Archive for January, 2013

Gun Culture

In a recent Google Hangout session, televised on PBS, Vice President Joe Biden was interviewed by reporter Hari Sreenivasan and 5 pre-chosen Americans.  In part of that interview the VIce President made a comment concerning “gun culture”.  He adeptly navigated the gun control waters, trying to ensure that he did not enflame the anger of the NRA and its legions of paranoid, heavily armed members.  The comment was was the following:

There is a legitimate, respected and I think as old as the country, culture of gun ownership in America.  My dad was a hunter.  My dad had a gun case full of some fairly valuable weapons.  It’s a legitimate and respected tradition

I agree with all of the statements that the Vice President states.  Every last one.  What I disagree with Vice President on are his conclusions about these facts.  Namely that “gun culture” in America is not part of the “gun problem”.  That somehow the merit of a particular facet of our society should  be judged on how long it has been around and how tightly woven it has become in our lives.  To that point here are few examples of why that line of thinking is unfounded:

  • For the the first 100+ years of of our nations history many parts of society had a deep tradition of slavery.  In fact, it constituted an entire industry and was the backbone of the Southern economic infrastructure.  But it was wrong.  We came to that conclusion, only just before Cuba did.  Coming in almost dead last in that realization.  It cost 500,000 lives to uproot that tradition.
  • In the not so distant past, smoking public was completely unrestricted in American society.  Smoking was an activity that was glamorized by Hollywood and propagandized by the Tobacco industry.  It was as American as apple pie.  But once the scientific data began to mount and the practices of industry were exposed that “tradition” also succumbed to clearer thinking.  Today, you are hard pressed to find a public establishment that is permitted to allow smoking in their establishment. 
  • Finally, I come to a popular topic of the conservative minded.  The Right would argue that the ills and misfortunes of the inner cities and minority communities are not the fault of the government but instead can be attributed to a culture of dependency and violence.  It might come as a surprise but I actually agree, at least in part.  Generally speaking, if your society embraces and glorifies gangs, teen promiscuity, drug use and a lack or personal responsibility you cannot legitimately blame all of your misfortune on the rest of society.  The problem of the inner city will never be fully resolved until a light is shone back on the community.

We cannot dismiss a particular aspect of a problem just because it’s part of a long and widely held tradition.  We, as Americans, need to stop defending everything that we are and everything we do as sacrosanct.  As though, if we came up with it, there could be no wrong to come from it.  We need to have the humility and, dare I say, courage to look within ourselves and examine our motivations.  I am not advocating a repeal of the 2nd Amendment.  I am advocating that a real honest debate and examination of American gun culture begin in earnest.

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Book Fair – Debacle

thThis is R.I.O.T. (Reading Instead of Television) month at my children’s elementary school.  RIOT month is supposed to encourage children to set aside “screen” time for good ole fashion reading.  This has never been an issue in our house.  We have been doing book time every night since my oldest was 2 years old.  Reading is just a way of life for us.  To be honest, it’s all my wife’s doing.  With that said, one of the rewards for participating in the program is that the children get to fill out slips for each “x” amount of minutes that they read.  They then use those as tickets in a drawing to win books that were donated by the community.  I think you can see the idea…self-reinforcing concept.  I must admit it’s a great program.  But there is an issue that came up recently.  Apparently, someone(s) decided to donate a collection of Christian texts to the school, a public school albeit.  I have my suspicions about the donors intentions.  My wife was extremely annoyed upon discovering that our 6 year old chose a children’s bible when she won the drawing.  Being a volunteer at the school she confronted the individuals about the religious text.  She was assured that it was simply overlooked when they were going through the donations.  I can understand that, if it was the truth.  Turns out, the following week, my wife, in her volunteer capacity was going through the donations and found no less than 5 additional books that were Christian focused.  She promptly pulled them out and will be donating them to a local church.

So what’s the point of this story?  To my surprise, my wife and I had very different reactions to this particular situation.  She was very irritated by it all and was upset that our daughter chose the book she did.  My stance was; despite the obvious attempt by a certain individual or individuals to push their agenda on impressionable children, I am not concerned by her being exposed to different views and ideas.  Was this an example of a violation of the 1st Amendment?  Maybe?  But ultimately my daughter chose the book herself.  She should be allowed to read what interests her.  That’s the difference between the open-mindedness of free thinkers and the narrowed-mindedness of religion.  Ultimately I want my children to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and being grounded in an upbringing that teaches them to be skeptical, rational and scientific, I am highly confident that they will come to truthful and factual conclusions.

The intention of the 2nd Amendment - Letters

Many, including the NRA, argue that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of the individual to own “guns” in order to protect himself from the potential abuses of a tyrannical government.  This article contends that is, in fact, not the case at all.

Even if you were to assume that the NRA and its paranoid ilk were correct in their assumptions, do we honestly believe that hand guns and semi-automatic weapons would be any match against a government that possesses nuclear, biological and chemical weapons?  The argument for individual protection from a tyrannical government no longer holds water.  And if we eliminate that argument then what we have left is a rational interpretation, much like what is presented below.

Mr. Jacovitz recently claimed in a letter to The Hour that gun ownership prevented the Japanese from landing on the West Coast during WWII.

via The intention of the 2nd Amendment – Letters.

Despite the fact that on most occasions the New York State legislature disappoints its constituents, today they passed the first in the nation laws, following the Sandy Hook massacre. Apart from feeling safer, I hope that this set of new regulations make us safer. I will be paying close attention. You should too…because at the end of the day we need laws that are not about political grandstanding but real positive societal change.