Guns, violence, and hope

We live with guns and violence and we can live with hope.

I have hope that we can change attitudes about gun violence, just as public health advocates have changed attitudes about smoking. Now we have fewer tobacco deaths. In time, if we change attitudes and laws, we can have fewer gun deaths.

I have hope because groups like Protect Minnesota are working to change attitudes and laws.

I see hope in the dimpled smile of Protect Minnesota’s new director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence. Energetic and upbeat, Nancy knows preventing gun violence isn’t quick work, it’s necessary work. She’s organizing groups of Minnesotans who want to make us safer: The Interfaith Alliance on Gun Safety, Health Care Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Teachers United for Gun Reform, Minnesotans OUT for Gun Safety, Coalition for Workplace Safety and Responsible Gun Owners of Minnesota.

The more Minnesotans who stand together, with neighbors, friends and colleagues, the more attitudes, and in time, laws, will change.

The first step in changing attitudes is understanding the facts about guns and violence.

The fact is, we have 90 gun deaths a day in America. 90. 90 deaths, every single day. Shooting deaths are so common that it takes an odd detail to make us pay attention. A mother pushing a baby stroller is shot. Her death makes national news, because she is the cousin of someone famous, a basketball star.

We pay attention to mass shootings and a few unusual everyday shootings, but often we hear nothing at all about the most common kind of gun death in America.

The fact is, most gun deaths are suicides. The fact is, suicides account for more than half the gun deaths in America. The fact is,  more than 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota.

The numbers are numbing, but please stay with me here.

We live with guns and violence and we can live with hope. We can do something about gun violence. We—meaning me and you and many others. We can do something, together.

ATTEND a September 15th fundraiser for Protect Minnesota at my house.

HEAR The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. The Minneapolis concert at International Market Square is one of dozens scheduled nationwide for September 25th, a day to hear music and ideas of how to make communities safer. I’m happy to pay $15 for an afternoon of hope. Buy $15 tickets

DONATE

SHARE THIS

Advertisements

Choosing hope after grim news

The news is grim, again. Jacob.

Yesterday’s ugly details of Jacob Wetterling’s death stunned me. My legs felt leaden, my mind numb.

I decided to move ahead, to do what I had planned, marching in honor of Philando Castile, on the two-month anniversary of his death. At first, standing with other protesters outside Saint Paul’s City Hall, carrying a sign, “Liberty and Justice for ALL,” I was too sad to speak. Slowly, hearing the voices and energy of people around me, I found my voice again.

I find hope being with others, doing something. Marching with young people, old people, people of color and people my color, I see hope. I hear hope when we chant a call-and-response, “I-believe-that-we-can-win.” I believe, and have hope.

I remember hope, the thousands of people who marched and prayed, cried and searched in the days and weeks and months and years since Jacob’s abduction, October 22, 1989. I heard hope in Patty Wetterling’s voice many times over the years. Yesterday, her voice breaking, she talked about Jacob’s legacy. “He has taught us how to live, how to love, how to be fair, how to be kind.”

In times of grim news, we can choose to be fair, to be kind, to stand with others, marching, praying, singing. We can choose hope, a legacy of Jacob.

The sound of hope

I hear the sounds of hope in so many kinds of music. I hear hope in the Black Eyed Peas’ latest version of  Where is the Love?

Their music video shows haunting images of refugee children, portraits of people standing alone or together, scenes from the grim headlines.

Where is the Love?” washes over me, wiping away the inky dread that seems to coat the daily news.

Mapping their journeys

Hand poised above a world map, pen gliding along the path traveled, each person tells the story of his or her life, the journeys across seas and continents, by foot, train, car and boat.

In an airy lobby at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wide video screens reveal the stories of eight people, each of whom left home, travelling illegally, without papers, in search of a better life. We hear people tell their stories. We never see their faces. We don’t hear their names. Each video screen shows a map, with a hand, a pen, and the speaker’s words.

I move from bench to bench, watching each video screen, headphones on, listening to the odysseys from home, be it Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mogadishu, or Ramallah.

Each person calmly traces a journey, in black magic marker over a colorful map. The lines cut across countries and seas, sometimes backtracking, returning to stay at uncle’s home in Spain; caught again by the police in Istanbul.

A woman from Mogadishu details her travels from Ethiopia to Sudan to Libya to Italy, where she has learned the language and has a job. She dreams of living in Norway. Continue reading “Mapping their journeys”

A month of pain

A month ago today, July 5, Philando Castile was still alive.

The cell phone video that Diamond Reynolds livestreamed on July 6 after Saint Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot her boyfriend multiple times during a traffic stop has been viewed millions of times.

It’s a been a month of pain.

July 5. Police fatally shoot Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

July 6. Police fatally shoot Philando Castile in Falcon Heights.

July 7. A man fatally shoots five police officers, and injures 11 others, in Dallas.

July 17.  A man fatally shoots three police officers and injures three others, in Baton Rouge.

In this month of pain, our community has come together, joining hands in prayers and protests. Our community has also come apart. We see the same video, Philando bleeding out, and yet see it so very differently. Continue reading “A month of pain”

Where can we stand for justice?

In the past 24 hours, police have arrested 69 protesters outside the Governor’s Mansion.

People have been standing, sitting, singing, dancing, praying and sleeping outside the Governor’s Mansion since July 6, when Philando Castile was fatally shot by a cop during a traffic stop.

We have stood outside the Governor’s Mansion, asking Governor Dayton to show his leadership. We have stood, black, white, Asian, straight, gay, trans, able-bodied and disabled, old and young, asking for justice for a 32-year-old Minnesotan whose last moments have been seared into our state and national history, our collective memory.

IMAG3876When we stood on Interstate 94, blocking traffic, disrupting ordinary life, many Minnesotans, including some of my family and friends, complained, saying freeways are no place for protests.

When we stood outside the governor’s mansion, some Minnesotans, including some of the Governor’s neighbors, complained, saying the Governor’s Mansion is no place for protests. Continue reading “Where can we stand for justice?”

White blindness

Books and blogs to learn more about our racial divide

Philando Castile’s death two weeks ago forced me to see how little I knew.

I was blind. White blind. I was ignorant about the racial divides, the racism, where I live. I thought the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose, and Alton Sterling were tragedies that happened somewhere else. Not here.

Now I know. We are Ferguson and Cleveland and Baltimore and Baton Rouge. We are a place where a cop can fatally shoot a black man because he is black. I don’t want another Philando Castile to die because people like me are white blind.

So here’s what I’m reading and following, to see what I should have known years ago:

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, Sun Yung Shin, ed.

Showing Up for Racial Justice Minnesota

Continue reading “White blindness”