Columbine and a Moral Compass?

I know I’m aging myself when I say this, but how many of you can remember where you were when you heard the news about the shooting at Columbine’s high school?   I can.  I can tell you which gas station I was pulling into when it came on the radio. While it wasn’t the first shooting, it was, in many ways, the most widely discussed, widely seen and closely scrutinized.  

But not the only one.  

And last week, there was another one.  For me, this one hit a little closer to home because a friend of mine knows one of the students who was killed.

There are so many screaming voices out there in the social media world right now.   

Some of them are screaming, “take away the guns!”   Others are screaming, “don’t touch my guns!   I need my semi-automatic sub machine gun!”

Some are saying, “Isn’t this awful, we’ll keep them in our thoughts and prayers…..” and then moving on with their own life.   Others are saying the “thoughts and prayers” comments in front of a camera to make themselves appear to look better.

Some are saying, “He must have been mentally ill, our system failed him and them.”    Others are saying, “Then why is the government slashing mental health budgets and why are we standing by quietly while they slash the funding to take care of those with mental illnesses?”

Some are saying, “the shooter was white and was arrested unharmed – would that have been different if he was black?  or Hispanic?”   Good question

Some are saying, “It’s the video games.   They are too violent.”   And then they go to movies that glorify violence.

I read an article over the weekend that I believe reframes the context.   It offers an explanation of what is happening and why it is happening.

But it doesn’t offer a “how do we fix it” to the problem.   Read my comments below:

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/why-do-mass-shootings-happen-best-explanation/

Writing in 2015, Malcolm Gladwell wrote what I think is still the best explanation for modern American mass shootings, and it’s easily the least comforting. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex argument, essentially he argues that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next. He argues, we are in the midst of a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event.

A “slow motion riot of mass shootings.”

They are all connected?   And everyone since the Columbine shooters is looking back and saying, “If he did, I can?”   “If he did, I can do better? or louder? or with more force?”

Let’s apply the Vanderwell Rule of 50%.  Actually, let’s turn it into the Vanderwell Rule of 33%.   Let’s say, for discussion sake, that there are three main reasons why these school shootings are happening:

  • Guns – there are too many guns that are designed for maximum destruction that are accessible to people who shouldn’t have them.   Not that there are too many guns or that all guns are bad, but just that there are too many guns of maximum destructive power that are available.
  • Exposure to violence – there’s too many examples in the media, in video games, in movies where violence not only happens very frequently but the message that comes with the violence is that violence is the answer to your problem.   If you don’t like it, shoot someone.

Oh and both of those reasons and their proponents fail miserably at supporting the mental health profession to make sure there are adequate resources to deal with and support those with mental health illnesses and those who are trying to get them help.

  • The last reason of our three reasons is what the article explained – it’s a slow motion riot.   Every school shooting makes it more likely that another one will happen.   Every school shooting makes it more likely that the next one will try to be bigger.   Every school shooting creates trauma that will impact and harm the survivors for the rest of their lives.

All three of those reasons have one thing in common.   They are all impacted by the fact that we have, as a nation, as a society, as communities, lost our moral compass:

  • We’ve lost our moral compass because we think it’s okay for semi automatic weapons of mass destruction to be available for way too many people.
  • We’ve lost our moral compass because we glorify violence – not violence that happens as part of the military – but violence that happens when people decide that shooting is the answer to their anger.
  • We’ve lost our moral compass because every time another school shooting happens, nothing changes.  And that makes the next one more likely.

We’ve lost our moral compass. 

We don’t need a new one, we need to find the one that we’ve used for a very long time.   Pick it up, dust it off and start using it again.  How do we do that?

Gun laws – many of my “pro gun” friends argue that we don’t need new laws because the existing laws are adequate to keep those kind of guns out of the hands of those who can’t handle them.   If so, then push our government to enforce the laws.   Get to know your local, county, state and federal representatives and urge them to support enforcement of good gun laws – ones that keep guns in the right hands and out of the unsafe ones.

Glorifying violence – how do you combat that?  Vote with your wallet.   Don’t let the industry have record breaking success with the movies and shows and games that promote senseless violence.   Speak out by supporting the industry people who don’t promote those type of violent behaviors

Mental illness – we’ve lost our moral compass because for too many people and for too long, we’ve refused to be willing to acknowledge mental illness the same way we do physical disabilities.   Look at the funding and budget slashing going on in the mental health field.   Look at how difficult insurance companies make it to get good quality mental health care.   Once again, we have lost our moral compass and we need to change that, support the mentally ill and provide the resources to those trying to get them help.

Slow Motion Riot – if every one of these school shootings is another step in a slow motion riot, then we’ve lost our moral compass because our children are growing up either afraid that their classmates will shoot them or thinking that it’s okay to shoot someone they are mad at   How do we address that?

  • The church needs to do a better job, a much better job, at making the Bible and Jesus relevant in the lives of the younger generations.   I wrote, this morning, about the youth director at our church.   The church needs more people to be leaders and relevant to the youth of today.
  • The schools need to do a better job at promoting decency, politeness and respect.   Now before you get all up and upset with me, I’m not saying that will stop school shootings – but it will certainly make schools a nicer place to be and a safer place to be.
  • The families – and those who support and can support families – need to work towards an environment of love, respect and authority so that kids will feel safe, will feel like they matter and will feel like they have a future.

Whew, if you made it this far, thank you.   None of these are the complete answer, but all of them together could make a big difference.

Now the question is, are we going to do anything?

Tom

Haiti, TPS, 50% and What It Is

The following statements have been made about the current administration and Temporary Protected Status for approximately 59,000 Haitians who have been living and working in the United States. Most of them (I don’t know the exact number) came after the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010.

Temporary Protected Status is a program that allows people to come into the United States when it has been declared that their country is unsafe due to political violence, genocide, natural disasters, war and ……….

A link to the stories that have these statements in them is at the bottom of this……

USCIS staff wrote a memo in October of 2017 that said that the conditions, the reasons for granting TPS for Haitians in the first place, have not improved.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week called for an investigation after they uncovered diplomatic cables that showed “officials at the U.S. Embassies in El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras all stated that it would be in the ‘U.S. national interest’ to renew the TPS designations for their respective countries.”

“Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the 2010 earthquake, and no longer continues to meet the conditions for designation,” wrote USCIS Director Francis Cissna in a Nov. 3 memo for Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.


But in an October 17 memo, Cissna’s staff at USCIS directly contradicted this rosy picture. “Many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist,” the memo noted. (Both memos are embedded at the bottom of this post.)

In a memo distributed to staff Thursday afternoon, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—the agency tasked with processing citizenship for applicants—announced it has scrubbed a passage of its mission statement of references to the U.S. being a nation of immigrants. Oooo-kay.


Tom here – so we are no longer a nation of immigrants? And it was the son of immigrants from Peru who made that change?

So let’s take a look at all of these statements. They all appear to be from reputable sources. Many of them name names and have links or even copies of documents embedded in them.

But I’ve never heard of splinternews.com before. Have you?

So, let’s apply the Vanderwell rule of 50% to what they have said in these three articles.

Remember what that is?

Let’s assume that half of what these articles say are made up, false, exaggerated or something of that sort.

If they are……

If they are, does what they are saying still ring true?

Here’s the way I see it. People in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department did some of the following:
• Exaggerated the improvement of the conditions in Haiti.
• Attempted to find information that could make the Haitians here on TPS look bad.
• Ignored statements by their own staff that contained a much more realistic view of the conditions in Haiti.
• Ignored statements by State Department people in Haiti and elsewhere that sending these people back would be deterimental to US national security.

Stop and read those last 5 words.

Deterimental (that means bad).

To US National Security – that means dangerous for us if we send them back.

But they ignored those statements.

What else did they do? They continued to work for the US administration after the President referred to Haiti as a #$%$$tHole and said that all Haitians probably have AIDS.

If half of this is true, we have a current administration running the government that, well, I don’t think there’s any other conclusion for it.

They want to get as many people of color out of the United States as they can.

(If you have another conclusion to why these actions are happening, feel free to lay out your theory in the comments below.)

And they will falsify, ignore and attempt to malign people to make that goal happen.

Remember – the 50% rule – and we still have a disturbingly convincing case that the decision to end Temporary Protected Status was not done because Haiti is now a great place to live. Instead it was done for more sinister and uncomfortable reasons.

And as I have friends who live there, I’ve worked for organizations there, and know many Haitians, this makes me sad and angry at the same time.

Tom

The articles in question……

https://splinternews.com/immigration-agency-removes-clause-referring-to-the-u-s-1823250677

https://splinternews.com/dhs-ignored-its-own-staffs-findings-before-ending-human-1825323760

https://splinternews.com/dhs-officials-sought-negative-information-on-haitians-b-1826051056/amp

What I Know and What I Don’t – about Police Behavior in Holland Michigan

Friday morning, May 4, there was a domestic violence issue in Holland.   That’s all I’m calling it because I don’t know any more than that.   One of the parties involved, here again, I’m stating only what I’ve been told from people who I know personally and who I believe to be trustworthy, one of the parties left the scene and was believed to have a gun in his possession.

Later in the day, the Holland police officers pulled over a car in the parking lot of the Maple St. Ministries.  Watch Rev. Grier’s video that she took from her office window……

https://www.facebook.com/deegrier/videos/10160150118965447/

A couple of hours later, Rev. Grier also posted this video……

https://www.facebook.com/deegrier/videos/10160150610425447/
At 12:12 am on Saturday (so 6 hours later), The Holland Police posted this on Facebook:

 Holland Police Arrest Felony Suspect on Traffic Stop, Locate Gun Used in Domestic:

About 6:15pm on Friday evening, Holland Police officers made a traffic stop on a vehicle in the area of 17th and Maple. Officers had information that a suspect, who was involved in a Domestic involving a handgun earlier in the day, was in the vehicle and was believed to be in possession of the gun. There were four people between 19 and 23 years old in the vehicle that were ordered out at gunpoint. The suspect was arrested and charged with Domestic Assault, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, and had an unrelated warrant for his arrest. The driver was arrested, cited and released for a driving offense, and the other two passengers were released approximately 20 minutes after the stop.

(Bold print is mine)

There are three things that I don’t know that I would like to have the Holland Police answer for the public:

1.  Their statement says that they “had information.”   What information was that – was it a positive ID that it absolutely was the guy from the assault Friday morning?   Or was it a matter of, “here are four people from about the same age who are all people of color, driving around…..  Hmmmm…..”  If they had a reason beyond racial bias, they should share it with the community to restore trust.

2. The suspect was believed to be in possession of the gun – why did they believe that?  Did he flash it at someone while driving down 16th st?   Or did they assume?    If they had a reason beyond racial bias, they should share it with the community to restore trust.

3. Regarding to the guns to the head – after all four of the occupants of the car were out, searched, handcuffed and lying on the ground, the police officers not only still had their guns out but had them pointed directly at these four people’s heads.  What I would like to know, what I believe we need to know is a two part question:  a) Why did they feel they needed to continue to actively aim their guns at their heads when the police officers were no longer at risk from them?   b) Can the Holland Police provide documentation of another case with a similar pursuit and arrest involving white people where they kept their guns aimed at the occupants of the car even after they were out, searched and handcuffed?  If the police claim (and they do) that they were following standard protocol, then I would urge them to show information where they used that same protocol in a similar situation and the only thing that was substantially different was the color of the skin of the people in the car. 

It can’t happen in our neighborhood.  The way it looks right now, racial bias and execessive violence did happen in our world.

And we can not let it go quietly.

Tom

Once upon a time there was a family.

In this family, there was a Dad. Dad went to work every day to provide for his family.

In this family, there was a Mom.

Mom took care of their children.

As the children grew up, life was busy but it was good.

And if you went down their street, they were part of a community.

But……

Dad and Mom weren’t born in their town.

They were born elsewhere.

But this was their town.

They were raising a family…

They were making a difference….

They were part of their town.

Until one day, the government decided they weren’t part of their town.

Dad went to work one morning.

And he didn’t come home.

Not because he didn’t want to come home.

He didn’t come home because the government said that wasn’t his home and that this wasn’t his town.

The government decided that he was no longer allowed to live there and no longer allowed to be part of that community or to be with his family.

Shock, grief, horror ran through the community, how could this happen?

Mom carried on, even in her grief and shock.

She had to – they have children who needed her – more than ever.

Dad was gone – she had two roles to play.

And then it happened.

The unthinkable again.

Mom went to the store.
And.She.Didn’t.Come.Home
The government decided that she didn’t belong in that town either.

That town where they were raising a family.

That town where many people considered them neighbors and friends.

Why? You might be asking that question. A lot of people asked that question.

Ask a different question – “If Dad and Mom were born there, if Dad and Mom were part of the majority culture and race in the town, do you think they would be hauled away by the government and told they can’t be there?”

So what happened to Dad and Mom?

I don’t know.

I have another question that you and I and we all need to think about……

What town did/does this story take place in?

Berlin Germany in the 1930’s?

Or Grand Rapids Michigan in 2018?

TJV