Friday, December 11, 2015

Go, Sheila!

Many times I have attended the Santa Monica City Council meeting to speak my 2 minutes on one topic or another.

Here's a night when a local nutcase spouting off against Syrian refugees was shut down by Sheila Kuehl, the coolest council person ever:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Suicide Love at First Sight

Yes, as I suspected, both Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik shopped online for a spouse who would join in a suicidal terrorist attack.

Also they got a loan online for the money to carry out their attack.

Ah, the world-wide web--we are all now stuck in this web being used both for good and for evil.

150 Years Today

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free." 

With those words, President Abraham Lincoln marked the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery--on December 9, 1865.  

Today President Obama used those words to begin his brief speech to Congress marking 150 since that ratification.

"The scars of our nation's original sin are with us still today," he continued.

He didn't need to recite a list: police shootings of young black men, the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, #blacklivesmatter, etc.

He also urged Americans to "push back against bigotry in all its forms."  That comment needed no explanation either.  I refuse to use the t-word in this blog.

I thank and praise God for this president and for our slow progress toward equality.

Injustice in the House of Representatives

How is it possible that Republicans refuse to allow a vote on whether terrorists should be allowed to buy guns and explosives?

All day yesterday and again today, these NRA-owned old men refuse to stand up and vote or to let anyone else vote.  For example, there's Dana Rohrabacher in Costa Mesa, where I used to live.

Thanks a bunch, guys.

May you rot in Hell.

Hooray for Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, who led some of the efforts.

My hero is Rep. Jackie Speier, who was shot five times in the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 as part of a team led by Rep. Leo Ryan to investigate a cult led by a nut called Jim Jones.  Ryan was killed.

If Jackie Speier says we need to vote on whether people on the FBI terrorist watch list should be allowed to buy guns, we should listen.  

She knows what she's talking about.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Wife with a Secret

FBI photo courtesy of Associated Press
Tashfeen Malik was a wife with a secret.

Forget the girl with a pearl earring.  Contemplate this heavily veiled wife with the red bra.

After the shoot-out with police, her body lay exposed in a street.

"It appears to be the body of a woman," a television news reporter announced. "She's wearing a red bra."

The sexy, head-to-toe veiled gunwoman--right?

Her face, finally unveiled in an FBI photo, shows a slight smirk.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Tashfeen was taught to live behind a veil.  She had to cover her face and her body, not just her hair.

What does it do to a woman to live with your whole identity concealed?

Perhaps it teaches duplicity: you have one identity behind the walls of your home, another in public.

Tashfeen's family members were immigrants from Pakistan.  Some immigrants enthusiastically adopt the culture of the new country in an attempt to win acceptance.

Her father had separated from his brothers and birth family over property and religious disputes, even leaving the country.  Tashfeen learned anger and family feuding.

Even in Pakistan, however, her educated, politically influential family was described as "having some extremist credentials."

If you lived in a nation that had been invented just fifty years earlier by other nations, then wrapping up a world war, you too might lean toward extremism.

Britain, other Europeans and the US contributed to the creation of  Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947 as a solution to Hindu-Muslim rivalry and violence.  Mohandas Gandhi opposed the creation of separate states: "I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock."

In addition to her dual background in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Tashfeen was ambitious and well-educated.  Where does that take you if your religion opposes women working outside the home and even driving?  What avenues for achievement do you have?

She had been an excellent student of pharmacology at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, southern Pakistan.  Starting with Taliban attacks in 2007, the area dealt with "notoriety as centers of radical sectarian activity," reports Declan Walsh in the New York Times.

But in Pakistan, she was clearly Saudi, "a classic product of the conservatizing influence that Saudi Arabia has brought to bear on countries like Pakistan," writes Walsh.  German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel noted on Sunday the Saudi export of extremism.  ISIS fighters, Al-Qaeda founders--many can be traced to Saudi roots.

This quiet, covered apparently submissive woman was planning a terrorist attack.  She would become famous for being a gunwoman, but her own brother-in-law and sister-in-law had no inking of her ambitions.

While in university, she also briefly attended a religious school for women, Al Huda, accused of teaching that  ‘Muslims are destined to lead the world’ and ‘the corrupt West must be confronted.’

In any case, Tashfeen Malik achieved her goals.  She and her husband killed 14 people, wounded 21 others, and created a sensation beginning with her Facebook-posted allegiance to an ISIS leader as the attack began.

Her history appears to present a recipe for how to make a female suicide terrorist.


Here's Wikipedia on women's rights in Saudi Arabia:
hijab is a traditional Islamic norm whereby women are required "to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men)" and dress in a modest manner.[58] Saudi Arabia is different from many Islamic societies in the extent of the covering that it considers Islamically correct hijab (everything except the hands and eyes) and the fact that covering is enforced by Mutaween or religious police.
Among non-mahram men, women must cover the parts of the body that are awrah (not meant to be exposed). In much of Islam, a women's face is not considered awrah. In Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states, all of the body is considered awrah except the hands and eyes. Accordingly, most women are expected to wear the hijab (head covering), a full black cloak called an abaya, and a face-veil called niqab. Many historians and Islamic scholars hold that the custom, if not requirement, of the veil predates Islam in parts of the region. They argue that the Quran was interpreted to require the veil as part of adapting it to tribal traditions.[59] [60][61][62]
Traditionally, women's clothing must not reveal anything about her body. It is supposed to be thick, opaque, and loose. It should not resemble the clothing of men (or non-Muslims).[63]

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Father

We think our actions don't have consequences.

Syed Farook, father of Syed Rizwan Farook, was so violent when his children were young that his Muslim wife eventually filed for divorce.

His two sons and daughter had to defend their mother from him.  He moved to Corona and lived quietly there, unaware that the seeds of violence planted in one son were growing.

Now living in Corona, he described his reaction when he first saw this son with a gun: "I became angry. In 45 years in the United States, I yelled, 'I have never had a weapon.' 

He thought that the line he had drawn--violence but without guns--would be observed by his sons.

His anger and yelling confirm the portrait drawn in his wife's divorce documents.

While we are looking for ways to stop mass shootings, we have to start with parents and children, with domestic violence.  

Killers have to be groomed and taught.  

If you are trying to learn ways to be patient with children, to manage your own moments of anger, you are taking steps to prevent killing.

See this excellent book by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Mother

"Farook's mother lived with the couple, staying mainly upstairs.  Farook liked to tinker in his garage."

With these words, Los Angeles Times reporters told us as much as they knew about Rafia Farook, beyond the divorce papers filed in 2006 from a violently abusive, often drunk husband.

Presumably investigators know more, having questioned her for seven hours.

The big question: how could this mother not know something was afoot?

There were Christmas lights found in the two-story townhouse, used to rig up detonation for pipe bombs.

Did Rafia see the strings of lights?  Wouldn't she ask why in Allah's name they were in the house?

Did she come downstairs for her meals?  No part of that huge arsenal was in the kitchen or living room, no empty containers in the trash?

When her son and his wife left the baby with her, she didn't notice an odd calmness, a clenched jaw?  She didn't call a family member or the police.

Perhaps Rafia knew that one wrong move on her part, and they would execute her. 

Perhaps she had suspicions but felt helpless to do anything, a hostage in her son's home.

Perhaps she had no job, no way of moving out and supporting herself.

Having already been a battered wife for many years, perhaps she did not have the strength to challenge what she saw or heard.

Perhaps the killers couldn't shoot her or the baby--a noise would alert neighbors and endanger their plans.

Another possibility is that she suspected and protected her son's activity.  She was an "active member" of the Islamic Circle of North America, described as having "ties to a radical Pakistani political group, Jamaat-e-Islami, according to the Daily Caller."

In fact, Anwar al-Alwaki had spoken at an ICNA event in 2002.  The US Army major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 had exchanged emails with al-Awlaki.

In any case, this mother lost her son and her self-respect on December 2.  Her granddaughter is with Child Protective Services.

Rafia Farook will live with regrets: a failed marriage, a dead son, and failure as a mother, the omnipresent blame all mothers fear if their children fail to thrive.  

This sad mother, my age or a little younger, will live her remaining years in shame.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"The Gun Epidemic"--An Editorial First

Succinct and dramatic--the editorial on the front page of today's New York Times.

"The Gun Epidemic."

Thank you, editors, for this statement.  

No newspaper has ever before run an editorial on the front page as far as I know.

"Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition must be outlawed for civilian ownership."

From the previous day's editorial:

While the nation suffered through the shock of another bloody massacre, on Thursday every Senate Republican except Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against legislation to prevent people on the F.B.I.’s consolidated terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives.
The measure has been introduced repeatedly since 2007. 

See also:

 "How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment":

"The Price We Pay for Liberty?"

"Tough Talk and a Cowardly Vote on Terrorism"

"America Remains Top Arms Seller to the World"

"Meet the 45 Senators Who Blocked Background Checks"

Coalition to End Gun Violence

Friday, December 4, 2015

Soft Targets

As I entered the gym this morning for my Pilates class, I thought of how easily someone could shoot up the place.

I feel secure in my own home, but as soon as I arrive at a place where many people gather, thoughts of possible shooters enter my mind.

These two young residents of Redlands have succeeded in planting terror.

At 11 am I arrived at the DMV to renew my driver's license, wondering if any irate person might select this government office as a target.  It is certainly soft: open doors, 100-200 people standing in lines and sitting in chairs.

When I saw two babies being pushed in strollers, the baby left with her grandmother in San Bernardino came to mind.  How do you kiss a baby goodbye and pick up an AR-15 assault rifle?

A few weeks ago in Telluride, after the shooting in Paris, I had joked, "Well, at least we're safe here.  No terrorist would select this area as a target."  

Today, I'm not so sure.  No one would have predicted the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino as a place to watch out for violence.  Disrupting ski tourism seems a more likely event than killing at that unknown building filled with county offices.

I lived in San Bernardino for a year and gave birth in the Redlands Community Hospital.  Was that where the gunwoman had her baby?

Two and a half years ago, the same assault rifle was used to kill seven people in Santa Monica, at the college a half-block from my house.

In 2003 Santa Monica hosted the driving-error killing of ten people by an 86-year-old who stepped on the wrong pedal of his Buick LeSabre.

All these places are what we now call soft targets.  No care had been taken to insure killers would not enter, whether armed with guns or with an automobile.

Do we need guards at the door of every gym, football field, and state or county government office?  (Federal buildings now have armed security guards and gun detectors.)

It's not hard to plant terror.  It's hard to grow peace.

Background Checks? Who Needs Them?

How can anybody be against background checks?  

Except criminals.

Why does the National Rifle Association oppose them?

The US Senate voted against background checks three times today.

I can't believe it.  Thank you, NRA and the Republican Party.

1)  Senator John Cornyn of Texas--a Republican--introduced a bill (or maybe amendment?) to "delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours."  Senators voted for it 55 to 44, but it needed 60 votes to pass.  

Hell, we sure wouldn't want to delay anybody's purchase of a gun for three days.  Give those terrorists fast service!

2)  Senator Dianne Feinstein of California--my senator--introduced a bill to "make it harder for people the government suspects of being terrorists" to purchase firearms.  That failed with 54 votes against, 45 in favor.  She'd already introduced this one earlier this year.

Keep it easy for terrorists to get their guns!

3)  Then a bipartisan proposal to" require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows" was introduced as an amendment to a bill being voted on.  Republican Senator Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia) introduced it, as they had lasts March when it was proposed an an amendment to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act but voted down 54 to 46.

Gun shows will remain a free for all--no background checks.  And of course, people buying guns online need to do that free of government interference.  

Thank you to Mother Jones for printing the names of all 45 senators who voted against background checks.

May they be swiftly voted out of office.  

May the NRA money that elected them be written on their tombstones.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Baby

The shooters handed their six-month old baby to her grandmother before beginning their massacre.

That fact stops me in my tracks.

Hearing about her on the news this morning, I keep returning to that moment all day today.

On the one hand, they did not shoot their baby as part of their preparations, but they might as well have.

She will grow up to learn what her parents did.

Did they love her but loved their mission more?

Did they withhold love from her, using her as cover for their deadly plans?

Apparently the young man witnessed violence and abuse by his father in his home.  He had to protect his mother.  He was quiet and withdrawn in high school.

Who knows what violence the young woman witnessed in Pakistan or in her home?

He shopped for a wife who would be a suicide bomber.  He found one.  Perhaps she did the same.

After reading how the ISIS fighters in Syria are allowed to marry but not to have children, I fear that this couple allowed the pregnancy only as a way to look normal and cover their plans.

How do you turn off feelings for a baby?

When in the evolution of primates did they begin to kill each other?  Was it food and territory that they fought over?

Is this couple fighting for territory in some sense?  Give space to Islam.  Respect Islam--or fear Islam.

Every mass killer has a message:  I exist.  Notice me.  Listen to me.

These two killers left a mixed message: death to many, life to our child.

But what a life.