Friday, December 14, 2012

Unfriendly fire - the apocalypse at Sandy Hook

"If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns."

This morning 27 people including 20 children were killed when a gunman armed with a Glock and a Sig Sauer -- both semi-automatic pistols -- opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

And in the immediate aftermath of this gut-wrenching tragedy, the internet predictably has been flooded with vitriolic debate by individuals on both sides of the issue of gun control versus the inalienable right to bear firearms.

It's no secret where I stand on this controversy.

When the framers of the Second Amendment wrote that "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" I'm quite certain that they didn't envision semi-automatic weapons in the hands of private citizens.

Arguably, giving logical grammatical meaning to the preamble of the Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms exists only for individuals for the purpose of serving in the militia.

Notwithstanding logic and grammar, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected to service in a militia, and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

Which begs the question, are semi-automatic weapons -- which load a new round from a magazine into a gun's chamber allowing another shot to be fired as soon as the trigger is pulled again -- necessary or appropriate for self-defense within the home or for other traditionally lawful purposes. And even assuming they are, what controls, if any, should be in place to prevent the use of firearms for traditionally unlawful purposes.

It is fact that 11 of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. Of the 11, five have happened between 2007 and today. The United States also is among the top three countries (along with Mexico and Estonia) in assault deaths per capita -- by a large margin.

Moreover, since 1982 there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the USA. In the interest of fairness, in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally. But it is also fact that more guns means more murders. Across the United States, wherever there are more guns, people are at higher risk for firearm homicides. Among developed countries, wherever guns are more available there are more homicides.

Conversely, firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation.

We've heard the arguments. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. In 2011 there were 34,485 motor vehicle traffic deaths and 31,347 firearm deaths, should we restrict car ownership? Well yes, we should and do, and furthermore, what are the statistics on car ownership as compared to gun ownership? At least car ownership numbers can be quantified, gun ownership statistics not so much.

What has been quantified is that a gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide, 7 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault or homicide, and 4 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting death or injury than to be used in a self-defense shooting.

Would banning assault weapons, requiring trigger locks, and mandating safe storage requirements for guns prevent tragedies like today's massacre at Sandy Hook? Would it have stopped Adam Lanza -- who suffered from a personality disorder -- from opening fire on a bunch of kids age 10 and under?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Guns can be sold in the United States without a background check to screen out criminals or the mentally ill. Although sales from federal firearm licensees require a background check, sales between individuals, under federal law, do not.

I don't know about you, but I for one would rather err on the safe side.

While our hearts go out to the families of the victims in Newton today, we should take a moment to consider the eight children and teenage casualties of gunfire every single day in America.

Need more sobering facts?

More than one million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.

Among 23 high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States.

And perhaps the saddest fact of all: Mass shootings historically have not affected public opinion about the right to of citizens to bear arms, which remains slightly skewed in favor of gun rights as opposed to gun control.

Don't shoot me. I'm only the messenger.

"Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers
Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family
Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system
Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad
Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
Maybe it's taxes, big business
Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads
Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks
Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing
If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns
I'd take away the guns, I'd take away the guns."

Cheryl Wheeler, If It Were Up to Me, 1997

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The house of cards gets shuffled

"As far from this place as a girl gets to run, when her reasons to stay have worn thin."

So, yeah. I was going to get back to my regularly scheduled blogging, starting with the bead that went missing. And the sequel, the other bead that went missing.

And once again, life got in the way, and not in a good way again. In mid-November I had a lampwork class to attend at the Dallas Craft Guild (an awesome venue if you have a chance to take a lampwork class there). The added attraction was getting to see my grandson again.

I drove up on a Friday, timed to arrive about the time my daughter gets home from work and from picking up the baby from the babysitter. That night, I babysat so that my daughter and her husband could have a date night. I fed and bathed the baby and had some bonding time. The next day I headed to my class, 30 miles away.

Class was great and after we finished up for the day I went out for sushi with the teacher and a few of my classmates. On the way back to my daughter's house, I picked up her and the baby from a party place where they were celebrating her husband's sister's husband's birthday. We went home, leaving her husband to party on as they say.

Sunday it was back to class, with the intention of making the four hour drive home directly after the class ended. We took a break for a seafood lunch and went back for the last afternoon. We had just finished the first after-lunch bead demo and practice when I heard my cell phone jamming.

It's funny how you can tell instantly from a voice when something is very wrong (and I hadn't even noticed the 15 missed calls). "Mom" was all I heard when I said, "what's wrong, is the baby OK?" I wasn't prepared for what came next.

"Jason is leaving me," my daughter said.

"Jason's not leaving you," was what I said. "Did you have a fight? Let me speak to him."

"No, he's leaving, he's packing his clothes and he's leaving," she said. "Can you come?"

"What happened?" I said, bewildered.

"I can't tell you on the phone. Can you come? Please?"

So I gathered my stuff, paid the teacher for a bead I'd put on hold and some glass, made some dazed attempt at explanation, and drove the 30 miles back to my daughter's house. Where I found her curled on the couch. The baby was sleeping. He had turned five months old the day before.

"He doesn't love me," my daughter said. "He cheated on me."

I was clueless. I thought they were happy. In retrospect, I knew there had been changes in her husband's overall demeanor toward me. But they had a new baby. My daughter had a bad case of postpartum depression. The baby had a milk and soy intolerance that had just recently been diagnosed and he must have felt miserable because he had been so fussy and such a poor sleeper.

I had chalked up Jason's lack of usual warmth to all that. New baby, not getting enough sleep, coping with the postpartum depression.

This gets bad and hard to write about. He cheated on her while she was pregnant. With two different women. A fling followed by a two-month affair. She found out, he broke it off, she forgave him. She told no one. Because she didn't want us to think badly of him. Or to judge her for not kicking him to the curb.

But she was pregnant and it is totally understandable that she wouldn't want to end a marriage with childbirth just three months away. Not to mention that she loved him. And truly believed that someone could make a mistake and repent and mend fences.

She caught him again on that day, at least she found "inappropriate" instant messages with one of the women. She confronted him, asked him if he was "in or out" of the marriage. He said, "I guess I'm out." She told him to leave (thinking I imagine that he would grovel and beg to stay). He packed some things and left.

When I say the pain was crushing, it is not just a cliche. I have had my heart pummeled and I have endured the suffering. And it's also not just a cliche that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

My daughter has always been in love with love, and I say that in the most positive and proud way. She would never have stopped loving Jason, no matter how much he failed her in the way of romance, in the way of being a good provider, of being her emotional or intellectual equal. And I honestly thought that out of all of us, among all the failed marriages and remarriages, she would be the one to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary. And whatever comes after that.

Even now, she doesn't want me to think ill of Jason, her baby's father. And all I can think is, what a loser he is, with a crap job and no ambition and nothing to recommend him except what I had thought to be the truth, that he loved my daughter. Who is beautiful and smart and the best thing he had going for him, and he wasn't even smart enough to know that.

So there it is. It was horrible at first. I stayed the night and listened to her cry herself to sleep. But she got up the next morning and we took the baby to the pediatric gastroenterologist. And then we went back to her house and she changed clothes and took the baby to the babysitter and went to work. And I drove the 285 miles home.

The next week there were lots of heart-wrenching phone conversations, lots of tears, so much pain. But she is strong and strength returned, slowly, tenuously, and with lots of steps forward, backward, forward again. She didn't know how she was going to do this. But other people have done it and she would too. One day at a time. She didn't want to keep the house, their house. But then she thought about the baby's nursery and the yard for the dogs, and she did.

So now there is a lawyer and they have separated their bank accounts and talked through dividing up their worldly goods. They really have nothing. A home with no equity, car notes, some credit card debt. No savings. An IRA that I have funded for my daughter, arguably her separate property, legally probably not, but if he has a shred of moral fiber left, he won't fight her for any of it. He will walk away with nothing (save some furniture, a computer, his clothes, some kitchenware maybe) and he will pay her child support. Although 20% of very little income is very, very little child support.

But we will make it work. She isn't alone, she has me. I'll buy the damn house if I have to, if she wants to keep it, at least for now. She doesn't need to worry about moving right now. Jason temporarily moved back (into the spare bedroom) and has been sharing nightly parenting responsibilities. But she is ready to move forward. As she said to me yesterday, she wants him out, so that she can figure out her "new normal."

And I'm back to making beads and more or less my old normal. Including selling another bead that I just couldn't find. Even though I keep my online inventory separate from my show inventory and beads don't usually self-destruct. So I probably have a tray or dish of beads stashed somewhere and if I can find the energy I should cross check what I can put my hands on with what I have listed for sale.

The buyer was understanding, and selected an alternate bead at a discounted price. Not really a very interesting story after all.

I'm at another creative crossroads. After sixteen months of full time beadmaking, the well isn't exactly dry, but there are more days when I don't feel inspired or excited about what I'm doing. Shows this year were disappointing compared to past years, online sales were OK due mostly to a handful of devoted customers, what the future holds is uncertain.

But today was a good day. And I have some ideas for tomorrow.

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, right? One day at a time.

"One day it dawned I had run out of road
And out of reasons to run
Like a horse to the barn I was hell bent to go
As fast going back as I’d come

"Home, home was the song that I sang
As I pulled in just before dark
There was only a hook where your coat used to hang
That’s where I hung up my heart."

Mary Chapin Carpenter, "I Tried Going West" from the CD "Ashes and Roses"