Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Month: June, 2016

National Day of Action

13495181_10208951353837365_94521619094688861_nToday, I was one of the thousands of people across the country to attend an event tied to the National Day of Action. I was fortunate enough to attend a sit-in with Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin, along with mayors, local elected officials, survivors, clergy, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, members of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, and my children.

We attended adorned in our Moms Demand Action swag and were surprised to see that Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts was there. We have been “friends” on Facebook for several years now, but with me having lived in Texas until three weeks ago, it was a wonderful surprise to see her here in our little state. Everyone started the event sitting in chairs in the auditorium at the Providence Public Safety building in downtown Providence, however, it became apparent that Congressman Cicilline, who had just attended the sit-in in the well of the US House of Representatives with civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis only the week before, wanted us to sit around him on the stage. So we all got up and went to the stage while Congressman Cicilline continued his comments. Today’s speakers included elected officials, clergy, survivors, and advocates. And then Shannon Watts got up to speak.

After having worked with Moms Demand Action for several years now, it was incredible to be in the same room with Shannon and more amazing to hear her speak about the reasons we were all there. Just by way of background, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded by Shannon in her kitchen as a Facebook page to vent her anger and frustration following the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012. Quickly, her Facebook page grew into a grassroots movement. Today, there are over 3.4 million supporters and there are chapters in every state in the country. As I wrote in my previous entry, the tide is turning in this country toward those concerned with preventing gun violence and in opposition to those elected officials defending the desires of the previously dominant (and unobstructed) gun lobby. Change will not happen overnight, but it will happen. Taking the work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving as the foundation for this movement, remember that it took MADD many years to achieve a significant shift in public opinion and legislative action. As Shannon says, this is a marathon and not a sprint.

Having now seen the work of chapters in Rhode Island and Texas, it is apparent that there are passionate members of this organization in both states. I have no doubt but that this passion is replicated across the country in all chapters. I thought my friends in the Texas chapter had a much harder road ahead of them until I saw that the speaker of the Rhode Island House is an “A” rated NRA lapdog, not unlike the leadership in Texas. Several important and reasonable pieces of gun violence prevention legislation were left off the docket as the Rhode Island legislature wrapped up its most recent session. Shame on him.

Because the Republican leadership in the United States Congress, in both houses, has no intention of addressing gun violence, gun violence prevention organizations across the country are taking the fight to state houses. Across the country, sensible legislation is being passed against the wishes of the gun lobby, but in agreement with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans (even the majority of gun owners). It was the intention of this National Day of Action to show the national Republican leadership that the people want there to be a vote on two key pieces of legislation. First, a bill limiting access of those on the no-fly list access to firearms, and second, closing the background check loophole allowing the purchase of guns online and at some gun shows.

It was incredible to meet Shannon today. She is as wonderful and determined in person as she is online. She not only remembered me from Facebook, but she remembered that my wife had died and offered me her condolences. I will continue to offer my help to this organization in whatever way they find valuable. Equally impressive, to me, was that my children were there with me because they wanted to be there. Everything I do in this movement is for the benefit of my children and the children of parents everywhere. To have my kids there, wearing their orange and Moms Demand Action t-shirts was heartwarming. Again, they were there because they wanted to be there. I was very proud.

As Congressman Cicilline introduced speaker after speaker, it became apparent that there were several gun rights activists at the back of the room glaring at the crowd. One wore a t-shirt that read Ban Idiots Not Guns. Now I’m not sure what that was supposed to convey, perhaps an allusion to those mentally compromised having access to guns, or maybe it was a comment on the people in the room. Another person tried a strawman argument with Congressman Cicilline at the end of the event, attempting to put words into the congressman’s mouth and then argued against them. Following Congressman Cicilline’s rebuttal, the crowd roared their approval and shouted down the individual, thus bringing the event to its proper conclusion.

I look forward to continuing to work for Moms Demand Action (and any other organization in Rhode Island) to put an end to the daily slaughter of 91 people in this country and the heartbreak it brings to their loved ones and friends. Nothing else is acceptable. Thank you to Congressman Cicilline, Congressman Langevin, Providence Mayor Elorza, Shannon and the moms from Moms Demand Action in Rhode Island. Together we will make a better tomorrow for our children. We are on the right side of history. It’s only a matter of time.

Advertisements

The Tide is Turning

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.     -George Orwell

 

Clba5NIUoAEtkSV

Two days ago, the United States Senate, led by Republicans, shot down two sensible amendments designed to prevent terrorists from getting firearms. In their place, they submitted two meaningless NRA sponsored amendments which were also defeated. The votes for all four amendments were primarily along party lines. However, the tide is turning, and there is hope that eventually there will be consensus on a meaningful bill in the Senate.

Elections matter. Voting matters. The parties are not the same. There are always swells and troughs in election cycles leading to whether the Democrats or the Republicans are on top. And in spite of the fact that there has been a Democrat in the White House for almost eight years, it is the Democrats who seem to be riding a wave right now while the Republicans are being washed away as if by a rip tide. Perhaps it is because the person at the top of the Republican ticket is so divisive. Perhaps it is because the Tea Party has run its course, or perhaps it is because the country sees that the Democrats have the most rational response to gun violence. If greater than ninety percent of Americans agree that there should be background checks on all gun sales, it begs the question, just who are the Republicans representing? If the overwhelming majority of Americans do not believe that a person on the terror watch list should be able to purchase a firearm, to whom are the Republicans answering? The answer could be as simple as the gun lobby. The gun lobby has spent over $36 million to get politicians elected, and they want something for their investment. If this is true, then Republican constituents are without representation as their elected officials do the bidding of the gun lobby instead.

Both Senator Cornyn’s (R-TX) amendment and Senator Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment were seemingly written by the NRA and submitted under the senators’ names. They were designed to give the appearance of addressing the problem of gun violence and terrorists’ continued access to firearms, but their actual purpose was disingenuous and deceitful. And finally, the public is beginning to see the difference. The win the NRA chalked up on Monday as all four amendments failed was likely a Pyrrhic victory because by defeating the reasonable amendments offered by Senator Murphy (D-CT) and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) Republicans emerged as the party defending the rights of terrorists and ISIS. Finally, the Republicans obstructionist activities were on full display (and this only months before the next election). Republican senators were forced to go on record to vote against limiting terrorists’ access to firearms and voting against forcing gun sales at gun shows and over the Internet be subject to a federal background check. Their votes were on the record. And the progress made in this movement to prevent gun injuries and deaths in America, a country awash in guns and the carnage they dispense, is measurable. The Overton Window is shifting.

Following the murder of six educators and twenty schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, a horror so visceral that all Americans thought it would result in a flurry of new gun laws, it took Congress four months to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. It failed because of Republicans. Now, as a result of a much better organized gun violence prevention movement and the support of Senator Murphy’s filibuster (along with the support of Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Booker (D-NJ) and 37 other senators) it took four days for a new piece of legislation to come to the floor for a vote. Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded after Newtown,  generated 8,000 calls into Congress in the months leading up to the vote following the school shooting. Following the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, Florida, they generated over 60,000 calls. And that is just one of the gun violence prevention organizations working to curb this epidemic. What started out as a Facebook page from a frustrated, angry housewife in Indiana has become a juggernaut in its own right with 3.5 million members and chapters in all 50 states. This fight has been taken to statehouses across the country and victory after victory is being notched because of it. The tide is turning, and history will be the judge as lives are saved.

So, the NRA and their paid for politicians will continue to obstruct meaningful measures to stem the slaughter, but common sense, compassion, and logic are on the side of the gun violence prevention movement. The NRA’s victory on Monday will be viewed as a hollow victory because change is coming and the NRA’s political influence is about to be washed away. Elections matter and your vote matters and I only hope that reason, logic, and compassion win the day in Washington before the nation is subjected to another mass shooting. These are the silver linings in Monday’s defeat, and they have emboldened those in the gun violence prevention movement to work ever harder to elect a Congress willing to do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed caused by gun violence in America. The tide is turning.

Happy Birthday

DSC_0062_-_Copy

Happy birthday, Lisa. You’ve been gone from us for over nine months now, but some days seem to last nine months. I miss you so much. Today is one of those days.

I wish you were here to see how well the kids are doing. They prop me up when I am down and remind me that the small, daily frustrations are nothing compared to what we’ve been through together. You would have loved their college graduation, and you were surely missed. The day was beautiful but hot. Samantha and Cameron each graduated with honors and the commencement the following day was very special. All of your efforts throughout their school careers paid off. The work ethic you infused in them has brought them to this point in their lives. They’re still working on where they want to attend grad school, but that effort, like all of their others will reflect your hard work and their determination. Samantha looked beautiful at graduation. When she radiates your confidence, she is stunning, and nothing can stop her. Cam’s thesis was printed and looks great. I still have to read it and, no doubt, he’ll want to discuss it with me beyond my capabilities.

I wish you were here to see the new house. The “bones” of the condo are fine, and I think it will fit with our lives well, but the decorations leave something to be desired. Again, though, these are small things compared to everything else. I wish you were here to help me design each room. As good as you were, I’m not (remember the dining room chandelier?). Sam has offered to help me, and she gets her excellent fashion and design sense from you, so I know we’ll redesign the house well.

Today is one of the tougher days. Your birthday was always a cause for celebration for all of us and your absence today is deafening. I miss your laugh. I miss your smile. Everyone’s roses are having their first blooms of the season right now, and people keep commenting that it makes them think of you. How special that you had such a wonderful impact on so many lives. The void you have left in us can never be filled, but the wonderful memories we have get us through.

You continue to inspire me. Whether it is admiring the chipmunk as he scrambles over the grass or seeing mulch in the front of the condo as a ready-made planting bed for your favorite rose, you inspire me. Whether it is facing a tough situation head on or dealing with an uncertain future, you continue to inspire me. I continue to talk to you, and you continue to lead me to my better self.

So the kids and I will celebrate your birthday today. We will be somber and reflective, but we will also laugh. Your absence will be felt acutely, but our love for you cannot be impacted by death. We miss your presence but love you just the same. We hate the cancer that took you from us but love you as much as ever. Keep inspiring me, Lisa. I love you, and I miss you so much.

Hello, Rhode Island

rhode-island-tourism_242_190_90

After three and a half days of driving, we finally arrived at our new home here in Rhode Island. The trip was everything I expected it to be, uneventful, and that’s the best thing you can say when you are driving across country.

The first night we only made it to Shreveport, Louisiana because the second truck that came to gather our belongings left early in the afternoon, leaving us little driving time before it got too late. The weather was terrible as we left Texas, terrific downpours tracked us as we headed for the state line. After that experience, I was glad to settle into the hotel in Shreveport for the night.

The second day, we made it to Nashville, Tennessee. For dinner, we found a little place Cameron’s friend had recommended. We had chicken tenders in the special “Nashville Hot” sauce. It was delicious, but the after effect of the sauce was a fire in your mouth. We all survived it and would go back for more. Cameron wanted to go to the Third Man Records store, Jack White’s record label in Nashville. So early the next morning we found it and Cam enjoyed every minute he spent in the place. Cam has a podcast called Effortless. He writes the episodes and records them with his friend Tristian. Inside Third Man Records, they have an old-time recording studio which presses your recording onto a 45 record while you wait. Cam wrote a special episode of the podcast the previous night in Shreveport and performed it in the recording booth while Samantha and I watched. It was fascinating and fun to watch.

After Cam had finished, we were back in the car and off to Roanoke, Virginia, the last stop before making it home to Rhode Island. The day’s travel was easy compared to driving in all of the rain we had encountered. With only one more long day ahead of us, we all went to bed early and looked forward to the next day.

I was nervous to show the kids the condo. I had purchased it after having flown to Rhode Island last winter and seeing several condos in the area. I had flown back to Texas the same day and made a decision the next afternoon. I wanted the kids to like their new home, even though they would likely only be living there until they went off to graduate school. I have never lived in a condo, and the area is new to us, so I wanted them to be as excited as I was to see the place.

The drive to Rhode Island from Virginia was equally uneventful, and we drove in good weather. The kids were as excited as I was to finally see the “Welcome to Rhode Island” sign on I-95. As I didn’t even have the keys to the new place yet, I had my real estate agent leave them in a flower pot on the front step for me to find when we arrived. The place was just as I had remembered it and the kids were genuinely excited to see it. They both took to their rooms (Sam’s is significantly larger than Cam’s) without complaint, and we toured the house eager to place our belongings in every room. Unfortunately, our belongings would not arrive for several more days. With nowhere to sleep and my mother in law with us, I tried to find a hotel nearby, but the only one I could find with availability was in Newport, so off to the island we went.

We spent three nights in the hotel while the first of two trucks found its way to Rhode Island. As with any move, there were some small breakages and crushed boxes, but overall, most everything made the trip unscathed. That first day was warm and with the doors open all day while the movers moved all of our belongings into the house, the house heated up. Unfortunately, it was later that evening when we found that the air conditioning was not functioning. Fortunately, it cooled down that night, and as we slept with the windows open, it was very comfortable.

There have been the usual hiccups, minor plumbing issues, etc., but the move has been smooth compared to what we’ve been through over the past few years. Every time I got frustrated with something, the kids would remind me that we have been through much tougher situations and that this was a minor inconvenience. They are so wise, and I am so proud of them.

My mother in law managed the trip better than I expected, thanks to the excellent care the kids gave to her. She will be living in a senior memory care facility three miles from our home. She understands where she is and should blend into the new facility easily.

So we are finally settling into our new home. It is not decorated the way we like. Wallpaper needs to be taken down and paint colors need to be changed, but that is minor stuff. The largest pieces missing from our lives are Lisa and Delbow. They would both like the new place, I think. I can picture Lisa redesigning everything in her mind and all of us pitching in to see her vision materialize. I can see Delbow running through the grass, sniffing where the woodchuck, chipmunks, and wild turkeys had just been. I miss them both dearly but carry them both in my heart.

There are far too many boxes that need to be emptied now, so I’m off to do some unpacking. Wish us well in our new home. It is lonelier without Lisa, but we will, as we always have, make the best of it, smile, remember the good times, and have some laughs. My kids are the most resilient people I’ve ever known, perhaps because it is all they remember, but I will work to get them through this, and they will help me get through it. Together, we can conquer anything.