Solving problems with guns is in the American psyche

May 20, 2018

When you are a teenager everything is a crisis, everything is played out as a drama. Fortunately most people grow up, get a little wiser, kind of like “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”, as the song goes (by Bob Dylan).

But a young man at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas played out his teenage drama in deadly fashion on this just-passed May 18, leaving 10 dead and 13 wounded (the latest count).

In recent years high school mass shootings have become a thing, a phenomenon of the times. So much so, it is reported by various publications, that modern highs school students expect it — it’s just a question of when and whether they will be a victim.

That seems absurd and so wrong. Yet collectively we seem to be helpless. We don’t know what to do or how to do it in order to change this.

And there is no easy answer I am sure.

I had thought that banning assault-style rifles and the like would be a good start — and it might. But in this case the shooter used a more ordinary shot-gun and a hand gun. And heck, I suppose one could use a knife on a rampage or other weapon and get almost the same result, depending upon the circumstances — probably would not result in as many casualties.

Even so, it still seems that we should ban assault weapons and have much stricter regulation on all firearms. In this case, the shooter is said to have used guns owned by his father. Should there be strict liability on gun owners? Should there be an age limit on those who purchase, possess, carry, and/or use guns?

We of course have our Second Amendment in the United States, which has been interpreted as giving all the right to possess firearms with few restrictions — but not without restrictions.

The Houston, Texas police chief has been quoted as saying that he has “hit rock bottom” in his frustration with the inaction on gun control. He said in a Tweet that he believes that possessing firearms is not a God-given right.

And then there is the Lt. Governor of Texas who came up with the brilliant notion that the problem at the Santa Fe high school was that there were too many doors (for access I guess) to the high school. For that he was lampooned for calling for “door control” instead of gun control.

But this is not a joke. Stepped-up school security seems as this point the only readily available measure — others will take longer to figure out.

And what was the motive of the shooter? We don’t know (yet).

There are reports both that he was a bully and that he was bullied. I suppose both might be true. If I read it correctly, he pursued a romantic relation with a girl who rebuffed him repeatedly and ultimately embarrassed him in front of a class in order to repel him. She was among his victims.

He is said to have been on a high school football team. It was also reported that one student said he was not very athletic, even so.

Most strikingly he had a Facebook page on which he warned of the carnage to come (at least from what I have read). He also posted photos of various symbols or insignias representing disparate causes, everything from peace to Nazism to communism to anarchism. Even though these various things seem to run counter to each other, I have noticed that among the young and among the ignorant they don’t — and maybe the idea is that they just represent rebellion in general.

As I mentioned at the top, I think almost everyone in his or her life goes through a mixed-up period, usually in the teenage years. Most of us get over it (well maybe not completely), this young man has not.

And finally I offer this about growing up in America in my own life:

— I grew up watching shoot’em-up westerns in the 1950s and early 1960s on TV. The good guy always won out by killing the bad guy or guys with his handy six-shooter or in the case of the Rifleman (Chuck Conners), the apparently 19th Century version of a rapid-fire assault weapon. Those westerns have been replaced by violent action movies with the same basic scenario and modern video games, with death and destruction as the theme.

— While I did not grow up in a hunting family, I had friends who fit into that category. I attended a hunter safety course with one and got my first taste of firing a rifle. And I went on a so-called deer hunting trip with another. Never did see a deer. But we happened upon a squirrel that ran up a tree and an adult deer hunter came along and my friend and him took turns blasting away at the creature. I don’t recall that they hit it. So I got my taste of the gun lover’s life.

— Being a boy I suffered through the age-old rite of being the victim of bullies (being a bully is also an age-old tradition, but little peaceful and weak me could not have done that — could I?). On my first incident of facing a bully in high school I did not fight back, for had I, I am not sure I’d be here today. He was huge, and I so small. As it happened not so long after that the bully drowned in the river. I will not admit here whether I was sad about that — but I should have been. He was a human being with his own problems I am sure. There were other incidents with mixed results, but on two occasions I fought back, survived, and felt better for it. But I’m like the gambler — know when to stand, know when to run (as in the Kenny Rogers hit, written by Don Schlitz).

— And then I will never forget that day in gym class when we were given a presentation by two Army Green Berets just back from Vietnam. They told us all about the joys of killing the enemy and setting up Claymore mines that spew out nails in deadly fashion. I don’t know what my classmates were thinking. I was confused.

— And then I joined the army, but not for the joy of killing. I had other reasons that make no sense now — never did really. I did not go to Vietnam. I went to Germany, where we played war. All the fun without the deadly consequences.

As a nation, guns are in our psyche, you add that to the need to project masculinity (mass shooting seems a male trait so far) and fight off bullies real and imagined and finally you add the possibility of instant worldwide fame via the internet and perhaps you have some of the explanation for this trend in mass shootings.

And I have no easy solution to this madness.

p.s.

Girls of course can be subject to bullying too. And the U.S. is not alone in its appetite for death, but we just happen to have a steady supply of weapons to carry it out.

 

 

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(Updated info) Death toll continues to rise in still another multi-death high school shooting; is this really the price of freedom?

May 18, 2018

NOTE: I have updated some of my info from the original post, but this in no way is meant as an original narrative of the news, rather it is my personal commentary based simply on what you the reader of this have available to yourself.


The death total has risen to at least ten now in a Texas high school mass shooting. In addition, there are at least ten wounded.

It happened this morning (5-18-18) in Santa Fe, Texas.

But this is almost not news or at least if you consider the statistic put out by CNN, an average of one high school shooting a week so far this year. That statistic I guess is a bit misleading in that it includes shooting of all types, not just mass killings. Even so, that seems little comfort.

And of course all these shootings and mass shootings do not take place at high schools — they take place at concerts and churches too and anywhere really.

And nothing is done. There just is no will to enact reasonable gun control legislation. While it is true that legislation alone would not likely solve the problem, it would seem to me it could help and it would be a prudent step.

Now the word is that the weapons used were a shot gun and a revolver, rather than the more common weapon in these things, rapid fire rifles or other such high powered weapons, designed more for military use than hunting or self-defense.

A student has been arrested, and it is reported his weapons belonged to his father. And yes, gun control, save a confiscation of guns, would not prevent things like this — and I definitely don’t see a confiscation as legal or called for. It is hard to protect against every contingency.

Reports are also that explosive devices were found in the area. We have to wonder from where this evil stems.

For now increased security seems the best bet.

My children are a long time out of high school but in today’s atmosphere I wonder if I in good conscience could send them to a school. Of course we are all vulnerable just being out in public. That has to be considered too.

It looks as if schools will have to be made into some kind of fortresses where all will have to pass through metal detectors and maybe be searched, electronically or physically, before entering, whether they are in the urban environment or out in the country — shootings know no boundaries.

As was noted ironically or satirically in an opinion piece I just read: “This is the price we pay for freedom”.

I don’t buy that. We can continue to be a free nation and at the same time use some common sense, and I am not talking every man, woman, and child packing heat and everyone having to duck the crossfire. That is not civilization.

We’ll see how this latest story out of Texas develops and if it gets worse.

p.s.

And since beginning this post it got worse as you can see by the update that at least ten are now listed as dead (and I suppose there could be more fatalities).

President Trump was quoted as saying “this has gone on too long (mass shootings)”. Now the question is will he do anything. He prides himself in being a man of action not tied to conventional norms — so do something. Of course the gutless congress has to join in. Whose afraid of the NRA? Answer: congress and state legislators for the most part. If I had to discard all my principles for a job I would hope I’d have enough self-respect and pride to leave it.

 


Immigration, the problem few want to resolve…

May 18, 2018

If I’m paraphrasing him correctly, Tom Sullivan on his conservative-minded radio talk show the other day said that neither Republicans nor Democrats really want to do anything about the immigration issue, rhetoric aside.

He and/or at least one of his callers suggested that the Republicans like to have illegal immigrants for their labor and Democrats like the votes (I guess among potential voters or possibly relatives of or people sympathetic to the cause of those who are undocumented).

And I am sure Sullivan realizes that some people really do have sincere feelings on the issue, but at the same time I think he summed it up pretty well.

As for my own personal view on immigration — I don’t feel that I really know for sure that there is a problem. I hear and read conflicting reports, but I fail to see the emergency at our borders — and I spend some time on them in my job.

I have never understood why the authorities, ICE, or whoever, do not simply crack down on those who hire undocumented workers. I know they do from time to time but it should be constant and widespread.

At the same time, apparently there is a demand for labor, and if it can be shown that only those from outside our borders can or are willing to perform certain tasks then it should not be so hard for them to get legal status.

I am sure a large part of the problem is that neither I nor most people have any idea of what immigration regulations are and why they are.

As far as the plight of children brought over the border and then raised here only to face deportation I think that is ludicrous. Most of them, if raised here most of their young lives, would not fit in back in the country of their birth any more than those of us born here in the USA would fit in to their country. Those children should be given a reasonable path to full citizenship, which is not to say that the authorities cannot or should not crack down on the practice of bringing children into the country to get an unfair toehold.

Not all Hispanics support loose immigration standards, especially if they had to go through the more rigorous requirements, although I imagine many take umbrage at denigrating racial remarks against undocumented workers. Lumping anyone or everyone into one category on the basis of race and skin color and religion is ignorant.

(The undocumented immigrant population of course is not solely Hispanic, but that is the group that seems to get the most attention.)

It is my personal feeling that many employers, be they individuals or large firms, like to have an available pool of undocumented workers, and even though they feel these people have the skills and attitude they need for the jobs they have they don’t want to make it all official because they feel workers are more docile and less likely to complain and demand their rights if they face the threat of deportation.

What we really need is an honest look at immigration. But it is not in the interests of the powers that be to take that honest look. They would rather use immigration as a political football or not talk about it and take advantage of a more docile and economical labor force.

And I continue to think that native-born or legal citizens can handle any and all work available, which is not to say they will. But in the end people tend to do what they have to in order to survive.


I abhor the use of torture and would never support it, but I vote for Gina Haspel…

May 10, 2018

She might be the Nurse Ratched of the CIA, but from what little I know of the long-time career intelligence officer Gina Haspel it seems she ought to be installed as the new director of the CIA.

I guess the hang-up for some is the fact that she oversaw the torture of prisoners in a secret prison in Thailand. While I am 100 percent against torture, I have to realize the use of it was a policy of my government, like it or not. Of course we were only following orders as an excuse did not work for the Nuremberg defendants after World War II, but that was then and this is now and who is going to try us? God perhaps.

And yeah, where are all the self-righteous on this torture thing. Seems like a lot of them are probably on the side of the torturers. If not, then why don’t they speak up and speak loudly?

I may be naïve, but I thought America was better than that, that is to say I always thought it was the bad guys who used torture not us. I’ve written about this before. I do think we are less inclined to use it or at least have been, and I understand it is currently against our policy, what with all the bad publicity when it was revealed we used torture on 9/11 suspects.

And from comments I have heard in my personal life you might be surprised at the number of otherwise nice people who seem perfectly good with torture — on bad guys of course.

But if you believed in God’s love and his commandment to love your fellow human beings (yes I know, hard to love someone who seems to want to kill you), you would not believe in torture.

And besides, with our use of torture then how can we have any hope of protecting our own from torture should they be captured by the enemy and how could we have any basis for objection if we ourselves use it?

What I have also written before is that it is true that if suspects know we will not use torture then perhaps they might not be forthcoming in interrogations. But at the same time, experts will tell you that you don’t necessarily get good information from torture — victims simply scream out anything to make you stop. They might even be devious enough to spin a web of false information.

Haspel has testified that some good information was obtained via torture and has also indicated, however, overall torture is not effective. She vowed never to direct its use again and to refuse any order even by the president to do so. Apparently, if you are to believe her, she has had a coming to Jesus.

The CIA is in a dirty but necessary business. It would most of the time be best if we did not know much of it. And it would even be better if our enemies did not. I think our policy should be anti-torture. But I also think those who deal with terrorist suspects can use other psychological methods in an attempt to extract information. And when one is captive, cut off from the outside world, the great unknown and loneliness may be torture in and of itself.

With what little I know, I’d put my faith in Ms. Haspel. If anyone knows how to get information out of someone, a woman seems likely to me, that is from my experience.

p.s.

Some who otherwise support Haspel are hung-up on her refusal to acknowledge torture as immoral. Among them is Sen. John McCain, who was a POW in North Vietnam for several years and who was subjected to torture but never caved in. I respect him for that. But if Haspel says she is now against torture, that is good enough for me. McCain as a Navy pilot bombed and no doubt killed innocent civilians. Should he say what he did was immoral? I don’t think it is necessary for either of them.

 

 


Even if you believe in Trump, you can’t believe him…

May 4, 2018

So we know candidate Donald Trump paid off a female porn star in an attempt to buy her silence but she did not stay bought. But that in and of itself seems hardly a reason to force him out of office now that he is president.

A more serious matter of course is the charge, so far not publicly verified, that Trump colluded with a foreign government, namely Russia, in his campaign for president and I guess even after. And partially on that a special counsel was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate. And somehow it seems the two things I just mentioned — the porn star and the collusion question — have been conflated.

Anyway, originally Trump in talking to the press (captured on video) feigned ignorance of a payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels. But now he has changed his story. I won’t go into the convoluted reasoning that may have induced him to do that, except to say that it is apparently over trying to avoid charges of violating campaign finance laws.

Oh, and then there is the ongoing allegation that Trump may have obstructed justice concerning the special counsel investigation by, possibly among other things, firing FBI chief James Comey after he says he refused to promise to be “loyal” (read protect) to Trump.

But I thought an editorial in the Wall Street Journal I read today summed it up well by pointing out that there is little damage likely to Trump from the public knowing about his lack of morals and that those who support Trump will not care, just as so many of those who supported President Bill Clinton thought his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky were not public business. The damage is to his credibility, the Journal opined. What would the nation think in a real crisis? Could it put trust in Trump and what he says? He constantly changes his story.

Actually I would have thought his credibility was already zero in that he seldom if ever can tell the truth about anything (even though his lies are often immediately transparent) and the fact he goes so far to hide his business dealings and refuses to release his tax returns or relinquish control of his businesses, even though he is in public office and there could be a conflict of interest (and  there probably already is). And just as bad, he apparently hides his health issues. The current news is that his former physician gave him a glowing medical report, except that doctor now claims the report was actually dictated to him by his patient, Trump. Also he claims Trump operatives raided his office and confiscated the president’s health records. Previous presidents have released their health records — I never have heard that they wrote their own health reports.

You can be president but with little power if the rest of the establishment and the general public does not go along with you. So far Trump has managed to hold onto his power by being seen as having utility value to certain constituencies, i.e., tax cuts or tax shifts benefitting the wealthy and corporations (and maybe others), and support on issues that appeal to the religious right, such as those regarding abortion and being able to opt out of health insurance requirements concerning birth control, and I guess being free to spread their own Christian word with official backing by the government, ignoring First Amendment freedom-of-religion restrictions. Both the Republican establishment and the religious right have so far opted for a deal with the Devil.

p.s.

Always tricky to express a position on religious freedom. But my basic position is that we all have a freedom to choose our own religion and likewise have the freedom from religion. I do feel, however, that government should tread lightly on religious practices played out in pubic, as long as all religions have an equal opportunity in the public sphere. And in no instance should anyone be prevented from praying, on their own, in a public setting. And I do not know anyone ever has, but that seems to be the charge by some.