Tag: #colorado

Just So Sad . . .

school shootings 2Compared To . . . ?

About two months ago there was a high school shooting in Aztec, New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of two students.  The shooter, who died in the incident, was armed with a Glock pistol that he legally purchased.  The weapon is widely used by both law enforcement and civilians.

My sister lives in Albuquerque.  With the tragedy occurring in her figurative backyard, my sister an sent an indignant email to me.  The subject line was, “Just so sad . . .”

Because immigration is often a bone of contention between us, that vexed topic also worked it’s way into the discussion.  She was particularly upset that the shooter was a white, American male. And, according to her, that these are the people that pose a real threat to our safety-as opposed to illegal immigrants.  As she put it, “Who is killing more of us?  White American males or illegal immigrants?”

And now we now have an even worse school shooting in Florida.   Again, the shooter was a white, American male.  But this time the shooter survived the episode, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.  The latest reports are that while the shooting was underway, four deputy sheriffs were hiding behind their nearby patrol cars-rather than storming the building. And that law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ignored warnings signs of the danger posed by the shooter.  The shooter was armed with a legally purchased, semi-automatic, AR-15 rifle.  It’s estimated that there are several million of these weapons in circulation in the country.

Rivers of electronic ink have already been spilled discussing gun violence in this country.  What can be said that hasn’t already been said?  Well, here are a couple of ideas.

Compared To Most Of The World And Most Of Its History, America Is Peaceful

This is going to sound crazy coming on the heels of these horrific shootings, but by comparison to most of the world and for most of it’s history, America is peaceful.

The bloodiest war we ever fought was our Civil War, which left about 700,000 dead, more than the rest of our wars combined.  A terrible tragedy, without question.  But by comparison to the rest of the world, the US is a piker when it comes to blood letting.

One hundred years ago, Europe was nearing the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars”-which did nothing of the sort for that bloody continent.  In four years of savage trench warfare, over 9 million combatants lost their lives; additional millions of civilians perished.

But World War I was just the prelude to an even more horrifying conflict:  World War II.  This time, there were over 24 million military deaths, and nearly 30 million civilian.  American deaths (about 419,000), were a tiny fraction of these mind numbing totals.  And behind most of these countless deaths and maimings there were loved ones who, no doubt, experienced every bit as much grief as those who were left behind by our school shootings.

Am I making light of the shock and intense sorrow that has followed the school shootings in our country?  Of course not; it’s just to put it in context.  Do you charge me with being cold hearted?  Fair enough.  But what’s it called when you’re more grieved with 19 murders-than with the industrial scale slaughter of 24 million?

In light of these terrifying numbers, preachy articles like this one from an English newspaper, comparing European and US gun violence, and which are so prevalent after something like the Florida shooting, strike me, at best, as historically myopic.  And, at worst, as hypocrytical.

“But,” you say, “those wars were a long time ago.”  That’s right.  So was The Holocaust-and the 6 million who died in the gas chambers.  Are you saying, “It’s time to put The Holocaust behind us and focus on Florida”?  The question answers itself.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the gruesome details.  But please, don’t lecture me about how “peaceful” Europe is in comparison to America.  Scholars estimate that the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, may have been responsible for up to 50 million deaths.  This quote, usually attributed to the Communist monster, is particularly apt here: “A single death is a tragedy.  The death of millions is a statistic.”  Yes, America has its share of tragedies.  But, thank God, we’re short on statistics.

Compared To Whom?

There’s an odd thing about these mass shootings that you probably haven’t noticed.  And that’s that not all of them are committed by white, American males.  In fact, a sizable number of these killings are committed by culprits that aren’t white, American males.   And the reason you haven’t noticed this fact? Because the main stream media doesn’t want you to notice it.  It doesn’t fit into their meme of white, American males as violent, gun happy criminals.

But the facts, here, tell a different story.  Immigrants of all races, both legal and illegal, have killed at least 635 and wounded at least 2,160 as of December, 2017.  And that doesn’t even count the 3,000 killed and over 6,000 injured in the September 11 attacks.  But these facts are often concealed in the coverage of these immigrant crimes because the main stream media usually doesn’t even talk about these attributes of the culprit. Unless he’s a white, American male.

So, is it atrocious when a white, American male is involved in one of these horrific crimes? Absolutely.  But it’s every bit as bad when the criminal is an immigrant, regardless of his race.  And if it’s relevant that some of these crazed criminals are white, American males, then the ethnicity and immigration status of the the culprit should be relevant and reported in all cases.

Compared To What, Realistically, Can Be Done

I live within a few miles of where the Columbine High School massacre occurred.  The body count in that tragedy left 15 dead (including the 2 perpetrators) and 24 wounded.  The Superintendent of that school district, Jason Glass, knows all too well the suffering caused by these crimes. Since the Florida shooting, he has weighed in on school safety with some ideas worth paying attention to.

First, he doesn’t believe that more restrictive gun control laws or arming teachers will get any more traction this time than it has after the numerous, previous incidents of this kind.  Thus, he doesn’t believe we should waste energy on the politically impossible.  And, that, instead, we should focus on the politically possible.

Superintendent Glass thinks the following are possible:

  • Putting trained, armed law enforcement officers in every school.
  • Increase funding for school mental health services.
  • Redesign schools to be more like airports, stadiums, and other public facilities, so that access is better controlled.
  • Create a federally funded center to study school safety and security.

I think three of the four of these ideas make sense.  I’m opposed, however, to turning the problem over to the federal government-even the funding.  If the feds fund school safety research, it will almost certainly try to impose a “one size fits all” solution.  When I was in the legislature, I learned that the “golden rule” rigidly applies to federal funding:  he who has the gold, makes the rules. Colorado isn’t California or North Dakota or New York or Alaska. We’re smart enough to come up with a solution that works for Colorado; keep the feds out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

national anthem at a football game

national anthem at a football game

The NFL.  Or, the National Felons League.

The Veterans Memorial Day Tribute is an organization run by and for the benefit of American patriots.  Although I can’t claim to know the entire story of how it began, I know for sure that Louetta Smith has spent countless hours well behind the scenes to make sure that it comes off flawlessly every year.  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night has prevented Louetta and her small, but intrepid, band of volunteers from honoring Colorado veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation’s various wars.

When I first began attending the observance several years ago, it took place in Civic Center Park at the Veterans Monument just west of the state Capital.  Then, perhaps because of our unruly May weather, it was moved into the nearby Pillar of Fire Church on 13th and Sherman Street.

It’s a solemn, moving ceremony.  Accompanied by the slow tolling of a bell, the names and ranks of the fallen are read.  Then, family members are presented with an embroidered pennant recognizing their loss by a ramrod straight member of the armed services who moves through the sanctuary with measured, deliberate steps.

Now that the “War on Terror” has dragged on for more than 16 inconclusive years, some of the names, such as Navy Seal Danny Dietz’, have been read repeatedly.  Lamentably, new names are added with each passing year.  I’ve also noticed that Sergeants are disproportionately represented among the fallen, something that a cursory search of the internet seems to bear out.

This past Memorial Day, I happened to be sitting close enough to a family that was given a pennant so that I was able to overhear the service member lean forward and, in a hushed voice say, “On behalf of a grateful nation, we honor your family’s sacrifice.”

I can’t speak for other members of the audience, but if mine were a good measure, there were few dry eyes in sanctuary by the time the ceremony was over.  The mournful wail of the bagpipes closed the service.  When I emerged from the church, into the glare of a hot May afternoon, I was as emotionally wrung out as an old piece of drift wood.

And now we’re treated to the spectacle of our favorite faux warriors, NFL players, taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner to protest racial injustice.

Like, I suppose, the injustice of the average salary of NFL players, about 70% of whom are black, being a cool $1.9 million.  And, yes, I’ll concede that NFL players suffer more than their share of the dings about which football fans endlessly hyperventilate. But their pay still compares pretty favorably to the average salary of something less than the $30,000 that a sergeant in the U.S. Army pulls down.  Especially given the risk those sergeants run of the “ding” that leaves them without one of their limbs.  Or, even worse, a wife without a husband. Or kids without a father.

But even the NFL’s spoiled knuckle draggers know that they aren’t underpaid.  No, these protests are about the alleged racial grievances of which we hear no end.  So, yes, let’s talk about those beefs.

How about police brutality against blacks?  If the somber, black faces on the Sunday TV screens are the measure, it must be horrific.

But what if I told you that that in 2015 a cop was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer?  And that ratio has undoubtedly gotten worse given the 53% increase of gun murders of cops in 2016-committed overwhelmingly by blacks.

So, yes, read ’em and weep.  But not for the NFL phonies shedding crocodile tears for black criminals.   But for the shattered families and colleagues of the multitudes of police officers who have been cut down by those criminals.

But, at least these players know of what they speak.  While studies show that the NFL’s pampered millionaires aren’t committing property crimes at a rate higher than the population at large, when it comes to violent crime, they’re MVPs.  You know, the “little” things like murder, manslaughter, DUI manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, sexual assault, rape, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and kidnapping.

Some may be offended that I am even drawing attention to this information.  In their minds, this kind of data qualifies as “hatefacts.”  And anyone who unearths it in government crime statistics and points it out is guilty of the Orwellian thought crime of “noticing.”

I mentioned this post about the NFL controversy to my personal trainer, Mike, the other day.  He responded that another client “Predicted that the NFL will be gone in 10 years.”

“Really,” I answered, “why does he think that?”

“He believes nothing that can be done about the traumatic brain injuries caused by the game. It’s not the bit hits that do the damage, it’s the constant small ones.  And, yes,” he conceeded, “they’re constantly improving the helmets, but there’s really nothing they can do to prevent concussions when you have those huge men running into each other.”

You can probably imagine that it wouldn’t break my heart to see the NFL go the way of the dinosaur.  Or, for that matter, Division I college football.  What, after all, is big time college football other than a farm league for the NFL?  Both are profoundly corrupt.  And, as our equivalent of the Roman Empire’s bloodthirsty gladiatorial games, inure us to violence. And coarsen our culture.

Think about this for a moment.  Is it really the best use of your time to sit in front of the TV and watch a bunch of thugs knock each other down into the wee hours of Monday night? And Thursday night? And pretty much all day Sunday?

Just asking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road. Again.

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver

Denver. There’s no place like home.

Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, was one of those books that captured the anarchic zeitgeist of the late ’60s as well as any.  Of course, I fell in love with it in high school.

The crazy hitchhiking around the “immense triangular arc from New York to Mexico City to San Francisco.”  The dope. The booze.  The sex-tame by today’s standards, true-but a revealing foretaste of the depths to which the culture could, and has, sunk.  But, I have to admit, the general cussedness of the book no doubt helped inspire what became the anti-war fervor of the hippies.

But the best part for me?  A good deal of the story was set in the dim, narrow alleys and dive bars of downtown Denver. Larimer Street.  Wazee Street. Kerouac was there long before the terms “gentrified” and “Lodo” had even been dreamed up.  And I knew, even if only from a safe, suburban distance, those spooky environs from the time I was a kid since Denver is my home town.  So, hey, even a cow town could turn out a famous writer.  Perhaps there was hope for me.

Our recent trip to Cape Cod and out to Province Town brought to memory the book that Kerouac had so famously written on a continuous scroll of paper.  I can hear you asking, “Fine.  But, what’s the connection?”

Good question.  Inspired by my then recent reading of Kerouac’s book, I got “on the road” myself during the last few weeks of the summer of 1970 and hitchhiked from Denver to Province Town, Massachusetts. And back.

In retrospect, one of the most remarkable things about the journey was that my mom volunteered to kick start the trip by driving me the first few miles out of town up I-76 toward the northeast corner of Colorado, where I planned to catch I-80 and go on to the east coast.  If my son had proposed such a scheme to my wife in this day of perceived murder and mayhem, she would have probably locked him in his room.  And fed him through the key hole for the duration of the summer.  But for my mom, a child of the Depression, hitchhiking was something she had probably done herself.

Going in, let’s understand, that I’m talking about a trip that happened 45 years ago.  And that I have gotten to the age where I can hide my own Easter eggs.  So, this account is, of necessity, impressionist.  Not a documentary.  Nonetheless, there are some things that stand out even at this distance.

Early on, I lucked out and got picked up by a heavy set, youngish traveling salesman who took me all the way to Chicago in a boxy Volvo station wagon.  It didn’t take much to impress me.  I’d never been east of Denver before, and I remember thinking to myself, “With every passing mile, I’m seeing something I’ve never seen before.”  Not exactly what you’d call “deep thinking.”

But corn fields that stretched to infinity and dingy gas station bathrooms at interstate off ramps had a short shelf life in the “romance of the road” department. Even for a rube like me.

Small towns used to punctuate and leaven long cross country drives on two lane highways like Route 66.  Their’s was a symbiotic relationship: the towns serviced the passing motorists with cafe food, gas and a place to rest at motels with flashing neon “vacancy” signs.   The passing motorists helped fuel small town economies where real life existed:  homes where kitchen windows glowed at night, schools, little parks, church steeples, small businesses on the main street that, at the city limits, morphed into the highway that led to the next town.

The Interstate system, in the relentless pursuit of speed, efficiency, and, I’ll grant you, safety, severed that connection.  Now, those small towns merit, at best, no more than an anonymous arrow at the end of an exit ramp.  One of them, “Honey Town,” for some reason, sticks in my memory from the trip; it’s probably shrunk to a shadow of its former self by now.  The Interstates did their damnedest to cut the heart out of rural America.

Late that first night, the Volvo pulled off I-80 at a rest stop.  “What’s up?” I asked the driver, surfacing from a profound slumber.  “Where are we?”

“Somewhere in Iowa,” he said, rubbing his neck.  “I need to take to get some sleep.”

Cicadas kept up a relentless din in the muggy air that wrapped me like a sodden blanket as I got out of the car and stretched.  “It gets cold in the Rockies when the sun goes down,” I thought to myself, “does it even cool off here when it gets dark?”  Big bugs flew lazy circles around the mercury vapor lights that burned overhead. They bleached the color from the few cars in the rest area. And cast stark shadows across the parking lot.  I slept on a concrete picnic table with nothing between me and it but my thin foam backpacking pad.

The next day we hit Chicago, where my driver lived with his mother.   He invited me to get cleaned up, have dinner, and spend the night.  I was grateful, but it must have been an awkward meal among strangers around that dinner table.  I wonder what the guy’s mom said when he told her a hitchhiker was going to be a guest in her home.

The next day, as we drove to his job in the Loop, he bought me a ticket to a matinee showing of Hair.  Of course, I’d heard of it-especially the notorious, 10 second nude scene.  So my prurient instincts were quivering as I walked under the gaudy marquee and into the old shoebox of a theater.  At that point in my life, I was an odd combination of prudish recklessness; when the lights went down, I watched with nervous anticipation.  But from my vantage point toward the back of the balcony, I only saw enough to know that that I could say “Yes” if someone asked me if I had seen the “nude scene.”

By the next evening, I made it to South Bend and an exit near Notre Dame University.  It was raining and the dark was closing in rapidly.  The traffic was sparse and what little there was was going by so fast that it must have been nearly impossible to see a huddled figure in a dark poncho with his thumb out by the side of the road.  I didn’t catch a ride till the next morning; talk about the longest night.

In Pennsylvania, I took a detour to visit the Gettysburg battle field.  I was fortunate to be picked up by a family of Southerners-although I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  From the perspective of the “Lost Cause,” a couple and their two young sons recounted the exploits of Picket’s Charge for me near where Confederate cannons were aimed at the Copse of Trees.  When I thought of the withering shell fire, the Copse looked infinitely far away.  For many of the young men who started across that field, it was.

This is yet another detour, but indulge me.  For a nation that takes such pride in our having seceded from the British Empire in our War of Independence, the Civil Was is a strange chapter in our history.  If it was a good thing for the 13 Colonies to strike out on their own, why is it a good thing that we fought a war that killed more Americans than all our other wars combined to prevent the 11 states of the Confederacy from doing the very same thing?

It was as if the South were an unhappy wife who sued for divorce.  In response, the North, her husband, beats her until she changes her mind.  The difference between the Revolutionary and Civil wars?  The wife, the Colonies, won the former conflict against her husband, the British Empire.  And the wife, the South, lost the latter.  It’s remarkable how much that can be forgotten about the course of human events in a mere four score and seven years.

Of course, the Civil War it is now popularly-and politically correctly-seen as a war to free the slaves.  But that is not how Abraham Lincoln saw it-at least until he needed something to rally a Union that was weary of loosing bloody battle after bloody battle to the Rebels.  Until then, it was strictly a conflict, in Lincoln’s words, “To save the Union.” Slavery was entirely secondary.

If you are interested in a bracing alternative to the monotonous fare of Lincoln hagiographies that publishers churn out, take a look at the The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas DiLorenzo.  While DiLorenzo and his book have their critics, you should read it before the PC crowd consigns it to the memory hole.  Just as you should tour the Gettysburg battle field before the same crowd effaces the many Confederate monuments there.  But don’t wait too long-they’re trying, even as you read.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we were done reliving the scenes of those terrible few days.  I thanked my tour guides for their Southern hospitality, bid them a good evening and then took in the 360° painting of battle at the Cyclorama.  When I finished there, the sun was going down beyond the split rail fence that defined the edge of the battlefield.  No doubt in violation of many rules and regulations, I climbed over the fence when I judged no-one was looking and spread my bag in a patch of high grass.  And slept soundly with the ghosts that haunt the ground that was the high-water mark of the Confederacy.

Although the trip from there to Province Town is largely a blur, a few things stand out.  Mostly the generosity of strangers.  Another guy, in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, invited me sit down to dinner with his wife and kids.  Great, hospitable people.  I hope I had the presence of mind to tell them that I have ancestors that had a land grant from William Penn.

I next went to Princeton, New Jersey where I free loaded off a college friend named Ritchie and his family.  Free loaded so long, in fact, that Ritchie had to invite me to leave (at his parents’ urging, no doubt).  The romance of the road was wearing thin; a soft bed and clean sheets weren’t so bad after all.

My next stop was New York City where I got a room in a high rise YMCA.  Talk about spooky for a wet-behind-the-ears-kid from a one horse town like Denver.  I’m sure I was convinced that there was a mugger hiding in every dark corner of the stairwell I climbed to get to my room.  And a bed bug in every fold of the sheets.

From there it was north to Massachusetts and out to the end of the Cape Cod hook.  I craned my neck to see a Kennedy as we went by their compound in Hyannis Port; they must not have gotten the memo that I was there that day.

Fishing Port

Fishing Port

When I got to Province Town it was grey and drizzling.  I found a room to rent in a little house near, where else? The ocean.  After a bite to eat, I watched the gulls swarming the pier where the fishing boats came in, their black spars piercing the gathering gloom.  I spent some time in a small used book store where I picked up a well worn copy of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels; I think it was Crime and Punishment.  I began reading it that night, snuggly propped in bed as a wind whipped rain lashed my window.

When the sun rose the next morning in a thankfully clear sky, I had one thought: Denver.