Words parents like to hear

Our youngest son graduated college on Saturday. After a couple of transfers, he found himself at this college and flourished. He did well academically, but he also grew into being an adult.

As we talked to his professors at a breakfast for his department, we heard what a fine young man our son is and how attentive and kind he was in class and community involvement functions. As we heard these words, I saw him hand to select professors handwritten thank you notes.

Later, we spoke to his friends, roommates and their parents, even going to lunch with some. We heard from the parents what a good friend he had been to their daughter or son. We made sure to get many pictures of him with these friends.

Our son deserves kudos for what he has accomplished academically. But, to hear that he has been a good friend and community steward means a great deal. This will stay with him long after some of the learnings fade.

Well done son. We are very proud of you always, but also your being a good person. That makes all the difference.

Advertisements

Singin’ in the Rain

It has rained each of the last five days and we expect five more ahead. In the middle of this sogginess, it is easy to reflect on the various emotions portrayed within songs about the rain.

Arguably the most famous is the title song from Gene Kelly’s movie “Singin’ in the Rain.” Here are the opening lines in this playfully happy song, exceeded only by Kelly’s wonderful dancing:

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.”

This is only the first few of many raindrops in song. One of my favorites is one of two great songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Have you ever seen the rain?” The other is also good, “Who’ll stop the rain?” Here is an excerpt from the first song noted:

“Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know it’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know shinin’ down like water.”

One of the best voices to sing about the rain is Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics in “Here comes the rain again.” She sings of wanting to be with a lover while it storms, as noted in this splash of lyrics:

“Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you.”

The emotions range in these and other songs from melancholy to happiness, from love to lust and from worry to fear. Eric Clapton’s “Let it rain” has a wonderful guitar lick which seasons this great song which is about just letting the rain wash over us. Two pop songs from the 1970s that sold millions were on the opposite ends of emotions – “Raindrops are falling on my head” by Burt Bacharach and “Rainy days and Mondays” by The Carpenters.

An older song which is about sadness is Brook Benton’s “Rainy night in Georgia” who “feels it must be raining all over the world.” Others include Bob Dylan’s “A hard rain’s gonna fall, Adele’s “Set fire to the rain,” and “Rain” by The Beatles.

Let me close with the most colorful title by a colorful, talented and enigmatic performer named Prince. His movie title song of “Purple Rain” truly brings the house down as he comes to terms with a father’s suicide attempt and his anger that pushes his lover away. Here is an excerpt:

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain.”

Any list of rainy songs will leave off a number of others. Let me know some of your favorites. As CCR sang “who’ll stop the rain.”

Let’s fix the larger gun death problems

Mass shootings are very tragic and heart wrenching. Homicides are also tragic. Yet, the biggest gun problem and another tangible and avoidable problem make up between 60% and 70% of annual gun deaths in America. The lion’s share of gun deaths in America are suicides. Last year, over 23,000 of the 38,000 plus gun deaths were suicides. This ratio is not unusual and tracks pretty well year in and year out.

The other much smaller, but more avoidable gun death problem is accidental shootings. And, tragically the ones doing the shooting or getting killed are children who come across a weapon. To lose a child is the worst nightmare I could possibly imagine. But, to lose one because you did not put away your gun, is even more traumatic. The gun owner has to live with the guilt. While accidental shootings are about 2% of gun deaths, they seem to be ones we should be able to avoid irrespective of one’s fervor for the 2nd Amendment.

After each mass shooting, there is concern registered by kids and parents about not letting this happen again. The people for and against more gun control go into camps with some saying now is not the time, while the others asking when is the time. I must give a huge amount of credit to the Parkland kids and others around the country who are forcing action. But, outside of a little lip service in Washington, nothing tangible happens. They may regret inaction come November.

These past few months, the barest of minimum change was done, but there was the President of the United States speaking before the NRA convention last week. He was the one who taunted Congress representatives for not standing up to the NRA. These were obviously just words, which we should be used to by now. With this said, I do give kudos to Florida who acted a little more demonstrably than DC.

To prevent more suicides, background checks on all sales with elongated waiting periods are needed. Doctors must be permitted to ask patients if there is a gun in the house as the propensity for suicide is much higher than one without. All it takes is an impulse and it is over. We must add more psychologists and counselors to schools. The greater gun risk is a depressed student taking his or her life. And, we should expand Medicaid in the remaining 18 states along with its mental health benefits.

As for the accidental shootings, the majority of states require guns to be locked up at home, but why do not all states have such a requirement? I have shared this before, but I asked my father-in-law to lock up his weapon, as I did not want his grandkids around a loaded weapon. He did so. One idea that has merit is requiring a finger printed trigger, where only the owner can use the weapon.

Please note that none of the above speaks of taking weapons away. These steps would help reduce the number of suicides and accidental shootings. Even if the number is only 100, 500 or 1,000, those are lives saved. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

 

 

I am evidence – real sexual assault cases are lagging

One of the longest running shows on American television is “Law and Order – Special Victims Unit” starring Mariska Hargitay and a terrific ensemble cast. The SVU investigates and hopefully solves heinous sex crimes in New York City. Unfortunately, real life SVUs are woefully understaffed, underfunded and behind.

It is not ironic that Hargitay has co-produced with co-director Trish Adlesic a documentary film called “I am evidence,” which focuses on efforts to remedy a US backlog of over 200,000 untested rape kits. That is not a misprint. The film is co-directed by Geeta Gandbhir and focuses on efforts in Detroit, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Only eight states require the testing of every rape kit – Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. This boggles my mind as women who have been sexually assaulted and beaten went to great pains to be tested after being raped.

Two of the focal points of the film are Wayne County (Detroit) Prosecutor Kym Worthy and a reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland named Rachel Dissell, who each brought attention to the backlogs in their two cities. With a spotlight on these travesties, gained funding and oversight, they are making huge headway in their local problems. But, it is more than local as many of the DNA samples have revealed serial rapists and repeat offenders  across state lines.

Many of these untested kits are ten years and more overdue. It also became clear by not testing these kits, more woman were raped. One rapist was a truck driver who raped many women across the country for years. And, in one chilling example, one serial rapist would abduct, hold, abuse and kill his victims. When arrested, the police found multiple women’s bodies in his home. One of the victims was able to escape an earlier abduction.

Letting the previous paragraph sink in will likely make you ill. The scarcity of resources is appalling. It also led to a prioritization of cases often based on race and notoriety of the victim. Worthy noted rape kits should be tracked, since these victims went to a lot of effort and remained unclean for hours as they were subject to tissue and semen sampling and verbal examination. One women said she was made to feel guilty as she answered questions – why were you there at that time, eg?

Worthy noted “If you can track a package when you order something from Amazon, then certainly you should be able to track a victim’s rape kit through the criminal justice system.” Is that too much to ask?

The good news is the progress that is being made. It is never too late and it goes without saying lives are being saved, some dignity restored to the victims and future rapes can be avoided. Please download “I am evidence,” and watch this important film. We owe it to the current and potential victims. And, as one oversight committee member noted, the success rate on testing the kits made every dime well spent as the DNA data leads to convictions and takes a rapist off the streets.

 

Knife wielding suspect subdued (and lives)

The title gives the climax away, but that is not the whole story. A man wielding two knives was threatening people in the halls of his apartment complex.

Three police officers showed up and told the man they had a taser and asked him to put down the knives. After a lengthy discussion and pleas, one officer moved toward the man who lunged at the officer and was tased. Remarkably, the man kept trying to knife the officer, who was able to avoid getting stabbed. The man was taking away to face a court date and jail time.

There are two other keys to this story. It was in Australia, not the US. In Charlotte last year, a man wielding a knife was shot dead by police with nine shots. I understand police have a difficult job, but the eagerness and frequency in which assailants are shot seems much higher here on the US. Plus, the number of shots stymies me – nine, eleven, sixteen shots are too representative.

The other issue worth noting is the man was white. I often use the story of how a 65 year old white man was disarmed by Detroit police after an hour conversation. Tamir Rice, an adolescent black boy, was killed within two seconds due to the toy gun he was carrying. Why? Why is there such haste to unload a weapon when the alleged perpetrator is black?

We must do better at addressing these issues. The police are doing a hard job, made harder as they don’t know who is packing heat and what firepower such heat has. I believe this adds even more tension to any police encounter where there is uncertainty. And, race plays a huge factor. Another black man was gunned down at a Walmart by police yesterday.

We cannot overtrain police at identifying threats and de-escalating tense situations. And, we must treat every shooting like the pilots investigate crashes. We must be transparent and learn how to avoid poor or hasty decisions. Other western countries do not have our overall and police gun death rates. We must do better.

Nixon’s Enemies List Redux under Trump

It was reported yesterday the President is asking Homeland Security to track bloggers, media etc. who have the ability to influence negatively thoughts toward his administration. This is akin to Richard Nixon’s enemies list which is due directly to his paranoia that people were out to get him. Ironically, it was Nixon’s zeal toward guarding against his paranoia that caused his downfall.

It should be noted that paranoia goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. Trump has an unhealthy dose of both, which is a key reason he wants sycophants all around him. As he has a hard time with criticism, he attacks all critics usually via personal attacks. Like Nixon, his paranoia, lying and denigration will bring him down.

Part and parcel with this are his continuing attacks on The Washington Post and other media because they dare speak the truth. It has gotten so bad, he is attacking Amazon because Jeff Bezos owns both, to the chagrin of the US Chamber of Commerce. The Post is also being defended by the editor of The New York Times who is calling  the President on the carpet.

Last time I checked, Trump is President of the United States. This is not a kingdom or dictatorship. It is a Republic. We have every right to tell the President and members of Congress that we disagree with them. We have every right to demand they stop lying and start doing their job.

If the President cannot handle the fire, then maybe he should get out of the kitchen.

Good words, now let’s walk the talk

I have now seen South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy interviewed twice on their book released this week called “Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country.” Scott who is Black and Gowdy who is White speak openly of their friendship.

I think it is excellent the two legislators are speaking of their relationship. I am delighted they are getting along well and feel their relationship can serve as a guide to better discussions. Yet, when asked if the same guide could help Congress, Gowdy spoke of the desire to win and the other side lose getting in the way of better relationships.

Frankly, I don’t buy that. I think they need to walk the talk in Congress. When anyone on their team is being uncivil, untruthful or callous, they need to call them out. I actually called each leaving a message with one and speaking with a staffer on the other.

I complimented their efforts and wished them well with their book. But, I said Americans want members of Congress to work together to solve problems. It matters not who wins or loses – it matters if we the people benefit. And, when someone denigrates another, which happens too often from the White House, they need to act like their fellow SC legislator Lindsey Graham did when he called the President on the carpet for his infamous remark about sh**hole countries.

Gowdy is retiring from office as still a young man saying he is tired of this zero-sum game of politics. To be frank, he played that game to the hilt, even as late as January with his role in the Congressman Devin Nunes’ memo which was highly political and sloppy work. On the flip side, while he does not believe the Presidenf colluded (see previous reference to political and sloppy work), he did say if the President is innocent, he should act like he is. Then there is his role in the endless Benghazi hearings, which was referred to by fellow Republicans Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell as a “witch hunt.”

So, seeing his name with this book was a little surprising. Yet, I will treat his intentions as a sincere effort and applaud both of their mission. They just have to be more than words. Words are cheap – we must walk the talk. We need them and their fellow legislators to walk the talk, as well.