When I was a wee lad back in high school, reading Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the philosophical notion of “nihilism” had a perverse je ne sais quoi that held a certain appeal to a white middle-class suburban teenager looking for an innocent and bookish form of rebellion. The Sex Pistols blew that sense of innocence all to hell. Real nihilists, they seemed to say, are all in.
I wrote down a few thoughts about the Isla Vista murder spree:
I used to keep a blog online fairly religiously, and I was good about it, offering what I thought were witty, profane, provocative, decidedly liberal takes on the state of the world. I won't bore you with a link or an admonition to go check it out however, because a few months ago I threw in the towel. Shut it right down. It happens to lots of "bloggers," of course, because so much of blogging involves shouting at the wind and shaking your fist at the TV and taking your positive reinforcement from the half dozen or so people who swear they read you religiously. That's all good, I suppose, but there came a time about six months ago when I realized that it doesn't matter what one writes, it doesn't matter how many windmills are felled, none of the damn crazy bullshit going on in this godforsaken country is ever going to change.
Why am I telling you this, you may wonder? Well it's because today I'm a sick and saddened, heartbroken UCSB Gaucho. Those are my old stomping grounds down there in Isla Vista, CA. The map of carnage they keep showing on TV might well have been the course of some reckless, Dionysian pub crawl my friends and I used to make "around the Loop" during our college days. I know I speak for all Gauchos when I say how much I loved going to UCSB. Those were some of the greatest days of my life. Isla Vista was like a giant playground for 20-somethings, a place where you only had to make sure to took care of your school business in between silly hijinx and crazy adventures and you were going to be a-okay. I met dozens of lifelong friends there, and that magical place changed my life forever.
That said, last week's shooting tragedy has really bummed me out. The young man who got shot in the market was from Los Osos, for goddsakes. My buddy coached him in Little League. The kid's dad was the one who made the heartbreaking speech pleading for change and asking WHY?!?! things like the IV madness continue to befall one American community after another. If you haven't seen it, it is agonizing to watch.
I'm really heartsick that this horror happened in the vibrant, spirited, energetic, fun, crazy, electrifying good old college town of Isla Vista, CA. Sure, it's a slum to some, but to those of us who know and love it, there's not a better place in the world for kids to take a first dip into the deep, invigorating, wide open pool of adulthood.
It was only about 15 months or so ago that I wrote an opinion piece that our local paper here in San Luis Obispo saw fit to print. If memory serves me they headlined it: "The Time Has Come to Change Our Way of Thinking on Guns." I wrote it in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. As no one will ever forget, twenty little kids were gunned down there, enjoying their last day of kindergarten by looking madness and evil in the eye. The gist of my argument at that time was that nothing in this massive, unmanageable, short-sighted country of ours, nothing, will ever change until we get beyond our obsession with guns and face the reality that something drastic must be done.
Well, here we are. It's two years later. Nothing's changed. There have been dozens of mass shootings in America since Sandy Hook. Hundreds more people have died thanks to these unpredictable bouts of madness, including seven more now in Isla Vista, CA. In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Obama and a few politically stout legislators in congress proposed a series of national gun control measures. For that they were vilified, and every single one of those measures went down to defeat. Every single one.
It's wishful thinking, I know, but we can only hope this latest atrocity is the one that finally compels America to face down its obsession with guns. My fellow current and former Gauchos are all and each incensed and incredibly saddened about what happened, and it is well past time that we do something besides lay flowers down on the sidewalk at some makeshift memorial outside a convenience store, an elementary school, a church, a post office, a shopping mall...a sorority...a sandwich shop.
It's time to offer some serious solutions, and it's time for those solutions to be taken seriously. It's time we reject the fearful, cynical, antagonistic rhetoric of the NRA. In fact, it's time for the NRA and its supporters to realize: You, my friends, are part of the problem.
It's time for mandatory gun registration, mandatory liability insurance, mandatory training, mandatory smart-gun technology, mandatory ammunition bar-coding, mandatory purchasing limits and the whole rest of the full nine yards we need to go to put a stop to this madness. Short of that (and I'm looking at you, gun rights obstructionists), I want to hear some goddamn solutions. No more hiding behind 2nd Amendment absolutism and parsing the words of a mixed-up,comma-spliced phrase written 250 damn years ago. You don't get to do that anymore! Chris Martinez' father doesn't want to hear your bullshit platitudes anymore. YOU tell US: what you would do, to help make it so that no father ever has to bury his young son again?
According to an on-going tally kept by Slate magazine, 2,506 Americans have died in a steady, unceasing hail of gunfire since the Newtown shooting last December 14. You likely recall exactly where you were when you heard about the 20 schoolchildren, aged 5 and 6, who were cut down in that massacre. Six teachers also met their doom. It was a brutal, senseless tragedy. It was only 83 days ago, after all. But since then more than 2500 Americans have died at the end of a gun. That’s more than 30 people per day, every single day.
The best thing Barack Obama has going for him as he heads into the 2012 re-election campaign....
I've learned a lot through my forays into the comments section at my local fishwrap:
The passing of Sparky Anderson gives me yet another chance (like I needed one) to remember many great things about my own Dad...
Last night I went to the Lois Capps (D-CA) Town Hall Meeting on health care reform. It was held at a beautiful, brand new local church -- hold the jokes about the lightning bolts, please. The reason said church is brand new is because the old one got burned to the ground by some paranoid local homophobe arsonist who didn't like the fact that the congregation welcomed gay people without condemnation. [And there's a special place in hell for you, firebug Church-burner. If there is a Hell.]
The wingnut congressman whose district butts up against mine requested zero earmarks for his constituency in this year's budget. And he's wearing that legislative neglect as a badge of honor. Perhaps that shit will play well with the rednecks over there in Bakersfield, but it's his stark hypocrisy that rankles me out here on the coast.
Here we have a lovely story of wingnut hatred right here in my own hometown...
Over the weekend on a mid-morning drive, I got stuck at a red light at one of the busier intersections in my little California town. Standing on the corner, just outside my passenger side window was a guy of about 60 holding up a political sign. "Yes on 8," the sign read, "Protect religious freedom."
I decided this was as good a time as any for a little street-corner-stopped-at-the-red-light political discussion, so I rolled down my window and asked him:
I had an interesting meeting today with a business owner in town at a place called McCartney Tank and Steel. They do steel fabrication, welding, that sorta thing. You don't get much more old school, industrial revolution, "American business" than a steel fabricator, and the guy that runs McCartney Steel is a classic throwback, wizened around the eyes, barrel-chested, forearms like bands of iron, steel-toed boots, Levi's. Dirt under the fingernails. The whole nine-yards.
There's been a lot of talk lately about Roger Mahony's settlement with sexual abuse victims in the Los Angeles diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
LA Times columnist Steve Lopez has been all over this story from the get-go, and his distaste for Mahony is legendary.