I am a Michigan State Spartan, but I don't want to be #SpartanStrong. I shouldn't have to be.
My heart should be allowed to break for the senseless murder of Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner and Arielle Anderson, and grievous wounding of five others. I should be able to be shocked that a man with a history of gun crimes and erratic behavior was able to buy another gun and go on a killing spree. To fully express my rage that gun nuts immediately used this tragedy to call for more guns.
I should not have to have spent a night texting with loved ones on lockdown, obsessively refreshing social and messaging apps for read receipts and recent posts. My personal Twitter list of Lansing-centric reporters should not have gone lowkey viral, and I shouldn't have had to constantly remind myself and others of the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook.
I wish I could believe that this is going to mean anything. That the students' powerful Capitol sit-in, and enormous, haunting vigil, will be honored with real change. I wish I could believe that the leaders of a newly-installed Democratic trifecta will be able to back up their words by actually passing the kind of common-sense gun laws an overwhelming majority of Americans support.
"Enough is enough," our leaders said this week. "The time for only thoughts and prayers is over." But that's what they said after Oxford, and three MSU students who survived the 2021 Oxford High School shooting were on campus Monday night. One kid was actually wearing an "OXFORD STRONG" sweatshirt:
Watching the @wxyzdetroit facebook live stream at MSU and one of the students just ushered out of a campus building by police is wearing an Oxford Strong sweatshirt.— Sarah Michals (@sarahamichals) February 14, 2023
So sad & twisted that some of these students may possibly be witnessing their second school shooting. pic.twitter.com/r369x4bU5G
How can someone be Oxford Strong and Spartan Strong? They can't--because mass shootings do not make us strong.
Mass shootings break us. Shatter us. Rob us of our safety and our peace. Infuse every corner of our reality with fear. Mass shootings are excuses to take away our freedoms, levers to impose indignities upon us. They teach us that our lives are always worth sacrificing for other people's insecurities. Mass shootings are the reason our schools no longer have money for counselors or nurses or social workers, but always have plenty for cops and metal detectors.
The victims of this latest mass shooting--the U.S. is averaging more than one a day so far in 2023--grew up singing lockdown songs in elementary schools, went through mass-shooter drills in middle school, and the bullets came for them anyway. We're being trained to accept that blood-soaked shooting sprees are part of American life, and that we're all so hashtag strong for going on working and buying things and making the rich richer anyway.
Well, I don't want to praise those kids, faculty, and staff for having the strength to survive the horrors we've subjected them to--not when some of them didn't, and many of them will struggle with this for the rest of their lives. I don't want to honor the eight Spartans who were shot without honoring the 50,000 who are broken, who are suffering, who are angry.
To be clear, we all cope with tragedy in different ways--and if a mantra like "Spartan Strong" helps one victim, one member of the Michigan State community, one of the nearly half-a-million people who live, work, or go to school in the area get by, then it's worthwhile. If that's you, don't let me take that from you.
But I was a senior in high school when Columbine happened. I had three small kids during Sandy Hook. Their classes were all canceled on Tuesday because of what happened at Michigan State--and it cost a German exchange student, who'd been hosted by loved ones of ours, her last day at American school. After six months here, with school shootings being her biggest fear about living in America, her last regular night was disrupted by one, and her chance to say goodbye to so many new friends was taken away.
We just keep letting more killers have more and more-powerful guns, arming more cops with more weapons of war, and burying more innocent bodies. Accepting that and moving on does not make me feel strong.
Now, how about we rise up and stop it?
"What's a Japanese mobster to do in retirement? Join a softball team," by Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno for The New York Times and The Indian Express
There's nothing more wholesome, I discovered while reading this article, than a team of senior-citizen gangsters getting boat-raced in softball by the local parent-teacher association. Dooley and Ueno did a great job of capturing how social changes changed the gangsters' lifestyle, how leaving the yakuza didn't necessarily mean leaving old habits behind, and the damage that life did to some men with plenty of visible and invisible scars.
"If You Love To Write, Just Wait Until You Try Not Writing," by Kimberly Harrington for McSweeney's Internet Tendency
Harrington is a McSweeney's regular, a columnist with all the big bylines, an award-winning author of four books, and a copywriter/creative director. All that writing experience, it's no surprise, adds up to a devastatingly funny endorsement of not writing.
"How Deadlifts Helped Me Accept My Body," by David Dennis Jr., for Andscape
[CW: body image stuff]
Dennis is an Andscape senior writer, author of "The Movement Made Us," and a great Twitter follow. Like me and many others who turned 40 somewhere around the Lockdown Times, he realized his body needed more love than he was giving it.
For me, ADHD treatment and the fun of playing soccer kick-started a fitness regimen that has me loving how I look and feel for the first time in my life. For Dennis, the it's the challenge and thrill of moving what feels like an unmovable amount of weight. I loved this one.
"A Concerning Trend," by Neil Clarke for Clarkesworld
Clarke is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld Magazine, a renowned outlet for science-fiction and fantasy short fiction, articles, and art. He won the most recent Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short Form, and he's here highlighted a very concerning trend: an exponential explosion in computer-generated story submissions.
I've submitted nine stories to Clarkesworld over the last eight years, all of which were rejected--and that's not surprising, as according to The Submission Grinder, Clarkesworld's historical acceptance rate is a little over 1 percent. But many authors submit there first--not just because of its prestige and pay rate, but because of Clarke's commitment to reading and rejecting stories very quickly.
That's great for authors. But it also gives Clarke a chance to spot new and emerging voices--which, as he explains in this article, is a vital part of the SFF community and ecosystem. But if "AI"-generated garbage starts clogging up slushpiles, it'll be much harder for him and his colleagues to do their already hard work.
I took a break from even attempting to work on either of my novel projects over the incredibly busy holidays and a somehow-even-busier January--a longer-than-intended break that affected Gimme Schalter as well. But with my last bit of in-season football coverage posted at FiveThirtyEight, I'm officially back in Fiction Mode.
I'm attending the upcoming Futurescapes Writer's Workshop at the beginning of March, and polishing my query letter and workshopping excerpt for CODEX 17 has me fully back in the story and world. I am gonna finish (and, hopefully eventually, publish) this freaking book.