STUDY HALL: Write with us, beginning each Tuesday at 10 a.m.!

IMG_3546We check In each Tuesday here to give each other support and encouragement to work in those writing projects we might otherwise put off. Everyone is invited to join us by including below a brief comment about what you’re working on today. Afterward, please let us know how it went. If you can’t make it at 10 a.m., leave your comments when you can, before you start, by the Study Hall post dated today. Better late than never, better now than not at all!

Will We EVER Change?

So many of us are downhearted today. Yesterday was not the Fourth of July of our midsummer dreams, nor even the one of our childhoods—for most of us, who remember prior to 2004. That’s when the federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire by Congress.

Image from NPR Chicago.

Mass killings with semiautomatic rifles with large magazines entered the public consciousness with the Stockton, California incident in 1989 (35 shot, five children killed) and the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Killen, Texas (27 wounded, 23 dead) in 1991. These and other incidents led to the 1994 Federal assault weapons banned, referred to above.

Since the end of the ban, the number of mass killings has increased, most researchers agree, although whether or not the ban resulted in a lower rate of homicides by guns seems to depend on whether you include all homicides committed with any type of gun. It may be true that most guns used in homicides would not be included in the ban, though this probably is not the key question in the fear and disgust most of us feel today.

Why are we so afraid?

A maniac with a handgun can confront a crowd at a grocery store, a school, or a holiday parade, and he (virtually always a “he”) will have to aim for each shot, can shoot only one bullet at a time for most models, and must reload after each clip of 5-10 bullets. That gives time for people to get the hell out of the way.

A maniac with an AR-15, arguably the mass killer’s gun of choice, can shoot 30-100 shots without reloading and how fast is limited to how fast the shooter can pull the trigger. It is possible to achieve a “spray” of bullets that will pierce anyone in its path. (AR-15s are semiautomatic and thus its trigger speed is limited; an M-16, often carried by armed forces, is fully automatic.)

Why do I have to know this?

Because I must be prepared to run if I find myself confronting one of these maniacs. The only problem is, I can’t really run, due to disabilities. With even a repeating revolver, I might be lucky enough to hobble quickly away to hide somewhere. With an AR-15, I would have little to no chance.

Neither would your child. Or your elderly mother. Or a very pregnant woman. Or any person with mobility impairments.

This terror we feel from witnessing these incidents and putting ourselves in the place of those who lose loved ones, seems to be what the shooters want.

They are domestic terrorists. Why are they not treated as that?

Because we can’t distinguish them from a law-abiding citizen with an AR-15, and there are plenty of those.

There is much talk of mental illness, but we aren’t even close to being able to identify and treat the mentally I’ll among us, much less being able to separate the homicidal from the peaceful, though we know most mentally I’ll people are not violent. Although other countries have mentally ill people, domestic violence that often leads to shootings, and even hate-filled extremists, our gun violence rate is 26 times higher than other high-income countries.1

The difference is easy access to guns.

It’s indisputable. U.S. States with higher rates of gun ownership and weak laws (such as no registration, open carry, etc.,) have higher rates of mass shootings.2

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, since 2009, there have been 278 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1569 people shot and killed and 1000 people shot and wounded. (This total doesn’t include recent incidents.)

Not so many as it seems, you might think. True. More than 99 percent of all gun homicides are not mass killings. (Mass killings are generally defined as more than four deaths.) Most involve an irate employee, a pissed-off, controlling ex-husband, or someone else set out on revenge. Some include perfect strangers involved in road rage incidents. Or the horrible “prank” of shooting at the homeless.

So why are we so terrified? Most of us think we can avoid such incidents by not working in a sour environment, choosing the right partner, and controlling our own anger on the road. Or we just don’t think someone we know will pull the trigger.

One thing seems obvious to me: It’s not the people. Americans are no more violent, most likely, than people elsewhere, although I suppose it can be argued that we still have a “cowboy” and “Wild West” mentality. But most killers aren’t cowboys and one place you don’t see this many killings is in the former Wild West—Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc. Why? Maybe people there grow up with respect for guns and what they can do. But I suspect it’s simply because there are fewer people on those states.

It’s the guns. We have to ban the semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 has been used in almost all recent incidents. The gun of choice of suicidal and homicidal young men 18-25 who want to take other people out with them.

We have to work harder at it. Because we don’t have to live like this. Because our children really, really deserve not to grow up accepting this as their reality. Because shoppers, celebrant, teachers, and students, damn it, deserve a chance.

And while we’re at it, we have to get some sense about guns in general. Most homicides in America don’t require an AR-15. Neither do most suicides by gun. We need fewer guns, period. We don’t need to carry them into public spaces like restaurants and movie theatres.

The Supreme Court, by the way, is wrong. If they’re truly going to apply the “originalist” argument to all decisions, they should have started not with abortion (which most certainly was legal in most of the original thirteen copies up to the point of quickening, i.e., the third trimester, as Roe decided) but with their bullshit decision that New York’s law banning guns in public places offended the Second Amendment. And what were the Founders thinking of when they proposed that amendment? Not AR-15s. Not even rifles or repeating revolvers.

You know the answer. With what did they fight the Revolution. With muskets. Which shot balls, not bullets. Which were notoriously inaccurate. Which took many seconds to load, giving the target time to run and hide.

I am perfectly okay with every home in America (except mine) having a musket for home defense. Although I do have a prime place for one over the fireplace. Like my ggggrandfather, William Parker, who fought in the Revolution, though he was a Quaker, and never killed another human for the rest of his life.

All the footnotes and other statistics used above come from the website

https://everytownresearch.org/maps/mass-shootings-in-america/

Please like, comment, and share with wild abandon! The buttons to do that are right down below.

Also, please sign the petitions, if you haven’t yet, for the Bkuebell Campaign to ban all assault-type weapons and require background checks for all gun purchases, in memory of the children and teachers killed in Uvalde, Texas. Here’s the link (Share it also with wild abandon, if you can. Just cut and paste the link below.):

https://www.change.org/BluebellCampaigntoEndGunViolence

Change, change, changes!

So much is going on around us that I can barely keep up with it, much less find time to condense my thoughts into a conversation with you, dear readers. Last week I found myself simply too overwhelmed to write. But that time is over! Ruling absorbed, Covid beaten back, J6 up to date. Now, what shall we do? I have a few suggestions:

1. Some writers are complaining too much there’s too much politics on Twitter and other social media. Good gosh, folks, we are in a Constitutional crisis only politics will resolve. Can’t write very well if you’re dead from an ectopic pregnancy that can’t be treated due to SC decision. Or feel self-actualized enough to set down your thoughts if you can’t vote, marry whom you want, or control your own body. Sit down, write quietly if you must. I plan on writing LOUDLY! Any way you can do it is fine. Just don’t jump on those of us who want to engage on the issues of our time. I mean, LOUDLY!!

2. Call your legislators! Go to scstatehouse.org and click on “Find your legislators” if in South Carolina or Google “who represents me” to find your reps and their contact info. Don’t wait until they start arresting women or women begin to die from ectopics pregnancies, delayed cancer treatments, etc. The time to save women’s lives is NOW. And, no, that is not hyperbole. As of my last count, thirteen states have enacted absolute bans on abortions—no exceptions!

3. The Dems need two more senators in order to end the filibuster (See more on that below) and enact legislation not just for women’s lives, bu5 also for voting rights, trans rights, marriage equality, and so on. Yes, I know we’re tired of giving money, but don’t tell me you’re tired of voting. Voting is our duty as citizens, part of our covenant with each other. I need to count on the fact that you will vote EVERY ELECTION. But don’t just vote for any old DEM. We need two Dem senators who will vote to void the filibuster. These Senate candidates have promised to vote to end the filibuster (so we can pass rights leg): Cherri Beasley (NC); John Fetterman (PA; Charles Booker (KY); Val Demings (FL); Tim Ryan (OH); and ALL the Dem candidates for Senate in the August 9 WI primary. Find one, donate, make calls, do what you can for them, even if you don’t live in their states. We all need them!

4. PlanB can be bought on Amazon and

delivered anywhere.

5. Want to help? Call your local Planned Parenthood office. Or visit wholewomanshealth.com.

Sorry

Lost the post today from tremors. Will try again tomorrow.

Did you miss me? Thank Covid.

A member of our family was struck by Covid and for a while we were all scrambling to make sure she and her children were taken care of. Fortunately for Ed and me, we had not been in direct contact with that household for a couple of weeks, but we are nonetheless being abundantly cautious. Still, we are all just gobsmacked.

See you next week.

What keeps you from writing?

Must admit, I’ve been working on this more than my writing:

https://www.change.org/p/the-bluebell-campaign-ban-assault-style-weapons-background-checks-on-all-gun-purchases/dashboard?source_location=user_profile_startedi

So much in the world today needs changing and is worrisome, heartbreaking, traumatizing, even. It’s hard to know where to look or how to cope or, especially, how to concentrate.

European capitals lit up for the people of Ukraine.

In times like these, it’s very hard to have the concentration, the mental acuity, the hope, even, to write or create. At times like these, I often turn to poetry to keep my writing mind in shape.

This is me reading Fruitcake: Poems by Lisa Badner.

Swimming, petting my dogs, and my flowers provide a little relief. Still, I know things are not right with the world and that it’s my job, as long as I draw breath, to try to leave better things behind me.

Also, I know that other writers have gone through horrible times and made a reason for writing out of those very issues that broke their world apart. One thinks of Walt Whitman, writing, walking, nursing troops during the Civil War. (Talk about partisanship!) Or the incredible June Jordan, who wrote us through the most extreme dangers of the Civil Rights era. And today there are folks trying to do the same, like the thought-provoking, productive, life-affirming Roxane Gay and Meg Pillow. Don’t know them? Please look them up.

My question for you, today, is what keeps you from writing, and what draws you back to it? I’d really love to know. Write me anything in the comments below and I will respond.

And, as always, please hit the like button AND share this blog post with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., via the social media buttons to the right.

Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you haven’t signed the petition above, please do so! Use the link in the caption to get there. And share it also with your friends with the social media buttons you find on the petition page. Thank you!

Vacation!

The Weaver’s Knot is playing by the sea.

The Uk had Snowdrops, we have the Bluebell Campaign to Ban Assault Weapons

It also calls for common sense background check reform like HR8 to close the Charleston loophole.

I said I’d take the petition to Senator McConnell if we get 100000 signatures. That’s a long way to go, but I think only that many may change his mind and those of the other GOP senators blocking gun reform.

Will you help us get there. Click the link and sign, please! https://www.change.org/p/the-bluebell-campaign-background-checks-on-all-gun-purchase-ban-assault-weapons

Where’s YOUR Sass?

When I was small, the worst thing I could do, I was convinced, was to “sass” my mom. At least, that’s what she led me to believe when she got that crazed look in her eye, usually right after she’d taken off her weaver’s apron and started to serve dinner. If I even looked like I disagreed about something, she’d zing, “Don’t you dare sass me!”

Now, of course, I know she was extremely tired after a long day running back and forth in front of six big looms, trying to keep them going so there were no “slubs” in the cloth they were making. (These days, I read that a blouse, say, is made from “slubbed” cotton and I can’t even imagine wearing it. My mother would never!) And then she had to come home and get dinner on the table.

Usually, my older sister and I would have started dinner, baking or frying chicken, cutting up potatoes, pulling a vegetable or two from the bin. But my mother liked to add her own touch, and, I must say, no food I’ve ever had was better than hers. (Different, but not better!) I don’t know what magic she used, but everything tasted better when she was done. And we were never entrusted with the making of biscuits. We had biscuits at every meal, unless she served beans, in which case there was cornbread, which I could make before I was 10.

Looking back now, I wish I had been taught, made, induced to sass. I wish my mom had been Dorothy Parker in all her vicious eloquence. Knowing how to talk back to a grabby boss, how to curse rude strangers on the street, how to get that sprawling teenager out of the bus seat so I could sit down, would have been handier than knowing how to make guests comfortable in my home. (You can get your own linens, right? There’s nothing wrong with your feet.) As it was, I had to learn it on my own, or, rather, my NOW (National Organization for Women) sisters taught me. But that’s a story for another day.

This weekend, I went for the very first time to a pro-choice demonstration in my hometown, the Southern city I left when I was eighteen years old. Sass was there in abundance, loud and very defiant. That is how we have to be now, not just about abortion rights, but also about white nationalism and the insane number of weapons on our streets. I never wanted to tolerate any of that, and I have a feeling other people are reaching their boiling point, too. I hope you are one of this mighty, furious majority. Kindness will not cut it with people who think their right to own an assault weapon is more important than our right to buy groceries or attend church in peace. Or with the people who think their religious beliefs should dictate how you handle your body, or with the folks who fear being a minority so much because they know how minorities are treated in this country.

Be loud. Be incensed. Be effective.

Study Hall: On Timely Tweets, Our Uteruses, ETC

How many of you use Twitter? Many women my age don’t. Let me tell you why I think that’s a bad idea.

First of all, #writingcommunity will get you everything from journals open for submission now to lit agents looking for specific kinds of writing. Don’t know what a hash tag is? Well, it’s a way to shorthand and categorize your tweet so people can find it. And you can find tweets on almost any subject by searching for the topic in Twitter’s search engine. So if you use the #writingcommunity, your tweet will likely get seen by more people. In my haste, I often forget the hashtag, and thus are speaking only to my followers. But, hey, it takes practice, like anything worthwhile.

Writing these days is all about “platform,” it seems. Agents and publishers want you to have a few thousand Twitter followers, at least, and so forth on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and other social media apps. So learning the ropes is definitely worth your while if you want to be more widely published.

Speaking of which, I am very happy to have an essay on the speculative work of Caren Gussoff Sumption on the new website https://romacanon.co.uk. Caren is one of my favorite writers with whom I’ve become friends. Her latest, Three Songs for Roxy, is a wonderful example of how Romani characters should appear in spec fiction, instead of the glaring stereotypes we often find (Witches, anyone? Hag? Dazzling Esmeraldas?) Give it a look and let me know what you think. https://romacanon.wordpress.com/2022/04/17/caren-gussoff-sumptions-non-exotic-and-completely-believable-fictional-roma/ Caren has a new book coming out soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

In the meantime, Twitter is all, well, atwitter, about Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform and the leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion. So, of course, two clever writers merged the two issues into a hilarious but ominous piece:

A REIMAGINING OF YOUR UTERUS, WHICH I, ELON MUSK, NOW OWN

by MIRIAM JAYARATNA and ALEXA KOCINSKI

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-ownhttps://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-own https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/a-reimagining-of-your-uterus-which-i-elon-musk-now-own

So, you see, it’s worth it to plumb social media for all it’s worth.

As always, please like and comment below, use the social media buttons to share and RT (retweet) if you’re so inclined. Thank you for reading! I’ll be here all day to answer questions, reply, have conversations, whatever you like.

Study Hall, May 3, 2022

With the news that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is circulating a draft decision that would overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision and allow states to outlaw abortion without exception, if they choose, people keep asking me how I feel. They’re asking because they know that I gave many year— most of my life, in fact—to the fight for women’s rights. My husband, who knows me best, simply came and gave me a kiss when he heard the news.

How I feel about it is not complicated. It’s encapsulated in the quote from Jill Ruckelshaus, above. Jill was a very brave woman, a Republican who fought within the party for women’s equality. She held many offices, in the White House, at the state level, and in the UN, and they all revolved around women’s rights. (Her husband, Bill Ruckelshaus, was a very brave man, one of the Justice Department officials who refused Nixon’s order during the Saturday Night Massacre. Look it up.)

Many of us did what Jill urged. We fought first for the ERA, which would enshrine women’s equality in the U. S. Constitution, so that any abrogation of our rights would need to be justified at the highest level of scrutiny, and also for women’s reproductive rights. I was an officer, then President of Illinois Now, during the times when we fought tooth and nail to keep the Radical Right from throwing young and poor women under the bus after Roe became law. (Note, we did not then realize that we should also be fighting for the rights of trans men, or nonbinary people, to control their reproductive rights.)

It was vicious—Phyllis Schlafly was often in our state—but worse were the religious zealots who flung blood at us, bashed us with their signs, spat at us, and otherwise showed their fine Christian principles, while we escorted women into clinics or lobbied legislators. Once, at a counter-demonstration, one of them, a kindly looking grandfather type, told my son that his mommy had tried to kill him. They sent a constant stream of postcards of bloody ”fetuses,” to make sure I knew that they knew where I lived. They called to threaten my life and that of my family. I had a job and two children, and then I came home to work nearly all night every night, after brief family time, on our issues, making calls, drawing up agendas and memoranda and emails, writing speeches which I then had to deliver, though it made my knees shake. I learned to not let it show.

We had little help in the media. Once, we organized an evening of personal witnessing in downtown Chicago by women who had had illegal abortions, and both women and men who had lost mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, to backalley abortions. Several media figures accused us of “sensationalizing” the issue with that program. None covered it as the chilling, agonizing look backwards that it was.

So how I feel is that I cannot outlive Brett Kavanaugh’s or Amy Coney Barrett’s, or, in truth, this conservative majority’s time on the court, barring some Cosmic intervention. We will need a Constitutional amendment to make all people truly equal before the law and national legislation like the Women’s Health Improvement Act, to codify Roe vs. Wade. I will fight as hard as I can as long as I can, but younger and healthier women and men, trans and nonbinary people and will have now to lead the charge.

So be brave, in your mind, in your interactions with others, in your speech, in your actions. And in your writing! All our lives depend on you.

And please, please both like and comment below!

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