Geeorge Zimmerman and "Stand Your Ground," a modest proposal

If I understand the nature of the Florida laws, and the outcome of the recent trial of George Zimmerman, if I should find him behind me on the street I am legally justified in killing him.

He is a man who is confirmed to carry firearms at inappropriate times. (No Neighborhood Watch program would tolerate a member carrying a firearm, or working alone as part of the program.) He has admitted to shooting an unarmed person whose only confirmed "crime" was getting nervous about the creepy stranger who was following him on a dark and stormy night.

How can any of us avoid feeling that our lives could be at risk if Mr. Zimmerman is following us? We can assume that he is armed. We know his ability to decide who is a "punk" can lead him to target unarmed kids, with no information as to what other failed identifications he is capable of. We've seen the local police community fail to identify him even as a suspect in a crime until forced by public pressure, so seeking assistance from law enforcement may not help.

The logic, such as it is, seems inescapable, unless you are a supporter of Florida's Stand Your Ground law, or similar laws in other locations.

I do NOT advocate shooting George Zimmerman down on the street.

Instead, I propose the following.

If you find yourself in line of sight of Mr. Zimmerman, raise both hands above your head and spread your fingers to show that you are unarmed. Bring your arms down and, with one or both hands, do the classic finger-pistol point and shout "Bang! I have just Stood my Ground and executed an admitted stalker of and killer of a child. I felt fear for my life because he might think I was a punk. The law can't touch me." After that, ignore him. Completely.

Sounds silly? If this should start to happen to him several times a day, it just might make him begin to think about whether he'd done something wrong. If it means he doesn't get his morning coffee at a doughnut shop, can't get a cab to stop for him, and can't check out groceries at the supermarket (or even get cheese sliced at the deli), even better.

Leave out the "Bang!" part, and it is called Shunning.

If the courts won't put him in prison, perhaps the rest of us should make the entire world a prison for this vigilante child-killer.

Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown and appropriate language

Last week Representative Brown spoke on the floor of the House, in discussion relating to one of the multitude of bills introduced by Republicans all over the country that act to limit or eliminate access to reproductive health care by women. The official line is that all of these bills are meant to stamp out the murder of unborn Americans (my own paraphrasing), but many of them act to limit access to information about sexual health and contraception of any form, and to make it more difficult for women of any age to get services such as pap smears and breast exams if they are not well insured or wealthy.

As part of her address, Rep. Brown read a letter from a constituent, addressed to the speaker of the Michigan house, who closed with "Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."

The next day Rep. Brown discovered that she was banned from talking on the House floor.

This is the message I just sent to Jase Bolger, Speaker of the House.
Last week Rep. Brown read a constituent letter on the floor, and the next morning she discovered she would not be allowed to speak until some unspecified future date.

Her initial understanding was that the use of the word "vagina" was responsible, but she was later told that the Republican leadership in the House felt they had been accused of rape, and that this was what they found unacceptable.

This action demonstrates a serious problem. After recent legislation passed by Republican-dominated states such as Virginia, can you understand why many women could feel as though they were being made subject to a state-mandated form of rape? If not, please talk to some women on the subject of trans-vaginal ultrasound probes. Other states have passed laws declaring that pregnancy begins on the first day of a woman's period BEFORE she becomes pregnant (Arizona), and have threatened prosecution of a woman for engaging in action potentially harmful to a pregnancy who suffered a miscarriage (GA).

If citizens of Michigan express their concerns about your legislative actions, and their concerns reflect awareness of what other Republican legislators have already done or are planning to do, is it not your job to speak to the concerns of your constituents? Lisa Brown was doing just that last week, and you gagged her from speaking on that, or any other, topic.

If you feel that you have been accused of rape, is it because you feel guilty?

Religion versus evolution? I don't think so.

I just saw a news piece concerning a speech made by Dr. Richard Leakey. One statement he made was that he believes that people would stop denying the existence of evolution in the next few decades. It seems that this statement was based in the increasing quality and volume of information being uncovered about who we are and where we came from.

In responses to the article I saw some flame wars starting that began with the common arguments that "only atheists believe in evolution" and "only religious fanatics deny it."

This was my response:
There are religious believers, of many faiths, who use the scientific method and recognize the revelations provided through astronomy, physics, geology, and biology as evidence of both a changing and evolving universe and of a divine force that is truly greater than the perceptions of mere humans can comprehend.

There are other people who claim to believe in a divine power and use their belief to deny the validity of science in all forms. These people can not conceive of a divinity that is more perceptive or powerful than they are.

Religion isn't the problem. The problem is humans who have no faith in themselves, and who refuse to admit that anyone else, human or divine, might ask them to perform the impossible feat of changing their minds.

Domestic violence is never a joke

On April 29 a minister in North Carolina named Sean Harris spoke to his congregation at Berean Baptist Church about what to do to prevent their children from becoming gay. Since the tape of his advice was posted online, he has made a statement about his comment being misunderstood, and that he's sorry people were offended when they failed to understand his joke.

After listening to the recording, please count me among those who don't recognize a joke in what he said. I have already sent the below message to him, but doubt he will read it.

When someone can't even make a real apology after a mistake this serious, I think it deserves to be public knowledge. Sean Harris, you are now a superb reason for me to stay as far away from Fayetteville, NC, as I possibly can.

(Immediately after I first posted this, I got an automated response to my e-mail from Sean Harris. It linked to a newer response concerning his sermon, which begins by saying that he mis-spoke when he described beating children. It also has a link to his church's official stance toward corporal punishment [which says that striking the fleshy part of the buttocks, without intent to bruise or punish, but to chide is acceptable]. His message also repeats the theme that being tolerant of homosexuality is bad, and speaks about all the horrid, hateful messages he has received since last Sunday. Sorry, Pastor Harris, I don't see you as a victim here.)

Pastor Harris,

You recently spoke, from the pulpit, about punching children if their behavior seemed questionable. The statement seems pretty hard to misinterpret, and is definitely not a joke.

Do you use the pulpit to tell spouses to beat each other up for real or imagined mistakes? That would be despicable, and to offer such advice for the raising of children is even worse.

To compound the error, at various times in their lives most children will explore aspects of their gender identity. This has nothing to do with whether they will be heterosexual, but if you advocate beating a boy who puts on his mother's skirt at the age of 4, you are endorsing child abuse.

I'm a straight man, married to the same woman for more than twenty years, and I don't feel threatened by the presence of gays in the world. Having someone who is supposed to be a moral leader calling for the beating of children? That bothers me a great deal.

Shame on you, Pastor Harris. I hope you will pray on this matter, and that you will find that the Lamb of God had a different message than the one you have put forth.

Pregnant before sexual activity

A week or so back I wrote about a bill that had just gone through the Arizona legislature. It was easy to gloss over it as one more bill intended to restrict abortions by forcing extra steps into the process, requiring tests of dubious or nonexistent medical value, and so forth. The subtle detail hidden in the bill was that pregnancy was defined as beginning on the first day of the period the woman might have had before becoming pregnant.

The easy way to look at that detail is that it would effectively say that no abortions could be performed after 18 weeks instead of the 20 the bill appears to set as a restriction.

A number of people have raised the question of how this bill would effect the legal status of IUDs and birth control pills, but I am afraid that there may be even more to this detail.

In other states there are already efforts being made to make a woman responsible for a miscarriage if she had engaged in any behavior that could harm a developing embryo. I'm not sure whether charges were filed in Georgia(?) recently, but a (Republican) DA was at least considering manslaughter charges against a woman who had miscarried at about 7 weeks, based on a rumor that she could have had an alcoholic drink at some point in those seven weeks.

Based on that approach, it could become illegal to serve alcohol to any woman below the age of menopause because she COULD become pregnant within the next several weeks. Even a purity-pledge virgin would be included because she might change her mind and become promiscuous, or be raped.

The definition of "risky behavior" makes this even more disturbing. The kind of brilliant medically informed mind that crafted this legislation is of the same sort that is still mostly convinced that running, riding, or just about any other activity not connected to being pregnant and in the kitchen could harm either a developing embryo or the girl/woman's "female parts." As a result, any girl over the age of about 10 (who could be ready for her first period) through to women ending menopause could be penalized or "protected" in order to make sure no remotely possible pregnancy should be put at risk.

Is this an extreme and absurd extension of the concept? I'd like to think the answer was YES to both, but recently enacted laws in Virginia and the content of this legislation give me a disturbing sense that I am not being either extreme or absurd as far as those legislators are concerned.

I'm just sorry that Jan Brewer is clearly past menopause. I'd dearly love to see a waiter at a state function tell her she couldn't have a glass of wine because of the possibility that she might be pregnant.

Governor Brewer has now signed that piece of legislation into law, so any woman in Arizona can now be regarded as pregnant or potentially pregnant.

Arizona HB 2036--women defined as breeding stock

If you've been watching the recent flood of "pro-life" legislation, and wondering how far the extremists who are driving the neuvo-Republican Party want to go, the Arizona House has just offered a pretty good idea. As an easy-to-miss element in their latest effort to restrict abortions, they want to define life as beginning when the woman starts her last period BEFORE conception. Think about it. Think about it again. Then read this commentary.

Is the commentary overstating things? Sadly, I don't think it is. We've already seen the threat of prosecutions of women who had a miscarriage, based on assertions that they had engaged in actions that could be injurious to a fetus.

Any woman who aspires to anything beyond being a broodmare between the ages of first menses and end of menopause needs to know about this, and they need to act. As a start, all of the so-called Republicans who have voted for and voiced support for "personhood" and the various other friendly sounding terms beloved of the anti-women wing of that party have to be voted out of office, or recalled, now. Those who are running for office and supporting these positions (yes, this includes all the GOP presidential candidates) must not get our votes.

I can not imagine what form of brain-washing, self-loathing, and self-deception is involved for any woman who supports this lunacy. I can only hope that we will act rationally before we look back to The Handmaid's Tale as a utopian fantasy.

Rico is gone

The vet left a couple of minutes ago, carrying the tiny bundle that is all the physical remains of Rico. Being the cat he was, he was stubbornly continuing to go to the sink for water, and he still used the box to the end. He got to sit in a pool of sun this morning, but he wasn't interested in looking out the window, something he usually loved to do. His movements betrayed increasing pain, and even when he was resting there were signs he was often uncomfortable.

Despite all this, he still tried to give us love. Josh kept him company up to the end.

We're fighting the urge to think that we were premature. I am trying not to fear that we waited too long. At least we know he isn't in pain, and he won't suffer the indignity of not being able to reach the sink, or the box. This morning our senior cat, Dawn, seemed unable to recognize him, which scared and confused Rico. Maybe this was another signal that the time had come.

It's over now. We just need to get used to living with a Rico-sized hole in our hearts.

Ave et vale, Rico

Six years and fifty weeks ago, tomorrow, I went to the South Shore in Massachusetts to meet a cat who had been saved from his second period in a shelter, one which would have killed him if no one would take him. The woman who adopted him from the first shelter, not a cat person, had turned him back saying he was a "vicious cat."

The shelter records indicate that she made this assertion because she had been cooking chicken (a food he is extraordinarily fond of) and he had been monitoring her every movement from just behind her. She stepped back unexpectedly and landed on him. He got out from under her foot, and reminded her that he was there as many cats will do, by pressing his mouth against her ankle. He didn't break skin or cause any pain, but now he had that "vicious" label.

As a result, he spent six months in a cage, and for that time no one was allowed to even touch him. By the time National Abyssinian Rescue found out about him and got him released to a temporary home, they were concerned as to how well the cat would handle being with people again. Because of the special care we'd given to our first Aby, they asked if we'd at least take a look at this little boy, and decide whether we thought we could help him.

So it was that I arrived at a stranger's home, not sure what to expect. Once inside I saw a cat in the next room, and sat down on the floor. Rico raced over to stand on my lap and touch noses with me. Every bit of body language I knew how to read from him said "Hi! I really LIKE you!"

I spoke with the woman who was fostering him, and called home to describe my perceptions with Editrx. A little later, I returned to New Hampshire with an eager little cat in a carrier on the passenger seat. At our house he had room to run as he never had before, and as construction was finished on the expansion of the house it was Rico who invented the game of jumping from the loft into the kitchen/living room space below it.

He has explored all the sunny windows, enjoyed all the warm spots during cold weather, and been the greeting cat for the house, an often difficult post to maintain given how many of our cats have outgoing, human-oriented personalities. I don't think any visitor to the house has ever failed to remember him. From break of day to late at night, Rico would come by to see what you were doing, and to say "Hi!" again.

After almost seven years of "Hello!" he doesn't want, or know how, to say good-bye.

Tomorrow, with the sun high in the sky, we will say "good-bye" to him, and for him, because it is the last loving thing we can do for him.

Hi, Rico. I love you, too.

The hardest phone call

This morning I phoned the vet's office. Based on the vet's schedule, he will come here between noon and one tomorrow to give Rico the only help that is still available.

Rico has been up and down through the weekend. He cheered up after several feedings of chicken, which he adores more than anything (except, of course, more chicken). He has always preferred to drink moving water from the sink than any water that has been in a bowl, and as recently as nine this morning he is still managing to do that. It is increasingly difficult to tempt him to eat more than a bite of anything we've offered in the last day. He's been doing a good job of using the box to pass all the water he's drinking, but that's all that's gone through in a number of days.

In addition, his eyes have been weeping and rheumy, and he seems to have trouble seeing from one. It's hard to see their beautiful green color now, because the pupils are so wide. He's begun acting as though he doesn't feel well, and doesn't want to be touched. Yesterday he was taking pleasure from neck scritches, and Editrx provided those in abundance. We also got minimal, gentle nose touches and head butts, and we treasured them.

Josh, the junior Abyssinian, keeps checking on Rico. While Editrx was napping with Rico yesterday Josh joined in quietly, and I found the two boys curled up being paisley cats, touching each other, behind Editrx's knees. Josh is almost five, and has never been an only Aby. We hope he won't take it out on the other cats.

Please, wish us all well as we try to help him.

Sad cat news

Those of you who know us are aware that we're owned by cats. Our count has been five for the last couple of years. The senior male is a rescue named Rico, an Abyssinian who came to us just a few days short of seven years ago. At that time the minimal records on him placed his age at about three years, but I've always harbored a sense that he was older than that.

He'd had some bad times before he came to us, including six months in quarantine with no one allowed even to touch him. Anyone who has met him knows that he is a terrifically loving cat, who adores contact with people, and who thrives on running, climbing, and pursuit of sunny windows. Despite his diminutive size he has the heart of a lion (as well as beautiful leaf green eyes).

Last year he began to lose weight, and we began giving him extra, private feedings. For some months those helped stabilize things, but then he began to drop weight again. This time, a vet found a lump in his belly, and some testing confirmed an intestinal lymphoma that was reducing his ability to absorb nutrition from what he ate. This is not a form of cancer that is a good candidate for surgical response, and while chemo could extent his life by a few weeks, it would make him feel like a sick cat for the whole time. We've been giving him steroids to reduce inflammation and improve his ability to use the food he eats.

For three months he gave signs of feeling better, and briefly re-gained some weight. Three days ago his borrowed time ran out.

Rico's still with us. As it did two days ago, chicken perked him up amazingly last night, but he can't eat very much. He's less able to move around, but when I sat up this morning he came over to touch noses with me. Josh came and slept with us last night, and I'm glad they spent that time. Josh won't have an easy time as an only Aby.

We can't tell if Rico's in pain, or just weak and fading. The vet has hours till something like 1 this afternoon, when we could leave a message asking him to come over here. So far I think that Rico will be better off if he can quietly slip away, but if he shows signs that he's really hurting, we'll try to help him in the only way we can.

We love him, and we will feel his loss deeply. We're glad we could give him a real home, with all the human love he wanted, and with the space to run and jump to his heart's content.

If you knew him, please take a moment for a kind thought to help him on his way.
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