Guns don’t kill people, but some shouldn’t have them

Yesterday marked the first of what I think will be many demonstrations in the streets of America and other locations around the globe, protesting gun violence. When I turned on my computer this morning, I was not the least bit surprised to see the counter demonstration to the throngs marching in hopes that there would be some manner of gun control forthcoming from our elected officials. Of course, people have the right to demonstrate and to counter-demonstrate. I suppose the thing that bothered me most was the visual aids some counter-demonstrators brought to the party, their guns. Why for God sakes was that necessary?

I try my best not to be too rude in my blogging; however, there seems to be something wrong with people who seem to have something far beyond a hobby-like affinity for guns. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about the protest the young people are adding to the mix. He, an African American, was quick to point out that he wanted access to whatever type of gun is currently being sold. If assault rifles are being marketed and sold to the general populations, he wants the opportunity to buy the same. I was quick to point out to him that I couldn’t see the need for having such firepower in the hands of common-every-day citizens. His response was that may be the case, but he never wanted to come up short. The conversation ended with that comment.

Getting back to the counter-demonstrators, who brought their weapons to the anti-gun-violence demonstrations, for some reason they think people marching for some degree of sensible gun control means they are trying to take our guns away. I suppose I can see the paranoid logic in that thinking. You know, the trite notion that if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile has happened in the past. (History has shown us that it oftentimes happens for the good of the order.) The problem I have with that mode of thought is that miles, in the measurement of human lives, are already being taken in America. Aren’t the lives of our fellow citizens more important than a constitutional right to bear arms without some sensible laws in place? Shouldn’t there be stronger legal attempts in place to ensure that guns are being placed in the hands of citizens who are more likely to abide by the law than others? Even that wouldn’t prevent occasions when heated emotions would avail themselves of access to a legally purchased weapon to cause harm to a friend or loved one, who has landed on the wrong side of an argument.

As I watched the news feeds of the demonstrations, I couldn’t help but think how unfortunate it is that there can’t even be a meeting of minds on an important issue such as this. Our young people have taken it upon themselves to make some noise about an issue that became a public health matter years ago. How many more of our future citizens must be gunned down in our schools before our elected officials are moved to do something, something rational, caring, effective? I always sign off by saying: “I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.” The way things are trending many more of our young, school-aged citizens won’t be able to make that statement.
I’m old and blessed…hope will be too.

The value of escapism to Wakanda

I mentioned in my last blog that I would be writing something about the phenomenon known as Black Panther. Of course, I’m not talking about the activist organization formed during the civil rights era in response to racism, and injustice experienced by African-Americans. Instead, I’m referring to the cinematic blockbuster that premiered worldwide during this past President’s Day weekend.

Recently, I happened upon a YouTube broadcast called “The Stream.” This show had several surveyors of popular culture from the continent of Africa and one African-American. They were having a deep discussion about the social, cultural, political, and just about every implication one could contrive, all centered around the Black Panther movie. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was being said, while also thinking about the question of how anyone could glean all of this from a movie. I found it interesting that all the Africans couldn’t say enough positive things about the movie. They meandered on about how the movie was a hit on the continent, and how people were standing in line to see it. They also cemented for me the idea that the movie was a diverse representation of all things African; all things that might have been culturally, if not technologically, in some African nations minus the negative impact of colonialism.

Out of all I heard said during the conversation, things I had the most problem with came from the mouth of the African-American. This young lady talked about how much she enjoyed the movie. She was quite charitable with her praise of the cinematic venture; however, she felt strongly that the movie had only a vague identification with African-Americans. Shocked, to say the least, was my emotional response to this opinion. What about the concept of globalism as it relates to people of African ancestry, as well as people of color around the world? This movie, though imaginary in much of its construction, presented an ideal picture of what an African nation might look like if not damaged by colonialism. There would be no African Americans, if not for the raping of a continent via colonization. History shows us what colonist do to a culture, and it’s not to betterment the people who are colonized.

While I’m on the topic of cinematic imagination, do you remember the movie Avatar? This movie was one of the best examples of art imitating life. In it, we saw a corporate entity, with seemingly boundless resources, traveling across unfathomable miles of space to reach a resource-rich planet. The bad guys and gals in this movie weren’t concerned with improving the lot of the denizens who occupied the planet, instead plundering for economic gain was the dark calling for journeying there. Of course, movies have the luxury of giving us heroes in the short amount of time they exist on the screen, who can right all the wrongs that have befallen a people or a species. We saw the beginning of the introduction of justice in the movie, a few minutes before the credits ran. I’ve been waiting anxiously to see if the serving of justice will continue in the sequel.

I always find myself reveling in the escapism movies such as Black Panther and Avatar present. Although the few hours of sitting in a dark room with others, watching how great things are in Wakanda is pure escapism, the experience tells me that the human mind can envision a better experience for us all. Can any of us argue with the concept that: If we can conceive it, we can go a long way to making it a reality? Reality always begins in the mind first. There is nothing we see around us that didn’t begin in thought. Escapism has value. Many of the technological conveniences we have today, began as toys/props in the ancient Star Trek TV series of the 1960s. The cell phone, iPad, flat screen TV’s, etc. were gadgets we saw as, “what ifs” way back in the last century, but now we can’t live without.

The two hours given folks to sit in African garb, while watching Wakandans being quite satisfied with their legacy, is a valuable example of how much many of us long for a better reality. One where certain Peoples of the world are energetically welcoming pop-culture representation of folks who look like them on the big screen. One where these folks have evolved to heights culturally, politically and technologically unseen in the real world. Escapism has value; in many cases it fosters a new reality, or one would hope.

I’m old and blessed…hope you’ll be too.

Emotions, sometimes you just can’t control them

February 18 through 24 was an emotional week for me. Occasionally, my emotions will crash the gate and take an uncharted spin. Monday of that week, my wife and I took a trip to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a federal holiday and what better time to visit the facility than when entry is free. We had been wanting to see the Nelson Mandela exhibit for some time. We saw it, and it was not disappointing in the least bit. Although not disappointing, it did touch my emotions at the rawest of levels. Exhibits like this are often hard for me to process emotionally. I recall, a few years ago we went to Memphis to visit the civil rights museum, which houses some very moving exhibits from the Civil Rights struggle, during the fifties and sixties. Half way through the facility, I found myself sensing a heaviness of heart. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. Then, I realized the sheer weight of my personal memories of what occurred during that time had overwhelmed me.

As I viewed the replica of the cell (8 ft. by 7 ft.) Nelson Mandela was forced to live in for twenty-seven years, I found myself yanking on the leash of my emotions, trying to place them behind the gate from which they had escaped. The entire exhibit showed the contrast between the horrors of Apartheid the black people of South Africa had to contend with and the intestinal fortitude of a people, who were determined to fight the injustice forced upon them. I found myself asking the question: How could these people develop themselves to the level of intellectual capacity they possessed, considering all they went through? Mandela himself ended up answering the call to be the president of his beloved South Africa. He also exhibited a level of forgiveness many could not understand in him. Why wasn’t he bitter? Why didn’t he want to seek retribution for all that was done to him and his people? The obvious answer to those questions for me is that there is a universal level of grace some of us can tap into, while others of us are programmed to always want our pound of flesh.

I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning this, but just as I was exiting the Mandela exhibit, trying to compose myself, my oldest child called me to tell me that she had been diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. Have you ever felt like a train just ran over you, and as you’re almost erect, a Mack truck comes along and knocks you to the ground again? My daughter seemed strong and emotionally collected as she gave the unwanted news. I couldn’t talk very long; it almost started to rain inside the Clinton Presidential Library. Later, during the week my daughter and I had a conversation about her health predicament. It’s amazing how rational discussions can be when emotions have been ratcheted down a few levels. Rational approaches allow us to see light amid an ebony hued emotional landscape.

Oh, I fail to mention how the week started off. We made several attempts to see the new cinematic offering, Black Panther. I plan to write more about it later. However, I did want to say that I don’t recall ever being challenged like this to get into a theatre to see a movie. The experience provided some great entertainment for my wife and me. It also produced some interesting cultural and sociological thoughts. The emotional high it produced was followed by the realities of life previously mentioned. Life is the challenge we all face, and it does come with a variety of emotions.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.