Sunday, December 15, 2013

"War" On Christmas

It's kind of hard to imagine a more idiotic idea.

I'm willing to bet that if you drive or walk through any area in and around your home, you will see windows ablaze with candles, trees festooned with lights, inflatable Santas, candy cane decorations attached to light poles, and a massive panoply of other signs that it is Christmastime. I'm certain if you tune to your favorite radio station, you will hear at least a handful of Christmas carols, in every genre of music imaginable. Every store will be swathed in exhortations to come inside and fulfill your holiday shopping list.

So to anyone ringing the klaxon to rouse the troops to do battle for the soul of Christmas, I have two words for you:

Bah! Humbug!

I hasten to believe that most people who shriek affirmations about the death of Christmas are simply parrots, squawking out timeworn phrases and a liturgy of offenses toward the holiday which is meant to signify the birth of Jesus Christ. I say signify, because we have no idea when Christ was born. Even our whole means of numbering years is based on the false assumption that would could know exactly what year the Christian Savior was born in.

The holiday, Christmas, is a fabrication, built by the early Roman Catholic Church to coincide with the pagan rituals of the Winter Solstice, to imbue the season with more of God's power. It was a not-so-subtle attempt to nullify the strength of other belief systems, and make it seem like it was God's will all along that there be a celebration at this time of year. As centuries passed and Catholicism spread, the trappings of other belief systems and other societies became enfolded within the aegis of Christmas, leading to the holiday we see today.

Except the holiday we see today is a bastardization of the true spirit and intent of the original holiday. And no, it is not the secular, First Amendment rights waving crowd that has done this, but the ordinary person, by losing contact with the ideas behind Christmas. It is ironic that in 1965, one of the most beloved Christmas TV specials, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," bemoaned the commercialization of the holiday and the loss of focus on its meaning. Almost 50 years later, and the same special rings as true now as it did then.

If there's truly a "War" on Christmas, it is fought by those who use it to their own ends, to settle political scores, to weaken the separation of Church & State, to promote Christianity over any other religious belief system. It is the proselytizers and profiteers who have declared war on the holiday, not those of us who would see each and every one of us celebrate -- or not -- it in their own way. Christmas has become an economic engine, a religious meat-grinder, a political cause célèbre, for those who are less interested in its meaning and more interested in the leverage it can afford them.

Nowhere is that more self-evident than with the subset of the season's political propaganda, the "Keep Christ in Christmas" movement, engineered to be the modern version of the bony finger of Dickens' Ghost of Future Yet to Come. This popular screed may be seen on the bumpers of cars in the parking lots of big box retail stores the day after Thanksgiving, as people swarm and surge forward to secure the consumer goods which are the "reason for the season." It is seen in popular media, as we are told that by forbearing Christ on his sacred day we are somehow bad people; right after, we are told that the President, the poor, the Liberals, and the immigrants are responsible for our pitiful lot in life, and they should be shunned and smacked down.

The fact is: Christ is not part of the Christmas we know it now. The Christ born in Bethlehem eschewed wealth, spoke of peace and justice, and most importantly, implored us to help those less fortunate than themselves. While many find Christmas an excuse to perform the charity that they cannot be bothered with the other 364 days a year, the whole lesson of Christ's birth and eventual death is lost to them. They see Christmas and its trappings as meaning, in and of itself, never stepping too far away from the comfort of their preconceived notions. Anyone who does not share their view is branded a traitor.

The other fact of import, which those who holler so maddeningly about the "War" on Christmas often ignore, is that Christmas is only one small facet of Christ's life. Christ should not be confined to Christmas, anymore than to Easter. The idea the young Jewish rabbi promoted was that we must do good work among the people every day, not just when it is convenient or useful. The stories of the New Testament tell us of a man who preached the gospel of love and compassion, and expected his followers not to preach, but to do. There is no better way to honor the birth of Christ, his life, or his death, than to follow in his footsteps, spreading love and charity wherever we go. Christ must not be kept in Christmas, but in our hearts.

So when the phrase "War on Christmas" passes someones lips, assume they are confused, show them compassion, and turn their rhetorical swords into charitable plowshares. If we show them, by example, the true meaning of Christmas, perhaps they will tire of the fight.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Madiba Smiles

When the jailer whistles
Madiba smiles

When the child plays
Madiba smiles

When enemies embrace
Madiba smiles

When sunshine touches his face
Madiba smiles

When Madiba smiles
The world smiles with him

Friday, November 22, 2013


It did not last
That sunny day
The clouds came
Dimming hearts
A hero felled
By the arcs
Of copper gnats
Buzzing through the air
With furious energy
And murderous intent
The harbingers of a madman
Who made everyone
Know his name
By shooting the lights out
Placing a loving wife
And two beautiful children
In the dark
Along with a nation

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dirty Dozen

One dozen years.

12 Septembers.

Cloudy ones. Cool ones. Rainy ones. Warm ones. Humid ones. None, quite like that day.

If we are enjoined never to forget, perhaps it is better to say we should remember, because memory works best where it is recalled always, and not left to languish until the page turns on the calendar.


Remember the horror at watching it unfold live, in our homes, our offices, our schools.

Remember the panic, not knowing what was happening.

Remember the confusion, as events unfolded.

Remember the heroes, who drove toward the disaster.

Remember the helpers, who put aside their own fear to help others in need.

Remember the masses, streaming from the city, struggling to get away.

Remember the silence that fell as traffic stopped, trains stopped, people stopped.

Remember the shocking sight of buildings falling, debris flying, and people dying unseen.

Remember the moonscape left behind by clouds of cement.

Remember the frantic attempts to find survivors.

Remember the posters placed on every wall, every street corner, every door, every window, with names and pictures of the missing.

Remember the pile of twisted metal and smoldering rubble.

Remember the months of toil.

Most of all, remember that we came together, as a nation, unified in purpose.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria: What To Do?

No choice can be clear. No choice can be definitive. Ultimately, we have no idea how any of the presented scenarios will impact Syria. Even simply remaining outside the problem and ignoring it is fraught with peril, if Syria falls to elements who have the intent of creating a paradise for fanatical & radical elements of Islam. What we're going through with Syria now is akin to situations that have sprung up throughout history, where some nations have had to determine whether intercession in the affairs of another nation were to their betterment or detriment.

This isn't about President Obama, or the partisan split in Washington, D.C., or even about military jingoism and the furtherance of failed Imperialistic policies. It comes down to this: how much do we care about the people of Syria? You can cloak this issue in any talking point you choose, wrap it in discord, fluff it with care & concern, but as each second ticks away, bodies fall. They've been falling steadily for two years. It's Syria's civil war but it's humanity's view of the future: are we willing to accept the wholesale slaughter of a nation by its government?

We're ones to talk. America has its own chemical weapons, America has killed thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions in war. We fought one of the bloodier civil wars in known memory. Where do we get off dictating who can do what to whom?

It's not really that simple, anymore.

Human history is replete with atrocity. Just in the last 100 years, tens of millions have been fed into the meat grinder that is geopolitical conflict and dictatorial overreach. We have now harbored weapons for close to seventy years that have the capacity to eradicate all human life on the planet. We have stood each other off with pointed sticks, cold steel, hot lead, the fiery hearts of stars, the insidious clutches of vile microbes, and the misty smoke of caustic chemicals. We have reached the pinnacle of destructive power. No amount of wishful thinking or eye blinking will make it all go away.

But we live in an unprecedented time, when technology has placed the happenings on our planet in our living rooms in minutes, and given us access to people globally in seconds. What happens anywhere is suddenly accessible at almost any moment, and people who were lines in a newspaper or on a map are now flesh-and-blood before us. Conflict and strife are no longer distant rumblings; the people involved in them are no longer strangers.

If we want peace, we have to make it. Preferably through forbearance, forgiveness, and friendship, but we must also accept that we, as a species, being on the cusp of breaking from the long, gloomy traditions of violence that plague us, cannot always simply toss aside the tools of war. If we must take up arms against a sea of troubles, let those who take them up do so with the noblest intent, despite whatever may have come before. Let a precedent be set that says we will end destructive conflicts with words, with gestures, with diplomacy, where we can, but we will not be afraid to end them as we must.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," Isaac Asimov wrote in his novel "Foundation," and it is definitive in its indictment of war mongering as a means to an end. That phrase, however, means more when yours is a society that is no longer locked in the shackles of conflict, when your leverage is not merely at the end of a gun barrel. Right now, we are incompetent, and remain so until we can tamp down the sparks that set alight the conflagrations that engulf races, cultures, countries, and creeds.

So let us choose wisely, but let us choose, and let us know that whatever the choice, there will be consequences and repercussions, unseen and unbidden. People will still die, but perhaps we can pave a better road to peace by showing our resolve to have peace. When it is over, we will bury the dead, ask forgiveness, and move on, as humans always have, hopefully wiser and more resolute not to let it happen again.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

White Man Triumphant

I sit here, a white man, in white suburbia, ensconced in the bosom of white Middle Class prosperity, and I owe it all to my hard work and perseverance...

And white supremacy.

As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, what I have called for years "White privilege" is, in fact, simply a watered-down version of the truth of the matter: the domination of the White portion of American society is due to White supremacy, the idea that somehow, the melanin level of one's skin grants powers to those that others are not due, simply by virtue of having it or not. White supremacy is the idea that a person of any other color, even mixed with Whiteness, is automatically inferior. White supremacy is the idea that power must be concentrated in the hands of White people and must never be willingly given to anyone else.

White supremacy even has its own gradations, for it is clear that a White man is considered lord-and-master over anything and everything and everyone, even a White woman. Look to what happened this week in Texas, and you see it in action -- no woman of any color would be given the right to her own bodily autonomy with the say-so of the White men in power.

Of course, you will be alarmist, and sputter on about groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, and if White, will swear upon a convenient stack of Bibles that you are not like them. The point is, you don't have to be. White supremacy is not simply burning crosses on lawns and lynching Black men for whistling at White women.

White supremacy is the ultimate wink-and-a-nod, the unseen get-out-of-jail-free card, the worst kept secret handshake in history. You walk in the door and you get the loan, you get the slot at your favorite college, you get the job at a higher rate of pay, because the color of your skin walks into the room first, laying the groundwork for everything to come. It's not always so transparent, not always so overt, nor is it as subtle as some would love to claim. Electing a Black President did not magically cause it to evaporate. No number of successful Black actors, Black athletes, or Black politicians have served to eradicate it. At the end of the day, it is as pernicious as it was when irons, chains, and the lash held sway, but has now been covered over with a veneer of self-congratulation by many a White person who is sure that the whole sordid mess was cleaned up after the 60's.

We should note, that nobility in the name of righting the wrongs of race is not cut-and-dried, ever. With the 150th anniversary of the pivotal Civil War action at Gettysburg, the battle that spelled the turning of the tide against The Confederacy, we also have the anniversary of the draft riots in New York City, where many an immigrant community, angered at being conscripted to fight in the war, took to lynching Blacks and burning Black businesses and schools to show their displeasure, forcing weary Gettysburg soldiers to march to the city to quell the uprising.

The Civil War did not end racial inequities or injustice, anymore than the 60's Civil Rights movement that came after it would. Every momentous event in the history of White and Black relations merely serves to paper over the truth: that we cling to stereotypes, that we maintain our prejudices, that racial tension does not simply go away because Blacks and Whites go to the same universities and riots do not break out. Even now, a person such as myself, who prides himself on equanimity and a lack of racial prejudice in his heritage, is still betrayed occasionally by thoughts from dark recesses that paint those of other racial types in a bad fashion. To maintain personal racial tolerance is not the simple flipping of a switch in my conscious mind, but a constant struggle to overcome baser instincts buried in my subconscious by the stimuli I have been exposed to over time. Even where I strive to give equality to all people at all times, there is an accumulated detritus festering below the surface of my mind, roiling in its darker recesses to plague me, unbidden.

In the end, if I am honest with myself, I can claim to have built the successes I have made over the decades solely by dint of my hard work and pluck, but must acknowledge that my Whiteness was carried with me and certainly influenced some to give me opportunities or deference out of all proportion to my due. If that is so, then it is equally true that many around me, who worked as hard, if not harder, were barred from reaping the benefits of the fruits of that labor, by being unable to carry the calling card of Whiteness with them.

Now, after all this, we have the incomprehensible result of a trial in which an armed White man killed an unarmed Black boy in cold blood and will not be held accountable, save by his God. While we can claim that the jury made the only verdict it could given the evidence presented, justice is not about the cold, hard facts of law, but about the warm, soft edges of human nature and behavior. A law may say that if you fear for your life, you might kill another in self-defense, but does it seem reasonable that this applies to a man who chose to pursue the black Boy, because he was a black Boy? A man with no authority, save that which he forged for himself through his machinations, who was given the instruction to allow people with authority (the police) to handle the situation? A man, who had a concealed weapon, that turned his cowardice into "courage?"

No, it is not mere privilege that explains this, for privilege is bestowed by those with the power. Supremacy is enforced, by the use of all the tools available to press others down, to tear power from their hands, to marginalize and demonize them, denigrating them and making them somehow less than those who hold supremacy. It is always the case that conflict starts when one group turns another group into something other than their group is; in this instance, the White person maintains the Black person is lower, inferior, less intelligent, less educated, and then enforces those views with the tools at hand, by stripping away educational opportunities, forcing them into poverty, abandoning them to crime, and using that as "evidence" that the supremacy is correct.

The George Zimmerman verdict is only the most visible sign that White supremacy is alive and well in our nation, and still holds sway over a society that continues to trill its belief in "all men are created equal." That equality is, sadly, merely a good idea; it has gained no true traction in the nation that has enshrined it in a "sacred" document of its creation. The council of White, landowning men that wrote and signed off on those words perhaps believed their intention was enough, but by not broadening it to "all people" being equal, and by enshrining Black slavery directly in the Constitution, they laced a noble idea of self-governance with a perpetuation of their White supremacy. Over two hundred years later, and despite our best efforts, we have not honestly expunged the ghosts of it from every corner of our land.

So Mr. Zimmerman walks free, which is more than can be said for his victim, Trayvon Martin, and we are outraged, but then, we built this system, with our inattention to the workings of our government and our nation. That inattention allowed the perpetuation of White supremacy in the guise of governance, and allowed the purveyors of such supremacy to ensconce themselves in positions of power by dissuading everyone else from becoming engaged. But no one should turn us from our right and proper duty: the maintenance, and occasional readjustment, of our Local, State, and Federal governments. This moment is the clarion call that should stir the beating heart of any American to action, to right the wrong this verdict represents by ensuring it never happens again. The restoration of true and consistent order in our nation is our responsibility, and we can no longer shirk it.

It is time to fold the tent of racial supremacy. The White portion of America, slowly merging into the national milieu, can no longer count itself as superior, the only just arbiter of what is proper. We were never anointed masters of the world -- we stole that from every other race we could, and now our transgressions fold in upon us. As much as I, a White man, want to grasp the reins of power, to restore order, to make amends, I know I cannot. I must cede control and convince others of my race to do likewise, to attempt to create balance in a nation that has never known it. It is not enough to bring up other races, genders, creeds, or sexual orientations; I must tear down that apparatus that has kept those groups in the shadows, without hesitation or fear. It is time my country lived up to the fair and just principles long ago espoused, without qualification, and without malice. Let there be the new birth of freedom President Lincoln called for, but this time let it be real, and let it ring throughout the centuries from this day forward.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There's Always A Choice

To Republicans: Please, feel free to ban abortion. I'll wait...



What have you accomplished? Nothing. Well, not nothing, but perhaps something you couldn't conceive of, as if you were in full belief that the stroke of a pen simply causes people to behave differently. If that were the case, you're probably actually follow the precepts of The Bible...

But I digress.

So you slam the door on "baby killing," padlock Planned Parenthood, pat yourselves on the back, and call it a day, thinking you have rid the world of one more "scourge." You have put women in their place, depriving them of something you are sure they didn't need anyway.

And somewhere, in a kitchen, or a family room, or a trailer, or a shack, or a church, or a car or a clinic, there sits a woman (or to be far to the transgendered, any person with a womb), clutching the awful news that they are pregnant, at a time, in a place, in a situation, where such a thing is unwanted, or unwarranted, or complicating. It wasn't meant to happen, it wasn't supposed to happen, it shouldn't have happened... and yet there it is, the report, the pregnancy test, saying that it is, in fact, so.

Maybe there is mere fretting, but more likely there might be sobbing, anger, frustration, fear, uncertainty, fright, panic, depression... maybe all of these things, in various levels and proportions. Suddenly, a world which seemed to be operating as smoothly as it does any day, lurches and shakes and shudders, and someone is left to pick up the pieces. They need an out, not because they enjoy the thought of it, but because in this time and place is not the right time and place.

But you've left them no choice... have you?

That's what you think.

You'd like to believe wholeheartedly that your damnation of abortion has expunged the idea and practice from the face of the Earth. You want to believe that anyone seeking one will now simply shrug their shoulders, give up, and bring the fetus to term, to fill the world with another helpless, mewling soul. Anyway, it's not your business at that point...

Don't kid yourself.

Desperation leads to drastic action.

Our forlorn mother-to-be will be wracked with spasms of horror, but will more than likely be pushed to take a course that you refuse to acknowledge: She will do it herself.

Maybe with help, maybe alone, maybe with chemicals, maybe with tools, maybe in a way unfathomable, but she will not be denied the surcease of the pain this pregnancy is causing, will cause, no matter how much anyone abhors it. She will follow through... and perhaps will not live to see the morrow.

You have done what you thought was best for all involved, only to allow the rose-colored shortsightedness you are cloaked in to hide the truth: a woman always has a choice. Short of manacling the pregnant to beds, there is no way to banish abortion. No will, no law, no admonishment will make it stop, merely place it beyond your prying eyes, in back alleys, and motel rooms, and silent apartments.

All because you tried to play God.

Sleep well. When you arise the clinics will be silent... and so will be the screams of women dying in tortured anguish.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes At The Bijou

I missed the era of nickel matinees at the movie theater, staring up at the flickering black-and-white images of Hollywood's brightest, wrapped up in catching the pratfalls and passion. I was, however, able to indulge in the nostalgia of the era thanks to PBS and the show Matinee At The Bijou. I gained an appreciation for classic serials, the artistry of Keaton and Chaplin, the gruffness of Bogart, the sensuousness of Bacall, the power Crawford, and the majesty of Grant. I also got sucked into the shadowy world of film noir, a place where shadowy figures tried to manipulate hard-nosed men and desperate women, where vices could be your downfall, where death erupted suddenly and without warning. The Maltese Falcon, The Big SleepDial M for Murder, DOA, The Naked City, The Asphalt Jungle... movies that would grab you, reel you in, and keep you on the edge of their seat with their gritty, gutty stories.

Growing up, what boy didn't want to be Humphrey Bogart, chasing bad guys through back alleys or trading innuendo and smoldering glances with Lauren Bacall?

It is an art form that has faded from the American consciousness in this day-and-age of CGI-drawn visuals, explosions, incessant hammering of automatic weapons, and thinly-veiled bodies heaving against each other in bed. We want everything heaved at us in a frenetic ballet of violence or spoon-fed to us as a sappy, syrupy confection. We are rarely pulled unwillingly into a story, left wondering if the people we see are actually who we think they are. Too much of modern movie making is trying to hide the obvious in a complicated goop of misdirection in the vain hope of surprising people.

Which brings me to a thing which crossed before my eyes a little over two weeks ago, a project by the talented Kirsten Vangsness (also known as Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds) and her cohorts at Opiate of the Masses. It is a movie homage to the glory days of film, and film noir in particular, called "Kill Me, Deadly." It is a laugh-out-loud comedy that stars Ms. Vangsness as the femme fatale of our drama, Mona Livingston, Dean Lemont as the clueless gumshoe with the hots for her, Charlie Nickels, Joe Mantegna as Bugsy Siegel, noted gangster, and the incomparable Lesley-Anne Down as Lady Clairmont, the shadowy lady in the background.

It's not often you will find me shilling for something, but my heart has been sold to this piece of work that touches on an era that was one of the watershed moments in movie making. But rather than some dour replication of the genre, here are people who love art, film, film-making, and have put a comedic spin on it that will at once have you enthralled and in stitches. It doesn't take much to support a fine project such as this, but ever simoleon, every sawbuck, every bit of dough takes it that much closer to completion. Watch the trailer, read the back story, and help Opiate of the Masses finish bringing this story to life. Get you piece of the action now...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Nation, Under Siege

It became clear the moment Barack Obama was declared the winner of the 2008 Presidential election, that a shift was occurring in American society, a momentous shift, the momentum for which had built over the decades since the end of the 1960's. In the highest bastion of white male dominance, a black man would reign, finally.

To many, it signaled the end of the world.

A cherished view of a nation dominated by the last vestiges of the exclusively white, male Founding Fathers was torn asunder, as if the Starts and Stripes were ripped from a flagpole, dashed to the ground, and trampled. The harsh, unendurable reality of hundreds years of secession, repression, segregation, criminalization, denigration, and enslavement of a people burst forth, as the damming of their drive for freedom was damned by the weakness of a white race unwilling or unable to accept that their view of the black race was built of tissues of self-approbation, self-delusion, and ignorance, not one single stone of truth.

As this wave of change flooded the lands once fertile with overt racism, the spores of that fetid crop were given rise to flourish once more in the light, nourished by the delusional hatred thus uncovered. So it began that the tattered remnants of those forces antithetical to the nation knit themselves into groups that hoisted banners long dormant, taking them to be symbols of the "true" nation, and voicing opposition to anything that spoke to the unity of the disparate elements that, conjoined, make up the United States. Suddenly, it was no longer all of us created equal, but some of us more equal -- and thus more deserving -- of freedoms than others.

These misguided miscreants, buoyed by their wretched enthusiasm, exhorted and supported by The Monied Powers, took to the airwaves and the ballot boxes and battered their way into Federal government, and as the mouse that nests in the gears of the grandfather clock, proceeded to gum up the works. A strong government that could -- and was enjoined to -- support the American people and defend her way of life, began to disassemble the core values that made her great. They put their heads down and rampaged through a system that, while imperfect, had managed to keep the nation together through feast, famine, war, pestilence, and internal strife. A well-oiled mechanism might have absorbed the blow; the government stitched together over two hundred years was not so tough.

It was a simple proposition: the newcomers and their mentors already extant established one goal: to deny the President of the United States any kind of legislative boon, no matter how much it was necessary to the operation of the country. Caught in the midst of a crisis of their manufacture in decades past, these hooligans in the castle proceeded to drag their feet, to spout useless puffery, to point fingers and assign blame, and brought the system of Federal governance to a crawl, barely able to keep it functioning from month to month.

And there was no reason for it.

For in this case, we take "reason" to mean that there was some flaw in character, some dark, deceitful streak, some malevolent undertone, that they could see and we could not.

President Barack Obama presented no such things.

Instead, he was earnest in his attempts to urge the nation along, to light a fire under a sputtering economy, to rein in the excesses of our forays into nation-building at the end of a sword. He spoke of peace, but was unafraid of war. He could wax eloquent about the true meaning of the founding of our nation and at the same time point out its most egregious flaws. Most of all, he was able to draw ire from both sides of the aisle, the surest sign that he was on the right track to handling a fractious and floundering country.

No, this foul, festering obstructionism was not the product of any realized malevolence in the heart of our President. It was -- and is -- the odious stench of racism, swathed in anti-government sentiment, cloaked in jingoism, and borne upon a howling wind of self-importance by Americans who are certain they owe nothing to anyone, even as they are sure they are owed everything by everyone else. It is a match set to the tinder of a nation desiccated by close to four hundred years of treating every person on the North American continent who was not of the "good fortune" to be born of the white race as inferior.

Is every opponent of the President's agenda a racist? Certainly not. If not, however, they have not been in a hurry to denounce their brethren who are. They have not been quick to denounce those who wish violence and death upon him and those who work for them. They have not been quick to derail the fanatical desire of some in their number to drag his name through the mud. They are certainly not quick to acknowledge his lack of malevolent intent. No, they are content to sit on the sidelines, eyes closed, ears plugged, pretending they are above it.

It is clear that there is one narrative in our nation now, that overrides anything reasonable, one that is given the widest possible latitude, one that is shouted from rooftops and television sets: President Obama is destroying America. If that were the case, it would already lie in ruins at our feet, for it was tattered badly by the previous administration's lackadaisical approach to governance and appeasement of its party base. All evidence points to a nation that has resisted a tide of disappointment, disaster, and chicanery, through brute strength and main stubbornness and a willingness of the average American to lend a hand to those in need. Despite every attempt by a petulant and fickle Republican Party to douse the flame of unity, we soldier on, as we always have. If anything, we are stronger for the fight to restore order.

Now, as the grey skies part, it is time to turn from the business of survival to that of restoration. The bombastic lot that plunged us into the whirling chaos of budgetary shortfalls coupled with regulatory dismemberment lain on top of the admixture of nationalist fervor and the tyranny of the minority must be handed their walking papers. The United States of America is not ready to fold, not prepared to simply walk away from the table. We have come too far, survived too much, to allow a bunch of rabble-rousers to continue excoriating a government that has held this nation together for over two hundred thirty years. If they do not like the Federal government, they need not be part of it, but as long as they claim the individual rights and freedoms that that government protects and provides, they will not be allowed to destroy it.

So it is up to the rest of us to put a halt to this madness, through word, and deed, and ballot. Let us restore the faith our Founding Fathers had in us, when they built a nation Of The People, By The People, and For The People, by showing that We, The People shall not give in to the tyranny that some among us would claim as patriotism. Our nation must remain indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Founded By Geniuses?

This week I was exposed to the limited thinking of some, more-so than at any time I can remember. It came in the form of a series of statements trying to link current circumstances to the nation the Founding Fathers lay down over two hundred years ago. Each circumstance ended with the phrase: "You may live in a nation founded by geniuses but run by idiots."

Rather than reproduce any of them, and thereby lend them credence, let me focus solely on that last portion of each phrase, for it points out a complete and abject failure on the part of the educational systems of our nation that such diatribes could be thought of as some sort of truth. For on neither side of the ledger is the assertion strictly true: most of the Founding Fathers were not geniuses, nor are many of our legislators idiots. That is only a surface appearance that has been spun in to some sort of earthy, down-home "logic" that holds no basis in fact.

It comes from a place of worship and veneration for the founding of the United States of America, based on fractured, incomplete, and often misinterpreted information about the Founders and the state of the Colonies at the time of the Revolutionary War. Some in our nation conflate the Constitution of the United States with the Declaration of Independence, and draw the conclusion that somehow those men who founded our nation -- and yes, they were all men -- were paragons of virtue and thought, which could not be further from the truth. Tarring current legislators with the epithet "idiot" only further seeks to create an undue comparison between past and present, as if they could be compared on some kind of equal footing.

If we take a cold, clear, critical look at the Founding Fathers, we see only two who could roundly be described as "geniuses," and only one of them could be said to be an actual genius: Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Franklin is certainly a bona fide genius in terms we might relate to Newton, Einstein, or the like; he was a scientist, scholar, inventor, and visionary, and foresaw what it would take for the American Revolution to be successful, trying his utmost to pull the strings quietly but firmly to push everyone in the correct direction. Washington was a genius in a more limited but still highly important role, as leader of troops and a nation. He was confident that Colonial troops, properly trained and equipped, could be a match for the British, and was more than willing to employ unique and unorthodox tactics to gain advantage over his foes. Once made President of the nation he helped forge, he saw how the future would need the nation and its leaders to follow a certain path, to bear good comportment, but be willing to use the power of the nation to quell the more radical elements still extant within it.

As for the rest of the Founding Fathers, many were virtuous in their own ways, men of The Enlightenment, willing to think a few steps outside their comfortable box, but not the geniuses many would now portray them as. Thomas Jefferson wrote stirring prose and helped launch a war of independence, but he thought only men were created equal, not people, and at that, black people were not even considered. He was a slave-owner who took full advantage of his property, even as he expounded on the necessity of his nation to be free. John Adams was a very smart, very clever man, and excellent jurist, but not a leader, not able see much beyond his own inadequate vision. It could be said his wife Abigail often saw what he could not, and perhaps it was she who made him a better man than he could have been alone. Alexander Hamilton was wedded to economics more than people, and while we might applaud for his efforts in trying to establish a collective and regulated financial structure, we have to wonder at how he went about it.

The fact is, they were no better than we are now, these captains of the foundation of our nation. In only one aspect of their forethought can we see true genius: the idea that the people of the United States must be able to govern themselves. But even in that, they did not quite do the most complete job of laying groundwork, riddling the Constitution with firm assurances and vagaries of comprehension we are still teasing out today. Perhaps this was a way to make future generations think, but it's more likely that it was simply the end product of the squabbling and bickering of a group of men who had anointed themselves the smartest people in the room. Whatever the case, the crafted an adequate framework, but left so much undone or in a muddle, that the nation is still trying to tease it our centuries later.

If they were said to be wise in letting We, The People, choose who will govern us from among our peers, it may be said that we have failed the Founding Fathers in that area, by allowing a class of politicians to enmesh themselves in the inner workings of government at all levels. Governance is gone, replaced by style and popularity and money. Rather than sweeping the halls of Congress clean occasionally and allowing for new blood and new life to pervade them, we simply allow the same weak, forlorn, outmoded thinking to persist. If those in positions of governance can be said to be idiots, we are the idiots for putting them there and leaving them there. The great body that is America suffers, for not being allowed to breathe.

Naturally, the "idiocy" we see is not always thus, for much that many would malign is simply the product of ancient ways fighting modern times. In over two hundred years, our nation and world have changed, are no longer the familiar grounds that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and the like strolled in their day. As these things change, so must we, and we must realize that new ways of think are not of necessity bad ways of thinking, even where they challenge what has held true for centuries. Enslavement of blacks, the denigration and patronization of women, religious and sexual intolerance... these might have been the order of the day one thousand years ago, even two hundred years ago, but they are not now. Change is inevitable, change is constant, and even the Founding Fathers, as men of The Enlightenment  knew this, hence allowing the Constitution to be re-written and providing for a central government that could redress issues unknown to them and alter law to match the times.

The nation we have now is the nation we have wrought from more than two centuries of anguish, triumph, pain, and grief. Founded in imperfection, it was the wish of those founders that we take their work and improve upon it. If we are unhappy with the current results, perhaps that is more an issue with our lack of forethought and courage, than it is with the competence of our current legislators compared with the "genius" of our founders.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We Have Failed You

I will thank Melissa Harris-Perry for lighting a fire under me, to get me back to this blog, because of her message to the 16-year-old victim of rape in Steubenville, who has just seen justice done and seen two young boys shown that hubris and arrogance are not effective shields against law and justice.

You may peruse the video for yourself, and unless you are heartless, it will move you. The one sentence from the whole thing that got to me most was:

“I am sorry we have failed you.”
This simple sentence says more than just about anything, because this shameful and deplorable incident does not merely affect the town of Steubenville, OH, but has repercussions that rippled outward to consume our nation, and possibly the world. For this was not simply a tale of a young girl being drunk and being taken advantage of, which might have disappeared into the fog of youth in decades past. No, this was a moment of degradation broadcast for the world to see, brought to light by those forces of the Internet that seek to goad our society into actually righting wrongs as opposed to our continually claiming that we are a nation that stands on the principles of truth and justice while we turn a blind eye.

The "we" in that sentence is not some ephemeral construct, but the living, breathing condensation of a nation built around the concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To allow for those things, our nation is built on law, law crafted out of thousands of years of law and governance and spirituality that have imbued every person on Earth at one time or another with a sense of what counts as "right" and "wrong." Of course, those concepts are not static - as little as one hundred-fifty years ago, the idea that white American landowners could own black slaves was considered not just "right" but couched as  one of the "inalienable" rights oft mentioned. We moved our morality further from that particular stance through the auspices of blood.

I digress.

So, what Melissa Harris-Perry was getting at was, that We -- all of us -- failed this young girl. The failure extended far beyond the confines of the former manufacturing town; it could be said to rest on the dinner table in every American home, inside every public or private classroom, on every news broadcast, within every movie theater... it pervades every corner of our society, a clinging, seeping miasma of privilege and patriarchy that seeks to continue to control us as it has over a thousand generations. Though we no longer wrapped in the ignorance of the Middle Ages or those centuries previous, the faint echo of them continues to wash over us, causing us to live in a bubble of hypocrisy, where we proclaim the freedom of the individual even as we seek to deny it to many and denigrate them for trying to take it as their own, as is their due.

Individual responsibility is the clarion call that rings the rafters of our nation, only to have it fall upon deaf ears when young-and-talented boys engaged in popular sports ply debauchery at the expense of a young girl who is helpless to defend herself. Or when bankers seek to peddle dreams wrapped in tissue paper, then sit back as the world around them collapses, secure in their fortifications of wealth. Or when we will not take the logical precautions that might keep citizens from being gunned down in the streets by maniacs who find it all too easy to arm themselves like combat soldiers. Or when we continue to allow our nation to be so steeped in want, need, and hunger while some simply toss away the plenty they are given.

No, the failure is pervasive, and nowhere does it crystallize more than in the rape of this young woman, because it is horrid enough that it should happen, that these young men should be surrounded by a local culture that tells them that who they are gives them the right to do what they want, but that even when justice is finally served, some in that same community would seek to continue to pummel this girl further, to heap degradation upon depredation. What does that say of us, that some cannot so easily see that the rape of a girl, or a woman, or a man, or anyone of any stripe, is solely the province of the victim?

It says that the values we pretend to abide by, the beliefs we claim to live by, and the words we take as gospel are mere phantoms, not at all a part of our moral fiber. You may wave a holy book above your head, expound upon the righteousness of documents over two hundred years old, but at the end of the day, they are worth nothing if you do not understand, but more importantly, practice, what they say. Our society is a contradiction, saying that we as individuals have rights, but we owe a greater debt to all of us as a whole, but that seeming contradiction is not so, when we consider that while our energies individually can sustain only ourselves, it is by combining them, that we accomplish much more than any individual can hope to. Look around you, and see the belts of copper that drive electricity to the far corners of our nation, the ribbons of steel and asphalt that move our goods and ourselves, the invisible waves that blanket our globe and allow us contact with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Where we have the right to be an individual, we have a responsibility to our fellow citizens. Our individual rights and freedoms are ours as long as we do not intend or attempt to impose them on others. We do not ask everyone to believe the same thing, but we do ask everyone to understand that there are some things that move beyond the realm of individual belief and are best for everyone. Our law is just such a thing, seeking to apply the same level of justice to every person, no matter who they are. Our law says that your right to be yourself is protected; it does not say you may violate the rights of another with impunity.

So yes, We failed. We failed this girl because we have let our society wander from the path that built it, a path that said you would reap what you sowed, a path that said that together we would create a nation of liberty and law. We have let too many in this nation pervert it, weaken laws, weaken public discourse, put their interests above those of the nation. We failed this girl because we allowed hubris to be substituted for judgement, arrogance to be substituted for rights. We failed this girl... and we cannot allow ourselves to fail her, or anyone else, again.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Prevarications, Obfuscations, And The Outright Lies

They lie to us. If not overtly, then through omission. They seek to manipulate us, to drive us to adoration, or to fear, or to desire, or to action, but they do it through manipulation. They act upon the predilections we already harbor, or they pound into us a continuous stream of doubt, or simply repeat the words backed by a seeming surety and sincerity that resonates with us.

But it is all lies.

They want to convince you that they are clean, free of the taint of evildoing. They want you to believe they are right, no matter what the evidence says. They want you to trust them, though their behavior leaves you with a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach.

They are the poltroons, mountebanks, jesters, and megalomaniacs that exist at the edges of society, seeking to use their wiles to manipulate us into giving them what they want: power, money, respect, obedience, obeisance. They flit around us, walk among us, and meander through us, spreading their miasma of incoherence and insensitivity, which clings to us like an unseen coat, poisoning our faculties. We want to believe them, have to believe them, find it difficult to break from their penetrating gaze. We create a veneer of respectability around them that hardens into an armor that deflects even the most pointed queries about those parts of their behavior that trouble us.

We find them in business. We elect them to government, We elevate them in the celebrity parade. We kneel before them in houses of worship. We cheer them in sport. We surrender the natural power of our own intellect in their presence, allowing them to dull our senses and bypass our reason. We want to believe what they say and do is true; oft times, we simply surrender to that belief despite all evidence to the contrary.

Judge not, lest ye be judged, but that does not mean we must suspend all judgment. It means we should not simply place people and things into neat boxes without ascertaining the truth of them. It means we must suspend our innate desire to measure every thing against what we believe and be willing to accept those facts brought before us, irrespective of belief. We must be willing to bend, to narrow the number of absolute codes we carry with us. It means we must not allow ourselves to be so easily led or fooled by those who wrap themselves in the trappings of those things we trust.

The lie is not the thing, for to lie is as easy as telling the truth. It is the intent behind the lie that matters. We call upon the "white" lie to prevent the discovery of a surprise, to spare feelings, to cover a thousand minor infractions in our life, and very rarely can it be said to be harmful. The lie that harms us is the lie told as truth, the lie cloaked in fact, the lie embedded within a web of other lies, the lie built specifically to prevent us from knowing the dark purpose behind the lie. The worst of the lies is that which is coated in officialism, that is "true" because the speakers says it is true. When you have looked to someone as trustworthy, when you have invested in them a tremendous level of respect, when you have marked them as important, the lie they tell breaches your defenses and is deposited in the deeper recesses of your mind, to sit, to fester, to grow, to ensnare reason in the tendrils of deceit. The mind, so swathed, refuses to push back, and reason is choked off.

Not everyone is a liar and not every lie told is intended to do damage, but those that are, when coupled to those figures we deem important, carry tremendous destructive potential for our society. When placed in positions of power, venerated as heroes, imbued with the rank of their office, they can build barriers against the normal forward course of society, attempting to roll it back to beliefs and superstitions and nonsense that previously caused human society to totter on the brink of self-annihilation. Worse, still, they can make it seem that to do as they did or to speak as they spoke carries an air of veracity, that from their lips the words gained truth simply through being said by them.

The lie is perpetuated because it is left unchallenged for those who choose not to apply any discrimination to it. Where facts are rejected out of hand, where belief is stronger than reason, where fame outstrips normality, the lie suffers no damage to many, even where those outside it can support their contention that it is a lie with reason and evidence. There is no comfort in knowing that so many of our fellow human beings in our society choose to simply accept the lie uncritically, content to back in its shadow.

This is the critical point, like so many before now, where we must face down and gear up against the lie. Those in the reasonable, thinking majority of us can no longer stand idly by and let the lies go unchallenged, no longer put up with our fellow citizens and the rank hypocrisy they bathe in. Pull them kicking and screaming we must, out of the dark mists of Middle Age thought and into the 21st Century age of reason. Until we rise up as a mass and proclaim reason a more fit way of providing peace and liberty to all, we will suffer the indignity of ignorance and play with the fire that still threatens to consume us all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Carrying On For Weywerdsun

It is considered laughable by some that those you meet in social media, people you have no other physical connection to, can be considered friends. After all, as we are surely all aware, the Internet is the ultimate masquerade ball. No one can ever be thought to be truly what they seem. Doubt nags at the corner of the mind for some; others take everything to be true. The Internet has scrambled our perception of reality and the people in it.

So many of us have so many connections via our social media that we often lose contact with people we have "met" at a time or another and found to be kindred souls. When you begin to interconnect with hundreds and thousands of people, some invariably get lost in the shuffle. Most of us think nothing of it, as they usually resurface at some point.

Then, last week, I ran across a bit of, for me, disturbing news. Someone I followed on Twitter has died, apparently right around Thanksgiving. His handle was @weywerdsun, his name unknown to me and perhaps the thousands that followed him. It took me aback, because I swore I had seen him many times, but realized that the holidays had created a temporal myopia that made me mistaken.

Herein, I do not seek to eulogize him, for to do so requires a depth of knowledge of the man I have no access to. He was an acquaintance, a free thinker, a man who would pose meaningful questions, not because he expected answers, but because he wanted dialog. He believed -- as far as I can surmise from our few interactions -- that problems were solvable with thought. He has the same level of impatience I do with politics. He also believed, as do I, that ignorance is our greatest enemy. Where we seek to believe but do not seek to question and to learn, we deny ourselves truth and the solutions to our problems.

Now he is gone.

As with Aaron Swartz, another person doing their part to lift up humanity from the weeds, @weywerdsun has left us. It is in this moment, when we sense the loss, that we can take our moment to mourn, but only just a moment. What it takes for us to truly prove our love and kinship to these people who are merely ephemeral to most of us, is to recognize their goodness, recognize their forthrightness, see what they were trying to accomplish, and to pick up where they left off. We must continue the dialog. We must continue to seek truth. We must continue to improve. We honor them only by our action, and so we must carry on.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And They Called Him Aaron

For those with knowledge of holy books, Aaron was known as elder brother of Moses and first high priest of the Israelites. When Moses went to challenge Pharaoh, it was Aaron who spoke for him to both the Israelites and to Pharaoh. He was considered wise and well-spoken, though in the end, he suffered the same fate as Moses, in being unable to enter the land of his people at the end of their long journey. He would not see the world he had worked so hard to bring his people to.

It should be fitting then that Aaron Swartz was named after the holy Aaron of ages past, for he, too, was endowed with great wisdom, spoke for the right of his people to be free to pursue the quest for knowledge as they wished, and devoted himself to their liberation, and in the end, would not live to see the completion of his work.

I did not know the man; you probably did not either, at least not directly. If you have this blog -- or any one -- linked to a news reading program through the RSS protocol, that is Aaron. If you read, use, or edit the site Reddit, that is Aaron. If you publish the data you create to the Internet using the Creative Commons license, that is Aaron. If you joined Demand Progress in fighting against SOPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act -- to keep the Internet free from censorship and spying, that is Aaron. So you and I may not have known him, but he has touched our lives and continues to do so every day.

Aaron Swartz was, to all accounts, brilliant, forthright, fun-loving, inquisitive, and took action where most of us feared to. It was this combination that drove him forward, to not only seek to improve the quality of and access to information on the Internet, but to prevent other forces from seeking to lock the Internet down and dilute its power. This drive to preserve the freedom to use the Internet brought him to cross intellectual swords with the law.

He suffered, as many of us do, from depression, that bugaboo that seems to creep into our lives at inopportune moments, either allowed in by the vicissitudes of life or unbidden from the depths of the brain. Grappling with this personal demon at the same time he was being oppressed by the Federal government's attempts to clap him in irons for daring to free information for all to use, drove the man to suicide on January 11th, 2013. He was only 26. In the brief span of his life, he had accomplished more than most of us will in a lifetime, and as with many, it can be said that there was so much more ahead for him and for the world he graced had he lived.

Eulogies and remembrances are many, and will continue to in the days to come. But after he has gone back to the soil of the Good Earth, the void his absence creates must be filled. It is not enough that he falls and we look back -- it is better that we embrace and move forward. Aaron Swartz, in his time, showed us the way. Let us honor his memory by picking up his staff and continuing his journey.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Case Against The Second Amendment

There is one, and only one, flaw in all attempts at the imposition of normal control on guns & gun ownership: the Second Amendment. It is the fly in the ointment that degrades any reasonable discussion into shouting pedantry and veiled threats. It is at once the crux of the issue and the thing that bars any movement in any direction. Its semantics have been decompiled, deconstructed, dismissed, and devalued, and in the end, its shadow still lies endlessly across the peace of our nation.

I am reticent to touch it; it is like a clinging, clutching vine that no amount of cutting and trimming may successfully dislodge. As part of our Constitution, I am honor-bound to defend it, but so am I also required to see that its precepts are properly followed. That's where the problem lies: the intersection of the then, from whence it was spawned, and the now, wherein we must live with it two centuries later, in a world radically different from the one the Founding Fathers lived in at the time of its conception.

You and I may speak of clauses and commas, intent and introspection, but at the end of it, the Second Amendment is an enigma, both plain to see but bounded in mystery, a monolith that rises among us and programs us to fear and to fight. The amendment itself is plain enough, despite what we take to be a crude & confusing wording. At its simplest, it means that government may not take away all rights for citizens to maintain arms; the caveat is -- and this part is often glossed over -- that the reason for this particular allowance, above any other, is that States must be allowed to maintain the necessary strength to form militias.

Look at the world and the circumstance that led to it. The United States was a swaddled, newborn nation, had just fought a war of independence, and was heavily indebted to others to supply the necessary firepower for us to gain that independence. Having so gained it, those who agitated for revolution were now faced with a difficult task: pry that independence from under the thumbs of any potential adversary. At the moment, with no large standing naval forces, land forces that were demobilizing to a greater degree after the war's conclusion, and a nation still not fully constructed in law, The United States was in a precarious and vulnerable position, should Great Britain or any other sovereign nation choose to make a play for it.

This leads, inevitably, to finding ways to secure a nation from foreign threat that allowed for quick mobilization of forces in the advent of attack, and placing such forces in close proximity to every possible entry point on a significant landmass. And doing so, possibly without a strong central government to coordinate defense. The answer was obvious: State militias, built up of citizen soldiers brandishing their own weapons, fighting for their own ground, concentrated in cities and town near possible invasion points. When rallied, such militias would be the first line of defense, hopefully able to hold an invading force at bay long enough, for Federal government to coordinate the fight and bring larger forces to bear.

So when the Bill of Rights was crafted, it seemed appropriate to codify this necessity. After all, the British were not keen on an armed citizenry in their midst, and were wont to strip the average Colonial of weapons if they thought that would protect them from exposure to attack. Having just lived through that war, and having seen how hard it was to gather sufficient forces quickly to counter British thrusts, it made sense to the Founding Fathers to enshrine the principle of home defense in the newly-minted Constitution, not simply as an organizing principle, but as a warning to other nations: we will defend ourselves and if you seek a fight, you shall have it.

As men of The Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers knew that their work, like the world, would not remain static, but would need to be reshaped to meet the challenges of new times and new technologies. The Constitution was meant to be altered as circumstance warranted, when conditions called for a new approach to the organization and functioning of the country. Secretly, they must have sensed that by not dealing with the issue of slavery, that alteration would have to come sooner rather than later, to make up for their lack of courage at the time. So, the document was formed, it was built to be amendable, and the very first amendments were made as a first set of guiding principles to be shaped. That freedom of speech, press, and worship should be the first guiding principle should come as no surprise; in line with that, the second being the right to maintain arms should not shock us either. Having established freedom and liberty for all, it was important to ensure its defense.

Now, we look upstream from the 1780's and 1790's to the start of the 21st Century, and we see that a necessity of the previous era is no longer such at our current point in time. The United States of America is the sole, preeminent superpower on Earth. Our arsenal of weapons, our standing ground,  sea, and air forces, our bases strewn across the face of the globe, make us unrivaled and unmatched. What was true in Lincoln's time, for he foresaw it even then, is clearly true now: no foreign power could take a drink from any river in our nation, nor trod one foot upon it, save where they could eliminate every single American at a stroke, a formidable and seemingly insurmountable task.

Where does that leave the Second Amendment? Dying. It dies of necessity, decaying through the inevitable shift of our nation from shaky confederation to powerful unity. Two world wars armed us, and every conflict since has honed us. Thus, an amendment born of necessity for defense, now lies withering on the vine of liberty. It is kept feebly alive by a faction among us who still believe in inevitable tyranny, though they believe it preparing to strike from within and not from without. They are certain that their government will soon be battering down their doors and marching in to strip them of their only defense. These are not the hunters and sportsmen we are talking about; these are people who see shadows on every street and eyes peering around every corner.

Our nation is supreme in its ability to defend itself; for that purpose, the Second Amendment is now obsolete. Does that of necessity mean we should not be able to bear arms? No. What it does mean is that unfettered, unregulated access to weapons is now a greater threat to us than all our "enemies." Like a seemingly mighty tree, our outward appearance is of strength, but the core is slowly rotting away, chewed up by the increasing frequency and devastation caused by the carnage of military grade weapons in the hands of people who have no business having them. They have these weapons, because the Second Amendment has been elevated to the status of a Commandment by a minority of Americans who feel threatened by their own government. Tapping the power of their sycophantic paranoia to wield legislative power on a national scale, unchecked and unopposed by rational Americans, they leave us all vulnerable to the vagaries of those unwilling or unable to control their rage.

Now, however, perhaps the slumbering mass of Americans awoke, stirred from its torpor by the horror of one person slaughtering innocent children in a school. We may be forgiven for momentary skepticism, because why should it have taken this horrific moment to finally change the direction of the narrative, given the number of such horrible events before now? We cannot belabor that point, though; we must now work on focusing the outrage and ire of the American citizenry over this into a laser-like beam, scouring our nation of the forces that would continue to plant the seeds of slaughter in our midst while turning their back on the carnage such a crop reaps.

The Second Amendment no longer does what it was intended to do. We must now have the courage to fix it.