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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Violence’

“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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