40 stories
1 follower

The United States of Guns

1 Comment and 8 Shares

Like many of you, I read the news of a single person killing at least 10 people in Santa Fe, Texas today. While this is an outrageous and horrifying event, it isn’t surprising or shocking in any way in a country where more than 33,000 people die from gun violence each year.

America is a stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of gun violence. We’ll keep waking up, stuck in the same reality of oppression, carnage, and ruined lives until we can figure out how to effect meaningful change. I’ve collected some articles here about America’s dysfunctional relationship with guns, most of which I’ve shared before. Change is possible — there are good reasons to control the ownership of guns and control has a high likelihood of success — but how will our country find the political will to make it happen?

An armed society is not a free society:

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”:

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains — “besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily — sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Roger Ebert on the media’s coverage of mass shootings:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Jill Lepore on the United States of Guns:

There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane’s parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather’s barn.

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths:

The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it’s not easy to do. The process is detailed in David Kopel’s landmark study on Japanese gun control, published in the 1993 Asia Pacific Law Review, still cited as current. (Kopel, no left-wing loony, is a member of the National Rifle Association and once wrote in National Review that looser gun control laws could have stopped Adolf Hitler.)

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Australia’s gun laws stopped mass shootings and reduced homicides, study finds:

From 1979 to 1996, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths was rising at 2.1% per year. Since then, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths has been declining by 1.4%, with the researchers concluding there was no evidence of murderers moving to other methods, and that the same was true for suicide.

The average decline in total firearm deaths accelerated significantly, from a 3% decline annually before the reforms to a 5% decline afterwards, the study found.

In the 18 years to 1996, Australia experienced 13 fatal mass shootings in which 104 victims were killed and at least another 52 were wounded. There have been no fatal mass shootings since that time, with the study defining a mass shooting as having at least five victims.

From The Onion, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens:

At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

But America is not Australia or Japan. Dan Hodges said on Twitter a few years ago:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

This can’t be the last word on guns in America. We have to do better than this for our children and everyone else whose lives are torn apart by guns. But right now, we are failing them miserably, and Hodges’ words ring with the awful truth that all those lives and our diminished freedom & equality are somehow worth it to the United States as a society.

Tags: guns   USA
Read the whole story
1 day ago
Share this story
1 public comment
4 days ago

Devilish bare shoulders in the early 1900s (For more info, visit...

1 Share

Devilish bare shoulders in the early 1900s (For more info, visit Old Time Religion; For a related post, click here http://christiannightmares.tumblr.com/post/152127296756/the-sin-of-lying-awesome-vintage-christian-tract)

Read the whole story
14 days ago
Share this story

So This Is How It Feels

1 Share

So This is How it Feels… from Chalky Wong

Read the whole story
15 days ago
Share this story

From Metropolis to Dirty Computer: A Guide to Janelle Monáe's Time-Traveling Musical Odyssey

1 Share

When you play one of Janelle Monáe’s albums, you aren’t just taking a winding tour through the musical influences that have shaped the artist’s intoxicating, soul-piercing voice. You’re tapping into a part of an expansive Afrofuturist saga about identity, revolution, time travel, and (of course) androids.


Read the whole story
15 days ago
Share this story

The illiterate teacher

1 Comment and 2 Shares

John Corcoran was slow to talk as a child and then when he got to school, he didn’t learn to read right away. Or in the years following. He graduated from high school and college not being able to read or write…and then got a job teaching high school.

So I graduated from college, and when I graduated there was a teacher shortage and I was offered a job. It was the most illogical thing you can imagine — I got out of the lion’s cage and then I got back in to taunt the lion again.

Why did I go into teaching? Looking back it was crazy that I would do that. But I’d been through high school and college without getting caught — so being a teacher seemed a good place to hide. Nobody suspects a teacher of not knowing how to read.

I taught a lot of different things. I was an athletics coach. I taught social studies. I taught typing — I could copy-type at 65 words a minute but I didn’t know what I was typing. I never wrote on a blackboard and there was no printed word in my classroom. We watched a lot of films and had a lot of discussions.

I remember how fearful I was. I couldn’t even take the roll — I had to ask the students to pronounce their names so I could hear their names. And I always had two or three students who I identified early — the ones who could read and write best in the classroom — to help me. They were my teaching aides. They didn’t suspect at all — you don’t suspect the teacher.

This story is not very complimentary about the US educational system (or society for that matter). BTW, I’m not sure it mattered very much that Corcoran taught while illiterate. For all we know, he was a good teacher whose discussion-based methods and empowerment of student-teachers were more effective than multiple choice tests in fostering learning. I’m much more bothered that he didn’t get the help he needed as a child…and about all the assumptions about reading and learning that are built into our educational system.

Tags: education   John Corcoran
Read the whole story
34 days ago
This. Is. CahRAZY.
Share this story

The Ultimate Tribute to WPIX.

1 Comment

This is my long, meandering tribute to WPIX.

In the various iterations of my childhood bedroom, there was always a television but never a cable box. I quickly learned that most broadcast TV networks were only good for Saturday cartoons and weeknight sitcoms.

WPIX — aka “Channel 11” — filled every other gap. It was what I watched when I got home from school, and through the deadest parts of the weekend, and during my latest waking hours. It was my default channel. The mutant soundtrack of my private life. Always there, always on.

Until 1994, WPIX was a smallish, independent TV station, but one that aired — in the New York area, at least — on broadcast television. Even as a kid, I recognized that it wasn’t on the same level as ABC, NBC or CBS. In many ways, it felt like the mom-and-pop version of a TV station. Like something George Newman would’ve thrown together if he were a little more serious.

I loved it so damn much.

WPIX billed itself as “New York’s movie station,” but that was only half of the story. From sitcom reruns to weekday cartoons to special spookfests, WPIX shaped more of my passions than I’ve ever given it credit for.

It took months to gather the materials for this tribute. Only after raiding dozens of old VHS tapes could I confidently make WPIX’s case. Given that a comparative few of you have ever even heard of WPIX, I can’t say that it was a smart use of resources.

Whatever. I don’t care. This one’s just for me.

Below are seven reasons why WPIX was the best.

1) WPIX was THE station to watch after school.

It had stiff competition from Fox, but during the years that mattered most to someone my age, WPIX was what you watched when you got home from school. From 3-5 PM, every single weekday.

Around here, WPIX was the station that ran TMNT on weekdays — complete with those weird bumpers that were voiced by some ungodly combination of Krang and Bebop. Perhaps even more importantly, WPIX was where you settled in for The Disney Afternoon.

Despite TMNT’s run on Saturday mornings, kids like me never considered it a “Saturday” cartoon. Instead, it was our reward for getting through another riotously bad day at school. My obsession with the Ninja Turtles never would’ve taken root without those weekday airings.

And The Disney Afternoon? Forget it. Two straight hours of cartoons, beginning at 3 and ending at 5. It was the perfect procrastinational tool.

(For the record, I was most fond of the original Disney Afternoon lineup, which consisted of Gummi Bears, DuckTales, Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin. I accepted Darkwing Duck well enough, but never forgave Goof Troop for knocking Scrooge McDuck into retirement.)

2) Those spooky promos.

WPIX ran plenty of horror movies, and virtually all of them had custom promo spots. Since WPIX was less conservative than the bigger networks, those promos could be downright frightening.

Watch that spot for Salem’s Lot, and then compare it to what CBS aired years earlier. The WPIX version is disturbing even by today’s standards, and keep in mind, you might’ve seen that promo during completely saccharine afternoon sitcoms.

Since horror had such a home on WPIX, commercial breaks were always games of roulette. I was easily spooked as a kid, and you just never knew when something like that Salem’s Lot promo was gonna rise up and bite you.

If that sounds like me complaining, I’m not! In retrospect, I see that those promos added an air of excitement to all of WPIX’s programming. Even during a goddamned Happy Days rerun, you were never safe.

As I’ve said before, you’re never bored when you’re scared.

3) WPIX made me a horror fan.

Even if some of the promos scared me, watching horror movies was a natural byproduct of watching WPIX. In fact, the first horror movies I ever saw on purpose were on WPIX.

That was largely thanks to their horror marathons and “stunts.” Some would last a weekend, others might go for a whole week, and still others — like Shocktober — could eat up an entire month. You couldn’t avoid them, and after seeing the awesome promos for the zillionth time, you stopped wanting to.

You’ve probably heard me gush about Shocktober before. During October of 1991 and again in ‘92, WPIX spent the Halloween season running horror movies on an almost-nightly basis — everything from Elvira: Mistress of the Dark to The Wraith to Deadly Friend.

I still remember watching Dream Warriors during Shocktober, and feeling like I’d just discovered a new theme park. Horror was fun! (And hell, those TV edits — free of the worst gore — made it easy for a rookie like me to dip his toe.)

4) Movies anytime, movies everywhere.

WPIX had a huge movie library, and they slugged those fuckers in all over the place. Piranha II, Saturday at 2? Sure, why not?

Most of the movies had long since completed their exclusive runs on cable networks. They weren’t “new” by anyone’s measure. WPIX occasionally scored broadcast television premieres, but it was usually with the sorts of movies that bigger networks wouldn’t have wanted.

It was a major contributor to what would become one of my lifelong credos. I’ve been running “nostalgia websites” for the better part of twenty years, but for me, nostalgia is the secondary point. It’s not that I think things are good because they’re old, it’s that I don’t like to let good things die simply because they’re old.

I think I learned that from WPIX. Channel 11 may not have been much of a creator, but it was one hell of a curator. With all of those great promos masterfully voiced by the late Doug Paul, WPIX could make ten-year-old movies seem as fresh and cool as ever. WPIX didn’t “dust off” — it propped up.

5) Sitcom crash courses.

If you’re younger than me and have ever wondered why people my age seem to have encyclopedic knowledge on an impossibly huge number of sitcoms, it’s because of stations like WPIX.

WPIX spent 3-4 hours on sitcoms every weeknight, and sometimes even more during the weekend. Most of those sitcoms were long out of production, but others — like, say, Growing Pains — were still in the midst of their prime time runs on bigger networks.

There was a huge difference between watching Growing Pains once a week on ABC and watching it ten times a week on WPIX. The latter was binge-watching before binge-watching was a thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever considered myself a genuine fan of The Hogan Family, but I could tell you literally every teensy weird thing about that show.

6) Late nights with WPIX.

I was a night owl, and my bedroom was my sanctuary. As a kid who could only stomach talk shows on special occasions, WPIX was the only broadcast station that aired reasonably watchable things during the late hours.

WPIX’s late night lineups changed many times over the years, but some of the more prominently-featured shows were Cheers, The Honeymooners and Tales from the Darkside. At various points in WPIX’s existence, each of them had the 11:30 PM weekday time slot, effectively acting as the “last call” for anyone needing a distraction.

I always did.

Because I usually saw Cheers just before hours of nothingness, I view it differently than most. For me, that was a sad show. A signal that the night was over. It only now hits me that the Cheers ending theme wasn’t nearly as depressing as I’ve long considered it to be.

The Honeymooners was already ancient even back then, and I can’t imagine that many same-aged kids were fellow viewers. Hey, it was either Ralph Kramden or a thirty-minute commercial for Cathy’s Snackmaster. Most of the time, Ralph won.

Naturally, Tales from the Darkside was my favorite of WPIX’s “final” shows. It made sleep an attractive prospect, because what kid wanted to sneak around a dark, lifeless house after watching that? It was a safe sedative for the sugar-rushed.

7) WPIX made even the worst weekends bearable.

I was a lonely kid, and the weekends could be rough. Even the thickest stack of comics to bag and board couldn’t keep me from thinking that I should be out there, somewhere, doing things with actual people.

WPIX was a surrogate friend, and I never appreciated my buddy more than I did on Saturday afternoons. As good as the big networks were on weeknights, they could be absolutely wretched during the weekend.

On WPIX, a random Saturday might’ve been stuffed with eight syndicated shows. I savored them all. They made noise when I needed noise most. Television brings a vague sense of camaraderie, and knowing that there were other people watching Captain Picard at the same time made me feel so much less alone.

I could go on, but this is already over 1500 words and I don’t want to melt your brain.

WPIX became affiliated with Warner Bros. Television in 1994, and was eventually rebranded as The WB 11. It wasn’t the same station that I’d grown up with, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was. By the later part of the ‘90s, I finally had places to be and people to see. WPIX lasted for exactly as long as I needed it to.

In my spaciest moments, that seems like too much of a coincidence to be one.

Read the whole story
45 days ago
It’s not that I think things are good because they’re old, it’s that I don’t like to let good things die simply because they’re old.
Share this story
Next Page of Stories