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March Is National Reading Month, Mr. President, and We Have Some Books for You and the Nation.

March Is National Reading Month, Mr. President, and We Have Some Books for You and the Nation.

Image from Twitter

Mr. President,

“Only love gets fists to open.” – Gregory Boyle

I am a teacher librarian who has worked over 30 years in public high schools. I am recommending we have a nationwide read. You know how a book club works. You’ve heard of community reads, where an entire city or area reads a book and then people discuss it together in many different venues. I am suggesting a NATIONAL read. Let’s all go to our libraries and our bookstores and get a book. Let’s read together, teens and adults, plumbers, social workers, introverts, extroverts, people employed, people out of work, members of Congress, state legislators, and you, President of the United States.

Did you know March is Reading Month? Here are my suggestions for our National Book Club:

We all want the same basic things. Of course we need food, clothing, and shelter. Yet, to be loved, to belong, to have meaningful relationships, to have a purpose; these are just as important as those physical needs. A book that addresses these needs and more is by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.” These two have experienced great suffering in their lives. They have witnessed terrible violence and bloodshed, and yet they can write a book on happiness. Perhaps we can learn from them how fear, anger, and stress sabotage our joyfulness, and we can learn to set aside our many differences and face our flawed and beautiful humanity together, as one nation. Perhaps we can build rather than tear each other down.

No one who reads “Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle will be left unchanged. Father Boyle is a priest in Los Angeles who has been working with gang members there since 1988. He has devoted his life to love and compassion. He founded Homeboy Industries as a gang intervention program, and has dedicated his life to this work. The book jacket states what is so eloquently expressed in this book, “how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally.”

Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson is a searing indictment of our justice system. Bryan Stevenson, like Father Boyle, has dedicated his life to compassion for those unjustly accused of crimes, or those wrongfully imprisoned, or those improperly sentenced. He took on the case of Walter McMillan sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative to help the poor and especially women and children get proper defense. He has fought for many people on death row, and has given a voice to the voiceless. Again, a story of boundless compassion and mercy.

Gregory Boyle’s newest book is “Barking to the Choir.” On page 7 he writes, “What if we ceased to pledge our allegiance to the bottom line and stood, instead, with those who line the bottom?”

Yes, what if? That’s a great opening question for our book club, and one that could create a lot of discussion if only we would open our hearts and our minds.

Perhaps we could listen to these authors for a while. And then talk with one another. Not like we’re at the OK Corral or living in the Wild West or a shoot ‘em up movie. Let’s have some rational discourse.  Instead of having ridiculous conversations about arming teachers, let’s talk about some great books and the profound issues they raise. Let’s talk to each other about how to make this world better, and not just for some, but for ALL. Instead of ranting and railing, let’s talk about caring for one another. Instead of demeaning and casting blame, let’s take a look at ourselves.

I invite you to my National Book Club. Read any/all of the above books and talk about the remarkable people who wrote them, and the marvelous, compassionate work they have done. I have many more suggestions when you’re done reading these.




Day 404 – Who’s the Coward Mr. President?

Day 404 – Who’s the Coward Mr. President?

Image from Esquire

Mr. President,

Upon hearing your absurd claim you would’ve run into Parkland high school in the middle of a mass shooting, I just had to develop a short test to make sure you know what the hell you are talking about.

Instructions:  Read the definition and guess the person.

Cowarda person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.

Now besides the Sheriff’s Deputy you disparaged, possibly wrongly, does this definition remind you of anyone?  Nothing?  Are you sure?  Here, let me give you a few hints:

  • This person avoided the Vietnam draft due to bone spurs, and later claimed they were a temporary problem and not that big of a deal.
  • This person watched an 80-year old man bleed after falling during a reception only to comment: “I thought he was dead…I turned away, I didn’t want to touch him…beautiful marble floor changed color…”
  • This person said we should provide a path to citizenship for the 800,000 children affected by DACA yet insists on using it at a bargaining piece for hardline immigration reform, an action a Nobel Peace Prize recipient called “cruel.”
  • Oh, and this person won’t even share an umbrella with his wife, or his 11-year old son.

Nothing yet?  This person is also well-described by this word:

Narcissism: extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.

Well, keep thinking on it.  I’m sure you’ll come up with the answer.  Hint:  It’s HUUUGE.





Day 403 – Letter to the NRA: Liberals Own Guns And We Demand Change.

Day 403 – Letter to the NRA: Liberals Own Guns And We Demand Change.

Image from Huffington Post

To Whom It May Concern at the National Rifle Association:

Being the big liberals that we are, it would surprise many of my friends and neighbors to know that we own guns. Several guns. We live in a relatively safe area. We do not hunt. We don’t own guns for protection. We don’t anticipate a zombie apocalypse, though I joke about such a happening.

I grew up in Michigan. We lived out in the middle of nowhere. I am one of five daughters. My dad bought a mean dog and a shotgun. I was a tomboy. I had a Daisy BB gun. One of our neighbors used to pay us 25 cents for every intact clay pigeon we found in his pastures.

My husband grew up in Montana. He worked on a ranch. As a teenager, he fought forest fires in the wilderness of the Continental Divide. His dad owned guns. His dad hunted. He didn’t, but he learned how to shoot.

He bought his first gun in California. He bought another handgun when we lived in Illinois. He would go to target ranges to shoot. We live in Virginia now, and he has bought other guns. This is a list:

  • Four Airsoft Guns/Rifles
  • One Pellet Gun
  • Three BB Guns
  • One Glock
  • One Revolver (inherited)
  • One Pump Action Shotgun
  • One AR 15

One dozen guns. An arsenal.

We have two teenage boys. We have a gun safe. We have acreage in the rural Northern Neck. My husband has taught my sons how to shoot with each and every one of the weapons in our possession. He has taught them proper gun safety. We have taught them right from wrong. We have given them our moral compass: help others; be kind to everyone; make the world a better place than it was the day before.

I asked my husband why he likes owning guns. He likes target practice: cans, paper bull’s-eyes, empty milk jugs. Our boys like target practice. Hell, I like target practice. I play darts and I use our bb, airsoft, and pellet guns. As much as I detest the “real” guns, I think it’s important that my boys understand that the damage a real bullet causes compared to the video games weapons they use. If a tree in the middle of the woods is a casualty to the incredible shredding power of bullets from an AR 15, so be it. I want them to understand that the damage is not an animated spray of blood as seen on GTA 5, but a ripping and rending and devastation. Bullets are not sound effects, and have consequences. They are deadly. Guns must be respected as much as they are feared. Life is not a video game.

My husband and I, liberals that we are, are supporters of gun-control. We are responsible gun owners. We do not believe in the fake news that if we have gun control, someone will come and take our weapons. We are not stupid. We understand how this type of misdirection, paid for by you, the NRA, is actually increasing the revenue of the gun manufacturers. And if the law changes, and AR 15s are banned, we will be first in line to file ours down into something useful: paperclips, perhaps.

We own guns and want:

  • Thorough background checks: criminal, financial, psychological
  • Examination of purchasers’ social media accounts
  • Elimination of lead ammunition
  • A ban on bump stocks
  • A ban on ARs (okay, I want this)
  • An increase of the minimum age allowed to purchase guns
  • A mandatory purchase of a gun safe when minors live in the household
  • A national registry of guns as an effort to eliminate and/or restrict stockpiling
  • And comprehensive MENTAL HEALTH CARE for all

We are gun-owning liberals.

We own guns.

We believe in commonsense gun regulations.

We do not believe praying is the solution.

We believe the time for change isn’t now: it was decades ago.

We vote with our pocketbooks.

We are appalled by the politicians living in the very deep pockets of the NRA.

We vote in every single election, no matter how small.

We are not alone in this.

We. Will. Persist.

We. Will. Prevail.



Day 402 – Letter to Anti-Trump Americans: It’s Not Just Him.

Day 402 – Letter to Anti-Trump Americans: It’s Not Just Him.

Dear Anti-Trump Americans,

My people, we need to have a quick talk.

I get it. Believe me, I do. It’s been 474 days since Trump won the presidential election, and I still can’t believe it happened either. I get mad, every day. Several times per day. I check the news multiple times per day just to see if Robert Mueller has checked in to say what’s up. But here’s the problem: We get giddy at the thought of Trump leaving office. We complain about him every day. We blame every bit of bad news out of DC on Trump.

But we have to stop blaming Trump. We never should have in the first place.

I do hope and believe that his departure will occur long before November 2020, but what will really change? When Trump is gone, we’ll have smoother rhetoric to put a nicer shine on the rampant racism driving the Republican Party. The GOP leaders won’t call Haiti and Nigeria “shithole” countries; they’ll just lock out immigration from nations that are predominantly white.

When Trump is gone, we’ll have an executive branch that won’t come right out and say something stupid like we should arm some teachers and “give them a little bit of a bonus” for carrying weaponry (alongside their attendance sheets, gradebooks, textbooks, evaluation paperwork, grad work, student psych review paperwork, spirit-week ballots for first hour, and—oh yeah—lesson plans). The GOP leaders won’t say it quite so succinctly; they’ll just include it in a budget bill so Congress has to pass it if they want to keep the country running.

When Trump is gone, we might not have a serial sexual abuser and harasser in the White House. The GOP leaders will just sign legislation further devaluing women and making it harder for people to step forward without fear of reprisals for naming their attackers publicly.

The “When Trump is gone” list could go on. And on. And on.

Donald Trump is just the next stage of the GOP’s Southern Strategy. He is the next stage of Goldwater Republicanism. It’s entirely possible that Trump doesn’t much know what’s going on day to day because, after all, he gets his daily briefings from a propaganda machine’s morning cable TV show.

He is a figurehead that clumsily gets in the Party leadership’s way, but don’t assume for a moment that his vision of a “Great America” is any different than Mitch McConnell’s, Paul Ryan’s, Bull Connor’s, or George Wallace’s. The hope for a straight, white, male America is not just Donald Trump’s. If it weren’t, the Republican Party would have headed Trump off at the pass long, long ago.

No, it’s not Trump. At the least, it’s not just Trump, so please stop blaming Trump. He’s a political neophyte, and not a particularly good one. He is merely the next logical step of the past fifty years of Republican vision and strategy.

Every single one of the criticisms of Trump have merit. A democratic America really is at stake—it has been for some time. Our concerns are legitimate, but they don’t all fall on Trump. It’s not just Trump who’s working against the interests of almost all Americans; it’s his whole political party.





Day 401 – Arming Teachers is a Bad Idea…and It Always Will Be.

Day 401 – Arming Teachers is a Bad Idea…and It Always Will Be.

Image from Every Town for Gun Safety

Mr. President,

A kid walks into a school with an AR-15 and several full thirty round magazines of ammunition. He starts shooting. Students start running, screaming, tripping over dead or wounded students, and maybe slipping on bloody floors. Pure chaos.

Amidst all this insanity, a teacher is supposed to see to the safety of her students, then draw her firearm and coolly exchange fire with the shooter, hopefully disabling or killing him, while not disabling or killing any of the other students who are running and screaming. Does this sound like a good solution to you?

It’s hard enough getting good teachers into schools these days. The added burden of paying for weapons and the law-enforcement level firearms training this solution demands to make it even remotely viable is simply asking too much. Nobody wants to train to become a teacher then end up acting as a corrections officer. Is this really the ideal we’re aiming for now? Wouldn’t you rather just put an end to the shootings before they even start? Wouldn’t that be better?

I’m sure there are many other reasons why arming teachers is a bad idea, like how it would create an adversarial relationship between teachers and students, and so on. And I know this isn’t YOUR idea because it’s a bad one, and you don’t have those. Fire the person who recommended this nonsense and let’s get busy with the assault weapons ban. And then let’s let teachers just teach.



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