continued response to Parkland

Since my first post touching on the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, I have continued to be impressed by the response of the students at the school and other teens. They have been speaking out strongly in traditional and social media, at rallies and public gatherings, calling on local, state, and national authorities and elected officials to protect them and the rest of the public by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks and licensing, and improving mental health services.

They are making plans for a march in Washington, DC and other cities on March 24. There are also plans for a nationwide student walkout on April 20th, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, the first mass shooting at a high school that sent shockwaves across the country.

There are some early indications that their message is having an impact on politicians. While long-time gun-control advocates are adding their voices to those of the students, some additional people are speaking out. Just this morning, I saw an interview with a wealthy long-time donor to Republican candidates, stating that he will no longer give to politicians who oppose common-sense gun control measures, such as an assault weapon ban. During a previous time when the United States did have an assault weapons ban, the rate of mass shootings was significantly lower.

The United States also has the examples of many other nations who protect their citizens from gun violence with stricter gun regulations. These countries also have better health care access, which means that fewer people in their communities have the sorts of untreated mental health problems that lead them to harm themselves and others. (I realize that most mental health diagnoses do not involve violence, but society is also served when each member has access to the full range of health and preventive services.)

Yesterday at church, we had a minute of silent prayer for the victims of the Parkland shooting. While my mind went first to those who were killed or wounded, it also went to the teen-aged gunman. Our society failed him as well. Despite numerous encounters with school authorities, police, and social services, he was left to fend for himself after the death of his adoptive mother without access to continuing mental health services. Proper treatment and enhanced background checks might have prevented him from killing and wounding so many people.

Mass shootings should not be the price the United States has to pay because of the Second Amendment. Contrary to the interpretation that some now hold, the intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the public from attack. There was no standing army at that time, so the “well-regulated militia” of which the amendment speaks was the defense against foreign invasion. Guns in more rural areas would also have been needed for hunting and for protection from bears, cougars, etc., but the right to bear arms was not intended as a blanket right for any kind of weaponry to be owned by anyone anytime. The United States already does restrict many kinds of military weapons from civilian ownership; it would not be unconstitutional to add more types of guns and ammunition to this list.

After other mass shootings, particularly Sandy Hook, it seemed that the country might have reached a tipping point where public opinion was strong enough to overcome the National Rifle Association and other anti-gun control groups.  Sadly, while there were some changes in some states, such as New York, the overall policies in the country either remained the same or became even more lax regarding gun access.

Will Parkland, with the strong voices of the teens ringing out, finally lead to societal change, the passage of gun control legislation, and better mental health care?

There is hope.

 

Not a beautiful Christmas present

On Tuesday, several members of clergy from different faith traditions held a noon-time prayer service, asking for Congress to seek justice in our tax code.

Then, we marched to the office of Claudia Tenney, who represents our district in the House of Representatives. Unlike some of the other Republican New York Congressmembers, she had voted for the House version of tax cuts, despite her opposition to cutting the deduction for state and local taxes. While the conference version of the bill restored partial deductibility for these taxes, it is problematic in many other ways as well, such as the repeal of the individual mandate for health insurance. All the bills have failed in terms of social justice, because most of the benefits go to the richest people and to corporations, which are getting permanent tax cuts while individuals are only getting temporary ones – and some people will actually have higher taxes even in the early years under this bills.

Hours after, Tenney voted for the bill, which passed the House, except that the bill had been rushed so much it didn’t conform to Senate rules, so the Senate passed it late Tuesday night and then the House had to vote again on Wednesday.

DT has described the bill as a “big beautiful Christmas present” for the American people, but, for many of us, it is not. The federal government, already in debt and deficit, will have less revenue coming in and Speaker Ryan is already talking about cuts to core safety net programs, which will most highly impact those at lower socioeconomic levels, children, and seniors.

The gifts of Christmas are supposed to be peace, joy, and good will to all.

A tax cut bill that is designed as a gift to big corporate and individual donors to politicians and their campaigns is not in accord with the true spirit of Christmas.

SoCS: on our yard and climate

Unlike many people in our area, we keep our yard as natural as we can. No pesticides or herbicides. Big shade trees on the south side of the house – maple, oak, cherry, and ash. a few bushes – lilac, rhododendron, forsythia. We do have a mowed lawn; going full meadow wouldn’t be allowed by our town, but along with the grasses, there are wild strawberries, violets, daisies, and, of course, dandelions. There are animals – squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and the occasional skunk – and lots of birds – chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, mourning doves, several kinds of finches and woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, and, this time of year, robins. At the moment, a robin is building a nest on the bend of the downspout near the back door.

This has been a good year for our forsythia. It is usually a bit anemic. We inherited it when we bought the house and have a suspicion that it was actually a variety that was more suited to a warmer zone. Lately, it seems to have more good years for blossoms than bad. It’s probably not a coincidence, as the climate is warming and growing zones shift.
IMG_20170429_093816815

Of course, this is a particularly appropriate day to talk about climate change, as there are many climate change awareness marches happening today, here in the US and around the world. I wish that I were able to be in Washington DC for the main US march. There are people from my area who boarded a bus at 3ish in the morning to get there to participate.

I will be joining them in spirit. I have been writing, studying, protesting, lobbying, etc. on phasing out fossil fuels, banning fracking, increasing renewable energy quickly, and combating climate change and greenhouse gases’astronomical rise for many years now. With the current administration, we are redoubling, tripling, quadrupling, or exponentially raising our efforts.

If we are wrong on climate policy and the effects of climate change roll on out of control, people will die unnecessarily. Coastal populations and those living in poverty are most vulnerable. There are already climate refugees. Some island nations are under threat of losing their land entirely. Even in the US, there are already some people needing to be relocated due to rising sea levels.

We are all in this together. Every single person throughout the world. The heaviest burdens financially in the cleanup efforts, and mitigation, and relocation, and all the other effects of climate change, should be borne by the countries and companies who were enriched by exploiting fossil fuels beyond what the environment and climate could absorb. Developing economies don’t need to follow the fossil fuel pattern of the industrialized countries. They can build up their communities using renewable and energy-efficient technologies and the wealthier countries must help them to do that.

When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, he addressed all people and called for an integral ecology that would aid the natural world and human communities, with special emphasis on aiding the most vulnerable people and environments. Many people of all spiritual traditions and those who do not follow any faith path have joined together in this endeavor. One-hundred ninety-five countries signed onto the Paris climate accord. Each pledged to all the others to implement goals to combat climate change, help the environment, and support people, especially those most at risk. Progress is being made and many places are reaching beyond their stated goals to effect further greenhouse gas reductions.

We are already feeling the effects of climate change in increased severe weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, and species extinctions. Even if the US government unwisely abandoned its promises in Paris, many of our states and localities, our companies, and our citizens and residents will keep going, moving forward with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and preparing our towns and cities for emergencies.

We will continue to march on, literally and figuratively.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “yard.”  Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/04/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-apr-2917/

 

Earth Day and Science March

Happy Earth Day! Sending out good thoughts to all those working in the environmental movement, to the earth itself, and to all its inhabitants. Earth Day this year was chosen as the day for the March for Science, with the main march being in Washington DC, with satellite marches around the country and the world.

It’s sad that we need marches to remind us of the importance of science and of protecting our environment, but there are definitely some people who need reminding. The science march emphasizes the importance of scientific research and advances and of scientific education and literacy in the general public, while celebrating the contributions of science to our world, particularly the contributions of those who have been traditionally underrepresented among scientists, such as women, indigenous people, African-Americans, and Latino/as.

In that spirit, I want to honor two scientists in my family.

First, my older sister who has just retired from decades of work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate from Indiana University.  After post-doctoral work at the Cleveland Clinic, she came to NIH for the remainder of her career, where she worked on projects to add to our knowledge of how to fight disease and promote wellness. Today, she participates in the Science March in Washington, DC.

Second, my younger daughter T. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and last year completed a Master’s of Professional Studies in conservation biology of plants at State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry. She is passionate about plants and hopes to build her career around restoration ecology. Nothing makes her happier than pulling out invasive species so that native plants can thrive! Right now, she is working in Missouri for their Department of Conservation with a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants. She is marching for science in Springfield, Missouri.

I am proud to have these two women scientists in my immediate family! I appreciate their contributions and that of their colleagues across all scientific fields.

I think today is a good day to reflect on how important science is to our lives. Medical science and biology are important in decisions I make every day. I am especially drawn to environmental science and geology and often use that knowledge in my advocacy on environmental and climate change policy and renewable energy. Computer science makes B’s job possible. The list could go on and on…

There is a Sci/Cli March today in Binghamton, a local mash-up of this weekend’s science march with next weekend’s climate march. I had hoped to attend, but I don’t think I will be able to make it. I’ll be marching with them in spirit, as well as with my sister in DC.

Science rules!

SoCS: March On!

Here in the United States, we are doing a lot of marching these days.

I participated in a sister march for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. These marches took place throughout the United States and around the world, even Antarctica! We had about 3,000 participants in Binghamton, although we had expected only a few hundred.

There have since been other major marches, including one for indigenous rights.

April will see two major marches on Washington with satellite marches elsewhere, one for Science on April 22, which is Earth Day,  and a Climate March on April 29. I wish I could be in Washington for both of those, but will probably have to settle for a local combined march.

The marches themselves are energizing, but the larger point is that people use them as educational tools to raise awareness of important issues and then continue their advocacy through follow-up actions. That has been an encouraging thing that we are seeing in the US this year, that so many people are getting involved in civic life at a new level, so…

March On!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “march.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/03/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-mar-2517/

 

March 17th

Happy Evacuation Day!

B’s dad, who was a very long-tenured elementary school principal in western Massachusetts, used to do an announcement every March 17th about what an important day it was because, in 1776, the British were forced to leave Boston, which had been under siege since the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775 (which is commemorated as Patriots’ Day). In the days of dot-matrix printers, he even had little greeting cards printed for Evacuation Day, which, of course, involved a Minuteman and cannon.

He used to use Evacuation Day as an excuse occasion to gift his wife with flowers.

After he passed away in 2005, B and I took up the tradition of giving Evacuation Day flowers to Grandma, first having them delivered from their favorite local florist, and then choosing and delivering them ourselves after she moved here from Vermont.

Last year, daughter T, who was home on spring break from grad school, and I chose a planter instead of cut flowers. Grandma loved them and put them in the center of her dining room table, as she usually did.

We didn’t know that Grandma would succumb to a heart attack less than a week later.

We kept the planter there for a remembrance and a splash of color as we did the necessary work to clear out her cottage. Then, we brought the planter to our home.

Over the summer, T, who had just finished her MPS in conservation biology of plants, took over plant care and broke the planter into separate pots, as it was becoming too crowded. The African violet stayed in the original green basket.

When she left in late January for her Missouri job-on-the-prairie, the plants were looking healthy and a few weeks ago, the African violet started to bloom.
IMG_20170314_112853788_HDR

So, this week it has many blossoms to remind us of the happy occasion of delivering flowers to Grandma for the family tradition of Evacuation Day.

Oh, and lest I forget, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, too!

Women march around the world!

Yesterday, T and I joined with over 3,000 other women, men, and children in a Women’s March in Binghamton, New York, held in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, DC.

An idea to march in defense of women’s rights the day after the inauguration grew into a worldwide phenomenon with sister marches and rallies held around the country and on every continent, including Antarctica!

The marches were peaceful and stood for the rights of women and of all other groups who have been attacked for their religion, race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, beliefs, education level, or sexual orientation.

The attendance at many of the events exceeded expectations. Our Binghamton March had expected a few hundred people, so to have over 3,000 was a fantastic surprise. The Washington March drew a half a million people, many more than the inauguration had drawn the day before. (In a press briefing that illustrates what we are in for in the DT administration, the press secretary insisted that the press was universally lying about the crowd size and that the inauguration had been the largest ever, which is demonstrably untrue.)

Our march was relatively short, beginning at the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue at the Peacemaker’s Stage along the Chenango River and proceeding a few blocks down Court Street to the lawn of the 1897 Courthouse, where we held our rally. Our permit was for sidewalk march only, but the police helpfully stopped the traffic so we could stream through the crosswalks.

We had a full slate of speakers that included elected officials, representatives of local chapters of organizations such as the NAACP and Citizen Action, health care advocates, and members of diverse faith communities, with poetry and music interspersed among the speeches. There were calls for respect for women’s rights, reproductive rights, religious freedom, access to quality, affordable health care for all, indigenous rights, Equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and more.

The speakers and the crowds around the world made me hopeful, especially after the darkness of the inaugural address.

Our rally also echoed the universal theme to get and stay involved. That is the real source of hope. The marches were not a one-day phenomenon. We are all heading back to our hometowns to continuing to advocate for civil rights.

As the chants say, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

“The people united will never be defeated!”
*****
There is still time to join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January. Prompts are available, but any post qualifies. Learn more here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/22/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-22nd-contempt/

jjj-2017

 

March Poem by Abby Murray

I am pleased to share a link to a new poem by Abby Murray, who earned her doctorate at Binghamton University and is a former director of the Binghamton Poetry Project:  http://www.rattle.com/poem-for-my-daughter-before-the-march-by-abby-e-murray/

Abby now teaches in the Seattle, Washington area and plans to participate in the Women’s March there on Saturday. She wrote this poem for and about her young daughter.

Bonus:  If you follow the link, there is an audio of Abby reading the poem, as well as the poem itself and a note about it from Abby.

Congratulations, Abby!

*****
I already did a Just Jot It January post today, but I’m adding the link and badge here, too, so more people will have the chance to see Abby’s poem:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/19/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-19th17/

jjj-2017

 

 

Out like a llama?

In the Northeast US where I live, people often say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, March certainly did begin with cold weather.  Later in the month, we did get enough time above freezing that we had thawing so that we could see grass in sunny patches where the snow was not shoveled/plowed/piled up.

Today is March 31st and it is snowing and sticking to the grassy areas and accumulating, so March is not going out like a lamb. I am proposing that it is going out like a llama – still soft to the touch, but with a bit of spit and kick to it.