Make Lethal Cruelty a Criminal Act

If willful acts of lethal cruelty resulted in criminal charges, Alex Jones would be serving life with no possibility of parole. Not ever. Lethal cruelty, as evidenced by Jones’ lethal propaganda aimed directly at those who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Allegiance to honesty compels me to confess that if I were to allow my emotional and physical experience of Jones to handpick the jury, my response would be written by some form of violence, and I have had enough enough enough of violence. Jones he has no conscience. He does not care that his behavior is lethal on every front. Period.

It is hard but not impossible for me to live Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s guidance., not so much live up to that, as live that.

King said: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

For me this means, identify a choice that is just, and one that is not dehumanizing. Then, live it. Live the choice made.

One of the gifts life has given me is meeting and learning and knowing victims of violent crime. All forms of violence.  Loved ones of adults and children who’d been murdered.

There’s no bigotry in violence’s bloodstream.   

In late 1984, early 1985, I was attending a community meeting with actress Theresa Saldana, founder of Victims for Victims in California in 1982, at a college in New York City, allowed me one of the most powerfully intimate moment of my life. Theresa survived a knife attack by a stalker. She sustained several stab wounds. To say she barely survived is to engage in the act of understatement, and do so center stage.

If willful acts of cruelty (cruelty being a form of violence) resulted in criminal charges, Alec Jones would be serving life with no possibility of parole. Not ever. 

If I were to allow my visceral emotional and physical experience of Alec Jones to handpick the jury willful cruelty – he has no conscience. He does not care that his behavior is lethal on every front. Period. It is I tell you now hard for me to live Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s guidance.  

King said: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

It is hard for me to, not so much live up to that, as live that. Meaning, identify a choice that is just and not dehumanizing. Then, live it out. Live the choice you’ve made.

One of the gifts life has given me is meeting and learning and knowing victims of violent crime. All forms of violence.  Loved ones of adults and children who’d been murdered. There’s no bigotry in violence’s bloodstream.

In late 1984, early 1985, I was attending a community meeting with actress Theresa Saldana, founder of Victims for Victims in California in 1982, at a college in New York City, allowed me one of the most powerfully intimate moment of my life. Theresa survived a knife attack by a stalker. She sustained several stab wounds. To say she barely survived is to engage in the act of understatement, and do so center stage.

The meeting was not long after the airing of the movie, “Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story” in which Theresa played herself.  It aired on NBC, Monday, November 12, 1984. spoke and at some point, we went around the room to introduce ourselves. It was up to us if we wanted to share why we were there. 

For me, being in a room with adults of all ages, individuals who each who knew trauma in merciless form was, for me, to be with people whose presence  in this country’s history I treasure. Beyond words. 

When Theresa spoke a moment arrived when she invited those in the room to introduce themselves if they’d like and if they were a crime victim or a loved one of a crime victim, you’re more than welcome to share, but you don’t have too.

Most gave their first name and most were very open about what brought them there.  Survivors of rape, assaults, muggings, stabbing, survivors of adults and children who’ve been murdered. 

When it came to the row I was in, I was sitting just to the right of a woman I’d guess was in her forties. She spoke first. She stood up, gave her first name, and said, “My son was shot and killed in a hold up this year.” Then I stood up and said, “I was held up and shot in the head this year.”

We looked at each other and hugged. No words were needed.  As I remember it, I think everyone in the room would have hugged us both at that moment. They all got it.

Which brings me back to a lethal being named Alec Jones.  Think about something for a moment. The families of the children and adults slaughtered in Sandy Hook are just like the folks I just told you about. Those who lived through the trauma. Not those, like Jones, who live off the trauma.

I wish there was a way to criminally charge Jones and those like him. Their propaganda is cruel; cruel is violence, and a threat to life in so many ways. I choose not to hate him. And, hate the behavior, not the person.  But establish a law that allows someone to be criminally charged for abetting and promoting, you name it, acts of deadly violence and hate. It if his were a medicinal poison, a deadly product he handed out, sold, he’d be arrested and charged in the blink of an eye.

Give him his room and board and no freedom for the rest of his life. Period. Take anything about him that’s of financial value, and allow its fate to be decided by the families of the children and adults that died or survived the merciless explosion of gun violence at Sandy Hook, in real time. Let them decide what happens to it.

That would be an act of justice.

The Angels of 286 E. 2nd Street

In 1984 there were real life angels living at 286 E. 2nd Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. I know there were angels living there for a fact because even though I’m not an angel, I lived there too.  And the people in this building helped save my life, in large part, by helping me decide to continue taking part in it. You don’t get more angel than that.

I was held up at gunpoint early one August morning on a Brooklyn street in 1984 and shot in the head at point blank range. The bullet, along with some bone fragments to keep it company, remains lodged in my brain. Knowing the wound can abscess at any time and, if it does, possibly end my life, is a full plate’s worth of reality to digest.

While it was the 84th Precinct of the New York City Police Department and the doctors and nurses in Long Island College Hospital that saved my life. It was the angels of 286 East Second Street that helped me decide to keep it, and then, live it.

My dictionary, New Oxford American English, defines the noun, angel, as “a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.” 

This definition perfectly describes the angels of 286, though being from the New York City’s Lower East Side, they didn’t need any wings – or robes, for that matter. It would have cramped their style, come to think of it.

I moved into 286 in the early 1980s. It was there I met, for the first time, Dane Arnold, Hart Faber, Joshua Holland, Zeke Kisling, Arthur May, Kenneth Mencher, Dominique Nadel, Dorrill Semper, Kathy Semper, Thomas Weatherly. 

Every single one of them, honest, compassionate, loving, strong. In truth, they are, every single one of them, some of the most extraordinary individuals I’ve ever known. 

Each one of the exemplified that singular wisdom of Henry David Thoreau by allowing themselves to be themselves.

“I learned this, at least, by my experience: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

Break for freedom – Day 14 (the One Shot Club)

Day 14 – Thursday, August 24, 2017 (The One Shot Club)

6:23 a.m. – 33 years ago today I was held-up and shot in the head. Like it or not, it’s been something of a banner over my life ever since. I remember Jim Brady, the White House press secretary for President Ronald Reagan who was shot in the head during a 1981 assassination attempt on the president, drawing my attention to the fact both of us lived with injuries that, by their very nature (We both lived with bullet fragments lodged in our brain.), would get us attention, and we should use the attention to help others understand the reality of brain injury, and the merciless reality of gun violence.

Jim left this life three years ago this month. He was a good, loving, and courageous man. There are people alive today because of the Brady Bill.

Jim is not the only person I’ve known who has survived being headshot. Or, as my late friend William would say, “The One Shot Club.” William was a member, so too were Kevin, Tyrone, Donald. We all really and truly loved and cared about each other. One day, William, me, Tyrone, and Donald were standing outside in a small circle talking. Suddenly a big smile burst onto Tyrone’s face. “Hey, we’re all standing?”

This observation was followed immediately by all of us of us putting our arms around the shoulders of man on either side of us. We were all smiling, no one said a word. The reality Tyrone’s question brought to the fore didn’t require words. Had any of us said a word in those next moments, the spiritual beauty of the experience would have vanished. In short, we loved each other, our respect for each other was bullet proof.

8:01 a.m. – Home after cool, crisp, enjoyable walk. The walks are becoming easier. Anxiety down a good 80 percent. This means I’ll soon change the route again, and add distance. When you’ve reduced your opponents’ punches to weak jabs, go to the next level, challenge its harder punches, and punch back.

Here’s to every member of the One Shot Club, I love each of you with all my heart.

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For Donald, Jim, Kevin, Tyrone, & William

Break for freedom – Day 10 (The bullet)

Day 10 – Sunday, August 20, 2017 (The bullet)

7:51 a.m. – Back home from my walk. I looked up around 6:40-something this morning and said: “I want to go out.” In short order, out I went into the early morning cool.

I did not get as sweat-soaked today. I think (I don’t want to say this too loudly) I may be beginning to carve away power from fear. If you happen to bump into fear at a social event, please don’t let on. Fear is quite the control freak, any sign that someone is breaking free of its grasp makes it angry.

For whatever reason, perhaps because this is the month I got shot, I found myself thinking of the bullet lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain during the walk. The brain has no nerve endings, so I don’t feel it. If I were to identify one disappointment linked to its presence, it would be this; I don’t set off airport alarms. I had plans of approaching an airport metal detector and bowing my head forward so it would be the first to thing enter its realm. My thought was, the bullet will set the alarm off, the inspector will point at my head and ask, “So whattaya got in there?” and I’ll respond, “You’re never gonna believe this.” But, alas, these detectors don’t detect lead.

The bullet has been part of my being for most of my life now, 33 years the 24th of this month. It has done its damage, and no doubt plays a role in my life, to some degree. It has its limitations. Name one, you ask? Sure. It couldn’t stop me from taking my morning walk today.

KahrmannHeadXray2.jpg

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For James Scott “Jim” Brady aka Bear

Walking on eggs, patience, facing death & willpower

I’m a patient man but I fought too hard for my life to walk on eggs for anyone all the time (back to this in a minute). I was held up and shot in the head in 1984 and live with the bullet lodged in my brain. The bullet tore a path that extended more than half way through the frontal lobe.

Surviving that, as you might imagine, requires you fight like hell for your life.

Along with my brain injury, the shooting experience contributed to a formidable PTSD presence in my life. For me, PTSD means certain events, sounds, smells, situations, and so on, cause flashbacks and flooding. Flooding means a particular emotion or emotional condition has overwhelmed the person’s in-the-moment experience. Stopping it on a dime is impossible. In my case the emotional condition most likely to flood is terror.

Knowing I’m safe intellectually doesn’t stop the terror. It takes hours for the terror to subside.

Okay. The egg thing,  patience, and willpower. Some years ago my friend (and in my heart, my brother) Dane Arnold, said, “You’re too patient with people.” Trust me, he said that to me more than once and he was right almost every single time. I’d be allowing someone to take advantage of me in one way or another, giving them chance after chance, when I should’ve cut them loose.

I rented a room in my lower east side apartment and one of my tenants was horrible about paying rent, cleaning up after herself in any of the common rooms. She had a marked talent for the woe-is-me ballad. So, I let things drag on until I finally realized she’d mastered the ballad but never lived the experience. The switch, as they say, flipped, and the she was out.

There are times people think patience, or, as the more common saying goes, niceness, is a sign of weakness. I can think of no bigger myth. One of the gifts getting shot in the head gave me is the awareness that the following paragraph describes an experience that underscores the active presence of willpower

Here’s the experience:

I am lying on the ground bleeding to death. I’ve been shot in the head and the top of my head’s been blown off. I can’t feel anything below my neck.  I’m blind. It’s around five in the morning on a residential street, it is dark and no one is out. I am alone and I know it. A few moments later I realize I’m standing up. My vision is back and I’m connected to my body again but I have no memory of standing up. But the truth is, I did. And I was alone.

I may still be too patient with people at times. You see, I know a lot of people who’ve been pulverized by life so badly trusting those around them is a steep climb. An impossible climb for some, sad to say. But before I disengage, I’d like to know I I did all I could. Sometimes too much, perhaps.

Thing is, I’d rather be guilty of being too patient than not patient enough.