Saturday, December 15, 2012

American Tragedy, Grief, And Fortitude

US Flag 3 SC American Tragedy, Grief, and Fortitude

In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the burdens of Americans’ hearts have grown especially heavier upon learning of the events that unfolded yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A lone assailant entered the school and ended the lives of 26 people, including himself. Twenty of the victims were kindergarten children at the school. This attack apparently occurred after he had killed his own mother in her bed at home, which brought the death toll to 27. Some reports maintain that he had also earlier shot and killed a former roommate at a separate location, which would bring the death toll to 28 people.
It has been reported that the 20-year-old shooter suffered from a number of mental and emotional conditions, including Asperger’s Syndrome, and that medications for these conditions had been prescribed to him in the past. Most other information about his personal situation seems to remain as speculation.
Personal thoughts and prayers for the comfort, safety, and well-being of the survivors of this assault are now no doubt shared with millions of Americans across the country.
Mass killings of this sort, however tragic, are not new to this country. According to statistical experts, there has been an average of 20 such mass killings in America annually for decades. For many years, the death toll, as a result of these mass murders, has averaged to about 150 deaths annually.
The popular notion of the seemingly rising trend of such events is likely due to an increase in the media exposure devoted to such tragedies. Such accounts sound terrible, and they are terrible. There are a few reasonable explanations, though, for this heightened media attention. First, there has been a trend, in recent years, of such homicides occurring in such public places as schools and movie theaters and involving the deaths of young children. Many such massacres in recent years have also resulted in high numbers of casualties. Finally, there is the now obvious slant toward the “progressive” movement shared by the gamut of mainstream media networks. This movement (and their media) tells us that such massacres are precedented examples of the need for additional gun control legislation.
In fact, for those of us who remain as free-thinking, common-sense people, such events only serve as examples for the need of further deregulation of 2nd Amendment rights for law-abiding Americans. All other thoughts and loyalties aside, it is a fact that if that principal in Connecticut (the first victim of this massacre) had been legally armed, the carnage of the assault would very likely have included many less people, and maybe no people.
Developments such as this have inspired many of us to only grow more determined to retain our personal rights and the first principles of our nation that have made it so unique and blessed among the peoples of the world.
It is curious that in the public schools of our ally, Israel, teachers and other school employees are routinely allowed the right to securely maintain registered firearms in the workplace for protective purposes. Even more, we do not hear about such school shootings ever happening in Israel.
At the root of things, the antidote for America’s personal, social, and political woes should be so obvious to us all. As God (He upon whom our nation was founded) is increasingly pushed out of our affairs and associations, our troubles mount higher by the day. If there is any hope for the future of America, it will only be realized when we finally turn our eyes back toward the author of the universe and inspiration for our country as the only source of our aide. God bless.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Clubhouse

I wrote this fictional short story (based on my childhood) for my wife's 2nd Grade school class. This story goes to show that things like class envy, theft, apathy, and closed-mindedness are things to which none of us are immune, and that are learned long before adulthood. It also shows us that the world could be a far better place if we would all do our part to contribute to society, respect our fellow man, and only then, find common ground. I hope you'll enjoy.

The Clubhouse

One night from his bed, in a nice little neighborhood, in the nice little town of Golden Cove, Steve thought about all his friends in the neighborhood, and all they’d been through. He was glad they all got along better than ever before, but remembered that they hadn’t always. The bunch of kids, who all called each other friend, lived in a neighborhood that stretched for three city blocks. To name a few, there were Steve, and James, and Mike, and Bryan, and Ricky, and Doug. They saw one another almost every day, and played together often, because they all lived no more than a block away from any of the others. They played basketball at Steve’s, they rode their bikes together, and sometimes they all went to see Ricky and jumped with him on his big trampoline. At one time or another, they had all been together at the houses of each of these friends.

They did have some other friends, though, who lived on the other end of the neighborhood, separated from them by several homes where no kids lived. As Steve thought to himself, he could remember a time when none of his everyday friends had all gone together to see these friends on the other side of the neighborhood. All these kids knew one another, and each of them would have probably said that all of these neighborhood kids were their friends. They just didn’t get to see each other as often, at least away from school, because they lived farther apart. This group of friends on the other side of the neighborhood was a smaller one. There were only Billy, Arthur, and Cody.

As all of these neighborhood kids grew older, to about seven years old, they began to notice things about one another that they never had before. Steve and his closest friends began to notice that their friends on the other side of the neighborhood didn’t have all the things they had, like trampolines and basketball goals, and they didn’t always have things that were as nice or new as theirs, like bikes and skateboards. Steve and his friends noticed these things, but they didn’t think about them very often, and they didn’t seem to think any of it made much of a difference. On the other side of the neighborhood, though, Billy, Arthur, and Cody noticed these things, too. More and more, each time they rode their bikes to the other side of the neighborhood, they noticed that their bikes weren’t as cool as their other friends’ bikes. They also began to notice more and more things that Steve, and James, and the others had, but they didn’t, and they wanted them.

One night, just before dark, Arthur just couldn’t take this anymore. It wasn’t fair. He really wanted a bike like Steve’s, and so he decided to sneak over and take it. All he had at the time was a big-wheeled scooter with leaky tires and stiff wheels that wouldn’t let it go very fast or for very long without giving it another push with his foot. When he got to Steve’s house, he didn’t see anyone hanging around, but realized that it would be too hard, take too long, and be too risky to try to take his scooter and Steve’s bike back home with him all by himself. So, he decided that it would be easier to lean his scooter against Steve’s house, in Steve’s bike’s place, and to take the bike home with him. He knew his scooter wasn’t much, but it eased his guilty feeling to leave Steve with something, and it made the whole operation easier. The next day, after realizing someone had traded him a scooter for a bike without his permission; Steve began riding the scooter through the neighborhood, from one end to the other, asking all the kids if they had seen his bike or who had taken it. As he got to the other side of the neighborhood, he finally had answers. Some kids he didn’t know told Steve they had seen Arthur riding his bike. After realizing he hadn’t seen Arthur around, it all began to make sense. When he got to Arthur’s house, there was Arthur with the bike, looking guilty. He didn’t put up any fight, and traded the bike back for his scooter.

Some time had passed since this happened, and Billy remembered how much trouble Arthur had gotten in when his parents realized he had taken another kid’s bike. Even though he was tempted to do the same thing many times, Billy didn’t want to get into that kind of trouble, and knew that Arthur would have been in even more trouble if Steve’s parents had called the police when his bike had been stolen. By now, all these kids in the neighborhood were between ten and twelve years old. Somehow, though, Billy still couldn’t get over the fact that Steve, James, and the others had cooler things. It still wasn’t fair.

One day Billy, Arthur, and Cody came from their street down to the other side of the neighborhood. They could see all the other kids gathering together in Steve’s back yard and climbing into a tree house that they’d never seen before. They sat there by the curb watching for a few minutes and started getting angry as they watched the last kid climb the rope ladder up to the tree house and step inside. “Now they’ve got a tree house, Billy!” said Arthur. “Yeah, I know,” Billy said. Cody said, “Let’s go over there and climb the ladder.” “No,” Billy said. “I don’t think we’re invited, and the other day, Steve and James were laughing at the bike Arthur and I built.” Actually, Steve and James were just laughing because the bike was unlike any other they had ever seen before, and laughing just came natural to them. They actually thought that Billy’s and Arthur’s ‘chopper’ bike was pretty epic, and if Steve and the others had known that Billy and the rest were there, they would have invited them inside, but Billy, Arthur, and Cody just rode away.

Well, Billy started getting even angrier every day, even angrier than Arthur or Cody. “I’ve got to get them back, and make them pay!” he thought to himself. Then, he thought of a plan. He knew that Doug lived right in the middle of the neighborhood, out of sight from where all the other kids lived, and he could use Doug to get back at those “stuck up” kids. The next day, Billy took the short bike trip to where Doug lived and found him in his front yard. “What’s goin’ on, Doug” Billy asked? “Oh, nothing much, man,” said Doug. “Have you seen Steve’s tree house? You ought to go check it out with us.” “No,” Billy said, “They actually told Arthur, and Cody, and me that they didn’t want us in their ‘clubhouse,’ and that we weren’t part of their club. They even told me that they didn’t really even want you over there, but that they didn’t want to be rude and tell you to go away.” “What?” said Doug, “Really? Are you sure?” “Yep, that’s what they told me.” “Who told you that?” “Well, Steve and James, mainly,” said Billy. “That’s MESSED UP! That makes me mad!” Doug said. “I know, me too,” said Billy. “I think we should build our own clubhouse and start our own club.” “Alright, we will, and I don’t care what those guys do. I’m going to give them a piece of my mind next time I see them,” said Doug.

Now, Billy didn’t know that Doug was the real carpenter of the friends from down the block, but Billy did know that Arthur’s dad had lots of good lumber and other building materials in his tool shed, and that they could use that to build their new clubhouse. After a couple of days, Doug, Billy, Arthur, and Cody had built one awesome clubhouse in Arthur’s back yard. It had a shingled roof, two rooms, and a wooden ladder leading up the tree to the clubhouse door that was much better than Steve’s rope ladder.

By the third day since Steve, James, Mike, Bryan, or Ricky had seen Doug; they began to wonder what had happened to him. Where was he? They also realized it had been even longer since they had seen Billy, Arthur, or Cody. Finally, they couldn’t take it anymore; they left Steve’s tree house to go to that side of the neighborhood, where answers had been found before. First, they stopped at Doug’s house where Doug’s dad told them he wasn’t here, and that he was over at Arthur’s house with Arthur and Billy. “Well, that was interesting,” they thought, and they set out for Arthur’s house. When they got there, they saw the tree house in Arthur’s back yard from the back gate. “Hey, Arthur, said Steve, That’s the coolest tree house I’ve ever seen! Have you seen Doug around?” “This is a clubhouse, said Billy, and it’s OUR clubhouse! Arthur don’t want you and your friends over here, and he said that if you don’t get outta here real quick-like, he’s gonna come down there and put a whoopin’ on all ‘o ya’ll!” “Wait, what?” said Arthur. “And he and I don’t take kindly to you laughing at our bike, either” said Billy. “Yeah, said Doug, and if you don’t want us in your clubhouse we don’t want you in ours!” “What do you mean, said Steve? We’ve been wondering where you and Billy and the rest were. I never said I didn’t want you in the clubhouse.” “Billy, did Steve really tell you he didn’t want me at his house?” said Doug. Billy said, “Well, not exactly, but…” “So you lied to me?” “Well, you make it sound really bad when you put it like that.” “Listen, we want all of you to come over to the house, and we think your bike is cool, too” said Steve. “Well…I guess we could come over for a little bit” said Billy. “What do you think, Doug?” “Yeah, that’ll work.”

As they all took the long trip to the other side of the neighborhood, Mike said, “Hey Billy, it looks like you and Arthur need some tires for that thing, and I think I have some extra tires and tubes that are the same size as the rims on your bike there.” “Oh, really, said Billy? Alright.” When they got to Steve’s house, Steve said, “Billy, our tree house is pretty lame compared to yours, and if you and Arthur and Cody can help us fix up ours, we can all start having meetings at both clubhouses on different days.” “O.K., alright,” they said, as the rest of the group nodded their heads to say yes. Arthur said, “Yeah, we’ve still got plenty of materials left over to fix up your tree house real good.” “Cool,” said Steve.

So, Arthur and Billy rode their bike to Arthur’s house, with Arthur pumping Billy on the back, and they made three more trips back and forth from Arthur’s to Steve’s, unloading lumber, and plywood, and shingles, and hinges, and everything else you could imagine. Doug could work wonders with all this good material, just as he had with the other tree house. In the meantime, Mike had made a trip back home and came back to Steve’s with two new tires and tubes that he and Billy put on Billy’s and Arthur’s bike. By the time it started getting dark that evening, they all had another new and improved clubhouse that looked a lot like the one that had been built at Arthur’s house.

The next day, they all had their first club meeting together at Steve’s, and it was decided that whenever they were able, and had permission, they would all ride bikes together and trade out with each other any time they wanted, as long as they each went home with their own bikes! They also decided that at least twice a week they would all meet up at Arthur’s and Steve’s clubhouses. As Steve thought all this over, he remembered that tomorrow was the day to meet up at Arthur’s house, and he smiled before drifting off to sleep. These good friends learned a good lesson that we should all learn: that if we’ll look at each other as equals, keep talking to each other, and not be afraid to share or to be different, we’ll all get along better, and we’ll all be better off.