Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dylanesque Eddie/Another Shooting Here/Nice Letter

(P1) Poetical

Pronouncing "Iraq"

Ear Rack or Ear Rock?
What implications?
(dismiss all Eye Rackers
for just who they are)

Ear Ack
Ear Ock
each tick
each tock

air attack
must whack
political hack
wolf pack
kick back
data track
pitch black
media claque
all those youngsters
ripped by flak
yack yack
spore sac

voting flock
cuckoo clock
where's John Locke
in dry dock
mental block
preening cock
full of schlock
writ in chalk
for mock and hock
loss of freedom block on block
despairing race against the clock

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(P2) Political

Please Ban Handguns, For the Common Good!

On a nice afternoon last week, I drove down to Mail & More (on Hopper & Airway) to deliver and pick up my business mail. As usual, I drove by the non-profit organization Community Resources For Independence (CRI) of which I was co-founder. To my amazement, the whole area was ringed with bright yellow police tape. Squad cars and officers were everywhere. I went into Luigi's to see if Edith was ok and to find out what had happened. She was huddled with an employee and no dining customers. She explained that there had been a shooting across the street and asked that I inquire at Mail & More as to what had happened. She also wanted to know what TV station was shooting in the parking lot. Sean at Mail & More told me that 2 kids from the continuation high school had been shot by a shooter who'd jumped out of a car. One victim was a boy shot (not fatally) in the head, the other a girl shot in the hip. The motive may have been gang-related. The school is a "baby-sitting" facility for kids expelled from other high schools.

My mind immediately went to the kids from Elsie Allen HS at a graduation party last year - good kids - one was the star of the rugby team which had just played for the national championship. Six good kids gunned down by party crashers. We all remember party crashers when we were kids. If violence broke out, it was settled with fists. We knew something of knives and chains from Westside Story, but never guns (those were the province of westerns and crime shows). After that tragedy, I emailed all of the City Council members who responded either with the rote "more enforcement" and/or "activities for kids." No one mentioned the fact that much of the gang crime was being controlled from Pelican Bay Prison in Crescent City. Anyway, the issues are big ones, and I don't think that gang violence will be easily solved.

What I did mention to Sean was my belief that handguns simply have no positive value and must be outlawed. He gave me the usual replies about hunting and that "then only the bad guys will have guns." But we've moved well beyond all this. The "guns for self defense" cry is belied by a statistic I read years ago, something like there being a 500 percent greater chance of a violent crime in a household possessing guns. The number of home invasions prevented by guns is an infinitismal fraction. It's simply time to contact legislators demanding that handguns be banned. Once they are off the legal market, certainly some criminals will find ways to obtain them, but with 90% of the availability curtailed, it stands to reason that gun crime will go way down. Gun crime and violence represents an emergency of the highest order. The lives of children are at stake. Let's do something!

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(P3) Philosophical

This lovely letter from the web site of Esther Cameron, editor of The Neovictorian/Cochlea resonates,

I want to write

to all of you, "accepted" or "rejected"
this time around, to thank you for your poems,
and also to explain in greater depth
than I could do in that brief advertisement
why I started this review, and what
I hope for from its readers and its writers.
(This is in lieu of criticism, which
some asked for, and of guidelines for next time.)
First of all, I am, like you, a poet,
but for some time have felt dissatisfied
with literary fashions that seem molded
too much by various markets, and too little
by visions of the world we’d like to make.
My view is shaped by memories of a era
when poetry was shared with friends who sought
to see the outline of a common future.
Then I heard poems, not in isolation
but as the dialogue of one great play
extending over many generations
where every one had something to contribute
and where the challenge was not to be "better"
than fellow-bard, but rather to be true
to one's own moment, one's own point upon
the continuum of human space and time --
to speak your part, whatever it might be.
Too, I've been influenced by Paul Celan,
whose work made many voices audible,
whose tragic fate seemed not just the result
of the past trauma of the Holocaust
but rather of a framework within which
his word was not allowed to make things happen.
Appalled by this, I looked toward other cultures,
read Black Elk Speaks, some Talmud, and considered
the little that is known about the Druids --
all cultures where the speakers formed a guild
with some commitment to the social welfare,
to poetry as a common enterprise
of understanding and communication.
I'd like to think that we could still rebuild this,
that it is not too late. For after all
the 'sixties were just thirty years ago,
the changes which we sought then were far-reaching --
we might have known that patience would be needed,
and willingness for long experiment.
At any rate, the poems I've selected
are those that seemed as if they might fit in
to such a dialogue -- that held some spark
of true experience or concern, conveyed
in words that came alive to tell their tale.
I have a certain preference for "form"
because I've found the forms a source of strength,
although the openness of good free verse
is something that a reader of Celan
cannot forget to honor.
If the above
has struck some chord in you, I hope you will
pursue the conversation. If I've failed
to understand your work, then please forgive me
and try again. A sample issue may
help you tune in. And last, this publication
is funded by no grants. I hope you'll feel
the company makes up for modest format,
and that you'll want to help sustain this vision
by subscribing, ordering extra copies
(besides the two contributors receive)
and sharing this with friends. The issue won't
have a "bio" section, but will print
titles of books by the contributors,
also your mailing address, if you're willing
to enter into dialogue with readers
-- please let me know.

Wishing you all the best
of vision, luck and guidance, I remain

yours sincerely,

Esther Cameron

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John N. said...

Ed, you have got to be kidding. Look at Timor, look at England. Two examples of countries where guns have been banned. The people are now under the thumb of police and military control, and they hate it. I have a ton of guns and hope like hell to keep them. The guns are not the problem, it is the people who use them ilegally. Banning guns will not stop the criminals, but will mean that those of us who are law abiding would be unable to defend ourselves. All my guns are locked in a 650 lb safe which is bolted to the floor. I have taken a basic and an advanced home protection use of guns course, and I know how to handle them safely. No one has the right to enter my home, and if they ever do the reception will be swift and I would not hesitate to use deadly force. Let's keep the guns and enforce the laws that are in place to protect us. I worked in a top security prison for years. Those guys did not give a damn for the law and would use guns without hesitation. Those are the people we need to be protected from, not the likes of me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed!

A couple of comments on your Gun Ban Entry...

Guns were a lot more accessible when you were a kid Ed (remember ordering them from the Sears catalog?), but you settled things with your fists then. Ever wonder why? Could it be that right and wrong was taught, and enforced, more when you were a kid and less so today?

The static you cited about households possessing guns is from the debunked Kellerman study (1986). The Kellerman study suggested that "Guns aren't effective defensive weapons, and are '43 to 1 times' more likely to kill their owners or family members than they are useful to defend against criminal attack."
Unfortunately, the study had methodology and statistical flaws. (A google search on "Kellerman Study" will provide some research materials to refute the study).

You also ignored the positive use of handguns. For example, the Healdsburg incident a couple of weeks ago where a homeowner used a handgun defensively to shoot and kill a former employee attacking his wife. According to the Healdsburg detective interviewed in Sunday's Press Democrat, the man had restraints and possible torture devices in the backpack he wore. A handgun ban would have left them defenseless and been potentially disasterous in that case.

In my opinion, when a person makes the decision to harm an innocent they are no longer a human being but a human predator. That was what jumped out of the car and opened fire on the kids. Thankfully, not all people are capable of making this decision, hence our horror when an example appears in our midst. Predators are the root cause of this crime. Premeditated murder is a crime that needs to be punished.

The handgun is not the cause of this tragedy. The decision to harm is the real culprit. The choice of weapon to inflict the decision is moot after the decision is reached. Any weapon could have been used (the car itself would have been a more lethal choice).

Gun bans are easy looking solutions to a very diffucult, and perhaps unsolvable, problem. From a historical perspective, bans are almost always failures (Prohibition and the War on Drugs are two obvious examples). Your proposed ban does not, nor will it ever, address the true culprit. Legislation is powerless to ban the decision it is okay to harm an innocent human being and to carry out the decision to inflict serious harm on others.



Edward Coletti said...

John and Paul,
With your thought provoking responses, you have me thinking. As ususal, people who I respect, when they disagree with me, I listen and learn. Of special interest were the Kellerman Study, the overall complexity of this issue, the home protection issues (which you know I'd already considered), and the prospect of the people being under the thumb of the state. My son John is visiting. He is very progressive in his thinking. I shared all of this with him. I was surprised when he said, "We can't take away the right to bear arms." Of course I agree in the general sense that this is one of the essential checks and balances against tyranny. However, handguns could be another story. Actually, I suppose that, if I had to choose one gun to be outlawed, it would be assault guns rather than handguns. Let's see if we get any responses from the other side on this. If not, I guess I'll just surrender--why not? You guys have the guns. Ha ha. But seriously, what's the answer? Enforcing the current laws is a nice old NRA saw, but I really don't know what that means, or how that works.

fat girl said...

I'm going to ramble incoherantly for a few minutes, just to give you a snapshot of what gun violence is like in Philly -- were we had 380 murders in 2005, most of which were argument related.

The flashpoint for violence is a hell of a lot lower than it's ever been. People are more inclined to settle things with bullets rather than fists because it's a cultural characterisic. I've been working on several articles about how this generation is so violent because they've never been taught the consequences of shootings or death. They just simply don't comprehend that dying is forever.

In Philly, at least 90 percent of the handguns on the streets are illegal -- flowing in from all kinds of sources. While a some come from straw purchases, most are being imported from other states and even other countries, along with the massive flow of drugs.

And in a sicker twist of fate, the older drug dealers (18+) are giving juveniles the guns and drugs to sell because, unless they kill someone, they won't be charged as adults.

And don't get me started on the whole "stop snitchin'" culture -- where if a crime is committed, no witnesses will come forward because of the very real fear of retaliation killings.

Multiple groups have been lobbying Harrisburg to let Philly make their own gun laws, but the legislature has completely turned their backs, citing the second amendment bullshit. I don't think the founding fathers had TEK 9s or Uzis on their mind when including that clause in the bill of rights.

Unfortunately, the handguns are already on the streets and they will keep flowing in -- regardless of whatever laws are passed (if they can get passed -- those damn NRA bastards just don't understand inner city gun pattern. People in the ghetto don't hunt deer -- they hunt people. They hunt people over cell phones and parking spaces. They hunt people because of dirty looks and perceived disrespecting.)

The culture is there -- handguns are part of reality and no matter what the laws are, they will continue to flow in -- just like the bales of pot, cocaine, heroin and all other illicit substances that are often associated with weapons.

I know I'm citing Philly information, but unfortunately, these stats are similar for many other areas of the country. The US has turned into a shooting gallery. And we can thank some very powerful cultural influences for that, including MTV and Hip-Hop.

In the past three months, I've learned more about inner city and gang violence than I ever expected. People just don't get that most inner city youth have almost immediate access to a gun - and we're not talking legal purchases. And that trend is spreading throughout the suburbs and into rural areas. Gangs now recruit via MySpace and other online networking sites. We thought we had the gang problem under control, except now the lords are being released from prison and things are firing up again. The Bloods and the Crips have set up shop in rural Pa. They came from NYC, Philly, Baltimore and Trenton. How's that for creepy.

Duncan said...

Okay, against all my better judgement (which judgement was that, then?)here I go into an argument that will not be settled to anyone's satisfaction.

First, my believe is much like Paul's and John Coletti's. The instrument is not the problem, the societal disease is; and, I adamantly, to an almost Quioxtesque degree, believe in the right to gun (including handgun) ownership AND bearing.

Second, I can't support John N.'s commitment to home/personal defense. It's a complicated issue, but declaring what action one would take and then actually taking it are two different things. Of course, John, if you're predisposed to killing some one, you probably could and would.

Third, Eddie, you've now opened the old "assault guns" issue. That's a semantical argument invented by politicians who needed something to placate constituents after some berserkoes went ballistic with semi-automatic rifles. "Gosh, if it's got a flash suppressor, it must be an assault rifle!" So, you take the suppressor off and you have exactly the same weapon, but legal to sell. It's a mug's argument and better left alone.

Fourth, Sarah believes the United States Constitution is bullshit, which is unfortunate, but her right. I think she could be dead wrong (sorry, poor choice of words) about the "NRA bastards" not understanding "inner city gun pattern". The "pattern" is not difficult to understand and Sarah has stated the case pretty well, but does the NRA (I'm not a member nor a supporter) condone and/or promote the illegal sale and possession of handguns?

Everything that Sarah writes about is a big problem, not just in Philadelphia, but the whole country. If I'm not mistaken, which is always extremely likely, the Crips and the Bloods came out of Southern California and have now spread all over the country. Some people think the Hell's Angels are a problem. They're altar boys compared to the Crips and the Bloods.

But what Sarah is talking about here is not a gun problem, it's a society problem. All she is refering to, repeatedly, is illegal firearms. Smuggled, stolen, illegally sold firearms are illegal to possess in every city, county and state in the United States of America. What I take away from Sarah's contribution is that Philadelphia/Pennsylvania cannot or will not enforce the law. Not that enforcement is easy.

As long as parents raise children with no sense of right and wrong, these problems will exist and grow in our society.

Duncan said...

Oh, shoot, I forgot something.

John N., I lived in England for eleven years and was there when all handgun ownership was banned, and long gun ownership was severely restricted. I never felt, nor did anyone I knew nor anyone I read about in England, like we were under the thumb of police and military control. Handgun ownership at the time was limited to persons who belonged to recognized shooting clubs, underwent deep background checks, were required to keep their guns at an approved and and unbelievably secure clubhouse and required to obtain a permit each time a weapon was taken out to an approved range.
The restrictions and bans were a kneejerk reaction to a couple of unfortunate incidents involving people going nuts and shooting up a couple of towns. People in England don't go nuts and shoot up towns anymore, they just blow up subways.

Larry C. said...

Ed, I can't believe I'm actually weighing in on this tough topic. But I was so WOWed by your poem (Just when I keep saying I'm not really into poetry. But I also liked "This Rendering" a lot) that I must add a couple of comments.

1) I can't support guns under any circumstances. It's got more to do with love of animals & (occasionaly) people (lol). Just an old fashioned BHL (bleeding heart liberal). What can I say? My conservative friends and/or NRA buds know it and love me anyway. Sorry, John & Paul. BUT I do fully respect your opnions. I do believe in "free speech" even when it hurts. But that's another story.

2) When our Forefathers were drafting the Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc., we lived in different times. The Right to bear arms... Hmmmmmmmmm. Although, sadly, the times are becoming more violent and turbulent in different ways.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed!

I think law enforcement is the more effective approach. I would approach it in a two pronged effort.

First. there is a federal law, US code title 18, chapter 44, section 922(1)(2) that states a convicted felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition is subject to a 10 year Federal sentence, US code title 18, chapter 44, section 924(a)(2). Demand that District Attorneys use this law against adult criminals to take the "career criminals" out of circulation. This approach was used effectively in Virginia under "Project Exile". Imagine how many drug dealers and hardened gang members we could sweep off the streets with this strategy.

Second, reform the juvenile justice system. Replace the 50's style thinking of protecting the kid from his youthful mistakes by sealing his records at eighteen with a points system. If a juvenile amasses a certain number of felony points, he is automatically tried as an adult for any felonies after that and his record is not sealed at age eighteen. I'll bet the shooter in this case has more than a couple of felonies and will continue to amass more until killed or finally jailed.

The intent of these changes is to target the predators in both groups adult or juvenile. The real question is whether our political leadership has the cojones to work and make the reforms happen.

Your son John sounds like a thinker. Nice work Dad.



Anonymous said...

Hey Eddie,
This must be proof that I at least sometimes read your blog and I am so glad I did today! I love the poem; I realized I wasn't just reading it, I was singing it! Love It. Most of your stuff I don't get but this I really did.

I agree that hand guns need to go. If there are fewer of them around there will be fewer of them in the bad guys hands. HANDGUNS are easy to conceal. HANDGUNS are easy to tranport. HANDGUNS are a lot easier to handle. I am not in favor of banning all guns, I used to hunt, but never with a HANDGUN. Be honest, how often do you hear about some one saving themselves in a home invasion with a HANDGUN.
Mark K.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Edward Coletti said...

Great comments, everyone! Controversial issue. I really don't have time to say much more right now. You may notice that I deleted a "comment." Trust me - the comment had nothing to do with our issues. Spammers try to sneak in product and service advertising, and I just will not have that.