Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The power of a loaded camera

Thomas Nybo wields a loaded camera and he's not afraid to use it.

Like most professional photographers, he carries a camera with lenses that are comparable to a lethal weapon.  And perhaps the comparison is apt, because we refer to camera "shots".

Sometimes the "shots" that the camera takes are just as, if not more than, effective as a loaded gun. Take the images that have won Pulitzer Prizes:

And how many of us remember the picture of the lone Chinese standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square?

For many, the most poignant shot of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was of a fireman carrying two-year-old Baylee Almon.

And how many photos of the Twin Towers have we seen, with the smoke billowing out of them?

"Every Picture Tells A Story" is the title of a Rod Stewart album, and it's true.  The cliche is true:  a picture is worth a thousand words.

Thomas Nybo knows the power of a loaded camera.  He's put it to use in, among other places, Nepal and the Mediterranean.  He was in Nepal when the earthquake hit in April 2015.  His camera showed the world the devastation that followed.

More recently, he and his camera have documented the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, putting faces to the figures of "millions of refugees fleeing Syria". 

You can hear the news reports.  You can hear the words of "earthquake," "refugees", etc., but sometimes, it's only when you see the images that the reality hits home.

Thomas Nybo attends my church.  On Sunday, I saw a note in our bulletin saying that our church's website will be redesigned for the fall, and Thomas will be taking pictures for the next few weeks.  If you see him, please just act normally.  (To which I responded mentally, "Ha!" :-) )

During our sermon, I saw Thomas busy with his camera.  I'd never had the pleasure of meeting him before, and I decided that I was going to see if I could meet him after service.

And I was lucky enough to do so.  He's a very nice man with a bald head, a big smile, and a laugh.

I told him I'd seen some of his pictures, and commented that if you have been in a situation such as the refugee crisis, you can't help but walk away unaffected.  He agreed with me.  I said that yes, I was concerned about terrorists coming in, but what about those who are just trying to get away?

He said in response, "If you don't want them to become terrorists, then treat them as you would anyone else."

That hit home with me.  Looking down our noses at refugees and immigrants and treating them as if they were already terrorists may indeed drive them into terrorism.  ("They already think I'm a terrorist, so why not be one?")

(Incidentally, when someone is admitted to our country as a refugee, the term "refugee" has a very specific meaning.  It is not just someone who has left one country and has entered ours.  And before they come to this country, they are thoroughly vetted.  That's not to say that terrorists can't pretend to be refugees before they get into this country.  But tarring and feathering an ethnic group with the brush of "terrorist" simply because a few of them are terrorists does a horrible disservice to those who are running away from the violence and horror of terrorism.)

Our motto at church is "Love First".  I'd like to think that, when Thomas Nybo's pictures are posted on our new website, they will be shots fired as ammunition of love.

Such is the power of a loaded camera.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, May 30, 2016

For Memorial Day . . .

In Flanders Fields 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.

In memory of those Americans who gave their lives in battle.
And in memory of the uncounted others around the world who also did so.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Breaking point

Both my BFF and I are at our breaking point.

She has a close relative in rehab who will be coming home next week, and my friend will probably be providing most of the care the relative needs.

She also has a friend involved in some very complicated legal troubles.

She's a writer, self-published, and these life rolls have really gotten to her.

I have a list of health problems that seem to go on and on and on and never get any better.

I also have a child with special needs that needs extra help, and dealing with his needs day after day can be wearying at times.

And I'm also trying to write and not doing it very successfully.

Both my BFF and I are very concerned about the state of the country.

And recently I read the following statement on a group I'm part of:  "In June of 2017 you're going to be sitting here wondering why nothing has changed.  And the answer will be the same.  Because you personally did nothing to change it."

I do NOT need that guilt trip laid on me!

Because, apart from voting, I do not have the resources to "personally" do something to change things.  And I truly resent being told that because I, personally, did nothing, that the fate of the country, world, etc. can be laid at my feet.

I have hit my breaking point.

So has my BFF.

Pray for us.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How much longer?

How much longer, Lord?

How many doctor's appointments must I schedule?

How many doctor's offices must I wait in?

How many trips to the pharmacy and prescriptions filled for meds that may or may not work?

How many medical tests?

How many more stories on the news of war, of terrorism, of hate and mistrust?

How much more arguing between Democrats, Republicans, and politicians of other ilk?

How much more mud slung between opposing viewpoints?

How much more fear to be stoked by the media?

How much more worry about children who may or may not be able to make it on their own?

How much more pain?

How much more sleeplessness?

How much more depression and anxiety?

How much longer, Lord?

How much longer?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The bullies have won . . .

After last week, I am convinced that the bullies have won.

Last week, the Presidential race was all but decided, and the GOP nominee is a man who relies on bluster and bluff to get his way.

The Democratic nominee is a woman whom the media have anointed to be the next President.

There are accepted positions to take on the hot-button issues of the day, and woe be unto you if you do not take those accepted positions.  Last week, I posted that I felt like I had to "stand there and take it" as far as a particular issue is concerned, and the response I got was, "Yes, you do."

A state and the federal government are suing each other over transgender bathrooms, and the feds are likely going to win because they are on the "acceptable" side of the issue.

This morning, a Facebook friend posted the picture of her child's bruise.  He was slugged at school after daring to speak against Clinton.

The event I keep flashing back to is when I was a senior in high school and dealing with bullies on the bus.  They were two boys who just would not leave me alone.  I finally got fed up one day and started screaming at them, and I punched one of them in the back.  That was one of the only two times I ever hit a bully.  I had been given the distinct impression that if I fought back, I would get into trouble and the bullies would not.

My parents took me off the bus and drove me to school for the rest of the year.  One day, one of the bullies saw me getting out of my parents' car and yelled, "Hey, Tina, why don't you ride the bus anymore?"

The day of the bus incident, I told my parents that the bullies had won.  I would do anything they said.  My mother screamed back at me, "Don't you DARE say they've won!"

But the fact was, they had.  They drove me off the bus, they beat me down emotionally, and I am still dealing with the issues.  This was not the only occasion when I was bullied.  It started in first grade and continued all through school.

The bullies are winning now.  They have the power and the resources to get what they want and to silence those who disagree with them.  You can be shamed and sued for disagreeing, and if you don't have deep pockets and a thick skin, you are sunk.

I didn't have the power and the resources to fight back against school bullies, and I don't have the power and the resources now to fight against current trends in society.  My opinion does not matter.

Author and conservative pundit Erick Erickson's new book is, You Will Be Made To Care, and it tackles some of the hot-button issues that society is dealing with.  What I would like to know is, what do you do when you are just too tired and too sad to care anymore?

I know we Christians win in the end, but right now, I may have to wait anywhere between 40 minutes and 40 years to see that happen.  Right now, I feel as if I'm lying on the mat of a boxing ring, the referee has counted "Ten!" and I can't get up.  I don't need to hear about my "ultimate victory".  I need to be helped to the locker room and given treatment for my injuries.  Maybe I need to go to the hospital and get my cuts stitched.  Then I need to meet with my trainer, who will either a) tell me what I need to do to win the next fight, or b) tell me that it's time to hang up my gloves.

I also know there are people who believe differently than I do on these hot-button issues.  Okay, that's your right under the First Amendment to believe as you do and express those beliefs.  But I feel as if everyone else has those rights and are allowed to express them without fear of retaliation, but when I or people who believe as I do express our beliefs, we are automatically shut down and crushed--and the people doing the shutting down and crushing are the ones with the resources to do so.

Mentally and emotionally, I cannot fight anymore.

The bullies have won.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The death of American childhood freedom

Freedom for at least three generations of American children died on October 28, 1973.  

That was the day that 11-year-old Jonathan Kushner of Tampa, Florida rode his bike to a 7-11 to buy candy for his younger brother David.  On the way back, he was struck in the head with a drill bit, gagged, and stuffed into the trunk of a car by two men, Johnny Paul Witt and Gary Tillman.  Jonathan suffocated in that car trunk.  

Upon discovering Jonathan's dead body in that car trunk, they took it out, mutilated it, and then buried it in a shallow grave.  It was about a week later that Johnny Paul Witt led authorities to Jonathan's body.  

After reading Alligator Candy, written by that younger brother, David Kushner, I concluded that the day Jonathan Kushner was abducted and murdered, freedom for American children was murdered also.

The murder didn't happen right away.  Rather, it was a slow suffocation, much like Jonathan may have experienced in the trunk of that car.  It began in Tampa, Florida, when parents would not allow their children to go out to play after Jonathan's murder.  And who could blame them?  All he did was hop on a bike, ride to the 7-11 . . . and he never came back.  Who knew if that could happen to another child as well?

But, as David Kushner writes in Alligator Candy, media attention to other missing children cases only fueled the fire.  There was Etan Patz in 1979, in New York, and then Adam Walsh, in 1981, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  More recently, you had Elizabeth Smart's abduction and rescue, and that of Shawn Hornbeck (discovered when another boy, Ben Ownby, was abducted by the same man that took Shawn), and the discovery of Jaycee Dugard 18 years after she was abducted.

I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the 1970's.  I was one of those children who rode her bike around the neighborhood and, from the time I was five, walked to school alone, just four blocks.   My sister and I went door-to-door taking orders for Girl Scout cookies.  Jonathan Kushner was abducted and murdered just twelve days past my tenth birthday.  I remember the TV news doing a story on his disappearance.  I remember when the news bulletin came on saying that his body had been found. When the announcer said that "the boy was murdered", I plugged my ears.  I didn't want to hear any more.  

My parents never told me that I couldn't go outside after that.  I still rode my bike, still played outside, still went to friends' houses.  But the slow strangulation and suffocation of freedom was beginning.  I don't remember hearing about Etan Patz, but Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered in the summer of 1981, right before I went away to college.  I saw his parents give an appeal on Good Morning America, the very day that his head was found in a canal in Vero Beach.  That case, perhaps more than any, slammed into the consciousness of the American public and brought home that yes, this can happen to your child, your children.  Combine that with a number of prominent child abuse cases in the early to mid-1980's (most notably, the McMartin preschool trial and the Country Walk trial), and the death of freedom was almost certain.

Today, kids don't go over to each others' houses to play.  They have "play dates".  It took me a year to allow my son to ride a bus to school because I feared that something would happen to him.  And the only reason I allow him to ride a bus is because it's a special ed bus that drops him in front of the house.  He would not be riding a school bus if he were not in special ed.  (I freely admit to a bias against school buses.  Some of my worst experiences of being bullied were on a school bus where the driver either could or would not do anything to stop it.)  Had my son lived within walking distance of his elementary school, I probably would not have let him walk there.  I would have walked him there and back or driven him.  

We live in a culture of fear, fueled by media attention to the few monsters that are out there and that do prey on children.  We fear their abduction by strangers, when most abductions are by a non-custodial parent.  We fear their sexual abuse by strangers, when most abuse happens at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts.  We won't let them play alone, because of fear of what might happen if we are not watching our children every single second.  We have protected and bubble-wrapped our children to such an extent that anxiety among children, teenagers, and college students has risen to unparalleled levels.  

And I'm just as bad.  I admit it.  My son has autism.  I have several good reasons to be careful because my son does have a disability.  And even though I can sit in judgment on the generations of parents that have overprotected their children, there are crimes committed against them.  Jonathan Kushner lies memorialized in a Tampa, Florida cemetery.  The show America's Most Wanted can be called a memorial to Adam Walsh.  The phrase "Code Adam" in many retail stores means "missing child".  While Elizabeth Smart has used her abduction experience for good, by advocating for similar victims--especially those victimized by human trafficking--the scars remain, I'm sure.  The same with Shawn Hornbeck and Jaycee Dugard.  It's only been relatively recently that Etan Patz's parents have finally learned what happened to their son when he disappeared.  And there are the many who have disappeared without a trace, and the many children who have been murdered by strangers.

So what do we do?  How do we keep our children safe without bubble-wrapping them and smothering them in protection?

Right now, I have no answers.  I can only teach my son to navigate the world as best he can while keeping an eye out for people who might hurt him. 

The men who abducted and murdered Jonathan Kushner were tried and convicted.  

Gary Tillman will die in prison.  

Johnny Paul Witt was electrocuted on March 6, 1985.  

When they read the list of charges that Witt had been tried and convicted of, and that he would be executed for, they could just have easily have included, "the murder of American childhood freedom".

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.