Paul had it wrong…

During church today I had time to ponder why so much of Christianity is about living life after death, for focusing on everything but the world as it is right now.  It’s not that I don’t believe in a better life after Christ, I do, but it seems to me that we are using the promises of our future to give up on our present, even to the point of actively ignoring or making it worse.  Paul said do not be of this world, but I think he had it wrong.  Everything God did has the world as its framework.  From Eden to the end of Creation, everything focuses on our world here.  All of God’s promises, his parables, are in the context of what He created here.  My way of thinking is, God is in all of us.  His divine spark resides in everything he created and as such, we should not be ignoring our duties here for the life that comes next. Everything we do should be in the context of being better, of making things better, of reflecting the glory of Christ and God now.  The parable of the talents shows that we should take what we are given and make the best of it.  The funny thing is, it required action immediately, with results that occurred many times over.  It was the recognition that was given at the end, not the results.  Just my two cents.

Dinner at Dad’s

As I was growing up, one of the memories that has stuck in my mind when I think about my father was during the holidays.  After his mother passed away, we stopped getting together with our extended family members and started eating at my dad’s, instead.  We usually had turkey, ham, and everything that goes along with that, but don’t be surprised if there was also steak, ribs and those red hot dogs he liked so much.  But this isn’t about the food, it’s about who my father invited.

You see, my brother and I might be the only people we would know when it came to the holiday dinners.  Everyone else was usually a stranger to us, at least the first time we met them.  After dinner was mostly cooked, dad would take off and go downtown for a bit.  Then he would show back up a short time later with a few people in tow.  These would be people he would know from his time at the bars playing pool and poker, usually.  They were the ones that didn’t have families to go home to, or the families didn’t want them home.  They weren’t homeless, but that didn’t mean they had much of home- at least, not at the holidays.  So for a couple nights a year, dinner was served at Dad’s and we got to meet new people.  We would all have some fun, hear some stories from the people around the table and enjoy ourselves and each other.  The really neat thing about all this was that Dad never looked for thanks for this.  He didn’t expect anything from anybody, he just made sure a few people had a place to have dinner for the holidays.  And the thing was, he didn’t treat it as abnormal, it was just what he did.  When most of the world is talking about doing good deeds or helping the less fortunate, Dad didn’t talk about it, he just went out and did something about it.  I miss dinner at Dad’s.

Penny Arcade

The Penny Arcade had a great comic up today pointing out the irony in the gun control/free speech debate.  What I enjoy about these guys is their ability to call bull shit without necessarily taking a particular political side or stance.  We’re a country of people who are all too often divided into an “us” or “them” camp, even though there are far more choices and distinctions out there.  Our politics, our media, even our education system have gotten caught up in the two sides to everything point of view.  It is nice to see some people who don’t mind pointing out that absurdity in public view.  And they certainly do it better than I can.  My hat is off to you, gentlemen.

Obama on gun control

So Facebook has this post going around where Obama is saying the guns don’t make people safer while it has all his secret agents with their guns circled.  I’m all for the 2nd Amendment and I’m for the responsible ownership of guns, but this particular message is a bit off center.

The average citizen does not have to worry about assassination, period.  I don’t have to check out everything in a 6 block radius to make sure I can get my paper without being taken out by an angry national, spy or Tea Party Patriot.  If I need a Glock to live my daily life then I had damn well better be in law enforcement, the military or similar trade.  It’s not that I don’t support gun ownership, just don’t draw a parallel between a very high profile national figure with loads of enemies and John Q. Public, and try to say he’s talking about the same issue.

I’ve got a bit of advice for all the gun control people.  Stop the politics, get out your pen and paper, do the damn research that supports your position and write the freaking truth!  There is a mountain of data that you can use to support your argument for gun control, why hide behind straw men and lies?

How to get shot first

With all the debate going on right now about gun control and the merits of what the 2nd amendment means and so on, I’d like to point out some fatal logic on the part of some of the pro gun crowd.  Now, before I dig to deep it’s best to get this on record right now.  I am pro gun ownership, support the 2nd amendment and believe that the government should fear its people, not the other way around.

The 1st statement:  We should arm the teachers/workers/previously unarmed civilians to protect themselves against this tragedy!

What that really means- You want to put a bunch of guns into untrained hands so that when a crisis occurs a bunch of armed people with no training can add to the chaos?  Real bullets go through walls and kill people.  How much time and training will be spent on arming these workers?  How about combat response tactics so they know what to do in situations like this?  Knee jerk response at best.

The 2nd statement- People should carry their guns at work on their hip so these criminals know better than to mess with us.

What that really means- Congratulations, you just made yourself the 1st target!  You know what the difference between most of these tragedies and your typical robbery or assault?  Planning, sometimes weeks or months of it.  The people that committed these atrocities spent a lot of time planning what they were going to do and how they were going to do it.  They had inside information of how things worked at the locations they chose.  That’s why there were more victims and why they were successful in the first place.  You want to be effective with a firearm?  Keep it concealed and shut the fuck up about it until you need it.

The 3rd statement- Israel/Switzerland/another country other than the U.S. has all their teachers/citizens/etc armed!

What that really means- You’ve just been drafted!  Military service is compulsory, not optional.  Switzerland so that they don’t have to have a large standing army and because nobody wants to invade them anyway.  Israel because they are a tiny nation under siege by people much bigger than they are.  Paranoia is a virtue in Israel and they have become very good at it.  Don’t compare their circumstances to the U.S., our entire country is based around an entirely different philosophy.  Remember the Draft?  That short term law that compelled you to service if Uncle Sam deemed it necessary?  Boy was that popular!  Now imagine it’s no longer sexist and everybody has to join up for 1-4 years.

I don’t have the answers to the state of gun control in the U.S, it’s a difficult topic.  What I do know is the situation isn’t being helped by the assholes on either side of the issue.  Honest discussion with intelligent debate needs to happen so we can formulate policy.  Gun control doesn’t work for the criminals, they’re already committing crimes.  Adding one more charge is just paperwork.  Denying the people their 2nd Amendment right won’t work, it is a necessary piece of our framework.  The technology exists to make guns safer, but it will make them far more expensive and does nothing to solve the issue of the hundreds of millions of guns already out there.  Whatever the case, stop the damn rhetoric, sit down, and become part of the solution.

The Constitution- Hallowed be thy name?

The Constitution is kind of a unique thing in American minds.  In a nation where change is constant, where people and institutions will change their political, theological and ideological stance whenever the wind blows, in American conservative politics the Constitution is held up as this inviolate document that does not change…  Ironic given that it came to life only because of its changes- the Bill of Rights.  One of the greatest powers the Constitution has is its flexibility.  It has defined what it means to be human, detailing what every human being should possess, but everything else is open to change, to the solemn understanding that circumstances can and do evolve.  In short, it has admitted, with its very existence, that it can be wrong- and it reserves its right to change as needed.

In this light, I find it funny and tragic, that groups like the Tea Party keep pushing for unilateral adherence to the Constitution under the premise that we have strayed too far from our roots, i.e., changed with the times…  Just my two cents.

Kids these days…

Flappers, Hipsters, Beatniks, Greasers, Hippies, Rebels, Slackers, Nerds, Geeks, etc.  These are all names for social outcasts at one point in time or another in our country.  They dressed different, may have talked different, certainly challenged our social norms in one form or another.  Many of the people of the time pointed to them as definite proof that society was going down hill, that the youth of the day “weren’t like the kids in my day”.  And yet, they all grew up.  Many raised families, worked jobs and paid taxes.  Some voted, some changed the world and all of them lived their lives as they saw fit.  The world didn’t end, society did not fall despite the many assurances that it is supposed to and time continues to march on.  Just a bit of perspective for those complaining about the youth of today…

Now, if you’ll excuse me while I go yell at those damn kids to get off my lawn…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I don’t post personal things on Facebook much. I don’t believe in airing my dirty laundry, and I happen to like my life, so I see no reason to complain about it, even when I struggle. Having said that, I want to share a bit of a story with you in the hopes that it might provide some perspective on this generation.

When my dad was a kid he prayed in school, got spanked when he got in trouble, went to church and read the bible. He played outside, did sports and hunted. Things were different then, with no Internet, color TV or cable. As he grew up, he joined the military, worked for Milwaukee and BN railroads, got married and had children. When times were tough, he buckled down and worked harder. If people were struggling, he did what he could to help. When his mother was older he bought her a house and took care of her. He looked after a few of his brothers from time to time, too. Cancer took his life, too soon, but by most accounts he lived an honorable life and enjoyed a modicum of success. I guess things were better and different for his generation…

What he didn’t tell many people is how much hated his childhood. Oh, not all of it, of course. Very few people can say that, but he did have his moments. He got picked on and hazed as a kid, horribly so. So badly that people would come up to me 60 years later to tell me how sorry they were that it happened, how bad some of the kids had it back then. You see, it wasn’t popular to be an Indian in a Catholic school and he didn’t have the advocates like he would have had today.

When he was about ten, he got his 1st job setting up pins in a bowling alley. He didn’t do it for fun, he did it so he could buy clothes for himself. You see, alcoholism and gambling were big issues back then, and his family wasn’t immune to the problems they caused. But that wasn’t something that was talked about like it is today.

His older brother took his own life at the age of 17 and decades later that still haunted my father. Times were hard, but you weren’t supposed to talk about it back then.

The world was a very tough, cruel place 60 years ago. Bad things happened back then, just as they do now. Yet Kids in my father’s day generally had it better than their parents did, how could they not? It’s called progress. I had it better than my father did. But you know what? I was bullied, picked on- even ended up homeless for a time as a teenager. The world wasn’t always a great place when I was kid, either.

So why am I sharing all of this? Maybe because I think it’s time we stopped looking at the world through the false lens of nostalgia and idealism and started taking responsibility for the way things are, right now. My father had it tough, no doubt about it. But you know what?  A lot of people did.  What made a difference in my dad’s life, and in mine, were the people that came up next to him and influenced his life in a positive manner.  A nun taught him the value of self-respect and hard work.  A school principal, a teacher and a pastor were huge influences for me.  So were many friends and family members along the way.  This world is what we choose to make of it now, not what it was, not what it will be.  You get out there and you do good things today.

Tragedy as politics

What happened on Friday the 14th was a tragedy.  A tragedy perpetrated by evil for purposes we can only guess at.  No amount of analysis will ever give us all the answers we could possibly want for why such a horrible act occurred.  But that hasn’t stopped many people from coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the situation for their own political ends.  Well, let me tell you a few things about what what this situation is, and is not.

It is evil, pure evil.  I don’t care why you hate your life, why you hate others, or how miserable your life is.  Nothing that happens to you will ever justify the murder of innocents because of your pain.

Evil acts can and will occur anywhere, at any time.  We do not live in a perfect world, and we are all subject to this tragedy.  Anyone with loved ones has this fear buried within them- the knowledge that senseless tragedy can take them away from us at any time.

Guns were the tool used in this tragedy.  Guns make killing easier, that is what they do.  That said, if guns were not available, other tools are.  Restricting weapons doesn’t make it harder to commit violence, it just changes the method used.

Having guns does not equate to anything other than possession.  Teachers having guns will not make anyone safer unless they are trained in them, constantly and consistently.  Owning a gun does not make me or my family serial killers in training, or even an “enthusiast”.  I own a saw, that does not make me a contractor or a carpenter.  What happened is not about 2nd amendment rights, so knock it off.

Israel is not safer because of all their firearms.  They are a nation at war, under siege at all times.  They have those firearms so they can kill those that are their enemies.  Were they a  nation at peace, surrounded by peace, then a case may be made for their effectiveness.

Switzerland requires gun ownership because their population is the army.  Participation is required by law.  Whether it is effective or not is open to debate because nobody invades Switzerland!

Having God in schools will not prevent tragedy.  Neither will having two parent homes, marriage only between men and women, or any other absurd notion being put out there as a means of furthering a political agenda without regard to rationale or facts.  We live in a fallen world, not paradise.  We can aspire to all sorts of moral summits, to improving ourselves and our society, but that will not take evil out of the world- Evil occurs everywhere, from the holiest of grounds to the most depraved of living conditions.

Twenty seven people lost their lives on Friday.  Twenty seven people who will not know what their future may bring.  That is all that matters to them and to those that knew and loved them.  Leave it at that.