About the Children

Note: As so many of us are worried and fretting about the possible effects of covid19 on our families and friends, this thoughtful piece by nurse and mommy Kateri Allard provides a very heartwarming take on the situation.

I hope you will take the time to read it; may it make you smile and lift your spirits if you are feeling anxious. 

Virtual elbow bumps to you all. Take care.

“This morning, as we raced our way through Meijer (hey Midwest) and Costco, I felt the annoyance begin to build within me. Annoyance that I felt obligated to stock up on everything, frustration that the control measures I thought impossible four days ago are now widespread realities. I was 20 minutes into waiting in line to pay, trying in vane to keep a hungry teething toddler’s fingers out of his mouth, when from his place in a cart of ahead of me, he leaned forward, with face turned and eyes boring directly into my own. He nuzzled sweetly my face and chest, there was pressure and intention, and after holding there for what felt like a perfect eternity, he sealed it all with a kiss.

It was one of those moments, as a parent, when your heart grows and fractures, then each of the thousand new pieces grow as well until you are feeling your heart in your heels and your fingers, its breadth extending past the splint ends on the tip of each of your unwashed hairs.” (Continued via About the Children)

Covid 19 is “not playing in the same ballpark as the flu”

As of this writing, the novel coronavirus or “covid 19” has caused most of the countries in Europe and elsewhere around the world to enact strict public health measures to mitigate its spread. After China and other Asian countries, Italy has been shut down for days now and the number of new Italian cases, and unfortunately deaths, has grown by leaps and bounds as more people are diagnosed and/or fall ill. France is shuttering all daycares, schools, and universities as of Monday, March 16, and has strictly prohibited large gatherings of over 100 people. The standard contingency plans France has had for years have been adapted to the evolving situation and are being implemented to assist parents with child care and businesses who need to close part-time, and employees, etc. will be compensated as appropriate under the national unemployment insurance system and other schemes so as to limit financial hardship as far as possible.

The Louvre and other tourist sites are closed. Norway, Sweden, Germany, and others have instigated similar stringent closing measures. Government officials are self-isolating as they come into contact with infected or possibly-infected people. Here in the US, a number of states are under emergency orders; schools and universities are closing as precautionary measures, and New York City declared a state of emergency and, among other measures, promptly shut down the Theater District for a month as of Thursday, March 12. The United States is, in fact, awaiting a declaration of national emergency today as I write this.

These closings are necessary because mandatory distancing provisions – in other words, prohibiting occasions for people to come into contact with one another in large numbers – are one way to help prevent or slow the spread of the virus. Large numbers of people in confined spaces make for a perfect storm for contagion. As covid 19 has so far been said to be generally mild in healthy individuals and does not seem to affect young children much (for the moment) the symptoms may be so slight as to be unrecognizable or even absent and go unnoticed, but such people who come into contact with the virus can and do unknowingly contaminate others. If they do present with symptoms afterward, that’s too late to keep others from having already been affected. (This also works the same way for most viruses, in fact.)

However, doctors working directly with patients in France are alarmed by prospects that this virus is far more dangerous than commonly expressed, as it does not or no longer affects only the elderly and the medically-fragile. The head physician of the infectious diseases ward at the highly-respected Tenon Hospital in Paris has reported cases of otherwise healthy younger patients in the 30-40 year age group as being critically ill with covid 19. As he put it, “Le coronavirus ne joue pas dans la même cour que la grippe”. ([“Coronavirus is not playing in the same ballpark as the flu.”] – full article from L’Express here, in French.)

In Italy, 12,000+ have fallen ill with covid 19, and as of March 12, more than 1,000 have died from it since the first reported cases only about a month ago, mainly elderly people (Italy has probably the oldest population in the EU) and those with chronic medical conditions. One Italian doctor working in the hospitals there wrote:

“Some of our colleagues who are infected also have infected relatives and some of their relatives are already struggling between life and death. So be patient, you can’t go to the theatre, museums or the gym. Try to have pity on the myriad of old people you could exterminate.” (Link to article here.)

I know those are stark words, but they are by a doctor who is on the front lines with this right now, and I think it’s very well said. I’ll add to the list: the chronically ill, the immuno-deficient, the uninsured and underinsured, and the other most fragile persons among us, as well as all healthcare workers and other people who simply cannot just stay home from work or work from home. This possibly means you, your parents or siblings or children, your grandparents or your friends and colleagues. I’ll say it louder for those in the back: you or anyone you know can be in this case.

Even if it only removes a portion of the risk, canceling or postponing parades, concerts, and other public events, temporarily closing theaters and gyms and schools and other non-essential public spaces, limiting gatherings and recommending avoiding all unnecessary travel can mean the above people will have somewhat less chance of catching the virus, and even a small reduction in that chance can mean a notable slowdown in the spread of contagion.

(Photo from CDC.com)

I am aware that I am lucky to work from home and acutely aware that not everyone can do so. If such is your case, you are fully entitled to protect yourself by asking people to keep a distance, using disinfectant gels and sprays, taking breaks to wash your hands, and generally taking every possible precaution – and no one should take offense. If you do fall ill, please stay home and call your physician about any needed medical attention and get any other assistance that may be available to you. In this way, you will not only be able to care for yourself, but you will also be protecting others.

This does not mean we should panic, certainly not by any means. I’m not trying to scare you. On the other hand, I do want people to pay attention. The covid 19 virus needs to be taken extremely seriously until it can be brought under control. We have to understand and accept that for the moment there is NO specific treatment and NO prevention other than appropriate and consistent hygiene (wash. your. hands.) and that this spreads mainly through droplet propagation (cover. your. cough/sneeze.) and, also importantly, through surface contamination (wash. your. hands), and that, in closed spaces, it possibly remains in the air for a certain number of hours as well (current study to be confirmed).

Proper cleaning with normal household cleaning products suffices to eliminate the virus. No need to stock up on Lysol or bleach. And again, wash your hands regularly. Plain soap and water work just fine. Minimum 20 seconds is a must; read up on how to get them clean including under and around nails, rings, knuckles. Scrub up “like you just finished cutting up Carolina Reaper peppers and you wear contacts that you want to take out,” as one internet meme says. Remember over the day to wipe off door handles, phones, keyboards, tables, countertops, your car steering wheel, and other frequently-handled surfaces regularly with at least a clean, slightly soapy, damp cloth or paper towel or other appropriate products (for phones and computers for example). Be conscious of where you are putting your hands when you are out and about, and use tissues for example if needed to prevent touching public surfaces; pencil erasers work very well to press pinpads. And Wash. Your. Hands. That can’t be repeated enough. Hand sanitizer is only a temporary solution at best and was developed mainly for bacteria (a virus is not a bacterium) and so your hands still need to be washed immediately you get home or wherever it is you are going to, if not sooner whenever possible. Don’t forget hand lotion after – just a reminder.

Common sense, self-discipline, and looking out for yourself and for each other are the best preventives right now, but there will probably be more closures and cancellations and possibly other more severe measures. Yes, that all sucks, but this is a matter of everyone’s health, including yours and your loved ones’. If everyone follows these recommendations, the healthcare system will hold up and the spread can be contained at least to some extent, and also other people who need care other than for the virus can get help too. This will save lives and also help prevent the virus from spreading quickly. Don’t buy up disinfectants or other daily necessities and hoard. Other people need them, too.

Countries have put their top researches on this; some treatments are almost ready to start lab trials for efficacy but a vaccine will not be tested, certified safe and efficient, approved by the powers that be, and put on the market for at least 12 to 18 months. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise at this point. Don’t expect this to “go away in the summer” because it’s active in the middle of summer in Australia right now. It might go away, but it might not, or it might come back stronger and more deadly next fall. We don’t have all the absolute facts yet. Please remember this is a novel coronavirus and that “novel” means there was no other one like it before, so there is nothing similar with which to create a new vaccine or treatment relatively quickly as is the case with the flu where we have several strains that can be adapted to manufacture treatments and vaccines each flu season.

Also, while I am at it: Covid 19 really does not need to be an ongoing, 24-hour political hatefest at the moment, either. I’m sorry, but I for one have literally no patience for hatemongering or conspiracy theories right now because it changes nothing to the actual situation at hand. I have people I need to look after and I have deadlines I have to meet. That said there are things that do need to be loudly and persistently addressed to a number of politicians who owe explanations to the public about how this has been handled, on several levels, and why the responses from D.C. have been such a clusterf… .

Later on, when this has been brought under control, countries and their electorates can take stock of how the responses played out, and all necessary appropriate policy and procedural changes can and must be made permanent or discussed and developed and put into effect at that time to be able to contend with any future pandemics. And let’s try to work together with kindness to keep each other as safe as possible. Complaining, and worse, trolling the internet, won’t solve the problem, anyway.

We are in this for the long haul as things stand now, and we are all in this together.

These closures and other measures should simply be thought of as preventive. Each person doing their part to adapt to and follow these recommendations will be everyone’s way of helping. Keep informed with official health sources. Check your emails; healthcare providers, insurers and other services send out useful updates and information regularly. Just being aware now and acting responsibly is the best thing to do, in conjunction with the common-sense and reasonable precautions that everyone has seen everywhere lately and which actually should be our daily habits.

Be safe, be responsible, and don’t be afraid. Be aware. Of course we can and will get past this, but it depends on us all.

On Philanthropy and Need

A great deal has been said, both positively and negatively, on social media over the past week about the large donations contributed to the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after the fire that destroyed a significant part of its structure on April 15th.

Much of the “negative” commentary expressed surprise and even outrage in respect of the fact that three well-known French corporate families, or, more correctly, their philanthropic and charitable foundations, had immediately pledged considerable sums to restoring “a building” – albeit a revered, historical French one.  Numerous social media posts have been of the opinion that it would behoove these corporations / foundations and like corporations and organizations to assist the poor and needy, feed hungry children, protect indigenous peoples and endangered ecosystems, and otherwise attend to urgent societal needs. Others expressed disappointment that the preservation of one historical site should take precedence over another. Still other commenters expressed the belief that national governments should increase taxation on such corporations and use the additional tax revenue to preserve historical sites.

In fine, these comments are actually not quite as “negative” as one might think on first read, because they are also bringing these needs and issues to the forefront on powerful media platforms and generating discussion on priorities. And that is most definitely a good thing.

Certainly there is a tremendous skew in emotional/cultural priorities and what motivates to donate to causes. A fire at Notre Dame gets international headlines for days; the utter loss of priceless and irreplaceable artifacts and records when the Brazilian National Museum burned in September 2018 did not, although it is again being discussed in relation to Notre Dame, so perhaps there will be greater assistance henceforth. The overwhelming international solidarity for the restoration of the cathedral runs far beyond the limited international expression of solidarity regarding the plight of countless lesser-mediatized cultural or spiritual sites, such as churches, synagogues, mosques or burial sites destroyed by hate groups and terrorists, or industrial threats to indigenous sacred sites such as Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah which is at risk of seeing a large section of ecologically and culturally significant land opened up to uranium mining. Millions are starving and/or have no access to clean water or decent living conditions in countries all over the world, including in North America; populations are disrupted and fleeing war and famine; endangered natural sites are thoughtlessly destroyed; genocide continues; these do not receive the same consistent, global outpouring of media attention and emotion and generosity. This is, unfortunately, a fact.

We HAVE TO address these disparities because ALL of these issues are important. We simply cannot be sad about Notre Dame and close our eyes to the cultural destruction and suffering endured by others.

However, I would like to provide some additional thoughts on the matter because I feel we do need to step back and breathe for a moment.

Sans titre

Let’s recall that these large corporations/foundations and wealthy families are under fire in some cases for contributing to the reconstruction of Notre Dame, as their critics feel the money could have been put to better use by “assisting the needy and bringing greater social justice” (to very succinctly summarize the commentary).

However, if we take a look at the websites of just the three wealthy French family/corporative foundations in question – Pinault (LVMH), Arnaud (Kering) and Bettencourt-Schueller (L’Oréal) – we find that their contributions to Notre Dame are in addition to millions spent, in France, by these foundations every year in social assistance and sustainability and similar projects. The projects funded relate for example to women’s empowerment (e.g. through the development of micro-credit and women-owned businesses), preventing domestic violence, sustainable business practices, innovation, small business development, autism awareness and bio-medical research, social inclusion, and equal opportunity education, in addition to support for art and culture. And if we look at the websites of other wealthy donors we can see that they also make hefty contributions to similar as well as to other causes.

Wealthy families and business-people have always been patrons of art and culture; without them we would not have many of our great masterpieces, and some of our most beloved and breathtaking vacation sites would no longer exist or would be in terrible disrepair, or might never even have existed at all. Nowadays, these charitable and philanthropic contributions are in most cases tax-deductible. This has also been hotly criticized in respect of the Notre Dame reconstruction. But these corporations are fiscally entitled to do that, just as it is every taxpayer’s right to declare and deduct charitable donations in France (and pretty much elsewhere, too). 

Other critics point out that instead of offering these corporations and foundations tax credits for their donations, they should not be allowed to deduct them, so that governments can use the presumed additional tax revenue to take (greater) charge of the preservation of historical monuments.

[As an aside, I want to point out that allowing these foundations/corporations a tax deduction for charitable donations is not “placing an additional burden on the taxpayer” as a few critics claimed, because the taxpayer is not being asked to pay more tax towards the same cultural preservation efforts as an offset to these deductions. Moreover, surely no one is so gullible as to believe that the individual taxpayer burden will automatically be lower if corporations were denied tax credits for charitable donations; the legislator’s mind just does not work that way. Lastly, and for the record, at least two of the aforementioned donors have stated they will not be taking tax credits for their special contributions to Notre Dame.]

Does anyone honestly think that denying tax credits for these corporate-donated sums would enable or even encourage governments to make the astronomically greater efforts that would be required of them to preserve and maintain upkeep on historical monuments such as, for example, Notre Dame or Versailles or the 2,800 National Historic Sites in the USA, at the same level as with the contributions of these patrons of art and culture?  I doubt it, I really do.

Now, it goes without saying that governments use taxpayer money to pay for many of the essential things we need and benefits we enjoy, and budgets are being cut these days. Of course, the additional tax revenue, if any, from the denied tax credits might possibly go to critical infrastructures and services, or more likely to defense spending or to whatever other pet expenditures governments have. However, Americans, for example, would have a hard time, and probably not even be able, to verify whether said extra tax revenue specifically was used to maintain and preserve historic and culturally significant sites such as Boston’s Trinity Church, or the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, or the Langdeau Archaeological Site in South Dakota (Lower Brule), or the Mashantuket-Pequot Archaeological District in Connecticut, or the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia; and nor could they inquire whether it was used to significantly improve education in poverty-stricken areas, or provide clean water or healthcare or veterans’ assistance, or if it was used for some unrelated purpose.

On the other hand, foundations such as the ones referenced above are legally and fiscally required to keep publicly-accessible justification for the projects they fund. We can actually see, in the books and in the field, what they do with the money.

You might say, “Well, those government benefits and services need funds, too”. I agree, they really do. But I do not believe these funds should be procured as taxation on the donations corporations and foundations make to philanthropic and social funding projects. The ensured and adequate funding of essential government services will require efforts from everyone; yes, you and me included, as well as from the corporations. And I certainly do think that the most fortunate should also pay reasonable but appropriate tax rates in relation to their assets.

Moreover, denying corporations’ charitable deductions will not provide a miracle solution to social ills, by any means. Instead, it could place us in the situation of having to choose whether or not to preserve some or any historical and cultural and ecological sites at all. Right now, such foundations and corporations as these are doing a very good job of helping to preserve art and culture and even protect the environment, promote social equality and welfare, and develop sustainable practices, even if it is obvious that far greater and more equitable efforts need to be made in less-mediated but still tragic situations like those referred to above. Through their philanthropy, such corporations at least address a part of these social needs, and they actually relieve the tax burden on the average taxpayer. Imagine what kind of tax you would have to pay otherwise to ensure such preservation and assistance efforts by the government.

As for the lesser-known – but no less important – cultural sites and social issues, it’s not like nobody is doing anything (as one might infer from online commentary in this matter). A quick Google search on philanthropic foundations serving indigenous issues brought up at least three; health and social issues have a plethora of sites in every country; the US National Parks Service has a (tax-deductible…) heritage funding program for the preservation of national heritage sites, including tribal heritage sites; the UNESCO funds thousands of like projects every year. These are just some examples, and there are of course many other international, national and local organizations and charities, great and small, attending to the societal and cultural issues discussed on social media today. Corporations also contribute to these organizations. Please feel free to look them up and to strongly promote their efforts if they are meaningful to you; your support will be truly appreciated.

I’m not saying that the wealthy corporations are perfect; they’ve all had their issues. But nor are they merely amassing fortunes and making one-off gifts without having already been active in philanthropy for some time. Before shooting these highly-mediated special donations down in flames, please also look up the other, long-term social and cultural projects these corporations and families have, and just stop to think a moment what might happen if they decided to cease donating altogether. Be careful what you wish for.

On Fire and Loss

Image source:  “Rex Features” on standard.co.uk. I apologize that do not know the photographer’s name; it was published in this story in the Evening Standard (link) on April 16, 2019. Such a heart-stopping photo with many of the iconic symbols of Paris witnessing the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris ravaged by flames.

As for so many, it was personally saddening to me to watch the flames rip through the amazing “forest” of beams in the intricate roof structure, made of some 3,000 11th and 12th century oaks. It was despairing to hear newscasters voice concern that the north bell tower, with the celebrated, deep “bourdon” – the one that has boomed for hundreds of years of coronations and funerals, strife and liberation –  might crumble to rubble like the younger spire.

I’ve stood in gaping and thankful awe of her Presence, more than once, at the foot of her twin beffrois; sat in long, quiet, prayerful moments among statues and paintings of saints and emperors, at the foot of Coustou’s pièta of the King of Kings, in the gentle light from the stained-glass rose windows; taken strolls sunny or snowy with Charlemagne on her parvis and along the winding and magical streets around her in the footsteps of Esmeralda and Quasimodo.

For a moment I was sure the cathedral was going to fall and, Methodist though I basically am, I cried, because for all that she is known as a Catholic place of worship, Notre Dame de Paris looks resolutely beyond every discussion of faith and welcomes us in, one and all.

O, me of little faith! The skilled architects and stonemasons and other artisans who contributed their craft, their immense talents of structural knowledge, their blood, sweat and sometimes very lives to raising what is unquestionably  one of the most powerful and beloved monuments to the glory of God, definitely knew their crafts inside out. And they made sure that the walls and the nave and the vaulting ceilings of la très sainte Notre Dame would be strong, for all eternity. God did not forget their labors, and He saw to it that, though she will need a new cloak and much TLC, Notre Dame de Paris still stands and is sound.

Surely in this Easter week  2019, this is a story of Resurrection for those who celebrate. And I am grateful that this beautiful monument to faith and love and art did not disappear from the Earth.

At the same time, I do not forget that others have felt and feel the same anguish about their own cultural traditions and holy sites that the French and other European cultures experienced on April 15th before the flames at Notre Dame, but without the former ever getting anywhere near the same worldwide attention or provoking the same emotion and compassion as the latter.

The tragedy of the damage at Notre Dame de Paris is immense, but it should – it must – make us all understand, acknowledge and respect the feeling of loss in other cultures when sacred and traditional cultural sites have been destroyed, and work just as hard in solidarity to avoid such destruction. Even more – the fire at Notre Dame was most likely an accident, whereas the destruction and desecration  of statues and mosques, churches and synagogues, indigenous sacred sites and protected and endangered natural resources or cultural heritage sites, ethnic groups and other people,  are in general deliberately and even callously carried by the powers that be. For this reason, these acts of destruction are every bit as tragic, and more so; every bit as deserving of our compassion and our efforts to prevent them, and more so; and the losses are absolutely identical in importance for humanity and our planet.

Notre Dame de Paris will be rebuilt and a good portion the billions required to fund it have already been pledged as exceptional contributions by three of France’s very wealthy corporate families  and their foundations alone. I am naturally happy to see that the cathedral is to be restored. At the same time I am also pleased to see that these foundations are generously active in less-visible philanthropic, humanitarian and ecological efforts,  as well, which is something people are far less aware of. Please visit the websites of these foundations to learn more about how they are contributing to helping society grow at all levels.


Remembering what’s important…

On September 11, 2001, the world gasped in dismay as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan crumpled to the ground one after the other in an agony of rending metal and billowing asbestos dust, flying glass and a ghastly confetti of thenceforth and forever futile business and financial documents.

2606 people perished at the Towers on that day; thousands were injured and later fell ill, and scores have passed away since, victims of the toxic dust, the traumas, and, for some, simply of broken hearts.

And even with the defiant, proud reconstruction of One World Trade, the New York City skyline still bears an empty space in silent and grieving testimony to the day on which so much was so brutally ripped away from so many.

At the Pentagon, Flight 77 rocketed into the heart of America’s bastion of strategic defense, killed 184 innocent people and left the country shockingly aware of its vulnerability.

Related image

In a field near the little town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a monument has been erected to the 40 selfless passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 who committed to vivid personification of John 15:13* when they decided of one mind to overcome the hijackers, thus avoiding an even greater massacre, though it cost all of them their lives.


And the world poured out its support on a grieving, traumatized America, and the best nature of humanity stood strong to defy the worst nature of humanity, to comfort and heal the wounded and the families and make sure love and hope triumphed.

Almost two decades later, how far have we really come, from there?

Are we better women and men, better Americans, better citizens of the world, better caretakers of our children’s health and future; are we more understanding of the impacts of our own decisions on others; are we better Christians or Hindus or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or whatever faith you may or may not adhere to?

Are we better human beings?

Are we genuinely honoring the memory of these victims, and indeed all victims of hatred and racism and xenophobia before and since, by building not walls to divide us, but a solid and common foundation of consistent, mutual support, and by raising the necessary structures for a more just, more caring, more respectful, more equitable country and world?

I was raised a Christian and still am one, but my in my travels around the world I have been blessed to have been welcomed by and to visit or live among and become familiar with people of many other cultures and faiths, which blessing I believe has helped me to refine my own convictions and faith and understand them more clearly, the better to be their instrument.  In the end a person practices his or her beliefs in the way they feel closest to the Higher Power and that’s perfectly fine as long as we acknowledge our similarities with others and respect their faiths that they feel suit them. Because in those travels I came to understand that all forms of spirituality are based on the same teachings  of “Love your neighbor; treat others as you want them to treat you.”**

Yet, in the years since 9/11/2001, it increasingly seems that rather than applying the discipline and moral fortitude required to show power in compassion, empathy and love in order to prevent such tragedies and promote these teachings as well as to carry out the commands to assist and care for those less fortunate and seek true justice for those who would do us harm, there is a fast-growing trend of taking the much easier path of anger, hurtfulness, divisiveness, closed-mindedness, self-righteous judgement and criticism, and most of all, shameless self-service.

Striving to live and serve in kindness and empathy, love and compassion takes work and prayer, every single day – but the results are worth it all around.

I don’t think those who perished in the attacks on this day 17 years ago wanted their deaths to be followed by anger and division and hate. I believe we will be honoring them far more if the thoughtless anger, needless hatefulness, egotistic attitudes and xenophobic actions are set aside to enable a real and collective search for the real solutions which our society so badly needs.

We are always stronger in kindness.

Tene memorias illorum qui cesserunt
Benedicat tibi Dominus et custodiat te


*John 15:13: “Greater love hath no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
** Matthew 7:12 “In everything,then, do to others as you would have them do to you.” 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Your donations make a difference!

We at FLMCC want to thank all our supporters and donors and we hope you have had a good start in the New Year!

Your donations are crucial to the work we do. In the past few months, some of these funds have been used to provide assistance in Florida in support of a project to provide school kits and book bags for children in need of school supplies, while other funds were used in support of two projects to provide foodstuffs for two shelters serving the homeless in the greater Orlando area. Specific donations to our heating fund were used to provide heating assistance for three families in South Dakota.


via Your donations make a difference!

“You don’t point guns at people.”

How many of us “older” folks, when we were growing up and playing with toy guns or shooting BB guns or even maybe learning to handle a bigger weapon, were told: “You don’t point guns at people” ? To which was sometimes added “unless you are going to use it”, followed by a silence and a look that bode no good, especially if we had been pointing it at Daddy or Mommy.

We were told it and scolded about it so repeatedly that it became reflexive and we would not have even dared think about doing it deliberately.

And I am of a mind that some lack of repetition, or maybe of assimilation, of this basic rule is perhaps one reason why some individuals pick up a gun and go out and ruthlessly proceed to commit murder, in cold blood, premeditated or otherwise.

It’s not about what kind of arms are involved – dead is dead, tragedy is tragedy – or even in fine about the right to bear arms, though maybe we need to have national or state gun licenses that say on the back what arms you may have/bear based on the owner’s declared purpose for having or bearing them (sport shooting, skeet, hunting, collection) or if they are required in the bearer’s job (law enforcement or military – when not in uniform). Like with driving licenses, different categories of vehicle – different categories of guns.

The right to bear arms is not at fault here. The guns themselves are not to blame, though the way they can be accessed is certainly a factor, as is the reverence with which they are regarded by many people in this country.

No, it’s not the guns or the right to bear arms. It’s how the gun bearer  exercises his / her right to use the arms he or she is bearing. How that person decides.

It’s about knowing without a shred of doubt that that specific right – which I don’t think needs to be revoked – does not entitle a person to reckless behavior around guns, much less murder, and acting accordingly. Recklessness and murder have never been among the legitimate uses behind the concept of a right to bear arms, even if some of those uses could be discussed as well.

We have to remember that the Founding Fathers had no idea that weapons would develop in the manner they have, and I am sure that if they could see the events today they would say, “Hold on, now, this is not what we meant.” And if they had known, they might have worded that specific amendment a bit differently.

I think we must stop fighting with each other about this.

Nobody is going to take any law-abiding person’s right to bear arms away. Spare me the conspiracy theories, please. And nobody should even consider that because there is historical precedent not to. And  I, non-gun owner, would be be among the first to protest it.

We need to really talk about this rationally and listen to what each other has to say. This is about everybody. Claiming that “a good man with a gun could have prevented this” is,  well, sorry, but it’s foolish thinking. ONLY IF said “good man” chanced to see said “bad guy” before the shooting started, could he have done something. He might be able to prevent it if he sees it in time, or might be able to stop it when it has started, but “might” would be the extent of any guarantee. Wearing a gun or carrying one in plain view is not a sure-fire warranty you will not be the victim of a criminal, or be able to prevent a crime. Ask any policeman or veteran. You have to see your enemy before he sees you. And not many enemies or criminals or mass shooters are going to use a bullhorn to let you know their intentions. We have to be smart and be able to actually discern those intentions before they become reality; and if we do, we have to act appropriately and in due time.

And do we really want everyone carrying Glocks and Rugers or whatever everywhere, from public restroom to frozen foods counter to PTA meeting to gym, gun in hand, darting and turning like SWAT teams, to be able to possibly prevent a shooting? I don’t mean to sound sarcastic (well, actually…); I’m just trying to imagine what extremes might happen if certain online gun proponents’ comments came to life.

Do we really want guns in schools? Do I actually need to list for you the types of risk this would very likely entail, and which could lead to even more of exactly what we DON’T WANT?

What we need is to stop being paranoid about it, to stop saying “If you want to take my gun from me you’ll have to pry from my cold dead hands” (Nobody wants your gun, though I’m sure there are criminals who would do that), to stop saying “make a law! do something! the president this! Congress that!”

Because until We the People actually demonstrate that we are all ready for something reasonable to be done, President Whoever and Congressperson Whatsthename are not going to do more than reflect our own discord.

In the end, however, it all boils down to that old-time rule:

You don’t point guns at people.

If you don’t like seeing someone exercising their freedoms, why are you watching them do so in the first place?

The other day I wrote elsewhere on social media something to the effect that some people seem to prefer violently trolling the web rather than doing something to make the world better.

Today I came across an article about a woman who, while visiting Disney World, stopped to breast-feed her child. Naturally this raised an internet storm with the absolute disapprovers, the rabid defenders, the “yes, well I don’t mind as long as she covers up” and everyone else in between trying to bring order and have some sort of actual conversation about it.

There was much back and forth commentary on this, a good part of which degenerated to insults (the trolls again for some) and as usual it became impossible to have a civilized discussion online or even feel inclined to join in.

Personally, I totally support mothers who breast-feed their babies and if they want to / need to in a public place, why should they have to hide/cover up/feel uncomfortable about it? I have never in my life seen a mom leap boldly to her feet, rip open her blouse with a flourish, and announce to all and sundry that she was going to breast-feed her child. All the moms I have ever even noticed when they were breast-feeding in a public place were doing so openly yet keeping it to themselves and whoever was with them. I mean, sure, if I’d deliberately stopped to watch, I might have see a breast; other than that, it was like, “nothing to see here, move along”. It was a mom feeding her baby and that’s why women have breasts anyway and it’s the most natural thing in the world.

So why are breast-feeding moms subjected to so much opprobrium? I can’t answer that. We all have to look in the mirror to figure out why we feel how we do.

But I will ask this: if you don’t approve, why are you even looking at it? And even if the first amendment gives you the freedom to do so, is it really necessary to criticize a complete stranger just because you don’t approve? What has that mom done to you to make you so angry?

If you don’t like it, just turn your head away. Actually that would be the polite thing to do. My grandmother and aunties called that “minding your own business”. And if you do that you may even notice some real and serious issue to which you can lend your voice usefully and really do something about.




A pair of helping hands

We’ve all seen, gasped at, shook our heads, prayed and cried at the horrific images coming out of southeast Texas and other areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey. And a lot of you out there have helped – some of you may even have gone there with your hip boots and your boats and your gloves, and your skills, and others of you have sent money and other donations. And God bless you for it.

And some of you are probably wondering how best you might help. And God bless your hearts for that, too.

I’m supporting this young man’s personal efforts to assist in Texas. And I’m here asking you to please help too.

Travis is the son of a close friend and he’s a good man with a heart as big as the universe. And that big heart led him to go walk his talk from Queens, New York all the way down to Texas and help out, personally, alone and on his own time and his own dime and with the help he could get from family and friends.

A lot of what he is seeing down there are things you and I are not seeing on the news and I haven’t got words to describe it because I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be.

The heat. The humidity. The smell. The destruction. The exhaustion. The bewildered eyes. The suffering. The anguish.

The strength and the caring; the solidarity and the humanity; the love and the miracles.

Now the flood waters are going down, and the indescribable magnitude of it all is being slowly and completely revealed. People trying to sort out all that’s left of a lifetime, pulling out the soggy remains of normalcy and trying to salvage memories and useful items at the same time; thousands of animals stranded or roaming, without food, without fresh water, some having stood in the floods for days (which means for many livestock animals like horses and cows, the skin that was in the water will be subject to river rot and literally die and fall off.)

The shelters are still full of people who can’t go back to what was home – not yet; children running and playing, shouting or crying; harassed parents trying to parent and thinking about what they will find when they can go back – or not. There are lines for food, water and other assistance; heaps of donated goods to sort; volunteers and rescue teams doing their jobs and trying not to feel as worn out as they are; reporters looking for human interest stories; officials actively officiating – and the ones trying to portray some semblance of leadership. And in the animal rescue stations, the lines of crates and the barking and meowing and all the other voices of lost pets wondering what is happening to them and where their people are, the rescue teams struggling to care for them and working to find temporary space in shelters outside the zone and organize transport thereto.

And there will be the dead. The dead chickens and drowned or starved and dehydrated dogs and cats and the horses and cows and pigs and sheep and other animals, wild or domestic, great or small, pets or strays, that didn’t make it. The animals that had to be left behind despite every attempt to find a solution, because there was just nothing to carry them away with and there was just no time, and so they were left with a prayer that they’d be OK and the family could come back soon; and then the floods came.

There will be more dead people, too. Some that stayed to brave out and weather the storm; or who just plain couldn’t get out in time and nobody knew, or nobody could make it to them.  Others that were trying to help and perished in their efforts.

There is no safe tap water supply in Beaumont, Texas at the time of this writing. Gasoline has become a priceless and and rarissime commodity. Food is at a premium. For people and for animals. They all need help, and so many will need help for a long, long time.

Travis is seeing a lot of this right now. (Click here for a little look at what he has been helping with.)

And if you want to have another idea, check out these articles:


All these rescue efforts take money, both to help the victims and to keep the volunteer and other efforts running smoothly.

The expenses for Travis’ volunteer effort have far exceeded expectations. His GoFundMe goal is short of reality. So I am asking you, if you want to help too, to please consider chipping in to Travis’ GoFundMe.  Any amount will be greatly appreciated. Any donations he doesn’t use while he’s there he will donate to the local assistance teams. You’ll be helping far more than you know.


Thank you.