Guns are Like Sarah Palin

photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily New
photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily New

Lately gun accidents have become so (sadly) absurd and (outlandishly) alarming that they remind me of Sarah Palin.

In 2008, I received a group email entitled: Women Against Sarah Palin. Though I agreed with the expressed sentiment that Mrs. Palin was the wrong choice for the White House, particularly for women, I publically declined to participate.

I didn’t want to put my energy “against” someone, particularly another woman, especially when women’s voices were so desperately needed in the world.

I also felt that the “bashing” of Sarah Palin served as a distraction from herself.

If we quieted down, she’d do herself in.

She did.

I wish it was the same with guns:

US concealed gun safety teacher shoots student
School Security Guard Accidentally Shoots Student
Law enforcement officers in Danville pushing gun safety after 1-year-old shot in the back over the weekend
2-Year-Old Dies After Accidentally Shooting Self in Head
4-Year-Old Kentucky Boy Fatally Shoots 6-Year-Old Sister in the Mouth
6-year-old N.J. boy accidentally shot by 4-year-old friend has died
Guns in the home proving deadly for kids
Guns killing children: An American epidemic
Small-town cop refuses to call a child-on-child shooting accidental
Jonylah Watkins, Gunned Down, Was a ‘Happy Baby’ …
Woman accidentally shot, killed by 4-year-old at cookout
3-year-old Boy Accidentally Shot while Father Cleaned Gun
4-year-old boy accidentally shoots, kills Iraq War veteran dad
Tennessee 5-year-old detained after firing handgun in school cafeteria
8 Year-old Boy Shoots Grandmother after Playing Grand Theft Auto IV
Teens kill Australian student in Oklahoma for the ‘fun of it’
Kids OK After AK-47 Fired at School – Suspect in custody near Atlanta
Gun Violence Has Children Fearing Death Every Day
Man accidentally shot 2-year-old girl
7 year old accidentally shot by neighbor while swimming in backyard pool
Guns In Your Home: A Statistical Accident Waiting To Happen …
Arizona woman kills husband with shotgun after he insists she learn to use it
New Dad Shoots Self in Hospital Room after Wife Gives Birth
NRA Youth Day offers free memberships to children
Boy, 8, accidentally kills self at gun show
10 hurt in shotgun accident at gun club
Blind NRA member arrested at Newark Airport
NRA President’s Son Convicted For Road Rage Shooting
Utah Gun Rights Activists Organize 5K Race — With Firearms
Security guard in hospital after shooting off penis
Truck Driver Dies After Accidentally Shooting Off Own Penis
Father &  son dead after AR-15 goes off and ammo-filled room explodes
Shooting Our Way to Safety

Seriously though, How Could We Blow This One?

better than chocolate-America the Beautiful & J.T.

For a middle aged woman like me, it doesn’t get much better than James Taylor singing American the Beautiful at the second inauguration of Barack Obama.  It’s up there with chocolate and chardonnay, an afternoon on the Seine and under the covers with my lover.

The simple pleasures. Acoustic. Mellow. Sweet.

Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies

As he delivers that breathless line on the podium in Washington D.C., I feel the expanse of possibility

For amber waves of grain

And the comfort of the familiar

For purple mountain majesty

And the pride of this country, passing leadership peaceably

Above the fruited plain

And the blessings that abound

America! America!

The name of the Beloved

God shed his grace on thee

This “noble experiment”

And crown thy good with brotherhood

In a place where tolerance thrives

From sea to shining sea.

James finished his tender rendition of America the Beautiful there, but in an interview with Charlie Rose just before the inauguration, he referenced the significance of another verse:

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

I feel a deep sense of satisfaction inside when a musician whose music has been ministering to me all my life lends his voice on behalf of that which is good and true and enduring.

“I really love this president,” James says. “I love what it says about America, that we were able to elect this man.”

Happy Valentines USA!

(Don’t forget: the State of the Union address, tomorrow night: 2/12/13 Lincoln’s birthday.)

Kelly Salasin, Februrary 2013

The Broken-Hearted People of the World Agree

“There is a field out beyond right doing and wrong doing,

I’ll meet you there.”



There’s been a lot of debating, especially on Facebook, but then twenty-seven or forty-eight or ninety-two heated comments later, someone trips over the fact that we essentially agree.

I’ve seen it happen again and again–minds so tattered from the brutal slaying of innocents allowing HEARTS to speak louder.

First we are insulted or offended or threatened. Then we are furious or obnoxious or despairing.  But with each reminder of the devastating loss in Connecticut, we re-evaluate… we attend our child’s holiday concert, we wrap her presents, we tuck him into bed–and with our joy comes the bitter sting of “their” devastating loss.

One Facebook friend stormed against the focus on guns in favor of prayer and the banning of video games, and then suggested this: Let’s see where we agree. I definitely think guns should be regulated and that assault weapons should be illegal and not even manufactured.

Another friend vigorously defended the need for guns as a means of protection, but eventually said: I’m confident that Vice President Biden will do what needs to be done. I would be thrilled if this administration banned all automatic assault style rifles. I also support ammunition limits. I think in the end we’ll all move forward with changes everyone can agree on.

Even a young man, claiming the need for arms against a potential dictatorship, relinquished his absolutism in the face of the  Sandy Hook massacre, with: I whole heartily agree with some of the anti-gun arguments.

His friend, a Marine, did his own bit of surrender: I have learned a lot in the last 24 hours on Facebook. It certainly was not my intention to take our conversation this far, and I honestly had no idea so many people would be involved. I do appreciate that everyone respected each other and their opinions and had a civil conversation. Although my feelings remain the same,  I am beginning to see others’ views. In the end we all want the SAME thing for ourselves, our families and our children who have their whole lives ahead of them.

I think the mystic poet Rumi had it right when he suggested that we meet out beyond the field of right doing and wrong doing. It’s the children of Newtown who have led us there.

Kelly Salasin, December 2012

See also: The Courage to Change–a child’s response to the Sandy Hook massacre

And here is some of the best writing I’ve found this week in response to Newtown:

Going Home (author returns to Newtown for Christmas)

In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness

The Newtown Shooting and Why We Must Redefine Masculinity

No More Newtowns: What Will It Take?

Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

The solution to gun violence is clear

Tools of an ugly trade (a S.W.A.T. officers addresses assault weapons)

Six things I don’t want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

God can’t be kept out (a woman of faith takes on religious extremists)

a majority of cowards (a sobering, thought-provoking read)

Envisioning a Healed World (the world is an echo of wounds)

Looking for America

Why America Lets the Killings Continue

Our Dissociative Relationship With Gun Violence

One Million Moms for Gun Control

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice

when He could do something about it.

But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

– Anonymous

The Courage to Change–a child’s response to the Sandy Hook massacre

“There are too many men with enough courage to kill one another,

and not enough men with the courage to stop the violence.”

Lee van Laer


On Friday, when I learned of the shooting, I wanted to drive to the elementary school in my own town and get my son.  It wasn’t that I was afraid.  We live over a hundred miles away from Newtown, CT.  I just wanted to bring him home. Because I could.

Instead, I let him finish the day and enjoy his long-awaited “Friday Free Time” with classmates. While I endured the wait, my heart broke for the parents who wouldn’t welcome home their children that day.Or any day after.

When my own son finally walked through the door, I exhaled, and drew him onto my lap to explain why I had been crying. His tears silently joined mine, and then so did his anger.

When we had exhausted both, I suggested we light a candle… but instead of one, Aidan dashed around the house to collect one for each child.

Even as far as Pakistan, fellow school boys were lighting candles for the lives stolen.

The President reflected on this global mourning during the Prayer Service in Newtown last night:

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart.

He went on to say that our first job is caring for our children:

If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

But we aren’t getting it right. And to be honest, I’m not sure we can, especially when I witness us reach back to the comfort of Mr. Roger’s words or over-reach toward heroes.  I

It’s time to set sentimentality aside, and to sober up with the facts–not only about guns: 94,871 people shot in this country this year, but also about ourselves: We believe in killing. It’s part of our national fabric. We celebrate it in history, in video games, in theaters, and in warfare around the world.

And yet, I don’t believe the situation is hopeless; because I don’t think that we have the right to collapse into such self-pity after first-graders were murdered during morning circle.

Yes, it is complex. It is terribly complex. But one component is simple. Let’s start there.

Compare the U.S. to Japan, where almost no one owns a gun:

In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides while Japan had only 11–about half of how many children lost their lives in a few moments in Newtown. Incidentally, 587 Americans (including children) were killed in 2008 just by guns that had discharged accidentally. (Read more.)

We don’t even need to go anywhere near the extreme of Japan when it comes to fireaarms. We can look at Australia, where they only banned assault weapons.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings – but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect.  (Read more.)

I know that some in our country are too afraid to give up their rights to weaponry. They cite a history of domination by dictators in the face of unarmed civilians around the world. I feel their fear. I understand it. They want to protect us.

What they won’t admit yet is that our greatest enemy is–within. We are actually killing each other (and ourselves) with the weapons we claim as our protection:

  • A gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • Of youths who committed suicide with firearms, 82% obtained the firearm from their home.
  • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms.
  • Gun death rates are 7 times higher in the states with the highest household gun ownership.(Read more.)
  • More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. (Read more.)

So the real question is this: Will we stop pretending that this is about our right to protection? Or are we prepared, as President Obama asked, to say this:

Such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom…

“NO!” my 12 year old cries out to his President.  Aidan isn’t interested in “freedom” that takes his life at the school and at the mall and in the movie theater and at the mosque; nor does he want the the honor of meeting the President of the United States in response to the random death of his little sister or mother or grandmother or teacher.

This freedom for violence disgraces us as a Nation:

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

Isn’t it ironic how many uniformed men, with impressive weaponry, appeared at Sandy Hook–too late.  How devastating to be prepared–for nothing. My heart breaks for them and for the fathers who weren’t there to protect their daughters. For the mothers who couldn’t comfort their sons as they lay bleeding. For the first-responders who found almost no one there to rescue.

Though dozens of ambulances raced toward the school, only a few departed with such purpose. The hospital was readily prepared to care for massive casualties, but only two adults and two children arrived–the latter pronounced dead inside their doors. There was nothing for the highly trained doctors and nurses to do.

Contrast that with what happened in Central China on the same day: 22 school children were attacked by a man wielding a knife. Some of the injuries were serious. The act of violence despicable. The terror horrifying.

While this readily points to the truth that madmen can always challenge our resources, this doesn’t mean that we can’t limit theirs.  Those 22 children are being cared for–in a hospital–instead of buried–in the ground.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

“You GO!” my son hollers to his President.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Can we admit to ourselves that this kind of violence has become routine? By the end of this day, two-hundred and forty-four people will have been shot; an average so common place as not to receive national attention.

The massacre in Newtown simply brings to light what happens in the land of the “free” every day:

There have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

“Yes…” my son whispers back, as he embraces me.

(Kelly Salasin, December 17, 2012)

More on guns and the USA:

Batman & Bullets

Death as Entertainment (murder in schools)

Which Wolf (Co-op Murder)

My Favorite Republicans (Obama & gun laws)

Parenting without Power (or a gun)

The Day After (the debate debacle)

Big Bird debuts in Afghanistan.

I went to bed feeling like I’d been at a funeral. (Or an awkward 30th high school reunion.)

Still, it was great to see old faces… all those friends who came out of the woodwork to chat on Facebook–some that I haven’t seen or spoken to in decades.

Did democracy just die?

Did you feel it too?

Thank God for Twitter!

Many of us were able to cut the pain with laughter.

But even the snark evaporated as the agonizing hour passed, and the Twitterers fell asleep.

“Wait,” I typed, “He’ll bring it home.”

But he didn’t.

He still has time.

I woke feeling differently.

Not about Obama or Romney, but about us.

About the election.

Maybe about democracy?

Forget t.v. ratings, but if Obama had been the clear winner, my Republican voting friends who came across the aisle to talk to me on Facebook would be discouraged; and those of us who support the Democratic choice, would lose what little edge we still have.

If nothing else, that debacle made us desperate for “human” contact–of any party.

The absence of charismatic leadership or  at least political entertainment forced us to rely on each other. And Big Bird.

(Can you believe he combined Big Bird and Lehrer in one sentence? Or that he gave the same schoolgirl, “I like you,” to something as considerable as Green Power?)

Honestly, these debates don’t mean much to me and not because I’ve “given up on politics,” but because I know the difference. I know the taste of pure water.

And it’s not Obama.

And it’s certainly not Mitt Romney.

(I couldn’t follow either of them, and I have a college degree.)

Though the jaded say there’s no difference between the parties or their candidates, those who struggle know that’s not true. And if you’re too comfortable to feel the difference, ask your friends around the world… especially in the places where humanity is really hurting.

Maybe this debate wasn’t such a disaster after all, or maybe it was the disaster we needed.

Kelly Salasin, the day after, October 4, 2012

(And may both candidates refrain from using any further anecdotes about that “woman” they met in…  and hey,  if you are that “woman,” please stop talking to them.)

Drop the Fucking Gun, America!

When my oldest was toddling around, he picked up a line from a movie that I was watching and repeated it incessantly. Now I want to share that phrase with you, America, but I’ll just say it once: DROP THE FUCKING GUN!

I know they’re precious to you. I get our history. But you know it’s time. You’ve seen too many children killed. Too many massacres in everyday places.

If the politicians can’t do it, do it yourselves. One by one. In honor of every innocent person murdered. In honor of the 111 people shot in this country today. Or the 56 thousand shot this year.

Don’t do the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” thing. You’re too smart for that. You understand the facts. You know that countries with stricter laws have less deaths. It’s a simple matter of percentages. Let’s put them in our favor. In our kids favor. In our grandchildren’s favor.

If you don’t have a gun, give up something else. Violent film? Toy Uzis? Killing games? Bad attitudes? See your therapist or your pastor when you’re angry. Talk to a friend. Make peace with something that irks you.

Things are bad in this country. See them. Realize how close gun violence is. For all of us.

Recently I had to wake up to that fact myself. Just moments after telling a foreign friend that she needn’t worry while she was here (“I’ve never been threatened by a weapon,” I said), I remembered the neighbor who killed his boss at our local co-op last summer; and the parents of students killed in hunting accidents; and the students who shot themselves.

How close is it to you?

Kelly Salasin, July 2012

For more blogging on guns, violence & culture, click the links below:

Batman & Bullets

Death as Entertainment (murder in schools)

Which Wolf (Co-op Murder)

My Favorite Republicans (Obama & gun laws)

Parenting without Power (or a gun)

Batman & Bullets

“Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

—Bertolt Brecht

Batman’s Mirror

I’m only mildly anxious that my teenager is heading out to The Dark Knight. Colorado is 2,000 miles away and security is heightened–everywhere. Even as far away as Morocco, Facebook friends are talking about it.

Some say they’ll keep their kids home from the theaters. Others say that gun laws must be tightened. Warner Brothers cancelled their red carpet Paris Premier.

I get to wondering about Christian Bale. How do all those working on the film feel? Their efforts marred; their celebration stolen.

My heart goes out to the community of Aurora (a place I lived as a kid) and to all those whose loved ones were hurt, terrorized or stolen.

The newspaper explains that scenes of public mayhem are the hallmark of Superhero movies which begs the classic question: Does art reflect reality or does reality reflect art?

Ever since the first Colorado massacre in 1999, I began to examine violence in my own life. I gave up shoot’em up films, and redirected violent play among my boys–explaining that we didn’t have toy guns, not because they were “bad,” but because make-believe had become real.

Tragedies such as these are complex beasts. There are gun issues and mental health issues and all kinds of responsibilities to explore. The Director of “The Dark Knight Rises” expressed sorrow on behalf of the cast and crew for such a “senseless tragedy.”

But is it truly senseless? Aren’t we beginning to “sense” a larger pattern? Or will we continue to call these acts of violence random?

Kelly Salasin, July 2012

For more writing on guns, violence & culture, click the links below:

Death as Entertainment (murder in schools)

Which Wolf (Co-op Murder)

My Favorite Republicans (Obama & gun laws)

Parenting without Power (or a gun)

My Favorite Republicans

(On election day, I can’t help but think back to our 2008 canvassing in neighboring New Hampshire.)

A tall vibrant man in a flannel shirt held back his dog, but only slightly, asking if we were Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons. When the four of us answered “No”(on both accounts) from behind car doors, he told us we could approach his house, a neatly built log cabin with a long view of distant Vermont hillsides.

He softened a bit at the sight of Lloyd, 13, and Aidan, 8, dressed in Obama “Change” t-shirts (the ones they bought in Unity) before telling us that someone had already been to his house–twice that week–from the campaign.

We apologized for the intrusion, explaining that we weren’t meant to be duplicating efforts, but he countered that the others–a young couple and two college students–had said the exact same thing.

More apologies followed after which he stated, “I’m a lifetime Republican–40 years,” and then he added: “Until this election.”

There was a collective exhale.

Thirteen-year old Lloyd jumped into action with his clipboard, asking the man if he’d be voting for the NH democratic candidate for Senate. The reply? A firm, “NO.”

When he told us that he was voting for Obama however, we all smiled. He shared how nervous he was about the election and asked us if we thought Obama stood a chance.

“Watching the television is making me crazy,” he said.

We commiserated with him. We didn’t have tv.

“You could call your friends or email them,” we suggested, “Especially if they live in Pennsylvania or Ohio.”

“That won’t help,” he explained. “They’re all like I used to be… making six figures. They just don’t get it.”

8 year old Aidan offered him some campaign materials which he politely refused before we said our goodbyes (on “almost” friendly terms.) Just as he stepped back onto his porch, he turned and asked if anyone needed to use the bathroom.

There was a pause, and then a “YES, Please!” from me; my bladder had been full since the first road of houses where we began this afternoon.

He then invited everyone in to see the house which delighted my husband who had once dreamed of building his own log cabin.

The man’s unsuspecting wife was in the kitchen emptying groceries when four strangers poured in through her mudroom. “Just some Jehovah Witnesses,” I joked before slipping into her bathroom.  I let her husband explain.

She winced when he offered to take Casey and the boys upstairs. “The bed isn’t made,” she said, but he headed onward, engaged in a conversation with my husband who had appreciatively noticed his collection of antique pistols.

By the time I was out of the bathroom, she was giving the kids handfuls of leftover Halloween candy and he was pouring everyone lemon-aid.

“It’s so great you’re doing this, especially with your boys,” his wife offered, almost guiltily. “My own sons are grown, but I called them and reminded them to vote. My oldest works on Wall Street,” she added.

We continued to chat, while her husband invited Casey downstairs to see his WWII machine gun. The boys quickly followed behind.

“His brother gave them to him,” she explained, as we went on to discuss how far we both had to travel for groceries and how much we liked the Obama website.

When the men returned, we said our goodbyes, refusing even kinder offers for lunch, and they walked us to the door and watched and waved as we pulled down the road. “Good luck,” they called after us.

The next stop was a horse farm across the road. A man in coveralls grumbled that it was his cidering day so we offered to make it quick as we watched him drop apples into the grinder. He politely but firmly refused and his young daughter stared as we drove away up the dirt road.

The split level a quarter mile down was the next house on our list and we were almost turned away there too. It was a nice day for early November and as we pulled into the driveway, the owner was strapping a kayak to his Subaru. We hadn’t stepped out of the car before he complained that he had already been visited that week, twice. We apologized once again and explained that we didn’t know why they’d send us to the same places. This was our first time canvassing.

Checking the democratic polling sheet, we asked if we had his name correct, only to discover that it was his son’s name that was listed. “This household was divided up until a month ago,” he explained with angst. We’ve always voted Republican. Then he added, “My son’s out at sea.”

“Oh,” we replied cautiously, figuring we were heading into tender territory with a son in the military.

“Not in the service,” he said, reading our faces. “He’s out on a ‘Semester at Sea.'” He pointed to his baseball cap that said, “SEA,” and then told us all about his son and how he had gotten interested in Marine Biology after a childhood visit to Sea World and how he had combined Psychology with that major to work with dolphins. My other son’s in college too. “We’re all voting for Obama now,” he told us.

“What changed?” we asked.

He spoke of McCain’s age and Obama’s ability to relate to the people, of Sarah Palin and of the economy. “My friends and I all owned businesses during the Clinton years and we did really well for ourselves, really well. None of us are doing that well now.”

We shared that we had heard a similar shift from a neighbor up the road.

“Who, Stan?” he asked, taken aback. We didn’t recall the name and didn’t feel right saying. “The guy with the shooting range?” he pressed. My sons’ heads bobbed before we could stop them.

“My own boys used to go up to his place and shoot,” he said, shaking his head. “Wow, Stan’s voting for Obama, who would have thought!”

He turned back toward his car with a sheepish grin, before saying, “You know, one of the last things that kept me from voting Democratic was that I didn’t want to loose my guns.”

“Did something change?” we said.

“Oh, yeah,” he answered. “Biden said that no one is taking away his Glocks. ”

He went on to reiterate that he wanted a President that could relate to the world and to our day to day lives. He said that Americans needed a wake up call. He thought we all needed to reconnect with what makes this country great.

Guns aside, we all agreed.

Kelly Salasin, November 2008