Posted in crime, current events, gun control, mass shootings, navy yard, news, politics, Uncategorized, violence

When Will the Next Massacre Happen?

President Obama speaks at Navy Yard Memorial
President Obama speaks at Navy Yard Memorial

President Obama was faced with delivering yet another heartbreaking speech at a memorial remembering victims of yet another shooting rampage in the United States last week. During his remarks about the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C., President Obama was quoted as saying, “Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this.” Dr. Janis Orlowski likely gave the most impassioned speeches after the injured and dead began flowing into her hospital. She said, “There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.” She continued on by saying, “I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this.”

The innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook
The innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook

I thought that after 20 innocent children were brutally murdered and six individuals that gave their lives to protect these children were killed that we would begin getting serious about real ways to eradicate the evil that is emanating in our society. It’s no secret that our political climate is severely broken. While those on the far right want us to have access to weapons with little to no restrictions and those on the far left would rather see us ban guns in our society, the polarizing partisanship in our politics stalls any chance of productive discussion about reducing massacres. We live in a time when ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a bad word. Both sides of the aisle are positioning themselves to one up the other. Instead of sitting down and working on real resolutions to the gun violence that is plaguing America, nothing is being done at the high cost of innocent lives. I fear this political attitude is making us complacent and numb when it comes to mass shootings. Instead of finding resolutions, we wonder when and where the next shooting rampage is going to happen.

Navy Yard Shooting, Washington, D.C.
Navy Yard Shooting, Washington, D.C.

The tragedy at the Navy Yard came on the eve of the release of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto. Before the blood on the floor dried, political pundits were pointing the blame of a violent American society on violent video games.  A violent video game is not going to cause an individual to suddenly get “motivated” to go on a shooting rampage any more than a sexual assault is going to turn someone gay. The perpetrators of the Navy Yard and Sandy Hook could have had stockpiles of violent video games, but those games did not create the monsters in them. Someone that is predisposed to violence is likely to get involved in shoot’em up video games. If we think violent video games kill people, we’re only distracting ourselves from what really matters.

The perpetrators that carried out the Columbine High School rampage, Aurora movie theater shooting, the massacre at a Safeway in Tuscan, Arizona and last week’s Navy Yard shooting had significant mental illnesses. They had a mixture of antisocial personality disorders, depression, manic depression and possibly schizophrenia. The shooter at Tuscan was taken to a federal medical prison in Springfield, Missouri until he was deemed competent enough to stand trial. The murderer at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater has plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the scientific proof that mental illness is a significant factor in mass shootings, funding for the research and treatment of mental illnesses has been drastically cut at the tune of more than $4.35 billion over the years. While the issue of mental illness has been getting louder over the years, it’s still just a faint whisper. The whispering dialogue about mental health needs to become a loud roar that can be heard from coast-to-coast.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

In light of the unconscionable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, CNN’s Piers Morgan offered one of the most asinine ideas for reducing gun violence. He said:

On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans relish in the ignorant belief that President Obama is going to create some sort of militia that is going to break down our doors and take our guns from us. They ignore that Obama has repealed more gun control laws in his first year in office than President Bush did in his two terms. He has also been given an F by the Brady Campaign on gun control. In spite of this, just the mere notion by Democrats and Obama that they want to discuss more reasonable gun control laws being enacted sends gun advocates and the National Rifle Association into a frenzy.

Aurora Movie Theater Shooting
Aurora Movie Theater Shooting

Louisiana residents were so fearful about Obama’s imaginary militia that they overwhelmingly passed a state Constitutional amendment defining gun ownership as a ‘fundamental right’ in 2012. Because of their irrational fears, the people of the state failed to realize the ramifications such sweeping legislation could do to the state. Just a few months ago, a convicted felon challenged the state’s ban on felons owning firearms. A judge ruled he had a fundamental right to a gun under the Louisiana Constitution.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

In 1999, two high school seniors opened fire on their unsuspecting students and faculty at Columbine High School. There were warning signs that these individuals were plotting a devious plan that so many people simply ignored. Do you think that if Rachel Scott, Richard Castaldo, Daniel Rohrbough, Sean Graves, Lance Kirklin, Michael Johnson, Mark Taylor, Anne-Marie Hochhalter, Brian Anderson, Patti Nielson, Stephanie Munson and William David Sanders would still be alive if individuals didn’t ignore the warning signs? It is our responsibility to be diligent when individuals begin showing signs that they could be in trouble. If the police had taken a couple of concerned parents more seriously. One of the prepetrators had a violent online manifesto that police were aware of, but ignored. The boys had bomb-making materials and blueprints of the school in their rooms, but their parents didn’t suspect anything.

Memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School Shooting
Memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School Shooting

A week after the massacre at the Navy Yard, the mainstream has already moved on. We’ve changed our focus to the Nairobi terrorist attack, the government shutdown and whether or not Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton will  run for president in 2016. While the first two are news stories that should be capturing headlines, we’ve already lost focus on the gun control/mental illness debate. I wonder if the shooter at the Navy Yard had been a Muslim if we’d still be talking about the incident. We are becoming complacent again, and it seems as though it took far less time to become that this time around. The media didn’t even pick up on a mass shooting that happened in Chicago three days after the Navy Yard shooting. Was it not discussed and analyzed because there was no loss of life? Was it deemed ‘not important?’

Gun violence has gotten so engrained into American society that mass shootings are expected. It’s time to divorce the intertwined relationship between shooting rampages and our unintended fascination with the evil acts. It’s time we in society and our politicians put their partisanships aside, sit down and have meaningful discussions on how to prevent future massacres. It’s only a matter of time before the next sociopath goes on another shooting rampage, unless we get real and realize that human life takes precedence over guns, power, politics and money. If we sit back and do nothing, then we have blood on our hands.

** I intentionally left out the names of the perpetrators involved in the shootings I mentioned. They don’t deserve the dignity of the carnage they have created while most of us can’t name one person that was a victim of a mass shooting. **

Posted in current events, EMPLOYMENT, ENDA, gay, lgbt, LGBTQ, news, POLITIC, politics, Uncategorized

Grassroots Campaigns Launch to Support Employment Non-Discrimination Act

enda

I went to college and had my first “professional” job while living in the Ozarks. I lived in southwest Missouri, which is in the heart of the Bible Belt, and one of the most conservative parts of the country. I remember going on a date with a guy that was a performer in Branson, Missouri. Branson is one of the biggest tourist traps in Missouri, and provides “wholesome” fun and entertainment for families. He worked for the a theater that told Biblical stories through theater. He told me the gut-wrenching story about how he had been called into his boss’s office. They confronted the guy asking him if he was gay. He refused to tell them, and attempted to deflect the question. They didn’t fire him at that point, but he knew it was likely only a matter of time. He was a great actor, he could sing and he was a dedicated employee. His perceived orientation didn’t fit with the company’s public image. He quickly found another job acting at a theater in Branson that was more accepting of diversity.

States with protections against LGBT discrimination
States with protections against LGBT discrimination

I don’t go around announcing that I am gay to everyone I see, but I do tell those that I feel need to know. At my job in Springfield, Missouri, there were a few of us that were gay and weren’t open about it to our supervisors. We feared going to work and being found out only to be fired. I had a coworker challenge me on my Biblical beliefs about homosexuality while at work once. I ran out of the room nearly in tears, but I didn’t feel like I had recourse, because I didn’t want to be seen as the aggressor and possibly lose my job.

When I moved to Pennsylvania, I wasn’t going to let my bosses know I was gay. When I was working on a unit with some teenage girls, the girls asked me if I had a girlfriend. I refused to answer the question, and they assumed I was gay. It began spreading around work that I was gay, even though I never said the words, “I’m gay.” I often worried that I would be fired.

Postcards you may see a lot of over the next few weeks that will be sent to U.S. senators
Postcards you may see a lot of over the next few weeks that will be sent to U.S. senators

The sad truth is that this is a fear a lot of us live with on a daily basis. No one should ever have to fear for their job because of their sexuality. When I was beginning to accept my sexual orientation, I fell in love with the TV show, Queer as Folk. One of the characters, Brian Kinney was asked by a homophobic candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh that he was helping to elect if he was gay. Brian said it best when he basically said that he was, but it didn’t really matter if he was or not because his sexuality didn’t define his work ethic. Unfortunately – in the real world – for residents of 29 states, they can be fired because of their sexual orientation, including Pennsylvania (there are some restrictions on the state and municipal levels) and Missouri.

In just a few weeks, the United States Senate will begin debating and voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Senate Bill 815. ENDA would ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity in employment across the United States. This bill would be no different than the protections given to race, sex, religion, disability and nationality.

Earlier this week, I attended a kick-off event that is being pioneered by the Americans for Workplace Opportunity in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Pennsylvania, the ACLU and several other non-profit organizations to help persuade Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) to vote ‘yes’ on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it comes up for a vote.

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)

The campaign to persuade legislators into voting ‘yes’ on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is not limited to Pennsylvania. There are campaigns being launched in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia, focusing on 13 senators. If you live in any of these states, including Pennsylvania, I urge you to find out how to get involved in these campaigns to ensure ENDA passes in a few weeks.

Despite the fact that 80% of Americans, including 70% of Republicans support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, many may be reluctant to support ENDA because they believe religious institutions should have the right to choose whether they want to hire gay people or not. ENDA does not strip away this choice for churches, synagogues, or any other faith that are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law also does not cover small businesses with 15 or less employees or create an affirmative action for LGBTQ individuals. So, there is no logical reason why ENDA cannot pass the U.S. Senate. Now is the time for us to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

There are a lot of ways that you can get involved. Contact your U.S. Senator and let them know that you support ENDA and want them to do the same. You can look up your senators here. Call them, email them, write them letters, write letters to the editor of your newspaper, and most importantly, pass the word to your family, friends and colleagues to contact their senators as well. I also highly encourage you to find a local campaign in your area if you want a more active role in ensuring the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If you cannot find out how to get involved, feel free to contact me and I will be sure to do my best in order to find out the required information for your state.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you can email Senator Toomey by filling out this form. You can also call his constituency offices by finding out your local number here. His Washington, D.C. office is: (202) 224-4254. Senator Bob Casey is already a co-sponsor for the bill. If you want more information on how to get involved with the campaign in PA, feel free to contact me through the many different avenues I have available. I will be sure to provide the information to you.

EMAIL: zenzeis@outlook.com

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Posted in christianity, crime and punishment, exorcism, gay, lgbt, news, sex offender, suicide, Uncategorized, victim

Sex Offenders Walk While Victims Sentenced

possession

Earlier this week the news broke about an Iowan youth minister conducting a unique exorcism of sorts on teenage boys that were having homosexual “tendencies.” According to his victims, Brent Girouex would trick these boys into having sex with him to make them sexually pure. While he was allegedly raping these boys, he would pray over them and their ejaculation would be releasing their bodies of the homosexual “demons.” He was charged with 60 counts of child exploitation by a counselor or therapist for raping four boys with one as young as 14. At least eight more victims have since stepped forward. Girouex was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison, however the sentence was suspended. A suspended sentence means that prison sentence looms over your head for a certain amount of time, in this case five years, and if the individual doesn’t get in trouble again or violate the rules of their conditional release, the prison sentence will be wiped out. Girouex has been sentenced to five years of probation and he is required to attend sexual offender treatment with the suspended 17 year sentence over his head. Now, you might be asking why this individual is not behind bars. According to the judge, it’s because Girouex’s victims continued to seek him out after their first encounter. Well, of course they’re going to want more! If he’s telling some confused teenagers that they’ll be “cured” of being gay by having sex with him, of course they’re going to seek more “treatment” from him. If I believed this man in my teens when I was as religious as I was, and fearful my family would disown me, you’d better believe I’d be doing anything to get rid of those “demons” in my body. A gay teenager is vulnerable, and in a time when they needed someone to trust and confide in, this man victimized them. Now their perpetrator is going to walk free and probably offend more innocent victims.

Brent Girouex
Brent Girouex

Another story recently broke involving a Montana teacher that raped a 14-year-old girl. Stacey Dean Rambold had three encounters with the minor before being charged for the crimes. The minor was so tormented by this teacher’s actions that she committed suicide before the case went to trial. Rambold was ordered to attend sex offender therapy, but was eventually kicked out of the program. He was recently sentenced and given 15 years in prison, but the Judge G. Todd Baugh only ordered him to serve 31 days with a one day credit. Therefore, he was sentenced to just a month in jail for raping and tormenting a girl that led to her death. The judge made this ruling because he said the girl had just as much control over the situation as the teacher did and that she was older than her chronological age. The judge is going to likely change the sentence as the public outcry has been large and state law may require that Rambold serve at least two years in prison. The “Honorable” Baugh is up for reelection soon.

Stacey Dean Rambold
Stacey Dean Rambold

I read and hear about these stories and I can’t help but to think what the hell is wrong with our justice system? When did these judges go back to the “victim deserved it” mentality? A woman is wearing a revealing shirt, so it’s her fault that she got raped. No, it’s not the victims fault.

"Honorable" G. Todd Baugh
“Honorable” G. Todd Baugh

These cases made me think of the Kaitlyn Hunt case in Florida. Yes, I believe she’s a perpetrator and should be held accountable for her actions. I wonder how can a man that held power over these four boys and fed them absolutely ludicrous claims just to molest and rape them walk free or give a man that also had control over a female student 30 days in jail while Kaitlyn Hunt could be facing 15 years in prison? I know she was offered a plea deal that she should have taken, and there’s still a chance she could walk without much of a punishment, but there are extenuating circumstances that can excuse any lenient sentence she is given. I don’t see any obvious extenuating circumstances in the cases against Brent Girouex and Stacey Dean Rambold.

Cherice Moralez
Cherice Moralez

I don’t support minimum sentences for crimes, but I do support a recommended minimum sentence that allows a judge or jury to a set a sentence on a case-by-case basis while considering the recommended minimum sentence. A key component to sentences is to deter the perpetrator as well as the public on committing future crimes. If we’re not punishing sexual predators for raping our children, then we’re setting a precedence that encourages them to continue their predatory practices. Sex offenders, especially repeat offenders would marvel at the idea of being able to commit heinous crimes against the vulnerable and being given no jail time to a very minimal amount. We must call upon our politicians to hold judges that have blatant disregard for humanity accountable for their rulings. If judges are elected to their position in your state, I encourage you to look into some of their rulings to see if they deserve the bench they serve. They are here to keep the people safe and protected, not to protect criminals.

Posted in 9/11/01, al qaeda, lgbt, remembrance, september 11, terrorism, Uncategorized, world trade center

Remembrance

New York City on March 11, 2002
New York City on March 11, 2002

September 11 impacted all of us in a very raw and emotional way. To be quite honest, we as Americans thought we were untouchable. We didn’t feel like an event such as 9/11 could ever occur on American soil. When the events of September 11 occurred, and we saw the magnitude of the terrorist attacks, it hit us harder than if we were used to such attacks happening on American soil. I can still remember the details of that day – where I was, what I was doing and how the rest of that day paned out. It was a dark day in history and really sparked my personal mantra of  ’om mani padme hum,’ in English terms that simply means compassion. Spreading love is the only way we’ll ever stomp out hate. I was a senior in high school when Al Qaeda attacked the United States of America. I was glued to the coverage on TV, I read every newspaper and magazine I could and I typically commemorate 9/11 in some way every year. I had wanted to visit Ground Zero since it was opened to the public, several years ago. My goal of visiting Ground Zero became a reality earlier this year when I made a trip to New York City during a trip that encompassed visiting six different countries and territories. My visit came exactly 11 1/2 years after that fateful day on September 11, 2001.

Footprint of the South Tower
Footprint of the South Tower

Before this moment, everything I had seen of the 9/11 tragedy was footage on the TV, photographs and Hollywood movies. Being at the site of such a horrific event in American history made it all become real. Real people lost their lives. Real people were injured. Real buildings collapsed. Everything was real. I wasn’t filled with anger or vengeance. I strangely felt a sense of calm and peace. The atmosphere was solemn, but anger had no place at this memorial. The World Trade Center memorial wasn’t about the hijackers and the terrorists. It was about the victims, remembrance and resilience. Ground Zero is still a construction site as we build bigger and stronger buildings near the original World Trade Center buildings, so the entire picture of what the new World Trade Center is going to be isn’t completely there yet. I think the designers of the memorial hit the nail on the head. They captured the remembrance of ALL the victims from September 11 and the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The designers didn’t just memorialize the victims of the bombing, the North Tower, the South Tower, Flight 11 and Flight 175, but they also etched into the memorial the victims of the Pentagon, Flight 77 and Flight 93.

Footprint of the North Tower
Footprint of the North Tower

I rubbed my hand over the names as I passed them and often paused to reflect about so many lives that were taken all too soon. Some lives didn’t even get to experience a moment of life outside their mother’s wombs. The memorial brings life into perspective and while I still struggle with this, it reminds us to not take life for granted.

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree was at the site of the original World Trade Center. It was found in October of 2001 still alive. It was nursed back to health and still survives today. While it’s inanimate, the strength of this tree is an inspiration to us all. Through the worst of tragedies, we can still overcome and survive anything.

I wanted to post the video of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s opening of Saturday Night Live after the 9/11 attacks, but couldn’t find it. As a St. Louisan and a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, I have chosen to post the video of legendary Cardinal’s announcer, Jack Buck and the poem he read at Busch Stadium to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001 days later when baseball resumed.

Since this nation was founded under God,
more than 200 years ago,
We have been the bastion of freedom,
the light that keeps the free world aglow.

We do not covet the possessions of others;
We are blessed with the bounty we share.
We have rushed to help other nations;
anything…anytime…anywhere.

War is just not our nature,
We won’t start but we will end the fight.
If we are involved,
We shall be resolved,
To protect what we know is right.

We have been challenged by a cowardly foe,
Who strikes and then hides from our view.
With one voice we say,
“We have no choice today,
There is only one thing to do.”

Everyone is saying the same thing and praying,
That we end these senseless moments we are living.
As our fathers did before,
We shall win this unwanted war,

And our children will enjoy the future we’ll be giving.

*Excerpts courtesy of my travel blog. More information on my trip to Ground Zero can be found here.

Posted in current events, gay, holocaust, lgbt, news, politics, russia, Uncategorized, united states

Russia Leading LGBT Community Down a Dark Path

blood

As I looked at the videos and photos coming out of Russia after the archaic laws banning “gay propaganda” was signed into law by Vladimir Putin, I was shocked. I was angry. I felt like we had to stand up and do something! I felt like protests and raising awareness to the travesty that is happening in that country might change Russia. It might give gay Russians a way to look forward to brighter days and a better tomorrow. I’m now falling into a feeling of disconnection and sickness. I am physically nauseated by the conditions the gay community in Russia is being subjected to.

pinktriangle
Uniform gay people wore in Nazi Concentration Camps

I read an article on the Advocate called “Russia Raids Gay People’s Homes.” As I read this, my mind went back to the days of Adolf Hitler, and his raids on suspected Jews, gypsies, handicap and gay homes. The parallels to the Holocaust in and around Germany and what is going on in Russia today are eerily similar. The above article states that Putin’s government is passing out pamphlets that warn people that they could fall victim of the anti-gay propaganda laws and face the consequences. They are creating a hysteria that being gay is this evil sickness that must be exterminated and those that may speak with a gay neighbor and not turn them in for their propaganda may find themselves victims of these atrocious laws.

Another alarming revelation coming out of Russia is that the Russian Parliament is beginning debate on a “gay conversion bill” in which gay people can voluntarily begin treatment for their gay “illness” for free. As it stands now this law would only be voluntary, but as The New Civil Rights Movement points out in their article, “Russian Parliament Working on Bill to “Return Gays” to ‘Normal Life’ via ‘Ex-Gay Therapy,’” how long will it be before this voluntary measure becomes a sentence for those that are found to be guilty under the “gay propaganda law?”

praygayaway

The LGBT community in Russia is getting brutally attacked by heathens that hide behind Putin’s laws to physically harm and kill gay people. The Russian government is creating an environment in which people are being taught that gay people are sub-human and sick. The government is now discussing a voluntary service to make gay people straight, which is harmful and destructive to those it is brought upon. I question what type of ex-gay therapy will they use. Will they use torture? Will they use shock therapy? Will they use the “voluntary” ex-gay therapy as a means to plea bargain with suspected gay people? “If you agree to this counseling, it won’t go on your record. You won’t be branded a homosexual and disgraced by your family, your friends and your community. Your current and future employers won’t have to know.”

There have been rumors flying around, which I have heard on the news and it is brought up in the New Civil Rights Movement article that Russian Parliament is considering a bill that would allow the government to remove children from their parents’s homes, if the parents are suspected of being gay. At what point will it stop? To what point will the degradation and humiliation of the LGBT community in Russia end?

The treatment of the gay community in Russia by it’s people and by the Russian Parliament will manifest the idea that gay people are less than and that they are sick. “They must be treated.” “There is a cure for their deviance.” “When we break them down to where they won’t have their family, to where they lose their identity, only then will they be broken down and have no other choice than to leave their deviant lifestyle and stop infecting our innocent children.”

vladimir

We’re headed down a dark path. A path that doesn’t have an end in sight, and a world that stands idly by. I don’t know what I can do as one man that just scrapes by with what I have while attending college. But I know I can’t remain silent. I can’t stand idly by. The cost is far too great for any of us to stand idly by.

I can’t say for certain another Holocaust will happen, but Russia sure is beating the drum to creating torture chambers there. They already have in so many respects. It’s only a matter of time before people start dying at the hands of the Russian government under the anti-gay laws. Putin won’t be as openly defiant to a world court by creating obvious gay storehouses, but his gay conversion therapy could be the perfect cover for a disgusting chamber where gays are helplessly tortured. We can’t sit idly by this time. Something has to be done.