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Guns & Schools

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GUNS & SCHOOLS

This week has been sadly sweet for me. The sweet part has been spending every day teaching kindergartners. Their innocence and vulnerability turns my heart to mush. The sad part is, I can’t get Sandy Hook out of my head. The nausea clutches at my stomach at unexpected times, like when one child slips his hand in mine or another one asks me to tie her shoe.

Pictures of the children killed at Sandy Hook and their parents have been all over the news since the latest school massacre.

I am anxious at times, angry more often, but mostly sad. It is beyond imagining that our “leaders” have literally been bought by the NRA to the extent that children are being slaughtered in their classrooms and nobody does anything. Nada.

Today, two first-grade girls ran up to me excitedly and said, “Is it true that trump wants teachers to have guns?” One said, “I saw it on TV,” and the other said, “I heard my Mommy and Daddy talking about it.”

I presume that their regular teacher deflected the question, because the girls made a beeline for me when I came into their classroom to supervise lunch. They have questions, and they want answers.

I told them that yes, it is an idea of his, but it is a silly idea and everyone knows it so we don’t have to worry about it.

They asked why he would want to do such a silly thing, and I said because he doesn’t really understand what it means to be safe.

”Well, WE’RE not going to do that,” harumphed one of the girls (a pretty safe bet, since we are a Quaker school).

Like the kids from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Florida, these children know a dumb idea when they hear it. And they know a charlatan. In their own way, they are echoing MSD student Emma Gonzalez’s cry: “We call B.S.!!”

This Time it Feels Different

Many of my friends are saying, “This time it feels different.” And it does. For one thing, the outrage has lasted more than a week. We aren’t just moving on to the next media frenzy. The students won’t let us. The NRA boycott is gathering steam and major airlines and insurance companies have stopped giving discounts to NRA members. Dicks Sporting Goods and Walmart are both tightening their gun purchasing rules.

Even trump has made encouraging noises this week about maybe doing something useful, although his ignorance of the issue is appalling. And he seems dead set on arming teachers (pun intended). Fortunately, many governors are pushing back on behalf of teachers and law enforcement.

Yes, something feels different this time.

Could it be that the pernicious evil that powers the NRA has finally met its match in the bold persistence of America’s high school and middle school and now apparently elementary school kids?

We Call B.S.

The NRA seems desperate and is losing its already tenuous grip on reality. Their spokespeople sound like raving lunatics, hinting at armed rebellion and accusing the media of loving mass shootings because “crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.”

The NRA public relations department is working overtime to remind us that school shootings are “extremely rare events” and that more kids die in pool drownings and bicycle accidents than mass shootings. And comfortingly, although there are 55 million school children in the U.S. only an average of 10 per year are killed by gunfire at school. That’s pretty good odds, right?

God in heaven, who thinks like that??

#WeCallBS

Political Conservative’s NRA Shame

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An interesting word prompt arrived in my inbox today, one that wouldn’t normally interest me except that I taught an eighth-grade science class this week. The word is “assay.” It’s not used a lot in day-to-day speech, but it should be.

It’s defined as “an investigative procedure [in science] for qualitatively assessing or quantitatively measuring the presence, amount, or functional activity of a target entity.” The word comes from fourteenth century Anglo-French “assai,” meaning “trial, test of quality, test of character.”

For instance, if you wanted to test the character or functional activity of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — America’s biggest D.C. shindig for conservative Republicans each year — you would investigate who pays for it and who takes the stage.

The National Rifle Association is generally a big contributor to the event, including sponsoring the festive Ronald Reagan dinner. This year, the money behind the dinner is being kept secret.

Also not made public was the big speech by the NRA’s chief executive Wayne LaPierre. As survivors of the latest school massacre made their way to the nation’s capitol to plead for controls on the lethal weapons that murdered their friends and so many others, CPAC made public their schedule of speakers. LaPierre’s appearance was nowhere to be seen. But lo and behold, he’s on the stage as I write.

He’s the GOP’s secret weapon, literally.

Wayne LaPierre speaking to his bought-and-paid-for minions

Republicans may be ashamed or afraid to let the public know that the NRA is paying for and speaking at their conference, but they cannot hide the NRA contributions coming straight into their campaign coffers. That’s how we know that when the man who sometimes sits in the Oval Office in between golf games takes the stage at CPAC tomorrow, he’ll be standing on bales of NRA cash that helped get him into office: thirty million bucks, to be exact.

It’s a pretty simple assay experiment to test the character and “functional activity” of the GOP these days. Even high school students can do it.

 

Insanity in Sutherland Springs

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INSANITY IN SUTHERLAND SPRINGS

Insanity. I’m not talking about the mentally ill mass shooter who has just murdered some twenty-seven people inside a church in Texas. (I assume he was mentally unwell.)

I’m talking about the Attorney General of Texas who warns that the shootings will continue and that all businesses, schools, and churches should have plans for when the shooting starts.

 

“I wish some law would fix all of this,” he says.

 

Gee, you mean like one banning assault weapons or one requiring stricter background checks or one banning high-capacity magazines meant to ensure more bloodshed, quicker? Or maybe just the simple one introduced in the Senate after the Las Vegas slaughter which bans devices that turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic one?

 

No, I guess he’s not talking about any of those. Here’s his take:

 

“All I can say is in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have conceal carry … there’s always the opportunity that a gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”

So much opportunity for the people of Texas!

 

If that isn’t insane, I don’t know what is.

 

Am I “politicizing” a tragedy? You bet your sweet behind I am. The GOP told us bleeding heart liberals not to politicize the Las Vegas shooting and now it’s too late for the people in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And it’s too late for all three hundred and seven people who have died in mass shootings so far in 2017.

 

As the gun-totin’ Texas Attorney General says, better get your plans ready. Because your government sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about the carnage.

What’s the Motive for the Mass Shootings on Twitter?

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WHAT’S THE MOTIVE FOR THE MASS SHOOTINGS ON TWITTER?

There’s been a mass shooting! Let the games begin! Grab your word-weapons of choice and get to your Twitter battle stations!

Although the San Bernardino murder venue is particularly disturbing — a facility for people with disabilities — a mass shooting isn’t unusual anymore: we’ve had more mass shootings in 2015 than we have had days.

What is shocking to me, though, is the virtual bloodshed, which is every bit as hate-filled as the bullet and bomb-induced bloodshed. I’m not a huge Twitter person; I’m too addicted to Facebook to spend much time tweeting. I tweet a photo or a link once in a while.

Yesterday was the first time I monitored Twitter for any length of time. Wow. America is even sicker than I thought, which is saying quite a bit.

Someone to Blame

I first got on Twitter yesterday to sarcastically point people to the National Rifle Association’s website, where for twenty-five bucks you can join up and get a free copy of their magazine Freedom, the cover emblazoned with the words: The Catastrophic Consequences of Gun Registration. You can also purchase their lovely holiday cards featuring bald eagles and American flags and a special cute puppy collection.

I admit spewing at the NRA — as evil and culpable as they are — wasn’t a particularly helpful contribution, but it made me feel better. I felt angry and powerless and needed someone to blame.

I was surprised to instantly have scads of people liking and re-tweeting my little jab at the NRA. Weird. So I scrolled. And scrolled. Oh. My. God.

Right-Wing Rage

#He’s a Muslim! is trending big-time. The RWNB (right wing nut-balls, for those not in the know) are ecstatic that the killer is #notawhiteguy and has a “funny name” and is probably a terrorist, so of course this has nothing to do with gun control.

Except, except – didn’t they use guns? Wouldn’t it be better if terrorists couldn’t get multiple guns legally at Walmart? Oh, no matter. #He’s a Muslim! It’s not #2nd amendment!

We quickly go from accusations of a #mediaconspiracy to hide the guy’s funny name to protect #radicalIslamists, to Syrian refugees being behind it all. And of course, our president.

Barack Hussein Obama

Barack Hussein Obama

“See?” tweets one RWNB, “Now Barack Hussein Obama has a whole army of Syrian illegal aliens.”

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

Liberal Rage

And speaking of Jesus Christ — just as nasty as the conservative racism and hatred of Muslims is the liberal vitriol and outrage at the people actually PRAYING about this. Praying, for pity’s sake! What an abomination!

#stoppraying is becoming a popular hashtag. “What a waste! Don’t pray, do something!” is the sentiment. “Praying to an imaginary friend is what causes these shootings!”

This puts me, an unabashed liberal whose first impulse is nevertheless to pray, in an awkward position. I know liberals aren’t supposed to pray these days, it’s bad form. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are just so . . . yesterday.

But clearly, humans on their own can’t solve these problems. We have a deep soul-sickness. We are destroying our own planet, for God’s sake! Do we not need a power greater than ourselves?

I know that the liberals are angry and lashing out at hypocritical right-wing politicians who say they are praying, tell others to pray, and then fight gun control with every blessed breath they’ve got. But really, liberal friends. Get a grip. People praying is not the problem.

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Making Sense of the Soul-Sickness

I happen to believe that only the Great Good Spirit can change hearts and teach love and unity instead of fear and division. Until the hate and fear stop, the carnage — both the virtual and the flesh & blood – isn’t going to stop.

So I’m going to pray. #Excusethehelloutofme. And I’m going to work to pass gun control legislation. And I’m going to try not to judge or hate people who disagree with me.

All of these unfortunate rage-filled tweeters are really just trying to make sense of this soul-sickness. We are all trying to understand, to find someone to blame, to fit these atrocities into our narratives of reality. It’s Muslims! It’s religious people! Too many guns! Not enough guns! It’s liberals/conservatives/right/left! It’s starving, frightened Syrian refugee children!

See, if we can explain it — no matter how big a stretch we make — maybe we can control it. Maybe it won’t happen to someone we love. Or to us.

Processing Charleston

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Sometimes I wish I were a cat. I would not know about racism or gun violence or mental illness. I would not know about terrorism or climate change. I would never have heard of the Ku Klux Klan or the National Rifle Association or Donald Trump (although I would sacrifice a few of my nine lives to wrestle with that hairpiece).

Watching the World

Seeing the world from a different perspective

I arrived at my country place in New Hampshire this week, just in time for the Charleston AME shootings. Bad and sad things often seem to happen when I’m up here, or perhaps I’m just more affected because the pace is slower and I have time to dig a little deeper into the news than I generally do.

I read interviews with victims, I look at pictures of traumatized citizens, I follow links to studies about gun violence, I check to see what reality Fox News is creating (this is an attack on faith and likely has nothing to do with race). I even look at Twitter (random NRA woman says Obama is ecstatic about the latest shooting because it plays into his plot to use race issues to steal her guns).

I get drained and alarmed visiting this reality, and I feel isolated since I don’t have many social connections up here. So I turn to Facebook to see what my friends are saying about it all. A few comment on how sad it is; a few say they are praying. But most have moved on and are posting pictures of their dinners, their new tattoos, or their pets. The mass murder was several days ago, after all.

I decide to escape and go see a movie in town, a harmless sci-fi flick about artificial intelligence. Since I do not provide economic support for violence in the movies, I google just to be sure — although what kind of violence would a movie about computers contain? A variety, it turns out, including:  “strong scenes of violence, with slicing, stabbing, and lots of blood.”

OK, scratch the movie.

I sit down to write a blog post because writing is how I process.

My cat yawns and decides to abandon her chipmunk monitoring post for the moment. She rubs against my leg, then randomly drops down and rolls over, writhing with joy in the moment.

America’s Suicidal Personality Disorder(s)

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“Your son and daughter are going to die in a car crash!” The short, red-faced man is poking his finger at me and standing way too close for comfort. This might feel like super-bad mojo if I had kids. It still feels a little crazy, as so many things do these days.

I had just left the grocery store and made a friendly comment to an older fellow on the sidewalk. “I love your overalls – you don’t see enough of them anymore.” He smiled, his chubby cheeks rounding. “Very practical,” he said.

From behind me, a voice said, “Pretty soon we’re all going to be dressed the same.”

“Excuse me?” I turned to see Short-Angry man hurrying to catch up to me.

“Yeah, in drab, gray jumpsuits like the Russians when the Communists took over.”

(I think he was talking about the Chinese, but hey, what’s the difference?)

I hope Obama still lets us wear heels!

“Oh,” I said, now understanding what I was dealing with. “I don’t see any indication of that. Now excuse me while I go get in my car over here with the Obama sticker.”

Short-Angry followed me to my car. “You know, he wants cars to get 50 miles-to-the-gallon!”

“Yeah, wouldn’t that be awesome?” I said. “We would get a lot more gas for our money.” I didn’t mention climate change or air pollution, not wanting to have to physically defend myself.

This is when he cursed my non-existent children. “Your son and daughter are going to die in a car crash! The cars will be made out of all light shit, and we’re all going to die!” This might not have been his words exactly, but I caught the gist and exclamation points as I closed and locked my car door.

I might have just chalked this up to some sort of mental imbalance, impulse control, whatever, except that I’ve been hearing and seeing so much of it lately.

It seems America has a raging personality disorder.

 

 

Diagnosing the Patient

I used to think it was pure Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some of the characteristics used to identify NPD are vanity, conceit, extreme self-centeredness, arrogance, bravado, entitlement, grandiosity, and self-righteousness. In the extreme, this can result in exploitation of others, manipulation, isolation, and rage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but I do see signs of this disorder from time to time. It can be more or less apparent depending on who is president, but there’s a poisonous streak of it in our DNA, I think.

Poisonous Pride

Lately, I’ve come to believe that our diagnosis is more complicated. There’s a touch of Borderline Personality Disorder, surely. Swinging from one extreme to the other every election cycle, blaming others for our ills, and believing that our version of reality is the only possibility and anyone who doesn’t agree is evil or delusional. And worthy of a few drone attacks, or maybe going to Hell.

These days, there is a strong streak of Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as multiple personalities. Red state, blue state. The media feeds this – journalists are taught to look for conflict, not harmony. “The People,” though, are sick of it — even as we often engage in it ourselves. My finger is pointed at myself, here.

Suicidal Nation – Guns & Climate

Sadly, this combination of chronic disorders becomes seriously acute when gun control or climate change gets mentioned. This has literal life and death consequences.  We can’t get our fingers out of our ears and stop yelling, “Nyah, nyah” at each other long enough to stop our own suicide.

I don’t believe in climate change. What school shootings?

I’ve ranted on climate change in this space before. Today’s irrational, reality-denying, suicidal issue is gun control.

Setting aside the National Rifle Association going completely over the sanity cliff and the conspiracy theorists who say that Sandy Hook was a hoax, here is an authentic recent offering from a “Friend” of mine on Facebook:

“I’m talking about our government dictating what our rights are, taking them from us when the constitution guarantees them for us. Spouting it’s for our own good. Ok. Then… Outlaw cigarettes. They are cancer causing and addictive (and I don’t smoke so others shouldn’t either) No reason for them. Outlaw alcohol. This would eliminate drunk driving and related health issues (or did they try that already). Outlaw fast food. Causes obesity and no reason go it [sic] (I don’t eat it so I don’t care about it). Outlaw muscle cars and sports cars. They are designed to go faster then the national speed limit and have no place on the road. And since I don’t own a corvette or any other car like that then others shouldn’t either. Outlaw them all !!! I want the government to step in and regulate our lives, tell us where to go, what to eat, control what TV we watch and take that and the Internet also (yes, other countries control all of that). There is a huge band wagon out there which has spun as politically correct which everybody is jumping on… You better hope your [sic] right, and I want to see how every body [sic] who does jump on it reacts when the government we have strips you all of something you believe in… Let’s take religion. If the government feels like it wants to control how we pray, or if we can, or to who! How would you feel. It’s in the construction [constitution], but hey, that can be changed apparently. And Obama is stating he can step over the congress to do so with out giving them a say in the matter. Don’t think that could happen? It’s happening right now on another issue that you don’t care about. Wait till it happens to one you do. It may be to [sic] late by then…”                                                               

How is that anything but certifiable paranoia? He forgot the part about all of us dressed in “drab, gray jumpsuits;” otherwise, he’s done a good job of channeling the red state psyche. (In southern Virginia the other day, I saw an “O’Vomit” bumpersticker. Har, har, har.)

I don’t believe my response to his rant was paranoid, but I will own up to being passive-aggressive. For my “gun-toting friends,” I posted this:

Another friend pointed out that “gun-toting” might not have been the most constructive term. I meant it as tongue-in-cheek, similar to the way they call me a “tree hugger,” but OK, I’ll try to behave.

Anyway, I’m willing to lay down my sarcastic, passive-aggressive behavior and take my fingers out of my ears if the people in the red states would be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe,

WE SHOULD NOT HAVE FREAKIN’ MACHINE GUNS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS!!!

That’s my humble opinion. What’s yours?

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