Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Effect of Imposing Our Will

There is a phenomenon that is unique to humans. I’m sure it has a scientific name or behavioral pigeonhole. I don’t know the official name but I know we see it every day… in the news, in each other.

People hate to give things up. The longer an idea or tradition has been entrenched, the more people will grasp at it and claw at you to stop you from trying to change it.

Such as it is with the nature of power, social position, or guns.
The longer a politician, has been in their job, the harder they will fight to keep it. Often going far beyond their original charge to do so.

People will fight to keep “The War on Christmas” from overtaking them, even though all of the trappings of Christmas with the exception of the manger scene are Pagan and Christmas itself was ILLEGAL in the US up until about 150 years ago. Too much Popery, not enough real Bible. So, yeah… Christmas with the founding fathers? Didn’t happen.

So too, is our fascination with guns. It goes back to the image of the American as a do-it-ourselves, we-don’t-need-your-help, kind of person. The cowboy bringing law and order to a border town with nothing but his fists and a pair of six guns. The landowner protecting his family from the greedy developers, standing in the doorway with a shotgun, saying , “Get offa my land.” The soldier who becomes a hero by getting off that last shot that kills the villain, before succumbing to wounds too severe to survive, (but not before a ragged close-up and dying nobility speech).

It is not the gun that fascinates us, but the effect of guns as an implement to impose our will, that enraptures us. And, as such, makes some members of our society cling to them with the claws of demons. Some will even go so far as to twist the words of the Constitution, (like nobody is going to check). A “well-armed militia” doesn’t mean a stockpile of auto-mags in your basement, there, Chuckles. The phrase was meant to give citizens the right to protect themselves from invading troops by banding together to protect the common good. Under well-trained leaders.

The Second amendment means the National Guard.

When something tragic and horrific happens, you can be sure that a few well-honed responses will arise. First the gun-rights person, that talking head who’s first response to a shooting massacre is, “Oh no, liberals will want to take my guns!”, (if that’s your first response, you suck as a human being). They respond with something along the lines of, “Look over there! It’s the mental health system in this country that has failed! It’s not guns!”

The well-meaning liberals jump up and shout, “Is it time now for a reasoned debate on gun control? We’ve been waiting!”
But, the gun advocate hears, “Guns are scary and I want them all banned!” and then retaliates based on what he wanted to hear.

And the medical community comes out and says “The mental health system in our country is broken and needs to be fixed.” And you can almost hear the crickets. There’s no glamour in fixing a broken system. Not while we can watch the liberals and gun-rights people slug it out. Again. And again.

And the really awful part is that they are all right.

We’re humans. We’re soft and squishy. We survive by the barest of circumstances, no matter how much we like to think otherwise. Guns make it really easy, but not necessary. You could kill us with almost any blunt object. We’re easy to kill.

The mental health system is broken in this country. It suffers from another romantic infatuation that we refuse to release… the idea that people who suffer mental illness are somehow less worthy of our attention and compassion than those who suffer physical illness. As if contracting malaria is beyond our control but schizophrenia is your own damn fault.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and you’ll never remove all the guns from our streets. It would be pointless to try. But, asking that current laws be better enforced and reasonable restrictions be enacted is not pointless. It is, in fact, necessary. But that, on its own, will not make the changes we need. Rational gun control is necessary but it’s not the whole thing.

We need to change the value we place on the effect of guns. We value the winning spirit, and we love it when the hero kills every bad guy along the way to get to the reasonable end. A movie can show the hero kill forty or fifty people with a machine gun and that’s awesome! On TV! But, they cut the scene where you could see that woman’s nipple, because that would be wrong to see. Think of the children!

We glorify guns and their effect every day because we refuse to give up on the idea that America is the greatest nation on Earth. We could be. We once were. Being better than everybody else at blowing shit up is no longer enough. We are falling behind in every measurable discipline and it is precisely because we refuse to acknowledge that we have allowed it to happen.

We refuse to accept the idea that we need let go of some of the time-honored ideas of the past and start embracing some new ideas. Like guns are bad. Sure, we’ll always have them and some people like them, but they have one purpose - killing things. That is bad. You might be able to justify that in certain circumstances, but it’s still bad. Christians, back me up here… only God has the right to kill, yes?

We need to release the idea that asking for help makes us less. I know, women already know this. Men, we need to shit-can this idea right quick. It is the fundamental idea that keeps mental illness in the stigma-burdened state it’s in. We have to let go of this idea that if it’s in our heads, we can fix it ourselves. Sometimes, gasp, we need help.

While it’s a glorious thing to sit back and imagine a world where there are no guns, no violence and we can all hold hands and sing kumbaya, we have to acknowledge that while most people are basically good-hearted, (I have no stats for that assumption, but without it, I just can’t go on), there are always those who prey on the weak and/or the stupid. There will always be those who feel this in their bones, and refuse to be prey.

They want guns.
Too bad. It is what it is.

You can’t walk into a crowded place and kill a bunch of people with anything other than an explosive device or a gun. If a person tried to do it with, say, a hammer, he would be stopped before the death toll rose. But one senseless killing is too many. The focus needs to be on how we can foresee this kind of pattern in a kid and stop it before it becomes an adult problem. I don’t know how that is to be done, but it’s pretty obvious that the current system ain’t workin’. If we continue to centralize our mental health approach around prison, we’re going to be incarcerating a lot of people and turning them into people who belong in prison.

We need a better solution, and somebody smarter than me needs to step up. And not just one of you eggheads, either. We need a truck load of really smart people, unencumbered by politics and HMOs, to step up, sit down and put together a position paper on how things need to be run. Get it in front of the American people, and do it now. We’ll take it from there. Politicians may be too afraid of special interest groups, but none of them have ever had to face a unified force of scared shitless American Moms who are willing to kick someone’s ass to keep their kids safe. I know some moms, and I’m here to tell you… they know how to get shit done. Put ‘protecting the kids’ in the mix, and watch the ass-kicking commence.

And, by the way, all you people pointing fingers at guns, video games, heavy metal, etc. just shut up. There’s a reason that stuff sells. It’s because we love it. We love to watch a good guy splatter a bunch of bad guys. It serves our sense of righteousness. And it is that very sense of righteousness we have given away and no longer deserve. And, we’ll be needing to come to terms with that, too, if we’re going to make any headway here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping it Real

Editor's note - this isn't true - not a word of it. It's just made up to annoy you. Take it as you will.

As I was shopping today, I overheard a conversation between two people with whom I shared my table in the Food Court. These two gentlemen agreed with each other whole-heartedly.

"A sales clerk had the nerve, the audacity to wish me "Happy Holidays." It's "Merry Christmas" you snot rag! My ancestors didn't come to this country, fight in it's wars, pay its taxes and help to build this great melting pot, only to have some mixed-race teenager, (I thought she was black at first, but I don't know... a lot of cream in that coffee, if you know what I mean), denigrate the Lord's birthday with that secular crap.

We have to keep the Christ in Christmas. It's none of your business that I won't be working in a soup kitchen, or helping out at a children's hospital or tending to the poor, or any of that tree-hugging nonsense. I won't be giving up on presents or feasting or raising a glass or two with my "friends", (some are just business friends or acquaintences, but you know, it's Christmas). I don't need to do any of that... as long as I demand that you use the words I choose, that covers my responsibility. I can stand with all of the other real Americans proudly.

I will be carrying on the traditions of my country, as it should be. I'll go to Mass on Christmas Eve, so I've got it covered. There's no need to be drastic. How I've spent every Christmas will be just fine, thank you very much.

So, the next time you want to show a stranger how little you know about America, wish 'em a Happy Holiday. How dare you wish me peace and happiness beyond the confines of my religious views? Who do you think you are, wishing me happiness, whether I'm Christian or not? I am, dammit. And don't you forget it. This country was built on the idea that you spend what you make, and a little more at this time of year. Give until it hurts. Not in any meaningful way, but just monetarily... so you can say you gave, and you can hold your head up in church while praying for an end to poverty and struggle, knowing that you've done your duty as a good, God-fearin' American.

Happy Holidays. As if I care that people of other faiths or no faith at all join my Christian brothers and sisters in poverty, sickness, ignorance and hopelessness. How dare you wish them happiness beyond the embrace of the arms of our sacred symbols? Just because every single religion and culture before Christianity had a way to mark the winter solstice doesn't mean that this isn't really the day of the birth of our savior! So, don't go muddying the waters with facts and reason.

Santa knows. Santa knows that this time of year is for saying one thing and doing another. He knows that we talk about Peace on Earth, but we fund the sweatshops and human rights abuse factories all over the world so Furbys can live again! And, Santa knows all about you, too. I hope you get nothing but coal, you pinko leftist.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Rage. Rage against the dying of the light.

It's arguable that Dylan Thomas was talking about death at long last in this poem. But, rage has moved in the modern era from the end result of provocation to the first response. This is bad for us.

When one is quick to argue, quick to jump to conclusions or quick to blame, that rage snuffs out joy like two wet fingers on a candle's flame. That rage, that small, petty, I'm-better-than-you rage fills us, blocking out even the possibility for warmth or reconciliation. We must wait to "cool down" before we can even consider such a thing.

It is not only our impending mortality that conjures up Fear's ugly little brother. In fact, it would seem that things with much less gravity can ignite the flame of wrath as it bubbles just beneath our surfaces. An extra few seconds- seconds!- waiting in traffic, the failure of another human in living up to our expectations or any opportunity where one of us "gets" to judge another - all of these scenarios are ripe for releasing our contemporary restraints and unleashing our rabid anger.
We must see the results as if detached in order to change this behavior. And, change we should, before somebody gets hurt. The news is filled already with the effects of overwrought and immature rage. Well, I am worth more happiness and I deserve to live a rage-free life. So do you. Yes, you.

So, here are the steps. Do them or not, as you see fit.

1.) Count the seconds.
So many times, I have said, "Come on! While we're young! Sometime today!" at cars ahead of me, while their drivers were making decisions. From now on, I will count the seconds that I have to wait. Is it really an hour? or is it more like 5-10 seconds? I think I have 10 seconds to wait while a seasoned citizen makes their way into a parking spot.

2.) Double check.
I am quick to judge when I hear something that doesn't sound right. Political, social, whatever. If it sounds like it's conservative, I am all too happy to judge the idea as fear-based white-mongery. I have found that when I check the facts, the speaker who inflamed me to begin with usually doesn't have a clue. Sometimes they do, and my research has afforded me the insight into a sound idea. I have learned that my gut is usually right for me, but there are always chances to learn.*

3.) Look in the Mirror
I have kids, so conflict is, well... let's just say I don't always handle it well. Nothing can enrage me faster than looking at a younger version of my very own f*ck you attitude. But, I have determined that what I need to do is stop relying on what I think I mean, and instead try to see what they see. Am I really speaking from experience, trying to help them avoid a preventable crisis, or am I just trying to manipulate the situation in an intrusive, domineering way? Understanding how they see it may not change my position, but it may afford me insight, which is always a good thing.
Out in the real world, I don't find myself in too many conflicts, but when I do, I'll try this technique there as well.

I'm hoping that making a conscious effort to do these things will make me a less stressed, happier person, (to be honest, I'm hoping it for you... I'm pretty calm as these things go). When you consider that we only get a short time on this earth, it seems kind of silly to waste it being all pissed off about things... especially things like how long a traffic light takes.

And when the time comes, and you stand before your creator with fists raised, saying ,"No! I won't go! Do not dim the light of this life! I have more to do!" You can unleash all of that rage and passion and make your case.

It'll have the same effect as yelling at the car ahead of you in traffic.

* Except from you people who think men and women lived at the same time as dinosaurs. You people are just crazy!