Saturday, January 12, 2013

Just Shoot Me

I try to avoid rants on this blog. I prefer a thoughtful, well-reasoned approach to even the most controversial topics. I am not sure I can hold it together much longer, though, when it comes to the current subject of guns, gun control, and gun ownership. I am dismayed by how many of my “friends” on Facebook are posting so aggressively to defend their Second Amendment “right” to bear arms. This debate, if you can call the mudslinging and vitriol a debate, spawns of course from another massacre at an elementary school, carried out by yet another disturbed male individual armed with automatic weapons.

The fear in the wake of this event astounds me. Not the fear that there could be more of these incidents if we continue down our present cultural, social, and legal paths, but the fear gun owners have of losing their weapons, or losing the right to buy still more guns, and more powerful ones at that.

First of all, absolutely nothing has been done yet by our President or congress. No restrictive laws have been enacted. Elected officials are consulting with all parties, including the National Rifle Association, which is more than I would do if I was in a position of authority. I generally don’t find lobbyists of any stripe to be beneficial to legislation. So, why is there so much outrage already?

Secondly, what quantity of arms is enough? The Second Amendment was written at a time in history when the Revolutionary War was still fresh in the minds of the newly-free American citizenry. The goal was to avoid having to go through that again. So, the law was meant to insure that “well-organized militias” had access to arms to defend the greater good of freedom and liberty. Today, this “right” has been twisted in its meaning. We conveniently interpret it to mean defense of our personal lives, the lives of our family members, and, most importantly, our property and material belongings. I am not saying that one should not be able to defend themselves or loved ones from bodily harm, of course, but it is important to note the spirit of the law here.

Another problem today is that our well-organized militias are all too often street gangs, drug cartels, survivalists, racists, religious cults, and other hate groups using arms not for defense but for intimidation and aggression. Our collective priority as citizens should be to do whatever it takes to keep guns out of the hands of these organizations and individuals, even if it entails an inconvenience (background check, psychological exam) to our own rights as law-abiding citizens.

It has rightly been pointed out by more reasoned people in this debate that our mental health system is suffering from severe neglect. We clearly need to address the mental health aspect of this trend toward mass shootings. Personally, I would prefer having a potentially violent person, clinically diagnosed as such, incarcerated instead of someone convicted of possession of marijuana, for instance. The point is we need to have all options on the table as to how to prevent more tragedies on any scale, be it a single murder or a massacre.

We also have to change our collective mentality about our individual rights, and our tolerance for violence in all aspects of our society. Why do we find violence entertaining in movies, music lyrics, and video games? Why are we so obsessed with material wealth, fame, and power to the extent that we are willing to use violence to achieve these “goals,” or protect them once we have them? Yes, I am more afraid of armed corporations and the groups I mentioned earlier than I am paranoid over the government seizing what few assets I have. Unfortunately, government and corporate America seem to be getting increasingly cozy, but that is a topic for another blog.

My bottom line, for now, is this: Until you have concrete evidence that your rights as a gun-owner are under attack, your hue and cry is useless and immature at best. Second, take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are really afraid of, and why. The answer won’t likely be “the government.” Don’t agree with me? Then just shoot me. Go ahead, I dare you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Right now the board game Monopoly is making headlines because Hasbro, the company that currently produces the game, is asking people to vote for which game pieces they want to retain in future editions. So, if you like the thimble, or the top hat, or some other token, you are supposed to vote for it. Whichever piece gets the least number of votes will be retired in favor of a new piece “that’s more representative of today’s Monopoly players.” (CNN story). I wonder if the real question should be whether the entire game should be retired.

Aside from the question of whether anybody still plays it, one should be reminded of its origins. It was inspired, at the very least, by The Landlord’s Game, created by Elizabeth Maggie and patented in 1904. Its purpose was to show how rent enriched landowners while creating poverty for tenants. Eventually, the game morphed into the exact opposite, where the goal of each Monopoly player is to dominate their opponents.

Today, in the real world, personal material wealth and power are simply not qualities we should be aspiring to. We literally can’t afford to pursue capitalism at the scale we have now. The gap between the wealthiest few and everyone else grows wider almost daily. Much of the world resides in substandard housing (forget about rent!), and many populations are starving. Too many children right here in the U.S. go hungry every day. These situations are avoidable, and to allow them to persist is unconscionable.

So, my vote would go to abolish the game entirely. Scrabble is much more fun, but perhaps family nights might be better spent helping out at the local homeless shelter. Meanwhile, maybe UNICEF can come up with a game that rewards sustainability, charity, and volunteerism. I’d buy that.