It’s Biden’s Moment, and Trump Knows

I’m not a lover of Joe Biden. I always thought liberals were sellouts, not heroes. The definition of liberal that I learned in my coming-of-age years was someone who always said the right thing but then pulled back at the time of decision.

But when a crazed, mini-authoritarian boar is the only alternative, liberals look good.

Biden looked good last night in the first debate. He was decent. He was – I can’t believe this is a campaign issue – pro-voting.

He is more pro-family and pro-life than Trump, whether you define those terms from a right or a left perspective.

He spoke in complete sentences.

He soared over a low bar.

He had at least two missed moments:

  1. When Trump touted his 200+ endorsements from military and law enforcement, Biden could have mentioned his nearly 500.
  2. When Trump pointed to poor forest management as the cause of the California fires, Biden could have pointed out that 58 percent of California forests are federally owned and so Trump’s responsibility; only three percent are state-owned.

But those lapses didn’t hurt him. I think Biden is driven by the sense that history is calling him to this moment. Whether you believe it or not, Biden does, and it gives him energy.

Trump, meanwhile, is tired, ignorant, and standing naked and aware in front of an electorate that is embarrassed.

Ken Wachsberger is the author of You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You and editor of the four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

On the Liberation of Auschwitz: Never Again

The main camp of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp during World War II, was liberated seventy-five years ago today by the Soviets along with the Birkenau death camp and the Monowitz labor camp. By the time the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, many of the inmates had already been forced out as the Nazis began a hasty effort to cover up their atrocities. Those inmates, mostly Jews, were marched for three days to another camp, Bergen-Belsen. Many died along the way in what became known as the Death March to Bergen-Belsen.

Thirteen-year old Goldie Szachter was one who survived. Only days before the march began, she had been selected, along with a hundred women including her mother, by Dr. Josef Mengele to die in the gas chamber. The “selections” were common occurrences at Auschwitz. Mengele, known as “the Angel of Death,” would line up the Jews, then walk up and down the rows saying, “You to the right” or “You to the left.” If you were ordered rightward, you lived another day. If you were told to go to the left, you had just been selected to die in the gas chamber. Goldie was told to go to the left.

As this selection was taking place, the Soviets were already getting closer to the border. Nazi Headquarters knew it was all over for them. Orders had already begun to trickle down to the camp overseers to start the cover-up. But as they were trickling down, the selections continued.

Goldie’s group was thrown into the gas chamber as the orders reached Auschwitz. The Nazis faced a quandary: Do we have time for one more gassing? Yes. No. Yes. No. I don’t know how intense the deliberations were or even if more than one person was involved in the decision but it took about eighteen hours for a decision to be made. Goldie and the women sat and waited all that time in the gas chamber. No other group had ever waited that long before being killed. Maybe they were already dead, they wondered, and this was what death was like.

And then the decision was made: Time was too precious now even to kill a hundred more Jews. Suddenly the door to the oven opened. Goldie and the one hundred women were released and returned to their barracks, concluding what turned out to be the last selection of the entire war and probably the only one that wasn’t carried out.

They then participated in the Death March to Bergen-Belsen. Goldie, her two sisters, and her mother survived along with a few other family members. After the war, Bergen-Belsen became a home for displaced refugees. Her mother died there in a makeshift hospital.

Goldie and her sisters lived in the camp for, I believe, two to three years before immigrating to America. Goldie, known in adulthood as Golda, met and married Sylvan Kalib, a cantor in Farmington Hills, Michigan, as well as a music teacher at Eastern Michigan University. Sylvan was enthralled by her story, which was complex beyond the selection scene. I was honored when he asked me to help him write it.

The result was The Last Selection: A Child’s Journey through the Holocaust. It was published by University of Massachusetts Press. Portions of the book were used in the ABC Daytime Emmy-Award Winning movie on children in the Holocaust. If you’re interested in learning more about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, The Last Selection is a good place to begin.

* * *

I can’t speak for anyone who endured the Holocaust but I grew up in its shadow and feel it as part of the legacy I have inherited from my ancestors. When I hear opponents of Trump’s barbaric immigration policies call the camps where refugees are imprisoned “concentration camps,” I’m not offended. I don’t see it as a show of disrespect for those who died in the ovens.

Rather, I think the Jews who survived so they could let the world know what had happened so that it would never happen again, as was the stated motivation of many survivors, had exactly such situations in mind.

“Never again.”



Mica Died on This Date

November 22. The date is forever associated with President John Kennedy, who was assassinated on that date in 1963.

I think also of Mica Kindman who died on that date in 1991.

I was honored to work with Mica as his editor while he wrote his autobiography, My Odyssey through the Underground Press. The book recalls Mica’s adventures working primarily with two underground newspapers during the sixties and seventies: The Paper, in East Lansing, Michigan, and Avatar, in Boston. The underground press was the independent, noncorporate, dissident press of the Vietnam era. His story was one of two dozen insider histories that I compiled, edited, and published in what became my four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Muckraking at The Paper

To his friends in East Lansing in the sixties, he was Michael Kindman. In 1963, Michael was one of some 200 honors students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by Michigan State University and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class. At MSU? The nation’s first agricultural land grant college?

Two years later, he founded the legendary The Paper, the Lansing area’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers during the Vietnam era.

The Paper connected the emerging radical campus community of Michigan State University with the activists of the East Lansing community. It is best known for its work with Ramparts, the premier left-wing glossy magazine of the era, in exposing MSU’s role as the number one CIA front organization in Vietnam in the sixties. The bureaucrats, academics, and police who built the infrastructure of oppression in Vietnam that forced the Vietnamese peasants from the villages into the cities, carded them, and forced their daughters into prostitution, then bombed their homes anyway, received salaries from the CIA that were filtered through an account at MSU. Most of these “professors” never actually showed up on campus.

Through Underground Press Syndicate, underground papers around the country exchanged subscriptions with each other to spread the word and build solidarity. One of those papers was Avatar, a paper out of the Boston area whose poems and essays explored a mystical dimension that attracted Michael’s attention.

Getting Sucked into Avatar

So in 1968 he left The Paper, headed east, and joined the staff of Avatar, unaware that the large, experimental commune that controlled the paper was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was then being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests. Michael got sucked right in, not surprisingly. He was bright and might have posed a perceived threat to the leadership so they worked on him with mind control games and punishments.

It took him five years to escape, which he did from the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas. He headed west, eventually settled in San Francisco, worked as a carpenter, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica.

By the time I caught up with him, he was working as a home-remodeling contractor, a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, and a student. He was also dying of AIDS.

I worked with him for two years on his autobiography. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft. I got the call from his partner, Tony. I believe he lived as long as he did because he was inspired to complete his book.

Mica Press

Meanwhile, after receiving multiple publisher rejection letters from my agent that told me they loved the concept but didn’t want to touch the content (one gave me a “rave rejection”), I realized I wasn’t going to find a commercial press to publish my collection or an agent to represent me. I knew I would have to create my own press to tell the story of the underground press. With the help of Joe Grant, one of the other contributors, we created Mica Press.

In its Mica Press iteration, Mica’s story appeared as one piece – by far the longest – in a 600-plus-page, 2-column anthology. Twenty years later, Michigan State University Press worked with me to divide the anthology into four separate volumes, known as the Voices from the Underground Series. Mica’s story is all of volume 2.

The below image shows Mica’s patch on the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Ken Wachsberger is a book coach, editor, and author of the upcoming You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You.


Ninety-nine out of 100 breast cancer victims, according to accepted statistics, are women, which means that men are by far the most likely primary caregivers. And yet men are the most inept at asking for help, especially in taking care of themselves.

In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Azenphony Press is pleased to announce a special month-long reduced cost of $6 for the soft cover version of Ken Wachsberger’s Your Partner Has Breast Cancer: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person on Your Journey from Victim to Survivor. The cover price is already a low $7.50.

Also for this month, the ebook price has been slashed 50% from its already ridiculously low price to $0.99.

You can order soft cover or ebook version here.

Your Partner Has Breast Cancer was written to satisfy Ken’s own need to figure out how to keep sane while he was coping with his wife’s breast cancer adventure and also losing his job during the summer of 2000. The first draft was finished at the hospital while Emily was receiving her final chemotherapy treatment.


Features include

  • Discussion of the 21 ways
  • “The Cancer Journals,” a section Ken included to inspire support people to write and share their own journals
  • Additional resources to help the support person keep sane
  • Focus on becoming a survivor, not just being a victim

While the breast cancer patient is the designated victim, with good reason, the support person, the caregiver, is the silent victim, the one who takes on both shares of the household chores; answers questions from well-wishers; assumes double income responsibility; becomes both parents; feeds, clothes, and washes the designated victim; sleeps less; and is always the pillar of strength, even when he or she doesn’t feel like a pillar of strength.

By addressing the emotional needs of the main support person, Your Partner Has Breast Cancer fills an important void that social workers, religious leaders, support people, surgeons, and nursing staff agree has been empty for too long.

“Ken has in a thoughtful and caring way shared effective ways that worked for him as he was a great husband and father supporting his wife and children in his family’s battle against breast cancer. I am confident that these ways will have a powerful impact in helping all support people, but especially guys who may be struggling, to be loving partners as they battle breast cancer in their families.”—Marc Heyison, President/Founder, Men Against Breast Cancer

“All I can say is wow! I found this booklet helpful, informative, moving, and clearly a labor of love.”—Dr. Helen Pass, Director, Division of Breast Surgery, and Co-Director of Women’s Breast Center, Stamford Hospital, Stamford, CT

Ken Wachsberger is a long-time author, editor, educator, political organizer, and book coach who has written, edited, and lectured on a wide range of topics including writing for healing and self-discovery. His upcoming book, You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You, is set for February 27, 2020, release.

Azenphony Press has published and promoted a diverse catalog of books since its founding in 1987 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Subject areas include the Vietnam era underground press, censorship, the Holocaust and Jewish resistance, the I-Search paper (a first-of-its-kind textbook), writing for self-discovery, how to keep sane as a breast cancer support person, and puns.

Ken’s Book on How to Write a Book Now Available as Preorder

Azenphony Press is pleased to announce that Ken Wachsberger’s latest book, You’ve Got the Time; How to Write and Publish That Book in You, is now available for preorder purchase in ebook format. The soft cover preorder offer will be available this coming fall.

By purchasing your ebook preorder now, you reserve your copy at the low price of $2.99, a 25% savings. Your credit card will not be charged until the book is released in early 2020. You will receive your copy that day.

According to Ken, You’ve Got the Time is “the antidote for the oldest excuse for not writing a book in the book. If you’ve got the passion for your idea, you’ve got the time to write your book.”

You’ve Got the Time teaches you how to

  • Create order and make sense out of the ideas that are already swirling around in your mind
  • Name your  files—including chapter and manuscript drafts, web text, freewriting adventures, spreadsheets, and more; as well as  correspondence  with typesetters, artists, printers, web developers, editors, experts, celebrities, and  other industry experts—so you can find them when you need them
  • Prepare for and conduct expert interviews so you can sound like an authority even when you know you aren’t one.
  • Make your prose flow like poetry even if you are weak in mechanics, grammar, and spelling.
  • Track down and reach out to experts and celebrities whose forewords and testimonials will give your book credibility and marketability
  • Negotiate a book contract with knowledge and confidence
  • Build your income stream by thinking like a bestseller—whether or not your book makes a list
  • Prepare yourself and your loved ones for that time when finishing your book takes over your life, and your precious time with them is threatened

In addition, you learn everything you need to know about designing your cover; obtaining your ISBN, barcode, copyright, and index; coding your files for upload to ebook, POD, and audio; and more.

Award-winning author/editor/book coach Ken Wachsberger has been creating articles, stories, and internationally praised, single-, double-, and multi-volume books for fifty years. He is a lifelong educator, member of National Speakers Association and National Writers Union, and renowned expert on helping writers to negotiate book publishing contracts.

For coaching, editing, and speaking, Ken may be reached at; 734 635 0577;,,

Azenphony Press was founded in 1987 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Preorder your ebook copy here today and get 25% off cover price.

Turning Seventy

Vigil in Ann Arbor

Today I turned seventy.

Six days ago I joined between 300 and 400 fellow Ann Arborites and friends for a vigil at the Ann Arbor Federal Building to bring attention to the deportation of refugees and the conditions at the detention centers. We were one of 743 vigils that took place all over the country and around the world, 26 in Michigan alone.

Among the participants were many young people, my intergenerational peers, who are the age now that my peers and I were in the sixties and seventies when we organized successfully for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War. The Movement is in good hands. I saw old friends, including one who helped me bring collective bargaining to Eastern Michigan University adjunct faculty over twenty years ago, the first labor union for adjuncts in the state of Michigan.


We heard powerful speeches and inspiring stories. One of my biggest complaints with the vigil was the absence of today’s songs to action. But I was inspired by “This Little Light of Mine” and “I Shall Be Released,” two powerful songs from my era. I could barely sing along as I choked back tears. Then one young immigrant girl read a poem as the crowd wept.


The signs depicted a rich community of peace and love. The term “concentration camp” was used freely but not ubiquitously to describe the detention centers. As an American Jew with as much Holocaust street cred as any other American Jew, I am not hung up over the term or possessive of its use anywhere outside World War II Europe, as some appear to be, It does no disrespect to the six million, including many of my own relatives, who perished in what my Great Uncle Mortsie referred to as “the tsouris.” which loosely means “pain in the butt.”

Are today’s camps as bad as the Holocaust camps at their worst? Obviously no right now. No one, to our general knowledge, is being gassed or incinerated.

But we are moving in that direction as deaths increase at the camps, family separations continue, and the First Amendment is attacked as the enemy of the people. Now is the time to employ the full strength and impact of our noble legacy to help put a stop to it. Never again.

Still Protesting and Loving Fifty Years Later

That was six days ago. Today I turned seventy. I can’t believe I’m still protesting and organizing. Next year will be fifty years since my first political arrest during the Kent State demonstrations. When you do time in solitary confinement, it changes your world perspective, even if it is only overnight and for something as innocuous as not signing your fingerprints. I’ve been an activist ever since.

Personally, I’ve fallen and gotten back up. I’m grateful for an overall joyous, meaningful life and am still looking ahead to new adventures. Emily and I are celebrating our fortieth year of marriage. (Has anyone alive not seen our pictures from Alaska?) I love my immediate family, my extended family, my personal and political friends, and my new business associates. At a time when my high school classmates are retiring, I’m starting a new career as a book coach, editor, and speaker, and I’m having the best time I’ve had in years.

Ken’s New Book

The ebook version of my new book, You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You, is now available at a special preorder price. The softcover version will be available for preorder in November. If you’re even thinking about writing a book or know someone who is, get both versions so it’s always accessible. I’ve shared a ton of information, told some good stories, interviewed experts when they knew more than I did on any topic, and responded to critics of earlier drafts.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life. Despite the tsouris that we always will have to deal with, life is good if you keep the vision and laugh often.

The ebook version of my new book, is now available at a special preorder price.





Historic Joint Signing for Sanctuary Support to Take Place at Genesis

An historic event is taking place at Genesis of Ann Arbor in the building shared by Temple Beth Emeth (TBE) and St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church (STC), 2309 Packard Street in Ann Arbor.

On Wednesday June 13, the president of TBE, the senior warden of STC, and the president of Genesis will come together to publicly sign a joint declaration of support for the nationwide Sanctuary movement.

An opening prayer by TBE Rabbi Josh Whinston and a closing prayer by Reverend James C Rhodenhiser Jr. will frame the event.

The event, which begins at 6:30, is co-sponsored by Genesis and Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary.Genesis is the corporation that was set up between the two congregations in 1976 to operate and maintain the building. The creation of Genesis became the first known instance in the country of two congregations of different faiths co-owning and operating the same building. At the event, they will officially sign the first joint declaration of support for the Sanctuary movement.

Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary is the interfaith coalition of congregations and individuals throughout Washtenaw County that came together to support immigrants and their families in the local community in response to harsh, unjust activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the community.The event will be emceed by Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of WCS.

The achievement is the result of a year-long campaign led by the TBE-STC Joint Sanctuary Committee to educate both congregations about the urgency of supporting the movement.According to Shoshana Mandel, chair of the TBE Social Action Committee (SAC):

For the past year, SAC has been working on and then collaborating with STC to formulate a Sanctuary Motion and declaration of our commitment to the Sanctuary effort. We have hosted numerous educational events on this and related topics. And we have arrived! So many people have volunteered their time, effort, passion, and love for justice into this effort.

A reception hosted by a joint committee from Temple Beth Emeth, St. Clare, and Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary will follow the signing.

Please join us at this public event to witness and celebrate the historic signing and share the feast of solidarity and justice.

Jarvis Arms the Homeless

Sit at Panera with friend, Jarvis. Jarvis is a staunch gun owner and the founder and chair of Committee to Arm the Homeless.


He chooses his words carefully as he explains his group’s purpose: “As our homeless are undoubtedly the segment of our population most vulnerable to physical mayhem, we feel that it is incumbent upon us as a society to provide these individuals with firearms so they might protect themselves against the more insidious elements among us.”

”But arm the homeless?” I ask. “Do you think that’s realistic?”

“Please allow me to answer your question with a question,” he explains. He pauses momentarily and in the silence I overhear three women at the next table discussing literacy and problems in their community. A young man in the adjacent booth is commiserating with a friend about his inability to understand women. “My wife yelled at me this morning for peeing on the floor in the middle of the night. She said I missed the bowl completely. I said at least I didn’t get any on the rim.”

Jarvis looks intently at the point of my pen as he continues: “Do you think this is less realistic than allowing a nineteen-year old mental case to purchase a military-grade weapon in order to murder innocent high school students?”

In addition to being a gun owner, Jarvis is a hard-core left-wing hippie from the sixties. Back then, he was so aggressive he would pass you in the turn lane. Today he’s mellowed but he hasn’t lost his edge.  He draws an analogy: “Gun owners are like pot smokers. They won’t admit it. They’ll say, ‘Where is marijuana in the constitution?’ But the constitution is a made-up argument by the weapons industry to sell weapons. The issue is about human dignity and personal rights: the right to own a gun for my protection; to choose my own form of health care, to get high with the mood-enhancer of my choice.”

But even Jarvis knows there are limits to his freedom: “Don’t push drugs on kids, don’t drive when you’re smelling colors, and if you grow it for sale, you grow it organically for best medicinal purposes. And don’t let nineteen-year old mental cases purchase military-grade weapons.”

Jarvis excuses himself, adjourns to restroom. Passes woman by beverage station struggling to neatly seal iced tea cup lid over cup with one hand while holding young son’s hand with other.

Thousands March for Lives in Ann Arbor

I marched for my life with the young people on Saturday March 24 at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School along with 4,000 others. The march was one of some eight hundred that were held around the country that day. Another 200,000 marched in D.C.

Together, they produced a paradigm shift in how the country views the issue of gun violence.

Like the others that day, the march in Ann Arbor was for all of us, of course. Who can be against fewer deaths by gun violence?

But the young people, mostly high school and college age, led by worker and full-time student Kennedy Dixon and a small committee, organized the event; promoted it through social media; raised funds for the event and a victims’ fund on GoFundMe; recruited support from city council members, principals, and the police; and were the main speakers.

The Scene

The march, sponsored by Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and March for Our Lives, energized me politically more even than the women’s march last year. There was a general feeling that this time was different.

I arrive a half hour earlier than the scheduled start time. A friend I marched with fifty years ago slaps me on my shoulder and says, “Hey, how ya doin’?” I speculate with a friend from my temple congregation on whether or not there will be a counter-demonstration.

A woman hurries past me while talking on her cell phone: “Hey, where are you parked?” A food stand advertises free hot dogs and Cokes.

I sign a petition for a cause that I support as the petitioner notes that her high school dress code is more regulated than gun laws. A little girl carries a sign saying, “Arms are for hugging.” Her younger brother lies in a wagon arms outstretched, holding a sign: “No Arms in School.”

The signs overall carried the same sense of optimism as signs I’ve seen at rallies past but they were unique to the occasion.

  • They were subtly intellectual: “Nyet.”
  • And they were straightforward: “Guns Are Dumb.”
  • They were logical: “Fewer guns. Fewer bullets. Fewer deaths.”
  • They reflected the existential fear that many of us feel: “Am I Next?”
  • They were religiously sarcastic: “Would Jesus Have an AR15?”
  • They were inspirational: “You can put a silencer on a gun but not on people.”
  • Many challenged the idea that prayer is an adequate political substitute for action: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
  • Other signs had so many words I couldn’t read them in their entirety in the brief time the lettering faced in my direction.
  • None demanded that we abolish all guns or repeal the Second Amendment. That’s a phony fear tactic constructed by the weapons lobby that controls the NRA.

And I see the leadership of this issue being passed to a new generation. Like the young people of my generation who ended the war in Vietnam because we were the people dying over there and the politicians didn’t care, the young people are forcing the issue of death by gun violence onto the national agenda (along with outrageous college tuition costs, which were not raised at this event) and they won’t give up until they win, because they are the ones who are dying (and being priced out of college or saddled with debt). They are challenging the impotence of mass-murder apologists who justify the inevitability of massacres as collateral damage for “the price of freedom.” They are creating a movement that will be replenished year after year by new young people.

An older woman says to a young girl, “You’re the reason I’m here.”

I find a spot near the front so that I can see the speakers. I stand behind the chained-off area that is reserved for attendees who are disabled. Nice touch, I think. Throughout the event, a woman stands on stage signing for the hearing impaired.

The Pre-Rally Entertainment

Gemini was the pre-rally entertainment. Gemini, the duo starring Ann Arbor twins Sandor and Laszlo Slomovits, is a fixture in Ann Arbor so I feel compelled to state as confession that I had never before heard them perform in concert. I thought they were inspirational. They sang the folk standards that I sang during rallies from the sixties and seventies: “If I Had a Hammer,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “Where I’m Bound,” “Down by the Riverside,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” “This Land Is Your Land” (the song that played at our wedding, on piano and flute, as Emily and I walked up the aisle together as newlyweds), and others.. I sang along again and was inspired.

A young girl played violin. Having assumed that the band members were all from my generation, I wondered what disease she had contracted that made her look so young. Then I heard someone behind me telling her friend that the girl was the daughter of one of the twins—she’s San’s daughter, Emily. She played beautifully and it meant so much to me to see two generations of activism connected by song. I cried when she solo’d the second verse of “If I Had a Hammer”; every time she played the violin after that, I cried some more.

And yet I was troubled. The young people organized the march. They led the march. They are the reason sanity is going to win on this issue. Where was the young local group that could rev up the young crowd with anthems from their generation—not as a replacement for Gemini but as a complement?

I kept that thought to myself until I found myself walking next to a man on the last leg of the march and he mentioned it and then another who overheard him agreed. Just a note to organizers: We older peace veterans are here to guide you and support you as much as we can because our organizing days aren’t over. But on this issue, you are the leaders. Create your own mythology.

The Rally

The young speakers and their older allies who held the stage were eloquent and inspirational. They quoted statistics on gun deaths and the cost to society like I once recited batting averages. They connected the dots by declaring that Sandy Hook and Columbine and Stoneman Douglas and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile, and the other daily murders aren’t isolated events. They rejected the notion that if we can’t stop all gun deaths we can’t stop any.

The slam poetry of high school senior Serena Varner was riveting as she recited the words off her cell phone. Remember the Parkland victims, yes, but why do we only get roused when white people are among the victims? She spoke about the intersections between racism and gun violence, between sexism and gun violence, between LGBTQ and gun violence, between domestic abuse and gun violence—“It always involves gun violence”—and recalled the names of black youth killed not at schools but in parks and at homes. ‘They all have to be part of the picture.”

Gretchen Ascher, a South Lyon East High School junior, stated the demands:

  • Digitize firearms data.
  • Background checks.
  • Ban all high-capacity magazines.
  • Repeal the Dickey Amendment.
  • Ban high-powered assault weapons, with buy-back.

Liana Treviño, a survivor of the recent Las Vegas shootings who lives in town, struggled to read her account for the first time.

Mary Voorhorst, 10th grade teacher, described the simulated shootings she witnessed as part of a gun-violence-prevention training, and the strategies that they learned to counter terrorist attacks. I recall air raid drills in the fifties where my classmates and I hid under our desks and covered the backs of our heads to protect ourselves—we were told—from an atomic blast, should we face one. Today’s fiction, including armed teachers, is more cynical and sophisticated. “Teachers are being told to fix society’s problems because legislators are not passing laws. We need to examine the Second Amendment in the present context.”

Jennifer Tang Cole, a social worker from Sandy Hook, argued that prevention requires education, not just a phone number. She promoted Sandy Hook Promise, a group funded by parents of kids who died there, to help family members identify warning signs in children. “Do not let your critics silence you,” she called out to the young people. “You are the heart of this movement. Call principals, superintendents, lawmakers. Demand programs.”

Ann Arbor State Rep. Yousef Rabhi charged, “We can do better as a nation,” then recited “We believe in a nation that” and filled in the blanks one repetition at a time as Martin dreamed his dream, and invited us to share his vision.


The young people hear their elders challenge their inexperience and label them as naïve. NRA President Wayne LaPierre belittles the surviving high schoolers of Stoneham Douglas as patsies to billionaire liberals and Hollywood elite.


But the young people don’t care. As Morgan, a freshman at University of Michigan whose last name I didn’t catch (and whose first name I may have not heard correctly), said to his generation’s detractors: “We don’t give a damn what you think.”

“We are winning this fight because we have an unspoiled sense of what is possible.” He called out recent victories, including laws passed in Rick Perry’s Florida and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to stop selling assault-style weapons.


And they are calling out the NRA as the biggest state-sponsored terrorist organization in our country’s history. Over and over.

  • A theme throughout the day was “Vote,” usually to vote out the NRA-bought politicians who have purchased the Republican Party.
  • Celeste Kampurwala, the local events leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, noted that the NRA has been around for 147 years and her group six, and yet their membership has surpassed the NRA’s. She shared her own gun violence story, about a depressive father who died by gun suicide.
  • We were reminded that the Dickey Amendment, that rider added to the 1996 omnibus spending bill to prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence, was courtesy of NRA.
  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell bragged about her F rating with the NRA but announced that, because of the spending bill that Trump just signed, the CDC can now do research on gun violence. “Now we can get the data into the national health care system to track it.
  • A sign taunted, “Hey, NRA, Promote Art Not Artillery.”

“It’s not enough but it’s a good beginning,” Morgan shouted. “NRA, your time as a monopoly in the gun debate is over.”

In future rallies, I would like to see speakers include NRA members who are fed up with their organization’s leadership and are ready to challenge it from within. The United States lost its terrorist war in Vietnam when the military turned against it. There were over eight hundred underground newspapers during the Vietnam era that were published by GIs representing every branch of the military.

Antiwar veterans formed Vietnam Veterans Against the War and it became the group that broke the back of the war effort. Where is the alternative gun rights group to the NRA that will support the Second Amendment but with limitations, just like every other of the amendments has limitations? (Try crying “Fire” in a crowded theatre.) AIPAC had a stranglehold on what was deemed the Jewish position on Israel until J Street forced a more visionary position onto the table. Current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities formed Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to speak out about the failures of the war on drugs that they had helped to propagate.

The March

We march through the parking lot, down South Seventh, to West Stadium.  I observe that I have never marched through a school parking lot, between cars, but it is entirely appropriate now because schools are where so many of the murders take place. Look to see more anti-gun violence rallies and voter registration campaigns taking place at schools.

A young girl says to a woman who she does not appear to know, “The only thing we should be scared of in schools is tests.”

A man shouts, “Arm the Homeless.” He identifies himself as Jarvis Stone, from the Committee to Arm the Homeless. “Who else is more susceptible to random violence than the homeless?”

A woman speaks admiringly to a friend about the Las Vegas survivor who addressed the crowd:  “She had to go through a lot of grief, trauma, to speak in front of such a crowd. She had so much courage.”

On West Stadium, we head right and are met by joyous drivers heading in the other direction, waving upraised fists and honking support. We turn right at Ann Arbor-Saline and march back toward where we began. I suspect few marchers made it back to the beginning as their waiting cars in the parking lot to our right proved too strong an attraction.

“The young people showed that they can organize an event and start a movement,” one man tells a friend as he heads to his car. “They’ve got the passion. The facts are on their side. Now the hard work begins. Patience.”







Is That a “Thing”

I got another phone call from someone who said, “Based on what studies have shown about you, you would be interested in ….” I spaced out what studies showed that I would be interested in—seniors health something; I was thinking, “Oh, no, not again.”

Is this a “thing” now, unsolicited phone callers telling you that studies showed you liked something and reading from scripts but unprepared to answer questions?

I hesitated for a long time, not sure how to respond. The silence got awkward. He started his script as if I had said, “Sure, go ahead. Can’t wait.”

Finally my mouth started to move. I spoke slowly. At times, the seconds between words were louder than the words themselves. He stopped talking.

I said, “Based on whose studies does it show that I would be interested?”

He hung up on me before I could finish my question.