Monday, January 28, 2013

Upset with Gun Deaths? Blame the Liberals!


By the time the Assault Weapons Ban reached Bill Clinton’s desk in 1994, the Republicans, led by the NRA, had successfully watered down the provisions to make it mostly cosmetic. The year before, the “Brady Bill” was signed into law with the so-called “gun show loophole” safely in place. In each case, the gun industry and their NRA lobbying arm successfully targeted and shot holes through the legislation. And with the Assault Weapons Ban, they successfully managed to include a 10-year sunset provision.  And the Democrats, eager for a deal, let it happen.

A month and a half has passed since the horror of Newtown, and President Obama has now put forth a sweeping set of proposals to roll back access to guns.  New York rushed legislation through and Maryland is next in line. Democrats and liberals are applauding the prospect of finally reigning in our out of control gun culture. Meanwhile the NRA and the Republicans quietly reload ready to shoot holes through another attempt to better balance the right of gun ownership with the reality of a modern society.

Maybe Newtown was the proverbial tipping point. Perhaps the thought of those young and innocent elementary school kids being gunned down (could have been my kid, or your kid, right?) changed our view of gun ownership in a way that Reagan’s assassination attempt, or Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Congresswoman Gifford’s shooting, or Aurora, (you get my point) didn’t.

Let’s hope so. But I remain concerned that Democrats will do what they tend to do. Play nice and work for bipartisanship. They think they other side might, just maybe, see their point. This time. Unfortunately we have no recent historical evidence to support that. Add to that the power of the NRA and the significant money interests of the gun industry and the battle is joined. But are the Democrats up for the fight? And are they ready to fight the fight that needs to be fought? And the fight I am not talking about is not assault weapons. Of the 32,000 gun deaths last year, almost two-thirds were suicides. Without a doubt mass killings and homicides of any type are horrible crimes that should be prevented. But the real tragedy happens quietly and out of sight each day when about 50 people decide to kill themselves with a gun. And the data is clear: states with more lax gun ownership laws have higher suicide rates. It’s not even close. This is not a 2nd amendment issue. This is not about denying sportsmen access to firearms, or preventing citizens from protecting their lives and property. This is a public health embarrassment and we should be ashamed. We are better than this and we can do better by and for our fellow Americans who suffer from mental illnesses who in a moment of utter despair reach for a nearby handgun.

In so many cases, and not just gun safety, but the environment, health care, national defense, to name a few, the Democrats tend to back down. The fact that Republicans are far more disciplined and rarely negotiate is part of it, but the Democrats tendency to compromise rather than stick to principles leads us to lousy laws, like the bullet riddled Assault Weapons Ban.

Let’s hope this time, the Democrats choose principle over pragmatism and hunker down for a prolonged fight. It will not be easy, but they must keep at it. Otherwise we’ll be back here in 3 months or a year or so rending our garments over another madman with a military rifle and dozens dead. Meanwhile, today, 50 more lonely souls were lost when they put guns to their heads to end their misery and chose death over life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another Birthday

Lordy, lordy, look who's 40
5 years ago we celebrated Amy’s 40th birthday. It was a great day complete with belly dancers and a moon bounce. We had a lot of fun. But what I remember most about that day was not the catered food or all the friends that came. What I remember most about that day, though it was a Saturday, was that I had to work.  And had it not been Amy’s birthday, I would have worked that whole day, not just the morning. I even remember a slight feeling of guilt as I left my team in the “proposal tank” to head off to the birthday celebration.

The company I worked for was pursuing a fairly high profile federal contract and I was right in the middle of it. And we were doing what most federal government contracting firms due when pursuing a contract: we locked ourselves away for some period of time to develop the most creative technical proposal and clever cost proposal we could. For a couple months it was full time, 7 days a week work.

I used to pride myself on having a decent work/life balance and I would think about the old saying, “no one ever said on his deathbed, ‘I wished I spent more time at the office.’” But truthfully, I worked pretty hard back then. And by hard, I mean long hours. I missed things at home and with the kids. And we talked about it from time to time. Was it worth it? What if I took a pay cut to work fewer hours? But in the end we agreed that how things were, were okay, for now. The money was nice and the work I did seemed important. And we knew there would be more time for each other later. Later after our careers had run their courses and the kids were grown.

Except there wasn’t a later. Turns out there was only ‘now,’ back then. And after that birthday there were only 2 more I could share with her.

Later today here mom will come over. We’ll let go of a couple purple balloons and have Breyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream with Pepperidge Farm Milanos. We’ll probably pull out a photo album or two. Our teary eyes will run free a few times. We’ll hug each other. Our jagged-edged grief is now a dull ache. It will never be the same but its what we have now, in the present.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Lesson from Dr. King

Dear Readers,
Thanks to an article on The Huffington Post I was led to Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King's Love in Action sermon. It's an amazing sermon.

We remember Dr. King as a civil rights leader but he was first and foremost a Baptist Minister. And he may have been preaching to Baptists, but to me, he speaks to us all. And in Love in Action, Dr. King wonderfully deconstructs Jesus's words on the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," in a way relevant to us all.

Dr. King starts with a discussion of forgiveness as the essential message of Jesus's teachings. Forgiveness, along with compassion and love, are what are missing most. Our human nature, being what it is, we seek revenge rather than forgiveness. Or when we do forgive, it comes too late. Dr. King also describes the act of forgiveness, as that. An act. It's active not passive. It's something we ought do. In typical King style with his masterful use of English he says,
"How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds!"

Dr. King lived a half-century before our current environment of politics via grudge match or a congress resembling a pre-school sand box, but his words resonate as much today as they did then in the midst of the abomination of segregation.

Dr. King then moves to the second part of Jesus's words: for they know not what they do. Dr. King contrasts the environment of hatred with one based in ignorance. Of blindness. People are, he says, by nature good, but through our blindness we fail to see the truth. We are called to open our eyes and not be blind to nature and new knowledge and facts. How true his words sound to me today when I think of our current debates on the environment, gun control, or the economy.

In the end, "only goodness can drive out evil and love can conquer hate." I like this. And to be so bold as to suggest an edit to Dr. King's words, I would substitute the word "hate" with the word "fear." I believe behind the hate in us lies fear. Hate covers our fear and allows us to hide from the fear and move forward, however awkwardly. Thus we choose hatred as a mask to our fear. But only removing the underlying fear can hate dissipate.

And the key to overcoming fear is through love. At least that is how I now see it.

So today give yourself about 20 minutes to read Dr. King's sermon. You can google for it. And you can also find the scanned document at the King Center website.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Them


Based on conversations recently overheard . . .

“I don’t get it. What is up with them? I mean, really.”
“I know. For real! They are crazy.”
“Crazy? They are idiots! Can’t they see it?”
“You’d think they would. “
“I know. “
“I know! “
“I thought they’d be different this time. I really did. But there they go again. It feels like Groundhog’s Day all over again.”
“I know! It’s like they never learn. You’d think by now they’d learn.”
“I know.”
“I know!”

“I’m done with them. Done! Finished. Fineet-o.”
“Yeah, for real. They can’t get anything done right anyway.”
“That’s right. They mostly can’t do anything, but then when they do something, they just make it worse. Maybe we are better off when they just do nothing.”
“That’s right. But I wish when they are doing nothing they’d get the heck out of the way rather than slowing down the rest of creation.”
“I know. And now I’m convinced.  I’m done with them. Done. I’m moving on.”
“Like my dad always said, ‘if you want something done right,’”
“I know, ‘do it yourself.’”
“Yeah.”
“Yup. You know, I feel better already. Best to just write them off.”
“Yeah. Who needs them, anyway. They just cause trouble, really.”
“Capital “T” trouble.“

“It’s just common sense really. And they seem to ignore it. Dismiss it. It’s like they live in some other reality.”
“Or like they are from some other galaxy.”
“Yeah, a galaxy where the laws of physics and common sense don’t apply.”
“Crazy.”

“You know, last week I was watching TV and one of them was on. What a frickin’ moron! I mean really, who the hell do they think the are? They have no respect for us and only care about their precious selves.”
“Don’t they know they are actually making it worse for themselves too? I mean it’s bad enough they are forcing their shit on us, but what is up with them? It’s like they are completely blind.”
“Not blind. Naïve. They are just plain naïve. And they just see what they want to see and ignore reality. Remember last year? It was the same thing. And the year before that. They are just making it worse and that can’t even see it. And it’s not like they’ve had every opportunity to make it better, ‘cause they have. They have had every opportunity. But they have only squandered it.”
“Like it was sitting on a platter for them and they squandered it.”
“Frickin’ squanderers.”
“Yup. Just thinking of themselves. Selfish. Greedy. Bastards.”
“Bastards! They are a bunch of bastards.”
“Yup. Selfish and greedy.”
“You said it.”

“You know what we should do? We should tax them. Add a 20% tax. If you are one of them you just have to pay more to compensate the rest of us for their stupidity. At the end of the year when they fill out their tax forms they have to check a box and if they do, then we just add 20%. Simple!”
“Yeah! That’s it!”
“I can’t believe we haven’t thought of that before.”
“I know. And I like that plan, but you know what they’d do?”
“What?”
“I’ll tell you what. They are such a bunch of weasels they’d figure out some way to get out of it and put the burden back on us. That is what they do every time.”
“Frickin’ weasels! They make me so mad.”
“Me too. They do it every single time. I am really, really mad at them.”
“Frickin’ weasels.”
“Weaselly frickin’ freeloaders.”
"They are that for sure: Freeloading frickin' weasels."

“You know some days after I’ve been listening to their BS, I don’t know, it’s like I just feel like giving up. Like there is no hope as long as they are around.”
“I know. It’s like they keep on doing the same ol’, same ol’ and expecting something magically will work.”
“And it won’t.”
“Nope. It won’t work at all.”
“Nope. In fact, if they keep doing this, they are going to destroy us all. And as long as they are here then they are just gonna keep on pulling the same shit.”
“I know. It’s depressing.”
“Yeah. Really depressing.“
“I think of my kids. Of your kids. And what kind of world are they going to leave for our kids?”
“I know. And they don’t even seem to care.”
Seem to care? They don't care. That’s the thing. They don’t care about us at all. They only think of their smug little ‘selves. They think they know what is best and dictate it to all us. Well you know what? They don’t. They don’t know anything about us. Nothing. And that is what pisses me off the most.”

“But what can we do about them. I mean really. It’s not like we can ship them all off to some other country. Could we?”
“That would be awesome! Or maybe we just send them all to California or Mississippi. They’d all be happy together and we wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore.”
“Yeah. Yeah! Think how great that would be. We wouldn’t have to worry about them getting in our shit and we could finally live the way we want to.”
“Man-o-man. Life would be so much better without them. All the things we want to do but we can’t because they are always getting in the way.”
“And you know what, maybe we wouldn’t have to ship them all away, just the really hardcore. You know some of them, once you talk to them, can almost be reasonable. But some of them, and you know who I mean, are completely off the reservation.”
“I know.”
“I know!”
“Those are the crazy ones. Not just crazy-crazy, but bat-shit crazy.”
“Yeah – if we could just do something about the bat-shit crazy ones, then the others might listen to us. Maybe they could actually see our side.”
“Yeah. It’s like they are scared or something. Scared to think for themselves. Just listen to logic. But those crazy ones just keep feeding them a bunch of crap and making them so scared they are paralyzed.”
“Yup. Paralyzed. Like they can’t even make up their own minds.”
“You wonder if those bat-shit crazy ones have some sort of hypnotic power over them.  Some sort of mind control.”
“Right, I mean, how else could you explain how they are?”
“Pathetic.”
“For real.”
“But if we can ship off the bat-shit crazy ones, then the others, the ones that are just crazy, those others we might be able to talk some sense to.”
“Yeah. That would be good. We don’t want to throw out the proverbial baby, just the bath water. Right?”
“Yeah. Then we would really have them to deal with anymore. How awesome would that be?”
“It would be awesome.”
“Yes it would be.”
“Awesome.”
“Agreed.”

"I dunno."
"Me neither."

"I hate them."
"Me too."

“Ready for another?”
“Sure.”

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