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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Easy Answers

The topic of gun violence is going to be with us for a long time, it seems. We're in the hand-wringing phase now, and, this being "America," groping for easy answers. The easy answers have largely been framed by two opposing political factions: "Lberals" advocate gun controls, and "Conservatives" are in favor of more guns for law-abiding citizens.

If only the answer were so easy, as if there is such a thing as THE answer. If there is an easy answer, I have it. Nobody should shoot anyone. There. Settled.

Even though I like my easy answer better than the popular ones, it isn't any more likely to solve the problem of gun violence. Maybe the difficulty lies in our perceptions, and abilities to perceive. Frontline attempted to expand our perceptions in last night's program, titled Raising Adam Lanza. For the unaware, Adam Lanza was the killer of 27 people and then himself last December 14. Most of those killed were first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Frontline segment didn't shed any light. There was more information about Adam Lanza and his mother, whom he shot and killed before heading for the school. There were some new pictures. Local people for and against gun control were interviewed, as well as a few parents of slain children. It turns out that Newtown is the location of the National Shooting Sports Federation, a trade association for the firearms industry.

Most telling for me was a couple of gun enthusiasts who were shown shooting at a target that was taped to a tree. Just a little innocent target practice, eh? Not so innocent if you are the tree, but nature doesn't matter when you're having fun. Trees are just objects for man's enjoyment.

This is what I call a holographic moment, where the part reveals the whole. People who believe they have the right to do whatever they want pretty typically are narcissists. The only thing that matters is what they want for themselves. Corporate polluters are like this. Politicians, by and large, are like this. Many who are involved in law enforcement are like this, as this story reminds us.This too.

A number of people posted comments to the program, and, seizing the opportunity to stir things up, I added my thoughts to the mix:

The weakness of conventional approaches to this problem is that the context is too narrow: gun control vs. good guy with a gun. The greater question is can you have a mass society without mass shootings? It was inevitable in the trajectory of the Industrial Revolution that it would devolve into pursuit of cheap thrills.

Because of our history of rapacious violence (slavery, displacement of previous occupants, wars of opportunity, brutal prison system, etc.), it would naturally follow that this pursuit of cheap thrills would be heavily skewed towards violence. Thus we have a glut of violence in our entertainment - TV, movies, video games, gun "enthusiasm," sports, and even comic books. Then there's the various forms of violence that go on in families, and between married and otherwise mated couples.

The implication of this story is that we need to do a better job of identifying the Adam Lanzas among us. Good luck. Some other type will appear. Maybe if we weren't rolling in violence like dogs in excrement we might be able to have a mass society without mass shootings. I doubt it. There's too much money involved.

We have enough stadiums to honor survivors of shootings at any number of football games. We even have moments of silence for football players who kill others and themselves. The featured player in the "Super Bowl" is a double murderer, given a misdemeanor because he provides vicarious thrills with his violence. I think the real question is this: Are we capable of learning from experience? The answer, I suspect, is no, not if money is the essence of life, and violence brings money. Tons of money.
Some guy added a silly comment about Adam Lanza's father, saying he should "man-up," admitting his guilt, and that he should have tossed his son around. I find such stupidity irresistible, and responded thusly:

I see "man up" has become part of our macho lexicon. It used to be called male one-upping. Then "punking." Who knows what it's called now? Out-manning other men? I've been around some pretty tough guys in my life, as tough as you like (bikers, combat veterans, pro football's "bad boy," construction workers), and never heard any of them question anyone else's manhood. That was well before the Internet, of course. As for getting physical with kids, isn't that what Jerry Sandusky did? I think he called it rough housing.
Hopefully I raised the level of dialogue a bit. I'm not holding my breath. If you look at the "American" experiment in civilization, it seems to be past its prime. We have an unsustainable economic system, we are degrading (if not destroying) the ecosystem, and our system of governance has descended into rampant corruption. Our entertainment sphere is little more than crude bread and circus. Our religious leaders have engaged in any number of unethical and criminal activities.

Maybe we should just sit and watch as things descend into chaos. I remember Thomas Merton saying a long time ago that those who pursued the contemplative life were improving the atmosphere for everyone else, something to the effect that the vibrational field is enhanced. I tried it years ago, and it seemed that things did get better. It's time I got back to where I once belonged.
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This calls for a song. One isn't enough. Here's another.

This blog, by former Madison police chief David Couper, offers great insights in how to change our violent and oppressive police practices. Here's some more insight, from a former Seattle police chief.

In the realm of not-so-surprising surprises, "whites" are twice as likely to own guns as "blacks."

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