December 25, 2008

Gloomy Christmas Meditations

Original post: December 25, 2008

Today was Christmas Day here in Tokyo. It's now 11:23 p.m., which means by the time I post this the day will be over.

Every Christmas since 2004 the first thought on my mind has been the tsunami that roared through the Indian Ocean that year and left around 230,000 people dead. On this day I always offer a silent prayer for those left behind. The dead, after all, no longer need my prayers. It's the living who bear the scars and live with the constant reminders of all they've lost.

This year I've spent most of the day doing research for a novel I've recently begun outlining. A lot of that research is focused on firearms, and that also means my mind drifts inevitably to our modern world where firearms have a reputation for being evil. How on earth an inanimate object can have a moral dimension is beyond me, but that is the reputation firearms have in the modern world.

Life is really odd. At least mine is. On April 17, 2007 (in Japan), I wrote a post about peace movements past and present. I was planning to start a long series about what peace means to me and why I think peace has eluded us for so very long. Unfortunately, while I was thinking about peace a young man named Cho was slaughtering his schoolmates. On April 18, 2007 (in Japan), I pointed out that to my mind, the entire incident was directly related to cultural marginalization of anyone who doesn't quite measure up to the glitzy, elitist assumptions of those Americans who go through life believing the world exists for the sole purpose of satisfying their every whim. On April 23, 2007 (in Japan), I reiterated my long-standing theme that individuals who are armed and vigilant have a higher survival rate than those who sit around waiting for the police to come rescue them.

My father spent his life working in law enforcement. My father, the cop, is the one who went to great lengths to teach me to shoot straight and hit what I aim at every single time. He knew first hand the sad fact that in reality, the police always arrive too late to rescue anyone. Life is not a television drama, nor is it a feature film. Out here in the real world if you are not prepared to defend yourself, sooner or later you will become a victim. There are no exceptions.

How many people could have been saved if an armed student or faculty member had killed Cho within the first few minutes of the intial shooting that triggered his rampage? How many people would have survived if a student or faculty member had shot down Harris and Klebold either out in the parking lot where their first victim fell or just as they entered the cafeteria?

Training, education, and competency. We don't need stronger gun laws. What we really need is for every single one of us to learn from a very young age how to defend ourselves when the need arises and then have incentives in place to keep those skills honed razor sharp.

I found a really odd article today. In New South Wales, Australia a rash of stabbings is prompting a call for tougher gun control! They are calling it an "amnesty". What that means is if you turn in your gun between now and the end of March they won't arrest you! Mind you, they won't refund you the purchase price or anything like that, and if you happen to be a collector I suppose you're up the creek without a paddle. There is also talk of a "tough response" to "legal" gun owners who don't "properly secure" their firearms. All this in response to a crime spree centered on knife attacks that have now become commonplace because ten years ago they bought back an estimated one-seventh of the civilian arsenal.

No, you did not read that wrong. A decade ago the Australian government bought just under 700,000 guns from its citizens and destroyed them. Now, ten years after the buy-back, they are again talking about stricter gun control in response to rising violence related to knives! I'm sorry, but I don't get it. How does a rise in knife-related crime create a need for draconian gun laws in a nation where just possessing a handgun is enough to earn a stiff jail sentence?

Sooner or later, and probably sooner, there's going to be another natural disaster with global impact. A number of geologic hotspots have been showing increased activity over the past ten years, including Yellowstone and the Marianas trench. Kiluea has been throwing out lava for over two decades now. If the igneous crust that has formed on that side of the island decides to split, it could send out a two hundred foot tsunami that destroys coastal cities stretching from Anchorage to Punta Arenas.

Life on Earth is hard, has always been hard, and will continue to be hard. Unexpected deaths are going to occur. Pain, suffering, and loss of those we love are inevitable. There are only two things that every single one of us must do in order to enjoy life on Earth: we must be born and we must die. Encouraging responsible use of firearms won't help prevent the next global disaster, but it will lessen the impact of the next crazed victim of social conformity who goes on a killing spree in a shopping mall, country church, or city school.

We can't control nature, and like it or not, nature breeds dangerous people just as easily as it produces earthquakes and hurricanes. The one thing we can do, regardless of whether it is nature or lunacy that threatens to take our life before we are ready to give it up, is be prepared. Part of that prepartion is keeping a freshly stocked first aid kit and good supply of preserved foods. An equally important part is learning fundamentals of self-defense, including the safe use of firearms. Your life depends on it and so does mine.

Tragic footnote on December 27, 2008

Man Dressed as Santa Kills 8
Santa Killer Changed Plans During Attack

I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. I am trying to counter the fear and paranoia that stories like the one above create. There were many failures that contributed to this event, all of them social in nature. What trauma from his childhood left him with the inability to accept the failure of his marriage? What scars and insecurities in both he and his ex-wife caused them to separate with so much pain and anger after only a year of marriage? Why was no one in the house armed, trained, and prepared to defend themselves?

We need to find solutions for the social inequities that lead to these kind of crimes. Each of us individually needs to learn how to forgive and forget when things go wrong. Most important of all, we all need to learn both how to meet the needs of those around us and how to clearly communicate our own needs without demanding that others make unwelcome sacrifices in order to meet those needs.

Love and tolerance, the old-fashioned Biblical kind, is the key to a better future for everyone. Intolerance, prejudice, and egocentricity are the main causes of violence in our world. It's not the guns we need to control, it's our own selfish desires and the narcissistic belief that other people exist for the sole purpose of servicing our needs.

Last but not least, we need to be trained and prepared to defend ourselves and our families when a gun-toting Santa comes knocking at the front door.