Friday, July 08, 2016

This Isn't Working

This has been building for some time now. It seems that some of us are much more aware of the existence of the problem than others. This of course causes me to wonder first of all, why? Second, it makes me wonder what it will take for these people that  cannot see or do not want to accept the problem we have has reached a crisis point.

There are all kinds of statics that should be screaming at us.  The fact that every day 90 some persons die as a result of firearms. Some of these in the commission of crimes. An increasing number are mass shootings of innocent persons. Sadly, a growing number are youngsters dying at their own hands or because of someone else's negligence. We should not have to simply accept the number of  children who gain access to a gun and shoot themselves, there little sister, or their mother in the back as she drives down the road because mom kept a loaded handgun in her purse in the back seat of the car.

Yesterday, 5 Dallas police officers were killed by  a person or persons using high capacity weapons and another seven were wounded. The two previous days, officers discharged their  weapons in two other cities striking  and killing  black males in tragic shootings. In both instances it said that the two victims were carrying guns. One was pulled by police from the victims pocket after  he was shot and killed. The other is said to have advised the officer that  he had a permit  and had a gun in the glove box. These two incidents will be investigated by the Department of Justice, and I'm certain they the events will be subject to much scrutiny, as well they should be. The one thing  that is certain is that they will not be the last.

America has a death rate by guns far and above other civilized societies. It actually  exceeds some third world countries that are racked with violence. Our nation has a gun problem. It is made worse because we have become culturally dependent upon guns.Yes, there is really no more accurate way to put it than we as a nation have a fetish for and an addiction to guns.

For the time being let's set aside hunters.  For the most part, hunters have a real respect for their firearms. It may sound like a generalization, but  hunters are often among the most responsible firearm owners. But things get a little more dicey after that. For  years,  man gun owners  kept  guns at home basically  for  protection in the home setting.  While gun ownership has become prolific over the years, there also became growing  movement to carry weapons in public. We saw the emergence of concealed carry laws in various states with permits required. This changed to include "open carry" and state after state the legislatures ripe with  members whose campaign coffers were filled by the NRA and other  gun lobbies were only  so happy to oblige and began even kicking  away required permits and required training  classes.

I could go on  with a lengthy  account of  public shootings just this year, that were not  a part of any criminal action but simply a product of  irresponsibility, unfortunate accident, negligence or  just plain stupidity.  I will spare you  a complete list,  but these are a few off the examples that have actually  happened and have been reported on this year:

  • Several instances of  children from three to six years of age that  found a firearm loaded in the floor under the seat  of their parents car or in a purse.  I a least  three incidents that  I recall since the first of the year, these children in the process of handling the loaded weapon discharged it and in each instance manager to strike the driver in the back.  The makes me wonder how may were discharged that  missed hitting someone? It also begs to ask where the loaded guns were in their reach, and why the hell weren't the buckled in car seats?  
  • A teacher  carrying  dropped her gun while sitting on a toilet, ricocheting and striking herself in the ankle. 
  • A Woman who dropped her purse while checking out at the doctor's office and her handgun discharged, bullet traveling  through wall and striking another person in an exam room. 
  • A kid reaching in his dad's jacket pocket and discharging a gun at McDonald's in line striking anther patron.
  • Child reaching in mom's purse at Walmart and discharging a loaded handgun killing  the mother. 
There kinds of things are happening  daily. They are a part of that  90 plus gun deaths a year and even more wounded. How safe are you in a public eating establishment with people (well meaning as they may be) all around you with  guns? 

There are few statics related to gun ownership that do not paint a disparaging picture for gun ownership.   Death of women by domestic abusers skyrocket when guns are in the home. An intruder is more likely to use the gun on the homeowner. The incidence of successful defense with a gun in a situation where you are confronted with another armed person is almost a myth. 

For the most part, we all seem to be aware of these these things.  But our gun culture has a strange historical twist. In the olden days, people strapped their gun on their hip and went about  doing their business in public. Have you ever wondered why that stopped?  Why instead of that simply  being an American continuum, we stopped that practice and states and municipalities enacted laws that put an end to that practice? 

In the 1950's the NRA was largely an organization with a membership of mostly hunters.  In those days the NRA was actually out  front  in opposing high power weapons and on record of supporting  gun education. But that changed...   From those days we saw increased gun ownership and a trend to buying  hand guns for protection in the home.  Perhaps if that were still the primary use of guns, we would not be in this period of  gun death epidemic. The NRA changed and was radicalized and became less an organization for the hunter membership and a lobby to for the gun industry. A significant  number of our public officials were willing  to sell themselves like whores to the NRA to do their bidding. They have chipped away at  most of the laws aimed at  making sure that  criminals do not have easy  access. That  most anyone, even persons with mental health histories have easy access to guns. They stripped away  regulations about carrying them in public and they have taken us back to the days of the old west. 

The gun industry is a $13.5 Billion industry and that industry is all too happy to buy  votes in Congress and state general assemblies. 

The biggest fear propagated by the NRA is that  the government is going to come and confiscate your guns from you. They have been saying President Obama was going t do this for 7 and a half years now. He doesn't have much time left. 

Let's be honest. That was never going to happen. But  there are serious "responsible laws" that  can be enacted to make America safer from Gun violence. Universal Background checks -  closing loopholes for gun shows and private sales. Everyone - gets a background check. Persons on Terrorist Watch lists should be restricted. And yes, it is time to role back the massive amount of guns on persons out in public. We don't need millions of guns in the public sector on a daily  basis. Of of  persons with proper training and registration are going to carry they should be required to carry special liability insurance to cover  against loss of  life of  quality of  life in an accident.  You and your  family . should not  be at rick by someone who accidentally discharges a gun and kills or seriously injurers to the point that the victim and his/her family  has enormous medical bills and loss of  income and the person responsible has no viable means on their own to be held liable. 

We also need to say no to military style weapons in civil society as well as large capacity ammo drums or  clips. 

I've heard people say that  owning guns is a God given right - and say it with a straight face. I don't recall anything about it in the bible. I have had people tell me that  the U.S. Constitution was the word of  god. I believe that is a stretch. But to the point of the 2nd Amendment, the federal courts have clearly  indicated that this does not  preclude the state from making exceptions to ownership rights. Clearly  there was a day  when governments - federal, state, and local took the position that less guns strapped on a persons waist  in  public was prudent. We've had a taste of the opposite now and it is a bitter poison. 

Monday, July 04, 2016

We Are America....

Sometimes I think about the difference between being American by birth and American by choice. Being American by birth I can only imagine what it is like to come to this place in life by choice.  The closest example i can identify with would maybe to be a convert to a religion that was not your of your family and upbringing. It must mean seeing something  that may not be obvious to those who reached this point by birth.

However we have come to be American, it's important to realize we are all equal in our American Nationality. One way or the other, unless we are American Indians, we have roots to somewhere else. Maybe by way of our parents, grandparents, their  parents or even further back, but we are a nation of great diversity and I believe that is one of the great strengths of this country. The American experience is multi-cultural, and that  can only  enrich us all.

Happy & Safe 4th of July!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Poet Crush List Six-Pack

In 2011 I decided to compile a list of poets that were at the time prime on my list people doing excitable work. I believe that first year I had a list of 10 such poets. Six of the ten were poets I had heard read in person. Eight of them I owned books they had written. But all of these poets were people that  I would from time to time revisit their work.

Each year since then, (except 2014) I have revisited the poets that were getting my attention. Over the years there have been numerous that  were close to making my list but last year last year I shortened the list from 10 to a Crush List Six Pack. Of course that  doesn't make the decision easier, but perhaps the choices more significant.

There are some that have been held over from year to year and with good reason.  Kelli Russell Agodon  is an example of a repeat for several years Her writing  and energy has been especially inspiring and I have three of her books each of which I revisit from time to time and her most recent one, quite often.  You can see the 2015 list linked here.

And so, now I give you my 2016 Poetry Crush List. Again, a Six-Pack. And there are in not particular order of significance.

1. Marie Howe - author of three poetry books the most recent The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, a book that I have read and found a great deal of kinship with. Howe grew up in a Catholic family and Catholicism culturally informs her work. I read a number of interviews of her and was enthralled with her interview by Krista Tippett on the podcast On Being. I've noted with interest books that have won contests judged by Ms. Howe, It seems that  I generally  enjoy the same kinds of writing that  she finds worthwhile.

2. Richard Siken - author of  Crush and War of the Foxes. I've read both of these books. Crush I felt was the bolder of the two but  War of the Foxes has it's points.  Siken impresses me because he can deal well with the abstract and I'd like to feel I could write with courage that his work exudes. Ah, maybe someday...

3. Rachel Mennies - author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backward. Much the same way I am intrigued by the Catholic culture that  can be found in  Marie Howe's The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, I am fascinated at the impact of Judaism in Rachel's book. Perhaps even more that  Howe, she has woven this deeply into this collection of poems. Jewish culture is less familiar to me, but I find it's imprint on her work appealing. That said, I've read a number of her poems aside from the book and have enjoyed the versatility she demonstrates. Some examples:

As an interesting sidelight, I discovered Rachel by way of an advertisement in the Writer's Chronicle. They had a full page ad with her picture saying that she was one of the volunteer mentors that participated in the AWP's relatively new mentor-ship program. I had applied for the program but was not accepted that  round. When I saw the ad however, I googled her  to find out more about her  work out of curiosity to see what kind of experience such a volunteer might bring to  the AWP program. Needless to say I was impressed with what I saw, realizing  someone surely had a most positive mentoring experience. And me, I found another  really  cool poet and that isn't  half bad. 

4. Shaindel Beers - author of two poetry collections - The Children's War and A Brief History of TimeI've had the opportunity to read both of these books. Children's War was an impressive project and a read that will touch you in a very raw way. History of Time is both simple and eloquent in it's frankness.  I've observed recently that  Ms. Beers has been having a hayday with new work croppping up all over the place. An energy you have to admire of any poet. Maybe, just maybe I can learn something from her work ethic. 

5. Michael Schmeltzer - author of Elegy/Elk River and Blood Song.  I read both of these books this year and I couldn't put either down till I finished. Schmeltzer collections are both very lyrical and gripping. Blood Song was published by Two Sylvias Press (an Agodon connection) and this was a super sweet book for them to have a part in. Looking forward to more from Schmeltzer.

6. Suzanne Frischkorn - author of Lit Windowpane, Girl on a Bridge and Red Paper Flower. Of these, I have read Red Paper Flower. This book was funny and hard hitting at the same time. I desperately wanted to read more when I finished. I'm assuming  Girl on a Bridge is also out of print. On Amazon you can find copies priced between $146 and $374. Ouch. But seriously I keep hopeful that we will see some more work from poet soon. Real soon!  UPDATED NOTE: Jan. 2017 - I have been informed by Suzanne that  Lit Windowpane and Girl on a Bridge at Main Street Rag Online Bookstore. I have added the links in the titles in the original post. I will be ordering these myself. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confession Tuesday - Love & Kindness Edition

It has been too much tragedy & two weeks since my last confession.

Please follow me to the confessional....

Dear Reader,

Where do you start when you don't know what to say? What do you say when basically anything said is not adequate? It's especially hard to think about yourself at a time like this. To think about  what your  last two weeks have been like. What has gone wrong or what has gone right.

I didn't  personally know any who died in the Orlando shooting. At lease I don't believe I did. But everyone whose life was snuffed out, every person who was wounded by bullets, and everyone across this country whose heart was wounded by loss from the mass shooting has no doubt  been profoundly impacted by the events. Indeed this nation grieves. We grieve once again for the senseless loss of  lives by weapons that have no place in a civil society aside from the military.

The one thing I try to think about as I reflect upon the past two weeks is love. Who have I shown love to? What stranger  have I smiled at? What doors have I held open? Who have I gone out of my way to help?

I also feel compelled to think about the exact opposite of love... hate. Have I really truly hated anyone? Sadly, the answer to this is honestly  yes. I don't  want to hate someone. I can rationalize perhaps why they may be unworthy of love. But hate, hate is a powerful poison. The funny thing (which is not really funny at all) is that  most people that I hate are so remote that they don't  really know who I am, much less that I actually hate them. And clearly one in particular, really exhibits by action a good deal of hate by their own right.

I suppose it  is easy to rationalize that because one person does hateful things that  it is justifiable to  hate them back. It is truly easy to see that hate begets hate.

As much as I have decided I need to work on saying things that exemplify hate (and I have been guilty of this) I have also thought  that  for those out there that fall into that  void somewhere between the two extremes, I need to be more open to just being a person who can share a smile, extend a greeting. Look for loving acts of kindness without  regard for who these people are.

Life is short. We don't generally know expiration date. Our examples of kindness may be the last thing someone recalls.

I confess that there are things we as citizens can do about the issues of gun violence. And these are things that we should do.This is a fight we all need to wage for the sake of our future, our  children and grandchildren. I have done some of these things in the past and I will continue.

I confess that I see that we all need more kindness. Everywhere!  Kindness at home, at school, at work, on the street corner, while driving, I confess that I have a role to play in introducing  more kindness to others.

I confess that these past two weeks I've had some positive things happen. There is the Paul Simon Concert at Starlight, and the Poem of mine appearing in The Best of Boston Literary Magazine, but it's just hard to focus on anything else.

Peace, Love, and Kindness

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Honored to Have A poem in The Best of Boston Literary Magazine - Vol 1

Boston Literary Magazine is just released Vol 1 of  their Best Of  Boston Literary Magazine for over the last  decade. BLM has published several of my poems over the years and I am excited that  this Best Of Collection contains one of my previously published works, a poem titled Toy Soldiers..

There are some really cool work in this book. Great Job by Robin Stratton

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Confession Tuesday - Neon Lights Edition

It's been one Democratic Congressional District Presidential Caucus, one poetry reading at the Neon Gallery, one finished diary and another one started, a double platelet & red cell donation, and several full skies of rain  falling in our part of the world since my last confession 6 weeks ago.

To the confessional....

Dear Reader:

The rain has stopped. Our lawn has been mowed. I can hear the grass growing  again already.

I confess six weeks is a long time between confessions. I guess that makes me a fallen-away blogger returning to the fold or something like that.  I could say I will try to do better, bet we all know better. The fact is that  I tend to be more selective about saying something  in my  blog than in the early days. Maybe I'm getting wiser and figure no one really cares, but who knows.

On  Friday, May 29th  I had a reading at the Neon Gallery that was sponsored by the Writers Place. The Neon event is a quarterly music, poetry and art event at a downtown Kansas City location. I've attended many of these, but  I confess this was the first one in which I was on the program. The Neon reading was really good. Those that missed it, well, they missed some good music, some really cool art, and well the readings were great. I confess I'd even rate my own as pretty damn good and I tend to be my harshest critic.  The poet Pat Daneman (who I had never heard before) was magnificent. Sara Nicole Glass AKA Miss Conception both sang and shared poetry. While I've heard her before, she has a couple of pieces that really resonated with me. I confess that each time I hear the River Cow Orchestra I think I enjoy them more. Bob Savino was quite animated, but then when isn't he.  The evening was closed out with music by Rick Malsick.  This event is sponsored by the Writers Place and I was honored to read with the other talented artists.

I've said it before and it's worth repeating. As someone who journals on a regular basis I always love the feeling when I complete one journal and replace the leather binder with a fresh new one. I confess that I am not sure, but I belief it must be the starting over with clean pages that gets my emotions flowing.

When donating  platelets at the Community Blood Center recently I was asked to do a double platelet and red cell donation. I've done double platelets before - my count is always high and they  love to be able to double down. I've never done red cell at the same time. I confess that I spent that whole day really drained. I'm usually a wee bit sluggish after the platelets but this was way worse. I confess I may not feel I can do that much again. Probably just the platelets and maybe back off the red cells. It's really a beneficial thing to do and I would always encourage those who can, donate blood and or platelets whenever possible.

I did a lot of writing this past weekend and it's tugging at my heartstrings again tonight, so I'm off to see what I can put together.

Until next time, be yourself. No one does it better than you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confession Tuesday - why am I doing this edition?

Dear Reader,

It's been one new poetry book, and a week since my last confession.

I confess that I am tired tonight and I'd rather not be confessing. Mostly because it's late and I'm tired.

I've been glued for the most part to the primary election returns from five states. DEL, CONN, RI, MD, and PENN. I was hopeful that Hillary would sweep all five but figured we had four in the bag. RI was up in the air and in the end it was the only one of the five that Hillary lost. Not a bad night at all, and it really makes the math for Bernie Sanders really insurmountable.

I was excited to get a new poetry book in the mail this week. "A Brief History of Time" by Shaindel Beers. Getting poetry in the mail is such a rush. I confess that it never grows old.

We have a storm going on presently. The dogs are unnerved by it, especially Soles. In some ways we are really making progress with him, but I confess I wish I felt he was less impacted by anxiety.

That's all for this week. May the muse be with you.