Saturday, March 24, 2018


This is one of the early photos of the March 24, 2018, marches to protest lack of progress on gun violence.  It matters more to the media to have DATA, in this data-mad culture, than to look carefully at the content of that data.  I mean, did YOU know that 3% of the population who own guns actually own half of the guns out there?  Did you know that 78% of the men in this country don’t own any guns at all?  Did you know until the passage of this massive new bill that it was ILLEGAL to study why mass and violent shootings happen, but not illegal to buy a military grade rifle?  

It’s useless to take these heavy-duty repeating rifles out hunting.  A doctor who opened up the victims of mass shootings to try to save them — a doctor used to ghetto and crime violence —said she had never seen anything like these wounds.  There was no use in trying to save damaged organs because they had been exploded.  There was nothing to clean up, sew up, .restore to usefulness.

You’re not supposed to think about it, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms now includes “Explosives”.  That’s not added to their acronym.  they’re still ATF.  I don’t know what’s on the back of their jackets these days.  If you have a “thing” for acronyms, here are some from the website:  “The annual Explosives Incident Report (EIR) and Arson Incident Report (AIR) reviews bombing and explosives and arson related incidents and threats from information reported to the United States Bomb Data Center through the Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS)."  They say you can’t get the info anyplace else, but not everyone has access to this info.  Yet.  (Arson is included.)

This website is worth exploring and gives you lots of info about technicalities, the kind of thing that police procedural writers read up on and then give back to the public in simplified, offhand plot points, which we easily assimilate.  It does not draw on experience as much as on things that are quantifiable and actually counted.  The public acquires a sense of knowing about guns without really knowing anything.  The web of gun usage necessities — things like cleaning, sighting in, safety practices, proper storage — are never discussed and yet a gun is only a hold-able machine, an exaggerator of power that is directed by a human.  A bad shooter — someone enraged, afraid, untrained and unfocussed — is a bad gun.  We get mad at the guns instead of the shooters.

In the television I sort-of grew up with (I was actually a child with radio) the writers had seen war, mostly WWII.  The plots of “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide”, “Cheyenne,” “Wagon Train,” “Paladin” and so on were often “stand-down” plots about the effort to create and maintain peace.  Today the subject is more likely to be how to evade supervision.

By the time I’ve finished writing this — and certainly by tomorrow — the major marches will have finished up and the counting of heads in photos will be underway.  We judge performances but not by quality or ideas, only by how many watched and how much money was made.  The same goes for almost all art today.  Something provocative enough to bring out the crowds is more newsworthy than the ideas they express.

Something is different for Emma Gonzales and David Hogg.  They have the support of adult faculty and informed family.  Emma’s father is a cyber-security lawyer, Cuban.  The advocacy body she helped form is not anti-gun so much as it calls for dialogue and inclusion.  They call it “furious advocacy.”  Hogg’s father was formerly FBI.  These kids had addressed such subjects in the context of their families.  They were not party-dogs nor righteous prigs.  They were not alone, only two of the twenty original organizers.  Today there are far more all across the country.

Both kids were attacked as nonconformists, atypical, even sexually and gender-imaged wrongly.  Emma, who shaves her head.  (  shows a selection of known females who have shaved their heads.)  Emma says it’s simply cooler.  Dave, quite handsome, lives in Florida, but actually grew up in LA.  He will not be mature until he is 26 (scientifically) but there are hints that he is queer, though people are prone to mistake youth for gay, good-looking for available.  In both cases the opinions are uninformed and simply a way to discredit these bold kids.

Other attacks on them are that they are glamour-hounds, wanting to be famous and even deliberately, cynically, trying to be famous for being shot at, or simply being in the building while other kids are shot.  Basically, these are versions of “they’re too big for their britches,” and examples of how many people think that being famous for nothing in order to make a lot of money is the main goal of life, but no one is entitled but them.

I caught just the end of a conversation with one of the protestors which demanded to know what’s so good about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Was it because they were all rich?  This student explained that the students were given a strong background in public presentation.  She described what the curriculum included and I was struck by how very different the subjects were since I taught in the Sixties.  It was as different as adding Explosives to ATF, but it was not common knowledge.

The additions often had to do with trauma, addiction, and emotion.  Students were taught how to overcome stage-fright, how to know their triggers (the words or reactions that would cause almost unconscious over-reaction), what to do if ridiculed, measures to take if they felt they were being overwhelmed by the situation.  In short, know yourself and then know what you could do about it.  This was not at all “frilly” info.  It was how Emma knew to compose a speech that included a unison response from the audience to bring them together, but not using the F word because it wasn’t needed.

Nikolas Cruz could not have been a more obvious shooter.  Three adults, including a deputy sheriff, had recommended that he be taken into custody for mental illness.  The cops had been called on he and his family dozens of times.  On his way to the shooting, someone spotted him and called the school to warn them.  Six minutes of shooting later, while a confused school policeman was in the wrong place, Cruz simply put aside the guns and walked out with all the other kids, indistinguishable.  But looked at head-on, his appearance suggests something “off.”  So much so that the “law and order” written rules didn’t fit.

President Trump tweeted that he, a known coward, would have gone into the building and handled Cruz.  Plenty of others had the same fantasy.  But today the forecast is that far more kids will have demonstrated than ever attended Trump’s swearing-in.  Talk can be cheap.  In this case it is the kids who are eloquent.

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