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Archive for 2008

We are on the front side of a cold snap, up here in the interior of Alaska. It’s just starting to get cold, with temperatures this morning in downtown Fairbanks hovering right around 30 below Fahrenheit.

The weather forecasters are threatening us with an extended cold spell, indicating temperatures should drop into the negative 40’s in the days ahead, with no break to the cold in the foreseeable future.  But what do they know?

I like the cold.

More honestly, I like extreme weather.

I find that it is nature’s way of reminding us who is in charge, of the limits to our own knowledge, technology, and power.

The wilderness, or natural world, restores my spirit. Whenever I can, I like to go to the mountains, the forests, or sea to do just that.  I don’t get there as often as Id like.

So when the weather turns inclement, it’s like a house call from God.

It redeems me, renews my understanding of my place in the world, and the universe. Despite all our folly, our destruction of ecosystems and life (possibly even our own), weather reassures me the natural world will persevere.

We may not recognize the outcome, or be able to exist in it, but nature and all its intricacies will remain.

And that comforts me.

So today when I come in from the cold, fingers swollen, icicles and frost on my beard, don’t pity me.

Celebrate with me.

For I’ve been dancing with the gods.

In the oh so, glorious cold.

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I’ve been walking to and from work downtown recently, depending on when I go relative to kids going to school or my wife going to work.

Today I rolled out of bed while everybody else was sleeping in, taking off to work in one of those beautiful mid-winter mornings in Fairbanks. New snow had blanketed the town during the late morning, and was still drifting down.

Snow in Fairbanks is unique to any place I’ve lived. It falls silently, rarely accompanied by any wind, and stacks quietly on any limbs, wires, or even twigs; forming an intricately woven organic lace of white on every tree, willow, or blade of grass long enough to still emerge from earlier snows.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if just to work.

After work, I headed home via the post office. It gave me an opportunity to cross the Cushman Street Bridge and pass by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, as opposed to the pedestrian bridge where I usually cross the river.

I grew up Catholic, and although my views on religion stray far from the church these days, I still long for the spirituality and mysticism that can envelop a traditional mass. So much so, as I passed their front door, that I eyed the times for mass and even considered recruiting, or drafting, my family for a Christmas service.

I continued down the path, freshly cleaned of snow (the only disturbance during my early morning walk was the snow blower running over the church’s walks); to the little altar of stone for the Virgin Mary built in the Church’s front yard. The snow had been carefully brushed away from the altar. Within the apse, a statue of the virgin mother stands, surrounded by pots of brightly colored plastic flowers.

The irony of this little scene didn’t escape me.

So I stood there, in the low winter light of the Alaska midday sun, rays filtering through the branches of the snow covered birch trees, snow still softly falling upon me, surrounded by divinity as it was meant to be, in front of a poorly crafted altar to the mother of a god made in mankind’s own image.

I walked on, struck by the folly of man.

Of religion.

Of the obscenity of plastic flowers replacing real ones made by god.

Man does do it better, after all.

Meanwhile the pope is in Rome, railing against the evils of homosexuality, proclaiming how it will be the downfall of humanity.

Not overpopulation.

Not the disease, starvation, war, torture, abuse, injury, rape, environmental ruin or death brought on by overpopulation.

Just homosexuality.

Homosexuality?

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excavating Christmas

After several moves in the past year or two, we have ended up with a couple of unheated storage units haphazardly packed with everything from caribou antlers to furniture, drafting tables to fishing nets, sewing fabric to tarps (brown, not the classic Alaska blue variety).

Of course, mixed in with the above, is box after box of who knows what. (I know what, but given this is a “G-rated” blog I can’t say).

I might add, none of it is mine.

Except maybe those caribou antlers. And maybe the fishing nets……. Oh, the drafting table might also be mine. And that tarp sure was handy last time I went camping.

Anyways, on this not particularly cold Saturday (about 0 degrees Fahrenheit) I was charged with the task of extracting the Christmas decorations from those storage units. Not an easy task.

Accompanying me on this expedition were the intrepid Jolie and Ali, renowned explorers of the subarctic. Of course, neither of them brought hats or mittens and ended up spending the bulk of the time in the running car while I entered the realm of the lost and forgotten.

Before going on, I should add that when it comes to Christmas, I consider the Grinch and Scrooge as great failures. Once great fighters for the cause, they succumbed to temptation, celebrated Christmas and led many a young recruit away from crotchety obscurity.

May they be crucified upon Christmas trees.

Back to Saturday.

While I dove bravely into the storage units, mumbling about how the temperature inside the units was a good ten degrees colder, and the boxes and artifacts a good ten degrees colder still, the girls sat in the car arguing.

After 30 minutes of shifting boxes around, it came upon the midday clear, that Christmas sucks and I was cold.

Actually, after thirty minutes of listening to the girls fight while I froze trying to get “their” Christmas decorations out, I lost it. Let’s just say, if Santa was indeed watching there is one not so little boy who will be getting coal in his stocking for Christmas.

By the time I was done with my rant, it was clear to not only the girls but to anyone within a mile that we wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas again until they had children of their own if they so much as uttered another word against each other.

Returning to the storage units, fully heated, I extricated the green and red tubs of Christmas décor, and lodged them ever so gently into the car.  (Sarcasm.)

About this time, a light went off in my head, causing me to duck and whirl about in surprise. (Those lights don’t go off very often, and always catch me by surprise.)

My Christmas shopping dilemma was solved. The solution was right in front of me, in those storage units. Inside, box upon box of forgotten possessions sat, waiting to be rediscovered………. under the Christmas tree.

I can wrap those boxes, stick them under the tree, and we can rediscover lost treasures!!!

It’s free!!!!

It’s easy!!!!

The kids will love it, after all, the one time they emerged from the car long enough to peek into storage they were trying to grab on to anything that looked like theirs to take back home. This way, they can have it all!!!

And talk about boxes of stuff. Jane will get more presents then she ever has. Boxes and boxes of fabric, sewing patterns, unfinished projects!!

Yeah!!!!!

I’ll let you know how it works out- I will save myself days of shopping agony!!!

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.

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Come to think of it, just guessing, I may need a place to stay for a while after Christmas.

After arriving home, and unloading the precious cargo, my two little helpers and I headed inside, me to thaw out, them to pick up the house before we could unpack the Christmas goods.

It took another day, but eventually they did just that. And, for the most part, they took my threat to cancel the next 18 years of Christmas seriously.

By Sunday night, the house was clean, the tree was up, and the kids were excitedly watching Christmas movies.

And I, believe it or not, had enjoyed it. It is, perhaps for a long time, the first time in recent memory that I enjoyed the process of decorating for Christmas.

It may have been the excitement of the girls, or just the process of spending a weekend with them, and at home, that wore down my resolve.

Or perhaps it was frostbite.

Or a thawing of the discontinuous permafrost between my ears.

In the end, the process of excavating Christmas had proved to be as much internal as external.

And in a year of change, why not one more?

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for a friend

Following your thoughts over the past couple of days,
And am myself swinging between thoughts and feelings of reconciliation and outrage.

Your sensitivity to the needs of the spirit move me,
The morning darkness,
The candles,
The songs,
And prayers.
And make me envious,
Of your skills and knowledge, and wisdom.
Don’t doubt you have those,
Despite the rhetoric from others that do not,
Their view of you,
Spoken behind closed doors,
Is not your true reflection.

In the meantime,
Cling to these days with your son,
He will keep you afloat,
When life threatens to pull you under.
As my daughters have done,
And do,
For me,
When my own shadow,
Threatens to obscure the day,
And the night.

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and exactly where was God?

I came across this article today as I was reading the news.

13 Year Old Girl Confirmed Dead

Now, tell me, exactly where was God?

-

Perhaps he was in the shower when she was raped.

Her crime was being raped by 3 men.

Or using the bathroom when they found her guilty of adultery.

When she reported the rape to the militia who control Kismayo, Somalia, she was charged with fornication (adultery)

Maybe in the middle of catching a Pat Robertson newscast while she was convicted.

and sentenced to death by stoning.

At 13.

At 13.

Maybe he was cheering on his football team while she was prepared for her sentence.  Everyone knows god picks favorites.

Kicking and screaming in terror, the girl was carried into the stadium.

Reading the last, suspenseful chapters of the DaVinci Code.

1,000 onlookers watched as her hands and legs were forcefully bound

Just possibly he turned away, unconcerned because she wasn’t an American.

13 year old  Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was buried up to her neck and a cape was placed over her head, leaving only her face exposed.

Or a Christian.

50 men hurled stones at her face from the truckload unloaded earlier that day.

I wonder if he flinched, just a little, as the first stone struck.

According to onlookers, 3 times nurses were instructed to check whether she was still alive.

Or went back to talking United States foreign policy with George W. Bush.

They pulled the teen from the ground,

Not once.

declared she was still alive

Not twice.

and put her back in the hole for the stoning to continue.

But three times.

-

Now, pray tell me, where was God?

-

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

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Playin Alaskan

I’ve been pointed to two good guest columns on Sarah Palin this week by Alaskan writers Seth Kantner, author of “Ordinary Wolves” and Nick Jans, author of “The Last Light Breaking”.

Take the time to check the columns out, both are honest reactions of observant, thinking Alaskans to Sarah and her fundamentalist, faux Marge from Fargo accent, lets develop Alaska so its just like everywhere else shtick.

Seth Kanter “That Sarah Palin is one unreal Alaskan“.

Nick Jans “Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska“.

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Some new quotes.  This one has to be me favorite.

Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.

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In one of my earlier posts I laughingly suggested it couldn’t get any worse that George W. Bush.  I was mistaken.

Palinguage

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An interesting debate was started between a couple of brothers today on Discontinuous Permafrost.  It began on another post, than ran over into an e-mail debate that I felt warranted a post of its own.  Before going any further with posting their discussion, I should give you a little more feedback on the two brothers.

The brothers grew up in Wyoming, outside a small town on a farm.  They ate a lot of venison growing up.  That meant they, and their families, hunted.  They hunted mule deer, white-tail deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope.

Needless to say, the brothers grew up around guns.  And in America, where there are guns, there is also the NRA.  Both were “junior” members of that esteemed organization, and grew up reading its publications.

It is important to note how important hunting season was to this family.  Family vacations, holidays, fishing or camping trips were all canceled when work demanded it.  For years on end.  Hunting season remained sacred and was never missed.

Eventually, as the younger brother went to college he missed more and more hunting seasons.  He was alright with that.  One year he had gone hunting with friends, and it had become more of a killing trip than hunting.  It took a long time for him to recover his palate for hunting.  Even today, when he does hunt he goes more for the hunting than the killing, which is fortunate because the kills are few and far between.  When he does kill, he takes time to honor the life that was taken for his benefit, his nourishment.  In short, he gives thanks.

The younger brother will probably miss hunting season this year.  Not by choice, but because the older brother is getting married.  The younger brother points this out just in case he has offended the older brother during their debate, in order that the older brother knows he is loved so deeply that the younger brother is willing to miss a hunting season on his behalf.  He knows that despite his gruff exterior his older brother is a warm, compassionate, and caring person.

The brother’s entries are notated as yb for young ( arrogantly self-righteous) brother and ob for old (grumpy, gun-toting) brother.

And so, to catch up with their debate first visit: after Bush, is there anything left to risk?

hey- responded to your comment.  check it out- i’d like to know how obama’s ad is a lie.

yb
Will do.  sent a couple of forwards, 1 serious, the other funny but interesting.

ob
sorry took them both seriously.  I am sorry, I find that the NRA does more harm than good and I suspect they are largely a cover for the gun industry.  Consider the origin of the 2nd amendment, when Britian disarmed the colonists of muskets.  Muskets!!!  Today are military uses devices not even conceived of at that time.  How exactly is your 30-06 going to fight an F-16, or worse a nuclear device, or a tank.  Quite simply, its not.  So in order to arm ourselves do we all need a tank in our yard, that way when the neighbors dog poops on our grass we blow their house away?  do you really feel more comfortable knowing that the meth house down the street keeps automatic weapons, legally?

I’m all for keeping my guns, and hunting with them, and god forbid in the event of a break in using it in defense of my property and family.  But the sounds of gunfire during the night during my brief stint in Chicago wasn’t people protecting their homes, though they may have been protecting their turf.

It utterly confounds me how white, working class Americans will vote for someone merely because they say they won’t take your weapons way, while bending you over the fence and screwing you every other way.

Enough for now, yb

Before Round 2, the offending e-mails. Number 1:

SHOTGUN PRETEEN VS. ILLEGAL ALIEN HOME INVADERS – BUTTE, MONTANA, NOVEMBER 5, 2006.

TWO ILLEGAL ALIENS, RALPHEL RESINDEZ, 23, AND ENRICO GARZA, 26, PROBABLY BELIEVED THEY COULD EASILY OVERPOWER HOME-ALONE 11-YEAR-OLD PATRICIA HARRINGTON AFTER HER FATHER HAD LEFT THEIR TWO-STORY HOME.

IT SEEMS THE TWO CROOKS DIDN’T CONSIDER TWO THINGS: 1. THEY WERE IN MONTANA, AND 2. PATRICIA HAD BEEN A CLAY SHOOTING CHAMPION SINCE SHE WAS NINE.

PATRICIA WAS IN HER UPSTAIRS ROOM WHEN THE TWO MEN BROKE THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE. SHE QUICKLY RAN TO HER FATHER’S ROOM AND GRABBED HIS 12 GAUGE SHOTGUN.

RESINDEZ WAS THE FIRST TO GET UP TO THE SECOND FLOOR ONLY TO BE THE FIRST TO CATCH A NEAR POINT BLANK BLAST OF BUCKSHOT FROM THE 11-YEAR-OLD’S KNEE CROUCH AIM. HE SUFFERED FATAL WOUNDS TO HIS ABDOMEN AND GENITALS.

WHEN GARZA RAN TO THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS, HE TOOK A BLAST TO THE LEFT SHOULDER AND STAGGERED OUT INTO THE STREET WHERE HE BLED TO DEATH BEFORE MEDICAL HELP COULD ARRIVE.

IT WAS FOUND OUT LATER THAT RESINDEZ WAS ARMED WITH A STOLEN 45 CALIBER HANDGUN HE TOOK FROM ANOTHER HOME INVASION ROBBERY. THAT VICTIM, 50-YEAR-OLD DAVID BURIEN, WAS NOT SO LUCKY. HE DIED FROM STAB WOUNDS TO THE CHEST.

PATRICIA STAVED OFF A ROBBERY AND POTENTIAL RAPE BECAUSE HER PARENTS TAUGHT HER HOW TO USE A GUN. HER PARENTS DIDN’T HIDE A GUN IN THE HOUSE AND NOT EDUCATE HER ON THE POWER THAT A FIREARM PROVIDES. IGNORANCE CAN BE DEADLY, BUT FORTUNATELY FOR THIS MONTANA FAMILY, KNOWLEDGE WAS POWER.

TWO ILLEGALS WERE SENT BACK….IN A BOX!

BLAMING GUNS FOR VIOLENCE IS LIKE BLAMING SPOONS FOR ROSIE O’DONNELL’S FAT ASS.

EVER WONDER WHY GOOD STUFF LIKE THIS NEVER MAKES NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, OR ABC NEWS???

And the second:

(A) The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
(B) Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
(C) Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.

Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept of Health Human Services.

Now think about this: Guns

(A) The number of gun owners in the U.S. Is 80,000,000. (Yes, that’s 80 million)
(B) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500.
(C) The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is .000188.

Statistics courtesy of FBI

So, statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Remember, ‘Guns don’t kill people, doctors do.’

FACT: NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT ALMOST EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST ONE DOCTOR.

Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!!!

Out of concern for the public at large, I withheld the statistics on LAWYERS for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention!

Yb wants to ad-lib the following into the email debate:

Of course, the anonymous author fails to say how many lives were saved by guns (300 by government break-in estimates) versus by doctors. Given doctors administer antibiotics regularly for diseases that a century ago regularly killed, say once a day, then we could say 700,000 doctors times 365 days a year. Wow, that’s a bigger number than I care to calculate, and moves doctors securely into the lives saved category. Guess gun owners are more dangerous after all.

Now, back to the debate at hand:

and what exactly does this prove?  how many people die in homes due to poorly design stairs?  maybe we should contractors illegal?  and in the few cases where they actually use an architect the architect should be illegal too?

somewhere I miss the logic or humor.

I don’t think anybody that I’ve ever voted for, and I voted largely democratic or liberal, has proposed the wholesale banning of guns.  what they have proposed is making it more difficult for people who should not have guns to do so.

yb

The laws are already in place to keep guns from those who shouldn’t have them.  I believe that people in those positions to enforce those laws use their positions to allow the occasional nut job to fall through the cracks, so to speak, intentionally, to advance their own political agendas.  As far as the “Shooting in Montana” forward I can provide 8 to 12 instances from NRA magazines that quote news stories of similar incidences in each issue.

ob

Enjoy my rant below:

I bet you can.  Do you want me to find 100 instances of guns (stolen from homes) being used for other purposes?  I know the NRA likes to publicize those few events, but the facts prove otherwise.  so one burglary is foiled by a gun for every 100 guns that are stolen?  is that a good trade off?  Not for the people who die from those other 99 guns.  Check this out: http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/fadeathwithrates65-04.pdf Is there one gun law that would have prevented the people in the nra magazine from having the gun they used for protection?  not likely- those are the law-abiding citizens the laws help protect.

So you believe someone sees a lunatic applying for a handgun permit and allows them to get it to prove their political point?  So the guy that shot up a unitarian church sunday was sold a shotgun on the premise that a politician somewhere could point out that the guys read books by the fox news pundits?  Do you hear yourself?  That is insane.

Thats like believing somehow that there is a group of “rich” people behind the environmental movement.  Its bullshit.  Not even if the ten richest people in the world poured everything they had into the sierra club could they counter the money coming from Exxon alone.

Or that scientists are predicting global warming in order to pad their research grants.  Oh, and the oil companies saying it isn’t happening have nothing but their god-fearing honesty to protect.

Oh the NRA, such a moral beacon that they hire spys to infiltrate concerned citizen groups.  And who funds the NRA?  industry.  No, say it ain’t so.  Industry is more moral than individuals, just ask any god-fearing republican.  Oh- it is industry.  The gun industry.  why do they care?  because they sell…… GUNS!!!!!   http://www.vpc.org/press/9711eddi.htm If you think the NRA is a bunch of people morally committed to your right to carry a gun you are wrong- they are protecting somebody’s right to SELL you a gun.  Big difference.

Another great source of information is: http://www.bradycampaign.org/issues/ I know if you read NRA propaganda they are going to say these are evil and warped sources of information.  Kind of like oil lobbyists say about environmental scientists.  But consider what people committed to this cause have to gain: NOTHING.  They aren’t in it for money, nobody is getting rich by not selling guns.  I don’t think you can even name a politician that has gotten elected on this issue alone.  Just like scientist aren’t getting rich predicting global warming (while the oil industry gets rich denying it) neither is anyone making a living off of gun laws.  People care about the issue more often or not because they have lost someone due to no gun legislation.

The End

yb

I want to add I know there is no way any gun law that I would support would have prevented the shooting on Sunday at the Unitarian Church- though if my memory is correct he used an automatic shotgun, and I feel strongly against using automatic weapons for hunting and so wonder about their purpose in society at large.  Ultimately, an individual is responsible for their actions, good or bad, and no gun law is going to prevent a person from a premeditated attack.  But, if someone had been legally armed in the congregation I don’t see how that would have prevented or resolved the situation any differently.

yb

Did the NRA make up the statistic that when Australia confiscated all firearms from law abiding citizens that the violent crime rate jumped 275%?

ob

I’m not familiar with that statistic- but if the crime rate went from 100 murders to 237 assaults, no deaths, because guns were not involved wouldn’t that increase have been worth it?

yb

that should have been 275 assaults, to make the math easy.

yb

Also, try to find some scientific, peer reviewed studies that show the benefit of gun ownership.  That means not funded by the NRA, or gun manufacturers, and published in something other than nra magazines.  I’m not indicating they don’t exist, but they strengthen the argument for guns if they do.

yb

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Last night, I attended a vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks for the victims of the Sunday shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. As of this afternoon, two victims of that tragedy have died, four remain hospitalized and two have been released.

We met in the somber grey of another rainy day, one of many this summer in Fairbanks. People wandered in, many straight from work, finding a place to join with a circle of friends to mourn this event, recognize the lives that we lost, and search for grains of meaning. Music played gently in the background, echoed by the rain on the roof overhead.

The lights of the sanctuary were off, our only light came from above, filtered first by the grey of the sky, then dappled by the dripping green of the birch tree leaves. Candlelight centered our attention on one side of the circle, eight flames casting warmth, each representing a spirit damaged or lost to us by Sunday’s events.

Jeff led our vigil, leading us through songs and an update on Sunday’s events. Members took turns speaking from the podium, then from the chalice.

For the first time since I’ve attended our Fellowship, barring one Sunday when I lit the chalice itself, I lit a candle.

I spoke of the heroes from Sunday’s attack.

Of how often these attacks occur, and the shooting goes on for hours.

Or until the police arrive and dispatch the gunman. Which is exactly what this fellow was hoping for.

I wondered aloud how many lives were saved by the quick action of those in the Church. It was reported that only 3 rounds of the 76 brought into the Church were discharged.

Today the evolution of that thought has continued. I’m not alone.

Unitarian Universalists are, by my experience, peaceful people.

Peaceful, but not passive.

We are used to protecting those who can not protect themselves. We are cursed at for attending peace rallies, spit upon for supporting the rights of gays and lesbians, and damned for allowing atheists and agnostics in our midst.

In the case of Sunday’s shooting, members quickly disarmed the suspect at great risk to themselves. At least one fatality is reported to have fallen victim to the shooter while sheltering others from the gunman.

I believe the shooter, like society, made a misjudgment. To value peace is not equitable to being weak.

To stand up to the majority for what is right, at great risk to one’s self, one’s livelihood or home is a sign of great strength.

Peaceful, but not passive.

I recall an image from the movie Ghandi though I’ve seen the movie once, when I was in the 4th grade. In my memory, Ghandi and his followers lined up to harvest salt to break a British monopoly on the commodity. British soldiers met the single file line, beating each person as they took their turn at the front of the line. As a person recovered consciousness, they returned to the back of the line. On and on they made their way through, each taking their turn over and over again until the British gave way.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Sunday’s shooter bought into one of the great lies of the right, that there is not enough for all.

If the shooter had taken the time to listen to the UU message, that in an equitable, just, and free society each person can and does have work, a place to live, education, freedom to worship, and love as they choose. There are many paths, one doesn’t preclude the other.

Instead he chose hate, and a violent solution.

Our response must be love, and peaceful.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Somehow we must use this event to reach out to the marginalized, those people like the shooter that have been touched by hate. Our country, and our faith, must offer them hope.

On a global scale, we must raise people up to our standard of living. There is enough for all.

To borrow the the words of a burgeoning orator “this is our time.”

It is time for our faith to re-emerge from the shadows, and take up our roll as leaders in society. To show the world how to move forward in the face of violence.

Peaceful, but not passive.

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