This is a post I never wanted to write. When I started this blog back in June 2003 I was hoping to showcase stories and poems. 9/11 had left me emotionally shattered. I had watched from half a world away the deaths of thousands. It took weeks before we even had a correct figure on the death toll. I have seen many painful moments in my life, but 9/11 left me feeling completely useless. It took years for me to be able to read a newspaper, open a news channel, or pick up a news magazine. I felt as if shadowy forces I would never comprehend had taken complete control of my world, my nation, and my life. It was only much later that I learned three people I knew had died in the initial inferno and two more were in the street below when the towers came tumbling down. By June 2003 I was barely a shell of my former self and I hoped this blog would help me write my way back to sanity.
At first, I focused on games and anecdotes from life in Tokyo. I did not even want to think about the wars in the Middle East. Instead, I did my very best to ignore the entire world by immersing myself in online games. Sadly, the cruelty and sadism of the larger world invaded the games I was playing. MMORPGs morphed almost overnight from glorious virtual reality chat rooms into vicious battlegrounds where people of all ages fought for supremacy as well as hot markets for internet sales of stolen virtual merchandise. My pleasant, virtual diversions had become the core environment far too many people depended on to destroy as many lives as possible in order to validate their own self-worth. In about 2005 or 2006 the raw anger and unmitigated cruelty of newcomers to the world of MMORPGs had completely shattered my delusion that humanity had finally perfected itself. I learned the hard way that "common sense" ethics and morality did not extend to online gaming. This confused me terribly. I had long believed that humanity was on the verge of a new era of spiritual enlightenment, social progress, and individual tolerance. Yes, in those days I believed in Unicorns.
For a couple of years I wandered aimlessly trying to find some kind of social safe harbor. None existed. Then Barack Obama, an unknown freshman Senator from Illinois, was heralded by Time Magazine as America's first foreign born politician. His Kenyan birth, his young life in Malaysia, his adolescence in Hawaii were trumpeted high and low as the harbingers of a new era of global tolerance and governance. He was thrust into the forefront of American politics as a new kind of presidential candidate, an educated man with a global mind who had seen firsthand the struggles of the world's poor. There were whispers the Dalai Lama had declared him Buddha reborn. Was this the new Messiah who would lead the world into the final Age of Aquarius?
In 2008 I returned to the United States for the first time in over twenty years. I had spent my entire adult life overseas. Now that my children had become young men I decided it was time to return to my homeland and help my nation move forward into this new age of enlightenment. I was shocked and horrified to discover almost no one understood a word of what I was saying. I was speaking English, but they heard only gibberish. I did what I have always done in that situation: I shut up and listened!
Listening helped me learn to focus down on facts. Raw, undisputed facts. Solid facts. Rocks, tree, confirmed death counts, injury reports, catalogs of findings. 2008 to 2010 were years of sudden advanced learning in a school I had completely ignored: the school of life. I listened to people who denied Barack Obama had been born overseas, and I listened to people who insisted he had been born in Kenya. I listened to people who said America needed nationalized medicine and I listened to people who said nationalized medicine was a precursor to plague and starvation. I listened to people who said aliens had destroyed the World Trade Center and I listened to people explain exactly how and why jet fuel could burn hot enough to weaken steel girders. I learned both the history of Christianity and the precepts of Maliki Jurisprudence and how the centuries old conflict between the two had made 9/11 inevitable. It took me two years of quiet listening to find my way back. Along the way the most important lesson I learned was how to recognize the difference between facts and interpretations. This, in turn, helped me learn to recognize false conspiracy theories and fake news reports. I poured what I was learning into this blog. 132 posts in 2009, my record year.
One of the great shocks upon my return to the United States in 2008 was the discovery that two schools of thought existed about our Constitution. In one school of thought, it was a flexible legal document of idealistic proposals subject to frequent amendments and daily reinterpretation. In the other school of thought, it was a sacrosanct document intended for direct literal application to the Federal Government in order to prevent the Federal Government from ever overwriting the rights and prerogatives of the individual States. I learned that the real reason for the Southern Succession and the Civil War was the increasing tendency of factions within the Federal Government to impose their will on the new territories joining the Union. The rights of slaveowners were set into direct conflict with those who sought to defend the rights of slaves. Property versus community, common law versus common sense, a progressive elite backed by industrialization that sought to liberate slaves from agriculturalists who could not imagine surviving without slave labor. Both sides claimed that "common sense" guided their priorities and "God above" led their campaign.
Between combat, disease, and displacement, nearly a million Americans died in that conflict. The slaves gained their freedom, but the social fabric of the nation has never recovered. All of the political and social divisions present in the United States today are a direct result of the hatreds and prejudices that locked the nation on a path to Civil War. A million dead in a war that we are still fighting today. Now, instead of bullets and burnt crops we are using words that flash around the world at the speed of light. Even the social upheaval that destroyed my joy of gaming was a direct result of our nation's inability to agree on whether we are one democratic nation undivided or a loose federation of states organized as a constitutional republic.
Without even knowing it, I have been fighting this battle my entire life long. My family's deep roots, going all the way back to Jamestown and Plymouth Colony, has created in me a very deep patriotism and an unshakable faith in the United States as a people and as a nation. When you factor in the intermarriage with women from native tribes and the one crazy ancestor who enjoyed raping his slaves, the history of my family is the history of America. We have been here from the very beginning. We have fought in every war. We fought on both sides of the Civil War. The blood that this nation is built upon is our blood. That perspective has given us a vested and very real interest in both the creation and the interpretation of the Constitution. The same philosophical divisions that divide the nation also divide us. Some of us are literal Constitutionalists while some of us are interpretative Constitutionalists. Some of us vote straight Democratic Party tickets in every election while some of us vote straight Republican Party tickets. And yes, just like in the greater community of Americans, some of us vote independent of party affiliation. This is a perspective all you newcomers who arrived at Ellis Island and after can never understand. Your perspective is not wrong or bad, it's just lacking tens of generations of blood and guts that you did not have to participate in. By the time you folks arrived, the place was pretty much settled and the worst of our barbarism had worked itself out on battlefields you can visit but can never own the way we own them. That blood staining the grass on Bunker Hill, Cemetery Hill, Little Big Horn, and Wounded Knee? That's our blood, not yours. Yes, it does make a difference.
So when some self-righteous Senator or angry young man goes on CNN and blathers on about "common sense", those two words mean something much different to me than they do to them. "Common Sense Gun Control" in my family is dry powder, a clean firearm, and six shots on a six-inch plate at one hundred yards with open sights. This definition is never going to change. It can't change. We have lost too many loved ones, taken too many lives, and won too many hard fought battles that we could just as easily have lost, to think of "Common Sense Gun Control" as anything except good preparation and proper training. We built this nation. We built it on the blood of our brothers and sisters and the deaths of our enemies. Almost all of us are NRA members, even the ones who agree with you about limiting or restricting "assault weapons" and "high capacity magazines".
This is why the "gun control" debate had reversed direction ever since the rise of the information age. We know what you're doing. We share what we learn about your plans and tactics. We have been analyzing intelligence and finding weak points in our opposition for almost three hundred years. You had us on the retreat when you controlled the information flow, but now that control is broken. Scream all you like. Call us names. Tell us we lack "common sense" or "insight" or "intelligence" or "compassion". Treat us like peasants and label us "deplorable racists". None of that changes anything. We built this country brick by brick with our blood, our sweat, and yes, our "common sense".
You can't win this fight. Stop screaming at us about dead children. We see their broken bodies and it breaks our hearts just as deeply as it does yours. Do you really want to compare how many children your family and mine have lost to violence? We know your pain. It is because we know your pain that we resist your efforts to limit our access to the tools we need to survive. Self-defense is a human right. An AR-15 with a 30-round magazine is indisputably the best tool for self-defense, bar none! Maybe you trust the police and the FBI and the ATF, but we are the police, the FBI, and the ATF. We've been doing these jobs since the foundation of the U.S. Marshalls service. Before that we were Texas Rangers, "American bobbies", foot soldiers, commanders, judges, justices, and even a few felons. My father was a Police Officer who wrote many of the policies and procedures that his former police department is still using. One member of my family is an FBI agent, another used to work in the FBI genetics lab. I was in the U.S. Army during the Reagan years.
Stop waving the bodies of your dead children in our faces. We understand your pain. We feel your pain. Our guns are not the problem. We're not giving them up because you feel frightened every time some broken Democrat that you've bullied and mistreated goes on a shooting rampage. Maybe if you stopped bullying one another and learned to listen you would stop creating these violent madmen?
Common sense gun control? From where I sit, that means liberal progressives (Democrats and Republicans alike!) need to stop emotionally abusing people who disagree with them. That definitely seems like a good "common sense" solution to me.