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?

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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: