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To a Nobler Way of Life

I have been going on lately about guns and violence and hatred and anger.  All of this has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now, with all the growing violence, not only in America but throughout the world.  I was reminded of it most forcibly once again last week by the awful mass murder in Newtown Connecticut, a horrible and destructive event beyond the pale of human comprehension.  And again today I was reminded of the insanity of our world with the remarks of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who said “”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I believe that I am a relatively good guy and I know many good guys just like me, in fact, most of the world is made up of good guys who don’t want to have to defend themselves with a deadly weapon.

I have already spoken, in an earlier blog, to the statement that many in the gun lobby have made that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  I have said that while that statement is somewhat true the fact is that a person with a gun can kill many people in the time it would have taken them to kill a single person without a gun.  I could go on but I have previously discussed this issue.  We need to be thinking beyond the act of violence and looking toward a way to bring it to an end.

What is this force that makes us think this way?  We, the people who tout “freedom” as a way of life shouldn’t have to fear for our lives, the lives of our loved ones and children.  And, “freedom” was never intended to mean free to do whatever you please.  Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.”   I say, “Your right to own a gun ends at the point where you become a danger to me and my family.” But, we shouldn’t have to argue these points.

There has to be a better way.  And, there is.  If we are all going to live together in freedom without fear that we and our families are in danger we are going to have to change the way we think about things.  I don’t want to always be quoting the Bible as a source of what I have to say but this quotation is particularly poignant in this situation.  The statement was made by the Apostle Paul but it can be appreciated by people of all faiths.  He says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

I propose along with Paul that we as a people begin to look toward a nobler way of life.  Let us cease our hostility toward one another.  Let us look for the good in all situations rather than looking for the bad.  In everything let truth pervade our speech and our dealings with one another.  Let us all look to do the admirable thing in all situations.  This is the only way to have true freedom.  So, to all of us let this be our mantra: “To a Nobler Way of Life.” And, if that means we need to place some restrictions on some people in order to achieve this nobler way of life then I say so be it.

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Is Gun Control Needed? Yes!

Is Gun Control Needed? Yes!

Ok, I’ve been quiet for a long time now but I must speak out on this issue.  Gun control.  We need gun control.  I don’t know what form it will take or how it will be implemented but something has to be done.  Now before you begin your rant saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Let me just say this – You are right!  People do kill people but people with guns can kill a lot of people.  If a deranged person decides to murder someone they are going to try to do it no matter what anyone says or what laws are in place to prevent it.  The difference here is that this same deranged individual can kill 20 people with an automatic weapon in the same amount of time it takes to bludgeon someone to death with a baseball bat or stab someone to death with a butcher knife.  Why do we want to give murderers the capability of killing so many people with such little effort?  It makes no sense at all to put high powered weapons in the hands of anyone who wants them.  Additionally, think of the fact that if a person is going to use some other means than a gun to kill someone, it requires them to be in close proximity to that person.  With a gun it is possible to kill from across the street or down the block.  A person can kill someone while driving by in a vehicle.  A whole crowd of people can be taken out in a matter of seconds with an automatic weapon.  The murderer can complete the heinous deed and be gone before anyone realizes what’s going on.  How can we defend ourselves from such as this?

Recently a friend of mine said, in reference to the mass killing at Virginia Tech, “well, if everyone at Virginia Tech had been carrying guns that incident would never have happened.”  Really?… Really?…  Are you kidding me?  Can you think of the mayhem that would ensue if this were the case?  Let’s control guns by making sure that everyone is armed.  I can’t even imagine how ludicrous this statement is.  But, believe it or not, it is quite a common sentiment among the anti gun control group.

We must get a handle on the proliferation of guns in this country especially assault weapons and semiautomatic weapons.  I believe that no one in the world, with the exception possibly of a military combatant, needs to possess an assault weapon, nor do they need to have access to a semiautomatic weapon of any sort.  But, if a person is of the persuasion that they should have the right to own such a weapon, I propose that those weapons be strictly controlled, registered and locked away until needed.

Some say “well, there’s the black market… or, what if someone gives or lends an automatic weapon to a friend…  what if someone steals a weapon. there are all sorts of ways for people to get weapons of this sort.”  Ok, that’s possible but we must begin somewhere to get control of this situation.  We need to be thinking of stringent gun control laws.  We need mandatory, lengthy waiting periods with strict background checks in order to purchase a gun.  Then, we need to place mandatory, stiff penalties on the improper transfer of a weapon to another person for any reason without going through proper channels.

Listen, I don’t hate guns.  In fact, I once upon a time was a member of a rifle team.  I think sport shooting is a great sport.  I’m not a hunter but I believe in hunting for those who like to hunt.  But, you don’t need an assault weapon nor a semiautomatic handgun for these things.  If a person is a collector of guns and insists upon having assault weapons or semiautomatic hand guns I propose that they be required to keep these things under lock and key in a secure location away from their residence and that they be required to get a permit each time they are taken out.  Frankly, I don’t know the full answer but I do know that something must be done!

Here are some facts:

On Friday morning,  December 14, 2012, 27 people were shot and killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. 18 of them were children.

September 27, 2012. 5 people were shot to death  at Accent Signage Systems August 5, 2012. 6 Sikh temple members were shot and killed

July 20, 2012. 12 people shot and killed and 58 were wounded.  During the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO.

May 29, 2012. 5 were shot and killed in Seattle, WA.

April 6, 2012. 5 black men shot and killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma

April 2, 2012. 7 were shot and at Oikos University in Oakland, CA.

October 14, 2011. 8 were shot to death in Seal Beach, CA.

September 6, 2011. 5 shot to death and 7 wounded Carson City, NV

January 8, 2011. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head  in Tucson, AZ. Six people died, 19 total were shot

August 3, 2010. 9 were shot to death in aHartford Beer Distributor in Manchester, CT .

November 5, 2009.  13 were shot to death and 29 wounded at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.

April 3, 2009. 13 people shot to death and 4 wounded in Binghamton, New York.

March 29, 2009. 8 people shot to death at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, NC.

February 14, 2008. 6 shot to death and 21 wounded a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University.

February 7, 2008. 6 people shot to death and two were wounded at the City Hall in Kirkwood, Missouri.

December 5, 2007. 9 were shot to death and 4 in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE.

April 16, 2007. 32 people shot to death and 24 wounded at Virginia Tech. February 12, 2007. 5 shot to death and 4 wounded In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall.

October 2, 2006. 5 girls were shot to death and 6 wounded at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA.

March 25, 2006. 7 were shot to death and 2 were wounded Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA..

March 21, 2005. 11 people were shot to death and 5 at Red Lake Senior High School.

March 12, 2005. 9 shot to death and 4 wounded at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI.

July 8, 2003. 7 shot to death and 7 wounded Meridian, MI.

September 15, 1999. 7 shot to death and 7 at a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.

July 29, 1999. 12 people shot to death and 13 at two Atlanta day trading firms.

April 20, 1999. 13 people shot to death and 13 wounded at  Colombine High School in Littleton, CO.

Just think of the lives that were lost.  Innocent people… men… women… children… husbands, wives, mothers, fathers….in every one of these cases, and, believe me, this is not an exhaustive list, all because a deranged person had access to a powerful, semiautomatic weapon…   Something must be done!

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Lent, Lint & Lindt®

I was reading a blog on a diet and exercise website this morning and the writer was trying to decide on a way to get her diet under control. She thought a good approach might be to give up alcohol for Lent but then decided that she liked beer too much and might need one following an upcoming 5K run. That set the wheels spinning in my head thinking about some of the things people give up for Lent.

My wife’s boss once said that he was going to give up cussing for lent. “You can’t do that” she said. “The hell I can’t!” he rebuffed. Quite often people give up things they don’t want or like. A youngster might say “I’m giving up broccoli for Lent.” Easy to do when the child doesn’t eat broccoli anyway.

Of course, the way my head works, being a bit of a wordsmith, I started playing with the words. I was going to respond to the blog with this line of thought: “I think I’m going to give up lint for lent… you know that fuzzy stuff that collects on your wool jacket or in your belly button….hmmm or maybe I should give up Lindt® for Lent…. you know that luscious dark chocolate covered caramel that causes fat to collect on your waistline. I just don’t know, it’s a tough decision.”

But really, why do we give things up for Lent? What’s that all about? Traditionally, many Christians give up things for Lent as a way of honoring Christ’s voluntary self-deprivation during His forty days in the wilderness. Our self –deprivation has a theological basis in that when we think of that which we have given up it helps us to focus on Christ and His sacrifice. And, while our sacrifice pales in comparison to His, it still serves as a reminder to us of God’s love through the sacrifice of His Son.

I don’t know what I will be giving up for Lent this year. It is not required in my worship tradition but I still like the practice and will participate. I might not even be successful for the full forty days but I will make an attempt. All I know is that the benefit to me will certainly outweigh the small sacrifice I will be making, a benefit to me both for my physical health as well as my spiritual health.

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Folrida High Speed Rail – Rejected

Florida Governor Scott’s Rejection of Stimulus Money For High Speed Rail

Let me begin by saying this is my opinion.  It is based solely upon what I have read in the papers and on-line as well as TV reports that I have heard.  The fact is that Governor Rick Scott has rejected over 2 billion dollars of Federal Government stimulus money that was offered to the state to create a high-speed rail system connecting the Tampa Bay area to Orlando.  This seems extremely short-sighted to me.  Most of the people I have discussed this with who are also against the project say that they don’t believe the rail system will benefit them.  They cite their belief that neither parking nor mass transit will be available at the other end or in the very least it will be limited.  I say that if we base the acceptance or rejection of this project on how it will affect us individually then we are looking at it all wrong.  I say we look at what kind of impact it will have on everyone in the area and also the indirect impact it will have on each of us as individuals.

My stance is that it may be true that the rail will not directly benefit me.  I may never have the opportunity to use the rail system.  But, the indirect and long-term benefits I believe will be tremendous.  Indirectly everyone in central Florida will benefit by the creation of jobs and business during the construction phase.  It has been said that over 9,000 jobs will be created during construction.  That in itself would be a tremendous boon to central Florida.  Additionally, no one in their right mind could imagine this system being built without considering the need for parking or mass transit at either end.  Surely, that will develop throughout the planning and construction.  It has been estimated that ridership will be in the millions.  Think of the tourists who have flown in to either Orlando or the Gulf Beaches.  These people are generally here for a week or more at a time.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful spark to the economy of Central Florida to have those tourists spending money at each end of that rail line rather than being confined to one end or the other?  And what about the future? I can imagine a future Florida with a north south high-speed rail connecting Miami Dade with Tallahassee intersecting in Orlando and possibly another connecting Pensacola and Jacksonville through Tallahassee.  This would connect the major sections of the state via high-speed rail and make it possible for our state politicians to travel back and forth without having to use state airplanes (since the governor owns his own and has sold all the state planes.)

To me it would have made good sense to accept the money and go ahead with the project.  I believe there is more to this story than meets the eye.  I believe Governor Scott has decided to reject the money solely because it was “Obama Money.”  Governor Scott has allowed his bias against the president and the democratic party, and, by the way, many in his own party who were in favor of accepting the stimulus money, to cloud his judgment in regard to what is best for Florida.  I believe Governor Scott has made a dreadful mistake, a mistake that will negatively impact the economic growth of Florida, a mistake that will haunt us for many years to come.

I know of a town in central Kentucky that many years ago had the opportunity to have a major interstate highway come through.  The townspeople said “no way in hell do we want that highway and all that traffic.”  The interstate was diverted through other areas which have since grown beyond the dreams of the residents there.  That small town that “avoided all the traffic” is basically now dying on the vine.  They had an opportunity and they let it pass.  I am afraid that is what will happen to central Florida.

Now that the stimulus package has been finally rejected and all the fighting is over, Governor Scott says he can proceed with what he has planned for Florida.  Maybe he will be successful, I don’t know, time will only tell, but for now there will be no high-speed rail, there will be no jobs created, there will be no new business, tourists will be stuck at one end or the other unless they rent a car, and we will still have to make the drive down I 4 to get back and forth from Tampa to Orlando.  What a waste.  Congratulations to some other state who will surely accept the stimulus money intended for Florida, a state where broken Floridians will probably go in order to get work.

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Contemplation

This morning, as is my custom when at the beach for an extended stay, I arose before the crack of dawn, put on a pot of coffee, checked my email and went out to pick up the morning paper.  By the time I got back to my room, the coffee was ready, I poured a cup and went out to the water’s edge and just stood there for a while.  This would be the last full day we would be at the beach.  Soon, our summer vacation would be over.  Our daughter and her children would be traveling back to Kentucky, our son and his children would be traveling back to Virginia, My wife, Dad and I would be traveling across the bay to our home in Brandon.

I love to go out to the water’s edge by myself first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand just to contemplate things, things we had done together as a family during the week, the dread of seeing my children and grandchildren go home, thoughts of work and what I might be doing for the rest of the week and so forth.  It is always a peaceful time with my thoughts, just me, the vastness of the ocean, a few squawking sea birds, the gentle waves rolling in and lapping at my ankles.  Occasionally a small pod of dolphin will roll and blow a hundred yards or so out from shore, looking for breakfast, a pelican will dive-bomb into a school of fish.  All of us at that moment seem to be in harmony with one another.

As the sun begins to peek over the horizon behind me I recognize the fragrance of frying bacon wafting on the morning’s warm salty sea breeze.  Others are beginning to wake up and get about doing whatever they will be involved in during their day.  Soon a lone runner can be seen running up the beach toward me.  I begin to think it’s time to get back to the room and make preparations for the day’s activities.  For a while though, it was glorious, just me, the beauty of this natural setting, my thoughts and a good cup of coffee.

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The Garden – Part 3

You may be wondering how the dog fits into all of this, having mentioned earlier about how the entire family got pleasure from this garden, even the dog.  Well, Fred, was a beagle mix.  His mother was a full blooded beagle with papers and everything, his father, obviously, was a traveling salesman, never seen or heard from again.  Fred looked a lot like a beagle, shape, size, ears, and tail but he had sky blue eyes.  Oh, he had the wonderful howl of a hound as well.  We saw the ad in the newspaper for puppies that were being given away and we went by to take a look.  Fred was the clumsy one of the litter.  He seemed to trip over his own paws.  He was all brown except for a large white diamond shaped patch on his chest.  Any way, we (I) fell in love with him and immediately named him Fred.  The name seemed appropriate for the bumbling ball of brown fur.  Later the children and I began to refer to him as Frederich von Dog.  We thought the name gave him a bit more class.

Fred loved the garden for a cool place to hide and nap during the heat of the summer.  I always planted my squash and zucchini in hills.  This had the effect of creating a small valley between the hills.  The zucchini plants always grew to a huge size.  Some of the leaves seemed to be a foot across.  On any particularly warm day we could always find Fred snoozing in a cool moist valley under the shade of the zucchini leaves.  You could open up a hole in the leaves and try to coax the lazy hound out but he wouldn’t budge.  Fred would just lay there, slowly open one eye as if to say “you see me trying to take a nap here, leave me alone” then he would let out a sigh, close his eye and go back to sleep.  Fred never messed the garden up, no digging or rooting around.  It seemed like he knew that we respected that plot of ground and he respected it as well.

Fred and I were good friends.  We have had many conversations out on the patio overlooking the garden, me with my cup of coffee, him sitting by my side listening intently, giving a happy wag of the tail when we made eye contact.  I shared my happy times with him and my sad times as well.  He would listen without making judgment and with that caring look in his eye that said no matter what goes on in your life I love you.  We had the old boy for about fourteen years then he was gone.  There were some really tough times in my life after that when I wished I had old Fred there to listen to me.  He was a good dog.

As with chapters in a book, things eventually come to an end.  My marriage eventually came to an end, Fred went off to dog heaven, the children went off to school, got married, had homes of their own and moved on with their lives.  The need for a huge garden no longer existed, but, oh my, the memories that are still there, some as vivid as if it were yesterday.  I am in a new phase of my life now, a new chapter you might say.  Yes, I still garden, although, it’s smaller now.  I found my soul mate and we married ten years ago. One of the best things ever to happen in my life is to fall in love after fifty. We have five wonderful children between us, and nine grand children.  With seed that has been passed down from generation to generation, the garden is still growing, producing happiness and new fruit.

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The Garden – Part 2

The garden that year, my first year as a full-fledged gardener, organic gardener nonetheless, was such a success that it became the necessary thing to do each year. The whole family got involved in the process.  The children, me, the dog all of us found pleasure in the things the garden provided, not just the vegetables from which we derived physical nutrition but also the hours of hard work and exercise together as a family, from which we derived sustenance for the soul.  Now that the children have all married and moved away they are planting gardens in their back yards with their children. The seed has been planted, seed that has been passed down from generation to generation.

I don’t remember if it was the second or third, who knows, maybe the fifth year of the garden that I made a discovery.  Before I continue though, I need to explain that this was during a previous marriage, I did most of the cooking then.  In my second marriage now, I am married to a wonderful woman who loves to cook so sometimes it’s a battle to see who’s going to get to cook each meal.  As the main cook for the family at that time, though, I really preferred (and still do) to use fresh ingredients, in fact I insist upon it as much as is possible.  My children grew up eating fresh vegetables from the garden, if not our garden then fresh food from the farmer’s market.  In my opinion there is nothing worse than store-bought canned vegetables and one step up from that is store-bought frozen foods.  Whenever possible, in my opinion, one should use only fresh ingredients.  So, my children grew up having fresh foods to eat.  Even canned vegetables you have canned yourself are far better than those purchased at the local grocery.  Anyway, back to the discovery.

This particular year, I had planted a variety of tomatoes that grew into huge plants.  My tomato cages were made from six by six reinforcing wire mesh, the kind used in concrete floors.  These cages were around eighteen inches in diameter and six feet tall.  The variety of tomato plants I had planted that year were growing out the top of the cages.  I bet we got a bushel of tomatoes off of each plant.  As the plants were growing I began to spy out a prime tomato, one that was sure to be the first to ripen.  I watched that tomato every day, sometimes two or three times a day I would check on it with great anticipation for the day when I would harvest that beauty and be the first to sink my teeth into its luscious red flesh.  On the day that I was sure that my prized tomato was ready for plucking, I went to the garden, walked down between the rows of squash and zucchini, past the purple hull peas to the end of the garden where the tomato cages stood billowing with greenery, branches laden with green to pinkish orbs. My mouth began to water as I rounded the corner and made the horrible discovery.  There basking in the warm sunshine, sitting cross-legged on the grass, lips glistening with the luscious juice of my prized tomato was Heather, my thirteen year old daughter.  She and I had been watching the same tomato all these weeks.  How could you get angry about that?  I was so proud of her for wanting to get in on that goodness and having the ability to beat me to it.  Heather and I have always been a bit competitive.

If you are a gardener you may or may not be aware of this.  If you want to speed up the ripening process with your tomatoes, here’s what to do.  After the fruit has set and is of substantial size, wait for the next full moon, strip off all your clothes and run through the garden naked.  The tomatoes will blush immediately and you will have ripe tomatoes very soon.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  I think maybe it was Dabney who told me… I don’t remember.

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