Tuesday, January 19, 2016

J Is for Jealous

I get out of bed at 4 AM each morning to perform a menial job rich in stress, dissatisfaction, potential health risks and exposure to liability. It is equally-poor in remuneration and benefits.

Owing to a felony conviction for long-term unemployment, there is little else.

This allows me to hold forth on the working poor at festive occasions like birthdays, christenings and New Year's Eve parties. (Yes, I receive a lot of invitations.)

As such, I am trying very hard to understand the dullards fortunate-enough to win lotteries who see no other way forward than to continue reporting to work.

If we were speaking of concert pianists or successful filmmakers or renowned brain surgeons, that would be one thing. But we're talking about an employment strata decidedly less-elevated; one way, way downstream.

We're talking store clerks, municipal laborers and in the case of one recent winner—warehouse supervisors.

I have worked in warehouses. They are ugly, dirty and drafty places full of mice and mousetraps and unhappy people living on the margins of solvency. Warehouses have lunch rooms with burned-out fluorescent lights, sagging paneling and chipped Formica tables. Filthy microwaves and broken coffee-makers.

So I'm wondering why, when opposed to a month in Spain or Italy or overseeing the construction of a new dream home, someone would choose to remain in one. 

I mean, do you have nothing better to do than to get up and go to your dreary, dead-end job? No imagination that stretches beyond doing what you have always done?

It is sad. Infinitely and inexplicably sad. Some combination of your education and your parents have failed you, and I am sorry.

I get three magazines, a daily newspaper, read books and am a voracious consumer of movies and music. There aren't enough hours in the day to read all that I want to read, see all that I want to see and hear all that I want to hear.

I won't even broach the ten years without a vacation which has left my thirst for travel parched and unrequited.

And you can't think of anything to do but get up and go to work

The only thing more remarkable than your short-sightedness is why, even with the likes of you about, scientists continue to develop robots and drones. 

How about volunteering with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity or Doctors without Borders? Or the local food pantry or children's hospital?

What about building a new animal shelter, or a complex of affordable apartments? Or buying that elderly widower down the block a new roof?

How about getting really out there and turning your job over to someone who—gasp—actually needs one?

Yes, I am jealous. Hideously so.

But whatever our respective fortunes, I at least am curious. And know how to remove my blinders.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Executive Cartoonist Overreach

I deeply admire political cartoons. Those one-panel illustrations that miraculously convey in a single drawing an opinion about complex and many-layered issues. 

Their well-chosen imagery frequently lingers far-longer than even the most well-written editorial.

A recent example would be a Michael Ramirez cartoon for Investor's Business Daily—but not for the reasons he intended.

In Ramirez's cartoon, a caricature of President Obama stands before an enormous, bullet-riddled copy of the Constitution, gazing at its remains as he holds a smoking gun. (I will admit its wildly overheated and twisted symbolism took a minute to sink in.)

Pandering to the knee-jerk anxiety of the gun crowd, Ramirez's cartoon conveys a seething, smoldering outrage at the mere thought of a president even considering highly-specific gun legislation aimed at a very small portion of the gun-buying public.

I could've sworn the Constitution had more than one amendment. Perhaps I need to revisit civics class.

Let's be clear: the gun lobby has one simple and well-defined strategy: No compromise. Ever. It's their way or no way.

The gun lobby is a cloistered, monotheistic sect, with the gun as Lord. It couldn't be more-evident that thou shalt have no other god before theirs. This is a religious war, where any outcome other than the complete fulfillment of their short-sighted agenda is a shameful and humiliating failure.

To wit, a mid-level member was drummed out of the NRA merely for suggesting several years ago that the best long-term strategy going forward might be occasional compromise.

Through no fault of the NRA's, this individual is reportedly still alive today.

The gun lobby has repeatedly blocked the implementation of smart gun technology, which would allow a gun to fire only when a recognized user was attempting to use it.

They have repeatedly blocked common sense legislation which would seek to ban assault weapons, or bar people on our nation's No-Fly lists from purchasing guns and ammunition.

Most damningly, they are responsible for making gun manufacturers the sole business entity in the United States of America which enjoys absolute immunity from any damages wrought by its products.

Think about that.

And yet the gun lobby is screaming that by attempting to narrow—not close—a loophole which allows anyone to buy or sell a firearm at a gun show free from any licensing requirements or background checks whatsoever, Barack Obama is destroying the Constitution.

Now would be a good time to remind ourselves that per Ramirez's cartoon, the second amendment is the Constitution, which tells you all you need to know about the gun crowd.  

Perhaps their myopia is the result of too many years spent squinting though gun sights. 

Just a thought. 

Sadly, the truth is that our would-be John Waynes, Chuck Norrises and Vin Diesels will remain free to play with their gun-penises for another day, while the rest of us are free to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in between lock-downs and calls to 911 and from behind a police barricade.

Michael Ramirez's cartoon is the canary in the gun control coal mine which confirms how very far those of us who truly value life have yet to travel.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Obama's Gonna Take Away Your Guns!

The default Republican nightmare has at last come to pass.

In a marked display of humanity, President Obama pledged Tuesday to take whatever executive action he can to stem the unconscionable flow of guns throughout the United States, which has us awash in death, fear and disability.

While no one is expecting a sea change of regulation, it is nevertheless a start, and an important public condemnation of this ongoing idiocy.

Predictably, the gun lobby peed its collective pants.

God bless you, Mr. President.