Another day, another active shooting on a school campus. What are you going to do?

high angle photo of person wearing shoes

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Picture it. Really put yourself there. Stand there on that high school campus in the misty cool November morning. You’re a kid. You didn’t want to go to school but you dragged yourself out of bed. Maybe you had to get there early to take a test you missed last week or to work on plans for the next school dance or maybe you had a club meeting.

Whatever. You’re there. You’re standing on the quad at your high school, maybe talking to a friend. What are you going to do this weekend? Gotta work. But maybe catch a movie after? You’re sixteen and you have your license now. The whole world has opened up to you.

You hear a pop and in the cool fall morning under the open sky, it doesn’t feel important at first. And then you see the small red dot between your friend’s eyes and you feel the warm spray of her blood and nothing is really real except the next pop seconds later and the sting in your shoulder as you spin and fall on the prickly grass.

From there, you try to decide. Lie still, play dead or get up and run while you still can. Another pop and then two more. That’s five. If the movies are right, you get six. But the last one seems to take a while longer. You roll over and look. He’s standing less than twenty feet from you, but the gun is pointed at his own head, not you. You wonder if it’ll work. You’ve heard it’s hard to actually kill yourself that way. You’ve heard of people doing it, losing part of their brain, living the life of a vegetable, or, possibly worse, being horribly deformed for the rest of their lives.

You see his eyes, the hollow, hopeless look there, and you desperately hope that this time it will work.

And the last pop comes and he falls and it’s over. You lay back and tears seep from your eyes as you remember the red dot between your friend’s eyes. It bothers you that you don’t remember her falling, just standing there. Like she’s still standing there above you and not lying on the ground next to you with the back of her head blown out. Who else was shot? They aren’t all dead because you can hear them crying, too. You hear someone retching, coughing. Blood and vomit and tears soak the grass.

And so it happens again. Two lives lost, four more wounded in the time it takes to walk across a room. All because someone had a gun who shouldn’t have had a gun.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you know someone who has been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you’re pretty certain you will soon.

By this point, all hands should be raised.

Poem: Teetering

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There’s no guardrail here.

A few days ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go, even if it was on my bucket list. The Grand Canyon is a bit of a challenge for someone with even a mild fear of heights, and I definitely have at least that. But I found once I got there that the paths were wide and I could walk on the side away from the canyon and enjoy the view.

My kids were another story entirely. It seemed they were intent on walking as close to the edge as I would allow. I was constantly calling or motioning them back from what seemed like a precipitous edge down which they were sure to fall. My oldest finally looked at me with exasperation and said, “You bring me to a big hole in the ground and tell me to stay away from the big hole in the ground!”

I laughed, but it’s true. I told him to stay away from the hole in the ground because I want to protect him. I don’t want him to fall.

Of course, while we were looking at the big hole in the ground, the United States teetered on the brink of far worse. We put our toes over the very edge of a very dark, deep hole waiting to drown us in war (and don’t fool yourself that it won’t be nuclear). We’re still balancing on the edge of that black pit, but it’s full of our sins just waiting to pull us in. Sins like helpless children held prisoner without decent beds or meals. Environmental regulations rolled back every day in favor of money. A clueless leader who has lost the respect of every nation on earth except those hoping to profit from his ignorance. And our blind eyes turned to all of it.

Remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a pool waiting to plunge in but not quite ready for the cold water to envelop your steaming skin? Remember the feel of the rough concrete beneath your feet as you leaned forward just a little more, spreading your arms for balance so you didn’t fall too soon but you might fall any minute?

Remember the moment your toes finally lost their grip and you plunged in before you were ready and the hopelessness of knowing the icy water would shock your skin and pull you down?

We’re teetering on the edge of something far worse now.

 

Teetering

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Toe slides…

Over the edge…

Arms spread…

Balanced,

But mindful.

 

Lean a little more—how far can we go?

How far before…

The balance

Slips?

And we

Fall?

 

Wobbling,

Swaying,

Sliding,

It may be

Fate,

But—

 

Who will see the plunge and watch us flatten the world?

Can anyone stop it?

Please?

I agree with Mr. Mueller: The written word is more powerful than the spoken one.

scribbles on wall

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Today I watched a historic speech given by a great man. Former Special Counsel on the Russia investigation Robert Mueller finally gave us his two cents worth in a speech. And he basically said what he had already written was worth much more.

He’s right. He said: “I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work, but beyond these few remarks, it is important the office’s written work speak for itself.” In other words, I’m outlining a few points here, but this is basically a book report. Read the book if you want to know what happens.

Later on, he added: “We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself.”

Have you ever noticed that when you’re speaking, you might say anything, but when you write it down, you think about it? If you haven’t, you probably don’t write much. Maybe you’re one of those who can write themselves into a corner on a birthday card. But if you write reports of any sort, if you write news stories or blog posts or books, you think about the impact of each word on your reader. And you think about the impact you want to make on your reader.

The written word has a power that the spoken word does not, and it also has a permanence the spoken word usually lacks. I believe Robert Mueller’s words will live on, both in spoken and written form. I also believe it’s time to pay attention to what he has already told us. And have the courage to act accordingly.

I’m editing this to add one more thought. Mr. Mueller’s written words are there for history. If Congress does not act on these words, history will judge them accordingly.

THAT Text—will you get it next?

Yesterday I got that text. The one parents all over the United States have been getting. It’s never expected or wanted. It’s not welcome at all. But as of now we’ve done absolutely nothing to stop it.

At 5:51 p.m. my son texted me, “Crap there’s a shooter on campus.”

For the next several hours we texted and called back and forth. I’m lucky. My son was safe in his dorm. His friends were scattered across campus, one in the library that was fired on, another in the student union. Others hunkered down in classrooms and halls. Slowly word got out that the shooter was caught. Buildings were cleared and students were allowed to leave.

At 11:28 p.m. I texted my son again to make sure all was well and he said it was. His roommates were back, having been released from where they’d sheltered. He was going to bed, hungry because the dining hall was closed and he had no food in his room. Hungry but alive and safe. I got to tell him I love him again.

That text is coming for every parent out there. Until our Congress implements sensible gun control measures, we are all in danger of getting it. Until the NRA’s power over us is cast off, every parent sends their kid off to school knowing that it might be their child sending them that text next.

The shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte barely caused a blip on the radar of most politicians and news organizations. By the numbers, the shooting wasn’t that bad, right? Only two people died. Only four people were injured. Only two families had to be notified that their students wouldn’t come home. Only four had to wait in anguish for word that their loved ones were out of surgery.

Can we really judge it by the numbers, though? Because the only number that matters, really, is one. One more school shooting. One more time that lives were ended when common sense gun control could have stopped it. One more time kids texted their parents.

So, if you’re happy with waiting for that text from your kid, go ahead, sit back, relax. This was just one shooting. But it only took one shooting to end the lives of two college students yesterday.

You’ll get that text eventually unless we stop this now.

Dear “Woke” Democrats,

Dear “woke” Democrats,

Here’s the thing. I’ve been a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. No kidding. My first political memory is of campaigning with my mother outside the local Veteran’s Hall. We handed out leaflets and my mother talked about how Carter was a good man.

I was six years old.

Since then most of my family has become Republican, my political affiliation has never wavered. When I registered to vote at the age of 18, I proudly stated my political affiliation as Democrat. Democrat I was and Democrat I always should be. I voted for Mondale and Ferraro. I voted straight Democratic tickets for years. I saw candidates fail time after time because I live in North Carolina, home of Jesse Helms, for God’s sake. I saw Howard Dean’s scream. I lived through Dukakis’s tank ride. I shook my head at Gary Hart’s downfall. In 1991, on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, I was moved by the enthusiastic and powerful words of Bill Clinton. I later endured what felt like a betrayal by this personable man I’d supported.

In 2000, I waited with bated breath for the results of an election which should not have been close, only to see Al Gore respectfully bow out when I wanted him to fight. My heart cracked then but by 2004 I thought I’d grown accustomed to defeat when John Kerry also fell short.

The Obama years were a bright spot, but my heart truly broke when Hillary failed in 2016. That’s the only time I’ve ever cried over an election. And now, in these dark times, I find myself with a new enemy.

You.

You dare to tell me, who has struggled wearily along this long path strewn with political careers of people I’ve admired and candidates who’ve failed me, that I’m part of the problem because I’m not “woke” enough? I’ll tell you this, young whippersnappers, I’m “woke” enough to see what your “wokeness” hath wrought and being “woke” doesn’t help you when the world is so dark you can’t see anything but black. And that’s what we’re approaching if you keep firing on people who are ON THE SAME SIDE AS YOU. A world that cares nothing for those who are different, a world that denies problems instead of trying to solve them, a world so deeply divided both sides fall into the crevasse instead of reaching across to each other.

Still don’t think I’m woke enough?

The peanut lapel pin my mother received for campaigning for Jimmy Carter. I keep it to remind myself what being Democrat is all about: Persevering for the little guy.

Trump Tilts at Windmills

They might be giants…they aren’t, but they might be.

Very seldom these days do the worlds of great literature and American politics coincide, but Donald Trump’s recent attack on windmills cannot help reminding me of the passage in the great novel about an insane man, Don Quixote.

Don Trump says, “They kill birds, they cause cancer, you can’t depend on them to power your television for an entire night because if the wind’s not blowing, there’s no power.”

Don Quixote says, “They’re giants and I shall slay them.”

But where is Trump’s Sancho? Where is the voice of reason to tell him that they aren’t actually giants, but very useful and beneficial machines? If we continue the parallel, Sancho would probably be Trump’s voters. The ones he’s promised will benefit if they follow him. Yet Trump’s Sancho doesn’t seem capable of pointing out that the windmills are not actually giants. So, it would seem, Trump Quixote is destined to break his lance without even a word of warning from his companion.

We might laugh at this. Cervantes certainly intended you to laugh at his misguided knight and even at Sancho. But if we’re stuck in Don Trump, or the Man of Queens, we better hope there’s a Knight of the White Moon out there somewhere who will defeat Trump and make him promise to go home to be cured of his madness.

Otherwise, we may be doomed to subscribe to Quixote’s belief near the end of the first volume that knights errant “are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire.”

Sounds uncomfortably familiar.

A Million Zillion Liberal Dreams

Yesterday I thought a lot about the new liberal progressive Democrats and their “Green New Deal”. Though I’ve always considered myself a moderate Democrat, it seems to me that this Green New Deal makes all kind of sense. New jobs, new infrastructure, eliminating carbon from our energy sources.

Once upon a time our nation would have embraced what now seems outrageous to so many.

As usual, I had music on when I figured out something major. And the music contributed to the resounding “click” I heard in my head. This time I was in the car, and Pink’s version of “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman came on. And…click

Why do poets and artists tend to be more liberal?

Why are so many liberals poets and artists?

(Click) We are dreamers.

It’s true. We dream of what could be or we let what is haunt us. We dream of change. We dream of life and love and liberty for all. We are patriots who believe our country can be better, and we can make it so.

We have a million, zillion dreams, and yes, they keep us up at night.

My ruminations left me with two questions, though.

1. Why is the Democratic Party afraid to own their dreams? Why not just say, yes, this is who we are and what we want, and we know we can get us there?

2. Why is everyone so afraid to dream these perfectly reasonable dreams that will benefit everyone in our country and the world at large? If we have a million, zillion dreams, there’s room for everyone in them, isn’t there?

Advice for Democrats running on a liberal agenda: Own your dreams. Stop apologizing for them. A Green New Deal is a dream worth fighting for.

What dreams do you have that are worth fighting for?

I am Liberal

By Michelle Garren Flye

We are

(Liberal)

Dreamers.

We stay awake

At night imagining

What we can be.

What you can be.

We are

(Liberal)

Believers.

We believe the world

Can welcome all.

A place for us.

A place for you.

We are

(Liberal)

Reformers.

We own our mistakes

(And yours) and fix them.

For your future.

For our future.

We are

Dreamers

Believers

Reformers

Imaginers

Romantics

Visionaries

Advocates

Innovators

Environmentalists

Activists

Scientists

Artists

Poets

Crusaders—

Liberals.

For tomorrow—photo by Michelle Garren Flye