Be A Clam- There Are Reasons To Be Happy

Yes, it is hard to be happy when the world around us seems to be crumbling. Yes, there is racial injustice, violence and hopelessness all around us. Yes, we have two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. Yes, our computer and television screens show images of hopelessness around the clock.

The truth is we see more evil today than ever before. Yet, there is not more evil today than in the past. The murder rate has declined over time despite what a person might thing based on the news of mass shootings.

There are people alive today that were around when six million Jews were slaughtered in Europe. In my lifetime people could be denied service in restaurants based on the color of their skin. Woman were denied the right to vote until 1920.

Today we have an African American President. The next president of the United States may be a woman. Woman and minority citizens are CEO’s running major corporations.

Prior to 1973 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) found that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Until 1986 sexual orientation was still considered in the DSM. Today gay marriage is a constitutional right.

During the Cold War we were at the brink of nuclear annihilation. Today the world’s nuclear arsenals have been reduced. The United State’s does not have a draft. The current military conflicts are mostly confined to the Middle-East.

Oil was almost completely gone in the 1970’s now it is at record low prices. More food can be grown with less land today then ever before. Almost everyone has a Smartphone. Almost everyone has indoor plumbing, a flat screen television and a refrigerator.

In addition you can be entertained for almost nothing anywhere you want. You can get any of my novels for less than five bucks on Kindle or Nook. You can watch movies on Netflix on your phone.

I live in a small town but I can get Sushi, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern, Indian or almost any other type of food without driving more than ten minutes. I could get on a plane and be in Europe tomorrow. People will provide goods and services to me in exchange for paper or plastic.

We live in a time of miracles. Advances in technology,transportation and medical fields are moving forward at an amazing pace. I am not saying we need to ignore the social injustice in the world. I am simply suggesting we need to remember how far as a nation we have progressed.

In conclusion be happy. Be as happy as a clam. Be as happy as a dog with two tails. Be as happy as a lark. Be as happy as a kid in a candy store or a bird with a french fry.

FYI: Has anyone noted that Robin Tunney in the Craft looks a lot like Kristen Stewart in those vampire movies?

Guns vs. Common Sense

Shootings in schools, nightclubs and movies seem to be a regular occurrence. The incidence of police shooting citizens and citizens shooting police are all too common. As people see no opportunities in their life the value of human life is diminished. As Bob Dylan said, “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to loose”.

The Second Amendment is not as ambiguous as we like to pretend it is. The intent of the Second Amendment is to allow citizens the right to own guns. The intent of the drafters of The Second Amendment includes the right to have guns that might be used in arming a militia. At the time the Bill of Rights was written America just fought a war against the British. This supports the argument for military style weapons. The Bill of Rights was written because the people were suspicious and distrustful of government. At the time it would not be unusual to gather up a posse and have ordinary citizens (provided they were white and male) perform what today would be police or military duties.

That being said we do not live in the 18th Century and have to take a common sense look at what the right to bear arms means in a modern society. In Dallas, when police officers were gunned down, no gun bearing citizen shot the perpetrator. The police took longer to find the killer because other people in the crowd were walking around with long guns strapped to their back. The writers of the Bill of Rights had no concept of modern assault rifles. Yet, even if they could imagination the weapons of the future they had no concept of modern society. Rather than trying to wrap our minds around the thoughts of citizens in the Colonial Era we need to use common sense to regulate guns to protect citizens today. The United States Supreme Court has found that the reasonable regulation of firearms does not violate the Second Amendment. Just as the First Amendment is not violated by barring a person from yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

Donald Trump talked about how the Orlando shooting could have been stopped by armed club goers. Even the NRA had the rare sense to point out, “No one thinks people should go into a nightclub drinking and caring firearms.” Chris Fox NRA’s Institute of Legislative Action.

When we consider the distrust people have towards the police fed by recent deaths of people in police custody it is a recipe for disaster. The July 9, 2016 sniper attack is an example of what happens when citizens have easy excess to military style weapons and don’t trust the government. People have to believe in justice and have respect for the police. That respect, however, must be earned.

I understand there has always been the abuse of power by police officers and others in positions of authority. Most police officers are hard working individuals who put their lives on the line for the betterment of society. Most police officers are overworked and underpaid for a thankless job. Yet, like all groups there are individuals within the ranks of police officers who are bullies. There are individuals who are racist. The advent of cell phone cameras and body cameras have brought to light the abuse of power that was swept under the rug before.

In Illinois the eavesdropping law was found unconstitutional because it was used by police to avoid being recorded. It has since been rewritten.

In addition it is frightening how many incidents, where a person dies in police custody, and police cameras are not working. It is is unlikely to be a coincidence when government controlled cameras fail to function at the moment a person is killed. In addition to those killed through police action there are those killed through inaction. How many people are dying in county jails from suicide and heroin withdraw without medical assistance?

Readily available guns and devaluing human life results in the unnecessary loss of life. One question is what steps can be taken to address this situation? Another question is if our government is willing to stand up for it’s citizens to take the steps necessary to protect us?

It is obvious we need to regulate the sale of assault rifles. It should be as hard to get a gun as a driver’s license. Automatic weapons should  be banned as well as many semi-automatic weapons. We should make efforts to keep people who are terrorists, dangerous, mentally ill and/or violent from purchasing guns.

People need to know that human life has value. A person who works 40 hours per week but can’t feed his children feels hopeless. He feels that his life has no value. This also diminishes the value he puts on the lives of others.  In the past factory owners had to treat employees as human beings because those people lived in their community. Now the factory is in China and the factory owner is a multi-national corporation.

Why are so most terrorists from the poorest countries in the world? Why don’t find a lot of wealthy people blowing themselves up? It is the absence of a hope for the future that makes them ripe to be picked by radical groups.

If citizens are denied justice they are more likely to act out violently. If a police officer violates the law he should be prosecuted just as an ordinary citizen would be. We need to be more transparent when it comes to these matters. Police records should be review-able and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests complied with. Video images of people harmed or killed in police custody should be made available to the public.

If I learned one thing from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure it is that we must be “Excellent to each other”. If we were to follow that one rule the world would be a better place.