A Blanket Apology to Everyone on Earth

This post is for all of you who read my blog outside of the U.S. I am an American. I can’t speak for all Americans. No one can. Or at least no one should. But I can certainly speak for myself.

It breaks my heart that my country as a whole is being judged by the rest of the world based on what they see in the news. Most of us are not like the insane people who grab the headlines these days. Many of us are as appalled by what we read as you are. I don’t know if that will be a source of comfort or of increased anxiety for you, but there you have it: for many of us, that feeling of disgust does not stop outside our borders.

So let me tell you a little about who I am, so you can see that not all of us fit that stereotype that has been created by Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, where you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting someone who is morally bankrupt, unforgivably selfish, and rotting from the inside by the sheer weight of his or her greed. Such blatant abuse of power is unconscionable.

First of all, I am horrified at my government’s total disdain for the environment. We are one of the most environmentally selfish nations on earth, and the least likely to do anything to turn this global warming situation around before it destroys us all. I’m so sorry for that. I wish I felt like I could do something about it. I mean, I vote. I speak out. I do the best I can to reduce my carbon footprint. But I feel like I’m not making an impact, and I know this negatively impacts you as well.

I also happen to think that my country’s stance on guns is absurd and dangerous. We have more mass shootings than anywhere else, and we can’t even agree that the average citizen has no legitimate need for semi-automatic weapons. It makes no sense.

And this damned border wall that Trump is so in love with? I don’t want it. No one I know really wants it. All this political maneuvering is an embarrassment. Honestly, how do these people even look themselves in the mirror?

I don’t think immigrants are a threat. In fact, I’m a second generation American myself. This country would be lost without immigrants. I’m not so greedy that I’m not willing to share the wealth. I actually like you unless you give me some personal reason to feel otherwise. I don’t believe in kidnapping your children at the border. I think the day we stop granting asylum to people in danger is the day when we lose the most vital part of what makes us decent human beings. Jesus wouldn’t turn you away, so how can a country that considers itself mainly Christian do so? I don’t understand this attitude of xenophobia. It makes me sick.

I am also profoundly sorry that we don’t step in to help nearly as often as we butt in to serve our own best interests. We have no right to do this. Clearly, we struggle to get ourselves right, so it’s the height of arrogance to think we can fix anyone else.

And we imprison people to a much higher degree than any other country. I can’t blame you if you think twice about visiting us. I’d be afraid to, if I were you. But I genuinely believe that we need you to come visit. We need our horizons expanded. It’s hard to think of someone as an enemy once we’ve broken bread with that person. Please, come break bread with us.

I guess I do sit squarely in one stereotype. I tend to forget the world doesn’t revolve around us. Perhaps you could care less about what my country says or does. Perhaps you have more important things on your mind than my pompous country. That’s a legitimate response, too, and I can hardly blame you for it.

I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry about all the destruction we cause. I just wanted you to know that somewhere here, in this unbelievable circus of a country, sits a woman in a bridge tower who is every bit as outraged as many of you are. And I know for a fact that I’m not alone. So, please forgive us, individually, even if you cannot bring yourselves to forgive us collectively.

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Deadly Little Toys

Needless to say, there’s been quite a bit of debate going on about gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas. The GOP would have us not talk about it. It’s not the appropriate time, they say. Well, when is the appropriate time? Seriously. How much blood has to run in the streets before we get to talk about this?

During one Facebook conversation on the topic, someone said, “The Left’s only solution is banning and confiscation.” Is that why you won’t come to the table, conservatives? Because let me clarify. I don’t know anyone on the left who wants the government to root around in your gun locker and take away your squirrel gun or your pistol. I swear to God. I promise.

We are not talking about taking away your ability to feel safe. (In spite of the fact that most guns in homes wind up harming the residents.) That’s your prerogative. We are also not talking about taking away your ability to hunt for food. Do your thing.

But you don’t need assault rifles, armor piercing bullets, silencers or a freakin’ arsenal to protect yourself or feed yourself. If you do, you aren’t living right. Can we at least agree on that? Please?

And why would you be offended about needing background checks? If you can’t pass one, then you have more problems than a gun can solve anyway. You’re okay with the need for drivers licenses, fishing licenses, and marriage licenses, right? Why is this any more intrusive?

We are the only country that isn’t addressing this issue, and we are the only country where incidents like the one in Las Vegas happen with such horrifying frequency. Other countries do not have anything close to this problem. Doesn’t that make you stop and think? Doesn’t that make you want to at least try to deal with this?

What is it going to take before you’re willing to come to the table and talk, and take action? How many people have to die?  We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation.

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That little orange sign says “You have EARNED this.” Maybe, but has the person you are aiming at earned it, too?

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Compassion

Compassion, defined as the “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others,” is something you either have or you don’t. At this moment in history, perhaps more than any other, it is obvious that no fence-sitting on this issue is acceptable. Pick a side. Own it.

One shouldn’t have to have experienced tragedy to feel compassion for others who are experiencing it. The human brain has evolved enough to allow us all to imagine situations that we have not gone through ourselves. Compassion can be learned. It should have been modeled for us by our parents if we were raised in a functional household. Religions spend a lot of time focusing on this subject as well. “Do unto others…” is all about compassion.

But part of it is also instinctual. If you see someone smash his or her thumb with a hammer, it should be natural to wince and think, “That’s got to hurt.” It would be normal to have that thought even if you’ve never held a hammer in your life.

So when I hear that the White House’s budget proposal would defund Meals on Wheels because “it’s not showing results”, I am horrified. I immediately think of one 75 year old invalid who wouldn’t otherwise eat a healthy meal. I think of the fact that she has so little human contact, and looks forward to this visit each day. I think of how she’s been able to stay out of a nursing home at taxpayer’s expense because she’s still independent enough to manage as long as someone checks on her daily.

When I hear that the White House wants to take money away from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks Service, I am appalled. I think of the future generations who will not know the beauty and health that is provided by a sustainable planet.

When I read that guns can once again be placed in the hands of the mentally unstable, I am horrorstruck. I cannot imagine what possible good this will do for society, but I certainly can anticipate the tragedies it will create. I also ache for the families of past victims, who must be devastated by this outrage.

When I hear that people want to pour even more money into our already over-bloated military budget, I am revolted. I think of the death and destruction and domination and pain and anguish that is the end result of every single war, no matter how justified we think that war may be.

When I read about immigrants, illegal or otherwise, who are ripped away from their families, and/or prevented from trying to break the chains of poverty, I am ashamed. I think of my own family history and wonder what would have become of me if my ancestors were beaten down by this same heartless stick.

I really don’t understand people who don’t have compassion. I didn’t realize until recently that there are so many of them out there. And many of them claim to be religious. What am I missing? It sickens me.

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“It’s a leaf.”

I had some business to do at the courthouse. When I entered the building, I waited patiently in line like a good girl to pass through the metal detector. I couldn’t be more harmless if my life depended on it, but I’ve come to accept that this is a world in which one occasionally has to be metal detected.

Finally it was my turn. I put my keys in the little plastic tray. I walked through the detector. No beep. Why am I always relieved? I went to gather my keys and go about my business when a guard grabbed me by my forearm.

“Is this a weapon?” he asked.

“What, my keys?” I was totally confused.

“No, that. That!” he said, pointing to my keychain.

“Uh… no,” I said, stupidly, “It’s a leaf.”

He looked at it more closely. “Okay. Move along.”

With that I was dismissed like a disciplined school child. It took me a minute to regain my equilibrium.

I looked down at my keychain and remembered where I got it. I was watching a demonstration of the dying art of blacksmithing. I like to support artisans whenever I can, so I bought the keychain, which is a little curved iron leaf, less than the size of my thumb. It would never have occurred to me to attempt to use it as a weapon. The keys on the ring are probably more lethal, if it came to that, as are my teeth and my overall determination not to be f***ed with.

But what rattled me was that a guard could see a leaf and see me, and conclude that there was potential danger there, even if only for a second. That pretty much sums up the state of American paranoia these days. It makes me sad.

It reminded me of the time my nail clippers got confiscated at the airport. Again, my keys were left untouched. So was my laptop, which I could easily use to knock someone out if the spirit moved me. But those nail clippers? Lethal, I tell you! (Images of a terrorist holding a nail clipper to a hostage’s throat and saying, “One false move, and I’ll clip her! I swear to GOD I will!”)

You want to know what we really should be afraid of? The fact that the very people who would have us all hand over our nail clippers and artistic keychains are the same ones who feel that depriving the general populous of automatic weapons is an outrageous civil rights violation.

Heaven help us all.

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On Mass Shootings

Once again we’ve suffered a tragedy in a school in which a very disturbed guy decided to take a lot of people with him to wherever one goes after this life. It’s upsetting. It also makes me angry.

Naturally, the topic of gun control is on everyone’s mind, and everyone is resigned to the fact that nothing will be done about it, despite popular opinion. For me it’s a no-brainer. No civilian needs an arsenal or an assault weapon. Bear arms all you want. Hunt all you want. But you don’t have to prepare for overkill. You’ve been watching Rambo too much. It’s absurd.

But I had a very fascinating talk recently with someone who has been in the mental health field here in Seattle for 40 years. She brought up some very interesting points. (I wasn’t taking any notes, so any errors are mine alone.)

She said that the number of people in Seattle who have been to the emergency room more than 50 times for mental health issues number in the thousands. Multiply that by every large city in the country and the figure becomes quite daunting.

And yet you cannot involuntarily admit these people for mental health treatment. Yes, there is the Baker Act which allows for a 72 hour hold, but after that, they are released. And it has been thus since Reagan discarded the Mental Health Systems act, which put many people back out on the streets.

Now imagine that you are a family member of someone who is obviously disturbed. You have been begging for help for them for years, but there’s no such help available. You’ve told the police that you are afraid he’ll do something violent. They tell you they can’t do anything until the crime is already committed. Chances are this relative is either homeless or living in your basement, and then you yourself are a prisoner in your own home. You hide your knives. You live in fear mixed with guilt and shame, and no one, NO ONE will help you.

But when this crazy relative of yours goes into some school or movie theater and opens fire, in the aftermath people blame you. They say, “His parents should have done something! How could his family be so blind?”

They are not blind, people. They are just not given the support that they so desperately need. Until we have clearly defined description of what this type of mental illness looks like, and the infrastructure to deal with it, and the legal ability to involuntarily admit such people (which apparently they have in England and their world hasn’t come to an end), this problem isn’t going to go away.

We are more than willing to throw money at the prison system, so these people can be housed after the damage has been done. And thanks to terrorists, we have Homeland Security. So expansive and expensive policy changes can be made. How much more death do we have to experience in the form of mass shootings before the mental health system is revamped?

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