The Great Debate

When I was 14, I was visiting my dad’s house for the weekend and sleeping on the couch, which was the normal – I didn’t have a bedroom there. I’m a light sleeper. So it was a surprise that somehow between 12:30 a.m., when I fell asleep, and 7:00 a.m., when my stepmom answered a phone call from a stranger alerting her to the fact that her purse was scattered on the stranger’s front lawn, that the house had been robbed – and the burglar had somehow gotten past me. Three hunting rifles had been taken off of the wall along with a video camera and tripod, and of course, the purse.

The next night my dad took my place on the couch with his handgun in case anyone decided to come back. We used all of my babysitting cash to re-key the locks. But this story demonstrates many points: I grew up around guns (that were never locked up), the hunting rifles made it somewhere into the wide world to be used for who knows what, and that we are a violent society. The cops were surprised I was still alive and unharmed.

Not many years later, when my brother was five and a half, he was given his first gun for Christmas. His first few minutes alone with it and he shot out his bedroom light. I was never given a gun because I was a girl. Mind you, I never felt as if I missed out. But my dad and my brother perpetuated craving violence and guns. Even though I was the one who was on the couch, exposed, they were the ones who wanted to kill, kill, kill. At least, that’s what they projected.

My dad’s own father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In fact, Dad was the one who found him. Included in the three rifles that were stolen was the one that Grandpa used to do the deed. It had a strange sort of sentimental value that I couldn’t relate to. Who would want to cradle that weapon, and use it over and over, knowing its history?

Fast forward a few decades to when I lived with violent men. One was the guy who grew up in Manhattan in a household whose own siblings stabbed each other. The last day I saw him was the last time I called the cops on him, when he was supposed to be gone at work while I moved my things out of the house we were renting. Instead he was hiding in one of the back rooms and came out when I set down some moving boxes and attacked me. I struggled to get back out to my car in my stocking feet and he was restraining me and pinning my arms, telling me that if I would just do what he told me to do, we would be happy. I finally wrestled free and got in my car and called 911. The responding police officers bought his big-eyed innocent act and told me that if I called them again that I would be arrested.

Then there was the live-in boyfriend who threatened to shoot me – twice. He also talked about taking his guns to work to shoot all of his co-workers constantly. The cops reassured me there was absolutely nothing I could do until he actually followed through and hurt one or all of us. 

Most recently of course was my downstairs neighbor who moved out the last weekend of July, 2017. He used to beat his wife and abuse their cat. Whenever I had visitors I was a nervous wreck, because I had no idea if he would pound down the door while they were here, falsely claiming that we were too loud, or take it out on me later, screaming and raging and dreaming up reasons to call the cops on me. Worse yet he could of course physically pulverize his wife and cat for revenge, just for existing. He was ex-military so I knew it was likely there was a gun or two or seven in his apartment.

So here we are in the U.S. with our easy access to the worst kinds of weapons and ammunition. I am the one who was laying on a couch while a stranger or two crept past me to rob our house; you would think I would fall into the category of wanting a gun for home protection. I grew up around them; you would think I would relax around them. I’ve lived with and around plenty of assholes who have wanted me dead; you would think that I would feel safer armed.

Fuck that.

First of all, we have over 7 billion people on the planet. We are no longer hunting strictly for food supply. Anyone who claims that is an outright liar. And hunting season is so abbreviated that there’s no need to keep guns out for the entire year to make them accessible to every man, woman and child on the planet. Second, home invasions do not happen with the regularity that the NRA has somehow convinced the gun lovers they do. I remember reading from one guy a quote last week that Texas experiences 800,000 home invasions a year. My answer was, “Are you talking about bugs?” I mean, c’mon. If that were true, Texas would be experiencing a mass exodus.

The biggest and hottest debate that has resurfaced is the arming of school staff. I cannot stress this enough, but there are so, SO many reasons why this is a bad idea. Right now I live in the city where Philando Castille was shot. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and told the cops, and was shot and killed anyway. If for some reason some idiots decided arming school staff members would be a good idea, the staff members had better be lily white, because we Americans cannot be trusted to be color blind. Even black cops have proven to have prejudice against black suspects without meaning to.

I posted this article on Facebook regarding an armed officer who never engaged in the shootout that was happening in Florida. He simply hung back while all of those kids were getting shot. I pointed out that if an officer did this, why would we expect teachers to uniformly charge without fear or hesitation, and to act correctly? A friend of 27 years, whom I considered a decently good friend, didn’t like that I used this as an example of why we shouldn’t arm teachers and staff. He also didn’t like that I proposed that we have stricter gun laws regarding background checks, wait times, amount of ammunition sold, amount of ammunition guns could fire, types of guns that could be sold on the market, and age of buyers/operators. He resorted to calling me an idiot. Finally, he just outright blocked me. 

But am I an idiot? I’ve just been trying to stay alive. I have all of this violence swirling around me, and all of these men are insisting that they have a right to violate me. I’m saying no. I will continue to say no. I’m good with saying no.

Lastly, here is a comprehensive list from a woman named Karen Nichols in Ottawa Center, Michigan; she had many questions regarding arming teachers and staff, and did a great job of articulating them:

Which teachers get guns?
Where will the guns be stored?
Who decides when guns can be brandished?
What penalties will apply if teachers mishandle a weapon?
Will teachers volunteer for gun duty?
Can teachers refuse it?
Who will audit their adherence to regulations?
Will students know which teachers have weapons?
Who will be liable if the teacher with the gun becomes the shooter?
What will be the consequences when students are accidentally shot by a teacher?
How will armed teachers communicate in a tactical situation?
Will teachers with a history of mental illness be allowed to use weapons?
Will teachers be required to disclose any history of mental illness?
Will teachers be issued a weapon? Reimbursed for purchase? For ammunition?
How will administrators conduct non-weapon-related discipline against a teacher?
Will there be armed assistance available to deter workplace shootings?
Who will shepherd the armed teacher’s classroom while the teacher is attempting to locate the active shooter?
What happens when a teacher misidentifies a student as a threat in good faith?
Will teachers who do not carry lethal weapons be offered non lethal alternatives?
If an armed teacher is shot, can another teacher employ his or her weapon?
How will armed teachers identify themselves to arriving first responders?
Will armed teachers be required to learn how to give first-response medicine?
Will armed teachers be required to attempt an arrest before using lethal force? Under what circumstances?
Will proficiency training on weapons count for teachers’ continuing education and professional development?
How will insurers adjust health and other rates to account for the presence of armed employees?
Will teachers receive additional pay for being armed?
how often will armed teachers be re-evaluated for licensing purposes?
Will armed teachers leading field trips deposit their weapons in a personally owned vehicle or school-owned transport?
Will one teacher per wing of a school building receive weapons? Two? Three?
Exactly which standards will count for proficiency—greater than a big-city police department, State Police, FBI, hobbyist, marksman?
In training scenarios, how will using force against innocents be penalized?
Will racial sensitivity courses be required?
Do parents have a right to refuse to send their kids to schools with guns?
Will students have to sign waivers? Will parents? What if a parent signs a waiver for a minor student who, when that student turns 18, refuses to abide by its provisions?
Will teachers on probation be allowed to carry weapons?
What about teachers with active union grievances? Complaints about sexual harassment? Anger management? Divorce proceedings?
Will armed teachers wear holsters?
Will they be stationed strategically during pep rallies or other gatherings?
Will they participate in lockdown drills as if they were armed or unarmed?
Will funding for the policies outlined above be distributed according to local budgets, statewide formulas, or national formulas?
Will schools in high-risk neighborhoods receive more or less funding? Suburban schools?
What is the right ratio of armed:unarmed teachers by grade level?
What is the procedure for debriefing and assessing armed teachers’ performance during a crisis?
Can an armed teacher who flinches be fired? Can an armed teacher who breaks protocol be rewarded?
Will preschool teachers have guns?
Will teachers in “juvie” (high risk) schools have guns?
Will the teacher or the school be liable if their gun is stolen?
Can administrators carry weapons? Can they do so in disciplinary situations?

Think about this: I quit playing clarinet after 8th grade because my band teacher was an outright asshole. After I quit, he was fired for punching a student. But let’s give him a gun, right?

Advertisements

Anything But That

Late last night I was watching Netflix or catching up on Post Secret or something or nothing…I forget. It doesn’t matter. A lot of people are talking about what happened in the city near where I lived for five years in the middle of Minnesota.
Stabbing in St. Cloud

The off-duty officer featured in this news story is from the neighboring town where my mom has had her business for the past 21 years, its population is 1,000 on a good day if you include dogs on that count. I dreaded reading the news as it was unfolding. I was saying to myself, “Please don’t let the attacker be a Muslim Somalian, please let it be some dumb redneck asshole.” After moving back to Minnesota I had heard some dumb redneck assholes complaining about how the Somalians were making trouble in St. Cloud. I had even unfriended some former classmates on Facebook because that person was posting faux “articles” about how gangs of Somalian teenage boys/men were running around and attacking women and beating up men and planning on blowing up “good, hardworking farmers” in the area, but that the newspapers weren’t telling anyone – all very inflammatory and untrue.

I hate that the young man who carried out this violent act was a Muslim and a Somalian and his family relocated to Minnesota as part of a refugee program, because it’s exactly what every paranoid and prejudiced person in the area needed to see in order to get worked up into a frenzy. My heart sank as the details became public knowledge. Already I’m seeing these posts saying “Fuck Muslims, they all want to kill us, so we have to kill them first” and “That’s why we all need to carry guns” and “They need to go back home” and “See???? They’re no good!” One person suddenly represents a billion – at least, that’s true according to one former classmate who first said she had never seen any violence from any other religion, then said she never saw violence like that from any present-day religion, then said she didn’t see it from any present-day religion in the United States, then said she didn’t see it in any present-day religion in Minnesota after I kept challenging her with examples every time she changed her answer. Finally she deleted the post altogether; I imagine I’ll be booted from her friend list soon since this is not the first time I’ve called her out on her prejudices.

One of my high school classmates is now a school administrator in that city; she posted on Facebook that she is concerned for her students, because of course she has Somalian children in her school. Her concern is two-fold. First, the children will feel pressure from the other children, because the other children will be influenced by their parents. But then the Somalian children will also have prejudice directed at them specifically by adults who are completely shameless.

My thoughts on this situation: It has to be incredibly difficult to move halfway across the world to a small, isolated city where work is sparse, and you are pretty much universally hated. There isn’t much for a young man to do and if he is approached to join something that gives him purpose and he is promised eternal glory, well, that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? He’s an easy target for recruiting. It’s complicated. I’m not surprised, but I’m incredibly disappointed and worried that this event will send that region into pre-civil rights era discrimination.

I Heard The News Today

I woke up this morning to a message that was sent to me around midnight telling me, “I know you were friends with Bart [not his real name]; just wanted to let you know that he died after a confrontation with the police Wednesday morning.”

I wasn’t awake to chat back and forth, so I had to do some searching of news articles when I saw the message. There was actually quite an extensive write-up as well as video clips so I was able to get a complete picture from the law enforcement’s viewpoint of what happened.

The hard part was seeing pictures of his dwelling and recognizing the side of his building. Bart was so proud of everything that he did to fix his place up. I still remember walking through his door and smelling his split pea soup.

Bart and I weren’t close friends; in fact, the person that notified me of his death had known him decades longer than I had and was the reason we had become acquainted. But we had gone to the Renaissance festival as part of a big group, and we always ended up attending the same get-togethers. Bart was friendly and jovial, though he definitely had issues with drinking too much. He also could not control his impulses or anger; this certainly fed into a never-ending cycle of joblessness and financial uncertainty.

From what has been published in the stories online, he got a DUI on Friday night and was sent home in a cab rather than sent to jail. On Saturday night he drove by a deputy and shot him and prompted a manhunt/search. On Wednesday morning the sheriff’s department knocked on his front door and he shot himself.

The county sheriff is proclaiming this man to be an obvious participant in the bigger war on cops. I’m calling bullshit on this. Bart was in an all-out war on his own life.

Did he drink to get drunk? Always. He couldn’t get together with a group without drinking. When you’re middle-aged and you’re drinking every weekend (and I am guessing for him, every day), it’s obviously a problem. He tried his luck with dating, but he was always stuck in his 20’s there too, referring to women as girls and only taking pictures with the pretty random strangers with their boobs propped up, never really being less than insulting. Bart was a smart guy and had loads of certifications and degrees in the tech field, so he should have had no problem with landing well-paying jobs. In fact, when I was laid off, I visited his place and we chatted about our resumes and wages, and I was quite impressed with his in both areas – he could have afforded to buy my house two or three times over with his salary. But Bart had done and said so many crappy things in his workplaces that he had been blackballed in his current state, and finding work out of state was proving to be just as difficult.

The friends who were much closer to him had relayed stories about how in recent years and months, he would suddenly become angry and take off, or disappear for hours. If they were all out of town for a trip and following each other in their cars, Bart would somehow manage to leave the caravan and insist on his own route and get completely lost. He would become belligerent if anyone tried to reason with him.

Not that this means a whole lot, but he and I used to debate his support of Trump as a presidential nominee. Bart definitely had prejudices against people who were anything except white middle-aged American men.

So here is this guy who is doing everything he can to make his own life as terrible as it possibly could be – ruled by alcohol, void of love and understanding, built on a foundation of fear and ignorance. He shot another human being because he wanted to blame someone for something. He shot himself because he saw no other way out of the pit he dug.

I have a hard time thinking about him no longer being on this earth. I saw the destructive behaviors in him, but Bart was mostly friendly towards me – maybe because I didn’t have a long or involved history with him, or because I knew exactly what to expect. I hope that now his soul is finally at peace. I think about this often, especially since death seems to be around me a lot more this year, and I wonder if souls review their lives and their lessons like I think they must. (I hope that Bart can see the humor in me saying that my wish for him is to finally understand why Trump would make a terrible president.)

In fact, I wish I could interview all of the people I knew who crossed over in the past ten months and ask them what they have learned. What were they surprised by? What was the biggest reveal? Was it all worth it, taking on this human body and signing this contract?

one billion rising

Source: one billion rising

With so many women affected by dating and relationship abuse, you would think we would have worked out a better way to raise awareness (and boys to men who don’t believe they have the right to use and abuse women’s bodies however they see fit). But here it is. I guarantee you, if not you, then more than just a few women in your life have experienced violence at the hands of a date or partner.

Super Bowl Sunday will feature another powerful anti-domestic violence PSA

Domestic violence happens in all financial demographics from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Domestic violence is a part of the lives of the football players and their domestic partners, first because they take their violent sport home with them, and second because they have repeated blows to their head that cause permanent damage (CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy). When you watch the Superbowl, just keep in mind that a portion of those players are going to go home and punch, kick, strangle and humiliate their partners while you eat chips and talk game highlights and best commercials.

Source: Super Bowl Sunday will feature another powerful anti-domestic violence PSA

Face Forward

I have been listening to Pandora and catching up on correspondence, and this song by Hinder came on:

 

Lemme interrupt and say that the advertisement that ran for me immediately preceding this song was for cat food. If we think about placement algorithms, I personally would draw the conclusion that the advertisers assumed that the people most interested in this song/video would be single spinsters with 20 cats for company.

Here’s my beef with this song: The singer is talking about how he wants to fuck around with his ex. He wishes his current girlfriend was actually the ex he is talking to. His “girl is in the next room.” Some of my acquaintances have never paid attention to the entire song, just hearing the chorus, which goes:

“It’s really good to hear your voice saying my name, it sound so sweet
Coming from the lips of an angel
Hearing those  words, it makes me weak”

Sounds hot, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to know you’re turning someone on just because you’re speaking to them?

Here’s a quote for you:

“Stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it.”

I always told all of my friends to never go back. There was a reason for breaking up, and the reason didn’t change. In my 30’s, I did exactly what I was preaching not to do – I went back. I went back to Drummer #2 and ended up having to call the cops on him. I went back to Dumb and Angry and ended up having to call the cops on HIM too. I went back to Ping Pong, many times, and nothing ever changed. I am fully aware that a lot of the problem rests on my feelings of being unattractive and inadequate. My inner voice tells me that if they wanted me, then I must settle, because that’s as good as it gets. I am only worth men who control me, or threaten to kill me, or tell me they never want me to meet their parents or children, and I should just be happy that they want to stick their penises in me.

Of course this isn’t true, but that inner voice can be louder than anything else.

The other topic addressed in this song is cheating. Cheating takes a lot of effort. You have to keep track of your lies. You have to make sure you don’t see someone who knows your official significant other while you are out messing around. You have to constantly worry about being caught.

I went to a concert in Phoenix at the Musical Instrument Museum, and by pure chance, I caught someone cheating. I had been at his house a week or two prior to this concert and I met his very cute, very friendly girlfriend. He did not bring that girlfriend with him to this concert. Instead, he concerned himself with sneaking around ME, trying not to hold his date’s hand while I was turned in his direction. I played dumb. He made out with the other woman in a corner that they thought was hidden from my eyes. I saw everything.

Since I had only met him once, I didn’t feel like I knew enough about him and his personal life to call him out on his obvious side dish.

This song really gets under my skin and makes me see red. I want the singer to stop whining about what he has and wishing for something/someone else. Instead, just commit to something, whether it’s to respect and love his current girl fully, or to go back to his ex and and respect and love her fully. I see this all of the time, the indecision, the whining, the keeping the options open in case someone better comes along.

Here’s a better anthem:

Why I Don’t Pray

On Twitter, amid the hundreds and hundreds of posts flying around on my feed last night, one stuck in my mind, and it still galls me. It said something to the effect of, “Even if you aren’t religious, you can still offer prayers in support of Paris.”

I didn’t want to get in a war of words (or 140 characters or less) with a stranger, especially when there are bigger, badder things to be worried about. However, it’s enough of an issue with me that I would like to point some things out.

First of all, prayer is an integral part of religion. Any religion. If I’m not religious, that means that I don’t believe in religion, and therefore I don’t believe in prayer.

Second, religion is based on arrogance. Let me qualify that statement by explaining that every person thinks the religion they follow is the “right” religion, and believes that every other religion is the “wrong” religion. The monotheistic religions we hear about the most – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – are only a portion of what peoples’ belief systems are based upon. There are something in the neighborhood of 4,200 religions being practiced today. Which one is right?

Third, religions are created by humans. I’m sure you’ve heard of people saying they are going to “create their own religion” or “start their own church.” This is how all belief systems are born. Each faction comes up with its own rules and rituals. Think about Scientology: It was created by a former Navy guy who wrote science fiction. I mean, c’mon – what the hell is a “space opera” anyway??

Fourth, religions rely on mystery and lack of education. Leaders are always touted as knowing more than the rest of the followers. They are always revered for being more “blessed” than everyone else too. This is how religions continue to thrive. Think about the infamous Warren Jeffs and his “flock” – they all believe that he is some sort of prophet, and they hang on his every word. None of the kids growing up in the group know how to read or write properly and have memorized church elders as their only education. Obviously this is a famous group often singled out for its cult-ish behaviors. Pull back a little and look at all of the religions with the same eyes, and realize that leaders and organizers rely on the followers not questioning anything, or if they do, always circling back to the idea that the leaders know best. With all of the scientific discoveries we have made in the past century, how can anyone still believe in a virgin birth?

Fifth, believers tend to assign human characteristics to the objects they worship. For example, all of us have heard, “God will be angry” or “God will be sad” if we do certain things. Says who? We do. That’s right, humans.

Sixth, non-believers are not amoral. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t kill other people or intentionally harm other creatures. I live a pretty upstanding life, and that is without following one or two particular religions and relying on them to be my conscience. Here’s something interesting: In some areas of South America, before Christianity was introduced, there was less crime because everyone lived under the same code and worked together to make a harmonious community. It was truly shameful to steal or kill. After Christianity, crime became more prevalent – because they started believing that “God would forgive them.”

Seventh and last, what has prayer done for me? People offer to pray for me all of the time, and I thank them because it makes them feel better. I’ve been signed up for continuous prayer circles, many times, with or without my knowledge or consent. But this is what it boils down to: If I get better, then it was “God’s will.” If I don’t get better, I either didn’t believe hard enough, didn’t pray enough, or it was “God’s will.” With either outcome I have no hand in whether I get better or not. Honestly, I think that the idea of praying has allowed people to become lazy. They can post on Facebook or Twitter that they’re praying for the people in France, or for praying for starving children in third world countries, or for gun violence to end, but then they don’t actually do anything. They think it’s enough to say that they’re praying and it magically elevates them to being better people.

Do I believe in God? That topic is best saved for another time.