American Violence

Sigh of Relief or Hold Your Breath?

Flower Bulbs--finally ordered them in the right season

Flower Bulbs–finally ordered them in the right season

Well, it’s been an interesting week here in the final leg of this election cycle.  That curse again, “may you live in interesting times.”  Donald Trump and his campaign seem to be imploding.  As horrifying as his continued statements are, as disgusting but not shocking as the accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault are, he’s still here, still in the news, still the person the Republican Party chose to have represent and lead them in the 2016 election.  I have friends on the left who are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as his poll numbers drop.  Me?  I’m holding my breath.

The calendar may say it’s fall, I may be watching my freckles fade and wearing a sweater on the terrace, but I feel like it’s spring, and those sprouts in the soil aren’t going to produce prized flowers.  Instead, the invasive roots that have been busy under the surface choking out desired vegetables will yield blooms that release a putrid stench, cloying and spreading so it overlays our gardens, our streets, our dinner tables.  How’s that for purple prose?  Drama or melodrama, I can’t yet say, but I think my concerns are real enough.

Yesterday, when I opened the box of bulbs I had ordered online, I read the instructions.  Add bulb fertilizer.  Who knew there was such a thing?  Needless to say, by the time I went to the local store to find and purchase bulb fertilizer, it negated the whole purpose of ordering online to minimize cost.  Trump is the fertilizer.  Overpriced, surely unnecessary but for those who don’t know what they’re doing and can’t be bothered to do adequate research, they buy it–just in case.  So now, he’s done his job by supporting and feeding all of the hate and fear that was at least nominally underground, strengthened the roots so the stench will spread and linger, in the form of his supporters and the politicians who endorse equivalent messages of hate but are just polished enough not to use the naughty words that cause sensible souls to clutch their pearls.

So what’s going to happen now that all of this hate has been fed, engorged with new life?  Where will these people take their message and what will they do with it?  How will America recover, when our response to the one of the most brilliant, successful, scandal-free Presidents (and families, thank you Michelle Obama!) was to elevate a greedy, gilded, spoiled sociopath to a position where he has freely insulted everyone–within our borders and worldwide?  I’ve heard whispers of maybe the moderate Republicans will step up once more.  Really? Because I don’t see any, haven’t seen any in a long, long time.  A precedent has been set, long before Trump was given the nod.  A precedent was set when this obstructionist congress took their resistance to all things Obama so far they have ignored his nomination for the Supreme Court, and left the seat vacant instead.  I’ll be honest here, since they’ve carried it this far, I hope they’re forced to eat it with fava beans and a nice chianti, if Hillary Clinton would be so kind as to nominate someone who doesn’t lean so far right as Obama’s pick.  A precedent was set when the Tea Party movement became mainstream, took seats in Congress.

As for Donald Trump himself, there’s only one thing I’m sure of, much like his declared loss of $916 million dollars, he’s already figured out how to make this shitshow a personal gain and win.

If we are to remain–or maybe that’s return to–the land of the free, we can’t pretend this anger and hatred spouted from Trump’s coif and grabby hands, and we certainly can’t engage in magical thinking that this will all disappear with a Clinton win.

Do poppies grow from bulbs?  Because maybe my analogy shouldn’t be weeds, but heroin.  Cheap, easy, insidious, deadly.  The damage is done.

I’m Sorry

Alexander Archipenko, "Seated Woman," 1912-Bronze

Alexander Archipenko, “Seated Woman,” 1912-Bronze

Really, I’m sorry.  I’m sure you’re tired of reading and hearing about this, everyone who’s anyone or no one has already blogged, posted, written this article or that essay.  I want to let this go, want to roll my eyes at the stupidity of people and snicker about those on the Right getting the candidate they deserve.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let it go, and I don’t believe anyone deserves someone who brags about sexual assault as their President.  Not even those who want him.  Maybe especially not them, because in the year 2016, there shouldn’t be one woman in the world who believes sexual assault against women is a man’s right. Not one woman.

I can be uptight in many ways, but language isn’t one of them.  I straight out tell people not to bother checking out Mrs Fringe if they’re offended by the word fuck.  I tell them because I acknowledge that some people are offended by certain words, and if you are, you aren’t going to be happy here.  I love language, and I love words, all of them.  Words are powerful, written or spoken they can outlast a good deed, a box of candy, they can remain and ring through your brain and guts longer than any slap upside your head.  A couple of years ago there was a hashtag that went around twitter, #yesallwomen in response to #notallmen, I blogged about it here.

And here we are again.  Only I’m seeing “not all men,” “not my men,” “not my sons,” etc, in response to comments and posts supporting Trump, saying that horrific tape of him speaking about women, with charming highlights like, “I moved on her like a bitch,…she was married…you can do anything,” and of course, “Grab them by the pussy.”  I literally feel sick to my stomach with every comment and post I see in support of him and his words.  Here’s the thing, most of those posts and many of those comments are from women.  Women.  Protesting that all men speak that way, no big deal, it’s only words.  No, these aren’t only words.  And no, I haven’t suddenly become a delicate fucking flower, offended by the word pussy, in need of men to stand up for me and remind everyone that when Trump was speaking, he was speaking about someone’s wife, mother, daughter.  I saw a meme floating around to the effect of “If Trump’s words are so offensive to women, who bought a gazillion copies of Fifty Shades of Gray?” Sigh.  If this makes sense to you, look up logical fallacy.

These language used is not colorful, against the rules of the FCC, or naughty.  They are words describing assault, making it clear that he sees nothing wrong with literally aggressively touching and grabbing another human being whether they want to be touched or not.  A likely smaller person, not as strong physically, and likely someone he’s in a position of power over.

I don’t want to hear about responses that begin “But Hillary,” or “Well Bill.”  This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, and she is not responsible for what Bill Clinton chose to do.

When I was 16 I worked as a cocktail waitress.  Think about that for a second.  16, working as a cocktail waitress.  Standards, not that high.  I remember one busy night, I had just begun serving wine to a large table, no room to maneuver with another table right behind me when one of the men reached back and, well, grabbed me by the pussy. In the moment, with his wife sitting right next to him, I was stunned.  He said (exact quote, because WORDS), “Sorry sweetie, I touched your box.”  And he smiled.  A fucking fifty year old man, who turned his back to his wife and didn’t move his hand.   At this point in my life, I had already learned there were situations where I could be out numbered and overpowered but this wasn’t one of them.  I lifted the still full carafe of wine I was holding and poured it on him, “Sorry, sweetie, did I pour that on your dick?”

The manager came flying across the restaurant and hustled me into the kitchen before going back to the table, apologizing profusely and comping their wine and their meal.  I didn’t lose my job, I had been working there long enough and the manager knew me well enough to know I wasn’t kidding, imagining, or exaggerating what had happened.  If you’re thinking what a good guy the manager was, stop.  This is the same man who, when I asked for a specific day off from work a few months later, told me he’d be willing to give it if I “popped his son’s cherry.”  In retrospect, I’m sure the whole underaged thing played into the decision to keep me, too, not a scenario where he would want attention.  It didn’t occur to me that by comping this man’s meal, he was rewarding him for being a pig, I was just grateful not to be fired.  I’ll be honest, at that time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make a “bigger deal” of what happened.  Sure I knew I didn’t want his hands on me, and I sure as shit could tell him to get his fucking hands off of me, but I’m not sure I knew I had the right to do so, and I had no idea that this was something that could be considered assault.  If someone had floated the word to me at that time, in 1980something south Brooklyn, I would have either laughed or taken off, certain that I would be the one in trouble.  Why? I don’t know, something about not having dangly bits and being the kind of girl who worked as a cocktail waitress.

I’m not sixteen anymore, and I know better. I know better, my husband and I have both taught our sons better, we’ve taught our daughter better.  That doesn’t make us anything more than decent human beings, who’ve tried to raise decent human beings.  Don’t you dare, anyone, tell me or anyone else, that Trump’s words are no big deal.  I’m not offended.  I’m sickened that anyone, male or female, is telling our children that assault of women is okay.  I’m disgusted that there are women who are just fine with this type of behavior for themselves, their children, their loved ones, for the hussy down the street they’ve hated since the third grade.  I’m saddened that people are perpetuating the myth that women are less than men, because that’s what you’re saying when you condone this message.  I’m angry, because get your hands off my body!  This isn’t about not-all-men speak this way, or think this way.  This is about no woman should accept this as a fact of life, ever, and it is unacceptable for any man.  Not if he’s older or younger, rich or poor, famous and powerful or a shlub toiling away in obscurity.  #Notoneman.

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.

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Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

Can We Stop Now?

Shrouded

Shrouded

I didn’t want to do this.  I didn’t want to write any more posts about shootings for a while.  Not mass shootings, not shootings of police, not shootings by police, not the ever-confusing shootings of and by toddlers.  The horror of the shootings that make headlines is how easy it is, for most of us, to understand that it could be any of us.  To understand something has gone wrong in our society, in our schools, in our definition of protect and serve.  That’s been made abundantly clear.   But somehow, as these incidents continue and grow, instead of addressing how to fix things, real discussion is at a standstill, and there’s a divide the width of the Grand Canyon where it seems no one is listening: “Black Lives Matter!”  “No, Blue Lives Matter!”  Sigh.

I want to post about my continued quest for the perfect moon photograph, the sad state of my tank, summertime in the city, how frustrating it is to be a peasant, finding laughter in the absurdity of the everyday, blather on about writingnotwriting.

But here I am, again.

The victim didn’t die, there’s nothing to debate, it’s a blatant fuck-up.  I don’t have the words for this one, thinking about it wraps my intestines tight around my shins and makes agoraphobia sound like an attractive alternative to stepping outside.  A man with autism, in Florida, was upset and ran away from his group home.  He didn’t run far, and his behavioral therapist found him sitting on the street playing with his toy truck.  Someone called the police, reportedly stating something about an armed suspect threatening suicide.  Maybe that’s what the caller honestly thought, maybe they were just frightened and freaked out by the man.  Either way, when the police arrived, Charles Kinsey, the behavioral therapist from the group home, was sitting/lying on the street with him.  In some ways I’ve been Charles Kinsey, and I know what he was doing, working to calm his client, set him at ease, and get him back home safely.  It’s a hard, frustrating job that can shatter your heart ten times a shift while it simultaneously fills you with hope and appreciation for the small moments and subtlest of victories.  It’s exhausting.  But of course, I’m not a black man.

After the responding officers were told by Kinsey what was happening, told the supposed threat was a man with autism holding a toy truck (not “even” a toy gun), and Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands up, one of those officers shot Kinsey in the leg.  To keep everyone extra safe, after shooting three times, they rolled him over and handcuffed him.  It’s ok, though, an honest mistake, the officer had intended to shoot the (white) man with autism.  *sarcasm* Kinsey was trying to convince his client to lie on the ground, but his client was sitting and rocking, very very common amongst autistic people.

I don’t want to hear how police officers all over the country are extra jumpy because of the recent shootings of fellow officers.  I understand that, and every shooting, fatal or not, is tragic for those directly involved and our greater community.  I don’t understand a police officer so poorly trained that he would shoot at an unarmed man lying on the ground who had already explained what was happening.  I don’t understand why we have police officers so poorly prepared to respond to calls in the community one would think for a second shooting at a vulnerable, mentally challenged, unarmed citizen (with what is now a common disorder) is an appropriate response.  Who was he protecting?  Who did he think he was serving?  Excuses aren’t reasons, and excuses don’t erase repercussions.

Yes, in the chorus of recent shootings striking chords, this one is an off-key aria that terrifies me.  It’s terrified many of my friends; one of our biggest fears, spoken or unspoken, playing onstage now under a merciless spotlight.  With or without a diagnosis of autism, many neurological disorders come with a processing disorder. CAPD–Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  Processing disorders mean physical hearing may not be impaired, but sounds and speech are easily muddied, resulting in delays understanding what is being said, often requiring calm, quiet, PATIENCE, visual cues and clues, and repetition.  Thousands (maybe millions?) of children and adults have this disorder, it goes hand in hand with many learning disorders, autism, epilepsy, add/adhd, developmental delays, and sometimes it’s the result of medications slowing cognitive function.  There are also several seizure types that leave the person seemingly aware, standing, sitting, maybe even walking and talking, but in fact the brain has “checked out” for a moment, or three, or ten.  FYI, autism and epilepsy often go hand in hand.  I’m not sure I have any fellow special needs mom friends whose children (regardless of age) don’t have either CAPD or a seizure disorder.  Without autism, that client, the intended recipient of three bullets, could have been my child.  Could be my child tomorrow.  Could be any number of friends’ children; yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Stop pretending police officers are superheroes, or are supposed to be superheroes.  We don’t need superheroes, we need human beings with critical thinking skills and compassion, who are trained in crisis management and deescalation skills at least as well as Charles Kinsey.  We need law enforcement officers who recognize and acknowledge the difference–before firing their weapons–between an imminent threat to their lives and a pain in the ass who’s making them run, the difference between someone pointing a gun at them and a child or mentally challenged individual holding a toy.  Stop pretending every day on every street in uniform in America is equivalent to being dropped into a war zone.

Yes, being a law enforcement officer is an often dangerous, always stressful job.  I appreciate those who choose to take the risk and join their local force.  I would appreciate adequate vetting and training even more.  If we can not and do not feel safe teaching our children to approach law enforcement if they are in need, we can no longer pretend to be a democracy, we are broken.  Shooting those who are unarmed, shooting at our most vulnerable citizens, is unacceptable.  Period.  Stop pretending this is protecting and serving anyone.

 

With Intent

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I’ve been writing this blog for close to 4 years.  Over the past couple, my breaks have been more frequent, and often longer than they were initially.  Part of me scolds myself, I should make more of an effort, but for the most part, I’m ok with it.  Everything evolves, even a little drop in the cyberocean blog.  And some of my slowdown has been specific, intentional.  If you follow Mrs Fringe, you know I can be, umm, vehement.  Excitable.  Loud.  Again, I’m ok with this.  I yam who I yam and all that shit.  But I don’t want to be reactionary.  Obviously I don’t mean reactionary in the right-wing sense of the word, but in terms of just vomiting emotions through the keyboard about the issue or horror of the day without reason and perspective.  A bit light on facts is okay, I’m not a journalist, I’ll provide links, do your research if you want to know more–but if I’m going to write about anything outside of my immediate four walls, there has to be some objectivity, even given the (more than safe) assumption that I’m always going to slant left.

I know some hear the phrase “with intent” and associate it with police procedurals and criminal charges.  In my mind, “with intent” involves the choices we make about how to live our lives, what we’re working towards and who we want to be, as opposed to floating aimlessly or just scrambling to get by.  I want my children to live their lives with intent.

So when Alton Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge three days ago, I didn’t immediately plant myself in front of the keyboard to yell about police brutality.  I wanted to process what I was hearing first, get a few more facts.  For some reason, despite the first, brief video all over the internet that showed him being shot, every link I clicked would freeze or not work at all, which helped with my intent to slow down and find out more information.  I’ll be honest, after so many well publicized police shootings, my instinct was to assume he was shot because he was black.  Even when I heard he had a gun.  How many times have we seen this story play out? “He had a gun, I was in fear for my life…”  Then video emerges–or eyewitnesses, videos being conveniently lost or malfunctioned–and it turns out the gun was a wallet, or a toy, or non-existent, or the suspect was shot in the back because he was running (or walking) while black. Then I read about a gang affiliation.  Hmm, ok, if he was known to local police as gang affiliated and thought to be carrying a gun, maybe a step back is in order before screaming injustice.  But our police are not supposed to act as judge, juries, and executioners–even if this was a bad guy, they aren’t supposed to decide his life is not worthwhile.  Then the second, longer video emerged and I watched it.  WTF?  Does everyone in our country think we’re living inside a movie set?  Maybe there was a gun in his pocket, but he was already pinned on the ground, already shot.  Yes, his arm moved, but this isn’t an freaking blockbuster, and whatever Alton Sterling was, he wasn’t an action hero.  He wasn’t in any condition to pull a gun out of his pocket, take aim, and shoot the police officers who were holding him down.  Naturally, they shot him again.

I want to say, at least they had already called for an ambulance.  I want to say how glad I am that Baton Rouge doesn’t seem to have hesitated or made an effort to block a federal investigation.  But to hold those up as measures of progress is a smokescreen to divert focus from the fact that the police shot and killed a man they already had controlled and subdued.

Before I could process and begin drafting a post about this, Philandro Castile was shot during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota.   Surprise! He was a black man.  (If I’m going to be honest and disclose my own bias here, it’s that as a stereotypical New Yorker, I’m not sure I knew there were people of color living in Minnesota.)  This horror of an incident couldn’t be worse.  I don’t know how anyone can justify this shooting.  Philandro Castile was in his car with his girlfriend and young daughter, no criminal history, worked at a Montessori school, for Pete’s sake.  Montessori, the model of education based on respect, discovery, and inclusion.  He was carrying a gun, for which he had a license, and disclosed this information to the police officer, the way he was supposed to.  For doing the right thing, following the steps of the law and reaching for his license when asked for it, he was shot–four bullets–and killed.  His girlfriend remained calm and live streamed the incident, and was arrested for it.

What could I possibly say about this incident that hasn’t been said and ignored ad infinitum in regards to the many, many police shootings in America? What could I possibly say that would be helpful to the black community, what would make sense to those who want to pretend we don’t have a huge problem in our police forces nationwide?

Protests occurred all over our country last night.  Excellent.  But with protests, there’s always fear.  Will the protestors remain peaceful?  Will the police?  This next piece of news made me realize that my heart can, in fact, be more broken than it already was.  I woke during the night to find Husband watching news reports of  snipers in Dallas, Texas, who killed five police officers and injured several more.    You know the way I said I want to have facts before speaking out?  I don’t need the specifics here, these were snipers, no confusion, no other way to interpret what happened.  This is wrong.  It’s reactionary, it defies logic, it does nothing but inflame an already combustible situation.  The same as I do not believe the answer to our problem with gun violence is more guns, I do not believe the answer to police violence is violence against the police.  Anger and protests are justified, frustration is justified, murder is not.  The same as I’m certain Philandro Castile was murdered, the same as it’s looking like Anton Sterling was murdered, the police officers last night were murdered.

I am afraid.  I’m afraid for what comes next on a societal scale, I’m afraid on a personal scale.  I’m afraid for my friends and family members, living their lives with intent,  taking care of themselves, their families, their communities.  Many of these friends and family members have brown skin and/or latino names.  We, as a society, are living in fear.  As a nation that loves to bluster about freedom, strength, and power, we should be better than this.  The past week has been an American nightmare, it’s time for us to wake up, and live all of our lives, pass laws, make decisions, revamp and retrain our police forces, and move forward with intent and integrity.

Let’s Play!

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I’m burnt out from the online political arguments.  Tried distraction yesterday, went to the zoo (yes I did enjoy watching the gorillas, thankyouverymuch).  That was nice, but not quite enough.  Back to disgusted by 9pm last night.  So this morning I was thinking, we need a game.  A nice, game, old-fashioned yet modern.  Naturally, LARPing came to mind.  So much talk about the good old days, why not go back to them?  Yes, everyone currently ranting, please join in.  At first I thought everyone should play, but then, as I thought more about the premise, I decided that if I want to keep to the spirit being touted as proper American values–yanno, my rights and conveniences are of more value than those of my neighbors or society–I don’t have to give up my Housewives or torture myself into a corset.

What shall we call our game?  Women in the Kitchen?  Back of the Bus?  We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges?  Maybe we should just keep it simple, call it America.  Though that might be exclusionary.  How about, History–Revisionist Edition?

The 1930s.  In thinking about what time period to choose, I wanted to be fair and really support those who are mourning lost values.  I considered 50 years ago, but that leaves us at the beginning of the peace and love era, dirty hippies are certainly not pictured on the memes I see going around, and really, why distribute windowpanes to distance ourselves from this glorious trip down memory lane?  100 years ago?  Hmm, that feels a bit too distant, electricity wasn’t common in American households until the ’30s, and it wasn’t until the 1920s that Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924.  Yanno, immigration restrictions in the good old days, working hard to prevent Asian immigrants, as well as Italian, Jewish, and Slav immigrants from setting foot on our red white and blue shores.  Besides, in the early 1930s, more people were emigrating from America than immigrating into it.  (Is that the current desire and dream?) Great Depression and all that.

While I and my fellow filthy liberal hippies keep score, those who believe in traditional values like backsliding, giving away rights, hating your neighbors, yourselves, and equal opportunities will get to live the dream.  If you are from a family of longtime, multi-generational wealth that didn’t go under with the stock market crash of 1929, I’m sorry, you are ineligible to play.  Unfortunately for you, your place in our culture was, is, and always will be secure.  Anyway, this is gonna be awesome.  Tremendous, even.

Concerned that you won’t have enough people and ethnic groups to hate?  Pfft, we won’t leave you without, plenty of ethnic groups and minorities to blame for…everything.  Sure, the Land of the Free wasn’t quite as mixed then, but believe it or not, there were brown people.  And for those who aren’t sure there were enough people of color to hate, we’ve got you covered, with the “wrong” white people until those numbers come up.  Concerned about having to live without your AR 15s and AK 47s?  I know, so sad, so SCARY.  In exchange for giving up your inalienable right to be a one man army, we’ve got other, more traditional good old days guns and rifles.  And beatings!  Sure, not as splashy as a semi-automatic, but is there anything quite as satisfying as old-fashioned bones-of-the-powerless-and-disenfranchised cracking under your fists?  Who says the right to vote for women need take away your swagger? Gratifying and manly, you don’t need any Latinos or Eye-talians to teach you about machismo.

In the very early 1930s, 25% of potentially wage-earning Americans were unemployed.  Please draw a card to determine if you have a job or not.  If your card is lower than a 5, you have no job.  Luckily for you, there’re also no disgusting,  Socialist (ooh, so scary)  Welfare, Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, or Unemployment benefits in place.  I’m so glad you get to hold true to your values.  Don’t worry, your family and neighbors will take care of you, if you draw an ace.  They’ll throw you a rotting cabbage and a bit of chicken skin.

If you are employed, it is of course because you’re a harder worker than the guy in the next town over whose factory folded when the owner took a swan dive off the church tower after the Stock Market crashed.  You deserve employment, you’re a real American.  None of those commie unions to deal with, either.  You’re secure in your right to work in unsafe conditions, your children working right alongside you without the unnecessary complications of health insurance, days off, overtime pay, or your right arm.  No worries, the Black Lung will keep you feeling warm.

And it’s all ok.  Better than ok.  You’ve got all the time in the world, without the modern distractions of cable tv, video games, internet access, cell phones, or reliable refrigeration.  You’ve got radio, that’s all  you sinners who insist on entertainment need! If you’re in the Great Plains, you have an excess of time, what with the lack of farmable farmland in the Dust Bowl.  If you’re a woman, that is excellent news, plenty of hours in the day for washing, drying, and ironing clothes, cleaning the house, gardening, cooking (all from scratch, no frozen dinners, take-out, or convenience foods, and taking care of the children–yup, plenty of children! (sorry, no birth control or D&Cs allowed during your month of gaming, that would be cheating.  Unwanted pregnancy? Bad timing?  No such thing, you’re a woman.)  As a woman, you’re even allowed to vote, what more do you want?

Are you a recent immigrant?  You might be a bit confused, wondering where we’ve hidden those streets of gold.  And the jobs, where are those opportunities?  Good thing you came here and learned English overnight, assimilating immediately and working without pause.  I know this is true because your modern selves talk about this all. the. time.  (“My Grandpa came to America and spoke English!”  “I’m proud to say I can’t speak a word of any other language!”)  Unless, of course, you were a minority, in which case, you were the first to lose your job, if you had landed one in the first place.  You won’t be lonely, you’ve got plenty of company what with all the other non-immigrant minorities (including Native Americans, who invited them, anyway? They should never have made it through Ellis Island.) who lost their jobs.  And recreation! I hear lynchings enjoyed great popularity in the early thirties.  Good thing we all remember those good old days with such fondness and clarity that we can play this game.

A bit of clarity, if you’re thinking that you’re white, and therefore a welcome immigrant, you might need to look a bit harder.  Jews? Suspect, and not welcome.  Italian? Suspect, and not welcome–all kinds of propaganda being distributed due to the rise of Mussolini.  Irish?  Also suspect, no-Irish-need-apply.  Enjoy your tenements! I mean really, so many of these Italian and Irish immigrants were Catholic.  Papists!  Frequent and familiar targets of the KKK in those days.  It isn’t like we’d see a Catholic President in a mere 30 years.

No worries about Mexicans coming and stealing your job, either.  A pox on those who say over a million Mexican immigrants came between 1900-1930 because of a demand for low-wage, unskilled workers when we didn’t have enough citizens to fill those jobs.  No worries indeed, we rounded ’em up, beat ’em, and deported ’em back over the border.  Damn it, now I’m confusing myself, am I talking about then or now?

More excellent news, you won’t be confronted by your child coming out to you.  That closet is padlocked and sealed in concrete.  You yourself are a part of the LGBTQ community?  Don’t be silly, surely no one who belongs to a community that has been traditionally pilloried, still openly ridiculed, viciously attacked, and subject to hate crimes  by many would be playing this game–allying themselves with political parties that want nothing more than to restrict their rights–that would mean they place their bank accounts and guns above their personal rights, to say nothing of the safety and security of their community.  Just think, it’s the 1930s, no AIDS.  Don’t despair, though, plenty of gonorrhea and syphilis to go around, regardless of your sex or sexual orientation.

Speaking of health and health care, remember, these are the good old days.  If you or a loved one get sick or have an accident, you don’t have to think about where your insurance card is, how much the treatment will cost, or if you’re able to cover the copays.  Chances are excellent that what you’ve got can’t be treated.  And your friendly local doctor will make a house call.  If you can pay him.

So, you live life as if it’s the good old days for one month.  No cheating–those of us who believe in reason, justice, equality and science will be watching.  If you make it through your month without dying from illness or a tragic accident, good on you, you win a bootstrap!  If you make it through without starving yourself or family members, losing your home or throwing yourself off of a cliff before Roosevelt can push through one of his commie New Deal roads and bridges, you get a bonus bootstrap.  I hear once you collect enough, you can use them to pull yourself up.

Deeply Saddened

Because the heart of America is broken and bleeding.

Because the heart of America is broken and bleeding.

I remember clearly the first time the phrase “deeply saddened” came to my mind in response to an atrocity.  It was 1999, and in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two students slaughtered 12 classmates, 1 teacher, injured 24 people, and then killed themselves.  At the time it was so shocking, so hideous, I couldn’t stand to watch the news or stay in the apartment; I took (then a baby) Nerd Child and went up the street to the preschool Man Child had attended.  I stood there with the director and teachers, all of us crying silently while we watched the little ones playing on the rooftop.  (NY, you make play spaces where you can.)

Deeply saddened.  When the loss is so huge, so shocking, nonsensical yet calculated, it feels deeper than a personal tragedy; a public loss we all share and mourn, yet feeling we’re powerless in the face of it, and what we feel doesn’t scratch the surface of those whose loss is personal, those who lost children and family members, spouses, friends and teachers.

In the 17 years that have passed since then, it feels like there have been many occasions when I have found myself deeply saddened by a no-longer-extraordinary mass shooting here in America:  Virginia Tech, Virginia, Binghamton, New York, Fort Hood, Texas, Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC, Charleston, South Carolina, San Bernardino, California, and now Orlando, Florida.  This is by no means a complete and comprehensive list of mass shootings here in the US, nor does it include any slaughters that came before Columbine: Edmond, Oklahoma, Killeen, Texas, San Ysidro, California–to name a few “big” ones.  Hell, I think the largest mass killing of this type was back in 1857 in Mountain Meadows, Utah.

By the time Sandy Hook occurred, maybe the “shock” of the targets being children so young, I was tilting from deeply saddened to furious.  And now, with this most recent mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 50 dead and 53 injured, I’m still sad, I’m still angry, but I’m sure as shit not shocked.  That this occurred in an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month?  Not shocked.  How can anyone pretend to be?  Look at my (incomplete) lists above.  Children, teens, young adults, adults, black, white, asian, latino, gay, straight, rural, suburban, urban, elementary schools, high schools, colleges, churches, post offices, immigration centers, motherfucking military bases.  If the list of victims, perpetrators and locations is so scattered, the only answer is to find the common theme.

Yeah, I’m going there.  I know, many will see this and roll their eyes, “it’s too soon!” “Mrs Fringe is politicizing a tragedy!”  It cannot be too soon when we know the next mass shooting is only a matter of time.  And this is a political tragedy.  A tragedy of policy, when we live in a country that refuses to enact stricter gun control laws, a country that has in place a congressional ban on gun violence research (renewed, by the way, immediately after 9 people were killed inside a Charleston church), when we know most of these slaughters occurred with legally obtained weapons by people who should never have been able to obtain guns if we had any collective common sense.  Obviously, at this point we, as a nation, have accepted that next time it could be us personally, our children, our loved ones, and we’ve decided we’re ok with that.  Oh sure, we’ll hold vigils and wail, offer prayers and tweets and gnash our teeth–if it’s really a big number killed we’ll even apply an appropriately colored, somber overlay onto our Facebook profile pictures.

Many of us have had personal tragedies, upheaval or illnesses in our lives that have caused us to accept a new normal.  Well, mass shootings are our not-so-new normal here in the US.  The NRA–hell, friends of mine–will be defensive, certain of their right to mourn alongside the rest of us and those who lost loved ones this weekend.  They’ll mean it.  Most of those I know who are against sensible gun control will genuinely be saddened by this most recent tragedy–maybe even deeply.  They’ll hold up the shooter’s history of hate, insanity and domestic violence as “proof” that we need more guns.  Above all they’ll point to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms as sacred, not to be contained, controlled, or god forbid tampered with above all else.  Above all else.  Above:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.   ~~Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776

1776 was a long time ago.  As a country, as a world we have grown, changed, and advanced so much it makes no sense at all to apply the guidelines written then as a document to be followed to the letter now.  We know it, but it’s inconvenient.  So much easier to be reactionary and defensive, luxuriate in the righteousness of our greed and mourning, to cry, Patriotism! while accepting our new normal.  It is greed when our elected officials put the contributions of gun lobbyists and their interests over those of their constituents.  When we continue to elect and support those officials, we, as a people, are validating that greed.

Even in Fringeland, we’ve been down this road and I’ve written about this subject too many times before.  Some will read this or other pieces better written with more facts than mine, and they’ll point to other nations.  Hold up as proof of America’s greatness charts of violent death rates by country, point to how far down the list we are, how many more are killed by violence in Columbia, Honduras, Somalia, etc.  Is that the type of comparison that makes sense, that we want?  These are nations shredded by internal strife, wars civil and otherwise, ruled by poverty and desperation.  They’ll point to statistics on crime and shout that criminals have guns, so we all should.  No, the answer to gun violence is not more guns.  They’ll then say we will not be able to eradicate all guns, so we shouldn’t eliminate any.  I can’t even follow the intended logic on that one.  We continue to fund disease research and treatments, even as we know we cannot eradicate all disease.  They’ll say the CDC cannot conduct studies on gun violence because guns are not a disease.  I call bullshit.

I won’t begin quoting statistics, they’re everywhere this morning.  I will say that yesterday, while we were watching the antics of blustering politicians on Twitter, and crying as we watched the horrific scene outside of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, I saw another “small” story come up.  This one local, not too many stops away on the train.  A young mother of three was shot to death on a playground, protecting her children. 

Gun violence is a disease in America, and mass shootings are the weeping of our bleeding hearts.