Tag Archives: NRA

March for Our Lives: Truth to Power

photo by Paul Mayer


This past year, I am always marching in one Washington or another. Most recently, in The March for Our Lives in Friday Harbor, Washington, March 24. Large or small, here or there, they are all important.

Friday Harbor Mayor Farhad Ghatan welcomed over six hundred islanders of all ages before turning everything over to the Middle and High School students standing like a chorus in bright orange tee shirts on the courthouse steps. This was, after all, their event, their cause, and their day. A bright blue sky was behind them.

“To those who think we will not change the world: Just watch us.”

 It’s been six weeks since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the Never Again movement that grew from it shows no signs of stopping. Instead, it only grows.

“What if our lives were more important than the rights of guns?”

When the Columbine High School shooting occurred in 1999 I planted columbine in my garden as a memorial. I’d thought the shooting a horrendous, one-time occurrence. We all wanted to believe that. Instead our country went to the dark side, again and again and again. Even the NRA itself went dark.

“What if the gov’t stopped taking money from the NRA?”

“We have grown up with this problem. We knew this stuff. It’s not like a new, fresh horrible thing that’s happening, it’s been preexisting even before we entered the world,” explains Jaclyn Corin, president of the Junior class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Joining forces with her classmates at Never Again, Corin found herself within a few short weeks talking one-on-one to state representatives and addressing the state legislature in Tallahassee, Florida. Advocacy, for her, has been part of the coping process.

Never Again broke the stigma that had hindered gun control activists in our country for decades. When it seemed impossible. When gun sales and gun fatalities were spiking, yet legislation was blocked. As we grew cynical and perhaps hardened, here came these kids—many of whom are too young to vote.

Never Again seized the moment and broke right through–reinvigorating every generation and swaying the public. (A Gallup poll of March 1 found 67% of Americans say the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter. This is the highest in any Gallup survey since 1993).

Student led and focused like a laser, they are the movement with a crowd that was bred online. Never Again is all about voices, votes, and policy change. In Friday Harbor, The League of Women Voters hosted a table to register voters during the march. This happened everywhere.

Our future is speaking and our future can’t get here fast enough. If I were a college or university I would recruit the founders of Never Again right out of High School. They are the wind of change and they are moving mountains.




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HGTV & the NRA




Not an easy assignment I have given myself: to keep up my remodeling blog while away from home. I have been visiting my folks in their retirement home outside Boston, where Mom and I have taken to HGTV every evening.

Here one by one, every half hour, we see a fixer-upper through to completion. Oh, the feeling of accomplishment! Oh, the joy! Young people moving into a first home, empty nesters downsizing. The American dream. Or my favorite, the vicarious pleasure of living in other lands with “House Hunters International.”

The HGTV tradition began as a deliberate plan on my part to take my parents right through the news–to bypass it, in other words. I turned the channel on during one visit when ISIS seemed to morph overnight. One day we had never heard of it, the next day it was all the news. The President was calling it ISIL, the media, ISIS, and we were all asking, which is it? What is it?

And now this week, it was HGTV’s job to steer them away from the carnage in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. This is not the country Mom and Dad knew. But it’s the country we’ve been dealt. The one we know all too well now.

I catch up with the news online, of course, quietly, in the night. There, I tend to live in a carefully cultivated circle of intelligent friends who all feel the same way. So round and round we go in our rage over a Congress, and thus a country, held hostage by the NRA.

And I know that when I return home, there will be another heavy-hearted landmark on I 5, the road we travel frequently. The “Marysville” exit, forty miles North of Seattle, site of a mass high school shooting less than a year ago. And now, when we’re traveling through Oregon en route to San Francisco, “Roseburg.” The big green interstate signs by which we mark our progress.

The new American map.

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The Loop

Seattle_-_Queen_Anne_Boulevard_mapI walk because a little flower can bring me to my senses, turn the world right side up, and give balance. Just that, the perfect, or imperfect, little plant. With nature one just has to be there, to be very present.

Nature is my religion and walking pulls me along like prayer. Particularly in spring when the set changes so fast. The orchestration of bulbs pushing up, magnolia tree blossoms on high opening like a stretch and a yawn, and wild roses scrambling to position themselves alongside a fence. Whether we garden or not, spring is reward time. Daffodils double on their own, birds carry seeds, and things hop around by wind.

I live on a hilltop in the city of Seattle ringed by a historic four mile loop. “The loop,” as it’s called, is well treed, well tred, and many of us walk or run it faithfully. To walk the loop is to indulge in everything from close-up (plants and wildlife), to midrange (architecture), and most distant: spectacular views of the city skyline, Mt. Rainier, The Sound and Olympic Mountains on one side, Lake Union and The Cascades on the other. A painter’s paradise, as all of the waterscapes are backed by mountains, and from the vantage point of Queen Anne, Mt. Rainier looms like a backdrop over downtown. This was the view in the television series, “Frasier.”

Walking clears the head. What you can leave at home is immense. On this day: concern about my father’s lingering cough, discouragement that our efforts for gun control seem to be backfiring, fear of N. Korea’s blustery “state of war” declaration, and a blog to write—as if that is going to help anything.

Anyway, it’s a start. For I am walking away from all that and toward…. Well, we’ll see.

“As artists, we are like beachcombers,” Julia Cameron observes, “walking the tide line, pocketing the oddments washed ashore—some small stray thing will tell us a story to tell the world.” And story, as we know, is what moves life along and gives it meaning.

My walking companion, the young friend I’ve hired as a personal trainer, shared stories of her eight year old daughter, Eleanor. I don’t need to tell you that for parents, these were some of the best years of our lives. And out of the blue, as her stories evolved, there came an explosion of wonderfully old fashioned names for girls, all friends of Eleanor’s, an old fashioned name as well. A world of classmates and girlfriends by the names of Penelope, Hazel, Clementine, Scarlett, Beatrice, Isabella and Madeline!

Don’t tell me I’m alone in finding this delightful?

You have to know, the older I get the more I feel I belong to that world, and it is of course eroding under my feet…. In many ways I am but a polar bear on an ice floe. But if there are three things I can do they are: to worship nature, to walk, and to write.

Forget the NRA. Forget Kim Jong Un. Today’s walk was suddenly worth it for this, the pleasure of these wonderfully old fashioned names. There’s a story there and I will write it.


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The Long March

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  Mahatma Ghandi

I can’t believe that we are here. That it has come to this. My head still pounds from the chanting: “Olympia, hear our cry, no more children need to die! Olympia, hear our cry, no more children need to die!….” 

We were 1,500 protestors strong, standing on the grassy Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre at the base of The Space Needle. We had walked up 4th Avenue from downtown escorted by a police motorcade. A cold snap gripped the region, but for once it wasn’t raining. Gloved hands held signs, gripped coffee cups, and some held the hand of a child along for the march.

A small boy’s handmade sign in the crowd read, “Don’t Sell Guns to Bad Guys.”

The Stand Up Washington March and Rally for Gun Control on January 13th was an event for recognizing that we had reached a tipping point. For turning grief and anger into action.

It was the day before the opening of the 2013 Legislative session, and civic, religious and education leaders assembled to show support for sensible gun legislation. Having drafted the bill to ban assault weapons, State Sen. Ed Murray assured us, “We are going to see movement in Olympia.”

Music threaded throughout the rally, all the old familiar songs: “We Shall Overcome” and “Down By the Riverside” sung by the Seattle Peace Chorus. How many times? I thought. How many times?

Mayor Mike McGinn took the podium. The Space Needle loomed large behind him and a trace of blue in the marbled sky.

“This is the spot of The World’s Fair fifty years ago, where we dreamed of the place where we would want to be one day,” he said. “And once again, today, we are dreaming of the place where we want us to be fifty years from now.”

That’s how it goes, I thought. Inching on, inching on….

How did we get here?

I feel I’ve been here before. Our system is broken and we are shattered.

Longtime gun control advocate Ralph Fascitelli of Washington Cease Fire reminded us that NRA members comprise only 1% of the population in the U.S. Similarly, NYC Mayor Bloomberg insists that “The NRA’s power is more myth than reality.”

Many of us didn’t see this one coming, this war with ourselves.

And yet, we did it before and we will do it again. Didn’t we break the back of segregation, end the war in Vietnam, obtain women’s rights, and most recently, marriage equality in our state?

Easy to feel fellowship at a rally. It really wasn’t until the event was over and we all fanned out in various directions throughout the city, that I fully appreciated our shared community, our humanity. Could it be that we, primarily, are it?

While walking away with volunteers in white Cease Fire shirts, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, the handsome man in the royal blue turban from SIKHS United Against Gun Violence, various Veterans for Peace, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship members who squeezed into a small blue sedan, I thought, this is my city, this is my country.


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Beyond Broken

When we first dropped anchor in Roche Harbor all the boats were pointing in the same direction, as they should, in formation like birds. As we sat and looked out toward the setting sun, some of the boats spun around one way, and others another, until we were all pointing every which way and there seemed no rhyme or reason to it. The sun disappeared and there we stayed awaiting the next shift of our boat, like the calibration or orientation of a compass.

I mention this because before we left San Juan Island another odd phenomena occurred, this time from above. While setting out on a walk in the woods, hundreds of birds—mostly seagulls–swarmed in the sky, circling at random, looking like white confetti against the blue. An hour later as we rounded a point, another swarm of birds was in the sky before us, the same random scribble. Whatever could this mean, we wondered.

I have become very good at doing nothing out on the water. Aware of yet another tragic shooting, this time in Wisconsin, I think my heart is beyond broken. If we can’t get a handle on the assault weapons at least, I am afraid for us.

At the Northernmost point of land in the continental U.S. sits a little white lighthouse, straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. The humbleness and innocence of it—my country is losing that.

On we went into Canadian waters. Salt Springs Island B.C. is where many of our draft dodgers found open arms during the Vietnam war. Many of them stayed and raised families, ran small businesses, and have slowly, happily aged. Our loss, their gain. It looks like it’s been a good life on Salt Springs. Our very institutions are under siege at home: theatres, schools, shopping centers, churches and temples. I’m thinking now if our lawmakers can’t stand up to the NRA and get a handle on our war with ourselves, might there not be another wave of Americans to other shores?


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