These political cartoons found on the editorial pages of newspapers across the United States perfectly match the message and the mood of America.
James and I had just pulled into our drive. Returning from an unexpected visit to a local hospital so to visit for the final time with a friend of 20 years was emotionally heavy. The lilacs near our home seemed to feel the mood of the day as the rain made them droop and sag. They are loaded this year with blooms, and being so densely packed makes them hang even lower today.
With the weight of headlines waking us this morning with photos of the 19 boys and girls shot to death in a Texas school my mood was already somber. Then a call alerting us to the placement of our friend on hospice forced our day into higher gear for what we knew needed to be done this afternoon. A visit to a hospital.
The lady we visited loved Elvis’ singing. I joked with her that if the music was not soon located and turned on in the room I could sing, but someone would need to move the chairs back as it takes room to swivel the hips. She smiled weakly, and I considered that a victory.
So as we arrived back home I felt sluggish, having only operated on one cup of coffee all day. As I turned up the sidewalk to our front door, I saw a blond-haired boy on a scooter, that seems to be the latest rage for boys about age 10.
A woman was with him and they were looking up into the tree and so I asked “What are you looking at?”
“Just wondering what bird is making those sounds,” the woman said.
“Cardinals”, I replied. “Hear the call and response?”, I added.
She remarked on the many birds to be sighted, and I told her of the catbirds and orioles that are also nesting in the area. But it was not until I spoke of eagles that fly low near the shore of Lake Monona that the boy looked more intently in my direction and then pushing one foot on his scooter made his way across the street, his mom at his side.
“They have huge wings,” he said and smiled at the idea. He had been reading lately about those birds of prey. We talked back and forth about their nests being up to the size of a mattress. It was agreed that sharing such a mattress was not a great idea.
His mom said they were visiting from Iceland, and the lad was homeschooled. His attentive eyes and kind smile made for an odd juxtaposition with the faces on the news from Texas I had looked at hours prior. In a convoluted fashion, so to address the issue without using any language that would be alarming for the boy, I asked her about how news coverage there would deal with the headlines of our country.
“Matter of factly, not sensationalized, but also with the question as to how this is allowed to continue,” she said.
She had grown up in Wisconsin but said very plainly that she would not allow her child to attend an American school at this time. “Just look at the statistics from the past 20 years”, she stated.
Had that kid not been looking up into the tree I would not have lobbed an inquiry across the street. Had he not found an interest in eagles from his reading he might not have pushed himself over to say hello on his scooter.
His mom said such conversations with strangers are not common on streets in Iceland, first often due to the weather, but the stoic nature of the residents makes for such interactions to be few and far between. I told her on snowy days with bitter winds while shoveling I still chat it up with anyone who comes along our way.
“I offer to let them shovel, but they all seem to have read Tom Sawyer”, I quipped.
She smiled, but Mark Twain had not yet left an impression on the boy.
As the rain picked up and we started to head in opposite directions I wished them well and pointed at the boy and said, “Thanks for being you.”
His youthful glee over the birds of the area, his smile, and his willingness to engage with the world was the mood lifter this day needed.
This type of interaction, off-the-cuff, so effortless, and free, is one of the themes of my latest book which is scheduled to be published by August. The tonic for the soul is often these very types of human connections. The book has been my focus since November, with the editing phase now underway.
Nothing can put forth a message like a well-crafted editorial cartoon. Here, then, are some of the ones regarding the Texas massacre of 19 school children and two adults that made an impression at this blogging desk.
It was Tuesday in America. More gun violence. Another mass shooting.
The result of allowing this continuing assault on our children, our communities, our common sense, and our decency is now defining who we are as a nation, and a people.
The mass shootings and use of weapons designed for military purposes must be addressed in our nation. These assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines being allowed for purchase are pathetic and very much earn us the ridicule from nations around the world who have passed gun control laws so to protect their societies from what we glibly call ‘our right’.
Last night, we turned into the Late Show with Stephen Colbert as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was a guest. The tragic alignment of events in Uvalde and her appearance on the show made for a meaningful conversation to watch.
On the program, she talked about her country instituting strict gun-control laws and a gun-buyback plan in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. It was a far-right extremist who killed 51 people which alerted the nation that something was required for the safety of their society. It needs to be noted that in just weeks the nation passed a bill, with only one lawmaker out of 120 opposing, that has–and the data proves the point–curbed gun violence in the nation.
New Zealand’s elected officials did not ask any NRA goonish type organization how to proceed, or what they might do to deflect their national conversation away from the gun issue that stared them in the face. They did not whimper and kneel to gun makers and their lobbyists.
Gosh, the elected officials found their role as leaders to be paramount, and then acted.
So, it can be done.
That we do not act is shameful. The world knows that, too.
We drove back into our driveway at about 8 P.M Tuesday evening. James took some food we picked up at a local restaurant into our home and I made my way to the front of the house. Our American flag was flying at full staff and so I took it all the way down, as is proper at such times, and then brought it back up to half-staff.
Once again, our nation is forced to reckon with yet one more dastardly mass shooting. Nineteen children were blown to pieces (as of this posting), along with a school teacher because our nation has knelt down to the gun lobby, NRA, and the most unconscionable clowns who reside below the curbside within the Republican Party.
We had been out for a long afternoon drive and outing celebrating our 22nd anniversary as a couple. Sirius radio from the 50s and 60s played throughout the day, and we dodged most of the sprinkles. Life was good.
In Middleton, I had switched to AM 780, WBBM Newsradio from Chicago, thinking some early primary election returns would be reported. Instead, President Biden was speaking. Before he had finished no more than a few words, and with only the gravity of his tone to alert me, made me reach my hand out and grab James’ forearm.
Something dire had occurred.
The second-deadliest shooting at an elementary, middle, or high school on record in the United States had occurred in Uvalde, Texas.
The school children, ranging from second through fourth-graders, were in that frame of mind that we all know so well. Only a couple more days of classes, than a summer break with vacations, friends, and county fairs. The last day of school was to be Thursday.
Then a gunman wearing body armor came into the classrooms and used his assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine to shred the bodies of boys and girls sitting at their desks. The carnage and images that some children witnessed will require therapy and counseling.
Adolfo Hernandez described to the media what his nephew, who was in the building at the time of the madness, witnessed.
“He actually witnessed his little friend get shot in the face. The friend, he said, “got shot in the nose and he just went down, and my nephew was devastated.”
From the White House, President Biden reacted as the bulk of the nation is doing.
“It’s just sick,” he said regarding the insanity of allowing weapons designed for the battlefield to be able to be purchased and used by anyone who can buy one.
“Where in God’s name is our backbone, the courage to do more and then stand up to the lobbies? It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
But Biden, as much as I appreciate him, did not come anywhere near to how a very large segment of the nation feels tonight.
Our national revulsion tonight is aimed at the greedy and soulless manufacturers and merchants of deadly guns, the callous and subhuman lobbyists of the National Rifle Association, and the dregs of the Republican Party who have no other skills than to ape the nonsense they hear from their puppet masters on FOX News and conservative politicians.
Investigators say the 18-year-old gunman was able to get his hands on a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, high-capacity magazines, and body armor.
It was also reported this evening on NPR that the NRA will hold its annual meeting in Houston starting on Friday. Not for the first time on this blog do I offer a way for the amoral members of that association to understand what they are doing to the nation.
We have long known the NRA is thy most dangerous lobbying group in America. The bullshit response of ‘guns don’t kill, people kill’ gags the nation like rotten eggs left in a Texas car in mid-July. Only the most severely uneducated rube or overly blind partisan would ever make such a stupid claim.
I think the top lobbyists and promoters of the NRA should be taken to this Texas school and once the bodies of the victims are removed have their noses rubbed in the mess that remains on the floor of the school. Let them smell the results of the deranged policies they advocate.
Make those same NRA leaders attend every single funeral for the students.
Force the NRA to explain to the locals of Uvalde why gun interests are more important than the children of that community.
There is a great need in this nation to no longer allow the tail to wag the dog when it comes to gun control measures. There was a blood-letting today that will make the headlines, but the NRA is counting on most Americans to forget this horrible story by the time they finish their fifth beer on the couch Friday night. The NRA counts on not being mentioned again until another mass shooting.
And on, and on, it goes.
The NRA will continue to torpedo gun control legislation, and threaten politicians. The NRA will use the most base and clueless within the Republican Party to repeat and regurgitate the vile trite crap and use the echo chamber of conservative media to beat home the insane and factless talking points. We have seen this playbook all before.
Spring will turn to summer. Summer to fall. 2022 will blend into 2023. Folks, we have seen this bullshit before, mass shooting, after mass shooting.
More guns will continue to be sold, and countless rounds of ammunition will be bought.
Untold amounts of weapons will be fired.
And we all know that some of those will be fired into innocent kids, like what happened today.
We need to find our balls on this issue and stand up and demand from our legislators that they also find their own set!
The NRA needs to know they are no longer in charge. Our nation is too important to allow the games the NRA plays to continue.
If you think I am wrong, talk to a parent of a dead child in Uvalde.
Today James and I celebrate 22 years of walking a shared road together.
We met at Borders Books (University Avenue) as I sat at a table with a newspaper, a book about Wyoming, and a mug of coffee. A guy came up and asked, “Anything happening in the news today?” I was having my first conversation with James.
We had nodded and smiled at each other over the weeks as I stopped at Borders where he worked after first coming to Madison following a teaching stint on the East Coast. But that day as he took a break, ate a cinnamon roll, and chatted with me something remarkable started.
That evening we had our first date which included dinner on State Street and some humorous conversation. I dropped James off at his apartment door with a kiss on the cheek. Corny perhaps, but true.
Two weeks after we met he attended six weeks of summer classes at Middlebury College in Vermont. Each evening we had long phone conversations where we really got to know each other. By the time he came back to Madison I knew he was the person I wanted to spend time with, and he wanted to call this city home.
Two years to the day after we met, we picked up the keys to our first apartment. I had never lived with anyone before and was pleased to know he had a touch of OCD, too. Over the years we moved into our Victorian home, did some traveling, and planted some gardens but every day there is one constant. That is laughter. It abounds here during the day and every night before we fall asleep it bounces off the walls as we just chat.
I really think there is one special person for everyone, and Lord knows I waited and wondered if I would ever find mine. James has been my best friend, partner, and soulmate all these years, and I love him very much.
Our shared road continues.
No one can take any glee over the booing that Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos received this weekend during the Republican State Party Convention. While it can be easily framed into a partisan moment where the extreme excesses of Donald Trump’s base were on full display, it is the larger concern about our precarious democracy that matters far more.
It was a most unusual scene to have occurred at a gathering of a political party. The State Assembly leader was booed by convention-goers which made for a gripping moment on newscasts statewide.
What was most troubling, however, was that Vos did not wander off the page of Republican orthodoxy so to receive such a reaction. He did not suggest raising any tax or offering more regulatory control. He did not backtrack from school vouchers or hint at gun control measures.
No, Vos instead simply and plainly told the crowd there’s no pathway to decertifying the 2020 presidential election.
“We have no ability to decertify the election and go back, We need to focus on moving forward.”
And cue the loud boos that filled the convention floor.
It was so raucous that State Party Chairman Paul Farrow had to then inform the delegates to “let him talk” and “be respectful.”
After that display from the conservative crowd, it calls into question exactly who should be surveyed in our state about the need for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Maybe the UW System should not be first in line as a whipping boy about First Amendment rights.
While Vos did not deserve to be booed for stating a fact, he does need to own his share of the blame for stirring the pot of unreasoned anger in our state about the 2020 election. His use of former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to investigate that election has prolonged and needlessly exacerbated the Trump base of the party into continuing to think something nefarious occurred. In fact, as every examination of our state’s balloting proved, nothing illegal or sinister took place.
As evidenced from this weekend’s GOP convention no good comes when partisan attempts are used to strike at our political and electoral institutions. But over and over, across the nation, as The New York Times reported above the fold in their Sunday edition the partisan attacks on truth are far too often the new norm in state legislative races.
At least 357 sitting Republican legislators in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their office to discredit or try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The tally accounts for 44 percent of the Republican legislators in the nine states where the presidential race was most narrowly decided. In each of those states, the election was conducted without any evidence of widespread fraud, leaving election officials from both parties in agreement on the victory of Joseph Biden Jr.
Election and democracy experts say they see the rise of anti-democratic impulses in statehouses as a clear, new threat to the health of American democracy. State legislatures hold a unique position in the country’s democratic apparatus, wielding a constitutionally mandated power to set the “times, places and manner of holding elections.” Cheered on by Mr. Trump as he eyes another run for the White House in 2024, many state legislators have shown they see that power as license to exert greater control over the outcome of elections.
It undermines our democracy by playing to the ones who will use factless arguments to then spearhead spurious and dangerous reactions that strike at the heart of our political institutions.
After all that grim reality it would seem, then, for there to be no way this post could stay on theme but still somehow look upwards. And more oddly still, by using Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the winds to lift our sails. But the following shows not only why we can have faith in reclaiming our democracy, but a lesson that McConnell can impart to Vos.
This weekend the Wall Street Journal reported McConnell’s pleasure over the fact the isolationist wing of the Republican Party was able to be reined in when the Ukraine aid package was put together and passed into law. He said that it was a personal victory for him.
Said McConnell: “I am interested in diminishing the number of my members who believe that America somehow can exist alone in the world.”
He added: “I think the fact that only 11, in the end, ended up voting against the package was an indication of success in convincing a larger number of our members that no matter what was being said by some on the outside that those views were simply incorrect.”
McConnell is most correct about international aid, and on the substance about the Wisconsin election not having been ‘stolen’ Vos is equally correct. What then is required from Vos going forward to combat the most unreasoned in his party, is what McConnell expertly administered in Congress to pass an aid package.
And so it goes.
The last time we left the story of Dominick Black he had pleaded no contest to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, that being Kyle Rittenhouse, who liked to dress up in a full replica police uniform as a teenager. I have often wondered if he thought that was the most effective way to entice a teenage girl for a date?
Rittenhouse would use the AR-15-style rifle he was given by Black to kill two men on the streets of Kenosha. Black agreed to a non-criminal citation in order to avoid convictions on two felonies he had been facing.
The two counts were the result of delivering a dangerous weapon to a minor which then was used to slaughter Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.
Letting Black off easy was correctly met with derision across the nation, with many at the time commenting it was only a matter of time before he would headline again. When the justice system is easy on thugs who show disdain for law and order with gun laws we know there is a very high chance society and taxpayers will again need to pay for court time and housing.
That is because firearms offenders recidivated at a higher rate than non-firearms offenders. Over two-thirds (68.1%) of firearms offenders were rearrested for a new crime during the eight-year follow-up period compared to less than half of non-firearms offenders (46.3%).
Though Black’s crime this time is not gun-related, his actions show a complete disregard for the orders from a police officer, and the cavalier attitude that the law does not seemingly apply to him regarding either the rules of the road or the use of illegal substances.
Dominick D. Black, 20, was charged in Kenosha County Circuit Court for fleeing a police officer this past weekend. The mayhem took place in downtown Kenosha.
A Kenosha Police Department officer observed a grey motorcycle with no registration displayed going northbound on Sixth Avenue from 52nd Street around 7 p.m. Friday, according to the criminal complaint.
The officer reportedly pulled behind the motorcycle and traveled behind it for a short time. The driver reportedly traveled northbound on Sixth Avenue from 52nd Street, then west on 50th Street from Seventh Avenue.
The driver then reportedly stopped at a red traffic light at 50th Street on Sheridan Road for an “extended period of time,” according to the complaint. The officer reported the driver also “repeatedly looked in his mirrors to see if I was still behind him after each turn or change of direction.”
While stopped at the light, the officer reportedly notified dispatch he was going to initiate a traffic stop of the driver. The driver then reportedly turned right and northbound on Sheridan Road and began accelerating above the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour. The officer activated his emergency lights and siren while directly behind the driver in the 4900 block of Sheridan Road.
“Once I activated lights and siren, I observed the driver look in his mirror at my squad, slow briefly for a moment, before continuing at approximately 45 mph in the posted 30 mph zone for approximately one block (4900blk to 4800blk),” the officer reported in the criminal complaint. “The driver, after looking in his mirror, shook his head from side to side, as if he was shaking his head ‘no’ before rapidly accelerating away from my squad.”
The driver then accelerated at a high rate of speed, briefly, until the the driver had to slow due to other northbound traffic on Sheridan Road. The driver also reportedly illegally passed vehicles while fleeing from the officer and rode in the middle of both northbound traffic lanes, passing vehicles on both sides and almost striking the vehicles while trying to drive between the heavy traffic to get away from the officer, according to the complaint.
Once the driver illegally passed the other northbound traffic, the driver allegedly accelerated at a high rate of speed away from the officer, who estimated it to be in excess of 80 mph in a posted 30 mph zone.
Due to the heavy traffic and endangerment of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the officer deactivated his lights and siren and slowed down. The officer reportedly observed the motorcycle northbound on Sheridan Road from 35th Street. However, as the motorcycle approached the intersection at Seventh Avenue, the officer lost sight of it, and he began searching the area.
About 15 minutes later, another Kenosha Police officer reportedly located the motorcycle and operator at Simmons Island, 5001 Simmons Island Drive. The driver of the motorcycle was identified as Black, who was wearing the same clothing an officer observed the motorcycle driver wearing earlier that evening.
Black was arrested and placed in a squad car. Dispatch advised that Black’s driving privileges were suspended, and Black stated the motorcycle was not registered to him at the time, according to the complaint. Black also reportedly didn’t have insurance.
While an officer was gathering information, Black reportedly began “appearing to move around more than usual” in the squad car. Black reportedly stated he was getting too hot and needed air. Black then reportedly began shaking in the back of the squad and appeared to have gone in and out of consciousness.
Black was transported to an area hospital and had blood work done. Hospital staff reported that Black had a traceable amount of cocaine in his blood, but not enough to cause impairment. Hospital staff advised Black’s symptoms appeared to be consistent with an anxiety attack or panic attack, according to the complaint.
If Black can only get the same judge that Rittenhouse had he should be in great shape!
And so it goes.