Wednesday, December 19, 2012

FACTS: Guns in America


FACT: There are more than 58,000 gunshops in this country. There are fewer than 20,000 Starbucks in the whole world. - Kai Rysdall, NPR 

FACT: The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world — an average of 88 per 100 people. 60 percent of U.S. homicides occur using a firearm. Washington Post

FACT: The gun-homicide rate per capita in the U.S. is 30 times that of Britain and Australia, 10 times that of India and four times that of Switzerland.
FACT: With only 5% of the world’s population, America owns nearly 50% of the world’s guns.

FACT: Last year on Black Friday, over 280,000 guns were purchased. (Merry Christmas)
- CBS Sunday Morning

FACT: On the same day as the Sandy Hook mass murder, a deranged man in China went on a rampage and attacked 22 schoolchildren with a knife. There were ZERO FATALITIES. 

FACT: Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. 


MEDIA:  Yes, the media is a problem. Like our politicians, they are owned by corporations greedily chasing after the mighty buck, putting ratings before journalism with integrity. But did the media kill 26 people on Friday? No. Is there any reason to suspect this shooter was doing this for media attention? No.
Next issue.

MENTAL ILLNESS: Only half of the mass killings reported worldwide involved a person with mental illness. Yes, mental illness is a problem, but it has existed since the beginning of time. No psychiatrist or neurologist knows exactly why it happens, how to stop it nor how to effectively treat it. We understand very little about the human brain. Very little. We need to do better, and when we know how, we will. But right now we can’t stop people from being crazy. And as for the talk of Aspergers- that is not a mental illness. Aspergers has produced some of the world’s greatest thinkers, inventors and artists. I know many young people with Aspergers – they are smart, funny and kind.
Next issue.

SECOND AMENDMENT: Let’s talk about the second amendment. It was created during a time of horses and bayonettes. Nobody could have imagined a semi-automatic the likes of the Bushman, its bullets found in the bodies of the children who were massacred. The second amendment does not entitle citizens to weapons of mass destruction.

ASSAULT WEAPONS: If you feel you need a pistol for self-protection, okay. If you are a hunter and need your hunting rifles, okay. No civilian needs an assault weapon. PERIOD. And if you really think you need one, well then, that’s the exact reason you shouldn’t have one. 

Sign the White House petition for tighter gun control legislation: WHITE HOUSE
Click here to read my blog on how my family was shattered by gun violence : A Single Bullet

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Single Bullet

In the summer of 1978, my seven-year old brother Christopher was shot in the head by a teenaged neighbor, playing with his father's gun. Christopher was a first grader, a skinny little tow-headed boy missing his front teeth. I held him, bleeding in my arms, as my mother drove maniacally to the ER. His eyes fluttered, rolling back in his head as he lost consciousness. His little body twitched violently from the brain damage. I begged him to hold on. My arms were covered in blood. I was fourteen years old.

My brother survived. With multiple brain surgeries and a year of physical therapy, he learned how to use a fork and walk without dragging his leg, and talk normally again. He learned to write with his left hand, as he lost all fine motor skills on his right side. He had to attend school wearing a helmet. He became an outsider. His young body was able to heal much of the brain damage, but the emotional damage continues to take its toll. He has struggled with drug addiction all his life. Like many with traumatic brain injury, he has been prone to violent outbursts. He has been in and out of jail. Though he lived, a part of him died that day. The part that was pure and childlike and trusting. He still has a piece of the bullet in his brain.

My entire family, including my own children, has been affected by what happened to him at seven years old. Generations of our family were shattered by a single bullet. It is a nightmare that refuses to die.

Watching the news on that awful Friday morning, December 14, 2012, brought my nightmare into full focus.

The families of the slain at Sandy Hook are enduring unimaginable horror and grief that will affect them for the rest of their lives. The school, the children, the neighbors, the entire community is forever scarred. Future generations will feel the repercussions. Those who survived will bear emotional wounds that may never heal.

And yet, online and through the media, people clamor for their rights to assault weapons citing freedom and the second amendment.  They want their rights to military-style killing machines unimpeded, unregulated.

Unless you have held a bleeding child riddled with bullets in your arms, you don’t know. You do not know.

Let’s talk about rights.

I haven’t felt safe in the world since the day my brother was shot. I’ve had anxiety disorder and panic attacks (which rendered me “uninsurable” – yet another issue) all my life. I grew up to be a loving, but hovering, overprotective, paranoid mother. My three children have never played outside unattended. I rarely sleep through the night. A maniac with a gun took normalcy from me. Where are my rights?

I, like most of you, am afraid to send my child to school or to a mall or to the movies or to see a congresswoman in front of a Safeway store. Where are our rights?

Where were the rights of the children, the teachers, the principals who died? Didn’t they have the right to attend school peacefully and without fear? Where are the rights of those parents to see their children grow and thrive, to walk their daughters down the aisle, to hold grandchildren in their arms one day? Where were their rights?

Since when does the second amendment get to trample over the rights of the rest of us-  our right to Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our right to feel safe in the world?

The NRA has had our politicians in their pockets for far too long. They have towered over us, the bully on the schoolyard that no one will stand up to. I have never been able to abide bullies. As a mother, I will not rest until assault weapons are banned in this country. As a citizen, I won’t stand by and watch the NRA take my freedom away with their lobbying and their money and their weapons.

I have been rocked to my core by this horrific tragedy, and I can not go back to life as normal. If any of you know how hard I’ve fought for my dog, then you know my tenacity. I will put all my heart behind this. I will not quit.

If we offer words of consolation but do nothing to change this epidemic of gun violence, we are no better than the gunman.

Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel said, “We suffered not only from the cruelty of killers, but also from the indifference of bystanders. I believe that a person who is indifferent to the suffering of others is complicit in the crime. And that I cannot allow, at least not for myself.”

I’m with him.

For more information on gun violence and what you can do, see Women Against Gun Violence

(I serve on the Board of Directors for Women Against Gun Violence)

NOTE- all comments are moderated and pending approval. Those of you gun advocates who have been posting and calling me a “liberal douchebag”- your comments will not be read nor posted. My focus is not on you, it is on the safety of children.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tiny Miracles

Let me preface this story by explaining my history with finches. Ever since I can remember, whenever things became hopeless in my life, finches would appear out of nowhere. Suddenly the trees and bushes around me would fill with them, coming alive with their birdsong. Even if I were indoors, I’d see them in the trees outside my window, and I’d know, somehow, that everything was going to be okay. In 2004, during a particularly rough holiday season after becoming estranged from my family, Troy surprised me on Christmas morning with a beautiful birdcage filled with finches, and a wooden sign he had made that said HOPE. Little did I know that Christmas I was pregnant with Evan.

I am reluctant to admit I’ve not had much holiday spirit this year, which is not like me. I’m born in December, named after Holly. I’ve always been the embodiment of Christmas spirit. But not this year. I’ve gone through the motions, decorating the house, playing Christmas music, taking Evan to Candy Cane Lane, but I’ve had a raincloud following me. A couple weeks ago I extended an olive branch to my family, only to have it metaphorically slapped from my hand. But larger than that is the fact that it has been a year since I’ve seen my grandson Ayumu. I unpacked the Christmas decorations to find pictures of him with Santa, his ornaments, his stocking.

There is a hole in my heart the size and shape of him. A simple Christmas carol on the radio can make me have to pull my car over until the tears pass. My friend Julie said, when you lose someone, the hole never gets smaller. Your life just gets bigger around it. I try to build my life around the hole, but at Christmas time it feels so enormous it threatens to swallow me.

I didn’t think anything could touch that place inside me.

But Tuesday night, I came across a box of memories- my Cristen and Taylor when they were so small. It was 1995, the year after we’d lost everything in the fire, but we looked so happy. We had endured so much grief, and yet there was this strong love that couldn’t be broken. Looking at our faces pressed close together, the joy in our eyes, I realized that even though there are fractures in my family, and problems that seem to have no solutions, it’s all part of the beautiful mess that is life. Just as love pulled us through back then, it will pull us through again. Like the finches always remind me- everything will be okay. I went to bed happier that night.

In the morning I met a friend for coffee. Anna is the mom of two small children, and has spent the past year battling cancer. As we talked about life and loss and surviving the dark night of the soul, her little boy Andrew- a beautiful 18 month old half-asian boy, reached his arms up to me to be held, just as Ayumu always did. He climbed up in my lap and leaned back into me, lounging comfortably as he drank from his sippy cup. He put his little arms around my neck. He rested his head on my shoulder. He blew me kisses and gave me hugs. And suddenly, the vacant space I thought was unreachable was not empty. It was filling with love again. I left our meeting overcome with happy tears, so grateful for the gift that little angel boy gave me.

I called to tell Troy about it. “It was a tiny miracle,” I said, “and I just want you to know- your wife is happy again.”

Just after, I was driving to yoga, when suddenly something flashed across my rearview mirror. Something was inside my car. I slowed, looking behind me, when suddenly there was a blur in front of my face. I slammed on the brakes and as the car jerked to a stop, a finch perched next to my steering wheel, his little eyes like two shiny beads staring into mine. He sat, calmly looking at me, as I caught my breath.

I don’t know how he got inside my car. All my windows were up- it was cold outside.  My first thought was that he must have somehow gotten trapped and was frightened, so I rolled the window down to let him fly out. But he didn’t budge.

I slowly extended my hand to shoo him, but still, he didn’t fly away. Instead he let me scoop him up and hold him. I put my hand outside the car window to set him free, but he stayed put. He sat in the palm of my hand, looking at me, and that’s when I got it, and the tears started again. “Everything is going to be okay.”  I thanked him for bringing hope to my heart, and said a prayer of gratitude. He stayed with me for several more minutes, and then he flew away.

I sat unmoving in my car, letting myself feel it. I texted a picture of my little feathered angel to Troy. He wrote back, “But…how did that happen?”

There may be a million logical explanations for how it happened, and maybe it can all be explained away, but I know how it felt in my heart. I know what I felt was real.
I responded, “It was a tiny miracle.”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good News- the world is NOT ending!

Ever since the beginning of time, man has been predicting our doom and the imminent end of the world. The prophecies and the prophets have come and gone throughout the ages, and still...nothin'. I'm not an anthropologist but as a self-proclaimed armchair psychiatrist, I'd guess it has to do with fear of our own individual mortality, projected onto the entire world - If I'm goin' down, you're all goin' down with me!

I've written in previous years about other "End of the World" proclamations that never happened. (See: Chicken Little Bought a Billboard  and It's the End of the World as We Know It- Again )
However, in spite of these numerous claims of certain death throughout history, the Earth continues to turn, and we are here to create more seasons of Jersey Shore and other such great advancements in humanity.

The world is not ending on December 21st- no matter what the Mayan calender rumors say. For one thing, that's my niece Carly's birthday. Also, I'm going to Costa Rica in June, so the world can't end before that. But if you don't believe me, believe the scientists. Griffith Observatory explains it best - how the Mayan calendar myth came to be, and why the rumor is hogwash. This is from their website:

The Maya calendar is not spooling up the thread of time. It is coming to the end of a particular cycle in an unending sequence of cycles. According to the rules of the Maya calendar system, a primary interval, Baktun 13, for all practical purposes ends on the winter solstice, 2012. Although pseudoscientific claims have linked this calendrical curiosity to a Maya prophecy of the end of time, there is no evidence for ancient Maya belief in the world's end in 2012 or even in any unusual significance to the cycle's completion.

The Maya calendar relied on multiple cycles of time. In Maya tradition, these cycles of time run far into the future, and there are ancient Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions that project time into the future well beyond 21 December 2012. At the end of Baktun 13 (a period of 144,000 days or 394 years), a new baktun will begin. There is no Baktun-13 end of time. The notion of a Baktun-13 transformational end of time is modern. It originated in Mexico Mystique, a book published in 1975 by an American writer, Frank Waters, who made computational errors.

Read more about it at the Griffith Observatory website: THE WORLD IS NOT ENDING. And do us all a favor- spread the word. Let's eradicate this silliness so we can all get on with the business of enjoying our dysfunctional family holidays.


* Looking for something positive to do on 12/21/12? Join with souls all over the world and participate in a worldwide 3 minute meditation for peace. Details here: