Of Gun Violence and the Mentally Ill

Calling the perpetrator of a mass shooting ‘mentally ill’ is another way of saying ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.  It is clear that anyone who comes to the point of killing dozens of innocents is by everyone’s lights, not right.  But calling them ‘mentally ill’ and simply ‘mentally ill’ does not go far enough.  The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent.  Even fewer are in any way ‘deranged’.  A tendency towards violence may itself mean that a person is among the mentally ill, but that does not mean that the mentally ill are violent – much less deranged.

As someone who suffers from mental illness, it can be very difficult to determine what can be done to change the stigma but to go on living an honest life, while standing up for your rights and against the stigma.  But if there is any right that the mentally ill can concede, it is the infringement on their right to bear arms, in the name of peace. This may seem like a hopelessly paradoxical position to some who, under feelings of persecution or duress, believe that they are the ones that need protection more than anyone.  But a certain faith and intelligence must go far enough to overcome the fear and feeling of injustice.

Automatic weapons have no place among our citizenry.  They make violence too easy at critical moments and for anyone.  But those with mental illness can go further and be willing to give up firearms entirely, finding other, honest and non-violent ways to protect themselves.  In exchange, they should ask, as I have advocated previously, that there be a taxation on the sale and transfer of firearms, which goes to fund mental health care in our communities.  That seems the least society can do.

The Galaxy Maker’s Daughter

“Dad, what do you do behind there?”
“Where?”
“There, the curtain”
“Yes, I am there a lot, I know.”
“And always, always working.  What for?”
“For us.”
“For us?  Then why can’t I see?”
“It is not ready.”
“Will it ever be ready?”
“Yes I know, it always takes me a long time, too long.”
“I have never seen anything you’ve done.”
“No?”
“No.”
“I don’t believe this is true.”
“It is.”
“No it isn’t.  Actually, I could show you, but I don’t know that you are ready.”
“I am, I am!”
“We all think that before we see it – and then we see it and we are not prepared.”
“What do I have to do to be ready?”
“You must practice.”
“What?”
“Being prepared.”
“How could I possibly do that?”
“Do you remember the story I told about the fairy?”
“That fairy doesn’t exist, that was a lie.”
“That was a story, but that too was practice.”
“For what?”
“Well, I can’t tell you, you must just practice – but maybe you are already prepared, nothing surprises me       anymore.”
“Ok, this sounds like hog wash.”
“Fair, but it is not.  It is practice.”
“Just show me what’s behind the curtain!”
“Fine.”
He withdrew the curtain.
“Whoa… What is that?”
“This is a galaxy.”
“Yes, I know that too – but you built it?”
“Yes.”
“But you didn’t build it – that would make you God.”
“I am not God.  There is a God, but She did not build this.  It is far too crude.”
“But how?”
“Ingenuity.”
“I don’t know what that means, but I still don’t believe you.  You built a galaxy?”
“I did.”
“It’s not real.”
“No?”
“No.  You can’t just build a real galaxy.”
“Do you want to visit it.”
“Sure.”
“This is no joke.  You must think about this.  Do you really want to leave our galaxy and visit this one.          You must be strong in your conviction.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“Yes.”
“Yes!?  Why did you do that?”
“Because I had no choice – it is real.”
“Ugh.  None of this makes sense.  How can this be real and be a new galaxy you made?”
“Like the morning star is the evening star…”
“Again, I have no idea what you’re saying, but if this galaxy is our galaxy, then you did not make it.”
“Semantics, Semantics…”
“Stop using big words!  One day I will know all these big words and know what you are saying!”
“I must remember that, it is true.”
“If it is our galaxy, why did you have to build it?”
“Because I hope it is a better than the old one.”
“So are you going to let me visit your galaxy?  Cause if it is our galaxy, then I am not scared.”
“No.  Now I know you need more practice.”
“Ugh!  Let me go!”
The girl took a big leap into the galaxy.

You are but a girl, by thoughts besieged
from hopes and fears which by turn breathe,
your breaths for you, as you devine,
a passage through this galaxy of mine.

You took a trip, innocent enough,
but you could not see just how rough,
the going would be, all alone,
without a map, a prayer, or a poem.

Who will say what scripture to read?
It is but from the hand that feeds,
and if this accident should so decide,
keep the mind open to other guides.

Let this be but one my dear,
though it will not stop the fear.
The fear you must conquer before it abates,
there is only through, let’s hope that’s your fate.

And so I give my perhaps strange advice,
that a heaven may come and you get your slice.
The world is complex, that’s not my fault,
but my guidance simple, so take it with salt.

The lives we lead are not always our own,
the tide does come and rattles the bone.
Should you make it, I’d be proud,
for there are dangers behind the shroud.

As you see them, they will come;
rampage and riots and drugs bar none,
murder, disease, hatred and gore,
noise and noise and too much war.

And to keep your head, that is a quest,
despite gestalt, slander, and jest.
Learn who you are, and don’t forget,
or doing other’s bidding is your bet.

There is in this galaxy a struggle anon,
so that what is good shall never be gone,
of rationalists and empiricists, of left and right,
of liberals and conservatives, who always fight.

If I should, and I guess I must dare,
to say it is a fight over methods is fair.
And it will forever be hard to concede,
that a life was lived and only for the deed.

And for this reason, should you endure –
after the great fight, should you prove pure –
there will be for you an opportunity to take;
and we will allow you a galaxy to make.

She came back.
“Well?”
“Whoa..”
“Would you wish to live there?”
She was still stunned.
“Most choose one galaxy in which to create their own galaxies”
“I have seen your galaxy…”
“I know it is a bit rough, but there was a lot we had to account for.”
“I have seen your galaxy and it is crazy…  Can I wait for something better?”
He sighed.  Put his chin on his fist.  Thought and thought and said… “Yes”
And so the girl waited… until the next option was available.
She approached it in wonder, but not without trepidation.
And here, she wrote stories of her own.

Viva Barcelona

It has always been the will of the people to live free, but the enemy to such aspirations is elusive.  Should it be that one try to connect with the people and they, by hint and suggestion, are turned against as one who seeks to subvert their good spirits and intentions, then it is – from my first hand experience – the people providing the hint and suggestion who wish to subvert what is good and not the subject of accusation all.  It is the hint and suggestion from the social troll who will end the world in economic ice.  Their malice cold, as revenge is wont to be.

People talk, and that holds not for one group or the other, but it is easier to control the talk if you mascaraed as ‘of the people’ though you are against all that is open and good.  But in some places hidden malice cannot win.  The networks too intertwined, and you are free to be – not this that or the other – but just free to be.

Barcelona and the New Republic

In the Spanish civil war, the Communists and the Capitalists sided with one another against the Fascists.  The Fascists won, and led to a repressive regime that lived in relative peace without freedom until the death of Franco.  Spain, as a result, did not see the subsequent battle between the Communists and Capitalists, which was to define the latter half of the 20th century. They lived in a bubble of needs met and few aspirations attained, with true liberty – religion not least among them – thwarted.

But Franco did not stop the positioning.  He had to, after all, meet with every man’s fate and die.  And so the cold war lived in muted form, to the satisfaction of those who run cold – the communists – as opposed to those who run hot – the capitalists.  But in certain places the dream of the republic lived.  It would come to live in the hearts of former communists as well as capitalists, as the fate of a government of central command was realized in the USSR, not only Spain.

There are still those inclined to socialism, and sometimes they are in the right.  Nevertheless, the will of the people is freedom – civil and economic – and there is no place in the world where this will is stronger than in Barcelona.  Catalonia has been reluctantly paying dues and homage to Madrid for too long, and it is time for Madrid to realize that they really ought to be more like Barcelona.  I have been here for a short time, and I can tell the city is alive and open unlike any I’ve seen.  Despite occasional opposing forces at play, it is a city ready to shine to the world.  Madrid, you should play along – you have something to learn and gain.

The Objectification of Women

By this is typically meant the process by which a woman is evaluated based on their appearance, but to say that this is the objectification of women is to ignore the fact that if one is evaluated based on metrics of almost any sort, then they have been ‘objectified’ and this socially acceptable form of objectification even has a prestigious business name: Human Capital Management.

The real problems with objectification are not with evaluating people based on their appearance, which is a set of characteristics subject to objectification as well as any other. The real problem is treating people as capital, and that is just business. How to reconcile the need to objectify people while treating them as loving, feeling, breathing individuals, generally – that is our problem – and it applies to Vegas strippers as well as CEOs.

It used to be the men who treated people as capital in business, and women were a balance who treated people as loving, feeling individuals at home. Now it is an afront to women if they are not treated as human capital like everyone else, and you are ‘setting women back’ if you are a woman who does not treat people as capital in turn. Ahh progress.

This is not to say that women have no place in business, but it is to say that society has lost some of that balance, and men need to begin to treat people more as loving, feeling individuals to help regain it – Women, we need your help, so don’t lose your touch.

My Record Deal

“Just listening to your recording. It appears you are white.”

“Yes… Is that in my recording?”

“I gathered that from some things. Not to mention your skin color.”

“Yes, my skin is white.”

“Yes. Yes it is. Now tell me, how does a white boy know the blues?”

“Like anyone I’ve had life’s comeupin’s.”

“Nobody talks like that anymore… where are you from?”

“Wisconsin, but we have black people too.”

“Oh is that how black people talk?”

“They used to. I read it in Faulkner and Twain. They are always gettin’ their comeupin’s.”

“Ok anyhow. Did you ever work a chain gang? Or flea a coon hunt? Or overcome an addiction? Or get your heart stomped on by a woman? Or do any bluesy thing in your life?”

“That’s not really what the blues are about sir. They are about facing trials and obstacles that don’t relent. They are about that forlorn sentiment that accompanies relinquishing hope to a life of daily bludgeoning by unseen forces.”

“And you know this, this sentiment?

“Well, yes sir. I do a lot of reading on the internet. And putting aside the awful lack of general prosaic literacy, the writing tends to nurture the utmost depravity by means of insinuating my ignorance, and this leads me to indulge in a superficial vice which diverts my general frustration.”

“like?”

“like the sensual delights of the female figure.”

“Like Playboy.”

“Yes, but a little… anyway yes.”

“This ain’t the blues son. You gonna sing about that? This is plain old lack of confidence.”

“What makes you think this?”

“Please.”

“Ok. I find this a terrible judgment of my character from my otherwise homely appearance.”

“You ain’t so ugly son. Just wimpy is all.”

“Yes, I have a bit of a feeble constitution.”

“Wimpy. Just wimpy. You got to sit up straight and try to put some meat on those bones.”

“That’s fair.”

“And how can you sing the blues with those wimpy pipes? Give me a little raspy Satchmo will ya?”

“Technically Mr. Armstrong was a jazz musician. But here it goes…”

“Really terrible.”

“How do you know? You are not African American either. You’re whiter than me.”

“Ugh, now it’s a racial thing…”

“But you…”

“I know the blues son. Plenty of white artists know the blues too. Now I have a jet waiting, but if you want to send in an audition recording my staff in the foothills will look it over.”

“Tell me now sir, what will it take?”

“To make it? The grace of God.”

And with that, my life took a religious turn.

Liars and Commitments

I always try to be honest. I very rarely misstate facts intentionally. I may withhold facts or not say the whole truth, in order to protect. I may speak indirectly to keep some things secret to some people (e.g. kids). I write fiction, which has the presumption of being a story, of some higher truth but not literal. But I don’t lie and I don’t resort to these other methods of communicating facts lightly.

Communicating is a form of commitment. It is a commitment to the person you are communicating with, that these are the facts as you understand them. It is a commitment that the person you are speaking with has a right to hold you to. If you are inconsistent, they have a right to point this out. If you are inconsistent in a way that is beneficial to you, they have a right to be suspicious. And if you are stating the highly unlikely, or what is highly unlikely given the audience to which you are speaking, they have a right to question. The system of communication breaks down when people are dishonest, and we have a commitment to the system of communication in so far as we want to take part in it.

Lies are adversarial, not just to the people to whom you are speaking, but the system of communication itself. Liars are adversarial to community. I have spoken of breaking commitments, however, and the trouble of making commitments deliberately and following through with them deliberately, rather than making them flippantly and later rationalizing away. These are also antithetical to community. They are not adversarial for the reason that they are not done with necessary intention – though under the recognition of what you are doing as ‘flippant’ or what you will likely do as ‘rationalize them away’, they may be.

Lying is also viral. If someone knows people are lying, particularly about other people, then they are less committed to the principle of truth telling about others themselves. It can be quite painful to be thoroughly committed to truth telling when you know others are not, and this can sometimes lead at least to exaggeration and at worst preemptive lying.

To be level headed, to not overcompensate or undercompensate for the emotions which you know may well be affecting your judgment, is a sometimes quite difficult proposition. It is better – I believe – not to compensate at all, but find the peace of mind to state facts and analyze these statements for errors in omission or minimization or exaggeration at a later time, making any necessary clarifications.

Truth-telling is a form of commitment I am good at and do not compromise lightly. Truth-telling is also the ethical characteristic which best holds a person together, as well as a community.

A Delicate Network

We are a delicate network. Your identity to that network is not always clearly defined. It is so undefined that there is some temptation to give yourself up to that network, to become only a node in the net which moves with the waves and takes what comes. But for the strength of that network itself, your identity has to be more.

It means that each node is strong and is not easily undone. A person is undone when they have lost their integrity. Integrity is that which makes us decidedly an individual and those without it have given themselves up to the waves.

There are two basic forms of integrity which a person can’t give up – ethical integrity and logical integrity. Ethical integrity is compromised when we act and speak in ways which would conflict with our ethical principles, upon reflection. Logical integrity is compromised when we are unable to reason from principles (including ethical) and beliefs, in a logical manner, to other beliefs and actions – we are not capable of effectively reflecting.

We cannot do as much about what comes our way. In many ways, we can only choose good friends, do our part to stay out of trouble, and hope for the best. But we can do something to live within ethical principles and use logic to effectively reason about what to do, say, and believe. This site is intended to journal my struggles in maintaining that integrity against the currents that attempt to compromise it.