Salt in the Wound

How is it that I am back here after only 2 weeks to write about another massacre?  Oh, that’s right…I live in America.

Whenever I go to the grocery store now, and probably for the rest of my life, I will think of the ten people who lost their lives on Jefferson Ave.  I know many of my fellow Buffalonians can echo that sentiment.  And now, whenever I go to work, I will think of the dozens dead or injured in Uvalde.  And I know my fellow educators feel the same way.

Listen…no teacher is out there receiving combat pay, so stop acting like they are the first line of defense.  I saw a meme yesterday that said not to even suggest arming teachers, because apparently y’all can’t even trust them to choose books.

When I graduated high school, I was told there would be a teaching shortage right about now, and there is.  There were many incentives in place at the time for those who wanted to pursue education, such as reduced tuitions and 5-year Master’s programs. Naturally, I jumped at this, as I had wanted to work with children and teaching seemed to be the obvious answer.

Ooooh boy am I glad I dropped out of college now!

As if teaching through a pandemic wouldn’t have been hard enough, you finally get back into the school setting and now you have to worry about “active shooters.”  No, thank you.  Yet…I look at these kids I teach and the crazy thing about it is that they know what to do in the event of a gunman, better than I do.  I’ve had no training; they’ve been doing it since pre-k.  So while I am the one expected to lay my life on the line for a child, they are the ones more likely to save me.  I have a better chance following a third-grader’s directions than they would have following mine and ouch…I think I just found a blind spot in our program.

Last Saturday, I took a CPR and First Aid course.  It’s required for work, but it’s also something I like to have.  It’s a skill I have thankfully never had to use, but I am prepared in case it happens, and I guess that’s how we are spinning shooter drills to the kids.  Except it seems more and more of them assume they are preparing for “when” it happens, not “if.”

Listen, I hate guns, and if you’ve read a lot of my stuff, you probably already know that.  However, I am pro-choice on pretty much all topics…so if you like guns or own one, whatever…that’s your right.  HOWEVER, I do think we should have common sense gun laws.  I mean, why do you need a AR15?  Explain it to me like I’m a child, and don’t use the words “target practice.”  Oh, and as soon as you mention killing humans, even if in defense, you are proving my point.  I don’t care about your shotgun, your handgun, your hunting rifle; I care about your semi-automatic assault rifle.  ASSAULT is right there in the name!

Anyway…I wrote a poem, video below, about the events in Uvalde.  Too much to process, and far too soon.

Buffalo Strong

I had a plan, you see.  I was going to write today about the Bans Off Our Bodies rally I attended on Saturday morning.  Then, for Thursday, I was going to post about how I caught my biggest fish yet, and how nature has replaced church for me. 

But then, after fishing, I stopped at the Tops on Harlem real quick to get some milk, and then I headed home and curled up with my phone…y’know, to check my socials and messages and such.  I saw a Facebook post from a friend about the local hospital, and suddenly the world crashed down and the fish, and even the rally, seemed insignificant.

On Saturday afternoon, 13 people we shot and 10 people died at the Tops on Jefferson, fifteen minutes from my house, because a self-proclaimed 18-year-old white supremacist decided that was the place in the state of New York where he could murder the most black people.

That is a lot to unpack, and I don’t know how much I will get to in just one post.

I had just walked out of a Tops.  I texted Jaime…she had just walked out of a Wegmans.  How many of us went grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon? It may seem silly, but knowing that I was doing the same thing as my neighbors on the east side of town when they were gunned down…it just turned my stomach.

As details came out, we learned the shooter had posted a manifesto online, as well as livestreamed the attack on Twitch.  We discovered that he had selected the Tops on Jefferson because that zip code has the highest black population in the state.  Our elected officials made it very clear that he was an “outsider.”

Cute.

Listen, I love my city, deeply.  But we have a racism problem…deeply.  We are on the list of the most segregated cities in the nation, and even a tourist can tell, folks.  Have you EVER taken a visiting friend to the east side for any reason, white Buffalonian reading this?  Ok, actually, I have done this…I took a friend there because they wanted to get some weed.  That’s the reputation the east side has in white Buffalo.  Drugs, crime…and black people. 

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t white folks on the east side, because there are certainly black people in my mostly white south side neighborhood as well, There’s just less.  Everyone who lives here knows: the whites live in North and South Buffalo, the blacks live on the east side, and the Hispanics are to the west.  All of this sounds super racist, and it is.  It’s also a fact. 

My neighborhood is strongly Irish, and therefore mostly white.  We live within ten minutes of 6 grocery stores…3 of them are Tops.  The Masten neighborhood is mostly black, and they have one.  Wegmans won’t set foot over there.  There’s an Aldi’s not too far away, but you would definitely need a car to get there, and Masten is a lower income neighborhood, so that’s not an option for everyone.  People in that area live with food insecurity everyday…I don’t.  I might feel like it lately, while money is very tight and I can’t get the things I want, but I do have enough food in my cupboard to survive.  I’m not worried about where my next meal is coming from.

And I’m not worried about being shot at my grocery store, either.  Probably should be, but I’m not, at least not by a Nazi.  I am never worried about being attacked by a hate group, because I am a white woman, and no one wants a dead white girl on their hands.  Generally, I don’t worry about gun violence at all…because I am privileged.  The people in that grocery store are more worried about it than I am, because someone gets hurt on that side of town from gun violence nearly every day.  My point here is that I worry about neither guns nor white supremacy, because I live in a “safe” (read: white) neighborhood.  I put “safe” in quotes, because it isn’t, exactly.  We have crime, too.  We have our low-income section, and we have folks who just don’t give a crap sometimes, also.  Overall, though, my neighborhood is definitely considered “better” than theirs, here in Western New York.

Anyway, like I was saying, mayor Byron Brown was adamant that the terrorist came from outside the community.  Here’s the thing…I know more than one person who was betting on which suburb this asshole came out of, because we all automatically assumed he was a WNYer.  EVERYBODY knows we have a racism problem in the area.  We had a crapton of arrests in Erie County related to Jan. 6th.  I remember seeing tour buses carrying folks down to DC.  Yes, my city is mostly democratic, but the outlying areas are abundant with MAGA republicans.  And while Buffalo itself tends to vote blue, we do have a fairly dodgy police force to contend with, along with the basic segregated setup of the city.  I mean, my first thought when I heard about this shooting was: we need to check on our black friends.  Might sound racist because I was thinking about their skin color, but the truth of it is that they all use that grocery store, because they all live on the east side.

Me, I went to that Tops once at 8am to use the bathroom on the way home from a doctor’s appointment.  I have never had any reason to be there, other than that.  I only ever go to that particular neighborhood if I am visiting the Science Museum there.  I have often wanted to…they have a big park with an amazing splash pad that my kids would have loved in their youth.  Alas…we never went. 

Racism is a huge problem in my city and if you don’t believe that then you either don’t live here or you’re a racist.  It’s as plain as day to anyone with a conscience that we need to change the way we do things around here.  Because that murderer wasn’t from here…but he could have been.  He oh-so-easily could have been.

Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors, and it is.  One time my car got stuck in a snowbank on the east side, and four very large black men approached.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous (of course, their gender trumped their skin color in my mind, but still.)  These gentlemen pushed me out of the snowbank and got me on my way.  I was exceedingly grateful.  Yeah, maybe it’s true that nobody wants a dead white girl on their hands, but I’d also like to believe that nobody in this city wants anyone to be in trouble if they can help.  Do you have any idea how many snowbanks a stranger has pushed me out of, or how many times a neighbor mowed my lawn just to be nice, or helped shovel the sidewalk?  Tons and tons and tons.  All we do is help each other, which is why I have no doubt that we as a community will make it through this crisis.

So sadly, I can’t tell you about how great the rally was, or how big the fish was.  Maybe I will save those for later this week, but they have become afterthoughts in my mind.  And I’m nowhere close to being done talking about what happened in my city, because I am a firm believer that if you want change you have to stay and fight for it.  All I know right now is that my heart hurts for this place I love so dearly.  I only hope we can all find a way to heal.

Blood and Bile.

Two summers ago, I was in the back of an ambulance vomiting blood while Alton Sterling was shot to death.  If I had not realized this later, I can safely say that his would be another outrageously unjust news story that played in the background of my REAL life, the one that we all have and that we spend most of our effort on. It’s our inner sense, extending to our community, perhaps, but not to our global citizenship.  That’s something else, entirely.  

We have heard so many stories over the past year, more than a year…more than five years.  More than ten years.

This week it happened again.  I was in the hospital having the worst Valentine’s Day of my life while 17 people lost their lives in Florida.  This one is a little different though, because it would never have been a news story I didn’t quite relate to, the way that the shooting deaths of two black men (Philando Castile being the second man murdered during that particular hospital stay,) isn’t necessarily something I can emphasize.  School shootings, however.

I went to a girls high school in Buffalo, NY.  It was a good school, and the kind you pay for.  This, in retrospect, may have provided us with even more of a sense of false security.  But see, we all had it.  We all felt secure in our school, from my little community to the 4000 kid public school that was the alternative.  School was a safe haven.  Sure, there were problems.  Everyone knew where they could get drugs at their local school.  Everyone knew which kids to avoid for whatever reasons.  But we still felt safe.  

Until April 20th 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up their school in Columbine, Colorado.  We were fifteen, and no school was ever safe again.  We looked to the adults for answers.  They told us don’t worry.  Don’t play those violent video games.  Turn off that Marilyn Manson.  Add some color to your wardrobe.  Don’t be a target for anything, not a shooter, not THE shooter.

They were fucking liars, guys.  It’s 18 years later and my stepkids run shooter drills the way we ran fire drills.

The tears that spelled from my eyes when I heard that some teenage girl named Sarah Chadwick told the president she didn’t want his condolences.  The size my heart swelled seeing her fellow classmates open their mouths and actually call BULLSHIT.

Kids are constantly told to shut up and sit down and I often feel that life would have been different for my generation if we’d had the social media platforms available to today’s youth. Yes!  TELL THEM!  The problem is GUNS, guys.  Sure, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but people sure love to do it using GUNS!  

I know some republican gun owners, and I get that they have concerns about gun laws, but truthfully, I, as a liberal democrat, don’t want your gun.  I want the gun of the guy who shouldn’t have it in the first place.  You want to keep up with your barbaric hunting and your silly shooting ranges or whatever, then go; those are not my hobbies.  I wouldn’t want you begrudging me playing The Sims for 4 hours straight.  It’s the people who shouldn’t have the guns, guys.  It’s the guys who should have the guns not taking proper care of them so that they fall in the wrong hands.  It’s the illegal guns on the streets.  It’s not you turkey-hunting, Trump-voting, target-practice dudes I worry about, it’s all the Eric Harris and Dylan Klebolds in the world.  And really, if you’re so afraid of background checks and mental health exams, then what have YOU done wrong, sir?  Because it’s obviously something if you think you can’t pass a background check. And if you can’t pass the test, you don’t deserve the gun.  Period.

Or we could take them all away.  Like you take a childs toy when they keep using it as a hammer and destroying household lamps.  #nannyproblems

My point, if I have one, is that I am done not screaming about this.  I JUST wrote about not wanting to get on a soapbox and here I am, but you know what?  I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the adults telling us what to do, especially now that I AM ONE.  So I hope those kids scream loud and fucking clear at their representatives and give them the hell we never did.

 

Here are the statistics I found on guns in schools since the beginning of the new year.  Enjoy.

Firearm attacks during school hours: 7 (incidents resulting in injuries or deaths: 5)

22 January: Italy High School, Italy, Texas – A 16-year-old student opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun in the school cafeteria, wounding another student.

22 January: NET Charter High School, Gentilly, Louisiana – An unknown person fired shots at students from a vehicle in the school parking lot. One person was injured (though not by gunfire).

23 January: Marshall County High School, Benton, Kentucky – A 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun on school grounds, killing two and injuring 17.

25 January: Murphy High School, Mobile, Alabama – A student fired a handgun into the air during a fight with another student. No injuries were reported.

26 January: Dearborn High School, Dearborn, Michigan – Shots were fired during a fight in the school parking lot. No injuries were reported.

31 January: Lincoln High School, Philadelphia – A fight during a basketball game resulted in the shooting death of a 32-year-old man outside the school.

14 February: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida – A 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 and injuring 14.

Firearm attacks NOT occurring during school hours: 2 (incidents resulting in injuries or deaths: 2)

20 January: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina – A 21-year-old was shot and killed during a fight at a party on school grounds.

5 February: – Oxon Hill High School, Oxon Hill, Maryland – A student was shot and injured in the school parking lot during an attempted robbery.

Shots fired during school hours, unknown reason: 2 (no injuries)

10 January: California State University, San Bernardino, California – Bullets were fired through a window, with no suspects or motive identified.

8 February: Metropolitan High School, New York, NY – A student fired a gun into the floor of a classroom.

Unintentional gunfire during school hours: 3 (incidents resulting in injuries or deaths: 1)

10 January: Greyson College, Denison, Texas – A student fired a weapon belonging to an adviser, believing it wasn’t loaded. No injuries were reported.

1 February: Salvador B. Castro Middle School, Los Angeles – A semi-automatic rifle brought to school by a 12-year-old student accidentally went off. Four students were injured.

5 February: Harmony Learning Center, Maplewood, Minnesota – A third-grader pressed the trigger of a law enforcement officer’s handgun. The weapon went off but no one was injured.

Suicide attempts during school hours: 1 (resulting in death)

10 January: Coronado Elementary School, Sierra Vista, Arizona – A middle school student shot himself in the bathroom of the school and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Stray bullets hitting school buildings during school hours: 1 (no injuries)

4 January: New Start High School, near Seattle – Bullets fired by an unidentified shooter entered an administrative office. No injuries were reported.

Stray bullets hitting school buildings NOT occurring during school hours: 1 (no injuries)

15 January: Wiley College, Marshall, Texas – Gunshots fired from a vehicle in the parking lot of a college dorm entered through a window, but did not injure residents.

**above content found at snopes.com