Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


For The Survivors, We Remember

In two weeks’ time, three mass shootings killed 34 people and left dozens more injured. We were outraged and in shock, and for a few days we managed to sustain a collective call for new laws that would make our country safer.

Now, we are moving on.

This is our human nature, to search for signs that we’re going to be OK.

Right now, rituals around a beginning school year can be a welcome distraction. Back-to-school deals are everywhere, sparking memories of our younger days, as students or young parents, especially if we can ignore the reported uptick in sales of bulletproof backpacks.

Yellow school buses are back, slowing down morning commutes with their sputtering and wheezing as they stop and go, stop and go. Carpool lines are full of little ones fastened tight in rocket-sized car seats, and traffic slows to a crawl in school zones because we want to keep America’s children safe.

Hold my hand in the street.

Hold my hand in the parking lot.

Hold my hand, hold my hand, hold my hand.

Perhaps you heard about this. On Tuesday, Perches Funeral Home in El Paso, Texas, posted this on its Facebook page:

“Mr. Antonio Basco was Married for 22yrs to his wife Margie Reckard, He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his Wife’s services. On Friday August 16th, Perches Funeral Home Northeast on 4946 Hondo Pass from 5-9pm.

“Let’s show him & his Wife some El Paso Love.”

Antonio’s wife, Margie Reckard, was one of the people killed in the El Paso shooting. She was 63 years old. Her husband told KFOX-TV that he and Margie were together for 22 years.

“When I met her, she was an angel, and she still is,” he said. “I was supposed to be the strong one, but I found out I’m the weak one, and she’s going to be missed a lot.”

Newspaper style would have me refer to them as Basco and Reckard on subsequent reference, but that feels harsh. It’s not how we talk about people we know who are grieving, and now we all know that Antonio loved Margie, and he doesn’t want to be alone when he has to say goodbye.

In two weeks’ time, a total of 34 innocent people were gunned down in three American cities: Gilroy, California, El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Dozens more were injured. We can pretend that life has moved on, but the survivors of these tragedies know differently. So do we.

Most of us have endured the loss of someone we love. We know how grief is prolonged and compounded by the evidence of a loved one’s interrupted life. A head’s imprint on a pillow. Reading glasses resting upside down on the unfinished page. The swipe of fingertips preserved in a favorite jar of hand cream. These everyday things take on the power of spooks and spirits in the aftermath of even the most expected endings. They linger, and sometimes they never leave.

In the hour after my mother’s death 20 years ago, I gathered up her clothes in the hospital room and noticed the tip of one of her hankies poking out from the pocket of her jacket. My mother always had tissues in her purse for “messy noses,” as she put it, but she also carried cloth hankies, for herself and to hand to others. “For the tears,” she said.

I tugged on the tip of the wadded up hankie in her pocket and pulled it out. It was stiff with dried tears she hadn’t wanted any of us to see. Twenty years later, I think of how, in her last days, my mother was still trying to protect us.

If you’ve ever grieved, you, too, have your stories.

In our country, a growing number of people are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died because of guns. We must continue the fight for gun reform, but we can do more. We do not have to know these survivors to bear witness to their pain. We do not have to know their names to acknowledge that their lives will never be the same. For them, we can remember.

Will this hurt our hearts? Likely yes, but we’ll be OK. Hearts break wide open, and in that space something new can be born.

White House Bars Reporters From Trump Meeting With Shooting Victims

The White House barred journalists from accompanying Trump Wednesday while he visited with the victims of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

LA Times reporter Eli Stokols, the designated print pool reporter, noted the press strategy in his reports from the scene.

“Pool did not see POTUS arrive at or enter Miami Valley Hospital, but we are told he is already upstairs,” Stokols wrote from Dayton.

A few hours later, he noted a similar procedure took place in El Paso.

“POTUS arrived at University Hospital in El Paso at roughly 3 p.m. Pool did not see him enter,” Stokols wrote. “We are now holding in a hallway. Still unclear if anything here will be open to the pool.”

When asked why the press had been kept away, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the visit was “about the victims” and “not a photo-op.”

But it was a photo-op for Trump — a tightly controlled one that barred reporters so only White House staff could take the photos.

Shortly after leaving Dayton, Trump tweeted a video, created by the White House team, of him meeting with first responders, hospital staff, and survivors in Dayton. He also posted photographs taken by the administration of the meeting.

As he was promoting his own propaganda about his visit, Trump was also on the attack. As he flew from Dayton to El Paso — the other city devastated by a mass shooting over the weekend — he complained about Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who he met at the hospital in Ohio.

Brown and Whaley said they called on Trump to act on gun control measures in response to the shooting.

Trump claimed that their account of what happened during the visit “was a fraud.” But there isn’t a way to verify that because he kept the media away. And given his habit of lying, even about the the simplest things, his version of events cannot receive the benefit of the doubt.

Trump’s stage-managed trip avoided encounters with protesters who came out in force in both Ohio and Texas to rebuke him for his racism and bigotry.

In Dayton, crowds stood with an inflated “baby Trump” balloon and called on him to “do something” about gun violence. “We can end gun violence,” read one sign. Another said, “Words have consequences.”

The message was echoed in El Paso.

“Trump is coming to tell us, today here, that the violence is due to video games, mental health. Let me say this, and I’m going to say it clear and loud: Trump is responsible and he’s part of the problem,” said Fernando Garcia of Border Network for Human Rights at an “El Paso Strong” rally. “He is not welcome.”

The audience loudly cheered his statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent.


No, Mr. President, Not Both Sides

After the massacres in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, we watched Donald Trump, the president who spends most of his time on social media to divide and polarize America, speak up for national unity and an end to “destructive partisanship.” From the White House he issued a statement condemning white supremacy and bigotry as “evil.” And even if his voice droned as he read the teleprompter, people wanted to believe he meant what he said.

He could hardly wait to tear off that mask. Within two days, he showed us again how unsuited he is in character and temperament to be president.

Nobody should have expected Trump to take responsibility for his own role in encouraging the reactionary terror that is sweeping across the country, leaving behind bullet-riddled bodies and mourning cities. Taking responsibility isn’t what Trump does. Instead, he followed his predictable pattern of defense by distraction. He wants us to focus on anything except the climate of fear and rancor he has conjured for the past four years, first as candidate and now as president.

What ought to trouble Trump or any decent public official is that the El Paso shooter slaughtered almost two dozen innocent people in a Walmart store and justified his crime with an alleged screed that echoed the toxic themes of the Trump presidency and the modern Republican Party. Like the many white supremacist killers who preceded him, this thug made sure that we would know exactly why he perpetrated his atrocity, that he targeted people he believed to be of Hispanic heritage because he hates brown-skinned immigrants. The four-page online rant authorities believe he published expressed his white nationalist and anti-immigrant bigotry and said that he had traveled 10 hours to shoot as many Mexicans as he could.

When reporters asked Trump whether he regrets his unrelenting demonization of immigrants, with so many innocent victims lying dead in Texas, his response was almost comically villainous. “No,” said the president, “I don’t think my rhetoric has at all. I think my rhetoric is very — it brings people together.”

What Trump wants to promote is the right-wing mythology swiftly constructed around the Dayton shooter, a different kind of thug who reportedly displayed symptoms of severe mental illness and talked for years about his violent misogynist fantasies. Posts on his apparent social media accounts show that he identified as a “leftist” and an “atheist” and had retweeted praise for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and antifa.

Somehow those shreds of political speech are supposed to demonstrate equivalence between one disturbed left-wing gunman and the legion of white supremacist murderers who have perpetrated scores of murders from Poway to Pittsburgh to Charleston to Christchurch. As an infamous man once said, “You had some very fine people on both sides.”

According to the FBI, the motives of the Dayton shooter remain unclear (although the bureau says he was exploring undefined “violent ideologies”). The brief, terrible shooting spree that killed his own sister and several patrons of a local bar, most of whom were black, indicated no political motivation of any kind. He was simply very ill, as a former girlfriend, high school classmates and neighbors recalled, and it is tragic that he got guns and ammunition instead of psychiatric treatment.

We are bereft of a leader who upholds American values at a time when we most desperately need one. So we must see for ourselves what confronts our country and the world: a netherworld of fascist insurrection sustained on the internet, recruiting sick and disaffected men to kill with military-style weapons that are far too easily acquired — and a president who spews the same poison.

It is a nightmare that will never be over until we elect a new leader with the will and courage to extirpate this homegrown terrorism.

White House Says Trump ‘In Meetings’ As He Posts Enraged Tweets

While the country continues to reel from two mass shootings that claimed the lives of more than 30 people over the weekend, Trump has other things on his mind.

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told reporters Tuesday afternoon that Trump has no public events on his schedule for the day because he’s “meeting with staff on a wide range of policies, having conversations in prepping for his trip to these communities.”

Trump is planning to visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, later this week — the two cities devastated by deadly shootings, although in his carefully scripted statement Monday, Trump referred to “those who perished in Toledo.”

“This is a very, very serious moment in our country’s history,” Gidley said Tuesday. “This president recognizes the gravity of this moment. You saw that manifest in his speech in the Diplomat Room.”

But as Gidley was insisting to reporters that Trump was focused on, and aware of, the gravity of the moment, Trump was rage-tweeting about Google’s involvement in the 2016 election and accusing it of “very illegal” behavior.

Trump claimed that Google CEO Sundar Pichai assured him “that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election, and that they are NOT planning to illegally subvert the 2020 Election despite all that has been said to the contrary.”

Trump’s citation for this allegation is Fox host Lou Dobbs, whom Trump frequently quotes on Twitter. Trump also cited Peter Schweizer, the right-wing author of the widely debunked book Clinton Cash, tweeting that Schweizer “stated with certainty that they suppressed negatives stories on Hillary Clinton, and boosted negative stories on Donald Trump. All very illegal. We are watching Google very closely!”

As Matt Gertz of Media Matters noted, Trump’s baseless theories about Google — which he was tweeting about earlier in the morning but for some reason decided to tweet again in the middle of the day — come from watching Dobbs on Fox.

“The Trump-Fox feedback loop is particularly salient in giving the president targets for his ire, and the network’s obsession with tech platform bias has repeatedly resulted in angry Trump tweets,” Gertz explained. “This is at least the third time Trump has responded to Fox segments by tweeting that his administration would take action against Google.”

It’s bad enough that Trump is baselessly accusing companies of “very illegal” behavior just because he saw it on Fox News. But for the White House to insist that Trump is in fact spending his day having conversations that show he understands the “gravity of the moment” — when that is demonstrably not true — is insulting to the American people and to those communities Trump is supposedly thinking about.

Published with permission of The American Independent.