If Twitter Had Existed in Lincoln’s Time

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Does anyone else think it’s unpresidential for candidates to engage in Twitter battles? What if Twitter had been around when America began? Hmmmm . . .

LINCOLN: Douglas is a cad and a masher. Furthermore, I declare that he is a mountebank! #Douglasforprez

DOUGLAS: Ooh, got me there, Linky. You, kind sir, are a jug-eared buffoon of the highest order! #Lincolnforprez

LINCOLN: I refuse to stoop to the level of my opponent. However, I will say I had the misfortune of sitting next to Douglas once and he smelled strongly of cheese. It was most unpleasant, even vomit-inducing. I threw up directly into my own mouth.

DOUGLAS: I will have you know that I also recall that day, good sir. I will not say what you smelled of. I will only point out a glorious new invention called toilet paper. Please, for the sake of all things holy, make use of it.

LINCOLN: #Douglasforprez, the only thing I will be wiping my posterior with is you at general election time.

DOUGLAS: @Lincolnforprez, those are fighting words, you punk-ass stretch job! Meet me in the public square for a duel at high noon.

LINCOLN: I am not familiar with this term “punk-ass.” However, Douglas, you clearly watch too many plays. I accept your challenge to meet at noon, but I prefer fisticuffs, Marquess of Queensbury rules, you filibustering, flabby, flatulent flake!

DOUGLAS: Fine, good sir. I’m going to give you some free rhinoplasty and take a few inches off of that prominent proboscus of yours. Now your nose will not arrive five minutes before you do for a change.

LINCOLN: You are revealing your class level, Stephen. One should never criticize physical characteristics someone is helpless to do anything about. You, however, can do something about your cheesy smell, and your bad comb-over. Ha ha! Comb-over! I just invented a new insult, too!

DOUGLAS: Eat me.

LINCOLN: Eat me? Eat me, he says. Perhaps he really is made of cheese. I am rolling on the floor laughing my rear end off over here. #ROFLMREO

DOUGLAS: Hey Stretch, I am experimenting with a new musical form. It’s talking to music, rather than singing. Check me out – – My name is Abe Lincoln! I have trouble thinkin’! I never use toilet paper so I’m always stinkin’!

LINCOLN: Talking to music? That will never prosper.

DOUGLAS: Again, I say eat me.

LINCOLN: This is getting boring. I’m going to bounce, Cheese man. See you at noon. Tape down your wig in preparation for the shellacking I’m going to give that cue ball you persist in referring to as your head.

DOUGLAS: Bastard! I’m going to biff you about the face and neck and beat the chiggers out of your unkempt beard, even if I have to stand on an apple crate to reach you, giraffe boy!

Mister Rogers Gets a Twenty Million Dollar Grant from Congress – with a POEM.

Everything about Mister Rogers was as warm and magical as his show was. He knew how to communicate effectively with children and adults because he did it without bluster, ego, machismo, or any of the other qualities that seem to define many celebrities today. He did it with kindness and love as pure as the driven snow. He emanated goodness. He was a strong enough man to allow himself to be soft. That’s why this tough congressman loved him and didn’t feel embarrassed to tell him he gave him “goose bumps.” Most men are desperate to stop being so damn strong all the time. Mr. Rogers spoke to children in a way they understood, and he spoke to the child in all of us world-weary adults, too. I wonder what he would say about the condition of childhood in America today if he were still alive.

What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong
and nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag
or see how fast you can go?
It’s great to be able to stop
when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong
and be able to do something else instead
and think this song . . .
I can stop when I want to.
I can stop when I wish.
I can stop stop stop anytime.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
and know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
that helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a lady
and a boy can be someday a man.

A Peek Through Heaven’s Curtain

I’m always asking for signs from my father, who passed away in December of 2014, to let me know he’s okay and no longer plagued by Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia.

Last night was particularly bad. I was looking at this photo from my last blog post of my parents and older brother, who is also gone now for twenty years.

Paul at 3He looks a lot like my daughters, and is the blank slate I see them as. Limitless potential. Potential I now know was wasted because of mental illness and drug addiction.

Looking at his then cherubic face, and the youthful face of my father before he was erased by brain diseases, I wept and asked them, “What happened to us? Where did you go?”

What is it about the night? Are demons freed that daylight chases into the shadows?

It seems one or both of them may have heard me because this morning as I was gardening, this shamrock appeared on the ground from some random water spillage.

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My father was fiercely Irish, so maybe this is his way of trying to comfort me. A little penny from heaven. A peek through the curtains.

I often wonder why God just doesn’t part the clouds and say hello, or send us down a DVD of heaven so we can all have a clear, definite vision of what to look forward to.

Maybe God is like someone planning a surprise party. Maybe He doesn’t want to give it all away too soon or easily because He takes such delight in our arrival. But if someone begs Him enough, He allows a little message to come through.

All I know is this is exactly what my dad would send to me, and right after I asked for it.  Life is either a mystery, or it is nothing. It feels much more like a mystery to me so I’ll continue to seek My Heavenly Father – and my earthly one.

Something to Share with the Drug Abuser You Know

And let’s face it, we all know at least one, right? That’s how bad things have become. I wish the graph below showed the rising popularity of something positive, but no, it shows the rising death toll due to the fact that some people just can’t seem to enjoy life without altering their brain chemistry.

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I keep hoping young people will learn from previous generations but it seems they always have to make the same mistakes all over again, and sometimes on an even larger scale.

I had one sibling, a brother. He died of a heroin overdose at the age of 37. He had been an addict for twenty years so I suppose he was lucky to live that long. Over the years, he went from the blonde, freckle-faced boy I played Frisbee with to a haggard, toothless convict (8 years in prison for drug-related offenses) covered with menacing tattoos. Only my parents and I could remember the boy he was. Everyone else saw only a dangerous loser.

I tried everything to get him to quit but it was hopeless. The only thing that ever got him clean for any significant length of time was another stretch in the joint. He had no wife, no family. We were the only ones left who loved him. We were the only ones who mourned him. All the friends he “partied” with disappeared the day he died like rats from a burning house.

My brother always said, “I’m only hurting me.” It’s one of the grandest self-deceptions ever. Illicit drug use is a global scourge and possibly the greatest source of evil in this world.

After his death, despite being acutely aware of how useless words are once people become addicted to drugs, I wanted to write something that might steer young people away from them, something that described the personal, familial, societal and global ramifications of “recreational” drug use. 

Making tragedies mean something is the only way any kind of redemption is ever achieved, so I wrote this poem. I wrote it in rhyme because kids tend to like rhyming poems more. DARE used it for a while in their school programs. Hugs Not Drugs published it in their national magazine. I hope you’ll share it with any drug users you know, and I hope it does some good. As Emily Dickinson wrote –

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

THE DEVIL’S BEST TOOL

Can someone please explain to me
why kids think drugs will set them free?
Instead of reveling in their youth,
seeking health and art and truth,
they waste it all for some false high
as their golden chances pass them by
for accomplishment, pride, and the joy of giving,
all the things that make life worth living;
a victim of their own selfish needs
while everyone who loves them bleeds.

Yet users say, “I’m only hurting me”,
oblivious to the pain in their family.
They constantly whine and complain
about how their lives are full of pain.
And they have my sympathy, but here’s the rub –
If their lives are hard, they should join the club.
Many of us have lives that are filled with pain
but we don’t deal with it by destroying our brain.
We work hard and study and pray and fight
to conquer the demons that plague us at night.
We get up early each day and work hard and long
to make our lives better, to be noble and strong.

What good does it do to bury pain in that way?
The problem’s still there when the drug wears away.
How long can confronting it be postponed?
How long can such laziness be condoned?
There is sorrow and pain in life. On that, I’d agree.
But beat it, don’t run from it, if you want to be free.
Using drugs just says that you’re helpless and weak
and shrouds even further the answers you seek.
Aside from the fact that it’s foolish and wrong,
it tells everyone that you’re not very strong.
Not strong enough to face life straight;
Not in control of your own fate.

Do you really think drugs are just harmless fun?
Then why does your dealer always carry a gun?
Have you ever really stopped to think it through . . .
The mayhem drugs cause on their way to you?
The habit drug users call “recreation”
causes death, despair, and devastation
in impoverished countries that they’ll never see
and right here at home in the land of the free.
But the land of the free has no room left in its jails
and the home of the brave is boarded and nailed
to keep out the rising legions of hell;
to hide in our sanctuaries and pretend all is well.

The experiment of America is becoming a sham
and drugs are the biggest chink in the dam.
All our institutions are beginning to fall
and if we lose our children, God help us all.
But day after day, the death toll repeats.
Dealers killing for control of the streets.
Gangs turning neighborhoods into war zones
where folks are afraid to come out of their homes.

And when their only concern should be getting grades higher,
children have to worry about getting caught in crossfire.
In their lives, the specter of death always looms.
They don’t even feel safe anymore in their rooms.
Their sleep is uneasy when nighttime falls,
worried the bullets will come through their walls.
And peace officers, every day, have to die
just so some ignorant fool can get high.
If the buyers stopped coming, all this carnage would end
so if you have to keep using, at least don’t pretend
that you hurt no one else. That’s an idiotic deduction.
No, you’re just one more stop on a trail of destruction.

My words may sound harsh but they’re written with love
because I can either hug you or give you a shove.
I’ll say anything to you and do whatever it takes
because if you gamble, you should know all the stakes.
I’m not a preacher or some self-righteous fool
but it seems to me drugs are the devil’s best tool.
Drugs turn young boys with eyes clear and bright,
into homeless men sleeping in alleys at night.
Drugs make young girls start turning tricks,
selling their bodies for one more fix.

Drugs enter your life as a fun-loving guest
then slowly but surely rob you of your best.
You hardly notice as they become your master,
turning you and your life into a disaster.

So if you want to be part of the coolest crowd,
look for the people who are strong and proud.
Take it from me if you won’t from another
because drugs took the life of my only brother.

For Paul William Rickerby
6/1/60 – 10/17/97

Paul at 3

If your loved one is still not convinced, and especially if meth is their “drug of choice”, share this lovely story with them –

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/02/25/mother-woman-20-who-gouged-out-eyes-speaks-on-hazards-illegal-drugs.html

 

On Vanity Publishing

When I was very young and desperate to get something published somewhere, I came across a poetry contest online hosted by a company with a very important-sounding name like The International Consortium of Master Poets. (I just made that up, but you get the drift.)

I submitted something for it and, to my surprise, received a glowing letter a few weeks later stating the poem had been “reviewed by a panel of judges” who deemed it to be of the highest quality and “worthy of publishing.” I didn’t know who this judging panel consisted of but I pictured something like this –

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A bunch of highly-educated old men, all laboring over the merits of my little poem. Man, oh man. Things were gonna start happening to me now!

I was overjoyed until I continued reading beyond the flowery praise to the request to pay them for the high honor of having my poem included in their annual “anthology” of poetry. This request was so deftly worded that I almost didn’t notice that it was the polar opposite of legitimate, traditional publishing wherein the author gets paid by the publishing house. I was also so talented, according to them, they would even allow me to pay them some more money to see my poem printed on a plaque, and even a coffee mug!

Fortunately, I didn’t fall for it. I was naive, but not too naive to smell a rat that big and stinky. So for a laugh, I entered another poem into their contest under a fake name to see if that poem would also be deemed the height of literary mastery by their panel of judges. A friend and I laughed ourselves sick writing it at the beach one day. Our goal . . . to pen the worst love poem of all time. Here it is –

My Gal Penelosquat

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Her love reminds me of flowers.
I don’t need her tomorrow, but nowers.
She really makes me feel groovy,
like that Mona chick at the Louvie.
She’s hot, like a jalapeno squirt.
I’d cut off my ear, but it would hurt.
Her love is a towel
cooling my weary browel.
My love is a sponge.
On our love raft, we will plunge.
She’s just so – I can’t find the word.
Her hair is so . . . you know.
Her nose is so big, though.
And that name . . . Penelosquat McSchmultzerd.

I typed it out and sent My Gal Penelosquat off in the mail. Sure enough, two weeks later, I received the same letter stating that this high crime against the English language was as brilliant and worthy of publication in their anthology, plaque and coffee mug as the last one was! Imagine my surprise. 

I post this as a warning, but not a condemnation of anyone who has been taken in by vanity publishing. There’s nothing wrong with paying a company to print a poem in a book, or on a plaque or coffee mug, as long as one doesn’t think it’s published and knows these companies are just offering a service and will take money from anyone willing to buy their anthology, no matter how horrific the poem is. It’s their deception in making each writer feel special that is repugnant to me.

Unfortunately, I’ve met people over the years who proudly stated they had a poem published by one of these companies, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them any of this. Some people just don’t have a very strong rat detector. But I hate to see fellow writers, baby eagles with downy wings, struggling with words for the first time, taken down by con artists selling them a bill of goods. They take more than money, they take self-respect. I mean, if they’ll take My Gal Penelosquat, they’ll take anything.

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom! Episode 20 – The Sting

Welcome to episode 20 of Messin’ with Mark! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode – The Sting.

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As you will see, dear reader, that title has a double-meaning. It was a sting operation by God and I also got my butt stung off by bees. Allow me to explain . . .

I got a wild hair one weekend and decided to go rock climbing. I didn’t want to drive far so I went to Griffith Park, which is a few miles from my house. I wouldn’t admit it then, but in retrospect I must admit I was a classic weekend warrior. Minimal rock climbing experience, no proper gear, not really in top shape for such activity, and no research ahead of time on the area where I’d be hiking. If I had known the mountain was called BEE ROCK (!), I probably would have chosen another one. 

Here it is. Looks inviting enough, doesn’t it?

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See that crevice at the bottom right? That’s where I started. I got to the top and was almost doing the splits with a seventy foot drop beneath me when it finally dawned on me that I had written a check my body couldn’t cash. It was also at that moment that I realized I was smack-dab in the middle of another episode of Messin’ with Mark, God’s sitcom!

As if I weren’t in enough trouble, bees started to sting me. Dozens of them. And I couldn’t run or hide. All I could do was stay there clinging to vertical rock faces on either side, hoping the bees would get bored.

They didn’t. They invited friends.

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I realized I needed to get down or move over. There was only one crag within distance – jumping distance. I knew if I stayed there, the collective bee venom would paralyze me and I would fall to my untimely demise. 

I can just imagine the control booth up in heaven at about this time, with Jesus looking at his Dad sideways, wondering if he was going to let up. Seeing He had no intention of cutting me any slack whatsoever, He had to say something.

JESUS: Okay, Dad, you’ve gone too far this time. He’s gonna die.

GOD: So what? I’m God. I’ll just make another one.

JESUS: But this is a comedy. He’s the original actor. Sequels and look-alike’s never capture the original magic. Didn’t we learn anything from Home Alone 3 and 4?

GOD: Maybe you’re right. I’ll put a crag next to him, but far enough away so he has to make a death-defying jump from a splits position to reach it. Should be exciting!

JESUS: Okay, but please just make sure he makes it. Seeing him go splat would definitely be bad for ratings. I mean, humiliating him mercilessly over and over is great entertainment, but killing him outright is just mean. Nobody will tell you you’re a terrible director because you’re God and all, but they’ll be thinking it.

GOD: As if that helps. I know what they’re thinking, too.

JESUS: Dad, don’t get all Old Testament on me.

GOD: Okay, okay! I got the message.

So I jumped, caught it, and managed to crawl far enough up the mountain that the bees finally realized I wasn’t trying to steal their honey or whatever the hell it is bees get all uppity about. 

Bees seem so cute from a distance, flying from flower to flower. The springtime innocence of it warms the very soul. Not so much when there’s 93,000 of them all intent on stinging every square millimeter of your personage. And they look a lot bigger when they’re actually on you, too.

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I spent the next few days looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which I’m sure also fetched big laughs up in heaven.

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As I lay there on the couch, slapping on the calamine lotion, I looked through the window to the big, blue sky and repeated those words I have said so many times before, usually in various states of emotional and/or physical trauma . . .

“Well-played, God. Well-played.”

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17 Children This Time

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I don’t expect very many people to read this. It’s going to be long. It will take a while to vent about this latest mass murder of our children by another recent child who decided being a monster was preferable to whatever he was experiencing. 

I was bullied terribly in school. I moved fifteen times before I was fifteen years old so I was perpetually “the new kid”, being tested over and over at each new school by children modeling unbalanced, cruel behavior they had probably learned from unbalanced, cruel parents or other relatives. The problem was I had no violence in me. I was born without an aggressive instinct or the need to dominate others to make myself feel strong, as children should be.

I don’t know why I was so passive. My father was a great provider and could be very loving, but there was also an insecure side of him that told stories of old fights in his youth on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, as if he were describing some happy event. My older brother wasn’t naturally aggressive, either, but his desperation to win over my father was so strong, he begged him to teach him how to box in the back yard and would get into fights at school on an almost weekly basis. When he would come home with another black eye, our father would say he shouldn’t do that (because he knew he was supposed to) but then he would ask what happened and his eyes would light up when he told him he won. The message was clear – violence is manly. 

God in heaven, it took me a long time to shake that belief. It took me a long time to realize that violence is not strength and compassion is not weakness.

When I was thirteen, again the new kid at a new junior high school, I was in P.E. class playing ping-pong when our ball jumped off the table and was picked up by a kid I didn’t know. I walked over and asked him for the ball. He didn’t give it to me. I asked him again. He said, “Why don’t you try to take it?”, then looked at his friends and laughed. When he looked away, I took it out of his hand, said thanks and walked away. He yelled “Hey!” and punched me as I turned around, all for taking a ping-pong ball that was mine to begin with. His equally disturbed friends then targeted me and the bullying began. The usual stuff – name-calling, knocking my books out of my hands in the halls, bumping shoulders, etc. Eventually, another one punched me for some made-up offense. 

Being a sensitive kid, I had not yet built up the rage necessary to learn to fight and walk around guarded, so I just took it. The truth is I was also scared. I didn’t understand these kids who so easily punched other kids in the face, and even seemed to take great pride and glee in it. I remember thinking I was glad it was they that were able to do that and not me, even as the cuts were healing and the bruises were yellowing.

I had taken an experimental sojourn into the world of bullying earlier in my childhood, sort of like trying on a costume. Fortunately, the costume didn’t fit me and I knew it right away. A classmate in fourth grade named Ward had told on me for talking in class and I punched him in the stomach by the bike racks after school. It was so against my nature to be cruel, I made myself physically ill from the guilt I felt about it. I tried to apologize to him the next day but he walked right by me. 

My best friend in sixth grade lived with a neglectful mother and had a father who was ex-military and stricken with the worst case of short-man’s complex I had ever witnessed before or since. The problem was he wasn’t short to me then, and seemed very manly. He was always bragging over beers about some poor, probably passive guy he had just pummeled, and would tell my friend to beat up a bully at school or don’t ever visit him again. He never spent a minute of quality time with my friend, but he was so desperate to connect with his father, we would walk across town to visit him where he lived with his new family. Of course, he would ask my friend to “make a muscle” and tell him about any fights he got into at school, beaming proudly when he said he won, just like my dad did. My friend became a bully. I didn’t. But then, my parents were together, and my father was a hell of a lot more loving, with a great sense of humor that balanced out the bad stuff. My mother was also more loving than his was. I just caught more breaks, and they saved me from becoming angry, bitter and resentful – all the precursors to psychotic.

I was bullied so badly at the new place we moved to when I was a very awkward thirteen year-old, I pretended to be sick to avoid school, or when I did go, I would walk toward the school until my mother drove away, then turn around and walk around town all day, returning home eight hours later as if I had been in school all day.

The stress a bullied child feels, to their minds, is equal to the stress any soldier feels going into battle. It’s all relative. A child who gets a giant zit on his/her nose on prom night is just as stressed as someone waking up in a hospital with a leg missing. Emotions are bigger to children because the world is new to them – life is new – and they are experiencing them for the first time. They don’t yet have the equal parts benefit and curse of experience and the comparative boredom that accompanies it. Some kids, anyway. A blessed few are somehow given that magical blend of wisdom that insulates them from the nonsense of high school cliques and head games. 

Despite all the bullying, though, the thought of murdering someone never crossed my mind back then. Not once. It wasn’t that the stress wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I didn’t hate them. So what was it? I have plenty of theories I could pontificate about, but what would be the use? Very few people will possess the required attention span to read a long post like this, and those that do are probably not going to be troubled enough to contemplate such horror and steered away from it by something I wrote. Nor will this post influence government policy. This is writing as pressure relief. Narcissistic in a way, because I don’t know what else to do. 

I have two daughters – four and six years old. I read to them and pray with them every night. My wife and I sleep in the same room with them. There are two beds side-by-side so the room is basically one big bed except for the dresser, which is bolted to the wall in the event of the California earthquake everyone says could strike at any minute. When I take them to school, I wait until the doors close and lock before I leave. I’m usually the last parent there. Some call it paranoia. I call it heightened awareness. I wish I didn’t have to worry, but how can’t I in a world with so many people hoping to become famous not by accomplishing something great but by becoming a monster. 

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about those seventeen kids who went to school yesterday morning like any other day, waved goodbye to their parents, then ended up being murdered by somebody most of them probably didn’t even know. I held my girls a little tighter and prayed harder that they would be protected from the craziness of this world when I can’t be with them. I kissed my youngest daughters little hand as she slept. It smelled like a cookie she had eaten earlier that evening. 

So here’s my list of why mass shootings happen. All equally irrelevant and uncorrectable. 

  1. Absent or disinterested parents.
  2. Overworked teachers.
  3. Mean classmates.
  4. Complacent social media platforms and friends (who don’t report threats.)
  5. Violent movies and video games that inspire real-life experience, the way a drug dosage must be increased to achieve the same high.
  6. The general kindness in our culture, or lack thereof. 
  7. Celebration of the wrong things – celebrity and wealth vs. kindness and service to others.
  8. Incivility of speech and action. Look at the comments under any news story on the internet, even the most seemingly benign ones, and it doesn’t take long to find one with someone (usually operating under a nickname) verbally abusing someone else. Where did this lack of civility and respect come from? Certainly not from America’s Judeo-Christian background. People are getting uglier, meaner, less tolerant.
  9. The Internet. We tell our kids not to walk down dark alleys at night, but let their minds wander through a virtual one every day.
  10. Mental pollution. Watch any movie, documentary or home video prior to 1960 and you will see a different America populated by people whose minds had not been polluted by craven, ungodly imaged of depravity and violence, or the total degradation of the female that we call pornography. We accept these things as a natural part of modern life, but how natural are they, really? We’re all taking part in the largest mass experiment in history – to see what the effects of the constant exposure to depraved, violent imagery is on the human mind, particularly the adolescent mind. Have you ever wondered what your mind would be like if you had never seen a single, simulated murder? (The average American witnesses thousands of murders on TV, in movies and in video games before the age of 18.) Personally, I envy those who lived before 1960 for how pure their minds and spirits must have been. Childlike, as that word used to be defined. Many of them had survived world wars, which only made them even more committed to kindness and moral purity. Those who have seen the worst of humanity are most likely to celebrate the best of it. 
  11. Overpopulation and the lack of accountability it causes. People think they can treat anyone and everyone like dirt, blend back into the crowd, and never be questioned about it again. The human mind is better suited to life in small villages and feels small, insignificant and unimportant in giant crowds.
  12. Guns. The weapon of choice of the Florida killer and the Vegas killer was the AR-15 assault rifle, to ensure the largest number of murders. No civilian needs to own one of these to protect his home. The necessary evil of pistols in this increasingly violent and psychotic world is enough for anyone.
  13. More federal funding for mental health and mental health awareness.
  14. A greater emphasis on compassion from every conceivable angle – arts and politics – even with those we disagree with politically. The greater the divide is between each other, the easier it is to justify doing harm to others. 
  15. Pharmaceutical drugs. In the old days, kids were just called wild, spirited, or hyperactive, but the drug companies needed to name these conditions diseases, syndromes and disorders because you can’t sell a drug for something that doesn’t have a name. As a result, kids who are just different and will probably grow out of it are labeled so the pharmaceutical industry can sell them a drug. These drugs often causes “thoughts of suicide” – the TV ads for these drugs often say so – but you never hear “homicidal thoughts” for some reason, even though a lot of these homicidal kids were medicated. I don’t wonder why. It’s because Big Pharma has a stranglehold on us, in more ways than one. Any industry billions of dollars run through is rife with corruption. Some kids benefit from medication, but most can do without it. We are turning our kids into medicine cabinets and letting drug companies convince us that’s what they need – not time, love, spirituality, being heard. Nope, diagnosing them with some disorder and popping pills into their little yaps is much easier for today’s working parents.
  16. Severing of attachment to one or both parents through divorce, or just never having one to begin with because the parents are too self-centered to bother. A feeling of abandonment and isolation is possibly the root of all evil. My friend Amy Chesler taught me that. Her brother felt that way and ended up murdering their mother. Kids often act out the anger they feel at being cast aside. 
  17. Removal of God from school and just about everything else. It’s healthy for kids to believe their actions matter, even when nobody (mortal) is watching.

Okay, I’m putting the soapbox away. And that’s what it is. I mean, who cares about some little blog post? The kid who is developing a murderous rage or just the desire to be famous – to go from feeling like an insignificant nobody to a horrible somebody – will probably never read this blog. They’ll probably never read anything because that would take time away from playing Bulletstorm or Dead By Daylight.

Someone once argued with me that people have always been violent. For instance, the Nazi’s never played video games. Neither did the Japanese fascists. Most Muslim fanatics never did, either. I argued that the people they’re referring to were adults, and children didn’t start becoming mass murderers until recently. When children start to act in ways that have been the unfortunate domain of only adults for centuries, we are in deep trouble. Common sense tells me filling the minds of children with depraved images isn’t very good for them.

A quick Google search of “violent video game images” immediately demonstrates how psychologically unhealthy the world of “entertainment” has become over the past fifty years. 

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We’re supposed to be leading and guiding them wisely, not letting greedy corporations sell psychologically damaging products to them. We’re dying at the altars of freedom (“creative expression”) and profit. The people who make these games would make a movie or video game about eating babies if they thought they could profit from it. Who will care about the minds of our children if we don’t? Certainly not them.

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 In my late 20s, I saw a robbery victim murdered. He died in my arms. I put pressure on the wound but couldn’t stop the bleeding. He was shot in the chest and his windpipe was obliterated. With his dying breaths, he looked at me with the same question in  his eyes that all victims of violent crime ask – “Why me?”

For several years after that, I carried weapons and threw myself into my martial arts training so that I could kill anybody who would do such a thing to someone else if I ever crossed paths with a monster again. I was finally angry enough to be violent. The fact that the bullied kid still existed in me didn’t help. The kid was now a two-hundred pound black belt who hated thugs or anyone who looked, dressed or acted like them.

It took concentrated effort to purge that rage from my soul so I could be happy again. I still have resentment for anyone who could do harm to others and I’m willing and able to stop them but I don’t allow them to pollute my thoughts or disrupt my peace anymore.

I own two guns in case the craziness of this world comes to my door. I’m overprotective of my daughters because of my past, rising crime, and mass murders like the one that happened yesterday. That includes what I allow or don’t allow to enter their minds. The bubble of innocence will pop soon enough. I’ll protect it as long as I can. 

But again, no matter what I think, those seventeen kids are gone and they’re never coming back. Seventeen kids with heartbroken parents whose worst nightmare came true yesterday. Seventeen kids who, just ten years ago, had hands that smelled like cookies.

Maybe the lesson to be learned from all this, if there is one, and if we’re capable of learning as a culture, is to be kinder, more attentive, to reach out to troubled people, to report suspicious comments or behavior. A few lines from two now obscure songs come to mind –

“Oh, people, look around you, the signs are everywhere – you’ve left it for somebody other than you to be the one to care.” (Jackson Browne)

“I’d like to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.” (Ten Years After) 

After the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, I posted the poem below. I don’t know why I persist in thinking words will help me or anyone else. Again, I suppose it’s just pressure relief. For what it’s worth, here it is again – 

The Open Window

The old house by the lindens
   Stood silent in the shade,
And on the gravelled pathway
   The light and shadow played.

I saw the nursery windows
   Wide open to the air;
But the faces of the children,
   They were no longer there.

The large Newfoundland house-dog
   Was standing by the door;
He looked for his little playmates,
   Who would return no more.

They walked not under the lindens,
   They played not in the hall;
But shadow, and silence, and sadness
   Were hanging over all.

The birds sang in the branches,
   With sweet, familiar tone;
But the voices of the children
   Will be heard in dreams alone!

And the boy that walked beside me,
   He could not understand
Why closer in mine, ah! closer,
   I pressed his warm, soft hand!

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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