Members of Congress cowed by the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobbying power, and its extensive war chest, which it uses unashamedly against legislators deemed ‘soft’ on gun control issues, continue to do the association’s bidding. The ‘Gang of Fear’ came together recently to defeat proposed legislation for enhanced background checks for gun purchasers. As it does with all legislation designed to bring rationality to the purchase and possession of firearms, the NRA’s knee-jerk reaction to the proposed law was that it was a ‘first step to confiscation of our firearms.’
This argument seems to presuppose that there is, somewhere in government, a group that sits in a room plotting to relieve ALL Americans of ALL of their guns. Shudder! A truly scary thought; except that it’s so far from the reality of how our chaotic, short-term focus bureaucratic and political systems work, it’s laughable. Anyone who thinks the U.S. Government does this kind of long term planning has only to look at our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, I digress. Let’s get back to background checks. The intent of the legislation, as I understand it, was to establish procedures that would go a long way to keep guns out of the hands of felons, the emotionally or mentally disabled, etc. News reports and surveys indicate that over 80% of the American public, including a significant number of NRA members, supported the proposed law. One has to wonder, then, why the leadership of NRA and the Gang of Fear so adamantly opposed it. But, I’ll leave that for others or for another time.
Right now, I’d like to put another issue on the table – one that I’ve not seen discussed – liability. Are those who block rules that would curb access to guns by people who clearly should not be allowed to have them liable for the harm such people cause? Now, I seriously doubt such an argument would stand up in a court of law. After all, efforts to hold gun manufacturers liable have gone nowhere, so a case like this is unlikely to ever be brought. But, it does raise an interesting ethical and moral issue. Are you morally and ethically responsible if your actions help create conditions that inflict harm on others?
Would it have been useful to have enhanced background checks that would have limited the ability of Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, who had been previously diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder, from obtaining the weapons he used on April 16, 2007 to kill 32 people and wound 17 others on the school campus? Or Jared Loughner, a disturbed young man who bought ammunition on the same day he attempted to kill U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords during a constituent meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona, near Tucson. The January 8, 2011 shooting claimed the lives of six people, including a nine-year-old girl.
Going back further in time, would stiffer backgrounds have made it more difficult for Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, a member of the disciple of murderous cult leader Charles Manson, get her hands on the .45 caliber automatic which she waved at former president Gerald Ford in Sacramento in April 1975, or Sara Jane Moore, who shot at Ford 17 days later in San Francisco? We might never know, because those opposed to rational controls over gun ownership also try to block debate and discussion of the issue, hiding behind the Second Amendment.
These are but a few of the incidents of clearly disturbed individuals being able to acquire arms and ammunition under our current regime of lax and haphazardly applied controls.
It’s not a Second Amendment issue. In my humble opinion, it’s an issue of stepping up to the plate and assuming moral and ethical responsibility for the violence that has become endemic in our society. More than 80% of the American public gets it. When will the Gang of Fear?
In the 19th century, English textile workers, known as the Luddites, protested the labor-saving machines that had been introduced into factories, enabling the hiring of less-skilled, lower-wage laborers, leaving them unemployed. No one is completely sure of the origin of the name Luddite, but it’s generally believed to be after Ned Ludd, a young man who in 1781, allegedly smashed two stocking frames in the factory in which he worked. Rather than being anti-technology, as is commonly believed today, the Luddites were really protesting chronic underemployment and exploitation of workers by the capitalists who controlled the factories.
In Framed: A Historical Novel about the Revolt of the Luddites, Christy Fearn gives us a look at the so-called Luddite revolution through the eyes of one family. Facing the possibility of unemployment because of the introduction of new machinery, they decide to take matters into their own hands – and the smashing begins. Fearn does a good job of showing how individuals might have reacted to the chaotic economic conditions of the time. She has her textile workers using French on occasion, and while I can’t say this would have been the case in 1811, it comes across as credible, given the way she describes them. There is also a lot in Framed about clashes between the militia and the rebels; again, showing the human side of it. After all, most of the soldiers came from the same socio-economic background.
A novel of action and suspense, of manners, and of great psychological depth, that goes beneath the surface of setting and characters, revealing what lies beneath. If you like historical fiction that rings true, you’ll like reading Framed.
Fourteen-year-old Bryanna McConnaichie, while riding a bus home, receives a cryptic warning from a strange woman with webbed hands, “Your father’s time is running out.” She doesn’t understand why her father, cryptozoologist Angus McConnaichie, should be in danger until he’s kidnapped by another strange woman right before her eyes. In her quest to rescue him, Bryanna finds herself moving between Scotland and Alba, and encountering strange creatures that, until that time, she had thought to be mere figments of her active imagination. During her search, she learns that her father is the Guardian protecting Scotland and the ‘other’ worlds from all manner of evil, and that she’s a half-blood with magical powers. She encounters Kaylee, another half-blood, who might be a friend – but, who also might be a deadly enemy.
In Scotland’s Guardian, by German writer Katherina Gerlach, you’ll find non-stop action from page one, written in an engaging and entertaining manner that will keep you on the edge of our chair. Gerlach brings creatures from Scotland’s rich history of mythology to life in a way that makes you believe in them. Her characters are believable, and, even the bad guys elicit sympathy.
A crisp tale, told in Gerlach’s unique style, this is a definite must-read for anyone interested in fantasy and myth. In fact, it just might be the book to interest those who’ve never read a fantasy novel before.
Author’s Note: This is a post I wrote at the end of the last HIFA. I’m sharing it again because HIFA is just taking place in Zimbabwe and I’m not there to see the great performances. I wanted to share this with my readers so they, too, can know what wonders there can be even in a country that is as troubled sometimes as Zimbabwe is. Comments and feedback are welcomed.
Today is the final day of the 2012 Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). This year’s festival has been marked by some first-rate performances, domestic and international, and the closing day is usually the day the headline acts show their best. For me, though, the highlight of HIFA is an Irish play, The Cambria, which tells of the American abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglas’s flight to Ireland and England in August 1847 aboard The Cambria, a paddle steamer that was the flagship of the Cunard Line.
Douglas was an escaped slave, subject to being captured and returned to bondage, but when his famous and popular biography was published, making him a potent symbol of the northern abolitionist movement, slaveholders put a large bounty on his head – dead or alive. Supporters assisted him in getting passage on The Cambria, where he traveled under an assumed name. In England and Ireland, he appeared as a speaker, sharing the podium with the noted anti-slavery activist Daniel O’Connell. In a letter Douglas wrote from Ireland in 1845, he said, “. . . people here in Ireland measure and esteem men according to their moral and intellectual worth, and not according to the colour of their skin.” This is also the closing line of the play, and for history buffs, the similarity to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream that one day in America, people will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin,” resonates in a deeply stirring manner.
Writer-performer Donal O’Kelly and performer Sorcha Fox give absolutely stunning performances as they play multiple roles, transporting audiences to the decks, cabins, and holds of The Cambria, complete with the ominous fog of the North Atlantic. Due to an foot injury Fox suffered after coming to Harare, making it difficult for her to walk, last minute adjustments had to be made with the two seated throughout the two-act play. If I hadn’t been told this I would never have known.
The essence of good drama, as with good writing, is getting an audience to suspend disbelief. O’Kelly and Fox are masters at doing this. The transformation as O’Kelly switches from Douglas, a black character, to the slave owner Dodd, is nothing short of magical, and Fox plays adult and child characters effectively, and even comes across credibly when she’s representing male characters.
Only someone with a heart of granite could sit through this performance without being moved – to tears even – so profound is the story and so flawless the acting. This is Irish drama at its very best; great script, good direction, but most of all, top level performances by two of Ireland’s finest. The Cambriahas played to rave reviews on the New York stage, and now it has come to Harare and HIFA. Five stars to the performers, five stars to the material, and thanks to the organizers who had the foresight to bring this great play here.
- International Artists Bring New Excitement to Zimbabwe (voanews.com)
- Outfit Post: Pastel blue, lilac purple & HIFA (namesjaney.wordpress.com)
- Harare International Festival of the Arts 2012 (africareports.wordpress.com)
A warning to Internet users from my other blog:
A short article on Foreign Affairs Day 2013, Washington, DC.
Buffalo Soldier: Renegade is available free for Kindle April 3-7 only!
Various videos from Angel thunder 2013
Another of my featured photos on PhotoBotos: http://www.photobotos.com/?utm_source=PhotoBotos&utm_campaign=1fa206d462-29_04_2013&utm_medium=email