Saturday 26 March 2011

Guns, law & order, & Stephen Harper

The interesting thing about staring down a gun barrel is how small the hole is where the bullet comes out, yet what a big difference it would make in your social schedule. ~~P.J. O’Rourke, Holidays from Hell, 1989

About 80 per cent of Canada's nine million guns are owned by men, so perhaps by definition, gun control is a "woman's issue." And repeated polling shows a substantial majority of women support the gun registry, perhaps because we know that guns are often used to harm or intimidate women in the throes of domestic violence. Women around the world are at greatest risk of harm from their intimate partners—“the usual suspects” in such cases. Fully 85 per cent of Canadian women who are murdered are killed by their spouse or partner, and most of those shot dead are killed with legally owned firearms.

Despite pro-gun lobby bluster, this gun violence is not just an urban phenomenon — the rate of women killed with guns is higher in rural areas because rural people own more guns. And murder is just the tip of the domestic violence iceberg—for every woman killed, many more are injured or threatened. And these “domestic violence” incidents appear in the papers almost daily. Several examples from a short period in 2009 (when this article originally appeared):

Smith AB, July 30th: Ian Jeffrey Paget kills estranged wife Joan Hanson, her daughter and granddaughter, and then turns the rifle on himself at her rural home in northern Alberta.

Kitchener ON, August 11th: Nadia Gehl is shot in early February at a bus stop near her home. Months later, police nab 3 suspects: her husband and two of his friends.

Orangeville ON, September 13th: Police investigate a murder-suicide that left a mother of two and her estranged husband dead. Witnesses say 39-year-old Heidi Ferguson, shot in the chest, sought help at a neighbour's. As she lay dying, Ferguson reportedly cried, "I've been shot by my husband ... please help me." An avid hunter and gun collector, Hugh Ferguson turned the gun on himself after a standoff with police.
Winnipeg MB, September 17th: Police are called after a 19-year-old woman is allegedly assaulted and threatened with a firearm. The woman flees the house and calls police from another area residence.

Fort St. John BC, September 30th: A northeastern B.C. man is shot and killed by the RCMP after a five-day standoff that began when the 41-year-old farm resident pursued a van carrying his wife, an unspecified number of children and a friend, and shot out the front tires.

Since the gun registry was created, close to 23,000 firearms licenses have been refused or revoked because of safety concerns. We register our cars and our dogs--not to register our guns would be criminal.

No matter what the gun lobby says, gun control works. Consider the following :
· Controls on rifles and shotguns were strengthened in 1991: that year 1441 Canadians were killed with guns. By 2005, the number of such deaths dropped by almost half, to 818.
· The number of women murdered with guns fell from 85 in 1991 to 32 in 2005. But the number of women murdered by weapons other than firearms declined only slightly during the same period of time. Again, the effectiveness of gun control is inescapable.

My son was at Dawson College on September 13, 2006 when Kimveer Gill went on his murderous rampage. I will never understand why Mr. Gill had such easy access to such enormous firepower--the fact that he managed to kill “only” a single young woman was due to the fortuitous coincidental presence of two brave and well-trained police officers. (I say “only” because, of course, for her parents, family and friends, the murder of 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa is no small loss.) Kimveer Gill didn't need those guns and he shouldn't have had them. Why should his right to feel "big and bad" have trumped Ms. De Sousa’s, my son's, or anyone else’s safety?

And so I support more gun control, not less. Please don’t let Stephen Harper destroy our gun laws.

Though our Prime Minister may refuse to face it, rifles and shotguns are the firearms used most often to threaten women and children, and the weapons of choice in the murder of police officers. Look, for example, at the 3 Mounties killed in Mayerthorpe, AB. And the only charges levied in that case were against the gun providers, who were traceable because of the gun registry!

When Mr. Harper talks about law and order one day, and gutting gun control the next, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
Contact your MP on this issue. Don't let Mr. Harper play fast and loose with our children's lives.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Stellar New Review in The Montreal Gazette & Online Interview at Fictionaut

Last Saturday featured an incredibly good Montreal Gazette review of The Meaning of Children, by freelancer Anne Chudobiak! She may just be my ideal reader...

Here's just a taste of it:

"...The Meaning of Children took on the tone of motivational reading, each story a reminder of what an optimistic endeavour it is to parent...

"The book touches on a lot of the biggest parental 'what ifs.' Kidnapping. Hate crime. Death by drowning. Suicide. Even so, it would make a good gift for a new mother. Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others. Says one character, looking back, 'Life had been perfect … but I’d been too busy to notice.'"

The book is appearing in Canadian bookstores from Montreal to Calgary..."Only in Canada, you say? Pity."


My first online interview is up at the Fictionaut blog.
Many thanks to interviewer Meg Pokrass and Jürgen Fauth (pictured at right) and the rest of the folks at Fictionaut, a great place to read and share your fiction. Here's an excerpt:

What do you do when you feel stuck or uninspired… suggestions for unblocking creativity?
I’m a big believer in getting out of your comfort zone–I’ve traveled to workshops/fellowships/residencies in Alberta, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Ohio, and Oregon. When I’m unsettled, my emotions are closer to the surface, and I highly recommend it. I’ve even written naked in the Super 8 Airport Motel in Portland–one of my favorite stories poured out there when, after a bad dream, I got up and started writing instead of turning over and trying to get a little more shuteye. I wrote for a couple of hours, made my plane and kept on writing in the stopover at San Francisco (don’t worry: I was clothed by then). Other suggestions: go to art galleries, watch movies, get in touch with nature, take long walks, ride a bike, visit your old neighborhood, join a choir, look at old photos–your own or even strangers’. Whatever it takes to stir yourself up. And work at finding things that make you happy, that make you laugh.

What inspires you?
Kindness and compassion. How much some do for others. The feeling of being in this together, the ol’ John Donne thing. Seeing kids enjoy things. My mother used to take my kids to see plays put on by a local theatre–the rapt look on the faces in the audience used to make me cry. Probably still would. Luckily, my kids are grown and I don’t have to humiliate myself in public that way quite as much anymore. But I’m still trying to move people.
Where do stories come from? What makes them happen… for you? Talk about recurring theme or themes in your own work here…

Again, you can find the rest of the interview at Fictionaut.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Sarah Palin: Moose Murder Barbie Steeps at Mega Tea Party

Faster than speeding bullsh*t, able to reach Russia in a single bound, makin' less sense than Donald "known unknown" Rumsfeld, it's Sarah Palin, the snowbilly Energizer Bunny of America’s right wing: she's baaack!

And this time, she’s partyin’—tea partyin’ that is!

Our Sarah’s been a real busy gal these past few weeks. First there was that book a hers, Goin’ Rogue. Why shoot, when I heard the Queen a Texas Tea had writ herself a real, goldurn book, I wanted to shake her hand--after those early Katie Couric interviews, there were times I doubted she could even READ! But then she streaked past readin’ and writin’ to become a talking head on that station for the unfair and unbalanced, Fox "News." Truly, we live in a age of signs and portents--and that joyful phrase "President Palin" has me convinced the end times we all been prayin' for sure are plum nigh.

Sarah Barracuda's Alaska-to-household-name "common sense" story IS kind a miraculous: any of the women I know who had just given birth to a Down's Syndrome baby and discovered their 17-year-old daughter "with child" wouldn't a had a moment free to run for the White House, what with all the hysteria going on in their OWN houses. But—praise the Lord—when there’s a job to do, NRA members and right-to-lifers charge right in where ordinary fools fear to tread!

But our Grandma Palin ain't no ordinary fool. She’s a lipstick-wearer so on top of things as Governor, wife, and mother of five, that she popped right back to work a mere THREE DAYS after birthin’ young Trig.

I, on the other hand, have yet to recover from my last pregnancy. And that was 15 years ago...

As governor, Palin roamed the legislature halls, skimming through messages with a BlackBerry in each hand. Well Lord sakes, what good thinkin’, keeping your trigger fingers limber despite those long days at the office where you couldn't shoot nobody, much as you mighta wanted to. You betcha!

Me and the gals I know don't have no time to be exercisin' our Second Amendment rights (use it or lose it, girls!), what with all our worryin’ over silly, everyday stuff--like how to get pregnant, how to keep from getting pregnant, how to keep our daughters from getting pregnant, how to find affordable/reliable/quality childcare/healthcare/eldercare, how to juggle our careers and family, how to keep a roof over our heads, how to keep said roof from leaking, and so on. Meantime, Sarah’s doing The Nation’s business and The Lord’s Work, tryin’ to get a handle on where Obama was really born, and getting the scoop on those Canadian death panels!

I guess me and my gal friends will always be handicapped by our small dreams because, as Sarah Palin, former beauty queen and one-time mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 10,256), has clearly shown, the best way to the top is over the top.

But wait--there’s more!

You Sarah, inspire us--not just by bein’ a whiz bang at shootin’ fish in a barrel (or moose from small planes), but also in knowin’ how to stick to your guns: despite young Bristol's unplanned, out-of-wedlock bumble of joy, apparently you (and Bristol) STILL champion high school sex ed that’s abstinence-only. Well shoot, it's like your whole life is based on the teachin’, "Don't confuse me with the facts! La la la!" You can't even be taught! Tarnation!

A better shot than Dick Cheney, more photogenic than any of the Joes, to this hard as nails moose dressin’ little lady who resurrected the beehive and made the McCain campaign cough up a fabulous new wardrobe, I say: you go, girl!

All hail President Palin for 2012!

You are Dan Quayle without the gravitas, Hillary with none a that pesky, wrinkle-inducin’ experience. As the capitalist economy, the fourth estate, critical thinking and them thar “educated classes” scatter before you like rose petals, you sure give us feminists faith in the future.

At least, in the future of comedy!

(Originally published by me on Open Salon, Feb. 8, 2010)