The Tragedy (and Comedy) that is America

Uvalde, Texas… America’s newest mass-murder capitol.

I never would have known a thing about the town of Newtown, Connecticut if it hadn’t been for the senseless slaughter of school children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. Now, here in 2022—and for the same reason—I get to learn about the town of Uvalde, Texas and its ordinary-sounding (up until today) Robb Elementary School. I suppose this is how America gets a small town on the map these days for the rest of us, they have a mass shooting there.

Take comfort America in your thoughts and prayers; across the street from the Robb Elementary School is the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home.

I’d truly prefer to discover the charm of these towns on my own, rather than the blood-filled news after they are cursed with a mass shooting.

So, how does stupid America solve the problem? The same way it’s always solved the problem (not really)… by throwing more guns into the equation. More guns for the “good guys.” If this wasn’t such a tragic solution, it would be a comedy.

And, if America was a fire brigade, it would bring gasoline to every house fire.

So, when all of the teachers and educational administrators are “packing” during the normal school day to end “school shootings,” we’ll need to do the same for our doctors and nurses. Why? Because inevitably, the blood-thirsty, attention-needy, fringe element of the gun-owners and NRA (all hiding behind the Second Amendment) will be coming for the hospital nurseries.

That’s right, you heard it hear first. The new-born children will be next because these gun-worshipping, sick-fucks are all about soft targets and nothing is softer than a ward of new borns and their weakened mothers. On top of that, we’ll also have an occasional gun-toting educator who flips out and commences a second wave of school-based mass shootings all over again.

And you thought Omicron was a bitch. 

And if the hospital nurseries are too secure, they’ll go after the elder living facilities. And after that, family reunions, weddings, funerals… any place you think would be void of such carnage.

And, finally after all of that—hopefully and deservingly—Russia will nuke us hard.

Postscript: I am a gun owner (3 in all) and would gladly jump through whatever hoops required of me to maintain that ownership, or simply (and gladly) surrender them all.

Medical Minutiae, Ch.1

duplicate medical forms sent on the same day
Four duplicates of the same correspondence from eviCore Healthcare.

At a healthy 59-years-old, I’m not an expert on all things medical yet, but I think my education on this subject is going to be coming faster than I ever dreamed. And, a good part of that education will likely have to do with the exceptional waste and overpricing that we hear about on this subject, on any given news day.

Recently, I received four identical envelopes in the mail on the same day, and in opening them, wondered if the content was the same as well. “Nah, couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “Surely there’s a different correspondence in each of the alike envelopes,” yet I couldn’t imagine what they were.

Anyway, whoever these people are at eviCore Healthcare, located in Franklin, Tennessee, they did manage to send me four identical letters with the same message about an upcoming MRI. The only contrast I could find in these four correspondences was that two of the letters had a time stamp of 9:54 a.m while the other two were stamped at 9:54, but all four were dated February 11. Go figure.

I’d like to think that this little anecdotal account isn’t representative of a glaring incompetency in the medical/insurance profession, but one has to wonder. I can almost understand getting two identical letters in this case, but four is something that makes you pause—and write a blog entry about.

Do we need a post-Super-Bowl holiday?

Patriots fans celebrate their Superbowl victory over the Rams at Sonny McLean’s bar in Santa Monica on Sunday, February 3, 2019. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

Might we consider a national holiday for the day after the Super Bowl?

It’s the Monday after the Super Bowl, in this case Super Bowl LIV (2020). My 9:00 a.m. class only has four students in it and one of them is taking the class as an audit (no credit or grade), yet not one of them has shown thus far and the class should have started ten minutes ago.

And this isn’t the first post-Super-Bowl-Monday when I’ve experienced this phenomena in my classrooms.

Along with the day-after effect of the big game, it started snowing yesterday afternoon and has continued throughout the night—albeit lightly—resulting in a healthy two inches of snow on the ground. In more than a month since the first day of winter, winter seems to have finally arrived on this third day of February.

I recently read that the day following the Super Bowl is the day more people call off work than any other day of the year.

As a school, we typically have the Monday following Easter off, so I’m wondering here, perhaps we need to consider another National Holiday following the Super Bowl—a day of recovery from the previous day’s excitement, gluttony, along with a good dose of alcohol-over-indulgence.

By the way, one of my students ended up making it to class—only 15 minutes late.

Curing mental illness vs. gun laws with teeth

“This American carnage stops RIGHT HERE, and stops RIGHT NOW.” —Fuckface von Clownstick. (And the people clapped)

It’s been well over a week, so it would seem now is good time to start talking about gun laws—before another mass shooting shakes the country to its core again. (Never mind the everyday mass shootings that injure and kill only a handful of our fellow citizens.)

As authorities in law, psychology, and other professions sift through the evidence more than a week after the Las Vegas shooting, everyone remains dumbfounded in the case of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. Even those closest to him (family, the gambling and gun-selling communities) are clueless and never had a vibe regarding his character of darkness that he kept from everyone so well. He certainly was an anomaly, but that’s how distant we are to addressing mental illness as a solution to mass murders. Think about it: its been over a week after the Las Vegas massacre, and we still have zilch.

Its odd that those who advocate curing mental illness is the solution to preventing mass killings, have no particulars when it comes to how we get there. It’s just this vague, clouded idea—much like asking for directions to a location and your told, “Yeah, I know the place, but I’ve never seen it, but if you go up the road a distance, I’m sure you’ll find it.”

This seems like a good place/time to ask why gun violence is always linked to mental illness? I think our society has a tendency to make the two synonymous. As to say, gun violence is the result of mental illness and mental illness is the result of gun violence. One thing to keep in mind—based on research—the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the overwhelming majority of people in general.

Simply stated, the mental health discussion to a safer community that carries firearms is nothing more than a smokescreen for the gun advocates of our society. It’s simply a diversion with an impossible solution that keeps as many people away from talking about real solutions. This is a quintessential example of “kicking the can” down the road.

Can you imagine what advances in mental health it will take to reach a point where outward-appearing everyday guys can be found-out before they reach their inward critical mass to do the unthinkable (which has materialized far too many times)? It will be nothing short of placing mind-readers in gun stores, the workplace, and the homes of everyone who is suspect.

And how far do we go in lumping the various attributes that lead to violence with mental illness? Most agree that things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and major depression can fall under the mental illness umbrella, but what about those with a history of child abuse, binge drinking, or simply being male—because those things are also linked to violence. Then there are those who have experienced resentment, revenge, social isolation, a tendency to externalize blame, a fascination with violent video games, and a passion for weaponry.

The immediate answer to reducing the number of mass murders in America  isn’t in wrestling and sorting out the far-off mysteries and fuzzy-logic of mental illness, but rather in implementing concrete, extensive and tougher gun laws that mirror the requirements of other dangerous operations such as the various levels of licensing in the operation of a vehicle.

When it comes to mental illness warning signs, it seems fair that anyone who has over, x-number of guns (a number agreed upon by a rationale-minded group) and a bunch of ammunition is a candidate for some kind of mental illness screening. And, short of legitimate gun collectors, those who possess vast arsenals of guns and ammo, might this passion be an extension of their army-playing days in their youth. (If that isn’t a form of mental illness, I don’t know what is.)

Should we make drastic improvements in mental health that allow us to identify a mass-murderer before they act, then we can talk about the elimination of gun laws. For starters, if you want to stop mass murders, require every person who has x-number of guns and ammo, or owns an “assault-style, non-hunting” gun to get regular screening.

Getting a driver’s license, a car license, and insurance is a true inconvenience when it comes to driving. However, it doesn’t prevent us from securing our right to drive, it’s just a precautionary to ensure that we can carry out the task without being a great risk to society. And so, owning a gun should be the same kind of inconvenience for anyone wishing to possess a firearm and/or ammunition. Besides, if you’re a “good-guy-with-a-gun,” you shouldn’t object to a little inconvenience, right?

Despite all of this, I’m reluctant to believe that if the day should come when we can identify people with mental illness quickly, the NRA-gun lobby will likely still resist anything that prevents people from getting their hands on guns.

For the time being, America has long since disqualified itself when it comes to “greatness” in its tolerance for continuous massacres of its innocent citizens. Any great country would have addressed and solved this problem by now. Australia… now there’s a great country. New Zealand… another great country. Japan… yes. Etc.

The Atrophy of an American Symbol

Back in the ’60s, Independence Day on Stevenson Avenue in Akron, Ohio was probably no different than it was in any other town throughout America. In fact, I suspect it wasn’t much different than it is here in Powell today. More than the fireworks, I remember the Fourth of July and the American flags that suddenly appeared in the early morning hours on almost every front porch in our neighborhood. Back then, the simple act of displaying the flag on Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans’ Day was a show of patriotism.

I suppose Old Glory’s popularity has grown since my childhood. The flag, its likenesses, and colour scheme have appeared nearly everywhere—matchbook covers, clothing, lapel pins, shot glasses, ball point pens, football helmets, notebooks, bumper stickers and used car lots. And these days it seems the flag is getting more exposure than ever, thanks to the events of the Gulf War, September 11, Afghanistan and most recently the evolving boondoggle in Iraq. Yet, back in the ’60s when the Vietnam War was producing more occupied American body bags than any other conflict since, I find it hard to believe that the country’s barometric pressure for patriotism was any less than it is today.

So, what’s with the flag and the deluge for displaying it everywhere on anything at anytime?

Has flying the American flag beyond the flagpole become a trend? Have we become paranoid, thinking that if we don’t display Old Glory in some form we might be thought of as un-American? Are we so insecure that we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are Americans in these tasteless presentations of our national colours?

Every time I see the likes of a Ford Taurus with a little American flag (in multiples at times) waving frantically above the car’s roofline, I’m reminded of a circus or parade. I say, let’s leave such tacky decoration of our vehicles and other personal belongings to the Shriners in their tiny cars that ebb and flow in any given community parade. Further, it’s disheartening enough to see Old Glory burned in the streets of Baghdad let alone ripped to shreds as the result of 500 miles of Interstate driving at 70 m.p.h.—regardless of its size.

Is it a wonder why we hear of America and Americans being despised throughout the world? We constantly wear our patriotism on our sleeve with relentless visual and verbal reminders of America’s greatness to the world even when they surely know of it. What great person remains great when they keep on reminding everyone around them how great they are?

If Jesus dwelled amongst us here in America now, would his pickup truck have a “God Bless America” bumper sticker on it? While sitting under a giant cottonwood tree just off of Lane 8 all day, would Buddha wear a sleeveless t-shirt with a big American flag on it? And finally would Plato quote Socrates as he sipped from his huge, 48-ounce insulated coffee mug with Old Glory screenprinted on its plastic exterior? Perhaps we would all do well if we were to contemplate the fine line between patriotism and narcissism the next time we are overcome with a sudden urge to show our national pride.

I often ponder the sacredness of the flag when one can buy it (in numerous sizes) at places like Wal-Mart. And it seems the more available they are, the more irresponsible we are regarding their proper care. Once I found a soiled and tattered small flag that probably broke off from one of those “flag-decorated” cars at a busy intersection in Gillette. It was laying on the side of the road with all the other litter that was mindlessly discarded from cars occupied by thoughtless drivers and their passengers. Where is the reverence in this scenario? What if the sacred and consecrated holy eucharist was found right next to the Milky Way candy bars at the local mini-marts? Would it be as sacred? Surely no priest would stand for that.

Most of us will never forget JFK’s famous speech about how we should ask what we can do for our country. I wish our President today would deliver a message with the same impact, challenging all of us to monitor our national enthusiasm and to speak softly especially when travelling abroad. I’m reminded of a joke I heard in New Zealand: You can always tell an American, but you can’t tell him much.” Sometimes our fanatical patriotism reminds me of an oversized TV set in a tiny living room.

Like those summer days on Stevenson Avenue, I still enjoy the home front show of flags on these national holidays despite their worn out use everywhere else. I don’t have an American flag for my front porch and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get one assuming the current glut of red, white and blue continues—America need not shout any louder. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that this country will continue to be blessed as it has been in the past, especially our troops who loyally serve without questioning the judgment of our national leadership. More importantly, I hope other countries that are currently experiencing turmoil, genocide, and economic strife are blessed through it all, especially those where our own less-than-perfect foreign policy has failed them.