RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2017 <

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Guns or Guitars

--Upwards, Kandinsky

 I started out clean but I'm jaded
Just phoning it in
Just breaking the skin
--Bent, Matchbox 20

 Between who you are
and who you could be
Between how it is
and how it should be
--Dare You to Move, Switchfoot

There's something wrong with me chemically
Something wrong with me inherently
The wrong mix in the wrong genes
I reached the wrong ends by the wrong means
--Wrong, Depeche Mode

Strangled by the wishes of pater,
Hoping for the arm of mater,
Get to me sooner or later
--Holding Back the Years,
Simply Red

Why, you do not even know what
will happen tomorrow.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears
for a little while and then vanishes
--James 4:14

[This is a re-post from 03 May 2009. We will be back next week with new thought. -- ed.]

Ranger waxes philosophic. (Next we know, it'll be a review on "The Secret" or "What the BLEEP Do We Know!?", and he'll be franchising energized waters):

Life does not have one beginning or end. Our beginnings and our ends are multiple, some beautiful, sad or just plain insignificant. Significance does not always attach to one's life.


What is the beginning? Is it birth? Is it anything at all?

Is the continuum the process and the life meaningless? Or does meaning accrue to the life, with the process being merely incidental? What assigns value to our lives? How does value accrue to a life which is simply an awareness briefly passing through the time continuum?

Is time even real? Is it circular or linear, does it compress or expand, speed or slow down? Does time even matter, or is it only our consciousness which gives it any relevance. Vacheron and Blancpain would like you to think they are demonstrating a phenomenon of importance, but maybe not. Without man, time seems meaningless. Like so many things, it simply is.

Our lives can be viewed similarly. Individually we are the center of a Twitter- and Facebook-centric universe, which is irrelevant, save to communication companies. Psychologists say narcissism among youth is on the rise -- little wonder. The Twitter egocentric universes exist exist inside a cosmos of expanding and contracting realities, in which any one reality matters little.

If there is a God, life shrinks to insignificance, and if there is none, we are still small, but without any imputed meaning. Did God exist for eternity, and if he did, why is this significant? Our own lives are insignificant regardless of religious, philosophical or political utterances to the contrary. Life gains particularity only at junctures of time, space and awareness.

At 16, a young man wanted a guitar with lessons, to which his mother replied, "Only hillbillies play guitar." Strange reply coming as it did from a Pennsylvania ridgerunner. Regardless, this teen received no guitar, but he did get a brand-new Sears & Roebuck Remington 30-06 rifle -- a hefty piece for a young shooter.

Both rifles and guitars strike chords in men's minds, some major, some minor, some suspended. Both lead to refrains and endings. Was this a beginning or an end? A rifle or a guitar was the choice. Chords and notes, or slings and shot groups?

A rifle can become a way of life, just as can a guitar.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Battle Implement

In my opinion, the M1 rifle is
the greatest battle implement ever devised
--General Georgw Patton

Let us assume that General Patton's belief is true. If so, you should know that the United States government has been selling the M1 as war surplus to legal, law-abiding citizens since the 1960's.

In addition, although a weapon of war these weapons were also sold for a minimal price to the Civilian Marksmanship Programl (CMP) for its purpose of training citizens in correct and safe shooting skills -- all prefectly legal and sanctioned by the U.S. government. Today, the M1 rifle is still used as a National Match rifle.

Some background

All of our armies since 1776 have used the rifle as their basic weapon. The rifle squad of the rifle platoon of the rifle company are the basic combat elements of any successful army. (Ranger, like all who wore crossed rifles as their branch designator, is trained as a basic riflemen.)

In 1871 it was clear that rifle marksmanship in the Civil War was deficient, so the governmet and private citizenry later formed the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an effort to ensure a basic level of rifle competency among all male citizens. To this end, the government also supported a Directorate of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM).

When Ranger was a young Boy Scout, any group such as the Boy Scouts, that had ten or more members received free ammunition and rifles from the DCM as a means of promoting civilian rifle marksmanship. This was in accordance with national policy.

The DCM supported all aspects of competitive marksmanship to include safety classes. Civilians and the government shared this function and the CMP still exists today.

Every civilian range that Ranger has visited has dual functions, serving both civilian and government entities. Federal and state entities cannot afford to run ranges that can be easily contracted from civilian sources.

In addition, police and sheriff's officers use these civilian ranges on contract, as do the Reserve Forces of all service branches. Ranges serve a social and recreational function as well as mission orientation one for the government forces. (On major military posts there is always a gun and skeet club that provides recreation to the soldiers.)

Government and civilian shooters compliment each other. Often times, civilian instructors provide instructions to military personnel. In my day, the military was tasked with supporting civilian marksmanship.

Because of his DCM training, Ranger entered the Army as a trained rifleman, later participating as a shooter in National Matches after qualifying in the DCM/NRA Small Arms firing school. This is shared to show that gaining rifle expertise was available to all citizens with the government's imprimatur, and the training often served as an entryway to later shooting projects in the Armed Forces.

Rifle expertise was not a thing to be feared. Somehow, this fact has been lost, as rifles have become a suspect and maligned.

As an aside, all of my childhood friends bought M1 carbines and 1911 A1 .45 calibre pisols from the DCM for $20 each, postage extra, shipped via U.S. mail. All of these men later served in the armed services; they are still proud owners of their DCM purchases.

Ranges are not places that breed trouble.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Son of a Gun, 2

People are dumb, panicky 
dangerous animals and you know it. 
--Men in Black (1997)

Is that what this is about? 
You're angry because you got lied to?
--Falling Down (1993)

Most folks can't afford to build an underground shelter but, 
with a little know-how, you can use and prepare your home 
to be a shelter against fallout or a biological or chemical attack. 
It's much simpler than you might have imagined
--Sheltering in Place: A Family Guide
(water filter insert)

Polls indicate that most United States guns are purchased strictly for the purpose of self defense. Prior to this recent trend, guns were purchased primarily for hunting and sport shooting.

Curios and relics are not a gun control issues, and should be separated form the current political discussion. Any efforts to regulate that collector market is a waste of effort any money.

But there is a real, palpable craziness afoot in the U.S., and the issue remains the "kill your neighbor" (K.U.N.) type guns. High-capacity military clones are the item du jour. Weekend gun shows have become military arms bazaars.

When Ranger began his marksmanship career, bullseye targets were shot with service rifles. While NRA matches are still of the professional old-fashioned concentric circle type, the majority of the gun world now uses picture-type targets of people, or silhouettes.

The focus of many gunman has shifted to shooting people.

For fun, go to a bookstore and peruse gun and survival magazines. The stock-in-trade for many is to prepare people for an impending conflagration.

Major gun parts supplier Brownell's has an online catalog filled with trick-out items for the aforementioned kill-type guns. (In a not-unworthy side note: many of the items in their catalog are listed as "Made in America".)

The madness can be seen in many arenas. Ranger recently bought a simple water filter and noted that the accompanying literature addressed survival -- "preparedness products" -- which might arise in vague future dire situations, as well. The "prepper" mentality has seeped into our culture through many avenues.

Before proceding, the fantasy tricked-out rifles do have sporting and hunting functions. A M-16 clone is legal for hunting in most states. The only requirement is that the user employs only five-round magazines and not the 60-round mags found in the catalogs.

To my mind, the problem is the plethora of K.U.N. guns on the open market. It is an open discussion as to how this issue might be addressed. Since the demand and easy availability of these guns is a fairly new issue, understanding that phenomenon might be a good starting place.

The media talking heads usually have no grasp of the subject matter. The "experts" were discussing "clip size" recently, but no modern K.U.N. gun uses a clip; all modern firearms use magazines. From these basic misunderstandings issues ever-wider misconceptions.

Further, the media coverage of the topic never mentions that one of the only industries which remains succcessful and employs U.S. workers is the gun industry. If all of the tricked out guns are outlawed, then unemployment rates will increase.

So herein is a contradiction: help the economy by limiting gun regulations, or potentially help the occasional nutters and career criminals who wish to commit wrongdoing with a gun.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Son of a Gun, 1

Don't take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don't take your guns to town
--Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, 
Jerry Douglas

Walk away from trouble if you can
It won't mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek
I hope you're old enough to understand
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man
--Coward of the County,
Kenny Rogers

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
--Get Together,
The Youngbloods

[Note: some excellent related commentary has occurred in the previous RAW posting, It's Only a Game.]

What good are words in the discussion of gun violence and gun control in today's United States?

How can one be heard in a society where attitudes are sclerotic all-round? Events like the recent mass-shooting atrocity in Las Vegas only serve to tighten the cordon.

Ranger is a gunman and will remain so until death. I am not a threat to public safety and welfare. I am not an National Rifle Assocation (NRA) member, nor do I believe the members of that organization to be anything but honorable citizens.

Our society has been suffering a breech reaching back several decades between two sides who feel they are advocating for the same thing, namely: how does gun ownership comport with the safety of U.S. citizens. People draw their lines allying themselves with various movements and organizations, and like most such historical syndicates the high-minded ideology fails, the adherents left wallowing amidst a sea of partisanship. 

The factionalism displaces the urgent questions: "What is happening?", "Is this something new?", and "How can the threat be best removed and the safety of the largest number of potential future innocent victims be reasonably ensured?"

On one side are those who staunchly support the 2nd Amendment gun ownership rights. Theirs has been a love-hate alliance with the government since the nation's founding.

The role of citizens vis-a-vis guns has morphed wildly over the course of our nationhood. In the beginning, the armed citizen was not viewed as an adversary of the national project, but served as its linchpin, or at least, as a staunch pillar thereof.

Until 1840, the smoothbore muskets of the U.S. military were inferior to the rifles of the general public. Today, soldiers and police possess military automatic weapons far outstripping anything permitted to the citizens, weapons of war that they may use for any purpose.  

The Civilian Marksmanship Program brought citizens on-board as members in good-standing of their communities who would learn safe shooting skills. [Few discuss the conversion from gun owners as pillars of society to the suspects that they have often become today due to tragic events like the Las Vegas shooting. Ranger will discuss this in a future post.]

Opposing them are those who call for ever-stricter control over gun ownership rights. Their project, like those of the 2nd Amendment advocates, sees the primary issue of mass violence as the gun itself. For them, it is a simple equation: Limit the sorts of guns available and --voila -- the problem of gun violence goes away.

It is unlikely that these pro-control advocates even know that truly automatic rifles -- to include belt-fed and machine guns -- can be purchased simply by paying the $200 special tax required be the feds to own such a weapon. Do they know that no such weapon has ever been used in a violent crime?

Further, several elected leaders call for bans on M16 Black Rifle clones, mistakenly calling them "weapons of war". They are not, as civilian versions are neither fully automatic nor are they military grade.

Further, what if the citizens were permitted to have automatic rifles? Why may the police have them while the citizens they are sworn to protect may not? Check for yourself the photos of recent national disasters like the flooding in Houston or Puerto Rico: the soldiers passion out water have fully automatic rifles slung on their bodies. 

Why? Do the citizens exist for the safety of the police, or vice versa?

But if we are honest and answer the aforementioned urgent questions, we must define the problem and see what actual solutions are available.

Generally-speaking, the gun control rights activists are liberal West- and East-Coasters. Broad-brushing, they often belong to the middle- and upper social strata, their most privileged members are what might be called the Creative Class (versus the majority of those who inhabit the vast middle swath of the country).

Taking a flight of fancy for a moment, presumably, they believe in the infinite perfectability of the human being. Presumably to that end (or perhaps, to pervert or exploit it), they have created myriad outlets for your viewing pleasure and virtual participation.

A majority of these games, movies and programs involve extreme weapons violence of the most heinous sort. Hollywood and Silicon Valley is only too happy to exploit guns for fun (all virtual, mind you).

Following Hollywood's fashion, music and movie lead, see the omnipresence of violence and death being imprinted even upon the human body -- knives, guns and skull-and-crossbones on clothes and tattoos abound. To paraphrase Snoop Lion-nee-Dog on doggies and their bones, Hip Hop ain't hoppin' without guns, and Hollywood has brilliantly sold that decrepit bill of goods to all youth. (Their cover: they're just following the mode of the streets.)

But you can handle this incessant onslaught of blood and destruction and go back to your loved ones and merely tolerated ones unscathed, yes? And if you can handle technicolor gore, surely if one were a gun owner, one could show good trigger control in the face of a "Falling Down" type of morning, right?

Ah, but if you have the slightest doubt that the pressures of modern society might unhinge a vulnerable person, how could you in good faith partake in the creation and dissemination of said materials? 

And surely a gunman, say, a former military rifleman, might be capable of unleashing an onslaught of carnage with simply a good rifle and sight, no?

We love guns, until reality intervenes.

[To be continued ...]

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

It's Only a Game

At a time when the world seems to be spinnin' hopelessly out of control,
There's deceivers an' believers an' old in-betweeners,
That seem to have no place to go
--Hands on the Wheel
Willie Nelson

People forget
Forget they're hiding
Behind an eminence front
Eminence front, it's a put on
--Eminence Front,
The Who

And I don't know why I have to make a song.
Everybody talks about a new world in the morning.
New world in the morning takes so long
--New World in the Morning,
Roger Whittaker

Singing' don't worry 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright
--Three Little Birds,
Bob Marley

This is hardly a news story; not by a long chork. But it's what suffices today.

Ranger and I do not run to the latest media brouhaha, but this one is tangentially of local interest, so we will deconstruct it.

Black football players are kneeling again this week a la Kaepernick. It seems some sort of black-white provocation, and surely the media and the Tweeters are giving it legs. 

What is the proximal story, and what is distal?

Proximally, the United States saw an increase in media coverage of black interaction with the police over the eight years of the Obama administration. Concurrent with our now-ubiquitous social media feeds, beatings and shootings of blacks were uploaded in real-time, usually with no back story; certainly, no vetted back story. (That's the way they do it, today.)

The predictable reaction was increased social unrest, specifically in epicenters of racial violence. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was hatched. 

And bi-racial footballer Colin Kaepernick grabbed some ink by kneeling before his games. Kaepernick cribbed his move from religious University of Florida footballer Tim Tebow, who took to "Tebowing" before games in a petition to his Creator to keep him and his fellows safe during the game (and hopefully, to make all the viewers happy.)

Genuflecting is a position in the mode of solemnity before one's God. What this reverential position otherwise has to do with a prosperous footballer is not clear. It seems like so much grandstanding. Yes, you too can have your 15 minutes of fame.

Before whom are they genuflecting, and why?

So what is behind the Kaepernick's addition to the sorrows? He must feel badly that his unknown black father was a "shoot-and-scoot" kind of guy, his biological mother's baby daddy abandoning his destitute mother before Mr. Kaepernick was born. He was later adopted by a white family.

The reality must hurt, and it reasonable to assume that the footballer would seek for an answer to such despicable behavior. None can know the answer, but the charitable among us look backwards, to generational insults for explanation. 

Perhaps it was the selling out of Colin's ancestors by fellow tribesmen to European slave traders in a long-forgotten African past. Perhaps, the experience of relatives being slaves in America.

Whatever the genesis of his father's behavior, kneeling says, "This is an implacable Mobius strip" from which we may not exit.

It says, "This legacy of dysfunction is an ever-widening gyre, destined to continue playing itself out beyond me. I bow in sorrow before the inevitiblity."

But who in our nation has not known sorrow? 

Our Native Americans have reason for sorrow. So does the Vietnamese Army officer we know who spent 10 years in a re-education camp and took another ten making it over to the U.S. (He is now working in a restaurant kitchen.) 

Japanese spent time in internment camps during WW II. Jewish people were used as slave labor unto death less than a century ago in Nazi Germany, and were not welcomed by the U.S. as refugees in their time of dire need. A friend has interviewed Rwandan Masssacre survivors who carry on. We have reader at RAW whose family was touched by the Armenian Genocide.

And so it goes. What distinguishes one from the other? How does on hierarchicalize? 

I submit it is our response alone that dignifies and provides salvation to the former victim. One must choose for ascendence and life rather than blame and anger.

Meanwhile, the kneelers do nothing exalted, bring nothing uplifting to our consciousness.

In any event, the kneeling is a depressing sight, especially coming as it does from a man who was fortunate enough to have people lift him up in life after his unfortunate beginning, and who was then earning an eight-figure annual income. 

It seems like a gesture of solidarity, but does it comport with the facts? Florida State University had a decent black sports role model a few years back in Charlie Ward who went on to finance youth mentor leadership camps post-career (in the days before FSU players became better known for stealing clothes from department store, lobsters from Publix and raping young women.)

Or look at footballer Knowshon Moreno, who was photographed crying during the National Anthem.  He said he was, "excited", "blessed" and "privileged" to play this game,

Gratitude and generosity are the only positions from which one may reasonably expect to generate positive change.

But you must have the example, the imagination, to see that charity is a finer way to effect change than is an impotent gesture of solidarity. When one is gifted with largesse, charity become justice. It is there where Kaepernick et al. fail.

In any event, football  is a sporting event. People tire of the ceaseless calls for atonement, the politicization of everything. There has to be a place to get away, to celebrate good-natured rivalries, even if just for a few hours. 

If the kneelers want to be political, let them enter politics. The pay isn't that good (unless you like Tallahassee's Andrew Gillum, currently under FBI investigation for graft.)

A more sure route for a sports hero with bucks to make a difference is to funnel some of that money into school programs, to ensure young men and women can learn another way. I personally know of two non-profits making a real difference in this arena. 

10-year Army veteran Vincent Hunt's "Creator's Camp" is helping young people develop and realize their dreams, teaching them skills for becoming future intra- or entrepreneurs.

Another, Wings for Kids, is an estimable after-school program now in three states. They told me they would come to Florida if someone would invite them.

To the footballers: you don't have to kneel. You can make a positive difference.

I'll hook you up. It'll be dope, I promise.

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