Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Another Tale

"We were working at the factory when we saw the smoke rising above Osaka.  Huge clouds of it, the whole city was on fire.

"The factory we had been pressed into working at was Army, so we had huge stockpiles of rice.  We were immediately ordered to start cooking it for the people of Osaka, and made a line.  One boy would scoop rice into the next boy's hands; he would mold it a little, then pass it to the next boy, who would do the same, as would the 4th.  The last boy would take the finished rice balls, which were about softball sized, and put them in pallets for loading on large trucks.

"My friend, S--, snuck one rice ball out, for we were very hungry.  We five sat around looking at it for a long time; no one wanted to be the first to reach for it.  After a long time, it was put back on the truck."

----

This story, told to me this week by my older student, says so much about the Japanese character.  They were young men, boys, really, who were barely surviving on severely reduced rations near the end of the war, yet they did not eat the rice ball, because it was for others who needed it even more.

After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, there was no looting.  People waited in line calmly for their rations.  People would go out to where their homes used to stand, and start digging through the rubble.  Often their own home was completely gone, the rubble was stuff that had been deposited there by the retreating wave.  These people would start digging through the rubble, and would make 2 piles: their possessions and other people's possessions.  They did not keep things that didn't belong to them, no matter how useful they might have been.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Um, uh, wha..?

I had one of those surreal moments in class the other day.

I have a new student, an 84-year-old man who wants to study English to keep his mind sharp.  In the course of getting to know each other in the first lesson, the topic turned to hometowns.  I asked him where he came from, and he gave me a list of towns he had lived in as a child.  This guy really got around, I'm telling you!  Then he said that he lived in Maizuru during the war.  Hmm, OK, I guess.

Then he paused, bowed, and apologized:  "I'm sorry, Sensei, but I worked in a bomb factory."

Brainfart.  What do you say to that?

"No problem, we bombed those factories to dust!"

I'm not a war-apologist.  I don't apologize for things done during WWII.  Hell, my parents were barely in puberty when it started, and I didn't come around until 18 years after it ended.  And while there may have been a few incidents, I support the decisions made and actions taken by the US.

But I don't know how to react in these situations.  I have had men thank me, on two different occasions, for the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because it meant they wouldn't have to oppose a US invasion of the home islands.  Another guy joked and told me how they were paid 1 yen when his grandma was killed in the bombings, and 3 yen for the house.  Another man joked about sitting around his anti-aircraft battery and not even bothering to load the damn thing, because it couldn't even reach halfway to the B49s plastering Kobe.  And every one of them apologized for their part in the war, even the trainee sailor who went out on a small patrol craft and was shocked by a brilliant flash a few hours later as his home port evaporated.

Surreal!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Very Own Banana Republic

Wow, I don't believe it.  I finally got one!  I finally got one of my very own.  My very own Banana Republic!

I've been watching CNN the last few days and shaking my head in disbelief.  I am immensely disappointed by the games I see coming out of the fruitcakes on Capital Hill.

I know people have strong opinions vis a vis ObamaCare.  My friend, R, a Libertarian who makes Rand Paul seem middle of the road, is concerned about the financial issues of big government and the 'imminent' collapse of the dollar.  Another friend, S, is wholly on board for ObamaCare, her life having been saved when she discovered cancer during a period when her family had to choose between insurance or food on the table.  Still another friend, E, represents the conservative right, with concerns about family values and religion.  A different R had his own small used-car lot, and had concerns about how he and other small-business owners would pay for their employees' insurance.

I don't want to pay taxes.  I don't want to have to pay the $1500 yearly auto safety check required here in Japan.  But these are the law.  Don't pay your taxes, you will be fined, possibly even imprisoned.  Don't do the safety check, get your car towed.  These are laws on the books, which I cannot simply choose to ignore. 

Yet that is what is happening today.  Here we have a law which has gone through both houses, and then been signed into law by the President.  A small group of Republican lawmakers don't like ObamaCare, and have decided to hold all government programs hostage. 

Today Boehner came out of the White House, saying that Obama won't negotiate on this issue.

I have one question:  Why should he?  This is not a bill under negotiation.  This is not a proposed amendment or any other writ which requires all parties to consider carefully whether or not to proceed.  It's already a law.

That doesn't mean concerned parties can't fight it.  I have no objection to any group using any legal and ethical methods available to them to attempt change. Negotiate to pass amendments to the law, or even attempt to get the backing to repeal the law altogether.  If I agree with you, I will stand with you.  If I don't, I may stand opposite you.  That is the beauty of the American system, the fact that anyone may strive toward a majority acceptance of their view which leads to real change.

But what John Boehner and his relatively small group is doing is a travesty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Comfort Foods

One of the delights of international travel is experiencing a totally different culinary experience.  "The grub be grubs!", you might say.  

I came to Japan as part of a training group of 13 people (thank god crossing the int'l date line meant we landed on a Saturday...), and by the time we hit our temporary digs, it was 11pm and we just wanted to drag our jet-lagged butts into bed.  The next day we were told to get out and explore and left to our own devices until Monday morning.

Thank Julia Child (anyone remember the old SNL skit about her?) that most Japanese restaurants have plastic food models in a display window at the front of the shop.  There's a whole cottage (cheese) industry of folks making plastic sushi, ramen with chopsticks hanging in the air, beef and chicken bowls.  Parfaits that make you fat just looking at them and soft-served ice cream cones that won't melt unless you burn the place down.

But I digress.  We couldn't read squat, couldn't say anything in Japanese that sounded remotely like Japanese, but hit the town, anyways.  I teamed up with a couple of guys to see the castle, then we tried to find some eats.  We hit the jackpot - our restaurant had menus with pictures (it's like being a kindergartner again) and the names of foods in English letters.  I still didn't know what damn near anything was, but at least I could sound it out (I wasn't kidding about the kindergarten effect).  I played it safe and for the very first time had ramen that didn't come in a freeze-dried 6-for-a-dollar pack (who didn't live on that crap in college?).  Very tasty!

Meeting back at the dormitory, we talked to two of the young ladies in our group who weren't as lucky at lunch.  They went into a place with no plastic models and no pictures, only English-letter titles above kanji character descriptions.  To their great joy, the place had "Taco Salad" on the menu.  And they were quite surprised when their dish came, with lettuce, cold seaweed, thinly sliced cucumber and boiled octopus tentacles in a vinegar sauce.  "Taco" is Japanese for octopus, you see, and the Tex-mex delight are actually called "Tacos" and are very hard to find.

I have experienced many new foods over the years, including not only octopus, but also raw squid; raw shrimp so freshly killed that the salt of the soy sauce triggers nerve receptors in the body so that it dances its way across your tongue and down your throat; even some sea critter that looks like a giant silverfish with far too many legs.  Sea urchin jelly, crab brains, deep-fried shrimp with the shell still on.  Fermented soy beans, sweetened bean paste, mountain potato paste (don't ask), they're all new experiences.

After all these new experiences, the stretching of your culinary boundaries requires a chance to step back, have one of your comfort foods, reset your tastebuds.  Aahhh, there's the rub.

You see, my biggest shocks, food-wise, have always come when I find a comfort food, open the package, and find that I was totally, horribly wrong.

Found a can of beans one day and thought "Cool!  Time for chili!"  Nope!  They were sweetened beans, with about a cup of sugar in the can...  "Hey, look, chocolate milk!"  Nope!  Coffee Latte, and I despise coffee... "Chocolate pudding!"  Nope!  Blackened sesame seed pudding (this one was a lucky accident; it's quite good).  "Pistachio ice cream!"  Nope!  Green tea flavored... "Cinnamon candy!"  Nope!  Pickled plum...

I can't wait to take someone out for some Rocky Mountain Oysters....




I beg your pardon (I'm sorry; my apologies; mea culpa; I'll never do it again, Mommy!) for all the italics (squiggly, bent over, 'EiReen' letters) in this missive (not dismissive, just a note from Daddy).  Heh, heh, heh, heh!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gardening

I was just outside doing a little gardening.

Ah, spending a little time in the garden, pottering around in shorts and a t-shirt in a digger's hat, pulling the occasional weed from a well-arranged bed of flowering perennials; maybe picking some mini tomatoes and cukes for dinner.

Sounds bucolic, right?

Phhppppttttt!  Not in MY garden.  I've got a real man's garden.  You want to work in my garden, you need a long-sleeved shirt to ward off the poisonous-haired caterpillars (my arm is still not fully healed from last week's episode).  You need long pants to protect your legs from the stinging weeds and ants which seemingly attack from every bush or shadow you brush against like chitinous little ninjas.  You need boots or solid shoes to protect you from (and squish!) centipedes with bites that hurt like nothing you've ever felt (another reason for the pants, too).  A hat to keep the spiders and ants out of your hair, not to mention the 3-inch cicadas which piss on you as you pass underneath.

And the weeds!  I've got a kudzu vine that I've been battling ever since we moved into this place 19 years ago, and the sucker's winning.  It's in every tree and bush and trying to climb the drains as well.  I didn't garden for 2 months, and I'm paying for it now.  Just cut a weed that was 1.5 inches in diameter and about 8 feet tall.  In the last 2 weeks I've filled 16 garbage bags, and figure there will be at least another 10, probably more.

Now I know why Japanese shrines always have rock gardens.  They say it's for contemplation.  I say it's to contemplate the fact that they're too smart to weed every damn day!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zap!

Ahhh, the joys of summer.  I'm sitting here on a Saturday morning, enjoying an unusually cool interlude before the heat of the day sets in, listening to the cicadas buzzing their little buggy butts off on the trees in my yard.  And I keep chuckling about something that happened in class yesterday afternoon.

Now, summer in central Japan is bug heaven.  There are cicadas on the trees, flying beetles of all kinds, butterflies everywhere.  There are thousands of roly-poly pill bugs in my yard.  There are also poisonous caterpillars, nasty paper wasps and painfully aggressive centipedes (but, interestingly enough, there are virtually no house flies at all - and no miller moths!).  Go into any home center or supermarket and see the nets and bug cases for kids to catch and collect cicada or other critters like praying mantises.

My favorite goodie is this:

 The bug racket


Just think, you can practice your tennis game as you get rid of pesky mosquitos!  Forehand?  SNAP!  Backhand?  CRACKLE!!  The smash?  POP!!!
(You'll never look at Rice Krispies the same way again...)

Yesterday (see, I got there in the end) I chased down another mosquito in one of my kids' classes, and deleted it.  Kept the button down and fried that puppy, made him crispy.  This 9-yr-old boy leaned over to get a better look at the pretty sparks when it popped.  He jumped, turned like a flash and bolted out into the hall.  I was trying very hard not to laugh at his surprise, not wanting to embarrass him.  But then he came back in the room, and told me that a hot piece of the blood sucker flew up his nose...

Watching this kid rubbing his snozz and snorting while telling me that, I just died!  I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks (no, not those cheeks, potty mind!) and the boy had a rueful grin on his face.

Mosquito revenge!

Monday, June 10, 2013

And All I Got Was This Stinking T-Shirt

Did your dad or mom ever bring you souvenirs when you were a kid?  Maybe a $1 t-shirt from some tropical destination, bought by parents hitting the furriners' t-shirt shop between maitais, while you kids languished at home with the home-sitter?  A coffee mug with some cheesy pic, a foam cozy to keep drinks cool?  Kangaroo jerky?  A postcard set?

Or the dreaded snow-globe?

Here in Japan, souvenirs are a major part of travel.  Anywhere.  You went to Tokyo Disneyland?  Better bring back souvenirs.  Universal Studios Japan?  Ditto. Camping?  Yep.  Tokyo, Osaka, some dinky little town that's off the map?  Uh-huh.  Relaxed at a hot spring?  Again, de rigeur. Even a one-day out-and-back to some shrine deserves its memento.

And not just for your family, either.  You get them for damn near everyone.  People buy for their coworkers, with a separate one for their boss.  Students buy for their homeroom teacher, their cram school teacher, their closest friends.  Every time we head back to Colorado, each of my kids will buy souvenirs for every single member of their sport's team.  There'd be 30-some Colorado keychains rattling around my suitcase for my elder son's soccer team; the girls would buy out Claire's which always earned me a strange look at customs, when they'd find 35 sets of flavored lip gloss in my bag).

At least many of these souvenirs are edible.  Universal Studios sells cookie sets, French wafers, chocolate packs.  Remember the macadamia chocolates from Hawaii?  Every destination has its own package (the nuts, however are all the same).  And every place worth visiting (as well as some not) in Japan has manjuu, beaten rice cakes with sweetened bean paste filling.  They taste better than they sound.

As a private language-school teacher, I clean up.  Kids take their 6th grade school trips, and they always bring back a pack of goodies.  Sometimes 10 kids will take their trips at the same time, and my kids have enough snacks for the month.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ignorance Truly is Bliss

The following jacket photo was posted on Facebook by the friend of a friend about an hour ago.


One of the comments just cracked me up:  "If at the bottom it said, 'I love waffles', I would wear this shirt."

I think the bottom gather should say "...me running!"

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gaijin Gravity

There is a phenomenon here which drives me crazy. I mean absolutely batshit, bouncing off the wall bonkers. And it happened to me again today.

A friend and I talked about this just a few weeks after we got here, and we couldn't decide if it is a cultural thing, or just a result of this being such a crowded country.

Let's call it "Gaijin Gravity", AKA "the Suck Zone" or simply "the Vortex". It doesn't matter where you walk, on the left, on the right, in the middle, or hugging the wall, people walking opposite you will ALWAYS gravitate toward you. They get closer and closer, pretending they can't see the wall of flesh that is your fat American ass approaching them, yet moving into your path. I've actually had people come from the opposite side of the shopping arcade just to stop right in front of me with a look of surprise, like "Why are you blocking me?" Then you end up doing the dance macabre, jigging left and right, trying to find a way around each other, while they match you move for move.  Of course, if you stop, you'll both bow in apology and bonk heads like the 3 Stooges. "I'm sorry.  Ouch!  I'm sorry.  Ouch!  I'm sor...."

If I wore fly paper for a jacket, I'd be covered in little, bowing Mr Bill's.

"Oh, no-o-o-o!"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Pro-Choice" of another kind

There is a quote in "Silverado" which really fits life overseas: "The world is what you make of it, friend."

When you live overseas, this is so apropos. "Things" happen. People say stupid things, do stupid things. Cultural differences will aggravate you. I have posted several times on this theme, so I won't kick a dead horse here (how did that idiom come about, anyways? Who's dumb enough to do that? Now you're pissed, and look like an idiot hopping around in circles like a three-legged rabbit, to boot).

But making one choice will influence your whole experience. To be, or not to be, that truly is the question. Do you become offended, or not? I'm not talking about the big things like actual prejudice or refusal to rent you an apartment, but the daily grind.

At first, I was offended. I ranted and raved, bitched and moaned. And overall, I had fun my first year here (it's fun to bitch and moan!) but certainly didn't intend to stay any longer. Then my future wife showed me that many things I was pissed off by were actually intended in a different way entirely, but since I was expecting to be offended, I saw them as offensive things.

The lady at the bank called me "Gaijin-sama". Oh, monkey-crap, someone has called me gaijin?! Well, to say "Hey, you!" is a lot less polite. Someone asking if I can write kanji characters isn't really intended to be impolite. Since so many foreigners, Americans especially, never learn the kanji, it's a natural question intended to lead into an offer to help you if you can't write the language. I've seen a lot of westerners who can't use chopsticks, just end up sticking them into the food like mini daggers. So the server brings a fork without asking if you need it? So what? Just don't use it.

Next time you travel, think about your choice.

People who don't learn this choice inevitably go home disappointed (or leave me disappointed that they don't go home...).

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Garbage Day, Again!

It's garbage day in my neighborhood, again.

As a very small, ve-e-e-ry crowded island country, Japan has a big problem. Garbage. Mounds and mounds and mounds of it. Millions of metric tons of it. There certainly isn't room enough to landfill it all.

So they divide and conquer. There is burnable garbage, and unburnable garbage. Big garbage, cans, bottles. Burnable garbage is divided into plastic, paper and other. The plastic is sent to local manufacturers to be burned as fuel in their power plants. Cardboard is recycled into thinner board like tissue and cereal or other food boxes, which will later be recycled into paper towels and toilet paper. That, at least, isn't recycled...

Any more...

Unburnable is divided into landfill waste, recyclable solid state and appliances, batteries and fluorescent lights. Large waste like furniture, old bicycles or rolled carpets has its own day. Cans are divided between steel and aluminum, including drink and spray cans; glass bottles split into clear, brown and other colors. These all need to be rinsed and labels removed. There's a PET bottle day.

My head's spinning, and I often forget various garbage days (as well as my anniversary, my children's names...) You have to figure out where you'll keep all this stuff until the next garbage day, too.

Here's my garbage schedule for May 2013:
May 1 - Paper, Clothing
May 3 - Burnable Garbage, Plastic PET bottles
May 6 - Plastic
May 7 - Burnable Garbage
May 8 - Unburnable Garbage, Fluorescent Lights
May 10 - Burnable Garbage
May 13 - Plastic
May 14 - Burnable Garbage
May 17 - Burnable Garbage
May 20 - Plastic, Bottles
May 21 - Burnable Garbage
May 22 - Large Items, Cooking Oils
May 23 - Steel and Aluminum Cans
May 24 - Burnable Garbage
May 27 - Plastic
May 28 - Burnable Garbage
May 31 - Burnable Garbage

17 days out of 31, with 22 categories.

Paper Day, May 1st


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston

I've been watching the madness in Boston with a sinking heart. And with a hope and pride for Americans.

The fact that anyone can justify putting a bomb in the midst of a crowd just baffles me. What philosophy, what religion or political doctrine, can condone the slaughter of innocents in the name of whatever cause?

Whether they be foreign or domestic, terrorists or freedom fighters, there is no military value to such an act. Were they to have attacked a police station, or a government facility, I would still be angry, don't get me wrong. But I could at least understand it.

But an act such as this just strengthens resolve. I've never seen such a bombing, whether it be by the IRA in a London pub or the financial district, Libya in a Berlin disco or a jumbo jet over Lockerbie, or even Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, that did anything other than convince their "opponent" to do anything other than to band together against the threat. Governments don't run from things which scare them, they stomp them into the ground so they won't threaten them again.

It also highlighted for the world something I've always loved about my country. While video showed half the people streaming away in panic from the smoke and carnage, it also showed so many people sprinting directly into the maelstrom, heedless of personal danger, in order to help the wounded. Not just the trained professionals, but also runners stripping off their shirts after running 26 miles and using those shirts to apply tourniquets or compresses. People in the crowd, some injured themselves, helping those around them.

My thoughts go out to all injured in the bombing, and especially to those who lost members of their family.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The way you speak, confused I am.

One of the things I noticed very soon upon entering Japan, other than my blonde head in a sea of black, was how they measure things differently. Not just that Japan, like every country other than the US (or Great Britain with their pints), uses the metric system (see this post), but that they measure it all backwards!

Signs in English proclaim "SALE! 70 - 30% OFF". My snail-mail address starts with Japan, then the prefecture, city, town and neighborhood, finally ending with the house number.

And the traffic report on the radio this morning said that the traffic jam was eastbound from Akashi West interchange to Takasago North. Sounds like you'll start to hit the traffic around Akashi, with things letting up in Takasago, doesn't it? But, NO-o-o! Akashi is on the east side, and that is where the cause of the slowdown is. I'm already in the stop-and-go in Takasago. Makes sense, actually, but I had a minor brain fart until my mind switched to Japanese mode.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Firearms Fight

I have been trying to put my thoughts together about the gun control issue, and every time I try to write about it, I end up deleting half and starting over. I just can't order my thoughts, put them into any kind of coherent whole.

I grew up with guns in the home. Like many of my contemporaries, each of us boys had a 22 cal semi-automatic rifle, which we often dragged out to take potshots at ceramic conductors on top of telephone poles (sorry about your lost phone service...), or to bag a porcupine or two. My dad had a 20-gauge shotgun which would definitely have ruined your day. We boys found his old navy 38 hidden in the speaker, and would sneak it out sometimes when our parents weren't home.

So I know guns. I'm not averse to hunting, I don't hold candlelight vigils for an elk. I know that most gun owners are responsible folk. I think shooting is fun.

But I have seen the other side of the coin, as well. In junior high, one of my friends killed his little brother when playing with an unfamiliar gun which he thought was empty. Another friend's father was shot and killed in a bar fight. And I found the body when one of my best friends used an Enfield to shuffle off this mortal coil. I had to sit there while the cops checked to see if the brain matter under my car was also on the car.

The one thing I am sure of is my anger over some of the lies, distortions and fear-mongering I've seen over the last couple of months. It's an issue in which people have invested a lot of emotion, sure. This is understandable, perhaps, and can even be admirable at times. At times....

But some of these Internet jugheads sound like they couldn't find their way out of a wet paper bag. Unfortunately or otherwise, most of these numbnuts are on the NRA side of the argument, and the thought of some of these dickheads running around with high-powered weaponry scares the bejeezus out of me.
{see this video} http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-v1UXFMzl0

I'm not picking sides. Really, I'm not. Nor am I attempting to belittle the pain felt by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine or other mass shootings, or the genuine concerns of people on both sides of the issue.

OK, where to begin....

"It's a semi-automatic!"
Semi-autos have been around for a long time. All of our 22s when I was a kid were semi-autos. That just means that you don't have to jack the next bullet into the chamber; the expanding gas of the previous shot expels the casing and allows a new cartridge to slip into place. Any pistol that isn't a revolver uses the same system.

"It doesn't matter how large the clip is."
Well, actually, in the context of these school shootings, it kinda does. Being able to shoot 35, 50, or even 100 shots with hardly a pause makes it much harder for anyone to rush the shooter. And really, is it so hard to reload if you're target shooting or hunting? Frankly, if you can't hit it within 10 shots, maybe you shouldn't be shooting in the first place....

"Arm all the teachers."
Oh, man, this is wrong to me on so many levels. I'm a teacher, and I want to focus on teaching. I don't want a pistol banging against my hip as I reach out to write on the board, and I certainly don't want teachers leaving guns in desks, where students could possibly get their hands on them. Not to mention the danger if a teacher ever went postal. I'd rather see locking steel-reinforced doors with bullet-proof glass installed. Nor do I want to see armed guards standing by the doors or patrolling the halls. This adds to the stress of most students, and is not conducive to a relaxed learning environment.

"Ban all assault rifles, and confiscate all in circulation now."
Have you any idea how many weapons there are in the US now? I don't know how many of them are assault rifle style, but good luck finding them all. Banning any further sales is doable, confiscation really isn't.

Regarding universal background checks, the NRA says "If you take away our guns, only the criminal will have guns." This one doesn't even make sense: universal background check doesn't equal confiscation. It does, however, make it more difficult for convicted felons or people too pissed off to wait a week to easily buy any weapon they want by merely going to a gun show. Key word - easily. Why make it easier for them?

Speaking of waiting, why is a one-week cooling-off period such a problem? This is a major purchase, with a lot of responsibility attached. I would hope you've planned out the purchase of a firearm and didn't just decide that you have to have a gun right now.

Speaking of the NRA, did somebody hand out idiot pills down there? The inflammatory rhetoric, the off-base comments, the callous insensitivity, the pick-any-out-of-context-statistic-you-want. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were trying to help the President by pushing away any middle-of-the-roaders who can think:
"Are the President's kids more important than yours?" "When his kids are protected by armed guards at their (school)"
Wow, are you kidding me? My kids aren't high-profile targets for every terrorist/fruitcake out there. The president's are. I can guarantee that first kids have been watched over very, very carefully indeed since 9-11 (since Lindbergh).

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - the 2nd Amendment
I like this amendment, truly I do. But the key phrase is " well regulated". I remember when the NRA taught gun safety classes, and most owners either took them or taught their own family members. Many can't be bothered today. There certainly isn't any drilling on the village common.
Nor is this 1776, where the colonists had access to firepower equal to the British. Times and weaponry have changed. The difference between what any person could get and the weaponry available to the military ensures that any insurrection without the support of the military would be outgunned, indeed. And the thought of private ownership of M1A1/2 main battle tanks or Cobra gunships, as one pundit opined, is frankly horrifying.
The 2nd Amendment ensures our right to bear arms, which we may use for self-protection and to hunt, but without a total collapse of the US government or defection of a majority of the military, I don't see how it could overthrow tyranny.

One final thing:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This means that whether you agree with them or not, both the gun nuts and the peaceniks, the conservatives and liberals, the religious of any denomination and those who are not have the right to state their opinions or to "petition the Congress". Shouting over others with differing opinions, insulting, flaming and even threatening them goes against the very Constitution many use as support for or against their opponents arguments.

And the people's Representatives do have the right to amend the Constitution, if a majority of Americans so desire.


Some statistics, most of which I gleaned from the FBI.

*Privately owned firearms in the U.S. - 270 million
88.8 guns per 100 people
*Government owned firearms - 3,055,000 (firearms only, this doesn't include grenades, artillery, tanks, Aegis destroyers,etc)
*Police owned firearms - 897,000
*15,240 homicides in 2009, 9150 of which used firearms
32,560 suicides in 2005, 17,000 of those by gun
*AK47 market price in the US - $500
AR15 - $1300 and up, depending on the bells and whistles
*The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to the United States is reported to be US$1,585,242,738 (2009).

Education

(This is a repost of something I put on my Facebook page)

I have been reading some of the posts on Facebook regarding comments by Melissa Harris-Perry, and end up just shaking my head.

The prevailing opinion seems to be that "the gubmint's gunna took our kidz, 'n put 'em in "Lib'ral Edjuka-tion camps, cuz that's wut Hitler done did."

Wow.

" "Ms." Perry doesn't have any kids, I'd wager (Bet she's had several abortions, though)."

Double wow. What happened to "Compassionate Conservatism"?

Not everyone who is concerned is a whack job like these two, but nearly every comment I've seen has left me shaking my head.

In the first place, I read this as her saying that we need to invest in the education of all our kids, especially the disadvantaged who would most benefit from a good education. She doesn't want to take your kids away, she wants them treated as a community resource, because the community as a whole benefits when kids get good educations.

I received a public education from a district which was properly funded (our teachers certainly didn't have to use their own money to buy basic classroom supplies) and which was ranked in the top 1% of the nation. My county's public schools were ranked in the top 1% on the ACT and SATs as well. the percentage of high school graduates who went on to further training or higher education was also greatly above the national average. I certainly don't regret that education.

Yet since just about the time that I graduated, education budgets have been cut again and again (and again, and again). Small, short-sighted savings which lead to greater costs down the road. This is what Ms Harris-Perry means when she talks about children belonging to the community, and the government leaving kids to the family. Not their moral educations, not some imagined indoctrination; simply the need for the community as a whole to ensure that the resources exist for all children to receive a proper education.

Our generation (those of us who received good educations at least) have by-and-large been pretty successful. Don't you think it would benefit all of us if all kids were as lucky as we were?