Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014: A Time for Friends and Family

It was a hectic Memorial Day weekend for my son and I this year.  On Saturday my 19 year old son drove up to join me for the memorial service for our dear friend Charlie Carlson in Finlayson.  Following the official memorial at the community center there was an impromptu gathering in the pasture across from the Carlson farmstead where many of Charlie's closest friends came to say their final goodbyes.

On Sunday my nephew and his wife had a get together for my deceased oldest brother's siblings and offspring.  It was a very enjoyable evening with the main course, turkey , supplied by my niece's,  nephew's and my employer for which we were all thankful.

On Monday, Memorial Day, my son and I were men on a mission.  First on the itinerary was Hillcrest Cemetery in Minneapolis to pay respects to my friend Timothy Gerard Shelley who left us way too early this past February.  I was devastated when I learned months after the fact of Tim's passing.  I therefore made paying respects to my good friend Tim my priority this Memorial Day.  Although there was not yet a headstone for Tim, my son and I, with the assistance of a nice young woman in a golf cart were able to find Tim's grave which was covered by a biodegradable mat used to spur grass growth..

Next it was off to the Crystal Lake Cemetery in North Minneapolis to visit the graves of my father's parents.  We found my grandfather's marker without problem but needed the assistance of a very kind and considerate maintenance worker to uncover my grandmother's marker.  I know it would have made my father very happy that my son and I honored his parents, especially since their children are all gone and if we did not do it no one else would.

Finally we topped off our weekend at my friend Patricia's Memorial Day family and friends gathering. Patricia is the sister of my very good friend Ralph and one of the kindest and most generous people I know.  It is always extremely humbling the way Ralph and his family have included me and my children in their family get togethers for which I will be eternally grateful.  A fine ending to a most Memorable Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

America's Tragedy of Gun Violence: What You Get When You Mix an Inherently Violent Culture with Dysfunctional Government

There was a memorial service yesterday in Finlayson for Charlie Carlson, my friend who recently lost his two year battle with cancer.  Charlie had come to the greater public's attention last fall when he lawfully defended himself during an attempted home invasion robbery wherein he killed one of his armed attackers.  My son and I wanted to thank his many friends and family who contributed their time and loving effort preparing picture boards, food and music all making for a fitting tribute to a good man.

As my friend Charlie was a firearms enthusiast and proud supporter of our country's expanded notion of Second Amendment Rights, I would be disingenuous if I did not note the bitter irony of how stories of gun violence in the media have seemingly shadowed Charlie's personal story.  For those of you who may be thinking, perhaps somewhat smugly, "live by the sword...die by the sword", I would suggest some honesty and thoughtful consideration before jumping to knee jerk conclusions.

First and foremost, how about a little self-reflection and honesty America.  Let's face it, we are a violent nation both historically and in terms of our culture.  Born in the blood of revolutionary war, baptized in the even greater bloodletting of the Civil War only to be confirmed by the blood baths that were the World Wars, America's story has been a violent story and any story with that much violence is naturally going to involve guns; if for no other reason than guns have been one of the most efficient and readily accessible tools for carrying out violence.

Secondly, let's be realistic and practical about the solution.  America's greatness can largely be attributed to the practical realism of our Founding Fathers (and mothers) whose wisdom did not come out of a vacuum.  Rather our previously functional form of government was predicated upon the practical and realistic assessment and acknowledgement of human nature.  It should be no less obvious and apparent today that any policy, any law or any form of government, to ultimately be successful must be reined in by the realities and practicalities of human nature.  Therefore any solution to America's problem with violent crime must be realistic in accessing and acknowledging its inherently violent character and one of its chief manifestations, gun violence.

Let us again be honest, realistic and practical by acknowledging that banning or greatly limiting access to guns is not the solution.  Guns are way too prevalent and reducing their prevalence would involve such intrusive, intolerable methods by law enforcement, that a constitutional amendment, realistically, would never see passage.

Frankly, in light of the polarization of the body politic in this country these days, we should thank our lucky stars for that.  The bigger danger, I would suggest , is that either party would become sufficiently powerful so as to get their way, without compromise, on everything.  Again, human nature (and Dalberg) has shown us that "...power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  To have all access to guns controlled through the executive branch of government would be frightening and the more one thoughtfully and honestly ponders this fact leads inexplicably to the conclusion that the Second Amendment is a check on government.  When I speak of gun ownership as a check on government power I do not speak of it as some kind of individual check, some immature, delusional Tea Party, sovereign  tax protester notion that the individual has the God given right to use a gun to defy government and get their individual, selfish way.  No, I think of the check of gun ownership as a collective right of the individual to join with his and her fellow citizens to convey the collective check that their are limits to government power, if we are truly a government of the people.

So if the practical and realistic solution to America's problem of violence does not lie in demonizing and outlawing guns, where does the solution lie?  In ourselves.  Let me repeat that because it sounds too simple. The solution to America's violent crime problem lies in ourselves.

A solution will only come when we all grow up, quit hiding behind simplistic slogans, party ideology and the like and take a hard, honest look at ourselves and realistically acknowledge the short comings of our policies, both social and economic.  The epidemic of untreated mental illness in this country is not a partisan issue and neither is the intolerable disparity in wealth.  The solution to all these issues does not lie in the extremes, but for the sake of everyones interests, the solution lies in a politically active, thoughtful and respectful majority free of  class and partisan interests.  But until that time comes...

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Why: Semi-Twang and the What For: Great Live Music The Where: Lees Liquor Village, Minneapolis

If the GPS on my handheld device wasn't there to remind me I am in Minneapolis, I might think I was in Austin, Memphis or New Orleans.  Last night the Blasters were at Lees Liquor Village and  tonite Lees is on a roll with the long hoped for return of Semi-Twang.  For the uninitiated, John Seiger's band, Semi-Twang out of Milwaukee, was one of the most tasteful and talented bands to come out of the upper Midwest.

Seiger along with his brother Mike were original members in the great R n B Cadets (Along with Paul Cebar and Robyn Pluer) before breaking off to head west in the late 1980's with a great album Salty Tears.  With the release in March of only their third album in roughly 25 years, this is a rare chance to catch one of America's best underexposed bands.  Cheers.  http://www.semi-twang.com/