Tag Archives: freedom

When will massacres matter enough to cause change?

“These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children.” President Obama in statement made following the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre killing 20 children and 6 adults in the school.

Where do Americans stand on gun laws? Gun control?

In a pew poll taken after the assassination attempt on Congresswomen Gabriella “Gabby” Giffords, the country was divided. 49% said it was “more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns” and 46% said it was “more important to control gun ownership.”

After the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, 76% said, “There should be some restriction on owning guns,” according to a CNN/ORC poll.

At present time, roughly half of American states allow gun owners to carry their weapon openly into public places.

Also, making more news recently is the “Stand Your Ground” law. This law really came into the public eye during the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

There are a host of other states with very similar laws.

Florida, as well as others in this list do not have a “duty to retreat” clause which means if you can get away without harm or deadly force but shoot anyway, you can be prosecuted. Most of the states with the “Stand Your Ground” law do not have the “duty to retreat” clause. Many of these laws are written in a vague way leaving the law to be used as a “blanket way out” for many shootings.

These laws were often introduced as a way to help “victims” in cases such as domestic violence where victims often felt blocked and unable to flee or ended up shooting their attackers (which happened to be their domestic partner) and found it near impossible to defend themselves in court. When was it okay to kill someone under your own roof?

But, the law has left it open for arguments leading escalating, turning into assaults and then murder to be defended under the “Stand Your Ground” law. What would have been different if a person hadn’t had a firearm on them? What if they didn’t feel it was okay to cry “self-defense” in what would typically end up in an assault and battery case but instead, someone is dead. Has the law been a positive or a negative? Who has it actually helped more?

Guns and politics have become so entwined as the NRA has become more involved through the years with politics, legislation and politicians.

The NRA runs ads campaigning for those who promote their cause and against those standing in the way of their proposed changes in existing laws or future goals.

By funding politicians, their campaigns and having their own people in Washington, the NRA is assured of having a way to get current policies changed or new legislation passed, changed or set aside. The problem is much of this happens without knowledge of the general public both through state government and federal government.

NRA does not run the US government and does not make the choices for what is good for America. That is done through the voters. We vote who we want at both the state level and the national level. Are we listening to what these politicians are standing for and against? Who is supporting them and funding their campaigns? What are their intentions?

Ask yourself why the NRA has had nothing to say since this most recent massacre? Statements have come out from all over the world. World leaders are offering condolences. Many actors and actresses are coming forward and saying things should be done with violence in movies and TV may need to be looked at. Networks rearranged TV schedules following the massacre due to programming that may have been viewed as showing things in bad taste.

Sunday morning talk shows have done numerous interviews and Meet the Press asked any of 31 pro-gun senators to appear but none responded. Silence speaks volumes.

Using the words “gun control” is beginning to sound UN-American. I think doing nothing as we are seeing more massacres, people crying in disbelief as their loved ones are being identified, going through autopsies and realizing their last conversation was their LAST conversation… that is UN-American.

Personally, I can’t participate in ignoring an issue that is continuously being swept under the rug by groups that argue for their freedoms while others are losing their loved ones, their lives and their future or their sense of security. What about their freedom, our freedom?

Weapons used for hunting and sporting do not call for assault weapons or weapons with large magazines that can gun down numerous people (or animals) in just seconds or minutes.

Many assault weapons are not for either of these uses and are only used to promote keeping an argument going instead of coming to an agreement.

Responsible and legitimate gun owners, politicians and people across America need to give pause to this, put politics aside and be able to really look at this very serious issue, discuss it (peacefully) and deal with it.

Yes, there should be limits, laws, background checks and training required. Yes, there should be renewed proof of this at the time of license renewals for each weapon. A responsible gun owner would understand the need for this because they would only want other responsible and trained, regularly licensed gun owners having other weapons as well.

A major argument is that responsible gun owners and legally purchased guns are not the problem.

My first response is I find it amazing that each “responsible gun owner” can speak for all the other “responsible gun owners” as though they meet all the time and know each other very well.

My second response is that is not true. Legally purchased guns end up in the wrong hands more often than these “responsible gun owners” must realize. The ability to purchase guns is far too easy in far too many places. There needs to be universal laws when it comes to background checks, waiting periods, guns and ammo purchases and an assault weapon ban.

My third response is this. ”Responsible gun owners” do not come with a magic chip in them saying they are responsible, will keep their weapons locked up properly, only use their weapon in the absolute necessity that it is needed and will be in 100% tip top emotional and mental condition for the rest of their life. They also don’t have the promise no one in their family won’t get to their weapons or someone breaking into their home won’t be able to do the same. There are no guarantees.

The NRA makes it seem as though guns are the answer to protection and the government and its laws are trying to take that away from people.

For those trying to hide behind the 2nd amendment, they aren’t the ones who control this discussion. The idea however of more guns being the answer has proven to be wrong, dead wrong.

This is a must read article by:  Mother Jones, “More guns, more mass shootings – coincidence?” Their team put together a lot of facts about guns, violent crimes, laws and changes through a lot of investigating on their part. I urge you to look at the numbers.

Also, looking at some graphs put together by Simon Rogers with the Guardian, America is well armed compared to other societies around the world (88 per 100) and our gun violence speaks for approximately 60% of all homicides.

Another argument is not only guns take lives.

True. It isn’t just a weapon that ends a life. It is a person who believes they have a justified reason to do so.

As humans we react many times out of emotion. In many of these cases, there are feelings of anger, hate, revenge, defeat, entrapment and many times nobody knows what set a person off to commit such violent crimes.

The right thing to do, if a person is thinking rationally is to walk away, take some time to think things over, seek some advice or maybe get more details. A lot of times people are going through situations where counseling is needed and has been needed but either they didn’t know it, didn’t seek it or it wasn’t available.

Too often, a gun is too easily available to pick up, steal or purchase.

Not everyone committing these horrible murders/suicides, massacres and violent crimes were “monsters” before these acts. Many times, no one noticed any signs of behavior change, isolation, depression or signs of mental illness. Other times, it was noticed but they were unable to get help or convince the person to get help.

Does that mean people with emotional or mental illnesses are “monsters”? No. It means people with problems need to be able to seek help, get the proper diagnosis, counseling, medications and not be labeled with a stigma as being “crazy”.

If a person in need of help seeks help and receives help, this is definitely not “crazy”. That is the right thing to do and it should definitely be available to anyone in need of these services.

Many people with emotional and mental illnesses can live fulfilling lives alongside everyone else if they are able to get the medical and emotional help necessary. This important issue in our society cannot continue to be ignored. This is a huge gap in our healthcare system leading to economic and many other life issues. It is easier for Americans to access guns than mental health care. Without truly dealing with this, we can’t move forward on dealing with these murder/suicides, massacres and violent crimes.

There are two sides to be focused on immediately without involving political favors, campaigning, lobbyist and self-promotions.

1)      Too many weapons without just purpose or place in our society (other than within our military)

2)      Not enough available care and treatments for those with emotional and mental needs and disabilities.

For those who can’t clearly see these needs, they aren’t focusing on the real problems. They are standing in the way of what needs to lead to a drastic change.

We can’t just cover the cracks or kick the can down the road.

Our biggest war is going on here at home and our children and loved ones are the victims.

What is the difference between these recent massacres and 9/11? We are part of the blame. We vote. We have voices and if the issue isn’t being addressed, keep pursuing the issues.

These victims didn’t have a choice and now their voices have been silenced.

20 children silenced (ages 6 – 7) and 6 adults (their principal, school psychologist, two teachers, and teaching assistants)

This is our country, our communities and our neighborhoods. Those teachers are our teachers and those children are our children.

Speak up.

UPDATE: President Obama speaks at Newtown High School

Must see video below:

Video Tribute “Lives cut short by school shooting” – by: Anderson Cooper and the AC360 Team

 

Add on: “Balloons released to Heaven Among the Stars” Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, CT.

With love, 

Tribute to Sandy Hook, Newtown CT December 14, 2012

Not just a story

Our world is under a constant change. That is a given. Those who try to stop change or stand in the way of progress are slowly being rooted out.
That is certainly being seen across the Middle East as they continue to fight for their freedom of speech, equalities and the ability to finally be out from under the unspeakable acts of cowardly dictators that have ruled over them for decades.

As each day passes, bravery becomes more evident because to share the turmoil going on in places such as Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it literally means risking arrest or even one’s life. Making a phone call, sending a picture, a tweet, updating a blog or even carrying on a conversation on the street or anywhere in public can cost a person their life on the spot or have them detained, tortured, or kidnapped leaving their family to wonder whatever became of them. This is not something that is exaggerated or made up. This is life for the people of these countries and has been for decades.

Most reporters sent in are there under government watch and only go places with government permission, in government convoys and to places the governments wants them to see. Example of this is in Tripoli’s famous Rixos Hotel where a large group of reporters have stayed and covered Libya’s conflict for an ongoing amount of time. This is where Iman Al Obaidi ran in to share her story of what happened while she was held by Gaddafi’s soldiers. Her story became internationally known once it was shared by worldwide news organizations and across social media websites. This became possible only because she risked her life to go into that hotel in the first place.

Other reporters have been thrown out of Libya and other countries for sharing too much of the truth as well as having been detained, beaten, raped or are still missing or or have been killed.

To name just a few, Chris Hondros, Tim Hetherington, Mohammed Al-Nabbous, Anton Hammerl were killed just recently. These are just a few and are just naming ones killed in Libya.

Why do “outsiders” risk their lives to share these “stories”?

I’ll answer this question very directly so as to be very clear.

These aren’t just stories, this is life. Just because I am an American writing about people that are living all the way around the world, doesn’t make this any less relevant than if I were writing about something locally, not to me.

You see, these people in many ways are just like me. They have hopes, dreams, families, loved ones, and friends.

Rebel fighters at the Wazin Border Crossing(Tunisia and Nafusa Mountains) May11th
Photo Courtesy of: @ShababLibya

A mother losing her child or a child losing their parents somewhere else in the world is just as upsetting as if that happened here, or to me. A friend watching their friend die is no less painful because it is further away or because it is in a time of war. Many of those fighting in these current revolutions are students, lawyers, doctors or young kids. Most are not soldiers and had never held a weapon before in their life. They are protecting their homes, businesses, families and their lives. They didn’t want to fight. They don’t want to fight. They want to be free which is the opposite of fighting.

As an American, I want our government to be able to help, of course.

I also know that many times, U.S. involvement comes with a cost and although at first glance and in a time of crisis, it seems great and the right thing to do when making arrangements but the long term effects, due to diplomatic arrangements made to reach that original agreement, often far outweigh the long term benefit. Doesn’t sound right, does it?

Let me explain. Iraq and Afghanistan.

The need for help is there and the desire to help is there but the actual response and outcome is often so jumbled up in politics, the RSVP would have been better to have been lost in the mail.

Some situations are so clear, up front, one would think there wouldn’t be any issues. One would think.

In Libya, Gaddafi was making it abundantly clear that he had no problem with taking as many lives each day as he could without any given reason. He also made it clear he wasn’t listening to reason. Once the UN came to an agreement and NATO started its response against Gaddafi’s crimes against his own people, it wasn’t as quick of a process as it would have once been thought.

At this point, it seems communication on the ground (what little there is) doesn’t get heard by the right people, quickly enough. I personally think if it were, Gaddafi would have been cut off much quicker.

Syria has tried to hide what is going on in their country but they haven’t been able to do this, not completely. The government says one thing and does another. It seems they want to act like Iran, dress like Iran but not be treated like Iran. When do threats from the U.S. end? Syria’s government has clearly chosen its path.

In Yemen today, President Saleh refused to sign the exit deal to hopefully bring an end to the political crises. Saleh has ruled for 32 years.
For months now, Yemen has been filled with protests for him to step down. Hundreds have been killed and he has refused to sign a deal at least twice before.

Saleh is demanding the opposition be present at the signing. The opposition refuses saying it will send the wrong message to the revolution leaders in Sanaa, making Saleh look victorious.

The opposition signed their part of the agreement on Saturday, May 21st with the understanding Saleh would sign his on Sunday.
About Saudi Arabia…this is a country with a great deal of oppression toward women.

I am a woman. I drive. Recently Manal Al Sharif was arrested for doing exactly the same thing in the eastern town of Khobar, Saudi Arabia which defies a long standing ban on women’s driving. Yeh, that’s right.

Manal Al Sharif 32 year old Saudi Arabian woman detained for driving in Saudi Arabia

It’s said that about two-thirds of a woman’s salary goes toward their transportation. They can’t walk on the street or drive so they must pay a taxi or private driver. There’s no public transportation.

On June 17th, there’s a campaign #Women2Drive which is growing in numbers on their Facebook page. The idea is for those women, with foreign licenses, to go out in the Kingdom of Saudi and drive that day. Some are even offering to teach others how to drive. Manal Al Sharif remains detained at this moment but in an interview to Gulf news she said, “Every lady has something to do in the city, she’ll just drive, do her business and come back. So it’s as simple as that. People can’t call it a demonstration, we’re not going against the law, we’re not going against anyone, we’re not even demonstrating.”

I was going to divide this article into two parts but I think it’s important to keep it as one.

You see, as a nation, we have an enormous amount of freedoms. I am writing this article which I will shortly post because I have the freedom to do so. I have the ability to share the information which I freely read about on the Internet or via links that were sent to me. Information is golden.

Education is priceless. The ability to have those available to us should never be taken for granted.

In many parts of our world, these freedoms or abilities do not exist. Our freedoms were fought for by very brave people before us and to take anything at all for granted, to me, just seems wrong. It also seems wrong to take lightly why others would want these same freedoms as well as the loss of lives they are experiencing while fighting for their freedom.

Many have chosen to come here, to the U.S., seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Around the world, America has been known as the “Land of the Free”, but is it? Do we truly know where these people are coming from, why they are seeking freedom and can they still find it here? In coming here, they have often made many sacrifices leaving behind the only homes they have ever known and family members to still live under dictators and the very life they are running from.

It’s been a while since I have written. I’ve been following much of what has been going on around the world, devastating natural disasters, revolutions and our own nation and its many ups and downs.

I hadn’t planned to write quite yet until I read a comment about the woman in Saudi, Manal, who had been arrested for, driving. The comment was basically along the lines of the fact the reader would never live in a place that wouldn’t allow a woman to drive!

My question: What if you were born there?

The answer is in diversity

America is a nation that was built on diversity. It wasn’t something that was a choice or a point in the nation’s history where a vote was held to allow immigrants to start coming in. No, America has been a land of freedom for immigrants all through the many years of its history.

Having people from all around the world living and working in one country, with different backgrounds, cultures, religions and beliefs means an absolute necessity to come together with respect, tolerance and understanding. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to become who the other person is but it means that each person does need to understand each others’ differences and learn to respect those and realize that each person has many likenesses and common goals which is what drives America to move forward.

America has always been known as the land of opportunity and has been looked to for its great medical advances, technological advances, freedoms and many other qualities that have been part of what has made America a place of growth, opportunity and achievement.

What gives that edge to America? America has qualified input from its citizens and residents that reside here from all over the world. Everyone that comes here brings with them their expertise, their dreams, goals and determination to have a better life. Whether they come here to be a doctor, a scientist, a student, an engineer, a chef or whatever they desire to be, they become part of the American fabric.

Too often, a person is judged by the way they speak or the way they look or by what part of history their culture or religion has played in America’s past but has that individual personally been part of that history?

Why should they be judged? Why would their religion be held responsible for a group of extremist?

Throughout America, look around, there are many different people. Different races, cultures, religions and with each person there is a story. Until people take time to talk to each other, there is no way of knowing who the other person is. There is no reason to judge someone without knowing that particular individual, not by something that someone said or what someone may think but by talking to them and knowing them individually.
Without this effort and getting to know those around this great land of diversity and culture, a lot of what America has to offer is being put to the wayside and being wasted. So many people are in the shadows.
Showing respect, tolerance and understanding may be the best thing to start moving the U.S. out of the struggles it seems to be stuck in. This is not just something to learn when it comes to working within different cultures, races, religions and beliefs. This is also true when working with anyone, for any reason. This is true within our political parties, our Congress and our House. This is true in our schools with our young people. This is true within the workplace. This should just be part of daily life in America.

It starts with wanting to make a difference, stop arguing, end hate and intolerance and be willing to do what it takes to move America forward and making life better for everyone and each generation to come.

The best America has to offer may be one conversation away, one handshake away or one smile away.

 

Why vote?

Twitter users have been asking and answering that question for a while now under the hashtag, #whyIvote. A “hashtag” is a way of creating a group or a theme on twitter so others can keep up with a topic or add to the topic and #whyIVote has definitely caught on. It became a way of showing party likes or dislikes, candidate approvals or disapprovals and there are those that give the reason why they just don’t vote. Of course, there will be a wide variety of differing opinions and insights as Twitter users range in age from young teens to the elderly, they can come from the Tampa Bay Area, New York, from Europe to Asia and they come from all walks of life and backgrounds.

What really draws attention is an overwhelming amount of inspirational reasons why people vote as well as some common sense reasons behind voting. For those on Twitter, go to the search area and type in “whyIVote to follow this hashtag and feel free to continue adding on. Here are just a few example tweets.

@utbrp “I remember the Joy I felt when Obama was elected President. I cried like a baby. No one can steal that”. #WhyiVote


@isthisamerica “Because I think our best days as a country are ahead of us, not behind us”. #whyivote


@TheHarrisWalker “Because I want to make a difference and you have no right to pass judgment on what happens if you don’t”. #whyivote

So, why vote? Voting has been the way this country has run its democratic process. The locally elected officials go on to represent their constituents both statewide and nationwide but somehow this system seems to be breaking down. In press conferences, the elected officials often say, “The American people want…” or “The American people feel…” but is it really what the majority of American people want or feel? Are they asking the people or… who do they ask? What or who do they follow? What plan of action sets up their goals in office? What happens to the promises they make?

Are the best individuals running for the job? Or, is it a “party against party” vote? Do parties look for individuals to run that are well qualified or do they back candidates that will get more votes, more campaign dollars and overall just get elected, which will bring them more seats in D.C.? What is most important to Party Officials?

To be successful, this nation needs elected officials that are looking ahead to build, empower and design a newer America while focusing on bettering our nation. What America doesn’t need is more politicians taking office to tear down, blame or go back to a system that doesn’t work.

A person that is elected to office is elected by each voter that went in and cast a ballot. That vote doesn’t stop there. Voters can be just as involved following the elections as before the elections. They can show that compromising and dropping the ball is not acceptable and not what the American people want. When elected officials see that their voters want more than someone that can stand up during campaigns and make a good speech and make more of the same promises that are made each year but then afterward nothing happens until it’s campaign time again, maybe it will show them to either make changes to how they are playing their “political game” or actually see that Americans don’t see this as a game at all. This is life.

So, why vote? To be heard, have a say and make a difference. Vote because people have fought for the freedom to vote and the ability to be represented and because this country is a democracy. Vote because you can.

Feel free to leave a comment below sharing why you vote.

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