American Rhetoric: No Fly, No Buy…Bye Bye For Now

No Fly No Buy

No Fly, No Buy

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers…but it’s still a good read!

(At the outset of the House Democrats’ recent sit-in protest on the House floor over firearms reform, I was all for the concept of “No Fly, No Buy.” Then, however, I began to do my own digging. The more I researched, the more I discovered that this might not be such a good thing. What follows here are my personal observations regarding this piece of legislation.)

     There exist within the darkest back halls and deepest data repositories of the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ “Terrorist Screening Center”, secret lists that are not made available or accessible to the American public. These “watch lists” and “no-fly” lists cannot be readily viewed, and getting off of one is highly problematic at best. These are the lists at the heart of the Democratic push for “No Fly, No Buy.” Simply put, if you’re on the “no-fly” list, then the House Dems feel that you should not be able to legally purchase a firearm in this country.

     There’s only one…well, there are a lot of problems with this. First and foremost, many hundreds of people who are otherwise law abiding citizens, have found themselves on these lists. It’s not hard to make the list. In fact, until 2005, the TSA had been using people’s credit scores as a determining factor for placing people on the list! In other words, if your credit was in the toilet for some reason before 2005 / 2006, you might very well find yourself on the “no-fly” list.

     Oh, but that’s not the only way that you might end up being denied air travel! The Huffington Post’s Nick Wing outlined several additional ways that people have ended up on the list in a July, 2014 piece.(1)

      So, let’s just say for the sake of argument, that you’re an all-around good guy, who, like myself, has been pretty critical of the Transportation Security Administration, and its long, dismal record of mistreatment of air passengers. So, like I have, you post some highly incendiary things on social media about those jokers, including comments aimed specifically at John Pistole, the former TSA Administrator. Something to the effect of him being a mentally-deficient twat waffle, who deserves to languish forever in one of his own endless airport security lines. This could land you on the list, folks!

     Now that you’re on the list, let’s also say that the House Democrats have their way, and their “No Fly, No Buy” becomes law. Now, not only can you not take that Southwest Airlines round-trip flight to visit grandma Hazel in Duluth, now you can’t exercise your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms either, should you so choose, all because you got righteously pissed off at the ridiculousness that is the TSA at one time or another!

     On its face, “No Fly, No Buy” seems like a good idea. If someone’s been deemed too dangerous to get on board an airplane in this country, then they’re definitely too dangerous to be allowed to buy a gun, right? Isn’t this a “no-brainer”? Not necessarily, if the list that we’re basing all of this on is flawed, which it is! Even the decidedly liberal American Civil Liberties Union, knows that these “watch lists” are a major Mongolian fuster-cluck.(2)

     In my own, not-so-humble opinion, (when have I ever been humble in the course of opining here!?) we need to first, fix the “No-Fly” list situation, because it is a fu**ered up situation. Hence the Republican gripe about, “trading second and fourteenth amendment rights for secret lists.” So…

     Open it up. No more Orwellian, “secret list” bovine scatology.

     I’m sure that the federal government can get a few MIT graduates to create a secure website, that citizens can log on to, like they log in to their online banking. (Hell, they’re messing with Quantum Computing, I’m sure they can write some HTML!) There, they can check the list to see if their name is on it. If it is, the website should also have a link to both an online form and a printable PDF form, for redress and removal of their name from the list. The arbitration process should take no more than 30 days. One month, for the government to either make its case for depriving you of both your Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights, or get your name off of the list, and let you go along your merry way as a free American citizen, with all rights and privileges thereof.

     Listen. I get what my congressman, along with the other Democrats in the House of Representatives, are trying to do. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. People are dying every single day from gun violence in this country, more than in any other developed country in the western world. We have a dismal (yes, that’s the second time I’ve used that adjective, so sue me!) record of gun violence and deaths, compared to the rest of our peer nations. We need to do something, however I’m not at all confident that “No Fly, No Buy” is the answer, especially when the list itself is screwed to such a high degree. I suspect that to the Republicans, and maybe even some of the more enlightened Democrats, it appeared as if House Dems were, as my wife just phrased it, “trying to make the shit smell good before shoveling it.”

      The overarching idea behind the sit-in, though, is that Paul (Lucifer) Ryan and the House Republicans weren’t even allowing debate on this issue, which is not conducive to solving these problems, and is simply a nipple-headed, right-wing elitist thing to do.

     Allow the debate.

     Allow the vote.

     Sure, the bill is going to go down in flaming death on the House floor, but at least we’re having the debate. At least we’re sussing out the problems, and trying to come up with productive solutions…and that, as one congressman said during yesterday’s sit-in, “..is a good Goddamned start!”

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American Rhetoric: Some Thoughts on the Democratic Sit-In for Gun Legislation

House Dems Sit-In

House Democrats announce their “occupation” of the floor.

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Congressman Mark Walker, and the Republican leadership. My apologies…NAH!

     Today, I can say that I am proud to be a Democrat, because yesterday, I witnessed my party’s leaders make history. Starting at around 11:00 A.M. EDST, several House Democrats, led by the civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, staged an unprecedented “sit-in”, effectively taking over control of the House floor. This sit-in was precipitated by the recent tragedy in Orlando, at the Pulse nightclub, where a lone gunman killed 49 members of the LGBT(QI) community, before being killed by responding officers.

     In the wake of this mass shooting, which has been referred to in the media as the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history”, as with previous tragedies such as Sandy Hook and Aurora, national discourse on firearms legislation and control has risen to fever pitch; however nothing of significance ever seems to get accomplished. It was this angst that prompted members of the House Democratic Caucus to take the extraordinary step of staging yesterday’s “sit-in.”

     John Lewis is no stranger to things like sit-ins. The 76-year-old Troy, Alabama native was an integral part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, having been one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders”, and leading the march across the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma in 1965. If anyone in congress was up to the task of putting together something like this, it was John Lewis. According to Lewis, the sit-in was not made known to the leadership. (I’ll comment a bit more on Lewis a bit later down the page!)

     At approximately 11:00 A.M., John Lewis was recognized by the chair, took the floor of the house, and issued the following statement:

     Thus started what would eventually become a 25-hour-long protest by House Democrats, over the Republican majority’s reluctance to allow a vote on two pieces of legislation; a “No Fly, No Buy” bill, which would prevent people on the government’s “No Fly” list from purchasing firearms, and a bill to close loopholes in the background check process where it pertains to online and gun show purchases. Both of the bills that Democrats were seeking a vote on, incidentally, are bipartisan authored bills. With their intent to force the Republican majority to allow a floor vote on these bills, or be held over with no holiday break, Democrats employed the rallying cry of, “No Bill, No Break!” The Republican chair was forced to adjourn the House once the Democrats took the floor.

     One of the more significant hurdles that the Democrats had to overcome, was the absence of media coverage of the sit-in protest. This was due to the House Majority’s control of the cameras and microphones in the House chamber. The Republican leadership had these shut off when the chair adjourned the House, much to the chagrin of the Democrats. No worries, though! As it turns out, there’s an app for that! Enter “Periscope”, and social media feeds from Congressmen Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th), Scott Peters (D-CA 52nd), and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX 16th). Because of this, C-SPAN was able to broadcast the sit-in in its entirety, albeit with the occasional video glitch due to the nature of streaming video from a smartphone.

Jim Costa

My congressman, Jim Costa (D-CA 16) speaks.

     During the day-long sit-in, several Democrats took to the podium at the front of the House chamber, rallying their fellow Dems and outlining the many reasons for both the sit-in, and the need for tighter laws on firearms purchases, with the pictures and names of the many victims of gun violence in America as both their backdrop, and constant source of motivation, along with signs reading, “Disarm Hate.”

     The Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, eventually used a parliamentary procedure to call an early recess, then left for the July 4th break in the wee hours of the morning, without even an acknowledgment of the issue. In fact, Speaker Ryan referred to the Democratic sit-in as merely a “publicity stunt.” This left the Democrats basically on their own in D.C.

     John Lewis and the House Democrats ended their sit-in at around noon on Thursday, the 23rd of June, with Congressman Lewis stating that their “struggle” was far from over, vowing to return from the holiday break and once again take up the issue. Lewis was the last one to speak. What began with Congressman Lewis, ended with Congressman Lewis, that courageous and noble gentleman from Georgia’s 5th congressional district.

     I find myself left with both a strong sense of pride in my party, and an equally strong sense of disgust at the statements and behavior of House Republicans. At various times during the Democrats’ occupation of the House floor, Republicans alternately heckled, laughed at, and yelled at the Democrats on the floor. During all of this, however, my party’s representatives maintained an overall sense of decorum and restraint. They did us proud, getting into what Congressman Lewis referred to as, “good trouble.”

     One of the more ironic things that came up during the protest, was when Southern Baptist preacher-come-Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC 6th) attempted to engage in a bit of “whitesplaining”, tweeting that;

Calling this a sit-in is a disgrace to Woolworth’s. They sat-in for rights. Dems are “sitting-in” to strip them away.

     I think that it’s a pretty “twunt” move, presuming to tell a civil rights icon about the civil rights movement, especially when the significantly younger Walker wasn’t even born until May of 1969, almost ten whole years after the Woolworth’s lunch counter protest.

     Once again, I am a proud Democrat. I’m proud of my party, proud of my congressional rep, and proud of my President. I also have my own opinions on things like the “No Fly” list, disallowing people on that list from purchasing weapons, and closing loopholes. Instead of going into that here, I’ll pen individual articles on each one, links to be found here soon! (Suffice it to say that this particular piece has indeed migrated towards the “TLDR” end of the spectrum!)

     #SickAndTiredofBeingSickAndTired #NoFlyNoBuy #CloseTheLoopholes #DisarmHate

(Jim) Crowing – An Open Letter To Al Melvin and The Arizona State Government

LISTEN UP, ARIZONA.

LISTEN UP, ARIZONA.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a bone to pick with you. It concerns a bill that has passed the Arizona state legislature, and now sits on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, awaiting either her affirming “Jane Hancock,” or her veto. You know which bill I’m referring to; SB 1062. It has been referred to in the media as the “Arizona Anti-Gay Bill.”

     Just this morning, I watched a short clip of an interview between CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and state senator Al Melvin. Mr. Melvin, I have a question for you: why could you not answer a simple question regarding discrimination? As Mr. Cooper noted, you have declared your intent to run in that state’s next gubernatorial race, and as he noted, you were unable (or unwilling!) to answer a single question with regards to possible discrimination issues involving people in your state.

     Mr. Melvin, SB 1062 has absolutely nothing to do with religious freedom, and you know it. It pertains to commerce. Commerce, as you are (hopefully) well aware, is a matter of profit and loss. Religious practice, on the other hand, is a matter of espousing and expressing faith in a particular ideology and / or deity. As most church establishments are 501(c)(3) non profit endeavors, there seems to be a marked difference between them, and say, a bakery or florist shop. Apparently, you are confused as to the divisions and restrictions of each type of establishment, and where the two should and shouldn’t be intertwined.

     Mr. Melvin, how exactly does one such as yourself get to be a state senator, with such decidedly bigoted values and views? Navy War College? Were you good at that? Perhaps you should go back to that, because you’re a dismal failure as a representative of the populous. I have little doubt that there are thousands of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual constituents in your state, that are looking at you and shaking their collective heads.

     Let’s leave my apparent angst for Al Melvin to the side for a second, and address this ill-conceived piece of legislation. SB 1067 is problematic in a number of ways. For one, it would require business owners to make a declarative statement with regards to their religious proclivities against serving members of the LGBT community. This harkens back to the days of Jim Crow laws, where businesses would display signs that read, “No Coloreds Allowed,” or “Whites Only.” I’m assuming that any declaration must be posted, as a business license must, in a conspicuous place. I foresee this as being akin to a “scarlet letter,” and here’s why. Let’s say I am a consumer, and I walk in to a store with one of these signs posted near the register. As a supporter of the LGBT community, I am not even going to bother looking for the merchandise that I’m seeking, not in this store. I see the label, I acknowledge it for the bigotry that it is, and I turn and leave. The business loses revenue.

     In addition, the bill is unconstitutional. It is nothing short of state-sanctioned discrimination against an entire group of people, based solely on their sexual preference. Should Governor Brewer sign this piece of legislation into law, it will assuredly result in millions of dollars being spent by the state to defend it against rightful challenges to its constitutionality. In other words, Arizona; this one’s gonna cost ya!

     Speaking of costing ya, I hear that none other than the denizens of One Infinite Loop, Apple, Incorporated, have expressed concern over the bill, and its possible impact on any decision to abandon its Sapphire Glass plant in Mesa. Jan! Hey, Jan? Are you hearing this? Tim Cook and Apple will likely hit your state right in the wallet, should you dare affix your signature to this!

     I guess it all comes down to one question, folks; what’s in your wallet!? At any rate, it’s like the latest memes say. We’ve already had this discussion, and you cannot discriminate against a particular demographic who wish to sit at the lunch counter.

Crime and Justice: Conundrums in Columbia – SC Interim Police Chief Forgets First Amendment

Interim Columbia PD Chief Ruben Santiago. Photo Credit - The State

Interim Columbia PD Chief Ruben Santiago. Photo Credit – The State

     I remember Columbia. I was stationed at Fort Jackson in 2000, and had a few opportunities to drive around that fine city. The mall was huge, the weather was nice, and the people I met were gracious. All in all, my impression of the “Palmetto State” capital was a good one. That being said, these fine people don’t deserve to have to suffer someone like their current Interim Police Chief, Ruben Santiago. Issues are swirling around Santiago and the department, like moths around a street light on a sultry South Carolina night.

     Back in July of this year, a recently-dismissed CPD captain openly accused chief Santiago of corruption, in an alleged scheme to frame Senior Assistant City Manager Alison Baker, Santiago’s supervisor at City Hall, on drug and weapons charges. (1) According to South Carolina news website “The State,” City Manager Teresa Wilson has dismissed the former captain’s allegations as false, questioning their timeliness. Flash forward four months, and enter Brandon Whitmer.

     On Friday, the Columbia PD posted news of a sizable marijuana seizure and subsequent arrest on its Facebook page. (2) Among the comments in response to this “semi-official” press release, one Brandon Whitmer posted the following comment:

whitmer_comment_400pxw

     In response to Mr. Whitmer, Interim Chief Santiago posted back:

Santiago_comment01_400pxw

     According to news sources, (3) (4) the chief’s comment was deleted shortly thereafter, by department spokesperson Jennifer Timmons, who administers the department’s Facebook page along with Santiago. Oh, but the chief couldn’t leave it at that;

Santiago_comment02_400pxw

     In the ensuing “fit hitting the shan,” Timmons stated that she had in fact, deleted Santiago’s first comment, because she “…thought it was best to do that until I got a better understanding of what he was trying to say and to set the record straight.” Indeed, Santiago’s second post was made after he and Timmons had spoken on the phone. Santiago further stated to media that the comments were posted late at night, while he was watching television and accessing Facebook on his computer.

[SOAPBOX=ON]

     I can’t even begin to tell you, my fine young readers, the myriad of problems that I have with this one…but I’ll do my level best to try. First, I have a problem with anyone in a position of authority, who would use their position to even suggest that they would seek to oppress (“We will work on finding you.”) the citizenry simply due to their views on something. Second, and this is in my own, not-so-humble opinion, Interim Chief Santiago is a blithering idiot. Just because someone advocates for the legalisation of marijuana, does not mean that they also imbibe, contrary to his “putting everyone on notice.” Evidently, this guy has no idea what the meaning of “reasonable suspicion” actually entails. Who put this flake in charge? (For the record, I’ve supported the legalisation of marijuana, ever since Proposition 215 came along in the mid-90’s. I personally feel that it should be completely de-criminalised, taxed and regulated, using the profits to help balance the stupid budget. Do I smoke pot? No. I drink alcohol once in a blue moon and I smoke cigarettes, 1/2 pack-a-day habit, but no. I don’t use marijuana. It’s not a personal choice that’s right for me at this time in my life. Oh, and I have no wants, warrants, misdemeanors, felonies, tickets or accidents. My record is whiter than the driven snow.)

     This whole business of Timmons having to follow Santiago and his verbal incontinence around the Facebook page with her finger on the “delete” button, reminds me of a half-blind person chasing a pet (pick your pedigree) around with a pooper scoop. Maybe we should set this entire episode to music, something fitting, like the theme to “Benny Hill.”

     I have another problem with this, in that Santiago used his position with the department and the department’s presence on Facebook to do this…from home while off-duty. It would have been one thing if he had done this on his own time, on his own page. No, this was an act within the scope of his place as a community leader / servant, and he needs to be held accountable for it. The department’s Facebook page is a community outreach portal, and any post that Santiago makes is tantamount to an official statement. Interim Chief Santiago has pulled out the proverbial shovel, and dug himself a very big hole.

     One thing is for sure, and that’s that Teresa Wilson and the folks up at City Hall have a problem, one which they need to divest themselves of with all due haste.

Faith and Religion: The Finest and Oldest Traditions

Information age?

Information age?

     Immediately upon crossing the final “i” and dotting the final “t” of my previous article, I began to come to an even deeper realisation of exactly what Dr. Dobson’s statement implies, and its potential to do harm. (For those of you who are just now joining the story, I highly recommend that you read the other article, before continuing on with this one.)

     So, let’s recap. Dr. James Dobson, radio host, author and founder of “Focus On The Family,” has posited the idea that parents have a right to, as he puts it, “select their child’s religious orientation”:

“The right of parents to select their child’s religious orientation must be protected and no teacher or administrator should be allowed to contradict what the child has been taught at home.”

     I, on the other hand, refuted his assertion and claimed that parents could not hope to choose their child’s religion, any more than they can choose the child’s blood type or eye color. Then, the wheels in The Cybersattva’s head slowly started to turn, and I got to thinking; could it actually be possible for a parent to choose what a child will believe to be true? Frighteningly, the answer to this question is yes, it is possible. The mechanism for accomplishing this is one that has been employed by religious bodies for millennia, and is still being employed today. Governments employ this same tactic in their efforts to control their citizenry, through channels including the media. The mechanism? Control of the information.

     Let’s say that a mother, who we’ll call “Lucy,” has a small child, who she wants to believe that the sky is…yellow, for instance. Right from the beginning, Lucy manipulates and controls everything that the child sees and hears, to cause him / her to believe that the color blue is actually called “yellow,” even going so far as to change the text in books, and make the occasional statement, “Wow, that’s a pretty yellow sky today!” Before long, the youngster believes that the blue sky is actually yellow! (Of course, this approach also requires that Lucy change the real yellow to something else!)

     This can only go on as long as Lucy maintains complete control of the child’s access to information. Fortunately, forces of nature dictate that sooner or later, the child will be exposed to the truth, whether it be through television, talking to friends or enrollment in the compulsory education system. At any rate, the gig will be up, and Lucy will have some “‘splaining to do!”

     The same can be said for parents who would seek to choose their child’s religious beliefs, through the implementation of that ages old tradition of the church, information control. In this respect, it’s accomplished by such methods as home schooling and rigorous, compulsory attendance in a church. The parents of these children will also control who the child’s friends are, what they watch on television and what they listen to on the radio. Once again, it’s all about controlling the information, but there again, forces of nature will eventually bring some greater truths to bear against the limited info that the child has received. At that point, several problems arise and the questions start to flow like champagne at a wedding;

  • Who’s telling me the truth?
  • Who’s lying to me?
  • What’s real?
  • Why does the evidence point away from what my parents told me?
  • Why are people making fun of me and calling me dumb?
  • Why did my parents lie to me? I thought they loved me.

     My fine, young readers, let me ask you this; what kind of a parent would want to subject their child to this kind of eventual, existential dilemma? What gives any parent the moral, legal or parental right to put their child through this? Make no mistake, it’s the parent’s fault when this happens, not the fault of the people presenting the external information, even though the “Christian” parent will make (and often has made) that assumption.

     This is not what the founding fathers of this nation had in mind, when they penned the first amendment. The “Free Exercise” and “Establishment” clauses were never meant to enable parents to place their children in such a precarious position. As one who has, in the past, sworn to support and defend the constitution against all foreign and domestic enemies, I find James Dobson’s shameless purloining of the first amendment incredibly offensive.

Faith and Religion: Freedom of Choice of Religion?

     Yet again, Facebook has provided me some fodder for an article. (These people sure don’t disappoint!) Earlier this evening, one of my Facebook friends shared the following picture, with accompanying quote from “Focus On The Family” founder Dr. James Dobson:

Freedom by Dobson?

Freedom by Dobson?

“The right of parents to select their child’s religious orientation must be protected and no teacher or administrator should be allowed to contradict what the child has been taught at home.”

     Now, I have yet to verify the veracity of this quote, whether Dr. Dobson actually uttered or penned these words, however my thoughts on this would, either way, remain as follows; Oh, I don’t think so. Since when has the term, “Freedom of Religion,” meant a parent’s right to impose a particular belief set on a child?

     Before anyone attempts to say that I’m either taking Dobson’s statement out of context, or that this was not what Dobson meant, please allow me to say this about that; the statement above is what is known as a “face value” statement, and was presented as such by the nice folks at the “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson” Facebook page. No accompanying source citation or contextual reference was provided, so we must therefore accept the statement as it reads, and proceed from that point.

     That being said, I’d like to clear up a few other things. First off, I’m not about to sit here and advocate for parental or spiritual anarchy. Should we, as the Bible suggests, “raise our children in the way that they should go”? Certainly, by giving them all of the information that we can. We should, with all due honesty and sincerity, tell them what we are compelled to believe, and why we are compelled to believe it. We should be doing our best to instill the virtues and values in our offspring that we hold dear. We should be providing evidence and examples, and doing our level best to teach. Then, as they grow older, we should allow them to make their own choice of what to believe. We shouldn’t be telling them what to believe…doing so is pure folly.

     If parents would take this approach in the home, while at the same time acknowledging what their children may be taught while at school, and how it relates to what’s being taught in the home, then perhaps this apparent dichotomy between religion and education would be lessened. Regardless, I’m of the opinion that Dobson et. al. are engaging in some selective hypocrisy here, by using the idea of religious freedom to in fact deprive their own progeny of this very same freedom!

     When I last read my Bible, (which wasn’t too terribly long ago, in fact!) I was given the impression that when we were created, we were created in God’s image. Now, what does that mean? On the face of it, one might suppose that God somehow looks like us, and we like God, because we were “created in his image.” Oh, but indeed, my fine young readers, this simple statement has far deeper implications! I personally believe in the Trinity; God the Father, God personified in his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, and his indwelling presence, the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we have been created with not only a physical body, but also a thinking mind and a spirit. In other words, since God is a triune being, he also created us as triune beings! Within that framework of how we were made, he also gave us a unique gift; freedom of choice.

     People, God does not desire automatons. He does not compel us to blindly and automatically serve him, but gives us the freedom to either choose him, or choose otherwise. We believe something because we choose to believe it…or choose not to. Now, what was that verse we learned as kids, early on in Sunday School?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)

     Whosoever believeth. Doesn’t say anything about having that belief chosen for you, or you choosing that belief for someone else. The Bible does say that we should raise our children in the ways that they should go, and that’s all well and good. Parents cannot however, choose what their kids will believe or not believe, any more than they can choose their hair color, their eye color, their skin tone or their blood type. Guide? Absolutely. Foist? No.

Life and Living: What Makes Bad Words…Bad?

RRated Language

CAUTIONThe following article addresses the use of language that some may consider foul or coarse, and includes words to that effect. Readers who possess strong reservations against this type of language are advised to proceed with discretion.

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     My father is a church board member. He attends services most every Sunday, and is an upstanding member of the community. At home, he does his very best to live his life accordingly, the way that he believes that God would want him to. I love my father very much.

     That being said, I do have a slight issue with his restrictiveness of my speech freedoms whenever I’m down visiting. I am a former soldier, and as most people know, soldiers tend to pick up quite a bit of “colorful language” along the way. As a result, sometimes I slip and give utterance to words that my father doesn’t necessarily appreciate; and of course, he’s quick on the trigger with the “hey, language,” or “watch your mouth” retort. So, I started wondering; what exactly is it that makes “bad words” bad?

     Now, up to this point in my musings on and forays into the human condition here at The Cybersattva, I have done my level best to do so without resorting to using language that some would deem “profane” or “coarse,” words that one would normally hear in another setting, such as a bar or a pool hall. The “F” word, the “S” word, the “P” word and the “B” word are nigh present as of this article. I find myself wondering, for the sake of the article itself, if I should include them…

     What makes bad words bad? Is it the words themselves? Let’s look at a few, starting with the venerable George Carlin’s list of the “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television.” (For those of you who are absolutely averse to “coarse language” of any sort, now would be the time to go browse for nice pictures of cats or flowers.) These words are:

  • Shit
  • Piss
  • Fuck
  • Cunt
  • Cocksucker
  • Motherfucker
  • Tits

     Does anyone besides myself notice a pattern forming? If one considers the generally accepted definitions of these “cuss words” and others, they will begin to note that almost 95 percent of them describe functions relating to, or parts of the human anatomy and human sexuality. Then there are words such as;

  • Bitch
  • Bastard

     These are words used to disparage a person directly, although they also have more acceptable uses within the English language. For instance, a bitch is the proper term for a Canine female, and a bastard is a male child born out of wedlock. These types of words make up about four percent of the “cuss word pie.” The other one percent is taken up by words such as “damn” and “hell,” which are words with a decidedly negative religious connotation.

     What makes bad words bad? Is it their intended effect or contextual use? If I stand up before leaving my parents’ house and say, “Well, it’s time to get my shit together so I can get on the road,” is the word “shit” within the context of the previous sentence, still a “bad word”? What I’ve done there is use the word “shit” as a synonym for the word “stuff” or “items”. Now, I know some people who purposefully use words that are considered profane, purely for their “shock value”. However, if that was not my intent, why would it still be a “bad word”?

     Is it how others perceive what we are saying? If you did not speak or write even a blip of English, and I walked up to you on the street and said, “Hey! How the fuck are you doing?” and shook your hand, you would only know that I was greeting you, and would do your best to respond in kind, with no offense taken. If on the other hand, you do understand the English language fairly well, you might or might not be offended, depending on what context you apply to what I’ve just said. In other words, exactly how much of the onus for offense lies with the offended person, if any at all?

     What makes bad words bad? Why are they collectively referred to as “profanity”? Let’s stop for just a second, and examine the definition of the word “profane”:

pro·fane  /prəˈfān,prō-/
adjective:
1. relating or devoted to that which is not sacred or biblical; secular rather than religious.
2. (of a person or their behavior) not respectful of orthodox religious practice; irreverent.
verb:
1. treat (something sacred) with irreverence or disrespect.

     Once again, we see religion’s influence on society, specifically how the expression of thoughts and ideas through language is measured against a sense of what is “holy” or “sacred”.

     There are also words (and please forgive me ahead of time for committing these words to electronic media!) that have been used throughout history to disparage select groups of people, words used to discriminate;

  • Nigger
  • Spick
  • Wop
  • Chink
  • Chin
  • Dago
  • Raghead
  • Kike

     These and similar “racial epithets” have varying degrees of conversational acceptability, depending on the company one keeps. I even know people who are perfectly comfortable using a racial epithet, but cringe at words such as “fuck” and “shit”, regardless of their contextual use. (If you ask me, no racial epithet is acceptable at anytime.)

     Gets you thinking, doesn’t it? In my own, not-so-humble opinion, we should all give a lot more thought to the words we use, and how we use them. What does our vocabulary say to others about us? How does it convey what kind of person we are, our upbringing, our value system and our level of consideration for our fellow life travelers? Within this respect, there are words which should be considered far worse for use than words such as “bitch” or “fuck”;

  • Idiot
  • Dummy
  • Retard (or any of its politically-motivated variants!)
  • Stupid
  • Moron

     To what degree do we value our fellow human beings? The words listed above are used primarily to demean another’s intelligence. Other words, such as “ugly” or “fat” are used to demean appearance. Shouldn’t those words be considered equally as unacceptable as the original seven? What does it say about us as a society, or individuals, when we have no problems calling someone a “dummy”, but cringe whenever someone says the word “fuck”? What does that say about our value system?

     I’ll close with this thought; be excellent to each other. Communicate better with each other, and use your words meaningfully!

American Rhetoric: The War Within

sig_sauer_hip_holster

“Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war”
(Antony, from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Act 3, Scene 1. Circa 1601.)

     (Part two in this series on the Gun Control debate. Part one can be read here.)

     There is a war being fought within the borders of this nation. It’s a protracted conflict between two diametrically opposed forces; the law-abiding citizenry, and violent criminals with little to no regard for the sanctity or value of a life. There are several things driving this conflict; addiction, greed, desperation, poverty and disadvantage being among the impetuses. As long as there is crime, there needs to be some way to effectively counter it. Sure, there is law enforcement, however in this second decade of the 21st century, economic downturns have resulted in a decrease in manpower and a corresponding increase in police response times. When an armed assailant attacks and seconds count, the ability of the citizenry to keep and bear arms can often make the difference between life and death.

     I have a friendly acquaintance who owns and operates a pharmacy in my small hometown of Madera, California. Brian Lee and his mother Sophia were working in their family-owned pharmacy one particular evening, back in early January of this year, when two armed men entered through the rear door of the business. These two men did not say word one; they didn’t ask any questions or make any demands. They simply began shooting. The one detail note that they failed to consider, was that Brian also owned a gun. In the moments that followed, Brian was able to retrieve his gun from behind the counter and return fire, forcing the assailants to flee the scene. The firefight resulted in the demise of one of the two perpetrators and an injury to Sophia’s leg, from which she is making a rapid recovery. (1) (2) (Had Brian, a law-abiding business owner not had a legally-owned firearm, both he and his mother would now be dead.)

     When we begin to discuss the “militia” in modern-day terms, we first need to come to a consensus of what it is. In my opinion, the militia should be defined as a body of trained, knowledgeable, able-bodied armed adults, who can effectively respond to immediate threats to life, limb and property with as equal a force as is being exerted, up to and including lethal force if necessary.

     Allow me to pause here for a moment, and clarify a few items. First of all, I am not advocating for or endorsing vigilantism. I firmly believe in the role of law enforcement to serve and protect, because that’s what we pay them to do. What I am saying is that in situations such as Brian Lee’s, situations which happen all too often in fact, that there are obvious benefits to having a firearm handy. Second, disarming the innocent will not do them any justice; it will only serve to leave them helplessly waiting on a police force with increasingly deplorable response times.

     So, how do we facilitate the “regulation” of today’s militia? First, we need to come to an understanding of what regulation means. According to the “Websterword” definition:

reg·u·la·tion: noun, /ˌregyəˈlāSHən/
1. the act of regulating: the state of being regulated.
2. a : an authoritative rule dealing with details or procedure.
—b : a rule or order issued by an executive authority or regulatory agency of a government and having the force of law.

     Another definition can be read in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (554 U.S. 570 (2008)), which held that:

“[t]he adjective ‘well-regulated’ implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training.”

     If we’re talking along the lines of regulation, the first thing that we need to agree on, in my humble opinion, is universal background checks. No reasonable person should want someone with a criminal history of any sort to have ownership of a firearm. Likewise, if a prospective gun owner is an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, what should they have to fear from having that verified during the ownership / registration process?

     The next thing that needs to be put into place is mandatory training certifications. Every single gun owner should be required to satisfactorily complete both a gun safety and and “active shooter” course. These courses should be priced reasonably, so as not to deter gun ownership in any way. By requiring these courses, the regulating authority ensures that the “militia” is knowledgeable in matters of gun safety and maintenance, and also laws and procedures governing the use of force.

     Another idea that has been floated in various circles is the possible imposition / requirement of psychological evaluations. Once again, this might not be such a bad idea, given that those comprising the “militia” should be of sound mind, as well as sound body. Satisfactory completion of these evaluations, which should also be reasonably facilitated, could be a requirement within the aforementioned certification process.

     These are just suggestions, my fine young readers, ones that I find reasonable and relatively unobtrusive. While we definitely don’t need a gaggle of vigilantes running the streets and taking law enforcement into their own hands, we do need more educated, trained and honest citizens who can, at a moment’s notice, defend what we have worked so hard to attain. If it t’were me unarmed and under attack, I’d want Honest Joe Citizen across the street who sees me being attacked…to be packing and ready!

American Rhetoric: Once More, Unto The Breech

rifle_breech_300pxw

Breech: noun \ˈbrēch\ (from the Merriam Webster dictionary)

3. the part of a firearm at the rear of the barrel.

     “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” These words are from Shakespeare’s “Henry V, Act III”, circa 1598. With the alteration of a single letter however, they become entirely applicable for our purposes; as we’re about to dive headlong, once more, into the national argument regarding gun control. I call it an “argument” for the mere fact that an argument is exactly what this is. It is not a debate, or even a national dialogue. What we have instead is more akin to the proverbial “pissing contest”, with each side engaged in recriminations, finger pointing and other judgmental words and actions. On the fringes of the conservative right, there are conspiracy theorists who insist that their guns are needed to protect themselves from a government gone awry. On the opposite end, are the ultra-liberals who insist that, since guns kill people, they need to be banned completely. Various politicians in the halls of power are also taking sides in the argument, with some going so far as to propose increasingly restrictive measures on gun ownership by the law-abiding citizenry.

     Quite often, I hear and see firearm advocates bring up the second amendment to the U.S. constitution, specifically the part which talks about the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Conversely, I seldom see the first part mentioned. Yes, my fine young readers, there are actually two parts to the sentence which makes up the entirety of the amendment. As ratified by the states and authenticated by one Thomas Jefferson, the amendment reads as follows:

“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.”

     There are a few important aspects to this that need to be considered. First, the framers of the “highest law of the land” did not speak “Yoda”. (George Lucas wouldn’t be born for another 153 years!) Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that one part of the sentence has everything to do with the other, and vice versa. Second, there has been more than a fair share of debate with regards to the founding fathers’ intent when they wrote this amendment, going up to and including in the chambers of the Supreme Court.

     What follows here are mostly my own opinions on the issue. Please understand that I am by no means an expert (an “ex” being a has-been, and a spurt being a “drip, under pressure”!) on constitutional law, so I can only opine within the scope of what I know. That being said, the key idea that I can see already is one of a “well regulated militia” and what that entails, especially within the scope of the “here and now” as opposed to 200 years ago.

     In the 1790’s, firearms were a part of American existence. Not only were they used for hunting, but also to protect the homestead from hostile elements, which included the recently displaced Native American population, their sometime allies, and predatory animals that threatened crops and livestock. From an early age, young boys were handed a rifle and taught how to use it, clean it and keep it. Girls on the other hand, were more often relegated to keeping house, sewing, nursing and other things that were considered “woman’s work”. (How often do we hear that phrase used for household chores anymore? I apologise if that term sounded chauvinistic, but that was the way of things in the 1700’s.) Should the fledgeling nation come under threat, the framers of the constitution knew that there was a body of arms experience that could be drawn upon.

     What was / is a “militia”? In short, it’s a body of non-professionals that can be called upon in the event that the nation’s professional forces are not equal to the task of defense on their own. Of course in today’s society, there are a few very significant differences; women are now as equal to the task of defense as men, and our nation has a long-standing, completely volunteer army. In light of the latter part, one has to wonder if the very idea of the “militia” even applies in the new millennium. (If the concept of “militia” does still apply, then women should definitely be counted as a part of it. They (women) stand to lose just as much as the men do when their freedom is threatened!)

     In the 21st century, what exactly constitutes a threat to the “security of a free state”? The answer to that question can be summed up in one word; crime. Violent criminals are an ever-present threat to the security of our peace and freedoms. Over 200 years since the ratification of the second amendment, and the threat is no longer the one from without…it’s now the threat from within. It is with this threat in mind, that I would opine that the concept of the “well regulated militia” remains as valid today as it was yesterday.

     This seems like as good of a place as any to break for discussion. In the following article, I will attempt to expand on some ideas regarding the “regulation” of the militia, and how that applies to gun ownership.

American Rhetoric: Sharia. Sure. Yabetcha.

Never gonna happen, Cap'n!

Never gonna happen, Cap’n!

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     There are certain elements amongst us, certain persons and groups with dangerous agendas. Agendas that, if carried to fruition, would see the very freedoms that we currently enjoy taken from us. This has been made crystal clear to me, especially within the past few hours. It all started with a Facebook post. (Doesn’t it always these days?)

     One of my Facebook friends had commented on an article post. Now, I can’t find the post in newsfeeds again, but I did have the presence of mind to bookmark the article itself. The website “Bare Naked Islam” posted an article today, in which they allege that CAIR-Missouri director Faizan Syed “wants people who insult Islam on the internet to be punished under Sharia law.” I immediately questioned this as what I thought was just so much neo-conservative, anti-Muslim fearmongering. So, I went and read the article on the website. (1)

     Hold on a few minutes, let me back up and elaborate a bit on who and what “CAIR” is, for those who don’t know. It stands for the “Council on American-Islamic Relations”, and is headquartered in Washington D.C., with regional offices in various places around the country. Their stated aim is to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding”. In addition, their stated core principles include the following;

  • “CAIR supports free enterprise, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”
  • “CAIR is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of faith.”
  • “CAIR supports domestic policies that promote civil rights, diversity and freedom of religion.”
  • “CAIR opposes domestic policies that limit civil rights, permit racial, ethnic or religious profiling, infringe on due process, or that prevent Muslims and others from participating fully in American civic life.”
  • “CAIR is a natural ally of groups, religious or secular, that advocate justice and human rights in America and around the world.” (2)

     The article at “Bare Naked Islam” explains how the director of the St. Louis, Missouri branch of CAIR, Faizan Syed, has outlined his suggestions for addressing and controlling what he refers to as “anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim content on the internet”, suggesting the necessary formation of a youth-based group that would monitor social media. According to the article, Mr. Syed believes that Islamic “Sharia Law” should be introduced and applied to the American justice system. (1)

     Again, I initially took this as right-wing rhetoric, but decided to do my customary “internet datamining” to determine the truth of the matter for myself. What I discovered absolutely floored me! It seems that the folks at BNI are telling the truth! (At this point, it’s important to understand that so many of the things that the neo-conservatives are positing these days are slathered with lies and half-truths, so when something this starkly honest comes to the fore, it’s a true surprise!) By following the links and doing some google searches, I arrived at the CAIR-Missouri website, where I was able to read Mr. Syed’s original post, replete with grammatical errors. (3) (It should be noted that as of 21 Feb 2013, this link has been removed from the CAIR-MISSOURI website.) In the article, Syed makes the following suggestions;

  • An association of Muslim Youth should be created, they be trained in media monitoring and response and in media relations (See above link of Jewish organization for further details)
  • These Youth should be encouraged to be passionate, aggressive and prompt in their responses.
  • There need at least one such team in every country (I know it’s a daunting taks, but one small steps takes us to bigger one)
  • They should coordinate with other Muslim youth operating in different countries.
  • Report anti Islamic and anti Muslim content on the internet to appropriate authorities to take action to remove it and go after those who post it online and prosecute and take actions according to the Shariah ruling. (Emphasis added.)
  • Highlight the inconsistencies of the mainstream media and spread it across the web using social networking and all other platforms available to us.
  • Highlight the bias of media in reporting issues pertaining to Islam and Muslims
  • Write to editors and journalist reporting on Islam and on Muslim issues (Believe it does have an impact)
  • Send mass emails out promptly urging Muslims to respond on news reports that is bias and anti Islamic in nature to the editors and journalist and TV anchors.
  • Promote books, documentaries, movies that is of beneficial to the Muslim youth.

     Now, a lot of these are noble ideas, but there is one in particular that would seem to run contrary to the very concept of the laws and principles that our nation was founded upon; the United States Constitution. Not only that, but it also seems to directly contradict CAIR’s stated aims! So, either CAIR is lying about their aims, or they would appear to have a renegade director.

“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.”
(Amendment I, Constitution of the United States of America.)

     [SOAPBOX=ON. IT IS SO ON.] When I swore my oath of enlistment in the United States Army back in March of 2000, I swore to “defend the constitution against all enemies; foreign and domestic.” Although I no longer serve actively, I still take that oath seriously. See, that same constitution guarantees my freedom to do what I do here; examine, comment, dissect, counter, dissent. If I think that someone’s religious views absolutely suck, then it is my right to state that opinion without fear of reprisals. What Mr. Faizan Syed is suggesting is a complete denial of those freedoms, in favor of the application of a set of laws based in a religious dogma…one that I don’t happen to adhere to. In my not-so-humble opinion, this is yet another example of how religion can become a danger to the good and proper maintenance of a free and democratic society.

     Sharia law is part of a religious doctrine. As such, any adoption of it by the justice system of this country would be blatantly unconstitutional. Mr. Syed wants Sharia in our courts, but I would ask him, “How does it feel to want?” It would appear that Mr. Faizan Syed is opposed to the constitution, and that would make him an enemy to it. And, as I have sworn to defend my country and its highest laws from these enemies, I am bound by honor and principle to respond to Mr. Syed’s attack on our freedoms;

Mr. Syed, I present to you; the "Single-digit Freedom Widget"!

Mr. Syed, I present to you; the “Single-digit Freedom Widget”!

     Mr. Syed, I will submit to Sharia the minute you go procreate…with yourself. Now, I hope you found that equally as offensive as I find your suggestion that my right to free speech be amended and / or denied by your proposed “task force”, and your proposed adoption of Sharia law by our courts. Mr. Syed, you and I both know full well, that the Sharia penalty for speech critical of or opposed to Islam…is death. I find your suggestion that my criticism of your religion be met with the deprivation of my very life, completely unacceptable. And, since this suggestion finds its basis in your chosen religion, I will close with the following sentiment, complete with the appropriately-dropped “F” bomb. With extreme prejudice: F – you, your “suggestions” and you can shove your Sharia…shall I “suggest” where?