Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Senate Speaks - Gun Control: We're Target Practice for Terrorists and the Mentally Ill

Two Senate bills dealing with gun control measures failed to get passage in the U.S. Senate this week.  The Senate's message was clear to the citizens and visitors to the United States.  The message was, "You're on your own general public!  If someone shoots at you just run and duck.  Good luck!  Thanks for electing me to be your voice in the Senate!"

Nothing phases our elected officials.  Student victims of shootings at a college.  Student victims of shootings at an elementary school.  Forty nine people shot to death in a nightclub.  None of those actions motivated our elected officials to take effective steps to ensure the safety of the citizens and visitors to the United States.

Our  Senators must know something we don't to time and time again not place further restrictions on the access to assault weapons.  The Senate's vote tells us that we better all get an assault rifle to deal with future or present dangers.  I do wonder what type of event would motivate Senators to support laws banning or restricting access to assault rifles and other deadly weapons of destruction?

Overseas, a representative of England's Parliament was shot and killed on a street as she was living out a normal day.  Elected officials have always been targets of the disgruntled, dissatisfied, or mentally ill.  But, terrorists and the disgruntled are smart enough to know that you don't attack those who support policies that keep assault weapons available.  That would be stupid!  So instead they attack the innocent.  They know that Congress will come to the rescue of terrorists and the mentally ill and not create additional barriers that will keep assault weapons out of the "bad guys" hands.

So, the safest job to have in the United States is that of a U.S. Congressman or Senator.  Plus they already have security to keep them safe from harm.  The next best thing Congress can do is pass legislation that grants every American a government issued T shirt with a target printed on it.  The Senate's vote further clarified that we continue to be on our own.

Be vigilant.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tragedy, The Great Motivator

A major fault of human beings is that we wait for a tragedy to occur before making changes.  We believe that if a negative event has not occurred yet then all is well.  We believe we are safe until the unthinkable happens.  We often do not initiate change, comfortable in the status quo.

Then chaos occurs.  Whether it be a mass shooting, a loved one passing away from a disease, an attack on a child by wildlife, or a pedestrian killed at a busy street crossing.  Once death arrives we are motivated to take action, especially if that death impacts our lives.

Yes, people analyze situations and make recommendations for change before deadly events occur.  But those warnings and proposals are often ignored.  Ignored until the death threshold is crossed.  Then people are motivated to take action.

Often enough facts exist to take action before death comes on the scene.  But we delay.  We may feel inconvenienced to make the change.  We may feel the cost of the change is too much to take action.  We may feel that the change just is not worth the effort.  Basically we feel infallible and immune to anything going wrong.

History shows us that anything can happen.  We are not immune from danger.  Expect the unexpected.  It's right around the corner waiting for its turn.  If you believe in a cause that can result in saving of lives, now is the time to take action before a life is lost.  Isn't the value of a life worth it?

Responding to tragedy to fix a situation is a positive action.  But a greater action is to take precautionary measures that will prevent a tragedy from occurring.  If others are not vigilant to protect us from harm unfortunately we have to take charge.  We have to call for action or protect ourselves by being vigilant at all times.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Orlando Mass Shooting

The lull from mass shooting deaths did not last long.  Six months after the San Bernardino incident, Orlando joined the list of communities where mass shootings have taken place.  This time the targeted location was a nightclub which catered to the gay community.  It was a place where people went to enjoy themselves free from judging eyes or comments.  As of this writing, 49 lives were taken with others in critical condition.

The Republican presidential candidate was being interviewed via phone this morning on a national news show.  When asked if he still did not favor a ban on assault rifles, the candidate said "people need those weapons to defend themselves."  He stated that bad guys had the weapons so the good guys needed access to them too.  I pulled up the list of mass shootings via the internet.  In all cases there was no mention of any of the victims fighting back with their own AR-15 to defend themselves from the shooter.  The shooter in the Orlando murders used an AR-15 which has come to be the mass murderer's weapon of choice.  Allegedly there are over 3 million AR-15s in circulation in the United States.  Never has the AR-15 come to the defense of those being shot at in these mass murders.

The logic that people need assault weapons to defend themselves doesn't seem to be supportable with instances where a person having an assault weapon with them saved lives.  People purchasing a personal AR-15 as a family defense weapon shows how much faith people have in the police to protect and serve.  Three million AR-15s in circulation sounds like it's every man and woman for himself.  It's an admission that the police can't protect you from harm, so look out for yourself.

Congress obviously isn't going to come to the rescue and pass legislation outlawing assault rifles.  It would take an assault on the Capitol building itself or the families of Congressman by terrorists before that happened.  Will it be necessary for businesses to place armed personnel outside venues with their own AR-15 or other assault weapon to keep future mass murderers away?  Will screening to enter a public event require creating a safety zone which can only be entered after you are prescreened a block away from an entry point to an event?

I noticed a difference in the response by the presidential candidates when asked what needs to be done to stop these acts of violence.  The republican nominee stated that President Obama should make certain remarks against muslim extremists or resign.  The democratic nominee first offered condolences to the families of those involved, then gave some thoughtful remarks on what steps should be taken.  The republican nominee did not offer condolences and barely acknowledged the grief the families of the victims must be going through.

Since the authorities are doing nothing, it falls onto each of us to look out for ourselves.  If you go to an event make note of the security at the event.  Before you go in, ask yourself if the security is enough to stop someone with an assault rifle?  Even before buying a ticket to an event start inquiring as to what will be done to protect your safety at the event?  If the answer is not adequate don't purchase a ticket.  As with most everything, businesses will not take action to upgrade security unless they are economically impacted by a major loss of business.

If it comes down to tracking every individual who has purchased an assault weapon then let's do it.  What should an individual who has an AR-15 or other type of assault weapon fear from having to be tracked?  I would like to know which of my neighbors has one, wouldn't you?

The government has chosen to not get involved in policing who has what weapons.  So we are left to our own means to protect ourselves.  Most of these mass shootings have occurred at public locations not at private homes.  It doesn't do any good for Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner to purchase an assault weapon when their is no evidence that acts of terrorism are aimed at individual homes and families.  Do we have to attend the Super Bowl, the Olympics or a comparable event before the security of those attending is ramped up to a level where an individual can feel safe?

Lastly, for those purchasing assault weapons, tell us whom you really fear?  Are you anticipating some type of social upheaval by the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the hungry, or certain other groups of people?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ali Did It!

He did it.  In Louisville, Kentucky Muhammad Ali brought us all together.  At his memorial ceremony were people of different races, religious beliefs, and political parties.  Women, men, children.  All gathered together to pay homage to a man who really was the people's champ.

I ventured to Louisville twice this week. Departing my home around 4 a.m. on Wednesday I made the two hour journey to stand in line with many others to pick up my allotment of 4 of the 14,000 free tickets Ali had made available to the public for the Friday memorial service.  My early arrival resulted in my being able to receive my allotment of 4 seats.

As I expected after all the tickets were handed out in about 1 hour, a few people attempted to sell their tickets for money.  Journalists were quick to pick up on the story including one from the Louisville Courier.  I responded to that journalists and offered to work with him to give at no costs two of my tickets to someone deserving of attendance at the service.  I waited.  No response from the journalist. So I sent him another email.  This time he responded saying he had been busy and not able to respond to my message.  He then said he would not be able to assist in identifying any one in particular I could connect with to give them my tickets.  I thought "typical journalist.  Quick to write a negative story, but too busy to do the work to bring a happy ending to a negative situation."

Myself and a friend departed for Louisville around 4 a.m.  Friday morning to park downtown in a prime parking spot I had found Wednesday.  Instead of going to the remote free parking area identified for those attending the ceremony, I wanted to be be able to walk to the funeral procession and the ceremony. That plan worked out well.  The environment around the KFC Yum Center even in the early morning was amazing to see.  News correspondents and various networks had camera crews in position to report on the event.

After having breakfast we walked to an area where we could watch the Ali funeral procession as it made Ali's last tour through Louisville.  I met several people from Great Britain who had made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to pay respects to Ali.  While awaiting the procession to arrive I met a gentleman from Iowa.  I also took part in a conversation with a black physician who with his wife, a former Federal employee, had driven into town for the funeral procession.  I still had the two extra tickets to the memorial ceremony in my pocket.  I had told my friend earlier that I wanted us to give them to someone who didn't have tickets to the ceremony.  I offered the tickets to the physician.  He was surprised of course and when he told his wife she was brought to tears.  So much for needing the assistance of a member of the press to do a good deed.

The funeral procession arrived shortly thereafter.  It seemed to glide quietly off the interstate off ramp down onto the street level where a large crowd had gathered.  The crowd surged towards the street starting a chant of "Ali, Ali, Ali".  I noticed the diversity of people in the crowd.  Ali had brought us all together were my thoughts.  For a moment in time we had something in common.

At the memorial ceremony the theme of Ali uniting us together continued.  The diversity of speakers talking about Ali was noticeable.  Native Americans, a Republican Senator, members of various religious faiths all together sharing the same stage.  Muslim greetings and prayers being sent over the networks covering the event, from an arena in the United States of America.  This was the best of what America in it's present form could be.  A peaceful gathering of the variety of people in this world who had come together for a common purpose.  Ali did it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tear Down The Walls

Tear Down The Walls
Their currently is a climate in these United States of America for building more barriers and walls between people.  As if we didn’t  already have enough man made, legal, social, religious, and other types of barriers. That includes the building of physical and emotional walls.  One candidate for the office of President of the United States advocates building of a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.  In thinking of the history of the development of the United States one thinks of what would have happened if Native Americans had constructed a wall along the Atlantic shoreline to keep settlers out?

When history does not favor those in authority, history is ignored, overlooked or even changed to rationalize past behaviors.  I still think of those families now well off economically in this country who have ancestors who may have taken advantage of Native Americans and/or who owned slaves in this country.  Do those families talk about that part of their family’s history?  Is that history discussed at family reunions?  On occasion the government of the United States has apologized for various incidents where the government authorized or contributed to mistreatment of people.  Our government needs to once and for all purge itself of past incidents it never truly have disavowed.  The annihilation of the Native American culture was a Hitleristic type act.  In this country we have all types of museums but is there a museum celebrating and remembering the Native Americans and what they contributed to the land currently known as the United States of America?

There are many who support the Presidential candidate who wants to put up physical walls to keep people out of the United States.  They know from the experiences of Native Americans that giving people from outside the country an opportunity to improve their lives may take away opportunity and resources from those people already here.  The descendants of those European-Americans do not want to be in the situation that Native Americans were in.

The world has long been a globe consisting of borders, lines drawn on maps to separate us into our appropriate quadrants.  Countries, cities, towns, states.  We have taken what God gave us and due to our human faults developed a system where little is shared.  We need our individual “stuff”.  We refuse to take actions that can bring us closer together.  We often find it hard to just disagree and compromise on issues that we cannot agree on.  We hide behind our labels, “conservative”, “liberal”, “socialist”.  Democrat, Republican, Independent.  “Majority rules” is seen as some perfect method of resolving issues.  If more than half of a group favors one direction on an issue, somehow that is the correct choice?  History has shown that is not always the case.  The only thing majority rules proves is that we firmly believe the principle regardless of how faulty it is. If something is a foundation of your belief, you really don’t want to look at it with skepticism and doubt.

The time seems appropriate to start moving towards actions and decisions that bind us more together.  Continued belief in a system where there is a “loser” or a group of people are pushed to the side does nothing for us as a collective.  Conflicts continue, wars continue.  Isn’t it time for another approach?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Memories of Muhammad Ali

My earliest memories of Muhammad Ali are that of he and ABC network sportscaster Howard Cosell engaged in "verbal" boxing during interviews.  Ali was articulate, self confident and normally wearing a suit and tie during the interviews.  I was about 10 years old and Ali had just begun his legal battle with the government by refusing to report for induction into the Army during the period of the Vietnam War.  It was a bold and courageous action on his part.  His beliefs as a Muslim were not consistent with joining the Army to be trained to kill people he had no arguments with.  Ali at that time was in his prime as a boxer.  He would go on to lose 3 years out of his career because he was banned from boxing because of his refusal to report for induction.

During those years of the late 1960's and early 1970's Ali was one of the public role models black youth had in the United States.  He spoke his mind and always tried to present himself as a professional.  As a 13 year old in California I recall all the hype leading to his fight with Joe Frazier.  Everyone was talking about the event.  Ali lost the fight but didn't lose his appeal.  He continued his career and eventually reclaimed the title from George Foreman.

While in college I recall his losing to the young upstart, Leon Spinks, and then returning to defeat Spinks months later.  I only recall seeing Ali in person once, that being as he walked into an event at Black Expo with his entourage in Indianapolis one summer.  When I think of Ali, I think of courage, class, athleticism, and humor.  Yes, his health may have suffered from his occupation of boxing.  But, he gave his all and did not keep social and legal barriers from blocking him from achieving his goals.

74 years of greatness.  Now the legend continues.