Category: current events

Dear Gun Lobby: If You’d Like America to Ban Guns, Keep Doing What You’re Doing

I didn’t always support a ban on guns. If you had asked me six years ago what my stance on gun control was, I would have been mostly ambivalent. I would have repeated some studies I’d read, reiterated the idea that I don’t personally want a gun in my house, but expressed a “to each his or her own” sort of mentality. Six years ago is not that long ago.

But I write this blog every weekday, more or less, and so you can actually trace the path I’ve taken to arrive where I am today. Let me break it down for you, blow by blow:

  • March 28, 2012: Trayvon Martin is shot and killed, and I wrote this piece called A Ramble on Race, Violence, and Uninformed Opinions. It focused mainly on the specific details of the shooting. A relevant quote: “I don’t want to turn this conversation into a debate on gun control laws. At this point, I’m not even sure where I want this conversation going.” I wasn’t prepared to discuss gun control in connection with this event. It seemed overwhelming, and it seemed like other factors should be addressed first.
  • December 15, 2012: Sandy Hook happens. I write a piece called Gun Control, Mental Illness, Shootings, and Blame. I attribute the cause of the shooting to a number of factors, with gun control listed first. A relevant quote: “Getting guns should be difficult. It should require a background check. It should require registration. It should require a waiting period. There should be limits on the types of guns you can own, the types of bullets you can buy. The number of guns you can have. The same holds true for body armor. Register for its use. Keep a database of who owns what. If someone has a bunch of guns and body armor, I think we need to keep an eye on them. At least be aware they’re out there.” I didn’t call for an outright ban or anything. Just wanted laws to be tighter. It’s important to note that after this post, a friend contacted me on Facebook and went into detail about gun control laws and why they would have been ineffective. I read the article he linked to, and I respected it. It made sense. I backed off my immediate knee-jerk reaction.
  • January 15, 2014: An elderly man shoots another man dead in a movie theater over a fight about texting. I write a piece called (appropriately enough) Guns, Movie Theaters, and Texting. A relevant quote: “I think the Second Amendment has reached religious proportions with some proponents, and it’s held far too holy and sacrosanct.”
  • June 18, 2015: Nine people are shot to death in a South Carolina church, and I wrote a piece called Mass Shootings: Everyone Else’s Problem. A relevant quote: “People like to view this as someone else’s problem. If you personally love guns, then it’s too easy to defend your passion and blame the other factors. The same holds true for video games, mental health issues, news media, Hollywood depictions–you name it.” I also came to the conclusion: “What can I do personally? I can vote for politicians who will make solutions a priority. I can withhold my money from movies that present a skewed vision of reality. I can take a look at the role violence plays in the novels I write, and make sure I’m handling the material responsibly. I can speak out online when people try to dodge the blame or pin it on others. It’s not just someone else’s problem. It’s our problem. And anyone who doesn’t admit that is only proving my point.” I began to seriously consider what I could personally do to make a difference, first in myself, and perhaps in others.
  • October 6, 2015: 9 people are shot and killed at Umpqua Community College (on October 1), and I write a piece called My Current Feelings on Guns and the Pro-Gun Lobby. A relevant quote: “I get it, folks. You like guns. You’re certainly entitled to like them. But as I keep seeing these terrible events unfold, I’m steadily losing my ability to understand why people continue to believe their love of guns somehow trumps the right of people to go about their every day lives without fear of being shot to death by a random stranger.” And another: “

    The gun lobby has had its say, and it has been found wanting. It’s time to let the other side give it a shot. There’s a wide gap between “nothing we can do” and where we are now. You want to know why? Because we haven’t tried to do anything.”

  • June 13, 2016: 49 people are killed at an Orlando nightclub, and I write a piece called How Many Have to Die? A relevant quote: “Gun control for me is the single most important point of any political platform for me. Why? Because it’s hard to have a nation when we keep killing each other.”
  • October 4, 2017: 58 people are killed and 851 injured by a gunman at a Las Vegas concert (on October 1), and I write a piece called Unable to Kick a Gun Addiction. A relevant quote: “I encourage everyone to support Everytown for Gun Safety and other organizations working against the insanity of the NRA, an organization which still hasn’t made a statement about the Vegas shootings. At the very least, guns that are designed to kill people in mass quantities should be outlawed.”

Now 17 people have been shot and killed (including many students) in Parkland, and here I am again, reading the same tripe on Facebook from the same people. And here I am, writing another article. And once I post this, I anticipate some more people will come out and try to tell me I’m not seeing things the right way, or that I shouldn’t be close-minded.

But you know what? I’m not a close-minded person. You can read through through 7 separate posts tracing all the thought I’ve put into this issue. I’ve gone from being ambivalent to being hard-line against guns. I would vote to repeal the Second Amendment in a heartbeat, if the choice were between that and what we have now. Wouldn’t even blink an eye.

And each time another shooting happens, more people come to my side. More people are changed by their disgust by the utter lack of effort our politicians have put into trying to solve any of the causes at the root of mass shootings.

So if you want to avoid an outright ban on guns, please start supporting reasonable measures to restrict them. Because the approach you’re using now is making you far more enemies than friends.

And that’s all I can think of to say today.


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Don’t Feed the Trolls

I’m at a library meeting in Bangor today, so I’m short on time, but I wanted to hop on here to write a quick post about an article I saw yesterday. In a nutshell, Russian bots have been flooding Twitter in the aftermath of the school shooting yesterday, furiously Tweeting out pro-gun posts.

Even taking all the different arguments out of the equation, I hope we can all agree this is bad for our country. It’s clear Russia thinks it’s bad for us, since they’re certainly not doing it to try to help us out. (How despicable is it, that someone would use a horrific event to try and further their own designs? Though it’s such a hot button topic, many are doing it more subtly.)

What can we do to combat this? For one thing, I’d encourage people to share more than pithy articles. Engage in real debate, not generic articles that happen to fall in line with your preconceived notions. My stance on gun control remains firm, and I’ve written extensively on it. I personally feel it’s only a matter of time until the bulk of the country agrees with me, and we at least start trying some potential solutions, instead of merely wringing our hands and doing whatever the NRA wants us to.

But again, this isn’t about politics. (Not this post, at least.) It’s about recognizing that our country shouldn’t be so easily swayed that Russian bots can cause a serious problem to become even worse. Real discussion and discourse needs to take the place of retweets and shares.

Or maybe I’m just idealistic.


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When Your Friends are Accused of Sexual Harassment

Last night, a friend was discussing the recent #metoo movement into children’s literature. I’ve been following the #metoo movement off and on, and I’d recently seen a backlash start to emerge, as quite a few people were posting about how they couldn’t stand how much credence anonymous accusers were getting, and how we needed to slow things down instead of destroying careers over baseless accusations. Up until then, my general stance was that the #metoo movement is a positive, if difficult, process. Something each person needs to go through, to recognize sexist, harassing behavior and stop it.

But my friend mentioned a few names (just first names) of people who had been accused, and they were names I recognized. Not just recognized. They were people I was friends with. Good friends with. Myke. Dan(!) But it couldn’t be them, could it? I was sent off to scouring the internet, trying to figure out who accused whom, when, of what. And I was led to this post on School Library Journal, where the comments section was basically outing whomever people had seen harass other people.

I was relieved to see that the accusations against Dan Wells were later retracted, and he has blogged about his reaction here. But it wasn’t that way with all my friends. Myke Cole is a guy I know and like. I roomed with him at Boskone several years ago. I look forward to seeing him at cons, and we share the same agent. He was accused. He has since blogged about his response, and I really respect him for being as open about things as he has been. James Dashner has now lost his agent over the accusations. I don’t know him well, but he’s friends with many of my friends.

On the one hand, I can see why people are upset about the anonymous accusations. I can see why the “witch hunt mentality” discussions are arising. People gather in an anonymous forum, lob a general “So and so harassed me and is a creep” without any sort of explanation, and suddenly so and so is put on a blacklist, his career ruined?

Some of this is complicated by how broad “harassment” can be, and how its definition can vary from one person to another. In the worst cases in the news, it involved rape. Using position of power to force others to do humiliating things. In milder cases, it can be about inappropriate touches. Leers. Creepy flirting. To conflate all these behaviors and punish them all the same would be a mistake. Making an unwanted pass at someone at a party is very different from groping someone, which is also different from outright rape.

But on the other hand, I understand the need for anonymity in these cases. People in positions of power (or perceived positions of power) can have a real dampening effect on accusers. People who have been harassed fear to come forward, because there is a very real and very vicious backlash against many of the harassers. So they become victims twice, first when they are harassed, and then when they’re torn apart publicly by fans of the author they accuse.

So where do I come down in it all? Because I think that’s a very important question to ask yourself. Failing to engage in this discussion is the same as dismissing it, and I definitely believe dismissing it is a mistake. Have I ever done or said anything at a con or conference that came across as hurtful or harassing to others? I hope not. But I also realize I’ve got a mouth that sometimes says things without thinking. And that sometimes casual comments can cut other people. I look to Myke and Dan’s posts for cues on how I might be sure to be a part of the solution, not the problem. It’s very interesting to me that Dan responded with continued support of the #metoo movement, even after being falsely accused. People calling for an end to that movement might want to think about that response some.

But beyond all that, there’s something more I wanted to say to the people who are claiming “It could never be _______,” and then justifying their defense because of the number of interactions they’ve had with that person and never been harassed or seen harassment. Just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It doesn’t invalidate the experiences of those other people.

People are complex. They have good sides and bad sides. We have all done things in our lives that we should not have done. Serial harassers will out. An accuser comes forward, and they’re followed by more. Many voices join together, and action is taken. I’m reminded of the people who come forward after a serial killer is caught and express surprise. “I never would have thought it was him.”

It’s not like we walk around with scarlet letters across our foreheads, proclaiming our sins. We are good at showing one face to the world. The acceptable face. Hopefully we’re all trying to become better people, but it can be a rocky path.

In areas where there are clear victims, I believe those victims have a right to be heard, even anonymously. Especially if that’s the only format they’re comfortable coming forward. They shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed because they’re finally coming forward. If it’s a one off, hopefully it will catch someone before they become a serial harasser. If it’s the very rare case of a false accusation, it will do the same thing. Cause a person to reflect, change behavior if necessary, and move on. But if it’s a deeper problem, it needs to be stopped.

Those calling for an end to the #metoo movement should stop. You can’t choose to be out of this. Or rather, you can, but not without being complicit in what continues to happen.


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Closer to Mars

In case you missed it, yesterday SpaceX (the company owned by the Tesla car guy, Elon Musk) tested their biggest rocket yet: the Falcon Heavy. They live streamed the event, so you could watch it at home, and they stressed ahead of time that all sorts of things could go wrong. The rocket could blow up. It could malfunction. It could do nothing. Or it could work as planned.

If all went according to plan, three booster rockets would fire in tandem, launching a payload into an orbit that stretches beyond Mars. Then, after the rockets were done, they would turn around and fly back to where they launched, landing themselves upright, perfectly balanced.

It sounded way too cool to be possible. I’ve always loved the history of space exploration, and this sounded like something not to be missed. It ended up being spectacular. Here’s the whole launch:

And check out this picture perfect landing of two of the rockets. I was dumbfounded:

That’s just incredible. Yes, the third rocket didn’t manage the same feat. (It ran out of fuel for some reason.) But it’s still remarkable what they managed to achieve. The payload was delivered: Elon Musk’s personal Tesla is now rocketing to Mars, blasting David Bowie’s Space Oddity as it flies. You can see a live video of it here:

Musk has been talking for years of his plans to put a colony on Mars. It’s seemed like an outlandish goal to me, especially when he starts talking about his timeframe. Five years? A decade? But when I watched that launch and saw just what he’s capable of doing so far, it sees much more tangible. He’s got plans to send an enormous rocket carrying 100 passengers over to the red planet, where they’ll establish a foothold on Mars, and then grow from there.

He’s been talking about doing something on the moon as well, because why not.

I looked at pictures of his planned colony, and I actually thought about what it would be like to live there. Not in a fantasy/sci-fi vein, but in a real, “I wonder if they’d need a librarian” sort of mentality. (In case you’re worried, I decided I’d much rather live on Earth. I like my creature comforts too much.


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Why I Might Watch the State of the Union

I typically like to be as plugged in as possible to what’s happening in the world. (Well, as plugged in as *reasonable,* which is a different thing, I suppose.) I’ve watched the State of the Union for the last decade at least. And it’s irritated me most of the time. It’s full of a lot of promises that don’t end up doing anything, and I can’t stand the endless traditional applause.

But in the run up to today’s State of the Union, NPR has been playing a promotional piece, including sound bites from many of the past States of the Union. And listening to all those presidents say some of their famous lines has had me dreading Trump’s performance this evening. I felt like I should watch it, just because that’s what I’ve always done.

And then I asked myself: why? Why in the world would I want to subject myself to whatever he’s going to spout off about? There are three alternatives to how tonight will play out. In the first, Trump sticks to his teleprompter, feeding out lie after lie, distortion after misrepresentation, all while every Republican in the room interrupts him constantly with applause. It’s tailor made for Trump’s ego, and it’s sickening that Republicans in Congress will do it.

This is the version I’m really dreading, and it’s the one that’s most likely going to happen. And if this turns out to be the way things are playing out, I will most likely shut off the speech and go do something more productive, like jabbing myself in the eye with a fork.

But part of me (the naive part) is holding out hope that one of the two other possibilities happen. The least likely is that Republicans don’t put up with Trump’s garbage. That they don’t applaud him continually. That there are lines where Trump pauses for applause, and all he gets is a few hand claps. This is what *ought* to happen, and I wouldn’t want to miss it if it did. (A guy can dream, right?)

Then there’s the third possibility. That Trump, despite being drilled on the importance of staying on message and not going off the teleprompter, just can’t resist ad libbing. I think there’s actually a fairly good chance of this happening. Surrounded by all those sycophants, all of them pumping him up with more and more applause, I could easily see Trump reverting to one of his campaign-style rallies. He’s practiced that schtick often enough, after all. And if there’s one thing I learned playing an instrument, it’s that you perform in public the way you’ve practiced.

Trump has all those years of reality television under his belt. I think he thinks he’s still on a show. One where he can be the bad idiot at times, and all that really matters is the ratings at the end of each episode. Knowing he’s got such a big audience, I have a hard time thinking he’ll be able to resist throwing in a few zingers.

Which leads me to hope that some of the Republicans might come to their senses, though I won’t be holding my breath.

Really, the State of the Union under our former presidents has been dated and pompous, but not really disturbing. Under Trump? How can it look any other way than dictatorial?

People keep telling me to ignore what Trump says and focus on what he does, instead. On the policies he’s trying to pass. Folks, even if I agreed with all of his policies, the way he behaves would make me unable to support him as President. The end most definitely does not justify the means.

So anyway. We’ll see which version plays out, and we’ll see how long I last watching at 9pm this evening. How about you? Are you planning on watching? Why or why not?


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $6/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

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