It is overwhelming to consider the grief being experienced by the parents of all those who perished in the ferry sinking. But it is heartbreaking and heart wrenching to hear the panic in the voices who did perish.
Another school, another innocent set of lives randomly pushed off course, another river of blood runs red.
And another hail of criticisms rain down, accusations are flung wide, and strawmen are set up.
This morning in a town outside of Pittsburgh, a student went on a rampage, and now 20 young people are hospitalized, several in surgery, fighting for their lives. Others, lucky enough to escape the attack, sit paralyzed in shock, fear, as the predictable words that always accompany these scenes emerge, "I can't believe it happened here."
I have written countless times that Here is a moving target. That Here can become your town's name in the blink of an eye. That Here cares not how small or quaint your hamlet may be; how secure you sleep in your bed at night; how closeknit is your community.
Here, USA waits silently on the outskirts of every town, just waiting for tragedy to unfold, for its moment to rename.
This time the town receiving the fresh coat of paint on the "Welcome to" sign is Murrysville.
Details are still coming in, but what is known is that a 16 year old male sophomore unleashed an attack by knife on students in a hallway and classrooms, and before being subdued, at least 20 were stabbed in their torsos, backs, abdomens, and chests.
The "Why" component is unknown at this time. And while the attacker is alive - he was apprehended and handcuffed by a school resource officer - we may never fully know his motivation.
That, of course, leaves a void to be filled by the world of internet bystanders, gawking, rubber necking, pontificating.
NRA supporters are out in full force taking advantage of the weapon used in the attack. See? It wasn't a gun!
I don't care what the weapon was. It happened. Innocent people were attacked. Thankfully, doctors are hopeful that all will survive. So I guess I take that back. I do care what the weapon was, because if it had been a gun, many of these students would have not made it from the hallway floors, much less to an operating room.
The handwringing religious are out in full force using this attack to again preach about God being "forced" from the classroom. Give it a rest. God doesn't belong in a classroom, unless said classroom is in a church run school. And even then, being doused in the Holy Spirit daily does not insure that a student will never wield a knife, pull a trigger.
A public school is a secular, taxpayer funded institution. It is not a cathedral, temple, or mosque. Whatever religion in which you choose to immerse your offspring has no business beyond the door of your home, the threshhold of your place of prayer.
The notion of God, any god, does not insulate one from the realities of the world. And trying to shove God in and science out of the classroom isn't the answer. Mississippi schools actually teach their students that homosexuality is a sin - is illegal - and pound abstinence education into the kids, but guess what? Mississippi is ranked #2 in the nation in rate of teen pregnancy. #2. Their teen birthrate was 55 out of 1,000 in 2010. Ironically, Mississippi is also ranked highest in the nation in church attendance.
Seems to me that you can preach all you want, but reality isn't a churchgoer.
Reality is what we live, what we experience, what happens moment to moment.
Restrictions won't keep the guns or knives out of the hands that want them; church won't insure a young person doesn't lash out, and a lack of church doesn't insure a young person will. God can no more be a deterrent as a scapegoat.
Look, I went to church every Sunday as a teen. I was raised Catholic. I attended CCD. I had heaven, hell, guilt, and damnation preached at me regularly. I also turned in my V card as a teen because in that moment, the last thing on my mind was God, the church, my parents.
That doesn't mean all churchgoing teens ignore what they are taught. It just means that all teens, church going or not, are individuals. And as such have unique thoughts, feelings, emotions, challenges.
The teenage years are a struggle. They just are. Just like the line that opens A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
A struggle to fit in, to find your place, to figure out who you are. And a high school environment is the toughest place in which to do that because high schools are all about defining, labeling. Jock? Stoner? Geek? Slut? Stud? Manwhore? Brainiac?
Insecurity is rife in the hallways of our high schools. Peer pressure is real, and bullying is a daily nightmare for MANY students. Sadly, many students flounder just as badly outside the confines of the school as they do within. Parents who are disconnected, or worse, only want to keep the peace so they let the kid run the show, offering no boundaries, consequences, security.
I see it every single day. Teens who are so desperate for identity, any identity; acceptance, any acceptance; that they cling to whatever group offers them a feeling of inclusion. Drugs, sex, all manner of lawbreaking - it all happens.
And the reality? Those same kids do go to church. Their parents do preach at them. They are threatened with damnation and salvation.
But in the face of what their reality is, a teen naturally reaches for the tangible, not worrying about the invisible. Teens are notorious for not thinking beyond the moment in which they are taking the current breath so why do you think they would concern themselves with abstract concepts like heaven or hell when they can experience FUN - or what passes for it - right now?
Without support, consistency, constancy, a young adult will flounder. Maybe they will dodge the metaphorical bullet or blade, and not add an arrest to their record, a pregnancy to their lives, or an overdose to their systems, but without guidance, accountability, oversight, and restrictions, a teen will fall.
And that's when the metaphorical turns real. The bullets deadly, the knives turning the hallways red.
There is no background yet on the attacker from this morning. Two parents, one? Straight As or failing? Bully or bullied? Religious or not?
Will it matter? To those who will agenda-ize this horror, sure. Facts, traits, heresay will be used, bent, warped, distorted to fit their message. But in the end, knowing why won't make it not happen again.
And it will. Despite all manners of gods, availability of weapons, or hoping against hope. It will.
Because reality doesn't care about prayer or agendas or ideals.
Reality just happens. And Here just patiently waits to move in.
Dead because there is no requirement beyond a boner to procreate. No greater intent than the exchange of bodily fluids in the game of sexual Russian Roulette. No license to take a baby home from the hospital. And no true checks and balances to insure that those babies are loved, wanted, cared for, cherished in the years that lie ahead.
Becoming a parent is tragically easy. We see it every single day. And while making a child takes no effort, responsibly raising one proves to be beyond the reach of the intellect and emotions of far too many.
Like this pathetic snail trail: Jessica Dutro-Boggess.
And her equally slimey discharge of a boyfriend, Brian Canady.
These two bags of skin are on trial for the heinous beating death of her four year old son, Zachary (he died the day after he turned 4), back in August 2012. Their reason?
She thought the child was gay.
Yep, you read that right.
That poor, defenseless little boy. She thought he was gay so what's a mom to do? Beat it out of him, of course.
Back in May of 2012, she even sent Brian a message on Facebook that read, "hes (sic) going to be a *** he walks and talks like it ugh it pisses me off."
Sadly, even though police uncovered a history of abuse after the fact, no one helped the child in the run up to his death. Although the "family" was living in a homeless shelter, shelter officials saw nothing that would have caused them to call CPS.
Until that fateful day in August 2012 when he was rushed to the hospital from the shelter after collapsing. Doctors discovered blunt force trauma so severe he had holes in his intestines. That is how hard he had been kicked by Canady.
Again, because these pieces of excrement thought he was gay.
Canady admitted to engaging in a pattern of abuse with Jessica against the boy. She is currently on trial, and because our justice system is so stellar, he was allowed to cop to a lesser charge in exchange for testifying against her.
HE kicks a child so hard the child's intestines rip open, spilling the contents and slowly poisoning him to death, yet he is going to get off easy.
It is heartbreaking to me. Every case of abuse is, but this just speaks to such a willfullly ignorant brutality, it sickens me.
I'm just curious - and perhaps Jessica and Brian would be the perfect specimens for this - if it is possible to beat the gay out of someone, perhaps it is also possible to beat the straight out of someone.
Let's try, shall we? I mean, we would only be following their logic, right?
People are gay in this world. They just are. And they are made by straight people every single day.
Being gay is not some disease. It is not some conspiracy to oogie you out. It is not an opted for lifestyle just so a child can embarrass their ignorant parents. And it is not some fashion statement someone makes like wearing bell bottoms or shaving half their head.
Homosexuality, every bit as much as heterosexuality, JUST IS.
It's not inherently good, it's not inherently bad. It just IS.
And no one, especially a tiny child, deserves to die just because this planet is still filled with stupid people who refuse to understand that.
May this little boy rest in peace. And may these shitbags never know another moment's peace as long as they live.
Given the outrageous statements that routinely fall from the gobs of politicians these days, I sit here shocked that I can apparently still be shocked.
Not a day goes by without a politico doubling down on their cohorts' attempts to make my womanhood dirty or my sexuality something about which I should be ashamed. (Note: I like sex. A lot. In fact, I like a lot of sex. A lot. Deal with it, GOP.) There is no news cycle that passes without some elected official invoking God to strengthen their particular view of an issue. And no microphone and podium are left unattended when they can be used as a bully pulpit to condemn or misinform.
I'm sadly as used to political idiocy as I am breathing. I take it for granted. It's just there. Something that happens whether I pay attention to it or not. Something as predictable as the tides, as regular as a bowel movement.
So I must give credit when someone can actually turn my head, drop my jaw, and move me to abuse my keyboard. Today, that credit goes to a man with a true fecal cerebrum, Scott Lively, candidate for the office of governor of Massachusetts.
Scott, for those who are unfamiliar, is an evangelical preacher. And a dangerous one. He travels the world preaching about homosexuality. He calls it a “behavioral disorder.” He takes credit for the passing of Russia's "gay propoganda laws", and it is he who inspired the lovely Ugandan anti-homosexuality law when he addressed their Parliament several years back.
In the United States he works tirelessly against gay marriage, believes in sodomy laws (riiiiiiiiight, because we all know that only gay people like the booty), and envisions a day when there is an anti-gay revolution.
He also believes President Obama is the anti-Christ.
But back to his favorite topic, homosexuality.
He firmly believes it is a choice. A sin. A lifestyle. Something akin to sucking a thumb that aversion therapy can deal with. Therapy and prevention. That'll fix ya. Some counseling and suddenly your eyes will open and you will lust the V, or the D, depending on which factory installed equipment with which you entered this world.
And if you don't agree to ex-gay therapy?
You should go to jail.
That's right. Jail.
And this man thinks he will be governor.
I am always stymied by these people who tout therapy. Like being gay can be cured with behaviorial modification. Look, I am sure if you wired a gay man's balls to a car battery and every time he turned his head to look at another man you shocked him, he would stop looking.
BUT THAT WOULDN'T MAKE HIM UNGAY. IT WOULD MEAN HE DOESN'T LIKE HIS BALLS BEING SHOCKED BY A CAR BATTERY.
I am always curious as to why they can't turn their topic around. Surely if you can ex-gay someone, by the same token, you can ex-straight them. Right?
Blasphemy! I know, I know, God hates fags, they are all going to hell, and I have an adjoining suite because I support them.
Sigh. What this world really needs is ex-cray therapy.
Well, I have two things to say to Scott.
1. If treating my fellow human beings with love, dignity, and equality means I am going to Hell, fine. Less to pack.
2. You have as much chance of being elected as you do going to heaven. I may not be 100% certain about what happens when we die, but I do believe that hatred like yours will have its comeuppance here on Earth at the ballot box when you are handed your ass by voters.
(Just don't do anything with it that I wouldn't. Oh, wait...)
It's no secret that life is unfair. Whether it comes in the form of not getting credit for your hard work, seeing bad things happen to good people, or missing the winning lotto numbers by a hair - we are all familiar with life's little inequities.
Typically we let them roll. A shrug, an eyeroll, an exasperated sigh, and we move forward. The older you get, the more you accept that sometimes shit just happens, and that you simply cannot control all of life's outcomes. You also start to learn that, as I am fond of saying, "Screaming at a wall, is never going to move the wall."
As adults we learn to "big picture" things, focusing on the overall, instead of the minutia. We tell ourselves that we can eat a certain amount of shit because in the end it will all balance out. In the end the unfairness will be worth it. Or in the case of certain fellow earth travelers, that karma will eventually deliver the ass kicking that our fear of the justice system prevents us from delivering ourselves.
That fear of our justice system keeps most of us out of it. We like our freedom so we behave ourselves. But we also behave ourselves because, by and large, we are good people. Decent people. Respectful and discerning people. And we trust that that same justice system will protect us from those who are not.
This week, the good people who play by the rules were again reminded that life is unfair. That bad things happen to good people, and that the bad people who hurt the good people can still have good things happen to them.
You just have to have the right judge. The right connections. The right deep pockets.
Meet Robert H. Richards IV.
Robert likes children. Really likes them. In fact, Robert likes them so much that he repeatedly raped his 3 year old daughter in 2005. He also molested his 19 month old son during that same time period.
Now, you may be wondering why this story is just now bubbling its way to the top of the national brewpot. After all, that's 9 years ago.
Well, his ex-wife has now decided to file a lawsuit against him, on behalf of her children seeking compensatory and punitive damages for assault, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. So all the sickening details are being dragged into the light. All the sickening details this piece of shit wishes would have stayed buried in the local news. All the sickening details a certain judge wishes would have stayed locked away forever.
You see, back when he was entering his daughter's bedroom at night, penetrating her with the fingers of one hand while he jerked off with the other, he consistently warned the little girl “to keep what he had done to her a secret.”
Well, that worked for a while, but the tiny child eventually told her grandmother who told the girl's mother, who took her to the pediatrician, who in turn alerted police, who arrested Richards.
The State Attorney General indicted him on two counts of second-degree rape, a Class B felony. That typically carries a mandatory two-year prison term for each conviction - Delaware law requires a sentence of two to 25 years in prison but sentencing guidelines urge a sentence of two to five years.
Well, staring down the barrel of that legal gun, Richards availed himself of his connections and his money. He is an heir of the DuPont family fortune. He has grown up with all the rights and privileges money can buy, all the untouchableness that comes with being insulated from true responsibility, from reality.
He hired top Wilmington legal eagle Eugene J. Maurer Jr. and pleaded not guilty. But, OOPS, he failed a polygraph test and confessed that he had in fact done the deeds, but that “he was ill and that he needed medical treatment.”
Fast forward to 2008. He pleads guilty to a single count of fourth degree rape, avoiding mandatory prison time. Now, in Delaware, fourth degree rape is still a Class C felony meaning it can carry upwards of 15 years, but has no minimum requirement. Guidelines recommend up to 30 months.
Let me pause to remind you of the victims here. A three year old girl and a 19 month old boy. (He only copped to the molestation of his son in 2010 when he was again taking a polygraph in order for authorities to get a more honest assessment of his sexual history. As he failed line after line, he began spewing forth this precious bullshit: He “was very concerned that something happened with his son but that he has repressed the memories.“ He told the examiner he worried that his acts were “similar to what happened with his daughter, but he promised that whatever I did to my son, I will never do it again.”)
Pardon me while I pause to barf on my shoes.
OK, back to 2008 and the courtroom. As he stood in front of Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden she sentenced him to eight years in prison. BUT she then suspended that for Level II probation. Why, you ask? Because she thought he "will not fare well" in prison.
I'll pause while you barf on your shoes.
He will not FARE WELL?!?!?!
I have news for Judge Jan - the good people of this world who understand the words RAPE OF A THREE YEAR OLD, don't give a flying fuck in a sandstorm if he fares well.
He deserves to fare UNWELL. He deserves absolute punishment, prison, and all the fun times his fellow prisoners may mete out.
HE. RAPED. A. TODDLER.
HE. ABUSED. HIS. SON.
I don't care that he is some lifetime winner of the trust fund baby sweepstakes. I don't give one whit that he has been coddled all his life and lives off the money his relatives made in this world. I don't want to hear that he suffers from the same bullshit "affluenza" that bought the teen in Texas a free ride for killing four people.
I care only that there are two children who are going to carry his abuse forever. The scars he left may not be visible, but they are there. He did more than violate their bodies, he inflicted upon them memories. And those will never fade away like a cut in flesh. They will not mend like a broken bone.
This pathetic waste of our oxygen supply gamed the system with his money. Plain and simple. You tell me that some regular John Doe, some blue collar paycheck-to-paycheck no name would get a deal like this. That an admitted child rapist with no backing would be allowed to cry "medical issue!" upon being cornered and be let off with a legal hug and kiss.
This is as unfair as it gets.
When the legal system can be bought and sold in this fashion there is no writing it off to the "bigger picture." I am unwilling to just deeply sigh and move on. Richards and Juren are personal affronts to civilized society. This judge is as much an aberration as is the man she coddled. She is as guilty of raping these children as is he, because she let him off. She essentially said, "It's ok. No biggie. You tortured a toddler, but we don't want you to suffer."
I'll be blunt. They both deserve to fare unwell. Their stories and faces are now nationally known, internationally known. And they deserve every uneasy, scared, constantly-looking-over-their-shoulders moment they will endure for the rest of their worthless lives. They are now, and will be until they die, social pariahs.