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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh My God, TV Killed Kenny!

    I don't watch anything on TV at all. I don't even own one. Can you say that? I do have Netflix though, and I'm addicted like a junkie, with a needle full of South Park, Wilfred, Spongebob Squarepants and Jersey Shore. I don't even want to like Jersey Shore. I watched two episodes as research for a writing project with my wife, and now I've seen the whole series. It's cliche train-wreck entertainment, and it's human nature to be captivated by that sort of deplorable, shameful activity. That's something really bothersome to me, the fact that it's in my nature. To be so entertained by something so negative, to encourage it and give it beyond safe haven but a glorified status, is truly alarming. I love the dreck on TV, but the implications really bother me.
    We all make our own individual judgements when we see borderline abusive parents on Toddlers & Tiaras, or the alcoholic sociopaths on Jersey Shore, however the simple fact that they are on the air at all, and that millions tune in indicate that as a society we approve of these behaviors. At the very least, we are saying that it's ok for some people to act that way for entertainment. As a society we should shun this sort of thing. Even shows that aren't reality TV, such as Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy put societally detrimental activity on a pedestal. I'm undeniably part of the problem right now, too. I love watching U.F.C. fights but I also realize that its not much more civilized than slaves forced to fight for the amusement of ancient Romans. Even shows that seem harmless can have far-reaching negative consequences. For decades, family sitcoms have put a positive spotlight on dysfunction. Husbands and wives who fight and manipulate each other are made to seem like the relationship we should all have. Also, myriad shows targeting children are similarly teaching negative relationship stereotypes to children of today, and parents are all too happy to let TV raise their children.
    So what is there to be done about it? It's very difficult to say. If mass media is affecting our development, and we are the ones making the TV shows, it becomes a vicious circle. It will take a long-term conscious effort on the part of everyone who watches TV and goes to the movies. We flock to the comfort of familiar programming, with familiar themes, but those themes are what we need to change. Unfortunately those themes reflect on us as people. While we aren't all sexual predators, we all don't make five year old girls parade around in bathing suits for the whole country, and we don't all cook meth, there is something about the bad behavior that we love to hate. To move forward as a society we must find away to put our morbid fascinations aside in favor of the good judgement we all posses. We know these things are bad, its part of the reason we are drawn to them. Now we need to find a new way to put our curiosity aside long enough to punish the bad behavior before we end up rewarding it again.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sports Discourse

    First base for small talk among males: sports. "Did you catch the game last night?" I didn't. "Who's gonna win the super bowl?" Not a clue. "Who's your favorite team?" I don't have one. It's not that I don't enjoy sporting events, I played little league baseball for years. I just have more important things to care about. If there happens to be a game on, especially football, I'll watch, I'll get into and enjoy myself. But will I ever go out of my way for a sports team? Hell, no. Will I ignore my wife for a sports team? Even more vehemently no.
    It's a staple of sitcoms, beer commercials and comedy routines, the husband or boyfriend who just wants to watch the game, and his favorite lady keeps bothering him, tearing his attention from the screen. To me it's an easy situation, one that doesn't cause me the least stress. How can I put this, my wife... does...certain things with me behind closed doors that I enjoy and she would not want detailed online. Suffice it to say these activities are much more fulfilling than whatever game happens to be on TV. I have no hesitation in admitting this, and it is a decision I will stand by. I see friends, family members, casual acquaintances and total strangers who invest a great deal of time and money following everything some team like a lost puppy. If their team won, they are happy for days, and they get dpressed after a big loss. They plaster decals on their car like a tramp stamp, and proudly wear shirts with another man's name on them. Fanatics even gouge their skin and fill it with ink, a tattoo to show everyone that even if they are naked, they still love the Yankees or the Lakers or the Steelers.
    And this is somehow considered normal, cool even, among other men. And people like me are branded as whipped or gay or a pussy for not following a favored team of muscley, sweaty men. If you ask me about my favorite team, I will ask you what your favorite team is. My favorite team is whoever is playing against your favorite team. I have more important things to get worked up about. So feel free to call me gay if it makes you feel better about idolizing 63 men in matching outfits. I'll be at home fucking my wife.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Walkin' in a Splintered Gun-derland pt. 1

   In the fallout of the Newtown, CT tragedy, gun control has become a fertile ground of rabid debate. I've already gotten in a few arguments on the topic and I have not found anyone able to convince me to change my opinion. Despite what some Arizona lawmakers seem to think, the laws governing firearms need to be tightened in some way. Make no mistake, I'm not professing that I have the exact solution, I merely recognize the progress that must be made. The facets of this issue are many, (and I plan to address as many of them as I can think of, one at a time) but today I want to address only the logical fallacy of comparing gun control to drug laws.
   This is one of the most common arguments facing people like me. NRA supporters just love throwing around the 'how's that war on drugs going, and why should we ban guns when the drug war is failing so miserably?' Yes, it's true that if we banned guns it would create another criminal enterprise like the drug cartels. However, there are very few people in the country who are actually trying to completely ban guns, and I am not one of them. However, if you are of the opinion that firearm regulations in the country as a whole are anything but lax, you are mistaken and it deeply worries me. Both sides of this debate like to point to the children, so here are some facts with regard to guns, drugs and children. 40% of high school students admit to having tried marijuana, a schedule 1 illegal narcotic**. Also, one third of families (that's 33 and a third percent) in America who own guns also have children*. I was not able to find any data regarding how many children actually tried shooting a gun to compare to trying marijuana, so these statistics are not exactly parallel, but it illustrates my point, that there is already less demand for guns than there is currently for drugs among young people. And drugs are entirely illegal, not simply (under)regulated. With these obvious gaps in demand for guns versus drugs, I have a very hard time believing then, that gun control laws will lead to criminal activity on the same scale. Put it this way, there are already illegal weapons markets in the U.S. supplying weapons to organized crime groups who don't want to deal in serial numbers and licensing. Would restricting widespread access to guns lead to more of the general, law-abiding population to turn criminal, buying guns illegally just to have them? Compared to the current demand for drugs even though they are illegal, I see no logical reason to believe that increased gun control would bring drug-level criminal activity.
   What I really want to say about all this is that drugs are for self-destruction and guns are for the destruction of something or more accurately someone else. Therefore, from an ethical standpoint, I see huge differences in laws regarding one and the other. Like banners and headlines cry out, my interests are in the protection of the children, not protecting the guns. Maybe we need more in-depth psychological evaluations before gun licenses are issued. Maybe certain kinds of guns, like automatic weapons should be banned, but hunting rifles should be OK. Maybe we should raise the legal age to use guns or even include gun safety in schools. Maybe gun safes should be mandatory or there should be increased ability to track who is buying and moving guns. Maybe gun license renewals need to be more frequent. Maybe the qualifications to get a gun should be harder. I don't know the best solution, but I do know the worst solution: inaction and denial.
   No real harm can come from increased regulation, only perceived harm. Guns are not the only method of personal defense, and hunting is not a necessity. I could even see me, personally, target shooting for recreation, however, I also play video games for fun. If Counter Strike 1.6 was responsible for the deaths of a classroom of kindergarteners, I would feel the same way, and call for the game's banning. And no, I'm not talking about the influence on the crime, I'm talking about the means; no video game disc can fire .30 caliber rounds 800 times a minute. The video games vs. guns post is one for the future. The evidence of apathy to this cause fills headlines with the worst news imaginable, and no solution will make everyone happy or work instantaneously. However, we need to make a conscientious effort and we need to try now, before another maniac, who ought to be in a jacket that makes him hug himself, exploits the gaping loopholes and lax laws, and another community is left in desolation and grief.