Wednesday, December 19, 2012

~The Lies Of Sandy Hook

Days like these disturb me.  Although, not for the reason you might think.   Yes, I find watching the news start to report on the twenty 6 and 7 year olds being buried, well before their time and under unimaginably violent circumstances beyond troubling and sad.  But what really disturbs me is the number of my fellow Americans who aren't disturbed enough to do even the smallest thing(s) to prevent the next round of funerals for innocent citizens.

Over the past few days people keep telling me how shocked they are over Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which keeps striking me as disingenuous.
The horrific events at Sandy Hook are not shocking.  'Shocking' denotes an element of surprise.  Something that rises to the level of being out of the ordinary.  And there is, sadly, nothing about this, or the Portland, Oregon mall shooting earlier this week, or the Aurora theater shooting, or the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting this summer, the Las Vegas casino shooting Friday evening, or the Alabama hospital shooting Saturday, that is surprising. 
Being shocked at Sandy Hook is like the gateway lie to the harsher lies we tell ourselves that contribute to allowing such traumatic and senseless situations to continue to unfold.

Big Girl/Boy Underoo Time:  Resist the urge to feel indignant and defensive.  Fight the desire to click to some other page that supports your exact view.  It's time to decide if you'll continue to be shocked the next time every news outlet swoops down on some before then unknown part of our nation interviewing the latest batch of teary eyed, grieving families and co-workers and the obligatory, 'they seemed normal' or 'they would have been my first guess on the who snapped list' Gladys Kravitzesque neighbor.  Or if you're ready to be part of a solution.   

One of the signs of greatness is the ability to evolve.  

Probably because in true Darwinian fashion, only those that evolve and adapt to the condition and reality of their existence prove to be successful in their survival.  It applies to everything.  It's as true for animals and plants as it is for viruses.   The same can be said for things as divergent as phones, social media and nations.  Assuming there isn't some massive super secret contingent of, size of a brick, ol' school 80's cell phone devotees/Myspace usin'/drowning people to prove their non-witch-yness movement happenin' that I'm unaware of...  The same thing is true for people and attitudes.  I'm not sayin' growth and evolution is a comfortable or easy endeavour.  In fact, I'll say it's hard.  Always.  And in any context.  I'm sure it's not particularly comfortable for a problem drinker to acknowledge that things aren't working under the glug-glug plan, and that no matter how much they feel like they should be able to continue with what's comfy (drinking) it's not resulting in creating the life they ultimately desire.  I'm also sure that even having that epiphany doesn't make the effort to change a lifetime of thinking and behaviors easy, even though they know it's for the best.  Yes.  This is a 'am I a drunk?' moment in our society with guns.
The ability for people to grow to their greatest potential demands we be unyielding honest with ourselves.  Moving beyond the lowest common denominator or mediocrity demands in large and minuscule ways that we make decisions to literally and metaphorically ball up our fists and hold our breath, in an obstinate attempt to will things to be the same-- to stagnate ourselves, or come clean about what's not working and figure a way to adapt to our changing circumstances and realities-- to grow, expand and improve our lot.   Please note:  I didn't say sell your soul to conform to my way of thinkin'.  I mean, open your mind to figure out (...not just fight finding) a better way given current conditions, in lieu of taking the defacto stance that, 'nah, gun violence is shitty, but as long as it's happening to some other family/town, status quo is good enough for me'-- which while perhaps not intentionally or maliciously conspiring to achieve, is what continuing to deny that we need gun control reform really equates to, pragmatically speaking.  

Sandy Hook, in it's tragic scope and circumstances is an invitation for all of us decide some important things about ourselves and our country-- or to resign to a lifetime of shaking our heads, tossing out a few platitudes and continuing to lie to ourselves about being shocked when someone else's 6 year old ends up in a unnaturally tiny white casket.

We need to be honest about what is our current reality in terms of gun violence.

We need to acknowledge that our gun violence problems aren't caused by a lack of God in schools.  How can the lay person recognize that that's a lie?   

A:  Facts.  To believe that God is smiting us as Americans for exercising the audacity of running secular public schools, would by extension lead one to believe that God would also find a secular education provided in other first world countries worthy of bestowing great tragedy in classrooms around the globe.  But we never really hear of school shootings outside of the U.S.  Not because we just don't hear about them, but because they are practically non-existent, globally.  In fact, of the 77 school shootings worldwide, only 17 happened outside of America.  (Germany and Canada are the only two nations who have experienced more than one school shooting.)  For those like me not mathematically inclined, that's 60 school shootings in our country.  If we're being honest, it kinda makes it seem like the difference between our reality (60) vs. that of every other first world country (17) isn't God's relationship with American schools --as if God operates on national borders, but our different approaches to gun laws, no?  God (if that is your belief system) is everywhere.   If the 'lack of God' assertion is really intended to translate as, 'people do immoral and illegal violent acts because of a lack of a belief in God, a lack of religion', I'd buy that.  And I believe it's called freewill.    And it's perfectly acceptable for one to hold the opinion that more people acting in accordance with, let's say the ten commandments, would create a better standard of living than we currently experience in many ways, however again, that's a home/clergy issue.   There's a reason we don't expect our mechanic or butcher to fulfill our faith based needs.  It's the same reason we don't expect teachers and principals (outside of those in religious schools) to do so either.  It's not God's whereabouts that earn the blame for guns being used to shoot our neighbors.  It wasn't the lack of God in a school room that precipitated this heinous act,  it was the presence of a madman with too easy of access to firearms. 

We need to stop feeding the widely popular, "if it wasn't a gun that was used to kill, it would have been a knife..." argument we tell ourselves, which is a lie in the sense that it's not exxxxactly the whole truth now is it?  It's true that if you're intent on murder you're probably gonna find a way to murder Malcom X style by any way necessary, what isn't true is that it's a tit for tat analogy.  Otherwise, we'd have a 'knife problem' too.  Knives are far more accessible than guns-- you can purchase a knife at the gas station, but that isn't the reality of violence in our society.  Clearly, the weapon of murderers choice is the gat.  If it was simply using a tool that's readily available, we would see a higher statistic for Bic pen murders.  We don't.  We see abuse of the weapon(s) with the greatest killing capabilities they can get their hands on.  When you look at the numbers, it's clear to Hellen Keller that we don't statistically have a 'knife problem' or a killing with bare hands epidemic.  Diminishing and deflecting the fact that 11,493 Americans lost their lives due to firearms (latest '09 stats)--  Perpetuating this lie that insinuates that rocks and baseball bats are equally as dangerous and devastating as guns, particularly military grade weapons, when one actually consults the numbers of the homicides, is a dishonesty that serves to benefit no one. 
(Yeah, but... Alert:)
Yeah, but on the same day there was a knife attack in China...
Before we get too far in, I should probably note for the official record;  I am NOT anti-Second Amendment.  I am NOT anti-gun.  My father, who spent his working career as a Police Officer, had the luxury of retuning home to me  when I was a little girl by the grace of a firearm and at the expense of a crims life.  My mother was also a gun carrying Police Officer when I was a wee one.  I have been around firearms and people who use them for defense, sport, hunting and as a tool of their trade my entire life.  I am a gun owner.  I like to think of the responsible variety.  I do not believe that guns themselves kill.  I do believe it is the mentally unstable/irresponsible/angry with poor impulse control/drunk, etc., person who pulls the trigger who is the killer and who bears responsibility for their violent actions.  

With that said, it would make me a complete idiot to contend that easy access to guns isn't a contributing factor to the gun violence problems we have in our country.  It would be like saying, 'nooooo, cyanide isn't dangerous.  It's the people who make it dangerous once they use it'.  True on principal and in theory, but false in reality and practice.  Can you imagine people stamping their feet trying to keep the easiest access possible for cyanide because it itself alone in a vile isn't dangerous?  Of course not, that would be preposterous.  Yet, many of us think nothing of using the same preposterous approach to gun law reform. 

An often cited reason for resistance to engage in a meaningful dialogue is the 'criminals don't follow the law' mantra.  Which always brings that ol' quote; "do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" to mind.  Sure.  It's accurate to acknowledge that crims aren't known for being a particularly law abiding group of citizens.  However, it poses two questions:  1)  How's that workin' out?    And in this case, B) is being right an adequate excuse not to engage in supporting strengthening our gun laws?  Clearly as the graph below illustrates, the current plan isn't working.  It's not helping enough to keep our citizens mothers, kids, spouses, friends safe enough.  It just isn't.  One would have to be naive to believe that every bit of our gun violence is attributable to criminals.  Leaving a certain amount--  (* Of 1,662 murders committed in New York City during 2003-2005, more than 90% were committed by people with criminal records.   --It does not specify what % of 1,662 murders were firearm related, but for a vague idea see Redrum chart above)-- let's say 10% committed by assailants who do not have a prior criminal record.  According to Gallup, roughly 50% of Americans (314,959,000) report owning at least one firearm (meaning approximately 157,479,500 U.S. gun owners). So if forging new restrictions or new qualifications or whatever reasonable idea can be put together for ownership could lead to even 1% of non-criminal gun owners failing to meet a new set of standards that would keep legally acquired guns out of the hands of 154,795.  Obviously, I am not smart enough can't speculate as to how many firearms homicides would be deterred out of 154,795 fewer people having easy access, but to have new ways to screen/test/qualify to potentially keep the next Sandy Hook, Aroura or Tuscon shooter--  who based on current conditions had easy access to legally obtained firearms, wouldn't it be worth it?  You can say no, but doing so really goes back to the initial point, if you're shocked by these incidents of gun violence, you either aren't paying attention, or it's time to admit that you really just don't care about innocent people being killed, at least not enough to be even the tiniest bit inconvenienced, or to compromise on the smallest of points. 
Data Source:  United Nations, The Washington Post/Max Fisher
We are so quick to trot out, 'criminals will be criminals'  and shake our heads that we never see some of the glaring things that could be accomplished to reduce firearm violence.  Things like requiring gun shows to adhere to the same regulations that mandate your local gun shop to do a background check.  I'd image we could all agree that if it's a bad idea to sell/buy a car without the proper legal paperwork, that it's also a bad idea to have a unregulated guns being sold willy-nilly down at the fairground each weekend.  That seems like a no brainer.  But all too often we never get to figure out where the common ground is, mainly because at the first mention of 'gun control' too many conjure up images of sugar plum fairies black gov'ment vans pulling up and confiscating all shotguns, rifles, handguns, switchblades, razor blades and sling-shots.  (Which is another lie we spread.  Over the years I've had 'gun chat' with Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, religiously inclined friends and atheists, gun enthusiasts and people petrified by guns, old and young, city dwellers and rural folks, and never has anyone proposed that we become a gun-less society.  Not one time.)
Most people would agree that military grade weapons have no earthly business being sold in our communities.  But we can't even make a move on the those, even though they serve no purpose other than havin' some fun in the country, and killing the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.  They are useless for hunting.  They are not used in sport/competitive shooting.  And frankly, if you can't stop an intruder and defend your home with a Glock, Sig or grandpa's shotgun, you don't have any 'bidness owning a weapon powerful enough that they are the tools of the trade for armed forces and law enforcement.  But that type of reason is eshewed for fibs and half-truths.  And because some folks like their big bang-bang toys too much to not be allowed to buy any more, or heaven forbid have to part with a specific type them.  I don't know about you but if someone asked me to give up my favorite toy because it was going to help keep someone else's kid/mother/friend from being shot there's really nothing I can think of that I own that I wouldn't pony up to help accomplish that.   
(Yeah, but... Alert:)
Three words:  Well.  Regulated.  Militia. 
Go home.  You've already lost.
We can't seem to be honest enough with each other to acknowledge that regulating against large clips would be beneficial.  The thought process being that it would only serve to have killers reloading more frequently.  Which speaks to the crux of this issue--  why are we so intent on making everything associated with guns the easiest?  That split second to reload isn't a long time.  ...Unless it's the split second that allows your spouse/friend/child to run away, or a couple of people to tackle the shooter, then that blink of an eye moment means everything.  But because so many are willing to buy the lie that small mag/large mag doesn't make a difference, we'll tacitly endorse the actions of the next AR-15 tottin' madman at the expense of lives.  It makes me wonder what is says about us that we're so cavalier with the lives of someone else's loved one.  When we all know that if one of our people was murdered by a firearm purchased without a background check, or by the 99th round in the mag, or military grade weapon, we'd be outraged and demand a change.  It's disheartening that so many of us are so comfortable with it happening in some other church/school/theater to a strangers people.
It's time to stop telling ourselves that guns are the solutions to more of our problems than they are the cause of them.  Again, I'm not anti-gun, or suggesting that we should melt down every gun in the nation, I'm just pro-fact and reason there are situations where firearms have saved lives-- one happened Monday night i San Antonio involving an off-duty officer who was strapped and anecdotaly you see such stories at homes and convenience stores, etc., but we shouldn't delude ourselves that those fortunate circumstances are the same as, more guns = more safe.  In reality, every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, it is used:

  • 11 times for completed and attempted suicides 
  • 7 times in criminal assaults and homicides, and
  • 4 times in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries
When I say it shouldn't be so easy to acquire (legally) a gun, I mean you shouldn't be able to do so in a shorter amount of time than a pizza can arrive at your house.  I don't believe that's unreasonable.  And before you assume the pizza time frame is hyperbole on my part, yesterday one of my besties, AnonD purchased a semi-auto 20 gauge shotgun for her pheasant huntin' husband for his upcoming birthday.  My problem with that?  Nothing.  ...Except for the fact that she purchased it and was out the door in less than :30 minutes, the only hoop she had to jump through was producing her drivers license and signing off on a form that claiming she's not a loon, and this was at a national store.  While I'm sure they met the requirement for covering their ass based on current guidelines, does less than a half hour seem like enough time to thoroughly and check someone out especially since we all know legal paperwork of all kinds takes time to be input and reflect on a persons permanent record?  I'm not suggesting that it should take 18 months to get a gun, but your damn pizza ought to be cold by the time you get it, no?

We like to tell ourselves that being a 'responsible gun owner' is all about knowing which situations require drawin' down on someone, or not shooting your hunting partner in the face Dick Cheney, I'll never forget you. But that's only part of being a responsible gun owner, in the same manner that owning a car and having managed not to have literally run over someone isn't synonymous with being a 'responsible driver'. We all know enough poor drivers to know that's not true. Being a responsible driver entails skads of hoops to jump through and every 16 year old jumps through them gladly, yet as adults our fists get clinched and chests get beat over the idea of having a conversation to pitch in and do what we can about preventing events like Sandy Hook? That doesn't seem very 'responsible' on the larger scale.  I'll tell you, if I wanted to buy a new firearm, I wouldn't feel the least bit put out by jumping through hoops to make it happen... longer waiting period, in-dept background check (including mental competency), standing on my head, whatever if it would help weed out even a small fraction of people who shouldn't have legal access to weapons, if it would prevent some family from having the week far too many in Connecticut are having.
There are so many things we can do and support that would help us evolve to a safer society.  But they all require evolving past stomping our feet in defiance and resistance, in deference to antiquated thinking and expectations of a bygone era.  It's a vast and complex issue with contributing factors from health (mental), to the ramifications of our gun glorifying culture in all aspects of society from music and movies (tv) and the games we play, etc.  (I'm not contending that any of those is responsible for any act of real world gun violence, but it would be a lie for me to say that those things don't help shape our attitudes towards our national gun culture, in the same fashion that contending the influences of our families don't shape us would be inaccurate.)  There is no one thing that solves this problem.  Like practically all problems, it's hardly ever caused by just one thing, it's a domino effect of many things that yields the result.  There is no one thing that provides us a magic panacea.  Madmen will always find a way to strike mayhem.  Innocent people will always suffer great tragedies.  But must we continue to make it so easy to accomplish?  No rule or law will ever be perfect or cover every contingency.  But it's time to stop lying to ourselves that just because all of that is true, that changing nothing is the answer to our problem.  I don't purport to have the definitive solution to our gun violence problem, but that doesn't seem like good enough of a reason to continue to dig in our heals and do nothing.  We owe it to our families, and our neighbors and our nation to be better than that.  We owe them the effort of evolving past the mindsets and behaviors that have created our reality of what is to pave the way to a safer what can be.  Not being able to solve everything is no excuse for not solving some things. 

It is my hope that sooner rather than later we opt to acknowledge the ways we fib to ourselves about our gun violence situation and get truth-y-ier with each other.  That we stop wasting time being shocked and start getting involved and participating in creating fewer opportunities for madmen to shock us, as seriously as if our lives depend on it.  Because they do. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

~I've Never Married...And?!?

There's always a reaction when words form and fall out of your mouth assuming you're not sayin' them alone and in the woods.

Honestly, I try to be cognizant of this as I speak.  (I know.  That's hard for some of you to believe.  Please note:  I did NOT say I am always successful at it when I speak.  Also, suck it.)   Sure, sometimes I totally say shit in a certain way to maximize my personal entertainment. 

...But really, '99.44% of home deaths happen in the bathroom and I was almost one of 'em this morning' is far more exciting of a story kickoff than, 'soooo, I almost slipped in the shower', ya know?  (To those of you who don't know-know me:  I'd imagine that seems like perhaps the inner workin's of a drama queen, but people who do know-know me are well aware that A) I'd probably never mention anything of supreme 
importance [...unless there was no other alternative] and II) I tend to be a reverse exaggerator.  I'm far more likely to downplay things that many would pad or bulk up and make less of a deal about big type stuff.  Generally, when I make sumthin' big everybody knows it's really some stupid ass minutiae.  Yes.  I am weird.  Moving on...) 

If "you've got small balls", "you shouldn't have left your paddy waggon alone with the engine running" and "I have love in my heart for you too" have taught me anything (um, yeah, those happened) it's that a string of words have the ability to cause quite a stir.  Even when it's a non-accurate slip of the tongue, totally true or the best you can do and don't wanna be the kinda person who would lie about love, words create reactions.   With, obviously, a pretty expansive repertoire of reactions to words coming out of my mouth, I still find the reaction to my answer when asked if I've ever been married jarring.

(Only slightly exaggerated)
For reasons I'm not entirely sure of, "no, I've never been married" consistently congers up the most befuddled looks and assy subsequent comments. 

I often wonder why that tends to be met with the same reaction as if I'd uttered, 'I, yeah, I'd like to fuck an albino midget-- sorry, pigmentally challenged dwarf of diminutive stature', or told them that their child is ugly. 
Even with all of these years of practice I really never know what to say once I've-never-been-married is 'out there'.   Usually because I'm an asshole I say, "...But, I've also never been divorced."

(The Official BBG Stance On Divorce:  I don't think it's anything to aspire to.  I think once you've made a commitment like that you fuckin' fight like hell to preserve it, especially if little  ones are involved [kids, not pigmentally challenged wee people].  I also think no one knows what really goes on between a couple other than that twosome.  And that shit happens. That sometimes the shit that happens is unbearable/
unacceptable to one or both parties and that there comes a point where a decision made in the past that has turned out to be a bad or unfixable one shouldn't dictate all of the rest of your days.  If you've tried, really tried, at a certain point I don't think anyone should be expected to continue hitting their head against a brick wall, and on that level have zero problem with it.  I think nothing less of someone who has been divorced.)

Of course, being a never-been-married-er (from here on out known as NBM-er) I also think nothing less of someone who is, as I like to frame it, a successful singleton. 

Given the uber present reaction I get when I say that I haven't other than prom sported a big white dress, I get the impression that many think NBM-er's (especially chick NBM-er's) is synonymous with not being able to get married.  That it's a sign of so many flaws that there literally isn't one single lid for your pot.  Of course being flawless knowing many other successful singletons, I know that most of them are just regular delightful, kickass people who's third finger on their left hand is bare.  I'd be lyin' if I said none of them are bat shit crazy, but I assure you I know an assload of bat shit crazy married/divorced people too.  Honestly, some of the NBM-er's in my circle of friends are some of the least fucked up folks I know.  Fucked up usually desires an audience/victim

The reasons for NBM-er's being single are as varied as the number of NBM-er's out there (28% of Americans are NBM-ers), so I can only speak for myself and my own experiences with being an NBM-er.  As a public service I can clear up a few myths of the NBM:

No.  It isn't awful lonely.  What's awful lonely is sleeping beside someone who you've grown (even temporarily) to despise avoiding touching each other, or riding in a car in silence with the person legally tied to you who you feel completely disconnected from.  Lonely is waiting for your spouse who didn't have the respect to call you to tell you they'd be 2 hours late, but knowing tardiness isn't a legal reason for separation.  Am I alone sometimes?  Yep.  (When I'm not dating or in a relationship) But alone isn't necessarily lonely.  When I'm alone I get to do exactly whateverthefuck I choose to involve myself in.  With anyone I choose.  Any time I choose.   With no discussion or debate.  Total autonomy isn't lonely.  It's footloose and fancy free.  In fact, the majority of the time it's pretty fuckin' awesome. 

No.  I'm not too picky.   There's a difference between, 'and can you believe he had the audacity to wear orange', and 'he doesn't add enough to my life (I don't mean money, I mean, fun/love/adventure/substance, etc.) vs. shit (everyones bag of shit; moodiness/stupidity/baggage/
negative habits, etc.) ratio, to invest the rest of my days in'.  My expectations out of a guy aren't too high.  Smart, thoughtful and kind, funny, taller than me, tolerant, are really my only hard and fast must haves, leaving a lotta room for negotiable and comprimiseable.  None of which I consider 'too picky'.  Frankly, I think too many marrieds aren't (weren't) picky enough, but I'm polite enough not to call your ass out on your personal life decisions for sport at a party.  

-No.  I'm not afraid of marriage.  A) No one is afraid of marriage.  I am vigilant in being cautious about marrying the 'wrong' person and ending up in a bad marriage.  And with the national divorce rates continuing to hover at 50% that doesn't seem like an unreasonable thing to be cognizant of as one decides who stays and goes in their life.  I am open to and keep my peepers peeled for someone capable of earning that level of commitment, and if he wants to put a ring on it, I'm down.  I don't however, subscribe to the thinking that marriage is the thing that makes you (or a life) complete.  Being happy and contented with yourself, being good to those around you and actually livin' your life in real time is the pinnacle of what makes a (life) complete.  It strikes me as odd that you (we all) know plenty of people who don't have any of that figured out who have walked down the isle and are magically given the benefit of the doubt that they are the together ones?   Meanwhile, I'm the one you think is a kook?

-No.  I don't led a celibate existence.  (Nor am I waking up next to a guy who's name I don't know every weekend.)  I spent 
8 months with this guy this year.  Because I'm kinda fuckin' awesome I'm not prone to long bouts of forced singledom.    I keep a roster of break glass in case of emergency options for times when I'm not in a relationship.  Not exactly a Samantha Jones life, but also not lil' Miss Notgettinany either. 

No.  I don't have a 27 cats.  BBG HQ is both a feline and doily free zone.  There is one dog.  I am his person/owner.  He is not my 'baby'.

No.  I don't feel bad (awkward, loser-y, etc.) for *still* being single.  I'm a cool ass chick who any guy would be lucky to spend time with.  It just so happens 'any guy' is not enough of a qualification to make me retire my NBM status.  That isn't something to pity, it's something to be impressed by.  It's called not settling.  I'm proud of it.  It means I'm strong enough to be true to me, even in the face of societal expectations, and reactions and comments overtly and subtly letting me know that I have, in their estimation, failed at meeting and am being judged as a lil' less than because of it. 

It's funny that for all of the talk of the sancity of marriage, that someone who makes decisions to truly honor that, by not just doin' it, is the one who's looked at sideways.  That somehow, we've come to a place in time where it's more palatable for someone to have, for whatever reason, rescinded a vow than to be someone who's been savvy enough, again, for whatever reason, to have avoided putting themselves in the same position. 
Maybe next time I say, "No, I've never been married", you'll just say 'lucky/smart girl.'  But I'm not holding my breath. 

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