grief


The past two weekends brought three mass shootings (yes, technically Gilroy didn’t result in enough deaths to be classified as such… don’t care… it was intended to cause terror and death), and I’m left shaking my head in an attempt to try and make sense of it all. But who can make sense of this insanity? It’s like a group of Americans are suffering a shared psychosis of hate and paranoia, and, combined with access to high capacity weapons, are acting on it.

While I continue to process the horrific events, one of them in the state next door to where I live, and in an area I just drove through about 5 weeks ago, I instead will share the impassioned and thoughtful words of a person I have called my spiritual friend.

Nan O’Brien-Webb wrote the following and shared it this morning on FaceBook, and she captures the outrage, anger, and demand for sensibility that I feel but cannot yet describe in my own words. These are hers and she has given me permission to share it here. Being a former radio professional, she recorded her response and I encourage you to listen. The written word cannot capture the pain we hear in the sound of her voice, a pain that we’re all feeling as we try and make sense of the chaos that has been growing around us.

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Soapbox alert (Dayton and El Paso)

by Nan O’Brien-Webb

Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/nan-obrien/soapbox-august-4-2019?fbclid=IwAR0g_sGRYAPyQBrq1Plz4x6XI1_MWYU7jCbRCI8b-uJSA5msywOxGPaE2T0

Written text of the audio file:

People enjoying a summer night (Dayton) and families shopping for back-to-school supplies (El Paso). Two mass shootings in two cities almost 1,600 miles apart. These law-abiding citizens who were doing nothing more than going about normal daily activities have now joined a club to which no one wants to belong – “I was at the scene of a mass shooting.”

Just one week ago, on Monday, July 29th, the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, was the site of yet another shooting spree, where three people – six-year-old Stephen Romero, thirteen-year-old Keyla Salazar, and twenty-five-year-old Trevor Irby – were killed, and another sixteen people were wounded. Amazingly, the Garlic Festival deadly assault is not considered a “mass shooting” under the FBI definition of mass shootings, because Legan was “successful” in “only” killing three people. The FBI benchmark for the moniker “mass shooting” states four people besides the shooter must die in order to be classified as a mass shooting. Tell that to the people who were there. Trust me; it absolutely was a mass shooting, FBI definition be damned.

Here are some facts to consider:

– The public carnage in Gilroy was carried out by 19-year old Santino William Legan, who had legally purchased the SKS assault-style rifle he used in the attack, on July 9th in Nevada, a neighboring state that has a history of gun laws that are far more lax than those in California (for more independent information about Nevada gun laws, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Nevada).

– The Dayton shooter, twenty-four year old Connor Betts, reportedly used an assault rifle, as the bullets found at the scene were 223 caliber, commonly used in rifles like the AR-15 assault rifle that has been a favorite of other gunmen in previous mass shootings. There is no up-to-date information on how he was able to secure his weapon.

– In El Paso, twenty-one year old Patrick Crusius, opened fire with what witnesses say was a rifle, with the rapidity and amount of carnage supporting the theory that it was an assault rifle, too. There is also no up-to-date information on how he was able to secure his weapon.

Investigations as to what weapons were used in Dayton and El Paso are still ongoing. That said, with the number of deaths in the shortest amount of time before being stopped, the body counts at both scenes tend to support that assault weapons were used. In addition, the “convenience” and appeal of such high-powered assault weapons to those with such heinous agendas is historical and sadly obvious.

I am not attacking the Second Amendment here, so please – don’t start posting about the right to bear arms! My legal background always rises to the discussion of such situations from a legal and intellectual standpoint more than an emotional one, and I will defer my comments on the creation, intention, and interpretation (both sides) of the right to bear arms contained in the Second Amendment for another post – I try to be fair when I’m on my soapbox, and right now I’m not in a mood to be fair at all. I’m angry. My heart aches for those who were at the scenes of these shootings, and for all Americans who now hesitate when attending the most “normal” of places.

My anger is rooted in what I see as the ripple effect of events like the Garlic Festival, Dayton, El Paso, and too many others to list, though were I to do so, you would know and remember well the events. I’m angriest because whether shootings occur or not, the unease of wondering “what if” is now so deeply ingrained in our culture. It affects us all, though we may not realize how much. I didn’t, until just two months ago:

My husband and I were in Atlanta awaiting the birth of our second granddaughter, and our family attended a summer weekly outdoor festival. I noticed a man standing on a balcony overlooking the children playing in the large water fountain, the parents enjoying the outdoor concert, everyone happy on a beautiful summer’s night. He stood alone with a large black bag at his feet. It seemed odd he was on a second floor balcony of a closed office building at the edge of the park, not with everyone below, and so I watched him. I watched him, his manner impatient, his constant scanning of the crowd nervous. I watched to make sure he wasn’t going to pull a gun out of that black bag, and start shooting. And I decided that if I saw him move toward that black bag, I had already planned out where the safest place for my family to run would be. He stood there for about ten minutes, then raised his arm and showed a wide grin, when he spotted a group of people who had just arrived at the park. But those ten minutes were a lifetime for me. The uncertainty, the fear, the anger at myself for being suspicious, all combined in an uncomfortable mix of emotions that are still hard to shake. And the black bag? It had a blanket to sit on, and some drinks to enjoy, while they, too were at that concert. How do I know? I kept watching him as he came down the stairs from the balcony and walked over to his friends, who took a place right next to where we were sitting.

I can’t help but wonder if the alarming rise in the level of people with anxiety disorders, and acts of domestic terrorism (let’s call it what it is – violent behavior intended to inflict the most physical and emotional destruction), is related or coincidental. Another issue that needs independent inquiry and research; but not today.

Today, it seems to come down to one simple question that isn’t even a question, it’s a mandate: When does the insanity stop. When does the country come together and forget party affiliation, seeking the highest standard of commonality and humanity, as well as simple common sense. I can’t imagine any sane person advocating such violence, so do we not all have the same need for a sense of security and peace in our lives?

And if we as a nation are going to speak to the vision of our Forefathers in their creation of the brilliance of the United States Constitution (signed on September 17, 1787), defending at least parts of it with every last breath (do you know what the Seventh Amendment says, and how it is routinely ignored because of its inapplicability to modern times?), should we not first look to the reason our Constitution was necessary? I’m speaking of the document that predates the Constitution, that sets forth the reasons FOR our newly formed government to create the legal mandate for our country: the Declaration of Independence. Whatever happened to “the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that is the core of our Declaration of Independence? Are those rights not being infringed upon on a regular basis, by those who successfully take advantage – no, who cowardly hide behind – the protection of the Second Amendment?

Today we should not be talking about defending the rights of these mass shooters to kill innocent people because of the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. But we arguably should be talking about the need to protect the American public from weapons that were created for battle conditions in war, and not for attacks on innocent people shopping for back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart. We should be talking about the Pandora’s Box of public pronouncements inciting and promoting divisiveness and hatred, that emboldens those to act. We should be talking about the role of fear on many levels – fear to be in public places that normal life requires (restaurants, movie theatres, concerts, and yes, Wal-Mart); fear to be unarmed; fear of those who ARE armed; fear of those who are different; fear of those who have mental illness; fear of those we think want to take from us; fear of change; fear of the unknown, when the unknowns we bear witness to on a regular basis are so horrendous, so terrifying.

We need to argue less and talk more. We need to listen to all views with respect and not engage in pissing contests. We need to rebuke the fear and get to the commonalities between us. And perhaps most importantly of all, we need to evolve beyond our current circumstance.

I choose to believe it can happen.

My heart goes out to all of those personally affected by the most recent shootings, and to our country at this solemn moment in our nation’s history.

What we do here forward is all that matters.

Love and Light,
Nan

Written on Tuesday, 7/31/18

I try to focus on the work at hand as we prepare the old house for sale. Even though lots of memories are evoked as we go, and Steven tackles the difficult challenges of finishing Keith’s unfinished house projects, going through collections of “stuff” inside the house, the workshop, the basement, and all around outside, I feel incredibly blessed. Although it’s taken longer, Steve’s workmanship shows and I know it’s a matter of pride – and love – in his mind, and I am forever grateful to this wonderful man who has taken on so much. To live in the shadow of Keith’s spirit can be a challenge. But today I think I found a sign that Keith was pleased.

Dane and I moved a very large 10-drawer flat file into the garage today. Drawer by drawer. Most were empty already but several were full and it was kind of a pain. But we got all the drawers moved and prepared to move the cabinet that held them. I looked back to the empty steel cabinet and there was some stuff still there, curled up against the back. A few pieces of Stassia’s, a few pieces of mine. But there was this one big piece still curled up against the back wall. I pulled it out and there it was – an impromptu angel made from overspray from a project Keith did many years ago. And in the corner, he’d painted his initials “KF” to ensure there was no doubt. Among the last pieces of family “art” to get moved out of the house. Finding it today felt like a special sign, a message of love from the spirit of Keith.

 

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Spraypaint art made by Keith when he was working with Stassia on a costume. He liked the angel he recognized and signed it in the corner. I’d completely forgotten about this until my daughter reminded me.

Friday, 7/27/18

Woke up at 4:52 am to a blazing light shining upon me. It was a huge full moon low on the horizon so that its light reached inside my bedroom. I smiled and said Happy 60th Birthday, Keith! We miss you here on this life’s plane. Hope you’re enjoying all our shenanigans from your view on the other side. ❤️

Keith taking his solo pilot flight test, upstate NY. Instructor decided we should all go to dinner in Keene, NH.

Postscript: When I awoke later in the morning daylight, I looked out the window and saw the trees and wondered how I could have seen the moon so clearly earlier. And yet, there it had been! When he passed, it was a huge blue moon (a second full moon in the month) and I always associate the strong light of the full moon as his embrace from beyond.

Traveling has a way of creating magic and expanding our vision here and beyond.

Threads of energy and connection

On a steamy hot July 4th, we floated in the waters of Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Disembodied heads peeked above the waters – me, Steve, Larry, Jean, John, Patty, Brian plus other old friends. As the waters sparkled in the sunlight, my vision shifted, seeing tendrils, threads connecting each of us, our heads, 7th chakras, energy paths from one to another, and then above. It was surreal and yet very real… I shook my head several times to try and dispel the vision, yet it persisted. The vision began to fade so I sketched it quickly in order to bring it back to further enhance in art.

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My quick sketch of the vision I had looking at my friends bobbing in the waters of Sacandaga Lake, Adirondack Mountains, upstate New York, July 4, 2018. 

Conversations while in the water, heads bobbing, voices laughing, planning, life beyond work, the family by heart and blood, community of friends planning to care for each other in a life of continued adventures, but recognizing the pains of aging… Plans began for those couples without children, then those who did have children who would not be willing/able to care for aging parents… Duties were assigned: John P as our travel planner, Jean our financial/taxes person, Larry our sommelier and meal planner, me and Brian on branding development and space design, Steve our inventor and fixer-upper…should Michael join us he would be our gardener… Patty would pave the way into retirement. We could move between locations to allow time at each place and take advantage of weather… Several months in Michigan, travel to Europe, possibly a month in Fiji in April… where else?

Aging into new adventures means making the most of life with family by blood and family by heart.

Shifting to sooner plans, travel to Newfoundland, Canada, Kelly’s home country. When could we all visit, and how? Have passports, will travel.

The view from here

As we wandered the countryside, our views throughout our week were stunning… New York Adirondacks, Vermont hills, Middlebury, countryside antique shops, farmlands… peaceful, tranquil, even energizing… Saratoga, revisiting old memories.

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A roadside antique shop in the Adirondacks.

We were watching fireworks from the baseball field across from Larry and Jean’s… the same field with the same chain link fence at home base where Keith and I hung out together with Michael, Larry, Brian and others. Standing there… Steven, Larry, Brian, Jean, me… surreal… forward, back…time seemed to cross oceans, decades, and reconnect…creating new connections. It felt powerful.

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Watching fireworks in the park with friends.

Revisiting a new friend in person

I finally caught up with Nan O’Brien-Webb in New Haven, VT. Steve was filled with trepidation; it brought up feelings of a past bad encounter with a marriage counselor. Not what I intended at all. It was exploratory for me just to see what was up with Nan’s workshops. And it was very emotional for her, too, to meet her former best friend’s wife after finding his obituary.

I no longer feel the need to have an intermediary. I see/feel connections to the spirits feeling their messages when it is important, seeing signs and recognizing them for what they are most of the time. I recognize that I have become my own intuit. Still, it was interesting to discover how others with longer experience work with this…this gift.

I sent Nan a photo of Steven with the shadow of another we saw as a hint of Keith hovering over Steve after he’d gotten the great sanding machine running back in May 2013. But then, as I scrolled through the photos, I also came across another photo that I’d taken but had ignored for my aesthetic preference of another. The non-filtered photo, however, had a clear message, one that I’d completely missed before. Taken the same day as the one with the shadow of Keith… this one showed a large “K” made from the shape of the stairs leading up to the loft.

To Nan, I wrote:

… I could feel the emotion in the room, the healing that was being accomplished, even as the doors cracked open a bit to understanding of the different lives we lead in physical and spiritual form. You’ve certainly helped me to better articulate what I always felt to be true.

…Funny thing… as I went to look for [the photo I promised], I discovered a second one – taken the same day – that had a message I’d completely missed.

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Keith oversees a sewer connection we’d been trying to get at Perry Road, only about 5-6 weeks before he passed. So I’m guessing this picture was taken around mid July 2012.

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Large flat-belted gears drive a giant 4-drum oscillating sander that Keith had  fallen in love with in the large  woodworking shop on the property at Perry Road. When he tried to get it started, the belts fell off only a few seconds after it began to run. This photo was taken in May 2013 when Steven came into my life. He too fell in love with this old machine and immediately set about to get it running, which he did!

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Another view of the  old woodworking shop taken the same day Steven got the old sander running. I noticed the sun shining in the far windows, setting off a glowing light. But I used a different camera setting for the above photo. I almost missed the real message.

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This photo was take seconds before the first one just above. In looking for the picture I’d mentioned in VT, I found this one. Notice the giant “K” at the center, formed by the structure of a stairway in front of the glowing windows. SMH! I was dumbfounded when I came across this picture last night. How could I have missed it?!

Finally, this is the image I mentioned to Nan. Intellectually, I know how it was made. But it gave us all goosebumps when we first saw it. I was sitting at an old handmade table saw, working on homework for my doctorate. Steve was literally scurrying around working on making the giant sander operational (it extends from where he’s climbing to the round wheels you see in front of the windows to the right behind the posts).

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I looked up from my studies when I heard it come to life and grabbed my phone to take this photo. The message was clear to me at that moment. Keith was VERY pleased!

As I wrote to Nan, I feel that sometimes places can hold the energy of those who came before us there. Or they at least provide us a place to connect. Sometimes I feel old Maurice Reid here, as well. He was the original owner of this woodworking shop and I feel his occasional approval (or annoyance as the case may be at the time) as we try and make improvements to the old homestead.

These are just some of the most profound memories I have from the week’s travels and the memories those moments inspired me to revisit. 

Bedroom in new home

“Are you done grieving?” It wasn’t a question for me. It was asked of my father by a recent friend. She asked my dad as they shared lunch and talked about the new house we’ve been building and what she’d seen.

Later, Dad shared the question with me and it got me thinking about it. I answered him quickly at first: “Does anyone ever stop grieving?”

He mentioned his reaction to hearing the song: “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel. It had been a favorite of my mother’s. And just a week before she died, the last time we heard her say anything, she sang some of it when a visitor – a complete stranger to my mother – asked her in her slumber if she had ever heard the song. As the visitor began to sing the first few words, my mother began to sing with her.

When it came on the radio, out of the blue, as he got to an intersection he began to cry. Just like that. No warning. It just hit him, now 18 months later. Does anyone ever stop grieving? No, I said to dad. We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

Even now, for me, five and a half years after Keith passed, there are times when that inevitable moment stops my breath. A song, a number, a phrase, a space, a memory… and I have to pause for a moment, take it in, reflect, and consider the possibility – is this a message?Pay attention, I tell myself. He’s still there, just on the other side of the veil. He’s still with you as real as the bearded little man laying beside me now. There are times when I still feel his touch, a gentle one on the shoulder, a soft caress to the cheek as if a kiss made of air.

Sunset over snowy field and woodsThe triggers still come, a song I hadn’t heard in awhile played recently and I had to stop and listen and nod. “I will wait, I will wait for you…” sang Mumford & Sons. The song had just been released the last summer Keith was alive. I had put it on the playlist that became the soundtrack of the summer. “You can’t let me down now” sang Bonnie Raitt in another soulful tune that filled me with guilt and sadness for not having saved Keith from the pain he endured. Then there was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, a song that came out the year Keith and I were able to see them play live in concert.

These tunes and several others cause the air to slip out from my lungs momentarily, my heart to tighten in my chest. The difference now is that they don’t make me cry like they once did. The tightness lets go quicker and a soft smile slowly curves the corners of my mouth and I breath again, lovingly touched by the soul of my deepest connection in the spirit world.

There are times when I may also feel a bit irrational, where anxiety steps up and clenches my nerves tightly. Last fall I had been asked about going to a conference this winter. It was one that I had attended in March 2012 and co-presented with Ferris doctoral students along with the then president of the college where I work. It was in Philadelphia and I’d wanted Keith to join me but he couldn’t. He hadn’t been feeling all that well and felt the pressure of some work he needed to do. I wasn’t happy about his not feeling well, this uncured bronchitis or whatever it was. But he clearly didn’t have the energy to travel so I backed off. The conference, however, has somehow been cast in my mind as the “beginning of the end” for Keith.

So it was with a sudden attack of anxiety that I couldn’t immediately bring myself to register for this event when asked last October. Steven had had a health scare around the same time and I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years. Fortunately for Steven, the potential for liver problems was caught early enough and has led to him cutting way back on his alcohol intake and it has made a noticeable difference.

I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years.

Still, though the moment had passed, the anxiety over the association between this conference and losing a husband remained. Irrational, yes. But real enough that I put it off while still watching the deadline for the early bird registration. So when the moment came this week in a meeting with the VP to discuss conference travel, I was relieved when she supported my attending a different conference, one that would take place in Austin, Texas at the end of May. I would plan to take Steven so he could visit with his son, and I’d lead a contingent of faculty to the conference. It looked like something I could sincerely enjoy doing. The anxiety slipped away and replaced by a sense of giddy relief.

But then Dad mentioned the question asked by his lady friend: “Are you done grieving?” and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The answer is: No. But life still moves forward and we must go with it, or risk losing the opportunity to live the life we’ve been blessed with to the fullest.

I’m sickened by today’s events in Charlottesville. I’m sickened by the tableau of nazi and white supremacist history being writ large and live in this day and age. I am sickened that the ideologies of hate and bigotry are so freely, loudly, and angrily shouted on the streets of America where so many years before, and even so recently, we believed this diseased torrid flesh-eating curse had finally been permanently banished. Yet this hate led to someone dying and others seriously hurt.

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Here’s another blogger’s response to the weekend’s events title My Fellow White Americans. And, sadly, I couldn’t agree more.

As I prepared to publish this, I came across a draft of an entry that I’d failed to publish shortly after the election. Yet as I re-read it now, I am deeply saddened that my fears have unfortunately been substantiated. Here it is, my previously unpublished post from last November.

Wrapping my head around a vote

written November 14, 2016

I just left a college-wide meeting where about 120 members of the campus community came together to talk about the election of Donald J. Trump and results of the most divisive election in modern history. Since that outcome of November 8th, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the disconnect and compartmentalization that describes how many people I know and care about – including colleagues, neighbors, and others – could vote for a candidate who spent 16 months spewing ever more vile rhetoric of hate, homophobia, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. Even more so, this same candidate chose not to demonstrate any scorn for those who perpetuated and even advanced this hate speech into action. Rather, he seemed to encourage it.

The kinder people I speak of are not racist. And I believe them. But then I’m left with a question of judgement. Did they hate Hillary so much more that they were willing to look past the comments of a person whose word-vomit and narcissism was decorated with the lacy fabric of… let’s just call it “crap”… the words are there and yet to repeat them gives them legs.

A consummate con, Trump is a showman whose singular goal is to get more views, more news coverage, more attention, regardless of how that happens. And somehow, nearly half the voters were able to swallow their own pride, set aside their own dearly-held values, and select a candidate whose con is only out-sized by his list of vile statements which emboldened a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic underbelly of America to come out of the woodwork. When is the last time a President was openly supported by the KKK or other white nationalist groups?

So I sat among colleagues who I hold great respect for, and even fondness, for we are, after all, a family of people committed to the common goal of changing the world through the success of our students. Yet, as I heard my well-intentioned co-workers from counseling offer ways of coping with anxiety – mostly intended for students in the room – I heard one of them, a kind-hearted white gentleman, finish his list of tips interspersed with the statement “because life will go on.” He had been doing so well… but then he went…there.

Life will go on? I guess. But in that one statement, he succeeded in diminishing the very real fears of many of the people in the room. Another colleague who I have often tapped to talk about cross-cultural dialogue and understanding took note of this statement. As a well-educated African American man, he knew the counseling and psychology phraseology. But he also knew what his own fears felt like. And he feared that life was not going to “go on” the same way for a long time. His pain was palpable and I felt a lump in my throat.

Sitting nearby was another colleague who I know to be gay, but he did not speak up. From his body language in response to an LGBT student’s expression of fear and concern countered with a defiant statement of hope, I could feel his pain, as well.

But then another colleague, an African American woman asked a variation of what I had already expressed via the microphone being passed around. How do I wrap my head around the fact that there are people I know who voted for this man in spite of the banner of hate that he waived? How do I resolve this conflict with people who accepted his hate, but then want to work with me? An unfulfilling answer came from a white male in the room who acknowledged his privilege but missed the point. He said we needed to just move past this and go on.

There it was again. Just move on.

Yep. Accept the fact that someone who has emboldened his most extreme followers to openly spew anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, anti-Black crude, cruel, hate speech of the most deplorable kind, should be welcomed with open arms into the leadership of not only this country, but the free world? Accept that? Nope. Not at all.

I know that my male white colleague, and many people who voted for “the Don,” didn’t mean to vote for the vile crap that came along with his nonsensical campaign “speeches” and hyperbolic “big” promises. They may have been focused on only a few issues, one of them likely a palpable dislike for Hillary. I get it. She wasn’t my first choice, either. But she is highly experienced and well qualified for the job, regardless of the “email scandal” non-scandal that swirled around her campaign. I know that the people I call my friends, neighbors, and others I care about are caring people, too. And believe me, I hope above hope that I am wrong, that all the terrible things that the Don has unleashed will fizzle without doing permanent damage.

In the meantime, I don’t think “moving on” is quite the right term for what I – and many others – will be doing. Instead, we too, will become more emboldened to reach out to each other for support, for healing, to promote and hang tight to the values we hold dear, for love, kindness, acceptance, tolerance, celebration of differences, and…a brighter future. We will stand up to bullying, stand by our friends, step forward towards a more inclusive community.

 

Perhaps…maybe someday… we’ll even “move on.” Maybe after we have somehow managed to overcome this Pandora’s box of evil hate that I think we can all (mostly) agree is antithetical to the values of this nation, and close that horrid loathsome box shut again.


 

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Charlottesville, Virginia 8/12/17

8/12/17 – Unfortunately, far from “moving on,” it seems that the only way to fight evil is to face it head on, relentlessly, and without deviation. The opposite of evil is love. But today, evil is my enemy, and love for my fellow compassionate humans is my weapon of choice. – mjf

 

 

In the blog entry “My Mother Wasn’t Trash,” writer Joshua Wilkey shares his mother’s important and sensitive story about her life in poverty in Appalachia. It’s worth a read.

When people are eaten up mentally and physically by a lifetime of compounded shitty choices, they reach a point where they can’t even decide what is best anymore, because they realize that no matter what they do – no matter how hard they try – they are cogs in a broken machine and nobody cares about them anyway. Poor Appalachian people are broken, but not nearly as broken as the systems that keep them poor. 

Thank you, Joshua Wilkey, for bringing a voice forward to be heard.

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