This is an experiment to see if we can get our readers to join in more of a dialogue with us. We are going to pose a question each week, and see if we can get some interesting responses. The question for this week is: “What one news story do you most associate with your early teenage years for you and why?”
And here’s why: at the time of King’s assassination, I was living on an Army post in Germany and feeling sad about our tour there coming to an end—and I was more than a little worried about going back to the States and entering high school. There was a string of assassinations that summer—first King and then Bobby Kennedy—and these events had a powerful effect on me, much more so even than John Kennedy’s death, since I was only in the 4th grade for that one.
The thing is that James Early Ray changed more than just one man’s life that day when he pulled that trigger: my whole world was turned upside down. The news stories and the pictures from that one event was that the United States had changed, in my head, from a place where beloved relatives lived and you could buy a wonderful hamburger into a land where good people got shot down.
The States suddenly seemed dramatically different from our secure, enclosed post at the top of a hill overlooking the little town of Landstuhl, and I couldn’t think about going back there without having day-mares and nightmares. And now, whenever I think about King’s assassination, I feel that same scary, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. His death was not just the death of a great person—it was the first of many events that shook up my world and made me feel very aware of death, very aware of evil, very aware of how unpredictable and frightening a place the world could be.
I was really happy to hear about a new organization that was founded right after the Newtown shootings: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Reading about them gives me hope, for the first time, that maybe the tide could start to turn a little. Just think about how effective Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been in working against teenage DWI deaths! Also, when I think about those women marching up to Capitol Hill, some of them pushing strollers, some of them breastfeeding babies, I can’t help but get an image in my head of my mother when she had reached her limit with us when we were little. When Mama had had enough, you knew it. And often, she didn’t even have to say a word: her face was enough to inspire us to modify our actions according to her wishes.
The whole debate about gun control seems so ridiculous to me that I find it hard even to consider it worth debating. When I hear people talk about the “right to bear arms,” which I wish to heaven had never been added to the Constitution, and I see people get all high-and-mighty about how that right is sacrosanct in this country, I can’t help but think there have been plenty of other “rights” that got written into our laws that then, over time, needed to be written out–either at the state level or all the way up to the Constitution. Like, for instance, the right of white people to dominate black people or the right of only white men to vote or the right of our government to take away land from the Indians. It’s good to remember that all of those so-called “rights” were written by human beings in the first place–and had to be unwritten by human beings.
Then there is the argument that people have the right to have guns in their houses so that they can defend themselves against intruders or aliens or whatever. What about that district attorney in Texas? His gun really came in handy, didn’t it? He was running to try to get it when the intruder into his home shot him in the back! If a crazy person armed with a gun is coming after you, counting on catching you by surprise, in order to murder you, apparently you don’t always have time to find and draw your own weapon. I think about that poor man when I hear the ridiculous proposals to arm our teachers, and I wonder what he would think about that.
For way too long in this country, we have worried way too much about the rights of white men (according to the statistics for 2011, the largest group of gun owners are white men, ages 50-64, with a high school education or less). It’s time to fight for the rights of other people, especially the ones who can’t fight for themselves, our children. It makes good sense that the mothers of this country, most of whom don’t have time to take on this battle, are now taking it on. They would have stayed away if they could! I can almost hear my mother saying it, “Don’t make me come in there!”
Wolfgang Borchert, a wonderful writer who had the unfortunate bad luck of growing up in Germany during World War II and getting conscripted into the Wehrmacht, wrote an incredible collection of stories and poems called (in translation) The Man Outside,which includes the powerful poem “Say NO.” It is an anti-war poem, but its underlying message works also here for the fight against guns in this country.
Check out this stanza:
You. Mother in Normandy and mother in the Ukraine, you, mother in Frisco and London, you, on the banks of the Huang Ho and the Mississippi, you, mother in Nepal and Hamburg and Cairo and Oslo – mothers in all regions on earth, mothers all over the world, if they order you tomorrow to bear children – nurses for military hospitals and new soldiers for new battles, mothers all over the world, then there’s only one thing to do: Say NO! Mothers, say NO!
Cheryl is a retired Air Force officer, living and writing in Asheville, NC. You can read more of her work at www.cheryldietrich.net.
Last week, the Pentagon announced plans to open combat positions to women. This seems an appropriate time to give you my take on the subject, as written in my book, In Formation: What the Air Force Taught Me about Holding On and Manning Up. Part of this post was published in the anthology Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War (compiled and edited by MariJo Moore, Fulcrum Publishing, 2008).
In the 1990s, the Air Force opened up combat aircraft to women. First the bombers, the rationale being, I suppose, that bombers stay well above the conflict, and there’s plenty of other crew on board if a woman should develop hysterics. But the exciting planes were the fighters, the sexy planes, the sleek sports cars of the air. Most pilots wanted a fighter. Normally weapon system choices were handed out with the highest scoring graduates from UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) getting first choice. Originally, women had been restricted to carriers, tankers, and trainers. Now, finally, women could choose a fighter.
While I was at the Pentagon, a woman graduated top of her UPT class and got first choice of weapon systems. She chose the fast, mean F-16 Falcon. The press slobbered all over the story, doing its best to generate conflict. They found plenty of whiny second-raters to complain about the woman’s receiving what they confused with preferential treatment. But I read an interview with one brand-new UPT graduate, a male lieutenant, who was asked by an eager reporter, “How do you feel about women taking fighter planes away from the men?”
He responded, “For years, men took the women’s fighters away, and no one noticed. I congratulate this class of women pilots, who are finally receiving the aircraft they’re earned.” I hope this young lieutenant is now rapidly working his way up to general officer. Continue reading Women In Combat→
Yesterday was extremely stressful–a day of waiting and wondering–a day of thinking that my country might be ready to make choices I didn’t want it to make. Then, late last night, my glorious country elected Barack Obama for another four years, which means that we get four more years of having an extremely intelligent, thoughtful, loving, un-phony man–who actually listens to both sides before making decisions– in the White House.
Life is good today (except for the disappointment of some local races, such as Patsy Keever’s defeat). And, the cherry on top: even with a great number of people in this country wanting a more conservative agenda, we still didn’t choose people like Mourdock and Akin, with their now infamous, right-wing attitudes about rape–and, in three states, we even voted to legalize gay marriage. This election felt at times like a major crossroads for America, and we rose to the challenge: we decided to keep trying to be a generous, open-minded country, instead of a fearful, mean-spirited one.
In his acceptance speech, President Obama spoke about how he has not given up hope on America and about how he looks forward to working hard to keep this country moving forward toward an inclusive America that cares about all of its citizens, no matter what color, gender, age, or orientation. He spoke out loud about the reality of our “warming planet.” His speech summed up for me why I voted for him–and, if you weren’t able to stay up late enough to hear it (1:30 a.m!!), I recommend you catch it online.
And, by the way, he had only respectful things to say about Romney, and, even though this campaign has obviously been long and hard for him, he had only respectful things to say about the American political system. I particularly liked it when he said that, in a democracy, “we argue” and we’re going to keep arguing–and reminded us that there are people all around the globe fighting for the right to argue and to vote.
Barack Obama inspires me because of his vision for America–his image of a big, American family–a country that believes that, if one of us is suffering, then we are all suffering and that we can only rise if we rise together. And he inspires me because he’s willing to get down in the trenches with us and get beat up a little to fight for what he believes in. Barack Obama’s vision represents the country I want America to be, the country I want to live in.
Thank you, America, for voting him back into office! Now, let’s all get to work to help him make his vision a reality!
Only 10 days until the 2012 Presidential Election, and I, for one, am counting the days and the dollars. It is estimated that $6-8 Billion will be spent on the 2012 elections – a hefty price tag considering the state of our economy. I guess I’m having a hard time accepting the fact that “the vote” is just another product to be marketed and sold like coca-cola.
November 6th – please hurry up. I’m ready for empty mail boxes, no more arguments with colleagues, friends, etc. trying to convince me to vote for Romney, and no more lies or nasty comments on facebook, blogs, T.V. and radio.
Living in a battleground state like North Carolina has been a unique experience for me. I’ve become numb from all the non-stop attack ads by both candidates. Having lived in Washington, D.C. most of my voting life where 75 percent of the voters are Democrats, I never saw candidates spend time or money campaigning. They didn’t have to. Democrats simply always win in D.C., garnering only two electoral votes. North Carolina, on the other hand, gets 15 electoral votes, and the candidates work non-stop to procure them.
At this point, 10 days before the election, I can’t help but think all the attack ads (in the mail and on T.V.) desensitize voters. I know I’m there. I find myself hitting the mute button on T.V. as soon as an ad appears, any ad. And, when I go to my mailbox I find a boatload of ads crammed in there so tightly, I have to reach my arm all the way in to dig out the mail. And guess what? I dump them in the garbage can (un-opened) next to my garage on my walk back to the house. Well, occasionally I write “Return to Sender” on all the Romney literature, and so far, David, my postman, has removed them from my mailbox so I’m assuming he is compliant (without being complicit.) Thank you, David. Christmas is just round the corner.
I’m a woman, and I live in North Carolina. Oh, the power of a single vote.