ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Autumn
Not Enough Geriatricians

The Deadly World We Live in Now

As I set about writing today's post yesterday morning, pulling together notes and links on a health-related story, the teevee news droning in the background interrupted itself with the announcement of shootings in Baton Rouge.

It took me a couple of minutes to work out that this was not related to the killing of Alton Sterling in that Louisiana city two weeks ago. It was new violence, new deaths.

This on top of the attempted coup in Turkey that had consumed the news for the previous two days killing 265 people, following on the 84 dead in Nice three days earlier.

And so on.

Another day, another terror attack.

Another day, another mass killing.

Another day, dozens more dead.

It's all so ordinary now, isn't it. Even expected. And that is deeply unsettling.

But we are only halfway through the month of July and the number of attacks – domestic and terror – is stupefying.

July 1, Baghdad: 6 dead
July 1 Dhaka: 29 dead
July 3 Baghdad: 309 dead
July 5 Baton Rouge: 1 (Alton Sterling)
July 6 Minnesota: 1 (Philando Castile)
July 7 Michigan: 3 dead
July 7 Dallas: 5 dead (police officers)
July 14 Nice: 84 dead
July 17 near Orlando: 2 dead
July 17 Baton Rouge: 3 dead (police officers)

Coming on the heels of horror in Orlando in June, those are only the shootings and terror attacks that have been most widely reported. You can see an up-to-date, full list of U.S. killings at the Gun Violence Archive.

Among them are at least 29 police officers shot dead so far in 2016, according to USA Today. The Washington Post reports 522 people shot dead by police so far in 2016.

Have I missed any? Oh god. So many that it numbs the mind. The awful part that prompted this blog post is that I can't remember the names of the places without a cheat sheet anymore, let alone the people - BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY.

Not to pile on, but Wikipedia keeps a running list of worldwide terrorist attacks – this one is the list for July.

A side note about that last link: I take issue with the classification of two listings because yesterday's shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge do not appear to be terror-related. And I do not believe the truck attack in Nice last week was ISIS-inspired as most media have reported based only on the killer's Arabic name. At least one watchdog group agrees with me.

But those mistaken classifications are piffle. It hardly matters in the greater sense of a world that is going mad, and I don't know how to understand it.

The media and our leaders react to the individual events with platitudes never acknowledging the increasing frequency of multiple deaths one after another or that something has come unhinged in our world.

No one is doing anything useful. Moments of silence and prayer are not working.

It worries and frightens me that three and four and five occurrences (!) of terror attacks and multiple gun deaths in any given week will soon be the new normal – which can and will happen if it goes on at this pace much longer.

How do we change this? Who will do it?


I wish I knew of some answer, what ever it might be, that truly seemed to hold promise of bringing an end to this. I have friends who believe that if we just pray more or harder or differently, it will make a difference. One of them sent me a link to a prayer event happening today at noon, conducted via Facebook by Billy Graham's son, Franklin. But I have little, if any, belief that this will turn things around. People have been praying forever and if God does not know what we want and need by now, then I don't know why not. On the other hand, prayer can, like meditation, help to focus on the wish for a peace and relief from suffering for those beyond ourselves, so perhaps it will help.

All I really know is that the world seems to be very much out of kilter in so many ways. The young and the old are complaining of anxiety, depression, anger, addictions, inability to experience restful sleep, disconnection from others. The rift between income levels continues to widen, with a recent report claiming that nearly fifty percent of Americans would be unable to access $400 in an emergency situation. Our veterans (and the two young men who were apparently responsible for the most recent mass police shootings had seen service in the Middle East in the past few years) are expressing PTSD in droves.

Even in the animal world, things seem out of whack. Butterflies and hummingbirds (and fireflies here) are showing up in far fewer numbers than past years, when they are showing up at all. We keep being warned of extinctions and threats from climate change that many of those in positions to do something about it scoff at and dismiss as wacky and paranoid.

The global demographic projections of changes between now and 2050 are almost incomprehensible. If what we are experiencing now is any kind of foreshadowing of coming changes having to do with that, I don't know what can possibly be done to forestall them. And this morning, listening to the ridiculous sounds coming from the television as the media covers the Republican convention, the even remote possibility that Trump and Pence could hold the top offices in this country and be the leaders of the free world makes me want lean out a window and scream, "I'm made as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

But really, what can I do other than to voice my opinions, try to be mindful and aware, and plant things that support pollinators and help balance the carbon dioxide/oxygen equation. Small, but perhaps mighty in its own way.

Those three police officers killed in Michigan where I live should not be classified at terrorist related. The guy was facing a life sentence for holding a very young girl prisoner, raping her and video taping the rapes. But as soon as it happened, people on the message boards and social media wanted to blame it on race before the race of any of the parties involved was even known and once that was out there it was hard to reel it back in with the people who want to believe it's 'them' against 'us.'

One of the things we need to do is make sure we (the public) do not jump to conclusions each time something happens. It only feeds the crazies out there. We need to let the investigations play out so we're all reacting to FACTS. I just finished reading a blog that blamed Obama for the violence world wide for "not keeping his people in line." Such simplistic and erroneous thought trains cannot go unchallenged. Those of us who see the world more nuanced and complicated have our work cut out for us.

I should clarify part of my comment, regarding the percentage of people who say they would be unable to cover a $400 emergency expense. That was the number who would not have immediate access to that amount in cash, without using a credit card and paying off over time, or borrowing from friends, family or some other source. Certainly there are many among them who would not have access to that amount from other sources listed, but that number is not given in the report.

Kenneth Clark's Civilisation -- a series(BBC 1969?) stated that as unbelievable as it may seem civilizations do end and he states and demonstrates how it has happened before. Who thought the great civilization of Rome could have failed?

If we keep it up we will, if we are lucky, be able to start again as we did after the dark ages.

We won't be alive for that and probably will miss the end, too, as we are quite old ---because as he states, it takes a long time for civilization to end and it happens gradually for a while.

I think we may have started.

Remember the "Good ol' Days" when all we had to worry about was the Russians dropping the Big One on us.
It's time to duck under your seats boys and girls, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

There are too many of us -- an unfinished, work-in-progress species whose technological and reproductive success has far outstripped the evolution of its higher intelligence -- and nature is trying to kill some of us off, using new viruses, cancer, our own insanity, and whatever else comes to hand.

I've almost stopped watching the news. I just don't have the emotional reserves to keep dealing with all the tragedies. After the Dallas shooting, however, I did come away with the strengthened conviction that civilians must not be allowed access to military style weapons and armor. Otherwise we'll have a continuing escalation of police needing better gear to combat them, and the civilans then acquiring still better gear to outgun the police. That escalation has got to stop.

Annie makes a good point about there being too many of us. Poor starving people without hope have nothing to lose by going to war against those who are better off. And it will only get worse as resources become more scarce. People have fought over land and resources since the beginning of time. All made worse by conflicting religions and philosophies.

We have the lesson of what happened to the Roman Empire. It crumbled from within. I worry that we are going down the same road, unwilling or unable to learn from the past.

I've never forgotten an article I read in 'Money' magazine years ago. The most fearful segment of our society is old white women and the most endangered is young black males, followed closely by young black females.

Our fears skew far from statistical reality, and Annie makes a very good point. If crowds and guns are easy to find, and family members are reluctant to tell authorities about a troubled son or daughter with violent ideation...we need to monitor traffic at target ranges, shooting schools, and make the background check far, far more detailed. Oh dang, I forgot about assault rifles! What civilian needs one of those? Get that ban back in place!

Still, I'd rather be shot dead while enjoying myself than die of any of the lingering, devastating terminal diseases, but the odds don't favor us on that one.

Better to turn that fear to action and write your President and Congressperson every time you get angry about this issue.

The escalation and frequency of these shootings has rendered the news media even unable to go through the process of identifying/explaining the outcome of investigations before yet ANOTHER shooting occurs.

My late husband was in law enforcement, and it was stressful even then. But now? I can't imagine how stressful it is on, not just the officers, but their families. On the other hand, had my husband been alive now (gone 10 years) he would have been the very first to condemn the lack of gun control in this country. Thousands of guns, especially assault weapons, in every kind of individual's hands DOES NOT make it safer for anyone, particularly law enforcement.

I often think about whether there are aliens out there, if perhaps they are observing us and the reason we haven't heard from them, is they concluded we're a primitive, violent species intent on killing ourselves off. Sigh.

I'm reminded of a comment my Dad made once. I was questioning him in preparation for a college paper I was writing. Though I don't remember what I was writing, I do recall his statement, "Humans have evolved enough to be able to get themselves into trouble but not enough to get themselves out of it."

I agree with Cathy Johnson's post. We do what we can. I'll tend the compost pile in our community garden, grow milkweed for the Monarchs, help feed the homeless with my Unitarian Universalist community, and march once in a while for justice. If each of us does what we can to make things better around us, that may be the best we can hope for.

My idea is revolutionary: namely, that our Congress proceed to make laws which will forbid the manufacture, sale and use of a gun for any purpose except use by the armed forces. It seems that until the U.S. shocks the rest of the world by slowly becoming gun-free, the future will hold no fewer shootings by citizens or law enforcement either.

My new laws would even prohibit the use of guns by law enforcement, which will enrage many, but the fact is, that is what must happen.

I realize that such a thing puts in danger the livelihoods of many--those who manufacture guns, those who sell them, and so on. But ways must be found to
reimburse them. Yes, the cost of doing so would be huge, but what is the cost of
the mayhem and suffering in society today? The misery of families including children who will never see a parent again, owing to a gun?

Think it over and make a few suggestions of your own, how 'bout? Would love to have some!

I have volunteered for over a year now with a national gun violence prevention group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Our 3.5 million members are active mostly online, educating themselves and others on issues related to gun violence and lobbying local, state and national lawmakers. You may have seen them at the Capitol, both in DC and in your own state, wearing orange, carrying the "Disarm Hate" rainbow signs after Orlando, and speaking as survivors and volunteer lobbyists. We are under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety, which has an excellent "Resources" section on their website on gun violence.

Men are welcome in MOMS and you don't have to be a mom to join. I HAD to do something after my friend was shot in Tucson and then after innocent children and teachers were shot at Sandy Hook.

I know that the issues of violence, racism and poverty are much broader than anything our group can deal with. Doing what we can to make our little part of the world better is a start. I am now reading Parker J. Palmer's new book, "Healing the Heart of Democracy: the Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit," and will be starting a discussion group on the book. Another good starting point on gun violence is the new documentary film, "Under the Gun," directed by Catie Couric and Stephanie Soechtag.

Man's inhumanity to man has been with us since the beginning of time. The difference now is that we have invented horrific weapons with which evil individuals can use to carry out their demented deeds.

It only takes one power hungry individual to convince a group of like minded men/women to follow them and to lead a country to it's destruction. What happened to Germany is the classic illustration.

One in a lifetime a powerful person comes along to use his charisma for good. Martin Luther King is the classic example of how power can be used to combat the ugliness of hatred.

We desperately need another savior now. Our biggest danger is climate change and if we don't listen to the scientists immediately all talk of terrorism will be moot.

It's just getting to be too much to absorb, and it will probably get worse. I don't know what can stop terrorism. And If the deliberate killing of all those little children in Sandy Hook didn't turn hearts & heads straight about gun control, I can't think anything else will. It's not like me to give up hope, and oh I miss it.

Sadly, Barbara, it looks like a case of "You can't get there from here." America is awash in privately held guns. Even worse, it's filled with people who imagine the guns in their night table drawers are somehow keeping them safer from all the threats they're afraid of. The more frightened they are by the news headlines, the harder they will fight to keep their guns.

And then you've got that Second Amendment, which, as presently construed by the courts, apparently gives every American an inviolable legal right to own as many guns as they want. Not all Americans are batshit crazy about guns -- but enough are, that I hold no hope at all that you'll be able to solve the problem.

And that's just privately held guns. The US military, with all the allies it has been able to scrape up (including Canada), has been busy around the world for a long time releasing many other chickens... some of which are now, big surprise, coming home to roost. Again, not something I can see any way to solve. Prevention would have been much wiser than cure, but there aren't any do-overs.

Violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred. Actions of individuals do have an effect -- good or bad. We need to stand for what it is right and just in any way we are able. To accept that violence is inescapable is not an option anymore.

Barbara, I am away from home, now in Milwaukee visiting family, but I really wanted to respond to your post. I could not agree more. I too firmly believe that guns do not belong in the hands of most (probably all!) people. I am a pacifist, occasionally a member of a Friends Meeting, but in any case -- my first reaction to the killings of the Dallas policemen was the revelation of hearing that the man who killed them -- was a former member of the military. As was the man who did the most recent Baton Rouge killings. If trained to live by the gun, well, then, I imagine that it is hard for them to see it, not as I do, as a lethal weapon that should be in no-one's hands, --- what else can we expect. And yes, PTSD is rampant in the military. As is suicide. Indicating to me yet another powerful argument against guns.

I grew up in a sort of Quaker household - my father died when I was quite young, but my mother, although nominally a Methodist and later on a Presbyterian [when she wrecked our car and could not longer get to the Methodist church---], was above all a pacifist. And approved of my moves in that direction. I learned an enormous about pacifism, from Norman Morrison, who was the man who immolated himself as a protest against the Vietnam War, and who was a member of our Meeting - to A.J. Muste, and so many others in the pacifist movement. Above all, what I learned was that we can always find excuses for needing guns, committing violence, etc. -- but that does not make violence right.

So, yes to your words. I am an old academic, who has been trained to argue, but on this subject, I feel so strongly about our need to resist anything that borders on a belief in the "need" for guns, that I fight all my impulses to argue and I continue to hold on to a conviction that is anathema in much of America.

I can't add much to what has already been said. "Civilization" seems to be on a killing spree for a variety of reasons. If solutions, or at least more effective approaches, cannot be developed in the reasonably near future, I think it's entirely possible that our society may crumble as did that of Rome.

Military-style weapons in the hands of civilians (including criminals) who may or may NOT be mentally stable are a huge part of the problem in the U.S. However, as others have noted, the overarching problems are much larger and far more complicated. There is no simple solution; it's definitely not the Trump-Pence ticket as (some) Repubs would have us believe.

As for me personally, all I can do is continue trying to be a minuscule force for peace, non-violence and kindness in whatever time I have left. I try to pay it forward when I can. In the end I'm with Lauren: "I'd rather be shot dead while enjoying myself than die of any of the lingering, devastating terminal diseases, but the odds don't favor us on that one." Depending on one's view, the odds do seem to be improving!

"The new normal..." You know, I wonder about that word "new". Humans have been brutally slaughtering their fellows, retail and wholesale, for a long, long time. (For a reality check, search on the word "massacre". Wikipedia has a list. You won't recognize most of the entries -- such events usually didn't make the news. Kent State killed four people and shocked a nation. Some of those massacres we've barely heard of have totals in the tens of thousands.)

There have been many times and places around the world where it has been much, much worse. The risk to most of us here is virtually nil... compared to people who have to take their lives in their hands every day to go down the street to buy groceries.

I keep thinking about several things:

a) If we could initiate a program where we would pair a white household with a black household, so that they could get to know each other intimately, learn how each person thinks and reacts and why. Learn to know each other as people rather than stereotypes, see what happens to the other in the course of a normal day, learn the challenges each faces, see what they see, know each other's stories. We would become individuals to each other and then begin to work on our problems with each other in an informed manner...

b) get rid of military assault weapons, all of them, except for the actual military.

c) better psychological testing for police officers, weeding out all those who want to be a police officer because it's a power position, a way to dominate every one else. And better training of officers in how to de-escalate a situation rather than escalating it to a point that violence is inevitable.

Oh my friends, whenever I'm in total despair about the state of the world, I visit this blog and find a group of people so intelligent, so clear-thinking, so compassionate that I wonder how this small cohort can be representative in any way of the great majority of people. Is it because we're old? Is it that virtually all of us are what's called progressives or liberals? Is it because the site attracts intelligent thinkers and only intelligent thinkers? Whatever makes us who and what we are, I wish we could have met long ago---actually, not just virtually---and created a new and better world to leave to our children and grandchildren. But there I go. Descending into the sad world of woulda-coulda-shoulda.

Every morning we have what has become a ritual. I say "lets see what they think is news today." Mom says "yeah which new shooting, which new armed robbery, which new "terrorist outrage," and which bit of political idiocy passes for news." You are right about it becoming a dangerous world out there and some of it scares us. I don't know what the answer is but I don't favor our prevalent "blame the inanimate tool" mentality. Somebody pulls the damned trigger and that somebody is to blame. Unfortunately, too often the various somebodies don't get nearly what they deserve for their bad behavior, if they survive the violence they instigate. Too many cops believe they are gods who must be obeyed unquestioningly and, if not, they have the right to use deadly force. Too many believe they have the right to vent their rage at any trifle (stuck in traffic? cut off by another driver? your neighbor's dog barking?) in any way they want to. Everyone seems to have a sense of entitlement whether you are black or white, cop or citizen and no sense of responsibility.

Rant over.

Mary, I think people who are saying there should be fewer guns out there aren't talking about blame. Of course it's silly to blame an inanimate object, but that's not the point. They're thinking about how to fix the problem, and they're saying, well, step one... let's stop making it so easy for anyone and everyone to have a gun in their hand.

If a highway is designed in such a way that people keep making the same mistake, running off the road at the same corner, say, and getting killed in a rollover... sure, you can blame each one of the careless drivers for not slowing down enough, not seeing the signs, driving aggressively, underestimating the risk, being foolish. But when you're done blaming... they're still dead -- and because human nature doesn't change, more people are going to be killed at that corner, some of them passengers. Blame doesn't fix anything. You need a highway engineer to look for ways to rearrange the inanimate surroundings.

If nobody had any of the attitudes you've listed... you're quite right, guns would be less of a problem. They'd still be a problem, though. Even in some unattainable paradise where everyone was always gentle and happy and considerate of everyone else, with so many guns so easily available, there'd still be errors and accidents. People would still die.

Wow. Outstanding reads.

May there be multitudes who are of the same mind, and brave enough to search, find and demand a solution to eliminate the waste and pain this violence is causing.

The best and hardest-to-do remedy would be to eliminate private gun ownership. That's a beginning.

I can't remember who said 'behaviour breeds behaviour' but I believe it. The level of violence has increased world-wide. It is everywhere and in every form: wars, terrorism, domestic violence, urban violence, mass killings, honour killings, rape, racist attacks, homophobic attacks and proliferation of paedophile rings, all this coming at us every day and reported in graphically (salaciously) in the news. And, for entertainment, there's very violent films, video games, even 'snuff' movies; violence has become the norm.

Against this back drop there's climate change, massive inequality and unfairness, poverty or financial worries, health needs, rising mental health problems, social disconnection, community breakdowns, family breakdowns, urban decay/neglect, uninspiring politicians, corrupt bankers and multi nationals with little or no social conscious or desire to pay their proper taxes... I could do go. And on... I think it's all too much and the puss is leaking out all over the place and in many ways. Here in England there seems to be huge disappointment/depression/anger expressed in the 'usual' anti-social behaviour but, in my opinion, recently demonstrated in the 'Brexit' vote to leave the European Union with the highest electoral turn-out for decades (over 70%) - in a sort of collective self harm.

I believe there are things we can do - and there are many good suggestions above. I find being being involved in things that I can influence makes a huge difference to me. Holding politicians and organisations to account is useful so I sign petitions, 'phone or write, if I feel so inclined. If nothing else it's therapeutic; gets it off my chest rather than going round and round in my head: stirring up frustration, stoking fear. I also organise a monthly Supper Club - inviting politicians, academics, authors etc to talk on political/social topics, it helps keep me involved and sheds light. But there's so much to complain or do something about, it could easily be a full time occupation, which I don't want; I also like to smell the roses and dance, and find time for meditation and prayer, and yes a glass (or two) of wine.

Because I live in Tel Aviv, acts of terrorism (inside Israel and all over the West Bank and Gaza) are constant in the "neighborhood." At least since 1929. And so are wars (some euphemistically called operations) fought locally, regionally with regularity. My suggestions on creating a less deadly, more life-giving world or society? I am a lifelong advocate and sometime player in planning for equal access to education (for critical thinking, not brainwashing whether by clerics or political opportunists), lobbying and organizing for decent housing, healthcare, food, clothing, jobs, and one system of justice for all folks. I know I live in a dream world, but it's no less rational than alternatives. Thanks for your post Ronni, and for asking us to share ideas on making changes and by whom.

I have come to believe that stopping gun violence means stopping all guns, including those of law enforcement (not of defense, however). Such an idea is far outside the mainstream, I realize, and at the very least would be extremely expensive, shocking to many, including other nations, and of course abhorred by persons who produce guns and their accouterments, all of whom would have to be reimbursed. The Second Amendment is another problem.

However, before you respond to my suggestion with disgust, please take a minute to think about what guns are doing to America, our beloved America and its people, and how it is highly unlikely that anything short of a total ban on guns will have any effect.

Thank you for giving it some thought--



Thanks for your encouraging words.

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