Shut up already, damn

I can’t find the words to express how moronic these statements are. Larry Ward, whoever he is, clearly doesn’t understand American history at all. But whatever gun group is paying him is getting their money’s worth, at least.

I wrote about the gun massacres in Colorado and in Wisconsin after they happened last year, but then I went back to the inane crap that I normally write about here in short order. But Newtown was so grotesque that it’s hard to formulate too many thoughts about other topics. And now it feels like drifting away from a life-and-death subject when I do that. So this is nothing more than an attempt to keep my own focus on the issue. If anyone else reads it, all the better.

I know that the status quo when it comes to guns is fine with some people. But it’s not fine with most people, and it’s not fine with me, either. Democracy rules this country, not guns and the fear of those who own guns. And the people on both sides of the issue would do well to remember that.

NOTE: The title of this post is taken from Prince’s song Housequake from the amazing “Sign o’ the Times” album. Have a listen if you want to.

Standing at the Wall

It’s the night before a Presidential election, which will be the 12th one of my lifetime (although that first one was just a few weeks after I was born), I’ve been tired of the process, as it has played itself for well over a year now. Since I voted early, it’s almost as if tomorrow will be anticlimatic, except for the part about getting to find out who actually won. I’ll probably be watching the returns with bated breath at this time tomorrow night.

I was driving home tonight, as still another political ad was playing on the radio. In the depths of my despair over this, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I knew it was there, and have driven it past it hundreds of times before, but tonight it demanded my attention. So I turned off into a parking lot and went to answer the call I had received.

Inside the Brown line station at Western Avenue on Chicago’s north side, there is a complete section of the Berlin Wall. The wall was put up around an existing wall in East Berlin beginning back in 1975, and lasting until about 1980. A child my age who lived in East Berlin back then had only known life behind that wall.

The West Berlin side of the wall section has lots of colorful graffiti on it, while the East Berlin side is gray and solemn. You didn’t mark on that wall–or even get very close to it–without putting yourself in considerable danger. And free elections on that side of the wall? No way. That’s just how life was on East Berlin’s side of the wall.

I chose to stand on that side of the wall tonight. I realized very well that those behind the wall could have only dreamed about the chance to make their voice heard on election day. Over the course of a generation–from the early 1960s to the very end of the 1980s– hundreds of East Berliners died attempting to get over that wall. Those who lived on communist side of the wall would certainly wonder where I was coming from with my disdain for the electoral process, and the choices it allows us to make.

I snapped a few pictures, one of which appears above. Then I shut my eyes and tried to imagine growing up behind a wall. The thought that the wall might ever come down simply never occurred to me, as I growing up far, far away in the United States.

I’m sure that East Berliners would have loved the chance to hear a political attack ad on the radio, and then go to a polling booth and cast a vote. None of them would ever feel the way I do about this, either.

So I counted my blessings, standing there on the East Berlin side of the wall. I felt glad to live in the country that first tried out democracy, and then kept on practicing it for centuries afterward. As the United States was guarding its democracy, the Soviets built a wall which, as John Mellencamp once sang, came crumblin’ down back in 1989. I never thought that would happen, either.

For those with no large section of the Berlin Wall nearby, I would suggest considering the Cold War, and what seemed like the permanence of it all up until the end of the 1980s. See if that doesn’t make tomorrow’s election appear in a positive new light.

And If you haven’t done so already, go out and VOTE tomorrow. I approve this message!

Ted Nugent and the American Way

I really don’t want to spend time on Ted Nugent. What he said to the NRA convention in St. Louis, as disturbing as it sounds, is still within his right as an American. But his contempt for the system of government that we have in this country is another matter, altogether. To put it plainly, he doesn’t get it.

What Nugent said, to a room full of people who don’t much care for President Obama, is that “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.” I’m assuming that Ted and his band of self-annointed warriors are the “We” in his sentence, but who is the “they”? Whose heads need to be chopped off? And what is it that warrants the head-chopping? Is viewing the world differently from Ted Nugent a head-chopping offense? I respectfully submit that if that’s really how it is in Mr. Nugent’s world, he needs to get a grip on what this country is.

We the people elected Barack Obama as the president back in 2008. And a few months from now, w’ll get a chance to do it again. Or we will decide to put somebody else in, instead. And whoever wins gets to be the president for four years. Mr. Nugent may not like that, but the best part is that he doesn’t have to put up with it. Lots of other countries around the world settle these matters by force of arms. He has every right to go live there, if that’s the life he wants to have for himself.

But the worst part, the get-the-attention-of-the-Secret-Service part, is the part where he promised that he will be either “dead or in jail” if President Obama is re-elected. And why is that? Does he have any plans for what happens in that event? I’m willing to chalk that up to being provocative in order to collect a speaker’s fee, but others might not be so charitable.

Once his countrymen speak at the ballot box, Mr. Nugent has two clear choices: He can either get over it–regardless of what the outcome is–or he can go live, as I suggested, in a place where violence carries the day. I vote for the latter (that means the second one), but the choice is his to make.

After the Secret Service closed their file, the news media–especially those who are sympathetic to the NRA/Obama-hating world view–will expect us to turn our attention to something else.  But before that happens, let’s understand what he have in this country, and stand for the principle that no one gets to overrule the will of the people, whatever that might be.