Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The literary world will no doubt shudder at this news.  But I was too busy cooking and cleaning to fool with the blog this weekend.  Anyway, here's a link to an essay I wrote that ran in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday.  Hope you like it.  All is calm.  All is bright. 

Happy New Year!

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I was on my porch watering the flowers when my neighbor called out to me.  He wanted to know what I thought was going to happen in light of the recent mass murders in Connecticut.  I told him that while I really didn't know, I thought that the national mood on gun laws in this country had changed and that Congress or the President might take some action to ban or restrict at least some types of weapons and/or multiple round storage devices.

Matt looked down at the ground and shook his head ruefully. 

"I just hope that the government doesn't try to confiscate our guns, " he said.  Now Matt is a good guy.  He is also a smart guy.  A resident at the medical school down the road.  The last time I was in his house I didn't notice a poster of Wayne LaPierre in his kitchen.  And so I viewed this as an opportunity to teach.  I cut the water off and parked myself on the hood of my car. 

"Well, let's think about this Matt," I said.  "Even if 'the government' (I made air-quotes with my fingers around those two words) were so inclined who do you think would confiscate everybody's guns?"

"I dunno," he said.  "The ATF?"

"Not possible.  They don't have enough people.  Same thing with the FBI.  For that matter, the Little Rock police can barely keep up with property offenses in this neighborhood.  They couldn't possibly 'confiscate' everybody's weapons.  This is not possible."

Matt is a quiet thoughtful type.  I could tell he was rolling this around in his head. 

"Do you know what the state of the law is on this issue?"

"No," he said.

"The United States Supreme Court has ruled that while the government cannot ban outright the sale of guns, they expressly did not rule on the extent to which they may be regulated.  Hell, the Second Amendment itself refers to a 'well-regulated militia' which strongly implies, at least to me, that the Founding Fathers recognized the need some sort of regulation on this issue.  Hell, hunters have limits on how many ducks they can shoot in a day.  There's a government regulation on use of a gun.  Right?" 

Matt allowed as how I had given him food for thought and went back inside his house. 

At least Matt wasn't talking crazy unlike the fools that my friend Dennis was forced to endure at a recent Christmas party.  Now Dennis is no Commie pinko fag.  He is former Special Forces and police officer.  He is a boxer and legally carries a concealed weapon.  He has a healthy respect for weapons that his background has given him.  He is also about the last guy on Earth you would want to mess with. 

 "I was at this party the other night, " Dennis said. "And these guys-intelligent well-to-do folks mind you-were talking about how they needed to have assault weapons.  So I asked the guy that was doing the most talking what in the world he needed an assault weapon for."

"What did he say?" I asked him.

"He said he needed it to defend his property.  I told him that he didn't need an AR-15 to defend his property.  That he needed to dial 911. Besides, you can't just go and shoot somebody just because he's on your property. Guess what he said then?"

"I bet I can guess but go ahead."

"He said people needed assault weapons to defend themselves against the government or in case of an invasion."

"Ah, the Red Dawn scenario.  My friend's kid went to see it.  He said he felt like he had to deprogram him afterwards."

"I told him that owning assault weapons wouldn't help.  'You're outnumbered and you don't have tactical skills.  You're just a guy with a toy.' is what I told him and let it go at that."

The point of these two stories is to demonstrate the extent to which the NRA has intoxicated otherwise sensible people with both paranoia about gun regulation and the notion that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is sacrosanct.  Even in light of the recent massacre in Newtown. 

The weapon used in the Newtown tragedy is designed to kill or maim other humans quickly and efficiently.  Nobody other than law enforcement and the military.  I get hunting.  I get personal safety.

I don't get a felt need for exotic weaponry to defend one's self from scenarios that are exceedingly unlikely.  This is crazy.

Besides, like big Dennis says, the kind of person that feels a need for an AR-15 is outnumbered anyway.  He may be outnumbered by his neighbors. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Slaughter Of The Holy Innocents

It happened again last week.  Last Friday, a young man armed with a  Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle, two other weapons and what police described as enough ammunition to kill 450 people shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where he proceeded to methodically kill 26 people.  20 of them were children.

The mind can scarcely grasp the depth of the grief of the friends and relatives of the departed.  After all, you expect the school bus to bring your child home.  You expect to see your wife come through the front door after work.  You don't suspect for 2 minutes that some maniac will arrive at what is on most days a haven of safety and blow your loved ones to Kingdom Come.  Then again, you don't expect to get shot at the movies or at a political rally either.

But it happens in this country.  It happens far more often here than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

The human heart seeks answers.  A casual glance at Facebook or the Internet will steer to the wrong ones.  Perhaps the most completely inane observation came from our own former Governor and nominal Christian who said, that we shouldn't "be so surprised" when "we have systematically removed God from our schools."

Now I cannot adequately square up the notion of a kind and benevolent God with one that would allow the wanton slaughter of innocents, either in this present age or in the days of Herod.  But I am comfortable saying that the God in my Bible doesn't allow children to die out of spite.  But then again, why are we surprised that this idiocy came out the mouth of the Huckster?  After all, he once claimed that God was in favor of capital punishment because Jesus didn't save Himself on the cross.

Let us be clear.  Those innocents died primarily for one reason and one reason only.  In the United States we allow the deranged the technological means to engage in mass destruction.  Any other explanation that presupposes the hand of a Higher Power in this is superstitious nonsense.

I know lots of hunters and other gun owners.   They are safe, law abiding people who treat their weapons with respect.  But not with reverence.

I know that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the Government cannot ban gun ownership because of the 2nd Amendment.  I don't have a problem with that.  I do have a problem with civilians having access to assault weapons or other weapons with large clips that can carry many rounds.  Those weapons have only one purpose and that is to kill humans.  Maybe the Government can't ban gun ownership but it sure as hell can regulate the types of weapon me or my neighbors can buy, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.

The NRA tells us that such regulation is an impermissible assault on or freedoms.  This is, of course, nonsense.  I have the right to give my views to the President.  I do not have the right to barge into the Oval Office to give Barack Obama a piece of my mind.  I have a right to apply for a Driver's License.  I do not have the right to have one.  Or to have one that is free of restrictions if certain conditions are present.  I have a 5th Amendment right to contest a parking ticket.  I do not have the right to a jury trial.

The 2nd Amendment is no more or no more less sacrosanct than other Amendments to the Constitution of which  reasonable regulations concerning the enjoyment thereof have passed Constitutional muster time and time again.

I respect guns.  I do not revere them.  To revere them is to engage in a fetish as much as anything.

And even though the Founding Fathers well knew that the Constitution of the United States was purchased by blood, I cannot believe that they for one minute would consider that the death of 20 kids was part of the inevitable price of freedom.

This has to stop.  It has to stop now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The Advent Season will be a little darker this particular Sunday.  I've been busy with family stuff and so there will be no MSF today.

However, you can read Rev. Heath Bradley's response to former Governor and nominal Christian Mike Huckabee's earlier odious and idiotic remarks about the shooting in Connecticut.  It's better than anything I could have written anyway.

Hit the link:

I love it when Methodist preachers get-forgive me-hot under the collar.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I reviewed a performance of Messiah for the local paper a week or so ago.  The concert was held in a local church which is not an unusual venue for choral music around here.  After all, most churches are equipped to handle crowds and musicians.  And, in my experience the local churches that open themselves up to the public in this fashion enjoy receiving guests for the evening.

It is not unusual on such occasions for a church official, the Senior Pastor or Music Director to greet the crowd and welcome them to the show.  That's certainly appropriate.  It's their church.  It's their building.  But that's not what happened prior to Messiah the other night.  The associate pastor at the church got up an gave an invocation prior to the performance. 

I wasn't offended by this exactly.  After all, it was his church and his building.  And certainly, an invocation offered up in a church is less offensive to me than one broadcast prior to kickoff at the football game.  Which they pretty much don't do around here anymore.  At least not to my immediate recollection.  And in a church one can reasonably expect clergy to, well, pray.

But even though we were gathered together in a place of worship that night, we weren't gathered together at a religious service.  It was a musical performance.  They charged admission.  The paper sent me over there to review it.  It doesn't review Easter cantatas or Lessons and Carols at Christmas.  This was different.  You charge money you run the risk of getting critiqued in the paper.  Conversely, you lay an egg during the church's Advent concert and somebody maybe bitches to the preacher's wife.

Handel ran into this problem in reverse back in the day.   Some folks in Handel's time were completely scandalized at the notion of charging money for a performance of a "sacred oratorio" in a public setting.  It didn't much matter to Handel for whom a buck was a buck.  The opera business that paid the bills was starting to peter out and Handel was experiencing a cash flow problem when he was commissioned to hammer Messiah into creation.  As we know, Messiah proved to be big box office then as now.  Still, there were folks back then whose noses were completely disjointed at the notion of the commercialization of religious music.

How quaint.  "Christian music" is a huge industry in our time.  This is despite the fact that most of it is not particularly Christian and certainly not music.

I guess the reason that the invocation prior to the recent performance of Messiah struck me as inappropriate is the same reason that I have little use for invocations prior to sporting events.  Just as there are people like myself that do not go the football game to be preached to, it is a good bet that there were some folks in attendance that found a religious invocation offensive, church setting or no.  You don't have to be particularly religious to appreciate Messiah.  Hell, Handel wasn't particularly religious and he wrote the damn thing.

There is a time and place for everything.  And a public event where they are charging admission is not the time nor the place for an invocation.  Even in a church.

Have I ever mentioned that I hate the holidays?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I remember the call.  GiGi over at the women's shelter called to tell me that Joe Womack wanted to make a donation in my mother's name.  Boy, that was typical Mr. Joe.

It was thoughtful.  Joe had 5 daughters, bless him.  He knew I was the President of the Board at Women and Children First.  He was surrounded his entire life by women and children.  It probably made sense to him.  And he probably took it no further than that. 

It was useful.  Mr. Joe was an engineer and was nothing if not practical.  Until they are authorized by the Comptroller of the Treasury to print money, WCF will always need help from the public.  As the old saying goes, "A gentleman is also a useful man."  Mr. Joe was the poster child for the expression. 

It was kind.  Mr. Joe cared about his church and his fellow parishioners.  Despite being sick with what turned out to be his second round with pneumonia he took communion to the home bound.  He had to have felt terrible.  Indeed, one of the neighbors called Cathy to tell her that she noticed that he seemed to struggle making the walk from his mailbox to the house.  This was after he had gone to visit a shut-in. 

It was no big deal.  He didn't tell me he was going to do it.  He just looked up the number in the book and took care of it.  He lived and prayed not as the hypocrites.  He just quietly went about doing good.  It occurs to me as I type this that I was supposed to give him a tour of the shelter.  I forgot.  Goddammit. 

Mr. Joe passed away yesterday after existing on some form of life support off and on since January.  I sat by his bed for a couple of hours last Friday so Cathy and the church ladies could have a break.  Vigils are hard.  Been there.  So I got to see him one last time. 

But it was time.  Indeed, how he had managed to live this long was amazing.  I would have checked out last March.  As a friend of mine that used to be a nurse at the VA once told me, "Your number ain't up until it's up."  That makes as much sense as anything I guess.  To try to figure it out would just give you a migraine. 

This much I know.  Never was a father better loved or better cared for by his daughters.  They left absolutely nothing on the playing field.  They fought the good fight by his side.  What a roller coaster this has been for them.  Surely, they are now entitled to a measure of the peace that has been granted unto their Dad. 

I also know that it is a small world.  My late friend Alicia and her family along with other folks in Thibodaux lit candles and sent prayers up for Mr. Joe.  Cathy and the girls sent prayers that way too.  Cathy wants to get in contact with Ronnie.  We can do that.  What an amazing world.  What an incredible year.

Our Jewish friends refer to their departed mothers as being "of blessed memory."  Now Jewish mothers are rightly entitled to a full measure of veneration.  But why should they get all the fun? 

Sometime soon we will gather to say goodbye to and celebrate the life of Joe Womack.  I don't think much about Heaven.  Maybe for Joe it will be a quiet place to read, an empty bathroom and no boyfriends.  Maybe, as Alicia's daughter has suggested, Mr. Joe will get to meet the devout Catholic lady who fretted about him. 

Who knows?  This much I do know. 

The world was a better place because of Mr. Joe. 

Of blessed memory.