Not this time

It has been nineteen years since Columbine.

I was fifteen, and a freshman in High School.  If I had lived in Littleton, Colorado, I would have been a student there.

I wasn’t.  I lived in a small town in Central California, far removed from the terror of that April day.

And yet…from that day forward, it touched my life.  I wrote an essay about Columbine as an example of my writing for an Honor’s English exam.  The locks on our doors were changed to require a teacher’s key to enter.  We began having lockdown drills.

I was fifteen years old, and being asked to imagine a life and death situation.

Last week, for the eighteenth time this year, we asked other students to make that decision.  Eighteen school shootings in forty-five days.  One every two and a half days.

It’s helpful to start saying it out loud.

Seventeen died.  It’s helpful to say that too.  Some were coaches.  Some were members of the ROTC.  Some were just students. All had lives and pasts and present, but they don’t have futures anymore.

We can argue that it was a mentally disturbed individual that took that from them, but we took mental healthcare away.  So that arguement is over.

We can claim that is was a failure of the school, they should have had an armed guard, but they did.  He is dead too.

We can offer up our thoughts and prayers.  But those didn’t help twenty years ago, and they sure as hell won’t help now.

It was a gun that stole those lives, as much as it was a sad and demented individual.  We as a society gave him access to those weapons, as much as we gave them to the Columbine Shooters, or Aurora, or Newtown.  We said we would rather have guns than living kids.  We said the Second Amendment is more important than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We said that.

But we don’t anymore.

My generation should have stood up after Columbine.  We should have stood tall and said fix this.  Make us less afraid.  Make this world better.  But we didn’t.  We stood by and let them blame video games and movies and television and music.  We let them blame lazy parenting and schools and anyone else that was clumsy enough, or stupid enough, to stand in the way.  But never the guns.

We let our rights be taken after 9/11, because we were afraid.  We put up with fourteen years of War in the Middle East, because we weren’t the ones in charge.  We have wailed and knashed our teeth as we have been blamed and victimized and taken advantage of with student debt and lowered wages and rising inequality.

But not this generation.  This generation has said enough.  They have stood tall and said, “No more.”  No more guns.  No more hate.  No more inequality.  It stops now.  And we will stand with them.  Not because we have to.  Not even because we want to.  But because we should have been here the entire time.  Because we wanted to be here, but didn’t know how.

Because this generation…They will change the world.  And we will stand with them.

Goodnight.  And good luck.

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Repeal and Go Fuck Yourself…

Tomorrow, July 25, 2017, the United States Senate is set to vote on the repeal of the Afordable Care Act, or, as it was called by most, Obamacare.

Obamacare was a sweeping change of the American healthcare system in 2010, such as it was.  Well, less a system really then, more a pile of shit made over to look like lipstick on a fairly average pig.  But none of that matters anymore.

I was not the biggest fan of Obamacare.  I still am not.  I didn’t care much for how it was passed; I didn’t care much for the “read it after we pass it” attitude, or then Speaker Pelosi’s behavior about passing it.  I didn’t care for what seemed like half-assedness and shortcuts that were taken in the bill.  But, then came this abomination.

We shouted that there wasn’t enough time, but then again, the ACA was debated over for two years.  We cried that there wasn’t enough hearings, but then again, the ACA had more than twenty-five hearings in the Senate alone.  We bemoaned the lack of transparency in the process, but again, there were two debates broadcast live to the people of the nation in primetime.  He muttered that it was bipartisan, and yet Republicans helped draft, not only the bill, but the ideas behind it.  We wailed and gnashed our teeth, and yet…here we are now.

So, you ask, yes!  What about now?  What do we get instead?  Well, we got twelve old white guys, in a room, deciding what our health care should look like.  A fifth of the American economy. We wailed and gnashed our teeth about Obamacare, yes.  And yet…now?  Zero debate, zero hearings, zero transparency, zero input.  We don’t get to know what they’re voting on tomorrow, purely because it doesn’t exist yet.  Oh, don’t worry, they say, about reading it before we vote, it’s just, we haven’t written it.

Are you fucking kidding me?  We didn’t wait eight years for this.  We didn’t wait eight years for, “We don’t have a single idea in our bald little heads.”  We didn’t listen to your bullshit, Leader McConnell, for eight years to be treated like this.  We expect better of the so-called “adults” in the room.  No, do better.  A bill with a 13% approval rating; that has united the insurance companies, the AARP, the AMA, and countless healthcare professionals against it; that is a tax cut for millionaires, masquerading as a healthcare bill; this is not the best you can do.  Do better, or do no harm, as the Hippocratic Oath says.

I have pre-existing conditions.  I’ve spoken of them openly here and elsewhere.  My wife has pre-existing conditions.  She’d like to open her own business, but good luck with that if anything flares up again.  My son has pre-existing conditions, my parents, my in-laws.  You’ve messed with my family Mr. Speaker, Mr. Leader, and Mr. President.  We are coming for you, for your agenda, for your jobs, for your donors.  We are going to sink you under so many letters, so many copies of hospital bills, so many pictures of those we have lost.  We are going to sink you with stories and anger.  You think your base was pissed with Obamacare?  You just wait.  The real Silent Majority is coming for you.

The Blank Page

As some of you may know, I am currently working on a novel.  That is the biggest reason I have not been posting to the blog recently.  It is going fairly well, and I have completed about 20,000 words, marking one of the longest projects I have ever undertaken, and I’m only about a third of the way through what I have plotted.

Recently, however, I have been faced by my biggest obstacle: the blank, white, empty page.  I know where I need my story to go, I know what my characters are thinking or saying (or not saying, as is often the case), but the words don’t want to come forth.  I have tried the tricks I know, and still, the page sits there empty and taunting.

This is the hardest thing for me, having a story to tell, but not being able to tell it.  To have a blank white page staring back at me, waiting for words and thoughts and emotion to move the story forward.  Feeling stuck, without a way forward, paralysed by options and choices and the entire future of it.

I am starting the end of the first movement, and somehow, this is proving the hardest of all.  But I will continue to write, and try, and push, because this story is too important to me to let it hide.  I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Until next time, stay safe.

Time for Work

She rolled over, her eyes squinted in the glare from the hall light.  “Where are you going?”

“I have to go to work.”

“Did bad guys do something?”

“Yeah, sweety.  They did.”

“Be careful, daddy.”

“I will, child.”  I smiled.  “I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Daddy, why is there evil in the world?” she asked.

“That’s a loaded question,” I answered with a smile.

“Well, I’m good.  My friends are good.  You and Mommy are good.  Who is evil?”

I thought.  Who is evil.  “There’s been evil here before us, and there will be evil here after us.  Some was always here, and the rest we brought in with us.”  I took breathed deeply through my nose.  “Evil depends largely on which way you’re looking.  When the Romans arrived in Gaul, they saw themselves as arriving to lift the savages from the ash-heap.  The Gauls saw them as demons, world destroyers.”

“Well, where does evil come from?”

“Your mother would say the Devil.”  She raised an eyebrow, mulling that over.

“And where do you think it comes from?”

I looked at the floor.  “We all have a little evil inside of us.”  I looked back at her, “But what matters is how much control we give it.”  I stood up.  “Do right.  Try not to hurt.  Love.  Make the world better.”  I put on my cap.  “No one can judge you for that.”  I kissed the top of her head, and headed for the door.

“Can I go to the next concert?”

I stopped and closed my eyes.  “Maybe.”  I shook my head.  “I’m sorry I woke you, I just wanted to give you a kiss before I left.”

“Be safe, daddy.”

“Of course, love.”

I walked out of my flat, checked the lock twice and headed for my car.  I grabbed my radio to check in, “Office Harrison, responding.”  It was going to be rough in Manchester tonight…


My thoughts and prayers go out to all those in Manchester tonight; both the victims and the emergency personel, as well as all those facing danger in their everyday lives.

Don’t let the light go out.

Design/Aesthetic

I am using the Daily Prompt today.  A quick and easy post to help keep other projects moving.  I’m also drinking a Honey Tea Bowl to try to keep the sickness at bay.  Not sure either is going to work.

I am working today at a noisy coffee shop called Scout.  Actually, I suppose it is technically called Scout 2, but I digress.  I like working in coffee shops; the energy and rhythm of the place provides a nice kinetic movement to my mind.  If things are too quiet or too still my mind finds it fairly easy to wander.  Both Scout locations have a very definite design mentality; clean lines, a farmhouse feel, a little bit of the outdoors brought in.  And coffee.  Lots of coffee.

What defines the looks and feels of what we are comfortable with?  What makes us say, we like this, but not that.  Design speaks to us in ways we may not fully understand and helps us to make sense of our world.  We have all encountered bad design, we notice it and stop.  Bad design is that intersection we hate getting to because you can never quite see around.  Bad design is the outlet that is six inches too far, or the tool that hurts your hand to use.  We feel bad design.

Good design though, we hardly notice.  Good design blends in, precisely because it is a good design.  From the light switch that is where you know it will be, to the perfectly balanced utensil.  Good design fits in its environment, and makes the world an easier place to live in.  Aesthetic, however, can be so much more than that.

Aesthetics allows us to find beauty in art, in a sunset, in a smile.  It helps us to describe how something can have beauty, even in just the eye of the beholder.  It shows us how to create beauty from nothing, how to turn our dreams to truth.  Aesthetics can help us to understand why we decorate our homes a particular way; how we put our personal aesthetics over the design of a space.  It is why we continue to go to places that make us comfortable and happy, and avoid those that don’t.  Aesthetics can help shape good design.  It can go deeper than just a physical design though.

Look through any photo sharing site; every photo was taken by an individual, with their own insights and feelings.  They each had a viewpoint, and took the picture that reflected their world, edited it and adjusted colors and saturation and focus, and then posted it for the world.  No two people will take the same picture.  No two people will document their lives the same.

Each of us have designed our lives to reflect the world as we see it, and the way as we wish it to be. To reflect how we wish our world to be.  We find ways to recognize and create beauty in our own lives.  We tie our lives together in ways that blend into a larger canvas.  And we don’t even see it happening.

That is a great design.

Until next time, stay together friends.

via Daily Prompt: Aesthetic

Well, a happy new year to you too…

My new year has started off with a bang…almost two weeks of a strangely powerful, yet mild, attack of Depression.  I’m fine for hours, days, then all of a sudden my brain chemistry goes all to pieces and I can feel my soul being crushed.  Nothing in particular started it, and so far my usual fixes haven’t worked to stop the cycle. I just feel…bad. 

So, I’ve been trying to walk more. To contact friends I haven’t heard from, to check on them. To listen to more music that makes me feel good. To write and work on projects that have gathered far too much dust. I’m trying to enjoy the moments I do feel better. 

At the end of the day, I know I will feel better. I know that my levels will normalize and I will get my life back. I know that I’ve come so much farther, that progress is being made. It just takes time.

In the meantime, stay safe out there. It can be dangerous to walk alone…

…until next time.

What Kind of Year Has It Been

Let’s recap: 2016 was quite the year.

Like every year it has had it’s share of good and bad.  My little family has been able to travel, we moved into a new home, and have been very fortunate in mulitple ways.

Looking back at 2016 on Sword & Quill, I was surprised at so many parts of it; at being able to grow my readership in the beginning of the year; at the varied posts I made, from political pieces to fiction to multi-part stories.  I was also amazed at how many posts I missed; between travel, illness, moving, and fighting bouts of Depression, the second half of the year was inconsistent.

I started the year off with a story in four parts, That Woman.  Then a Letter to My Son.  While I was Travelin’, my friend Krisann from Now Hark This filled in with The New Holland Solution.

Spring brought clear skies and Fear and Loathing in Brussels.  I couldn’t write about every act of terror that took place, but, like the attack in Paris last year, I coldn’t let it go by without some thoughts.  I also shared some thoughts on #Love and My Best Friend.

Summer brought more travel, with another trip to Portland and then to the east coast to visit Baltimore and Washington DC.  But it also brought a couple of lingering colds and a battle with Depression that lasted through the end of the year.  But I did get to share my Thoughts on an Early Morning.

As Fall has fallen, my thoughts turned to the election and what that means.  I asked Who Are We?  And I remembered that Christmas Is Here Again, and then asked us all to Move Forward.

2016 was a hard year, full of contridictions and messes.  While I was privy to moments of love and joy, we were also witnesses to moments of vitrol and hate.  Like every year, we saw highs and lows, but it is how we deal with these moments that matter.

Thank you for coming along on this ride, and I look forward to an exciting 2017.  Until next time my friends, Godspeed and Good Luck.

Lack of Progress

It’s December y’all.  Which means The Great Dumpster Fire that is 2016 is almost over, and in that we can find some solace.  Although, for everyone hoping 2017 is the bright light at the end of the tunnel, it seems much more likely that it’s just the headlight of the oncoming train.

The last few months have been fairly light on content on my blog; I could complain about an increase in my workload, or other projects.  About the merry-go-round of illness that my little family has been on, or about moving and interviews and all the other parts of life that make it conveinent to not work.

And while those are all reasons that I haven’t been posting, they aren’t the reason.  I haven’t posted because I haven’t felt able to.  The time just doesn’t seem right for the normal fictional drivel that I post.  And the articles that I want to write, just end up bumming me out to an unhealthy degree.

My general malaise isn’t because of Trump and his (so far) clown car of choices for cabinet positions.  It isn’t Brexit and the gaining of power for UKIP in the United Kingdom, or the general rise of far-right parties in Europe.  In fact, it isn’t because of politics at all.

Or rather, it isn’t because of Politics, with a capital P.  It is because of society in general, and American society in particular.  It’s the rise of Fake News, and memes.  It’s the lack of civil discourse and debate.  The demise of critical thinking and objective reasoning.  The rise of “belief” over “fact”.

There is no ability to have a discussion about the problems in this country and in this world.  We can’t talk about guns, we can’t talk about climate change, we can’t talk about regulations for companies or the environment or income inequality.  We can’t talk about racism or sexism or ageism or idiocracy.  One side is absolutely right, and the other absolutely wrong.  Both sides are to blame for this; the left clings to its ideals just as much as the right.  Their religion of righteousness forces them to hold hardline positions of opposition, and any sense of compromise is a sign of weakness.  But bipartisanship has not always been a dirty word.

The solutions to these problems are not easy or quick.  We need to find ways of working together.  We need to find ways of having civil discourse at a local level.  We need to encourage our elected officials, on both sides and at all levels, to be civil in their remarks and in their deeds.  We need to use critical and objective reasoning in our lives to seperate fact from fiction.  But most of all, we need to stop and think.  We need to not react.  We need to reason and discuss.

But really, we just need 2017 to be better.  Because I don’t think any of us can take another year like this one.

Be safe my friends, and Happy New Year.

Christmas Is Here Again

I love this time of year. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas-time with family. Of carols and movies and decorations.

Normally today I would repost my Wednesday entry, but on this day, I wanted to say something different. I wanted to say thank you. I wanted to say that you are all wonderful and beautiful and broken. I wanted to say, to those of you hiding from family, you are not alone.

Mostly, I wanted to tell you that I hope your holiday is full of peace and happiness. No matter the holiday or occasion, this time of year is the perfect time to take a few moments to remember our fellow man. To show some kindness to those that are locked on this rock with us.

This year, which has been so full of divisive rhetoric, it is important to set aside our disagreements and anger, to remember that there is more that unites us than not. We should all take a moment to be thankful for what we have, and to recognize what we can do to help those that have less this season.

So, to those that celebrate, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Life Day (for those Star Wars fans) or anything else you choose to celebrate.

Until next time, stay safe friends.

Who are we?

I’m so sick of politics I could vomit.

Actually, that’s not true.  I’m so sick of us.  Of the American people.  Of Republicans and Democrats and 24-hour news networks.

I’m sick of a culture that forgot the lessons of Kindergarten.  That forgot common human decency.  Of a culture that cares more about what the Kardashians are doing than about what is happening to our fellows half a world away, let alone in our own neighborhoods.

I’m sick of people who will get into bed with racists and bigots because of a tax plan.  I’m sick of people claiming the moral imperative, and then supporting misogyny and hatred.  I’m sick of people shouting for tolerance and understanding, and then attacking the ideas of thoughts of others.

I’m sick of all of us.

When asked, a recent poll found that 56% of people believe their children will be worse off.  I’m one of them.  Republicans in this country read that poll and claim it’s a repudiation of Obama’s Presidency.  Democrats read it and spend the rest of the day arguing about how to fix it.  All of them act like the French politician that saw the people running, and said, “I must find out where they are going so I may lead them.”  They have the numbers, but they don’t understand.

I do belive our children will be worse off.

I belive that humankind is causing climate change.  I believe this because I have read the studies and looked at the math.  Because 99.9% of all climate scientists have told me so.  Because volcanoes produce somewhere between 65 million and 300 million tonnes/year of CO2, while humans produce 29 billion tonnes/year; we, as a species, produce massive amounts of green house gasses.  If a doctor tells me that I’ve got to change the way I eat or I will die, I believe them.

I believe that people should be treated fairly, no matter the color of their skin or their beliefs or whom they choose to love.  I believe that the Founding Fathers didn’t want religion within miles of their government.  I believe that the economy is stacked against most of us, and that the top 1% hold more wealth than the bottom 90%.  I believe these things because I read studies and abstracts and lectures.  Because I was taught critical thinking skills and am able to use my God-given faculties to find answers to questions.  I question.  I seek answers.

This election has been said to be about so many things.  A rejection of political correctness.  A rejection of the bicoastal elites.  A rejection of the norm.  Of “draining the swamp,” and finding a new way.  But, to me, it is a rejection of something else; a rejection of thought and civility.  A rejection of fact and embrace of fiction.  A focus on the felicitous and salacious.

And before you begin to think that I’m just angry that my candidate lost, my candidate lost in the Primaries; the Democrats nominated the worst candidate they could find.  I’m not angry that a Republican won; I think there are some great thinkers in the Republican Party, and I look forward to years of healthy debate with conservatives in the future.  I am angry though; because the American people have been had.  The liberals gave up the fight, and the conservatives jumped in bed with ugly people.  So, we’ll repeal the social safety net.  We’ll walk back our commitments to international climate change agreements, and find new ways to get involved in wars we have no business being in as a show of American “might.”

Yes, I do believe our children will be worse off.  But because we didn’t go far enough in the last eight years.  Because we elected a reality television star as our President and hailed it as a victory for a cause he doesn’t believe in.  Because we can’t talk about the ugly things it exposed in our culture without it devolving into an ugly conversation itself.

I do have hope though.  I hope that it will inspire new generations of liberals and conservatives alike to start the conversation over.  That is will inspire people to pay attention and get involved in the process of our government.  That it will inspire all of us to reconsider the role we play in our society.

And yes, to Mr. Trump and his administration, we will remember every word you have said.  We will remember the times you should have spoken and remained silent.  We will remember every forgotten tweet and campaign promise.  All of us, conservative and liberal alike.  And those of us that disagree with you, we will fight back.  For as Winston Churchill once stated, “we shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be,…and we shall never surrender.”

Because we believe our country, and our world, are worth fighting for.

Goodnight my friends, and good luck.