A number of people have asked after me and my family, and many probably aren't aware of what church I go to, so I'm posting this here now.
I am a member of the TVUUC, and was there Sunday for the shooting.
Remember after the VA tech shooting, and people--at least me--were wondering "what would I do if something like that happened to me?"
Well, now I can answer that question from experience.
The answer is: after the first shot, look around confusedly. Was that something big falling over? The sound system shorting out? After the second shot, and smelling gunpowder, you will figure out that someone is, in fact, shooting at people in your vicinity. Then you will dive down between some pews on top of your family, and, as your wife yells, "Dial 911!" dial 911, but pay no attention to your phone as you do your best to scan the area while still keeping your head down. After seeing some members of the congregation go after the shooter, sprint across the sanctuary to where your daughter is, to make sure she's safe. You will remember seeing the shooter's face. You will also remember seeing people you know with blood on them.
Jennifer, Hannah, Zeke and I are fine, if a bit shaken. Jen's father was wounded and is being treated at UT hospital, but is doing well. They may release him tomorrow.
Thank you for thinking of us. It's been... the most interesting day of my life. My son, having heard similar sentiments expressed several times today, observed "This is the worst day of my life." I told him, "Well, that's good, because you're 4 1/2. All the rest of your days will be better than this, and you've got a lot of them coming up." He thought that was pretty funny. I think it's pretty lucky. As my wife pointed out, if the shooter had shot to the left instead of the right, we'd have been right in the line of fire, and wouldn't even have seen it coming. And as she also pointed out--and this is something I can't think about too much just yet--just about all the people she loves most in the world were in that room: me, her two children, her mother-in-law, her parents, and a very close friend who came to the performance.
I also have to say thank you to at least three heroes that I know of. Greg McKendry, one of the two who died, apparently blocked the first shot, saving who knows how many people. After the second shot, several members of the congregation charged the shooter. Among them were John Bohstedt, a history professor at UT, and... well, as a parent I know him as "*** Birdwell's father." There were others. According to Jennifer, the shooter had a lot of ammo. A lot. If he hadn't been stopped, even the 3 minute response time from the police wouldn't have averted an even greater tragedy.
There has been some speculation as to why the shooter did it. Some speculate mental illness--and anyone who would do something like this has to be at least a bit mentally ill--but some point out that we may have been targeted because we are a welcoming congregation. I won't speculate until we know more. I will say, though, that we'd not long ago put up a banner announcing the fact that everyone is welcome in our church, regardless of race or sexuality. If this shooting was politically-motivated, well... it wouldn't be the first time we've dealt with hatred because of our beliefs. Back in the fifties, before we had our own church building, many people refused to rent space to us because we had a mixed-race congregation. We're not afraid to do the right thing, and, even after these events, we will still be unafraid. We are a loving and welcoming congregation, and we are strong.
Thanks again to all those who are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.
Here's an interesting meme that I got from jaylake and jenwrites. You copy the disclaimer below, and the list, and boldface the ones that apply to you. Bon Apetit!
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (Do you count high school band as a lesson? I didn't pay for private lessons--and consequently sucked as a trombone player--so I won't bold it.)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
Okay. I'm starting finally to more of my part with respect to this Congress, and in particular regarding the health insurance fiasco. I found on Bitch, Ph.D. that my congressman was on the list of those who voted against. So here's my current salvo:
To the Hon. John J. Duncan:
I learned today that you were one of the representatives who voted against the SCHIP program. I also heard on the news that a new deal between the state and the federal government put a cap on the amount the feds are willing to pay for Medicare (and I believe TennCare). This will be disastrous for Tennessee hospitals, and for everyone covered by TennCare in the state.
I urge you to reconsider your vote if the bill is brought back to override the veto. The urgency is even greater, given the squeeze that's about to be put on the government-insured in the state. I greatly respect your independent voting record on matters of importance to you--like the war. I ask that you show a similar independence in the service of the children of your district.
Thank you for your time.
Blast me to smithereens! I fergot today was International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
Yo, ho, haul together,
Tom Mad Beard
What is YOUR pirate name?
In my life, I have been known to drive down Highway 321 in the rapidly de-pastoralizing Maryville, Tennessee. Near the intersection with Highway 129, there have, in the past few years, been a number of new buildings built. Often, while passing by, I lamented the emptiness of one small but primely-located lot--lamented, in fact, because there had been rumors that a Krispy Kreme was to be built there. Alas. Keep this lot in mind, dear reader, as it becomes important to my tale.
Alright. The confluence of several things in the past 24 hours has made me leave off grading for a bit (twist my arm) and post this.
First, there's been a running discussion across a couple of blogs, starting with Dana Goldstein on Tapped pointing to a NYT article which contains the startling statistic that 90% of parents choose to abort a fetus with Downs syndrome. Scott Limieux responded, pointing out the likelihood of the anti-choice movement using such things as fodder. Then Atrios picked up on it, noting first that such a strategy might not work, and then clarifying who it might not work for (fence-straddlers). Way back at Scott Limieux a link was made to Michael Bérubé, who has written extensively and accessibly on the topic of disability rights. What bothers me about the back and forth is the speed with which disability issues disappeared from the discussion. While I agree with various bloggers that a central question is whether you trust women or not, there's an unaddressed issue with whether you trust persons with disabilities or not.
In the comments (particularly on Atrios), there's been a lot of "Oh, but think of the caregivers" justification for abortion. As Bérubé's writing points out, caring for a person with disabilities is no walk in the park, but neither is it being locked in a cave. It depends a great deal on the individual cases involved (as this Bérubé essay points out). What rarely gets brought up in these discussions is the rights and quality of life of the person with disabilities. it shows how invisible disability rights is to many on the left.
And in the middle of all this, across my email comes notice of this little gem from Penn and Teller:
Penn & Teller expose the BS behind handicap parking and the bureaucratic nightmare that is "The Americans With Disabilities Act."
Great. I kinda like Penn and Teller, though I haven't seen Bullsh*t. But this is just what we need--let's get rid of the ADA, which is already poorly enough enforced. Yeah, that's just what I need: two magicians telling me that I'm silly for wanting laws to exist that respect my personhood. One of these guys, it occurs to me, has made a long-running shtick of being mute. Thanks, Teller. Are they going to do another episode on how, since African-Americans sometimes lose the right to vote through felony convictions and vote-suppression tactics, we ought to rescind the Civil Rights Act?
This is serious. Bérubé observes in another essay:
As Jamie reminds me daily, both deliberately and unwittingly, most Americans had no idea what people with Down syndrome could achieve until we'd passed and implemented and interpreted and reinterpreted a law entitling them all to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. I can say all this without appealing to any innate justification for human dignity and human rights, and I can also say this: Without a sufficient theoretical and practical account of disability, we can have no account of democracy worthy of the name.
I'll say it plainly: The left has a problem with disability. The right, of course, does as well, but I ain't on the right, and they can take care of that themselves.
Bérubé puts it in metaphor:
Imagine a building in which political philosophers are debating, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the value and the purpose of participatory parity over against forms of authoritarianism or theocracy. Now imagine that this building has no access ramps, no Braille or large-print publications, no American Sign Language interpreters, no elevators, no special-needs paraprofessionals, no in-class aides. Contradictory as such a state of affairs may sound, it's a reasonably accurate picture of what contemporary debate over the meaning of democracy actually looks like.
No one seems to ask about the failures of the state in providing adequate support to caregivers, and how that might factor into the decisions that these parents make to abort. That simply never comes up in the equation. The discussion as I read it never really got past, "They might use this tactic." "Yeah they will/no they won't." Wouldn't it be worth it to ask how we might remove that particular playing piece from the board? Couldn't the left make a case for expanded caregiving support by the state for things like childcare, care for persons with disability, and eldercare as a practical and moral priority? (And wouldn't that alleviate a number of the practical reasons for abortion in the first place? )
Doesn't the lack of shock by any of the bloggers, and certainly by any of the commenters, about the 90% statistic indicate a problem? If it came out that 90% of any other demographic were being aborted, wouldn't that be taking-to-the-streets time? But it's okay, they're just disabled. They'll be a burden. One thing disability studies articulated for me when I discovered it was that each of us was, is, and shall be a burden on all the others. It was the final crack in the shell of independence that I'd so carefully crafted as a good American all these years. The sooner we all clue in to this insight, that each human being is fundamentally interdependent with others, the sooner we'll be able to achieve what Bérubé provides as a fundamental principle:
a capacious and supple sense of what it is to be human is better than a narrow and partial sense of what it is to be human, and the more participants we as a society can incorporate into the deliberation of what it means to be human, the greater the chances that that deliberation will in fact be transformative in such a way as to enhance our collective capacities to recognize each other as humans entitled to human dignity.
I wish the magicians could do a dazzling stunt and make discrimination against those with disabilities go away. But they can't--it will take "millions of intricate moves" to quote a William Stafford poem. And that's assuming the magicians don't use their smoke and mirrors to make even the little bit of justice we have now disappear.
I'm Duke Ellington!
Take Which Jazz Musician Are You? today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.</p>
Just like the greatest of American composers, you see the big picture. You make the most of your resources by arranging them just so. A calm, cool demeanor on the outside is often just a front. Capable of a wide range of emotions and a prolific need for something new, you are at heart a whistful dreamer.
Just heard this on Countdown: Imus just lost Roker: " Yet, Don Imus needs to be fired for what he said. And while we're at it,his producer, Bernard McGurk needs to be canned as well. McGurk is just as guilty, often egging Imus on." (I agree, by the way, that McGurk seems to have gotten a free pass on his role in the debacle, so far.) Do you know what you have to do to piss off Al Roker??? I mean, look at him!
Let me start with one observation: to those who think that the reaction to Imus's comments about the Rutgers Womens' Basketball Team is actually an overreaction (Bill Maher, alas, on Scarborough seems to be in this camp, if the previews are to be believed), let me point out something:
And what are people so concerned about? I mean, what's the big deal? It's not like there's any history behind that "nappy headed hos" statement, right? (All links to the Authentic History Center.) He's just calling them what they call themselves, according to what he said on the Today show.
Cross posted from Daily Kos:
Mix #1: So today I managed to vote for Harold Ford at the same time that I cancelled out his declared vote in favor of the anti-gay-marriage amendment. Bittersweet.
Mix #2: So I'm in line this afternoon at the courthouse in this redder-than-red county in East TN--of course it's at the last minute, knowing me, but at least I've got a chance to volunteer on election day now--and it's a HUGE line. Huge. It was huge at the primary, too.
So, passing the time while waiting, conversation strikes up. The guy behind me is asking one of the poll workers if any women had been in today who were born before the 19th amendment. He says no, not that he saw. And it'd be unlikely: She'd have to be at least 87. But what I'm wondering is a little more realistic: How many people voted today who had to pay a poll tax fifty years ago? And here we are with the chance to elect the first African American senator since Reconstruction.
(And if nothing else, we should learn from history: what we have in Iraq isn't Europe under the Marshall Plan--it's the South under Reconstruction.)
I'm thinking about my students, my freshmen. I asked them the other day after showing the anti-Ford RNC ad, whether they thought it was racist. God bless 'em, they didn't understand the question. I hated to be the one to tell them about Emmett Till, but I did. "So there is," I explained, "Some history to all these 'wild' charges of racism. The odds are good that your grandparents were kids when Emmett Till was killed." (That may be stretching it a bit, but I don't want to think about how old I'm getting.)
Unmix #1: The conversation continued.
Poll worker: "But there was one guy earlier today. He was a Columbian. Just got his citizenship and was voting for the first time. When he came out, everybody applauded."
Guy behind me: "Yeah, I work with a guy from Cambodia. He was out the other day--we all knew he was getting sworn in with his citizenship. So the next day, we had a big red, white, and blue cake for him. And I guarantee you, he knows more about the Constitution that most people in this line."
For me, that's pure, straight-up misty eyes. America: It does sometimes work, doesn't it?
Mega-mix: The aforementioned long line. I'm passing time looking at people in line (as I think Sandy from Signal commented in another diary), trying to suss out who are the D's and who are the R's. It's not too hard--this part of TN was a nice bright crimson a couple of years ago. But there are a lot of question marks. A tousle-haired 18-year-old right in front of me, reminding me of what it was like to vote for Clinton in 92. (Boy, the world was shiny and new, then, wasn't it? Don't stop thinkin' bout tomorrow, indeed.) That guy in the sweater with the gray moustache--retired Democrat from Wisconsin? Or local business owner? The redneck--and I use the term lovingly, coming from good redneck stock--woman in front of him, complementing the kid, saying her two sons never follow politics at all. Am I happy or sad that they don't? The guy in front of her, in his blue work clothes, dirt stains on the left shoulder and right waistband. Good ol' boy for Corker, or union stalwart for Ford? In front of him, a longhair like me: redneck or hippie?
The poll worker comes down the line again, asking if everyone's voted on the new machines yet. He pulls a small group aside and runs through how to do it with a demo model, so they're ready when they get in. At 4:30, the line doubles up as they pull everyone in from outside so they can close the doors. We're in what was once the prisoner unloading area: "SALLY PORT MUST BE CLOSED BEFORE PRISONERS EXIT THE CAR." It's a little disconcerting to hear the rattle as the gates get pulled down and we're all shut in. And ironic that I'm exercising my franchise in the place where so many other people have had it taken away.
And even though I know that, statistically, more of these folks are here to vote for Corker than for Ford, I still get this long-forgotten feeling, this fondness for the forms of the Republic. Even if I hate the result, we seem to be getting the kind of turnout that at least guarantees that the process is working. That people, again, are speaking. And even if I dissent from the overtones of that voice, the fact that this voice is heard at all, in this day and age, with all that's going on in our country, is a precious gift.
Maybe this year, of all years, I'll like the results from this part of the state better than I think I will. I'd be ecstatic if a solid third vote against Amendment 1--it'd be nice to look around me and think that no more than 2 out of the 3 people in the room are, unfortunately, bigots. The odds are good, though, that I'll be disappointed again, and that the magnitude of The Work to be done will crash in on me. And this is why I have so little patience these days with those people who slam the South, damn the South, we can win without it, and say they won't cry for Ford. Maybe putting the South down lets you forget that Jewish families are being chased out of Delaware, that Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times in New York City, that everyone in Boston gets along swimmingly, or that a significant number of people in California are working their damndest to legalize discrimination against Latino/as there.
The South has problems from a liberal perspective? Don't you think I know that?
Don't you think that Eleanor A, and R o o K, and GoldnI, and Sandy on Signal, know that?
We wake up every morning in the damn South. We know full well what it's capable of. And still... we love it.
Jack Gilbert, the spare and unrelenting poet, has a poem called "A Stubborn Ode."
All of it. The sane woman under the bed with the rat
So this is a stubborn ode, I guess, to the state that wounds me every day, the nation that every day falls away from the grace and glory that it might be. In the foothills of the beauty of the color-dappled Appalachians, people vote to deny others their basic civil rights. A mile or so away from the Constitution, President Bush signs the Military Commissions Act, and all the blast doors and bulletproof glass in the world won't save it. As I write this, somewhere a man in some concrete room smelling of piss and fear is hanging his head, after being "aggressively questioned." He's been put there by Americans. Back in Tennessee, people are voting on the man who represents the city where Martin Luther King was shot--the year before I was born--and some of them, even after all this time, will judge him not on the content of his character.
All of it, I say. Nevertheless. A precious gift.