Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Today’s Assignment

IMG_2989Your assignment today is to watch two videos and then think.

The first video is of a group of people openly carrying their long guns in order to “support the second amendment.” Listen to their words. Ask yourself if this seems either reasonable in a civilized society or in any way appropriate. Consider that it was filmed on the Grassy Knoll in Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas. That’s right! Celebrating guns at the sight where an American president was shot to death. If only President Kennedy had been carrying a gun… Oscar Wilde said it best, “Irony is wasted on the stupid.”

In a copy of the speech President Kennedy never lived to deliver to the Trade Council on November 22, 1963 are written the following lines:

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason — or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

 How often do we hear the illogical argument for supporting the second amendment above all others as “the second protects all the others”? Philosophers have summarized this disconnect between correlation and causation as post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). Soren Kierkegaard summarized it a bit differently when he wrote, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” George Carlin described it a bit differently when he said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

The second video is from a commentator for the NRA, Billy Johnson, who tries to come across as an intelligent hipster and only succeeds in coming across as a demented, illogical apologist. Essentially, everything John Green is not. He somehow equates a government’s subsidizing that which it considers valuable (education, healthcare, food, retirement) as a reason for allowing citizen access to government owned shooting ranges and a yearly allotment of government supplied ammunition. This is the same group that fears governmental overreach and registration of guns, but please, sir, may I have another round?

He touts “Gun Required Zones” instead of Gun Free Zones. We have those already! They are called war zones. Enlist! Have at it. Take your pick. There are always conflicts into which you can insert yourself and your huggy-huggy-boom-boom stick. And the government will give you unlimited ammunition!

Perhaps most disturbing (it’s like ranking the aroma of various feces samples), is his notion that we should not only make firearm training mandatory in school, but that sufficiency be the basis for grade advancement. At a time in our history when we are being outsmarted in math and science by many areas of the world, rather than mandate education, Johnson suggests we dilute an already watery system to “readin’, writin’ and riflin’.” I would point him to Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn’s quote, “It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” Or to Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Or to Bertrand Russell who said, “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Or to Benjamin Franklin who wrote, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” Or to William Shakespeare who wrote, “A knavish speech sleeps in a fool’s ear.”

Your homework is due by the end of the day.

Tick, Tock, Glock

Enough

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, for the five most recently available years for which statistics are available, every day in America there are:

291 people in America are shot (including 52 children (ages 0-19)

87 people die from gun violence:

32 are murdered (including 6 children)

51 kill themselves (including 2 children)

2 die unintentionally

1 is killed by police intervention

1, intent unknown

205 are shot and survive:

148 shot in an assault (including 34 children)

10 survive a suicide attempt (including 1 child)

45 are shot unintentionally (including 9 children)

2 are shot in a police intervention

 If we take these numbers and divide them equally over the course of a day, this is an average day in America:

 

Time               Event

12:00 AM       1st Shooting by Police intervention, person survives

12:10 AM       1st Assault Shooting, person survives

12:20 AM       2nd Assault Shooting, person survives

12:28 AM       1st Suicide Death with a gun

12:30 AM       3rd Assault Shooting, person survives

12:32 AM       1st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:40 AM       4th Assault Shooting, 1st Child, survives

12:45 AM       1st Murder with a gun

12:50 AM       5th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:56 AM       2nd Suicide Death with a gun

1:00 AM         6th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:04 AM         2nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

1:10 AM         7th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:20 AM         8th Assault Shooting, 2nd Child, survives

1:24 AM         3rd Suicide Death with a gun

1:30 AM         2nd Murder with a gun; 9th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:36 AM         3rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

1:40 AM         10th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:50 AM         11th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:52 AM         4th Suicide Death with a gun

2:00 AM         12th Assault Shooting, 3rd Child, survives

2:08 AM         4th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:10 AM         13th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:15 AM         3rd Murder with a gun

2:20 AM         5th Suicide Death with a gun; 14th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:24 AM         1st Suicide Attempt with a gun

2:30 AM         15th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:40 AM         5th Accidental Shooting Injury, 1st Child, survives; 16th Assault Shooting, 4th Child, survives

2:48 AM         6th Suicide Death with a gun

2:50 AM         17th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:00 AM         4th Murder with a gun; 18th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:10 AM         19th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:12 AM         6th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:16 AM         7th Suicide Death with a gun

3:20 AM         20th Assault Shooting, 5th Child, survives

3:30 AM         21st Assault Shooting, person survives

3:40 AM         22nd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:44 AM         8th Suicide Death with a gun; 7th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:45 AM         5th Murder with a gun

3:50 AM         23rd Assault Shooting, person survives

4:00 AM         24th Assault Shooting, 6th Child, survives

4:10 AM         25th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:12 AM         9th Suicide Death with a  gun

4:16 AM         8th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:20 AM         26th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:30 AM         6th Murder with a gun, 1st Child; 27th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:40 AM         10th Suicide Death with a gun; 28th Assault Shooting, 7th Child, survives

4:48 AM         2nd Suicide Attempt with a gun; 9th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:50 AM         29th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:00 AM         30th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:08 AM         11th Suicide Death with a gun

5:10 AM         31st Assault Shooting, person survives

5:15 AM         7th Murder with a gun

5:20 AM         10th Accidental Shooting Injury, 2nd Child, survives; 32nd Assault Shooting, 8th Child, survives

5:30 AM         33rd Assault Shooting, person survives

5:36 AM         12th Suicide Death with a gun

5:40 AM         34th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:50 AM         35th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:52 AM         11th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:00 AM         8th Murder with a gun; 36th Assault Shooting, 9th Child, survives

6:01 AM         37th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:04 AM         13th Suicide Death with a gun

6:10 AM         38th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:20 AM         39th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:24 AM         12th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:30 AM         40th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:32 AM         14th Suicide Death with a gun

6:40 AM         41st Assault Shooting, 10th Child, survives

6:45 AM         9th Murder with a gun

6:50 AM         42nd Assault Shooting, person survives

6:56 AM         13th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:00 AM         15th Suicide Death with a gun; 43rd Assault Shooting, person survives

7:10 AM         44th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:12 AM         3rd Suicide Attempt with a gun

7:20 AM         45th Assault Shooting, 11th Child, survives

7:28 AM         16th Suicide Death with a gun; 14th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:30 AM         10th Murder with a gun; 46th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:40 AM         47th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:50 AM         48th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:56 AM         17th Suicide Death with a gun

8:00 AM         15th Accidental Shooting Injury, 3rd Child, survives; 49th Assault Shooting, 12th Child, survives

8:10 AM         50th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:15 AM         11th Murder with a gun, 2nd Child

8:20 AM         51st Assault Shooting, person survives

8:24 AM         18th Suicide Death with a gun

8:30 AM         52nd Assault Shooting, person survives

8:32 AM         16th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:40 AM         53rd Assault Shooting, 13th Child, survives

8:50 AM         54th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:52 AM         19th Suicide Death with a gun

9:00 AM         12th Murder with a gun; 55th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:04 AM         17th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:10 AM         56th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:20 AM         20th Suicide Death with a gun; 57th Assault Shooting, 14th Child, survives

9:30 AM         58th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:36 AM         4th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 18th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:40 AM         59th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:45 AM         13th Murder with a gun

9:48 AM         21st Suicide Death with a gun

9:50 AM         60th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:00 AM       61st Assault Shooting, 15th Child, survives

10:08 AM       19th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

10:10 AM       62nd Assault Shooting, person survives

10:16 AM       22nd Suicide Death with a gun

10:20 AM       63rd Assault Shooting, person survives

10:30 AM       14th Murder with a gun; 64th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:40 AM       20th Accidental Shooting Injury, 4th Child, survives; 65th Assault Shooting, 16th Child, survives

10:44 AM       23rd Suicide Death with a gun

10:50 AM       66th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:00 AM       67th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:10 AM       68th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:12 AM       24th Suicide Death with a gun; 21st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:15 AM       15th Murder with a gun

11:20 AM       69th Assault Shooting, 17th Child, survives

11:30 AM       70th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:40 AM       25th Suicide Death with a gun, 1st Child; 71st Assault Shooting, person survives

11:44 AM       22nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:50 AM       72nd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:59 AM       147th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:00 PM       16th Murder with a gun, 3rd Child; 1st Accidental Shooting Death; 1st Death by Police intervention; 1st Death, intent unknown; 73rd Assault Shooting, 18th Child, survives; 5th Suicide Attempt with a gun, 1st Child; 2nd Shooting by Police intervention, survives

12:01 PM       74th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:08 PM       26th Suicide Death with a gun

12:10 PM       75th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:16 PM       23rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:20 PM       76th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:30 PM       77th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:36 PM       27th Suicide Death with a gun

12:40 PM       78th Assault Shooting, 19th Child, survives

12:45 PM       17th Murder with a gun

12:48 PM       24th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:50 PM       79th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:00 PM         80th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:04 PM         28th Suicide Death with a gun

1:10 PM         81st Assault Shooting, person survives

1:20 PM         25th Accidental Shooting Injury, 5th Child, survives; 82nd Assault Shooting, 20th Child, survives

1:30 PM         18th Murder with a gun; 83rd Assault Shooting, person survives

1:32 PM         29th Suicide Death with a gun

1:40 PM         84th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:50 PM         85th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:52 PM         26th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:00 PM         30th Suicide Death with a gun; 86th Assault Shooting, 21st Child, survives

2:10 PM         87th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:15 PM         19th Murder with a gun

2:20 PM         88th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:24 PM         6th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 27th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:28 PM         31st Suicide Death with a gun

2:30 PM         89th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:40 PM         90th Assault Shooting, 22nd Child, survives

2:50 PM         91st Assault Shooting, person survives

2:56 PM         32nd Suicide Death with a gun; 28th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:00 PM         20th Murder with a gun; 92nd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:10 PM         93rd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:20 PM         94th Assault Shooting, 23rd Child, survives

3:24 PM         33rd Suicide Death with a gun

3:28 PM         29th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:30 PM         95th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:40 PM         96th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:45 PM         21st Murder with a gun, 4th Child

3:50 PM         97th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:52 PM         34th Suicide Death with a gun

4:00 PM         30th Accidental Shooting Injury, 6th Child, survives; 98th Assault Shooting, 24th Child, survives

4:10 PM         99th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:20 PM         35th Suicide Death with a gun; 100th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:30 PM         22nd Murder with a gun; 101st Assault Shooting, person survives

4:32 PM         31st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:40 PM         102nd Assault Shooting, 25th Child, survives

4:48 PM         36th Suicide Death with a gun; 7th Suicide Attempt with a gun

4:50 PM         103rd Assault Shooting, person survives

5:00 PM         104th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:04 PM         32nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

5:10 PM         105th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:15 PM         23rd Murder with a gun

5:16 PM         37th Suicide Death with a gun

5:20 PM         106th Assault Shooting, 26th Child, survives

5:30 PM         107th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:36 PM         33rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

5:40 PM         108th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:44 PM         38th Suicide Death with a gun

5:50 PM         109th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:00 PM         24th Murder with a gun; 110th Assault Shooting, 27th Child, survives

6:01 PM         111th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:08 PM         34th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:10 PM         112th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:12 PM         39th Suicide Death with a gun

6:20 PM         113th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:30 PM         114th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:40 PM         40th Suicide Death with a gun; 35th Accidental Shooting Injury, 7th Child, survives; 115th Assault Shooting, 28th Child, survives

6:45 PM         25th Murder with a gun

6:50 PM         116th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:00 PM         117th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:08 PM         41st Suicide Death with a gun

7:10 PM         118th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:12 PM         8th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 36th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:20 PM         119th Assault Shooting, 29th Child, survives

7:30 PM         26th Murder with a gun, 5th Child; 120th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:36 PM         42nd Suicide Death with a gun

7:40 PM         121st Assault Shooting, person survives

7:44 PM         37th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:50 PM         122nd Assault Shooting, person survives

8:00 PM         123rd Assault Shooting, 30th Child, survives

8:04 PM         43rd Suicide Death with a gun

8:10 PM         124th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:15 PM         27th Murder with a gun

8:16 PM         38th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:20 PM         125th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:30 PM         126th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:32 PM         44th Suicide Death with a gun

8:40 PM         127th Assault Shooting, 31st Child, survives

8:48 PM         39th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:50 PM         128th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:00 PM         28th Murder with  a gun; 45th Suicide Death with a gun; 129th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:10 PM         130th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:20 PM         40th Accidental Shooting Injury, 8th Child, survives; 131st Assault Shooting, 32nd Child, survives

9:28 PM         46th Suicide Death with a gun

9:30 PM         132nd Assault Shooting, person survives

9:36 PM         9th Suicide Attempt with a gun

9:40 PM         133rd Assault Shooting, person survives

9:45 PM         29th Murder with a gun

9:50 PM         134th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:52 PM         41st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:56 PM         47th Suicide Death with a gun

10:00 PM       135th Assault Shooting, 33rd Child, survives

10:10 PM       136th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:20 PM       137th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:24 PM       48th Suicide Death with a gun; 42nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

10:30 PM       30th Murder with a gun; 138th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:40 PM       139th Assault Shooting, 34th Child, survives

10:50 PM       140th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:52 PM       49th Suicide Death with a gun

10:56 PM       43rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:00 PM       141st Assault Shooting, person survives

11:10 PM       142nd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:15 PM       31st Murder with a gun, 6th Child

11:20 PM       50th Suicide Death with a gun; 143rd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:28 PM       44th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:30 PM       144th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:40 PM       145th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:48 PM       51st Suicide Death with a gun, 2nd Child

11:50 PM       146th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:59 PM       32nd Murder with a gun; 2nd Accidental Shooting Death; 10th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 45th Accidental Shooting Injury, 9th Child, survives; 148th Assault Shooting, person survives

Now repeat this, every day, until enough of us demand a better society.

My Inspiration

Inspiration

 

Christopher Hitchens wrote, “To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?” This little blog started as a way for me to scream into deaf space when news events or personal experiences left me no other options; when nothing could mute the chest-tightening anger and helplessness I felt; when, as Shakespeare wrote, I bothered to complain “and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.” And so, I write. My first malediction was two years ago today. However, they were not so much my words but a reposting of the words written 45 days earlier by a young woman in Colorado. She wrote of the events she experienced at the Eaton Mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012 when a gunman (sorry NRA, he was a gunman (whom I refuse to name), not a perpetrator with some random weapon) opened fire in the Urban Eatery Food Court. Five people were shot, two died. She began:

 “I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”

She continued by showing how, in three minutes, a decision to go out into the rain saved her life.

 “My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rang out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.”

That eloquent, insightful young woman was named Jessica Redfield and she was murdered two years ago today in the theater shooting in Aurora, CO. She and eleven others were killed and 70 others were injured that horrible Friday night. She is gone, but she continues to inspire. CarlyMarieDudley Since that time, her mother and thousands of others, many accidental activists driven to act after the horrors visited upon Aurora, CO or Newtown, CT or Oak Creek, WI or Santa Barbara, CA or Washington, D.C. or Spring, TX or any of the other tragedies that take 30,000 people a year. They have started a movement that will not only change the face of America, but make it a safer nation. It will not happen quickly (nor soon enough), but it will happen. Initially only disjointed lamentations from thousands of individuals, they have begun to coalesce into a united voice, a voice determined to prevent the next tragedy, a voice which has a goal of Not One More.

Consider the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Begun in 1980 by one mother, Candy Lightner, after her 13 year old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver, it has gone on to become a national institution in activism with over 600 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. MADD has worked to enact zero tolerance legislation across the country, enacted 0.08 blood alcohol level laws nationally, is partially responsible for a 40% reduction in drunk driving attributed traffic deaths since 1982 and brought the term “designated driver” into the public lexicon.

Using MADD as a framework and appreciating the need to commit time, dedication, and effort for the long haul, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded the day after Sandy Hook. And if MADD felt hampered by the strong alcohol beverage lobby, Moms Demand Action knew they were up against the behemoth of all lobbyists, the NRA. When asked to explain their activism success, MADD provides a series of critical tenets, foremost among them having passionate, committed volunteers and putting a face on statistics. As MADD writes:

 “Before 1980, drunk driving deaths and injuries were spoken about in terms of cold, hard statistics—a tactic that was having little, if any, impact on reducing the number of deaths and injuries due to alcohol related crashes. But MADD didn’t speak of statistics. MADD spoke of loved ones, family members and friends—an intensely personal communication style that started with the organization’s charismatic founder and continues today. Every death, every injury is given a face, family and history— personalizing the issue so that everyone can relate, even those who have never experienced the tragedy of drunk driving.”

 Because statistics can be found to support almost any position, especially with the gun rights crowd continuing to fund discredited economist John Lott (or should we call him Mary Rosh?) and his specious data, we are reminded of the phrase attributed to Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” To counter this, gun violence groups, like Moms Demand Action, have combined the top two pillars of successful activism, according to MADD, by having passionate volunteers share the stories behind the statistics. As shown by MADD, it is a formula for success and a roadmap showing not only what can be accomplished but how long the path may take. No matter, the determination of these activists knows no limit because their well of compassion has no bottom.

Moms Demand Action has also tried to harness the power of social media to not only get out its message, but to affect change. They have seen this strategy beget success. However, personally I have all but given up on Twitter as a means of communicating having lost interest in attempting to conduct a rationale discourse with people responding in 140 character bursts of bizarre thought. More often than not, I find myself descending into a miasma with some troll and their obtuse paranoia and misogynistic vitriol into a spiraling Dante-esque hell with no Beatrice to lead me out. There is never any discourse (or room for movement) and the inevitable name calling is wholly a waste of time. So, too, it is with so many of the comment sections of news websites and Facebook pages. What begins as a thoughtful comment soon falls victim to the lowest common denominator of society, the base, violent name calling and misspelled threats. I can’t imagine the mail received at the White House.

Politicians understand polls and chase donations. To acknowledge this is to understand the rules required to bring about societal change. While a new Quinnipiac poll shows 92% of voters support requiring background checks for all gun purchases (including 92% of gun owners) and 89% of voters support preventing people with severe mental illnesses from purchasing guns (including 91% of gun owners) this poll also shows that words matter. Assistant Director, Tim Malloy stated of the poll,

 “Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.'”

In a fascinating series of articles in Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson wrote of 7 (not-so-easy) steps to beat the NRA. To me, most importantly (and something about which I have previously written) is the need to assimilate the various gun violence prevention groups into a unified voice capable, in terms of membership and funding, to compete on Capital Hill, in state politics, against the gun lobby and for the conscience of the public. This has now begun to happen. Recently, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have come together under the Michael Bloomberg funded umbrella Everytown for Gun Safety. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun ViolenceAmericans for Responsible Solutions, the Newtown Action Alliance and others, including the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and It Can Happen Here continue their important work independently. There are economies of scale available to this movement which may be necessary to influence elected officials. It is unfortunate, but money talks in Washington and in state houses across America. It is a tactic successfully used by the gun lobby for decades and a resolution gun violence prevention groups must embrace.

Words matter. We are castigated for using the term magazine when we mean clip (or vice versa) and are constantly asked to define “assault rifle” (as if we invented it and it were not a term gun makers created so the average Joe could pretend he was G.I. Joe). Words matter, but so too can they inspire! Jessica Redfield continued in her post saying

“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening. I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.”

Every hug from a family member is precious. So tune out the static of the conspiracy theorists, the angry trolls, the paranoid “patriots,” the delusions of the “false flag” crowd,  and the AM radio troglodytes. Instead, read as much as you can. Learn the subtle nuances of these issues and find the inspiration left to us by others. A cruise ship steaming at full speed will take over half a mile to stop after the engines have been reversed. But it will stop. So, too, will we change America and in the process, save lives. Over these past two years I have met some amazing people. People who would rather be doing other things with their lives but who have had their futures permanently altered by gun violence. Visit these pages for more information on how you can remember the events of two years ago today and, perhaps, find your inspiration:

Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation Scholarship Fund

ACT Foundation – Alexander C Teves Foundation

Alex Sullivan Fund

Although I never met her, Jessica continues to inspire me.

Meanwhile in Texas

Meanwhile in Texas

In light of the horrific massacre of a family in Spring, Texas yesterday, I thought it would be good to gauge the response of our elected officials. Since there was nothing but the sound of chirping crickets in response, I thought we should investigate why. These pictures tell the story. Here they are, your Texas elected officials:

Texas Attorney General and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Greg Abbott:

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Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry:

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United States Senator Ted Cruz:

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United States Senator John Cornyn:

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Texas State Senator and Republican Lt. Governor Candidate Dan Patrick:

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Texas Representative and Republican Candidate for Texas Senate Steve Toth:

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United States Representative Steve Stockman:

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Stockman10

Stockman11

But before we chastise these elected officials (and we aren’t even counting Louie Gohmert), let’s consider some of their constituents:

Constituent

Constituent2

Constituent3

Constituent4

Constituent5

Constituent6

Constituent7

Constituent8

Constituent9

Constituent11

Constituent12

Now I understand.

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter Response to Millionaire LaPierre

Mr. LaPierre,

On June 24, 2014, you took to The Daily Caller to pen an article critical of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun violence prevention efforts. As someone previously unfamiliar with The Daily Caller, I needed to familiarize myself with this “news” outlet. After researching it I find it to be the rabid, misogynistic, disturbed cousin politically to the right of Fox News. Anywhere further to the right and it would fall off of their flat earth. Further to the right of that and they could personally shake hands with the likes of your friend, Alex Jones. It is no wonder that you chose this venue to perpetuate your delusions.

In your article, you bang the familiar drums of “elitist” media types fawning over “Billionaire Bloomberg” and his efforts to “erase the liberty of every American.” Using a staccato series of one sentence “paragraphs”, you urge us “to sign up a new NRA member – a friend, a family member, a colleague” for $25 “less than a tank of gas, or even a box of cartridges.” Let’s forget for a moment that unless you are driving around Washington on a lawn mower, $25 will not fill anyone’s gas tank (although I have no idea how much a box of cartridges costs), consider that your bloviating  that “Bloomberg is one guy with millions of dollars – we are millions of people who believe in freedom who will stand and fight and win at the ballot box” neglects to acknowledge that with only 4 million members, the NRA neither represents the majority of Americans nor the majority of gun owners, but inflames an already frothing subculture ready to start a “revolution” at Bundy Ranch.

In an America where two-thirds of the population own no guns and one-third own 300 million guns, where, despite perpetual doomsday warnings, no guns have been confiscated by a tyrannical United States government and yet 32,000 friends, family members and colleagues are killed every year with a gun, your need to pad the NRA membership rolls by castigating a wealthy individual working to save lives is disgusting.

Your insistence that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is “another Bloomberg creation” shows your lack of knowledge and understanding of the ferocious outrage Americans felt after 20 first and second graders were murdered in school, along with 6 of their teachers; that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was formed at a kitchen table in Indianapolis and fused the determination of hundreds of thousands of shaken and horrified individuals from across the country into a social media juggernaut in little over one year speaks to your lack of understanding that a seismic shift occurred in America on December 14, 2012. Echoing Alice Walker’s sentiment that “Activism is the rent I pay to live on this planet,” the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that morning galvanized and awoke a distracted multitude of Americans into a passionate and compassionate army of activists who, in their individual despair screamed a collective, “Enough!”

The fact that you repeatedly mention Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth as a reason for us to ignore him is disingenuous, at best, and, at worst, hypocritical. According to the 2012 tax forms submitted by your organization, you were compensated roughly $1 million in 2012. A review of previous year’s returns confirms this compensation is quite steady. Should we ignore you because you are a millionaire? Does your wealth render your opinion moot? The difference is that while you are compensated to express the opinions of your gun manufacturer lobby employer, Mr. Bloomberg pays to back his up his opinions. Quite simply, you are paid, he pays a price.

Despite your claim that “We are the good guys” and that “money can’t buy our freedom,” the legislation (and legislators) that your organization has bought over the years has not solidified our freedom but subjected us to continued violence and incurable heartache. You seed paranoia to sell guns, blame the consequences on everything else and cash your checks.

To you I say: There is a change coming. It will not happen overnight or without great pain, but change is coming. History will judge you for your actions and those who rose against your lies. When fewer friends, family members and colleagues are lost to gun violence in the future the anachronism that is the NRA will collapse and the world will no longer shake its head at the violence we Americans accept with daily numbness and will once again look upon the United States as a champion of freedom and peace. Steady yourself, Millionaire LaPierre. Change is coming.

The Class Ceiling

On Sunday, June 9th, a 39 year old man was arrested following a 911 call from inside actress Sandra Bullock’s Los Angeles home. The man was arrested after having scaled a fence on her property and gaining access to her home via a back door while she was asleep upstairs. She was not injured in the intrusion. An investigation of the individual led to his being charged with 19 felony counts, including: seven counts of possession of a machine gun, 2 counts of possession of an illegal assault weapon and 10 counts of possession of a destructive device (tracer bullets), in addition to breaking and entering and trespassing.

As horrifying as this is, we, as Americans did not even bother with a collective shrug. We barely blinked when a gunman opened fire in Santa Barbara or when there was yet another school shooting in Oregon. We have become accustomed to both violence and guns. Too many of us are numb to it now. Couple that with the pervasive misogyny of the intertwined subcultures of men, guns and violence and you begin to see the framework upon which our society is now built and upon which some of our elected officials feed.

Ms. Bullock was in Los Angeles to accept an award. Nothing surprising there! Actors and actresses have an entire season dedicated to celebrating their celebrity. However, this award speaks to the subculture we’re discussing. Spike TV holds a Guy’s Choice Awards show every year. Ms. Bullock was there to accept their “Decade of Hotness” award. Now, whether or not Ms. Bullock is a talented actor is best left to individual taste (however her box office receipts and salary per movie indicate that she is worth the investment), but must we award “hotness”? How, in 2014, am I supposed to look at my daughter and tell her not to be too concerned with her looks, that we celebrate intellect and passion above appearance? She would laugh until she cried. And then she would shatter every mirror in our house. We need only look at the tabloids at the checkout line to see the focus of our shallow society. From “Best Bikini Bods” to “Guess who went under the plastic surgeon’s knife?” to the latest drivel from all the celebrated-beyond-reason Kardashians, we idolize celebrity, but only pretty celebrities.

On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 as an amendment to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, it states that:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions…

However, according to a study of The White House’s National Equal Pay Task Force, in spite of the fact that women play a major role in the economic engine of America (as compared to 1963) and the fact that women now earn more advanced degrees in America than men, women had only closed the gender wage gap from 61 cents for every dollar earned by men in 1963 to 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. While undoubtedly a significant gain, one would think that a law passed in 1963 would have completely eradicated the difference by now.

It wasn’t until 1984 that the term “glass ceiling” was first used by former Family Circle Editor Gay Bryant, and that was used to describe the competition between women in reaching the highest levels of business. She is quoted as saying, “Women have reached a certain point – I call it the glass ceiling. They’re in the top of middle management and they’re stopping and getting stuck.”  This definition of the glass ceiling would seem to mesh with the findings of the Council of Graduate Schools study where the majority of advanced degrees were obtained by women (59.5% of master’s degrees and 52.2% of doctoral degrees).

However, it is still a man’s world. From the media’s “sex sells” focus on female images Photoshopped beyond human anatomical limits to the overt compensation of men’s 3-story pickup trucks and need to openly carry AR-15’s and AK-47’s in Target and Home Depot, the male psyche is being beaten educationally and logically by women and has resorted to beating the female image with the only objects left to their stunted minds, guns and misogyny. Essentially, rather than dragging the woman to their cave by their hair, they subjugate her by obliquely beating her with the blunt object between their legs through anthropomorphic means in the form of a firearm. What a shame.

If only men saw women as equals and sought their advice on the important social issues of our time, perhaps we would find a partner instead of a punching bag. As President Kennedy said repeatedly, beginning in 1959, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Instead, members of Open Carry Texas have resorted to calling members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, “thugs with jugs” and have a one minute free for all where they open fire on a female mannequin. Guns get bigger, but, we’re told,”they’re only used for hunting,” as if we are supposed to believe that deer, birds and rabbits have gotten exponentially larger and evolution has furnished them with Kevlar skin.

We’ve become little boys with big toys (or more accurately, big boys with little minds and big guns). Am I expected to teach this to my daughter? Am I expected to treat my wife this way? Am I expected to subjugate my mother like this? And what does any of this teach my son? You may call me less than a man or a wimp or a feminist, but I’d rather open my arms and use my intelligence than open my legs and show my ignorance.

(If you’re interested in a little mental exercise, read this post. I was writing it in 2012 as news broke from Newtown, Connecticut of a shooting at an elementary school.)

My Confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not one I’m proud of, especially given my small participation in trying to reduce gun violence in America. On May 23rd, in Santa Barbara, a gunman killed six people and then himself on a college campus. On June 5th, in Seattle, a gunman killed one person on a college campus. On June 8th, in Las Vegas, a couple killed three people, including two police officers and then themselves. And yesterday, in Troutdale, Oregon, a student killed another student and then himself. Oh, and on June 3rd, in New Brunswick, Canada, a gunman killed three police officers. Nineteen days have passed since the murders in Santa Barbara. Eighteen people died in those 5 incidents.

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, 86 people are killed by gun violence in America every day (33 are murdered and another 50 kill themselves). Every day another 205 are shot and survive (including 148 shot during an assault, 10 suicide attempts and 45 “accidents”). To annualize those numbers is to understand the magnitude of our psychosis. 31,346 people are killed due to gun violence every year. Another 74,835 are injured, but survive. That amounts to over 100,000 Americans victims of gun violence every year.

In the 543 days since 20 six- and seven-year olds were murdered along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, there have been 74 school shootings. Seventy four! If the chart below of school shootings doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, you have liquid nitrogen running through your veins.

Yesterday, President Obama said, “The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.” Ah, but all of these people must be crazy, whispered the 2A “patriots.” To wit, the president said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

The United States has a gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other developed countries. Surely, we are not to believe that we have 20 times more mentally troubled people than these other developed countries. Their reply, “It’s the person not the gun. A gun is an inanimate object. If it weren’t for the gun, they would find another method.” To wit, I would refer you to author Steven King’s response in his book Guns:

 “I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty school kids with a fucking spoon.”

There are over 300,000,000 guns in America. If having a gun made people safer, America would be the safest country on the planet. We’re not. Not even close.

The White House tweeted the following comment from the president yesterday:

So, my question to you is this: What will it take? The slaughter of 20 school children didn’t do it. Eighty six deaths and 205 injuries a day hasn’t done it.  Seriously, what will it take for us to say, “Enough”?  Is there a number? Is there a victim? Are we content with this and numb to the stories? Have we swallowed the “good guy” line from the NRA and now consider these deaths and injuries collateral damage and friendly fire in order for us to “exercise” our “God given” Second Amendment right? Or are we ready to insist on change? Will we demand a better, safer future for our children? As one of the millions who work every day to bring about change I believe we deserve, I hope so, because here is my confession: I have muddled the most recent shootings. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I feel horrible for the victims, family members and friends of the victims, because they deserve to be remembered. I just can’t keep them straight anymore. I demand better of myself and my country. What about you?

Mother’s Day

Mothers Day

 

In honor of my mother, my wife, my sister and all of the mama bears of Moms Demand Action, here are a few quotes on mothers. In short, thank you.

 

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

Washington Irving

 

 “I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”

Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

 “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

 

 “He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

“My mother is a poem that I could never write”

Unknown

 

“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues — faith and hope.”

Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

 

“My mother said the cure for thinking too much about yourself was helping somebody who was worse off than you.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 

“If I were asked to define Motherhood, I would have defined it as Love in its purest form. Unconditional Love.”

Revathi Sankaran

 

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”

Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match

 

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”

Milton Berle

 

“Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on”

Maria Shriver

 

“The phrase “working mother” is redundant.”

Jane Sellman

 

“With children the clock is reset. We forget what came before”

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

 

“My most important title is still “mom-in-chief.” My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.”

Michelle Obama

 

“I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.”

E.M. Forster, Howards End

 

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.”

Victor Hugo

 

 

A Conversation With My Daughter

feminist

 

“Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

I am lucky. As a heterosexual, white, American man, I found, out of the millions of available women, the best. Does that sound right? “I,” “I found,” “I am lucky.” Let me try to rephrase that. A strong, compassionate, brilliant woman, a woman with talent and brains and limited tolerance for fools, a woman destined to positively impact the lives of countless people, chose me. Better. Although I was right, I was/am lucky.

I had the most incredible conversation with my 19 year old daughter last night. It was a text message conversation, but, in many ways, the technology was not a barrier to thought or feelings, but an aid. Perhaps it is the inherent delay in responding or the necessity to distill thoughts into typed words. Whatever the cause, the effect was blinding, pure logic bathed in compassion. The subject: Feminism.

Again, I’m a guy. But that does not preclude me from discussing or even embracing feminism. Ultimately, feminism is one wavelength within the light spectrum of equality.

Plato wrote in The Republic,“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” That was in 380 B.C.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban on her school bus for having the audacity to think, “Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” (I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban)

Clearly, in 2,392 years we have done little to evolve as humans. Why do some (males and females) see feminists as the enemy? Why have some vilified them as militant, anti-men?

To help answer this question, I need to back up to a 30,000 foot view of “civilized society.” My daughter is an artist, and the best kind. She is infused with talent, an incredible work ethic blended with a strong desire to learn and stirred by passion; truly a recipe for greatness, both as an artist and as a compassionate human. As we chatted last night we wandered into a metaphor that, I think carries some veracity. The idea that while seeing all issues in pure black and white is easy (read: requires little or no thought), it is boring and excludes the rainbow of colors that make life (and art) joyful. Seeing (or rather acknowledging) the gray in an issue requires us to pause and consider differing opinions, perspectives and, potentially, shaking the ledge upon which we base our morals. It is neither comfortable nor easy, but it is necessary and should be required! Somewhere along the line, Descartes argument cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) has been bludgeoned into “I am, therefore I need not think.” How sad.

Feminism is not the charge of a select group of women but rather the obligation of all rational thinkers, therefore, all of humankind. Where it is the weak minded and threatened man who disdains feminists, so too is it the weak minded and male-oriented, society-molded female who defends organized subjugation. To subjugate one is to imprison all. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “”No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our willing abdication of thought may inevitably lead to an Orwellian future of newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrimes and perpetual war. How far down this road are we already? Who wants to drive?

I am proud of my daughter. She is strong-willed, passionate and compassionate, thinks for herself and wants to make the world a better place. If that is the definition of a feminist, sign me up.

House (and Senate) Calls

DFAGunsSharable (1) 

 The NRA is frothing at the mouth again, this time over the President’s nominee for Surgeon General. The reason? The President’s nominee, Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA and a member of Doctors for America, had the audacity to say in a January 9, 2013 letter to Vice President Biden that guns are a public health care issue. In response to the nomination, the NRA sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to reject his nominee.

“Who is this 37 year old foreigner and political hack King Obama has nominated? And why should we listen to a physician regarding firearms?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, this “foreigner” is a US citizen who was born in the UK and moved with his parents to Florida when he was three years old. He graduated as valedictorian from his high school in Miami. He then graduated magna cum laude (in 3 years) from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences. He then received an MD from Yale School of Medicine and an MBA in Health Care Management from Yale School of Management, where he was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine in at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is currently a physician at Brigham & Women’s and an instructor at Harvard University.

Now, as to your second question, firearms cause injury to human flesh. It is the emergency departments of local hospitals that see the carnage and devastation guns cause. It is the physician’s duty to save lives. A physician does not receive a dossier on the patient in front of them bleeding from a gunshot wound. They do not pause to determine the legality/justification of the gun’s discharge. They only see the damage. Following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, 52 medical organizations joined forces to send letters to the leaderships of the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives and directly to the President of the United States. The audacity, indeed.

Of course, it is not the 52 medical organizations calling for change or Dr. Murthy’s CV the NRA really has a problem with, although even the thought of any gun control leads the NRA to a version of reduction ad absurdum apparently leading to tyranny, confiscation, black helicopters, concentration camps and a socialistic New World Order. Rather, it is the position of the organization Dr. Murthy founded, Doctors for America, whose mission statement reads:

“Doctors for America is a national movement of physicians and medical students working together to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care.”

And whose core values and culture are listed as:

    1. We are bold and fearless.
    2. We are creative and flexible.
    3. We value everyone.  Every voice matters.
    4. We cultivate strong relationships and a family spirit with partners and colleagues.
    5. We are accountable to one another in our individual and collective work.
    6. We are open and honest.
    7. We are passionate and determined.
    8. We grow and learn and help others do the same.
    9. We have fun and celebrate!
    10. 10. We ensure every action meets our highest standard: will it help create a healthier America for everyone?

End times, indeed. But it is the group’s position on gun violence prevention that has the NRA exorcised. Once again, facts be damned, Obama’s coming for our guns! And once again, our feckless Congress is caving to the NRA’s demands. Yesterday, in an editorial piece in the New York Times, the editorial board wrote that, “There are now reports that the White House and Senate Democratic leaders might delay a vote on the nomination until after the midterm elections or urge the nominee to withdraw.” Unconscionable.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine, writing to General William Howe, wrote:

arguing with the dead

Shame on the NRA, but more shame on Congress, should they not vigorously defend this nominee. Gun violence is a public health crisis. To ignore it is an abdication of responsibility, against the wishes of Americans and placating the lowest common denominator of society.

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