Tag Archives: Society

Guns and America

In the issue of guns and mass killings in our country, everyone immediately lines up on their side of the argument. In this corner, we have gun control. In that corner we have violent media. In another corner we have mental illness. And over there is the bad parenting crowd. In the middle, we have gun owners and advocates who want their guns, no matter what. The arguing never changes and action never happens.

Let’s look at the big picture for a minute.

It’s all of these things.

ALL of them.

An effective solution must incorporate some of everything. Once we understand that, once we ACCEPT that, we can begin to take intelligent action.

With the Big Picture is established, we can begin to break it down. I have no real order to my list, certainly not order of importance. If all these things fit together, there’s no single thing that’s more important than the others. Let’s just discuss them.

Violent Media

Entertainment Industry: this is on you.

You own it. You profit from it. And every man and woman who has worked in a violent movie, written a violent script, drawn a violent graphic novel, created a violent video game: you walked with Nikolas Cruz onto that school ground and pulled the trigger with him.

You can’t get out of it. You are murderers.

Until you stop creating and selling blood and body counts, our society will never be able to solve this problem.

It is possible to create entertainment that has conflict and action (and a good story – remember those?) without body parts and gore, and without deaths numbering in the hundreds or thousands. You create rally cool explosions and ten-minute long car chases that destroy buildings and bridges, and you litter your fictional streets with dead bodies and blood.

We can see only so much of this before we are numb to it, and the dead cease to be people with lives and loves and hopes.

We can see only so much before it’s easy to walk into a school and litter the playground with real bodies.

Mental Illness

There’s little doubt that mental illness plays a part in many mass shootings. At the very least, a shooter is a disturbed individual, and intervention, therapy or medication may have prevented violence. But this issue is part and parcel of our miserable health care system. It will be addressed by solving that problem. The thorny issues of how to spot the problems, how to report them, and when to act on them will begin to be answered once we make mental health a regular part of health care.

Bad Parenting

This issue is always thrown out by the people with perfect children. It almost doesn’t need to be talked about. But as someone who does NOT have perfect children (just darn good ones, but also one very troubled one) I suppose I can say a few things here.

Kids need guidance. They need to learn self-discipline. They need to face the consequences of their choices and actions. All of this happens differently at different ages and with different abilities. The goal is a human who can handle himself in a reasonably intelligent manner by the age of 18.

It’s true that some parents want to make everyone else responsible for their child’s mistakes. That’s just tiresome. If you’re one of those parents, trust me, everyone around you knows it. They are ridiculing you behind your back. I hope that thought embarrasses you. Now go make your kids do some chores and get their homework done.

“Bad parenting” is just a buzzword. The truly troubled individuals who are killing people were not always brought up by bad parents. They weren’t necessarily spoiled or neglected. They probably were not brought up by atheists either, despite all you folks who insist these things happen because we no longer pray in schools.

Something that would really help is better communities. We’ve become too individualistic, too self-reliant. How many of your neighbors do you know? How many of your friends are the parents of your children’s friends? How much time do your children spend doing interesting and constructive things with diverse groups that include people of all ages? Not just church services, and not just youth sports groups. How about picking up litter or building homes for the homeless, or making a trail in the wilds? Is there a community garden they can work in? Volunteer work in a nursing home or hospital, or maybe helping an elderly neighbor clean out gutters? And are you out there with them?

There is so much a community can do for its families. There is so much we NEED to be doing. This is a hugely neglected part of life in America, and we’re paying for it in the currency of lonely, bored children. I don’t mean that kids should never play or hang out with their friends. That needs to be done, too. But they are doing that. What they are not doing is being part of a community, and that’s largely because we, the adults, are not part of the community. We need to change that.

One last point: Did you read the section above on the Entertainment Industry? As parents, we can’t get away with just blaming them. We are responsible ourselves, to keep our kids from seeing bloody and violent movies and video games. I know this is hard, and even impossible, on some level. Kids will access them somewhere, somehow, no matter what we do. But by refusing to allow them, we can at least minimize exposure. And our kids will be more aware of the influence these things can have over them. Whether this helps or not, I don’t know, but the problem is so serious I think we must try.

And parents need all the help they can get, which must come from the community. I’m thinking of rating systems. They’re a joke at this point. Somehow, the movie rating “PG” has become a defacto “R,” with some of those movies containing more and more graphic violence. We’ve all become so used to violence in our entertainment, that we’re exposing our children to it at younger and younger ages. It’s time to demand that this stop.

Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room.

Gun Control

If you are against restrictions and regulations of guns, you are the problem. You are responsible for every murder done with an assault, automatic, or semi-automatic weapon.

Now that I’ve really made you mad, let me talk about what sensible gun control can look like for civilian Americans:

  1. No assault, automatic, or semi-automatic weapons of any kind, ever. I think the standard should be one bullet per trigger pull. Any weapon that shoots more should be outlawed.
  2. One gun per person.
  3. A license is required before a purchase can be made. In order to acquire this license a person must:
  4. Be at least 25 years of age
  5. Pass extended background check with NO license going to anyone convicted of a felony, battery, assault, domestic violence, stalking, threatening, mentally ill… I’m sure there are more, and also nuances among some of the ones I’ve listed.
  6. Show proof of completion of an approved, official training course in the laws pertaining to guns, and in the handling, shooting, storage, and safety of guns. The course should also include enough first aid to handle accidents.
  7. Show proof of insurance that covers loss, theft, damage to property, and injury/death to animals that were not being hunted for food, or injury/death to humans.
  8. If your gun is lost or stolen, you cannot replace it.
  9. A second gun can be bought only upon surrender of the first gun for recycling or reuse.
  10. Renew license every three years by passing a new test of your knowledge and shooting ability.

Beyond this, we must all follow rules and restrictions for the use of guns. Just like we can’t drive a car anywhere or any way we like, we can’t use guns indiscriminately. For example, no guns allowed in public places.  They should be restricted to hunting situations or shooting ranges. Ammunition should also be highly restricted – perhaps no more than five per year in the home. But you cannot shoot your gun in the home or on your property, unless it’s in self-defense. You must take the gun to a shooting range to practice.

And – this is vitally important – guns can only be purchased at retailers licensed to sell guns. No gun shows, no private sales.

I’ll admit this is all draconian. You’re throwing up your hands and saying there’s no point in having a gun at all under these conditions. Which, frankly, is exactly what I think. That’s my bias, I’m afraid. I don’t understand why you want one or what you want to do with it. Maybe that’s something someone can explain to me.

I know, I know – you want it for self-defense. But in a practical sense, that just doesn’t add up for me. If you are going to safely have a gun in your house, you have to keep it locked away from children, and have the ammunition stored separately. If someone is threatening you or your family, how are you going to have time to get all that together? But if you don’t store it like this, your family lives in constant danger of accidental shootings. Not to mention, it’s very easy for a crook to find your gun and use it against you.

So what’s the point of having it? Honestly, I don’t get it. So, I’m standing by my list.

There is one more very important step to consider before we’re done.

The Cleanup

Putting all these regulations and restrictions in place would be a wonderful start. But it’s only the beginning. The hard work must still be done: finding and confiscating the plethora of guns that are everywhere in our society.

We have to register all the guns that are currently in circulation. And most importantly, we must remove any assault-style, automatic, or semi-automatic gun, and the ammunition they use.

THAT is going to take some work. It will require a national effort that reaches into every city, town, and hamlet. It’s an undertaking fraught with opportunities for danger or corruption., Where do we put the guns we gather up? How do we make sure they are not sold to arms dealers, foreign or domestic? Or stolen by the same? How and where do we safely store and destroy the ammunition?

I refuse to believe it’s too hard to do. We need to roll up our sleeves and do it anyway.

An important first step will be to declare a moratorium on the manufacture and sale of any new guns or ammunition. Don’t whine that this will put people out of a job. Businesses lay off people for far less important reasons. I don’t know if anyone has ever counted, but I am certain that there are more guns and bullets on this planet than will ever be needed.

If you insist on a strong military, then gather everything up and give it to them. They might actually have the infrastructure to handle the influx. And they are the only organization in our country that needs these things.

Once we’ve stopped (or at least, paused) the influx of new guns and ammunition, we start gathering what’s out there. If you already own guns, you have to register them. You have to surrender outlawed types. And no, we aren’t paying you for them. You spent your money on something you had no need for, and that was drastically dangerous to everyone in the country –  that’s on you. The taxpayers are already paying for the damage that’s been done, and now we’re paying to destroy them. We’re not giving you money, too.

If you have lots of guns and bullets, and a law is passed to restrict the number you can have, you’ll have to surrender the extras.

Anything you keep, you will have to pay to register and insure – each one separately. You will have to pass a test, written and practical – to obtain a license to keep them. If you can’t afford to do this, then surrender the guns and ammo.

Marlene, you’re nuts.

Yes, I know this is not likely to be implemented. There are too many people who don’t take the danger seriously enough, or who just don’t care. But America has become a war zone, and as an American, I think that’s intolerable. It’s one thing if a foreign enemy attacks us relentlessly and we are fighting a real war in our country. But we’ve done this to ourselves and that is completely ridiculous. This is a drastic situation and it requires drastic action.

Gun owners and advocates, I’m begging you: take this seriously. Look at what our country has become. Our children – kindergarten through high school –  go to school and practice how to hide in a closet and not make a sound for fifteen minutes. People go to the movies or shopping, or out to eat, and keep looking over their shoulders, pushing worry and fear into their guts, knowing that at any moment, a hail of bullets could shatter everything in their lives.

No reason. No warning.

Knowing that it probably won’t happen, doesn’t help the fear and anxiety go away. We live with it now, every minute of our lives. Our children live with it. And many, many innocent Americans have paid the ultimate price.

Gun owners and advocates, I’m asking you: is this the country you want? Don’t you think it could or should be different? Why won’t you help us?

 

 

 

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The Foundation of Gender Inequality

This article is so perfect, you must go read it right now. It’s NYT, so if you don’t subscribe you might not have access, but I encourage you to try. The title is interesting: “The Men Who Want to Live Forever.” But those men (billionaires, of course) are just an excuse for author Dara Horn to zero in on the bottom line for gender inequality: throughout human existence, women have been almost exclusively responsible for the care, feeding, and comfort of other human beings.

Men have not.

More than any of the millions of words written about patriarchy, sexual harassment, glass ceilings, or male-posturing-resulting-in-war-greed-destruction, this essay brings the point forward in an easy to understand way. Men feel free to do all these things because they (as a gender) have never developed the empathy that comes from the day-to-day caring of vulnerable humans.

I am not saying that all women have empathy, or that they all enjoy caring for other people, or even that all women are good at it. I am not saying that is what women should be doing, exclusive of all else.

I am not saying that all men have no empathy, or that no men ever physically care for someone else. My own son is a nurse – thus I have positive proof that men can be caregivers.

But let’s first acknowledge that male dominance is the Way of Life on this planet, and has been for most or all of human history. Let’s acknowledge that the rules, religions, and laws of human history have been made by men, and for the benefit of men. They exist to protect and ensure the dominance of men.

Let’s acknowledge that through all of our species’ history, very few men spent time in the physical care of other human beings. This is their handicap. This denied them to opportunity to develop deep empathy. As Ms. Horn points out, caring for someone else forces the caregiver to see the world from someone else’s point of view. What does this person need?

And then, one more step beyond figuring out what the other person needs: the caregiver must then fulfill that need.

Oh my gosh, if more men – if all men  – spent their lives sharing equally in the care of vulnerable human beings – children, the elderly, the ill, the injured – I believe we would see the end of patriarchy. Men and women would be partners in the existence of the human species, and in the societies we build.

Because this is the core of life. Not power. Not money. Not dominance.

Caring.

Those rich and powerful men who want to live forever? Let’s see them spend all their years in the care of others. To actually be responsible for the humans around them.

To quote Captain Kirk: “Above all else, a god needs empathy.”

Let’s fix this.

National Service?

This article in the NYT was interesting. Mind you, I have nothing but derision for Kelly’s attitude toward the American people he’s supposed to be serving, but he’s got the right idea with a national service.

I agree. I think we should have a national service in which all Americans, except for the most seriously disabled, should be required to participate. Not just – or even primarily – military service. We should not live our lives or run our country in devotion to war. There are a thousand other things people could do during their service: build homes, schools, or other public areas, teach, feed, care for elderly or children, serve on juries, pick up litter, serve as emergency responders… we could consistently build and maintain a highly functional society whose people understand they depend on each other.

Timing and length of service is debatable. Immediately after high school? Or after college? Or perhaps there could be alternatives people could choose. Some tasks will require skills or education, so people who go into one of those areas might wait until after college or other training. Some tasks just need a few weeks of OJT, so they might be for new high school graduates.

Like the military, people should be paid for this time in service. Health care is a given, as are a regulated work week, time off, etc. It’s a job, but the work is devoted to something the country needs to have done. There should be a basic training period like the military has, although it may not need to be so physically rigorous. That will depend on the unit’s assigned task (MOS in military terms). But the point of it is to build community among the cohort, and this is something that is sorely needed among Americans today. We are too fragmented and too disposed to ignore each other. Basic training and a couple of years in community service will at least be a time in our lives when we knew what it was to work with others toward a common goal.

And we’ll get things done that need doing. We’ll finally be able to maintain our infrastructure and we’ll have access to bright minds and nimble ideas to improve on the old and build the new. And with the training and skills people get during this time, they’ll be able to go out and find or create jobs that will support them and continue to contribute to society as productive citizens. Who knows, maybe we’ll reduce homelessness, too.

And just maybe, we won’t hate each other so much.

 

A Guest Post: #Voice for the Voiceless, 1

For this post, I’m starting something different. There is someone I know whose life is a testament to struggle, bad choices, and pain. It is not pretty. It is not easy. But I want to give her a voice. So as often as she can write something, I’m going to post it here. These posts will always appear under the heading you see above: #Voice for the Voiceless.

I will not edit the posts unless she asks me to. This is her life and I don’t want my edits to add or detract from that. For her safety – and frankly, for mine, too – she will remain anonymous.

There is no order or reason to the posts. These are her thoughts. Her life. My blog is simply a vehicle.

_______________________________________________________

#Voice for the Voiceless, 1

Thank you for the listings. I contacted them myself, as well as many others. Also, the woman has done this as well and is on many waiting lists.  As she puts it, the funding is there but the actual services never come through. In fact Alameda County has a homeless information system they us to streamline homeless services and homeless clients. If they contact one program, they contact them all. Yet the agencies are simply not meeting the needs. In Berkeley alone there are over 300 homeless Families. Not singles. Families. Yet Berkeley has shut down almost all of its family shelters. I believe as of January there is only one shelter that accepts mothers and children. And they only have room for 4 of that family type. Berkeley recieved more bulk grants and funds than any other city in Alameda County. For families.
The numbers in Oakland are even higher. Sadly, the few places that take children do not take both parents as well. None take fathers and children. Or thebshelters are in communities where you might as well give up living unless you have a car a job a house and retirement package. So if you get blessed with a shelter spot, and you have a whole family unit, that unit either separates or stays on the streets.
According to the Federal government, Alameda County failed to disperse services to homeless that YOUR TAX DOLLARS paid for. Quite simply, those funds went to alameda county paychecks instead of where they were supposed to. As of January 2017 our county was ORDERED TO CORRECTLY DISTRIBUTE THOSE FUNDS TO THOSE IN NEED. They were told to literally go find the homeless and give them exactly what they shouldve already recieved. Real help.
This woman in particular has been severely traumatized, both physically and emotionally. She was assaulted in our city of Oakland, and then left to survive on the streets with her baby. Not one of the city, county, state or federally ran services aided her. I asked for evidence of this and she gave it to me. That homeless information system, has her listed as an automatic denial for services. Her and 800 other homeless people. Automatically denied aid. No reason. Services get the tax money, and pay themselves or put in “trust funds for the future”. What right do they have, not spending the money on the exact things its given to them for, at the exact time its given to them?
Honestly I believe that this woman was so severely wronged by society, that, we her society owe her an apology, among other things. Not every homeless person on the steeets is choosing to be there. Not all of them are junkies and indigents. In reality there are hundreds that quietly hide in the shadows and try to blend in with us, hoping to one day return to being, us. She is one of the few I have found that does not hide and is not quietly hiding from our eyes.
Her sign says it and when her child is out there with her, you hear it even more loudly. Alameda County, Oakland, Berkeley, if we dont like the homeless problem, we need to start fixing it now. She doesntbneed shelter information. She needs a home. A stable solid building that her son can believe he belongs in. Studio apartments, small single level homes with a yard. Not expensive. Not hard to build. Easily self maintained by the tenant. Lived by the family in it.thats what my hometown streets should look like. My tax dollars got used up by somebodys greedy budget. Now my streets have a partially blind mother with a very young little child, living among the needles and trash of all the others that were ignored. If each of us takes a small personal stance and a bigger public stance to help her and others like her, things might someday calm down. Ignore her and read her or her childs obituary someday soon. Or worse step over that pile of trash and realize its not trash. It might end up being them.
I hope that when you read this, you dont take offense. Just understand that reality isnt what it seems. Its more sick and sad and almost always, the chaos is caused by greed.
At least acknowledge her with gentleness.

 

Pardon My Moment of Despair

I’m awake in the dark night and this time, it’s fear that’s keeping me up. I feel foolish admitting it, but I am sick with worry about our future. The new administration and the extreme politicians that have been given control of our country are wasting no time in implementing their plans to destroy us. We will soon have no good schools for our children, no health care, no way for our daughters to prevent unwanted sex, no way to protect themselves from pregnancy, no way to save themselves when pregnancies go wrong.

Jobs will pay only slave wages, with no protection regarding overwork or unsafe conditions. Our water and air will become dirty and unsafe. Extreme weather, warming and rising oceans, and our newly unregulated industrial pollutants will combine to destroy our societies. Hopelessness will be the spirit of our lives, and we will no longer have a government that represents us, giving us no way to change things.

Most of this will not affect you if you are rich, but “rich” will have to be very rich. Even those of us who are “well off” will not have enough money to live well. Everything – schools, health care, adequate food, public services, government representation –  will be for sale to the highest bidder.

The people doing this are filled with hatred. They blame us for our own struggles and mock us for our despair. They have all the power now, and they want more of both power and money. They will not stop until they have it.

Perhaps I am losing my mind. I am angry and afraid and weak. But I don’t see a way back from this. People think things will be okay, or even better, but they are wrong. The men in power have no care for people, only control. The changes they are implementing will lead to a dark age for this country, and possibly the world.

I know that my despair is not the answer. I don’t plan on just giving up. But I am so afraid.

 

Week 10: Amy Siskind Lists Subtle Changes Toward Tyranny

Here’s your link for the most recent list of subtle changes taking place in our world, right before our eyes.

I am reminded of “Shock and Awe.” Only this time it’s being used against us. These lists are frequent and they are long. We are being lambasted daily, indeed hourly, with changes that in many cases, offer real threat to our existence. It is impossible to remember them all. It is impossible to maintain the outrage each one deserves.

Please don’t mock me by saying I’m a timid old woman afraid of change. People who know me will laugh you out of the room. I agitate for many changes to our lifestyles and politics and economy. So much is wrong, from the laws on the books, to the common practices, to the philosophies behind them.

But I will fight against change that sets up authoritarianism in our country. Yes, I’m afraid of those changes. They will destroy us.

 

Here’s a Good Description of a Workable Food System

Let me repost this blog for your reading pleasure. Chew on this idea: https://medium.com/@cnative100/vegetarian-diets-are-not-going-to-save-the-planet-4f50d0c1f8cf#.r6ef0ib8i

I think there’s a bit of unnecessary snarkiness in the article, but the idea is exactly right, if you couple it with Pollan’s mantra: “Eat real food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

A side benefit of this kind of food system is reduced diabetes, reduced heart disease, reduced obesity, reduced cancer, and reduced other autoimmune disorders. Which means cheaper health care.

How can that be bad?

 

So It Begins

The first announcement by the new press secretary begins the official pull-the-wool-over-their-eyes of the new administration: http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/wh-spokesman-gave-alternative-facts-inauguration-crowd-n710466. It’s pretty sad that it had to be about a silly, unimportant non-issue. The size of the inauguration crowd? That’s your first official lie? Seriously?

Please note: lies are now called “alternative facts.”

From now on, news will be what Trump says it is. Facts are only facts if he approves them. Legitimacy only exists at his say-so. His followers will loudly insist his truth is truly true, and the rest of us only hate and envy him.

Okay.

I do not see how a democratic country can survive this. When truth and lies switch places, and trust no longer exists, there is no recovery.

Perhaps the next generation, or the one after that, will be able to rise above it and bring the country back to sanity. I’m sure people despaired of life ever recovering from the destruction of WWII, yet the following generations worked and scraped and built a better world.

The new world never did come close to perfection, and now we’ve lost much of it, with the rest of it ready to fall to Europe’s new nationalism. But for a while there was real hope and real progress.

We need to tell that to our children and grandchildren. I’ve even got a great-grandchild who needs to know that truth is not what the new language says it is. They need to know that their elders screwed up their world and that if falls to them to fix it.

I don’t mean to say that we elders can just sit back and let the liars hang on to the golden ring. Not at all. We must never stop declaring the facts that are actually facts, and we must prove to our progeny that we will fight alongside them until we are dead.

But it will be up to a new generation to forge trust with each other, at a time when the pain and anger has faded somewhat.

Ours is lost.

 

 

 

Trump, the GOP, and the Fall — Whatever

Original photo by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to see original.At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is…

via Trump, the GOP, and the Fall — Whatever

A Post About Hope (or Not)

Science Fiction is full of dystopian stories, with futures grim, dusty, and hot. They have advanced technology, at least in some sectors, but in general, it’s not available to the masses, or used for the greater good.

With all that’s going on in our world these days, it almost seems that we should just pick our favorite dystopian story and admit we’re heading in that direction.

I am a cynical person. I’m not proud of that, necessarily, it just is. People almost can’t surprise me with how nasty they can be. I’m always disappointed when they are nasty – I’d much rather see people be nice. Or dare I say, be reasonable?

You know, at the very least.

Invariably though, most people go for the jugular and brag about it. There are a whole bunch of them in this country coming out loud and clear about how nasty they are and how nasty they want to act in public. They’re voting for Trump.

It’s possible the slim majority of British folks who voted for Brexit just want to be nasty, too. Certainly, they want to close the gates to their country and wall themselves in so they can have their own quiet little kingdom without having to acknowledge that “other” people exist.

Good luck with that.

But here’s the thing about dystopian stories. They always have hope. There are always people who refuse to be nasty and want to do something about the general nastiness surrounding them. Seriously, would you read a novel that didn’t have these characters? Probably not.

A novel that just glorifies a nasty, ugly society would be… boring, possibly. Damn sad, for sure. Cringe-worthy, even.

So it would be in real life. And in my most cynical moments, I’m truly afraid we may end like that. It’s hard for me to think hope can win. But cynicism doesn’t mean I give up. I’ll always be one of those people fighting for reason.

In novels, we always win in the end. I want to believe that’s also true of real life, with the caveat that sometimes we’re reading a trilogy. Things can get pretty nasty before the good guys prevail.

Worst case: humanity goes extinct. That at least ends the suffering.