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.


“I shrink and grow in cycles, dazzled at the small cup that is my life.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

     

“All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.” ~ André Breton
Vintage Fence by Francoise Rachez

So where do I go now? I mean, now that I’ve reached a milestone of sorts, do I keep doing what I’ve been doing? I suppose so as this platform seems to be working for me. Somewhat. The writing, the posting—both continue to offer me a great outlet. By writing about so many different things, I am able to feel a sense of immediacy as opposed to growing stale. But there is still something that is not quite right, still an element that remains elusive.

After all, I still haven’t gotten around to starting the book. I do have three concrete ideas that could be developed. One is a fact-based story. The other is a mystery, and the other is a memoir/tribute.

Time for total truth, I think: I will never be happy until my unwritten book has been put to page. That is the one thing that I have yearned for all my life, and it is nameable. It is as tangible in my desire as it is intangible in its reality. 

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath
We Held Gold Dust in Our Hands

I realize that I’ve probably used this Sylvia Plath quote before, but it speaks to me; it is so close to what I feel—each minute of each hour of each day. In fact, all of today’s quotes are quite personal.

I suppose what got me on this reflective tack is that I received two comments recently about my writing, more precisely, about me being a writer, a good writer. Both comments made me pause. Wow. Someone actually thinks of me as a writer, someone other than me. When I list who and what I am for other people, though, I don’t usually put writer first.

By that I mean that I usually describe myself personally as a wife and mother, professionally as a writer/editor. But is my essence, the essence that I have been trying to define my entire life, that of a writer? Is that who and what I am? Thinking of myself as a writer does not negate being a wife and mother, but it does change my perspective. Consider the difference between saying “I like to write” as opposed to “I am a writer.” The first places the emphasis not on the writing, whereas the second shifts the emphasis.

For a long time I thought of myself as a poet, but I’m not a poet. What has helped me to come to this realization is this blog. I can write poetically; my phrasing can by lyrical, sometimes musical, but what I do best is not poetry even though I have written some poems of which I am quite proud. But for me, my forte seems to be this genre called creative non-fiction, for lack of a better category.

“Will secrets fly out of me
when I break open?” ~ Mary Oliver
Vintage Cameo

I know that I will probably continue to have periods in which I feel that I have nothing else to say in this blog, that what I am saying just doesn’t matter any more. Thankfully, when that has happened in the past, I have been able to get past it after a brief respite and some cheering up from friends.

But what concerns me a bit, what is wiggling around in the back of my brain is the idea that perhaps I am using this blog as yet another means of delaying sitting down to write the manuscript that I compose in my head as I lay awake at 4 in the morning, the sentences that I form in my head as I float around in the pool, staring at nothing in particular.

Am I using this so that I don’t have to do that? By turning all of my creative energies to these posts, am I negating my ability to create something else? I don’t believe that that is the case, at least I hope that’s not the case. This is something that I am really going to have to ponder. I know that I do have a tendency to set myself up for failure at those times when I am most afraid of succeeding.

It’s not fear of failure; it’s fear of success, if you can believe that.

I know that I have joked before about my head exploding and the contents running out. I also know that I tend to over think things, to go through all of the ifs, and whys again and again and again, beating the proverbial horse that is already dead (where did such a perverse saying come from anyway . . .).  But once again, am I doing this, employing these methods for avoidance?

Ah me, ah life, as Walt Whitman said. It’s enough to make a sane person crazy, and to make a crazy person absolutely batshit. I think that I had better stop for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Gary Jules, “Mad World”

Photographs with links can be found on my tumblr, Slow Dancing in Quicksand

“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world—to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.” ~ Ayn Rand

Kensington, Brooklyn Graffiti From Truth and Rocket Science

  

“I want to build a ship and write novels. I want a stack of books tied to my name, and poetry, too, collections of it. I write slow. I think long. And I want to last longer in people’s minds than their last meal or movie. So I keep writing and building, word by word, an ark maybe, as I can, in every spare space.” ~ Terresa Wellborn
A Secret Place: Old Barn, by renejo (1951), via dreaminginthedeepsouth

Since I haven’t had my computer, I’ve been spending more time on my tumblr site, and I have to say that I’ve really come to like it. Going on tumblr doesn’t require me to post in the same way as this site. Instead, I can sift through what has been posted by the people who I follow, and decide whether or not to repost, or reblog as it were. It’s so effortless that a part of me feels as if I am doing something wrong. 

I mean, having access to all of this beautiful images, literary quotes, factoids—the researcher in me feels as if I am cheating by not working harder.  I suppose that it’s a fairly normal response to people who are new to tumblr as I am, but in less than two months, I already have 1,024 posts (each individual item is counted as a post), and I am following 29 people (with 13 people following me). Posts are categorized as follows: text, photo, quote, audio, chat, video. 

Having people follow me on my tumblr site is nice, but what I actually get more satisfaction from is finding new people to follow. Let me explain: tumblr is many things to many people; there are sites devoted to music, cars, book deals, gaming, news, food . . . whatever. The sites that I follow tend to deal with one of five things: literature (poetry, quotes by authors, passages from books, book covers), the ocean (pictures of ocean life, waves, islands, etc.), geographic photography (pictures from around the world of architecture, landscapes), vintage things (postcards, typewriters, jewelry), and then a bit of pop culture (Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, videos, shoes). 

Of course, there are the odd bits and pieces, but as a whole, that is what I am searching for when I go on the dashboard. 

“Camus said there is only really one serious philosophical question, which is whether or not to commit suicide. I think there are four or five serious philosophical questions:
The first one is: Who started it?
The second is: Are we going to make it?
The third is: Where are we going to put it?
The fourth is: Who’s going to clean up?
And the fifth: Is it serious?” ~ Alan Watts
My Secret Place by a tamer, via dreaminginthedeepsouth

There is one thing about tumblr that bothers me: copyright. One of the key things that our professors in the publishing program hammered into us repeatedly was the importance of copyright; hence, my sensitivity about usage. This is why always try to use images from Wikimedia Commons or Flckr Creative Commons, or those works that I know exist in the public domain. 

I try to reblog those things that do not appear to be under copyright or are under a creative commons license. A creative commons license means that the item in question can be used, but that certain rules apply. Currently, four license conditions exist, and these licenses allow writers, photographers, software creators, designers, etc.  to specify which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. 

According to the cc site, the four conditions are: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author; Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative (changed) works under the same or a similar license (later or jurisdiction version); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives. 

However, not everyone is attuned to the nuances and obligations of copyright, and sometimes a picture will be posted without any title, or link, or name. This is where I have a hard time: I  love the image and want to reblog it, but I don’t think that it’s adhering to the rules. Having said that, I get the sense that copyright rules on tumblr are more relaxed, but I could be wrong. Some people are real sticklers regarding copyright, and early in this blog I used an image by a contemporary artist and was called on it. I had assumed that using the image was all right since it was for non-commercial use; however, I in no way wanted to infringe on the artist’s copyright. On the flip side, I have attached a copyright to my tumblr’s name, Slow Dancing in Quicksand (which some of you may recognize as the title of a post) because I want to preserve that phrase as a possible book title. 

I suppose that I may have to be of two minds, depending on which blog I’m on: With this blog, I hold fast to the rules; on tumblr, I try to maintain the rules, and if I am going to import an image from tumblr to this site, I’m going to give the link provided. 

The other issue, of course, is determining which link to provide. You see, with reblogging, image X may have started out on A’s blog, but by the time it appear on my dashboard, it’s been reblogged five times. I’m seeing the image from G’s blog. When possible, I click on the image to try to find the original source, but if I cannot, then I have to attribute the image to the blog on which I found it. 

Somehow, this all seems much harder than it should be. Oh. I get it. There’s the hard part about tumblr, and it’s only as hard as the individual makes it. 

“We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fade to White by Stephen K. Willi, via dreaminginthedeepsouth

Anyway, the whole point of this voyage around my elbow was to say that I’m finding some great quotes and things on tumblr, many of which I plan to use here. 

In addition to Crashingly Beautiful, the tumblr that I have been following the longest, I wanted to list a few of the sites that I follow on tumblr, just in case you want to do some journeying of your own: 

Go exploring. You’d be amazed at the things you can find. 

More later. Peace

Music by Dashboard Confessional, “Stolen” (acoustic)