again and again and again

I didn’t want to write about mass shootings in the United States today. I’ve written way too many posts about this in the past, most recently about the Atlanta-area shootings last week.

But here we are again, mourning the deaths of ten people, including a responding police officer, at a Boulder, Colorado supermarket. A suspect is in custody, but it is early in the investigation so many details are not yet public.

It is likely that this will become the third Colorado mass shooting to lodge in the nation’s consciousness along with the high school in Columbine and the movie theater in Aurora.

The list of mass shootings in the United States is so long that only some of them are invoked as a litany. I live near Binghamton, New York, which suffered a 2009 mass shooting at the American Civic Association. This post that I wrote for the fifth anniversary of that shooting explains why I think Binghamton is not part of that litany.

There has long been a majority of the public in favor of taking measures nationally to curb gun violence. Some of the proposals are universal background checks to purchase firearms, limits on size of ammunition clips, banning of military-style assault weapons, and requiring gun licensing. At this point, each state has its own laws with some allowing municipalities to enact stricter regulations and others not.

There are also proposals to better diagnose and treat mental health issues. Some mass shooters, such as the one in Binghamton, suffer from mental illness. The biggest potential reduction in deaths from firearms related to mental health would be from self-inflicted shootings. In the United States, suicides account for the largest percentage of gun deaths every year. (For help with issues about suicide in the United States, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ .)

What compounds the recent tragedies in Atlanta and Boulder, though, is that there will be sadness, outrage, prayers, vigils, fundraisers, and hopes that this will be the time when Congress finally takes action – and they won’t. Again.

And then, inevitably, there will be another mass shooting which gets attention and hundreds of other murders and thousands of suicides which won’t.

And the cycle will repeat.

more on guns

Being in the United States gives me many more opportunities than I would like to write about guns.

This morning, I have already heard at least three stories involving guns.

First, the New York red flag law finally went into effect over the weekend. This allows for family or other people with knowledge of the situation to go to court to temporarily take away firearm access and block the sale of guns to a person who is a risk to themselves or others. It’s good that this law is finally in operation. When there was a mass shooting in my county in ten years ago, the father of the gunman, knowing his son was unstable, had tried to prevent him from getting a gun license, but there was no mechanism at the time to do it. While New York had passed other gun laws, in particular after the Newtown CT shooting, it didn’t pass a red flag law until this year, which is disappointing in that it might have prevented the shooting here, had it been in effect.

Second, a friend’s birthday is today and she is doing a Facebook fundraiser for Everytown for Gun Safety. This organization works to combat gun violence of all kinds. While mass shootings get the most headlines, many more people in the United States are killed in individual circumstances. Sadly, the largest group of gun deaths is suicides. (The suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at any time at 1-800-273-8255; the website link also offers online chat and other information.)

Third, on CBS This Morning, they are starting an interview series with surviving family members of those killed in mass shootings.  One of the comments made was that life in those cities will never be the same, which may be true for Newfield and Charleston and El Paso. I haven’t found that to be the case for Binghamton, which, other than a memorial near the site of the American Civic Association, seems to be carrying on as before.

I think there are a number of reasons for this. The shooting happened ten years ago, when there was media coverage, but not the weeks of reporting that we see now. Even though it was, at the time, one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States, it was before presidential visits and massive memorial vigils and services were as common as they are now. Lastly, as I have written about before, most of those who died were immigrants or foreign visitors who had come to a class to improve their English skills, when a deranged immigrant, who was now a US citizen, opened fire. In other mass shootings, the public tends to think that it could have been them at that store or church or movie theater, it could have been their children at that school, but their sense of public safety was not shaken as much by a shooting of mostly immigrants in a private non-profit’s building.

I do think that more and more people in the United States are appalled by the level of gun violence and want to enact more laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who kill or wound others. Congress will be back in session soon. Let your representatives know how you feel about this issue.

SoCS: scarred souls

I feel as if all our souls have been touched by the shootings at Christchurch, New Zealand. So many dead and wounded. And so many victims had fled violence in the countries where they were born, seeking refuge in what should have been a safe place for them – and even more of a sanctuary as they were in a house of worship.

The alleged shooter claims to be a white supremacist. He claims to be inspired by some in the United States, which makes it even more appalling because I hate the thought that my country is exporting terrorism, racism, Islamophobia, and white supremacist ideologies.

I don’t know how our souls will heal from this attack. Maybe they won’t. Maybe we will all bear a little scar from this horror and maybe that will strengthen us to do everything we can to combat hate.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “soul/sole”. Find out how to join in here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/03/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-16-19/

Remind me which way is forward?

The whirlwind that was October has blown into November. At the moment, it has brought some messy mixed precipitation with wet snow starting to accumulate on the grass and the cars, but “messy and mixed” describes a lot of the situations I find myself in of late.

We have been continuing to try to settle Nana and Paco into new routines with Nana in the Health Canter and Paco in his apartment, but things tend to shift day to day. I have been trying to untangle all the required paperwork and meetings, but some things are still in process.

Meanwhile, even though I haven’t been able to follow the news as closely as I usually do, I feel the weight and disquiet of the terrible events around the United States with shootings, pipe bombs, fires, and vitriol swirling around us. I had hoped the election would settle things down a bit. While I am grateful not to be inundated with political ads, the level of uncertainty, especially in national politics, is daunting. Mueller’s team went quiet for several weeks before the election due to Justice Department protocol, but now there is a wide-spread expectation that new charges may be announced, although with Attorney General Sessions having been fired, it is hard to know what will happen next and when/if a final report will be made public.

It seems we are in for more “mixed and messy” times…

living in Zootopia?

Given that the movie Zootopia came out in the spring when we were busy dealing with Grandma’s death, I saw it for the first time recently in our local late-run movie theater.  I found a number of uncomfortable parallels about racism, sexism, prejudice, jumping to often unwarranted conclusions, and fear and fear-mongering.

I feel like I am living in the midst of those things.

After the shootings in Baton Rouge yesterday, the public officials in Louisiana tried to quell rumors and pleaded for calm. President Obama then reiterated his calls for civility and for toning down divisive rhetoric, especially important as we enter two weeks of political conventions.

We need to pull together as community, as a nation, and as citizens of the world.

I am adding my voice to this effort, as I tried to do in this recent post.

I admit to being disheartened by those who are publicly blaming President Obama for the deaths of the police officers, following years of hateful rhetoric that has so many not only questioning our civic institutions’ legitimacy but also falling into violent extremism, hate speech, fear, mistrust, and/or hyper-individualism.

We are better than this.

We have brains that can gather facts and reach reasonable conclusions from them.

We have hearts to love others and to move us to care for them.

We have bodies that enable us to interact with our loved ones and for the common good.

We must not allow ourselves to be bullied, misled, or blinded by hatred or fear.

We need each other.

We are connected to each other.

We must respect each other’s human dignity.

Never forget.

waking up to more violence

The level of violence in the United States and in the world was already much too high.

And then, there was this week.

It’s too much to bear.

Yet, we must go on.

But not with violence.

Not with vengeance.

We need to stop to reflect, to examine our problems as a society, to consider how to act with greater justice, mercy, peace, and love, to put the best solutions into practice, to uphold the dignity of each person and protect their safety.

We are all wounded, which makes us vulnerable.

Many want to repay violence with violence, but that is what has gotten us into our current untenable position.

The way of non-violence is not easy, but what has the way of violence gotten us?

I wish there was a way to magically draw us into harmonious communities, but there isn’t.

All I can do is look to my own thoughts and heart and keep them focused on positive change, not violence and vengeance.

And I can beg you to do the same.

continuing reaction to Orlando

I wrote on Sunday about my early reactions to the shooting at Pulse in Orlando.

Of course, even now, on Tuesday afternoon, reactions are still early, but I wanted to add a bit more.

One interesting thing locally is that some of our local news broadcasters have incorporated reflections on the ACA shooting here in 2009 into their continuing coverage of the Orlando shooting. This linkage does not often happen, but I expect that it may be this time because there is a sense of connection about a specific group of people being targeted. With the American Civic Association shooting in Binghamton, it was immigrants; with Orlando, it was the LGBTQ community, or, perhaps, the Latino community.

My own emotions continue to swirl.

Yesterday afternoon, Sappho’s Circle, a group of women poets convened by Heather Dorn, met. In response to a prompt, I wrote a poem about the deaths this spring, including those in Orlando. Heather suggested that I submit it to Rattle Poets Respond, which publishes a poem weekly that is newly written in response to current events. I was honored that she felt the poem was worthy enough to be considered and I sent it through Submittable this morning.

Rattle is a very competitive publisher, so chances of acceptance are slim, but, after these recent weeks of not writing or submitting at all, it is gratifying to have been able to process events and feelings into a poem, to have shared it with my friends at Sappho’s Circle, and to have sent it off into the ether.