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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Another day, another tragedy

   A friend asks how the world can go on "as if  those twenty-six people weren't murdered three days ago." This refers to a shooting which took place in a church in a rural Texas town, the morning of Sunday, 5 November, 2017. By the same token, the questioner realizes the world doesn't stop, despite death and tragedy.
   Writing to a friend, shortly after the event, I equated gun deaths with cancer: everybody knows somebody who has lost a loved one. The main difference seems to be, we haven't stopped looking for a way to cure cancer. Here in United States, where I live, some politicians seem to have adopted the phrase "Now is not the time" (to talk about legislation restricting access to guns).
   Dad taught us how to shoot and I see nothing wrong with target practice and hunting game. Neither of those activities requires assault weaponry. I do not know any sane and reasonable person who feels threatened by a waiting period and background checks. Neither do rational folks fear the anti-gun faction will come into their homes and take their guns. (First it was Obama, then Hillary; I think some of them actually believed an elected official would personally come up the driveway and carry armaments out to the car. Paranoia is like that.)
   There may be an upside to the "good guy with a gun" position - but anyone who is going to pack heat, needs to be well instructed in firearms safety. There are legislators who apparently do not see the need for training, prior to receiving a concealed carry permit. (What could possibly go wrong?) There is even question as to whether some places will or will not be allowed to opt out of letting armed persons enter.
   Even if I had 'all the answers,' there would still be the matter of convincing others. I don't: so I write my thoughts and hope someone will do a nice piece of cogitation and help us find our way out of this mess.
   I fear we will become inured to gun violence. Then what?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Billboard religion


   I keep reading accounts religious terrorism. These are not acts carried out by "ISIS insurgents;" the perpetrators of this inhumanity are none other than [self-proclaimed] Christians. There is a faction of United States citizens which would present this as "A Christian nation." Notice, I use "present" and not "represent." If United States were to represent itself as Christian, i.e., present by example that it holds the values spoken by the Christ, it would be a much better place to live.
   Instead, we see and hear all sorts of atrocities: a child whose family sought life-saving medical treatment, being "detained" (read: imprisoned) for being undocumented. A young woman seeking to abort a fetus was held captive while legislators tried to find someone to be her advocate. Not like they wanted her to have an "anchor baby" but God forbid they should be seen by their rabid fan base to be 'complicit' in letting a woman have governance over her own body. Thankfully, she was able to attain the procedure - but she had to 'jump through hoops' to get something that should have been her right and her decision, all along. 
   (The Justice Department did not immediately comment on her abortion. But Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, who had led a group of Republican attorneys general in a brief supporting the government’s position, said in a statement, “Today’s loss of innocent human life is tragic.” [from article by Manny Fernandez, 25 Oct. 2017, in NY Times]) How do the people who spout this tripe, eat with those mouths; let alone kiss their mamas? Why is there no outrage at the 'innocent lives lost' when brutal police officers terrorize and kill persons of color, or when young troops are sent to be killed in an armed conflict that has nothing to do with making the world a safe place, but only adds to the burgeoning coffers of people who are obscenely wealthy?
   Not all the wrongs committed against those who are in no position to retaliate/resist, are of a physical nature. Sometimes I have difficulty deciding if governing bodies are just obtuse, or if they are deliberately perverse. A blip that came to my attention was a homeless man's student debt being forgiven and, subsequently, an agency claiming that self-same forgiven debt to be income. What - in the name of all that is holy - is wrong with these people?
   Listening to a recent report dealing with detention camps for families who await decisions on their citizenship status can be gut-wrenching. "Family values," such as the right to live together, go to school, live in a safe place - you know, little things like that - seem only to apply to rich white straight people.
   Here's the thing about reproductive health choices: each person should be given the freedom to decide what best suits an individual situation AND have options available. The war on Planned Parenthood is real. [The 'war on Christmas' is a scare tactic worthy of Joe McCarthy.] If you are against women having access to abortions, you probably shouldn't tell your pregnant mistress to have one: you're fan base might take a dim view.
   I have a great idea: what if we treat everyone with dignity and respect. Instead of having legislators who sell themselves to the highest bidders, let us elect people who will work for the common good. If we all work together to ensure the welfare of each other, we won't need to "proclaim" our values, because we will be living them.

Go in peace.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Women of a certain age [letter 138]

Hello dear,
        Recently I had lunch with a few former classmates. Even during lunch, I was thinking highlights of our gathering may end up being chronicled in a letter to you. I cannot now recall precisely what was said that made me decide to use the title phrase I have. As the arbitrary importance of numbers vacillates, I don't even know what the "certain" age is - but I'm reasonably sure I have reached and, probably, superseded it.
   Our conversations are always interesting and amusing - and sometimes rather profound. Having passed the half-century mark, we have given ourselves permission to speak our minds and challenge boundaries of the status quo. Some of my friends say I have no "filter" (as far as shock content) but it has been my experience that most of us still try to be kind. Kindness is paramount and there just isn't a good reason to ever be mean. [At least, not in my opinion.] Not trying to foment discord, but I would challenge anyone who holds an opposing point of view, to argue the case for meanness. (I can be a bit of a scamp.)
   Baby Boomers are coming to an age when many have experienced the death of one or both parents - and we marvel at the good fortune of those who still have these elders. Death of contemporaries is also increasingly common, but more difficult to reconcile. Is it only United States that is in such rampant denial of the aging process and its natural outcome? I am not in any hurry to die but Death does not cause me fear. I would like to live long enough to use the several hundred postage stamps I have purchased.
   Guess that is all for this episode. Perhaps later, I will get ambitious enough to write an old-fashioned pen and paper missive.

"Live long and prosper,"
Jo

Monday, October 9, 2017

Poppity-pow

   United States (federal) legislative branch has a serious problem: they are delusional. Granted, that is a statement of opinion, not of hard documented fact. Following the massacre which occurred on first Sunday of October 2017, at a hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, there was, predictably, outrage and questions about would there finally be some decrease on armaments available to civilians. Any sane human being would think so. But, not so fast. The NRA (National Rifle Association) reared its ugly and increasingly demented head. This, too, was predictable.
   There were cries of the "sanctity" of Second amendment rights. NRA lobbyists apparently care nothing for people's safety: they are only concerned with their precious "right" to be armed to the teeth. This latest exhibit of wanton carnage has managed to focus attention on a device called a "bump stock." By substituting a bump stock for a gun's original stock, it is possible to simulate the action of an automatic weapon. As one news commentator said, that word is irrelevant to someone caught in the crossfire.
   I cannot believe ceasing manufacture of this unnatural device or prohibiting its sale would in any way violate anyone's rights. Just what the hell does anyone need with this enhanced firepower? Go ahead, explain. I'm listening.
   All of the "good guy with a gun" rhetoric doesn't convince me. Nor does the argument that making acquisition more difficult for law-abiding citizens won't do anything to stop "bad guys." Maybe it won't stop them, but it might decrease the ease with which they are available. Also, if they are illegal, the first time someone tries to make a such purchase, one is marked as a law breaker. As for bump stocks already out there, perhaps a "buy back" incentive could be offered. 
   Lobbyists of NRA seem to be on a quest to normalize the presence of weapons in any and all venues: churches, kindergartens, institutions of advanced learning. Can you just imagine [assault] weapons in a counseling situation; an operating theater?
   When will it end? Gun violence may touch more lives than cancer. Obviously, it is more preventable.

Peace be with you.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Least Ones

   The state of United States so called corrections system is infuriating and depressing as hell. It seems to me those who claim to be advocates of "law and order" are, in fact, nothing more than traffickers in human suffering. They own prisons and are financially dependent on keeping them occupied. It matters not how trivial the offense, just so there is a body occupying every cell.
   In a just society, there would be roads leading to rehabilitation and productivity. Punishment accomplishes little but revenge - and let us not forget, huge profits. People much more learned than I have advocated putting money into education, as a means of decreasing the need for prisons. Unfortunately, the greed for wealth, turns a deaf ear.
   A humanitarian approach to treating drug problems might include: decriminalize possession; enact policies of treating addiction; make rehab affordable AND remove the stigma associated; treat all persons equally - i.e., do not target persons of color and don't allow wealthy offenders to buy their way out of an arrest.
   For years, people have been given pain killers; as a result, many became addicts. NOW, opioid addiction/abuse is in the news and medical personnel have turned deaf ears and cold shoulders to the people they helped turn into junkies. No one group of people or facet of society is at fault. That is bad news for those who are constantly seeking to assign blame.
   White supremacists - both overt, and closet sympathizers, would attribute every problem imaginable, to the presence of nonwhite individuals. You have probably heard it yourselves. As if drug addiction, absentee parents, and other unfavorable circumstances do not also plague so-called "good" (read: almost exclusively white and upper-level income) neighborhoods. Wealth often/usually acts as a cloak of invisibility.
   I have a peaceful nature but may yet find "push" coming to *shove.* When that day comes - and it seems to be more when than if, I hope I will find the strength of will and body, to persist. I use words, because I am better at persuasion than coercion - but we must find that place where everyone's basic needs are met. It can happen. Will we let it?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Shattering Myths

   We all have prejudices; we pre-judge based on what we have seen and experienced. But honestly, the way some people carry on when someone has the audacity to disabuse them of their preconceived notions, you'd think it was heirloom china they had to sweep up and cart to the dustbin all by themselves!
   As if it weren't bad enough that society labels us, we oftentimes jump into those "boxes" of our own accord. Sure, cats jump into boxes all the time - but when cats tire of being confined, they jump out. There is a lot of pressure on individuals - especially nonwhite, non-straight, persons - to *know their place.*
   In some instances, this can seem vaguely amusing: I'll give you an example. Preparing to leave after a visit, I noticed ripening fruit on a peach tree. I had my eye on a particular peach and it ended up in the three I was given. Others had proved more difficult to pick. The picker bemoaned, "I don't even know how to pick peaches. What kind of Mexican am I?" Not knowing what else to say, I answered, "A Yankee-bred one?" This elicited a chuckle and a charge to go home and write about it.
   I'll tell you, it was a lot easier when I was laying in bed this morning: the words were flowing freely and I hoped I would retain them until I had a chance to etch them on a scrap of cyberspace. No such luck. Hopefully, I will not lose the full essence of what I wanted to say.
   Alright, let's freely admit that stereotypes exist because we are just too lazy to see people as individuals. Now we have that out of the way, let us be bold enough to bust open some of those pigeonholes that confine people.

  • Despite what you may have seen on the show 'Queer Eye For the Straight Guy,' not all gay men have impeccable fashion sense. And don't embarrass yourself at the office by approaching a coworker, saying, "Your kind is good at this sort of thing ..."
  • A lanky young Black is under no obligation to try out for the high school basketball team. Heck, the kid may not even like sports. Ever think of steering the kid toward theater arts?
  • Not all fat people are jolly. 
  • Neither should one assume fat people to be either lazy or dirty.
  • People suffering 'invisible' illnesses (e.g. fibromyalgia, depression), are not just "faking it."
  • Immigrants are not taking your jobs.
   That's just a short list and I'm sure you can come up with plenty of other examples, because unless one is living alone, on top of a mountain, one has at least seen - and likely experienced, discrimination and stereotyping.
   Be curious - but not insensitive, and,  if you have privilege, use it to be an ally to those who are disenfranchised. See people as individuals, not as a unit in an entity known as "them." There is a beautiful diverse world to see and explore. Enjoy it, cherish it, and work to make sure every individual is granted dignity and respect.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Who are these people? [letter 137]

Greetings dear one,
     It seems I have something of a reputation as a social butterfly, flitting hither and yon. I encourage this perception, as it gives me an excuse to get out and about. This weekend I had opportunity to be in company with extended family. Not exactly my extended family - kind of "cousins-in-law." You see, our families go way back; maybe not to the dawn of time, but shortly thereafter.
  Anyway, I had received an email last week that this gathering would occur and cousins of my generation were expected to be there. I had not seen them in three years: since Mom's memorial dinner. The only requirements were to show up with a dish to pass and a lawn chair. So, on Saturday, I bought a lawn chair - and a gallon of apple cider as my contribution to the feast.
   I knew which street to turn on but not the house number. Rounding the first curve, I saw a driveway full of cars and a couple white guys, setting up a table. This was neither large nor diverse enough to be the throng I sought. A block down the street, I beheld a line of cars - running both sides of the road and around the corner: this was it.
   When I arrived, I was introduced to people I'd never met, but I could detect resemblances to relatives of my acquaintance. Those in my generation, Annie and Angie, look just like Veva, their mother. Rosie and Casey never change. The matriarch was ensconced in a deck chair on the patio, and I went to pay respect. I gave an abbreviated version of my lineage and my position within the family, so she would know who I am. I leaned over to hug her and kiss her cheek.
   It was announced dinner was ready, now hamburgers and hotdogs were off the grill. People filed past tables in the garage, loading plates with meat, mac-&-cheese, guacamole, salsa and sundry comestibles. I was visiting with others around the table when an anguished cry was heard; "We're out of fidello!" [Better luck next time.]
   Young couples with toddlers were leaving, the sun was now behind the house, and plastic chairs were being stacked. I thanked the wife of host couple, and learned she is younger sister of my second grade teacher. She told me she had thought some people were at the wrong party, because she did not know the younger generation. I told her my experience of being at the wrong party a few weeks ago. We laughed, then hugged and I made my way to my car.
   I've tossed out a handful of names that may mean nothing to you and you might never have any earthly idea of what fidello is. It's alright: just know I had a lovely afternoon and by writing this letter, I have shared it with you.

With fond regards,
Jo Ann