How many more will it take?

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(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) via https://abc7news.com/politics/gunsafe-student-signs-and-slogans-from-school-walkouts/3215255/ 

I live in the heart of Denver, Colorado. For a long time, Denver was an average mid-sized city in the western United States. During the past decade, however, it has grown exponentially into a respected larger city, desirable to startups, tech firms, the marijuana industry, restaurateurs and hotel corporations, as well as real estate developers. As with many American cities during the past few decades, money and development have changed this city almost beyond recognition.

The greater Denver area is also famous for a more somber reason, as it was the site of one of the earliest school shooting tragedies in America, the Columbine School massacre in 1999. Columbine High School is located in a suburb south of Denver called Highlands Ranch, a middle-class, mostly white, average American suburb. The anniversary of that tragedy was April 20th. Police shut down the entire Denver metro area schools that day, due to a threat by a young woman from out of state who travelled to our area, bought a gun, and ended up killing herself in the mountains near Denver.

Today (May 7, 2019), two young men entered the STEM school in Highlands Ranch and opened fire on students in the upper grades. When the police were called, they arrived in a couple of minutes, found and arrested the shooters. But it was already too late—eight students were shot and wounded, and one has since died.

During the past twenty years since the first school shooting in Highlands Ranch, there have been so many shootings by insane people inside public schools in America that most of us have lost count. Doing a quick Google search revealed that in the twenty years since Columbine, there have been 230 school shootings in this country, not including shootings at colleges or universities. https://www.necn.com/news/national-international/School-Shootings-Since-Columbine-508503771.html

According to the Washington Post, “at least 143 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 302 have been injured.”  They also reported the total number of children exposed to gun violence in schools stands at “more than 228,000 children at 234 schools.” They noted that the United States government does NOT track gun violence in schools, therefore they decided to investigate the statistics for the public. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/school-shootings-database

These numbers and every story that the numbers represent, are horrifying. As the statistics show, The United States, due to an obscene corruption of the Second Amendment, has become one of the most violent and dangerous places in the industrialized West for people, including school children, to live. According to Google, “The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope.” https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment. Surely, were the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution here today they would be completely outraged at how misconstrued their amendment has been, toward the rapacious greed of global arms dealers.

It is only Tuesday, and yet within the last 48 hours we have been given dire news of the state of nature on Earth, and now just one more report of school students being shot at during their classes. Last week we read of other students who were tragically shot, with two killed, at the University of North Carolina-Charleston as they sat in a classroom with their professor. Bad news upon more bad news, and it’s all related. Private corporations continue to bully and buy off whomever might stand in their way from reaping profits from the loss of life on our planet—whether human, animal, plant or mineral, it amounts to rape and pillage for the benefit of a very few, at the expense of everyone and everything else.

Tens of thousands have been asking for the past decades: when will this insanity end? When will our government enact gun control laws that are strong, meaningful and will finally end this sacrificing of innocents enabled by the National Rifle Association’s heartless lobbyists, with the help of the most senior officials in Washington DC? The big picture is so insidious and dark that it takes the courage of the strongest warriors we can imagine, just to face it without breaking down. The battle for the Light rages on, more strongly than ever.

Dear Readers, I am well aware that the subjects of my current blog posts are dark, scary and super depressing, and I am truly sorry for it. I am not a person who likes or wants to dwell on all that is wrong with the world, but it feels extraordinarily important to keep bringing light and attention to these events, because they simply will not change unless we do. As an aside, I know a man in the college where I currently work, who is the nicest person you’d ever want to meet—friendly, kind, always smiling and gentle. Yet each time I have brought up anything remotely serious regarding the current news cycle, he laughs dryly, and tells me that he just can’t think about “all that bad news.” As nice as he is, he is cowardly when it comes to facing what is actually happening to us and because of us in the world. There are so many people like him—kind, well-meaning, friendly, harmless—yet they are in denial or simply unwilling to look squarely at the situation we humans have created, or work to find solutions.

There are plenty of bloggers and writers on the internet who are only too willing to report the Upside, put a positive spin on whatever narrative they are selling, and yes, most of it is a sales pitch. But that’s a topic for another blog post. Tonight, I simply send my love and empathy to the students and their families who were hurt today (and condolences to the family of the one who was killed) at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. May they find the comfort and healing they need in the days and months to come.

 

 

The New Faces of Power

The New York Times digital edition of January 14th carries a photo essay of all the women who are members of the 116th Congress. There are 131 women representatives between the House and Senate. As is often the case, the images carry a profundity and nobility that cannot be captured in words alone.

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Representative Deb Haaland, N.M. (from NY Times photo essay, Jan. 14, 2019)
Redefining Representation: The Women of the 116th CongressPhotographs by Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman

Despite the chaos ensuing in Washington D.C. currently around the federal government shutdown, seeing these women leaders’ portraits all together gives me powerful hope for America’s future. The women who have taken the mantle of power come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic classes, and political ideology. Nevertheless, in this auspicious moment of this country’s history, women have stepped into their power like never before. The gender tide has turned, finally, and the United States can now begin to claim its hard-earned place among the rest of the world’s governments for gender equity. No, there is still not an equal number of men and women leaders. Yet this new Congress is a watershed moment.

“These photographs evoke the imagery we are used to seeing in the halls of power, but place people not previously seen as powerful starkly in the frames.”

“Many of these women, spanning generations, serve as firsts in Congress: the first women representing their states, the first female combat veteran, the first Native American women, the first Muslim women, the first openly gay member of the Senate, the first woman Speaker of the House — the list goes on.”

“More women holding elected office is significant not only in that it brings Congress closer to looking like the American population. It also expands the collective imagination about what power can and should look like.”— Elizabeth D. Herman

I hope you will take the time to click on the link and gaze at the new faces of power in Washington D.C. It’s been a long time coming, but feminine power is now unstoppable. Hallelujah!

The Wild Ride of November

 

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Art by @jrbrook, #GoVote

What a wild ride we are on! It’s unimaginable to me that anyone in the United States wasn’t paying attention to the midterm elections held last week. However, I know that plenty of folks really could care less what happens in Washington D.C., or in their state or local governments.

In these times, I am continually reminded that what’s important to one person is not important to the next. The reasons for this phenomenon are complex—I’m not even going to pretend to be able to answer that one intelligently. I notice it all the time, from news reports to overheard conversations, from classmates’ observations to professors’ lectures, and of course, via the dreaded social media. Our differences are becoming ever more etched in relief, and it’s a constant practice to remember, and also focus on, our similarities. How can one species called homo sapiens be at such incredible odds with itself? And, even more importantly, how can we reconcile all our seemingly vast differences in order to create the new world that so many of us long for?

Last week. Last week and the preceding weeks leading up to the midterm elections were, in a word, frenetic. They were also anxiety-producing and crazy. Candidates’ campaigns reached unprecedented levels of delirium, with a slight edge of hysteria over the weekend before Tuesday’s polls opened.  By late Monday, I was deleting emails hourly; on Tuesday morning I received dozens of emails imploring me to GO VOTE!! Did I have a plan for voting? Did I have or need a ride to get to the polling place? I wasn’t going to forget to vote, was I? Forget?? How would that even be a thing in 2018? I wondered, as I hit delete, delete, delete. Then there were text messages—Support! Go do it! Knock on people’s doors! Text! Above all, Show UP, for Goodness Sake!! Our democracy depends on YOU. The Blue Wave is coming, if you show up and Do The Right Thing.

A super-sized dose of responsibility was heaped upon each and all of us on November 6th. We were hammered by hundreds of organizations to do our citizen’s duty and exercise our RIGHT to vote for the candidates and ballot measures and amendments of our choice. The thing is, it’s not so easy to get a handle on just what exactly we’re for and what we’re against. Watching mainstream media ads certainly won’t help anyone understand the issues or get to the truth of what the candidates stand for. We need a different system, and a whole lot more civic education, period.

Americans know we are collectively living through an age of disinformation, misinformation, false information, and just plain too much information. Some days I feel like everybody and their brother and sister are jumping on the bandwagon and standing up shouting at the crowd. Only by now, the crowd is made up of hundreds of millions in America alone, not to mention the billions of other people around the world who are also watching and listening to the craziness. Metaphors become meaningless against the sheer tsunami of voices competing for our attention on a 24/7 basis.

About that Blue Wave? Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic, “A “blue wave” that is widely decided, in the course of a day, to be neither blue nor a wave: Here is one challenge of reporting in metaphor. And here is a reminder as well that, at this particular moment in American life, metaphor might be all we have.”

Words matter. Or do they? It depends on whose words, at what moment they’re uttered or written, and also, on who’s listening. As a writer, I struggle with making meaning and sense, with writing thoughts that have substance, with choosing words that cause people to reflect, ponder, and consider things that they hadn’t before. Any serious writer acknowledges that it’s difficult, tedious work. Writers attempt to convey, through small symbols on the page (either physical or virtual) what is inside their mind and  heart, then offers it to the world in hopes of gifting the others with something inspiring, humorous, moral, ethical, or otherwise “important.” Yet, at least as often as not, the writer will fail. He will fail to reach people for any one of a thousand reasons. She will be unable to touch people’s hearts through her words. He will not inspire those he most wants to affect. The game ends in stalemate far too often.

But we writers don’t easily give up. As absurd as it may be, we continue to offer our words, our thoughts, our black symbols on the page out to the world. I recently heard a story of a young man who put out his writing to publisher after publisher, receiving nothing but rejection letters back. This went on for months; after a while he began pasting them up in his apartment as a kind of testimony to his willingness to endure rejection. More than one hundred letters later, his luck changed when a publisher decided to accept his manuscript. Sometimes patience pays off.

Back to the midterms. It hasn’t even been a week since Americans went to the polls, and it’s already feeling a bit like old news. Today is Sunday, 11-11-18, a significant day for many, depending on your perspective. It marks the hundred-year anniversary of the end of World War I. For others, 11-11 is a spiritually important day, signifying a greater influx of light onto our world from the cosmos. For still others, it’s just another Sunday to hang out, drink beer, and watch a football game. Meaning lies in the significance an individual attaches to the object of one’s attention. Cosmic forces coming to awaken humanity, the end of the Great War, or the winners of the football match—you decide.

Here’s an interesting article from New Republic, on how the Blue Wave was built ahead of the Midterms.  https://newrepublic.com/article/152130/outsider-democrats-built-blue-wave.  You can be sure that last week’s wave was only the beginning of a greater storm building between now and 2020, and metaphor will continue as a useful tool for writers in describing the chaotic times ahead.