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.


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 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:


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 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 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 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:


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:–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.

Brewers Fans: Leave Lucroy’s Wife Alone

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I never thought I’d have to write this blog, folks.  I never thought that anyone — much less a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers — would criticize any of the players’ wives for anything, as any given wife has little influence (if any) on her husband’s performance on the field.

But it appears some ill-bred Brewers fans are criticizing Mrs. Jonathan Lucroy due to the odd, off-the-field accident he suffered, resulting in a broken hand.  Lucroy was reaching for a sock that had fallen under his hotel bed when his wife dropped a piece of luggage; this luggage landed on his hand, resulting in a very unusual “boxer’s fracture.”  Mrs. Lucroy, by all accounts, feels terrible about this, because of course she never wanted to injure her husband.

Yet because Lucroy was hitting a ton, doing well as a Brewers catcher, and was garnering some national support for the National League All-Star team, these same ill-bred Brewers fans appear to believe that Mrs. Lucroy hurt her husband on purpose.  And because they apparently believe this mistaken view should be shouted from the rooftops — or at least listed at Facebook, where Mrs. Lucroy apparently has a page (I haven’t been able to find it) — Mrs. Lucroy has actually received hate mail over this.

Here’s a link to the story from Fox Sports Wisconsin:

And here’s a relevant quote:

“It’s tough for me because it’s already a freak thing as it is,” Lucroy told WSSP. “My wife has been getting hate mail on her Facebook, messages and stuff. It’s really sad that these kind of things happen from a freak thing. She didn’t do it on purpose, man. It was an accident. Stranger things have happened.
“It’s been a battle for me, personally, because there’s no one to blame, and my wife is getting killed by this. It’s not like she’s not hurting enough already, feeling guilty enough already. I really wish people would leave her alone, leave us alone, just let us try to move forward and get this behind us.”

Now, this shouldn’t even need to be said, but since this has happened, apparently it does.  Brewers fans, no matter what you think about Jonathan Lucroy’s accident, please leave Mrs. Lucroy alone.  She feels bad enough as it is.

Now, let’s get back to watching the Brewers play rather than criticizing a player’s wife, shall we?  Because as Brewers fans, we should have the class to leave players’ wives out of it.

Troy Davis, Quite Possibly Innocent of Murder, Executed in GA

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Folks, it being the seventh anniversary of my late husband Michael’s death, I really hadn’t expected to be writing anything tonight.  But something so awful has just happened that I had to express my outrage . . . Troy Davis, 42, was convicted in 1991 of killing a policeman, Mark A. MacPhail.  But Davis maintained his innocence until death; more than that, seven witnesses recanted their testimony and three members of the jury that had convicted Davis said that Davis should not be put to death.

Yet he was, and I find that not only sad, but extremely upsetting, especially as Davis was willing to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.  (The Georgia Department of Corrections refused his request, without explanation, earlier this morning.)

Here’s a link to tonight’s story:

And it’s not only me who feels justice has been denied here.  Barry Scheck, who runs the Innocence Project, said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” this evening that substantial doubt existed as to whether or not Davis was innocent.  William S. Sessions, former director of the FBI, said that he believed there was more than enough evidence for Georgia to stay the order of execution.   Here’s a few of his words, quoted from last week’s editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Serious questions about Mr. Davis’ guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion, and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction,” Sessions wrote. He urged a state pardons board to commute the sentence to life in prison.

Look.  I’m just one woman, but I know when something is morally wrong.  The execution of Troy Davis tonight was a morally unjust and extremely wrong-headed action that everyone in this country should feel terrible about.  This man may well have been innocent, and if so, him being executed tonight was nothing less than cold murder — which begs the question, “When did Georgia forget about the Ten Commandments?”  Because perhaps the foremost commandment is this one: thou shalt not murder (often given in erroneous translations as “thou shalt not kill”).

According to the MSNBC TV reports, Davis’s last words were something along the lines of, “May God have mercy upon your souls” (to the people actually giving him the lethal injection) and he maintained his innocence until the very end.

I don’t know whether or not Davis was innocent.  But I do know Scheck and Sessions are very bright, able men, and both of them said the evidence did not warrant execution.

I really do not understand why the state of Georgia did this tonight, other than to show how barbaric they are.  But I do know this; I will keep my money out of Georgia.  I will keep myself out of Georgia.  And I will not do any business with anyone who lives in Georgia for the time being, either, as my own form of personal protest until the state of Georgia stops executing people who may well be innocent.**


** Note: this will not bring Davis back.  I know this.  I also know it may hurt me down the line with some friends, who are as innocent as I believe Davis most likely was . . . but the only way to hurt a state that refuses to do the right thing is to hit them in the wallet.  That’s why I am taking this stance.

Compassion Strikes Out: People Cheer Hypothetical Death Example at R Debate

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I have now seen and heard it all: compassion has struck out.

Why do I say this?  Well, last night there was a strange occurrence where audience members watching the “Tea Party” Republican Debate in Tampa, FL, actually cheered the thought of someone dying young due to a lack of health care.  This was an awful occurrence, one that turned my stomach, and I have many things to say about it — but before I do, let me first set the stage in order to possibly understand the crowd’s behavior.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was asked a hypothetical question about a thirty-year-old man without health insurance; the moderator of the debate, Wolf Blitzer, asked whether or not Paul felt this man should get governmental help to pay for health care (as health care is extremely expensive in this country, and some working people — perhaps many working people — cannot afford to have health insurance due to high co-pays, pre-existing conditions, or other factors that raise the premiums beyond their ability to pay).  Paul, also a licensed medical doctor, was asked this question first because as a doctor, he should know the most about the health care system.

Paul’s answer was that private charities used to do the work and can and should do the work again; this is a very Libertarian philosophy that goes along with his lifetime viewpoint.  This answer wasn’t at all a surprise to me as a long-time political watcher as for the most part, Paul’s objections are made from a standpoint of long-held principle and he’s been eloquent on the subject before.

What was a surprise, and a most unwelcome one, were the wags in the crowd who shouted, “Yeah!” after cheering Paul’s answer.  Blitzer followed up with, “So you’d just let this man die?” and people cheered even louder.

Look.  I do not believe that the Republicans, as a whole, want people like me who are poor and do not have health insurance to “die quickly” as former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) once said.  But I also agree with Grayson’s comments, made tonight on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on Current TV, that the behavior of much of the crowd showed a sadistic streak that should not be tolerated.  (I’m using the term precisely: sadism is joy in other people’s pain, or at minimum, delight over other people’s pain.)

Now, does that mean that every member of the audience who cheered this hypothetical example of a thirty-year-old man not getting needed medical care are bad people?  Probably not; mob psychology may well have gotten to them, and some in that crowd may really not believe that the idea of a thirty-year-old without insurance should die is a good one after all.  (This is also called “get on the bandwagon psychology,” and is a known phenomenon in large groups.)

The main problem is that something like this, at what was billed as a “Tea Party debate,” makes everyone in the Tea Party look both unsympathetic and lacking in empathy.  I know that’s not true; one of my doctors has spoken at Tea Party rallies (she is against nationalized health care because she believes that it would severely weaken the overall standard of care) and is a compassionate person who volunteers her time to work with low-income people (myself included).  I have many other friends in the Tea Party movement across the nation who are good, caring, empathetic people; they may not believe that government should implement what they call “Obamacare” (the most recent health care bill), but their objection to it is principled and rational, not the nonsensical behavior of a bunch of creeps in a crowd who’d cheer for someone to die merely because he doesn’t have the money to pay for health care.

Olbermann had as another guest on his program Nicole D. Lamoureux, who is the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics (to donate to this worthy program, go to — they do very fine work).  Lamoureux made a good point about mob psychology, made another good point about how some people seemingly would rather “take care of themselves” than anyone else, and said how upset she was in seeing that behavior.

What I would have added, had I the chance to speak with Ms. Lamoureux, is that some Republicans seem to behave like Florida Governor Rick Scott.  Scott has a minimal co-pay (something like $25) for himself and his family for operations and such (chump change), and for several of his immediate underlings, but much of the rest of state government have atrociously high co-pays (into the high hundreds or thousands) as Scott struck some sort of deal with the insurer.   This is a classic example of “I’ve got mine; the Devil take the hindmost,”* and is quintessentially the behavior of many hard right Rs in local, state and federal offices.

Once again: this does not mean the voters, who put people like Scott in office, are unfeeling and uncaring people.**  It doesn’t mean that all Tea Party members are as uncompassionate as those who cheered for this hypothetical man to die; it doesn’t even mean that all Tea Partiers in that particular audience last night felt that way.

But what this does mean is that the hard-right Rs have successfully made a class-based argument to some of their own voters — enough, they hope, to keep them in office.  The voters who trended R in 2010 are people who are working, who mostly have decent health insurance or believe they’ll be able to get it soon, and some don’t see that “there for but the grace of God goeth I.”  Nor do some of them see that this is unChristian or uncharitable behavior, even though such classic Biblical texts such as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount make it clear that the poor, widowed, infirm (meaning sick and/or disabled) and elderly should be well-treated.  This is a practical approach as well as a compassionate one, because one day, you may be in one of those categories.  Where will you be if no one helps you out?

Look.  We have really high unemployment in this country — 9.1% nationally.   Millions of people are out of work.  Millions more are underemployed at best; millions more are retirees, who may have to go back into the workforce to make ends meet due to the down economy wiping out their savings, 401(k) plans, or entire retirement in the 2007-8 stock market crash.  All of these things mean that more people are using free clinics or charitable services than ever before, with fewer dollars going to support such endeavors because fewer people are working in order to help them out.

In other words, this is the time to be more compassionate, not less.

This is the time to care for your neighbor as yourself, because this economy is so fluid that even the best employees can get laid off tomorrow, lose their health insurance, and end up needing to go to a free clinic or using charitable services at local clinics in order to get the health care they need.

This is the time that we must pull together as a country.  Find ways to help people who need it get the proper health care, particularly with regards to health care prevention; it’s shameful that women cannot get Pap smears if they’re poor.   Which means that someone like me is more likely to get care only if and when she discovers cancer — is this right in the wealthiest nation in the world?  (God, I hope not.)

Most importantly of all, people need to be educated about this.  They need to understand that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  And that sometimes, paying for a low-income person’s health care is going to save the government money in the long run while allowing that person to fully recover, then resume paying taxes and funding the same services for someone else in need.

Maybe by doing all this, we won’t have any more instances of supposedly-educated people cheering the thought of anyone dying young due solely to a lack of health care, or lack of means.  Because the fact that anyone at all can do this in our country shows a streak of barbarism that I’d truly hoped we’d fully rooted out, and cheapens American citizens in the eyes of the world.


* Another way to say this is, “I’ve got mine, so to Hell with you.”  Keith Olbermann called this attitude by so-called Christians “more the work of Devil-worshippers,” and I completely agree.

** Scott narrowly won office in ’10, and may end up becoming a one-term Governor over things such as the health insurance debacle as what he did is deeply unpopular throughout Florida across all parties and incomes due to its hypocrisy.