January 21, 2013
Last weekend I watched the beautiful people, athletes of the NFL Playoffs vying against one another on a football field, and stars of the Golden Globes. The thing that hit me was most of them are not what they seem. The straight teeth, smooth skin, perfect bodies, eyes without glasses, it all gives us the illusion that they are real, perfect, and what we should all aspire to be. But really, do we all want to be those beautiful people on the outside? Or is it what’s inside that counts?
Every day there are people with crooked teeth, glasses, bad skin, built like pears who make businesses run, families flourish, lives grow, all because they care, they try. Sure, they worry about what others say, but they just keep going. They don’t get accolades from newspapers, million dollar contracts to play a game, or pretend to be someone else. They have to live in their own skin every day and they do it and keep doing it. Without them, our businesses, our military, our country, our families would be lost. In addition to the Golden Globes (for they will never go away) we should have a Golden Person award. But we don’t. So here are a few. If you get a chance, e-mail them and tell them how much they mean to you, to us, to the world.
I attended a charity party for the High Park Fire last summer and met Erin Mounsey. He’s a burn victim who turned his life around, and became leader of local Red Cross.
There are leaders in the world who have Asperger’s syndrome. Yes, you would be surprised. And they don’t shoot people, or dogs, or kids.
I have Asperger’s; I am just like you
John lost his son Sean to suicide, and ever since has campaigned tirelessly to promote both Pieta House and the idea of talking with and supporting those who feel suicidal. Pieta House is Ireland’s first community based centre for the prevention and intervention of suicide or self-harm.
Mr. Kinsman, who is now in his eighties, helped establish a cultural exchange in the early 1970s between black children from Mississippi and white children from Wisconsin called Project Self-Help and Awareness (PSA)
These are the opposite of perfect, the imperfect people of everyday life that make the world a place we are proud to call our own.
I’m sure you know people like this, or may actually be one of them. Give them a hug, pat yourself on the back and keep going. You are what makes this world a better place every day. Thanks.
PS. Next week I will come back to the gun theme. You might be surprised.
300 million. Guns or people?
December 15, 2012
Yesterday, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut struck me and many other parents hard. My wife wept. President Obama shed tears at a news conference. Gun control advocates across the world harangued. What did the NRA do? Hid in a closet. No comment. Don’t call us to your gun control debate the morning after, Chris Hayes, because we want things to settle out before we say anything.
What do you think gun owners did? The same thing they did when Obama was elected president, when there was a mass shooting in Aurora, when Gabby Giffords was shot, the same thing they did and will do after every bad thing that happens related to guns: They go out and buy another gun, or two, or five, especially something that might be outlawed soon, like an automatic rifle.
So the question I keep asking myself is what can we do now, right now, to keep another Newtown from happening in two days, or two weeks, in my town, to my daughter or my son the teachers, to my grandson with his whole life ahead of him? Can we take away every gun from every gun owner? Hardly. So there will still be three hundred million guns out there, in another two weeks, probably way more because all the current gun owners will go out and by more, fearing stronger gun laws in the near future.
Should we give every teacher and principal and movie-ticket counter a gun to shoot at anyone who starts opening up? Nope. They’d probably shoot the wrong person, or freeze up when called to action. Even trained police officers freeze and their aim is off when confronted with an assault rifle-toting madman.
The whole purpose, according to NRA members, for allowing us to carry guns is the second amendment: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” supposedly to prevent the military from taking over, allowing citizens to fight off an unwanted police state, to make those gun owners feels safer. Yet, over the years, Americans amassing three hundred million guns has made a culture where we feel just the opposite—more afraid—and it is not from the military, or the police, it’s from everyday ordinary places: a movie theater, a grade school, a high school, a McDonald’s. We are afraid to send our kids to school without a cellphone to let us know if something bad is happening. We sit at the theater in an aisle seat to be able to run if someone starts opening up with an AK-47. And now we all want to homeschool our kids. They will never leave our sight.
How do you change a culture that believes they must have guns to protect themselves? You make that fear go away. You develop laws that prevent the police and the military from taking over. Haven’t we done that? Or do we still fear the police? The military? The government? If we trust the government to do the right thing, because, after all this is a democracy, THE DEMOCRACY, where we elected those officials we trust to do the right thing, then why don’t we let them protect us and we throw away our guns? “Not unless you pry the gun from my cold, dead hands,” says a gun owner.
We won’t get rid of the guns we have, won’t let the government come in and take them, so we’re left with three hundred million guns (Oh, yeah. I forgot, much more in a few weeks).
All I can think of is we bump up security in every place there might be a possible mass murder by a madman. We require everyone to go through a metal detectors at all schools, movie theaters, sporting events, super markets, department stores, restaurants, train stations, bus stations, business meetings, etc., etc., etc. We hire people who won’t freeze up when they must fire their guns, prior military; those that would be mercenaries in foreign countries will be back here, protecting Americans, and contributing to the local economy. Lots of jobs would open up, help immensely with the recession. And all those gun owners with the need to use their gun against a bad guy would be able to do just that.
Of course, there might be one or two bad apples in those security mercs hired to protect your kids at Columbine High School. They might have had an issue with one of the teachers when they were there, before they went off to Afghanistan, and now can get rid of a bunch of teachers in one fell swoop.
Hmm. Beefing up security might not work. Maybe it boils down to changing the culture, teaching people to deal with disagreements, with adversity by using something besides violence. And maybe it would help if we stopped selling weapons of mass destruction, like AK-47’s or other semi-automatic guns. Maybe, just maybe, if we three hundred million people learned to get along with each other, disagree without hurting, work out differences by talking and looking for peaceful solutions, maybe we would ignore those three hundred million guns, they would rust and become antiques. And if the United States of America, the most powerful country in the history of the world, could do that, maybe other countries would follow our lead.
I guess, in the end, it boils down to both things. We must beef up security right away, as much as we can afford, prioritizing the right places to hire extra people, the right people, and put in metal detectors, or personnel searches. At the same time we have to work on the culture of violence and need to have guns. It must come from leaders as well as parents, teachers and anyone involved in teaching about dealing with adversity, and anyone involved already with guns. Rethink why you own one, what would happen if the wrong person got it. Agree that we must tighten the laws of gun ownership so 100%, not just 60% of guns bought have a thorough background search of the potential owner.
We must continue to push basic human values of respecting one another without getting in their face. After all, what’s more important, those three hundred million guns or three hundred million people? A little love might help. Add music, some dance, and pretty soon we would all be partying instead of shooting. One could only hope.
And then there’s cookies.
Have one, you might chill out. And if you haven’t hugged your grandson, your daughter, your son, your spouse, your friend, do it now. Trust me, it’s much better than holding cold steel.
How to get rid of guns: The 3-year plan
December 21, 2012
So here we are, one week after Newtown, one week after 20 children were killed in minutes by another man with a gun. Do we have any new laws about guns yet? Ummm. No.
Lot of talk. Yibber, yabber. “Make all those automatic rifles illegal.” Yeah that’ll do it. Probably get passed in 2013, or maybe 2014 or 2015, or maybe never, depending on what the NRA says to all those Congressmen who want to get elected with NRA money, depending on how many Texans and their oil money contribute to TV ads about why changing gun laws won’t matter. After all, “Guns don’t kill. It’s the people who pull the trigger, particularly crazy people.”
If there wasn’t a trigger to pull, however, no one could kill 20 kids in minutes with a gun. Not crazy people, not smart premeditated sociopaths, not teenagers with a grudge. Of course there are still bombs. There you go again, trying to change the subject. Let’s concentrate on guns.
I’ve got a great proposal to get action faster, in the next year instead of a decade. You see, I know how hard it is to get things changed in people. I see it every day. Ask someone to stop smoking to prevent a heart attack, a stroke, lung cancer, or worsening asthma in their kids. Nah, Doc, I like my smokes. But when they actually get that heart attack, or stroke, or lung cancer, or their kid almost dies in ICU from an asthma attack? Everything changes in a Marlboro minute. You just need motivation. Ask any mafia boss: Threaten their lives? You get action.
So here’s my Mafioso suggestion: It’s a three-year plan, gives gun owners a chance to get used to the new world. First year, the kicker year: Put a trace on all registered guns. Find out where they are in the community. Put their names on the internet. Top of the list, put anyone who owns an automatic weapon, be it rifle or pistol. At the same time make a law that they have one year to turn those automatic weapons in, or go to jail. If you turn it in in that year, you get a tax deduction. Nice one, too. Gotta make it nice. The deduction will be the largest the sooner you turn it in. But still pretty good on day 364. After that year, stroke of midnight, not a second longer, all those guns are taken, confiscated, by force if necessary, and the owner jailed, five years for every automatic weapon confiscated that is registered. Any illegal ones found—life sentence. Any resistance, shoot ‘em. If they are in public office, other than a legal gun-toting law enforcement officer, they get fired, no pension and put in federal penitentiary for treason along with a front page mug shot on the New York Times, and of course the internet.
Now I’m telling you, once this gets going, pretty quick, instead of 300 million guns there will only be 200 million. Second year: go after all rifles. Third year: go after all the handguns.Of course there will be holdouts, illegal ones at that. They get death sentence if illegal. Others, double time in jail, no parole.
After three years you might have a few hundred thousand guns out there. Now that’s action.
What about people who hunt? They can only rent a gun from a bona fide, licensed outfitter, and only for the time they are hunting. They can only practice at registered shooting galleries, be they outside or in, after first renting the gun there.
Who will enforce it? Why those we trust in law enforcement and the military. You do trust them, don’t you? You better. They will soon be the only ones with guns. As it should be.
Maybe a little harsh? Ask any parent of a Newtown kid killed. They will agree, and may want even worse, like maybe shooting the owners first born.
Just think, what would it be like in a country without guns? How many police would we actually need? The police we had might actually be able to concentrate on the illegal guns. There might be a lot more urban families with fathers.
Granted, after the first year you might have more crowded jails. But I think if you were really serious, and the gun owners saw that, maybe they would give up quicker. Of course maybe you would have a war on your hands. But at least the war would be about something important, saving kids instead of oil.
Fathers and sons.
December 10, 2012
These excerpts from “Dan’s War” witness a soliloquy by Dan Trotter, the main protagonist, a man who has a hard time with emotion, sees prime numbers the same way he sees his loved ones, in pastel colors. Yet, he does feel for his son, Jeff, as you will read.
I’ve included this video again as I think it is so powerful and adds so much to the book.
[This is Dan speaking.]
“What is a father’s love for a son? I’ve had some time to think about this … ”
“You might say it is, at first blush, the love of a name–my name, carried past death; a celebration of his birth realizing the continuance of a line, a pedigree. How stupid is that, right? It’s only a name.”
[Then Dan watches a little boy (whose name I will keep secret here) fall, not cry, but push up and run and smile at Dan.]
Dan grinned. “Yep, the boy-things I loved next. We were both guys, so we did rough and tumble things, testosterone-enhanced, like football, rugby, baseball–pitting strength, one against another.”
[Dan follows the little boy around a garden, a garden that is special to Dan and this book.]
“The next part is a bit complicated, but bear with me.”
[The little boy gazes in an open-mouthed smile, dimples and all.]
“I hoped he would be better–in the areas I failed, he would excel. So I pushed to make sure that my failures did not become his, that his life abounded in new opportunities. Then it happened, he grew into himself. I had to accept him as his own person: a different contribution, not only to the daily human conundrum and the DNA of life, but to the future. Whether I liked it or not, he traveled in his own direction; he was the future, and he would do it his way.
[The little boy does some things that make Dan cry, something he has done maybe twice in his life. The toddler then shows how smart he is.]
“You’re as smart as he was. After I accepted Jeff him as Jeff, not Dan’s son, it was cool to see him puzzle a scenario in Resident Evil, show Katie how to solve an algebra problem, and feel his strong arms hug me. I didn’t always lik hugs, you know. Or him caring enough to show affection in public.”
The next bit will give away too much, so you’ll have to read it in the book.
The love a father for a son can be as strong as any emotion on the planet. Of course the love of a daughter is just as strong, only different. And yet we still send our sons and daughters into battles to save our asses.
Why is that?
I remember singing this song to my son, my daughters. That was way before Cat Stevens became Muslim. But it still applies. Maybe more so after 9/11 and so much hate has erupted between us and Muslim countries. Now I sing it to my grandson.
Hug your loved ones, today, now. DO IT! They may not be here tomorrow.
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I will not forget today
October 22, 2012
Some days you could stick on the highest shelf, close the door and not come back. Not today. It will rest on my arm, warm; touch my breath, with rhythm; cradle my eyes, in colors; but mostly sing my heart a song.
(double click on each photo for larger and clearer)
It started with love. I woke remembering last night and my grandson’s birthday bash, a costume Halloween party. He loved it. Then I got up and watched the end of a movie, Medicine Man, about one man’s love for the land, love of a people ignored by the world and trampled by progress, and love of a woman who peeled away his shields and made him believe again. Believe enough to save the world from cancer.(If you haven’t seen the movie, the teaser is below. It’s worth it. I watch it every few months just to remind me of ideals wew should strive for.)
Then I ate breakfast with my love, at a restaurant named after my mother, Lucile’s. Not quite the spelling, but still weird.
Then I came home and wrote. That by itself heals wounds. To create a story from nothing is like painting with words. But to write a sequel to a story about a man’s love for his son, love of his grandson, lost love, new love, and love found? These are things that make me want to cure the world of wars, if not at least love a bit more.
So I had the main course, now it was time for desert. I went for a walk. Not an ordinary, trudging: one-step, two-step, repeat, repeat, ad nauseam, forever and ever. This was with music. Pandora played my favorites while fall filled my other senses. I had rhythm, color, song and dance. (click on the Youtube videos of the songs and listen while you read)http://youtu.be/u3NE6UuaLiY http://youtu.be/IXPOHCsgWFw
So few people were out on such a wonderful fall day: not a cloud, without wind, low 70’s, the foliage past peak but still bright. What a shame. They were inside watching football, or snoozing, or playing a video game. I hoped not. I hoped they were fishing, or hiking in the hills, or painting people as they meandered through downtown. Or maybe getting ready for Halloween. That was the reason I didn’t see them. Surely. It didn’t matter, though. You can’t take this day away. It’s there, etched in me the way a good song stays with you for a week.
I hope you find your day like today. Not hope, I KNOW you will. Love it. Keep it close. Let it breathe inside you. You deserve it.
Get outside and enjoy the wilderness soon. The fires may destroy your favorite area. And, winter is coming.Milt
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