Pene and Richa 8/4/19

By Richard Bleil

Pene was one of the first people I met in our new home. We moved to a new city after fourth grade. I was a little nerdy fellow, not athletic, and painfully shy. Penny isn’t the kind of friend that I call regularly and meet for coffee, but we’ve been friends for a very long time. She married her high school boyfriend, and it would have been a “fairy tale” life if cancer hadn’t taken him from her far too early. Today she has a new, well, I’m not sure what he is, but based on the social media posts, they seem to be great together. The last time I saw her in person, she tried to apologize for high school. This was many years later at, if I am recalling correctly, our fifteenth reunion (pretty much the only one I ever went to). I tried to stop her saying that the past is past, but she insisted on finishing. She must have been thinking about it for a long time and needed to get it out, and she apologized for ignoring me. Honestly, I never thought much about it, but she said she was “arrogant” in high school (I never saw it) and felt bad. She has a heart of gold, and I’m fortunate to be able to still be able to call her my friend.

Richa was a professor at the first “teaching gig” I had. She worked at the same medical arts college teaching Nursing. As a chemistry professor, my office was adjacent to the chemistry lab, and her office was right next to mine. The wall separating us was high, but didn’t quite reach the ceiling. Periodically if I got bored, I would make a paper airplane and float it over the top of the wall just to mess with her. She was so sweet, For a new wet-behind-the-ears “assistant” professor (I was the only chemistry professor, but that’s the lowest rank professor, followed by “associate”, then “full” but when I reached that rank they spelled it “fool”), she was a great resource and excellent friend. Her warmth and sense of humor is something to which I still aspire.

I wish I could say that we had a mass shooting yesterday, because if we had a mass shooting, that would mean we had only one. Sadly, we had two. Two mass shooting, thirteen hours of separation between them, one in Texas, another in Ohio. Thirty dead between the two of them.

Thirty dead.

What ties my two friends together is that both of them felt inspired to mark themselves “safe” on Facebook.

Most of my readers are in America (roughly ninety percent). If you are one of the American readers and ever wondered what it would be like to live in a nation where terrorism is rampant, congratulations, you do. Mass shootings have become so common that, as a nation, we have become numb to the news. We don’t even list the victims’ names in the news anymore, just a tally sheet, as if it was some kind of game. Yesterday, it was 29 dead and 51 injured, one shooter killed, another being sought. It may as well be a sports score, but the problem is, I don’t even know how to read this to figure out who won.

But, fear not. Our so-called “beloved” and “fearless” leaders are on the case. Why, even now, as I write this blog, they are hard at work pointing fingers at one another, and no doubt will soon be calling for “thoughts and prayers” to ensure that tragedies such as this will never happen again. And as if that’s not enough, I’m sure another piece of legislation will be promptly written, submitted and fail as well.

We have to do better, or we will fall. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are at the precipice of a new American civil war. As we’ve seen terrorism rise in other countries, it is beginning here, and it is because we are ignoring the underlying reasons that they are on the rise. We’ve become accustomed to turning a blind eye, accepting that there is nothing we can do, and just moving on with our lives. But somehow, when its loved ones in our own home town marking themselves safe, it’s a reminder of just how real, and how wide spread, the problem actually is. It’s time for our leaders to lead, or be voted out of office. It’s time to stop voting along party lines, and start voting for candidates that reflect our own values. The founding fathers gave us the ability to launch a bloodless revolution pretty much any time we like, to cast those ineffectual and corrupt politicians out of office and completely turn over the government.

It’s time.

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