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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Violence’

“We are now so interdependent that it is in our own interest to take the whole of humanity into account.” Dalai Lama

This week was enough to make all of us cry. First in Baton Rouge, a man selling CDs on a sidewalk named Alton Sterling was thrown to the ground and shot point blank by a policeman. His crime? Carrying a gun while Black. It is all on YouTube thanks to a cell phone video. Then in my brothers’ home state of MN, another Black man was killed by a cop, and another cell phone video went live, so people on Facebook could watch Philandro Castile take his last breath while his girlfriend tells the officer, “You shot four bullets into him sir!” His crime was a broken tail light, and the audacity to tell the police he was licensed to carry a gun, while reaching for his wallet.

When a Black sniper in Dallas, an Army veteran,  decided to take vengeance into his own hands, we all thought this is it. Something has got to give, we cannot sustain our country by buying guns and living behind gates, by living in fear of the “Other.” And for a split second it did seem as if the Red and Blue was weaving itself back together again. But it didn’t last.

When I met a woman from Dallas at a memorial service on Friday, we touched on the troubles. I was truly grieving, so much senseless loss. And she said, “What about Black on Black crime?” and her daughter took her elbow, cautioning her to be careful what she said….I wasn’t sure where she was going. But from the younger woman’s reaction I knew it would be bad.

When White people talk about “Black on Black crime,” it’s like saying all Mexicans are rapists. It’s code for an underlying bigotry; don’t trust them, they’re gangsta. When I taught Head Start in the projects of Jersey City, I remember people calling it a ghetto. The word ghetto actually comes from the pogroms in Russia – it is Yiddish and means: an organized persecution or extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews.

When White people say, “Castile was doing everything right,” what that means is he was licensed to carry a gun, he had a good job, he wasn’t selling cigarettes or CDs on the street. He bought the American Dream, he didn’t have to hustle, he worked at a Montessori school for f-sake. And he had a fiancee and a baby girl in the back seat. He lived in a fairly progressive part of the country, but that couldn’t save him from a terrified cop with a gun. And the underlying message?

Since Castile was doing right, all those other unarmed Black men must have been doing something wrong!

safe_image.phpWhen the President compared the Black Dallas shooter to the Neo-Nazi White shooter in Charleston he was making a valid point. There is not much we can do to predict which mentally ill young man will wake up one day and decide to take out a number of people based on race or ridiculous ideology. Why is the gunman of one crime a lone wolf, while another morphs into a terrorist?

Today, social media is turning the tide around these issues. We can no longer ignore a militarized police force. We must witness the mass murder of police in the middle of a non-violent protest march. We are teaching our children to shelter in closets in our schools, because the right to bear arms is so precious to us.

We will always have a few bad cops. And we will always have the mentally ill. The flint to this combustible mixture is the gun, and God help us, if our legislators cannot regulate guns in this country, we may run out of hope. Because racism can be cured; racism needs to be taught, and we as a people can decide to stop teaching hate to our children.

The whole world is watching.IMG_4812

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After touching on a woman’s anger in the book “Fates and Furies,” I thought long and hard about my own PDAs (public displays of anger). Remember I went to Catholic school, where any display of emotion was well squelched out of us. The nuns wanted us to walk humbly before God, in our little plaid uniforms. Good advice, except all the boys didn’t seem to care what the nuns wanted.

In the 1970s women’s liberation caught up with me. I had found my voice, and like most newbies it needed refining. I couldn’t wait for some unsuspecting vacuum cleaner salesman to ring my door bell so I could practice saying, “NO!” After all, Meghan Trainor wasn’t even born yet; can you tell I love her new song. NO?

My name is NO my sign is NO my number is NO

When did we lose that stubborn two year old temper? This morning it seemed like fate (Ha) when my Lenny email arrived – “Women Have Anger” by Casey Wilson.

I’ve realized that anger doesn’t seem to be as palatable on a woman as it is on a man. And I’m angry about that. I’m angry at women who can’t access their anger, or who cover it by masquerading as little sweeties, or those who display it and are off-putting. Which are all versions of myself I have spent my life trying to wrangle and negotiate.

Even as I acknowledged that there’s a degree of sexism in the way the world treats an angry woman, as I got older, I started realizing my outbursts were causing real problems. For starters, I lost a lot of phones. Whenever I would feel a flash of white-hot rage overtake me, my first impulse was always the same. To throw my phone. My phone! My very lifeblood! No available slab of drywall was safe.

I never threw my phone, I was more about throwing a well-placed F bomb at someone. But speaking of drywall, I currently have between three and six guys running around my house finishing the basement and fixing drywall tears, and spackling and hammering and vacuuming. The noise is enough to make you weep. That is, when I’m not all super angry bird about the four gun violence bills that were (excuse the pun) shot down in the Senate yesterday. I am pretty hot under my collar at the moment. The good thing is we may have reached a tipping point, so strike while the iron is hot ladies. How could the Senate decide terrorists deserve to have their guns, while they don’t allow any guns or knitting needles on the floor of their esteemed body? Nope, not even if you have a concealed carry license…or an unfinished sweater sleeve.

Call. Text. Write. Walk on Washington. Do anything to get your legislators’ attention. Get angry people.This is righteous anger. Nobody needs an assault weapon to hunt, everybody wants to expand background checks so terrorists and maniacs can’t get their hands on a gun. The American people are mad as hell, and come November I would be very surprised to see those GOP members who voted against sanity yesterday return to the Hill.

This afternoon, two women Senators got together to put forward a bipartisan proposal to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. They held a news conference and they had a tag line – “No Fly? No Buy.” Our very own VA Senator, Democrat Tim Kaine was a part of the new bill and may be considered as a running mate for Hillary. Will they be able to reach a compromise before November? Or is this system as broken as I think it is?

Remind me to tell you the story of my knitting needles in Heathrow Airpot. Maybe I should keep a pair of needles in my glove compartment, after all, we ladies don’t wear gloves anymore. It’s time for a new generation to come out and vote, to just say NO and take up the gauntlet, to repair democracy. The days are getting shorter.   IMG_4727

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It’s ironic isn’t it, that my last post was titled “No News?” When we came through customs at Kennedy Airport, we re-emerged in our country, so happy to be home. To sleep in our own bed, to talk with the kids, to pet the pup! Our mountains compare well with the foothills of the Alps after all. Now don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed the Viking cruise from Budapest to Passau on the Danube. And surprisingly, my country/farm/boy, who usually hates big cities, loved Prague.

But I couldn’t believe my eyes after we found the departure gate to Dulles. Our journey home started at 3am Czech time. Viking had to reroute us through Amsterdam instead of Paris because of the Air France strike. We flew KLM from Prague to Amsterdam to NYC finally…only a three hour stopover until our connection to DC. Then a two hour drive to central VA. So I thought it was jet lag when I looked up at a TV monitor in Kennedy, the CNN screen had pictures of a Voice contestant that I loved, Christina Grimme, a hometown girl from Southern Jersey. And the scroll said she’d been murdered in Orlando.

She was so young and talented, signing autographs. My heart broke for her family and friends. And then the next day, we awoke to another horrific attack in Orlando, a mass murder at a gay nightclub, Pulse. After ten days in Europe, our return seemed surreal. Was this a trick? The wonderful, magical world of Disney that I knew and loved as a child, with Tinkerbell sprinkling magic dust on our black and white TV screens, must have been a century ago.

I’m so sick of the media deluge, asking victims how they feel, asking Hillary to say “Islamic Terrorism.” When will our country wake up?

Not after a madman shoots up a college or an elementary school, certainly not. Does it really matter if it’s a white, neo-Nazi in Charleston targeting a Black church, or an Arab  Muslim born and bred here targeting a gay nightclub in FL? Terror is terror. Our legislators hands are dripping with the blood of 33,000 gun violence victims every year. Most of them, 64% are suicides; people who may have been saved if a gun wasn’t within reach at a certain point in time.

On an average day, 91 Americans are killed with guns. And our murder rate is more than 25 times the average of other developed countries. https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

Twenty-five times. Because in Eastern Europe, where terror reigned supreme during the first half of the last century, it’s not so easy to buy a gun. First of all, there are no hand guns or assault weapons for private citizens, none. Why do we need these? That officer was a “good guy with a gun” inside Pulse, but he couldn’t stop that bad guy with an AR-15 and a pistol.

In Europe, if you want to hunt you must apply for a license to own a hunting rifle, twice! Two separate applications and then have a note from your physician, and THEN actually meet with a psychiatrist! 

Please don’t tell me it’s our mental health system, because I agree it needs some work. And please don’t tell me that if everybody had a gun we’d all be safer because that’s ridiculous nonsense. I won’t bother to read Trump’s narcissistic inane Tweets either, this is not a partisan fight. And my interpretation of the 2nd amendment is the National Guard, not the NRA. If a guy who had a record of abusing his ex-wife, and was interrogated by the FBI TWICE, could legally purchase an assault rifle and a handgun on the same day, any sane person should be asking themselves why?

Bob Iger, Disney CEO released a statement on the shooting: “We are all heartbroken by the tragic and horrific events in Orlando, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to everyone in our community affected by this senseless act.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/disney-seaworld-respond-orlando-shooting-901897

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Voting for Hillary might just help, and calling your legislators, to let them know the tide is turning. Let’s start with banning assault weapons, again, and how about a background check, and go from there; it’s time for our legislators to wash their hands or vote them out of office. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/ban-ar-15-civilian-ownership

And let’s all go to Disney World! Can you see the skeleton nodding his head in agreement on Prague’s astronomical clock?IMG_4639

 

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Last night I ventured out into the rolling hills of Albemarle County to attend a cocktail/get-together/girl-fest at an old friend’s farm. It was billed as a “Squeeze,” to reference a term associated with Dolley Madison.

With an astute sense of purpose and considerable charm, Dolley Madison navigated the waters of Washington society in an unprecedented way. She brought together disparate groups of politicians, diplomats, and local residents in a social setting. Weekly parties, called “Wednesday drawing rooms,” or “Mrs. Madison’s crush or squeeze,” provided a relaxed atmosphere for politicking and mingling. With no invitation required, these parties sometimes attracted four hundred guests. Some individuals who rarely associated with one another found themselves together at the White House. Even a boycott by President Madison’s opposition party, the Federalists, fizzled when members realized there was no political advantage to staying away.  http://www.whitehousehistory.org/teacher-resources/saving-history-dolley-madison-the-white-house-and-the-war-of-1812

I met a past Mayor of Charlottesville, an art and fashion historian, and the woman who ran the county’s social service network for thirty years. I talked with a lovely young woman who coordinates Planned Parenthood’s educational initiatives. It was an incredible evening jam-packed with energy, enthusiasm and best of all, fun.

Since I knew I was among “my People,” I asked almost everyone one important question – Hillary or Bernie? And I must say that Bernie was winning in my anecdotal poll. His approach to politics hasn’t changed; he’s deliberate and determined, much more progressive than Hillary. And they all liked his wife, who kind of reminds me of Dolley.

So while Planned Parenthood put their considerable support behind Hillary, and the President was in NOVA schooling the nation about guns at a Town Hall meeting, Trump was vowing to get rid of gun-free school zones. I was dumbstruck!

At least this will be an election year where the stakes are very clear. Would you like the NRA to continue influencing public policy? How about writing bills according to one’s religion? Or would you rather elect someone with integrity, someone who won’t mock disabled people. Someone who actually believes in science?

I’ve been thinking about Dolley this morning. She was thrown out of her Quaker religion for marrying outside her faith and never looked back. She and President Madison retired right up the road apace at Montpelier. Her reputation was secured in 1812, when was brave enough to stay at the White House while the British advanced, saving many of the nation’s art treasures, including that famous portrait of Washington. But it was that indescribable something that set her apart, her “joie de vivre.”  Her …”social skills, charm and personal popularity to win over her husband’s political opponents and help advance his career.”

Dr Jim always says it’s personality that can cog up the works in any business. But it’s also personality that can help a system as big as the federal government run smoothly. Above all else, we need another Dolley (or the male equivalent) to get our legislators talking and in the same room, if not on the same page. A civil discourse, is it too much to expect?     IMG_3722

 

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The news coverage jumps around every few days, every year, for mass shootings from Connecticut to Colorado to California; the BBC covers our big events as if it’s just another routine day in the life of our nation. And inbetween, every day 90 people are shot on the streets of small towns and big cities all over our country. Mostly suicides, some crimes of passion, gang violence, and always the occasional “accidental shooting.” A toddler shoots his baby brother. A child shoots his friend.

And for some reason I can’t forget that baby who found a handgun in his mother’s bag while sitting in a shopping cart, and shot her dead. “There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I’ve got to beware…”

And now the debate is whether the latest shooting is “workplace violence” or “terrorism?”

This is a moot point! Meaning “…of little or no practical value or meaning; purely academic. Chiefly Law. not actual; theoretical; hypothetical.”

Since I love all things onomatopoeic, the word “moot” has stayed with me; since I first heard it from a Harvard law student. Terror is when our children are forced into lockdown drills in school. Terror is when we fear checking our phones in a movie theatre. Terror is walking through metal detectors on our way to work, avoiding malls or large congregations of people. Muslim, American, Christian, mental patient, domestic abuser, anybody and everybody can get a gun in our country, legally or illegally, through a loophole or in a parking lot – IT’S JUST TOO EASY.

Does it matter if somebody walks into an office Christmas party with an assault rifle and a few bombs, or if that same deranged person strolls into a Planned Parenthood Clinic, or a movie theatre, or an elementary school, or a government building? The “Common Thread” in the carnage is GUNS. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-common-thread-in-americas-unacceptable-carnage-access-to-guns/2015/11/30/3b94cf96-97a5-11e5-b499-76cbec161973_story.html

So far this year, according to news reports collected by a Reddit community, there have been at least 351 mass shootings, or more than one a day. Those account for just a small part of the lives lost or damaged by gun violence. They don’t include, for example, in recent weeks the 6-year-old Georgia girl who apparently shot herself in the head after finding a loaded gun tucked in a couch, or the Ohio State University employee who shot himself in a campus art gallery, or the Tennessee woman murdered by her husband, who then killed himself.

Which type or way to categorize the carnage is irrelevant. We are terrorizing ourselves! Our senators voted down (or against) two proposals to limit gun violence yesterday. One was to expand background checks, the other was to prevent anyone on a terrorist watch list from purchasing guns…and if you’re not mad as hell about this then you are not paying attention. You can see how your senator voted on these bills and call them up if you’d like – http://everytown.org/senate-votes/

What will it take for our country to change course? Even our President seems locked in frustration and futility. We may have to march on Washington once again, sit down on the steps of the Capital and demand leadership. There are days when I feel like I’m getting too old to take action, like hope is a thing of the past. And then there are sunny days, when redemption seems possible.    IMG_3307

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Yesterday was surreal. We heard helicopters flying around our house as if we lived in LA. A small news station in Roanoke, WDBJ, just an hour away from Cville had been broadcasting a fluff early morning piece at Smith Mountain Lake, when a lone gunman murdered the beautiful, young reporter and her photo journalist, live. It was an unthinkable act. They don’t kill journalists in America, do they? And while I was following the car chase via Twitter and a local news anchor, the killer posted his own video of the crime to social media. My oatmeal was getting cold, I’d lost my appetite.

This morning we are learning more about the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Two talented, rising stars in TV news who didn’t deserve to die yesterday while doing their job. And we’ve learned that the shooter (I refuse to use his name) was a disgruntled, ex-employee of the station. He’d been fired for basically not playing well with others at many different news outlets. He’d been encouraged to seek medical help. Let the chorus begin…mental health vs gun control. Only like most things in life, it’s not that simple; and it’s not really a political issue.

The ease of obtaining a gun, and the sheer abundance of guns in this country is a public health issue. Period.

The state of Virginia rates a “D” in the gun law scorecard of the Law center to Prevent Gun Violence. You can go to their website to rate your own state http://smartgunlaws.org/search-gun-law-by-state/  Here is what Virginia does not have on the books, some of our very own loopholes for people intent on gun ownership: We DO NOT

  • Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
    Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
    Regulate the transfer or possession of 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines;
    Require firearm owners to report lost or stolen firearms;
    Impose a waiting period prior to purchase of a firearm; or
    Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”).

Why are we blind to this? How can we walk away from VA Tech and Sandy Hook without confronting our national sin. Or the countless times guns are used in a suicide – or in a domestic dispute – or in an “accident” involving a child – are seemingly overlooked by the media frenzy for a mass shooting incident at a mall or a movie theatre. It’s easy to say, oh he was crazy, he was over the edge; because it’s always a “he” and it always involves a gun.

I knew a teenager at the height of the Iraq war, who was circling her bedroom with a crown moulding of names – the names of the soldiers who were dying there and in Afghanistan. I was breathless when I first saw this memorial border, and I thought how so much is ignored or buried or covered up in the news. At the time, only PBS was broadcasting the names of the dead. Remember we were not allowed to see the flag covered caskets returning to our shore, as if we are children who need to be shielded from the sight of dead soldiers. Maybe we need to start a long border of names, or a quilt of the US citizens who have been killed by guns in the past year. The children, the wives and mothers, the fathers and yes, the young people just going to work in Virginia at daybreak.

Every day on average 290 people are shot in this country. We have three times as many gun homicides as European nations. Three Times

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. “Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/you-have-to-see-how-many-more-people-are-killed-by-guns-in-america-to-really-believe-it/

God help us all if we have come to a point where we can continue to eat breakfast and accept this kind of news as normal. cover_chamberguide_2014_final-page-001

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take a picture of it! I’m guilty of wanting to document my life on Instagram, wanting to be creative and confounding, humorous and compelling, all in a few pixels. And the last few days were telling. Bob and I took a quick trip to NY via Amtrak, and despite fears of Legionnaires Disease, I found myself surrounded by unending vistas of wonderment. It is August in the City that never sleeps, native New Yorkers were gone, restaurants were semi-empty, and cabs were easy to find – especially with Uber drivers just a click away on Trip Advisor!

So there I was, in a tall office building, looking out a window towards the Hudson, and in one frame I could get a Little League baseball game, a big sailboat, AND a beautiful bridge. It was a sunny, glorious day, NY at her finest and I was feeling like Hooper, or Warhol, or somebody. I aimed my iPhone and darn if it didn’t work, it was trying to tell me something, in a message box…

My storage was seemingly full and I could “manage” this little snafoo on “Settings.” Why thank you cell phone, how kind of you to remind me.

But by the time I got to my Settings and deleted a few ridiculous Apps I didn’t need or use, my picture was gone. The game was over and the sailboat was probably in the Atlantic.

No problem. I still got a few nice pix of dim sum at Red Farm (a very trendy West side Chinese eatery), soaring skyscrapers, oh and I love signs. Not like a sign from above “Sign,” but a regular directional sign. The kind that tells us where to go, what not to walk on, or how many pounds a toilet seat can hold. I managed to snap a “Sabbath Elevator” sign. Once a wordsmith.

Isn’t writing just painting a picture with words? That’s what I try to do when I take fingers to laptop, or even pen to paper. I see something in my mind’s eye and a story unfolds. Maybe that is what makes some of us “Visual Learners” – I could always  remember a face, but rarely remember a name.

While we waited in Penn Station for our train back to VA, a PSA was on a continual loop on a monitor above our heads.

“If You See Something, Say Something.” http://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something

It was all about what to do if there was a shooter in the building – basically get the heck out of the building by the nearest exit. And If that’s not possible, hide. And if that’s not possible, it showed a commuter throwing his briefcase at the suspect with a gun. And it also tried to explain what suspicious behavior looks like – which if you know NY, is pretty much everybody. It was almost comical.

Until I thought about how our children are probably watching a similar video, in their schools. Our well meaning attempt at “managing” rampant gun violence in this country is a farce of epic proportions. When will we change our perspective, put on a new pair of eyeglasses, and see, truly see our national disaster for what it really is – a public health issue. Should we all now boycott public spaces to get our legislators to listen? Stop going to movie theaters, stop going to malls, stop going to college and just study online, at home?

Or should we stand up and say something – anything – like we’re mad as hell and vote the whole lot of GOP war mongers out of office? If you didn’t read this letter from Sarah Clements, the daughter of a Sandy Hook teacher, to Amy Schumer, here it is: https://medium.com/human-development-project/an-open-letter-to-amy-schumer-8f1fd3637d41

Women have truly begun to lead the gun violence prevention movement — and they are winning. Women are our teachers, our protectors, our shielders. Women weep in public and in private for the lives we’ve lost, and they’re not afraid to scream at the cameras and go toe-to-toe with monsters who perpetuate these crimes on the streets and in boardrooms. Women are very simply the ultimate moral base in our battles for peace and justice throughout the world.

Tonight I have a date with Bob, so I’ll miss the circus, the so called “cocktail hour” featuring Donald Trump in the great Republican debate. But I’ll stay up late to watch Jon Stewart’s last hurrah. Thank you Jon, for painting a very clear picture of American politics for a younger generation. Now if we can just get them to the polls, to say something.

Heading Uptown

Heading Uptown

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