The New Normal

Our Gun Dilemma...

Embarrassing, Frightening and Outrageous


In nine months, we have experienced five mass shootings in the US: 
  • Newtown, Connecticut: December 14, 2012. A lone gunman kills twenty children and six adults inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
  • Portland, Oregon: December 11, 2012. A masked gunman opens fire in a crowded mall, killing two and seriously injuring a third before turning the gun on himself. Police officers say the killer's assault weapon jammed, preventing further carnage. 
  • Oak Creek, Wisconsin: August 2012. A white supremacist shoots six people and a responding police officer at a Sikh temple before shooting himself.
  • Aurora, Colorado: July 2012. A lone gunman kills and injures 58 at a screening of "The Dark Knight."
  • Oakland, California: April 2012. A former student at a Christian college fatally shoots seven people and injures three.

People say that guns do not kill but the people holding them do. Almost a cliché. But what about how easy it is to buy a gun, the types of guns and clips that are available and the people who have access? 

Gun lobbyists remind us of the second amendment in the US Constitution. They also remind us of the fear we should be feeling if we do not own a gun and are not allowed to carry it. We do not need to delete the second amendment, but it does need to be tweaked. We can make restrictions on amendments. We did this with the first amendment which guarantees free speech. There are times when you cannot say anything that you want. 

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14 has particularly affected me. Maybe it’s because I’m a parent and a retired teacher. I mourn for the victims and their families and I also mourn for part of the childhood that has been stolen from the surviving children. As I teacher, I know how important it is for children to feel safe and anxiety-free in order for learning to take place. As parents, my husband and I always tried to provide a happy, safe, nourishing and loving childhood for our daughters. I think we succeeded. 

I am sure parents of the children at Sandy Hook also have the same goals for their children but last Friday they encountered something beyond their control...something that has either taken their children away from them forever or has shaken their surviving children’s innocence, their childhood, in ways that will always be with them.

Everyone is asking why because we assume knowing the answer could help us find ways to solve this type of violence. I say that regardless of answers we might find, there are things we can do right now. We can restrict assault weapons, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and limit the size of clips. American citizens do not need the ability to fire many rounds rapidly. Why have clips of 30 rounds? We can also limit gun access to mentally unstable people. Also, regulation changes for gun show and online purchases are long overdue. Forty percent of gun purchases in this country, require no background checks.

Schools around the country are now securing their buildings and conducting terrorism lockdown and evacuation drills for staff and students. How outrageous that this is even necessary! How frightening that must be for children! As a child, I remember air raid drills but none of us ever thought it was connected to our reality. With news of so many mass shootings, children today know that their drills really are connected to their reality.   

We need to shift the paradigm. Gun violence is a public health issue. Once we saw cigarette smoking as public health issue, we began to see things differently and make changes. We saw a need to protect people, children especially, from second-hand smoke. We also need to protect all, especially children, from gun deaths.

It is amazing that in my state of Maryland, there is not even a license required to buy or own a rifle or shotgun if you are over 18. We need a license to drive a car and we need to pass two tests, performance and written. We need a license to get married. We need a fishing license to fish in the Chesapeake Bay. But we do not need a license to own a potential murder weapon that can shoot 30 rounds. And we do not need to take a safety class or pass a test. 

Something is way out of balance. We cannot prevent all gun violence but we can certainly change the unbalanced equation.

For further reading:

(1) Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research White paper: The Case for Gun Policy Reforms

“Gun violence in the United States is unusually high for a nation of such wealth. Although there is little difference in the overall crime rates between the United States and other high income countries, the homicide rate in the U.S. is seven times higher than the combinedhomicide rate of 22 other high-income countries.This is because the firearm homicide rate inthe U.S. is twenty times greater than in these other high-income countries. The higher prevalence of gun ownership and much less restrictive gun laws are important reasons why violent crime in the U.S. is so much more lethal than in countries of similar income levels.”

(2) The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America: Hopkins October 2012 Press Release


Thanksgiving...a reminder from Longfellow

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Love in Baltimore

Catch the love at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, Thursday, August 23, 2012.
  • Bonnie Schupp has been recognized for her work by Kodak, Women in Photography International, the Kinsey Institute, among others. She has shown one-woman exhibits in the Baltimore-Washington area, and her photos and  articles have appeared in publications including Petersen’s Photographic, Darkroom Photography, the Baltimore Sun newspapers, the Baltimore Business Journal and the Photographic Society of America. The Love Effect is a play on the concept of The Butterfly Effect where a small change in one place can result in changes elsewhere, a concept that is at the heart of the Baltimore Love Project.

Learn more about the Baltimore Love Project and see photos of the walls completed so far:

Our Gravities

You have to love what you do in life or you will be wasting your time. If you work from age 25 to 65, you will have spent 20 million minutes doing that work. – Suad Amiry

The wife of a longtime friend gave an inspiring Ted talk which I share now. Suad Amiry talks about how it’s not so easy to do what we love because we have lots of “gravities” which wrap us and “at the end of the day, we find ourselves in a box.” 

Suad tells us that school, education, family, nationality, religion, country…all these things put us in a box. “We become prisoners of these boxes, prisoners to something we haven’t chosen in the first place and I find that amazing." She says that we take credit for things we never decided such as name, gender and nationality…it all comes in a package that you were born in.

"If you ask me one reason for the wars in this world is because of the adaptation of the gravities and the limits we put on ourselves. I hope that we believe we are all human beings and feelings are exactly the same and it's only a variation on a theme that we are Palestinians and Arabs and what have you...All of us seek to get rid of these gravities and be liberated from them."

Inside Out Baltimore

Inside Out portraits located on Fleet St. in Harbor East, Baltimore, Maryland

Photo by Kristin Stith

Public Unveiling and Celebration, June 7, 2012, 6 p.m.

I am blessed to be part of a global project in Baltimore that aims to bring people together. It all began with JR.

Street artist JR wants art to turn the world inside out and he has challenged artists everywhere to show the true face of the world by pasting photos of its people on walls. In Beaux Arts Magazine, JR says, "I would like to bring art to improbable places, create projects so huge within the community that they are forced to ask themselves questions." You can watch JR's winning TED speech here

Baltimore has joined in this global project. A small group of artists and networking activists met one day to discuss how Baltimore could contribute to JR's idea. We discussed our concern about Baltimore's history of racial divide and wanted to find a way to bridge this by emphasizing collective similarities. After a discussion about approaching people to talk about their hopes and dreams, we decided on a question that most people would be willing to answer when approached by a stranger with a camera. "What is your favorite color?"

We approached people, told them about the project, asked them their favorite color and took their portrait. Then these photos were enlarged as black and white posters and pasted on a building for all to see. These 36 are clustered according to their favorite colors. The exhibit demonstrates that we may look different on the outside but we can share commonalities on the inside. I wonder what other things these people share in common? These bonds are not always visible to the eye. 

"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the Little Prince tells us in Antoine de Saint Exupery's novel, The Little Prince.

This exhibit celebrates the Baltimore community and focuses on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. You will find it in one of downtown Baltimore's most prominent locations--Harbor East on Fleet Street.

The project was a collaborative effort among photographers Bonnie Schupp and Kristin I. Stith, painter Deborah Patterson, group action coordinator Scott Burkholder and the kind support of Baltimore area residents who agreed to participate. Resource support was generously provided by Kearney O'Doherty, Maryland Art Place, Sunbelt Rentals, Gary Vikan, Sunrise Design and Chris Janian.

The public unveiling will take place on Thursday, June 7, 6 p.m. at the installation site in Harbor East. It is located on the south side of Fleet Street between S. Exeter and President Streets. A reception will follow at Talara Restaurant, 615 S. President St. 

Kevin Robinson stands beneath his wall portrait.
 Photo by Bonnie Schupp

Visit the Baltimore Inside Out web site:

Other interesting links: 

David Simon on David Ettlin at the Baltimore Sun

David Ettlin at The Sun in the 80's.
Photo © Bonnie J. Schupp
I took this photo in the 80's of my husband, David Ettlin, at work at The Sun. Well..."at work" is used loosely here. As I remember, he was reading the City Paper in this shot. This was taken in his smoking days, before our daughters asked him to stop because "Daddy, we don't want you to die." He has since stopped except for 2 or 3 a year that he bums from others. Other than that, he's been good.

As it turns out, this photo fits perfectly with David Simon's recent article about my husband's days at The Sun in the Sunday Sun Magazine special 175th anniversary issue. I smiled as I read it. It shows what a character my David is but it also shows that he was good at his job (which I always knew). Obviously David Simon thinks so and his praise carries a lot of weight. Simon's projects have included Homicide, The Corner, The Wire and, most recently, Treme. It is also obvious that David Simon is overflowing with talent.

I've always been proud of my David (and the other David too) and it's nice to see this recognition that he deserves.

You can read Simon's piece here:,0,5336130.story

You can also read Ettlin's blog here:

I love you, David!

Infidel and a Western Historical Perspective

I just finished reading Infidel and Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As someone who has believed strongly in diversity and the strength of multi-culturalism, her ideas shake things up for me as a liberal. She was a Muslim Somalian who escaped an arranged marriage and who now lives in the U.S. Now she adamantly writes about the dangers of the mindset of the Muslim religion. 

This I need to consider further, but while reading her memoirs, I thought about the role of women as I was growing up and how some elements are similar.

As I read details of her childhood, I was appalled at the everyday violence she experienced and the degradation she was made to feel as a female.  No child should have to experience what she did. 

Women Unequal to Men

Although it is definitely no comparison to her extreme experiences, I grew up in a time when our culture in the United States did not consider women equal to men.

Hirsi Ali writes about female circumcision that she experienced and how important female purity was to the honor of a girl’s family. Once a girl reached puberty, she was guarded like a hawk. Of course, nothing as brutal as circumcision was present in my world, but I understand the essence of what she was saying because of my western experience growing up.
Once I reached puberty, my mother stressed that I was not to be alone with someone of the opposite sex…even when I was in college. (We once had a huge family crisis because I didn’t obey this rule.)  In those days, expectations for girls were different from boys. I remember when I was 10 and told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor—a brain surgeon. (At that time I was into reading all the medical articles in Readers Digest.) My parents sat down and talked with me seriously about how girls did not become doctors but nurses instead. Then, they suggested, maybe as a nurse I might see too much blood so maybe I should consider becoming a teacher or a secretary. Whether or not I went to college was okay with them. They would be proud of me either way.
College and Career

I had no intention of becoming a secretary but am glad I became a teacher. It really suited me better than a medical career.  (My parents were right but for the wrong reasons.) When it came time to choose a college, I decided to go far enough away that I would have to stay in a dorm. My parents tried to talk me into commuting…even offering to buy me a used car. Even then, I knew that my college education would involve more than academic classes and instinctively I knew I needed to go away to college.

I wound up going to Frostburg where, at that time of a teaching shortage in the state, I would have free tuition if I signed a contract to teach in Maryland for two years after I graduated. No problem.  Students today might have a problem understanding this but in those days, female students were treated differently from male students. The day I arrived at Frostburg, there was a special assembly for students and their parents. Dr. Hardesty, the president of Frostburg at the time and a buffoon as far as I was concerned, assured parents that the college would take good care of their daughters while they were away from home. His advice to students was, “Cling to your professors.” Although he wasn’t speaking literally, some of the girls wound up doing it literally.

Before parents left their daughters, they filled out a permission form. There was a list (I seem to remember 6-8  items) of things their daughters could or could not do while in the care of the college. For example:
     Yes___  No ___  My daughter has permission to visit a fellow student in town.
     Yes ___ No ___ My daughter has permission to spend the night off campus.

And so on. Being rather sheltered, my parents checked off “no” for all items but that didn’t matter because I found ways to do what I wanted anyway…and not be caught.

Some students today might be surprised that dorms then were segregated and boys were not allowed at all in girls’ rooms. Even more surprising is that girls had curfews and boys did not. Boys were allowed to live off campus but girls had to have a female “house mother.” In Infidel and Nomad, Hirsi Ali writes about how Muslim women must cover themselves for fear of sexually tempting men who might see any skin. When I was growing up, of course things were nowhere near extreme. However, girls were constantly reminded by their mothers of how to act as “young ladies.”  At Frostburg, girls were held to a dress code (but not the boys).  In my college days, students had meal tickets and ate in a dining hall. Girls could not wear pants but had to wear skirts for their college dining experience. 


As a young girl, for my birthday and Christmas I usually got one gift that was an item for my “hope chest.” My hope chest was filled with a silver service, one fork, spoon or knife at a time. The “hope” was that I would find someone to marry me. Hirsi Ali writes about young Muslim girls being promised to older men—marriages that fathers arranged for. The men paid with goats, etc. and walked away with the promised goods… young wives who would bear many children, be at their command and tolerate new wives that they might marry.

I remember not long ago, weddings where fathers walked their daughters down the aisle. The minister asked who was “giving away” the bride. The father then turned the bride over to the groom.  The vows involved the bride saying that she would “love, honor and obey” her husband. At one time, the groom did not repeat these words but I think things may have changed now. However, it was the bride who always gave up her name, her identity, and took on her husband’s name. There was never any question about doing this. Today, even though things are changing, most women give up their names and take on their husband’s last name. 

Even today, when envelopes are addressed to a married couple, in the dwindling instances of snail mail, they are addressed to Mr. and Mrs. (husband’s first and last name). 

In the past, in marriage the woman was expected to fill certain roles while the man would fill his expected roles. My first husband once gave me for my birthday, ten coupons for washing the dishes for the next year! Gradually things are changing in this area. 

Hirsi Ali writes about the disgrace a family felt if a daughter was not married and how dangerous it might be if she were raped. She says there are still “mercy killings” every day in the world because someone’s daughter was raped. The woman is killed…not the man! It’s her fault if a man rapes her!
To a lesser extent, this attitude exists in the U.S. where  prostitution is illegal. When someone is arrested in a prostitution bust, it is the woman and not the man who is arrested. Even today. 

Later in my life, when I decided to leave teaching and (unsuccessfully) look for a photography position,  one man told me in an interview, “There are some jobs I just wouldn’t send a girl on.” I knew that was not the place for me to work. When I eventually opened a camera shop with a partner, I experienced lowered expectations of my expertise even from female patrons.*

Thank goodness, our culture has changed. I didn’t change my last name the second time around. Our daughter had a hyphenated last name. My second husband of 32 years and I are equal partners who fill not the expected roles but the roles that suit each of us best. 

Still Room to Grow

It is sad that there are so many Muslim women in the world, some in the U.S., are subjected to the rule of their husbands and who feel they must cover their bodies so men won’t be tempted. What about men taking responsibility for their own behavior? Haven’t we heard in the U.S. that some rapes are the fault of the woman because of the way she dressed? “She was asking for it.” Shouldn’t men behave themselves regardless? 

We might view the Muslim perspective as extreme but some of the same elements, in milder form, are also part of our culture. We have come a long way in our western world but we still have a way to go…we have not elected a female President yet. 

* I used to own a camera shop and, until I was able to hire some part-time employees, I was the only staff in the store. One day a woman walked in with a camera in her hand. I stood at the counter, ready to wait on her. She stood on the other side, ignoring me and looking toward the back of the store. I finally asked her, "May I help you?" She replied that she was hoping "the man" was in. It seems she had a problem with her camera and had assumed that only a man could help her. (By the way, I wound up fixing her camera which required a simple adjustment.)