Guns in America part 4

Hey guys, it has been a while since I last took up this issue but guess what there’s been yet another shooting at a school in the United States, there have been nine since the beginning of this year and let’s not forget about those other shootings not taking place at a school. Sure the politicians have offered their thoughts and prayers but that’s about it. There has been no movement on an assault weapons ban or moratorium, a strengthening of background checks or really any great ideas in general. Trump has had quite the time with this suggesting that teachers should be armed and placed the blame on just about anything but guns. Trump pointed toward the violence in video games and movies as a contributing factor and he even he floated an idea of a rating system for movies.

Yet, looking around the world you can find places like Australia, Canada and Japan where they have the same access or more to violent media (video games and movies) and they have fewer gun deaths. I mean to get a gun in Japan, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once a month, take and pass a shooting range class getting at least a 95% on it, head over to a hospital for tests (mental and drug), which you’ll file with the police. Then it’s on to a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. After you own a gun you need to provide police with documentation on the location of the gun and ammo in your home, which must be locked and stored separately. Then yearly you need to have the police inspect the gun and every three years you need to to retake the class and exam to maintain ownership. This is a bit more involved than in the US. Sure the Second Amendment declares that “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.” You can take this in several directions, one that anything that looks like a gun counts, or one might say a reasonable weapon like all manual weapons are fine or even one could think of it as what the Founding Father would recognize as arms so like anything that was a single shot and/or manual repeating would be fine but automatic and semi-automatics are just plain witchcraft. There as many opinions about what this right means and it seems that everyone neglects the first part of it about the militia or as it’s know as today the National Guard. We all know the saying opinions are like asshole and everyone’s got one.

The most inspiring thing about this whole incident is the students who are all making themselves heard. It seems like the #metoo movement and hopefully it will have a similar impact. These are nice example of what can happen, but we are going to have to wait and see what all happens. I know that this problem isn’t going to solve itself over night or even in a few months but it would be nice if in the next couple of years we could see and hear less about Mass Shootings in the news.


As I am sure you have all heard several descriptions about the Unite the Right rally that happened a couple of Saturdays ago in Charlottesville, VA where the neo-Nazis, white supremacists,  the alt-right and other fascists were all up in arms about the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Riots occurred accompanied by violence and the like.  Then the President took several days to say that Nazis and the KKK are bad and then sort of backed down from that the next day. It’s pretty stupid that it took so long but racism is still going strong in the US. Sure there are several Confederate statues throughout the US and several of them are being taken down following these event. However does taking down all the statues really solve anything racism is still rampant in the United States and nothing really has been down about it. The Civil Rights Act did do a little to fix it but nothing has really happened since 1968. Barack Obama did win two terms as President but that didn’t solve race relations in the US. It’s a lot better than it was but just look at the Black Lives Matter movement and we can see that it hasn’t gotten that far. As Sam Cooke puts it it’s been a long time coming but I know a change is going to come.

Now the statue problem to me it seems just like the Native American team name/mascot controversy are they honoring the individual or meant to demean. Sure both the monuments and team names/mascots aren’t the greatest things that we have in the US but they exist because of the vast history and our reluctance to remember it. Like how whenever there is a mass shooting we go never again but it seems like it happens about once a year anyhow. According to Wikipedia there are at least 1500 memorials and monuments to the Confederacy in the US from Maine to California. Ten Army bases are named after Confederates and but they, at least in 2015 according to Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, won’t be renamed as they are named for soldiers who holds a place in our military history. Of the monuments on Monument Ave in Richmond five are of Confederates and there has been talk of adding more statues and/or removing them all together however one in particular that of Matthew Maury who was the first real scientist and oceanographer in the US Navy, who most Americans have never heard of needs to stay. Sure the Civil War ended 150 years ago but it doesn’t seem like it really is over with the vitriol between the political parties and the ongoing antagonism from our President about any little thing that he doesn’t like. We, in the US, need to learn our history better for as the old saying goes we are bound to repeat it. There are problems in our great nation and I am not sure we have any idea how to fix them, term limits might help as well as by getting more people involved in the political process.

US Healthcare

If you have been following the news lately you’ve heard of the disappointments that have bedeviled the Republican Party as they have continually failed to repeal the ACA in any form. Now Republicans have claimed for the last 7 and a half year that they needed to get rid of Obamacare but when time had come for them to do anything with it nothing happened and they had no plan to replace it. Bernie Sanders is once again pushing for a universal health plan.  It is pretty crazy that so much anger has been expressed on a topic that we can all agree on everyone should have some type of health care plan so that we all can live a full and productive live. Sanders isn’t the only one who is trying to push some new sort of health care there is even a bipartisan plan for a panel to be held at which they would discuss how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market. These markets are the problem part with health care and if they can figure out something to do with them it would be a step in the right direction. It would help if Democrats and Republicans could put aside their party differences and recognize that they are all citizens of the United States and we need to have better health care.

Theatre and Politics

These are two things that go together and have been since the beginnings. The Ancient Greeks had The Trojan Women and Lysistrata which were commentaries on events that the Greeks faced during the Peloponnesian War. Shakespeare did a great job at working politics into his works as well. This was transformed by the Soviets into Agitprop (Agitation propaganda). Politics have always been an influence to playwrights and still inspires directors today.

So when the news that the New York City’s Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar was using Donald Trump as a model for their Julius Caesar. I didn’t think it was out of line over the year many a President has been taken as a way for the audience to relate with the story. As Michael Kahn, Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC, notes in a Time article it is pretty hard to avoid mixing contemporary politics and Shakespeare together. It was a lens for us to look at the story and society has been doing it since at least a 1937 Orson Welles production where Caesar has fascist overtones, and over the years he’s been interpreted into just about every major political figure. Julius Caesar isn’t about the assassination or saying it is a good thing, Caesar even dies halfway through the play making Brutus perhaps the main character in the play.

Now we need to be able to live in a world where we are not walking on egg shells all the time and this seems to be what is happening in the world today. Everyone is on edge and ready to snap at the smallest problem. Yet if we look at other shows and even movies we can get to similar interpretation like how the upcoming film Geostorm, a film coming out this October, is a response to Trump withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

World News

As the US seems content to delve into every word Former FBI Director Comey made during his hearing yesterday in Washington DC. However there are a couple of interesting stories in the world that seem more important. First off over in the United Kingdom they held their Parliamentary elections which has set up a hung parliament. It looks like some type of coalition government is going to happen and perhaps we will see Theresa May step down or not. This is a more intriguing news item.

The other big story is that Japan has passed a one-off bill that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. Last year he addressed the people of Japan saying that he was beginning to feel the constraints of his age which were making it hard for him to do his duties. Rumors have been that this might happen 31 December 2018 or 1 January 2019. This will be a huge event and hopefully CNN and every one of those news networks go to cover it if and when it happen as Naruhito become Emperor. Sure the last time this happened was almost 30 years ago and I was not as interested in Japan back then.

The Handmaid’s Tale

With all the hype around Atwood’s novel I decided to read it again. Now I “read” it for school back in over a decade ago, so it was a rushed job and I skipped around in the second half of the book reading the important chapters that we were discussing in class and whatnot. We analyzed that book up and down so my first go around wasn’t that enjoyable. So with the Trump Presidency, this has become one of the turn to dystopian books that has gotten a remarkable boost in readership. There is also the Hulu series which is going to have a second season. Now the book and television show are two completely different things, this is about the book.

The book which it all was inspired by is a decent read and if you haven’t had the chance to read it or were forced to read it in school perhaps now is the time to re-read it and give it a second look. The book is the recollections of a Handmaid- Offred living in a theocratic military dictatorship in the Republic of Gilead, although the book is set in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the Handmaid of The Commander, Fred and his wife Serena Joy. Offred is there to have children and that’s her role in the society. It is an interesting exploration of how people just go along like sheep, and not want to rock the boat. So when the Republic of Gilead was formed all women were fired from their jobs and all their assets were frozen and they were placed in one of four groups, Wives
(wore blue)/ and daughters (white), Marthas (green), Handmaids (red), and Econowives (all colors). Reading and writing for women was forbidden. These are extreme laws but it isn’t that far from some of the extreme laws that lawmakers already want. The book is a cautionary tale just like the film Idiocracy, so we need to care about women’s rights as well as work for the common good.


Catholic Epistles Part 2: Letters of Peter

Last week we looked at the first General or catholic letter from James. Now we turn to Peter who wrote two letters. Well these most likely were not written by Peter directly either by a secretary or more likely a disciple of Peter writing in his name after Peter died. The whole authorship debate is pretty crazy and don’t really want to get into it. The first letter was most likely written after the letters of Paul were a thing, the second letter might have been the last book written for the Bible as it references other letters as scripture and it uses the Letter of Jude. A rough dating of the letters are between 70-90 for the first while the second ranges between 80-130 or so.

As for the content of the letters they vary widely between the two. In the first letter it is addressed to the exiles of the dispersion, and pin points the location of the people to Asia Minor. The letter begins by talking up the Christian people as they are “God’s own people” it goes on to echo the words of the Lord from Exodus “Be holy because I am Holy” and the idea of girding the loins of your mind, now this is like getting your mind from the gutter.  The general idea is that the Christians are special people but Peter tells them to behave themselves amongst the gentiles (pagans). This simply is be both a good Christian and a good citizen. The topic changes and Peter talks about the harassment of the Christians by their pagan neighbors, sure but Peter reminds them that it is only through suffering that glory can come, and he was there at the death of Jesus. Sure more suffering could come but then the glory will be better. One interesting point in this letter is that it talks about Christ after he died proclaimed to spirits in prison, some early theologian see this are a reference to the descent into the dead/Hell where Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Limbo.

The second letter is addressed to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with our in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It begins by saying that followers should “become partakers in the divine nature” and that there are things that can supplement our faith with virtues and virtues with knowledge and knowledge with self control and self control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. It goes on to condemn false teachers and that the second coming isn’t going to be coming tomorrow for to the eyes of the Lord a thousand year are but a day. This waiting also is a time for repentance  therefore all Christians “Peter” suggests should look to scripture and his last letter. Christians need to live in holiness and gird the loins of ones mind.

It is interesting to read these early writings of the Church as see that some topics are still what we are struggling with. The whole be a good Christian but also be a good citizen is where many people face problems today as they are more concerned with being a good citizen no matter how it makes them look as a “Christian” just look at what’s been going on in Washington do we consider any one there is acting “Christianly” to one another the Democrats and Republican have been at each other for years slowly becoming more entrenched in their own ideologies and refusing anything else.

Next week we will be looking at the three letters of John as well as Jude’s letter.

Late Night Talk shows and Saturday Night Live news

First off with Trump being President Saturday Night Live is going through a mini Renaissance. As it is this current season is having it’s highest ratings in 22 years. All thanks to Trump there are even talks about reviving the half hour Weekend Update in the fall, that last aired back in the fall of 2008. This would give another time to lambast the President and his administration, since there aren’t enough late night shows doing this already. However, this goes Trump has been a blessing for everyone in Political comedy as it has been only the two or three weeks that he’s been President, but it seems like every day they do something stupid, Like the way Betsy DeVos became the Secretary of Education, by making donations to Republicans and having the Vice President cast the tie breaking vote for her confirmation.

Women’s March

One of the images from this past Saturday’s Women’s March across the nation and around the world that caught my eye was a group of ladies dressed like suffragettes with a sign reading “Same Shit Different Century”, sure a lot has changed in the world but women’s rights are still dragging behind those of men in the United States. Who would have thought that a century after Alice Paul and the other participants of the Woman suffrage parade of 1913 in Washington DC, that we wouldn’t have really gotten that far from what they were fighting for sure Women can vote and even be elected to public office but they haven’t gotten much since. Women are still earning less than a man for the same amount of work and any semblance of the Equal Right Act still hasn’t been passed and approved by the states. However, this seems unlikely to be passed right now with the Republican held Congress, and perhaps the ERA needs to be revived to include all those LGBTQ as well. Let us all work towards bringing this to a reality as we need to become more active citizens by participating in local elections and learning what candidates stand for rather than how much noise they can make.

This march brought up the musical Ragtime set in the early part of the 20th century and tells the stories of three groups of people the Upper-class Whites in New Rochelle, the African Americans in Harlem, and the Eastern European Immigrants.  It is a period piece for today, as all these groups still exist today in different forms The musical touches on race, disparities of class, police violence, immigration, equality and justice for women and minorities.  If you have some time take a listen to the musical or I’m sure you can find some high school production on Youtube. The stand out songs are the from two different points in the show one at the end of Act One “Till We Reach That Day” and the other just before the end of Act Two “Make Them Hear You”. In the Act One Finale we have an unjust murder by the police, which still is relevant today. The song before the Act Two finale “Make Them Hear You” is an anthem for Justice through non-violence.  We hear that “Your sword can be a sermon, or the power of the pen. Teach every child to raise his voice and then, my brothers, then will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men make them hear you.” This is our vehicle for change in the world, and hopefully tomorrow there will be more of us working for the cause where someday gender and race won’t matter when it comes to politics and life in general.

Inauguration Day

In the United States today is the peaceful turnover of power that has happened since 1797, when John Adams became president. This will be the 58th Inauguration and is bound to be similar to all the rest of them.  At about 11 am the festivities begin as the former Presidents (Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama) will enter and take their places. There will be prayers and musical interludes and perhaps a poem. Around noon on January 20th the Vice President and President will both take the oath of office. The Vice President first will be swore in by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas followed by four ruffles and fluorishes and Hail Columbia, the Vice President’s song will be preformed by the Marine Band. The President comes next and will be swore in by the Chief Justice John Roberts followed by four ruffles and flourishes and Hail to the Chief with a 21-gun salute. This is typically followed by the Inaugural address. After the address Congress convenes for lunch and after lunch there is the Parade starting around 3pm or so. Then there are a couple of Inaugural balls in the evening. After the Oath of Office Trump will become the 45h President of the United States.

I hope that all Americans will give Trump at least a chance to be President before they judge him, He will be giving a major address where he will outline his agenda or something. Let’s just hope that it involves less tweeting.