Tuesday, April 20, 2021

License To Kill

 I have this idea: You can own as many guns as you like, but if you own a gun you have to give up your driver's license. This is my suggestion in the wake of the most recent in a series of mass shootings that have left dozens dead. One of the things that these events have in common was that the shooters all got it into their heads that they needed to drive somewhere to kill others. Some were strangers. Some were co-workers. All of them were perceived as victims. Eight in Atlanta. Ten in Boulder. Eight more in Indianapolis. These were the most high profile cases. Certainly having access to a gun made all of the shooters capable of carrying out their crimes, but without a car their access to target rich environments would have been severely limited. 

Or eliminated. 

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold drove to Columbine High School to carry out their ugly plan. If they had been stuck at home, waiting on a ride, that mess never would have happened. Imagine how different things would be if all these idiots with AR-15s had to take public transportation. Or walk. At the very least, the folks on the receiving end of their murderous impulses would have been much more likely to see them coming. And I'm pretty sure that no self-respecting or self-preserving Uber driver would feel comfortable picking up some loony with his tactical vest and extra ammo strapped to him. Sorry, gun nuts, you're just going to have to pick your targets a little closer to home. And since these guys tend to be "quiet and kept to themselves," maybe it's best that we keep it like that. 

My suggestion is clever in this way: It doesn't ask us to change the Constitution. That can never happen. Instead, we just ask the Department of Motor Vehicles to step in and be the bad cop. Which is fine, since the DMV has never really been known for bringing good news to those they serve. So, instead of having restrictions on your license like corrective lenses, you just get a big red "G" on the middle of your identification, telling the world that you prefer firearms to motor vehicles. I understand that for many this will be a difficult choice, seeing as how the open road and capping off a few rounds go together like a cheeseburger and a large order of fries. 

Sacrifices have to be made. 

And don't you think it's about time that those sacrifices didn't have to be innocent victims?

And yes, I know that this is a very silly suggestion. But in lieu of what we have come to refer to as "common sense" gun laws, I guess I felt like this couldn't hurt. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Thoughts And Prayers

 Hey kids! Remember God's little elf, Pat Robertson? He kind of slipped into the cracks a little while back, which might have something to do with his age, which is ninety-one years young. You may remember him from such hits as threatening Walt Disney World for holding "Gay Days" - “I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you … It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

Or maybe you remember, “If enough people were praying, (God) would’ve intervened. You could pray. Jesus stilled the storm. You can still storms.” This was in response to the swarm of tornadoes that pummeled the Midwest in 2012.

How about the advice he gave to a woman whose husband cheated on her?  "Like it or not, males have a tendency to wander a little bit. What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander."

Yes, these quotes are all a little old, and it could be that time has changed the views of the leader of the 700 Club. Well, just last week, he opened his show by speaking on Minnesota police officer Kim Potter's shooting of Daunte Wright. "If you can't tell the difference in the feel of those things, it's crazy," and Potter "deserves" the consequences of her actions. He was holding both a handgun and a Taser. "You know, I am pro-police, folks. I think we need the police, we need their service, and they do a good job, but if they don't stop this onslaught, they cannot do this." 

"This" would be the killing of innocent civilians. Civilians of color. This spokesperson for the righteous went on: "And the thing that's going on in Minnesota about that Derek Chauvin. I mean, they ought to put him under the jail, he has caused so much trouble by kneeling on the death of George Floyd, I mean on his neck. it's just terrible what's happening."

Okay. This is clear enough for Pat Robertson to see it clearly. 

Pat Robertson. The guy who, ten years ago asked, "What is this "mac and cheese"? Is that a black thing?"

That's the level of sensitivity we're talking about here, and he still gets this one. Pray for the rest of us, Pat. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Over And Over

 How about this: Do-over.

I'm an elementary school teacher. The do-over is an integral part of any day that needs less confrontation. Rather than stand in the middle of a playground, hands on hips and chests thrust out arguing the finer points of four square and your mama. How about we have a do-over, and just move on? 

Easy. Unless there are those who are prone to getting mired in the do-over process so there never is any resolution, just endless do-overs because the solution is never satisfactory to both parties. 

But what if there was a way to go back in time and have a do-over on this whole COVID-19 thing? Last March if there had been a shutdown of the entire country and masks had been worn by everyone for three months, a hundred days, a time period prescribed by science, maybe there wouldn't have been a year of heartache and embarrassment. States were left to fend for themselves and make their own regulations which caused neighbors to look across the border and wonder why they had to wear masks when their friends in Montucky were going without. 

And what if the geniuses who made loud proclamations about the hoax of a pandemic were not amplified by other geniuses who only served as a hollow tube through which sound could be made louder? How many thousands of lives could have been saved? Should have been saved? Instead, we did everything we could to cling to the notion of "normal" even as things turned to abnormal in just a matter of days. If every government official who scoffed at the idea of an extinction type event was required to sit with the families of the victims of this disease, maybe there wouldn't be a need to argue about it. 

Do-over.

Go back to the beginning. Assigning blame was first on the tiny minds of those in charge back then. If that energy had been channeled into protection and cures, we might not be staring at a second, third, or fourth wave. The greedheads who insisted on keeping the economy moving in spite of the human cost could go somewhere and count their money for a few months while the rest of the planet got themselves out of the way of the virus. 

What if schools remained closed until they could be used as something other than experimental daycare stations so that "essential business" could take place? What if nobody had to go out until it was safe? This includes motorcycle rallies and holiday trips to grandma's house. 

It could have been different. 

It should have been different.

I want a do-over. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Look Out 'Cause Here It Comes

Even as we watch the trial of George Floyd's murderer, we are reminded that the problem that made this fodder for twenty-four hour news networks continues. Seemingly unabated. The pepper spraying of a uniformed Army medic by Virginia police hardly had a chance to gain traction before the shooting of Daunte Wright by officers in Minnesota. 

Meanwhile, little time was wasted on finding the irony of connecting schools reopening and school shootings. A student opened fire in a Knoxville high school, wounding a police officer responding to the scene. That young man was subsequently shot and killed. Earlier in the day, Knoxville police responded to a domestic dispute that ended with the shooter killing his estranged wife and her mother before returning to his home and shooting himself. With all that tragedy going on, a local TV station got its footage of  helicopters responding mixed up. The news anchor's response: "I forgot about the other shooting." 

Not really surprising, since every bit of this takes place in front of the mural in which we have been living called COVID-19. Once we passed half a million dead, the next milestone felt like it would be one million. And isn't that just how the math of these things go?

When one person dies, it is a tragedy. When dozens die? When hundreds? Half a million? Eventually you become desensitized to the carnage. In my lifetime, I can remember casualty counts being part of an evening newscast. David Brinkley bringing  you the latest from the war in Vietnam. Maybe that was the origin of the "if it bleeds, it leads" tactic employed by news organizations. Fifty years later, we sit transfixed as the numbers swell. The guy in Kentucky wounded one and was shot himself? How does this count as a mass shooting? As if we were rooting for a body count.

It would be cynical to suggest that a story in which it turned out that everyone got away safe would bring a wave of disappointment across a newsroom. Worse yet if that wave crested in your living room. Every life saved is a win. Every day that goes by without a murderous rampage is a good day. Seldom do we hear about the man or woman who died happily in their sleep, surrounded by family. 

It happens all the time. You might not know it when you live in twenty-first century America. Which I suppose is why we have cat videos. When the world is pushing its daily dose of decimation at you, it's nice to know that you can click on a few minutes of cats trying to squeeze themselves in to spaces far too small for them. It doesn't make the murder go away. But it does offer a pause.

Take it. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Hands-On

 I stood there on the edge of responsibility, waiting to be told what to do next. I was holding a rack of fuel injectors. I knew this because I had been told. While I stood there waiting for my next instruction, I asked what a Fuelie Head was. It seemed like a good time and place for it, looming over the engine of a car and all. I was already pretty sure that a Hurst on the floor was a type of gear shifter, but Fuely Head was just some words in a Bruce Springsteen song. I had the context, but not the specifics. 

"What's a Fuelie Header?" I asked, breaking the thoughtful silence. 

There was a sigh as he put his ratchet down. "You mean a Feulie Head?"

"Sure. I guess so." 

"Cylinder heads. Used on the early sixties Corvettes." Back to staring at the engine that was still in pieces, judging from the frame I was holding in my hands above the open space where the top of the motor used to be. 

I was there, by choice, as moral support. The things I knew about cars were primarily those found in the lyrics of pop songs, mostly penned by Bruce Springsteen. I was trying to make sense of the various chunks of metal and tubes that were being shifted around in front of me. I was asking questions to appear a notch more clever than a rack that could hold the fuel injectors without having to be sentient. I was hoping that suddenly after being ignorant of such things for fifty-eight years that suddenly the scales would fall from my eyes and the mechanics would become clear to me. 

I was not expecting that they would be as clear as they are to my son, who was moving around the engine bay like a surgeon. A greasy surgeon who tended to curse when nuts slipped off underneath the starter he had just installed. As his father, I felt an odd displacement as the mystified one in this scenario. I had changed my share of sparkplugs and added my share and a couple of others' to the engines I had owned myself back in the day, but what I was looking at seemed like a central nervous system repair compared to the maintenance I had performed in my youth. I drove my share of cars into the ground, using them up past their freshness date. It never occurred to me that I might work on my car to keep it running.

My son was once more into the breech to resuscitate the car he had owned since high school. Several others had owned it before that, but that didn't mean he was going to let a little thing like a broken starter slow him down. 

I asked him if he liked this work as much as he loved putting together Legos back in his youth. I knew the answer. It was the one thing I did know that afternoon. He knew his way around that engine. With or without the Fuelie Heads.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

It's Not Over Until We Decide It Is

 There were a number of "White Lives Matter" rallies held across the U.S. last Sunday. Promoted on encrypted channels, these meetings were so poorly attended that in Raleigh, North Carolina counter protesters paraded around the park where the racist cabal attempted to assemble. The counter-protesters carried a banner that read, "We Accept Your Surrender." In Albuquerque, New Mexico the lone white supremacist was encircled by police to protect him from the crowd that gathered to point out the error in his ways. Perhaps the use of encrypted communications proved to be too much of a challenge for the simple minds of the average Nazi.

The image of cockroaches scurrying to the safety of dark corners when the lights come on springs to mind. 

Or maybe the lights aren't on so much as the sun has come out at last. The trial of George Floyd's killer goes on in the background as hate continues to swirl around these United States. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been numerous rallies that brought hundreds together to protesters together to unite against anti-Asian hate. White, it seems, is not the new black. Cell phone video continues to capture scared white folks making horrible scenes, then telling anyone who will listen that they are not racist. A pretty big clue there. 

A twenty year old black man was shot and killed during a traffic stop north of Minneapolis on Sunday. Police described the event this way: "At one point as officers were attempting to take the driver into custody, the driver re-entered the vehicle. One officer discharged their firearm, striking the driver." Which is the way that killing a young black man is described by a white Chief of Police. This comes somewhere before the discussion of the driver attempting to flee the scene, at which point I wonder how effective police radios compared to discharging firearms. 

Donald Trump is no longer president of anything. Black Lives Matter, but not to everyone. Last summer did not make the problem go away. The conditions that make it difficult to be a person of color in the United States have not somehow magically been reversed. Legislation is currently being pushed to suppress the right to vote. White men continue to run/ruin the planet while we make excuses for them. 

But our eyes are open. The sun is out. And if being anti-fascist makes me "antifa," sign me up. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Lyrical Love

 In this spot I have cast mild aspersions in the direction of John Lennon and Paul McCartney for crafting the song "I Saw Her Standing There." Living as we are in the age of woke, and surrounded by reminders of men's fiendishness on a regular basis, I am struck once again by the opening line: "She was just seventeen, and you know what I mean..."

Well, I guess if I were sixteen or eighteen even, maybe I would have an inkling. It should be noted here that in 1963 when the song was released, Paul McCartney was twenty-one years old. A relationship with a seventeen year old girl would have caused some kind of stir perhaps even back then. I'm looking at you, Jerry Lee Lewis. I am also willing to concede that the narrator who just happened to see her standing there could be anyone. The first person does make it easy to assume that John and Paul were discussing their own experiences. But it could be just a fiction, and a handy rhyme.

A few years later, on the album generally considered their masterpiece, Paul and his buddy John crafted a ditty called "Getting Better." A couple of verses in, the boys confess, "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved." Well, that doesn't seem very nice, does it? It's a pretty big reach from the days when they just wanted to hold your hand. 

I mention this because a friend of mine and I were once entranced with the idea that all Beatles songs were love songs. This notion was easy enough to maintain while skimming across the surface of their oeuvre, but a mild dip into a song like "Norwegian Wood" finds the singer going home with a girl, who refuses to take him to bed, and in the end he burns down her house. I suppose it's easy enough to miss this point since this song did introduce the sitar to pop music. 

But really. 

It's just a few cuts later that we find the Rubber Soul's closer, "Run For Your Life." It opens with the lines, "Well, I'd rather see you dead, little girl/Than to be with another man." Which makes me wonder if once one of these Liverpool lads ever did get ahold of your hand if they would ever give it back. The whole song is an open threat to this "little girl": "You better run for your life if you can, little girl/Hide your head in the sand, little girl/Catch you with another man/That's the end, little girl." 

Kind of makes you want to reevaluate any fantasies you might be harboring about the free love of the 1960's. Sure they're love songs. From a very different point of view. 

Brrrr.