No, there is no room in sports (or anywhere else) for hate speech

Unless you’ve had hate speech directly lobbed your way, it can be hard to understand it’s power. I get it. If you’ve never been at the receiving end of the n-word, the f-word, been called a ‘raghead’, or had your synagogue desecrated with swastikas, it’s easy to say that it’s “just words”, that it’s harmless, or even that “hey, it fosters discussion.”

That last bit–the idea that hate speech can foster discussion–is infinitely worse than just saying that it’s harmless. Hate speech by its nature isn’t rational. It’s the difference between, saying, being able to argue the failures of the Affordable Care Act, and calling President Obama “a secret Muslim terrorist who wants to be a dictator”. The former can be productive; the latter, besides being a blatant lie, can only do harm.

One example on the power of hate speech: when I was in college, a student-produced TV show got in a lot of trouble for airing an episode with characters in blackface. The school convened an open meeting for anyone to attend for people to air their grievances as well as to make sure that the right people were brought to task. One of the people who spoke was a Rwandan woman, and her words still stick with me: “how did the genocide start? With jokes on the radio.”

See the thing is, no hate crime happens in a vacuum. The hate comes from somewhere. Whether it’s Mein Kampf or members of Ugandan parliament deciding whether or not being gay should be a capital crime, all of these things are talk before they are turned into actions. No one is born naturally with hatred in their blood; it’s conditioned by one’s upbringing, whether intentional or unintentional.

Yes, Damon Bruce’s rant about the “feminization” of sports does not compare to what’s going on in Uganda today, but if you think that it’s ultimately harmless and that misogyny doesn’t exist, you are very, very wrong. Yes, we have it a lot better today than we did 20/30 years ago, but we didn’t get to where we are by pandering and making excuses to those preaching hate speech in whatever its form.

It’s one thing (and a doubtful one at that) to argue Bruce should be given another chance, but quite another – and certainly more harmful – to argue that there is any place in our society for hate speech.

 

This post was a response to Rob Neyer’s post here


The Problem of Memory

I was there. I saw it, that home run, and all that followed. I heard the roar of the crowd—behind home plate I couldn’t see where that home run landed—and I felt the Stadium shake. That emotion, raw, passionate, that feeling that comes with winning, but only after you’ve known defeat—that was real. That can’t be faked. No matter how many asterisks, how many headlines, how many amendments to the record books, that one moment—a long ninth-inning home run against Joe Nathan on an early October night—that was something that happened, and it’d be foolish to pretend it didn’t.

It’s easy now to say that Rodriguez’s home run in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS was insignificant, and that the Yankees would have probably gone on to win the World Series, even if they had lost that game. The team won 103 games, A.J. Burnett had not yet unravelled, and of the team’s top nine hitters in plate appearances, only one, Melky Cabrera, posted an OPS+ lower than 100. For comparison’s sake, the 2013 Yankees have just two hitters in their top nine with an OPS+ of 100 or greater (Robinson Canó and Brett Gardner).

Yet, the 2009 season got off to a shaky start—the team did not gain possession of first place until the end of May, and as late as July 20th, they were tied with the Red Sox. Even when the Yankees did make it to the postseason, the feeling among fans was not so much one of confidence in October as it was one of uncertainty: the Yankees hadn’t advanced past the ALDS since 2004, and the last time they had made the postseason, in 2007, the ALDS was marred because that season’s star pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, got attacked by midges. The last good postseason memory—Aaron Boone’s moonshot—had happened six years prior. Yes, the 2009 Yankees were good on paper, and they were excellent over the full 162, but, in the terms of Athletic’s GM Billy Beane, [that] shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.

On the morning of Game 2 of the ALDS, even after the Yankees had won the opener, the tension was still there. After all, the ALDS is only a five game series; lose the second game and you’re fighting uphill. Anything can happen in a short series. When the Twins took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth because Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera couldn’t keep the game tied, the atmosphere might not have been one of despair, but there were certainly some mutterings of “oh-here-we-go-again”.

Joe Nathan might not have been Rivera, but in 2009 Nathan was still one of the game’s elite closers. The Yankees, who up to that point had just three hits the entire game, had their work cut out from them, and the feeling, when Rodriguez stepped to the plate with one man on base, can be best described by what my friend said to me: “If A-Rod homers, this place is going to go apeshit.”

I remember laughing then and saying something along of the lines of, just get on base. A home run would be nice, but let’s not be unrealistic, here. Rodriguez was known for many things, but coming up big in clutch postseason situations wasn’t one of them. So Nathan pitched and we held our breath, but we didn’t need to—the moment the ball hit the bat, it had that sound.

Whatever happens to Rodriguez now, whatever suspension MLB thinks is appropriate to hand down, even though Rodriguez has never, as far as we know, actually failed a drug test, I can’t forget that moment or my memories of it. It wasn’t the only heroic moment Rodriguez had that postseason, but it may have been the most important.

History, even baseball history, isn’t one long, unimpeded road of progress. It is stained with unpleasant things we might rather wish we could forget: Ty Cobb wasn’t the nicest guy in the world, the White Sox did throw a World Series, Pete Rose did bet on baseball. The thing, though, is that we can’t forget. These things happened, as did Cobb’s base-stealing and Rose’s hit record. You can’t ignore things that happened, or what they meant when they did, and I can’t forget the catharsis that happened in a baseball stadium on October 9, 2009. Some people like to say, when it comes to religion, that you can’t pick and choose the parts of the Bible you like and ignore the ones you don’t; whatever your feelings about religion, the same should be true when it comes to history, and even more so when it comes to history as well-documented as baseball history.


That Voodoo the Yankees Do

As of May 17, 2013, the Yankees have $97 million in payroll on the disabled list. The players include three starting pitchers (Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda), their starting catcher (Francisco Cervelli), first baseman (Mark Teixeira), both shortstops (Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nuñez), both third basemen (Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis), high-leverage reliever Joba Chamberlain, and, until just recently, starting outfielder Curtis Granderson. That’s a list of injuries that should…would decimate almost any other team. Even at the season’s start, few picked the Yankees to finish higher than third in the AL East, and yet, as I write this, the Yankees have the third-best winning percentage in all of baseball, trailing only the Rangers and Cardinals.

It makes no sense. Sure, the Yankees have a good farm system, but the consensus is, or was, that the most prized talent was still at the lower levels, in no way ready to help the big league club in a significant manner. Many of the offseason/pre-season acquisitions, including Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Ben Francisco induced reactions that varied from laughter to cringing.

You can point to the pitching—Hiroki Kuroda, as one example, has been fantastic—but while good, the Yankees don’t crack the top five in team ERA, quality starts, and are middle-of-the-pack in home runs allowed. No one, really, is going to point to the offense—again, the Yankees are middle-of-the-pack in runs, hits, average, and slugging, and towards the bottom in on-base percentage. Average pitching, average offense, and you’d expect an average baseball club, not one of the only three teams with a winning percentage higher than .610 (and, of this writing, .600).

Is everyone else just that bad? The Marlins, Astros, and Brewers really are bad, and the southern California teams aren’t much better. That said, other teams being bad doesn’t automatically make the Yankees good. The Yankees did play the Astros, after all, and they didn’t sweep the series. Some of the luck might be the schedule the Yankees’ have played so far, with large doses of AL Central and non-Ranger AL West opponents; bigger tests will certainly come when they face Texas and Boston.

One of the fun things about baseball is that sometimes things happen that defy all rational explanation—that’s one of the reasons @cantpredictball exists, after all. Perhaps, then, this Yankees team is one of those things—we can’t really explain, so it’s better to just sit back and enjoy it. People will try, of course; there is no other American sport so obsessed with statistics and arguments over which ones are better, as is baseball. Perhaps it’s all smoke and mirrors right now and in a month or two the length of the season will catch up and regression will rear its head; perhaps not.

If the winning does continue, though, the team will be faced with some interesting, albeit likely only philosophical questions. There’s no question Derek Jeter would be better in the lineup than Jayson Nix, but Alex Rodriguez’s slash line last season was barely better than that of Youkilis this year. What if Vidal Nuno has another  stellar start or two, and Nova’s ready to come off the DL but Hughes is still struggling? It seems far-fetched before, but how many of you could have imagined a first-place Yankees team that had Jayson Nix batting second?

I can’t tell you why the Yankees keep winning (except that, well, they’re the Yankees and insert joke here about it being physiologically impossible for the Great M. Rivera to retire after a losing season), but if anyone ever does discover the secret to the Yankees’ magic, I’ve got a football and soccer team I’d love to try it on…


Jorge Posada to come out of retirement to catch for the Yankees

Much of the talk this offseason has been about the Yankees’ lack of depth at the catching position, having let Russell Martin walk, and not signing anyone else to replace him. Fortunately, perhaps, for Yankees fans, that problem may now be abated, as Jorge Posada, who retired from baseball after the 2011 campaign, has announced that he will return once more, one last time with the other members of the Core Four.

Posada’s final season was not a good one by most statistical measures, but after a year off, he is feeling rejuvenated, not unlike the way Pettitte felt when he announced that he would be back for the 2012 season after theoretically retiring after 2010. Posada presents an interesting case: he’s certainly got the counting stats for the Hall of Fame, but there has been debate about whether or not he’s a true candidate. That said, with the Hall voters deciding this winter that they want nothing to do with anyone even remotely accused of using PEDs, Posada’s odds of election may have increased.

Undoubtedly, the person who stands to lose the most from Posada’s return is Francisco Cervelli, but with such a dearth of quality catching talent in the majors, there are plenty of other teams who could benefit from his services.

For more details, I highly implore you to check out the original press release, which contains Posada’s own words as to why he has elected to come out of retirement.


Smile because it happened


Opera Muliebria

The thing that you’re never taught is that the galling part isn’t the harassment itself; it’s that when it happens you’re not surprised by it. This, you tell yourself, is the price you have to pay to survive. You tell yourself things like if I had thin skin I wouldn’t be doing this job and the ends will justify the means. The job will be worth it. In public, you try to wear a mask. Try to tell everyone how wonderful life is at the moment. Take the book with your name in it and set it high on your shelf in a place of honor.

If inside you’re crumbling, you tell yourself that it’s your fault, and to grow up and deal with it. You’re a modern American woman; if it stops at just words, you’re lucky. You know enough women to know that it could be worse. Mentally, psychologically, you’re a mess, but physically you’re unharmed, so you should just shut up about it, because after all, who’s going to believe you, anyway?

****

You remember what your family once told you: you’re from a long line of strong women. They all had to be strong, back in the old country, to survive. You think about what they must have gone through, pogroms and the Tsar, and if you cry it’s only because you think you’re too weak. They had the courage to move half a world away with little more than the clothes on their back. After that, how can you complain?

This is, after all, your dream. This is what you’ve told yourself you wanted to do for the rest of your life, every day since you were 12 years old and told your parents not to worry, that you weren’t going to go as crazy for baseball as you did basketball and hockey (oops). Your parents wanted a doctor or an investment banker, but for you the passion and the glory was in baseball. They’d ask What do you want to be when you grow up? and you’d answer A sportswriter!

Back then, you never thought about being a woman in the industry. It was the 90s after all; feminism was over because women had full legal equality in the US, and if you were campaigning for women’s rights you did so for the likes of women in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. You never thought about women not being allowed in the press box until the 1970s, because you were born in the 1980s and thus the 70s might as well have been the 1400s. You never really thought about what a toxic work environment might feel like because the possibility simply doesn’t occur to a girl who’s taught that equality is good and inequality is bad.

Eventually, though, you grow up. You learn that people will argue about whether or not a referee is acceptable just because she’s female. That according to the Super Bowl ads that football is, well, a man’s game and if you happen to be a woman who likes it, well that just makes you weird. That Michael Vick can serve two years for dogfighting and be considered the scum of humanity, but when Ben Roethlisberger gets accused of sexual assault (something that’s happened more than once), charges never get filed. The abuse of dogs, it seems, is more reprehensible than the abuse of women.

****

When the harassment first starts you refuse to believe it. So what if he’s made some slightly inappropriate remarks? After all, you’re the one who’s got f— and s— coming out of her mouth every other word. You laugh at the way ballplayers relentlessly adjust themselves, so, you figure, you don’t really have solid ground to stand on here. At the moment you should be running away, fast as you can, you stay perfectly still.

It goes downhill quickly. No matter how hard you try to explain that the advances are unwelcome, that romantic relationships with your boss aren’t really your thing, the demand to say I love you is unceasing. Day after day, night after night it continues, but you’ve already put your notice in at your old job so you can’t turn away. There’s the line of questioning about what gets you off and even though you’re sobbing, there’s the accusation that there’s something wrong with you because you’re not comfortable talking about it. There’s the demand for a date, even though you’re most definitely not interested and he’s most definitely not available.

You put up with this, though. You enable it because it’s your ticket to your dream, because you tell yourself at heart he’s a good guy, he just doesn’t know where to draw the line. Everyone makes sacrifices for their dreams, right? So your sacrifice might be your dignity as opposed to your time or potential salary elsewhere, but everyone makes sacrifices so why should you be any different? You don’t tell anyone about it because, you figure, in the end who’s going to believe you? If it comes down to you or him, you’re not going to win. He’s a respected voice. You are not. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.

The ultimate blow, the one you should have, but didn’t, expect from the outset, is when he tells you he hired you because he wanted to do something nice for you, but not because of your innate abilities. All of your pride, all of your dignity tied up in this job was due to your belief you earned on behalf of your writing abilities—and nothing else. Naïve though you may be, you know that it’s not a job you can survive at if you’re no good at it. Indeed, a week after he leaves, you’re gone, too.

****

There are so many stories I’ve heard. The women who tell them aren’t crazy. They could be your sister, your daughter, your cousin, your aunt, your mother. Margaret Atwood, whose novel The Handmaid’s Tale might be more applicable now than when it was first published in the 1980s, states it rather succinctly:

A woman’s worst nightmare? That’s pretty easy. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

After all, we live in a society where Sandra Fluke is called a slut for taking a medication that you take because a ruptured ovarian cyst can be a life threatening medical emergency. We live in a society where actual, but unreported, rapes far outnumber false rape allegations, where the fake dead girlfriend of a university football player gets more coverage than what happened to an actual student who dared to report her rape. We live in a society where ‘don’t get raped’ is taught instead of ‘don’t rape’, where if a woman gets assaulted it’s her fault for letting it happen.

I’m sure some of you are thinking why has this piece dissolved into this feminismblahblahblah thing and the answer to that is that after a while it all blends together. The personal becomes your own lens through which you see the world writ large.
When you read an article about the harassment of Sara Ganim, the young, Pulitzer-winning reporter who broke the Penn State/Sandusky abuse scandal, you want to cry. It’s not because you think that she can’t handle it—after all, she’s probably made of sterner stuff than you are—but because it brings back your own memories, and because once again you’re forced to confront the fact that the most upsetting thing of all is that you don’t find it surprising, not one little bit.

Why I don’t really care about Alex Rodriguez and PEDs

(Brent Nycz helped with the research for this post; you can view his tumblr on the subject here).

If you’re reading this you’re probably a baseball fan, and if you’re a baseball fan you’re probably aware that on Tuesday the Miami New Times published a long article detailing a distribution center for PEDs, one that heavily implicated Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez (among others) in wrongdoing. This is apparently a Big Deal. Big Deal as in bright lights, ESPN cameras, fifty game suspensions or possible lifetime bans, even speculation as to whether the Yankees will attempt to void Rodriguez’s contract.

Oh, how I wish that sort of response happened any time a Major League baseball player was arrested or otherwise implicated in a domestic violence or other sexual abuse case. I mean, I’m not talking about something that’s a rarity here; in recent years Josh Leuke, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Milton Bradley, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Brian Giles, Everth Cabrera, and Miguel Cabrera have all been implicated in, arrested for, or charged with a domestic violent count. One (Leuke) plead guilty; E. Cabrera’s case was dismissed with leave to re-present; other cases are still pending.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a pretty serious baseball fan, and you don’t have to be a serious baseball fan to recognize most of the names on that list. All-Stars, MVPs, guys whose jerseys you might very well buy without giving it a second thought. Some of these guys (Rodriguez possibly the foremost example) were suspended by their teams, but on the whole MLB’s policy towards players who commit violent crimes seems to be one of “let’s not go there.”

Maybe if domestic violence wasn’t such a big, constant problem in our society, I wouldn’t care so much, but the thing is, it is. As your mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend…any woman in your life,* and she can probably tell you even if she hasn’t been a victim, she’ll know another woman who has been abused, verbally or physically, hit or spit at, raped or otherwise violated. As a society, we still teach ‘don’t get raped’ instead of ‘don’t rape’, and ‘don’t get beaten’ instead of ‘don’t beat.’ We watch shows like Game of Thrones (yes, I admit I’m a fan) religiously despite graphic depictions of domestic violence and then laugh it off as just being a TV show.

Those we hold up as role models, those we tell our kids to emulate, those whose posters we buy to plaster our walls or those of our sons and daughters, should be held to a higher standard, and really, is asking that your kids’ heroes not batter their wives/girlfriends/etc really that high a standard? Shouldn’t it be something we expect of any human being, celebrity or non, and if it does happen, shouldn’t we expect that the repercussions are as serious as the crime?

I know, I know, some people will want to brand me a militant feminist, but I’m really not; I’m just a woman who thinks that someone physically hurting a significant other or member of his/her family, something that’s already a crime, shouldn’t be given a free pass when it comes to baseball.

I understand why baseball—and baseball writers—are so obsessed with PEDs. The Steroid Era™ happened, and guess what? For a long time baseball turned a blind eye and the writers missed it, even when the drugs were staring them in the face (perhaps literally), so now it’s a game of catch-up and you-can’t-get-away-with-it-forever, and why despite having names like Bonds, Bagwell, and Biggio on the ballot no one is going to be inducted in Cooperstown in 2013 (but Ty Cobb, who beat his wife to the point that she asked for a divorce at a time when marrying a divorced woman was legal justification for an abdication, is still thus enshrined).

I just wish that the head honchos in baseball and editors at the major baseball or sports media publications realized that the image problem has less to do with the PED problem (and hey, hitting more home runs ever kept fans away from the ballpark), and more to do with the fact that the attention’s coming at the expense of actual, real issues, with far graver consequences.

*Domestic violence does not just happen to women; men can be and are victims as well. However, the majority of DV cases, and the ones cited here, involve male-on-female violence.

 


Hall of Fame blahs

If the members of the BBWAA voting for members of the Hall of Fame wanted to maintain credit, if they wanted to get away with the type of moralizing that many baseball fans do not care about, they should not have waited till the early 2000s to start writing about the problem. It’s really as simple as that.

Look, there are things that should be taken into consideration vis-a-vis the character clause: has a player ever been arrested for driving under the influence—thus putting other lives at risk? Has he been arrested or charged with assaulting another? Has he promoted racist thought or dogma? Has he done anything that is actually  harmful to other members of society?  These are the things that should matter, but as evidenced by the inclusion of Ty Cobb in the Hall of Fame, often don’t.

No, PEDs are not optimal.  No one would *prefer* it if his or her favorite player used artificial enhancers, but answer me this: if you’re a baseball player in 1998 or 1999, and you’re trying to keep pace with everyone else who IS using PEDs, what are you going to do? It’s more than just social stigma, it’s trying to make sure you can still get a contract*. Now, for some reason, those writers whose duty it was to report the problem when it ran rampant but did not do so, think it is ok for them to be an arbiter of morality?

The way I see it, the moment Cooperstown admitted Ty Cobb (there are others; his name is the highest profile), the Hall of Fame said “we do not care about the character clause”. Barry Bonds was the greatest player many of us will ever see in our lifetimes. There is no way to argue that, unless Mike Trout or Bryce Harper goes on to have a career far better than even their most optimistic projections. He would have likely been slated to go to the Hall of Fame even if he had not (supposedly) taken PEDs.**  And yet, the same writers who glorified his home run chase, both single-season and all-time, refuse to now give him his proper due.

The worst part? Players whose sole crime was having the tenacity to play baseball in the late ’90s and early ’00s are now kept out of the Hall. Niether Mike Piazza nor Jeff Bagwell ever tested positive for ANY banned substance. Piazza may very well have been the best offensive catcher in the history of the game and he managed just 57.8% of the vote. I’m not sure which bothers me more—the writers sanctimonious enough to turn in a blank ballot, the ones who are snobby enough to say that no one should get in on the first year on the ballot, or those who think that just because a player was in the same locker room as other PED users, he is somehow now contaminated.

Didn’t anyone pay attention in high school when they did the lesson about the McCarthy witch hunts?  Ok, maybe I’m dating myself—some of the writers may have been in high school when the witch hunts were current events…

I am a member of the generation that grew up watching Bonds, Piazza, Bagwell, and others—but most members of my generation haven’t been out of school long enough to be a member of the BBWAA, never mind have a Hall of Fame vote. I understand this is the way it’s always been done, but the message the writers have sent us here is that the experience we had watching baseball, going to the games with our parents or siblings as kids, and what have you…that it was all a lie, and one that could have been avoided had the writers done their job and put pressure on MLB to crack down when PEDs first became a problem—not years after it was established practice.

I don’t have a HoF vote (obviously) so my vote doesn’t really matter, but:

Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Biggio, Bagwell, Raines, Schilling, Walker, Martinez, Trammell.

 

*Baseball Prospectus has convincingly argued that the players most helped by PED use were those on the margins of an MLB career; players like Barry Bonds would have had Hall-of-Fame-caliber careers whether they used PEDs or not.
**Let’s remember, Bonds was found guilty of perjury–not PED use itself.

Stacey Gotsulias helped contribute to this post.  Read her work at It’s About the Money, Stupid and Aerys Sports.


Evensong

In the United States of 2012, it is easier to buy a gun than it is to get comprehensive mental healthcare.

This is where we are; this is what we’ve become, where the right to own a gun has become more important than the right for our children and our friends and family members who work in education to go to school and not have to fear for their lives in doing so. Owning a gun has become so holy to some that the price of needing security guards at elementary and preschools is not too high to pay.

When the US Constitution was written in 1787, wars were fought with muskets (which had to be reloaded for each. shot.), cannons, bayonets and swords. There were no automatic weapons, no .223 caliber rifles. Even after independence, the US, a weak, new-born nation, risked invasion from outside foes. Guess what? Almost two and a half centuries later, the US is the only reigning super power, and probably the last country on earth that will risk its destruction from an outside force.

I have had more than one friend come to me and talk of difficulty in getting treatment—and acceptance—for their mental health needs. It’s a bigger problem than just trying to find a doctor accepted by your insurance, assuming you’re lucky enough to have insurance. Playing video games and watching violent TV shows are not responsible for mixed up genetics or brain chemistry. They say in AA that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one; too many people are afraid to come forward and ask for help, to acknowledge that maybe you need it. Think about this: if you had a physical disability/chronic condition, such as carpal tunnel would you hesitate to put that on your job application?  Now, what if that disability was a diagnosed psychiatric disorder? Would you eschew contact with someone if they told you that at one point they’d had pneumonia or strep throat?  What if they told you that at one point they had been suicidal or even attempted it? Answer honestly.

We did nothing after Jonesboro.
We did nothing after Columbine.
We did nothing after Virginia Tech.
We did nothing after Aurora — which happened less than six months ago.

Can we do something now?  Please?

Can someone have the balls to stand up to the NRA and say ENOUGH ALREADY, say that Your right to own a gun does not come before everyone else’s right to ensure their children can come home from school?

Can someone have the balls to say ENOUGH ALREADY, say that access to mental healthcare should not be a privilege but a right, say that schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression are not joking matters, that you almost certainly know someone with a mental illness who is too afraid to talk about it for fear they’ll be stigmatized and lose their friends and loved ones?

Can someone have the balls to say to the media, It is no longer good enough to just be first, regardless of accuracy?  I don’t know Ryan Lanza and I won’t presume to know what he is feeling, but I’ll ask you, dear reader, how well would you handle it if you were falsely outed as the instigator of a massacre?

Don’t sit there and say that you can’t do anything, because you can.

Write your congressman and senators.  Do it by hand, because one handwritten letter was worth 500 emails when I was in middle school and a lot more people have the internet now than they did in 1999. Demand that your representatives in Congress have the balls to stand for something other than partisan hackery.  Tell them that mental healthcare is every bit as important as physical healthcare and that owning a gun should not be more sacred than the ability of the children born in a country founded from the ideas birthed during the Enlightenment to go to school and come home safe, and yes, this applies to every schoolchild in every school district in the country, regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability or socioeconomic status.

Don’t fetishize automatic weapons or the names of those who use them. Read news from responsible media outlets who do not interview children in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event that they are most likely too young to be able to emotionally handle.

Ribbons in your facebook profiles and retweets of ‘pray for the victims’ accounts are nice, but they won’t do anything.  If you want to do something, DO something. Donate blood. Learn First Aid. If you can afford it, donate to victims’ families or their schools (and do not restrict your donations to just the Newtown families; many other school shootings garner far less media attention). Write your congressmen and women.

Because the tragedy isn’t so much that we knew the victims; most of us didn’t.  The tragedy is now that none of us ever will.

In Memoriam

Charlotte Bacon, 6;
Daniel Barden, 7;
Rachel Davino, 29;
Olivia Engel, 6;
Josephine Gay, 7;
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6;
Dylan Hockley, 6;
Dawn Hocksprung, 47;
Madeline F. Hsu, 6;
Catherine V Hubbard, 6;
Chase Kowalski, 7;
Jesse Lewis, 6;
James Mattioli, 6;
Grace McDonnell, 7;
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emile Parker, 6;
Jack Pinto, 6;
Noah Pozner, 6;
Caroline Previdi, 6;
Jessica Rekos, 6;
Avielle Richman, 6;
Lauren Russeau, 30;
Mary Sherlach, 56;
Victoria Soto, 27;
Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
Allison N. Wyatt, 6


And Sometimes It Rains

This isn’t supposed to happen.  It’s just weather, and you, jaded New Yorker, think of weather as an opportunity for picture taking, and not much else. You laugh at Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish, joke about how how with some water & a flashlight, you’re ready for anything. You remember Irene, last year, and how nothing happened, and you expect more of the same. Maybe you’ll mourn the loss of the subway for a night, but you figure the next day, after the storm, you’ll get on with your life and make jokes about it, just as you do with anyone else.

You don’t expect this, though. You don’t expect — while you still have power — to see that photo of water pouring into the PATH station in Hoboken like in the movie Titanic when water starts to rush in through the cabin doors. You don’t expect to hear about babies being evacuated down nine flights of stairs because NYU Langone’s backup generator failed. You don’t expect to see the South Ferry station flooded to the ceiling, you don’t expect that the next day, when you can’t get in touch with your family right away because they have no power, to feel that sense of unease you can’t describe, and you certainly don’t expect to see the boardwalks in Seaside Heights and Atlantic City obliterated. It’s just weather, you think. It’s just some wind and rain. How can it do this? How can it take out the subway, flood lower Manhattan, destroy those iconic memories of so many of our vacations?

You’re used to being the one that sends money and/or blood to the Red Cross to help out others in natural disasters; you’re not used to needing those services yourself. Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina — these you remember seeing on tv, remember being unable to comprehend the damage. You never expect the damage to come home. You can’t remember the last time you went to sleep just hoping, praying that everyone and everything would be okay when you woke up in the morning…and you’re unfamiliar with that feeling of sickness when you find out that it’s not.

You know that eventually all the downed trees will be removed, the power lines restored, that once again you’ll have a use for your Metrocard and that someday you’ll go down the Shore again for a weekend (or more) over the summer, but it will take time, and you know that it won’t be the same. In some respects it feels wrong to think about the future when so many are just trying to get through the present, but you can’t help it.

One storm isn’t supposed to do this. You’re supposed to be greeting Trick-or-Treaters today or watching the Halloween parade. You’re supposed to be either agonizing over who to vote for next week or making the final push for your chosen candidate. You’re supposed to be taking photos of the gorgeous fall colors while sipping your pumpkin ale and getting excited for that opening night Knicks-Nets matchup. You’re not supposed to be numb with shock, you’re not supposed to want to cry. It’s just weather.  This isn’t supposed to happen.


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Since 6 Jan 2009, 14.36 EDT

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