Yeah, yeah, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers …

Of course they published today.

It happened again yesterday.

A white man with a gun killed five innocent people.

But this one hit really close to home. This one was personal.

This angry white man came after reporters and editors at the Capital in Annapolis, Md., and shot five of them dead.

The creature currently squatting in the White House has claimed again and again that the press is the enemy of the public, and apparently, some people are starting to believe it.

Those brave people, who covered the events unfolding in their newsroom by jumping under their desks for protection — and sending out information on social media.  They continued to do their jobs, even as someone was trying to kill them.

I spent a career as a reporter, following in the footsteps of my father. Telling the truth about what’s happening in government and in the world was his life and it’s still mine.

I do freelance reporting now, and this blog. The truth is important to me, and telling the stories of people affected by bad public policy is the only way to force changes. That’s why I do the work I do now with the Poor People’s Campaign. That’s why I tell the story of how my precious son died every chance I get.

Journalists tell these stories:

  • The stories of children ripped from their parents’ arms at the border and caged like animals, forced to appear in court without representation;
  • the stories of people kept in jail for months at a time because they don’t have $250 or $500 cash bail, so they lose their jobs and their homes, even though they’ve committed no crime;
  • the stories of protesters with disabilities being pulled from their wheelchairs while trying to speak to elected officials who want to cut their services;
  • the stories of teachers, eligible for food stamps because they’re paid so little, buying classroom supplies for the children in their charge;
  • the stories of teachers throwing their bodies between their students and an angry white man with a gun;
  • the stories of young black men gunned down by cops, who never suffer any consequences;
  • the stories of soldiers who come home after five or more deployments to combat zones and then get no help with their PTSD — 22 of them die by their own hand every day.

The creature in the White House and his minions don’t want us to hear those stories. They don’t want us to know about their crimes against humanity, their corruption, their theft of public money, their collusion with a foreign power — and people like the angry white man who killed five innocent journalists yesterday do their dirty work for them. You don’t have to lock up journalists if you can get an angry white man to intimidate them for you by killing off a few here and there.

But journalists aren’t easily intimidated. We face threats all the time. We get angry calls from people who realize they sounded really stupid at the meeting last night when they read what they said in the morning paper. I’ve had many, many such angry calls. I even had someone threaten to kill me in a phone message after I wrote that LGBTQ people should enjoy the same right to marry that I do.

I laughed it off, but my editors did not.

My father had police checking up on our house frequently after he wrote about a crime ring.

Journalists don’t stop doing what we do because we know the truth is of the utmost importance. When a public figure lies, that’s our challenge to call him or her out and to find the truth.

The creature in the White House has no affection for the truth. He cares for nothing beyond his own self-aggrandizement. That’s why he’s so eager to attack and vilify the press. He is a toxic sociopath, and his reign will be short. It will be a footnote in history, a little asterisk with the notation, “worst president in American history.”

Meanwhile, the Capital will go on publishing.

Meanwhile, journalists in newsrooms that have been decimated by corporate greed will keep on seeking and writing the truth.

What we all need to do is support local journalism. Subscribe to publications you trust, online, on the air or in hard copy.

Show the creature and his minions that the truth does matter, and that you will defend it. That’s the only way we’ll make it through this dark time.

 

 

Four dead, three troopers hurt

A protester at Wayne LaPierre's press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

A protester at Wayne LaPierre’s press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

It’s what you call irony.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Wayne LaPierre was still talking, telling us we need more, not fewer guns, that armed teachers are the solution to mass shootings in schools, as a man walked up and down a street just outside of Altoona, Pa., shooting people, killing four, according to early reports.

Among the injured are three —armed — state troopers. These are people whose job it is to stop people with guns and he shot three of them. We don’t know yet whether any of the dead are troopers.

It seems to me that something is trying to tell us that LaPierre and his ilk are full of shit. More guns is not the solution to gun violence.

Do we put guns on school buses next? Do we arm crossing guards? Remember, this latest shooting was a man walking up and down the street.

Where does the arming cease? Do we provide Sunday school teachers with an arsenal, just in case?

I’m tired of the killing, aren’t you?

I don’t think we should spend another moment listening to the NRA. I don’t even care of you’re a responsible gun owner who loves target shooting and hunting. If you believe more guns will stem the violence, you are wrong. Period.

I have tried to respect other opinions because I have a lot of friends who are responsible gun owners, but we need to control guns. We need to stand up to the bullies in the NRA and tell them where they can put their guns and ammo.

I have listened to the “other side” of the gun debate and I have reached the conclusion that they no longer deserve our time and respect. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, not gun owners. I don’t even care of we repeal the damned Second Amendment. Our gun “laws” now have nothing to do with the founders’ intentions anyway.

We have the Second Amendment because George Washington didn’t believe we needed a standing army; that well-regulated militias would suffice. It wasn’t meant for every person to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That was the totally twisted interpretation by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As my husband says, “Piss on your Second Amendment rights! What about the rights of innocent people to live their lives?”

It’s time to regulate guns. It’s well past time, actually.

To those who disagree that increased regulation will help stem the tide of violence, with all due respect, piss off. I’m tired of listening to it as people die by the tens of thousands in this country.

 

We are not post-racist

Julia Robinson's son died April 3 after being pepper-sprayed by police in Norfolk, Va.

Being from the class of privilege, I sometimes overlook racism without even realizing it. I don’t have to think about the color of my skin and what it means to law enforcement and other power structures.

Yesterday, I went to the Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina as the bus stopped at the Union Grove Baptist Church in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Hendersonville, NC. The tour is sponsored by the NC Chapter of the NAACP, the NC Justice Center, AARP, the  UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and the Institute For Civic Engagement and Social Change at North Carolina Central University, whose representatives have traveled the state by bus to hear stories from people living in financially struggling communities.

There I met Julia Robinson, whose 20-year-old son, Derrick Hemphill Jr., died in police custody April 3 after being pepper-sprayed.

Derrick had been in the Navy and was discharged in March (the Navy reports he received a general discharge under honorable conditions). Julia isn’t sure what happened, but police said he was suicidal and resisting arrest, so they put him in handcuffs and leg irons and sprayed him. He died on the way to the hospital.

Family members say Derrick was a good student and a happy kid. No one in his family knew he had left the Navy, and no one knew he was suicidal.

Would he have been sprayed if he were white and suicidal? I don’t know. I only know that Julia Robinson is looking for answers to a lot of questions and she isn’t finding them.

She believes her son died because of an injustice.

“He wasn’t armed,” she told me. “He wasn’t capable of killing them. Why did they have to spray him?”

If you’ve ever dealt with someone who has a psychiatric illness — and people who are well don’t threaten suicide — you know pepper spray is an over-reaction. There are better ways of subduing someone.

Julia and I hugged and cried over our lost sons. She wanted to know if she would ever get over it and I had to assure her she won’t. The feeling of lost potential will always be there. Parents should never have to bury their children. If Derrick was ill, he should have received treatment, not a discharge.

But Julia’s was only one story I heard yesterday.

Before the meeting started, we all had the chance to see the bullet marks in the side of the church building, where on March 8, police opened fire on a man who was running away from them. Officers chased the man, firing about 50 shots. Some went into the wall of the church; others hit the walls and windows of four homes near the church. Fortunately, no one was killed, but that’s just pure luck if you see where the bullets landed. The suspect was shot in the arm.

Barbara Smith was at home with her 14-year-old son and 1-year-old grandson when the shooting started on March 8.

Barbara Smith was at home with her 14-year-old son and her 1-year-old grandson when the shooting started.

“My first thought was the safety of the children,” she said. “But now, I want to see those officers fired.”

The officers are on paid leave pending an investigation.

This wouldn’t have happened in my neighborhood, I guarantee it. But in a poor, predominately African-American community, police thought it was OK to open fire next to the homes of innocent people.

“What they were saying was that they didn’t care about this community,” said community resident Tony Strickland. “I don’t care who you are, you don’t deserve to be tracked down like a dog. He didn’t have a weapon; his only choice was to run. The police knew where he lived so they could have picked him up any time.”

People in the tight-knit Green Meadows community want to know why it’s OK to open fire on an unarmed man while children sleep nearby.

State NAACP president Rev. William Barber said he thought it must have looked like a scene from a violent video game.

“It’s OK to shoot like that in a video game,” Barber said. “But you don’t do that in real life.”

Was it because Green Meadows is a mostly African-American community? Well, as I said before, it wouldn’t happen in my mostly white, middle-class neighborhood.

When things like this happen, it doesn’t matter that we have elected an African-American man as president, we are not a post-racist society.

 

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