Weighing in on the gun control debate

In light of yet another school shooting, the gun control debate is heating up AGAIN. I usually stay out of it, but this time I think it’s worth expressing some thoughts on the subject.

How about we assume for a minute that both the pro-gun and anti-gun camps are as extreme as the opposite side claims, that your average pro-gun person really wants to carry military grade assault weapons to the grocery store and that your average anti-gun person wants to raid private homes and take everything that fires a projectile faster than a slingshot. Then let’s meet in the middle.

You want a gun in your home for hunting? Great, but have one that’s actually usable for hunting. Do a background check no matter where you buy it. Register it, keep it secured properly, and have regular inspections to make sure your gun safe is secure and being used properly. You want a handgun for target shooting? Great, but keep it secured properly at the range where you’ll be shooting. Show your gun license when you go to buy ammo, just like you show your driver’s license and car insurance when you go to register a car. I’m all for keeping a shotgun or hunting rifle in your home, as long as it’s properly secured, but you don’t need an assault weapon that’s only good for killing human beings. I’m OK with you having ammo, but you don’t need a stockpile that looks like you’re prepping for the zombie apocalypse. You don’t need to carry a gun with you to the mall. You don’t need a gun if you have a history of domestic violence complaints, of violent crime, or of endangering yourself or others.

I understand being worried about being able to protect yourself. However, a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who were assaulted were 4.45 times more likely to be shot if they were carrying guns. In cases where there was a chance of struggle, it was 5.45 times as likely.  Another study found that for every use of a gun in a defensive or legally justifiable situation, there were 4 accidental shootings, 7 assaults/homicides, and 11 suicide attempts (successful and unsuccessful). So guns aren’t making people safer.

Gun control, by itself, is not going to fix the issues that cause school shootings. It’s going to have to be part of a comprehensive solution to a culture of violence. However, if we’re screaming at each other from the extreme ends of this issue, we’re not going to get anything done. So let’s just meet in the middle with a reasonable compromise and go on to the problem of fixing a culture in which people feel justified in shooting each other, ‘kay?

When you have ONE JOB

When the gods have something to say, their idea of subtle tends to read to a human as OW THAT WAS MY HEAD! The other night, they cracked my skull open like a coconut. (I will note that A. I’m allergic to coconut and B. when I lived in the VI, the standard tool for street vendors to split open a coconut was a machete.)

I had a message from Aengus Og, to deliver to a friend. Opening my head to him, though, meant I was open. And all the gods I work with converged on a tiny fixed point, and that point was in my brain. In a mind-splitting moment of epiphany, I realized that the work my gods send me out to do (quilts for sick and underprivileged infants for Brighid, the social justice work on which she and the Morrigan double-team my sorry butt, the animal rescue work that is Brighid and Manannan, the tech work that Lugh blesses, the outreach to other survivors of abuse that is Aengus’s work, all of it) is ALL THE SAME WORK.

My friend Kiya had mentioned in chat the same day that her method for understanding the nature of a god is to take all of that god’s known symbols and distill them into how they’re the same thing, and that thing is the essence of that god. In that moment, I got a glimpse of how all my work is the same, and I saw the essence of what I’m charged to do. I contract out to other gods, but I am owned by Brighid. I am the tool of a tradeswoman, and my job in this world is to build up and to fix. I have one job, and now I’ve got a fairly clear look at what it is. Epiphanies hurt, but there’s a breaking that’s healthy in the long term. Like a bone that’s healed incorrectly, our heads are broken so they’ll grow back healthier and stronger.

I’m still alive!

I’m still around, I promise. I’ve been busy job hunting (my job with that one electronics retailer that Shall Not Be Named is disappearing effective tomorrow, so I’m scrambling to find something else) and working on my other writing projects. But I’m still here, still fighting the good fight, and still quilting ALL THE THINGS. I just finished up a baby quilt last night, actually, which makes three ready to go for the hospital this trip, and I’m making good progress on the queen-sized quilt I’ve been working on. There’s not as much of a hurry with the queen size, though, because I have until December to get it done.

latest baby quilt, March 2014

latest baby quilt, March 2014

I’m also working on my IT certifications, because I can’t just stay in piddly hourly jobs forever, and I completed the very basic Microsoft Technology Associate certification in Windows Operating System Fundamentals last week. THAT was the easiest test I’d ever taken in my life–it took me longer to sign in than it did to take and pass the test! I’ve got the knowledge, but since I’m only going to be making $200 a week in unemployment, and my rent is $500 a month, having the money to do it is a bitch. I’ve got a GoFundMe page set up to raise the money for it that you’re welcome to check out if you want, but you’re certainly not obligated.

Once I get something worked out about regular employment and have a little more stability, I’ll be blogging more frequently. Meanwhile, don’t forget me!

On speaking Human

I know a lot of pagans who are huge fans of Omnia. One song of theirs in particular, though, I find really disturbing. I feel like the intentions of the song–“Hey, pay attention to the animals, because our habits are destroying them”–were good. But its premise is just flawed.

Deep within the shadows I’m the hungry wolf you fear
But I can see that you’re the only evil creature here
Before you came we lived in peace but you have brought us death
I sing my pain up to the moon but it’s a waste of breath

OK, so…when exactly was this that an omnivore that lives primarily by hunting but isn’t at the top of his food chain ever lived in peace? I think this is a very common problem in the pagan community, that we think of the natural world as this magical utopia that humanity has fucked up. That’s not the case. Nature is messy. Humans aren’t the only animals that kill excessively. The term in animals is surplus or henhouse killing. In one case I remember reading about, hyenas killed 82 gazelles and only ate 13, leaving the rest behind. Sea otters in Monterey Bay have been observed raping baby seals to death. Bottlenosed dolphin males will team up to isolate a female from the rest of the pod and forcibly mate with her, sometimes keeping her away from the group and in their possession for weeks at a time. The natural world is a harsh place. Reality is as hard for animals as it is for humans. The next verse, though, really confuses me.

Upon a wing, a flying thing, to you I seem so small
But I look down on what you’ve done, my Raven’s eye sees all
You people like a cancer grow, destroying all you see
And 7 billion mutant monkeys, won’t listen to me

The common raven (Corvus corax) and the American crow (Corvus brachyrhyncos) are opportunistic feeders that are more than willing to help themselves to human trash. In fact, these two species actually tend to thrive in heavily human-populated areas. So the idea that a raven, of all animals, would accuse humans of “destroying all we see” is actually wildly inaccurate, and frankly, against a highly intelligent animal’s interests.

The attitudes that the song criticizes, it enforces. This idea that humans are somehow outside of and opposed to nature is how the human-driven destruction of our environment has taken place to begin with. Instead of viewing humanity as some kind of evil force, some kind of anti-nature, the only way that any kind of culture of conservation will ever take root is if we view ourselves as part of this world and recognize that its fate is bound to our own. We are not separate from the earth, and the natural world is not an enemy to be conquered. People who hold to this silly, white-light attitude that the natural world is all butterflies and rainbow farts until humans screw it up are reinforcing the idea that humans are somehow apart and above the rest of the species on this planet. It’s a different perspective, but it’s the same problem. It’s when we realize that we are all in this together and that we all have a responsibility to take care of the earth as we can that we will have a culture of concern for the planet and for each other.

Climate change, habitat destruction, and the introduction of non-native species are real problems, and humans have played a major role. However, to treat the natural world as something to be romanticized and seen through a fluffy-white-light filter while casting the humans as the villains is as much a contribution to the idea that humans and nature are unrelated as the idea that nature is deadly to humans and should be conquered.

Nothing’s clean.

I’ve had the page How To Be A Fan of Problematic Things bookmarked for a long time, and I re-read it every so often. But it’s possible to like people and still see the problematic elements in their words and actions, too. Intersectionality is hard, and it’s impossible to be perfect at it, because sometimes, the needs of one group come into direct conflict with the needs of another.

I’ll give you an example from this week. There was a discussion in my pagan chat about adoption and donor insemination. One member, an adoptee, argued based on personal experience that there was no way to make adoption, donor insemination, or surrogacy fair, because the adoptive/recipient parents hold all the power. The person said that if one is unable to produce a child biologically, “you don’t always get what you want,” and that one should just live with it. Now, another member who was there is a trans man who isn’t physically able to impregnate his wife the old-fashioned way, and I have had serious health issues, including a miscarriage that started on its own but had to be medically completed in order to save my life. Anyone who said that my trans friend could not have any other relationship due to his gender identity would be called out for cissexism, and anyone who said I couldn’t have any other relationship because of my medical history would be called ableist. But on the other hand, the friend who’s been through the adoption process and has a different perspective doesn’t have to privilege someone else’s feelings over lived experience, either. This wasn’t a case of privilege against disadvantage. It was a case of competing needs in which all parties got hurt.

Intersectionality is hard, y’all. Sometimes there’s no way to provide safe space for everyone. Sometimes people’s triggers overlap and conflict. But it’s possible to care about people without believing or backing what they have to say.  If we can do it for a comic book or a TV show, we can do it for other human beings. I know I’m going to work harder at it.


Old scars, physical boundaries, and the pagan community

I showed a friend a picture of myself with another friend the other day. He remarked, “You’re hugging her. That tells me what I need to know about her.” Because of the physical abuse I’ve dealt with in the past, there are very few people with whom I let my boundaries down, and when I trust someone enough for physical contact, that’s a big deal for me. I’m touchy-feely with family members and lovers, but with friends, a hug from me is a pretty big lowering of boundaries.

That makes certain interactions within the pagan community very uncomfortable for me. Sometimes the fact that I’m not comfortable with being kissed, or with someone expecting a hug the first time we meet, makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. The people offering physical affection are such kind, warm, welcoming people that I wish I could be comfortable with it, but my gut reaction to unexpected physical contact tends less towards “yay, hugs!” and more GETITOFFGETITOFFGETITOFF. I wish I were OK with it, but behind those boundaries is where I feel safe. With good friends whom I’ve known a while, I’m perfectly fine with hugs if I’m expecting them, but being kissed or surprised with hugs, even by good friends, or expected to deal with hugs from near strangers is anxiety-inducing even on a good day.

So what can a person do, needing to decline most physical contact but afraid to come across as though rejecting the genuinely kind people who aren’t expecting to find a boundary there? I know part of my issue is being a woman raised in the South and having been socialized from an early age not to upset people, but I don’t know where the reasonable medium is between allowing contact that is uncomfortable for me and the instinctive, panicked EW NO GET OUT OF MY BUBBLE that is my immediate, internal reaction. I wish the community were a safer place for people like me, who like other people just fine, but would prefer any physical contact to be on our own terms.

Update on the baby quilt project

Wow. People’s generosity never ceases to amaze me. I had intended to put pictures with this post, but I’m out of camera batteries at the moment, and even with a good cellphone, camera pics just don’t do it justice.

Since I put out the call for quilting materials, people have come through in a big way. The lovely Bianca sent me a box CRAMMED full of fabric this week, as well as ordering me a crib batting and thread from Connecting Threads. Jack has sent me a queen-size batting, which is enough to do 4-6 baby quilts. Cindy sent me a jelly roll that’s going to be at least two baby quilts, one of which I’ve got about half done. Nay sent me a fat quarter bundle that, once I put it with the background fabric, is going to yield about 6 baby quilts. Melissa sent me some fabric, and even more exciting is that she used a laser printer and made me a cutting guide based on the Twister/Li’l Twister concept.

Y’all are amazing, and I’m so grateful for the help to continue this project. Thank you so much.

Why do you presume to know what my devotion means?

I don’t have time for a trifling witch-war with trifling people. If you think I’m not sufficiently devoted to my gods, that by doing their work out in the real world I’m failing them, that’s your choice. Pretty presumptuous to decide you know what my gods want better than they do, but have at it if you think you’re wiser than they are. I do it for their approval, not yours, and guess what? For adults, religion isn’t about the number of blog hits one gets. But I can’t help but see Brighid’s hand in the way sad, angry, insecure little people need to be so rude about my charity work, thus giving free press to a project that has received so much support from the pagan community as a result. She’s a craftswoman, after all. She knows how to make use of tools.

And no, I’m not linking the posts in question. Giving drama queens like that the attention they want only encourages them.

The Cult of Difficulty

I was in a quilt shop the other day, and the conversation turned to the various projects we’re working on. I was getting a bit more of the border fabric I’d run out of for one of the baby quilts, and I mentioned the star quilt I was working on, with the Mariner’s Compass block at the center. The woman behind the counter let out an ooooh. “That’s a hard one.”  I shrugged. “I’m paper piecing it, so it’s a lot easier.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that’s cheating.”

I hear this attitude a lot, this idea that the value of an action is in its difficulty rather than its outcome. Your quilt isn’t as nice if you attach the bindings by machine rather than by hand. You’re not healthy enough, domestic enough, good enough, if you don’t make every single ingredient in your food from scratch. You’re too dependent on technology if you store your grocery list in your phone. There’s this worship of labor-intensity in our society. This whole concept is based on the false idea that everyone has the same time, money, skills, and resources, and that’s just blatantly false.

In competitions, I can see how it would be valuable. A competitor performing a more difficult task successfully shows that they have a higher level of skill. But here’s the thing: life isn’t a competition. So instead of being so hard on each other for choosing to do things the practical way, to “use your head and save your heels,” as my great-grandmother would say, let’s celebrate each other’s successes.


Dollar value or functional value?

A family member, for reasons I can’t fathom, felt the need to post this link to my Facebook wall in reference to my baby quilts. It’s a woman’s reflection on the “true value” of one of her quilts. All it really did for me was convince me further that I have no interest in ever trying to sell my quilts for what they’re “worth.” I mean, I think her prices are outrageous ($30 an hour for labor? My mother has a master’s degree and makes less than that teaching disadvantaged four-year-olds, several of whom have special needs. There’s no way that the time I spend on my hobby is worth more than the time my mother spends changing the lives of small children! And don’t get me started on $15 a yard for fabric, because I have NEVER paid that, even for the designer stuff!), but that’s not my real issue with the idea.

Nobody’s going to use a quilt that costs four figures. Even if, by some miracle or while smoking crack, someone actually paid $1500 for a queen-sized quilt (which is a fair market price if a crafter’s going to get their labor out of it), that’s too expensive for something that’s going to go on the bed. There are two categories of quilts that I make: quilts for people I know and genuinely care about on a personal level, like the baby quilt for Jack and his wife, and quilts for babies whose families can’t afford baby blankets. When I give someone a quilt, yes, it’s a one-of-a-kind original, but you know what? It’s also a warm blanket. It has a purpose. If a quilt costs that kind of money, it’s too expensive to actually use, and it ends up hung on a wall for decoration. Honestly, as much as I’ve liked some of the wall hangings I’ve seen, I’d be a bit hurt if I put hours of work into a warm, comforting, useful quilt and the recipient just hung it on the wall. A quilt is, in many ways, the closest I can come to giving someone a long-term hug, and hugs are for people, not for walls. I would hope that anyone for whom I’d make a quilt is going to actually use the thing, because otherwise, all the work I’ve put into it has gone to waste.

I have to wonder about a society in which we value the dollar cost of an item so much that we’re willing to sacrifice the item’s reason for existing. And it’s not just the quilts. Think about antique cars. They were built to be driven, but instead they’re “restored” and parked in garages where people just look at them. Low mileage raises their value. Collectible toys and action figures, meant to be played with, but kept in the boxes to be resold at a higher price later on. Why do we value the price tag more than the use for which the item is intended?