Please ask questions

Yesterday my young coworker asked me if I had heard the news of another school shooting. She said eight people were dead. It’s not the first time that she has told me about a school shooting while we are at work. In a few years, she’s going to send her baby off to school. How does it feel to be a parent and know that your kids are not safe at school?

I got my phone and looked for news on Facebook. One of my classmates wrote “I. Am. Pissed.” It makes her sick to hear about another school shooting. She said that we as a nation need to get a grip on this…

I am numb. Why am I numb? Why am I not shocked? Because this keeps happening. Because I have been carrying around the grief and sadness and feeling of hopelessness about school shootings for 19 years and one month. Why am I marking the anniversary of Columbine? Because it turned my world upside down. Because people are still hurting. Because we as a nation did not learn from this.

Why am I writing at 2 am instead of sleeping? Because I am not numb. Because I woke up asking myself questions.

How can a man sit there in the White House and listen to the stories of children who survived the Parkland, Florida shooting and not be moved to do something about assault style weapons? That day, with notes in hand, I saw him reach out a hand of comfort as if he felt some empathy. What do jotted talking points say about his empathy? “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” “What can we do to help you feel safe?”

How could he then go speak at an NRA convention and tell the gun lovers that their “second amendment rights are under siege”? Why do people care more about their man-made right to own tools designed to kill people than about people?

How can people keep saying that this wouldn’t happen if we let God back in our schools? I went to school in the 60’s and 70’s and I sure don’t remember learning about God in school. I learned my love and fear of God at home and at church.

Why do young men keep doing this? What was going through this 17-year old’s mind when he saw news coverage of the last school shooting?

How can I keep watching news coverage of this when I know that nothing is going to change? When is this nation going to stop living in denial? When are we going to get a grip on this problem?

The Oleaginous Toady

I have been praying for some time that the president will be removed from office but I admit that I don’t know whether the VP would be any better. I can’t imagine that he could be any worse than 45 but people who know Mike Pence say to be careful what you wish for. That thought was expressed this week in a scathing article by George F. Will, who wrote: Trump in no longer the worst person in government.

George Will is a smart man with an immense vocabulary. I heard that the day his article was published in the Washington Post, the frequency of Google searches for the word “oleaginous” soared. I was not familiar with the word myself but now know that it means “exaggeratedly and distastefully complimentary; obsequious,” or more simply, oily or greasy. Like oleo.

Will’s article would be a great source of words for a Reader’s Digest Word Power quiz:

  • Toady – an obsequious flatterer; sycophant
  • Obsequious – servilely compliant or deferential
  • Lickspittle – a contemptible, fawning person; a servile flatterer or toady
  • Groveling – humbling oneself or acting in an abject manner, as in utter servility
  • Unctuous – characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, especially in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug
  • Pandering – gratifying or indulging (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit or a person with such a desire, etc.)
  • Mobocratic – pertaining to political control by a mob

These words do not paint a flattering portrait of the first in line to Trump’s throne. He says he is a Christian. He proudly points out that the Cabinet gathers for prayer and Bible studies. Yet he shamelessly praises a man who is the antithesis of Jesus Christ. His over-the-top praise of a person as vile and corrupt as Trump makes me want to vomit.

One of the reasons Pence is considered worse than Trump is his hypocrisy. Why did Jesus speak so harshly about hypocrites?

  • They do not practice what they preach
  • They do all their deeds to be seen by others
  • They shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces
  • They corrupt the people that they convert to their religion
  • They give money to the church but ignore the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness
  • They focus on outside appearance but are full of greed and self-indulgence

Trump simply has no shame. He has no moral compass. He is amoral. Pence, with his study of the Bible, should know better. He knows that Christ said we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Still, he praises people who are cruel and inhumane to other human beings – immigrants, refugees, gays, etc.

Pence is considered dangerous by many people because he knows better. He knows the difference between right and wrong. He passes himself off as a pious, moral person. And yet when it suits his political agenda, he is willing to lie. He is willing to compromise his integrity and his dignity. He chooses to flatter a narcissist to stay in favor with him and his supporters.

I agree with George Will that Mike Pence is a horrifying sycophant. Yet I am still not convinced that Pence would be any worse than Trump.

Insufficient Funds

This week, I had an imaginary encounter with God the banker. He said to me, “You know that I see all of the activity in your bank account. Lately, you have been depositing a lot of checks from people with insufficient funds in their accounts. Of course, you can do business with anyone you choose, but it is going to cost you every time a check is returned NSF.”

I was confused. Every time I bounced a check, the banker forgave me. Over the years, I’ve seen him extend generous amounts of credit regardless of the ability to pay. So I went to speak to my financial adviser, the one who warned me about the dangers of greed and self-indulgence and the risks of storing my treasures here on earth.

“Teacher, of course it upsets me that some of my friends pass bad checks. But I’m trying to do what you taught me. Love my neighbor as myself. Judge not, lest I be judged. Turn the other cheek. It feels like God is telling me to reject my enemies, not to love them.”

“Child,” he said (yes, he still calls me that at my age), “you remind me of my disciple Peter. You mean well but sometimes you just don’t get it. You have in mind the ways of man but not of God.” He paused for a moment and as he did, I heard a rooster crow. He resumed, “These are difficult lessons for anyone to learn. Did I not tell you to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees?”

“Yes Lord, you did, though I’m not sure who is who these days. But you also said that the enemy sowed weeds among the wheat and we’re not supposed to pull them because we might destroy the wheat too. Let them both grow together until the harvest.”

“Child, you are able to see the beauty in weeds. This is good. But there are many kinds of weeds. Some are invasive. Some are toxic. Do you remember what happened that time you rode your bike in the grass?”

“Yes, there were burrs in the grass and I got a flat tire. Those burrs are sharp and they stick to everything. I’ve learned to avoid them.”

Quoting Proverbs 4:23, my teacher said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

I thought about the bad checks that have gone into my social media account, even without my explicit endorsement. The classmate who posted a racist meme about Barack Obama. NSF! The classmate who posted a video of sheep, calling it the March for Our Lives. NSF! The classmate who shared a “Power of Trump” meme that said that we didn’t “hire” him because he is squeaky clean; we hired him to sweep the trash from the corrupt government and he is the only one with the balls to do so. NSF! NSF!

Every time I see a social media post from a “friend” who has insufficient funds in their heart, it costs me. I get angry. My soul feels deflated. I feel my light fading. Their friendship isn’t worth the cost. Although it feels like I’m giving up on them, in reality, I’m letting go of something that had no value.

None So Blind

There are none so blind as those who will not see. This phrase came to mind as I read and heard reactions to the mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida high school. There are people who will not see a connection between the easy access to assault-style weapons in the U.S. and the increasing number of mass killings in which military-style rifles were the chosen killing tool. Sadly, there are still people who will not see how inhuman it is to rush to the defense of an inanimate object when animate, human beings are slaughtered.

The responses to the latest massacre were predictable, almost as if people were reading from a script, perhaps a well-worn script handed to them by the national killing tool association. As Rolling Stones noted a couple of years ago, gun advocates make the same tired excuses every time there is a mass shooting. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue. The second amendment guarantees my right to bear arms!

The responses to mass shootings are predictable because the American culture is broken, sick, dysfunctional. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that there is something wrong with this country. We brag to the world about how great we are. We’re the land of the free and home of the brave! We’re the land of opportunity! Yet in the good old USA, a child cannot go to school without learning to hide from a gunman. And mind you, children are not hiding because of  foreign terrorists. They are hiding because of the threat of fellow Americans.

The second amendment was written to ensure that we have a well-regulated Militia. But the citizens of this country are not a well-regulated militia by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that gun violence is out of control.

Let me say it again. The United States of America is broken. Yet some people are just too selfish to make the sacrifices it will take to fix our brokenness. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Thoughts and prayers won’t fix it. Pretending that a person with a knife could cause the same level of carnage won’t fix it. Pretending this is just a mental health issue won’t fix it.

Since I first started blogging in 2012, I have written about gun violence nine times, including this post. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs.

Every time there is a mass shooting, I grieve, not just for the loss of lives and for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, whose lives are ripped apart when a loved one is lost to gun violence. I grieve for my country – for the selfishness that causes people to turn a blind eye to the reality that we are faced with every time there is a mass shooting.

This country is broken. For the sake of our children, we need to fix it.

† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †

Lord, have mercy

Christ, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on us.

Marching with Strength and Dignity

One year ago, I participated in the Denver Women’s march because I believe in the words on a Freedom poster that hangs on my bedroom wall: The struggle for freedom, equality and justice transcends race, religion, political affiliation and even death. I would add that the struggle also transcends gender. Although the struggle is ongoing, this year I marched to celebrate the strengths of women.

I am proud of the women who broke years of silence about sexual assault and harassment at the hands of powerful men. I am proud of the women who rallied to support them, giving credence to their stories. Those who abuse their power have been put on notice that women expect to be treated with dignity and respect. The silence breakers proved how powerful women can be when we stand together.

Last year, I carried a poster that said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” This quote came from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who paraphrased the words of Theodore Parker, an abolitionist.

This year, when I thought about what to put on my poster, I initially wanted to express my anger at the “stable genius” who disparaged the people of Haiti and other countries with his profane comments. Though many people make the Women’s March about their opposition to him, for me, it is about strong women standing up for human rights.

When I searched for words about the strength of women, I found words that Solomon wrote long ago about a woman of noble character:

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25

On the flip side of my poster, I wrote:

She is:

Compassionate, courageous, wise, strong, determined, gentle, tough, and

SHE VOTES!

When I marched last year, I saw many people carrying posters with red, white and blue images of beautiful, diverse women: an African-American, a Latina, and a Muslim. I searched for Women’s March posters and found free downloadable We the People artwork. Since the inauguration, the images have been used as “symbols of hope to combat the rising power of nationalism, bigotry, and intolerance.”

I march to defend the dignity of all human beings, especially those considered unworthy by the president. I march because I want to protect the vulnerable, including the Dreamers. I march because love is greater than fear.