Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I quit the NRA....

Let me start by giving you a little personal history.  I have been a shooter since early childhood.  My grandfather taught me to shoot when I was eight years-old and I have been a dedicated sport shooter ever since.  I shot my way onto a Policemens' Benevolent Association team when I was ten and that was the beginning of my competitive career.  In the decades since that time I have been on numerous rifle-teams, including the First U.S. Army team at Ft. Dix, where I won the post small-bore championship in 1965.  After the army, I tried out for the Penn State varsity rifle team and won a spot on it.  We beat both Army and Navy that year...but got our asses kicked by the mountain boys of West Virginia. 

In subsequent years I have competed in handgun, shotgun and rifle events, won three state championships, and put countless rounds downrange just for the fun of it.  You would have to look hard to find a more devoted shooter than I am.  But, recently I decided to not renew my membership in the NRA, and I have been a member since childhood.  My reason for making this decision is that I finally got to the point where the rhetoric coming from the NRA leadership began to sound just plain stupid.  That's it.  I finally could not stand the rigid unwillingness to support even common sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.  Enough is enough.  How much more mayhem has to happen before the whacko far right realizes that living in a country where even mental cases can go out and buy a simply undoable, unacceptable and STUPID?

No background checks at gun shows?  Not on internet or private sales?  What are you really doing when you create such easy access to essentially unlimited firepower?  What is the ultimate message here?

Then there is the fact that the list of speakers at the last NRA convention was a laundry list of far-right whack-jobs: Palin, Beck, Perry, etc. etc.  I can't stand the bullshit that pours forth from ANY of these people and now the NRA considers them 'keynote' figures.  Well, that was really the straw that did it for me.  I couldn't imagine going to such a meeting and being surrounded by people who admire Glenn Beck...or Sarah Palin.  I need to be around people who don't lie at the drop of a hat, who believe that an intelligent public discourse is necessary to the well-being of our democracy.

So, bye-bye NRA.  I admired your ideals for decades, still believe that the right to keep and bear arms is our best insurance against the rise of a despotic government....but, I also know that there are far too many people now who should be denied that right....lest they run loose among us sowing destruction and death.  We take great pains to keep drunks from killing us on the it's time to start identifying the mentally unstable and the socially malevolent and preventing them from arming themselves. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Another milestone......

 Here is a link to a piece of reportage on CNN.  If you are not willing to be disturbed or may want to avoid opening it.  It is about how human beings are treating the animals who have been our partners in life and our friends unto torturing, killing and eating them.

I came across this story within a few minutes of seeing a photograph of a dog resting his paw on a policeman's coffin. The cop was killed in the line of duty, shot by a felon, and it was clear that his K-9 partner keenly felt the loss.  The grand irony of the juxtaposition of these two stories hit me like a freight-train.  Dogs have been with us since we were hunter-gatherers, wearing animal skins and hunting down our food or starving.  The original dogs were wolves that researchers now believe had a special gene that made them inclined to bond with humans.  They were pre-disposed to being more tame than their fellow wolves and this enabled them to strike up a partnership.  Their senses and hunting ability is so much better than ours, but our killing ability is accordingly so much more efficient than theirs--via weapons and guile--that it was a match that proved to be symbiotic.

On balance, it remains unclear who got the best deal.  We lavish care and love on our dogs, yes.  There are a host of folks, like my wife and me, who treat their dogs like they were our children, and we're not at all embarrassed to use that comparison.  On the other hand, millions and millions of them fall through the cracks and become so much excess baggage that we euphemistically 'put down'.  We kill them because they are unwanted.  Then there is the above canine holocaust. This is treatment so devoid of any compassion, so bereft of any sense of humanity that it becomes a living enactment of hell on earth.  The dogs are purposefully tortured, skinned alive front of the other dogs--who clearly know what is happening and therefore what is about to happen to them.  This terrorizing is intended to render dog meat that is more tasty due to being infused with maximum amounts of adrenalin.  There are people who choose to make a living doing this, and people who choose to eat the product of this horrific undertaking.

This is another milestone that is, for me, more laden with import than the recently noted passing of the 400 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere, which level has not been in place for at least 3 million years, possibly as long as five million.  The conventional wisdom around that was that we have passed the point beyond which massive and catastrophic climate change is now inevitable. But, for me, this treatment of animals--the very ones who befriended us all those millennia ago, and made our survival at least easier if not possible--in such an intentionally cruel, heartless and self-interested telling us that we have also sunk to a sub-human level of behavior.

When you get right down to it, it is only our compassion that makes us human in the end....if we are to infer that the very term 'human' implies something nobler and more worthy than the beasts upon the plains of Africa, where we first stood upright and began separating ourselves by our ability to rise above and to become somehow special, 'better'.

Well, now you know that our noble aspirations and our vainglorious pretensions that we are the 'Blessed Ones' are just so much bullshit.  We are demonstrating to ourselves..and to the entire population of sentient beings on this planet, that we're the ones who are truly capable of creating a living hell our of what might otherwise be The Garden of Eden.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You know you're a redneck if......

Every once in a while I come across something that just seems like it could never be surpassed.  There just simply is no way to top it.  Well, just the other day I found myself behind a beater of a pick'em-up that made me reach for my camera.  As I crept up on his bumper at a railroad crossing...being careful not to annoy or otherwise piss him off, in view of what I was looking at....I almost could not believe my eyes.

It should be noted that there have been bullet-hole decals and stickers in auto-parts stores for decades. Apparently there is a certain 'je ne sais quoi' about at least having the appearance of being shot at.  I'm not exactly sure why that should be so.  Is it the implication that a jealous husband took a couple of whacks at you as you drove off into the night...his wife's panties flagging from the rear-view mirror?  Is it--even more daring--that the cops were chasing you and, unlike Bonnie and Clyde, you escaped with only a few large caliber perforations in your truck.  BTW: it is always a pick-up truck that has these faux missile impacts.  They even make decals that simulate bullet-holes in glass, with all the little spidering around them.  Pretty cool, huh?

But, as I drifted perilously close to this truck the other day, I could clearly see that these were definitely real bullet-holes, most likely from a .38 caliber or 9mm pistol.  So, I naturally began to wonder how they got there.  Was it indeed an angry rival in a love triangle?  It seemed too far-fetched that he'd be casually riding around town in a truck that had been involved with the discharge of a cop's gun.  I imagined a variety of titillating scenarios, and, then ........ I noticed how evenly spaced the holes were, and how conveniently they missed anything of functional relevance. In fact, they were placed just about where I would have put them if I were putting DECALS on a truck. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the driver of the truck had most likely shot his truck himself.  Maybe he'd had a little too much Allen's Coffee Brandy, the 'anti-freeze' of choice in these parts.  Maybe he took a good hard look at his ride and realized it was a rolling shit-heap. Perhaps one of his buddies remarked how cool the old Dodge Ram would look with some 'gen-u-ine 9mm holes' in it.

Whatever the case, as a piece of art it succeeds magnificently.  It is a statement about rural America, about backwoods Maine, about trucks and the proudly red-neck dudes who own them. It is even a clear-cut statement about the Second Amendment.  It is also extremely capable of evoking a strong reaction from anybody who finds themselves behind this I did.  I mean, do you really want to piss this guy off? 

So, real or not, shots fired in anger, or just some coy tinkering around with a pistol, I give this guy good marks for being creative and making a gesture that communicates so effectively....accompanied by the license frame, which lends an even more cryptic and yet authentic feeling, "I'd rather be getting TATOOED".  

Which, on reading it, cause me to ask, "Do you mean you'd rather be tatooed than shot...or rather be tatooed than driving your shit-heap around town?"

Ah, folk art, eh?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Guns.....a Third Category of Disqualification

By now, in the ongoing debate over guns in America, it is beginning to be apparent that the conservative and liberal viewpoints are in such extreme opposition that any kind of agreement on what laws will be made is unlikely, perhaps impossible.

But, there is an area of overlap.  Both sides seem clear about the fact that we need to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, and the mentally unstable who could be dangerous.  It's just so utterly obvious that for either of these groups to have access to firearms is going to lead to more crime and mayhem.  At least we agree on this one point, although the far extreme right and left will remain stuck in their positions of supporting 'no gun laws whatsoever', and 'confiscate all guns'.  They are both unrealistic and just plain stupid.

Speaking of stupid, however, there is a third category of people who should not have access to firearms and they popped-up in the news just the other day:  people who are just too g-d dumb to handle a gun safely.  At a gun show in NC, a man brought a shotgun in a case, intending to sell it privately at the show.  At the table where all weapons are to be checked and rendered 'clear', he managed to discharge the shotgun as it was apparently being removed from the case.  He's the type of person I am referring to.

This was not the only such incident to marr, "Gun Appreciation Day" nationwide.  A man shot himself in the hand loading his .45 at another gun show, and two other equally inexcusable breeches of common sense, gun handling protocol and basic human intelligence happened.  In each case, people were needlessly yet unintentionally wounded.  It boggles the mind.

Too many years ago, when I was an EMT on our local rescue squad, we responded to a call in which another such fool had pulled a deer-rifle out from under his mattress, grasping it by the barrel, and shooting himself in the groin.  Clearly, he had stored the rifle there in a loaded condition and with a round in the chamber.....ready to fire.  It was one of the bloodiest scenes our squad ever encountered, but the fool lived. 

The point is: stories of this kind of massive stupidity are all too common.  It's not that there are too many guns in the country, but that there are far too many people who do not exercise even a tiny modicum of common sense in how they use, handle and store them.  Were I so inclined, I could write a grand tome describing such instances....and I wouldn't even have to draw on incidents from outside of my own state. 

It has been my contention, indeed, my hope, that the 'dumbing' of America has just about culminated, that it will not continue much further lest we become a nation of Alfred E. Neumans.  But, the fact is, there is already a vast host of people who do stupid things as a matter of routine. 

Here in Maine we have a recitation of their antics on the local news every evening.  They drive their snow-machines on lakes with large sections of open water, and thereby drown.  They fly down the country roads in their vehicles without seat-belts on, and are inevitably flung from said vehicles, hit solid roads and trees....and die.  They ride around on Harleys without exhaust mufflers, frequently bouncing their heads off roads and cars and become broccoli.  They drink heavily and then amuse themselves by undertaking activities in which having at least some bodily awareness would seem necessary....and they die.  But....there are still plenty of them left to carry on the grand tradition of Social Darwinism.  We seem to have an inexhaustible reservoir of idiots.

So, all you lawmakers out there who are clamoring to do SOMETHING, hell, ANYTHING about our gun 'bout figuring out how to keep guns out of the hands of idiots? 

Now there's a challenge for you.....