Posts Tagged ‘government’

I’ve been trying to think of the words to say for hours. I’ve been wondering if I should say anything. I’ve wanted to throw myself into anime or a book or into any form of entertainment, because sometimes the made-up worlds are better than the real one we inhabit. In the end though, I had to say something. I think I knew I was going to the moment I heard what happened today. And I had to let you know, I’m afraid in a way I don’t like to be.

Earlier today, a man named Robert Bowers opened fire at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three different services for three different congregations were being held that morning, with nearly a hundred people in the synagogue. Eleven people were killed and several more were injured, including four of the police officers who showed up to subdue Bowers, who has made numerous statements on social media about the Jews and “invaders,” aka immigrants and refugees. Tree of Life has been active with organizations that help out immigrants and refugees, including most notably HIAS, which may have played a role in Bowers’s selection of Tree of Life as his target. He has been captured and is awaiting being charged, including federal hate crime charges.

I found out about the shooting this afternoon while out with my cousin, who is here in Columbus for an internship. A friend sent me a link to an article about it. I felt my blood go cold, but I didn’t tell my cousin. I didn’t want to ruin the day for him. I’m sure by now he knows. And he’s probably as scared as me.

This is the second mass shooting in the United States that has been associated with one of the facets of my identity. The last one was when Pulse was shot up in Orlando, Florida, two days after my twenty-third birthday. Pulse was a gay nightclub. Fort-nine people died. I’m bisexual. I wasn’t affected directly, but I was affected.

This was worse. I’ve been Jewish, knew I was Jewish well before I was aware I was bisexual. I feel connected to my religion in so many ways. In college, I studied the Holocaust and have pursued it further since. I’ve noticed the climb in anti-Semitism in the United States over the last two years.

And I knew people from Tree of Life. In high school, my synagogue’s youth group would meet up with other youth groups from throughout the region several times a year to hang out and be Jewish as a group. Tree of Life would sometimes join us.

And before my family moved to Columbus, we considered living in Pittsburgh. We even visited to look at houses and to see what the schools and synagogues were like. I don’t remember what synagogue we were considering joining, but for all I know, it could’ve been Tree of Life. And even if it wasn’t, who knows where I might’ve ended up worshiping later in life. Who knows what might’ve happened if my parents had decided Pittsburgh was a better choice than Columbus?

I’m afraid. I’ve known for a while how anti-Semitism in the US and around the world have been making a comeback. I knew it was real. But it’s no longer that far removed from me. It struck close today.

I’m terrified. But I don’t want to be terrified. And, as happens when I’m scared, I have to fight and conquer what scares me.

We need to do more to stop monsters like this poor excuse for a man. Or more like him will copy him. And many more may die.

The Anti-Defamation League said this was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in this country, and that it’s “unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age.” I say that it was not only thinkable, but more than likely to happen at some point. And that’s the problem we need to fix.

People are going to offer thoughts and prayers and suggest armed guards to stop this from happening again. The thing is, the people at Tree of Life were thinking and praying. Among our liturgy are prayers to be kept safe from the enemies of our people. And many synagogues already have security in the form of retired or off-duty police officers. And as we saw at the Stoneman Douglas shooting earlier this year, the presence of an armed guard doesn’t always deter a violent man with a gun and a goal in mind.

I’m a big believer in the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” I also believe that if you take a step towards a goal, the universe takes a step with you. And I think it’s high-time we treat this chronic disease we’ve been dealing with in the United States for far too long. Very soon, Americans everywhere will have the chance to set the course of our country for the next couple years. I’m asking every American reading this, and all the ones who aren’t, to take advantage of this opportunity to set this course. And to please set a course that involves making the requirements to own a gun as stringent as the ones to drive a car, as well as increased care and research for mental illness, and for higher tolerance for all peoples, not just the Jewish people.

Because in the end, we are all one humanity. Forty-six genes in every cell, five fingers and toes on each limb, same organs and blood that is red and carries oxygen to our cells. And if we can’t make members of our species realize that, what good are we as a whole?

I also encourage you to donate to HIAS and other organizations that try to foster understanding and help those less fortunate than others. Because in the face of hate, the most powerful weapon we have is love. So show love.

Make your voice heard.

Take action.

Because all evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing. And we can’t allow that to happen.

Be brave. Fight back against evil. And above all, be safe.

Thanks for listening.

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It’s Saturday, and I’d like to be sleeping in. However, weekends don’t mean I’m slacking off. Or maybe I am, but I don’t consider it slacking off. I’m just working in a way most people don’t see as working. Anyway, welcome back to the Ten Day Book Challenge, brought by my cousin Matthew. Here are the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Today’s book is special for me, as it was part of the reason I took up a history and studied the Holocaust in college. Allow me to introduce The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth.

An alternate history story, Roth inserts himself as the childhood narrator in an America where Charles Lindbergh gets elected President of the United States during the rise of Nazi Germany and Hitler. Lindbergh acquiesces to the wishes of the America First crowd and declares America neutral when it comes to events transpiring in Europe. However, moves made by the government under Lindbergh makes Roth’s family and many Jews suspicious that Lindbergh may secretly be a Nazi sympathizer or pawn. And as time goes on, events transpire to make that fear seem very reasonable.

Alternate history is supposed to give us a view of what could’ve happened if a few things were different, and The Plot Against America does just that. While I do find it difficult to believe that Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer, it does go to show what could’ve happened if his America First policies did shape America for a few years, as well as if more anti-Semitic practices or ideas were made law. But it also shows what could happen if a young boy in America saw his very people suddenly under threat, at risk by something behind-the-scenes, and how his family reacted to that. It’s not just interesting, but engrossing and makes you think about how only a few minor things could have seriously changed America’s destiny.

From what I hear, a TV miniseries based on the novel is in development under the guy who created the TV show The Wire. Honestly, with the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in America, I can’t imagine a better time to adapt this story. Hopefully it gets a good network or streaming service that will ensure it’s seen by a lot of people. And in the meantime, I hope you take the time to check out the book. Believe me, it’s worth a read.

Today, I’m tagging my friend Pat Bertram. Pat, I know you’re busy these days, but I think it’d be cool if you could do this. Good luck if you can!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back later today with a review of The Nun. Until then, I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. I know I plan to.

I’m not going to lie, 2017 was a tough year in a number of ways. In some ways, it even rivals 2016, which everyone agrees was kind of a shit year, pardon my language. We dealt with really horrible terrorist incidents, learned that some of our most beloved figures in entertainment and other industries were secretly monsters, and saw terrible devastation from hurricanes that left communities without good food, water or electricity. This and a whole lot more affected so many lives, and definitely not in a good way.

However, there were a lot of good things about 2017 too. Many of the things I described above caused people to come together and fight. Not too long after the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, she and several high profile artists put on a charity concert to raise over ten million pounds for the families of the victims. After the shooting in Las Vegas this October, thousands rushed to donate blood at the Red Cross, with lines reportedly snaking around city blocks and lasting up to six hours, and millions were raised for the families of the victims! Plus in response to the shooting, Massachusetts banned bump fire stocks, which were used in the attack, and several bills were introduced into Congress to hopefully prevent attacks like this from happening again.

Throughout the year, men and women came together to protest sexism and the treatment of women in America and abroad, with marches throughout the year. The revelations of Harvey Weinstein led to dozens of women and men to open up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment, catalyzing the #MeToo movement and leading to the ousting of several serial abusers from a variety of industries for their crimes which, up till now, they could get away with, and started a conversation that is continuing today about how to combat sexual assault by powerful people who use the system to get away with it. Heck, voters in Alabama came together to keep a man who has been accused of assaulting multiple teen girls from becoming a Senator despite widespread support for him. That’s huge!

A Red Cross station post-Las Vegas shooting.

And while Puerto Rico and other areas of the world are still recovering from natural and man-made disasters, a lot is being done online and offline to help. Thousands are still sending money, supplies, and even solar power equipment (looking at you, Elon Musk) to help Puerto Rico out of the rubble. Despite the United States pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, many corporations, cities, and even states have said they will continue to abide by the agreement’s guidelines in order to combat global warming, which likely contributed to the many hurricanes we saw this year. And plenty of people each day are pressing for relief to peoples in trouble, both at home and abroad, from their leaders. It’s amazing to see that happen.

I could go on (I really want to speak about the entertainment industry’s positive contributions this year), but I fear this post will go on too long if I do, and there’s quite a bit I’d like to talk about. I’ll just summarize by saying that there was a lot of positive things that happened this year. And while the bad stuff does sometimes seem to overshadow the good, it’s important to recognize the good and cheer ourselves for what we accomplished, as well as what we can accomplish in the coming year. Which seems to be plenty, if we put our minds to it.

On a more personal note…

2017 was a pretty good year for me. Yes, the things I listed above, good and bad, may have affected me at times (they affect everybody, don’t they?), but in terms of my own personal life, I had a very good year. A lot of positive things happened to me , and if you don’t mind, I’ll just highlight some of the big ones:

  • My health seriously improved this year. I lost about thirty pounds of unneeded weight, which means I’ve had to take fewer sick days and I’m less likely to develop certain diseases. My back pain has also lessened tremendously, thanks partly to weight loss and to seeing a chiropractor. I can now move as I used to pre-back pain, and while I’m still working on improving my back and my health, the fact that I’ve accomplished this much already is a great motivator for me.
  • This was a good year for writing for me. I got halfway through the first draft of Full Circle (still on break from that until I feel ready to tackle it again), finally pushed out a new draft of Rose, and even wrote and edited some short stories. I also published two short stories, the science romance novelette Gynoid, and the LGBT fantasy romance story What Happened Saturday Night. Not only that, but over sixty new people started following this blog, putting me within striking distance of the thousand-follower milestone! For me, that is huge, and I can’t thank you guys enough for making that happen.
  • As many of you know, I work for a supply organization in a role that involves getting disabled employees accommodations and organizing events to highlight the diversity in our workforce. As of December, I’ve been with the organization for eighteen months, and it’s been great. I’m doing work that helps people with a great team around me, and I get great pay and benefits too. What’s not to love?
  • I went on the best vacation ever to Massachusetts with my dad back in July, and it culminated with a night at the famously haunted Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. I cannot even begin to tell you what a big deal that was for me.
  • All the movies I was super-excited to see this year were awesome, as I’d hoped. Especially the new version of It. That was the It we deserved.

And those are just a few of the highlights of 2017 for me. Yeah, it was a good year. And I hope 2018 goes just as well or even better. Especially if any of these happen:

  • More good news on the writing front, particularly with a fourth draft and maybe the publication of Rose, as well as several new stories and hitting the thousand-follower mile marker.
  • Continued improved health.
  • Continuing to do well at work.
  • Maybe a bit of travel, and definitely a bit of fun, whether that be going to shows or seeing friends.

And that much more.

So guys, I want to wish you a Happy New Year, and to remind you that, as hard as 2017 is, it’s 2018, and there are endless opportunities to have a better year. You just have to be brave enough to try and make a change.

And again, thank you all for being my Followers of Fear and reading my work. I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, and you guys have been there for every accomplishment and lesson I’ve experienced. I hope you’ll continue to support me for this year too as I try to accomplish all my dreams and scare people silly.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

If all goes as planned, this post is coming out on Memorial Day in the United States. It makes perfect sense to do so: Memorial Day commemorates the fallen soldiers in American history, dead from wars and conflicts and attacks and so much more. And the funny thing is, a significant number of those dead would probably have died of old age an not on the battlefield if it weren’t for the fact that at some point, someone couldn’t live in harmony with someone else, and the result was conflict.

Don’t get me wrong, I support my nation’s military, and every person brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their loved ones. But it seems to me that harmony among humanity is a concept that died a long time ago. Or maybe it never even existed, because if you go back through human history, harmony’s exact antonym, conflict, is seen everywhere. Heck, one of the major theories on the extinction of one of man’s early ancestors, Neanderthal, was that Cro-Magnon, killed or competed with them to death. And while not all conflicts today result in death, a lot of the time humanity as a species seems to be locked in a struggle with someone or something. Countries, political or religious beliefs, people, friends, family, even science and truth. It never ends, and increasingly, conflict erupts into violence. In fact, some people like that violence, and celebrate it.

It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe, despite nearly every person on Earth saying that at some point in their lives that they want world peace, conflict is the natural state of humanity, some holdover from our evolutionary past in trying to survive predators with sharp claws and teeth that we didn’t have and kept because after we managed to fend off predators with weapons, we found ourselves fighting other families, clans, and tribes for resources! Our species is so used to conflict, we’ve become too biologically wired to live without it.

And if that’s true, then honestly it’s sad. Because when humanity and its members aren’t engaged in some form of conflict, we actually make some pretty awesome stuff. Ever listened to a tune on the raio or on YouTube and felt your heart lift? Or did you ever see a piece of art in a museum and it filled you with a sense of wonder? Or a movie made you want to go out and do something amazing? Like build something that will change how we use energy, or a new medical treatment, or even your own work of fiction?

Why do we waste so much time living in conflict with each other, and not devoting ourselves to peace, harmony, and creation?

I honestly don’t know. I think sometimes, in the world of fictions, both in the ones I read and write, I seek out those answers. Horror is full of conflicts of a unique sort: creatures, both human and otherwise, that are entirely adverse to harmony and thrive on the conflict they cause. In that sense, the protagonists are often the force of harmony come to right things. Will I ever find the answers? I don’t know that either. But I honestly hope that I can.

Because despite the fact that this species sometimes makes me wish I really was a demon in human form, I think it can still go out there and do great things when its members put their minds to it. And perhaps we can stop acting like children or like a bunch of rabid animals set into a cage and actually work together. Perhaps, without giving up cultural identities or any of the other things we use to define ourselves in our daily lives, we can still find that elusive harmony that we should all live by.

And I’d like to close this post with a slightly-modified quote from HP Lovecraft, which oddly enough, seems to fit this discussion very well. Or at least, it does to me:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange eons, even discord may die.

I asked in this post if harmony, the concept and the practice, were dead. But according to this quote, modified though it is, perhaps we can end the clashes that define our species, and find some way to resurrect harmony and make it a permanent part of ourselves. And maybe I’m just blathering on and on about something silly. But maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the people who read this, and myself, an impetus to change things for the better.

Thanks for reading this, my Followers of Fear. Provided nothing comes up to distract me, I’ve got another two posts coming out on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Keep an eye out for those. And until next time, as always, pleasant nightmares.

Happy Birthday to the blog
Happy Birthday to the blog
Happy Birthday, Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Five years. It’s been five years since I started this blog, feeling my way haphazardly through the process of writing and posting about my writing and my life (in order of priority), with the hopes of building an audience so that by the time of I published my first book (at eighteen, I figured it was only a matter of time before that happened), I might have some ready readers eager to buy my first book, and every one after.

That didn’t go exactly as planned. But I have gotten a lot out of Rami Ungar the Writer. For one things, I’ve made lots and lots of friends. Angela Misri, Matthew Williams, Kat Impossible, Ruth Ann Nordin, Pat Bertram, Joleene Naylor, Dellani Oakes, and so many more. I’ve had the chance to write for other blogs, including Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, and, yes, I’ve met people who’ve picked up my books and read them.

I’m also this close to nine-hundred followers, as well as so very close to five-thousand likes (like, sixty away! Sixty!). That’s something I’m very excited to achieve, though I’m not sure when either of those will happen.

But it’s more than just stats or book sales. The fact is, you’ve all been with me through a lot. Four years of college, the highs and lows of that fun, crazy experience. Progress in my writing career, including my first three published books, and the creation of several more, which I hope to get out as soon as possible. My study abroad trip, and then my internship in Germany, and all those fun, cool experiences. The long period of unemployment that nearly drove me insane, and finally the beginning of my new job/internship, which I hope will someday become a full-time position (God willing!). All of you, my Followers of Fear, have been with me through these past five years, and I’m really grateful for all the love and encouragement and interaction you’ve had with me. I hope that in the next five years, we can continue with this awesome relationship of ours, and maybe grow to let more people into this awesome community we’ve constructed online.

And that’s what the blogosphere is, when you get down to it. It’s a community. Connections of thousands upon thousands of writers on a million different subjects, getting together to talk about whatever. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so happy to be part of this community, no matter the size of my following or what we talk about on this blog.

Though I am happy that some of you are into horror and that some of you also read my books. I appreciate that a lot!

Now, onto the other stuff I promised with this post. First, a reader-suggested Q&A, with questions from this blog and from Facebook, as well as a couple of things I wanted to unload off my chest, so I asked myself (yes, I ask myself questions. I just don’t usually answer back. That would be weird). So without further ado, let’s begin:

What is your earliest recollection of your love of writing? (Sherri Kauth, from Facebook)

I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t love to write. Or rather, a time I didn’t like storytelling. I would draw for hours, pretending I was making a great fantasy story or the storyboards for the next Pokemon movie. When I started learning how to spell and write and read, my pictures were accompanied by words, and as I got older I used more and more words, until I was writing novels. It wasn’t until I was ten that I really set myself to writing (with the occasional flirtation of becoming a mad scientist or a rockstar), but all things come in good time, am I right?

If you had to write in a completely different genre from what you’ve done so far, which one would you choose? (Kat Impossible, from the blog)

Easy, I’d go with erotica! I’ve read erotica before, and there’s definitely an art to it. It’s more than just simple porn, it’s a story revolving around sex. And I’ve written a sex scene or two in my time, one of which ended up in the final draft of Snake (of which someone close to me said, “He nailed it!”). I even have an erotic pen name I’d use if I ever got into the genre, along with some ideas for stories.

Of course, I’m not so sure my current employers would enjoy having an erotica writer on staff. Then again, they’re okay with me writing horror stories, so long as I don’t talk about them at work, so…

What is a favorite hobby besides reading, writing, or watching horror movies/TV? (Joleene Naylor, from the blog)

Oh goodness, that’s most of what I do when I’m not at work or eating or sleeping. Hmm…I guess rocking out to music or reading too much manga. And hanging out with friends, and family too (when I feel like I can retain my sanity).

Who is the favorite character you have created? (Tammy Whaley, from Faceebok)

Ooh, another tough one. In a way, I love all my characters. They’re like my children. Even the psychopathic ones. But if I had to choose, I’d have to go with Laura Horn, from the novel of the same name that I’m working on. In a way, she’s the character that I’ve made go through the hardest trials, and for whom her growth as a character is especially dramatic. For all of that, I want to give her a hug and tell her that she’ll be okay, even though I’m the source of her suffering (like I’ve said before, Writers are Cruel Gods). So I guess her suffering makes her my favorite character. What does that say about me?

What’s something from the past year you regret?

This is one I’m asking myself. Yes, I do have something: back in winter, I said I was going to do a series of posts about mental illness and its portrayal in horror stories. However, since then I’ve been so busy with so many different things, I haven’t had a moment to really work on this series, let alone do a post about attitudes about mental illness in general. So that’s been a problem for me. I felt guilty about it, since a lot of you were enthusiastic about me doing the project. And if I ever have actual time for it in the future, I will try my hardest to do the project. For now though, it’s on a far back burner until I can actually do something about it.

Well, I’m getting to the point where I’m really worrying about length, so I’ll wrap up the Q&A there (too bad, because I wanted to include more questions). Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and I hope you liked the answers.

And finally, the giveaway. If you are interested in getting an autographed copy of one of my books, here are the rules. Below in the comments, you have to submit the following:

  1. Your name, as it would be listed on your mail (if you have a nickname you’d prefer, we can talk about that later).
  2. Which book you’d like from me (the choices are The Quiet Game, Reborn City, Snake, or Video Rage).
  3. What you find scary personally.
  4. The hashtag #RUscared? (See what I did there?)

Include all that below, and I’ll pick a winner a week from today, on August 9th. I’ll contact the winner, and send them the book, no matter where they live. Excited? Good. Ready? GO!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know if anything comes up before Friday. In the meantime, thanks again for sticking with me through all this time. I really appreciate it.

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live long as God himself. Never.

Elie Wiesel, Night

This is really hard for me to write. I actually cried a little when I found out. It feels like I lost someone dear to me. A few minutes ago, a friend of mine sent me a message over Facebook. It was a New York Times article, telling me that Elie Wiesel had died. He was 87.

My only response was “No.”

Now if you’re unfamiliar with who Elie Wiesel was, he was a Holocaust survivor who was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, one of three survivors of his family. Ten years later, he wrote a 900-page account of his experiences in the camps, which was later shortened to the 127-page memoir La Nuit, later translated into English as Night. As time went on, and Night gained attention, Wiesel became a well-known speaker on the Holocaust, as well as other subjects, including Israel, genocides across time and the world, and human rights. He also wrote over 56 more books, helped to found the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (where, on opening day, he famously interrupted one of the speakers, I think President Carter, by saying that all the niceties were meaningless when there were horrors being perpetrated in Yugoslavia), received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, started the Elie Wiesel Foundation with his wife, Marion, to fight intolerance and prejudice, and taught at Boston University as the Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities.

I first met Mr. Wiesel as a boy. Not in person, though I would do that when I was a teenager. My father had a copy of Night, along with his other books Day and Dawn, in his office in the synagogue. My dad gave it to me, though I can’t remember why. Perhaps I’d been asking questions about the Holocaust, or maybe he just thought I’d get something out of it. Either way, I did. I read Night several times over the many years, stealing to my dad’s office after services on Saturdays to read the story of a fifteen year old boy who had experienced so much at such a young age.

I only realize this now, but Wiesel became, in my mind, one of the older kids whom I looked up to and hung out when I saw them. There were plenty of guys and girls like that when I was a kid, teens who tried and became real role models for the rambunctious young me. I always looked up to those kids, and Wiesel became one of them, esteemed more than any of the others.

I later got to meet this hero in my mind, though he was not the young man I always imagined in my head. I think I was twelve or thirteen at the time. My synagogue has a yearly event where some big speaker is invited to speak to the congregation. That year, we were excited to have a huge coup in our speaker.

I think I remember seeing him for the first time, and remembering how small and old he was. At my age, I was around the same height as him. It was quite the contrast from my mental image. But he was so kind. And even though my vocabulary wasn’t that big at that age, I knew that, the moment I shook his hand, I was shaking the hand of a giant. He was like the titular character of my dad’s favorite Yiddish short story, “Bontsha the Silent” (you can read a full PDF in English here), in which the main character finds out that if he only opened his mouth to complain about the world, he would’ve shook the heavens, only in this case, Wiesel made use of his power, and it resonated.

Sadly, I only remember a little bit from that evening. It was ten years ago, and you don’t tend to remember much from that age, even when it’s from great men. I do remember, quite clearly, that he started with a story about how a woman and her friends thought they recognized him on the street, only to conclude that it couldn’t possibly be him. I think you can tell a lot about a titan when they begin a speech with a humorous story.

And that’s what Elie Wiesel was. A titan. A giant. A being that was more than what “man” could ever constitute. He spoke louder than Bontscha ever felt the need to, and the world shook in response. It took notice. He made the world notice Bosnia, Darfur, all the horrors of the many genocides over the years, and then some. Through his foundation and his many books and speaking engagements, he educated the world, molded minds to be more cognizant of both the great evils and the great goods that human beings were capable of, and encouraged them to take action.

And that night, I got to hear him speak, I got to enjoy desserts with him and the rest of the VIPs at the event that night, and I even got a photo with him. When he left and I got the chance to say goodbye (we were both leaving at the same time), it was like using a huge force go by.

He wasn’t the friend I had in my mind. That was the only encounter I had with him outside of the books he wrote. But he was so much more to me and to so many more people out there. Perhaps one could make the argument that he was the greatest Jew of our modern times (sorry, Jon Stewart), and one of the greatest living people to boot. Across the world, people will hear the news and they will feel his passing. They will cry, like I did. They may even tear their clothes, a tradition in Judaism on the passing of someone important. And that’s what’s happened. Someone important has left this world. A great titan, in a form that spoke of gentleness and tolerance, has gone onto the next life, and we have all suffered a great loss because of it.

In the Jewish tradition, we often put a special suffix after the names of people who have died: z”l. It means zichrono liv’racha, which means “may their memory be a blessing.” The Holocaust was a horrible event, a memory that mankind would rather forget, but it produced one of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And we shall remember him, and his memory shall be a blessing, encouraging us to be better in all circumstances. And I shall definitely try to live up to those lessons, even more in Wiesel’s death as I did in life.

Goodbye, Mr. Wiesel, z”l. We shall miss you so.

Baruch Dayan Ha-emet.

I’m both shocked and, at the same time, not surprised that I’m on this topic again. I was really hoping to talk about something writing related this morning, but events this weekend have caused me to shift gears. So prepare, because I’m about to do one of my world-famous gun violence posts!

Now if you’re unaware, on Friday evening at 10:30pm in the city of Orlando, Florida, singer, YouTube star, and “The Voice” contestant Christina Grimmie was shot by a deranged fan who apparently drove from St. Petersburg with the express purpose of killing her. Grimmie’s brother (without a gun of his own, no less) tackled the shooter to the ground, probably preventing more people from being killed. Grimmie later succumbed to her injuries and died, leading to a powerful outpouring of grief on the Internet. Even I, who only had a casual acquaintance with Grimmie’s work, felt her passing deeply.

Just a little over twenty-four hours later, a man armed with an assault rifle entered the Pulse, a popular Orlando gay bar and dance club, and started shooting, leading to a hostage situation that ended with the shooter’s death. The latest numbers show fifty confirmed deaths and even more injuries, making this the worse shooting in American history, worse than Newtown and Aurora. All this happened despite the fact that an armed police officer (a good guy with a gun) was on scene at the club.

All this, barely a day and a half apart, in the same city, in a state with very lax gun laws and a high amount of gun violence. Both shootings involving guns.

I wrote last year after a spate of shootings that America’s gun problem is like a chronic illness, a constant condition that plagues and grieves us, and needs treatment to be fixed, even when the treatment isn’t always available or the subject doesn’t want to admit there’s a problem, let alone that they need treatment. And that comparison still holds water nearly an entire year later. America is plagued by shootings. We’re the only developed nation with this much gun violence, to the point where it’s almost considered normal. Guns are causing more deaths than the United States should have.

These aren’t toys. They’re not meant for anything creative.

Now, I know some people will say, “But Rami, how can an inanimate object cause murder? People cause murder.” Well, people cause murder, that’s true. But guns, like missiles and military drones, are designed to facilitate killing. They’re made with that express purpose. The first firearms were used for military purposes, and so were the cannons and flintlock rifles that came later, with hunting being a secondary use for the latter. They were invented for the strategic purpose of taking enemy life, not for baking cookies or improving home decor. This is in direct contrast to knives, which unless made for military purposes like the Marine Corps Ka-Bar combat knife, has other primary uses like cutting and preparing food.

There’s no argument around this. Guns are made for killing, whether it’s animal or human life. 

In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be seeing renewed calls for restrictions on gun sales and ownership, as well as push back from the NRA and other Second Amendment advocates trying to frame this as a mental health issue (in the case of Christina Grimmie’s killer) or as an issue with ISIS or Muslims (early reports indicate that the shooter at the Pulse had ISIS leanings). And while I do believe that mental illness and terrorist ideologies may have played a part in these tragedies, Christina Grimmie might still be alive if the deranged fan had gone at her with a knife instead of a gun, and I doubt fifty people would be dead if the killer had a knife. Maybe a couple people, but after the first few attempts at stabbing, someone’s bound to tackle this guy.

And it’s hard to argue mental illness or terrorism when a man uses a gun to intimidate his wife, which happens all too often, unfortunately.

The problem is, both these tragedies, and so many more, have been made possible by the use of guns.

Luckily, there is treatment for this problem. In Australia, Canada, England, Japan, and many other developed nations, gun violence is at waaaaaay lower levels than in America. The difference is that they have restrictions on who can have guns and what kinds of guns. Not a blanket ban on all guns, but some restrictions are in place. And I’m sure, that if America were to institute similar restrictions, we would see the same results. In fact, states with more gun control measures have lower instances of gun violence than states that do not. If we were to implement the same thing on a nationwide level, imagine how much the loss of life could be lowered.

And for those who say that gun control measures don’t work because bad guys will still get guns, so it’s best to give the good guys guns instead, I have this to say: if there are still people who run red lights, do we throw out traffic laws and just let people drive as they wish without consequences? If a boat or a house has a leak and water comes in, do we destroy the boat or the house and say they were useless and never would have worked? No, we prosecute the people who run the red lights for violating traffic laws. We patch up the holes so that water can’t get in. And if people are still getting restricted weapons and committing acts of violence with them, then doesn’t that prove even more that they’re criminals, and that they were willing to go to unsavory means to commit acts of violence? I think it does.

Not to mention, how do you know who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy? It’s not as if the good guys are marked in green and the bad in red when they pull out their weapons. And in a crowded room where everyone has a gun? Really hard to tell!

It’s time to put a stop to displays like this.

Treatment is available. We just have to be brave enough to take it.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to have incidents like what we experienced this weekend, and families will wake up without loved ones because tragedies that could’ve been prevented weren’t. We need to admit that there’s a problem, we need to take measures to stop the problem, and we need to do this now. Not tomorrow. Not next month. Not next year, or in another years.

Now. Let’s push for expanded background checks, closing gun show loopholes, and banning assault weapons or other military-grade weaponry on the open market. Let’s also put aside funding for research into gun violence for the CDC, and expand the requirements needed to purchase and use a gun (a yearly gun safety course, for example, sounds sensible enough). If we can do that, I’m sure we can prevent more innocent losses of life.

Or we can go on as we have been doing. And we can’t allow that, under any circumstances.

Note: Immediately after finishing this, I saw a report that a man with weapons in his car had been arrested in LA near the Pride Festival there. Thank God law enforcement caught him, or who knows how many people might’ve been killed.