Ending the Violence

June 16, 2016

Every time there’s a mass shooting, our government leaders renew the debate over gun control… ignoring the fact that in most cases, additional control of the legal sale of firearms would not have changed the outcome one iota.

The Sandy Hook killings were done using the weapons of a family member. The guns were purchased legally. The Orlando murders were committed by a person who should not have been allowed to buy guns, but was. The existing gun laws were not to blame – the FBI’s process was.

If the government can place a person on the “No Fly List” without due process, they should have been able to do the same when it came to buying guns. If nothing else, there should have been a ‘flag’ to let the FBI know the man had purchased weapons. Had a simple system like that been in place, they could have increased their surveillance and, hopefully, stopped him before he killed even one person.

The debate will go on while the more serious issues continue to be ignored.

Why is there a murder every two hours in the city of Chicago? Why do our government officials ignore that fact. Do those thousands of lives lost every year count less that the 49 killed in one night in Orlando? For that matter, was anyone else murdered in Orlando that night? Did that person’s life not mean anything because he or she died alone?

The way I see it, murder is the result of a number of factors. The simplest one is rage – in all too many cases, rage directed at a family member or a close friend.

Then we have the ‘gang’ related; in many cases caused by ‘turf wars’ in the dealing of illegal drugs. These are the cases where one, two, or three people are killed at a time.

My solution for the gang related mayhem is to legalize drugs. Let government sanctioned outlets sell them so that the purity of the product can be more closely controlled and the tax revenues can be used to treat the addicts. Taking the drug dealers off the streets and out of the prison system will save lots of money and lives.

As for family members killing each other, take away the guns and they’ll use knives or baseball bats. It has happened where a couple closing in on divorce settled the issue when one or the other was accidentally pushed off a cliff or assisted in drowning. In other words, rage is difficult to prevent, although if the rage is a result of mental illness, there is hope.

My first job after college was at a mental hospital for children. It was part of a network in Western Pennsylvania. Within a twenty-five mile radius, there were at least two asylums for adults to go along with the one I worked at. Many of our ‘inmates’ graduated to the adult facilities.

And then came along two factors that totally changed everything. One was President Reagan and his cut-backs. Federal funding for mental institutions dried up at the same time the A.C.L.U. convinced a judge that mentally incompetent people should not be held against their will. Brilliant! Very few crazy people readily admit they need help. One of the biggest problems with mentally ill patients is to have them continue to take the medication to control their behavior.

Thus, we have people who were once safely cared for in mental hospitals (and forget the Hollywood nonsense that says those hospitals were all horror stories) now walking the streets forgetting to take their medicine. Since our government sees no danger, they are permitted to buy fire arms and, when the voice in their heads tell them to go into a movie theater and shoot those enemies of Bat Man, we have another mass murder that could have been prevented. How many times did a psychiatrist think there might be such a possibility, but said nothing due to another Federal law called HIPAA.

So, there are my solutions to two of the root causes of murder; legalize drugs, and get mentally ill people the treatment and care they so desperately need.

And that brings us to the biggest problem we face today – terrorism. We have huge segments of the world population who hate us… thanks to the propaganda distributed by many of the people we (our government) consider to be our friends. These same people, in many cases, are the ones we give millions, if not billions of dollars in foreign aid every year.

We do everything we can in this country to encourage freedom of religion, but some religions use that freedom against us.

In fairness, Christian ministers encouraged people to join the crusades a thousand or so years ago. So, I can’t blame religious leaders in the Middle East for returning the favor (they carry grudges for thousands of years in that part of the world.) What gripes me is the leaders in churches in the U.S. encouraging young folks to either go to the Middle East to help the effort there, or simply buy guns and bomb making materials and do as much damage as possible here at home.

Sadly, there is no easy solution for this problem… any more than there was an easy solution for dealing with Hitler and the Nazis. The free world must come together to stop the terrorist groups. We need to be a part of that effort.

There is a very old adage that says “Those who ignore the past are destined to repeat it.” Our current leaders decided that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were over and our troops needed to be brought home. Those leaders ignored the fact that we still have troops in Germany and Japan. Lasting peace doesn’t happen overnight. It took decades for the peoples of Germany and Japan to realize we were there only to keep the peace – nothing more, nothing less. Any remnants of the groups that did not like losing World War II eventually were won over to the improvements brought about through peace.

We cannot force any nation to become a democratic republic such as ours, but we can help them peacefully establish governments that work for them.

 

 

 

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Thoughts That Never Occured to Me… before

November 12, 2010

Veterans Day Parade in Branson, Missouri - 2009

My bride and I are planning a trip to Germany in the not too distant future. To prepare myself, I’ve been listening to a radio station in Munich. (My computer picks up the signal far better than my short-wave radio!) The station I’ve settled on has an interesting format; similar stations in the U.S. (which are difficult to find) call it “The Music of our Lives.” It’s a step beyond the “Oldies but Goodies”. Most of the music played was recorded in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. There’s some Rock n’ Roll, but most of the songs would remind the listener of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Dinah Shore, Doris Day, and the like.

I’d estimate that eighty percent of the songs are sung in German; another ten percent are instrumentals, and the remainder are in English. Many of the songs are well known, but the English versions are not always by the original artists. Of course, I’m assuming the songs sung in English were U.S. originals. Based on what I’ve recently learned about German technology and a rich history of creativity, perhaps those songs originated in Germany and not in America.

Right now I’m listening to “Please Mr. Postman” and I think the group singing the song is the Carpenters. Go figure!

I was born in 1944 – about a year before the end of World War II. As a young boy, I would go to the neighborhood movie theater and cheer for John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Aldo Ray and others as they fought and defeated the Japs and Krauts.

It’s strange that I grew up considering anything labeled “Made in Japan” as junk, but had no similar opinion of German products. My memory tells me that the first products I recognized as having German origins were the Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen automobiles. One I saw as very high quality while I perceived the other as a pregnant roller skate of little value.

Today, it seems that the Japanese and Germans, along with the Koreans, are teaching Detroit how to make high quality vehicles. But that’s a story for another day.

Yesterday was Veterans Day. I always thought the U.S. did a fine job in recognizing the members of our “Greatest Generation”. As for our Vietnam vets, that’s another story, but it has improved.

On November 11, 1998, I was working in London, England. I was stunned when all activity in the office came to an abrupt stop at 11:11 AM. An announcement was made on the public address system and we were all asked to stand and observe a moment of silence. World War II had a much stronger impact on the British Empire than it did on America.

The victors certainly take the time to honor their soldiers, but what about the losers? Do the Germans and Japanese have parades to honor their citizens who fought so bravely, albeit for a losing cause?

I was recently told that the swastika can no longer be found anywhere in Germany; that it has been outlawed. However, another source tells me there is a museum in Berlin that displays many items of historical significance to the Nazi party, including the swastika. However, according to this source, there is very little to do with Adolf Hitler. If I was a German, I’d probably want to forget he ever existed.

Because of the war movies of my youth and the carry-over of anti-Japanese and German propaganda (that continues today in Hollywood) in my mind’s eye I see the enemy as blood-thirsty brutes who committed inhumane acts on our soldiers as well as on many innocent civilians. Let’s face it, it’s extremely difficult to view pictures of the Holocaust and see the German people in any other light.

And yet, I do. I’ve known a number of German nationals in my life and they are good fun loving people. It’s extremely difficult to imagine Horst, Chris, Joe, and my other German friends committing any act as brutal as those depicted in the historical documentaries.

“I was only following orders” is a defense that continues to be used to this day. Without having any factual information, it is my guess that the majority of the German and Japanese soldiers of World War II were fighting for a number of very simple reasons. First, they were drafted into the military and if they decided to go AWOL they could be shot. Second, they had to follow the orders of their superiors… or be shot. Third, when they faced the allied troops, they had to fight for their lives… or be shot.

It’s also possible that there were threats such as, “If you fail to follow orders, your families will be put in concentration camps or… be shot.”

Thus, I’m guessing that many of those soldiers were fighting because they had no choice. I’m sure each country had a number of combatants who bought their leaders’ propaganda completely and would be glad to shoot their fellow soldiers if that was necessary to insure the purity and harmony of their units.

But all of this is speculation on my part. I would love to sit down and talk with a German old enough to have been a part of the war effort… even if he or she was simply a teenager who gathered scrap metal for the war effort. As Americans who have never known a war on our own soil (in our lifetimes), it’s impossible to imagine how it felt to experience the exhilaration of the early Nazi victories, and how terrifying it must have been when the bombs started destroying their homes and cities. What were they told of the brutality of the allied soldiers? How much fear did they experience in the face of total surrender?

As for the Japanese, once again it is impossible for us to imagine two of our cities being totally destroyed by single bombs.

We lost the war in Vietnam – not because of any failure on the part of our military – but due to the ineptitude of our politicians. That ineptitude continues to this day.

In our country, it appears that we have finally learned to appreciate the efforts of our soldiers regardless of the situation that got us into war and the outcome of any military action. But how does a country pay homage to a military that failed to protect the homeland?

Again, I can only speculate. I would simply blame the political leaders who got us into the war to begin with. Then, I would honor and thank the soldiers who fought so bravely when they really didn’t have much of a choice.

I realize I did quite a bit of rambling with this, but it is an effort to wrap my arms around a subject that had never crossed my mind until I began listening to this German radio station.

The questions that gave birth to this blog entry were in regards to the music. So much of the music this station plays were popular songs in war-time America. Were those same songs played in war-time Germany? Or were they banned because they were American?

For that matter, were German songs banned in the U.S. at the same time? Prior to the war, Germany and the U.S. had many things in common. Was World War II like a divorce? All of a sudden, I will dislike everything about you simply because it reminds me of you? I will overlook all the good times we had during our life together simply because we’ve now discovered some basic areas of disagreement?

It seems to be such a shame. Perhaps all sides should listen more to the music than the rhetoric. If we can get everyone to agree on the same tunes, maybe world peace isn’t so far away.

Yes, I am a dreamer.


Wish List for 2010 and Beyond

January 13, 2010

Rich Grimshaw made me do this. He dropped by my blog recently and commented that it was time to move beyond my Christmas post. He’s right! It is time for something new.

After careful consideration, I decided to make it easy on myself and simply compile a list of things I’d like to do before I move on to the next stage of my existence.

I’ll begin by listing the places to which I’d like to travel. These are places I’ve not yet visited.

Japan would be near the top of my list, along with Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and China. I like Asian cuisine and have always been fascinated by photos and articles about these countries.

As for European countries, I’d like to visit Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and… all the rest. I’d list France, England, Ireland, Austria, and Denmark, but I’ve already been to those places.

Australia and New Zealand are also beckoning to me.

Allow me to digress. (That, in itself, is a ridiculous statement. You have no choice. I’ll digress with or without your permission!)

I read an article the other day. In it, the author noted that someone was at the “beckon call” of another. There was no way to leave a comment, but the phrase is “beck and call.” The author, no doubt, has never been under the control of anyone other than his or her parents.

I am not at the beck and call of either Australia or New Zealand, but I would like to go see them both.

I almost ended this part of my wish list by saying that no other places really interested me. Then I remembered two other continents. There are numerous South American countries that I’d love to visit. As for the continent of Africa, I’d like to go to Egypt to see the pyramids.

Although I am a Christian, I have no strong desire to visit the Holy Land. I’d rather not visit any parts of the world where my life might be in danger because of religious zealots of any kind.

The next part of my list (travel section) would include places I’d love to revisit. The European countries I mentioned above would definitely be on that list, as would several Canadian provinces and more than a few U.S. states.

I’ve only been on one cruise in my life. That was an inside-passage tour of Alaska. Taking the Queen Mary across the Atlantic doesn’t interest me in the least, however I’d love to take a “repositioning” cruise. That’s when a cruise line moves one of its ships from the Caribbean to the Northern Pacific waters via the Panama Canal or back.

If I’m not mistaken, that’s about a seventeen day trip. Of course, the way they feed you on a cruise would probably result in me looking like a beached whale at the end.

Speaking of food, I once had the opportunity to dine on Rocky Mountain oysters. At that time, I lost my courage. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I will order them the next time I have the chance.

I’m a big fan of Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) and Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) – two personalities on the Travel Channel. Most of what Andrew eats fail to whet my appetite. However, some of it does arouse my interest. On the other hand, most of the meals enjoyed by Anthony cause me to salivate.

When I was much younger I wished to own a Corvette one day. The first time I came close to being able to afford one I went to a dealership and crawled into one. My head pushed into the roof liner and, at slightly over two hundred pounds (at the time), I felt cramped. It broke my heart, but not my bank account.

Today, I see motor vehicles as nothing more than transportation. The one and only exception is the large motor home. If I could afford the insurance and fuel costs, I’d love to buy one and be off to see America. Of course, we’d have to tow our Toyota Yaris to make it easier to go sight-seeing.

Another thing I’d love to do is ride the train across Canada. The major part of that trip would be the ability to get off when we saw something interesting, spend a day or two wherever, and hop the next train going in our direction. I’ve a sneaky suspicion that such a trip would break the bank.

I just thought of something! Maybe I can get the Travel Channel to give me my own show. I’d get a big motor home and drive across the country visiting Brew Pubs.

When my bride and I travel I often drag her into micro-breweries for a tour. Quite often these breweries include restaurants. We’ve had some wonderful meals at such places. The only negative is that Lu doesn’t like beer. The positive is that I get stuck drinking her samples.

I have one more wish (for now). The State of Georgia has a lottery game called “Win for Life”. The grand prize is $1,000 a week for life. If we were to win that, a number of the things I’ve listed above could become a reality. My bride and I could both retire and go off to see the world.

Perhaps I should buy a ticket.

Now, we’ll see if Rich stops by again and makes another comment.


This Chain is Made for Yanking

June 23, 2009

I’ve come to believe that Kim Jong-il is crazy like a fox, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is simply a stupid figurehead who is good at ruffling feathers.

I also believe that the United States has finally reached a point of impotence – it can do nothing without being criticized. Actually, the United States of American is criticized the most when it does do nothing.

Let’s start with North Korea. Korea was an independent country at one time. Then it was taken over by Japan and held until the end of World War II, at which time it was split (very much like Germany) with the northern half controlled by Russia and the southern half controlled by the United States.

It must be noted that the Korean people were never consulted about this move. Considering they were a captive audience to WW II, it seems rather unjust that they should have to endure continued domination. By 1950, the cold war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had ‘heated’ up and Korea became a ‘playing’ field for the two super powers to test each other’s will.

The U.S. never called the conflict a ‘war’; it was a ‘policing action’ or a ‘conflict’, but not a war. (Try explaining that to the many families who lost loved ones in the conflict.)

By 1953, the two sides (numerous nations were involved – once again it appears that the people of Korea were simply a captive audience) agreed to a truce. The borders were left as they were when the country was initially divided. Nobody won. Korea lost the most.

South Korea, following the model of American capitalism, thrived. North Korea, following the model of Soviet socialism, did the opposite. Frequent famines were ignored by the leaders. Whatever resources the nation had were used to strengthen a military to protect them from the aggressors to the south… the Koreans who wanted no more part in a war not of their making.

The current leader has been in power far too long. He has done nothing to better the lives of his subjects and yet they treat him like a god. Is their fear so great that they must bow down and honor him?

A few months ago I watched a TV show about doctors who traveled to North Korea and operated on people with terrible medical problems. After they had been cured by the foreign doctors, they gave thanks to Kim Jong-il. Go figure!

In all honesty, I do have to give credit to Kim Jong-il. His country could easily be wiped off the face of the earth by China, the United States, and a number of other countries. So, what does he do? He threatens to destroy the otehr countries… and takes particular aim at South Korea – the one country that wouldn’t be able to annihilate his army.

And what do the super powers do? They get him to sign treaties (that he totally ignores) in exchange for enough food to feed his people for a year or two. When his people start going hungry again, he starts his threats again.

He is now threatening to fire a missile toward Hawaii. He has also sent out a ship with a reputation of carrying weapons and materials for nuclear weapons and dares the United States to stop it. He says anything we do to stop his current plans will be seen as an act of aggression at which point he was destroy U.S. cities.

How many of you remember Peter Sellers in a movie called, “The Mouse that Roared”?

Now, if the U.S. stops the ships, boards it, and finds nothing more than medical supplies, President Obama has egg on his face. And I’ll bet Kim Jong-il doesn’t destroy a single city. He’ll just yell and scream about the ugly Americans.

And if he fires the missile in the direction of Hawaii and we destroy it, he’ll say it was a communications satellite and insist we pay reparations.

And if we do nothing, he gains power in the eyes of his people.

Like I said, we have been made impotent. Regardless of what we say or do, we can be seen as the arrogant aggressor.

As for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the recent election (try not to laugh) demonstrated that he has no power whatsoever. He is simply following orders. The real power in that country belongs to the guy in the white beard… and he ain’t no Santa Claus. He’s just another wild-eyed religious radical.

Notice I did call him an Islamic radical. From what I’ve seen, all religious radicals are basically the same… regardless of the religion.

So, these minor despots will continue to yank the chain of Uncle Sam simply because the United States is powerless to stop them.