Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guns, Gays, Gods

What happened in Orlando last weekend was an act of hate and terror. I've been trying all week to stay out of the fray. Not because I don't care, but because I care too much. This tragedy, and the (social) media response, has gutted me on so many levels. As a sister, friend, and ally to the LGBT community. As a wife to the son of Muslim immigrants from Iran. As a mother, who sends her children to school every day - schools that should be safe havens for children to play and grow, that now hold active shooter/shelter-in-place drills every month. As a mother who cannot imagine getting a text from her 19-year-old son, "Mommy, I'm gonna die." As a citizen of the United States of America, a country I thought stood for liberty and justice for all. As a human f$%&ing being.

Photo cred to my little bro - from the vigil for the Orlando victims in the Castro.
Forty-nine innocent lives snuffed out. This man shot up a church on Sunday. It's gut-wrenching, wicked, wretched.

The thing is, once I commit emotional bandwidth to something, I'm all in. All my chips are on the table. I feel it to my core. It seeps into my every waking thought, into my dreams. Or rather, nightmares. Last night I had three separate dreams where I got shot (two of them while I was watching Hamilton. WTF?!) There was a second that felt like minutes, between actually getting shot, and realizing that I was going to die. There was a minute that felt like a lifetime, when I realized what that would mean to my family, my husband, my children. I cry in the shower. I feel over-caffeinated and sweaty and fainty and vaguely nauseous. I'm a woman possessed. I don't think this is normal. But it would be fine, except, I have a job and a family and stuff. The despair of this bird's-eye view is just too much sometimes. I need to zoom back in, to my little life, and focus on this tiny slice of goodness I can actually put my hands on.

My sister and brother got sucked into the vortex of hateful, ignorant Facebook swill after Orlando, but I tried not to get dragged down. This is the exact purpose of Facebook's "unfollow" and "hide" buttons. Spoiler alert: If we're "friends" on Facebook and you're writing pro-NRA, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT stuff, I have hidden your bullshit from my timeline. Because it literally drives me crazy. "Out of sight, out of mind," right?

But then I remembered how, in law school, we learned that silence is consent in a situation where a reasonable person would be expected to speak out. If this isn't that situation, I don't know what is.

Look, I've already written about my feelings on guns. If you're interested, you can read it here. Just a few thoughts to add.

To the people that say "If the Orlando shooter doesn't represent all Muslims, then why does he represent all gun owners?"

First and foremost. THE GUY WAS AMERICAN. He was not "Born in Afghan," as Agent Orange claims. He was born in New York. Yes, his parents were from Afghanistan. Yes, he was (probably) Muslim. Yes, he (apparently) sympathized with ISIS. But I hate to break it to you, this terrorist was free-range, organic, and home-grown, as are the majority of them. Are you, like He Who Shall Remain Nameless, honestly suggesting that we should round up millions of people, immigrants and natives alike, based solely their religion and beliefs? Alright, Herr Fuhrer, how's that gonna work? People say "Oh, the Oompa-Loompa-to-Hitler" metaphor is messy and unfair. I'm sorry but it's not even a metaphor at this point. Are you actually listening to the words coming out of this guy's mouth???

Subsection 1(a): How come no one calls it terrorism when it's white guys doing it?

Second, correct me if I'm wrong... Maybe I'm missing part of the narrative... But, is anyone saying ALL guns and ALL gun owners are to blame, and that the only solution is rounding up EVERY gun in America and melting them into a lake of fire? Because I know I'm not saying this, and I haven't heard anyone else say it either. That's why it's called gun control, not "eradicate all firearms from the face of the earth." I mean, don't get me wrong, it's 2016 and the Internet is basically an all-you-can-eat buffet of nuts and cheeseballs. I'm sure there are people advocating a total ban on everything from AR-15s to BB guns. But they're just as clueless as their "Every American has a constitutional right to a grenade launcher" counterparts on the far right.

Who knows, maybe these nutty hippies have fallen prey to my tactical operations designed to protect me from rage-inducing hogwash on Facebook. From what I have read off Facebook, though, I believe the general sentiment is for smarter gun legislation, not an out-and-out ban on guns. This includes closing the loopholes on background checks to help ensure criminals, people with mental health issues, people with a history of domestic violence, or, gee, I dunno, people that are on the FBI terrorist watch list, don't have easy access to guns. Yes, I understand giving the government the power to say who has access to guns is scary. So is the fact of mass shootings every third Tuesday. We're smarter than we look. I'm certain we can figure something out.

"Gun control" would also include increased enforcement of existing gun laws. Improved communication between branches of law enforcement. Education and safety. Increased access to mental health care. Smart technology that would, for example, help prevent children from shooting themselves and others. Risk of gun death is twice as likely for those with guns in their homes. There has to be a way to get at the purpose you are trying to serve, while minimizing the collateral damage. Is this SO unreasonable and insane?

"Gun control" should also, just an idea, include a ban on military grade assault weapons.

Look, even Cheeto Jesus agrees:

Why does he need to meet with the NRA to pursue gun legislation? Oh, wait, I know, because the NRA has Congress in its pocket.
See also, "NRA Leader Warns of Rising Cost of Senators."

Will "gun control" eliminate gun deaths in the U.S.? Not even close. Will it curb mass public shootings, or at least, the death tolls therefrom? Evidence indicates yes.

Assault rifles like the one used in Orlando are a "common element" of mass shootings. The "vast majority" of these weapons were obtained legally.
"Comes with hand-crocheted shoulder-stock muffler." How cute.

I mean, they're called assault weapons for God's sake. These are weapons designed to kill as quickly and efficiently as possible. These are weapons of war. These are weapons that have no business in the hands of civilians. You don't need a "Black Mamba" to defend your homestead or sack a twelve-point buck (I'm talking about the semi-automatic weapon, not Kobe Bryant).

My favorite commentary on gun control so far is from Sarah Silverman:

"The right to bear arms refers to muskets. But if that shit ever goes electric, rethink & modify accordingly, obvs." - Thomas Jefferson.

Third, there's the whole Muslim = Terrorist trope. NOPE. Just no. Even George W. Bush knew better than to equate the Taliban and Al Qaeda et al with the greater Muslim faith.

There are over 1.6 billion Muslims on Earth (23% of the population).  Muslims around the world have an overwhelmingly negative view of ISIS. Best guestimates of the number of jihadist militants in the world is around 106,000 (though it is admittedly growing. Then again so is support for Donald Trump, so, who are we to judge?) My trusty cellphone calculator tells me that's .0066%. Other reliable sources estimate that less than one percent of the world's Muslim population is "at risk of becoming radicalized." I'll take those odds if the alternative is condemning a full quarter of the Earth's population based solely on the God that they worship.

Also? "Radical Islamic Terrorism is the problem?" No. Radical Islamic Terrorism is A problem. Radical Christian Terrorism or Any-Other-Ism is also A problem. The fact that untrained civilians can buy military-grade killing machines is A problem. Skeevy White Dudes with a perceived grievance, anger management issues, and easy access to semi-automatic weapons are A Problem.

Let me break it down for you. ISIS is to Muslims what "People on the FBI watch list for suspected terrorist ties with AR-15s" are to responsible gun owners.

Next (damn, I should've made a spreadsheet). There's the whole concealed-carry, "safe = armed" argument, which I've addressed before. The latest iteration goes something like, "I for one refuse to die in a blubbering heap on my knees. If I go, it's gonna be with guns blazing."

I understand wanting to protect yourself, your children, your family. That's a very primal desire. Admittedly, I used to think that the whole "Oh we have to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government" thing was a bunch of tin-foil-hat crap, but now that The Hitler of Oz is one step away from the White House, I'm thinking it's not so crazy after all. I mean, I personally can't even be trusted around preschool scissors, but I get where you're coming from.


1) You understand that by having that right, you are also giving that right to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet on the street? Do you trust Tom, Dick, and Harriet in an active shooter situation if your son, daughter, mother, or father's life were on the line? What about if Tom, Dick, or Harriet is in a classroom, at an airport, or on a date with your child, would you trust them with a concealed weapon then? What if Brock Turner had a gun? And again, my fallback hypothetical: Imagine a bunch of drunk "good guys with guns" at a Raiders or Eagles game (Or, God forbid, a Raiders v Eagles game ;))

2) Defending your homestead or overthrowing the government is not the same as an active shooter situation. The myth that these good guys and gals with guns will prevent or minimize the impact of active shooter situations is just that. See, e.g., data regarding active shooter situations in general, and effectiveness of the "good guy with a gun" response in particular. Also note that unarmed civilians have stopped more mass shootings than armed ones.

Okay. Last point. This was a hate crime. By its very definition. Referring to it as such is no more political or "PC" than Webster's dictionary.

What is not politically correct, or, in my book, acceptable behavior by a member of the human race, is the drivel spewed by this Baptist "pastor" in Sacramento: "Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um no, I think that's great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn't die." This man makes me sick to my stomach. Listen up: If your religion peddles hate speech as the word of God, you need a new religion. (I think this last verse is from one of the lesser known parts of the Bible, the Book of Obvious.)

This is a "Man of God?" Fuck this guy. He is celebrating mass murder. He wishes more innocents had been killed. Kind of like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on The Feminists and The Gays. These "Christians" are glorifying the loss of human life, calling it divine intervention. News flash: The religion of Islam hasn't cornered the market on crackpots who pervert an overwhelmingly peaceful religion for their own hateful agenda. 

I can't even begin to unpack this bullshit. Suffice it to say, if this is what God stands for? I do not have FOMO.

God had ten commandments. I only have one: Don't be a dick.

(Editor's note: Several religious friends and family members have denounced the hateful words of this small, ignorant man and others like him. I've been assured that they don't speak for all Christians. And I really appreciate hearing that from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The thing is, it's a given. In Christianity, a few bad apples don't spoil the bunch. A quick perusal of Twitter and the Internet reveals quite a lot of bad apples, actually. But for some reason the other 2 billion Christians aren't assumed guilty by association.)

UGH YOU GUYS. Donald Trump and #AskTheGays
Please note, if and when I ever write "The Gays," Sarcasm Font is implied.
As my friend X said, "Everything is fucked except burritos." How and why have so many Americans become allergic to reason? Why does everything have to be dumbed down to a misleading meme or a sensational soundbite or a click-bait headline? Why do we need our "news" cut into tiny bite-sized pieces, chewed up, and regurgitated to us (with a healthy dose of spit) like baby birds? America reminds me of my children - impatient, irrational, demanding, prone to whining and tantrums, with the attention span of a gnat. Every day I'm like, why am I cutting your grapes and peeling your oranges? Why am I helping you with your shoes? THIS IS WHY VELCRO WAS INVENTED!

So then I take a stand and say "Dress yourselves, feed yourselves, clean up after yourselves, I'm not your maid," (or, in this case, your intellectual butler). "This hurts me more than it hurts you. Trust me." But then there's a lot of crying and yelling and throwing things and then the food gets spilled and the socks are on backwards and they can't walk because IT FEELS FUNNY and I'm like, UGH, FINE, give me the knife and be thankful I'm cutting your dino nuggets into sixteenths and not stabbing myself in the eye with it. Aaaand we're back to our regularly scheduled programming of treating everyone like big, dumb babies. The problem with spoiling children, and, apparently, America, is that, eventually, they grow up into life-sized A-holes and those are a lot harder to deal with than the pint-sized kind.

Our nation's reaction to tragedy is rather child-like as well. When my kids are sad, mad, or scared, they lash out. They say things they don't mean. They're like baby scorpions, they haven't learned to control their venom. You know what doesn't calm them down? Facts. Rational discussion. "Getting angry on them" (as my son likes to say). You know what does work? Hugs. Hugs and snacks. Wait until everyone is well-fed and in a love-coma and THEN talk it out. See? Much better.

Anyway. To my LGBT family and friends who are literally afraid for their lives as they head out to celebrate Pride. To my Muslim family and friends being shamed and insulted for their beliefs. To anyone else drowning in a deep dark pool of despair. I see you there. I'm here for you. I will not silently condone the hate. I will speak up. I will bear witness to your pain. I will hold your hand between my sweaty palms in times of fear. Know that you are valued. Know that you are respected. Know that you are loved. Know that I always have hugs and snacks on hand. And none of them are made with kale. Someone famous once said something like, "Never underestimate the power of a lot of little things done well." I say never underestimate the power of a lot of little things done with love.

Okay, me and the Internet are taking a break now. Too stressful. Catch you next week, or on November 9th, maybe.

PS, I'm probably on the FBI's watchlist after all the "research" I did for this post, but don't worry, I can still buy a semi-automatic weapon.

On that note, since Americans love fake news:

Study: Americans Safe from Gun Violence Except in Schools, Malls, Airports, Movie Theatres, Worlplaces, Streets, Own Homes - Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker.

"'No Way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." - The Onion.

Or if you're feeling frisky and want to flirt with facts-

Interesting/disturbing infographics from The Washington Post on U.S. mass shootings.

And this. Samantha Bee is my spirit animal. So good. "We can't, constitutionally, get rid of all guns. But can't we get semi-automatic assault rifles out of the hands of civilians? 'Sam Bee wants to take your guns away.' 'Yes! The ones that mow down a room full of people in seconds? Yes, I do want to take those guns away! These high-capacity penis substitutes are a shitty choice for hunting, and home protection, but perfect for portable mayhem."

 (You should also watch her thing on how easy it is to get a gun. And Seth Meyers' bit on Gun Control.)

ALL THE YESSES to this video by former undercover CIA agent Amaryllis Fox. This is the best thing I've seen in a while. I started to quote her but then I found myself basically transcribing the whole five minute video. You just gotta watch it. I feel like I need to write on the chalkboard 100 times, "I will not view Donald Trump as a subhuman psychopath. I will not view Donald Trump as a subhuman psychopath...."


  1. Thanks for being a voice of reason on the crazy train that the Internet has become this week. On most days I don't know wtf to think about many of the things happening right now, but reading things like this give me hope that America isn't lost just yet.

    1. Thank you! There's still hope! And burritos!

  2. A righteous rant. All I will add is a tidbit to your concealed carry point. While in the military, I received specialized training in hostage situations. Then they gave us pellet guns and eye protection so we could practice (without killing one another). Then we moved through buildings filled with "civilian" and "bad guy" targets that jumped up in random places at random intervals. My team of specially trained Army Rangers who had just received intense training in hostage situations "killed" everything that moved in the first encounters. Guy with a shotgun jumps up? Two to the head and one to the body. Guy with a pistol peeks around a corner? Two to the head, one to the body. Lady with a baby steps through a doorway? Two to the head... WTF?

    Active shooter situation ain't like the movies. The bad guys aren't usually wearing uniforms. There are distracting sights and sounds. They are high stress and confusing. Think "fog of war".

    Finally, if there are two or more "good guys with guns" at the same scene, do they have a secret handshake or something so that they don't kill one another?

    We need to get past the hero fantasy that concealed carry solves all problems. It may have limited application for well trained individuals, but they shouldn't be given out like AOL trial diskettes (<= dated reference)