Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Thursday
    May292014

    In the Wake of Violence

    The writer in me spends  a lot of time observing the behavior of others and my surroundings. This often manifests in stringing together - or attempting to-  the perfect words in order to share my often pedestrian thoughts. I look for substance and a story in most every situation. For the most part, nothing comes from my observations though I tuck them away for an anecdote for later. I have spent days trying to find the words, that substance, in the aftermath of the shooting at UCSB but al I am left with is numbness. Instead of being able to use my words to convey a sense of absolute sadness. All I have is exhaustion. I have read and re-read the words below only to come to the same conclusion: weariness. Numbness. An inability to be profound because this is our normal and how we Americans live. How we have learned to accept this as status quo.

    ***

    I have the sense that I have told these stories before and listed the statistics but it bears repeating.

    I was 16 and a junior in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. By the time I graduated in 2001 no less than five other school shootings happened.

    I was 18 and living in Washington, DC when two snipers terrorized the DC, Maryland and Virginia area.

    I have a number of these memories that have grown fuzzy and run together over the years. Once upon a time I could remember what I wore, what I was doing and the way that fear made its way through my body and brain as I questioned the severity of each of these incidents. The rarity of each act of violence has been long forgotten and in place is not ambivalence but exhaustion. How many times can we have this conversation? How many times can we - the collective we as residents of what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world - dissect shootings and the anatomy of each? Mental illness is offered. He’s a psycho is uttered by a talking head. Hashtag activism is born. The emergence of Twitter in addition to the 24 hour news cycle, as we learned long ago, has propelled each shooter into celebratory status as we research their genetic and mental make up. Each time we ask, “what drove him to do it?”

    This heaviness. This perpetual feeling of waiting for the next shooting to happen. Aren’t you tired too? This collective anger should drive us to move mountains to ensure that this does not happen again. Why do we live in a country where the second amendment trumps the rights of all citizens to live in a place of relative peace? Where each month we shake our heads while watching the news of another shooting go by? And then we go back to our lives. I want to cry because I am so angry though my tears will do little to make a difference.

    ***
    I have watched and re-watched the anguish of Richard Martinez the father of victim, Christopher Martinez. This is how we should all respond; to push through the noise and rehashing the background of the perpetrator but to call on congress to do something. People always tell me that they are afraid to call or reach out to their member of congress or any elected official. They are nervous. Not doing anything gives tacit consent for them to continue to do nothing and to perpetuate the violence. By not speaking out we are allowing for the likes of the NRA to continue saying that the second amendment trumps our safety.

    Speak up and speak out.


    I am so bad and unable to tie this up neatly except to tell you to act and to read this from Michael Moore who is far more adequate at expressing our new normal.

    “With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.” - Michael Moore

     

    Tuesday
    May132014

    Michael Sam, Briefly

    Anything that needs to be said about about Michael Sam heading to the NFL, and the hypocritcal nature of many, can be said in these two clips and in this blog post:

     

     

     

    P.S. I am choosing to not address/ignorethe complicated nature of black Americans and homosexuality and the vitriol I have seen in the comment sections of predominately black websites. I choose not to simply because I don't have the energy to discuss someone else's hatred towards another. Perhaps one day but not on this day.

    P.P.S. I found his reaction touching, passionate, and exactly how I would react if I was standing next to a loved one when receiving the greatest news of my life.

    Last thing, for real: For the record, I rarely enjoy anyone making out not because I am grossed or because GET A ROOM, ALREADY but because I get all jealous of people and their love and affection and god damn cuddling. I WANT TO CUDDLE, TOO!

     

    Friday
    May092014

    What can we do to #BringBackOurGirls?

    Since Sunday - actually, since news of this story broke in April -  I have been at a loss for words on what to say about the kidnapping of over 200 young girls from their school in Nigeria.

    The only way for me to speak on this horrific event has been in short bursts in 140 characters or less which led to a tweet complaining about CNN's coverage of this story which ended being featured on one of the network's Sunday morning shows; Reliable Sources.

    The events the surrounding the kidnapping and disappearance of these girls have weighed on me heavily. First, it was confusion combined with sadness because I am an American and I have to wonder how this is possible. How is it possible for over 200 children to be taken from their school? It is one of the moments where I am aware of what happens outside of the borders of this country but I still manage extreme naiveté. Then came anger because the mainstream media wasn't covering it in the way that other events have been covered thus my jab at CNN.



    The network continued to oversaturate the airwaves with the flight plan of Malaysian Air Flight 370. In fact CNN's incessant need to tell us exactly where the plane went down has turned into a bit of a joke which, it shouldn't be. A plane crash is a tragedy in itself but CNN has been quick to give us every single detail of that flight meanwhile neglecting to mention that CHILDREN had been KIDNAPPED. Oh wait, Nancy Grace did use her hour of airtime to discuss the disappearance of Madeline McCann. So, at least one abducted child mattered. While I have to give credit to reporter Brian Stetler for highlighting the underreporting of this story, I also am annoyed by the claim that it's difficult to report on such an event without images of weeping parents in the background (watch the segment below).



    Hold up. NO ONE who watches the news is capable of understanding the plight without of what is happening in Nigeria unless there is a photo? Not a single person who regularly watches cable news can understand the anguish that might come from the parents of these over 200 children who were kidnapped in the middle of the night? No one can imagine and then quickly retreat because it is actually unimaginable what it might be like to learn that the child who you entrusted in a school is now missing? Really? Not one of us can imagine such a thing because there isn't a photo to go along with the story. I know that we have become a very visual society but news is news and this is news and should be reported to the best of the ability of a network photo or not. Would it would be better optics if the girls had blond hair and blue eyes? (http://www.dirtandnoise.com/2014/05/bringbackourgirls.html) Yes, I just went there.


    *deep breath*

    I couldn’t figure out why this event has held me in its grasp for so long. I feel called to do something though I am not sure what. I am just one person, is what I tell myself. There is nothing I can do. It’s that they are young black girls trying to get an education. They have families who sent them to a boarding school knowing that it might not be the popular decision. In the middle of the night a long-standing terrorist organization kidnapped them because according to their religion these girls do not have the right to be educated. The only thing these girls are useful for is…I have to pause because I cannot bring myself to think of what is happening to them.

    I am an educated black woman living in the United States where I fight like hell to make “free and appropriate education” a reality. I have a job where I track what is going on with public education around the state and country and it makes me ill to think that there are places around the world where girls are not permitted to receive an education. This is nothing new, of course but that doesn’t keep my heart from breaking and my fingers from pushing out information as fast as it comes through my timeline. As I said, what else can I do?

    ***

    On Saturday I spoke on a panel as to how to use your blog and social media savvy to be a change agent. Little did I know that by Sunday morning that we collectively would be in the middle of a trending topic as people from around the world took to their keyboards. The collective lot of us have brought attention to a tragedy. We used our status as individuals who are a part of a global society to do something. Even though it was as simple as going to find out more or follow a hashtag or even read this post. We did something to show that people are paying attention and that this girls are important.

    Now what? Well, I, for one, will keep reading and disseminating information. You should do the same. Make use of the Girl Rising action pack. Do what you do best which is to continue to make others aware. Call your member of the House. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan resolution and it is time for the House to do the same. Here is a link to the resolution and here is where you can find your Representative’s contact information. Below are more resources. Share and share a lot.


    Everything You Need to Know About the Schoolgirl Kidnapping in Nigeria

    Six Things You Should Know About Nigeria's Mass Kidnappings


    Nigerian Twitter Feeds to Keep you up to date

    Honoring the Missing Schoolgirls

    Teju Cole's Twitter feed (a great resource as it gets to the complicated nature of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag)