Saturday, August 23, 2014


Photo by Maya Grafmuller

Bucky Done Gun - M.I.A.

“Pistol-Packin’ Yahoo in Aisle 4”

“It’s a myth that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If more guns in the hands of more people stopped gun crime, we would be the safest country in the developed world. Instead, our gun murder rate is the highest in the developed world.”

~ Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

“There’s no conceivable reason to own an AR-15, a pump action shotgun, armor-piercing bullets or a high-capacity magazine. Firing a semi-auto at a piece of cardboard is no more ‘sport’ than using a bazooka to play pool is ‘leisure.’ It simply appeals to the fraction of the population who dream of re-enacting Scarface’s last stand every time they get a letter from the IRS.”

~ Morris M,

“A broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”

~ Harvard School of Public Health 

“Every day, 33 Americans are murdered with guns. Seven of them are children.”

~ Everytown for Gun Safety

I now have a good reason to avoid Kroger’s like Mormons avoid casinos: according to an e-mail alert I received yesterday, the supermarket chain is apparently fine with its customers strolling the aisles with TEC-9’s and AK-47’s slung over their shoulders.

The country’s largest full-service grocery retailer – it operates 2,642 properties in 34 states, has 375,000 employees and recorded $98.4 billion in annual sales last year– has responded to the more than 68,000 people who’ve encouraged it to adopt gun sense policies by sticking its corporate fingers in its ears. “Millions of customers are present in our busy grocery stores every day and we don’t want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun,” said company spokesman Keith Dailey. “We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.”

So Kroger’s has no plans to address the issue because the company’s afraid of confrontation. No need to make space on the mantel for that Profile in Courage award, guys. 

I guess it’s understandable that they don’t want to change their gun policy because it would risk alienating the pro-gun portion of their customer base. But you can’t claim to be committed to a "safe and secure workplace and shopping environment," as Kroger’s does, while at the same time allowing – and in a sense, encouraging – gun-toting troglodytes to brandish their high-powered weaponry in the potato chip aisle.

Businesses exist to sell products and services and not to weigh in on the issues of the day. I get that. But I didn’t pick this fight. If Kroger’s is frustrated, corporate execs should blame the loons and yahoos who decide to head to their stores and flaunt their “Second Amendment rights” and maybe make it on the teevee news that night, not the responsible parents and families who just want to be able to restock their cupboards without worry and discomfort.

Why does someone’s right to terrorize his fellow citizens in response to his own feelings of rage and powerlessness trump the right of people like me to learn, shop, work, travel and entertain ourselves free from intimidation and fear? Why do gun rights advocates think referencing Adolph Hitler and the president’s armed security detail is all they need to do to justify their position?

It’s interesting that the few pro-gun people I know – intelligent, discerning, responsible individuals – can’t tell me what’s wrong with closing loopholes that allow dangerous people to buy guns without background checks, reinstating the assault weapons ban, educating parents about responsible gun ownership and safe gun storage, or limiting the availability of high-capacity magazines like those used in Aurora and Tucson. And when I point out that an armed society is actually not a safer society – one study crunched the numbers and found that successful interventions by armed civilians had occurred in only 1.6 percent of all mass shootings since 1980 – my discussion partners are as quiet as an unprepared student during an oral exam.

Gun lovers are everywhere. At a wedding recently, I was surprised to learn that my brother-in-law – a very likable, responsible fellow – owns and loves guns. He told me that when he’s feeling depressed or has had a bad day, a trip to the firing range with one of his carefully-stored firearms is just what the doctor ordered. I made a mental note to refrain from getting drunk with the guy and asking to see the inside of his safe. (Between 2005 and 2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.) I also vowed silently to remind my kids that if they see a gun at a relative’s house, even if it belongs to a super-cool uncle who’s fun to be with and gives great birthday gifts, they need to run the other way and not look back.

The assertion that gun control is dumb because criminals don’t follow laws anyway is juvenile. Lots of killers, rapists, pedophiles, robbers and drunk drivers don’t follow laws prohibiting murder, rape, possession of kiddy porn, theft or driving while impaired but that doesn’t mean we should get rid of any of those laws. just because a bad guy doesn’t obey one law doesn’t mean he doesn’t obey any of ‘em. And there are dozens of empirical studies showing that stricter gun control laws in the United States do in fact lower the rate of gun deaths.

I was chatting about gun violence with a fellow parent at football practice the other night. She knew Richard Pruitt, a 17-year-old boy who died this week after being shot in the head in Lansing – one of eight local shootings in seven days starting on August 14. “It could have been one of our sons,” I muttered as a bunch of 13- and 14-year-olds threw spirals and charged into blocking bags a few feet away. Then I realized he was.

An estimated 44 million people in the U.S. own approximately 192 million guns. Only a fool would want to try to completely ban them. But polls and surveys show that respondents are largely pro-gun control – it’s our Jello-spined politicians who aren’t. Clearly they’ve been bought by the National Rifle Association just like products for sale on Kroger’s shelves. And we can’t expect corporate America to do the right thing unless their bottom lines are at stake. Target and Starbucks both responded to public pressure by asking patrons to refrain from bringing guns into their stores. Hopefully, Kroger’s will hear from enough of us, come to its senses and follow suit.

The Kroger Co.
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-1100

P.S. A regular commenter in Facebook known as "Whimsy Wise" in Dillon, Montana, shared the following compelling post in response to this piece (and authorized me to reprint it here):

Excellent as usual, Patrick. This should be a common sense issue. It's not. For the record, if I'm in a store, church, library, etc., and some open carry idiot wants to parade past while armed, I'm out of there. There is nothing I need badly enough in any of those locations to risk my personal safety for.

As for the legality of firearms and “when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” thinking, I have close up and personal knowledge of what a crock this is. Four and a half years ago, my 29 year-old son-in-law was murdered by a thief who broke into the home he shared with my daughter and their two small children.

The perpetrator's trial began June 9th of this year and ended July 3rd. He sat in a pre-trial facility all that time because he had no defense, until a stand your ground law was passed in that state in Sept of 2013. Once that law was passed, he was very comfortable with the Zimmerman line of BS of, “at that very moment I was afraid for my life.” Like Zimmerman, he was the obvious aggressor and like Trayvon Martin, my son-in-law was made out to be the bad guy.

For a solid month, my daughter and I sat and listened to the defense attempt to lay waste to Edwing’s character. Was it really necessary to the defense to announce that when Edwing was a junior in high school he got an in school suspension for having a joint? How was this remotely relevant?

Then we got to see the evidence against the defendant, starting with the medical examiner’s report. Along with the verbal testimony there was a power point presentation of the autopsy findings. We saw Edwing’s face, complete with powder burns from a 9 millimeter semiautomatic, indicating that the first shot occurred from 2 to 24 inches away. The bullet entered under his left eye and exited through his right cheek. The second shot most likely occurred at the same range but without powder burns due to clothing. That shot entered his left side went through the lung, heart, and second lung, exiting his right side. His heart had been removed and photographed, showing entrance and exit wounds.

We also got to see the small arsenal confiscated from the shooters lodgings when he was arrested. There was a total of seven semi-automatic pistols, all legal purchased. Get that last part? All legally purchased. This guy had a rap sheet a mile long, including felony assault. Why was it possibly for him to buy these weapons?

The outcome of the trial was a conviction for murder two. Had the shooter not stood on the stand and said, “at that very moment I was scared for my life,” it would have been murder one. The secondary result was both my daughter and myself are now dealing with PTSD, having dealt with the initially trauma and having to relive it again.

I do apologize for the long, drawn out accounting of a rather personal tragedy. This is actually the first time since the trial I’ve been able to talk about it. Please delete this if you feel it’s inappropriate in this space. I guess it’s a jumbled explanation of why I feel as I do about our current gun laws, open carry enthusiasts, Stand your ground laws, and the concept of everyone being armed “to promote safety.” Until you see for yourself the damage a gun does to someone you love, you really don’t have more than an intellectual understanding of why guns everywhere are not a good idea. Trust me, you don’t want to know on an experiential level. It may seem like a fine idea to arm the entire country. It’s not. As the old saying goes, “It’s all fun until somebody loses an eye."

Click here to visit the Everytown for Gun Safety website.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,,, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,,, Harvard School of Public Health,, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Color - Just Love

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

It’s Not All Black and White

So I was making small talk with a defense attorney as we watched our sons scrimmage during football practice last night. Because we don’t know each other well, we started out chatting about relatively mundane stuff like the challenges of parenting, the perils of house hunting and the irony of wanting a lot of property but not a lot of yard work.

But once I was reminded that my pal – who happens to be African-American – is a counselor at law, I couldn’t help myself. I began animatedly relating my experiences with our local judicial system in order to garner free legal advice and verify that I’m not alone in believing a certain local judge is in fact a reptilian twit. (I’m not.) For better or worse, my life experience has afforded me the ability to talk any lawyer’s left ear off if I don’t rein this power in.

Michael Brown
Although I knew from last season that my friend – let’s call him Martin – is more conservative than I am politically, I’m ashamed to admit that I made an assumption which proved wrong. Martin, it turns out, does not necessarily share my view that the assassination of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African-American, by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb on August 9 is a travesty.

Because Martin looks more like Al Sharpton than Bill O’Reilly, I just assumed he was as outraged as the Good Reverend by what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

Martin also doesn’t view the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in February of 2012 in the same way I do – I remain as incensed that Zimmerman walked free as I was when that b*llsh*t verdict was announced – and he regularly warns his “community” not to rush to judgment when any high-profile legal case involving people of color makes headlines.

Yes, Martin has been pulled over for “fitting the profile” and believes the militarization of local police departments is not a good thing. He knows why some people think the police motto “Serve and Protect” has become “Serve and Collect.” But he goes out of his way to avoid jumping on bandwagons – vehicles that this mildly-chagrined progressive assumed Martin would be driving or at least navigating - before he knows the facts, has read the transcripts, has considered the charges and evidence and knows the whole story.

Martin also shared that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for him, me or anybody to get all worked up and outraged about one or two or three heavily-publicized cases when 11 people were shot to death in Chicago just last week. A lot of parents have lost beloved offspring. Why mourn the loss of one boy but not others?

I knew my answer – “I’d mourn ‘em all if I knew about ‘em” – was weak the moment I blurted it out.

When it came time for us to stand, fold our chairs and collect our sons for the relatively long walk to the junior high parking lot, I found myself somewhat at a loss for words. “Thanks for the conversation,” was all I could muster. He nodded and wished me a good night as we separated.

I’ve been strident recently in making the case that not all white guys are unmoved by the plight of black men and boys in this country. Looks like I need to quit speaking for others and assuming I know what anybody else wants to say.

When I asked Bryant during the drive home what position he wants to play this year, he answered “free safety.” I wonder what Martin thinks about that.

Howard University students at "Don't Shoot" rally

Sources: ABC News, Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chrystal's Granddaughter

All About That Bass - Meghan Trainor

Sunday poetry

For Robin, and for us all

To all who have sat.
On the inside of.
the cage of addiction.
Searching for the keys.
That could unlock the madness.

And to all who have sat.
On the outside.
Trying to force the heavy keys.
But find none of which opens the lock.

For the desperation.
And the frustration.
And the fear.
and the longing.
And the trying.
And the lying.
And the bargaining.
And the believing.
And the pleading.
And the bleeding.
And the dying.
My God, the dying.

For the books.
And the classes.
And the meetings.
And the prayers.
And the promises.
And the agreements.

And the setbacks.
And the relapses.
And the disappointments.
And the

And the beauty.
And the joy.
And the life.
And the song.
do still bring.

To every single one.
On the inside of the cage.
To every single one.
On the outside.
You are loved.
And you are loved.

~ Marlene Sumrall Means

With thanks to Cathy Markel for her recommendation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Youth Leaves But Beauty Sticks Around

Am I Black Enough for You - Billy Paul

"I Was Just Another Black Face in the Streets."

Alex Landau (AL): I was about 4 years old and a little girl on the playground came up to me and said, "Not all white kids like to play with black kids." You grabbed her and told her, "You don't talk to my son like that, you need to leave."

Patsy Hathaway (PH): Yeah, the one that hurt me the most, you were 8 years old and outside on a really very hot day, covered from head-to-toe with a long-sleeved shirt. And I didn't understand why you were dressed like that and you said, "Because you didn't want your skin to get any darker."

AL: We never talked about race growing up, I just don't think that was ever a conversation.

PH: I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn't matter. I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you.

AL: Yeah. I was 19 years old. I had picked up a friend and I noticed that we had red and blue lights behind us--we were being pulled over. The officer explained I had made an illegal left turn, and to step out of the car.

So I get out of the car first, he pats me down. And then he goes around to the passenger side and pulls my friend Addison out of the car.

PH: Addison is white.

AL: Yeah, Addison is white, and he had some weed in his coat pocket. So he gets placed in handcuffs. I figure that everything is okay, I’m not in handcuffs I’ve already been patted down, plus there’s three officers on the scene. And I had never had a negative interaction with police in my life.

So I ask them, "Can I please see a warrant before you continue the search?" And they grab me and began to hit me in the face. I could hear Addison in the background yelling, "Stop. Leave him alone." I was hit several times, and I remember gasping for air and spitting and blood flying across the grass.

And then I hear an officer shout out, “He’s reaching for her gun.” I immediately started yelling, “No, I”m not. I’m not reaching for anything.”

And, I remember an officer say, “If he doesn’t calm down, we’re going to have to shoot him.” I could feel the gun pressed against my head, and I expected to be shot. And at that point I lost consciousness.

I woke up to a multitude of officers just standing around me laughing. One officer was like, “Where’s that warrant now you fucking nigger.” And it took 45 stitches to close up the lacerations in my face alone.

How did it feel when you got the call that I was in jail?

PH: I was in the middle of teaching a second grade class. All she said was, “You’d better come see about your son.” She didn’t say anything about what kind of shape you were in.

AL: What about when you finally saw me?

PH: All I remember is involuntarily screaming.

AL: That was the first time I had cried the entire time I had been in there. And it wasn’t my injuries that hurt. It was just seeing how it devastated you.

PH: My whole world view changed that night.

AL: Yeah. For me it was the point of awakening to how the rest of the world is going to look at you. I was just another black face in the streets and I was almost another dead black male.

Click here for this story's StoryCorps page.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When Pigs Swim

Robin Williams on Inside the Actor's Studio (excerpt)

O Captain! My Captain!

I had mixed feelings about devoting a blog post to the death of Robin Williams.

The award-winning actor/comedian, who died yesterday at his home in northern California at the age of 63, has been part of my life since high school. (The television show that made him a star, Mork & Mindy, aired on ABC from 1978 to 1982. I graduated in 1980.) He had appeared in over 80 films – many of which are truly iconic – and has held a steady position near the top of my “People with Whom I’d Love to Hang Out at a Bar” list since I became old enough, legally, to drink.

On the other hand, I’ve been shaken to my core by the slaughter of Palestinian children by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza in recent weeks – as my many related Facebook and “What’s the Diehl?” posts attest – and it seemed irresponsible or at least inadvisable to lament the passing of a rich old white American, albeit a brilliantly funny one, when I was still worked up about the distressing violence in the Middle East. (The most recent report on August 6 claims 1,843 Palestinian civilians, including a reported 415 children, have died as a result of Israeli fire.)

I decided to heed Anita’s words of wisdom – although celebrities don’t impress her much, she told me that it’s possible, acceptable and in fact preferable to communicate and have feelings about more than one occurrence or development at a time – and share my surprisingly strong sense of sadness about this gifted man’s death (at his own hand, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office).

I really related to Robin Williams. Not, of course, to his gargantuan comedic talent, unparalleled improvisational skills and lightning-fast brain. Not to his wealth and capacity – his films have grossed $5.2 billion worldwide and Comedy Relief, the charity with which he’s closely-associated, has raised $50 million to combat homelessness in America. I related more to how he at times felt alone even when he was surrounded by others. I related to how his first and second marriages didn’t last and he was challenged by an addictive personality (he was a famous alcoholic and former cocaine addict). We were both eco-friendly – he drove a Toyota Prius and I spent years working for environmental causes. He was born in Chicago, my favorite city, in July of 1951, and grew up in Bloomfield Hills, north of Detroit, where I lived for years. And we were both sensitive clowns who knew how to hide our sadness by making others laugh. He just got paid a hell of a lot more than I did – and his severe depression, finally and sadly, proved too strong.

As Sy Parrish in "One Hour Photo"
Robin Williams was a four-time Academy Award nominee who took home the Oscar for his sensitive, layered portrayal of psychology teacher Dr. Sean Maguire in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.” I loved his performance in 1987’s “Good Morning, Vietnam” (based on real-life Air Force sergeant and disc jockey Adrian Cronauer). I loved him in 1989’s “Dead Poets Society” (see below). He was amazing as Genie in 1992’s “Aladdin,” in the title roles in 1993’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” and 1998’s “Patch Adams,” and in what is my favorite Williams movie, “One Hour Photo.” (His 2002 performance as deranged photo technician Sy Parrish still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.) I even liked him as Alan Parrish in 1995’s “Jumanji” and as Professor Philip Brainard in 1997’s “Flubber,” the not-too-popular remake of the beloved “The Absent-Minded Professor.” Everyone has their own favorite Williams movie(s); if you can’t name at least two or three, you’ve either been comatose or locked up in a maximum-security facility without access to the touchstones of American culture.

I had the television on in the background when I was writing this and Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and their guests used words like “superhuman,” miraculous,” “genius” and “brilliant” to describe Robin Williams. I’m glad the full extent of his talent is known and acknowledged. I just wish he would have known how to get help so I wouldn’t be blogging about him now.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

The 1989 movie “Dead Poets Society” makes repeated references to this poem – written by Walt Whitman in 1865 about the death of President Abraham Lincoln – especially when English teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, tells his students that they can call him "O Captain! My Captain!" if they feel daring. At the end of the movie, the students defiantly show their support for the recently-dismissed Keating by reciting the phrase while standing on their desks.

P.S.  My Facebook friend Kimberly Costello, a television writer/producer, was longtime friends with Robin Williams. She's been kind enough to share several personal anecdotes with her Facebook friends that convey what a truly amazing and one-of-a-kind talent he was. Her loss - and ours - is indeed tremendous.

Kimberly Costello and Robin Williams
 at the Comedy Store in 1980

Sources: International Business Times, Hollywood Reporter, Internet Movie Database.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Treasure in Gaza

John Lennon: Give Peace a Chance

A Song for Gaza: The Ballad of Rivka and Mohammed

I was watching the news from Gaza
And I fell asleep on my chair
And when I awoke from my slumber
A young girl was standing there.

She said, My name is Rivka
They killed me because I'm a Jew
I died in the ghetto of Vilna
In nineteen forty two.

The ghetto was like a prison
They wouldn't allow us to leave
Some said they were going to kill us all
We didn't know what to believe.

That day I wore my new red dress
My bubbe had made for me
And in that crowded ghetto
It made me feel proud and free.

I looked up at the soldier
I looked him in the eye
I forgot to bow my head down
And so I had to die.

He smashed my head with his rifle
Because I was too bold
I was killed in the Vilna ghetto
When I was seven years old.

And then out of the darkness
A young boy's gaze met mine
He said, My name is Mohammed
My country is Palestine.

I've lived all my life in Gaza
And the only time I feel free
Is when I go down to the harbour
And feel the wind from the sea.

That day I went with my cousins
We ran down to the beach to play
Then the soldier fired a shell at me
And blew my life away.

They want to crush our spirits
They want us to be afraid
Locked up in the prison of Gaza
The prison that they have made.

To them our lives don't matter
They force us to live in a cage
I was killed on the beach in Gaza
At eleven years of age.

They don't think that we deserve freedom
Or belong to the human race.
Mohammed, my brother, said Rivka,
This world is a cold, cold place.

Mohammed, my friend, my brother,
Let us leave this world of war.
Then each took the hand of the other
And then they were seen no more.

But I saw spokesmen and politicians
Lining up to speechify
And every word was a hypocrite
And every word was a lie.

I saw children still being slaughtered
The monster must have its fill
While the people with power sat on their hands
And supplied the weapons that kill.

I weep for the people of Gaza
And they are weeping still
And I curse the ones who did nothing
And enable the monster to kill.

Written and sung by Leon Rosselson. The song was written in July/August 2014 as Israel's bombardment of Gaza slaughtered 2,000 civilians, among them hundreds of children.