Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘vicious things’ Category

Frustration as ICE Detains Families at Border, Separates Children from Parents

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Most of this past week, I’ve struggled to put into words just how frustrated I am by what I’ve seen regarding what ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing at the United States border. And while I’m still not sure I have the words, the time has come for me to do my best anyway…so here goes.

The current Presidential administration of Donald J. Trump has put a premium on keeping refugees out of the United States, including those seeking asylum legally. And one of their most potent weapons toward this is the current ICE protocol that says children should not be kept with their parents or families; instead, they should be separated out. And put into confinement.

It’s almost as if these kids, who did not and certainly could not have crossed the border on their own, are being punished with jail. And that is inhumane.

Worse yet, there have been reports of children being ripped from their mothers’ arms, including at least one child who’d been breastfeeding.

(I don’t know what is worse than that, considering we are all supposedly civilized here in the Western World.)

This has happened whether the people coming in are legal (seeking asylum) or illegal, according to most sources I’ve heard or read about. And it’s being used as a sort of negative reinforcement, in the apparent “hopes” of keeping refugees out of the U.S.

Thinking about this sickens me. But I feel I cannot look away, either, because if I bury my head in the sand, I feel as if I’m silently assenting to such horrific treatment — and that I absolutely, positively refuse to do.

Yes, immigrating to the United States should be considered a privilege, and not a right. Yes, it should be done legally.

But how does it help anything to separate children from parents? Especially when you’re talking about children under five (or worst of all, infants under the age of two)?

That’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Because those kids can’t tell you who their parents are. They can’t tell you their own names, in some cases (especially if they’re under the age of two). They don’t have any idea where they came from, except “there,” and they have no idea where they are now, except “here.”

Keeping these kids with their parents should be the priority, not the reverse. Even if the parents and kids get sent back because the parents were trying to enter the US illegally, at least they are still a family, are still together, and can make their way back at the same time. And they’ll know where everyone is the whole time.

Now, I ask you: Why would anyone think that separating parents from their children is a good idea?

Put yourselves in this situation, if you would. Think of yourself at age four or five. The world is a huge, scary place. You don’t have any idea where things are or who most people are, except for your own parents and maybe a few of your cousins or aunts. And you’ve just traveled somewhere (we’ll say, for the purposes of discussion, Guatemala) for the first time, going into the unknown…and then someone takes your parents away and you’re left alone?

Do you honestly think you’d be happy? Especially if they put you behind a bunch of barbed wire with a whole lot of other kids of various ages? And you had no idea what to do next, much less where your parents are?

So, if you’d not be happy with some other country doing this to you, why do you think these parents should be happy with the US as it’s done to them?

Somehow, we citizens of the US must rise up and say, “No.” And insist these kids and parents be reunited. Because kids in tent cities, by themselves, with barbed wire around as if they’re criminals, is just wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.

We have to be better than this.

Really.

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For Shooters of Students, Can Forgiveness Ever Be Obtained?

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The title thought is what has been going through my mind, ever since I heard about the latest school shooting. Because I just don’t understand why, over and over and over again, we have shooting after shooting, killing after killing, and nothing at all seems to be getting done to prevent it from happening with such great frequency.

I don’t know if forgiveness can ever be obtained for people like the latest shooter, a seventeen-year-old boy (who, as per my policy, I will not name). Someone that young, that troubled, that upset, or that evil, is someone I don’t know how to help and don’t know how to reach.

Among those who are confirmed dead in this latest shooting (this time at Santa Fe High School in Texas) are a foreign exchange student from Pakistan, two teachers, and a number of other young students. They all had worth and value to their families, their friends, and to the world in general, whether they knew it or not…they helped to make up the fabric of our society, and were perhaps the best of what we are.

Questioners. Students. Learners. Teachers.

I have no way to forgive the latest shooter, in my heart. I just can’t do it.

In fact, the only thing that’s given me any solace regarding the latest in these series of deadly school shootings is Linkin Park’s song “What I’ve Done.” I first heard it years ago, when I didn’t know who the band was, or why they were writing it, but the song struck a chord in me then that was so powerful, I remembered enough of the song to find it again now, when I needed it the most.

 

In this video of “What I’ve Done,” there are all sorts of unforgivable things referenced, along with a few good things. This helps to remind you that no matter how bad things have gotten, and no matter what evil may have happened, the sun will come up tomorrow and there will be at least one good thing there to brighten your day if you look hard enough.

While I think that’s true, I also know that it gets harder and harder to look for those good things.

Now, does that mean you should stop looking for them? Absolutely not.

We have to keep looking for positive things. We have to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, or at least different…we have to believe that somewhere, somehow, someday, we will find a way to prevent at least a few of these horrendous actions, so more people will live, and less people will have to face up to their truly unforgivable actions.

But for now, all I can ask, again and again, is the title question: Can forgiveness ever be obtained for those who shoot up schools? (Or movie theaters, or concerts, or any place innocent people assemble, who just want to be living their lives in peace and without fear of random gunmen.)

If you have any answers for me, let me know in the comments. (Thanks.)

Couple Injured in Store Parking Lot Needs Your Help

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Folks, about a week ago in Racine, a young man was driving, high-speed, trying to get away from the police. (As per my policy, I will not name this person. He is a teenager.) He cut through a parking lot and hit two innocent pedestrians, who were coming out of Festival Foods on a Sunday morning.

This couple, Cheryl and Jeffrey Coopman, needs your help. They are raising their granddaughter alone, which was hard enough, as their daughter died last year. (See this story from WISN.com for further details.) They’re in their forties. And all they were doing was shopping at the grocery store.

Now, Mrs. Coopman lacks an arm and a leg, and Mr. Coopman has broken ribs. Both are in the hospital at the present time up in Milwaukee (at Froedtert, one of the best hospitals in Wisconsin), and last I heard, Mrs. Coopman remains in critical condition.

I want you to put yourselves in the place of the Coopmans, just for one moment. Can you imagine yourself, on a sunny but cold January morning, getting out of your car, and walking into the grocery store, finishing your shopping, and coming back out, only to have one of you lose an arm and a leg and the other with broken ribs and internal injuries (no doubt), all because a young person who should’ve known better tried cutting through a parking lot to evade the police?

Then think about the grandchild you have left at home. And how neither of you can care for her…so other relatives have to do it.

This couple’s life has radically changed, all because of one young person who didn’t know his own limits and refused to surrender to authority while he still could. They are in a lot of pain, and even if Mrs. Coopman can make a full recovery (which I pray that she will), she’s going to have a much different life going forward.

My heart aches for these people. They didn’t deserve this. And while life is assuredly not fair, it also doesn’t need to be this unfair.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to pay for the Coopmans’ medical bills. That will only help the finances. Nothing can help their psychological trauma, and the absolute unfairness and injustice of what happened to them, except time and perhaps some good counselors, and maybe if they’re extremely fortunate they’ll be able to rebuild their lives and continue to find some meaning and joy to enrich themselves despite it all.

And while I urge you to consider donating to this account, I also want you to do whatever your spiritual background allows you to do to send good thoughts, positive energy, prayers, or whatever else you think may help. If you can think of a concrete way to help them, too, be sure to do that…as they’re going to need a lot of help.

In addition, the Festival Foods on Washington Avenue in Racine (the location of the horrible accident) is taking donations at any register. So if you live in Racine, or the surrounding area, and can help this couple, and don’t want to use GoFundMe for some reason, that’s another way to help. (I just thought of this. But it’s accurate. Festival said they’d be taking donations at least through the end of January, and possibly longer, the last time I went in there, which was last week.)

While you’re at it, pray for their granddaughter, who’s already lost her mother and now is in jeopardy of losing her grandmother as well…

This is just wrong. And we, as a people, need to do what we can to let the Coopmans know that we do care about this injustice, and will help them in their hour of need.

Because that is what the whole idea of charity (Christian or otherwise) is all about.

#PrayforOrlando — My Thoughts

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Folks, it has taken me over a day to codify my thoughts, because I’m so enraged by what happened in Orlando, Florida last evening.

For those of you who don’t yet know, there was a horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida during the wee hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. So far, fifty people are confirmed dead, and there are fifty-three known to be wounded…but the death toll could still go up. Because the gunman — someone I shall refuse to name as I believe he forfeited his right to a name the moment he opened fire — was anti-gay and supposedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on a 911 call, and because Pulse was friendly to the LGBT community, this act was not only a hate crime, bad as that is.

No. It was even worse.

It was an act of domestic terrorism.

My heart is aching, as I write these words. I do not understand how anyone could do this, for any reason. I do not appreciate the fact that someone so hateful was an American citizen, and most of all I do not like it that I have no outlet whatsoever for my rage other than to post this flag — a gay pride rainbow flag at half-staff — in this post as a symbol of my solidarity with the LGBT community:

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I wish I could do much more than this, because I am enraged.

Enraged that this horrific, senseless act could happen in the United States.

Enraged that someone so twisted had been able to qualify as a security guard, for pity’s sake. Because the shooter was a security guard, he had weapons, and he used them brutally and callously to take life for no reason whatsoever except his own, obnoxious self-aggrandizement.

Enraged that my LGBT friends, gentle souls, all, now have to worry that they could be next, victims of copycats eager to get their repellent names and mugshots on television…because as usual, the media splashed the name and picture of the domestic terrorist in as many nooks and crannies as they could, as this is standard operating procedure.

Enraged that there isn’t more focus on the innocent and tragic victims who died or were wounded at the Pulse nightclub than there is on the excrescence that was the allegedly human being who decided that he knew better than God/dess as to who should live, who should die, and who should be irrevocably wounded, body and soul, for the rest of their days by this abhorrent attack.

Enraged that once again, on American soil, we’ve had a mass shooting.

Enraged that once again, our politicians will do nothing.

Enraged that once again, our hearts are broken, and no one seems to care about mending them.

So, because of that, because of all that, I urge everyone to think good thoughts, send positive energy, and/or pray for the people of Orlando right now. Somehow, some way, help love to win — the love of our fellow men and women of all genders, sexual preferences, colors, creeds, and religions. Somehow, some way, remember those bright souls who died, and help those who survived the massacre to heal as much as they possibly can…

In other words, make love stronger than hate. Please.

And give extra care to your friends and neighbors right now, most particularly to those in the LGBT community. They need to know their friends are with them, and that we will never forget this horrible day for as long as we live…much less that we will work for better days and brighter futures for us all.

That’s all I know how to say right now.

———

Edited to add: One of my Facebook acquaintances just pointed out that when he turned on CNN yesterday afternoon, they said, “We will only name the shooter once this hour.” After they named him, they took down his picture and said something to the effect of, “Now, let’s concentrate on the much more important people — the victims.”

Thank you, CNN! (Now can everyone else in the media get behind this idea? I was once a student journalist, and I know the people I worked with all felt the same way as I did. But standard operating procedure is to name the gunman over and over, it seems…we must change this, and start doing what CNN did yesterday.)

Two Young Girls in Waukesha Try to Kill Classmate to “Please Slenderman”

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Yesterday, news broke that not fifty miles up the road from me in Waukesha, WI, two twelve-year old girls had tried to murder their equally young classmate.

Their motive? To please “The Slender Man,” also known as “Slenderman.” This is a fictional character who’s often depicted wearing a black suit — with tendrils coming out the back — and lives in a mansion in the forest up North.

I’d never heard of The Slender Man before the two girls were arrested and charged. Apparently, this Internet sensation has been around since 2009. And as the CreepyPasta.wiki site itself said, most people know that The Slender Man is fictional.

However, these two twelve-year-old girls didn’t realize this. And because they didn’t, another young girl is in the hospital right now, recovering from nineteen stab wounds — one of which missed a major artery by what’s been reported as “a millimeter” by both WTMJ Channel 4 and WITI Fox 6 in Milwaukee.

As Jim Stingl, opinion writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, put it:

The pair of shaggy-haired sixth-graders, according to the charges against them, plotted a murder for the most outlandish reason. They wanted to please Slender Man — a make-believe demon that became real in their jacked-up imaginations — and run away to live with him in, of all places, the Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. They had packed bags and were going to walk there after the slaying.

For most of us, it’s a freak show. For the 12-year-old victim clinging to life, and for her family and friends, it’s a nightmare worse than anything you’ll find on Creepypasta Wiki.

As a writer, I am appalled by this tragedy.

I’m frustrated that these two young girls could plan for what’s been reported as a year to kill a classmate without anyone knowing except themselves. (This according to just about every news person working for HLN Cable News this afternoon, including Dr. Drew Pinsky, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Nancy Grace.) I’m shocked that anyone would believe a character clearly drawn as fictional (a really slim man in a dark suit with tentacles, whose face you can’t look at lest you drop dead on the spot) could be somehow appeased (or worse, joined) by killing a classmate.

But I’m also not happy with some who are blaming the website CreepyPasta.wiki for this particular crime, merely for having what’s the Internet equivalent of what used to be called “campfire horror stories” on their site.

As a post called “Fiction, Reality and You” from user Sloshedtrain at CreepyPasta.wiki says:

According to the story, the girls read about Slenderman here on this wiki, and of course the usual response lead to hostility and blaming towards the wiki by some “very concerned parents”. Some calling for the censorship and shutdown of the wiki.

Will these people succeed on their quest? Most likely not. These are the same people who think violent video games help create mass murderers, because it is convenient to blame and point fingers.

Besides the backlash, this incident shows what happens when the line of fiction and reality ceases to exist. When a person truly believes that Internet short stories are cold hard facts. When a person attempts to replicate works of fiction to the point others are harmed. And for this, I’m going to make myself loud and clear:

ALL WORKS PRESENTED ON THIS WIKI AND OTHER SITES (INCLUDING SLENDERMAN, JEFF THE KILLER, BEN, SONIC.EXE, ETC) ARE FICTIONAL STORIES AND CHARACTERS (Note: bold-face type and punctuation were rendered exactly as in the original document. BC)

So there you have it. Two twelve-year-old girls try to commit murder, because they cannot separate reality from fantasy, and are now being charged as adults.

It’s awful. It’s shocking. It’s disgusting. It’s distressing.

But as a fiction writer, it makes me wonder . . . will I start having to say in every post, “Remember, this is a fictional character we’re talking about” because I write YA fantasy and my target audience isn’t that much older than these two deluded young girls?

Terror in Boston on Patriots’ Day

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Yesterday, I thought the only thing of importance I’d do all day was to go in and pick up my prescription for antibiotics.

Sure, I knew it was Patriots’ Day in Boston, and that the Boston Marathon was underway.  But I hadn’t a clue that by midway Monday afternoon, over 180 people would be hurt and at least three killed due to at least two bombs.

These were cowardly acts of terrorism, though no one’s sure as of yet whether we’re dealing with a foreign threat or if this came from our own people (domestic terrorism).

At any rate, I picked up my medication, saw the typical highlights of people running in Boston (sans results; they’d just started), and went to get some rest.

When I got back up again, the airwaves were filled with scenes of horror and violence, along with many scenes of heroism from first responders and other, trained medical and non-medical personnel.  They confirmed both the worst in humanity (the bombs) and the best (the heroism) in one, fell swoop.

Pete Williams of NBC and MSNBC has had the best reportage so far, and what he’s said as of 11:00 AM CDT is this: There are many leads.  There are many, many pictures that have been turned into the Boston Police Department, the FBI, and other agencies.  And as much as is humanly possible, all available leads will be checked out, while the time values on all the pictures will be synchronized in order to perhaps find something, anything, out of the ordinary.

And thus find whoever did this.

As a writer, there’s much I could speculate upon at this time, I suppose.  There are aspects of the two known bombs that worry me, most particularly the fact that one of the bombs, according to Boston resident and former WTMJ-620 AM sports anchor Trenni Kusnierik, exploded at a well-known running store.  (She was interviewed by WTMJ-TV, Channel 4 in Milwaukee, and her interview was shown around 10:35 p.m.)  And the very fact that something so terrible could happen at an innocent sporting event — one in which 96 different countries took part — sickens me beyond anything this nasty bronchitis could ever do.

All I know is this: I hope the FBI and the Boston PD will find whoever did this, and prosecute this person or people to the fullest extent of the law.  Because runners should be safe at the Boston Marathon.

And so should the spectators.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

The Aurora (CO) Massacre: Why Did This Happen?

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Another horrific incident has happened, folks — James Holmes, 24, of Colorado, shot at least 71 people at an Aurora, CO, movie theater during a midnight showing of the latest “Batman” movie.  So far, 12 have been killed, with more people in critical condition who could pass on at any time in what’s being called the worst mass shooting in American history. 

And Holmes did this . . . why?

The best guess as to why Holmes did this seems to be that Holmes is a psychopath, and/or is mentally ill to such a degree that he does not understand the world or the people around him in the same way most of the rest of us do.  Holmes may have thought he was the Joker (one of the best-known “Batman” characters); Holmes may have thought that what he was doing was sanctioned and allowed, considering the current “Batman” movie features explosions in public places.

Here’s a link to Yahoo’s report:

http://gma.yahoo.com/colorado-batman-movie-shooting-suspect-phd-student-085940589–abc-news-topstories.html

What has come out about Holmes thus far is troubling.  Holmes was a Ph.D. student who’d moved to Colorado in order to pursue his degree at the University of Colorado Medical Center.  He was brilliant, planning his attack to a surprising degree (to the point that he had not one, not two, but four separate guns, with at least two being assault rifles — this last according to AM 620 WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee.  Their on-the-hour news report gave these additional details).  And Holmes booby-trapped his apartment to the point that had the police not known about it (because Holmes himself told them), the apartment building would’ve blown sky high.

So those are the facts as we know them right now; what I’m after, though, is a bit more elusive.  To wit: why would someone this bright do something this terrible?

Honestly, I have no answers, though I do have many questions.

First, why was this man not in a mental hospital?  (Especially considering that his mother’s first reaction after being contacted by the media was, “You have the right guy,” not the usual “I can’t believe this is happening!” denial?)

Second, how did this man successfully buy four separate guns of various descriptions in only a few months?  Especially as it appears he bought them all within the city of Aurora or its environs (meaning Boulder or even Denver, but not all that far away as the crow flies)?  Additionally, how did this guy amass all the military-grade body armor he was wearing at the time of his arrest without anyone taking note of it, either?

Third, the story of victim Jessica Ghawi, also 24, is instructive . . . Ghawi had narrowly avoided a different public shooting in Toronto a month ago, but was unable to avoid being shot and killed by by Holmes.  She was an aspiring sports journalist who loved hockey, had a hockey-player boyfriend who spent much time in the minors, just looking for his big break — his name is Jay Maloff — and was well-known to many hockey reporters and sports reporters of all sorts due to her Twitter presence.  (She wrote under the name of Jessica Redfield.)

This was a young woman with everything ahead of her.  She had a great boyfriend.  She had done many internships at radio stations, newspapers, and was about to be hired at Mile High Sports, which seems to have been enthusiastic about Ghawi’s writing and knowledge of hockey.  She had drive, charm, what friends and colleagues are calling an outsized personality, and was the type of person who was going places and doing things.

So why, oh why, is Jessica Ghawi dead today?  Because of a crazy man, that’s why.  And that’s not good enough; it shouldn’t be.

All we can do is this.  Remember the people who died in this senseless act.  Remember their lives.  Remember what they did while they were here, and honor them.  That’s the only way to gain any meaning whatsoever from this atrocious act.

But before you say it, I am well aware that it’s not nearly enough.  (It’s just all we have.)

Aside from that, do your best to remember your sense of betrayal and outrage when you heard about this latest tragedy.  Remember how awful it is that twelve people, including the young and talented Ghawi, are already dead, with more to assuredly follow.  Remember that it didn’t have to be this way.  Then push for more mental health funding and treatment, because the possibility of prevention is far better than the “pound of cure” we’re now forced to endure.

No matter what you do, though, don’t you dare become inured to horrific violence.  Don’t start seeing things like this terrible Aurora shooting as typical behavior, either.

Because if you do become inured, or start seeing things like this as typical, psychopathic gunmen like Holmes win.  And the rest of us lose even more than we already have.