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Born Again


Born Again



We cannot get rid of mankind's fleetingly wicked wishes.  We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.  I give you a holy word: DISARM. 


Kurt Vonnegut, "Deadeye Dick"



We had a visitation from a friend from Kentucky yesterday. She left Kentucky a long time ago, but she has not lost the Southern oral-telling gift. Her whole body goes into the telling, especially if there's a lot of dialogue. One particular story began with a question to her audience at the table: Do you know anyone who owns a gun?


I know a sheriff, a chief of police. a New York City transit cop, a former soldier, a hunter, I said,  but that doesn't count apparently. What Linda Sue meant is—and I am using an alias to protect her privacy— do I know an ordinary person who owns a gun? Everyone else at the table said, no, not really.


Then I remembered that I have a cousin from Ohio who grew up on a farm and has a safely locked away gun collection. He's what in America we call a "responsible" gun owner. Would it matter if we had more of those? Probably not.


There are more than 400,000,000 guns in America. Did I get that stat right, add all the necessary zeros? And though that number includes police and military, there are more guns free floating in America than any country in the world, even trigger-happy countries, or countries at war. Remember the testimony of the Capitol Hill Police officer: she looked out at the rioters and saw a war zone. She hadn't been trained for a war zone.


So, here's the thing, in Kentucky everyone owns a gun, Linda Sue continued, and I mean everyone, just ordinary everyday people. Even when they are in church, they take their guns. Anything could happen, right?


In church?


Even in church if the Good Lord strikes.


Not to mention if a shooter strikes, I said.


She didn't want to go there. Who does?


Doesn't the preacher get everyone to check their guns at the door? I asked.


You must be kidding me, she said.


Did you go to church when you were a child? I asked.


Yes, but I lied about being born again. I wanted the preacher to leave me alone.


Now you live up north, gun free and church free?


Yes, she said. But my mother told me on my last visit that I am surely going to Hell. I told her, Hell will be a better place than this gun-toting frontier town where the fear of slave insurrections won't quit and the white supremacists have been reborn.


Mitch McConnell's state, I thought to myself. This is the culture that shaped him. Problem is, unlike my friend, he never left.


Should I give my friend from Kentucky the last word, she would surely say something about the Select Committee's hearings, and the clear and present evidence of the calculated hate-mongering all of us now have to endure. It's primary week. The very least we can do is get out to vote, thus honoring all the brave and devoted election workers who have resigned, and those still working under threat.




This blog post is dedicated to the the House of Worship shooting  victims, Black & White, Christian & Jew ((1980-2018) and their grieving families and communities.


◾ JUNE 22, 1980 Gene Gandy (50) • Mary Regina "Gina" Linam (7) • James Y. "Red" McDaniel (53) • Thelma Richardson (78) • Kenneth Truitt (49) ◾ MARCH 10, 1999 Vaniaro Jackson (19) • Carla Miller (25) • Shon Miller Jr. (2) • Mildred Vessel (53) ◾ SEPT. 15, 1999 Kristi Kathleen Beckel (14) • Shawn Brown (23) • Sydney Rochelle Browning (36) • Joseph Daniel "Joey" Ennis (14) • Cassandra Fawn Griffin (14) • Susan Kimberly "Kim" Jones (23) • Justin Michael Stegner Ray (17) ◾ MARCH 12, 2005 Gloria Sue Critari (55) • Harold Diekmeier (74) • James Isaac Gregory (16) • Randy Lynn Gregory (51) • Gerald Anthony Miller (44) • Bart J. Oliver (15) • Richard Reeves (58) ◾ AUG. 28, 2005 James Wayne Armstrong (42) • Ernest Wesley Brown (61) • Holly Ann Love Brown (50) • Ceri Litterio (46) ◾ MAY 21, 2006 Erica Bell (24) • Gloria Howard (72) • Leonard Howard (78) • Doloris McGrew (67) • Darlene Mills Selvage (47) ◾ DEC. 9, 2007 Philip Crouse (22) • Tiffany Johnson (25) • Rachel Elizabeth Works (16) • Stephanie Pauline Works (18) ◾ AUG. 5, 2012 Satwant Singh Kaleka (65) • Paramjit Kaur (41) • Prakash Singh (39) • Ranjit Singh (49) • Sita Singh (41) • Suveg Singh (84) ◾ JUNE 17, 2015 Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) • Cynthia Hurd (54) • Susie Jackson (87) • Ethel Lance (70) • Clementa Carlos Pinckney (41) • Tywanza Sanders (26) • Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. (74) • Myra Thompson (59) ◾ NOV. 5, 2017 Keith Allen Braden (62) • Robert Corrigan (51) • Shani Corrigan (51) • Bryan Holcombe (60) • Crystal Marie Holcombe (36) • Emily Rose Hill (11) • Gregory Lynn Hill (13) • Karla Plain Holcombe (58) • Marc Daniel "Danny" Holcombe (36) • Megan Gail Hill (9) • Noah Grace Holcombe (1) • Dennis Johnson (77) • Sara Johnson (68) • Annabelle Renae Pomeroy (14) • Haley Krueger (16) • Karen Sue Marshall (56) • Robert Scott Marshall (56) • Tara E. McNulty (33) • Ricardo Cardona Rodriguez (64) • Therese Sagan Rodriguez (66) • Joann Lookingbill Ward (30) • Brooke Ward (5) • Emily Garcia (7) • Peggy Lynn Warden (56) • Lula Woicinski White (71) ◾ OCT. 27, 2018 Joyce Fienberg (75) • Richard Gottfired (65) • Rose Mallinger (97) • Jerry Rabinowitz (66) • Cecil Rosenthal (59) • David Rosenthal (54) • Bernice Simon (84) • Sylvan Simon (86) • Daniel Stein (71) • Melvin Wax (88) • Irving Younger (69)




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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 93


Political Triage



Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.

     -Mark Twain


True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

-Kurt Vonnegut



It's odd what I remember overnight in my sleep and then record in my journal first thing in the morning. I'll get an email that calls me prejudiced and insane and wake up with that slam dunk in my ear and have to get it down in writing, not to savor it, but to expunge it. This week an anti-vaxxer let me have it. Whoa, that took up several paragraphs to expunge.


Apologies and thanks rarely arrive in my in box, the occasional compliment, maybe, if I should be so blessed. A nurse in my doctor's office blessed me as she scooted out of the room with the blood pressure monitor and I said, "I accept all blessings."  I'd just heard her story about the cruise she's going on with her mom to the Bahamas and she'd slipped the mask under her nose as she was talking and taking my blood pressure, all at the same time. Politely, kindly, I said, "Could you please pull your mask up for me, Honey, otherwise my blood pressure will white-coat skyrocket. This is an annual wellness visit and I want to stay well."


Had I really called her Honey?  She was young enough to be my daughter so I figured she'd accept that I am her elder, someone to be cherished and respected, someone I could ask ever so politely and kindly to please put up her mask.


 "These damn masks," she said.


Indeed. Damn helpful, I'd say. Damn useful. Damn necessary.


Have we—the most vulnerable—been triaged  aka strategically prioritized, shunted to the bottom –-I  ask myself, for the sake of mask-free faces before the election in November?  This is the third summer of magical thinking, but we can't admit that, because if we admitted that, really felt it,  the mask mandates would still be in place, as would the testing sites.


There's an organization in Oslo called The Peace Research Institute that set my mind straight this morning. They study the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. Needless to say, the trusting neighborly conditions for peaceful relations among the people in the American nation state have broken down. And the constantly shifting and confusing Covid protocols have contributed to this breakdown, or, at the very least, exacerbated it.


Last week my husband went into the city and came back with the news that he had been exposed to Covid. This is common and constant these days, the new normal, I'd say. Onto the CDC  website for information about  quarantine and when and how to test. Good thing we have a computer and a few stockpiled tests. But what if we didn't have a computer and stockpiled tests, then what?  


Is anyone out there watching over us during this still ongoing, still Global Health Emergency? Well maybe in my house, but not in your house. Hard luck if you are vulnerable, and have no access to tests, or masks, or vaccines, and have to get to work, have kids to look after. And so on, or so it goes, as Vonnegut would say.


Government officials—forget  their party affiliation for now—are responsible for  this confusing birthday party. Some people have been invited and others haven't and that is the reality; the vulnerable have been triaged, nationally and globally. Define vulnerable any way you want:  poor, weak, immunocompromised, old, too far away to care about, or in a war zone, maybe.

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Swords Into Ploughshares




There's something happening here/ What it is ain't exactly clear/ There's a man with a gun over there /Telling me I got to beware


Lyrics by Stephen Stills, "For What It's Worth"




The war in Ukraine still raging, and now the shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and, this morning, Tulsa, guns and gunfire are annealed into our psyches. As we sell weapons of war internationally, and simultaneously lobby to restrain and curb the use of these same weapons in America, have we gone mad, developed split personalities? We are certainly in the midst of a domestic humanitarian crisis. Weapons of war in our schools? In hospitals? It's unconscionable.


In the interest of sanity, I decided to reach out to Robert Séamus Macpherson, who wrote a prize-winning book about using his training as a soldier to heal broken lives, Stewards of Humanity; Lighting the Darkness in Humanitarian Crisis. He'd been a Colonel in the United States Marines for thirty years and was injured in Vietnam. After his rehabilitation, he segued to humanitarian work with the agency CARE where he coordinated and monitored safety and security for the agency's 15,000 staff in 72 global programs.


When we first connected, some months ago, I asked about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, our most recent 20-year war. Had it been worth it? All those lives lost? Soldiers and civilians injured beyond repair? Is it fair to ask a soldier that question?


We were on a Zoom call so I wasn't sure if he threw up his hands, shrugged his shoulders, or just quoted the numbers. Thousands of lives lost, military and civilian. And where are we now? Barely a year ago, the Taliban re-conquered Afghanistan, the scrambling to escape reminiscent of the airlift out of Saigon when the People's Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong  entered the city on April 30 1975. The Fall of Saigon, as it became known. led to the reunification of the country.


I was talking with Bob, his wife Veronica, and Bob's service dog, Blue, while they were on vacation in Maine. At my request, Bob introduced me formally to Blue, trained by Southeastern Guide Dogs. And, yes, I was talking to this adorable 90-pound white Labrador, who is by Bob's side 24-7, an "empath," the trainers call him. They should be provided free to every returning veteran, every retired and psychologically or physically wounded first responder. Just imagine the guilt all those officers in Uvalde have to live with now, and forever. Is it any wonder that soldiers, humanitarian workers and domestic front-line workers suffer from PTSD. It took a while for Bob to acknowledge his struggle, but he faced it, as he had all the other challenges in his life. 


"How does writing help with the PTSD?" I asked him.


"I believe the events I write about affected me deeply. I found that once I started writing about them, all the facts seemed to unfold like a movie. Every name, event and nuance seemed to appear in front of me—just when I needed it."


The book took five years to complete. Was it cathartic, a healing exercise in itself? Absolutely, he says.


Will he write another?


"Yes, about my relationship with Blue."


But my main reason for getting back in touch: What does this decorated Marine and humanitarian worker think of gun control? This is his reply:


"I've been an advocate for gun control for decades. In 1994, I breathed a sigh when assault weapons were banned for ten years. I thought that was only a formality and the ban would continue. What troubles me the most is that behind the refusal of elected officials to act to mitigate gun violence is something sinister. I have always hesitated to say evil because I think that gives it a "religious " connotation. Now, I wonder? I'm angry, frustrated and disheartened about the continued violence…I believe we lack a coordinated effort to address and assist the common will of the American people to end this slaughter.


Sorry, to run on… 




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