Toward Finding Common Ground on Gun Violence

Four more people were shot dead on Wednesday, this time at a hospital in Tulsa.  Yet again, the gunman used a military-style semiautomatic rifle.  He bought it that very day.  This is the 233rd mass shooting in the U.S. so far, in a year that’s not yet at the halfway point.  Guns have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of death for children.  In the light of our country’s ceaseless gun violence, the need for real progress toward a solution becomes ever more urgent.

Is there really no common ground?  I continue to pray that it does exist.  We might find it if only we could step out from the confines of our ironclad political ideologies for a moment.  Of course, this is difficult because we don’t want to leave the safety of the familiar.  Maybe imagining ourselves in a hypothetical situation can help.  Let’s say we’re students, working together on a final group project.  We’re tasked with arriving at a plan to curb gun violence.   We don’t agree with, or like, everyone in our group.  But we all could really use an “A.”  Our teacher reminds us that no plan can possibly stop all gun violence, humans being what we are.  She suggests that we pretend, for the duration of the exercise, that the two major political parties as we know them do not exist.  A fellow classmate suggests that a real solution may be hiding in plain sight.  He proposes starting with some basic questions for discussion.  Here they are:

  1. You’re a parent, and you learn that an active shooter is threatening your child’s school. Which incites your greatest fear?
  •  To hear that the shooter wields a small handgun capable of firing a limited number of bullets before reloading is required, or
  • To hear that the shooter wields a semi- or fully automatic assault-style rifle capable of quickly firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition

2. You’re a police officer, responding to a call about an active shooter at a school.  Which gunman would you prefer to confront?

  • One wielding a small handgun, as above.
  • One wielding an assault-style rifle, as above.

3.  Does it really seem good, right, and appropriate that any eighteen-year old, unable to legally buy a beer, is able to purchase not one, but two AR-15 rifles for immediate use?

4. Think of a particularly immature, hot-tempered teenager whom you know.  Would you want this person to have easy access to multiple such weapons and a huge cache of ammunition?

5.  Would you feel comfortable knowing that the volatile teenager above is armed and roaming your neighborhood regularly?

4. Is it really likely to impact your rights as a responsible gun owner to protect your home if the person mentioned above is unable to purchase an AR-15 or similar gun without a background check, waiting period or any red flag laws in place?

5. Do you lock the doors of your home  at night and when you’re away?  Or do you not bother because, if someone wants to rob or harm you, they will find a way? 

The next victims of gun violence will likely not be members of our own families. But let’s act as if we expect them to be. Let’s quit bickering, acknowledge our shared humanity, and take real steps toward lessening this horrific epidemic.

For the Fallen Accidental Soldiers of our Hometown Wars, Let’s Really Think and Pray

Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. Every year around this time, fresh new memorials to lost American lives appear across our country. They commemorate the growing number of civilians forced unwittingly to serve as soldiers in our ongoing hometown wars.

Among these most recently fallen conscripts are the nineteen fourth graders in Uvalde, Texas, who almost made it to the end of the school year. These nine and ten-year old kids might now be relishing the start of summer, had they not been shot to death in their classrooms after returning from an awards ceremony. They include two teachers, both mothers, brave women who did their utmost to protect their students. They include ten people of various ages, from twenty to eighty-six, who had the misfortune to stop by their neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo for snacks, or strawberries, or a cake, at the wrong time.

We should also grieve for the traumatized survivors of these urban battles, whose lives are forever altered. They include the Uvalde children who evaded death because they chose an effective hiding place, or because they smeared their clothing with the blood of their dead and dying classmates. They’ll never see many of their little friends again. There is the young woman in Buffalo who eluded the gunman when another woman lunged at him and was shot dead in the process.

To these survivors and to the families of the lost, we are quick to offer our “thoughts and prayers.” This phrase, if uttered automatically, has little meaning. But we should, indeed, be thinking about, and praying for real solutions. Solving a problem requires opening our minds in order to approach it from various viewpoints. Prayer, to be effective, needs a similar attitude, a willingness to consider answers that might push the boundaries of our comfort zone. Prayer should prompt us to release our tight hold on notions we cling to simply because we have always done so. I pray that we can find some common ground, and that it will move us to take strategic steps toward stopping our country’s epidemic of gun violence.

And as we think and pray to find this common ground, let’s remember that, at any time, we might find ourselves, or our parent, grandparent, child or spouse, forced suddenly into battle. We’re all in this dangerous lottery together; we don’t know when or where our number may be called. Medical exemptions or wealthy parents will no longer keep us from the fight.

An Easter Joyride for a Senior Citizen Dog

For the past few years, it’s been an Easter season custom to pile our family collection of big stuffed bunnies into my VW convertible with Kiko for a photo shoot. It’s a tradition inspired by the Halloween joyrides that my dog enjoys with Slim, our skeleton friend. Naturally, a ride must follow the photo session, or Kiko is crushingly, achingly, disappointed. I wasn’t sure I’d bother with the Bunny/Beetle pics this year. With the persistence of the chilly weather, there was no need to rush. And there was this: in recent months, my elderly Shiba Inu clearly derives increasingly less pleasure from his once-favorite activity, a cruise in the car.

Gone are the days when my little dog would snap out of a deep sleep at the most tentative metallic jingle of keys, when he’d pop up with eager enthusiasm at the question, “Wanna take a ride?” Kiko has, since puppyhood, been too coolly aloof to display marked interest in the things that stir the hearts of most dogs, such as the arrival home of a pack member, a ringing doorbell, or feeding time. But a car ride was something else. It used to spark an excitement that even he couldn’t contain. I loved seeing him bursting with anticipatory joy. What a feeling that this beautiful furry creature was willing to put his complete and wholehearted trust in me! That absolute trust one tends to find only in a dog, or a child. Wherever you go, I’ll go! I don’t care where, just let me go with you!

As he ages, Kiko is apparently losing that old sense of trust, in me, and in everything in general. I guess this isn’t surprising, because his world isn’t what it used to be. Only through sleep does he appear able to attain a state resembling contentment. Fortunately he sleeps for many hours at a time. At fourteen and eight months, his compact little body must be achy, as he moves slower and with growing stiffness, especially on stairs. It takes more pacing in circles to get comfortable in any of his beds. His eyesight is less clear, his hearing less acute. He has trouble negotiating his way through our house. This doesn’t stop him from wandering tentatively, restlessly, from room to room, as though searching for something he never finds. Doors are particularly problematic: where are they, and on which side do they open? We may find him staring into a corner when indicating a desire to go out.

I still occasionally invite Kiko to ride along with me when I’m going on a quick errand. Sometimes, after several repeated attempts to get his attention, I glimpse a flicker of his former eagerness. He meets my gaze and works his way to his feet. He used to jump with easy confidence into my Beetle and up into the relatively low seat. Now he’s hesitant, uncertain at the prospect of entering the vehicle. He wants to climb in by himself, but he can’t quite remember how. When I attempt to pick him up, he struggles. Kiko used to settle quickly in the seat, facing forward, as though ready to take in the scenery. Or, on sunny days, with the top down, he often curled up, fox-like, rested his head on the center console and soon drifted off to sleep. Now, more and more, he’s anxious. Should he sit, should he stand? No position seems to offer comfort or security.

A dog’s life moves ever so quickly through the stages. There’s a fleeting infancy, a long period of toddlerhood, a few brief teenage years, and then, suddenly, old age. My feisty baby boy has become a tottering grandfatherly figure.

But, on a pleasant day, with old friends, even an elderly grandfather can still enjoy a ride in the car. Kiko showed me that he still does, as well.

Easter 2022: Love Lives Again

Virginia Bluebells and Bleeding Hearts.

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,

wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;

Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Solomon’s Seal.

In the grave they laid him, Love who had been slain,

thinking that he never would awake gain,

quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green. 

Appalachian Red Redbud.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,

Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;

quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,

Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,

fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Now the Green Blade Riseth

Traditional French carol with words by J.M.C. Crum, 1928

Virginia Bluebells.

May you find new life in the promise of Easter!

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Thanks to my friend Judy for encouraging me to take photos of her woodland garden plants above!

Palm Sunday 2022

It’s Palm Sunday.  A day that begs to be called out, to be distinguished from just any other first day of the week.  It launches the period known by Christians the world over as Holy Week.  Palm Sunday sets an expectant, celebratory tone, one that contrasts, shockingly and painfully, with the shattering  disappointment of the terrible day we call Good Friday.  In between falls the oddness of Maundy Thursday.   So much is packed into the events of these seven days, which lead up to the triumphant culmination of Easter.  Indeed, without Easter, the story of new life, hope and possibility would have been one of failure, death and despair.  I’ve written about the days of Holy Week several times before.  What else can I add?  No doubt there is something.  But for now, the various demands of life, including several painting projects, prevent me from writing any more.  

So, here is last year’s Palm Sunday post: 

Doesn’t Everyone Love a Winner? 

The Lambs of March, Devoured by the Lions

In my last post I wrote of the lions and lambs of March sharing the field of play, taking turns. There’s been none of that good sportsmanship for the past few days. The lions seemed to have slaughtered and devoured the lambs.

The recent frigid weather rightfully belongs to January. Temperatures fall to the teens in the early morning hours and creep up to only just above freezing in the afternoons. Sharp winds gust with what feels like a vindictive malice, making it even colder. If you have to be outside, it’s best to move briskly. I think this, wistfully and often, as I stand, holding the leash attached to my sluggish senior dog. He may pace restlessly in the house, but once out of doors, Kiko tends to remain resolutely immobile, transfixed, his nose firmly planted in the grass, lost in a host of smells. A recent injury has slowed my fourteen and a half-year old dog even further. Our “walks” cover far less distance these days, but they’re more frequent, and we’re outside nearly as long.

The two tall central daffodils seem to be deep in conversation.

Gazing out from sheltered comfort, the landscape often has the appearance of early spring perfection. Daffodils nod their sturdy golden heads amidst green sword-like foliage.

The cherry trees were coaxed toward peak bloom last week by a couple of almost summery days. Their blossoms form luminous clouds of pale pink in the bright sunshine.

But a clear blue sky shifts in an instant to a burnished and ominous steel gray.

Clouds race in, seeming to herald an approaching apocalypse.

Bitter gales and icy rainstorms whip through suddenly and repeatedly, doing their best to drive all delicate petals into the ground. On Saturday, my daughter and I attended a local high school production of Annie. After the show, we watched from the glass-enclosed cafeteria as a light drizzle began falling on a courtyard planted with small, lovely cherry trees. The falling petals looked like snowflakes. As the intensity of the rain increased, we looked out onto a blizzard-like scene. And then, as though for a definitive finale, there was a prolonged and pounding hailstorm.

Just another March lion, strutting his stuff. Take that, you pathetic lambs!

Our world, like this month, has far too many lions.

The Lambs and Lions of March

Spring arrived officially on Sunday. Yet here in Northern Virginia, the gentle lambs and roaring lions of March continue to alternate play, as they have all month long. A day of languid warmth and breezes bearing the sweet essence of the Caribbean is followed by one of bracing chill and icy gales. Dim, mist-shrouded dawns give way in an instant to brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies. A late afternoon that would be unremarkable in June is followed by a morning straight out of January, complete with sudden, swirling snow. But of course, this is March, every bit of it: dramatic, capricious, impulsive, dazzling March.

Recent nights have been clear and beautiful. Around midnight, when I’m typically awakened by Kiko pawing at my bed and looking confused, the late-rising moon is relatively low in the sky, enormous, heavy and golden. Just before dawn, it’s high, cold and distant, casting its final shadows on our lawn. And there is Venus, in her usual morning spot, seen glowing brightly from our front windows. Our daughter, ever the stargazer (she minored in astronomy), texted last night that Orion was emphatically visible from her apartment porch. It’s comforting to know that the same moon and stars are shining on her over there in Maryland.

March marches on. We’ll soon say goodbye to this month of many seasons and lightning-fast about-faces. A few more winter days may well tag along with April. No doubt some flashes of deep summer will be summoned, as well. But with luck, the first full month of spring will bring true spring, in all its pleasant, more even-tempered glory.

Welcome spring. We need you.

A blog about motherhood, marriage and life: the joys and frustrations, beauty and absurdity, blessings and pain. It's about looking back, looking ahead, and walking the dog.