Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”

Not at Christmas time…..

Lutefisk-dinner-631Merry Christmas everyone. I am celebrating with my family and having a good time skating on the rink in my son’s back yard, enjoying the grandchildren and the good food. Christmas cookies, of course, are a part of the celebration with some good old Scandinavian favorites reminding me of my own childhood Christmas’ with a Norwegian grandpa and Swedish grandma and grandpa on the other side. 3 of my grandparents emigrated to Minnesota from their homelands, leaving to look for better opportunities in America. That is the case for many then and now. In spite of what our President says, immigrants who come here are not all coming in with aides and felony records. They are not rapists, criminals and miscreants. They are decent people who look to us as a better place.

Is it? Just saying…..

But back to Christmas. At our house we ate Lutefisk of course for the Norwegian side and Swedish meatballs for the other side. My Norwegian grandpa liked hardboiled egg and butter gravy on his Lutefisk. The Swedish grandparents liked the cream sauce. I remember that we couldn’t leave the Christmas Eve table until my Norwegian grandpa was finished with his Lutefisk. He was a bit of an ornery guy but he would actually playfully eat more Lutefisk on purpose to keep us from getting to the present opening tradition.

We don’t eat Lutefisk now at our family Christmas’. No one likes it. I can’t blame them. But it is still served at a few restaurants and a local Lutheran church serves a Lutefisk dinner complete with all the fixings and singing of the Lutefisk song that my mother used to sing to us. It is a very popular dinner. Meatballs and Alaskan Salmon ( caught by a local man- a friend- who spends some of his summer months in Alaska catching the Salmon.) It has come to be known by his name at local grocery stores and it is wonderful.

So as I reflect on my own Christmas’ past and present I am hoping that Americans who celebrate will experience some peace and joy. Many do not at this time of year. It is stressful and even depressing for many.  Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my own father’s death from a massive stroke that left us making funeral preparations at Christmas time. His funeral, on Dec. 26th was packed with friends and family. He was a well-loved man with a kind and gentle spirit who left us too soon and left my mother to live as a widow for another almost 25 years.

My Dad had a lot of common sense about everything, including hunting and gun safety. He taught me how to shoot a hunting gun but I didn’t like to hunt. But my family were great outdoors people enjoying hunting, fishing, boating, their beloved cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, snowmobiling, skiing, hockey, and others. Had he lived he would have been very sad and upset about my sister’s shooting death.

My brother who suffers from PTSD related to service in VietNam and Parkinson’s Disease, likely service related, doesn’t like Christmas. He never has. I am saddened by his physical condition and his deteriorating health. Our Veterans are vulnerable and at this time of the year, some are not merry.

So as some of us celebrate this time of year, some of us also have empty seats at tables and family celebrations because loved ones were shot and killed or used a gun to take their own lives. We remember them at this time of year because we celebrate without them at our otherwise happy family gatherings.

And so, before writing this post, this story of an American Christmas gone wrong came to my attention. It’s a story of a family tragedy. It’s a story of our political state. It’s a story of hate, evil and the awful fact that in America, 17 year olds can get their hands on guns and shoot a family over anger and the danger that comes with extreme political philosophy.

How does a 17 year old become a neo-Nazi? And why are neo-Nazis and White Supremacists on the rise in America? What has happened to our country?

This story makes me ill.  But I am writing about it because it does reflect a certain something that is happening in our country that frightens me. It’s not normal. It’s not right.

From the linked story:

Buckley Kuhn-Fricker was so disturbed by what she discovered about her teenage daughter’s boyfriend that she spent a tumultuous week pushing for a breakup. By Thursday, she texted a friend saying the “outspoken Neo Nazi” was out of their lives.

But just hours later, the family said that the 17-year-old boyfriend had shot and killed Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and her husband, Scott, 48, in their Reston, Va., home. It happened around 5 a.m. Friday, while the couple’s children and relatives were inside. They had gathered to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Christmas will never be the same for the teen-ager in this family or any of the family members and friends who loved the two victims. She witnessed the killing of both of her parents and the attempted suicide of her neo-Nazi boyfriend who her parents unsuccessfully tried to get her away from to no avail.

Shootings have a wide ripple effect on many. PTSD is a factor for many victims and survivors and it doesn’t end with an arrest or the death of the shooter. We all pay in some way for this. That doesn’t sink in when a gun is available and used to “solve problems” or seek revenge or in anger at someone.

If you read on in the article you will see that this neo-Nazi teenager had a gun in his possession when he sneaked into his girlfriend’s bedroom. Why? Why does he carry a gun he cannot legally possess or carry while sleeping with his 16 year old girlfriend? What is wrong with this scene? Everything actually. This is lunacy and a particular American tragedy. It is not “making America great again.”

I have an uncomfortable, unsettled feeling about where we are right now as a country. It has been mounting all year to a crescendo of ugliness and divisiveness that is threatening all of us. But when our leader himself is fomenting fear, paranoia, name calling, racism, divisiveness, hate for anyone who disagrees or doesn’t believe the same as he does, blaming, stoking racist attitudes, what should we expect?

One thing we ought to expect is that our own leaders at the White House and Congress stop ratcheting up this ugliness. And Trump T.V. and N.R.A. T.V. is also right up there adding fuel to the fire. All it takes is one or two unhinged believers in a cause with a gun to cause mayhem and tragedy. How many times have we seen this in our country?

Let me refresh your memory:

Ft. Hood

San Bernardino

Pulse Nightclub

Kansas shooting of Indian men 

Hate shooting in Fresno

Chapel Hill shooting of Muslims

Sikh Temple

Las Vegas

Many of these happened before 2017 of course and we were somewhat surprised at the hate, intolerance, racism and anger that caused people with guns to kill other innocent people. But now we are also worried that this kind of hate is ramped up by leaders who are also intolerant, angry, show racist sentiments, anti-immigrant sentiments and make statements that fuel the anger and hate.

This is not the great America we deserve.

We are better than this.

On this Christmas holiday, our Better Angels need to be called out to save us.

Not at Christmas time- not now. Shootings know no boundaries nor stop for holidays. That is the America in which we live but that is not the America we want.

In the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, let us call out to Clarence and ask him to make us better as citizens, leaders and a country.

Merry Christmas all.

 

Can you feel The Pulse?

Disarm_Hate_logo_insertv2

 

Can you feel the pain, the grief, the loss? One year ago today, the news of yet another mass shooting started crawling across TV screens, becoming the subject of Tweets, 24/7 news shows interrupting regular programming to cover the shooting death of 49 Americans. These Americans were members of the GLBTQ community gathered at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida for an evening of dancing and a good time. The  shooter, a young security guard with hate in his heart mowed down more people than any other mass shooting in our country and was considered to be a terrorist attack.

From the article above:

The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in United States history;[82][83][84] the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the history of the United States—surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack[85]—and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.[24][86][87]

49 died and 53 were left injured.

The names of the dead:

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

Their pulses are no longer felt. Their voices are no longer heard. Their places at family dinners and events are no longer there and their faces have become memories. The devastation was wide-spread affecting the entire city of Orlando and the country.

But we move on and tend to forget about the victims and the devastation because these shootings keep happening all over our wonderful country. We hear the news. We mourn for a while with the families of the victims. We shake our heads in disbelief. And then collectively we let our leaders get away with doing nothing. A young man with two semi-automatic weapons he shouldn’t have had, with hate inside of him,  thinking he can take revenge on a group of Americans and then claiming it was revenge for bombing his country.

And the guns make it so so easy to do. There are no excuses.  The shooter was a complicated, socially awkward, confused, angry man who was clearly someone who should not have been allowed to get his hands on guns:

From October 2006 until April 2007, Mateen trained to be a prison guard for the Florida Department of Corrections. As a probationary employee, he received an “administrative termination (not involving misconduct)”[98] upon a warden’s recommendation after Mateen joked about bringing a gun to school.[99]Mateen unsuccessfully pursued a career in law enforcement, failing to become a Florida state trooper in 2011 and to gain admission to a police academy in 2015.[98]According to a police academy classmate, Mateen threatened to shoot his classmates at a cookout in 2007 “after his hamburger touched pork” in violation of Islamic dietary laws.[100][101][102][103]

Since 2007, he had been a security guard for G4S Secure Solutions.[104][105] The company said two screenings—one conducted upon hiring and the other in 2013—had raised no red flags.[106]Mateen held an active statewide firearms license and an active security officer license,[107][108] had passed a psychological test, and had no criminal record.[109]

(crossed out letters mine)

I dedicate this post to those whose lives were taken so suddenly and violently and to the survivors who will never forget or be the same. Please read this article about the after effects one year later.:

“I might still be in shock,” Leinonen said. “I know I’m often in denial. It’s as if you know rationally that this massacre happened, but the brain cannot comprehend it, or I should say the heart. The heart and soul cannot comprehend that level of evil.” (…)

“Even though I’m a victim, or a survivor – whatever the case may be – I still try to live as normal, be as normal as possible. People get depressed. Of course, I’m going to get depressed, I’m going to have my moments. I’ve got scars and stuff up and down my body, and stuff now that I continue to look at … a lot of stuff. I’m going to get depressed here and there, you know what I’m saying?”

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to move on, I’ve got to push forward, because nobody else can do it for me. I can’t just give up.”

We are not going to give up. And yes, we do move on. But what does that mean? For this individual it means trying to get his life back together but he will never forget. For the survivors it means eventually not crying regularly and being able to live on with the memories. For the country though, does it mean forgetting and moving on as if these mass shootings don’t happen on a regular basis? Or does it mean we will stand up and do something about it?

On this day an article from The Trace connects us to a man who cares and just can’t get over the deadly massacre. So many people are affected by one shooting. Here is how one man, a cemetery caretaker, is dealing with what happened one year ago today:

Price is 49 years old, a sturdy man with a graying goatee and consoling blue eyes. Among his 20-some tattoos is a quotation from Ernest Hemingway inked on the back of his right calf. “The world breaks everyone,” it reads. “And afterward, many are stronger at the broken places.” He has been Greenwood’s sexton for 15 years, and has seen death come in many ways. But the plot in the northwest corner is different. When he recalls the night of the attack — June 12, 2016, the worst mass shooting in modern American history — he looks dumbfounded and says, “I mean, these were kids who just wanted to dance.”

They were just kids who wanted to dance and now they are dead. Price cares about the graves of those lost and cares about those who come to “visit” the victims and the memories that are stored at the gravesites. And though some of the victims were not considered to be kids by their stated ages, they were all someone’s kids who will never grow old and never live out their dreams.

Do we all care enough to do something about the daily carnage? We don’t need to be dumbfounded. We do need to be brave and courageous against a corporate gun lobby that prevents us from dealing with a serious public health and safety epidemic.

We can prevent and reduce these kinds of shootings and the shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans every day. With a change in the conversation, a culture of guns that leads to arming those who should not have guns, a change to our gun laws and speaking out loudly and clearly to our elected leaders, we can save lives.

In the name of common sense the fight for what we know is right continues and will continue. If we can’t change the conversation about making it easier rather than harder for just about anyone to get a gun after the deadly Pulse nightclub massacre , what will it take?

Update:

After I posted, I was made aware of this video from CAP Action Guns. Please watch as survivors share their stories: