Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thoughts on the latest slaughter...

...this time of first graders.

Over the years I have occasionally tried to talk about guns with gun fanciers (I am using the most polite word I can think of for them) and they seem to have three main reasons for their gun fetishism. 

Some of them want guns for self defense.  Some believe that the 2nd Amendment is their last line of defense against governmental oppression.  Some want guns for hunting. There is considerable overlap, of course.  

WRT the self defense gun fanciers, they  think that only professional criminals,  maniacs, and psychopaths  commit gun crimes, and argue that these individuals,  if thwarted by not having a gun, would invariably kill and rob with knives or baseball bats instead.  But if you ask why they themselves want a gun instead of a club under their bed  if their statistically unlikely nightmare fantasy of home invasion should ever occur, they don't see the point.  And if you present  the statistics showing that having a gun in your house actually increases your chance of dying of gunshot wounds, they simply refuse to believe it.  I think I can safely guarantee that they won't get it even if you mention Nancy Lanza, who had an arsenal in her home.

With the 2nd Amendment fans, the "shall not be infringed" clause is so vivid in their minds that the "well regulated militia" part disappears.  It stays disappeared even if you quote it.  They just can't process the words, not because they are stupid, but because they are smart enough to see that actually parsing the sentence would wreck their adolescent fantasy of facing down muggers with a gun pulled from under their coat.

Hunters are marginally more reasonable.  I think you might be able to convince some hunters that it's more sportsmanlike to hunt animals with a single-shot bolt action rifle than with an assault rifle that will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger--those of them who just like to hunt deer, and who are not caught  in the toils of Walter Mitty fantasies of  leading an armed insurrection against the United Nations troops sent to enforce Obamacare.

Most  gun fanciers are not very amenable to the idea of even moderate gun restrictions, to put it mildly.  I am sad to say I think they are perfectly willing to continue to sacrifice  classrooms full of first graders indefinitely.

My only hope is that someday reasonable and sane people can convince the very large number of Americans who are not gun fanciers, hopefully still a majority, that we need some very strict regulation of handgun and semi-automatic rifle ownership, and ammunition purchase limits as well.  

Despite the ferocity of their rhetoric, remember  that most  gun-fanciers are middle-aged-to-elderly suburbanites, generally pretty law-abiding, if only out of timidity and poor physical condition, who would in fact obey laws restricting gun ownership if we could get such laws passed.  

And there, of course, is the problem, given that legislators seem quite content with the blood money they receive from the NRA and allied conservative groups, and being thus bought and paid for, will probably, once again, do nothing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Homeland of warriors

About seven years ago I wrote an entry in this blog on our present bizarre usage of the word "homeland."  

I should probably expand this into a general essay on linguistic corruptions arising from empire.  I am thinking at the moment of the word "warrior" as used to refer to  American soldiers.  Unfortunately, despite Google Ngram and some academic linguistic databases, as far as I know it's not possible to find out if this word was used for soldiers in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, simply because that kind of search requires that the database classify general context in a way that such databases--again, as far as I know--don't do.

So I will go with my impressionistic memory, which may well be wrong.  Maybe this usage, which seems to me to be a neologistic amalgam of jingoism, macho chest-pounding, and adolescent fantasy, has appeared in times of war fever before.  If so, I will stand possibly corrected, in advance. 

But I think the present meaning of warrior as  "one of our soldiers" is unprecedented.  In fact Americans generally reserved the term for adversaries we considered barbaric, as in "Comanche warriors attack wagon train."   The word was commonly used for Viking looters, Genghis Khan's cavalrymen, and any and all nomadic raiders plundering their citified neighbors throughout history.

Despite our thinking that such people were barbaric, there is nevertheless an undertone of attributive personal prowess, which, in times like ours, appeals to the male adolescent imagination.  And there's the problem.  Even though I don't think the "Army of One" recruiting geniuses came up with the present use of the word, I am sure they love it.  I am not even sure that American exceptionalism-worshipping Republican ideologues dreamed it up, but again, I am sure they love it too.  And Democrats, always on the defensive and perpetually quaking with fear of  being labelled less patriotic than Republicans, have jumped on the warrior bandwagon.  So it's a bipartisan usage…unfortunately.   It would be good if a major political party had the courage  to stand up and point out that calling our soldiers "warriors" is both stupid and demeaning. I am not holding my breath.

Anyway, I was reading a NY Times book review of _No Easy Day_, the account of the raid to kill bin Laden.  The book was written by one of the commando team, Matt Bissonnette, with the help of a ghost writer.  No doubt there will be a movie.  I was surprised, given the excesses of SEAL admiration by the reviewer, that the word "warrior" appeared only once.  The phrase "killing machine" appeared twice, the second time with a resonance of irony, but even if it was irony (I hope it was) it was pretty muted.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New look for senescent blog

Ever since Haloscan decided to end their support of the comments utility I've been using since 2005, I have meant to re-enable regular Blogger comments and get rid of the code that substituted the Haloscan comment template.  I think I have done that, but I am not altogether sure.  In any case, Haloscan (aka Echo) comments will soon disappear totally, so there is no point in delaying enabling regular Blogger comments.  We'll soon see if my changes work.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Found photographs

While cleaning out a storage room I found some old photographs belonging to my wife's father Tom Sutherland. These photos had been put in a box after the 2001 flood on Onion Creek, and have suffered some damage due to neglect since then. I have found out who some of these people are, but the identity of the others is a mystery.

This is Kay's great-grandfather Maclin Robertson outside the family home at a ranch near Salado, Texas. The house still exists, essentially unchanged. Kay and I visited the place once when her father was still alive; it is where he grew up.

This woman is unknown; although it is very likely she is one of Kay's great-aunts.

This woman is unknown to family members I have asked.

The only clue I have about this picture and the next is that they were in an envelope sent to Kay's grandmother Mary Elizabeth Robertson from a photo studio in Houston in 1954, where she had probably sent negatives to have copies made. The photos were obviously taken long before 1954. I am guessing they were Robertson family members.

This boy's photo was in the same envelope as the previous.

This is Kay's great-aunt Minnie Bell Sutherland.