Yet Another Post on Gun Violence

Today was another day when I woke up to discover Americans had been shot.

Yet another day when police SWAT teams in army regalia were swarming American streets.

Yet another day when news outlets posted videos and pictures from witnesses, words from good Samaritans giving first aid and comfort to the wounded as they bled.

And so, as always, we’ll wait for the response.

And as always, we’ll be told by lawmakers that all Americans have the right to own guns, even suspected terrorists of any color. Even those who have expressed a desire to kill. They all have a right to carry a loaded weapon virtually anywhere.

Because at some point in the past, that became the American way.

I really, really want someone to re-evaluate what the American way is. Somehow, I don’t think this was the idea when those vaunted Founding Fathers carved out our democracy.

Somehow I don’t think they thought, we really ought to make sure everyone in the country has an insanely powerful gun, even if they have a grudge against our government, even if they have a history of violent behavior. Because that’s only fair.

Dear infinite, unknowable God, please please please do something. It’s apparent that no one on Earth has the power to stand up and do the right thing.

The Good Guy with a Gun Myth, Debunked

Hey, Fickle Readers! I don’t normally like posting a lot of video clips. There are plenty of web sites that used to be actual news outlets until at some point they decided it was much easier to slap together a bunch of clips of Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore. (I’m looking at you, Salon.) But this segment of the Daily Show is really worth watching. In it, Jordan Klepper shows how completely impossible it is for the casual, well-intentioned gun owner to stop an active shooter.

While you’re watching this, remember: video clips and arguments may not change minds, but the goal of representative democracy is only to change POLICY. Get lawmakers to do what you want, and if they ignore you, send their asses home.

No More Prayers. Action.

Today, I posted my reaction to what I thought was the latest mass shooting in the U.S. Later, I found out that two other mass shootings had taken place today: one in Savannah, where a gunman killed one woman and injured three men; the other, which happened practically as I was typing my fantasy of flaying the last shooter, in San Bernardino, California, where a small group of gunmen killed 14 people and injured as many as 17 others in a facility for people with developmental disabilities. This afternoon, there was also another shooting at a women’s clinic in Houston, although reports are murky as to whether the person shot and killed was a victim or suspect, or if the shooting was directly connected with a political agenda.

At some point I remember blogging (or possibly thinking about blogging) that if I tried to keep up with all the gun violence that happens in this country I’d spend all my time writing about it. Turns out my prediction was a lot more accurate than even I could have imagined.

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here in my little corner of the Internets. But I’m going to say this anyway: this has got to stop.

Guns are not technogadgets. Guns are not fashion statements. They’re weapons. And our country is not a firing range or a real-life movie set. Civilization isn’t sustainable if every ten minutes there’s some disgruntled individual out there preparing to open fire on a supermarket or a bank or a strip mall. Nor can we have a functioning society if we let everyone with a trigger finger have a gun. Too many guns means too many opportunities to use them. I think the well-publicized fact that there have been more mass shootings than days in the year this year bears that out.

I’m sure many of you Fickle Readers out there know of Chekhov’s gun, the rule of writing that says if you introduce a gun in a play, you’d better be prepared to fire it before the play is over. Well, now we’re discovering that if you allow unfettered access to guns that people will find occasion to fire them. Even if they don’t start out as “bad guys with guns,” they often wind up that way.

Remember Steven Jones, the Northern Arizona University freshman who killed one fellow student and wounded three others in an early morning fight? Jones was reportedly very familiar with guns and was even a certified safety instructor. Now he’s murderer, and even though he’s maybe not going to jail for the rest of his life because he’s young and white and grew up in a nice neighborhood, he’s still going to have a criminal record for gun violence following him for the rest of his life. Because of something he did at age 18.

You know who else is going to have gun violence following him for the rest of his life? Laquan McDonald. And Tamir Rice. And Trayvon Martin. And Michael Brown. That’s because all these people are dead because of guns. Or, more accurately, because “good guys with guns” decided to reach for a gun instead of a phone or a pair of handcuffs–or instead of maybe just trying to communicate with words. The good guys felt threatened, and a gun was within easy reach.

I could go on about suicides and murder rates, both of which go way up when guns are present. I think I’ve made my point, though. The way things are is unacceptable. The golden age of guns, guns guns! has to end. Now.

Dear God: Forgive Me for Wishing Inhuman Violence on the Planned Parenthood Shooter


[WARNING: The following includes scenes of gruesome bodily harm against rapists, murderers, and mundane terrorists. If you’d rather not look in the face of my blood-drenched, over-the-top anger, read no further.]




[You have been warned.]

O Father God, please have mercy on me for being a merciless tyrant in my own heart. Forgive me for wanting to find the dullest, rustiest axe still impaled in the rotting corpse of a mother grizzly in the Rockies and with infinite slowness flay the fugly white beard off the face of the Planned Parenthood shooter. Forgive me for imagining myself removing his spleen with my teeth and a toothbrush. For picturing a horde of women trampling him wearing six-inch stiletto heels (the women, not the shooter, although he can wear whatever he likes in the face of the stampede). For slicing him head to toe into microscopic bits, then inventing a machine that will stick him painfully back together so I can start the process all over again.

O Mother God, please look with pity on my fiery mind that has no outlet to rage against the mass shooters of our country. I want no weaponry. I am a pacifist. Instead, I want your wrath and the most profound and hidden powers of the universe to transform myself into a flaming beast the likes of which Planned Parenthood “protesters” have never seen. Those men and women who ignite gasoline on the doorsteps of clinics and shriek in the faces of women trying to get health care? I want to gather them all in the most barren stretch of the desert and belch brimstone down upon them until they fall to their knees and doubt their own existence, let alone their perception of You.

And for the politicians who try to deny this despicable man, the shooter–a man who was not a “gentle loner,” as a New York Times reporter claimed, who beat his wives and was charged with raping a woman at knifepoint: I want those politicians to experience simultaneous shin pains and catastrophic attacks of diarrhea at their next debate to pay them back for ratcheting up the far right’s hatred of women, all to gain support for the primary election. How I wish I could pray to you, O Many-Personed God, to infest all of their clothing with fleas and all their mattresses with bedbugs. But I don’t believe in praying to You to damage Your creation, so I guess I’m stuck wishing for these things to happen.

And to the community of men and women, mothers and fathers, who lived with this latest Christian terrorist: I want them to be haunted by the eyes of the dead. I want them to realize that men (particularly white men in this country) become monsters because smaller acts of violence–stalking, adultery, a cuff to the wife’s chin every now and again–are left to slide. I want these people to take real accountability for their actions and stop forgiving hatred toward women because somehow women “deserve it.” I want mothers especially to figure out what sort of sons they want to raise and teach their sons to understand that they have no right to dominate anyone else’s body.

Forgive me for wishing pain and horror on all these people, O Unknowable God. Forgive me for getting sucked into their awful game.

[UPDATED] Gun Violence Today: This Is What You Get When You Let the Kids Run the Candy Store

UPDATE: In case anyone’s interested, the Washington Post now has an article on the Michigan Home Depot shooter, who has yet to be charged. Officials haven’t disclosed her identity, either. (Twenty bucks says she’s white. If she isn’t–if she has brown skin or is of any ethnicity other than Caucasian–I want to be the first on record to applaud the Auburn Hills PD for their restraint. In some places here in the U.S., had a brown-skinned woman opened fire in a public area, she’d probably have a bashed-in face from being forced to the pavement, whether or not she was “cooperating fully with the investigation.” In some places here in the U.S., such a shooter would be dead.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve had a really hard time talking about the latest shootings in Oregon. I feel like at this point, half my life would be taken up with writing about the latest gun-related deaths, and how needless they all were, and how fueled by entitlement, paranoia, and madness. Hell, I’m starting to feel like I don’t even need to post links to any specific articles anymore. We all know this shit is wrong. We all know our country has a problem, even though some of us aren’t willing to admit it.

But this story out of Auburn Hills, Michigan, really takes the cake. It seems that a 47-year-old woman, who HAS a permit to carry concealed weapons, decided she’d help out a Home Depot by shooting at a pair of fleeing shoplifters in the parking lot. Yes, you read that right. No this wasn’t some late-night fiasco. This happened in broad daylight, in the afternoon, while there were many other shoppers in the area.

Scott Eric Kaufman gets props–if he really wants them–for titling his article for : “Good woman with a gun shoots up Home Depot parking lot trying to take down suspected shoplifters.”

And the SERIOUSLY depressing thing about this whole story is not that U.S. citizens seem to think it’s okay to treat all public places in the country as Wild West shoot-em-up zones. Nor is it the fact that someone actually thought it was acceptable to use deadly force to bring down a suspect or two in a space where many innocent bystanders could have been killed.

No, the truly upsetting little detail about this story is that the local authorities DON’T KNOW IF THEY’RE GOING TO CHARGE THE SHOOTER WITH ANYTHING. Because, you see, the woman didn’t hit anyone. She took out one of the tires on the fleeing car. The shoplifters still got away, but she maybe seemed like she knew what she was doing, maybe? She didn’t cause any injury, so the police are going to give her her own deputy star?

Do I really have to say this? Okay, but I’m not going to say it in giant capital letters…

What the fuck, America?

More to the point, what the fuck, Michigan? Do you really want random individuals with concealed weapons and law-and-order fantasies to pull out their pistols when the situation merely suggests that something dangerous is going on? Or have you been so beaten down by the NRA that you’re afraid to make one little peep that might be construed as a knock against the sanctity of guns?

Does it make a difference that this woman doesn’t seem to have had the slightest fucking CLUE about how GENUINE law enforcement officials judge whether or not they can get a clear shot? Does this woman understand that she could have KILLED SOMEONE JUST SO SHE COULD BE THE GOOD GUY WITH A GUN?

Yeah, I lied. I did use capital letters after all. But all of these situations, where masses of people are getting shot at on a daily basis, is so blatantly unacceptable that I personally don’t know how I can discuss the matter without letting out some of the inchoate rage that I feel about the subject.

Let me be Mother Fickle for a moment. Guns are not toys. Guns are not fashion accessories. Nor are they acceptable conveyances for expressing your own private outrage of the moment.

The “good guy with a gun” image is just that–an image. As in, exists in people’s imaginations. Good guys with guns don’t stop crimes in real life. And some people even start out as good guys with guns (ie, gun enthusiasts, men and women who legally purchase weapons) and wind up as bad guys with guns (murderers or murder-suicide perpetrators).

Seriously, folks. This isn’t about denying anyone’s theoretical rights, or quashing anyone’s ego, or attacking anyone personally. This is about safety and common sense.

We need to stop screaming at each other and start getting things done. Start talking to each other like adults. Start acting like parents and not children.

Seriously. Didn’t parents use to be in charge of the country back in the day?


Good Reading Break: Arthur Chu on Gun Violence

Hey, Fickle Readers! I know I’ve been away for a long time, and I have much to discuss. However, when I read this piece by Arthur Chu on, I just had to take a moment to re-broadcast it. Chu does a fabulous job of arguing that mass shootings in the U.S. are fueled by a toxic sense of entitlement and a need for attention similar to the way Internet trolls bully people online. Not only does he back up this position with lots and lots of excellent articles and research, he weaves in a historical perspective on what you might call extreme trolling–acts of public violence that are meant to garner publicity for the criminal.

I feel like this article is tremendously important. It looks at the issues surrounding gun violence in a different way and doesn’t beg out of the discussion with the usual cop-out “the guy snapped” explanation.

I’m sending you a whole bottle of virtual tequila, Mr. Chu! This essay is excellent, excellent stuff. Well done!

Good Art Break for a God-Awful Day

Wow, what a horrendous 24 hours. We had a hostage siege in Sydney that left the gunman plus two women dead. Then, at virtually the same time, there was news from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, of an ex-marine who killed his ex-wife and five other members of her extended family (including a 14-year-old girl) and fled the area. (The shooter, Bradley Stone, was found dead in the woods today of an apparent suicide.) Then this morning, there’s news about the Taliban raid on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which nine staff members and 132 children were killed. (A further 3 staff members and 121 students were injured, in case you wanted a larger helping of awful with your sandwich of unbelievable horror.) Note that I’m not even talking about the case of Jessica Chambers, the 19-year-old Mississippi woman who died on December 6th because someone poured flammable liquid into her nose and down her throat and set her on fire. (Her death is making news this week because the group Anonymous as well as other bloggers and Internet trolls are leaking information about her case and spreading claims that Chambers was the victim of “gang activity” [read: African Americans], a black boyfriend [although so far there’s no evidence she had a boyfriend at all], and/or Ali Alsanai, the brown-skinned guy who runs the gas station where Chambers spent some of her final moments.) Note I’m also not talking about the report, published yesterday in The Smoking Gun, that details how the star grand jury witness who said she saw Michael Brown act aggressively before being shot down, in fact, lied on the stand and has a history of mental illness and making false statements to police.

For a year that’s boasted some astonishingly heinous, ghastly, and terrifying news, the headlines from today and yesterday are almost too far over the top at being bad. At this point, I’m so exhausted and disheartened and stunned by everything happening in the world that I’m even starting to deplete my thesaurus of synonyms for the word “bad.”

So here’s a little balm to take our collective minds off of the dark, ugly, unutterable badness out there. First, some art:

Yes, we all need rest. Especially me. (My meds have been shot to hell because of some surprise dental surgery I had last week. As in, “Surprise! Your tooth is coming apart!” And let me tell ya, you really know you’re aging when you find yourself discussing your dental surgery on the Internet.) If that rest can occur on a bed of butterflies, please make it happen.

Next, a couple of lovely pieces of writing that I just discovered in Twitterland: “Warriors,” a spare, mythic poem by Thato Angela Chuma; and “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon,” a short-story by Ken Liu that combines an ancient legend of lost love with a modern tale of two teenage lovers soon to be parted–AND manages to be surprising, real, surreal, and gorgeous in the execution of both elements. (And I’m VERY hard to surprise.)

How about some science and philosophy with that art? Here, courtesy of and created by Kurzgesagt, a German design studio, is a video discussing how life and death may all be the same thing:

And, in case you’d just like some good old-fashioned goofy comedy antics, here’s a skit (also posted on that was cut out of SNL this past weekend. The topic? Santa traps!

Stay safe and happy and peaceful tonight, everyone! Hopefully, tomorrow will look just a teensy bit brighter.


Good Writing Break: In Memory of Michael Brown (and Justice)

For everyone sickened by the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there’s a powerful and poignant poem by Jason McCall up on Rattle‘s Poets Respond page. Here’s a taste:

It will happen,
an honest mistake
in a hot August classroom.
Someone will blink
at the name and swear this
“Michael Brown” can’t be
that “Michael Brown.” Or someone
will be too busy with her head down
finishing syllabi to look up and see the flash
grenades and tear
This piece was written the week that Michael Brown was killed, but it still resonates today when Brown’s absence–and the absence of justice in Ferguson–is so keenly felt.

That’s News to ME! Poetry Round-up

Hey, fickle readers! Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. My lupus Pity Spoons are just about gone today because of all the rushing about, hanging out with Little Fickle’s grandparents, getting Little Fickle ready for first grade (!!!), and doing off-line writing (some of which is for other people and not just my own insane drive for recognition! More on this later).

Since this is definitely going to be a low-energy day, I thought I’d ease into the blogging with a new segment I like to call “That’s News to ME!” See, since I’m an old coot, and since for the past ten years I’ve either been parenting or walking around with my head in the Renaissance, I tend to have all these Great! New! Discoveries! about news items that are, in fact, not really news. Often, these stories broke several years ago, but since they’re news to me, and since this blog is all about the weird quirks of my brain, I thought I’d take a moment to share anyway. Anyone who wants to exercise his or her fickleness, feel free to skip anything you’ve already heard forty billion times.

Today’s news to me has to do with the poetry world. First, a breathtaking find that happened in 2012 but popped up on my radar only days ago: a daguerreotype that may represent the second known photographic image of Emily Dickinson. This picture would have been taken when Dickinson was in her mid-twenties and already embarking on the literary project that would result in her collection of almost 800 poems (nearly all of which were discovered after her death, by the way). The only authenticated image we have of her was taken when she was a teenager, and according to the article at the link, one scholar has done research on family members who did not think that early picture looked much like her. Another exciting detail about this find is that Dickinson is posing with another woman, one who may have been someone the poet was in love with. When I find the time (hah!), I fully intend to hunt down info on this second woman.  And if you have the time, check out the daguerreotype at the link. It’s not every day you get a new window onto a familiar author’s life.

Second, following the recent incident in which a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot an instructor at a shooting range in Arizona, poet Gregory Orr published an article in the New York Times on his own experience shooting and killing his younger brother in a hunting accident. Orr’s piece is an excellent exploration both of his own feelings in the aftermath of his brother’s death and of what that 9-year-old must be thinking and feeling as she comes to terms with her part in the end of another human being. I’m not familiar with Orr’s work, so I had no idea he’d lived through such a traumatic event. My heart goes out to him.

And finally: the LA Times just published an article on a new poetry feature from Rattle called Poets Respond. Beginning in June of this year, Rattle has been posting poems written in the past week about the news of the past week, with an eye to making poetry relevant to current events and timed to the speed at which news barrels our way in the age of the Internet. I haven’t gotten a chance to look over the web site yet, but I would like to say cheers to Timothy Green and the Rattle editorial staff for the great idea and the wonderful opportunity to open up poetry to different audiences. Nice work, Rattle!