It Tolls for Thee

chess

© Jeff Arnold

Nine-year-old little Sarah had lived here all her life and never saw something so horrible. It was like Papa’s chess set. All those people were just praying and worshiping and a man with a gun came in and knocked the pieces down, just like that.

They say he’s a racist and he blamed us for hurting his people. They say guns are too easy to get. At school yesterday, some of the kids said maybe it’s because of who is President, that because he’s the first like him, that maybe he drove this person Dylann Roof crazy. Don’t think so.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I’m going to state for the record that you’re not going to like this. Ever since Donald Trump became President and sent his first tweet, he’s been blamed for just about everything including the recent Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. But if it is true that all violence since November 2016 is the direct result of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, then how can we explain all acts of violence before Trump became POTUS? I mean, it’s as if news and social media believe if Trump were silent, or if Hillary Clinton were President, everything would be unimaginably peaceful and the United States would be paradise, just as it was during President Obama’s administration (that last bit was deliberate sarcasm, but to make a point).

So I leveraged the Charleton church shooting (which occurred during Obama’s administration) in which nine African-American worshipers lost their lives at the hands of 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof, who blamed African-Americans for a plethora of ills.

This is not unlike 46-year-old Robert Bowers who blamed George Soros in particular, and the Jewish people in general for hurting “his” people (presumably non-Jewish whites) and (allegedly) murdered eleven Jewish worshipers as a result.

Both Roof and Bowers are extremists who believe a people group was responsible for their problems, and saw gun violence as the only solution. But what was the real cause?

Both incidents are very similar, such as attacking their targets in a house of worship, and openly stating that their motivation was bigoted hate. However, Barack Obama was the President when Roof committed his crime, and Donald Trump is President now. I find it difficult to believe that the sole cause of either man’s heinous acts was the President of the United States.

Could Trump’s statements be somehow inflammatory and a contributing factor in Bowers’s actions? Maybe. There’s no way to tell. There’s no way to tell if he would have done the same thing if Hillary Clinton had won the election.

That’s my point. There’s no way to tell. So don’t be so sure of your assumptions, because that’s all they are. I think a lot of people are taking their current fear and loathing of the President and applying it to any bad event that occurs, no matter what the circumstances and without examining the facts. That’s faulty logic. We need to be better than that.

The bottom line is that innocent people died in both events as the result of a very disturbed bigot. Always blame the person who pulled the trigger, and always mourn the victims and comfort their families. If we all did that, we’d be better people for it, and we’d serve those suffering communities rather than our own fears.

Oh, the title comes from John Donne’s famous poem For Whom the Bell Tolls.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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Vigil

love prompt

© 2016 – Elaine Farrington Johnson

Several vigils were held Monday night to honor the victims of the shooting. Communities came out in Reno, Las Vegas and at the campus of University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Sandra Casey, a special education teacher in Manhattan Beach, California, was killed, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District said. “We lost a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students,” school board President Jennifer Cochran said.

Sonny Melton also was identified as among the dead. His employer, Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, said Melton was a registered nurse. His wife survived the shooting.

Police had no prior knowledge of the gunman before the attack, (Clark County Sheriff Joseph) Lombardo said. “I don’t know how it could have been prevented,” he said.

-from an October 2, 2017 report by CNN

“If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.” -Hayley on Facebook

Yeah…I was thinking that since this directly hits the country-music population…maybe they will actually do something now. But after Sandy Hook, Republicans reacted by wanting to arm teachers. So lets see what today’s… -Erin replying on Facebook

It was night but she wore a large hat and sunglasses that covered most of her face. She didn’t want to take the chance of being recognized, but after what she’d said, she realized she couldn’t stay away, either.

She had been so focused on her anger at the people she thought were at fault, at all of those who she believed didn’t care about those twenty innocent lives who had been callously extinguished by a man and a rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She had forgotten that the 59 people who died just yesterday and the hundreds whose lives still hung in the balance were people, too.

At first, all she thought of was that if a large group of conservatives were the victims of gun violence, conservatives would be forced to respond by enacting better measures of gun control. Obama hadn’t accomplished what she’d hoped for in his eight years in office and no one could count on Trump and a GOP led Senate to do what was right. But after she thoughtlessly made her own hateful comments in social media, she realized she wasn’t any better. She had chosen to devalue human lives just as she accused others of doing.

“It will never end…” she muttered to herself, hardly able to restrain her tears, “…until all of us value each other’s lives, not just lives like our own.”

Although I didn’t post this to today’s Linkup (since only one submission is allowed), consider it a “part two” of my response to Priceless Joy’s writing challenge. There are just too many ways to respond to such senseless violence, and I chose to leverage my previous commentary on the words of Hayley Geftman-Gold which drew a great deal of national ire less than a day ago.

I read that she has since apologized for her comments, and while I don’t believe she’d risk exposing herself any further by actually attending a vigil in Las Vegas, I sincerely hope in her heart she understands that the 59 dead were also the sons, daughters, parents, and siblings of people who loved and were loved, just like the rest of us.

Will We Ever Have The Answer?

love prompt

© 2016 – Elaine Farrington Johnson

It was the worst mass murder in U.S. history. The President and First Lady attended the memorial service. Too many of these events had occurred over the years.

The murderer had a history of mental illness. The nation’s strict gun control laws were useless. Improvised bombs planted all over Chicago’s commuter corridors had been timed to explode at the height of the morning rush hour. Hundreds died in less than a minute.

President Larson addressed the vast assembly at the candlelight memorial.

“It is with a humble heart that I address you tonight. Everything we’ve tried to prevent these atrocities has failed. It is not enough to control how one person kills another, we must understand why they kill. The majority are not because of a religious or political agenda, but rather being disenfranchised from society, isolated, and ostracized seems the chief cause.

“As a nation, we must come together to bring belonging and hope to these people. Only when we show them love will they know love, for only love will stop these tragedies.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of October 3, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Given the image, it’s impossible for me not to write about events such as the Las Vegas mass shootings that occurred last Sunday evening. 58 people died and over 500 were wounded. We all ask ourselves the same questions after one of these tragedies but we don’t seem to be any closer to an answer.

I chose not to take the obvious route, but unlike how I’ve woven my wee tale, the National Center for Biotechnology Information doesn’t agree that there’s a clear connection between mental illness and gun violence (and I eliminated guns in my story).Newsweek seems to believe that since statistically, white males commit the majority of these shootings (54 percent since 1982), something akin to a sense of entitlement might be involved.

Neither of these explanations is particularly satisfying nor to they point to a solution.

I deliberately used bombs rather than guns in my story because if guns aren’t available and someone is intent on violence, they will find a way. Consider the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the scores and scores of middle eastern terrorist bombings.

I don’t know if there’s a universal method of preventing these tragedies. Maybe outlawing guns is part of the solution, but while that might prevent some of these incidents, criminals will still buy guns illegally, and as we’ve seen in other societies (Israel has one of the toughest gun control laws in the world), people will still find a way to hurt one another.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com

Who Celebrates Murder?

geftman-gold

Hayley Geftman-Gold and CBS logo – image found at Fox News

Just as I did previously when registering moral outrage last week, I was tempted to write a short story fictionalizing the horrible events that occurred in Las Vegas less than 24 hours ago (as I write this), but I just couldn’t. Maybe in days to come I will, but it’s too soon for me emotionally.

I grew up in Las Vegas, but it’s hardly the town I remember from my childhood into becoming a young adult. I haven’t been back in decades and there’s no real reason for me to return.

But this could have happened anywhere.

I’m sure we’ll hear all about the investigation in social and news media in the days and weeks to come but the fact that 58 people lost their lives and hundreds were wounded somehow isn’t the worse of it. The worst of it is someone out there is celebrating their injuries and deaths.

I’m not talking about ISIS claiming responsibility which may or may not be true. I’m talking about an American citizen and attorney. Her name is Hayley Geftman-Gold and among other outlets, Variety reported on this person’s reaction to the Las Vegas shootings.

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