Heather Whaley

U.S.A.

Month: February, 2013

March for Change

Today was the March for Change in Hartford.  I’m so proud of my little town, who rallied three busloads of marchers, plus at least one other bus in another town (thanks Mom!).  We arrived in the morning in good spirits, and I have to say, I’m totally and completely exhausted.  Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Staunton, the organizers of March for Change, did a beautiful job.  The air was full of positivity and love, and the promise of change, and there is real hope, at least from this Connecticut mom, that one day we will look back on the horrific events of 12/14 as the moment when we woke up and made the world the way it should be.

I painted these signs last night at about 11:00 with my daughter’s green paint.

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Somehow in the crowd I found this pretty lady….

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My mom, über community organizer, who just LAST NIGHT suffered the pain of a Happy Hour (just kidding, happy hour is totally awesome, she will be the first to tell you) to recruit more people for her bus to the March.

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colinColin Goddard, survivor of the shooting at Virginia Tech was there.  He’s the one who had Anderson Cooper all a-flutter during his 360 Gun Debate.  Goddard spoke very powerfully, saying, “We must challenge any politician who thinks it’s easier to ask an elementary school teacher to stand up to a gunman with an AR-15 than it is to ask that politician to stand up to a gun lobbyist with a checkbook.”  Sandy Hook teacher Vicki Soto’s sister spoke as well.  She said, “Make a list in your mind of the five people who matter to you most in the world.  Now imagine giving me that list, and I scratch one out.”  I don’t have a photo of her because my mother and I were sobbing at that point.  I will not forget those words.

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It was a record-breaking turnout at the capitol.  In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and the lockdown at my kids’ schools the following Monday, I expressed doubts about my decision to move my family to Connecticut.  But this morning, two months after 12/14, I awoke and a snow had fallen overnight.  It was a sticky kind of snow that covered absolutely everything – every twig, every branch with downy fluff, and the crazy thing was birds were chirping.  It was the most beautiful morning I can remember.  The people I have met in the months since 12/14 are some of the smartest, most inspiring, and downright coolest I have ever had the privilege to call friends.  This is my home, and I couldn’t be more happy and proud.  Be assured this fight is not over. Not by a long shot. Even if it takes until after the next election, it will happen. Then we’ll go to your state. I see a fleet of green R.V.’s traveling to Texas for common sense gun laws.

Okay, maybe not Texas, but Pennsylvania, get ready.

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A Cry for Help

Chief of Police Doug Fuchs demonstrates features of the AR-15.

Chief of Police Doug Fuchs demonstrates features of the AR-15.

Last night my town held a meeting with our state representatives and officials from our federal representatives, in order to hear their opinions on the issue of gun violence.  I helped to organize the meeting.  It was my sincere intention to try and find some common ground between NRA members who are feeling under attack, and those of us who want meaningful change.  I believed that “responsible gun owners” should be the ones to lead the way in terms of what needs attention in our current gun laws.  However, “responsible gun owner” does not equal “reasonable gun owner.”

Last night we heard from a man who claimed he was worried that if the magazine capacity is lowered to seven rounds, all of his guns — which he told us were firearms and not weapons — would be obsolete.  I’m no dummy.  The same way gun manufacturers altered assault rifles to make them commercially available under assault weapons bans, they will manufacture clips for this man’s weapons that can hold the regulated seven rounds.  For some reason I thought maybe he didn’t know that.  For some reason I thought that I might give him some peace of mind if I let him know that his firearm collection, which is no doubt valuable both financially and personally to him, would not be obsolete.  So I told him.   Turns out he doesn’t care about that at all — that you can already buy magazine clips that are “California compliant” he just doesn’t want to.  Then his buddy chimed in that he doesn’t want anything less than sixteen round magazines.  I asked why.  I genuinely wanted to know what the reasoning was.  He said that he does not feel safe.  He actually said that he does not feel safe at the mall with less than sixteen rounds loaded into his weapon.  You know, just in case.

My ten year old son loved that.  He asked me, “Which part of the mall is the most dangerous?  Is it Yogen-Fruz?”  It is beyond my ability of understanding, of ration and reason, to justify anyone walking around a mall with sixteen rounds loaded into their weapon.  For whom are these vigilantes working?  Certainly not me.  I don’t want them shooting anyone on my behalf.  Imagine the scene at the mall in Oregon where a shooter opened fire with an AR-15, if the other shoppers had all been carrying sixteen rounds.  How many people would be have been killed by these vigilantes?  Lots.  This is madness.

I realized last night that — like  these people have been telling me — I am ignorant.  I am naive.  I thought we could have some measure of reasonable debate, a confluence of ideas.  That’s not going to happen.  The NRA has dug their heels in so strongly against any change to our gun laws that their members aren’t concerned with ration or reason.  I simply do not believe anyone is that afraid to go to the mall.  I don’t buy it.  That’s just a smoke screen.

UNLESS…

These people really don’t feel safe without  sixteen rounds loaded into their guns at all times.  Maybe that’s why they keep screaming about mental health.  Maybe it’s a cry for help.

Common Sense

I am fed up with the stunted, obstinate, greed which defines the tea party and its affiliated conspiracy groups who spout offensive rhetoric and lies, who would rather see America fail than to shut up and listen for a minute.  God did not give you the Constitution, but he did give you a brain.  I could here list a number of these offensive conspiracies, beginning with the shooting in Newtown being a hoax, and ending with Obama’s plan to invade your home and take away your weapons.  But I won’t.  Rather I will use this forum for something positive.

 

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We need a new movement in America. A new party. The party of Common Sense. Here’s what I think it should look like.

Common Sense dictates when two people disagree about something very important, requiring action, such as the financial welfare of our country and it’s citizens, they each must bend a little to reach a positive solution.

Common Sense dictates that all people should pay a similar percentage of their wages to support our military, our schools, our infrastructure.

Common Sense dictates that more money should be spent researching how to harness wind and solar power than on trying to extract every last drop of fossil fuel from the earth, when the fossil fuel is going to run out anyway, probably sooner than we think.

Common Sense dictates that our greatest priority should be our children. The people entrusted with the immense task of educating our children, caring for them when they are not in the presence of their parents, and sadly sometimes giving their lives in protecting them, should be financially rewarded in an appropriate manner. Only by offering competitive salaries, can we expect to lure top graduates into the teaching profession. After all, this is America. That’s Common Sense.

Common Sense dictates that when our people are hurting, have suffered great loss due to natural disaster, we act swiftly to repair the damage.

Common Sense dictates that as our climate is changing, incentives should be given to people who are living in areas now more prone to natural disaster, to rebuild elsewhere, and for our infrastructure to include flood prevention measures.

Common Sense dictates that decisions affecting the whole should not be based on the religious ideology of some.

Common Sense dictates that scientific fact should not be ignored or invalidated without reason. The earth was not made in seven days, it is, in fact, over four and a half billion years old and more awesome and inspiring and humbling than any book could even allude to.

Common Sense dictates that morality does not come from a book. It is the responsibility of parents, schools, and communities, to shape character.

Common Sense dictates that a clear path to citizenship must be available to those living and working in our country.

Common Sense dictates that we help those living in poverty, we have a responsibility to feed the hungry.

Common Sense dictates that all people have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including the right to marry whomever you choose.

Common Sense dictates that as our weapons have evolved, so must our laws pertaining to them.

Common Sense dictates that art is important.  Art is the means by which we represent ourselves as a civilized society.

Common Sense dictates that women are deserving of rights equal to those of men.

Common Sense dictates that in our nation medical care should not be governed by the law of supply and demand, but by compassion and necessity.

Common Sense dictates that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, rather we borrow it from our children.  We must take care of it- not later, NOW.

 

 

Maybe, just maybe, if enough people agree with me, we could turn the tide of conservatism, greed, and obstinacy that has hijacked our nation, and build something truly great.

 

 

NRA, Defenders of Mothers’ Rights, and Other Bullshit

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I was in Newtown on Wednesday night as the Connecticut Legislature’s Task Force heard testimony from parents, first responders, and other Newtown residents.  It was riveting, heartbreaking, and at times infuriating.  The shock and grief of parents who lost their children that day is still unimaginable.  The courage it took for them to stand before this legislative body is profound.  Unlike the Monday hearing in Hartford, most of the testimony was strongly and unequivocably in favor of stronger gun laws, including a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault rifles.  The NRA and the CCDL will tell you that assault weapons are already banned in Connecticut.  But that’s not really the whole story.  When they banned assault weapons, the gun manufacturers just altered them to get around the ban by not allowing them to spray bullets.  The NRA says that the rest of the features are just to make it look cool. The reality is that every feature of that gun has a purpose, to make it more accurate and efficient.  If they wanted it to look cool it would come in different colors.

There were a lot of good ideas mentioned in the testimony.  In my town there is a budget hearing next week to allocate over $300,000 toward new security measures for our schools, including the hiring of two full-time police officers to be stationed in the school buildings.  There are about 9,000 people in my town.  There are about 5,000 guns in my town, too.  On Wednesday in Newtown a father stood before the task force and said, “The Right to Bear Arms is the best marketing slogan of all time.”  Then he went on to say that increased security measures should be paid by the gun manufacturers.  This is just about the best idea I have heard.  Increased security is the price we pay for living in a society teeming with guns.  Alternately, just as the NRA gets a dollar each time a gun is purchased, schools could get a dollar.  Or tax the permits, so that the money is staying in the community where the guns are held.

One woman on Wednesday night said, in a very soft voice, “A mother bear has claws to protect her young.  A mother tiger has teeth.  Please don’t take away the one means of defense I have to protect my children.”  During her testimony people near where I was sitting were visibly disgusted, and many of them left.  This is an argument we have begun to hear over and over.  For example, from “independent woman” Gayle Trotter at the Senate hearing, we heard this:

On Monday in Hartford I heard so many stories of home invasion and rape that I lost count.  I’m not sure where those people were from, but according to them there are places in Connecticut where each night your home is more likely to be invaded than not.  These stories are meant to do one thing – frighten us into buying more guns.  Specifically, to frighten women into buying more guns.  It is your DUTY as a mother to buy a gun.  And because you are small, and fragile, and unable to shoot properly, you’d best get yourself a nice Bushmaster because you’re going to be shooting all over the place, and you’ll need a high-capacity magazine of at least thirty rounds so that hopefully one of them will hit your target.  Don’t worry your pretty little head about where all those other bullets are going.  Just make sure your kids are behind you.

I find this so outrageously offensive.  Does the NRA really think women are so stupid and weak?  I can just imagine the meeting where they came up with this crap.  A bunch of men sitting around a table, saying, “Okay, we’re looking like the bad guys here.  How can we make us the good guys?  I know!  Women.  They’re so naive and impressionable – we’ll just tell them a whole bunch of stories about scary bad guys busting down the door, and how women were able to defend themselves.  We will turn this from a debate about how to prevent a classroom full of children being slaughtered, to a quest for women’s rights – mother’s rights!”  It makes me sick.

You know another mother who had guns in her house?  Nancy Lanza.  Her face was blown off.  You know the rest.