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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Violence’

If you’ve been following along on my journey, you already know that our nation’s birthday is a bittersweet holiday for me. It was on the Fourth of July, 1949, that the Flapper took her family for a car ride to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver plowed into our car headfirst. And that car accident was the reason I was raised by foster parents; the reason I had two families, two homes, two mothers.

“Unfortunately, Independence Day has 19% more traffic fatalities than the average holiday — due, again, to drunk driving and increased traffic. What’s more, 52% of all traffic deaths occurred because someone involved wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Additionally, fatigue plays a serious role in Independence Day deaths. Many Americans use the time off for this holiday to take the family on a short trip, and the long drives lead to tired drivers, which lead to deadly mistakes.”

https://www.autoinsurance.org/deadliest-holidays-to-drive/

That being said, I have always hated driving on this weekend. And even though we now have seat belts, and mothers against drunk driving, I’m still skittish. OTOH, some of my best childhood memories are from the fireworks celebration over Lake St Joseph in the Catskill Mountains. It signaled the start of summer camp season, and I couldn’t wait to get back to camp. Sleepaway camp, even if it had a nun in every cabin, represented freedom in my pre-adolescent Catholic school girl’s life.

At Camp St Joseph for girls, I had the opportunity to excel at sports, to sing in the plays, and train to become a lifeguard. This was pre-Title IX. I was voted captain of my team, and became a top notch jacks player. I advanced to Counselor-in-Training (CIT) at 16 and taught boating and canoeing. Camp was the place I forged my identity – I would dream about it well into my 30s.

And when the nuns read us the riot act, after finding out about my scheme to pass notes to Boy’s Camp through the altar boys during Mass, I was the first and only CIT to volunteer to leave. That was my last summer at camp. I was becoming a lapsed Catholic just as my world opened up to include my biological/extended/family, including a Jewish Step-Father!

Maybe the SCOTUS would like to revisit Title IX? They seem to be doing a good job at setting us back decades by overturning Roe in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Org case. If they feel the states can force women to carry a fetus to term, maybe their true mission is to keep us barefoot and pregnant? I’ve lost all respect for this court, this crowd of ultra-radical right-wing partisan appointees.

“Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor and a liberal constitutional scholar, said that, based on the logic of Dobbs, “there’s no principled way to hold back the tide that would return us to the law of the late 1800s on matters of privacy, reproduction, sexual intimacy and L.G.B.T.Q. equality.” Although Lochner itself is probably “too radioactive” for this court to embrace outright, the court’s overall hostility to government regulation of business and its celebration of individual freedom are clearly in the ascendant. Professor Tribe warned that the effect could be to “return our jurisprudence to a preindustrial, agrarian world. It’s all but unthinkable.” The consequences, he added, could be “horrendous.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/02/business/scotus-lochner-v-new-york.html

I wonder if the good professor read Margaret Atwood?

We woke on Friday morning to a street full of tiny American flags up and down near mailboxes. We don’t know who was responsible, but suspect it was a real estate company. Some people took their flags down, but we didn’t. The 30% of religious/right/cult followers in this country don’t get to dictate who can exhibit their patriotism and who can’t. I’ve even got my stars and stripes pinwheel on my desk! And I’m wearing my handmade red, white and blue eternity necklace.

But if you see me crying at a parade today, and I’ve been known to cry at 4th of July parades, it may just be for the human rights I see slipping away.

I’ve just learned of another mass shooting at a parade in Chicago this afternoon. Dear God, what will it take?

A blueberry lemon ricotta birthday cake

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This past Memorial Day weekend we stayed home.

We trimmed back the lilacs, and watched the magnolia start to bloom. Bob painted the front porch. We watered the garden and walked the dogs – Ms Bean and her three cousins next door. We were settling into our new/old house. And best of all, we were on Grandparenting Duty (GD), which is very different from babysitting mind you.

Bob and I are under no obligation to “watch” our grandchildren, in fact we relish spending time with them. Our rising 2nd and 5th graders are curious and helpful. While the Groom started his MICU attending duties, and the Bride worked three days straight, the littles just skipped down the street to our house. Our only mission was to ‘feed and water’ them and have fun; to witness the wild creativity of childhood… again.

On our first neighborhood 4people/4dogs walk, I brought up something I heard the Pumpkin say a few times – “What are we going to do when…..” (insert) “… we get home,” “after lunch,” etc. This question always reminds me of the little animated fawn, Bambi, asking his mama what they were going to do today. Children like to know what’s next, they love ritual, but summer was about to begin. School was out! I started to talk to the Grands about “unstructured time.” The Love Bug was all in, the Pumpkin however, differentiated between things we “have” to do vs things we “want” to do.

I could see my little red headed perpetual motion machine was struggling with the concept of just chillin. But research has shown us that time to explore and create and simply PLAY is essential to a healthy childhood. The Bug said, “It’s kinda like recess!” YES

“It’s like we HAVE to walk the dogs, but we WANT to eat ice cream,” the Pumpkin added.

So I asked him, “What would you like to do today if you could do anything you want?” He stopped walking and looked thoughtfully at his older dog who was preparing to poop.

“I’d like to build something with Pop Bob.”

And so they did – they studied and designed a “Lending Library” for our fence – a place for neighbors to take a book and replace a book. They set up shop in our dilapidated garage surrounded by wood scraps and power tools. I made a note to myself to get a big fan for the garage, temperatures were rising toward 90 degrees. And I tried to stay out of their way, only delivering lemonade once. My heart was melting as I watched them work.

The Bug and I cooked a beautiful barbeque dinner for their parents one night. She cleaned and chopped fruits and vegetables, and we talked about random things like friendship and boys. There was a boy at her end of the year school party who wanted to give her a balloon shaped like a heart. But she didn’t want it, and the balloon flew away. I told her she would break a lot of hearts, and she laughed and said I sound like her Mother.

There are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters who will never get to have these conversations with their children in Uvalde, TX. They will never get to build something with them, or cook with them, or laugh with them again. I am sending them my heartfelt sympathy and reserving my anger for our legislators; the mostly Republican men and women who have so much blood on their hands.

If we cannot ban assault weapons, change the legal age to buy a gun to 21, and pass background checks and red flag laws with a Democratic President, House, Senate and nearly 80% of the people, then we are surely doomed. We have become a country willing to sacrifice our children for the almighty gun dollar.

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The Bride didn’t want to pierce the Love Bug’s ears in our fancy mall, with a tiny gun in the big front window. So we went to a tattoo parlor downtown! It came highly recommended by the nurses in her hospital; They do things the old fashioned way, with a needle. So she made the reservation for a day after Passover. I tagged along for moral support, which the Bug didn’t need at all. She picked out tiny, sparkly opal studs. I had to wait in the waiting room, enjoying the ethnography of the body arts subculture. https://icontattoo.com/

It wasn’t the weekend’s mass shooting at an upscale mall in South Carolina that swayed my daughter. Police believe there were three guns involved; nine people were injured. A 73 year old woman is still hospitalized. Will nothing change?

You may recall my first published story was titled “Guns in the Woods.” It was about moving to an isolated mountaintop in the Berkshires when the Bride was a baby. It was about newlyweds, and the choices we make to accommodate each other; and it was about being alone at night, with the intermittent sound of rifles poaching deer. Pop! Pop!

I framed that piece from The Berkshire Eagle. The paper has turned yellow with age, and now I’m not sure what to do with it. I’ve been admonished not to decorate like an old lady, with lots of small framed pictures over every level surface. Maybe I could toy with mixed media and decoupage?

In our Nashville city farmhouse we would sometimes hear gunshots while getting ready for bed. Usually there was an altercation in the Kroger parking lot. I stopped going out for a pint of milk after dark. It’s strange how quickly we became accustomed to the sound of hand guns.

This habituation to gun violence is eating away at me and it’s a cancer on our democracy. We’ve all become disenchanted with our institutions, with a government that could not pass a single, simple gun control bill after Sandy Hook. Red and Blue states are all in agreement – our children need to be safe in school.

In our new Crooked Crystal Cottage at the outskirts of the city we hear crickets at night. Literally. Maybe an occasional siren will pierce the silence. Most Americans don’t have to contend with gun violence. They don’t think twice about grocery shopping at night. It’s just that every now and then, someone walks into a school, or a concert, or a shopping mall, or a movie theatre with an AR-15.

The US does not have a single definition for “mass shootings” but the FBI has tracked “active shooter incidents” for more than a decade. Such an incident is defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area”.

According to the FBI, there were 345 “active shooter incidents” in the United States between 2000-2020, resulting in more than 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081

We need to change this gun culture. We need to prosecute gun manufacturers, and hold more adults responsible for “accidental” gun deaths. We need to attack the gun lobby through marketing and the courts, in the same way we changed the culture of smoking, or driving while drunk.

Because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, legislators are finally talking about changing our collective perception, our reliance on fossil fuels. Buy electric cars! Reduce your carbon imprint! Well guess what – NOBODY needs an assault weapon. NOBODY.

Here are the states that have banned assault weapons: California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. Minnesota regulates but does not outright ban assault weapons.

Protecting our children is paramount to protecting our second amendment.

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In Norway yesterday, a guy picked up a high-powered bow and arrow and started shooting people inside a supermarket. Four women and one man were killed, several more were injured.

In England today, David Amess, a conservative Parliament member, was stabbed several times by one of his constituents in a church. The world news media would like to look for a reason, what prompted these men to run amok?

Just imagine if they had access to assault rifles for a minute.

Because in my humble opinion, and I’ve said this before, GUNS are a uniquely American problem. Crazy isn’t at all unique – the percentage of people who hear voices telling them to do harm is most likely similar across the planet. Most people, when they are fired from a job, quietly pack their belongings in a box and stroll out the door. A very small percentage might think to walk back in with a weapon… and an even smaller number might do just that, if they owned or could easily steal a gun. And in America, gun sales are booming!

Just this year, two Kindergarteners in Florida found a loaded handgun in their back packs!

“The 26-year-old mother had placed the case and loaded handgun in her son’s backpack while cleaningouther car the night before, she told police, but then forgot to remove it before he went to school. Now, Carroll faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge for allegedly failing to store the weapon in a secured locked box, allowing a minor access to the firearm, court records state.She is also facing a second charge for missing an October court appearance.

The incident is at least the second recent case of a Florida child finding a loaded weapon in a backpack. Earlier this week, a Florida father was arrested after his son fatally shot his mother during a Zoom call with her co-workers. Prosecutors said the toddler found the gun inside a “Paw Patrol” backpack at the family’s home in Altamonte Springs.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/15/florida-mom-charged-placing-gun-kindergartner-backpack/

OK, you might say well, that’s Florida. But it’s not – it’s two Nashville teenagers being tried as adults for gunning down a musician in East Nashville outside his home. It’s a father shot dead in his car over a road rage incident outside of town. It’s a 16 year old girl killed in South Nashville when she and her cousin found themselves “in a dispute” with several young men. What if they had just thrown a few punches and walked away?

Well, our great Volunteer State is in the news once again. And no, not for arresting children and sending them to jail because they simply watched two kids fighting without intervening. And not for that big hair pastor who died in a small plane crash near Franklin, TN after making millions selling her faith-based-diet-scheme.

Nope. The preeminent gun manufacturer in the world is relocating to Tennessee! Gov Lee must be so proud for bringing new jobs to the area.

“Smith & Wesson, which has been making firearms since before the Civil War, said Thursday it will move its headquarters to Tennessee, after legislators in its home state of Massachusetts proposed gun control laws that the company said could hurt 60 percent of revenue.The decision to relocate from Springfield, Mass., coupled with the closure of some facilities in Connecticut and Missouri, means that more than 750 jobs will be moved to Maryville, Tenn., the company said in a statement to investors. Smith & Wesson has been based in Springfield since 1852.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/01/smith-wesson-moving-maryville-tennessee/

We Americans are dying: – we’re dying from gun violence because our Second Amendment said we can. We’re dying from Covid because our First Amendment lets us speak whatever nonsense we want to without repercussion. Because a certain ex-president started out with birther/racist rants, and ended embracing another Big Lie; and dragging nearly half of our republic with him.

Our democracy is dying when the Congress’ January 6 committee cannot or will not enforce a subpoena. Our so-called “freedom” – to threaten school board members, to carry permit-less handguns, to ignore public health warnings, and subpoenas – will be the death of us.

Just a dog in a fenced dog park

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Yesterday, my cell phone was acting hot and wonky, so I turned it off. All the way off; I plugged it in and forgot about it in an upstairs bedroom. Well actually, I did remember it when we decided to walk down to the Farmer’s Market for lunch, but then decided I could do live without it.

There were no pictures of my hand holding an itty bitty TN statehouse. No pix of tourists stopping on their Hop On Hop Off trolley to take pictures of us locals eating lunch outside and wondering which Country artist we might be. No videos of us singing and twirling to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” in the middle of the booming Carillon bells on the Bicentennial Mall. https://www.trolleytours.com/nashville/carillon-bells

And I can honestly say it was one of the ten best days of, let’s just say, the past five years! And it wasn’t just my incommunicado state of being “In the present,” without beeps or Insta. It was also the first day the sun decided to shine again after so many days of rain. I saw our cardinal at the bird feeder in the morning and at twilight. And…. it was sweater weather! Finally the Autumnal Equinox begins!

I told Bob it’s only natural for people to love the season of their birth. For me it’s the outlandish color of Ginkgo trees, the old feel of new school shoes, the smell of burning leaves. And whenever there’s a chill in the air, I just have to make chili! Luckily we still have peppers in the garden.

“It’s like this all the time in California,” he said.

Well that’s true. In the South we have maybe two weeks of this weather if we’re lucky. I also have a very loud squirrel named Kevin reminding me he needs to fatten up for winter!

Plugging back into the news stream this morning, I heard Eugene Robinson of the WAPO discuss the stalemate in Congress over Police Reform. It would seem that Republicans, even Black Republicans, were willing to leave the table over qualified immunity – a term Robinson called “qualified impunity.”

Qualified immunity is a defense that law enforcement and other government officials can raise in response to lawsuits seeking monetary damages for alleged civil rights violations. Unless the plaintiff can show an officer violated a “clearly established” right—meaning a court already declared similar behavior in a previous case to be unconstitutional—the officer can’t be held liable.

https://time.com/6061624/what-is-qualified-immunity/

Being able to sue somebody in America should be our birthright! Right? If a doctor forgets an instrument, let’s say he left something in your abdomen after surgery, and you are injured or die because of his/her negligence, you can sue for damages… you can sue the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the hospital! Hell, you could probably also sue the maker of the instrument.

But if a police officer mistakes his/her taser for a gun and shoots you dead? Or maybe they got the wrong address and shot you in your own bed? Well, mistakes happen. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that qualified immunity allows officers to, “shoot first and think later.” 

Was I just naive to think we could actually work out some bi-partisan plan to save our democracy? To pass an infrastructure bill, to undo all these unnecessary, tedious and costly state recounts, to keep Roe steady and strong for American women?

In Texas, one can sue a doctor for performing an abortion, but not a police officer for killing an innocent person. My splendid day did a deep dive until I remembered we were getting the Grands tonight for a sleepover!

May I never be immune to the sound of children’s laughter.

About to release the butterflies

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Call me crazy, but ever since moving to the South I’ve become more aware of gun violence. And since the Supreme Court will be taking up a case this year about whether or not civilians have the right to carry a gun outside of their home, I’ve been hoping that Democratic legislators will become more proactive. The piecemeal rules and regulations for gun ownership, depending on your state, are not a sustainable solution to our country’s obsession with guns.

Last year in Nashville, an ICU nurse was shot to death on her way to work at St Thomas Hospital. Caitlyn Kaufmann was only 26 years old and had moved here from Pennsylvania. In the middle of the pandemic two men were arrested and told police they were mad because she cut them off in traffic! Road Rage. https://www.wkrn.com/news/crime-tracker/witness-suspect-confessed-to-shooting-nurse-on-i-440-claims-road-rage/

Just this year, there have been FOUR arrests for various road rage incidents in our city.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 66 percent of deadly crashes are caused by aggressive driving behaviors. We’re seeing more shootings on Tennessee roads because of road rage. So far, there have been four road rage shootings in the Metro area since December.

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/local-news/more-road-rage-shootings-occurring-across-tennessee

Since Bob continues to drive like, well like he’s still living in New Jersey, I am usually the one driving around town. At first it was a struggle. There’s construction everywhere, and distracted pedestrians on their cell phones. But I’m used to city driving now; I know the short-cuts and ways to avoid pedal taverns and drunk bachelorettes on scooters. And anyway, we haven’t been driving as much during this past year. And maybe that’s why we’re seeing an increase in road rage incidents.

We’ve all been through a collective malaise. Some of us have suffered more than others, and lets not forget the opening salvo – a tornado thank you very much. Now the weather has broken, mask mandates have lifted, but the anger and tension remain for far too many. Our Governor is about to stop Covid related unemployment benefits this summer. And if you happen to keep a handgun in your glove compartment, and you’re having a bad day, who’s to keep you from brandishing it about?

Guns kill people, no doubt about it. In Denver last year a woman was walking her dog through an alley by an open window. Apparently the man inside didn’t want the dog doing his business there, so he took out his AK47 and shot her to death. The woman, Isabella Thallas, had just turned 21 – her killer fired 24 shots. And it turned out the assault rifle belonged to the shooter’s friend, a policeman.

Do you know how many guns have been stolen in Nashville so far this year? 331

In fact, we have a bail bonds business a few doors down. One night the owner asked us if we’d seen anything suspicious because his gun had been stolen from his car!

SCOTUS hasn’t taken up a gun case in over a decade. However, the Court this session will take up “…. in NY State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Corlett, a New York law, upheld by the lower courts, that requires individuals to get a license to carry a concealed gun outside the home. The case will likely be argued in the fall.

The court’s decision follows mass shootings in recent weeks in Indiana, Georgia, Colorado and California, and a surge in firearms sales, particularly to first-time gun buyers.”

In TN of course there are NO restrictions for someone who wants to carry a gun outside the home. Only New York, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have any significant restrictions.

Democracy doesn’t always die in darkness, in can die slowly and in plain sight.

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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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