Tag Archives: gun control

Where do we begin?

I belong to two or three writers’ groups, and one of the mysteries of creative writing is how the writing arises in the first place. What is the impetus for what you write, whatever it is you write?

Some people like to pose writing “challenges” to respond to, bait to get the juices going, but I myself for whatever reasons find that annoying. These challenges force us to respond to something we may have no interest in, whether a certain topic or a form. (Sonnet? Villanelle? Are you kidding? This is not the sixteenth century! Doing good to others? How annoying! I’d just as soon run the opposite way, as Thoreau says, if I see you coming at me with your charity, or therapy, or do-goodism.)

How about you? Where do you begin if not from a sense of what is necessary? There is something within you that must come out. A response to something you’ve seen or witnessed in the world at large. In your family, it could be. Or your circle of friends.

Here’s a quick list of the origins of some recent efforts of mine, both poetry and prose:

  • “Show Me That Thing: A Love Poem.” Well, this unusual rhymed piece must’ve started out as a naughty response to the excessive politically correctness it’s easy to see in the arts. Not great artists, for sure, but the middling bulk of artists lean on the correct, the tried and true, so they can steer their wagging tongue the right way and make sure it’s not banded or branded by the morality police.
  • “Material Girl.” A poem written as a debate with a friend who tends to believe in the not-here and not-now, though she’s firmly anchored in the here and now of exercise and artistic craft. A response to something specific she said, in an email exchange, I believe, about what might come after this life is done.
  • “What We’re Looking For: Or the Editors Seek.” A found poem, in editors’ own words, about what they seek. The desiderata found in little literary magazines tend to be cant, that is, pious platitudes. Or we can’t be sure what the hell they mean they’re so silly or obscure. No need to comment on this stuff, really, aspiring writer. Just read it and weep.
  • “Rivers of Blood.” This began as a novel, a form I’ve tried several times with no success, but morphed before long into a screenplay. It began, and continued, as a response to the godawful spate of gun violence in this country. Its setting is academe, where I once worked, and its protagonist the one-time girlfriend of a guy who goes berserk and guns down his professor and classmates.
  • “Unko.” A long short story, in a metafictional vein, prompted by the death of my older brother a couple of years ago. As older siblings tend to be, Gerry was what I call here “a guiding and misguiding light.” Unko is the Japanese word for poop, as the story is ostensibly about installing a toilet, something Gerry would have been very comfortable with, besides his life as a wonderful artist and illustrator. (I couldn’t call the story “Toto” for pretty obvious reasons, but I do use some of Gerry’s erotic and humorous illustrations.) Since the brother is not available, the author implores the reader to help out with the task, which is not only installing a toilet, you see, but accomplishing the business of mourning.

Of  course, once we have an idea, a “germ” of a poem or story, as Henry James would call it, we still have to run with it, don’t we, and develop the idea? That part is not easy, but if we believe enough in our idea, and are excited enough about it, we will persist in the development. This persistence might be fortified by encouragement and corrections we get from other writers, as in writers’ groups, but wherever it comes from it’s a completely necessary component of the writer’s life. (This topic to be continued, of course.)

 

Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

trump, lapierre
Trump and Lapierre, the faces of  ignorant bloodthirstiness.

Have a right-wing friend, let’s say acquaintance, at the gym I  attend. We get along fine, laughing and japing, until we get into politics.

I’ve made clear to Tommy, let’s call him, that I abhor the NRA and its bloody gun-promotion at any cost policies, but he counters that statistics prove having a gun at home protects people from intruders. (What did Mark Twain say about “lies, damned lies, and statistics”?)

I suggest that paranoia has intruded into his brain, that his fears are “projections,” much like bullets projected from a gun, which he attributes to others but which come from within. His own fears, that is, represent his fears of the unknown alien or other. (Yes, he makes many racist remarks about Latinos and blacks.)

The other day, we got into it in the locker room, both Tommy and I and a big dumb pal of his, about 6’4″, 300 lbs., a former Razorback basketball player who, at the age of 50, works as a clerk at a liquor store and for pleasure keeps a deer stand on which many guns are mounted. I suggested to Mr Razorback that I would give him a fine book of poetry which he could read in his stand, and he’d forget all about his guns. You will merge and commune with nature, I suggested, and your violent impulses will disappear.

But Tommy, entering the room, heard me inveigh against gun violence and the NRA, and shouted, “I’m an NRA member!”

Bad cess for you, Tommy.

Somehow, the argument escalated, and Tom spit out, When the food shelves run out at Walmart, you damned liberals will have nothing to eat.

Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo! I intoned, for one and all to hear in the sweaty locker room.

You just wait! Tom roared. You’ll starve to death!

Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Apparently, it’s the “elite” who foist such cultural products as clear, logical, intelligent writing on the masses. Therefor, of course, Tom and Razorbelly will not read such stuff, especially if it comes from political pundits of the center and left. How dare others have gifts and insights that we lack? they seem to suggest. Simply because these elitists have a gift, have studied many years, learned a discipline, including logic. The smug superior bastards!

Cuckoo!

 

 

Gun control, 2

Umpqua CC students
Umpqua Community College Students being frisked by police on the day of the massacre that killed ten, including the shooter, 1 October 2015.

A story in today’s Washington Post discusses the possibility that in the wake of the latest horrific gun massacre, in Oregon, President Obama may take executive action on gun control. Obama has asked his team, evidently to determine “what kinds of authorities … we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Of course, the far-right gun-rights wingnuts think that Obama is something of a criminal himself for proposing restrictions on gun sales and purchases. What he may be proposing now is simply the licensing of dealers who sell more than 50 weapons per year and background checks on purchasers.

To me, an anti-gun nut, it seems quite obvious that this measure in not enough in itself; and that this measure in itself will not keep guns “out of the hands of criminals.” In using this phrase, Obama simply echoes the simple-minded psychology, the naiveté and disingenuousness of the NRA and too many American citizens.

For any of us, any time, could break through the brittle mask of our civilized selves and become criminals. Haven’t we learned anything from Freud and modern psychology? Haven’t we learned from modernist writers, whether Ibsen, Faulkner, Genet, Hemingway, Sexton? Haven’t we considered how violence pervades contemporary literature and art, whether highbrow or low? Have we been deaf and blind to the daily news, which brings us, as Obama says, a new massacre every week or so?

Any of us could become criminals at any time. All of us are born with an innate capacity if not genius for evil, from childhood on. All of us are criminals, in potentia, if not in fact.

So the deliberate naiveté and falseness of the right misrepresent us at our core. There is no simple gulf between the violent and non-violent, the criminal and the bourgeois, the career hitman and the minister or lawyer. Nor is there any reason why we human beings, with our atrocious record of murdering each other individually and en masse, cannot become more peaceable, more reasonable. If only we can calm down long enough to study and unlock our genius for good.

 

Gun control

The Oregon community college killer, too confused and cowardly to be named,
says the sheriff, was enrolled in Writing 115. Before he began picking off his
classmates, he handed over to one of them, “the lucky one,” a manifesto
of obscure resentments and rages. Whether he was failing or passing
this writing class, who knows? Whether the manifesto contained run-on
sentences, subject-verb errors, pronoun agreement problems, dangling
modifiers, incoherence galore. He killed his teacher, Lawrence Levine, 67,
of Glide, an avid fisherman and good writer. Grandma, a survivor sobs,
He killed my teacher. I saw it. The community will pull together, according
to the mayor. He was wearing a flak jacket, camo gear and more ordnance
than you would need to blow up the entire MLA Committee on Community
College Best Writing Practices. He is said to have practiced with his mother,
toting guns, not pens, the two of them, to shooting ranges, making a point
of squinting and taking aim at the obstacles life presented in their long trudge
since divorce from daddy the Englishman. Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, died
at the scene, a very energetic, very kind, kind soul, according to her ex,
who loves her still, an exceptional woman. Lucero Alcaraz, 19, died too.
There is no sense in talking about it, his father says, though he says it
in Spanish. What is the point in showing our pain? Jason Johnson, 20,
had just begun his first week at the school after passing a Salvation
Army drug rehab program. Quinn Glen Cooper, 18, was funny, sweet,
compassionate, a wonderful loving person who loved martial arts,
dancing, and acting. Our lives are shattered beyond repair, his family
says. Lucas Eibel, 18, an amazing soccer player, had just graduated
high school with outstanding marks. Sarena Dawn Moore, 44, a Seventh-
day Adventist, was among others singled out as a Christian. Treven Taylor
Anspach, 20, a name that might’ve been fresh off the boat,  was one
of the most positive people you could ever know. So too was  Rebecka
Ann Carnes, just 18, just starting on life’s mysterious, shall we say glorious path?
Her beautiful spirit will be enormously missed. May they all rest in peace.