January 5, 2013

The Diary of a Thin Man

Remembering

Sometimes
a photo
reveals something
that you missed,
when you
snapped it.









                                                             Massacres Old and New

The massacre of 20 first-graders in Connecticut should cause suicides in the National Rifle Association (NRA) but...unlikely. Their holy guns hoarded in lock-boxes or arsenals are accumulated from fear of somebody doing to them what they might want to do to others. Guns were as inevitable as bows and arrows, but, let us face it: perhaps we should go back to knives. (They are replacing helicopters with donkeys in Afghanistan; really pacing down the war.) At least with knives you have a chance. Any coward or manic-depressive can pull a trigger. A knife is up close and personal. (Naturally, somebody would resort to a sword.) So it is a facetious proposal; and  meant to be.

Twenty first-graders? His own mother? What is really going on here? Self-defense? And nobody saw this coming?

I keep remembering the tragedy of that little girl, only nine, shot like a dog in the Arizona Shopping Center Massacre, whose target was U.S. Representative Gabriel Giffords. A fair and good judge lost his life also, who had stopped by with his morning coffee on his way to work to hear his friend speak. Four others also died.

She was quite a gal, that little girl; aware, sensitive, intelligent, and actively involved in helping disadvantaged kids. What a fine woman she would have been, as fine as any killed or injured that awful day. She had been taken there for a "civics lesson." Her lesson was a violent death.

Our lesson is still in labor, when it should have been birthed long ago, except that wars and glorified media violence, and an army of stupid, self-interested, and purchased politicians has badmouthed the teachers and salt-and-peppered the country with veterans who are, in effect, trained killers-on-suspension. Check the stats on arrests for violence and murders among the returned Iraq and Afghanistan War vets.

The same stuff happened after Vietnam vets returned to pariah-hood, sick in the head, drug and alcohol addiction, and homelessness. It probably occurred after the two bigger world wars, also, but I don't know if anyone researched crime-spikes following wars; so many wars ago.

Suspense.Who is next?

I've been watching it approach and develop for years; so probably have you. The violent television culture of North Americans (excluding Canada, where, actually, only about 30 million people dwell) makes a coming Civil War in the USA seem inevitable. Of course, a civil war is a "revolution" to somebody. Many southerners still think of the Civil War as a revolution that failed.

Obviously most of the violence is initiated by the violent-minded Right, which dubs itself, "conservative." Massacres...church burnings...modern forms of lynching like the atrocity in Jasper...where a black man was dragged by a pickup truck until his head fell off...but the whole idea of "revolution" is in disrepute; and probably should be, since reform is a better option, at least in countries like the US and Mexico, where a veneer of modern institutions exist.

Just as obviously, there are some on the Left who are so fed-up with rightist violence as to wish to respond in-kind, though I can't recall a liberal, leftist, or anarchist in modern times who resorted to public slaughter. We all know, whether we admit it or not,that most of us store violent thoughts and cruel wishes in the No-No Locker (Hidden Files).

You don't find leftists (yet) burning churches, blowing up children, shooting politicians and doctors, or federal judges; because, well, because we know better. I'm not sure that education has much to do with it. I have a 9th grade education, and know better.

But there are some of the Left are who are aggressive-enough to desire returning violence for violence. I've met a few. They were poseurs and adventurers who saw too many action movies, or "idealists" who only wanted to save the world; without saving themselves first. But nothing serious.The serious revolutionaries are wisely staying out of sight; studying, planning, conspiring, or, like Tom Hayden and Bob Fass, and thousands of individuals healthier than myself, performing valuable public service.

I saw Abbie Hoffman go after a guy in Sandinista Nicaragua; a drunken outsider North American who intruded into our meeting at a restaurant. A chorus of "No Abbie!" from sixty activists stopped Hoffman's impulsive progress toward the disruptor, and a woman named Catherine Allport--a great feminist photographer--gently manhandled the guy out the door.

I'm the same way: I'm for peace and understanding, negotiation and reasonableness, but I know that I am capable of violence. Most men are. I'm a former marine. (There's no such thing as an "ex-marine," unless he got a dishonorable discharge.) But I subdue my own violence in one way or another (most of the time) with self-control and common sense: I don't want to be beaten up or go to jail. Ha, ha! (Sometimes I shout.)

Besides, I am too old, and I like some action movies too, if they are well-done and make a worthwhile point. But some of these nuts on the right don't care. I'm looking at a mug shot of the bird who did the damage in Tuscon, and he is smiling broadly at someone out there, as if to say, "See what I did! Ain't I a hero now?"

And, to some people in the somnolence of the land, he is a hero. But I think his smile was only preparing an Insanity Defense, which in fact his lawyer pulled off. I think he is in prison for life, but it was so long ago ("Time is slipping away") that I wouldn't be surprised to hear he's been released into minimum security and back on the job force, a security guard at an elementary school. Yes, sarcasm again.

What do you suppose we are going to have to do about people like him? The ones with the guns who are willing to kill dozens, hundreds, if not thousands and thousands of people? In China they would have shot him and harvested his organs by now. More surveillance? More control? More cameras? More chopping down trees in old, poor neighborhoods, like  East New York (where I was living when I wrote this); to give the helicopters and satellites a better view of the poor and their movements?

Build more prisons? We already build more prisons than schools. And schools in some parts of our aching land already resemble prisons. Armed cops in the halls, electronic gates, book bag and locker searches, dope-smelling dogs, plastic handcuffs, and holding cells.The NRA has in fact called for armed guards in every school in the country as an answer to the rising chorus of condemnation of the easy access to weapons of mass destruction. It might help the unemployment problem a bit.Collecting 10 million guns is a better option, but then the John Waynes and Rambos would start shooting.

I'm in Mexico again, even more distant from the northern slaughter, and the Newtown School Massacre made me revive this old draft about the Arizona Shopping Center Massacre.I have yet to pass a school or university in Mexico which did not have armed guards protecting the children and institutions. You cannot simply walk onto the grounds of the university in Puerto Angel or a school anywhere, without proving to an armed guard your right or reason to be there, with your bags subject to search. Most of the violence, the "drug war" violence, is in the North, I hear. I'm in a part of Mexico where I have heard or seen none of that. Of course it is here too, but in the larger cities of Acapulco, Oaxaca, etc.

So, as much as I suspect the NRA of self-interest, ideological imprisonment, and profit-protection, armed guards in every school in the country does not seem like such a bad idea. It is not a perfect solution--that would be total disarmament--it is only a compromise; but it might work, deserving a chance, unless the shooter takes out the guard first, which is not that difficult for a determined nut. Armed guards would be a daily reminder to people of the need for vigilance and personal involvement. We need to be nosier about our neighbors and family, perhaps. It is not 1912, when people did not go around slaughtering children in schools.

One bright thing, however: one day of the week of the massacre when I wrote this thing long ago, I spilled a whole glass of Orange Crush on my 9-year old Dell laptop. Oh, my God! It was the first thing that happened after I had dragged my sagging old body from bed. I know that soda pop--Coke especially, is the worst--because it will eat the circuitry. (It's sugar.) I immediately disconnected and turned it off, then turned it upside-down and shook it violently, wiped it with paper towels, blew on the keyboard, and went for my set of small screwdrivers.

I cleaned that laptop  for two days, had to take it apart twice, and with cue-tips, paper towels, and an assortment of small paint brushes and picks, and a vacuum cleaner, I gave it my best shot. When I finally got it back together, the cursor didn't work. So I did it again--you wouldn't believe how much dirt accumulates around the small high-speed cooling fans. I went at it with a magnifying glass until there wasn't a trace of soda visible. Then I put it back together and the cursor worked; but it wouldn't click on a link. So I paid $20 for an external mouse, and after arguing with the machine for an hour, finally installed it. And it worked better than before!

I felt like that Tom Hanks character on the deserted island, who finally got a fire started by rubbing wood on wood: "I did this!"

The Dell died last summer, a peaceful death with first a Blue Screen, and then fade to chartreuse, and then a spiritual-looking pale violet; and then black. Gone forever. Luckily I had most of my documents saved on discs, but I lost all of my music. It is still there in Brooklyn, waiting for someone I thought I knew to initiate a recovery and mailing operation so that I can install it on an external hard drive and at least recover my music.

When the laptop went down this piece went into a Draft folder and I forgot it until now.

Waiting. Remembering. Writing. Reading. Drinking coffee. Smoking. Isolating. Remembering. Writing. Isolating. Waiting...

Sorry if my e-mail list keeps getting this story; I keep re-writing it.