Cure the virus of violence

image created by anonymous artists of Minneapolis and St. Paul

I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m outraged. I’m almost speechless;. I’m hurting for my state and for George Floyd’s family. I’m concerned. I’m worried about the boogaloo movement that foments violence and hopes for Civil War. Were they involved in the protests? We don’t yet know who the people are who came from the outside to promote violence, looting and burning of buildings. We need to find that out.

I’m afraid of the eruption of violence over the murder of George Floyd by a white officer while other officers stood by and let it happen. I’m inspired by the passionate activism of so many people who want justice for George Floyd. I am a white woman of privilege. I can’t really understand how it feels to be black, brown or indigenous in America. But I can see the reactions in Minneapolis and all over the country. We have all seen the demands for justice that are about more than George Floyd. They are about racism, racial and social injustice and inequality, discrimination in housing and jobs, lack of educational opportunities and violence against them perpetrated over the decades.

There are now many viruses spreading all over America. In the midst of our country’s worst pandemic in many decades, the virus of violence has been spreading from person to person and from community to community all over our country. The murder of George Floyd set it off. But that murder was the symptom of an underlying virus that has been lurking under the surface and often above the surface making America sick.

And to make matters worse, because of the protest the spread of coronavirus may increase now and could affect even more people of color. Clearly we have a long ways to go before that virus is controlled. And clearly we have a long ways to go to control the viruses of racial injustice and gun violence.

We have not been paying attention to what has been right in front of us. Communities of color have been hurting and angry for 400 years. A civil war was fought over slavery and tore our country apart. Even after the Civil War ended, there was not a solution to racial injustice.

In fact, if anything, the situation was worse after slaves were free to look for jobs, go to schools, live in houses in our neighborhoods, become professionals, work in our communities, vote in our communities and participate in our society. Because of the color of their skin, they have not been able to do any of those things without fighting and struggling to be treated just like everyone else.

Long after the Civil War, protesters in some places, Trump supporters and pro gun activists bring the Confederate flag with them as a statement of their racism. We know what that means.

Why have we allowed angry anti-government people to carry Confederate and Don’t Tread on Me (Gadsden) flags? Yes. It’s their first amendment right but it’s also an indication of racism and violence that is now taking center stage. It’s abhorrent and offensive. These may be the same people criticizing the protests and crying out for more arrests and more force against protesters.

Our own President seems to be encouraging violence in some of his recent tweets, especially mentioning shooting the looters. His tweets are stoking the tension and the violence. It’s unfathomable that our leader is not leading during our epidemics.

Pivoting to gun violence as a virus and public health epidemic, men and boys of color are 2.5 times more at risk of being shot by law enforcement than white men and boys. This article from the Washington Post shows us the number of police shootings so far this year along with the number of black victims:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

The time was ripe. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives, a disproportionate number of which have been people of color. The shut down of the economy has been disastrous for the economy and for low income people in particular. Many have no access to affordable health care. Many are unemployed and in despair. No wonder the country erupted.

Scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly studying police violence as a public health problem whose long-term harms radiate far beyond the original victim.

“It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health,” Edwards said.

A study published in the Lancet last year found that police killings of unarmed black men were associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression and emotional issues for black people living in the state where the killing took place.

And living in a state of constant fear can lead to chronic stress, Edwards said. He referred to “the talk,” a conversation that many African American parents have with their children — especially boys — about how to interact with police to avoid being harmed.

All things considered, isn’t it surprising that there have not been more mass eruptions of anger and protests over the police killings of people of color? And over economic disparities? And over housing disparities? And over our healthcare crisis? And over gun violence?

Gun violence prevention organizations have talked about but never fully embraced this intersection of gun violence with racial injustice. We could have done better. We should have done better.

In incident after incident the country has watched the shootings of black men and boys by police when other options were better. Many organizations have made statements of solidarity with the protesters. We all care. We all want to help. We all need to step up and do more and do better. Brady made this statement about George Floyd:

This reality and the fact that Black Americans face disproportionate rates of gun violence result from the same racist policies and structures that drive inequality and disparity for minority communities across numerous outcomes. To speak to police violence requires acknowledging systemic racism in our country. To seek to end police violence requires addressing systemic racism. They are inseparable.

I get that law enforcement officers fear for their lives every day. Their jobs are dangerous by necessity. They are armed which gives them power over others. And they also recognize that citizens are more armed now than ever before. Made possible by the NRA and other gun rights organization, gun carry laws have passed in most states of the nation. Now police can’t tell the difference between “good guys” with guns and “bad guys” with guns.

And they can tell the difference between a black person with a gun ( or not) and a white person with a gun. Too often police have wrongly assumed that a black person is armed and they shoot first and ask questions later. Too often police officers who are charged and arrested are not found guilty of murder. That is what must be addressed if anything is going to change.

While we are at if, let us not forget the groups of armed white people who showed up in state capitols to protest the stay at home orders of Governors to stop the spread of COVID-19. What happened to those folks displaying assault weapons, including a rocket launcher? Nothing. No arrests. No police actions. We get the difference. If those armed men had been black, they would have been arrested- or worse. This is the problem isn’t it? One group is not like the other.

There is a virus of gun violence within the virus of the protests within the virus of COVID-19 turning to rioting and violence. We all need to breathe. George Floyd couldn’t breathe because of police action and he is now dead. Coronavirus victims have trouble breathing because the virus attacks the lungs. Some have died. Protesters can’t breathe when tear gas is lobbed their way. The nation can’t breathe now because of the violence and because of rampant racism. We need a cure.

And my last point has to do with the guns carried by protesters or used against protesters in the last few days. It’s bad enough without loaded weapons that take the breath away from the victims of the bullets. In Louisville, Kentucky several instances of deadly shootings have occured as the result of the protests. Here – 7 dead. Here- 1 shot dead by law enforcement.

In Omaha, Nebraska a white man shot and killed a black protester. The shooter had a history of gun arrests, including felonies. Why did he have access to a gun? Laws matter.

Here are just a few names of people of color shot by police:

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Tamir Rice

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Philando Castile

Jamar Clark

Just a few of the names of black people shot by armed citizens:

Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis

Birdell Beeks

Tyesha Edwards

Nizeal Banks

I just watched an impromptu memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis. George’s 2 brothers asked for peaceful protests to make the change that is needed. We all hope that common sense happens so we can get to work on solutions and systemic changes.

At the memorial there were several chants: “Peace on the left; justice on the right.” and “What’s his name?” “George Floyd.

George Floyd.

Protecting your potatoes

We have hit a new marker in the President’s dog whistles to potential supporters. Today, in a meeting with farmers, he brought up the second amendment. Why? It’s a dog whistle and used to ramp up fear and paranoia so those farmers will certainly vote for him. I mean if I thought my potatoes were at risk during this pandemic or any other time, I would certainly think about my guns and gun rights. Wouldn’t you?

From this article:

Said Trump: “We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia.”

He then made a reference to gun rights to the farmers present: “They want to take your Second Amendment away. You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

Yes. He said that. You can’t make this stuff up.

What does it mean that Trump links ” going after Virginia” with second amendment rights? Not too subtle. Is this a threat?

Here’s the thing. Do you need to guard your potatoes? Of course it’s total nonsense to use the tired old meme about taking away your second amendment rights. After the Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia, the first thing they did was to pass common sense gun laws. The last time I looked, no one’s guns or gun rights were taken away from them. Instead, the citizens of Virginia just got a whole lot safer and less likely to die from shootings.

Isn’t that a good thing?

This election season is already becoming insane but with the second amendment “hanging in the balance” it may just turn deadly as well. The worry is those folks who are openly carrying their guns around ostensibly guarding ….? What are they guarding? That’s what I don’t get. They claim to be guarding some sort of right to be free or die. But what they are really doing is causing the spread of the coronavirus around to their friends, families and strangers. From the article:

Thus do right-wing extremists exploit America’s lax gun laws for political gain. Of course, the open carrying of rifles or handguns is a recipe for intimidation and potentially deadly confusion, even when not politically motivated. If shots ring out on a street full of armed pedestrians, how are the police supposed to identify the culprit? (…) The lesson is that armed political movements of any ideology can endanger democracy, and that a consistent, rational reading of the Constitution would empower states to rein them in.

What about our rights to be safe from these guardians of insanity? Generally speaking the public does not like seeing people strut around with assault rifles and rocket launchers strapped around their chests.

It’s armed insurrection. It’s domestic terrorism.

And generally speaking the public does not want the coronavirus spreading to them or those close to them. When close to 100,000 Americans have died from one cause in the course of 2 months, wouldn’t you think we could be together in our efforts to stop the spread of the disease so more of us don’t succombe to a deadly novel virus? Wouldn’t you think these guys with the guns who think they are making the rules would join with the governors of their states and do whatever they could to make sure we can keep people from ending up on a ventilator? Wouldn’t you think these folks would want to keep our health care providers and front line workers safe from getting sick so they can take care of all of us- serve food, pack groceries, fill prescriptions, sell plants and building materials?

Wouldn’t you think?

UPDATE:

I am not the only one wondering what the President meant by guarding your potatoes. This parody from the Washington Post highlights how ludicrous Trump’s statement was ( see above):

I got a call from an old friend from potato guardian training. He washed out; people were always taking potatoes from under his nose, and he was a laughingstock among us. Now he works in finance. He asked if I had heard the news about the governor and what he was planning to do. I said I hadn’t, so he told me. I can’t believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It’s monstrous.

Exactly. Nothing is safe without those second amendment rights. Not even potatoes.

What have guns got to do with it?

Protesters at Michigan anti stay at home rally from Post Online Media (4/16/20)

I was thinking about the Tina Turner song, What’s Love Got To Do With It? as I was getting ready to write this post. For the life of me, I cannot understand what guns have to do with the anti stay at home protests going on all over the country. Why, for instance, are AR-15s deemed necessary when protesting that governors have shut down much of our lives so we stay home to keep from getting sick and dying? It makes no sense because common sense tells us that going out now and mingling with groups, eating out, going to sporting events, being in school, going to movies, etc. can be deadly. Of course doing those things can also be deadly because of gun violence as well. But right now we are talking about the coronavirus that is killing people by the thousands every day.

In a photo in the above linked article, there are armed members of the Boogaloo movement. I posted about that group during the pro gun rally at the Virginia statehouse in January to protest the impending passage of common sense gun laws. Does this mean that these folks want a Civil War or are they preparing for one?

When these anti government groups protest with guns strapped across their chests they are also sending a message to the rest of us. Beware. Danger. If society doesn’t open now or very soon, we will use these guns? Or are the guns a threat to our own leaders? Or to our democracy itself? I believe all are true.

Fomented by our very own President, these groups have been given not so subtle permission from the very top:

Several Democrats at the state and nation levels, meanwhile, blasted the president for fomenting domestic violence with a series of tweets calling on his supporters to “liberate” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan — all states with Democratic governors.

Trump urged the action as groups have formed to protest stay-at-home orders and business closures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. He ominously also called on people in Virginia to protect their gun rights, which are “under siege,” he said.

And the protests are not organic. They have been organized by, of all things, Minnesota pro-gun activists:

The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.

The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”

I am familiar with the Dorrs. Ben shows up at the Minnesota Capital with his video camera following people like me around trying to get them to talk to him. His paranoia about what Protect Minnesota and Mom Demand Action are doing is obvious.

So is this actually about the stay at home orders or is it about gun rights? The two seemed to be linked here. The NRA has become an arm of the Republican party and represents the far right fringe, whatever that is currently. From the article about the protests though the NRA has compromised too much. Wow.

Also in the photos there are signs that say: give me liberty or the coronavirus. Really? “Give me liberty or give me death.” The irony. The ignorance. The danger. The fantasy?

Now what? What is going to happen? People are frightened, stressed out, depressed, angry- we all are. I get that. But we don’t need nor should we have to be afraid of people with guns in this charged atmosphere.

We all know that guns kill people. Yes they do.

An apparent murder/suicide just occurred in Minnesota. At this point we don’t know if it’s related to COVID because domestic killings have been going on for many decades now. But the concern is that we will see an increase that goes with the increase in the number of guns purchased in panic buying. They won’t wear out. They will be in homes for the foreseeable future to be used in homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings.

A man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Maple Grove, MN. The shootings continue during the pandemic.

Gun deaths have been at an epidemic rate for decades now. They have not been treated as an epidemic but the numbers have hovered between 32,000 and close to or over 40,000 since the mid ’90s when my sister was murdered. And yet, what have we done? Not nearly enough.

As with the coronavirus, we are not doing enough. We need strong leaders who will not be afraid to tell the truth and deal with the facts on the ground. When tens of thousands of Americans die every year from just one cause, we must find a way to reduce that number and prevent the cause. We need to make sure people are safe at home and on the streets, in the workplace and where kids and families go to school and play.

We are hopefully safe at home now with the orders given by most governors. Opening up our society too soon will cause more deaths. That is inevitable. About 25% to 50% of those who test positive for COVID 19 are asymptomatic. That is why testing of all kinds is imperative. Until that happens, we cannot listen to the people with guns who are making idle and not so idle threats. By most accounts and most reporting and facts, the country is not ready to open up yet. Those who are protesting are flat our wrong. They are not thinking about what it actually means to have people go back to “normal” pre-COVID life. But then again, they are not thinking when they show up with assault rifles outside of governors’ mansions and state houses either.

We must be safe at home and stay at home now. We also must be safe at home from gunshot injuries that could kill us. This is not how it has been in any other country. Only in America can we see photos of people protesting the very thing that will save them from themselves. Only in America is there a stupid and dangerous display of assault type weapons on the streets near our state houses and governors’ mansions.

By the way, most Americans don’t agree with the protesters- they don’t want the country to re-open too quickly according to a Sunday poll by NBC and Wall Street Journal. Just like the gun issue where the majority of Americans want common sense gun laws, Americans know that pandemics and gun violence epidemics need solutions that keep them safe from danger, death, injuries and sickness.

In the words of my friend and local writer Sam Cook in this column:

I cannot imagine a summer without waking up in the canoe country, listening to the soft lapping of water on rock. I could be packed and ready to go in half a day. But if that kind of travel is deemed too risky — to me or to the greater populace — then it would be both selfish and foolish for me to go.

Don’t be foolish. Don’t be selfish. Stay safe. Stay at home. Lock up your guns. Don’t bring your guns out in public. Don’t shoot yourself or a loved one. Don’t let your kids handle loaded unsecured guns. Wear a mask in public. Don’t congregate in groups and become sick yourself or infect those around you. Use common sense.

In the fog of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, I almost forgot to mention that today is the 21st anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Columbine was the first mass school shooting that in some ways, has been a model for other school shooters. Please remember the 13 who were killed and the others who were injured and survived and their families. This day lives on in their memories and ours.