Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walkin' in a Splintered Gun-derland pt. 3: The Palinode

    I've expressed my opinion on firearms in America several times now, and now I would like to go back and overturn some previous opinions. I made it clear when I started this blog that I was not above admitting when I was wrong, in light of new information. I am indeed going back on some opinions I've expressed on gun control in the past. I believe in the American ideals of freedom on a personal level and on a national level, and to ban guns would be a ideological infringement that constitutes treating the symptom and not the disease. I hold personal responsibility in exceedingly high esteem in all aspects of my life, and guns can undeniably be used responsibly and therefore should never be banned. In essence, it should not be the guns that come under scrutiny, but how they are used.
    Guns must be kept legal because they are harmless in the hands of responsible adults. Likewise, drugs, prostitution, gambling, and any manner of vices should be viewed the same way, and I know that many people who are pro-guns may disagree. Prostitution is a prime example of something like guns, that when approached responsibly, can be utilized safely to the satisfaction of all parties involved. If used recklessly, guns can kill people, many people, very quickly. Prostitution, if used recklessly, can severly damage people physically, emotionally and psychologically. From the cold, logical standpoint of "which is worst in it's worse case scenario," prostitution seems to have even more of a right to be legal than guns. But this isn't about which "has more of a right to be legal." This is about the oppression that exists in taking the decision of whether or not to act responsible out of the hands of American citizens. The government should not be telling it's citizens "we do not trust any of you with this gun, or with this prostitute, or with these narcotics, or your with own gambling money" without giving each citizen the chance to show they can exercise responsibility.
    A vice is by definition, something that goes against a moral code. Morality is concerned with good and evil, right and wrong. Some things are very clear. Harming another person is evil, and helping another person is good. However, there is an ocean of issues that cannot be so clearly defined. These grey areas are notoriously difficult to legislate, due to conflicting opinions. That word, opinion, is the keystone of why the issues are so difficult to govern. We cannot and should not, as a nation that loves it's freedom above all, pass laws based on opinions in any way. I abhor prostitution, from the predatory pimps, to the greedy clients, and workers with their clear lack of self-respect or standards for themselves. I loathe guns, also, as something I find completely obsolete inside our country. The ease of which they can be obtained is appalling and the devastating degree of some tragedies we have experienced were possible due to guns. However, bans are an indirect, lazy and ineffective solution. It's my right to think something is evil, it's their right to think it is perfectly acceptable, and if we can't come to an agreement based on something substantial, then neither of us has a right to force change on the other.
    The solution lies in a nationwide effort from each and every one of us to be responsible, teach responsibility, educate the ignorant about the dangers of irresponsibility. We also must be insightful enough to recognize when our fellow humans are a danger those around them and courageous take preventative measures so we aren't forced to take retaliatory measures. The only action I see the government needing to take, is the role of watchdog. When there is  potential for someone to harm to others, it is perfectly reasonable and prudent to have an authoritative body in place to restrict access for malicious, unstable, or irresponsible people. To the tree-hugging hippy liberals, telling others they cannot do something because you think it is wrong is called fascism, and for a nation that places such a high value on freedom, fascism is not compatible. To the right-wing nutjobs, this is not about guns, or even about protection, it is about personal and interpersonal responsibility, and you must decide if you are pro-gun because you really like guns, or if you support the idea that it's not about what you are using, but about how it is being used, and the full implications of that. Use and abuse are two completely different things, and unfortunately for our freedom, many people try to blur or ignore this distinction. I've been guilty of it myself, but my personal ideas of right and wrong do not give me, or anyone else, the privilege to restrict another responsible adult from doing what she or he thinks is right, if all we have to base it on is opinions.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Excerpt From A Short Story

The following is an excerpt from A short story I am working on as a creative writing exercise. Hope you enjoy!

    "Did it work?" She gasped, with the last of her strength.
    "Perfectly. Sorry." But Alonzo wasn't talking to anyone now. He pulled a handful of small glass vials out from his leather bag and lined them up to be filled. She had been a singular experience, he thought, and he would savor her like cognac.
    He was surprised at himself for saying 'sorry' to her. He used to apologize to everyone, saying 'sorry' for hours after they were dead, sacrificed to him. He held little memorials for a while, then he just tried to detatch from everyone. Now, though, he was seasoned at this grim existance and he never apologized anymore.
    His shovel was already in the car he left in the alley, but it was getting late, almost 5 A.M. He would have to wait until tomorrow to bury her body.
He delicately pulled a thin silver chain from her neck and put it in the top drawer of his dresser. On the chain was a small heart locket with her initial on it. The drawer already clamored with trinkets, a memento from every person on which he had ever fed. He kept them to remind himself of who he was.
    He flicked off the single 40-watt bulb that dangled bare from the ceiling. The sun would be up soon. He laid back on the grey, stained mattress. He never cared to sleep in a coffin. He lived in one.
    Alonzo dreamt that night. He stood in a crowd of children; girls in pettycoats and bonnets, boys shoeless in plain cotton clothes made to last. The group gathered outside of a large, wooden building, like a house, but too big, and all one room. A woman looked down at him, called him 'Michelle.' The woman, their teacher, circled them around a sapling, a new apple sprout she'd found. They were transplanting it, their class tree, that would grow as they did. He thought he might like to grow things too. Or maybe Michelle thought that. When he got older, he would grow flowers, vegetables, trees. When he was done with his chores later, maybe mama would let him go and look for seeds...

    He woke groggily at the onset of night, his head like a sack of wet cement. For the moment he tried to ignore the corpse on the floor. He pulled a brown paper bag from the floor next to his bed. He filled a thin white rolling paper with dull green herb and twisted it. He lit a match and filled his lungs, trying to clear his thoughts for the task at hand.
    "Can I have a hit? My head is killing me." Marah sat up, rubbing her temple. Alonzo violently coughed out a greying cloud, and the joint fell onto his leg, left to burn for a few seconds in disbelief. She rubbed her eyes. He passed it to her from the circle of charred flesh on his leg. He looked her over without blinking, like a new species of animal. Memories from the previous night billowed in her mind.
    "So... Did it work?"
    "Uhh... Yeah." He stood suddenly and walked to the only door other than the exit. "Be right out." He stared into an empty mirror, frosted over in decades of grime. he almost never came into the bathroom, but he needed to think for a minute. What the hell happened? How was she still alive? She seemed to remember everything, too, how would he explain this? He leaned over the browning, crusty sink to try to focus. Should he just kill her outright and be done with it?
    The door banged open and off one hinge.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

White Boy Video Game Confidence

     If you're reading this, I'm assuming you know enough about me to know that I tend toward the nerdier side of things. I've been known to play a video game or two, and I am intimately familiar with trading card games, and fantasy role play games a la Dungeons and Dragons. I've thoroughly enjoyed things that I am ashamed to talk about in certain company. That, in fact, is something of a dividing line, I've noticed, between myself and some other people who frequent such activities, most notably, I would say, video game fanatics. I love the fun I can have playing these sorts of games, but I do, however, have, in my opinion, an understanding of the popular perceptions of these types of activities, and, while I won't lie about my involvement, I will certainly exclude them from conversation with some people. Although, I have known many people who are so preoccupied with their massively-multiplayer online games, their card collections and such, that it clearly starts to affect their interpersonal relationships.
     I coined the term "white boy video game confidence" years ago, although I certainly recognize that the overly-emotional dork hormone sees neither race nor gender. Many friends of mine have either gone through a phase, or live their lives vicarious though pixels and paper, and when they try to interact with real people, relationships are difficult to build and quick to splinter. I have had a friendship end with Nintendo 64 controller whipping down a flight of stairs past my head, seen very lonely people lash out at others in defense of fantasy realms of limited interest. Internet forums are filled with the angry rantings bred out of spirit and pride in fictional characters that lead to apparent resentment of nonfiction. I think I would be satisfied in simply chuckling quietly to myself when I watch these interactions, content to watch one person stroke their ego with game knowledge, and the other person laugh at them at why they care so much.
     But I see so much self-perpetuating social isolation as a result. If I could offer a bit of advice from someone who has seen the isolation that comes from focusing entirely on games, including video, card, and paper-based, you will not impress real people by that being the only thing you are outgoing about. I can even understand if you have no interest in making friends with people who don't play the same games as you, but you can hold yourself back in so many facets of your life if you treat video game confidence like real confidence. It can keep you out of the running for a promotion, it can make it almost impossible to find a mate, it can drive wedges in long-established friendships, not to mention the natural procrastination that I KNOW comes from the hobby turned obsession. I've caused fights with my wife, and both my parents, and had to mumble through excuses to teachers and professors due to gaming. If there's anything I would like to share with my friends who love their games, it's important enough to repeat, don't treat video game confidence like real confidence.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

R.I.P. Maddy!

    It's hard to write about someone who has passed without seeming cheesey or cliched. Everything's been said before, by someone else, about someone else. Therefore, I want to talk more about the specifics, the individual ways she affected my life and that of my wife, her niece.
    Maddy's untimely passing sent ripples across the United States, all the way to us in Los Angeles. Her far-reaching legacy brought positivity to so many people, and to myself and my wife in particular. I can't begin to imagine Joe's anguish, I only know that he is living my worst fear, and my heart goes out to him. Individually, Maddy, as well as Joe were great role models, and together, their relationship was a personal exemplar for my wife and I. Even in the wake of this horrible tragedy, Maddy's influence still affects us, and makes us appreciate each other more.
    Maddy was among the most generous people I ever met. She helped without being asked, and when she was asked for help, she did not hesitate. With me, she shared her home, her wisdom, her vacations, her time, and her advice. She officiated my wedding, binding my wife and I together with her own hands. She went above and beyond during that process, weathering a storm of discontent alongside us, helping my wife immensely as she sparred with fundamentalist relatives. She personally helped teach me to drive when my dad had his hands more than full teaching my older sister to drive. Maddy and Joe generously invited Mia and I along on several of their vacations that left us with beautiful memories we can never recreate. She showed ongoing maternal concern for my own personal well-being and future, offering encouragement and checking up on progress throughout my endeavors. Maddy's somber past granted her unique insight and gave her ability and desire to make the future better than the past. Her perspective was invaluable to Mia, who had her own closet full of skeletons that Maddy selflessly helped her untangle.
    Maddy was always polite, considerate and courteous to everyone, regardless of their opinion of her. She was a remarkably real individual, not willing to hide her true self for fear of judgement. She listened when you talked, and cared about what you said enough to remember it later, a trait that is becoming increasingly hard to find in people. Myself and my wife are just two of the legion of friends whose lives were made better for having known her. She is missed, she is remembered, she is loved.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Walkin' in a Splintered Gun-derland pt. 2: Definitions

    I'd like to deviate from my traditional block of text, and just bring you all some simple definitions, a glossary if you will, for terms related to debates over firearm legislation in America. I will define each term and briefly outline how it relates to this virulent debate.

Civil rights: A class of rights that deal with the protection of an individual's freedom from infringement by government or private parties to ensure ability to participate in the civil and political life of a state without discrimination or repression (see below for definitions of discrimination and repression). Gun policies do not interfere in any way with personal ability to participate in the civil and political affairs, and therefore, by definition, the right to bear arms is not a civil right.

Constitutional Amendment: A formal change to the text of a written constitution of a nation. By definition, the right to bear arms was not even part of the original U.S. Constitution, it was added in as an amendment after the bulk of the Constitution was written. It was not the foundation of the country, or the basis of our constitution. Amendments can also be used to change other amendments, without the whole Constitution being ignored, disrespected or thrown out (example: the 18th amendment banned alcohol and the 21st amendment reinstated alcohol's legality).

Discrimination:  The prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on age, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion or skin color or other personal characteristics. Gun enthusiasts often claim discrimination with regard to gun control, and the claim does not fall in line with the definition of the word. Guns are not an ethnicity, a gender, a sexual orientation, or anything else. Material goods are not subject to discrimination.

District of Columbia V. Heller: A 2008 court case that ruled that per the Second Amendment, guns are legal for private citizens to own, separate from a militia, and to use for traditionally lawful activity such as personal defense in a home is also protected. In short, guns are legal under the Second Amendment. They are still subject to regulation, and as such, the regulations currently in place have proven to be unsatisfactory and ineffective. We can absolutely change those regulations, but understand that per this court case, private citizens are not in danger of a gun ban.

Domino effect: A chain-reaction of events, where one small change leads to another similar change which leads to another similar change and so on, in a linear sequence. In relation to gun control, it is the belief that if gun laws become more strict, it will lead to more regulation, and more regulation, up to a complete ban, followed by suspension of the Constitution and martial law. This is not how everyone in support of guns thinks, but it is what a small percentage of them believe. It is based on assumptions and fear, rather than on any fact. If a law is passed to bring about gun restrictions, then subsequent laws also must pass on their own merit. Just because a majority agrees that one bit of legislation should be adopted, there will always be ample opportunity to vote down the next bit of legislation. If we lose the ability as a country to vote down things we disagree with, the problem will infinitely more serious than gun control.

Gun control: Any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to restrict or limit possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, and/ or use of guns by private citizens. It is an extremely broad definition, and as such, it is impossible to determine if gun control is good or bad other than with a case-by-case, referendum-by-referendum, or bill-by-bill basis. Additionally, I would like to point out the words "limit" and "restrict" from the definition, both of which can be used to different degrees, rather than simply 'legal' or 'illegal.' Gun control does not have to be black-and-white, it can be conditional.

Repression: The persecution of an individual or group for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of a society. Freedoms of speech and expression still hold sway, and if any legislation is passed to control guns further, anyone would be free to make their choice of protest and work toward it being repealed. No repression of any person is being proposed in any way, with respect to firearm laws or anything else.

     These are not my definitions, but their interpretations with regard to firearm legislation are my own. Even if you disagree with me editorializing, I have done my best to present the definitions themselves as objectively as possible. Even if you completely disregard my personal spin on things, try to keep the true definition in your mind the next time you think guns are a civil right or that this country was founded primarily on the right to bear arms, or that a ban on all guns forever will be sure to follow any new gun control laws.