Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Mad World - Gary Jules

Serenity Now!

I’m trying to accept the things I cannot change in an effort to achieve a greater sense of happiness. So far it’s not working.

On a larger scale, I’m having a hard time dealing with my frustration about social and political issues: the Syrian refugee crisis, the Israel/Palestine dilemma, the class warfare taking place in this country, the climate change problem, unnecessary wars, the transformation of the GOP into an evil entity comprised of ignorant, gun-loving knuckle-draggers and greedy one-percenters who only want to become richer at everyone else’s expense, the possibility of a bigoted jackass like Donald Trump or a lying imbecile like Ben Carson becoming President of the United States…you know, the usual.

On a personal level, I’m more than a little troubled by the frequency and abundance of problems that most of us in the shrinking middle class face. When it rains, it sure as hell pours.

Take my hot tub, for example. Because money’s tighter than a miser in a Dickens tale – I’m not making money and Anita’s shouldering the entire burden of funding a family that includes two teenagers, two preteens, two dogs and an overly-sensitive, middle-aged, slightly-overweight partner – we aren’t in the position to purchase any big-ticket items right now. So when one of Anita’s friends offered up her hot tub “for free” (all we had to do was pay to transfer it 15 miles from her house to ours and put it back in running order since it sat in her backyard unused for a year), we jumped at the opportunity. Our 12-year-old was having a party soon and we thought it would be nice to have a hot tub option for her young guests.

As some of my friends know, I needed a cheap electrician to hook the tub up to power; after we paid $200 for that we found that the tub wasn’t heating properly. To make a long story short, some guy we didn’t know who responded to our Craigslist ad – a guy named Bill Blondheim from Bronson Development in Fraser, Michigan, an hour and a half away – spent half a day fiddling around and charged us $340 even though he didn’t fix anything. Because the tub still wouldn’t heat and wouldn’t be ready in time for our daughter’s party, we stopped payment on the check. He took us to Small Claims Court and the magistrate ended up siding with him, stating that Blondheim had the right to be paid for whatever work he had done. So over $400 ended up being deducted from Anita’s next paycheck – money that would have come in handy for Christmas, new wresting shoes for our son, a car payment, dog grooming or the other bills piling up on our dining room table.

I’m still losing sleep over this one, wondering why someone who didn’t do what we hired him to do was rewarded by our court system for being a morally bankrupt shyster.

Add to this a psychopathic ex-husband who’s been able to use that same legal system to his advantage and our detriment, a house in need of repairs, the death of friends, a second vehicle that no longer works and the normal obstacles to fulfillment and relaxation that we all experience, and one can see why serenity is more of an abstract concept – like democracy, world peace and obedient children – than a goal that can be achieved.

Things would be worse, of course, if any of us developed health problems, Anita lost her job, the kids weren’t stellar students or we had to sleep in our van. We have friends and we have each other, for which I’m thankful. But it’s hard to fulfill obligations when there’s not enough income. It’s hard to sleep when insomnia rears its head. It’s hard to smile when you just want to cry. And contentment is proving to be something to read about rather than feel.

In the words of Frank Costanza of NBC’s Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

So Long, Bonnie Bucqueroux

People who think Facebook friends aren’t real friends are full of crap.

Bonnie Bucqueroux was a real friend.

She was generous and thoughtful and witty and talented and wise and interesting and one-of-a-kind. I’ve met a lot of people in my five decades on Planet Earth, and I can say with confidence that Bonnie was one of the most wonderful, intelligent, encouraging, dedicated and compelling women I’ve ever known.

The thick-skinned Michigan State University journalism professor and progressive activist died this morning at the age of 70. Although she had been experiencing health issues in recent weeks, her death was unexpected and took everyone by surprise.

Judging from her Facebook page, Bonnie touched a great number of people in a variety of ways while she was with us. It’s just been a few hours since she passed away and there are hundreds of messages, some short and sweet and some long and rambling. All of them pay tribute to a unique and giving woman who was loud when fighting for what was right and quiet when encouraging students and friends to feel good about ourselves, reach for our goals and make the most of the time we’ve been given.

Just like she did.

The “What’s the Diehl?” masthead at the top of this blog was designed by Bonnie. I didn’t ask her to do this; she just did it one day and forwarded it to me. In my early days of blogging, she provided input on the design and was one of the first to link her website, Lansing Online News, to this blog. She periodically sent unsolicited job announcements to me by private Facebook message and repeatedly invited me to appear on the radio show she hosted with a partner on Lansing Community College Radio WLNZ (89.7) although, like a fool, I never accepted her invitation.

Bonnie's YouTube channel has been viewed more than two million times.

Bonnie knew about photography and grant writing, computers and web design, community gardening and of course blogging. (A former congressional candidate on the Green Party ticket, she was a true trailblazer.) She told me once that she usually prefers animals to people – although judging by the roster of diverse guests who appeared on her radio show, she connected with people as easily as a duck takes to water. She cared about climate change, sustainable agriculture, politics and, of course, journalism, mentoring countless students and professionals and leaving a wider mark on her community, state and world than most do. She was a rabble-rouser, a radical, a hippie of sorts, from what I understand. I could and should have gotten to know her better. I really wish I had.

Rest in peace and thank you, Bonnie. Hopefully you know how lucky people feel to have known someone as good as you.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Living Doll

Titties 'N Beer - Frank Zappa

So Shoot Me

“Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

~ Pope Francis, in remarks to the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015

A beautiful little girl in east Tennesee was shot in the chest by her 11-year-old neighbor nine days ago because she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy.

Maykayla Dyer
The boy, who had a history of bullying eight-year-old Maykayla Dyer, used his daddy’s 12-gauge shotgun to shoot the second-grader from inside his house. The 11-year-old was charged with first-degree murder in juvenile court; his father hasn’t been charged at all.

This is so damn frustrating and distressing and unnerving and disconcerting and infuriating and just plain wrong. It’s wrong that every time an innocent human being is gunned down, the National Rifle Association digs in its heels, launching preemptive strikes, insisting that “guns don’t kill people” and winding up its knuckle-dragging members with nonsensical warnings about rights being taken away by Kenyan-born communists in the Oval Office.

It’s wrong that politicians listen more carefully to the NRA puppeteers who pull their strings than the voters who put them in office. It’s wrong that candidates pander to the mouth-breathing open carry dweebs who bolster their manhood by intimidating women and children in coffee shops and grocery stores. It’s wrong that the NRA’s minions bleat about how “now is not the time to discuss gun violence” and “this issue shouldn’t be politicized” and “emotions shouldn’t drive this discussion” every time a maniac slaughters someone’s loved one.

If not now, when? When can we take action to stop the murder of innocents, of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and co-workers and friends who have the same dreams and wants and goals and likes and dislikes and habits and preferences as the rest of us? When will we stop tolerating our broken system and our broken culture, our skewed and tired practice of bemoaning the latest killing spree, wringing our hands, sending thoughts and prayers, shrugging our shoulders and then looking away, picking up our books again, getting back in our cars, switching our TV channels and moving on with our lives because we still have ours?

And why should we try to squelch our emotions? Why can’t we turn our anger and rage and disgust and fear into things that work, that benefit us, that help to stop the needless carnage – is carnage ever needed? – and actually make life better for ourselves and our families? We have the facts and figures, the reports and studies. The gun lobby discounts those. We have the case studies and the anecdotes. The gun industry discounts those. We have the expert’s opinions and the examples from other countries. The Second Amendment lovers discount those. So now we can’t appeal to people’s emotions either? We can’t use the power of our feelings to motivate people to action, to get them to vote out the NRA’s whores, to demand an end to this dreadful scourge once and for all? Then what the f*ck can we do?

I posted this Facebook status update on October 8:

I apologize to 8-year-old Maykayla Dyer on behalf of all American grownups. Because our politicians are spineless and our gun nuts are stupid pricks, you've been added to the long list of children lost to gun violence. Say hi to Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt and all the other precious kids who've been sacrificed at the altar of the National Rifle Association.

I had posted this one earlier, on August 26, after television news personality Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot dead by a “disgruntled co-worker” during a live broadcast in Virginia:

You know what really ticks me off? When a TV news reporter and cameraman are shot to death during a live broadcast in Virginia and people take to Facebook with the same old "guns don't kill people/Second Amendment/could have been a knife" claptrap. I'm so sick of the carnage, the dead children, the justifications, the denials, the NRA and its brain-dead sheeple...

And then, 13 days ago on October 1, a 26-year-old miscreant who shall remain nameless opened fire at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon, killing 10, wounding seven and becoming one more of many sick SOBs who’ve turned this country into the kind of place that tourists avoid and foreigners fear. Like so many of these twisted cowards, he took the easy way out, killing himself before he could be captured and made to face justice.

This spurred me to take to Twitter and tweet a few anti-gun messages:

I didn’t expect to agitate so many gun nuts but apparently I did because I must have received 30 responses and been mentioned in 30 more, all calling me names (what exactly is a “libtard” anyway?), trashing me for my emotion-driven remarks and sharing stupid memes as if their bombastic words carry more heft when typed over pictures.

And while Second Amendment lovers were still taking me to task for my tweets, a student was killed and three were injured in a shooting last Friday at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Before I decided to take a much-needed break from Twitter, I tweeted the following:

If gun lovers spent as much time on important stuff as they do attacking and insulting people in Twitter, this would be a much better world.‪ #‎TheGunNutsAreAfterMe‬

It should go without saying that the Second Amendment was never meant to enable people to visit their local Starbucks and Krogers with AK-47s and Tech-9s slung over their shoulders. Most people know that cannons and single-shot muskets were the weapons of the day back in 1791 when the amendment was crafted and that it actually includes the term “well-regulated.”

I understand why people don’t want to relinquish their personal weapons and then have to pray that their government won’t take advantage of their inability to defend themselves and their loved ones. I understand the fascination with firearms, the odd power one feels when one holds a gun in one’s hand, aims it at a target and squeezes the trigger. And I understand people not wanting others – not politicians or bloggers or anybody – to tell them what they can and can’t do or have or think. What I don’t understand is this: when faced with the knowledge that a number of little boys and girls were torn to shreds by multiple bullets fired from a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle at 9:30 in the morning in December of 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, because it's so easy for disturbed pricks to get their hands on deadly weapons, how can anyone shrug their shoulders and insist that there’s nothing we can do?

Someone sent me a private message in Facebook a little while ago telling me that I “harp too much” on gun violence. Before I unfriended him, I sent him a reply saying, “So shoot me.”

How Do We Fix This?
  • Reinstate the assault weapons ban which was signed into law by President Clinton in September of 1994 and allowed to expire 10 years later (some say its effects were negligible but others insist that the ban had an impact on gun crime);
  • Ban high-capacity magazines such as those used by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson, Arizona, in January of 2011 (Loughner killed six people and injured 15 others, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). These substantially enhance the deadliness of gun attacks;
  • Reform mental health laws to help keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental illness (a 2013 survey of National Rifle Association members found that almost 91 percent favor this);
  • Require background checks for all gun sales, including gun show gun sales;
  • Stem the tide of open carry and concealed carry proposals cropping up in municipalities across the country (my state, Michigan, is a "shall issue" state for concealed carry and open carry is generally permitted);
  • Ban semi-automatic firearms (firearms that shoot one bullet per trigger pull); and
  • Vote against any politician who cares more about getting or keeping his/her job than about standing up to the gun lobby and saying, “My constituents are mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Want to Read More?

Click here to read, “Oregon Shooting at Umpqua College Kills 10, Sheriff Says,” October 1, 2015.

Click here to read, “What If Congress Treated Gun Violence Like It Treated The Benghazi Attack?,” October 9, 2015.

Click here to read, “Shoot! So Far Nothing's Changed!," December 22, 2012.

Click here to read, “Oregon Killings Amplify Crusade of Virginia Tech Victim’s Father,” October 10, 2015.

Click here to read, “POTUS on Umpqua,” October 2, 2015.

Click here to read, “Grieving for Grace,” March 30, 2013.

Click here to read, “5 Indefensible Tweets From The NRA Since The Oregon Gun Massacre,” October 7, 2015.

Click here to read, “Gun Control Push Coming in Senate,” October 6, 2015.

Click here to read, “Final Report on Sandy Hook Killings Sheds New Light on Gunman’s Isolation,” December 27, 2013.

Click here to read, “When Deciding to Live Means Avoiding Guns,” September 24, 2015.

Click here to read, “We’ve lost the gun debate: Our relationship with guns is dysfunctional, and we won’t do a thing about it,” July 24, 2105.

Click here to read, “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll,” September 28, 2013.

The Huffington Post has a collection of stories about gun violence in Chicago, where there were 2,500 shootings in 2014, a 13 percent increase from 2013 numbers. Click here.

Sources: Heavy.com, New York Times, Salon.com, Thinkprogress.org, TheHill.com, USAtoday.com, HuffingtonPost.com, NPR.org.