Wordless Wednesdays . . .

Wednesday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, 79 degrees.

Sometimes, word are simply not enough.


Music by 2Cellos, “Now We Are Free”

62, 22, 9, 4, 32

 

“He described feeling an aversion to other people. Not a murderous rage, but a cold, dismissive hate. He hated others, he explained, the way some people hate broccoli.” ~ a reference to Aurora, Colorado gunman james holmes in a Washington Post ARTICLE (March 15, 2018)

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy, 79 degrees

Today’s Two for Tuesday does not feature poetry. Unfortunately, it features two mass shootings in two days: El Paso, Texas (22 dead, 26 injured) and Dayton, Ohio (9 dead, 27 injured in 32 seconds). Less than a week ago, 4 people were killed and 12 injured in Gilroy, California. Nowhere else in the world do events such as these happen with this frequency.  Yes, there are other mass shootings in other countries, but nothing like what happens here in the USA.

Tampa Bay Times front page

Yesterday, the Dumpster Fire in Chief actually used a medium besides Twitter to address the nation in a stilted speech in which he condemned the very racism and white nationalism that he continually stokes, in which he got the massacre locales wrong (Toledo for Dayton, and Houston for El Paso), and in which he tried to pin the blame on video games and mental illness. Consider, video games flourish all over the world. People suffer from mental health issues all over the world. But these things do not happen with this frequency anywhere except here.

Researchers do suggest that certain factors can be predictors as to whether or not someone can become a mass shooter: “a strong sense of resentment, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.” However, according to criminologist Adam Lankford, a country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness; Lankford, a University of Alabama associate professor, published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries in the journal Violence and Victims.

Additionally, the attempt to link violent video games to mass shooters only perpetuates a falsehood. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, states that there is no statistical link between playing violent video games and shooting people. A 2004 report by the Secret Service and the Education Department determined that only 12 percent of perpetrators in more than three dozen school shootings showed an interest in violent video games.

Time magazine created a chart showing the number of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982; below is the section for 2019 alone (totals do not include the shooters), indicating that 62 people have been killed by mass shooting so far this year. We still have four months left in 2019, people. The statistics are grim:

Mass Shootings in 2019 (Time Magazine)
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” ~ President Barack Obama (August 5, 2019)

In 2007, after the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought that there might actually be some leveling of the gun laws in this country. Then, in 2012, I believed that surely after the Newtown shooting of school children that we would come together as a nation and actually do something. Then in 2017, when one man killed 59 people and injured 527 in Las Vegas, I thought to myself, “surely now something will happen.”

I can be incredibly naive at times.

But something feels different this time. At least, I like to hope/think so. Consider—news organizations and pundits are actually calling these heinous events what they are: DOMESTIC TERRORISM. So many of us like to sit on our sofas within the safety of our homes and decry the terrorism that may be visited upon us by Al Qaida or some other group of Muslims or Mexicans or whoever we happen to most fear and loathe in our ignorance. But we need not look to the other to find the real threat, the true enemy. We need not worry about those who worship differently, or those whose skin isn’t Caucasian, or those whose accents aren’t ‘merican.

The enemy is within. It is us. The enemy frequents 4Chan or 8Chan or whatever other forum happens to be exploding with venom shared by the disaffected or outlying or just plain evil individuals who post their screeds in the ether. And as one commentator pointed out, these are not manifestos; labeling them as such gives these rants too much credit.

These terrorists are incubated and bred right here at home. They haven’t invaded, to use the dumpster’s term for anyone who has immigrated or who seeks sanctuary. The killers come from a few states over, or a nearby city or town, or even next door. The people responsible for slaughtering scores of Americans in recent years are more often than not white males who feel that the world just isn’t fair, who may or may not have been bullied, who contend that a brown man or black woman has stolen the job meant for them, who believe the Kool-Ade that this administration spews from the sacred pulpit of Twitter or proclaims vociferously at red-hatted events. And some simply want to be famous, or infamous, as the case may be.

“America’s is not a uniquely cruel culture, but it is a culture awash in guns. While bullies exist everywhere, the United States has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the world. That’s what makes social rejection in this country so uniquely deadly.” ~ from “Why Many Mass Shooters Are ‘Loners’” (The Atlantic, August 5, 2019)

To label these hate-filled people as being crazy or mentally ill does a great disservice to those who actually suffer from mental illness and do not go on killing rampages. I would also contend that blaming mental illness alone for their actions gives them yet another excuse that they don’t deserve. True, some may have suffered from untreated conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, but the Dumpster’s “focus on ‘mentally ill monsters’ oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms” (ABC News).

No one forced any of these individuals to acquire a gun or several guns; no one filled their arms with multiple rounds of ammunition. That being said, they were not created in vacuums. They were indoctrinated into a world of hate via online chats and inculcated via televised screeds, and for some, their mental illness may have led them to be more easily swayed. Some, but not all. We must not downplay the role of hatred in all of this.

The enemy is us, and we are him. This enemy wants us to be afraid of the other. I would prefer to be angry, not at the other, but at the system that nurtures the environment responsible for gestating such people. I would contend that righteous indignation is the best response to such ignorance. I would aver that abiding intolerance should be directed at those elected to represent and protect us, the ones who refuse to do what is needed and right, the ones who so fear a gun lobby that they remain silent, offering only the standard thoughts and prayers, as if those thoughts and prayers could actually shield us.

I’m tired of hoping that things will change. I’m past the point of being shocked at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie; they leave the lies to the selectively impotent politicians, the ones who decry loudly that the concept of healthcare for all will destroy our national way of life, but remain mute in the face of the actual death knell to a free society: unabated killing after killing after killing.

We should all be mortified that our school children are now routinely taught what to do in the case of an active shooter. We should be weary that yet another candlelight vigil for families and survivors brings no actionable change. We should be embarrassed that the rest of the world views us as little more than savage heathens who strap on our guns before going to church or out to dinner and who love our guns more than we love our citizenry. How much longer must we be strong and resilient in the aftermath of gun violence? When will we finally get off our knees and do something more concrete after offering feeble thoughts and prayers that do nothing to assuage the violence. We should do all of this and more, but I fear that we will not, at least not in my lifetime, and I fear that we shall all continue to slow dance in this quicksand.


“Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!” ~ Latest crowd chant at a Trump rally

Baron Von Fancy Billboard in the Bowery, NYC

“Sleep not in peace:
There are a thousand waters to be spanned;
there are a thousand mountains to be crossed;
there are a thousand crosses to be borne.” ~ Rafael Zulueta da Costa, from “Like the Molave”

Saturday evening, sunny and hot, 93 degrees (feels like 98).

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days. Finally, I decided that the best way to write it was just to write it. I’ve been saving this Camus quote from a 1948 play for a bit, and it seems fitting; the more things and times change, the more they stay the same:

“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble – yes, gamble – with a whole part of their life and their so called ‘vital interests.” ~ Albert Camus, from State of Siege (L’État de siège)

I was born in Norfolk, Virginia to a Filipino father who became an American citizen by fighting for the U.S. during WWII, and a mother from a small town in North Carolina. At the time in which they were married, there was still a law on the books in Virginia that made their marriage illegal. They got married in Elizabeth City, NC. I have light olive skin, but when I was young, I used to tan like crazy, and could get quite dark.

I tell you all of this for one specific reason: I have been told to go back to where I come from. Truthfully, that’s not the worst racist thing aimed at me or to which I was subjected. In fact, the first time that I heard the N-word was in Norfolk when someone called me one. I went home and asked my mother what it meant.

I have been asked what I am. If I have replied, “an American,” I have been asked what kind? I have been asked if the rumor is true that Oriental women have vaginas that are built differently. I have been told in apparent praise that Filipinos are good workers in the kitchen (as Navy stewards). I once heard someone say that my father was good looking for a Filipino. I was asked by my school mates in grade school why my eyes looked the way that they did. My father, who spoke with an accent, was told to speak English; his vernacular was more eloquent and proper than most people I have known, including many of those born here. People have openly stared at me when I’ve had my three children together as my daughter is fair, and my sons are quite olive, more brown in the summer, and I’ve been asked in front of them if they have different fathers. They don’t.

When I was young, I longed for long blond hair and blue eyes. I did not get them, obviously, and I am oh so grateful. I am made of fairly strong stuff, directly as a result of the kinds of things that I used to routinely hear, face, and experience. To be half-Filipino with a very proper British accent in the south before segregation? Now that’s different. I was the darkest thing in my school. Oh how I hated it then. Now? It makes me laugh.

Ignorance makes me laugh. Dumpf makes me laugh, that is when he’s not making me grab my head in pain from screaming at the television. I don’t write about politics often here as a deliberate decision. I will probably ramp up closer to the election, but right now I’m trying to hold on to my sanity. So I eschew the pontificating. For now, that is.

But I had to write just a few words in response to this past week’s latest Dumpster fire. Go back to where you came from hits at the very heart of anyone who is first or second or even third generation, but seriously, it should hit at anyone who calls themselves American. None of us came from here, not really. Only the Native Americans came from here. The rest of us? Immigrants. Willing and unwilling. Pilgrims. Slaves. Indentured servants. Whatever, whoever, however. We all come from immigrant stock.

I have no plans to go back to where I came from, at least not immediately. I mean, I came from Norfolk, so there’s that . . . But I have to ask you, those of you out there who still think 45 is the guy for you, that he represents real Americans, whatever that means—how is it that you really don’t see him as the sexually perverse, pussy-grabbing, serially-unfaithful, draft-dodging, tax-evading, child-abusing, racist crook that he is? I’m not asking you to vote for a Democrat. That’s not what this is about. I’m just asking you to look within and ask yourselves if this man truly represents your America, land of the free, home of the brave, we “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” . . .

That’s all. Just that.


It was really hard to pick the right song. I finally settled on Chicano Batman’s bilingual version of “This Land is Your Land” (I know that it’s a Johnny Walker commercial; doesn’t matter, it’s the point).



I Was In A Hurry

Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn’t notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
or wrapped
in the blankets of emigrants,
or canceled
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
in Purgatory,
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
and fled,
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered
like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me, please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country. . .
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.I Was In A Hurry

Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn’t notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
or wrapped
in the blankets of emigrants,
or canceled
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
in Purgatory,
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
and fled,
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered
like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me, please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country. . .
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.

~ Dunya Mikhail (Trans, Elizabeth Winslow) (found on Poetry Foundation)