Military, modern problems, true crime, Virginia

Mass shootings in the United States have become almost banal…

The featured photo was on Facebook last night. There was a time when I would have found it funny, but I have to admit that I was actually a little triggered seeing it… Given all of the gun violence these days, it’s hard for me to laugh at jokes involving weapons, even if the actual joke is about men peeing and missing the toilet. But at the same time, I no longer feel “shock” when I read or hear another story about someone dying due to another person’s hatred, rage, and inability to control their violent impulses.

Yesterday morning, I was reading about the terrible mass shooting incident at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There were many people at the club, there to have a good time watching a drag show. Suddenly, 22 year old Anderson Lee Aldrich burst into the venue and started shooting, eventually killing five people and wounding at least 19 others. He was tackled by Richard Fierro, a man who spent fifteen years as an Army officer and went on four combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Fierro left the service in 2013, just a few years before he would have been eligible for retirement. I don’t know the circumstances of why he left the military. My guess is that the repeated war zone deployments had a lot to do with it.

On Saturday, November 19th, 45 year old Mr. Fierro had gone to Club Q with his wife, daughter, and his daughter’s boyfriend, who would sadly perish in the chaos that erupted that night. The family was having a good time watching Fierro’s daughter’s friends perform in a drag show, when Aldrich ruined everyone’s evening with his AR-15. Without a single thought, Fierro leapt out of his seat and charged toward the hulking young man, said to weigh at least 300 pounds and wearing body armor. The combat veteran tackled the gunman, throwing him to the ground as the AR-15 clattered out of his reach. Aldrich pulled out a pistol, which Fierro immediately relieved him of and began beating the shit out of Aldrich with the gun until he was bloody. Another man grabbed the AR-15, while a drag queen stomped on the man with her high heels.

As the wife and the daughter of men who went to war, I have seen what time in a literal war zone can do to a person’s psyche. Fierro went into action because of his training, and because he spent a long time in combat, training himself to go on autopilot when violence erupts. He didn’t think. He simply reacted to the indoctrination that he had to kill or be killed. This is an instinct that never really leaves a person. I saw it in my father, who went to Vietnam and came home with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My husband, Bill, also spent time in Iraq during the war. Fortunately, he wasn’t involved in any war zone violence; he just had to work with a malignant narcissist, which was certainly triggering enough. But there were still some lingering effects from his time downrange. War changes people.

In this case, it was a lucky thing that Mr. Fierro had been to war and had the reflexes and will to take action. He is a genuine hero. However, I know that this incident will traumatize him. He’s not at home enjoying his hero status. I know that all he wanted to do was go out with his family, and have a good time. He never should have had to use those sharply honed war zone skills again. He did enough for his country, having earned two Bronze Stars. And now, he’s going to have to live with the trauma of what happened at the Q Club, where people had just wanted to dance and have a good time. I fear that he’s never going to feel safe again… not that he necessarily did before this tragic incident occurred. I pray that he’s able to access adequate mental health services. I’m sure he’s going to need them.

Bill and I talked about Mr. Fierro over breakfast yesterday, not knowing that today, November 23, 2022, we’d be hearing about another incident. This time, it happened at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. I happen to know Chesapeake, because I grew up about an hour away from there. I have friends who live there now. This morning, my friend Mary Beth posted on Facebook about a shooting in her town… and then I saw the news.

Not to be outdone by Anderson Lee Aldrich, a man believed to be the store manager at a Walmart in Chesapeake, opened fire in the store and killed six people and injured more before killing himself. The man who did this has not yet been named, as, at this writing, the crime happened only a few hours ago. It does appear that, at this point, the man acted alone. Naturally, there are a lot of “thoughts and prayers”, which do fuck all to stop the violence. I guess it sounds nice to offer up prayers… but what good are prayers when someone suddenly loses their parent, child, or friend to gun violence?

Leo Kosinski, a spokesman with the Chesapeake Police Department, said “I mean it’s sad, you know we’re a couple days before the Thanksgiving holiday.” As if it wouldn’t be just as sad in the middle of September or March? Okay, I guess a mass shooting does cast a sad pall on the holiday, especially for those who lost loved ones in these horrific attacks. Still, I find that statement kind of shocking in its banality. I think a lot of us are just numb to the violence. I haven’t set foot in the United States in 8 years. I haven’t seen most of my family in the time I’ve been away. You’d think I’d miss being “home”, but home is becoming less recognizable by the year, as more people go off the rails and kill perfect strangers with high powered weapons.

Meanwhile, there’s a whole contingent of people who are hellbent on forcing women to gestate, no matter what. And there’s no shortage of internet based idiots who want to argue– even with board certified OB-GYNs like Mama Doctor Jones– about what constitutes abortion. I ran into one of those idiots last night. She was relentlessly arguing with people about this subject… shaming Mama Doctor Jones for correctly referring to treatment for an ectopic pregnancy as an abortion. That is PRECISELY what it is, by the way. Abortion is not a dirty word. But these folks refuse to understand that, and they want to pass barbaric laws that will KILL women. Or force them to birth babies they aren’t ready to raise… which will lead to a childhood potentially full of poverty and abuse, as well as escalating violence from gun toting right wing nuts. Below is what one idiot posted to Mama Doctor Jones’ Facebook post about treating ectopic pregnancies. She was taking on all comers, berating them for pointing out her lunacy.

Abortion is directly related to the uterus. Literally. Once you started with that lie that treatment for ectopic pregnancy is abortion in order to minimize actual induced abortions, I stopped watching. Do better.

Reading these kinds of moronic comments enrages me… but still, even as angry as I get at people who want to deny freedom of choice to women and spread LIES, I don’t wish for them to be blown away by the gunfire from an AR-15. How is it that the people who claim to value the lives of the unborn so much, are so unwilling to do a fucking thing about the gun toting wackjobs? And they want to send people like my father, my husband, and Richard Fierro into war zones, so that they come back traumatized to the point at which they willingly hurl themselves into violence?

I haven’t even addressed the recent gun violence at the University of Virginia, where three football players were murdered by a former football player who opened fire in a garage. Yeah, I saw the headlines and the photographs of three smiling young Black men, wearing their orange and blue striped neckties. But again… I feel so numb. Because there have been SO MANY shootings. A person in the United States can’t even go to the damned grocery store nowadays without having to worry about being shot! And yet, some folks want to bring more innocent souls into the world, with no plan for supporting them, nurturing them, and protecting them from crazed lunatics with guns, invading churches, movie theaters, nightclubs, schools, and grocery stores.

When did our society become so incredibly hateful and violent? More importantly, WHY are people like this? It’s just so sad. People just seem to hate each other so much now. I kind of wonder if it’s because of social media, to be honest. It’s like we can’t stand to be so exposed to people who are different than we are… and that somehow translates to feeling like murder is the answer.

Anyway… I think I’ll take care of some chores so that we can enjoy Thanksgiving, such as it is celebrated among Americans in Germany.

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book reviews, healthcare, law, politicians, politics

Today, in the United States of Gilead…

Special thanks to my friend “Naphtalia” (not her real name) for today’s featured photo!

It’s another very warm morning in Germany. I kind of hate this time of year in Germany, because while it rarely gets as hot here as it does in my native Virginia or God forsaken Texas, air conditioning is a rarity. That makes for some uncomfortable days when it’s high summer, even with all the shades pulled down and a couple of portable air conditioners. I never run both ACs at the same time, either, because I don’t want to run up a big electric bill. They do electric bills differently here, though. Instead of charging different amounts based on monthly use, they do a yearly average and adjust at the end of the year. But still, I don’t want to be an energy hog, if I can help it.

Bill just bought oil for our house, to get us through the winter. This year, it cost about $1000 more than it did last year, thanks to Putin’s war against Ukraine. Fortunately, we’re able to afford it pretty easily. We stay in Germany largely because Bill makes really good money over here, but also because the lifestyle is much nicer, people are saner and less violent, and it’s cool to be able to drive to so many countries. That doesn’t mean I don’t think of home often, though. Missing my uncle’s funeral the other day was another reminder that I’ve been gone a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of beloved relatives for the last time. The United States is my home, but it doesn’t feel much like home anymore. People seem to be absolutely batshit nuts.

Still, I was delighted to read about Kansas yesterday, and voters’ decisions to vote for allowing abortion access. I think that was a rude wake up call for the more sensible Republicans out there. They overplayed their hand, and they will probably pay for it with some really tough elections. I have read about some scary elections results in Arizona, though, and apparently the Trump loyalists, drunk on the stolen election Kool-Aid rhetoric, are leading the way to Gilead inspired insanity. Not surprisingly, reasonable Republican, Rusty Bowers, who heroically testified in the January 6th sessions, was defeated by his Trump supporting opponent. I watched Bowers speak about January 6th again, the other day, and noticed that he was almost moved to tears. I was almost moved to tears listening to him, even though I don’t like his politics or religious beliefs. Bowers is a man of integrity, and those types are rapidly leaving the Republican Party.

I don’t think people realize that the power mad conservatives want to enslave them… keep them disenfranchised and begging for jobs that don’t pay enough. Keeping people pregnant, especially if they aren’t financially or health wise prepared for pregnancy, is certainly a big part of keeping them poor. The abortion bans are already proving dangerous for people who legitimately need to terminate pregnancies for health reasons, that they should be allowed to keep private. Personally, I am less concerned about no access to abortion than I am that politicians will soon push an agenda that makes healthcare privacy a thing of the past.

Health information is a very powerful asset, and getting people comfortable with the idea of giving up their confidentiality when it comes to health matters is a big step toward keeping them down. I don’t believe these folks will stop with denying abortion and contraception access. They would like to tear apart legal privacy protections for the citizenry, so they promote bullshit about the “sanctity of life” as a reason to deny abortions to people who want or need them, while idiots like Colorado legislator Lauren Boebert crow about their ridiculous gun control theories. Yesterday, I watched a video about how she claims people in Venezuela are eating dogs because they can’t have guns. Seriously!

Well worth watching, if only because the guy who made this video is awesome. Lauren’s personal assets don’t include having a functioning brain.

I read last night that extremely pro-life Indiana Representative Jackie Walorski, just two weeks shy of her 59th birthday, died in a car crash. Two of her staffers died with her. I didn’t know anything about Walorski until last night, when I saw the article from Reuters. I went to her Facebook page, where she had just recently posted about visiting a “crisis pregnancy center” in Indiana. Crisis pregnancy centers are places where a pro-life agenda is pushed. The goal is to get the person considering abortion to change their minds, sometimes by the unethical use of misinformation or religious dogma.

The comments were pretty bananas, as people squabbled over their respective political views. One guy was especially disgusting toward the pro-choice women who were commenting. Only a few realized, at that point, that Ms. Walorski is no longer among the living and won’t be pushing her pro-life agenda anymore. I only hope that whoever replaces her is more moderate in their views. Like a lot of people, I am tired of being held hostage by politicians who think their religious beliefs have any place in making laws that affect everyone. On the other hand, I see some really ugly comments about her sudden death, including the one below…

No matter what I might think about Jackie Walorski’s politics, I’m sure she had many loved ones. This is not any better than the awful things conservatives say to liberals.
Ouch.

I don’t cheer for Jackie Walorski’s sudden death, but I really hope with all my heart that whomever takes her place will have more heart and sense for moderation. The country is being torn apart by extremism, and it will lead to even more very ugly things in the future, if something isn’t done soon.

Last night, I finished reading Black Beauty to Bill, and once again, I was shocked by how relevant that book is, even today. It was written in 1877, but it addresses animal rights, politics, and religion, and how politics and religion can turn people into insufferable assholes. Here are just a couple of quotes from the book, one of which I recently shared a few days ago.

“Your master never taught you a truer thing,” said John; “there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham—all a sham, James, and it won’t stand when things come to be turned inside out.”

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 46). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

“Well, a man who gets rich by that trade may be all very well in some ways, but he is blind as to what workingmen want; I could not in my conscience send him up to make the laws. I dare say they’ll be angry, but every man must do what he thinks to be the best for his country.

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 142). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

“My boy, I hope you will always defend your sister, and give anybody who insults her a good thrashing—that is as it should be; but mind, I won’t have any election blackguarding on my premises. There are as many ‘blue’ blackguards as there are ‘orange’, and as many white as there are purple, or any other color, and I won’t have any of my family mixed up with it. Even women and children are ready to quarrel for the sake of a color, and not one in ten of them knows what it is about.

“Why, father, I thought blue was for Liberty.” “My boy, Liberty does not come from colors, they only show party, and all the liberty you can get out of them is, liberty to get drunk at other people’s expense, liberty to ride to the poll in a dirty old cab, liberty to abuse anyone that does not wear your color, and to shout yourself hoarse at what you only half-understand—that’s your liberty!”

“Oh, father, you are laughing.”

“No, Harry, I am serious, and I am ashamed to see how men go on who ought to know better. An election is a very serious thing; at least it ought to be, and every man ought to vote according to his conscience, and let his neighbor do the same.

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 143). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

I announced to some Facebook friends that I was reading Black Beauty to Bill, and one of them, a British lady who used to teach school in Britain, said it would have him in tears. Sure enough, it did. Black Beauty has a happy ending, but it really is a very good book that tugs at the heartstrings, and it’s surprisingly relevant today, on many levels. I’m glad I read it again as an adult (it was never meant to be children’s literature), and I’m so glad I shared it with Bill. He loved it, and never would have read it on his own. It’s a great book for animal lovers– especially horse lovers– but I think everyone should read it. Anna Sewell was very wise. Her book promotes common sense and compassion, not just toward animals, but also toward human beings. And it’s a reminder that things were bananas in the 19th century, too.

Anyway… it’s going to be another steamy day in Germany, and I’m in the middle of changing the sheets, and will soon be vacuuming, which is not my favorite thing to do. So I guess I’ll end this post and get on with it. Let’s hope for better news in the coming days.

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communication, law, Police, travel

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t…

I still have a ton of travel blogging to do, and I’ll be getting to that in a little while. First, I want to write about a situation I read about this morning.

Last month, white mom, Mary MacCarthy, was traveling with her ten year old biracial daughter, Moira. They were on their way to a funeral in Denver, Colorado. Ms. MacCarthy’s brother died suddenly in October, so MacCarthy had to take a last minute flight from her home in California. MacCarthy is a single mom, and her brother was like a father to Moira. The girl was crying when she was boarding the flight, and the two were initially not able to sit together. MacCarthy asked other passengers if someone would be willing to move so that she and her daughter could be next to each other.

Another passenger was kind enough to oblige, and the pair arrived safely in Denver, where they were met on the jet bridge by a couple of Denver police officers. MacCarthy was shocked to be confronted by the cops. She worried that they were there to deliver more bad news. But, it turned out that they wanted to talk to her because someone had called them, suspicious about their behavior. Moira had been crying because her uncle died. Then, afterwards, she was confronted by the police, and terrified because of all of the news coverage about people of color being abused or even killed by the police.

After talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Denver police cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they were free to go. MacCarthy recorded the incident on her phone. The initial police report indicated that a Southwest flight attendant had reported the duo for “suspicious behavior”.

Two weeks later, MacCarthy got a phone call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking unit. The caller said the unit was following up on MacCarthy’s case. It was only then that MacCarthy realized she had been suspected of human trafficking.

MacCarthy sent an email to Southwest Airlines about this incident and, she says, so far they have not apologized. Instead, she claims she has only received two brief automated responses. MacCarthy has retained an attorney and is accusing Southwest Airlines of “racial profiling”. She now wants “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”

Southwest Airlines has said it’s “disheartened” by MacCarthy’s story of the events and has “plans to reach out to her.” In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said:

“We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of Customers who travel with us each year,”

I can’t blame Mary MacCarthy and her daughter for being very upset and traumatized by what happened to them last month. On the other hand, I also have some empathy for the flight attendant who called the police. It sounds like the flight attendant was following protocol based on training. And while it’s certainly possible that the call was based on the flight attendant’s racial biases, I can’t conclude for certain that it was, based on the information I’ve read about this case so far.

Just yesterday, I read another story about a sixteen year old girl who was abducted by a 61 year old man. The girl had seen a hand gesture on Tik Tok called the Signal for Help. She used it while riding in the car with her kidnapper, hoping someone in another car would notice her signal of distress. Fortunately, someone did notice, and called 911. The motorist who made the emergency call also stayed behind the car and updated the police to the kidnapper’s location. That’s how the Laurel County sheriff’s department in Kentucky managed to arrest James Herbert Brick and bring the teenager he’d abducted to safety.

Brick has been charged with two felonies: unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. He was locked up in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., on a $10,000 bond.

In both of these scenarios, people saw something and said something, which is the advice often given to those who are concerned about something that is amiss. I’ve heard that advice given in situations involving potential crimes, as well as in situations that involve potential medical issues. Yes, it’s possible that a person is making much ado about nothing, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”, especially when children are involved.

My heart goes out to Mary MacCarthy and Moira. They were already upset and anxious on that flight to Denver, given the terrible and sudden loss of MacCarthy’s brother, who was only 46 years old. Ms. MacCarthy also says that Moira is only ten, but she looks much older than ten. And it’s almost always scary to be confronted by the police, particularly in this era during which Black people have been injured or killed by American cops.

But… unfortunately, there are people out there who traffic children. Not all traffickers are scary looking men. Sometimes women are involved with trafficking children, and they get away with it, because they don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a trafficker. And flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of people who might be harming children. The flight attendant who called the police reported that Ms. MacCarthy and Moira were among the last to board the flight and the last to buy tickets. And they didn’t speak during the flight. Of course, the flight attendant had no way of knowing the circumstances of why the duo were behaving as they were, and she had many other passengers to look after on the flight. It might not have been possible for her to find out more about the situation before she made her judgment call.

It seems to me that Ms. MacCarthy is legitimately upset because she’s offended. I don’t blame her for being offended. But I would also hate to see people being discouraged from calling for help when they see something that doesn’t look right. I understand that calling the police on matters involving people of color can lead to tragic consequences. It shouldn’t be that way, though. People should feel free to call for help if they think help is needed. And I think in this case, the flight attendant was obviously concerned and felt that the situation merited calling the police. It turned out that she was wrong, but what if she hadn’t been wrong?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed several people hitting a post I wrote earlier this year about how the “Karen” stigma can actually be deadly. That post was about a column I read in The Atlantic magazine, about a woman who was concerned that her pharmacy wasn’t requiring people to wear face masks at the drive in pickup station. But she didn’t want to be a “Karen”, so she didn’t say anything about it.

That post was written in late January of this year, before a lot of people had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The incident the article it was based on occurred even earlier than that. The point I made in that post is that being overly concerned about being labeled a “Karen” or a “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patty” could actually cause harm to people. If there is a situation that is potentially dangerous, a person should feel okay about asking for help from people who have the ability to investigate. In a perfect world, making such a call would be perfectly safe, and would not result in someone being hurt, killed, or even humiliated.

Ms. MacCarthy assumes that she and her daughter were questioned because they don’t look alike. And it’s possible that racism played a part in the reason the flight attendant noticed them and called the cops. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the flight attendant was legitimately concerned and believed the duo were throwing up major red flags. The end result was that Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared and allowed to go on their way. Yes, it was traumatic, embarrassing, and scary, but in the end, no one was hurt or killed, and no one actually was being trafficked. Those are good things, even if Southwest Airlines hasn’t apologized for the mistake.

For the record, yes, I do think the airline owes Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter a sincere apology. I’m sure that Southwest Airlines will eventually settle with Ms. MacCarthy. Hopefully, the settlement will be appropriate and make the situation less horrifying for MacCarthy and her daughter. According to NBC news:

“At this point they can speak with my attorneys,” MacCarthy said.

She says it’s about more than an apology.

“I travel with my daughter’s birth certificate because I’m ready to answer any questions if necessary,” she said. “The fact that we’re mother and daughter, the fact that I’m a single parent traveling with my daughter. It’s the right of TSA to ask those questions, I’m open to that. But the way this was handled was so unprofessional.

“I will do whatever it takes to speak out against the type of ignorant behavior and policies that lead to families being treated this way.”

I think people involved with serving and protecting the public have a tough and often thankless job. But I also think that these kinds of situations, where an offended person pursues legal remedies against those who act out of caution– especially when it involves children— could have a chilling effect that might lead to more children being harmed or killed. If someone sees something that raises a red flag, but they decide not to act because of the danger of being sued or even just being called a “Karen”, there could be even more tragedies. I’m sure the young lady who gave the Signal for Help while being driven through multiple states with her 61 year old captor is happy that someone acted and called the police.

But… in Mary MacCarthy’s defense, I also think that once the Denver Police cleared her and her daughter, that should have been the end of it. The human trafficking department should not have called her to “follow up”. I think if that hadn’t have happened, this story would have a different trajectory. And I do believe her when she says that Moira is traumatized by what happened.

I hope someday, the police situation in the United States will be overhauled, so that officers can actually be thought of as good people to call for help, rather than just threatening and potentially deadly. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. And… on another note, flying has gotten to be pretty terrible these days. Stories like these make me want to avoid flying even more than ever.

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