Sunday, March 31, 2013

Owed to a Regular Joe

I miss the old man tonight.

But then, I missed him for most of my life.

If he wasn’t working 14 hours a day, he was out bowling or fishing or at the track or playing golf. His generation (the Greatest, or so I hear) didn’t go in for belly-itching or foot-shuffling. Or lavishing praise on sons who would rather be artists than Flying Leathernecks.

And on vacation or at BBQs or parties—or the bowling alley—he was always right in the middle of things, laughing with and making his friends laugh. Knocking back cans of domestic beer and chain-smoking like the Regular Joe he was. Taking my little sister and me out into the desert to shoot empty cans with his 22 semiautomatic…

But as I said, if he was given to introspection, he was never inclined to share it. His generation wasn’t into that like mine was. Or would be soon. But I never took the opportunity to ask myself—let alone ask him—any of the questions I can’t escape now. We worked together one summer driving a truck, and even at 18, legally mature, I just sat there in stoned and stony silence.

Which was aces with my Dad. He did not need to talk about shit. Still, his long-haired problem child was in money trouble, so he cut me in on his driving deal, and paid me out of his own wages. My gratitude at the time, I’m sure, did not amount to much.

But his generosity extended far beyond his own back yard. People came from miles around to take advantage of his trusting nature and exploit it for everything they could. Oh, it’s a long and ugly list. But my Dad never learned. No matter how many times other peoples’ mendacity and avarice would knock him down, he would always bounce back up in time for the next guy with a story to come along, always convinced that this time he was dealing with a fellow straight-shooter. But he was usually dealing with dead-eye Dicks.

My Dad died 17 years ago today, and was incapacitated for years before that. He never lived to see me step out of the shadow of my own self-interests and take a look around at the other people in the world and consider theirs.

I never became a steeplejack or a major league ballplayer, but I’d like to think my Dad would have made his peace with my manly shortcomings by now and loved me for the parent and relatively decent fellow I’ve become.

It’s taken me a long time to try to follow my father’s example—short of falling prey to every scheming confidence artist between Maine and California—but I finally understand that part of him. The giving part, the part that looked at a stranger’s face and said, “This man too is my brother.”

I’m sorry it took me so long; I sure wish he had said something. If he hadn’t assumed his pothead son would simply notice his example and follow it, I might have become a Regular Joe like him a long time before I did.

The following is a verse from a Steve Goodman composition. Except for substituting “cigarettes” for “cigars,” I’d like to thank him for remembering my father so eloquently in song. From My Old Man.

I miss the old man tonight
And I wish he was here with me
With his corny jokes and his cheap cigars
He could look you in the eye and sell you a car.
That’s not an easy thing to do
But no one ever knew
A more charming creature
Upon this earth
Than my old man. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In the land of the blind…

It’s true. You can find anything on the internet.

I wish I could remember how I came across this article. I think it was when I was trying to find a comparison between the number of kids killed in senseless home tragedies compared to the number of criminals apprehended red-handed by gun-wielding citizens.

Not being any kind of Google expert, I did not find the stats I was looking for, but I did come across some interesting stuff as you may imagine. One piece entitled “12 Children A Day” caught my eye. I thought it might contain the numbers I was looking for.

After perusing the piece, I would have clicked the “Share on Facebook” button except apparently is not equipped with this technology yet. Or perhaps Facebook is part of the vast, ever-shifting socialist conspiracy to relieve Americans of the burden of their Second Amendment protections.

This pugnacious Pulitzer-pursuer goes to some length to argue that the Left’s repeated, bleating whine about 12 American children a day dying from gun violence is a lie, a dodge, an exaggeration used to score political points.

The real number, the author goes on to argue, is only 11.5 children a day shot dead. He’s done the math and he has the figures to prove it (my fifth-grade math teacher would have loved him).

That extra half a dead child a day is a deliberate partisan lie, plain and simple.

If it seems callous to split hairs between twelve dead children a day and eleven and a half, you may not want to click through to the column. I should have mentioned that earlier.

The author goes on to enumerate his own set of facts to counter all the hokum and slick ‘mathematics’ the Left uses to promulgate its lies. Here are a few of my faves:

A toddler has more to fear from a backyard pool than from a gun.

This is true! Toddlers don’t have the upper body strength to lift a gun and accidentally shoot a playmate or sibling. And parents don’t usually put their kids in their gun closet to play and then get distracted by a phone call.

His next hypothetical is a beauty, and shows he’s really let his imagination roam in preparation for this piece:

Even with homicides, a child is 5 times more likely to die by fire than at the hands of someone with a gun.

Then he buttresses his argument with the truly puzzling, “Of course, fire extinguishers are a good thing for putting out fires just like guns serve a purpose for deterring crime.”

Uh… true dat?

And on he goes, listing one by one all the ways he’s found to kill more kids than guns every year. He’s like the John Wayne Gacy of gun advocacy. Unsurprisingly he completely ignores the fact that if we had the power to stop any of those other things that kill all those kids every year, we would. We’d be all over Congress like Bill Clinton at a press availability.

Then he introduces a bunch of important-looking numbers that I wouldn’t understand even if I agreed with them—numbers are my kryptonite. But here’s how he sums up his opinion about children committing suicide with legally purchased firearms: “Suicides don't count in a rational debate about the criminal misuse of guns;” maybe that’s where he’s getting his .5 children a day. To prove his point, he adds, “Japan's gun laws are RESTRICTIVE, and they have more suicides than America.”

In the author’s entire elaborate… bizarre defense of what to do about all these dead children accruing, only the discussion of guns is off the table. Drownings, cars, soccer practice (I’m not kidding, he brings up soccer practice in a conversation about gun violence), these ought to be considered too, but only in the context of the author’s list of ways to kill kids.

As soon as the context changes to guns and gun safety, however, 5,000 dead kids a year is just the price we pay to protect our freedom.

As if the author’s conservative cred hasn’t been thoroughly established by this point, he then spends his longest talking-point excoriating the plague of inner-city gang violence. It never hurts to throw a few red-button words or phrases in to stir up the base, and pushing racist buttons has never failed to produce results, from the “Dixiecrats” of the ’60s who fled their party in opposition to integration, to this last election’s primary candidate competition regarding which would-be American president would build the highest, longest, deadliest wall to stave off the threat of illegal Mexican immigrants.

Lest we think the author uncompassionate, he actually opens his final paragraph with, “The loss of life however it happens is a tragedy--even in the case of the gang members shooting gang members.”

Wow. Even in the case of gang members. This fellow is like a regular Mother Theresa, except instead of devoting a lifetime ministering to lepers in the slums of Calcutta, he expresses pro-forma regret at the loss of life, even of black people he implies probably had it coming anyhow.

God. When this guy was on the street corner with a misspelled sandwich board and a rolled-up pizza box he was using as a megaphone, he was an object of curiosity. Now, instead, he no doubt has a following.

Sometimes I really wish you couldn’t find absolutely everything on the internet.