Johnny, Get Your “Guns”


No.  Not those guns.  This “Guns.”

Best-selling author, Stephen King, has waded into the messy discussion on gun violence and control.  He did so with a short, pointed and sometimes tersely written essay which looks to find a reasonable middle ground in the highly polarized debate.  King brings a unique perspective to the discussion, having pulled a book from circulation which may have influenced a couple of high school aged shooters.  He also has a background (similar to mine) of having grown up in a red state, while personally leaning to the left, so he’s able to bring a bit of balance to the discussion.

The book opens with a jarring account of the formulaic response to a shooting. The following pages take a look at both sides of the issue while King peppers it all with his keen insight.  He closes the book with a thorough review of three recommendations which he’d like to see implemented: background checks, limiting clip size, and banning assault weapons.

The standard response will be that these options would encroach on personal freedoms.  I’ll let former Poet Laureate Robert Frost answer that one.

“If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.

A few of my favorite lines from the essay:

On U.S. politics:

American politics has managed to catch itself in one of those fiendish Chinese finger pullers we used to buy in the dime store when we were kids, and as a result, two muscular and capable hands can do no work.

On the NRA:

The NRA doesn’t come right out and say the victims are also to blame for thinking they could live in America without a gun on their person or in their purse, but the implication is hard to miss.

On cowards:

Superhero movies and comic books teach a lesson that runs directly counter to the culture-of-violence idea: guns are for bad guys too cowardly to fight like men.

The Kindle Single is only a buck.  I implore you to dedicate the hour or so to reading it and to try to do so with an open mind.

Parting Thought

All of the recent talk brought an old song back to mind, or rather a video.  Metallica’s “One” utilizes scenes from the movie “Johnny Got His Gun,” which tells the tale of a soldier who returns from war limbless, faceless, deaf and mute, but with his mind fully intact.  A poignant reminder of the horrors of war and violence in general.

Here’s the Metallica video:

And the full movie for good measure:

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The Friday Night Music Blogging Zenith?


David Roberts of Grist puts together a highly anticipated mix tape around the holidays that shares his favorite songs from the year. The 2012 selections were no disappointment.
Tonight’s track comes from side 2 of that mix. (Here’s the link for side 1.)

It’s a lovely song, and the words, the words, the words…

Here’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert in “SAME LOVE.”

(I recommend listening once and then re-winding for a sing along.)

Same Love

When I was in the 3rd grade

I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw, my uncle was
And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-K”
Trippin’, yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she
A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
I remember doing the math like
“Yeah, I’m good a little league”
A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
For those that like the same sex had the characteristics
The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition
Playing God
Ahh nah, here we go
America the brave
Still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children it’s somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
3,500 years ago
I don’t know

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily
We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’
Our culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate
Yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color
Complexion of your pigment
The same fight that lead people to walk-outs and sit-ins
Human rights for everybody
There is no difference
Live on! And be yourself!
When I was in church
They taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service
Those words aren’t anointed
And that Holy Water
That you soak in
Is then poisoned
When everyone else
Is more comfortable
Remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans
That have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same
But that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal
Damn right I support it

I don’t know

We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Some would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law’s gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient (not cryin’ on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays)

On the Death of Labor?


SPOILER ALERT: If you were thinking of reading H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” and do not want to ruin the plot (and haven’t found time in the 117 years since it’s release), read no further!

flickr/GmanViz

I read “The Time Machine” last weekend with an eye towards gaining a better understanding of the story’s bifurcated human race.  I can’t recall where I learned of the story (probably an adaptation for children), but I knew it was about a time traveler who witnessed two species descended from the human race.  Elois inhabited the seemingly gilded surface while Morlocks toiled in subterranean lairs.  I’ve posted a passage towards the end of this post which struck me as both poignant and prophetic.

I don’t often allow myself to read fiction these days for fear of losing precious time for learning, but this one reminded me that good fiction can offer the author’s perspective on humanity.  Wells’ thoughts were surely worth the time invested.

A couple of related tweets today brought the book back to mind.  (The connection may not immediately avail itself, but if you stick with me to the end, I think (hope?) you’ll find it worth your time.)

Noah Smith, economist and author of the Noahpinion blog, shared a link to new BLS numbers which show the continued crashing out of U.S. labor participation.

Matt Bruenig passed on a ThinkProgress article which shared his graph of the corresponding decline in dispute related work absences.

Bruenig’s Graph

And now a bit of the story of Morlocks and Eloi.  I hope it pulls at you the way I felt it.  For me it was pure social commentary dressed up as fiction.  See what you think.  (Btw, you’re getting a bit of the milk here, but the cow’s still well worth it.  The book’s in the public domain, so Kindle and presumably other versions can be had for free.)

A passage from Ch. 5.  (Emphasis mine. Or is it?)

Here was the new view. Plainly, this second species of Man was subterranean. There were three circumstances in particular which made me think that its rare emergence above ground was the outcome of a long-continued underground habit. In the first place, there was the bleached look common in most animals that live largely in the dark – the white fish of the Kentucky caves, for instance. Then, those large eyes, with that capacity for reflecting light, are common features of nocturnal things – witness the owl and the cat. And last of all, that evident confusion in the sunshine, that hasty yet fumbling awkward flight towards dark shadow, and that peculiar carriage of the head while in the light – all reinforced the theory of an extreme sensitiveness of the retina.

flickr/benloudman

Beneath my feet, then, the earth must be tunnelled enormously, and these tunnellings were the habitat of the new race. The presence of ventilating shafts and wells along the hill slopes – everywhere, in fact except along the river valley – showed how universal were its ramifications. What so natural, then, as to assume that it was in this artificial Underworld that such work as was necessary to the comfort of the daylight race was done? The notion was so plausible that I at once accepted it, and went on to assume the how of this splitting of the human species. I dare say you will anticipate the shape of my theory; though, for myself, I very soon felt that it fell far short of the truth.

At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer, was the key to the whole position. No doubt it will seem grotesque enough to you – and wildly incredible! – and yet even now there are existing circumstances to point that way. There is a tendency to utilize underground space for the less ornamental purposes of civilization; there is the Metropolitan Railway in London, for instance, there are new electric railways, there are subways, there are underground workrooms and restaurants, and they increase and multiply. Evidently, I thought, this tendency had increased till Industry had gradually lost its birthright in the sky. I mean that it had gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever larger underground factories, spending a still-increasing amount of its time therein, till, in the end – ! Even now, does not an East-end worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the natural surface of the earth?

Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people – due, no doubt, to the increasing refinement of their education, and the widening gulf between them and the rude violence of the poor – is already leading to the closing, in their interest, of considerable portions of the surface of the land. About London, for instance, perhaps half the prettier country is shut in against intrusion. And this same widening gulf – which is due to the length and expense of the higher educational process and the increased facilities for and temptations towards refined habits on the part of the rich – will make that exchange between class and class, that promotion by intermarriage which at present retards the splitting of our species along lines of social stratification, less and less frequent. So, in the end, above ground you must have the Haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty, and below ground the Have-nots, the Workers getting continually adapted to the conditions of their labour. Once they were there, they would no doubt have to pay rent, and not a little of it, for the ventilation of their caverns; and if they refused, they would starve or be suffocated for arrears. Such of them as were so constituted as to be miserable and rebellious would die; and, in the end, the balance being permanent, the survivors would become as well adapted to the conditions of underground life, and as happy in their way, as the Upper-world people were to theirs. As it seemed to me, the refined beauty and the etiolated pallor followed naturally enough.

The great triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a different shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education and general co-operation as I had imagined. Instead, I saw a real aristocracy, armed with a perfected science and working to a logical conclusion the industrial system of today. Its triumph had not been simply a triumph over Nature, but a triumph over Nature and the fellow-man.

-H.G. Wells from “The Time Machine” 1895

The middle class was born of unions and it’s dying with them.  The only question that remains is whether there are enough of the “miserable and rebellious” left to make a difference, or is this all foregone?