The Gun Death of Innocence

I had planned to come home from Mass tonight and write about the incredible joy I felt at the honor of helping distribute ashes for Ash Wednesday tonight.

As it turns out, I was in such a rush to get to Mass, I had forgotten to turn off my TV. I knew there had been a school shooting in Florida, but I had seen a news scroll that had shown one dead.

At 9 pm, by the time I talked to friends after a long and crowded service and got some food to bring home for a late dinner, I walked in to hear there were 17 dead in the 18th school shooting  in the U.S. since the start of 2018 alone.

And my joy disappeared. All I could think of was the little babies and toddlers whose foreheads I had marked with the Sign of the Cross this evening. I don’t know any of their names ( we have a large, bi-lingual Church).  But I pray for all of them that they do not grow up to experience as teens what those students did today in Florida.

I saw so much innocence tonight at Church. And as the I-phone clips of the shooting and the interviews of the teachers, students and parents unfold across my TV screen,  I see the death of innocence too.

We can ask God “why.” But we also already know the answer. We love our guns too much. We value our privilege to own one far greater than we value human life. Our political machine loves the moneyed-oil of the NRA more than it cares about those victimized in our gun-obsessed society.

Bullets mean more than souls.

It is time for our elected officials, for gun fans, for all of us to ask – who in our society really needs semi-automatic and automatic rifles to protect their homes, to hunt animals in the woods? Just because we can have them, should we?

Why are we so afraid of thorough and complete background checks for the privilege of gun ownership if we have nothing to hide?  Why is it so inconvenient to wait a week or two to take possession of a weapon for that background check to be complete? I have waited longer to get a doctor’s appointment!

Why do we require people to take driving classes for the privilege of being on our streets, but not to carry a gun in public spaces?

Why do we allow people to carry those guns in a concealed manner so we don’t even know they have them?

We know these questions and we already know the sane answers to them.

Yet we let the insanity continue.

The real question is why we continue the insanity.

 

 

 

 

I Am Too Old for This, Aren’t I?

I am not sure why. I am probably the busiest I have been right now since my working days, and that is while traveling at half the speed of life I used to travel.

Maybe it is the lemming effect. Who knows.

But I have two friends-one younger and one older-than me who have had incredible luck on dating sites recently.

So I did something I told myself the other day I would never do again and joined one.

Not only have I never found lasting love on any dating site I have ever tried, I seem to be an especial target of scammers, be it a dating site, Facebook or even DM on Twitter.

I think I have already been hit up twice by a new form of this scheme on the dating site. Two different people have contacted me on behalf of others who are too shy to do it themselves but somehow they managed to see my picture and their friends want me to e-mail them privately. If anyone out there knows how these stories end, let me know, because I am not bothering to find out for myself.

If someone wants me to correspond, the least they can do is pony up the six-month service fee like I did.

I don’t know what I am expecting to find doing this:   A 60-year-old who doesn’t like golf, isn’t a successful something and hates walking on the beach with his non-athletic body? According to every profile I have read, he doesn’t exist.

They are all adventurous, romantic, honest, excellent communicators who love to travel, go to the theater, read voraciously, exercise daily and are looking for that “one special someone.”  No games please.

Sigh. I feel this may be another fool’s errand and I should have stuck to my resolve to be content on my own. I am afraid of giving up the dignity I have managed to gather these past few years after my last dating debacle.

It probably doesn’t help that the movie I was watching last night was about this English couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with a party when he receives news that a woman he had been hiking with in the mountains 50 years ago and who had fallen in the fissure of a glacier has been discovered – her body preserved. And that he starts confessing things to his wife about the situation she never knew before. Like he was the dead woman’s next of kin, for starters. In fact, they were sorta married. It goes quickly downhill from there.

I have to finish watching the movie tonight to find out the ending. Somehow I have a feeling the disappeared woman’s plunge into the fissure will have been no accident.

Just think I will be hitting “skip” on all those profiles showing outdoor hiking and climbing photos going forward.

Maybe I need to put “alpiners and scammers need not apply.” Or some new warning on my profile like that.

Then again, there may be no one left to be matched with if I do that.

Sigh.  I have always hated dating.  It is such a tentative state to be in.

What was I thinking? Aargh! Has anyone seen Lucy lately? Is the doctor in?

I may need to have my head examined.

 

 

 

He Only Hit Me Once


Why do we women have to show our bruises, wear our broken bones, expose our deepest humiliations in the most public ways before our tales of abuse are believed?

Why is it so difficult for an Orrin Hatch and a John Kelly to believe us? So easy for them to take at face value the Rob Porters of the world, to believe there is automatic truth in what he says because he knows how to play the game and make himself look good to those who “count.”

Why didn’t these women “count” when they relayed their experiences to the FBI and  were found credible enough to deny Porter a security clearance? How could he have been given a job of such extraordinary importance handling highly sensitive national security materials without that clearance?

What is wrong with the Trump Administration and the Republican Party that it has become standard fare to hear loud affirmations for the moral integrity of wife beaters, pedophiles, sex abusers and serial adulterers?

This is just a slice of what is wrong with the state of our union right now.  We have a Presidency that is absolutely contemptuous of human beings viewed as “lessor” than the predominantly white males running it, in coordination with a GOP dominated by the same.

At what point are we saved from this farce about “family values,” “respect for life” and “patriotism for Mom and apple pie?”

When does Trumpism fade away and common decency return?

“Have It Your Way”

“What do you have to offer Me that isn’t already Mine? Stop trying to bless Me. You can’t bless Me! The greater blesses the lessor. Let Me bless you. Only be submissive and let Me lead you daily.”  (From “The Prayer Warrior’s Ultimate Handbook”)

Wow, did I need to hear that today. For two days I have been teary-eyed and weary of heart that the sex trafficking event put on by our ministry was not better attended.  I know those who did come were sent by God.  I know those who attended were the ones God thought most needed to hear the message.

But my woe was about feeling like I failed the ministry and those who may fall victim to the sex trafficked life.  I have been in “savior” mode, believing so strongly that if enough people heard and cared, someone, somewhere, would be saved by it.

But that is not my job, to be a “savior.” That was Christ’s job, and his is the only sacrifice that truly counts.

To want to be lauded for doing great things on behalf of God is not the “Little Way” of St. Therese.  Nor is it doing “small things with great love” as St. Mother Teresa has said.

Instead I have been trying to do things Saul’s way, to use my own gifts and talents in the manner I deem important, rather than to “wait upon the Lord.”  I tried to force something to meet a deadline rather than let God’s will be done. Hence the bitterness of my tears.  Everything seems bitter when we don’t have it “our way,” doesn’t it?

”Have it your way.” That’s the world’s message, isn’t it? But like having “alternative facts,” it doesn’t help you live a true life, does it? And while it may be temporarily filling, the hunger always comes back.  While the “alternative” reality may be temporarily soothing, new realities come crashing in all the time, don’t they, upending one’s sense of comfort and complacency.

God’s Word, however, never changes.  Nor does his desire to offer endless grace and mercy, no matter how many times we do face plants trying to work our own will.

It is not just that works without faith are meaningless.  It is that works not led by Spirit are only work and nothing else.

All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it. (1 Corinthians 9:23)

Sex Trafficking of Teens: How To Spot It, How To Stop It

Suppose you and the dedicated volunteers you worked with spent two months working incredibly hard on putting together and advertising an important forum that affected teens and hardly anyone in the community bothered to show up?

Can you imagine it leaving you deflated, wondering what you did wrong, wondering why God didn’t better grace your efforts?

This is how I feel today, the questions I am asking, when only a handful of people came out to hear presentations on the dangers of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) that one of my ministries at Church sponsored last evening

The few dozen of the general public attended in response to the press releases that were written and published.

But the people I expected to care the most didn’t.  No one from other church youth groups, law enforcement, the court system or the public schools administration could be bothered.  Not after dozens and dozens of e-mails sent, personal letters sent, calls made and posters and fliers hand-delivered to Churches, schools, youth organizations, police departments.

Meanwhile, only one parent cared enough to bring her teen daughters to hear how they can recognize when they are being targeted by a trafficking predator.

So I am turning to my blog to share the facts so many couldn’t be bothered to hear last night:

  1. The domestic trafficking of minors is overtaking drug trafficking as the largest source of crime in our country.  Drug sales are a one-time interaction. Teens can be trafficked for sex over and over and over again.
  2. In the Atlanta metro area, the average trafficker earns $33,000 per week. And Atlanta is among the top 14 cities for trafficking because of our international airport.
  3. 76 % of trafficked teens are first contacted via the Internet and other social media. In the age of direct messaging, Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat, teen girls and boys are one click away from a predator.
  4. Once they are trafficked, the average life expectancy for a trafficked teen is a mere 7 years. The average age of a trafficked teen is between 14-15.  That means that if trafficked, that child will likely die before reaching 22 years of age. The rest of their life time – gone, for the sake of adult pleasure and greed.
  5. Only 1% – or one in one hundred – domestic teens that are trafficked will ever be rescued from that life.  That means 99 out of 100 parents will never know what happened to their children. They will never hug them again.  They may never see them again, not even in death. Those children will simply be -vanished – into a life where they are used and abused over and over again. For adult pleasure. For adult greed.

For those thinking it can’t happen here – think again.  It happens daily in our subdivisions that we think are so safe and secure.  It happens on the Internet and other social media.  It happens in the malls, even when you drop your teens in groups and you think they are safe in numbers.  They aren’t.  It happens.

Please take the time to educate yourself and any teens in your orbit about this issue.  By the grace of God, it will be knowledge you need never use.  But by the grace of God, a teen might be saved because he or she can spot the signs and safely avoid falling prey to seven years of sexual servitude before they die.

Please visit the websites for Georgia Cares, the state agency tasked with this issue, or Rescuing Hope, a non-profit dedicated to education on this subject.

Please take the time.  It matters.  More importantly, it may matter for a teen you dearly love.

 

Whispering

I need to learn to whisper Jesus’ name.

I am more likely to shout it in moments of fear and frustration. But that is not inviting his presence. And it is his presence I need to live a balanced, purposeful life.

I am struggling right now with that purpose. I have my fingers into too many ministerial pies. Then there is my writing, the gift I thought God gave me to use to his glory.

Instead I seem to be wasting it on Donald Trump and what movie I watched on TCM last night. While it is relevant to write about Trump, especially since I see him as a true threat to our nation, and fun to write about movies, because I love them, what purpose is there to it? Who is being moved by what I do?

I write by feeling, by whatever most moves in that moment and then hope others will be moved by it too. I am not sure they are. But then again, I am not sure they aren’t.

I have never been sure of much of anything in life.  That’s why it has felt at times like both a roller coaster and a merry-go-round: all ups and downs and round abouts that never take you anyplace but where you started from.

I need to learn to get off the ride at a new point, and to whisper “Jesus” as I do.

 

 

Marriage, Movies and Lies

As is my wont when I am stressed out, I run away into another landscape unfamiliar to my own.

In other words, I watch movies, especially on TCM if I can find a real classic or any other channel where escapism from what is going on around me can be found.

Last night at 2 a.m. it was re-watching Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Tonight it was Charles Boyer in a French, sub-titled period piece called “The Earrings of Madame de.”  I had neither heard of nor seen the latter before, but Ben Mankiewicz assured me in his pre-movie set-up that the director of this 1953 period drama was considered the greatest European director of the time – and that the director of this year’s Oscar nominated “Phantom Thread” with Daniel Day-Lewis was a big fan of the French director whose name was obscure to me – I had to give it a go.

(While I love movies, I am not a film buff in the sense of knowing all the production details; it is the stories and the characters that draw me.)

Albee’s story, of course, is raw and rough.  The husband and wife played by Burton and Taylor are mean, spiteful to one another, demeaning of others, physically abusive and only come alive with alcohol coursing in their veins.

The Boyer movie was all perfectly groomed manners and 19th century French ball rooms, with discrete flirtations and seductions, and pretended civilized discourse between spouses.

What connected the movies was that in both cases, what was happening on the surface of the marriages was not what lay at the heart of them.  There were deeper secrets there that the spouses could not name aloud but played their way into a final confrontation with them through gamesmanship and multiple layers of lies woven into stories that were told to themselves and others.

It is watching the games play out and waiting for their revelation that is fascinating.  In the case of Albee’s work, the end of the lies brings the husband and wife to a new reality of their marriage.  We are left to wonder if they will cope with it any better than they have with the elaborately concocted lie of it they lived for so long.

In the Boyer movie, the diamond earrings that are the centerpiece of the drama – being sold and re-bought many times over by Madame de ‘s husband – end up on a literal altar as the final gift of a woman whose heart gives out when reality is forced on her.  One is left to wonder if Boyer’s General re-bought the earrings for a fourth and final time, when he had said “no more” after the third.

Why we all have so much trouble with the truth is a universal issue.  We look for its pure core like we look for the North Star to guide us.  Except there are so many stars in the sky, I am never sure which one it is.  So then I turn within and try to be still and listen for God’s voice.  Too often there is only silence.

Since human history – in Biblical terms – started with lies of a husband and wife in the Garden of Eden, that this continues to be the topic of movie themes shouldn’t surprise.  The lies we tell ourselves are as old as time.  The truth we seek much more elusive.

 

Lara Trump Called Me a Dummy

Am I missing something?

Lara Trump seems to think so.  According to her recent appearance on Fox News, despite my degree in journalism, six years covering such subjects as nuclear energy, big agriculture and education; despite my six years in public relations for what was then the nation’s largest utility, and all the years after working in other corporate environments; I am too stupid to know my own mind.

I guess I should just kiss off all those MBA and Master’s in Administration and Organizational Management classes I took, along with my MENSA card.

According to this Trump savant, I – who marched in the Women’s Movement this weekend in my heart because my body doesn’t let me – don’t know what I am doing or why I am in opposition to the Trump administration.

News flash:  I know every reason I object to what I consider an abominable threat to our Republic and democratic ideals.  I was a reliable GOP voter at the time Trump announced (You’re welcome, Mitt Romney.  Sorry Jeb.).

The minute Trump opened his mouth and declared a racist untruth I was a #NeverTrumper who moved firmly into Democratic territory when he won the nomination and the more often he opened his mouth and said something ghastly, garish and sometimes ghoulish.

It was a quick transition for me.

I like to believe I was a “compassionate” Republican.  I hate war, want to help those who need it and have a secure, stable economy and quality educational opportunities which can still work to lift people out of poverty, as they used to do.

However, I don’t believe we can look to the past to make that happen.  Technology is already so far ahead of us, it makes my head spin.  We have always been a land of innovation – the isolationists among us could never contain the entrepreneurial spirit of this nation’s business owners.

So no, it galls me to stand by and watch Justin Trudeau proceed and other nations proceed with the Trans Pacific Partnership while America “goes it alone.”  To think this is going to help American workers or consumers is laughable.  It is going to make jobs disappear into the 11 other countries participating and prices go down in their economies – ours will only go up.

Just as will our economy with regard to solar technology and washing machines.  No I don’t know much about solar energy except it has been viable for a while now and should be installed on all newly built housing and retrofitted to existing homes, with excess power sold back to the grid to avoid the high cost of building plant which is passed on to consumers in their bills.

But washing machines!  Well, let me tell you, they are EXPENSIVE already, especially the HE (high efficiency) type.  Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t know this.  I don’t even know if Melania or Ivanka do.  But you can bet their maids know.  Thanks, Mr. President, for making it even more expensive than the $1,300 I paid in 2013 for my machine the next time I have to purchase one.

I also don’t get how deporting anywhere from 700,000-850,000 DREAMers who have grown up in the United States, were educated in the United States, attend college and work in the United States, is going to make us a better country.  For that matter, how does deporting anyone who has lived here for a very long time, committed no criminal acts and contributes to the economy make us any better or worse off than we already are?  The only thing it will do is cause disruption in the economy, cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money to force them to leave and make us look very, very bad on the world stage.

So yes, Lara Trump, I know the economic reasons I oppose Donald Trump.  I know the environmental reasons I do not support him.  More importantly, I know the moral ones.

As a Catholic, do I believe life begins at conception?  Yes, I do.  But as a citizen, I have always recognized the law that is Roe v. Wade and the right of other women to make different choices on a legally recognized basis.  So no matter my personal moral stance on this issue, it is not my place to shame those who choose it.  It is my responsibility to spend time in prayer on this issue, to answer any questions put to me about it, and to pray for Jesus to have mercy and grace on ANYONE who makes a bad choice in their lives about ANYTHING.

Are abortion statistics much too high?  Yes, they are.  So are deaths from hand guns, semi-automatic weapons and war.  So are deaths from lack of nutrition, adequate medical care, climate change and migration.

If life is to be honored on its spectrum of life to natural death, then any type of death that does not fit that spectrum is a moral wrong.

Do I believe Trump cares for the unborn?  Since he doesn’t care for the living, it is very difficult for me to imagine him having that kind of faith and respect.  Given what he allegedly did to his wife and new born son with a porn star shortly after his son’s birth, to say Trump is a man of “family values” is laughable.

But I see he is a useful –if unpredictable-idiot in the game being waged between the Congress, the Court and those in his Administration who would see America as a land inhabited only by Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky and Dave, where everyone says “aw shucks” and “gee Dad,” while the milk man still delivers every day and the paper boy will reliably throw the daily news into the bushes.  It is a beautiful idyll.  The fact it never existed is beside the point to those who have purchased Steve Bannon’s vision of Trumpism.

Our country has always had a messy history that we have tried to gloss over with our fables about our leaders, how we acquired our 50 states, an antebellum lifestyle that was so graceful and refined, and a 20s that roared and a 50s that the ad men sold as a time of peace, prosperity and cigarettes for all.  We have always had people who have insisted we return to those “greater” times and putting “America first.”

But the truth is deeper, messier and more intricate than all of that.  You have to read dozens and dozens of books – not just one – to find it in all its shades, characters and layers.  You have to accept it was built on enslaving others, compromising on that issue and then living as a divided country even as one President sought to eradicate that demarcating line that can still be seen on history’s paper despite the attempts at erasure.

It is both awe-inspiring and miraculous that our more than 200 years of experiment with our system of government has survived this long.

I just want to make sure it survives Donald Trump.

Update on DACA

I am hearing a new set of numbers on DACA recipients. It seems to range from 670,000 to the 880,000 I posted earlier. Just trying to be accurate. Also, please note that to qualify for DACA, you can have NO criminal record. This is contrary to GOP/Trump ads about “illegal aliens” and “criminality.”

The Deal that Might Kill DREAMers

Pardon me if I am skeptical about Mitch McConnell’s word with regard to DACA as the Democrats have agreed to terms to end the short government shutdown.

It is not McConnell’s words I distrust as much as I do his tactics.  Democrats need to remember this is the man who successfully denied Merrick Garland the Senate confirmation hearings to which he was entitled when President Barak Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court. He did it because McConnell knew if hearings were held, the GOP had no good reason to deny Garland the seat.

If McConnell can find a way to outmaneuver what he promised by February 8th, he will.  The GOP, as far as I can tell, does not traffic in good faith.

Donald Trump doesn’t traffic in common sense or logic.  He flips this way and flops that way because at core, he has no foundational principles or moral underpinnings.  He doesn’t want to own failure, so he refuses to lead.  That’s not what Presidents do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand those in the GOP that want to penalize 880,000 young people brought to this country before they were 18 years of age and old enough to make their own decisions.  They have been raised here.  They have been educated here.  They have grown up with the sons and daughters of the very people that would put them out of the country.  They played sports with them.  Attended Church with them.

Not only are many of them now university educated, they hold good jobs that are a benefit to this country and the companies that employee them.  To kick them out is to give away a “brain trust” that we have nurtured.

The fact that it is morally wrong isn’t an argument I can muster – even though it is – because morality in no way plays into the decision making process of the Trump Administration.

This is because while Trump himself may have an unclear agenda – other than he wants his Wall – there are those close to him who hold particularly odious ideology on immigration issues.  Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton and others are ruling Trump right now.  Because God knows the man is incapable of ruling his own impulses and controlling himself.

In a “Washington Post” article, Miller is quoted as saying he is just helping Trump follow what is at the bottom of his heart on immigration.  If that is the case, then Trump lied when he said he had sympathy for DREAMers.  It also means he lied when he said he was “the least racist person” one could meet.

How else can you explain deporting DREAMers when 90% of America wants them to stay?

It means that – like Stephen Miller – Donald Trump believes in White Superiority.

Given how he lately described African nations and the country of Haiti, perhaps Miller’s is the right assessment after all.

If that is true, then Democrats will have let DREAMers down, and I will be heart sore.  We will have to wait for February 8th to find out.