A Blog by Jameson Parker
The Span of Life
The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
- Robert Frost
The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
- Robert Frost
I’ve been thinking about Paris lately, ever since the attacks. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the immortal city four times and like every other man before me who has ever been there, it made an indelible impression.
The first time I was so young, perhaps four or five, that all I really remember is Notre Dame, which had a profound effect on me: the rose window, the truncated towers, the statues and gargoyles, the smell of incense, the dim interior that emphasized the stained glass windows; all of it was etched into my memory so strongly that it is difficult now for me to separate Notre Dame from other famous cathedrals I was blessed to see while we lived in Europe. I still have, more than sixty years later, a small, inexpensive crucifix, a tacky little tourist item I fell in love with and that my parents bought for me there.
The third time I went to Paris I was in my twenties (“Paris twenties,” as Hawley Truax wrote in his spectacular poem, Fistfuls of Balloons—see the blog of the same name on my website—though since he too put in quotes, the phrase may come from some other source) and it should have been the highlight of my life, to be young and footloose in the city of light and love and laughter. Unfortunately, that trip was made with someone I choose now not even to remember, and in any case I became so seriously ill that I spent most of that visit either unconscious or alternating between praying I wouldn’t die and praying I would. So I will dismiss that occasion as something that never happened.
My last visit was in my late thirties and was for work, so my memories of all that is iconic about Paris are more limited: glorious and indelible, particularly the food, but limited by time and responsibility.
But it was the second trip that lingers. I was only thirteen or fourteen and my parents took us, my sister and me. My family was never poor, but we were never rich, either, and in an effort to save money and give us as much time there as possible, my father made arrangements for us to stay in the vacant apartment of some friend of his. The only other apartment on that floor was occupied by a professional model who was American, drop-dead gorgeous, and very sweet to a loathsome adolescent boy whose body was raging with hormones and barely under his control. My feet were much too big for the rest of me, and I had a pronounced tendency to trip and fall down while standing still. None of my clothes fit properly. My voice seemed to have developed a malicious sense of humor and betrayed me at every most inopportune and embarrassing moment. But there she was in the apartment next door, beautiful and good-humored, joyous and compelling, very much like the city itself.
Apart from falling in love with both lady and city, my salient memories are of the breathtaking beauty that is Paris. Perfectly ordinary streets and buildings that Parisians probably take for granted and never even glance at twice, those same mundane sights filled me with…well, with love, for what else should one succumb to in Paris? Beyond that, it was the Louvre that completely consumed me. We went to other museums, of course, to many historic buildings and sites, but the Louvre captured me in almost inexplicable ways.
I was overwhelmed by the staggering size of the place and by the staggering size of the Jacques-Louis David’s. I was then equally overwhelmed by the smallness of the Mona Lisa. I remember standing in front of her and later in front of the Venus de Milo and even as I admired them thinking that an American model in a modest apartment building in an unfashionable arrondissement was more beautiful than either. I was only fourteen, for God’s sake. But I also remember thinking—or perhaps just feeling intuitively—how life-affirming and restorative that art was, how reflective of all that is best in mankind, all that we hope will endure forever, a glass of fine French wine for even an obnoxious adolescent boy’s soul.
In the wake of the ISIS attacks, these memories and a thousand more came back and I’ve been trying to make sense of it all.
To be honest, Islam (traditional Islam, as opposed to radical Islam) makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, but to be fair, perhaps Christianity is as foreign to Muslims as Islam is to me. But when it comes to radical Islam, I am really left gaping in astonishment. It’s as if the Westboro Baptist Church, or some other equally evil perversion of Christ’s teaching, were suddenly taken seriously by large numbers of people. Out of billions of Muslims across the globe and on every continent, only a miniscule handful have made their personal evil the dominant theme of their religion, but it is still amazing and out of all proportion to their numbers. If I were Muslim, I would be outraged to have my religion hijacked and perverted.
Apart from the evil perversion of their own religion, what stuns me about ISIS is their myopic and medieval approach to the stated goal of world domination this tiny bunch of perverts wants to achieve. Islam, I’m talking about mainstream Islam, has tried repeatedly to expand their realm of domination and create a united world-caliphate, just as for many centuries armies of conquerors followed the cross. Mohamed himself took much of the Arabian peninsula; after his death, what was then Persia, and the area then known as Mesopotamia were conquered; the next areas to come under Islamic rule were the northern mountain regions that are now known as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan; the conquest of India began only thirty years after the death of Mohamed, and within half a century most of that great subcontinent was taken and a thousand years of beauty and culture were irrevocably destroyed; the Iberian peninsula and part of what is now southern France fell next; further incursions into France were attempted, but stopped by Charlemagne’s grandfather, Charles Martel, but the attempt was made; Islamic expansion was also halted farther east, temporarily, by the Byzantine Empire and Bulgarian kings; a century later, Islam took much of southern Italy and set up an Emirate in Sicily; Crete, Cyprus, northern Africa, eventually the mighty Byzantine Empire and large chunks of eastern Europe, all came under Islamic domination. Most, though not all, of these conquests were accompanied by wholesale slaughter and destruction of everything and anything that wasn’t Islamic, which is to say everything the Muslims saw. (To be fair, much has also been destroyed and lost to Christian armies too, particularly in Byzantium; the difference is that Christian armies—for the most part—stole instead of destroyed.) Today, that kind of destruction, like the destruction of the Goths and the Vandals and other primitive and warlike tribes, is rightly called barbaric.
Good old ISIS, like the Taliban before them, is resurrecting that moronic medieval mayhem. Reports of their destruction of priceless antiquities range from ancient books and manuscripts to Assyrian artifacts. And it was thinking about that evil in their own backyard that made me think about Paris.
Imagine for a moment that ISIS succeeds and that Europe falls to this pathetic evil masquerading as religion. (Given the spineless arrogance, ignorance and incompetence that characterize Washington’s current administration, it could happen, unless Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia all come together and recognize that a sheep cannot reason with a wolf. Unfortunately, only Russia seems to grasp that, though ISIS does seem to have awakened a martial spirit in France that once was world-renowned.) Imagine a world without the Paris that we know, without the life-affirming art and architecture, literature and music that all the world—saving the despicable and barbaric morons of ISIS—recognizes as the best of humanity. That is what would happen if ISIS has its way. Forget for a moment (as if one could!) the blood-soaked streets of the city that is all things to all men; forget the pain and sorrow; forget the fear and the loss. Now imagine a world where you don’t even have the solace of art and beauty and all the best of man to give you comfort. That’s the world ISIS wants. I’d say it’s worth fighting and dying to prevent that world from ever becoming a reality. I hope Europe agrees with me.
It being Veteran’s Day and all, I was thinking about my parents. Neither one of them were natural soldiers or heroes in any traditional and conventional sense of that word, but like practically everyone else of that generation, the Monday morning after Pearl Harbor, my father went down to enlist in the Navy, and my mother followed suit shortly after.
My father had dreams of being a frogman (the precursors to today’s Seals) because of his swimming ability. Fortunately, an accident in training blew out one of his ear drums and he spent the war serving as a lieutenant on transport ships; otherwise, I almost certainly wouldn’t be here today, since my father was almost as ill-equipped to be a military man as his feckless son.
My mother managed to get a top-secret job on the Navy intelligence team that finally broke the Japanese code. There was no such thing as a computer in those days, and the team consisted of an eclectic assortment of civilians—mathematicians, housewives, schoolteachers, men too old or unfit to serve elsewhere—who shared a common ability for finding patterns in random groupings of words and numbers. She never once spoke of it until the day I just happened to home visiting and just happened to pick up the mail for her. There was a letter to her from the Department of the Navy, but even when I queried her, she dismissed it all by showing me a few simple cryptograms and telling a few anecdotes of some her fellow team members. (One of those, incidentally, was a British Naval Officer who went on to serve at Bletchley Park, where the first computer was invented by Alan Turing, an incident made famous by the recent movie, The Imitation Game.)
They were ordinary people, my extraordinary parents, but they were members of the greatest generation, made great by time and circumstances they would have preferred not to have known. They, and all the courageous men and women who serve in uniform today, deserve to be remembered with gratitude, and to be emulated.
Sometimes—not often—everything comes together just perfectly. (When it does, I attribute it to clean living and good single-malt whisky.)
We had two fine days of cold, grey, and rainy weather. I had to run some errands on one of those days and at the last minute, almost as if the universe had whispered in my ear, I grabbed my camera. Then, on the way home, I took a detour through some hills at the end of the valley and in the fog and rain I found what the universe had been trying to tell me.
Since I wrote about Quentin Tarantino’s anti-police tirade, the speech he gave while marching with yet another anti-police protest group, I am going to weigh in on his recent defense of his statement calling police “murderers.” Quentin made his comments during a protest rally of the group, Rise Up October, in New York, a protest that came four days after the murder of a New York City police officer.
Rise Up October is an organization created by Cornel West and Carl Dix. Mr. West is a former Harvard professor who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and he has called Barack Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” Mr. Dix is a co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and he has denounced all shootings of young black men by police officers in line of duty as “genocide.” To be fair to Rise Up October, they had scheduled their protest long before New York City officer Randolph Holder was murdered in East Harlem, but to label police officers murderers, either wholesale or selectively, as Quentin Tarantino did, was a masterpiece of poor taste and poor timing. Mr. Tarantino managed to compound the offensiveness of his statements by citing as an example the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, since virtually every subsequent investigation of that shooting ruled it a clear case of justifiable homicide by a police officer in defense of his life.
I’m not interesting in rehashing Mr. Tarantino’s statements, but rather in looking at his peculiar defense of those statements.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Tarantino stated: “All cops are not murderers. I never said that. I never even implied that.”
Well, Quentin, your words, “When I see murder, I cannot stand by. I have to call the murdered the murdered and the murderers the murderers,” would in fact seem to imply precisely that, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the American people misunderstood you. After all, your chosen medium of expression is film, not the English language.
But then Mr. Tarantino goes on to say later in his interview, “I have a first amendment right to protest against police brutality as I see it, and I’m not backing down from that.”
Let me see if I’ve got this right. We, the American people, misunderstood you, but you courageously invoke your first amendment right to be misunderstood?
Okie, dokie. No muddy thinking there, by golly, but we’ll let it go. What I won’t let go is the following: “What” [the police and police associations] “are doing is pretty obvious. Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people” [excuse me, Quentin, but you were one of those people] “were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out. And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It’s to intimidate me. It’s to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it’s to send a message out to any other prominent person that” [sic] “might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
Quentin, please. That’s just embarrassing. It’s embarrassing for you to play the old “blame the victim” card, portraying the police as the ones in the wrong because they “misunderstood” you and object to what they misunderstood. If you have a first amendment right to be misunderstood, the police have an equally valid first amendment right to encourage people not to go see your films when they are offended by the words you claim you didn’t say.
And more importantly, Quentin, it is really embarrassing for you to try and portray yourself as a lone crusader courageously standing up to the ominous and threatening forces of powerful and entrenched evil in the form of police unions. You’re a movie-maker, Quentin, and you took a position on an issue about which you had not done all your homework, but that’s alright. That too is your right under the constitution. But at least have the dignity to cowboy up and take the heat when other people disagree with you.
For myself, since I haven’t actually seen any of your films so far, I will continue to courageously take a bold stance and boycott the next one as well.
Really, sometimes the Grey Lady just makes it all too easy. No, no. Hillary is the Shady Lady; the Grey Lady is The New York Times.
Jameson’s Law of Convincing Argument states that if I wish to convince you of the absolute and infallible correctness of my point of view, I would be well-served not to cite sources that are known for agreeing with me or being on my side of a particular argument.
For example: I recently wrote an article for a magazine about a gun control initiative being launched in the state where that magazine is published. In the article, I quoted President Obama repeating a lie he has told frequently. He stated that, “The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the past [twenty] years that’s kept millions of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as forty percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.” [Emphasis mine.]
If I had then refuted that lie, which has been repeatedly refuted and debunked, with facts and figures from the NRA, you would have been wise to suspect me of being biased, lazy in my research, and even perhaps dishonest myself. Instead, I quoted the “Fact-Checker” column in the notoriously anti-gun Washington Post, which gave Mr. Obama three Pinocchios out of a possible four for dishonesty.
So, enter the Grey Lady, stage left, ranting wildly about the “myth” of defensive gun use, specifically as it pertains to concealed carry. The Editorial Board of the Times (wisely, no individual wished to attach his or her name to the piece) proceeded to trot out “statistics” purporting to show the relatively few (according to the Times) occasions firearms were used throughout the country for legally justifiable purposes of defense. Then the Grey Lady solemnly informed its readers, most of whom are sheltered and pampered urban and suburban dwellers unlikely to question any dishonest garbage the editorial board dishes as out, that their source for these “statistics” was The Violence Policy Center.
Oh dear, oh dear, Grey Lady, that’s just embarrassing. Anyone with an I.Q. larger than his hat size will hear alarm bells going off. Actually, the editorial board must have realized how embarrassing it was, because a disclaimer was immediately added to the effect that the Violence Policy Center’s figures were, “…necessarily incomplete, because the gun lobby has been so successful in persuading gullible state and national legislators that concealed carry is essential to public safety, thus blocking the extensive data collection that should be mandatory for an obvious and severe public health problem.”
(That, by the way, is an old trick, cynically summed up by the lawyer, Billy Flynn, in the musical Chicago, when he tap dances and sings the song Razzle Dazzle:
“Give ‘em the old flim flam flummox,
Fool and fracture ‘em,
How can they hear the truth above the roar?…
…Long as you keep ‘em way off balance,
How can they spot you’ve got no talents?”
In other words, if your argument is completely bogus, blame it in an outraged tone of voice on your opponent.)
The problem, dear Grey Lady, is that “the extensive data collection that should be mandatory” is in fact carried out and is available to anyone willing to look at an unbiased source. The United States Bureau of Justice, hardly a rabid pro-gun institution, estimates that firearms are used defensively in America 235,700 each year. Other sources, some pro-gun and some neutral, estimate legal defensive firearm use from an approximate low of one million, to a high of two-and-a-half million times a year.
You do see where this is going, right? If the Grey Lady can convince its naïve and uneducated (about guns) readers that the number of legal and justifiable defensive uses of a firearm is a tiny, insignificant amount, then no one can refute the old, emotional “if it saves just one life” gun control argument. Because the reverse of that argument is that if having a gun saves just one life, than there is no reason to ban firearms. And, in fact, as the very low Bureau of Justice figures show, many, many lives are saved by defensive use each year, a great many times more than are taken by criminals.
Then the Grey Lady went on to say, “Clearly, concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes.” That is possibly the only honest thing The Times Editorial Board was able to write in the entire article. Concealed carry does not transform anyone, but it does at least give him a fighting chance not to become another lamentable statistic.
Many decades ago, when I was first starting to have some success in Hollywood, I met a young man named Quentin Tarantino in an acting class. I never knew him long enough or intimately enough to get a sense of who he was, though I will say I was very surprised when about ten years later he began to take Hollywood by storm as a director. I will also say that because I have no interest in movies that are action-driven or special-effects driven, I have never seen any of his films. My understanding is that they are long on violence and mayhem, short on character development and the common humanity, comic or tragic, that we all share. But when my bride came into my office yesterday evening to tell me that Quentin Tarantino had given a speech at an anti-police rally denouncing the police and calling them “murderers,” I felt sure she must have misheard or gotten the story wrong.
She hadn’t and she didn’t.
In the brief clip I saw, Tarantino called the police murderers indirectly, by stating his support for the “murdered,” primarily for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Unfortunately, Tarantino picked a poor example, but for the sake of argument, let’s put aside the findings of the Ferguson Police Department, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and a grand jury, and assume that Michael Brown was an innocent gentle giant as the media initially, gleefully portrayed him. To extrapolate from that incident and portray all police officers in America as murderers is as hateful and biased as it would be to extrapolate from the truth of Michael Brown’s assault of a police officer to portray all young black men as murderous thugs. Or, to put it another way, it’s a little like extrapolating from Quentin Tarantino’s comments and portraying all Hollywood directors as attention-hungry idiots.
I’m back in physical therapy again, trying to overcome? undo? compensate for? some of the lingering spinal damage done by my horse accident, and one afternoon I happened to be at the therapist’s clinic at the same time as the SWAT officer who was shot by the lunatic who murdered my friend, David Markiewitz. This young man took a .44 magnum bullet through both arms, severely damaging one and catastrophically damaging the other. He had only recently been released from the hospital when he attended David’s funeral service along with the lead detective on the case, and the Kern County Sheriff, all of whom took time out of their busy, exhausting lives to pay their respects to a wonderful man none of them had ever even been lucky enough to know, save in death.
Murderers, Quentin? I think of them as heroes. And if the day comes, Quentin, when your luck runs out and you become the victim of a home invasion or car-jacking or street robbery, you will dial 911 and scream for the murderers. If my luck runs out, I will dial 911 and call for heroes.
One of the good things about writing a blog is that sometimes someone asks a question or makes a statement that challenges one of my pearls of wisdom, causing me to have to re-think my assumptions. It’s good because it keeps me on my toes.
One of the bad things about writing a blog is that sometimes someone asks a question or makes a statement that challenges one of my pearls of wisdom, causing me to have to re-think my assumptions. It’s bad because it can cause me to go off on diversionary excursions when I should be writing articles to put beans and rice on the Parker kitchen table, though I could also make an equal argument that such diversions and excursions are necessary for keeping one’s sanity in an insane world.
In response to the most recent blog, Ideology, Ignorance, or Fear?, someone asked, “Which countries have the lowest violent crime rates? And what factors are assumed to contribute?” and that caused a case of nearly terminal curiosity in this mangy literary tomcat. Here, for what it’s worth, is what I found.
According to a United Nations Subcommittee, the happiest ten nations on earth are (in order from top to bottom): Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia.
According to the same subcommittee, people in the happiest nations on earth all share: longer life expectancy; have social support; experience more generosity; have freedom to make life choices; have lower perceptions of corruption (in their respective governments); and have higher gross domestic product per capita. Some other sources of happiness (from other sources) are: the ability to trust people in your own neighborhood; ability to trust those in the government (part and parcel of having a low perception of corruption); and being surrounded by people who show empathy for others.
The ten safest nations on earth (and I’m compiling here, based on different reports by varying entities that range from semi-professional to apparently amateur tourism promoters) are: Sweden, Finland, Austria (which also made on it some of the “happiest” lists), Australia, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Tuvalu (I’d never heard of it either; it consists of a bunch of islands in the Pacific), New Zealand, and Iceland. Other lists include: Singapore; Japan; Canada; Slovenia (presumably included by someone who is unfamiliar both with history and its tendency to repeat itself); Belgium; the Czech Republic; Switzerland; Bhutan (a tiny country in the Himalayan mountains; I had to look it up); and Portugal.
Reasons for safety include: financial prosperity of the nation as a whole; intelligence of the people; a clearly defined national culture that includes both discipline and strict laws; personal freedom and human rights; a stable economy; a good (i.e. both trusted and competent) political system; gender equality; high per capita income.
What is interesting is that with the exception of the Pacific nations (New Zealand, Australia, and Tuvalu) and Portugal, all the other nations are northern, with some of them (the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, and Canada) qualifying as being in the frozen north. The other common factor I found interesting is that with the exception of Bhutan, which is a kingdom, all the others have some form of capitalistic democratic government, ranging from a democratic monarchy to a parliamentary system. (America was included on some of the “happiest” lists, but I chose not to include it lest someone think I was being partisan.)
The LA Times ran an editorial the day before yesterday calling for more stringent gun control and citing Los Angeles’ high homicide rate as a good example of why more controls are needed.
Two days earlier, the Chicago Tribune ran a similar editorial, citing that city’s out of control crime problem, specifically its homicide rate, as an example of why tougher gun laws are required.
What makes this risible is that both of those cities have some of the toughest, most draconian gun-control laws in America, and California is regularly praised, by no less an authority than the Brady Campaign, as the state with the toughest guns laws in the nation. If gun control worked, both of those cities would be paragons of safety and low crime, so clearly there is some other factor besides the existence of firearms that causes criminal behavior.
If you doubt that, take a quick peek at three countries with some of the most restrictive gun laws anywhere in the world. Actually, make that two countries: Venezuela used to have incredibly restrictive gun laws, but now, as of 2012, private gun ownership is totally banned. In Honduras, citizens have no legal right to own a firearm of any kind. Gun ownership is considered extremely restricted, with background checks, licensing, registration, and a five gun limit. In El Salvador, citizens have no legal right to own a firearm of any kind. Gun ownership is considered extremely restricted, with licensing and registration for both firearms and ammunition, background checks, and mandatory safety training. I cite those three countries because they also happen to have the highest rates of homicide anywhere in the world. So much for gun control.
Going back to the two cities with some of the most restrictive gun laws in America, it’s no coincidence that the two cities regularly listed as being the most gang-infested metropolitan areas in America are—drum role, please—Chicago and Los Angeles (most recently in that order; the positions used to be reversed).
Countless studies over the years by sociologists, psychiatrists, and various other experts all show identical factors that encourage gang participation: poverty, lack of job opportunities, family breakdown (including both domestic violence and lack of adult supervision), academic failure, and peer pressure. By the same token, countless studies over the years by sociologists, psychiatrists, and other experts all show identical factors that discourage gang activity: parental and family involvement, education, and training for adults (parents and teachers) who have to deal with disruptive or violent at-risk teenagers.
It is also hardly breaking news that the vast bulk of violent crimes are committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders. It’s hard to get specific about the numbers here, because there are so many studies done by so many experts in so many different states, using so many different methodologies, and focusing on different aspects of violent crime (sex crimes, homicide, armed robbery, sometimes all three lumped together), and with numbers that vary by age group, but here is a random sampling: a Florida study showed 70% of all violent crimes were committed by 30% of the criminal population; a Philadelphia study showed 40% committed by 5%; a Chicago news agency did a study of police records and found the “overwhelming majority” of men arrested for homicide had committed previous homicides; while a study done in Sweden showed that 63% of all violent crimes were committed by 1% of the population. Looking at it from another perspective, from the recidivism perspective, the Bureau of Justice’s figures show that slightly over 60% of all violent criminals who are released from prison are re-arrested for a similar offense within three years.
So explain to me again how restricting my second amendment rights will prevent career criminals and gang members from committing murder.
None of this is new. None of this is revolutionary. None of this is unknown by the progressive politicians and media outlets that regularly push instead for gun control. So the question then becomes: why do progressive news outlets and politicians routinely and consistently ignore the very real science and sociological data that are known, while blaming guns as being, somehow, the causative factor. To quote the LA Times: “Our national crisis is the guns themselves and a political attitude that finds it completely sane to let this daily carnage continue.”
There is a frighteningly shamanistic totemism to that statement. To be less charitable, that is one of the stupidest statements I have ever read in any newspaper. Ever. Using that editor’s logic, because I own a hammer, I am a carpenter. (In the background, my wife claps her hands together in prayer and cries, “If only it were so!”)
But is this willful ignorance of progressives the result of an equally willful deception to promote an extremist ideology? (To paraphrase a popular liberal politician, “It’s a vast left-wing conspiracy…”) Or is it ignorance resulting from a limited and impoverished education? (Just take a look at the required courses in any ivy-league college curriculum today and you’ll understand why ignorance is the norm in young professionals.) Or is it fear?
A lot of people really do believe it is the ideological repetition of a lie for specific political and social purposes. Think of Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” And: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly: it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” That kind of cynical and deliberate dishonesty may be true of certain anti-gun groups (think Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown [sic] for Gun Safety), but I doubt it is the case with most politicians or the even most liberal news organizations. I hope it isn’t.
It might simply be ignorance. When a young man or woman can get a bachelor’s degree from an Ivy-league college without ever having to take a single history course of any kind, it does make you wonder what they are learning. Certainly not history, and it is only by knowing the past that we can anticipate the future.
So perhaps it is simply fear. We fear the unknown, and we only hate what we fear, and in an increasingly urbanized society, exposure to firearms is more and more limited. Listen to the litany of ludicrous statements about firearms that you hear on the news or read in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, or any other progressive, anti-gun news source and you will recognize a firearms education that comes from television shows and bad movies. If you are truly ignorant about guns, you might be simple enough to believe they can discharge by themselves, or that warning shots fired in the air are a safe and sensible thing to do, or that is possible to shoot the gun out of the hand of an armed criminal who is shooting at you. I have heard or read all those things.
More to the point, I have heard and read too many lies like, “Our national crisis is the guns themselves and a political attitude that finds it completely sane to let this daily carnage continue.”
Be careful what you wish for.
Have you ever seen Bedazzled? It’s a marvelous, wacky, 1967 movie starring and written by the brilliant British comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. (There is also a 2000 remake, starring Brendan Frazer, with Elizabeth Hurley as the devil in a red bikini, a sight that is alone worth the price of admission, though the remake is not as charming as the original.) The premise of the movie is that a little nebbish (Dudley Moore), who is in love with an unattainable girl, sells his soul to the devil (Peter Cook) for seven wishes (corresponding to the seven deadly sins), which he uses in an attempt to win the girl.
Of course the devil grants each wish, but never exactly as it was intended, with the entirely predictable result that Dudley Moore never gets the girl, while the devil always does. It’s a masterpiece of the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore team, a team that produced many classic and lunatic comic gems (a routine about a one-legged man auditioning for the role of Tarzan; another that has survived as a recording about a man opening a restaurant in the middle of nowhere—“Parking isn’t a problem.”— called The Frog and Peach, where the only dishes offered are frog à la pêche, or pêche à la frog), as well as appearing together in another delicious movie, The Wrong Box.
But the point is to be careful what you wish for. All of California has been praying for rain, and God—who evidently has a very wry, very British, and rather distorted sense of humor Himself—responded last night.
Darleen and I were at a dog training class last night, a class that got cut short after urgent calls started coming in on various cell-phones. Thunderstorms were producing flooding all over southern California, including in our little corner of the golden state. This morning, we saw some of the results on the news.
Interstate 5, the primary north-south artery in California was completely shut down by mud-and-rock slides, with hundreds of people needing to be rescued. The alternate artery over the mountains, Highway 58, the road the Joad family took on their search for a paradise that did not exist in The Grapes of Wrath, has also been closed by mud-and-rock slides, with scores of people needing to be rescued. The California Highway Patrol, interviewed on a local television station this morning, recommended no one drive anywhere, but that people who simply must get to Los Angeles or points south, take the 46 over to the coastal route, 101, and take that road south. I happen to know these routes quite well, and that little detour turns a two-and-a-half hour drive into about a six or seven hour drive, not allowing for traffic which, if everyone is doing the same thing, will become like a nightmare right out of Bedazzled, minus the charm and the humor, but with the dubious addition of frayed tempers.
The storms actually began night before last, with a display of pyrotechnics that made any fireworks created by the hand of man look pretty lame: bolts of lightening hammering the ground all around us with such violence it shook the house. Darleen and I were scurrying around, closing windows, when suddenly the whole world went black. Not just our house, but not a light to be seen anywhere, not even any ambient light bouncing off the clouds from distant towns, a blackness as complete and absolute as our Paleolithic ancestors must have known. We began groping our way to the stored flashlights when, just as suddenly, the lights came back on again, revealing each of us with our arms held cautiously out in front of us like Neanderthals in a cave playing “pin the tail on the donkey” or “blind man’s bluff.”
This went on most of the night, power on, power off, brilliant flashes of God-made light splitting open stygian darkness, and thunder like the final trump; if there is no time interval between the flash and the sound, and the house trembles, you know the strike was close.
At one point, before the serious rain began, I stepped outside to see if I could smell smoke, fire being very much on our minds. It was one of the most dramatic nights I have ever had the pleasure of living through. I was tempted to do a little King Lear:
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow,
You cataracts and hurricanoes…
But it occurred to me that reciting Lear outside in the middle of an epic thunder storm might not be the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I could see the headline in Variety: Former Actor Killed by His Own Performance. It seemed a poor way to make my final exit, so I opted instead for sitting by a window and watching the show from the safety of home and hearth.
Good show, God! Good show.