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The Funeral

9:49 pm in Uncategorized by alabamagunn

Open or closed?  His question hung in my head, a mental metronome undulating. Open or closed?  It did not serve as a mantra used to focus the mind.  No, the attendant’s question precluded focus and only intensified mental molestation as it required an answer.  One would think we could agree upon an answer with relative ease.  For me, though, still reeling at the thought of another funeral, the question hung weightless.  I knew before asked I preferred closed; yet, there was my mother and sister to consider as well as those only a few months ago dad shunned after the nuclear Thanksgiving not yet four months past but who were certain to come, understandably, to bury their boy.  Open or closed?

An open casket

On burying an assassinated abortion doctor.

After mom decided we would have a “proper” funeral, after struggling with the patriarchal Gunns on the funeral’s location, and after, against my wishes, a cremation was vetoed, open or closed was the last pressing question.  We already viewed the casket show room, kicked the tires if you will, and settled on a practical and accommodating model.  We perused the menu of services and opted for the large chapel as we anticipated a crowd.  Though dad was not religious, I did not object too harshly when my maternal grandmother offered up her preacher to perform the service.  It was yet another peace offering of sorts to the other family who would most assuredly object to a more secular service.  Open or closed, though, remained unsettled.

My steadfast closed opinion was due to the ghost of funeral’s past.  I still remember the first time I touched a dead body, a husk of what was.  I was seven or eight years old at my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I was intrigued by death as the too young often are, and my cousins and I dared each other to touch her one last time.  I remember only cold.  Over the intervening years, I attended other great aunt’s, uncle’s, grandparents, and eventually friends’ funerals with some regularity.  Coming from a small town as I do, when a teenager dies, you know them even if you don’t, and you attend the funeral in any event as you would any other social or church function.  There is no question.  You go.

When I was 15 a friend shot himself with a .22 caliber rifle ending his relatively young life—he was 22, coincidentally, I believe—and I vividly remember his lifeless body and how obviously different he looked.  I cannot see his animated face for the memory of his death face and the obvious attempts to mask the bullet in the head.  Four years later after other suicides and drunk driving tragedies, at another open casket affair after my 20 year old friend killed himself and his girlfriend in a drunken single car wreck, I watched his father wrench his carcass from the coffin attempting to shake him back from Tartarus or wherever. I was a pallbearer and even at 19 understood this father’s grief at the loss of his son though I was unnerved by this large and strange man’s sudden grief-epiphany.

Closed.  I am decidedly closed.  My mom and sister both want to see dad, to say goodbyes, to grieve in their own way.  I am sure others want the same.  Who am I to selfishly deny others what may bring some peace?  We reach a compromise.  Visitation for family and close friends is open, but the funeral itself is closed.  I attend the visitation, but my last vision of dad remains the day he left my apartment three days before his murder, and I never see him lifeless and still.  Closed.

The visitation and funeral itself could have been one like any other but for the facts of dad’s death, the media frenzy which followed, and the freak southern blizzard of 1993 which significantly impeded what otherwise promised a SRO funeral.  In fact, many people I later met and subsequently befriended told me they fully intended to come to Tennessee for the funeral but were snowed out.

Before we even confronted the impish funeral director’s open or closed query, the media landed, a harbinger of the coming real storm.  Back in ’93 I still had some fairly strong illusions of privacy, and we were amazed at the speed with which the press located us in Winchester, Tennessee when dad was killed in Pensacola, Florida, and my sister, mom, and I lived separately in Birmingham, Alabama.  Yet, they sherlocked us down looking for the human interest angle to a controversial and promising long term story.  They started calling, obviously, the day the assassination occurred.  It did not relent as we prepared for a memorial and funeral.  Open or closed, indeed.

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A Family Aborted

12:47 pm in Uncategorized by alabamagunn


Tombigbee River

Sudden violent death creates concentric ripples which spread ever wider washing and crashing over the immediate family on to extended family, friends, and colleagues. Those ripples ebb back to the deceased’s family. Sometimes, what rolls back is sympathy and genuine compassion. In other instances, a dangerous rip tide threatens to pull the family back into gothic familial deep water where the recently aggrieved find themselves struggling to maintain their footing and keep from drowning in those passive aggressive human voices whose motives are more self-centered than benevolent, more angry than comforting.

The men from my dad’s side of the family met each Thanksgiving weekend at a hunting cabin in Pickens County, Alabama. It is in actuality an old farm house adjacent to the Tombigbee River surrounded by grazing land for cattle and a combination of pulp and hard wood trees unique to the south. What started as a weekend of hunting and drinking two generations prior was now an occasion for the patriarchal Gunn family to meet, enjoy supposed fellowship, watch football, talk politics, and share a few meals—the drunken part of the weekend long banished once my grandfather became the family head. He and his eldest son, my uncle, devoutly subscribed to fundamental Christianity of the hair shirt variety so drunkenness was soon off the weekend’s agenda.

My history with my dad’s side of the family was strained at best due in large part to events prior to my birth. My grandfather expected his children to remain close in proximity and obedient to his will even in adulthood. Most of my aunts and uncles never left Benton, Kentucky a rural western Kentucky town that remained segregated as late as the 1980s which was the last time I had any reason to visit where they were born and either entered into the family insurance business or started other business ventures funded with grandfather’s wealth. Though his parents pushed dad to take up medicine as a career, I always felt they wanted him to return home to practice after meeting the right woman (meaning one they approved), marry, and live their idea of an idyllic Christian American lifestyle.

While an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, my dad met my mom. It was an odd relationship bordering on taboo in that they were distantly related and even shared the same last name. As if out of some stereotypical Appalachian folk tale, their father’s knew each other, had grown up together in rural Tennessee, and dad’s grandfather and father fucked my mom’s dad in a business deal which haunted my mom’s dad and tainted his relationship with his cousin/future in law for the rest of his life. I do not know when the respective parents found out about the illicit relationship, but I know neither side approved initially. My mom had to tell her parents when she found herself pregnant in the late 60s with what was to be my older brother. Her father, looking out for his daughter’s welfare, concerned what people would say (about the relationship generally and a child out of wedlock specifically), and distrustful of the paternal half of the relationship, offered her a way out of the pregnancy. Though abortion was illegal, he knew people and offered to arrange one for his young pregnant daughter to save her the embarrassment of single motherhood in 1968 and to prevent a stigmatized union with a family he strongly mistrusted.

Ultimately, mom and dad married and opted to have Chuckie. My mom’s parents accepted the marriage and though dad’s family feigned happiness, looking at how events developed over the years, I believe they never accepted or supported the marriage and looked on their children—and future grandchildren–as abominations. When my older brother died in a car crash as an infant, I think dad’s family secretly hoped it would end the shameful marriage that compromised their beliefs and socially embarrassed them. I also believe they felt it was the result of some divine justice for a sinful relationship. Chuckie’s death, though, kept my parents together, and as my dad finished medical school at the University of Kentucky, I was born in the fall of 1970.

After entering into what his parents considered an incestuous relationship, dad broke the unwritten family code by moving his family out of Kentucky via Nashville, TN to south Alabama upon completion of his residency at Vanderbilt University Hospital in 1977. For an old southern patriarch with deep religious convictions, this decision, I believe, solidified the rift between son and father: a rift my sister and I would suffer though we had no part in its creation but because we were the embodiments of dad’s sin and betrayal.

The Faulknerian twists of my family took years to unravel and now that most of the principals are gone, I still have only a fraction of what I can only describe as something resembling understanding; yet, I realized by early adolescence I wanted limited interaction with my paternal grandparents. After turning away from their faith at an early age and in light of their distance toward my sister and I, my summer visits stopped just before I turned 13 leaving the Thanksgiving get away my only regular contact.

By the Thanksgiving trip of 1992, I attended college in Birmingham and was dating a woman who asked that I spend the holidays with her family. Dad called me on Monday Thanksgiving week and asked that I go with him to the cabin. I refused and told him I had plans, adding that I did not want to see those people (his family) anyway. He asked again to the point of telling me I was going whether I liked it or not. Our relationship was strained, at best, since he and my mom divorced when I was 13, but we were making in roads toward piecing it back together. Due to his persistence and despite my reservations, I agreed to meet him in Aliceville with the intention of spending the long weekend with his family.

This year’s trip was mere days after Clinton defeated Bush 41 and with that victory came the hope that 12 years of harsh, trickle down conservatism was at an end. Conservatives nationwide were shell shocked and angry to the point of histrionics similar to what our current president experiences. Anti-Clinton propaganda and conspiracy theories were rampant even before he took office. The country was seriously divided then—almost foretelling how it is now, and the anti-big government conspiracy theorists’ tales only heightened a pejorative Clintonmania. In this atmosphere, my dad and I drove up to the cabin where our bathed in blood Christian Conservative moral majority relatives waited.
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Abortion Rights Are at a Crossroads: This Is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It Is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

11:53 am in Uncategorized by alabamagunn

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.

July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

take women's rights forward, not backward

Take women’s rights forward, not backward

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively choose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights and launch a national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.

Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need tochange public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table). When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lay low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to:

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper ( and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women(

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for

Photo from Steve Rhodes licensed under Creative Commons

We’re All Ned Beatty or Can You Believe In Change

6:06 pm in Uncategorized by alabamagunn

We’re all Ned Beatty or Can you believe in change.

After following the Obama administration through its first year, I’ve come to a disturbing conclusion: we’re all Ned Beatty.

Now I don’t mean to belittle or make light of man rape; however, I feel violated inasmuch as Beatty suffered at the hands of his redneck attackers. Which brings up an important aside–why is it that all in predatory man rape scenes, the perpetrator is a southern, racist, redneck (Zed from Pulp Fiction comes to mind immediately).why the images of Beatty and Zed are haunting)–I was assuredly ready to believe in change, hope for c

Obama promised much as a candidate, and after eight depressing as hell years of Bush–hell cubed as I’m a bible belt resident (I guess change, and was almost downright revolutionary for change. Ardently, I supported his candidacy so Ned Beatty too). I even phone banked and volunteered time to campaign for our future present. A first much so I wrote angry posts about Hillary and those of Hillarynation (Note to PUMAs everywhere, if this is where you expect an apology or are about to bask in the glory of being proven right, give it up, you’re for me.

Though I eagerly anticipated seismic political shifts and felt Obama was the best catalyst, I kept reminding myself of Pete Townsend’s sage-like advice about the new boss being the same as the old one and tried to temper optimism–which wasn’t that difficult given, during the Bush years, I’d tempered it to the point it was the charred and smoldering end of a stomped cigarette.

I admit I kinda began to believe the hype–another bad omen; should’ve listend to Flav. When promises to end a senseless war, revive the middle class, combat and prosecute war crimes, meaningfully reform healthcare, curtail Wall Street’s abuse of power and re-institute financial regulations, create jobs to reinvigorate the middle class, and take steps to combat climate change emanated, I admit I was partially seduced in that way we’re all partially seduced by someone we think may wreck our lives but careless abandon and lust for a return to youthful naïvete overcomes the superego and id wins out! I stupidly believed the pillow talk.

Jump 11 months into the future:

We’re still at war. I accepted, grudgingly, that Obama was going to escalate in Afghanistan when he was a candidate. Only the fool hearted believed he would decelerate that war.

Middle class Americans suffer the Ned Beatty fate daily and are so abused they are likely to be killed off within the next three years.

Obama’s Justice Department is filing Amicus Briefs on behalf of Bush’s torture lawyer.

Guantanamo is still open as are other illegal “Black Prisons”.

No torture hearings, prosecutions, or any other real investigations.

Obama’s Justice Department fails to stand up for Don Siegleman.

The Patriot Act goes on and on.

Those that caused the need for a Wall Street bailout (Summers, Geithner, et al) are given the keys to the proverbial candy store in a move that’s similar to loosing a gaggle of unfettered pedophilic priests on daycares across the nation–see Matt Taibi’s most recent Rolling Stone article for all the gore you can stomach.

Financial regulation is going no where.

Jobs aren’t coming back.

Forget any climate change reform.

Bush’s willfully and wantonly abusive tax cuts aren’t ever going to be repealed.

Which gets me back to Ned Beatty as that is when I, and I suspect a lot of you, became him. I mean, what were all of those unrealized–or utterly ignored once elected–promises if not pillow talk? It’s as if between playful ear twists and encouragement to squeal I can hear, “Let me be clear, when I’m elected president, I will end this war. Now squeal, bitch.” In fact, originally, as many victims of abuse often fail to leave and even defend their abusers, I’ve defended my metaphorical, drunken redneck rapist. I still believed he would change. As many spurned and/or abused lovers have defended their mate’s transgressions with, “but this time he’ll change,” I too did so.

Now, though, after realizing I’m nothing more than Ned Beatty’s fate, I have to ask myself, “Can you believe in change?”

It’s not been staggeringly easy to do so. I mean, I’m feeling violated, angry, sullen, and depressed–much as I did when Bush was in office. It doesn’t help to see the ne’er-do-well Republicans continue to swagger and obstruct as they’ve always done even in the face of a mind numbingly, career ending defeat coupled with absolutely crushingly low poll numbers. Yet, they seem to be WINNING for fucks sake while the Democrats with an overwhelming majority–excuse me for reversing the metaphor–bend over and willingly ask for repeated raping Ned Beatty style. You see, we’re not alone, even our elected leaders are Ned Beatty. The difference is, in victory they act as the defeated. In defeat, they act even more defeated. Why, oh why, do they even pretend to fight? Even I can see it’s all a ruse.

Representative democracy died in this country well before I could vote. Our government has no inclination whatsoever to provide us anything that is reciprocal to the tax dollars and labor they reap from us (ie. Middle Class tax payers given they ain’t getting shit from the wealthy tax payers–what an oxymoron–as if there were any wealthy tax payers). They’re simply beholden to corporate interests who fund their campaigns and guarantee them the opportunity to live high on the hog (couldn’t resist that one–squeal!) while denying us the same benefits they enjoy.

Ergo, my original point, we’re all Ned Beatty and will be until we exercise the right to loudly protest while we still have it. It’s time for the Neds of the country to get off our collective hands and knees, stop acting piggy, and with exceeding volume demand our representatives represent our interests as vocally and obnoxiously as the other side. They are beating us after we shamed them. Had Obama not abandoned his promise and sold us out, had congressional and senatorial democrats not been, well, democrats, perhaps they would not be standing in line behind him for a turn to ream us. Or, perhaps we languished in post coital numbness for too long and are now too flummoxed, confused, betrayed, and, well, brutally mind raped to admit Obama is really a lighter shade of Bush.

Can You Believe In Change?

PS. If you goddamned Tea Baggers think Bush didn’t metaphorically turn you all into Ned Beattys too, take the sacks off your eyes, look at the foreclosure sign in your front lawn, turn off the closeted, self loathing, homosexual preachers you idolize, and see that we’re all collectively fucked.