Warning: This post includes a reference to my own political views. If any criticism of the recently removed occupant of the White House, aka #45, will upset you, please go elsewhere for your reading. That is, unless you are truly interested in learning about the pain this has caused within families and would like to try and heal that rift. Thank you. – MJF

I often wonder how our conversations would have gone if my Dad were here to have seen how the past 10 months have panned out. We had come to agree not to speak politics, especially at the dinner table. I still remember the day more than four years ago when he asked me why I was screaming when he kept dismissing my concerns about then candidate tRump. I told Dad it was because he terrified me. I could feel the evil he, tRump, was projecting, the cold heartless disregard for others, the narcissistic boasting of lies that his speech pattern revealed, unable to string together a coherent thought while weaving in complete and utter nonsense soaked up by his base who somehow thought being tough meant beating up the opposition. All critical thinking having been abdicated in exchange for a toxic masculinity in what became the cult of the schoolyard bully of tRump.

Mom and Dad in happier healthier times. Summer 2010 visiting the Detroit Zoo as part of a family celebration of their 50th Anniversary.

I remember tearfully and loudly exclaiming how could Dad even consider following him after the toxic expressions of anti-semitism, the admiration of dictators and despots, the complete disregard for human decency and process. My dad dismissively waived off my concerns saying it was just his candidate being boastful, that it would never get that bad. And maybe, I hoped do, too. That the checks and balances of government, and that the fourth estate would be enough. But then came COVID19. And he became so adept at the flippant lies that the cultish base he dog-whistled to had finally been fully brainwashed. And the evil we saw spread in its rabid attack on democracy had reached its peak.

Dad passed away May 1st, 2020 after a brief and ugly battle with cancer, and full of the awful indignities that go with it. And I did my daughterly duties and cared for him, cleaning him up, feeding and bathing him when his body turned against him. As his body began to degrade around him, I remember Dad asking me “What happens after you die?” And it crushed me. Raised Jewish, there is no hell or purgatory. But there is guilt. I chose not to add to his pain. Instead, I asked him questions that were meant to help him reflect and guide him to his own conclusions. He was in a room filled with books that explored this very thing…my mother, who had passed away nearly four years earlier, was a voracious reader of all things spiritual. Yet he had never picked up a single one of these books except to place them on the shelf. So, after a few bits of back and forth that didn’t seem to satisfy him, I simply responded “You’ll be with mom once again.”

The writer of the article linked below is hoping to find his lost (to the cult of tRump) parents long before they die. I hope he is successful.

https://qr.ae/pNlwHD

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.

Screenshot 2019-08-05 15.55.15.png

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

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.

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.

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.