Tag Archives: Gun control

On Empathy, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Empathy unites the hopes and dreams of humanity

by Andrea W. Doray

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

One Friday night recently, I was in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. I smelled the jasmine and heard the mourning doves of Syria. I savored lunch in Afghanistan. I felt buildings collapse in Mexico, and witnessed the capture of a terrorist in Iraq. I visited a hospital, an airport, and a high school hallway. I met siblings and parents and grandparents, and felt the loss of those who are gone.

Why was I so fortunate? Because I am mentoring writers in a fellowship from Picture Me Here, a storytelling program in Denver, Colorado, USA, for refugees, immigrants and others who have been displaced. The Picture Me Here program uses writing, audio, and video to help people explore their cultural and artistic identities through their stories of migration, memory, and place. That Friday evening, these fellows debuted the audio versions of their first stories.

I was partnered with two young women to mentor them through writing these stories: Sunday, of Burmese descent, and Gulsum, from Turkey. Gulsum, 30, and her husband came to the United States 10 years ago to get their master’s degrees (hers in economics from Penn State), never intending to stay here. In her recorded story on Friday, she recalled receiving a phone call from her husband with news of the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. In that moment, she knew she could never go home.

In her story, Gulsum said: “Unfortunately, the [government’s] scapegoat was the social movement called Hizmet – [whose members] believe in peace all around the world and promote interfaith dialogue – declared as the enemy of the Turkish state … My worries were because we were planning to go back to Turkey and I am [part] of the Hizmet movement [and President] Erdogan now could do anything to [us].” Gulsum knows she will be jailed upon her return, even if just to visit her parents.

Sunday – who was born to Burmese parents in a refugee camp in Thailand and who came to the U.S. at 13 – wrote: “I lived my whole life in the camp, only leaving when my family came to the United States. Because my mother could not afford to go to a hospital, I was born at home in the refugee camp and not granted Thai citizenship. But I did not have citizenship in Burma, because I was born in Thailand. I didn’t know which country I belonged to.”

Sunday, now 18, says she looks forward to finally gaining citizenship – in the U.S. – and: “I hope to make a living serving others. I am so happy to achieve for what I want.”

Like the rest of us at Writing for Peace, I am deeply committed to our mission to cultivate – through education and creative writing – the empathy that allows us to value our diversities and differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity.

Through Sunday’s and Gulsum’s intensely personal stories – and the stories of the young Ethiopian man who had to wait 10 years to bring his mother here, the Iraqi man who had worked with the U.S. military there, the siblings from Afghanistan who cried when they remembered their grandfather, and the young woman from Syria who contrasted her life from before and during the war – I felt the empathy swell in me and the others in the room, uniting us in common hopes and dreams. In moments like these, I truly believe peace is achievable.

And that’s how I see it … from my little corner of the world.

# # #

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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Writing for Peace News

The Writing for Peace Board of Directors extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the recent shootings, and asks…

What Can I Do?

by Jody Rein, Writing for Peace Board Member

More senseless tragedies in America; more assault weapons used to kill and maim the most innocent among us. We feel increasingly impotent, searching for something we can do that will make an impact.

Of course, we can never eradicate violent behavior; humans are imperfect. But we are NOT helpless to change the multiplier—the gun.

Gun safety laws fail to pass at the Federal level because a relatively few people, primarily through the NRA, give a lot of money to fund political campaigns. But your vote can weigh more than their money. When thousands of constituents vow to withhold votes, NRA-funded legislators’ loyalty waivers. We have the numbers: the vast majority of Americans, including many NRA members, support reasonable gun safety laws.

When it comes to influencing lawmakers in the United States, know this:

  1. Your call matters. Your email matters. Most people keep silent.
  2. Most gun legislation today is done at the state and local level. This is where you can have the most influence.

Actions that Make a Difference

  1. Use the Gun Law Navigatorto learn generally about your state’s gun laws.
  2. Find out what laws are on the books in your state, and call or write your local representative to express your opinion. How do you find out? Google local chapters of MomsDemandAction OR the Brady Campaign OR simply “gun safety advocate [your state].”  In Colorado, for example, we have www.coloradoceasefire.org, as well as branches of the national advocacy groups listed above. Colorado Ceasefire is a one-stop-shop for information. It lists upcoming legislation, legislator voting records and NRA ratings, and actions you can take.

Most of these groups also have email alerts; sign up. Act when asked.

  1. Volunteer, either for a gun safety advocacy group, or for the political campaign of someone who supports gun safety. We need you in 2018, desperately. We can’t change the Federal laws until we change the people who refuse to enact reasonable gun-safety legislation.

We can do this.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Weary of a Violent Vocabulary, by Andrea W. Doray

This spring, Writing for Peace looks at gun violence, as well as violence against women and other issues of women’s equality.

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberWeary of a Violent Vocabulary

by Andrea W. Doray

 The other day, the building where I was working was on lockout. There was a shooter in the office park and police had sealed off the area. They were pursuing a person of interest in the incident, an alleged gunman who was still at large and presumed armed and dangerous. The targeted victim survived the attack and was transported to the hospital with unknown injuries.

Lockout, shooter, sealed off.

Gunman, at large, armed and dangerous.

Target, victim, attack.

Considered alone, each of these words and phrases has a very different meaning from when they are strung together to describe yet another event of violence in our communities. Such words, common enough on their own, are now a part of a growing lexicon of carnage, a new vocabulary of violence.

I, for one, am sick and tired of it.

I’m sickened by the loss, the grief, the terror, the waste…sickened by randomness, senselessness, and injustice.

And I’m tired of trying to use our everyday language to give these vicious acts some sort of meaning.

When did “lockout” come to mean more than forgetting my keys, and a “shooter” more than a short glass full of strong stuff?

Why are victims “targets?” Targets are for archery practice and marketing plans and weight-loss goals, not the end results of violent actions. And I’d much rather leave high-speed chases to the Indy 500 and abductions to aliens.

And when did a suspect become a “person of interest?” This sounds more like speed dating to me. I can’t help but wonder if this is a case of art imitating life or life imitating art…in this case, a TV drama of the same name.

I do understand, of course, why we need to use such language carefully, including the word “alleged.” The right to a presumption of innocence in the United States is not shared in all courtrooms around the world.

Of course, this word-choice policy exists to prevent a rush to justice—generated by a rush to scoop the news that often results in misidentification, miscommunication, and wild speculation—but lately, this concession has been stretched to ridiculous levels. For example, as the hearings for James Holmes were taking place recently, I heard the events at the theaters in Aurora, Colorado, described as the “alleged shootings.”

Wait a minute…all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy are yet to be known fully, but the shootings themselves aren’t “alleged”—they happened.

That’s one reason why I’m sick and tired and saddened that a beautiful, powerful, well-respected, and well-loved language is being corrupted to include this new vocabulary of violence.

I’d much rather think of an “attack” as coming from the flu, and of a “shot” as something to protect me from it.

That’s a lexicon I can live with.

 

 About Andrea W. Doray

Andrea W. Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberAndrea Doray is a writer, media watcher, and careful consumer of the news. She serves as a board member for Writing for Peace and is a contributing editor on its international journal, DoveTales.

Learn more about Andrea W. Doray here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

Mary Carroll-Hackett Joins WfP Advisory Panel

Writing for Peace is pleased to welcome Mary Carroll-Hackett to our Advisory Panel. Mary is an award-winning author, poet, editor, and educator.

Jonas Salk said “Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” I heard my mama say this when I was a child, and it, from that moment, changed and shaped the way I saw and moved through the world. As a parent and as an educator, to me, there is no greater gift nor more sacred trust than to honor the gifts given me by those who came before by doing whatever I can to help the young ones following behind us, Writing for Peace, particularly for me with their work with young people, will be the way we heal this world, heal and love each other. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.

~Mary Carroll-Hackett

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace AdviserMary Carroll-Hackett earned an MFA in Literature and Writing from Bennington College in June 2003. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, The Potomac, Reed, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. Her awards include being named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. She had an O Henry Recommended recognition for her story “Placing,” and her collection of poems, The Real Politics of Lipstick, won the 2010 annual poetry competition by Slipstream. Her chapbook Animal Soul, is forthcoming this year from Kattywompus Press. She has taught writing for nearly twenty years, and in 2003, founded the Creative Writing programs, undergraduate and graduate, at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, serving as Program Director of those programs until Fall 2011.

Mary Carroll-Hackett invites all young writers to join her students in posting and discussing current event articles on her open Facebook page,  MCH-What’s Going On?.

Learn more about Mary Carroll-Hackett’s work here.

 WfP Adviser Visits Fort Collins High School

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Kellan McTague, a junior at Fort Collins High School, shared that his grandfather had been a veteran of the Korean War. “Your grandfather saved my life,” said Devine.

Author, poet, and Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, visited Fort Collins High School last week to read from her debut novel, Voices of Heaven. The novel was first written as a memoir about her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War. As the North Korean and Chinese armies invaded, Devine’s family fled along with thousands of others through snow and freezing temperatures, carrying their possessions in bags on their heads. Some men, she said, balanced mattresses on their heads in hopes that the extra padding would protect them from flying bullets. Students in Mitch Schneider’s language arts classes listened with rapt attention as Devine described how her mother would cover her eyes when they came upon bombing victims, or as people beside them were struck by sniper bullets. They boarded a boxcar without windows or seats where desperate men clung to the outside of the cars, until they froze and fell to their deaths.

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Fort Collins High School sophomore, Margarita Gutierrez, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Devine explained the Confucian culture that made boys necessary to families, not only for the security of elderly parents, but to perform the ceremonial feasts that ensured the well-being of three generations of ancestors in the afterlife. A man and wife who were unable to produce a male heir would commonly secure a mistress, either maintaining a second household, or bringing her into the home. This was the case in her family, when fifteen harmonious years of marriage failed to produce a male heir. Her novel opens with her family preparing for the arrival of the new mistress amid rumors of war.

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Fort Collins High School student, Erik Garcia Arellano, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Devine said the process to transform her memoir into a novel had taken ten years, but ultimately had freed her to explore voices of other characters within the story. She read about the arrival of the new mistress from her own perspective as a little girl, as well as her mother’s, father’s, and the mistress herself. Devine challenged Schneider’s students to think back to an emotional event in their own lives and write about it in the voice of another character.

The Voice of Heaven, by Maija Rhee DevineMaija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul, and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards. Maija Rhee Devine is a member of the Writing for Peace Advisory Panel.

Learn more about Maija here.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries. We will announce the decisions of judges William Haywood Henderson (fiction), Phyllis Barber (nonfiction), and Michael J. Henry (poetry) on May 1st, 2013. Every participating young writer will receive a certificate of participation, which will be mailed this month. The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Exit Wound

by Melissa Hassard

Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace Guest Writerexit wound:

Forensic pathology:  The “goodbye” lesion that a bullet or other projectile causes when leaving the body;  EWs are often larger than the entrance wound, due to tumbling and deformation of the bullet.

From The Medical Dictionary

Growing up in the south, everyone’s father had a gun — weapons were always around but generally took the form of mysterious closets we kids weren’t allowed in. In college, I dated a hunter and his family took very seriously their responsibility for life and safety, and I think of them often when discussing responsible gun legislation proposed by President Obama and Senate leaders with friends and strangers, and their influence on me is probably the basis for the respectful tone I keep when disagreeing.  But violence and the potential for gun-related violence or accidents have followed me throughout my life.

 ***

When I was nine or ten, my best friend’s stepdad awoke in the middle of the night to hear an intruder moving about the house.  In the dark, he reached for his handgun and took aim toward the noise in the hallway.  His wife appeared then, in front of him, a glass of water in her hand — terrified to come face to face with her husband pointing a gun at her.  Luckily, he had the presence of mind to relax his grip and put the gun down.  All of us kids talked about it the next day.  By breakfast, the mother had moved beyond upset and scared, and was furious with her husband.

***

A few years later when I was a teenager, my father decided he wanted a divorce. When my mother couldn’t imagine a life without him and was uncooperative, he reached for his gun, and over the course of a weekend held her captive.  He did all sorts of unspeakable things to her, keeping a gun to her head the entire time, until he finally, on the third day, fell asleep.  She escaped to a friend’s house, and on Monday found an apartment and filed a police report.

***

My uncle, a well-loved and talented musician and music teacher, would drive home late at night across Raleigh from restaurant and club gigs he played with his band.  He would often stop at a convenient store late for something to eat.  One summer night in the 80′s, he unknowingly entered a store during an armed robbery.  The thief had managed to come around behind my uncle and was about to make his escape when he called from behind, with a hand on the door, “Don’t turn around.”  Reflexively, Jerry turned to see who had spoken to him.  He was shot and killed immediately.  He left behind a beautiful wife and daughter who still miss him terribly to this day.

 ***

“Before I tell you how the NRA and our members are going to Stand And Fight politically and in the courts, let’s acknowledge that all over this country, tens of millions of Americans are already preparing to Stand And Fight to protect their families and homes. These good Americans are prudently getting ready to protect themselves.”

Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

From the day of the shooting until today, this is the first detailed account of Newtown that I have found at a time and place I was able to bring myself to read:

Lanza shot his way into the school through the glass windows at the front entrance and turned left toward the first-grade classrooms. He almost immediately encountered Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, who ran into the hallway from a meeting room, which would have been on Lanza’s right. He shot them both to death immediately.

Sources said that the two teachers who were injured were hit by ricochet bullets from that initial burst of gunfire.   [ … ]

Lanza first skipped Victoria Soto’s room and entered the classroom taught by substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau.

Lanza killed all but one student in Rousseau’s class, where the children were massed together in a back corner of the room trying to get into a bathroom. One girl escaped because she played dead and ran out of the room after Lanza left.

Lanza then backtracked to Soto’s room.

 —  As reported at courant.com

What do our children think of all of this?  The terrible event itself, the impassioned mothers making phone calls, the neighbors arguing when they never have before, and far away in Washington, on the floor of a large room, someone else decides.

The day has arrived in America when it is all too easy to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, as easy to pick up as a dozen eggs and gallon of milk, not quite as difficult as Sudafed —

“It’s not a very practical thing to do and you’ll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you’re not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them,” said Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Chair, on requiring background checks for all gun sales.

 … and pro-gun interest groups have twitchy trigger fingers.  In the days before the Senate began its debate, the rhetoric was ratcheting up to a level of extreme irresponsibility.  And from the top of the NRA and all the way down.

“It’s going to be a very rough and very ugly battle.  Fortunately, our enemy doesn’t have any guns and they don’t know how to use them,” said NRA President David Keene, on new federal and state gun regulations.
 

Sources said that Lanza’s shooting spree lasted less than five minutes and that he fired 152 bullets while making his way through two classrooms in the elementary school. — courant.com

“We have so much to be proud of as gun owners, shooters and freedom lovers. That pride, especially when it’s not hidden in the closet, is itself a form of protection for the Second Amendment.

“We will not surrender. We will not appease. We will buy more guns than ever. We will use them for sport and lawful self-defense more than ever. We will grow the NRA more than ever. And we will be prouder than ever to be freedom-loving NRA patriots. And with your help, we will ensure that the Second Amendment remains America’s First Freedom. “

— Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

 

 “vince, March 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm

“See that is exactly the point Eugene, the right to bear arms is a god given right OUR govt has neither the right nor the authority to deny us that right. They have already infringed upon our god given to bear arms. A Thompson sub machine gun is a fire arm and i should be allowed to own it without the BATF’s permission. So is an F-16, and Abrams tank, if i should be inclined and able to afford it i should be able to own any weapon the United States Military operates!! Predator drones, B-52′s whatever. I should be able to arm myself with any weapon i want!!”

— Comment on a pro-gun board from this article

“With gun safety measures headed to the Senate floor, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees have quietly made permanent four formerly temporary gun-rights provisions largely favored by Republicans. Those provisions are part of a spending bill that would keep the government running through Sept. 30.”  

— The New York Times, March 13, 2013 

None of this is acceptable.  There is no God-given right to own a gun or threaten another human life.  There is a Constitutional-given right in the form of the 2nd Amendment and it gets warped and twisted badly, mostly by those who stand to profit greatly from more gun sales and loosened restrictions, and repeated often in slogans and talking points by those whose fear of some unknown, and primarily fictional “bad guy,” who was created in the minds of men much like the fairy tales we were all raised on.

I know from my own history that often it is a good guy with a gun that later becomes an impassioned, irrational, frustrated, angry bad guy with a gun.

I will protect anyone’s right to own a weapon, but in fact no one needs the weapons of mass destruction that too many times now have found their way into the hands of troubled youth.  Until we do a better job of taking care of our mentally ill, we must make it harder to obtain these weapons.  (Owning a weapon should be regarded as a serious responsibility again. I actually watched an NRA YouTube video interview with N.H. gun store owner Keith Cox refer to them as “toys for adults” here.)  I support the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, stricter penalties for illegal gun sales, mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, and increased spending for our mentally ill.

Though I haven’t seen any photographs, I cannot shake the image — indeed, my mind can see it more clearly than if you’d shown me a photograph — the story of the child with his hand and jaw blown off.  The hand presumably raised to protect himself.  To protect himself.  He had seen, and he knew.

For a six-year-old to possess that horrible knowledge, even for an instant, was and is a lot to bear. There are small moments of victory and many moments of discouraging or frightening news.  But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said — there comes a point when even silence becomes permission.

Newtown was the point of entry.  The exit wound — the goodbye lesion — was left on the nation.  Goodbye to silent witness.

I am a good American, too, Mr. LaPierre.

 

About Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace Guest Writer

Melissa Hassard is an online content writer and editor, poet, essayist, and mother.  Her studies in public relations, communication, world religions, and writing led her into careers in travel, executive leadership, social media strategy and advertising.  She has a keen love of language and writes creatively about those moments closest to her heart.  When not writing or editing, she may possibly be found on a bike or on a stage somewhere in North Carolina where she currently resides, raising her children, her business, and her writers’ group. Melissa pours herself into her passions, which include nurturing and encouraging the passions of others.  Learn more about Melissa’s work at her website: melissahassard.com.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace Adviserby Richard Krawiec

Writing for Peace Adviser

A teenaged boy recently told me that shooting an assault weapon in someone’s home shooting range was great fun.  “It was just fun, shooting it.  And it was such a thrill knowing you could turn around and shoot the person with you – BUT that you wouldn’t do it.  That you could, but wouldn’t.”

I lacked both the restraint and opportunity this teenager has when I was in high school.  Floating through my days drug-addled and troubled, I arranged to purchase an ounce of hash at a housing project.  The deal failed when the middle man, a guy named Mike, took my money and never returned.

Ronnie, a mid-20-s dropout who had set up the deal, acted incensed.  “Let’s get the tire irons from your truck and wail on these mother fuckers,” he said.  “We need to do some damage, show them we mean business.”

I shook my head.  The thought of entering a hostile project armed with tire irons seemed unwise at best.

“You got to do something man.  You can’t let them get away with it.”

As we settled in the car I thought about what I could do to get my money, or my pride, back.  I remembered Denny, a man who was dating my friend’s older sister.  He had shown me a small silver handgun at a party and said, “Let me know if you ever want one.”

I turned to Ronnie, who had settled in the passenger seat.  “I’m going to get a gun and shoot him.”

All that weekend I hung in the pool hall, waiting for Denny to show up.  I told everyone my plans, let it be known Mike was going to pay for robbing me.  To a person, they all thought I was crazy.  The slackers, the outcasts, the hardened criminals – everyone told me that thought I was being stupid.

When neither Denny, nor a gun, materialized by Sunday night, I was able to step back from my rage and think it through.  The lack of opportunity and encouragement allowed me to let my plan go.

It’s a different world today.  Anyone can walk into a gun show and, without an ID, purchase as many military assault weapons as they can load into their SUV.  As for encouragement – beginning with Sarah Palin’s public taunting that everyone should ‘lock and load’, ‘target’ their opponents, ‘get them in the ‘crosshairs’, ‘reload’, ‘take them out’, the airwaves have been full of vitriolic hatred that seems to encourage the notion that ‘taking out’ those you hold a grievance against is acceptable.

The NRA’s calculated paranoid rants about the need to protect yourself from imagined marauding gangs intent on stealing your goods, and/or a Communist dictator president determined to steal your tax money and constitutional rights, offers encouragement of a violent solution to perceived or imagined threats.

Boortz, Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, Beck – all the white male right wing shock jocks have raged against their ‘enemies’ in a way that creates a violent emotional geography for one’s dissatisfaction or imagined grievances against liberals and non-whites.  And in many cases they have called outright for murder.

In 2011, Neil Boortz said flat out we should shoot people in the street. “We got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I’ll tell you what it’s gonna take. You people, you are – you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.”

In 2007, Sean Hannity aired a video clip of Ted Nugent holding up what appeared to be two assault rifles and saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama should “suck on my machine gun,” and that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset.”  Hannity refused to disavow those comments, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.”

Glenn Beck once asked, “Why would you get a gun? To prepare for tough times, that’s why,” while pointing at a picture of President Obama.

Speaking about the 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Rush Limbaugh said “the coup was what many of you wish would happen here…If we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.”

These jocks don’t just ‘target’ politicians, but anyone they disagree with. Rush is quoted as saying,  “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus–living fossils–so we we’ll never forget what these people stood for.”

Ann Coulter agreed with Tim McVeigh’s bombing that killed 168 people, just not his target. “My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.”

Michael Savage: “I say round liberals up and hang em’ high. When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25.”

In many of the mass shootings in this country we have seen a direct connection between this rhetoric, the opportunity to own weapons, and the mayhem that ensued.  These examples are taken from the examiner.com:

 On July 27, 2008 Former U.S. Army private, Jim David Atkinsson, who hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals, murdered two people and injured seven others inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN.

 The day after Obama’s inauguration, white supremacist Keith Luke went on a killing spree in Brockton, Massachusetts. His goal was to kill as many Jews, blacks and Hispanics as possible. He had stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition, proclaimed that he was fighting the extinction of the white race.

 In April of 2009, Richard Popalowski, a white supremacist in Pittsburgh, shot and killed three police officers following a domestic disturbance call. He feared the government would take his guns away.

Later that year a right-wing white supremacist and Holocaust denier walked into the National Holocaust Museum and killed an African-American security guard. Two weeks later, three Neo-Nazis were arrested for bombing a diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 On Aug. 5, 2012 Wade Michael Page, a 40-year old white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran murdered six people and wounded four others inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI with a Springfield XD(M) semi-automatic pistol.

 The ready availability of all kinds of weapons presents the opportunity for people to enact revenge fantasies. The hate rhetoric encourages unstable people to act out.  Adam Lanza’s mother was a far right wing ‘doomsday’ survivalist.  She purchased an assault weapon because she could.  Obviously, the vitriol of those on the airwaves gave her a rationale for why it was necessary. Nothing in her background would lead any reasonable person to believe she would have bought one illegally on a street corner. Just as nothing in Adam Lanza’s murderous enactment of his rage would lead one to conclude he would have taken hunting knives to school if he didn’t have an automatic weapon.  Whether he had a political agenda, we don’t know.  We do know he deliberately chose weapons that would create rapid carnage, and even adapted them so he could fire more quickly.  The knife-armed avenger was not the fantasy he wished to act out.

Opportunity, and public encouragement.  You don’t need decades of study to put those two together.

 

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award.

To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction.

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from close to a dozen different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace AdviserIntroducing Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Writing for Peace welcomes Maija Rhee Devine to our Advisory Panel! Maija’s powerful anti-war poem, My Brother’s Computer, appeared in both its original Korean and its English translation in PAW Post No. 24. Learn more about Maija’s work here, and watch for future blog posts from this exceptional writer.

 

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