desolate spring. Americans have been staying at home, making and wearing masks to protect the must vulnerable among us, giving up our freedom to assemble, to go to restaurants and beauty parlors, and hug our loved ones.

We have witnessed the murder of unarmed, African Americans by a police force operating with impunity for decades. Risking infection from a novel virus, we have marched and protested, demanding change. Americans of all colors and all religious beliefs have said enough is enough. Black people have not had the freedom to drive or walk… without the underlying fear of being attacked.

So now that Title VII is the law of the land, what do evangelical Christians think? Elizabeth Dias writes in the New York Times:

“No question it is going to make it harder to defend our religious freedom, as far as an organization being able to hire people of like mind,” said Franklin Graham, who leads Samaritan’s Purse, a large evangelical relief group.

“I find this to be a very sad day,” he said. “I don’t know how this is going to protect us.”

They want to be able to hire people of, “like mind.” Their “religious freedom” is at stake! I wonder, was this what Norman Rockwell meant when he painted the Four Freedoms? Tucking your child in at night, free of fear? Or was it the profiles of white faces deep in prayer?

Because Black parents today must have “the Talk” with their children about the police. Because White parents today must explain systemic racism to their children. Parents today are buying bullet-proof backpacks in anticipation of schools re-opening in the fall. Because a small number of Americans cannot see fit to give up their “freedom” to own assault rifles. Because some even marched into a statehouse, guns strapped to their backs, because these same “Freedom Loving” people didn’t like wearing masks!

Their freedom was at stake because of a cloth covering their nose and mouth.

Yesterday, the light did shine through a very big crack in our society. Bigger than the Liberty Bell. Maybe the intersection of gun violence and racism will finally be addressed by legislators saying NO to the NRA. Maybe the majority of Americans will be able to stop living in fear, and will practice their religion where it belongs – in a church, mosque, temple or their home.

Today is not a sad day. In fact, today is Great Grandma Ada’s 96th birthday and we will celebrate her as best we can, through the glass in the vestibule.

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Calls for racial justice and defunding of the police are a constant across our country. Old, arthritic knees of legislators knelt on marble floors in our Capitol for nearly nine minutes yesterday. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the exact amount of time Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd. If only restructuring and dismantling militarized police departments could fix hundreds of years of racism – in real estate, in schools, in medicine, in the very fabric of our existence.

No, it can’t, But it’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. Read “Just Mercy; a Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson.  https://justmercy.eji.org/  And maybe watch the film, with Jamie Fox. It’s streaming free this month https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/stream-just-mercy-free-june-180975044/

I first met Stevenson back in Charlottesville, VA in 2016. His lecture introduced the idea of taking down a Robert E Lee statue near the courthouse – the same supposed reason a bunch of neo-Nazi, “Unite the Right” zealots decided to march on Cville the following year.  A mostly White audience wasn’t buying it; in fact, that statue is still standing. He warned us, “We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”  https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

This is what Stevenson had to say in a recent interview about police brutality:

“Now, the police are an extension of our larger society, and, when we try to disconnect them from the justice system and the lawmakers and the policymakers, we don’t accurately get at it. The history of this country, when it comes to racial justice and social justice, unlike what we do in other areas, is, like, O.K., it’s 1865, we won’t enslave you and traffic you anymore, and they were forced to make that agreement. And then, after a half century of mob lynching, it’s, like, O.K., we won’t allow the mobs to pull you out of the jail and lynch you anymore. And that came after pressure. And then it was, O.K., we won’t legally block you from voting, and legally prevent you from going into restaurants and public accommodations.

But at no point was there an acknowledgement that we were wrong and we are sorry. It was always compelled, by the Union Army, by international pressure, by the federal courts, and that dynamic has meant that there is no more remorse or regret or consciousness of wrongdoing. The police don’t think they did anything wrong over the past fifty or sixty years. And so, in that respect, we have created a culture that allows our police departments to see themselves as agents of control, and that culture has to shift. And this goes beyond the dynamics of race. We have created a culture where police officers think of themselves as warriors, not guardians.”    https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/bryan-stevenson-on-the-frustration-behind-the-george-floyd-protests

IF we can transform a police culture from warrior mode into guardian mode, what else could we do? Can we spend the same amount of money on a student’s education, no matter where they live? Some towns see nearly half their budgets go toward policing, and they argue over school budgets. This is truly a function of what we value as a society. Do we want every child in America to reach their full potential, or only the rich and well connected? Should every town have a tank and a SWAT team?

I feel like we are in the midst of a great constellation of events. 2020 went like:

  • I wanted to work to elect gun sense politicians, and evict Mr T from the White House. But we got slammed by a tornado, our neighborhood was torn apart.
  • Then we came under the spell of a deadly virus, a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen. We became hermits. Bob started baking bread, we both started making masks.
  • And now George Floyd and his killer cop have changed the narrative, having an almost nine minute video of a murder in broad daylight brought racial injustice home. People of all shades of color did not, could not turn away.

Yes our gun culture intersects with racism. Both are real public health emergencies, capable of killing so many Americans, just like a virus. A virus, as it turns out, will seize the opportunity to infect more poor people. More African Americans, more Latinos. People without the means to stay isolated, people who must work delivering box upon box to the rich people.

A virus likes nothing better than a population that can forget, people with short-term memory loss. It can easily spread its tentacles, just like gun violence, killing without remorse. Imagine voting down a gun sense bill, an assault weapon ban, after 20 children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook.

We cannot defeat a virus or change our gun culture without addressing racism. And our racist president would like us to think it’s all about “law and order.” But it’s about our history. Our tortured history of Jim Crow and Reconstruction, it’s about red-lining voting districts and voter suppression laws, and so much more.

Racism would like us to forget our history, but in fact, we must confront it.

This is our chance, this intersection of public health emergencies, to create a more just and peaceful society. What will you do, which side of history will you be on? Don’t turn away.

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A disaster happened when Bob and I first went to Vegas. It was December 10, 1992. I remember thinking I wanted to see the big rodeo that was happening right outside of town. I loved riding horses in summer camp and didn’t really gamble, and Bob doesn’t drink, so what’s to do? Plus, the big shows were mostly still in development. I had tagged along last minute for a 4 day medical conference and we had arranged for Bob’s secretary to mind the kids back home on the Jersey Shore.

When we woke up the next morning to a reporter on TV standing in floodwaters above his knees in Sea Bright, NJ, I started to panic. Our home was in Rumson, right across the drawbridge from that sand spit scattered with beach clubs and bars. The Shore was being pounded by a so-called “No Name Storm” because nobody saw it coming. We got through to the babysitter. She told us the painters had left? We had a group of Irish guys still painting the finished kitchen renovation and family room… we had just moved into the MidCentury Modern house in September.

“…the strong northeast portion of the nor’easter affected New Jersey for several days,[5] producing strong winds and record high tides.[14] Wind gusts reached 80 mph (130 km/h) in Cape May, which were the strongest winds in association with the storm. Sustained winds were around 30 mph (48 km/h) in the region.[2] High winds in Atlantic City destroyed the windows of storefronts.[15] Along the Jersey coast, the nor’easter produced waves of up to 25 ft (7.6 m) in height.[2] About 25 mi (40 km) offshore Long Branch, waves reached heights of 44 ft (13 m).[“

But it wasn’t the waves that worried us, it was the high tide that came right into our house from the Shrewsbury River. This was the 100 year flood our realtor had told us about and luckily we had flood insurance. But I wasn’t worrying about the house, I wanted to get back to my children, the Bride was 13 and the Rocker was 8. All of the NY Metro area airports were closed.

You can see why I have mixed feelings about Vegas. Most of you know the rest of this story – the fireman friend who rescued the kids, the reunion a few days later when flights started up again. We returned to Vegas once, after the kids were grown, and I still felt slightly disoriented. The fake Eiffel Tower. The huge Cirque du Soleil shows. We managed to stay at Mandalay Bay where you could sit on a fake beach. My only respite was booking a Canyon Ranch spa day.

I was thinking about the Mandalay Bay during the disastrous Democratic debate this week in Vegas. It sits at the far end of the Strip, and was the epicenter of one of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history; 58 people killed and 850 injured at a country music festival. In September of 2017, JUST 3 YEARS AGO, a 64 year old maniac checked into that hotel with a garrison of weapons (23 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition) and because he was such a good customer, the hotel gave him his room for free. https://www.businessinsider.com/timeline-shows-exactly-how-the-las-vegas-massacre-unfolded-2018-9

One of the candidates mentioned, in an aside, that Bernie had been protecting gun manufacturers, but it was immediately glossed over. Was it Biden? Why didn’t the moderators manage to bring up this public health epidemic that kills 100 people a day in this country…how can you talk about healthcare and NOT go there?

Soon we will know what Nevada thinks about the front-runners. Did Elizabeth resurrect her campaign by going after the Trump stand-in (Bloomberg)? Is Mayor Pete actually relatable and not an automaton? Do you think Bernie, an angry, old man, can beat Trump? And did Amy seal her fate by trying to speak in Spanish? I don’t have to have a beer with somebody to know if they’re authentic, smart and competent.

When flood waters rush in, I only have to know if you’ll be there with sand bags, and hot chocolate.  IMG_7182

 

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“Where the wind comes sweepin down the plain.” That Rogers and Hammerstein musical was my first taste of show biz. I was new to public school and new to ninth grade, so naturally I tried out for the school play! My first boyfriend was a drummer in the orchestra; a nice, Irish Catholic boy who gave the Flapper the impression he would watch out for me after school at rehearsals…

I’ve thought about the theme behind the play many times, about how the farmers and the cowboys can’t really be friends. About building walls and fences to keep certain people out, and certain people in. It’s about conflict with a capital C, and are we going to blame others for our problems or try to cooperatively fix things – “Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom. Plenty of air and plenty of room. Plenty of room to swing a rope!”

Well, states’ AGs have decided to treat our country’s big problem, the opioid epidemic and our addiction to pain-killers, in the same way they treated our addiction to nicotine – by blaming corporations. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson lost their landmark opioid trial and was ordered to pay $572 Million to the Sooner State.

Surprisingly J&J stock went up, because the decision fell far short of the 17 Billion judgement the OK state was asking for – from the New York Times:

“In his ruling, he (the judge) wrote that Johnson & Johnson had promulgated “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” that had “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths” and babies born exposed to opioids.

Johnson & Johnson, which contracted with poppy growers in Tasmania, supplied 60 percent of the opiate ingredients that drug companies used for opioids like oxycodone, the state argued, and aggressively marketed opioids to doctors and patients as safe and effective. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, made its own opioids — a pill whose rights it sold in 2015, and a fentanyl patch that it still produces.”

Bob tells me that it’s kind of difficult to abuse a patch. But what made me chuckle just a little was the actual law on the books the judge used to cite his landmark decision, the “Public Nuisance” law! 

What constitutes a public nuisance, one might ask? This law is the bread and butter of local government: you let your lawn grow into wildflowers till it overtakes the sidewalk; you play your music too loud and for too long; or more broadly, you act (or fail to act) on something that endangers an entire community.

In 2017, 117 people died in Nashville due to overdoses, though it’s hard to find out if the drug was pushed via needle or via mouth. For some reason the TN death rate due to drugs has been going up every year: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2019/07/19/opioid-crisis-tennessee-overdose-deaths-climbing-heroin-fentanyl-meth/1550137001/

I’m wondering why a smart AG shouldn’t treat gun violence with the same strategy? How many people were killed with guns in your community last year?

Why not go after Sturm Ruger or Smith & Wesson also known as American Outdoor Brands? Allowing people to walk around town brandishing an assault weapon, even though they managed to get an “open-carry permit,” might also fit into this “Public Nuisance” category. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/04/can-you-guess-the-biggest-gunmaker-in-the-us.aspx

After all, gun deaths are on the rise. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gun-death-statistics-cdc-study-says-gun-deaths-are-on-the-rise-after-years-of-decline/ While drug deaths due to prescription opioids have been going down in most states (exception TN), albeit deaths due to fentanyl laced cocaine and meth have been going up. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/its-not-just-opioids-deaths-from-cocaine-and-meth-are-surging

I remember when Rumson passed a Noise Ordinance law, though I’m not sure how they managed to enforce it. Mostly driven by extremely early sounds of lawn maintenance equipment on the weekends; the Wall Street traders in town wanted to sleep in, while the townies who did their own lawns wanted an early start. It’s always the cowboys and the farmers.

This was me at 15, rather a drawing my big sister Kay did of me as a Can-Can girl in Oklahoma.

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It’s been a helluva week, played out on the national stage but also on our Music City stage. The body of Debra Johnson was transported back to her home in Nashville yesterday; she was the warden of the state penitentiary, who was raped and murdered in her house on the prison grounds. The manhunt for her killer, Curtis Ray Watson, has been all over the local news for 4 days. He was last seen riding a tractor in her yard – it was a minimum security place and he supposedly had “privileges.”

Only in Tennessee would the getaway vehicle be a tractor.

Since Bob’s been traveling, I’ve been extra cautious walking the dog at night. Our little farmhouse sits on the outskirts of the main drag, away from restaurants and nightlife. But it’s not just wondering where Watson could be hiding, I’ve had some serious social media threats since I posted something about how we might try regulating guns the way our government likes to regulate a woman’s body. Silly, sarcastic me.

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I’ve since been told this was not a Steinem quote, but it should have been! This does not seem like a time to sit on the fence. You are either OK with our country’s fascination with weapons of war, with young white men (for the most part, cause just let a black or a brown guy try that shit) being able to carry these guns all around town showing off their “manhood,” with separating families at our border, keeping people in cages, and raiding their workplace leaving their children waiting at school, wondering if they will ever see them again.

You are either OK with this, or you are not. Silence and indifference is not an option either.

The Bride sent me an article about how more than half of the mass murderers we’ve seen since we started tracking them back in 1966 have basically 2 things in common. You know what the first is – GUNS. But can you guess the second? It’s a hatred, a vile hatred of women. Yessir, misogyny rears its ugly head. “A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women,” by Bosman, Taylor, and Arango.

“The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them — other than access to powerful firearms — is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online”

My good friend Bess told me that very thing last year while we were in Italy. She works at a shelter for abused women, and she personally understands how and why a woman might end up fleeing a relationship and fighting for her life.

We both went off to Boston for college in 1966, but she ended up in a cult. The man who persuaded her to sell newspapers on the street eventually ended up controlling every aspect of her life. Bess was my hero in high school, she was the smartest girl in our gang. I never understood how this had happened to her until we talked one night in Tuscany.

Her daughter Gwen is a talented screenwriter who was returned to her mother after Bess finally fled the cult, at first resenting being separated from the only family she had ever known. Gwen’s movie, “Charlie Says,” about the Manson girls, was released this Spring: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759744/

Gwen wrote about growing up in a cult for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/my-childhood-in-a-cult

“Where are you from?” For most people, this is a casual social question. For me, it’s an exceptionally loaded one, and demands either a lie or my glossing over facts, because the real answer goes something like this: “I grew up on compounds in Kansas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard, often travelling in five-vehicle caravans across the country from one location to the next. My reality included LSD, government cheese, and a repurposed school bus with the words ‘Venus or Bust’ painted on both sides.” And that, while completely factual, is hard to believe, and sounds like a cry for attention. So I usually just say, “Upstate New York.”

In the spirit of peace and love, and the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I’d just like to say if you didn’t live through the 60s you may not understand. We young people were embittered and embattled by an unjust war, our leaders were being mowed down by guns, and the second wave of feminism was just getting started. Some of us burned our bras and got birth control. While some of us were trying hard just to tread water while not making any waves.

Guess what?! They caught Curtis Watson today. He was hiding out in Henning, TN near the prison. When the Senate is back in session and they want to talk about anything other than an assault weapon ban, let’s pressure them to talk about red flag laws, and in particular guys who have been arrested or dishonorably discharged because of domestic abuse. “Federal law prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes, and some abusers who are subject to protective orders, from buying or owning guns. BUT there are many loopholes, and women in relationships who are not married to, do not live with, or have children with their abusers receive no protection. Federal law also does not provide a mechanism for actually removing guns from abusers.” 

Loopholes like the one in the Sutherland Springs massacre, where the Air Force didn’t report the shooter’s domestic violence history. Please read this article, it is eye-opening.

 

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Last night was a magical, musical night. It started with a moment of silence for the victims in El Paso and Dayton. Someone in the crowd – all Democrats there to support our Rabbi’s husband, James Mackler for Senate, a young lawyer and ex-fighter pilot – yelled out, “Don’t forget California!” The Garlic Festival in Gilroy the weekend before, do you remember?

Singer songwriter Mary Gauthier started off the evening talking about working with the wives and girlfriends of our enlisted men, the families left behind when they are sent off to fight overseas. They don’t wait by the phone, they take over and carry the emotional weight of their loved one’s service. Her lyrics brought tears to my eyes:

“Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war
Land mines in the living room eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out the window as our dreams go down the drain
Invisible, the war after the war”

It was an Air Force Veteran, a man who had a history of abusing his wife, who opened
fire at a church only a year and a half ago in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Remember him, he was chased down by a passer-by in his car before shooting himself. A pregnant woman died in the carnage, along with several children. He killed 26 people in total before turning the AR-556 on himself.

Sutherland Springs still holds the gruesome record for mass shootings in Texas; the death toll has risen from 19 to 22 in El Paso.

Emmy Lou Harris took the stage and talked about her Father, who had enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He was one of the lucky ones who came home from WWII, married his sweetheart and shielded his family from the real cost of service to our country. The wounded warriors who carry on, working and raising a family, who never pick up a gun again.

“EmmaLou” started off by joining Mary in the chorus to “Mercy Now.” Years ago in a TED lecture Mary said: “Trauma goes deeper than words, but music can get into those places.” 

Yesterday Mr T said, “”Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun.” I read about his words because I cannot bear to listen to him speak. Instead I walked the Grand Dogs. But really Mr President? Do you think we have more mental illness in this country than say France or Britain or Australia? Do we have more hate?? The charts in this BBC article will help: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081

GUNS kill people Mr President, and we ALL have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it! You must think the American people are stupid! Let’s take the Senate and start with that background check bill languishing at Mitch’s feet. Let’s ban assault rifles, nobody would shoot a deer with one of those things. We may have reached a tipping point.

EmmaLou ended the evening with John Lennon’s, “Imagine.” Let’s start dreaming we can fix this gun-drenched nightmare once and for all. And let’s get to work registering new voters!

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Remember that slogan? Some Mad Man thought it up in 1969, and it has since crossed over into our collective history as one of the most iconic ad campaigns. Coming on the heels of the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving v Virginia, that ruled “anti-miscegenation” statutes are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, it seems fitting.

In other words, Love is Love and if you wanted to marry someone of a different race, that was your right!

The Bride is the reason we moved to Virginia. We built our “Not Sooo Big” house, she married her Anatomy partner, and this weekend they are both back in Virginia at the Groom’s brother’s wedding. The Love Bug is a Flower Girl, and L’il Pumpkin is looking oh so suave in his tux with the fish taco bowtie! Big Dan is getting married and I couldn’t be happier, especially when my cell dings and I get another picture!

But happening in the midst of their joy, in Virginia Beach, twelve people lost their lives, because a man could purchase “legally” as many guns as he wanted to walk into a building and shoot his co-workers.

I cannot watch the news coverage. I cannot listen to journalists try to figure out the murderer’s motivation. Or tell us how courageous the police force was… because this is INSANE.

I was in Virginia Beach when the Rocker was playing at a bar with the Parlor Mob. I drove from Cville, picked up my younger cousin Beth in Richmond, and we had a Girl’s Night! It was the first time I saw the Rocker play a keyboard and dance a little. The Bride studied and worked in VA Beach at Planned Parenthood, before she applied to all the VA medical schools. Bob has flown into that airport many times.

We were sick the weekend we moved to Nashville, when white supremacists marched on UVA’s Lawn. We love Virginia.

Life is often like this, periods of intense joy punctuated by sorrow. While the Bride was marrying her Groom on a mountain overlooking Monticello, our good friend’s mother was dying. He didn’t tell us that night. But she was over 90 – she didn’t just show up at work and not come home.

Nearly 100 people are shot and killed in this country every single day….what is the definition of crazy?

You expect change, yet you do nothing. Vote the GOP out of office. Work for comprehensive gun control. DO something, join Moms Demand Action https://momsdemandaction.org/, contribute to the ACLU https://www.aclu.org/, because it’s only a matter of time. We are habituated to gun violence, it’s our greatest national sin.

Here is Uncle Dan and Aunt Natalie today in Virginia, with two flower girls and a ring bearer in a fish taco tie, for an extra measure of Love. Congratulations to the newly married couple.

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This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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In another life I used to sew. I would make tiny elephants to string across a new baby’s crib in different grey textures and patterns. You know the mom who made her kid’s Halloween costumes? That was me.

But I really loved to quilt; and not with some computer controlled techy machine. No, no it was the 80s after all. I liked to sit with fabric in hand and stitch pinwheels, Dresden plates, sunbonnet sue and double wedding ring patterns.

My friend Jean told me her favorite quilt was the log cabin. She graciously agreed to tag along with me last weekend when the rain ended to Music City Center for the Modern Quilt Guild’s Annual QUILTCON! Little did I know that this international retreat and conference of all things quilted is an epic event. There were over 500 gorgeous, contemporary juried quilts on display and dozens of vendors. It was a feast for the eyes!

We happened to meet one of the designers right in front of her quilt – a triptych of postcard-sized rectangles in white with bold black lines. Jean and I both had the same idea, “I could do this!” It’s manageable, piecework, something small you could travel with easily that finishes large. A statement. Then we turned the corner…

A huge red quilt with a barbed wire fence coursing through the lower half. Two outstretched arms, one above and one slightly smaller below, told me this was about immigration. I saw the letters instantly, red thread on red fabric: SHAME, and I knew this quilt was referencing Mr T’s family separation policy.

Art is supposed to do this to you. Hit you in the gut and open your eyes. The word “Shame” was hidden in plain sight, in fact some people didn’t see it. Some say shame is a worthless, destructive emotion. Brene Brown says that shame is all about the self, while guilt is more about our behavior; “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

I would posit that shame and guilt can occur at the same time, and in fact are necessary for a society to function. Seeing graphic images of children being separated from their parents at the border was enough to end this heinous policy. What kind of monster tells him/herself that a parent deserves to lose their child for wanting a better life?

The GOP might benefit from a collective dose of shame at the latest hijinks of their leader proclaiming a state of emergency over a border wall that nobody wants! The House will surely vote today to end this, but will the Senate have the will? Can Lindsay Graham actually feel shame? Or is it only theatrical indignation that stirs him to action over a frat boy’s beer-guzzling past.

Certainly not losing 90+ souls a day to gun violence.

Oh no, wait, at least one of Mr T’s architects certainly feels shame. Paul Manafort’s lawyer petitioned the judge today before sentencing and – “…insisted that Mr. Manafort was not only deeply remorseful, but “has suffered almost unprecedented public shame” for what they called garden-variety offenses.”

Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years for his garden variety of felonies that he pleaded guilty to, only he actually DID seem remorseful, as in he may have a conscience after all. His shame seems to have been personal, and not just public.

I found a unicorn pattern at Quiltcon for the Love Bug and a taco truck template for the L’il Pumpkin. My fingers are itchy to start stitching again!

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It’s the happiest season of all, right? But what to do if you’re not Christian, or even a lapsed-Catholic or Christian-light, or maybe Jewish or Muslim? Well, child psychologists can always tell us what to do, and lately they’ve been taking all the fun out of December.

First it was, teach your kids they don’t have to hug Aunt Fannie – that relative you see maybe once or twice a year who insists on a hug and a kiss. And now, we are being told to spill the goods on Santa – don’t lie to your kids about Santa!

“Do you believe in Santa Claus Mommy?” the Love Bug asked my daughter in the car the other day. Why do they always come up with such earth-shattering questions in the car? Of course I wanted to know what she said, but the Bride only said she stalled, making me feel like somehow I’d failed. Because even though Bob and I were raising our children in the Jewish faith, I never gave up on Santa Claus

I mean I didn’t leave him milk and cookies. We didn’t have any naughty elves sneaking around our bookshelves. There were no blinking trees in our living room either. And they never knew when Santa would arrive, silently gliding down our chimney – it might happen during Hannukah, or maybe on Christmas morning. But I felt it viscerally, that memory of a big, kind guy in a red suit visiting children all over the world to fulfill their wishes. And I wanted to keep that magic alive in my family.

But according to this BBC article, if a child is old enough to ask about Santa, they are old enough for the truth. No, Virginia, there is nobody.

“You shouldn’t lie about Santa because you are encouraging your children, usually with made-up proof, to believe a morally ambiguous lie. I’m not alone in being devastated learning of my parents’ elaborate deceit about Santa, leaving me to wonder what other lies they had told.

Santa supposedly encourages imagination but, as noted in this article, and others, you’re really asking children to suspend criticality and believe a fiction. As this piece suggests, fantasy and imagination work because we choose to believe what we know isn’t true. Far from promoting wonder, the Santa story encourages children to be consumers of others’ ideas.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181211-why-you-shouldnt-lie-to-your-children-about-santa

Today is the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School. Those children, who were the same age as my grand daughter, will never have the chance to ask about Santa Claus. They will never go caroling again with their parents. When our government failed to pass any meaningful gun control legislation after that, long before Sandy Hook, I lost my faith again. Only this time, it was with our country.

Last night we read about a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and exhaustion at the border of New Mexico. She was in OUR custody with her father for more than 8 hours before seizures began. This actually happened last week, according to the Washington Post:

“The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.”  

So maybe we should tell our kids the truth, always. Because buying into a fairy tale, quasi-religious belief that leaves Mrs Claus at home in the North Pole while her husband gets all the credit for one night’s work does seem antiquated. Maybe we must be brutally honest with ourselves first. And not expect falsehhoods to turn into facts simply because a great, orange-headed beast keeps repeating them…

It’s almost like selling someone a bill of goods about fossil fuels, and promising to fulfill all your wishes, just because you have your name on a few buildings.

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