Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gun For All And All For Gun?

Yesterday morning, Heidi and I were reading the newspaper together.  We usually split it up.  One gets the A section, the other the Metro.  Then we switch.  In the front section there was a story of a car crash in downtown Columbia where two people were killed going off a bridge.  President Obama limited parts of the NSA spying program.  The jury is out on the health effects of e-cigarettes [Really?  You’d think the jury would be in place before we started marketing the things].    There were other stories of greater and lesser magnitude.

But the story that captured me.  The one that made my eyes well up was under the headline 4-year-old kills cousin with loaded rifle left under bed.  A four-year-old boy was shot by his four-year-old cousin.  A little girl found the loaded rifles under a bed when the kids were playing alone.  It was late afternoon.  She picked it up, aimed it, pulled the trigger.  At the time the story was printed, it was “unclear whether charges will be brought as a result of the shooting.”  The police officer quoted in the story said the killing was, “a tragic, tragic accident.” 

That story happened in Detroit.  But it could have been anywhere in the US.  One of the most disturbing parts of the story is its ordinariness.  Because incidents like this happen all the time. 

• Between 1999 and 2010, 364,483 people were killed by gun violence in the United States.
• 4,818 were children under age 14, and of those, 791 were unintentional.
• The average is about 72 child gun deaths each year.
• In 2010, there were 606 accidental shooting deaths reported in the U.S. Of those, 62 deaths were of children age 14 and younger.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System 

It’s just been a little over a year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  And just after the incident, there was a flurry of activity to pass some sensible legislation about gun control.  Even some gun rights advocates said that there should be stricter regulations prohibiting the sales of certain weapons.  Almost 1,500 bills have been introduced in almost every state.  Just over 100 of them became law.  But get this, 2/3 of the laws loosened gun restrictions.  Just when you think that a human disaster of the magnitude of Sandy Hook might wake people up to the dangers of those insane types of weapons being available; just when the nation began to consider the possibility of enacting some small changes in the direction of more careful gun laws – the push back was greater.  And as if there weren’t already too many of those weapons out there whose only logical purpose is killing people (no one really believes for a minute that their purpose is for hunting), the sales of those preposterous weapons of mass destruction increased dramatically.

Freedom Group, also known as Remington Outdoor Company, announced this week that its profits have risen by 52 percent in the year after the tragedy, in which 20 school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were killed with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle made by Remington.
The company expects profits in 2013 to reach $235-240 million, up from $156.5 million in 2012, according to an annual financial report released on the company's website. ( )

20 children died in the massacre at Sandy Hook.  8 Adults died – including the shooter.  At the vigil in Newtown, days after the shooting, President Obama said, “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year is somehow the price of freedom?”  Isn’t it ironic that the gun manufacturer that makes the Bushmaster XM15-E2S (the weapon that took away the freedom of 27 people to live their lives) calls itself the FREEDOM GROUP?


I wrote the above piece a week and a half ago.  I was intending to post it as is but there is more news about guns from SC.   Where do you think would be the absolute worst place for people to be allowed to carry concealed weapons?  How about bars?

The bill, S.308, would allow concealed carry into restaurants and bars, as long as the carrier does not consume alcohol and no sign posted prohibits it.
"I think every American has that right," The Dispensary owner Thomas Viljac says. "I think it's just the right to bear arms.
Viljac says he supports the principle of the bill, which he describes as giving owners the choice to allow guns in their business.

The bill now goes to Governor Nikki Haley.  Chances are that she will not hesitate to sign it into law.  Who knows where the “Gun Rights Advocates” will end?  All this just over a year after Sandy Hook.  The bigger the tragedy, the stronger the pushback.  Americans overwhelmingly want stronger gun controls.  But politicians are afraid of the NRA and the gun lobby.

2013-04-02 NRA support for background checks
Where will it end, when everyone is required to have a gun?  Think that's ridiculous?

Next month, the city council of Nelson, Georgia, will vote on a law that would mandate gun ownership for the town's "safety, security, and general welfare" and for "emergency management." The proposal, modeled on a law in nearby Kennesaw, includes exemptions for felons, the mentally ill, and those who oppose guns. Towns in Idaho and Utah are considering similar laws.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


it was a banana peel
on a high up branch

it made us laugh

and hug - 
as we said good bye
to those lovely North Carolina mountains
and the sparkle of that tiny lake
named after Indians

as she said good bye to 

this space 
and this life
her last few breaths 
of the mountain air

never one to waste anything

not even organic trash
it often went over the porch rail
to "feed the hill" she would say

these clothes 

to the battered women's shelter
that furniture 
to an old couple she knew
"down on their luck"
these pieces of jewelry
collected over all of her life
to her grandchildren

one last dinner party 

to say farewell
to new old friends

the last little pile of books and pictures

came back with me

and all she took for her last trip 

were two unplanned suitcases
with clothes she'd never wear again

one final transfusion

to give her strength
for that one last trip
one last good bye to Heidi and the boys

as we stood on that high up wooden porch

of her treehouse
in the winter mountains
we held each other
our grief rolling down our faces

and then there was that

banana peel
brown and curled
to feed the hill

we looked into each other's eyes

and laughed 

at that 




I will always hold on to that laugh

it was golden

Friday, January 17, 2014

We Pray For Children

I read this poem a bunch of years ago.  I don't know it's history but I use it often when I speak to teachers about what our job really is.  I am a teacher of little kids.  I don't just teach math or reading or social studies.  I teach children.  This poem by Ina Hughes reminds me.

We pray for children
who put chocolate fingers everywhere
who like to be tickled
who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants
who sneak popsicles before supper
who erase holes in math workbooks
who can never find their shoes

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers
who never "counted potatoes"
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead
who never go to the circus
who live in an x-rated world
We pray for children
  who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions
who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money
who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off key
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink
who slurp their soup

And we pray for those
who never get dessert
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them
who watch their parents watch them die
who can't find any bread to steal
who don't have any rooms to clean up
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser
whose monsters are real

We pray for children
who spend their allowance before Tuesday
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food
who like ghost stories
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub
who get visits from the tooth fairy
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime
who will eat anything
who have never seen a dentist
who aren't spoiled by anybody
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep
who live and breathe but have no being

We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must
for those we never give up on 
and for those who don't have a second chance

For those we smother... and for those who will grab the hand of 
anybody kind enough to offer it.
                     Ina J. Hughes

At school we have a moment of silence every day.  "Please pause for a moment of silence," says the child who reads the announcement.  It used to mean nothing to me.  It was just this little moment where I would mentally prepare for the school day ahead.  Now I pray for children.

Here are a few pictures I took of beautiful children while I was in Rwanda.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

More Reflections From The Winter Road

While on the road over the holiday, I had my phone with me, of course, and I snapped away with the little camera.  You've got to love the new phones.  You have a decent little camera with you wherever you go.  I included this selfie largely because I have never written the word before.  It is such a new word (although now about as overused as a word can be) that it is underlined with a red squiggly as it is not in the dictionary of this 5 year old computer.  Here I am, taking a selfie, in the New Mexico mountains. That was a river of ice behind me coming down a chilly mountainside as I took this selfie.  We were on our way to a hot springs up on the mountainside.  I've got selfie out of my system now.

When we were doing some last minute shopping we stopped by a grocery store and who do you think we saw in the beer section?  Yep, the jolly old elf himself.  I would have thought of Santa as a Chivas Regal man, or maybe an expensive port.  Nope.  Beer.  Guess what he picked out.  I'll show you at the end of this post.

When we were eating in this cool little out-of-the-way restaurant in New Mexico, on the way to the above hot springs area, I took this picture of a sign above the eating area.  You know, when you work in the restaurant business, the customer's always right.  No matter what kind of demanding fools they are.  They are always right.  "My burger's overdone [I found out after eating about a third of it] please take it back and I expect this one MEDIUM well."  "The lettuce on this sandwich is too wilted...  This soup is too cold...  My beer is not cold enough..."  I believe this little sign reminds patrons of their role.

New Mexico is sort of the nuclear weapons capitol.  They test nuclear weapons, store nuclear waste, develop and research nuclear weapons.  Of course there were lots of bumper stickers about that.  Not everyone is proud of it.  Many make their livelihood at it.  My favorite was NUKE A GAY WHALE FOR JESUS.  Just because it's so silly.  One had a dark photo of a mushroom cloud.  Desert.  A few scrubby trees getting whipped back by the blast.  The caption read GONE FISSION!

The opposite side of the issue was illustrated by a sticker that showed a white peace sign on a black background.  the lines inside the peace sign were formed by some kind of plane.  A bomber I suppose.  The accompanying words were PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH.  There you go.  Of course another one in the same parking lot read PEACE THROUGH ANNIHILATION.  It takes all kinds to make this wacky world go round.  

One showed a big fat jet.  A bomber?  Under the picture were the words FIGHTER PILOTS MAKE MOVIES.  HEAVY PILOTS MAKE HISTORY.  I'm just guessing here that heavy pilots carry BIG BOMBS.  

Here are a couple of random ones...

Probably some kind of inside joke.  Although from the looks of this car's bumper and the amount of dents all over the rest of it, someone didn't heed the message and let their friend drive under the influence of something...  

The two above were on the same truck as the one below.

Just an interesting combination is all.  The little sticker below NOBAMA reads YES, THIS IS MY TRUCK.  NO, I WON'T HELP YOU MOVE.

There is a large military presence in NM.  With all those nukes around, I HOPE so!  Somebody better be minding the store.  There were many pro-military stickers as well as some peaceniks.

People plaster bumper stickers all over their cars for lots of reasons.  Attention seeking, proclaiming their deepest convictions, self-expression, weird and unusual beliefs, to express their likes/dislikes, to rub others' noses in their ideas.  However, I am very glad that I live in a society where a PROWOMAN/OBAMAVOTER sticker can ride down the road right next to OBAMA SO LOVED THE POOR! HE CREATED MILLIONS MORE!

Freedom of speech rocks.  Hey, maybe that could be a bumper sticker!  Anyway...

... It was COORS ("The coldest tasting beer in the world!").  Next Santa moved on to the pastry section where he loaded up on cream filled donuts and bear claws.  He has an image to maintain, after all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reflections From The Winter Road

During my week or so on the Christmas road, it was great to see so many people.  I’ve always enjoyed people watching.  Shopping in busy malls, stopping for gas, going to church services, airports, even hiking out in the New Mexico hills – it was a solid week of watching faces in large and small crowds.

This is a neat time of year to notice what people wear.  It was fairly cold and gray in Indiana as we made out annual trek north.  People there know how to dress for the cold.  Parkas, stocking caps, leather gloves, wool scarves and mittens, tall black fashion boots, camo-colored woods trucking boots.  Lots of Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts with the cool new satiny accessory scarves. 

People like for you to know something about them from their wardrobe choices.  Even if their wardrobe is very limited.  I have a friend who only owns two or three pairs of long pants.  Literally.  So when he shows up on a 40 degree day wearing his long sleeved t-shirt and cargo shorts, it makes a statement.  Minimalist.  Cares about things besides clothes.  Simple lifestyle.  Doesn't mind freezing.

I hang out with lots of teachers so the Christmas sweaters make their annual appearance along with ornament-like earrings and other holiday accessories.  I actually own a bright red cotton sweater – a gift, as almost all of my clothes are.  Yep, I wore it a couple of times during the last week of school.  My own little nod to the season.  I’ll wear it again on Valentine’s Day (if I remember).  It’ll be on the bottom of my sweater pile by then.

Another way for folks to demonstrate who they are and what they believe is by the slogany t-shirts they wear.  Over the holiday, I saw a lot of Duck Dynasty wear.  My guess is that it’s been out there for as long as that unusual show has been on the air.  I’ve never seen it.  I can’t-wait-to-miss-it every week.  But a lot of people are showing their solidarity with the worldview of Phil Robertson (a name I was blessedly ignorant of just a month ago).  It would be tempting to write a post about this guy and how so many people feel that his “Biblical views” are preventing the ruination of our culture.  Yeah, right.  Consider this nugget on the benefits of men marrying teenagers. 

“Look, you wait till they get to be twenty years old – the only picking that’s gonna take place is in your pocket.  You gotta marry these girls when they’re about 15 or 16.”

Now that’s class.  Biblical too, right?  I hope to God this nut-job doesn’t represent the ideals of Middle America.  If so, we are in trouble. 

A couple t-shirts I saw with DD slogans said,
Never insult a man’s beard: Them’s Fightin’ Words
Trust Family – Everyone Else Is Suspect

Check out this t-shirt we spotted in a Bass Pro Shop.

This one is a little confusing.  “My Flag”?  Really?  Not very patriotic is seems to me.  Does this guy not salute the American flag (as in the 50 stars and bars)?  Does he think the SOUTH IS GONNA RISE AGAIN!?  Is he a firm believer in defending slavery (sorry, I mean “state’s rights”)?  Also confusing is the notion that “his” flag is on an ass.  I mean I get the double meaning… ass/ass.  But if “his” flag is wrapped on an ass and he wants you to kiss it if you don’t like it, doesn’t that make him the ass?  Just asking.  I’m sure that I’m reading too much into it.

Another form of powerful self-expression is the old bumper sticker.  You really have to believe in something to be willing to drive all around with your ideas showing for friends, neighbors and perfect strangers.  It's what David Crosby called "letting your freak flag fly".  Often, I am curious about what a person looks like based on the words I read from behind and I’ll try to catch a glimpse of them as I drive by.  I just can’t help myself.  Will they look like one of the shaggy guys from Duck Dynasty if they have a bumper sticker with the words SQUIRRELS - NATURE'S SPEED BUMPS or KEEP HONKING, I'M RELOADING?  While on the road, I jotted down several bumper messages while I was in the passenger seat.  While I was driving, Devin jotted down some interesting ones.

Her is a short list of anti-Obama stickers.

This definitely represents a bold personality.  Someone who doesn’t care if you know how much he despises Obama.  Free speech, right?  This one says, I disrespect our president, and, I am not afraid to show my ignorance as a firm believer in the totally disproved birther movement.  The more it's proven to me that Obama was born in Hawaii, the less likely I'll ever believe it.

OK, a cute little play on words.

Direct.  To the point.  No guessing where this person stands.

How about TREES ARE THE ANSWER?  Interesting.  Leaves the question to the reader.

I’M SPEEDING BECAUSE MY KID HAS TO POOP.  Funny, but I’m not sure it would help with a traffic-stop-cop.

Of course there were some from gun lovers…
For sure.  I’m almost positive that it is a scientifically proven fact that the more guns out there, the safer we all are, right?

Interesting analogy.  As in, even if there were no spoons there would still be overweight people.  Because they would use their fingers to eat all that food that makes them fat.  Or forks.  So you could apply that logic to guns.  If there were no guns then people would still probably kill each other.  They could use their hands, right?  Hard to rob a store with a spoon though.

Next Time: Images of Santa in the beer section and even more cool bumper stickers from the winter road.