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Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

A Summer Education

This year’s Summer vacation has been spent working my way around my old stomping grounds visiting family and friends in Florida, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Connecticut and New York.  And it hasn’t just been a vacation, it has been an education.

Last week, I was on the New Jersey Shore watching dolphins play in the surf at dusk, a scene at stark odds with the images of destruction post-Hurricane Sandy.  Yesterday, I was told that the lazy Summer rain I watched from inside a quiet New England house had actually spawned tornadoes that led to power outages and flooding. Tornadoes? I am fairly certain my only exposure to a tornado as a kid was the one in the Wizard of Oz.  For our generation, it seems, tornadoes have become a regular occurrence. So too, drought. Right now, it’s 130 degrees in Death Valley. I guess Mother Nature is like all mothers, a repository of gifts and nurturing but when she has a lesson to teach, capable of being swift and harsh. 

As we sat on the beach, we had to acknowledge that something is happening with the climate. Yes, it could be part of a natural warming cycle but whether you attribute the wild swings in weather to a naturally occurring phenomenom or neglect, the evidence of climate change is hard to ignore. 

A highlight of my travels was a conversation I had with a volunteer for a climate change organization in which she essentially said, “What part of you is a Republican?”  The answer is my core belief that once people are doing well, the chances of them having the time and interest in doing good are that much greater. We just have to do a better job encouraging people, who are dialing out because they’re so turned off by the fight, to dial back in. To take a piece of it and effect change. 

The challenge for our generation is to effect change from the outside in. To remind Washington that these goals do not have to be mutually exclusive or more relevantly, party exclusive. With the exception of President Obama’s press conference on reducing carbon emissions last week, the conversations around environmental change are winding down to a slow din.  Why do Republicans cede progress on the environment to the other side? It just makes us look like we have our heads buried in the sand. And by the way, those sandy beaches may be eroding. 

Doesn’t it seem like one of the solutions to bridging the gap between the parties is to include big business, not alienate them, when addressing concerns like healthcare reform and now climate change? Our future as Americans lies in solutions where we all have a seat at the table. Demonizing the successful, saddling them with unfunded federal mandates and stifling job creation will only stifle our progress as a nation. The answer lies in our shared concerns. 

According to the New York Times, 

“Nearly two-thirds think the EPA should cap emissions in existing power plants, including 86 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans.”

These concerns are not party driven. They are observations from a generation that embraces fitness and the outdoor life. Our earth isn’t the domain of one party or the other. Lots of successful businessman escape the office by throwing a line and fishing in pristine waters. So do many of our legislators who may need to escape the choke hold that special interests have on them.  

ModerateMoms needs to create a safe haven to do what’s right. And to create a safe place in the center where reasonable conversations can be held on difficult topics that concern us all. 

Bi-Partisanship is breaking out on Capitol Hill

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A filibuster averted. A likely accord on immigration reform. A former Republican presidential candidate thanked — publicly! — by the Senate’s top Democrat. Lawmakers of both parties lunched together for the first time many could remember, agreeing to agree on the heroism of Sen. John McCain and the tragedy of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

Bipartisanship broke out on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a newsy development after years of polarization that infuriated the public, brought Congress to a near-halt and the country to the brink of economic disaster. It could all blow to pieces by the time you read this article — fierce disputes remain on gun control and immigration, among others issues. And looming over it all is a midterm election next year with big implications for the divided government and President Barack Obama’s legacy.

But let history record that for a full day in battle-scarred Washington there it was: legislative progress, bipartisan bread-breaking and the emotional stuff of human relationships long-mourned and little-seen in recent years.

Obama helped set the harmonic tone in his budget Wednesday, calling for cuts in benefit programsRepublicans have been seeking for years, a gesture widely seen as an effort to preserve the prospects of immigration and gun control legislation.

But at the center of all of the civility was McCain, the president’s vanquished GOP opponent from the 2008 presidential election. The gruff Washington veteran, Vietnam war hero and, lately, scolder of would-be obstructionists in his own party threw cold water on a filibuster threat by 13 conservative senators who oppose gun control.

“What are we afraid of?” the Arizona senator said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”Why not take it up and amend it and debate?”

A bipartisan gun control deal by freshman Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., inspired Senate conservatives to drop their filibuster plans, even though many Republicans who allowed the legislation to advance said they were unlikely to vote for its passage. Also helping to remove the obstruction were the family members of some of the 20 children and six adults murdered by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School who had spent days lobbying lawmakers for strictergun control laws. Several lawmakers said they were brought to tears in those meetings.

On Thursday, the Senate departed from its streak of legislating by filibuster. Under the grim gaze of Sandy Hook victims’ relatives, 16 Republicans voted with 50 Democrats and two independents to begin debate on tightening the nation’s gun laws. In the gallery over the chamber, some in the delegation wiped away tears, held hands and appeared to pray as each senator cast a vote.

Much emotional debate lay ahead and the Toomey-Manchin bill’s fate was far from certain. But after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave Republicans — “especially John McCain” — some rare, nationally televised credit for the progress.

“There have been many things written in the last several months about how the Senate cannot operate,” Reid, who frequently decries congressional dysfunction, said on the Senate floor. “John McCain has been a leader in this country for 31 years. People respect his opinion.”

Senators then adjourned to spend time together at a lunch for McCain to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his release from captivity in Vietnam. In a gilded room named for John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, surrounded by black-and-white photos of a young McCain returning on crutches, Republicans, Democrats and independents dined on enchiladas and tilapia as McCain revealed harrowing details of his captivity and torture.

The account of McCain’s five years as a POW was new to some in attendance. Several said they were moved to tears by it, reminded again of bigger matters than how this or that vote would go over with certain constituents back home.

“It makes you think about the human condition,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Even Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican tea partyer whose 12-hour filibuster delaying the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director inspired a rebuke from McCain, emerged reporting good times.

“He got a standing ovation from both parties,” Paul said. “The idea of defending the country brings everybody together.”

Late in the day, there was even more apparent progress: Four Democratic and four Republican senators reached agreement on all the major elements of sweeping legislation to remake the nation’s immigration laws, and expect to unveil the bill next week.

Don’t get used to all this civility and forward motion, Reid warned.

“The hard work,” he said, “starts now.”

 

Gun change?

We could be two weeks away from some real progress on gun violence. First of all, Congress could pass universal background checks within the next couple of weeks. Yes, many of us Mothers would have liked to have seen a federal ban on assault weapons but the bottom line is it isn’t the gun but the mentally unstable shooter that Americans need protection from. Universal background checks will close the loopholes that make it so easy for guns to be bought legally than traded illegally and dropped into that tattered net that allows too many guns to end up in the wrong hands. 

Second, the National Rifle Association is expected to announce the details of its National School Shield Program tomorrow and in all likelihood, it will call for armed guards in our nation’s schools. The question is, “Is Sandy Hook far enough behind us, that the NRA will get a different response to its suggestion than the collective cringe Wayne LePierre got when he first brought up the idea?”  Slate.com  is running two articles to counter tomorrow’s NRA backed proposals. The first is a reminder that an armed guard wasn’t able to stop the shootings in Columbine; the second says we can’t afford to put armed security in our country’s schools because it will cost 5.5 billion dollars.  

In terms of what’s coming down the pike, we are really looking forward to seeing what Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri (R-Mo) is planning in terms of interventions and better treatment for the mentally ill.  Because, when all is said and done, that is the most frightening part of the gun violence equation, isn’t it? Here’s a look at what Blunt said recently about this being more important in many ways than background checks. 

From Examiner.com: 

“I won’t support any proposals that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights or ultimately prevent two neighbors from trading shotguns,” Blunt said. “Instead, I’m focusing my efforts on improving mental health policies to ensure we’re spending federal dollars more wisely when it comes to identifying, treating, and caring for people who are mentally ill.”

Blunt is a co-sponsor of three mental health measures: the Excellence in Mental Health Act, the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 and Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act “will help make communities safer by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment,” according to Blunt. “The bill also focuses on giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to identify and respond to mental health issues, and includes a 5-year reauthorization of the ‘Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act’ (MIOTCRA), continuing support for mental health courts, and crisis intervention teams.”

In the meantime, all this gun talk is playing out against what has sadly become more background chatter than front page alarm, like the 4 year old shot by a 6 year old in Miami and the news that the shooter in the movie theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado last summer will face the death penalty. Regardless of where you stand on the second amendment and the death penalty, at the end of the day, it’s all part of the same conversation, isn’t it?  But the reality is the conversation is approaching a low din, at least according to the latest polls, as reported by the Wall Street Journal,  

“In a CBS News poll taken in late March, 47% of adults polled said gun laws should be “more strict,” down from 57% in December, shortly after the shooting. And yet, support for broader background checks remains strong. Roughly nine in 10 Americans support a universal background check, according to an ABC News poll taken in March.”

Something needs to be done but perhaps the most important thing is to keep the conversation going. It would be a sad result if nothing changes after Moms across the country made a collective promise that the 20 students and 6 staff members who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook shootings would not have died in vain. 

 

Military Moms and our Schools

There is a time to sit back and listen. And for a lot of us, the time to listen was immediately after the shootings at the Sandy Hook School in Newton, Connecticut. The shootings there were so painful, the solutions so seemingly elusive and the timing as the holidays were unfolding was so wrenching, it wasn’t a time to lash out. It was a time to reflect and to resolve that Newton, Connecticut would be remembered as the last school massacre on American soil. The 9/11 attacks may have been more startling because it was a new kind of attack and the number of casualties may have been far greater but the searing pain and vulnerability we felt as teachers and students were gunned down just over 10 days before Christmas, was the same.   

The NRA’s proposal to place armed officers at every school or to train teachers to use a gun offended many Moms and teachers who were reeling in pain and who are anti-gun to begin with. Designed to send the message that the NRA is willing to protect students and their teachers, the message not only missed on timing, it missed on substance, too. But, I wonder if the reaction was more a response to the messenger than the message? After all, a lot of Americans, rightly or wrongly, didn’t want to hear from the NRA on the heels of an incident like this one. That doesn’t mean the NRA isn’t a valid voice on 2nd Amendment rights or the effectiveness of an assault weapons ban. It’s just that most Americans view the NRA as the protector of 2nd Amendment rights, at all costs. At the end of the day, it isn’t the gun that does the killing but hearing from the pro-gun lobby at that particular juncture, may not have been what a lot of American Moms wanted at that moment.

The conversation around school shootings needs to be framed in a way that removes fear but doesn’t add to it. The key is going to have to be who it is that is asked to protect our country’s school kids, who represent, more than anything else, what is still good and pure about this country. American Moms want to make sure they are safe from, not just violence, but also from the culture of fear that precedes and follows a horrific shooting like this one. 

Why not turn to Military Moms? Women who know how to use a gun but aren’t posting pictures of themselves on YouTube with the assault weapons they got for Christmas just weeks after a national tragedy. Women who’ve got kids in our schools. Instead of training teachers to fire a gun, let’s turn to the wives and mothers in our country who have served in the military and know when not to fire one. 

Let’s get them together with school administrators and parents to come up with local solutions. Let’s hear their views on the questions of an assault weapons ban and the impact that violence in our culture may be having on boys. Let’s tap into their experience by having them play a role as security guards who are dressed in civilian clothing and stationed on our playgrounds.  Whether they are armed or not, they will help to soothe frayed nerves while the bigger picture question of societal ills and gun laws are settled.  If we get the word out that Military Moms are helping our schools, a shooter won’t necessarily know who they are or whether they are even there. But like Air Marshalls, these Military Moms in our Schools will know the warning signs and most important, how to respond and when. Let’s find those women who joined the military, not because they like conflict or war, but because they see themselves as protectors.

What a timely gesture to our women in the military that, while budget cuts are a harsh reality, we respect your service and skills. We respect the interruption your deployment created in your lives as wives and mothers. Let’s figure out a way to hire these women to work in their home towns. Let’s help them reconnect with their families and their communities. And let’s ask Moms across America to contribute what they can, whether it’s the price of your morning coffee or one day’s lunch money, so that the burden isn’t on the federal government, state or local district, at least not initially. Let’s use our power as Moms to short circuit the politicking around Sandy Hook that could go on for the next five years. And let’s not wait until someone gives us permission to protect our kids. Or the funds to do so. We need to say to the kids in Sandy Hook and at every other school across this country, we’re doing what we can right now so you feel safe when you go back to school next week.