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This latest time, it was a community college in Oregon, but as we’ve seen so many times already, it could have been anywhere. These mass murders have become so frequent, and even regular, that not only do I have no answers, I don’t have any more questions.

I don’t care who the shooter was, why he felt disaffected or disrespected, whether or not he was a quiet and creepy loaner who lived with his mother, whether or not he was bitter about women for not being able to get laid, if he hated African Americans, Jews or Christians. I don’t even care whether there were missed warning signs, because there are always warning signs – the same ones that present with guys like this who don’t resort to mass murder. I don’t care that he had “issues.”

All I care about is that he was easily able to obtain one or more firearms and plenty of ammunition.

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Ray Rice, Tom Brady, Roger Goodell

Ray Rice, Tom Brady, Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s initial punishment to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Rice for admittedly beating his finance unconscious: two-game suspension.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s confirmed punishment to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for allegedly knowing about football deflation: four-game suspension.

And we wonder why our values are so screwed up.

Footballs don’t have a monopoly on hot air.

Sedley Alley, Joshua Komisarjevski and Steven Hayes

Sedley Alley, Joshua Komisarjevski and Steven Hayes

On the morning of June 28, 2007, we awoke to learn that a man had died in Tennessee  overnight. And, unlike our normal reactions when we learn of any death, we rejoiced.

The man’s name was Sedley Alley. He died by lethal injection at the Riverbend Maximum Security in west Nashville for the 1985 murder of 19-year-old U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Suzanne Marie Collins. Before he took his leave, Alley had been on death row longer than Suzanne was alive on earth.

Now, with last week’s four-to-three decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut, two men will be spared a final resolution similar to Mr. Alley’s. And, unlike our normal reactions when we learn of any life saved, we grieved.

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Peggy, Stephanie, Jeni and Gene Schmidt, 1992

Peggy, Stephanie, Jeni and Gene Schmidt, 1992

Jeni Schmidt Cosgrove is a dear friend whom we met under some of the most tragic circumstances possible. In our book OBSESSION, we chronicled the story of the All-American Schmidt family of Leawood, Kansas, the horrific murder of older sister Stephanie, and how parents Gene and Peggy and younger sister Jeni turned their grief into action. They created “Speak Out For Stephanie,” a foundation dedicated to child safety and the effective response to sexual predators. Their activism led to Stephanie’s Law, a landmark Supreme Court decision that helped keep predators safely off the streets.

Jeni, a beautiful young woman whom we have known since she was a teen, is now a mom of two equally beautiful girls, beloved by their doting grandparents, Gene and Peggy. She is married to a wonderful and talented man, Jim Cosgrove, a children’s folksinger, whose career she manages. Jeni has been examining her feelings and insights for years in an effort to articulate the ordeal she has gone through since that horrible day in July 1993, just before Stephanie’s 20th birthday. The following was just published on Jeni’s website, “Speak Out For Siblings,” an extension to Speak Out For Stephanie. 

We cannot imagine a more honest, heartfelt and truthful insight than what Jeni has written:

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Stephanie’s murder.

By Jeni Schmidt Cosgrove

When a child is born, we celebrate the birth. Whether we are the family, or a friend we are filled with joy over this miracle. A baby is a sign of hope, faith, and new beginnings. We continue to celebrate this joy with each birthday. When someone dies, we mourn together. But, it is implied that we should get back to “normal” after the funeral. There is stigma attached to commemorating the anniversary of someone’s death. The bereaved are often asked why they would want to acknowledge such sadness every year.

Ignoring the anniversary of someone’s passing makes their life as incomplete as not acknowledging their birthday. Just as we cannot look at the birth of a child and deny the desire to celebrate, we should not deny the need to memorialize the end of one’s life.

Balancing these emotions is something I face every summer. As the heat of the season creeps in, time seems to stand still. I am taken back to a time when my world was turned upside down. July 1st is the anniversary of my sister’s murder. Her birthday falls three days away on July 4th. I am always overwhelmed by the mutual feelings of mourning and celebration during this time of year.

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American Constitution

Some years ago, I worked on a program special for PBS, entitled “God and Country,” hosted by Gwen Ifill and Bryant Gumbel. It was about the often troubled relationship between religion and the American Constitution, so naturally, the subject of gay rights and same-sex marriage was central to the discussion.

In the course of my producing responsibilities, I interviewed a number of people – mostly men, as it turned out – who could be considered members of the “religious right.” Black or white, clergy or layman, political operative or uninvolved politically, there was an interesting consistency to their responses.

And now, with last week’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, we’re going to have the opportunity to see if they were correct.

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