On A Recent Gun Tragedy in Chicago

There is rightful outrage to the shooting death in Rogers Park this weekend to teacher Cynthia Trevillion caught tragically in gang crossfire while out for supper with her husband. Who should be held accountable? Joe Walsh is a leading local gun pornographer. The NRA – National Rifle Association of America is growing wealthy and powerful over rivers of blood on our nation’s streets. Rahm Emanuel refuses to hold the Chicago Police accountable and fosters economic policies, championed by people like Alderman James Cappleman that degrades Chicago Public Schools and evaporates affordable housing. It is Trump and his tacit and sometimes overt support for racism and the destruction of assistance for the poor and working poor that promotes a general hopelessness in many communities. It is all of us who turn the page when this happens in “Black” and “Bad” neighborhoods and are outraged when it happens in our neighborhood. It is something perversely dark and cruel bred in American culture where this is allowed to happen year over decade. It is all of us for not  choosing to be informed, and to show up to vote, to call, to protest, and at the end of all those efforts,  if necessary, show up a million strong and drag those from civil, loving, decent, all-embracing society out of office and tossed into a river.
This morning on Facebook my friend, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas lamented:

This happened a block away from our apartment:

“From a friend of the Chicago Waldorf School Family and I share his sentiments:

‘Last night here in Rogers Park, a wonderful wife, inspiring teacher, and good friend was senselessly killed by random gunfire. Cynthia Trevillion of the Chicago Waldorf School did not deserve to die. She was walking in our neighborhood, going to a restaurant where she lived, when a car full of kids drove by and shot, missing their intended target, and killed her instantly. Right in front of her husband.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever.

While the killers have not been tracked down yet, we can all guess that the guns they possessed were obtained illegally. Bought from someone who either stole them or bought them from some other idiot. Reports vary, but it’s believed that 60% of guns used in Chicago crimes come from Indiana, Mississippi, and Wisconsin and are virtually untraceable because, you know, the government shouldn’t track those sort of things. I mean, what can we do, right?

And before you start with your “crooks don’t pay attention to the law”, save it. Closing the loop of “personal” sales will curtail the availability of guns. You sell a firearm anywhere to anyone, it will be registered. And if that firearm is used in a crime, you will be implicated. It’s that simple.

Even these measures will not completely eliminate guns falling into the wrong hands. No, they won’t completely eradicate senseless killings like last night.

But if we can reduce the amount of guns on the streets by 10%…20…30%…maybe we don’t lose such a bright soul.

Maybe the kids at our school aren’t mourning the loss of their teacher.

Maybe a husband isn’t burying his wife decades too early.”

This was my response to my friend, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas:
 
Four things. Rahm is closing still more schools, with growing lack of funds as more and more cash is directed to charter(corporate schools) By the way, more TIF money is going to rich developers as the city gentrifies, and available housing to the poor, disenfranchised and working poor is relegated to fewer and fewer neighborhoods, like Rogers Park. 2. the 60% figure is accurate, but more alarming is that police report that better than 80% of guns they recover were purchased LEGALLY and sold to gangs and criminals. 3. The police, in a tantrum over being asked to not shoot kids 16 times, in antagonism of BLM and because these public servants are being told they must be accountable are simply refusing to do their jobs, and the gangs know it! And last, there is a element of a lack of moral leadership, which starts at the top and has become a quality of our government. Facts and information have been discredited by looters and criminals in the White House, the state house, the corporate boardroom and city hall which creates a culture of making excuse for any blatantly abhorrent behavior. If Trump can get away with doing what is selfishly advantageous to him, why can’t some punk on the street? .
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Literature as Future history and the Power of Fiction.

In 1999 I began work on my very first novel. It took me four years to complete; a 93,000 word epic about 6 friends coming of age in a small French town I’d fallen in love with many years before. I edited the book now and again, but overall it seemed far too intimate to do anything with. I printed a copy and put it on a shelf. “A Perfect Place,” takes place years from now, the world at war with America. a virulent nationalist fervor, led by a particular demagogue and championed by a criminal sweeps through town, observed by a dying university professor who believes all human history can be described and predicted using the template of the French Revolution. Dusting off the novel late last night I was stunned at how closely I described what is happening to our nation, and what may lay ahead. In this excerpt two of the characters are faced with going off to war:

He was waiting for Antonio and David. Rather he was waiting for Antonio and having doubts whether David would actually show after the other day. The note they left at his door went unanswered, but David had always been a little flighty in Bastien’s opinion, so anything was likely to happen. Bastien, however, was not placing too many hopes on David showing.

Antonio arrived first, climbing up through the skylight, waving when he saw Bastien. He scooted onto the ledge beside Bastien, and asked where David was. Bastien only shrugged, watching the curious characters in the alley below. Antonio looked as well, the bottoms of his feet tingling as they dangled so high above the ground.

“What’s the show today?”

“Josephine Baker.”

“Oo-la-la. Even I would tune out for her.”

“Why, like to borrow one her dresses?” Bastien grinned. Antonio was suddenly flustered, searching for something to say. Bastien patted his leg before Antonio could get the words out. “Good comeback. I’m only just kidding.”

“Are you always going to torture me with that?”

“You kissed me, Goddamnit.”

“Once.”

“And you said you loved me!”

“I, uh…” Antonio stammered.

Bastien could see that his friend was hurt and embarrassed. He threw an arm around Antonio’s shoulders. “I love you too, man.”

“You do?”

“Sure, for all the years we’ve been friends. You’re my best friend in the whole world, man. Even if you are a queer bird.”

“I didn’t say I was queer.”

“Well, someone who kisses other boys might want to start asking some questions, don’t you think?”

“Just confused.”

“Well, you’ll figure it out, right. Not important though, right now we have bigger things to worry about.”

Of course he was talking about the war. They were quiet for a moment, that new worry creeping into their thoughts. Antonio sighed, looked out across the hazy jumble of rooftops and power lines, catching only a glimpse of the greenish-brown river beyond.

“Ever wonder about dying?” he asked.

“Only about dying here.”

“Here or anywhere?”

“Anywhere but here.”

“Hmm.”

“Don’t think about it. It will just make you sick.”

“How is that possible? Maybe we will be killed or crippled, come back as hopeless as these others.” Antonio motioned to a table of veterans throwing catcalls at Bastien’s blushing Sister.

“Maybe you’ll get cancer tomorrow.”

“Maybe.”

“You could get hit by lightening, or drown in the river. Do you worry about those things too?”

“I worry about things you cannot even imagine, my friend.”

“Do you worry that I will throw you from this roof, if you don’t shut up?”

“I am now,” he grinned.

“Look there’s a rat,” Bastien pointed out the furry creature scurrying through the tables. An elderly man and wife saw it and smiled at one another. Both boys could see the holo-tech modules in their ears.

“I bet the holo-tech program will make that old couple there think that it’s an adorable poodle.”

“Disgusting. I’d rather have a rat.”

“A rat?”

“They know how to fight, how to survive. With a rat you know he is out for himself. Nobody will mess with him unless he wants a real fight. That’s who you get behind, protect his ass. In the war, I intend to be a rat.”

“I’ll be behind you, Little rat,” Antonio nudged with his shoulder.

Bastien looked at him for a long moment, judging him in a way that almost made him want to retreat for it. Instead, he rose to meet it, felt himself becoming a man.

“I know you will. And yes, I do think about dying.”

Antonio thought to say something, to ask him, but the effort just seemed too small. It was enough that Bastien was thinking about death that made Antonio not feel so alone any longer.

“And David?” Antonio asked.

Bastien could only shake his head.

“I went by his flat earlier,” he said. “The note was gone.”

“Maybe he saw it?”

“I spoke with his crazy mother. Well, spoke at her while she stared at me like I was speaking English or something.”

“Will we be the three Musketeers?”

“He will not come with us,” Bastien said recalling their last time at the chateau.

“I had that impression, too.”

“David is on another road, perhaps more deadly than ours, and certainly more dangerous for the soul.”

Antonio nodded in reluctant agreement, looked admiringly at his friend. Bastien pretended not to notice, looked off across the town. He tried to imagine the two of them at war, wondered what it would be like for each of them, but could not quite form proper thoughts. The war was too real now to ponder, to imagine themselves in the news images from the frontlines, or to think that they could soon end up like those wretched souls in the Hotel des Invalides, or upon that hill at St-Cirq Lapopie. It came to them as this undefined monolithic thing, something which could neither be understood or reckoned with, only faced as confidently as their untested hearts could manage.

SORRY. Must Rant on Transgenders in the Military. Caution: Adult Language

A pal says this is another distraction, which is true to an extent. I would argue that the blatant and gleeful rollback of human rights regardless of the size or uncomfortable nature of that minority is dangerous to us all. Next, and mark my words, Trump will return the military to forcing homosexuals from the military. Once we get on that slippery slope, we’re on it, baby, and we are on it!

Regarding the transgender issue in the military. I’m hearing two arguments from the right against having transgender personnel in the military. The first is that keeping them out of the military is important for our national security. Number 2 is that the transgender personnel in the military are a tiny, tiny minority less than two-tenths of a percent. So which is it? If there’s such a tiny minority then it really doesn’t affect National Security which would seem to entirely in the gate the administration’s excuses.

Today the administration announced it would remove Transgender personnel from the military. I am confused, because I thought the Right was all about logic and a patriotism which extolls our soldiers-ALL of our soldiers?

I thought that everyone who serves in the military is a hero and we owe them an unending expression of gratitude, and yet not one person is saying the transgender people in the military ALREADY haven’t done their jobs. Like they all lay around all day dreaming of their new taxpayer-paid vaginas and penis’. So they aren’t being discriminated against based on merit.

As for the figure of 250 current taxpayer funded transgender surgeries to military personnel…I’ve known a lot of fat Type II diabetic motherfuckers in the military or spawning one too many army brats, getting hospitalized for drunken brawls, raping women overseas-and here- ALL ON THE TAXPAYERS DIME-I could go on and on about a whole fucking universe of “LIFESTYLE” issues costing me as a taxpayer money so spare me the bullshit propaganda about the cost of a surgery or two, or a couple hundred. Seems some schmuck dragged us into an unnecessary war costing taxpayers about 4000 funerals, better that 25000 injuries and lifetimes worth of rehab and medical costs.

And the final argument regards this fiction of unit cohesion, that in battle LGBTQ soldiers and service members will run away like dainty children or spend their energies checking out fellow service members rather than watching for the enemy. That would come to a great surprise to men like Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a decorated airman who flew combat missions over the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, or 10 year veteran and Army Captain, who sought a Texas congressional seat in 2012, or Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben who fled persecution in Europe when his homosexuality was revealed. Von Steuben was instrumental in helping America win its independence. More than 200 homosexual soldiers died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Maj. Alan Rogers who was killed in January 2008 in Iraq by a roadside bomb while on patrol.

Rush Limbaugh, Denis Prager and Kate Daly all expressed alarm that soldiers might see a vagina or a penis in a shower and lapse into a stupor from which they might not survive. having been to war, in the middle of battles, if those snowflakes are more upset by a non-lethal genital that seeing bodies ripped apart, not to mention the overall misery and trauma of the war experience, then I say, get rid of them all and give me a 100% LGBTQ military!

Loneliness: The most powerful photo I’ve ever taken

Loneliness: The most powerful photo I’ve ever taken

A few years back, hurrying to work, I nearly missed him. He was sitting along the wall beside the AT & T building in Chicago’s Loop, stoic and still among rushing throngs of office workers, tourists and students. To either side were his two dogs, A cart with the man’s world belongings were beside him.

I didn’t know his story or where he came from, and I have not seen him since. It was a moment in which the paths of our lives crossed for a perfect and powerful moment.

What I find in looking at this man becomes less of a narrative about him as it is an insight to my own heart. Still, it is impossible to escape the torture of his eyes, one that speaks to pain and lonesomeness. In that face are a thousand stories and possibilities. Perhaps he ran afoul of the law when he was young, or made poor choices in life that brought him to this place. Maybe it was drugs or alcohol, or even mental illness. Maybe it was none of these things. Life can bring any soul to the precipice of despair. Not everyone comes to that fight with the same strengths. Some are crushed under the weight. I have felt that strain before. I have people who love and support me. Those blessings are simply not the case for all of us.

There is a certain wisdom tinged with exhaustion in his eyes that suggests at a life of tough breaks and  a lack of family and support. It could well have been an illness or the loss of someone close that he could not recover from. In the end, the story one makes about the man tells more about them than about him.

One thing that is without question is the loneliness in his stare. The dogs are his companions and family, but there is little to suggest in the evidence that the story of their shared lives will end happily. And that is where I will leave it…

hierarchy of suffering

An interesting post from a friend about pain and victimhood and the dangers of hierarchical assignments of suffering and pain by individuals, communities, groups, nations, what have you. This was my brief reply:  Was interesting in Rwanda during the genocide, and in Sarajevo during the siege the very natural human tendency towards competition of suffering. However, can’t throw the bay out with the bathwater. There is a therapeutic aspect on some level of understanding, acceptance and perspective gained by the individuals suffering. Also seen this, and it is actively encouraged among vets suffering PTSD, but I get your point, verbalizing and communicating one’s pain should not become a hierarchy of suffering. Always someone, somewhere suffering worse than you. That doesn’t diminish your pain or mine, but means your pain is as valid and substantial to you in your life as my pain is to me. That should be the place where we negotiate the community of our pain; the ultimate truth for each of us.

To a Better Border Wall…

In fairness, I don’t want to dismiss Trump’s idea to put solar panels on the border wall, costing America and Mexico less money, but I don’t think he goes far enough. Here are some other ideas for Mr. Trump’s wall to save money and stop so-called illegal immigration:

1. A coal powered wall, since he has promised to bring back coal, despite the entire nation evolving past coal.

2. Paint it to look like the desert, and when people bump into it and fall down we can videotape our national prank, and like coal, revive Bob Saget’s Funniest Home Video career.

3. A 2000 mile 60 foot tall aquarium, because surely Trump will believe Mexicans will believe that America sank and go home.

4. Post America’s $20 trillion debt clock on the Mexico side of the wall. Might encourage poor refugees to take pity and throw soon to be worth more than the dollar pesos over the wall as charity.

5, make the wall from the same place he gets his hair. Immigrants will get hopelessly tangled, but would otherwise be same.

6. Replace the water in the Rio Grande with Budweiser beer. I like beer and I would run from that! Seriously?

7.Show immigrants anything from PBS on the Mexico side of the wall, and when they slip into a Coma, carefully pick them up and move them south 100 miles.

Build the wall on the border of Canada, and wave them north to a decent country.

8 Put the whole country up on polls

Anything I might have missed? After all, its all about helping our Grifter in Chief…