In a Democracy, Radicals often create change. PERHAPS WE HAVE A POSITIVE CHANGE TO CONSIDER.
These shootings remind me of an ancient story from old Persia, the "home of the Aryans" as they say in Iran.
There was a good and wise king, King Anoshirvan and his castle palace was near the town square. There he had a special chain crafted, so that when shaken would make a noise to alert the king that someone had a problem. The King would hear the chain, and give audience to each person. The people loved him because he was just, wise, fair and attentive to their needs.
One night after a hot work day a young work horse came to the square and awoke the king, by his rattling the chain. The King's assistants led the horse back to the pasture, but the next day he was back.
This went on for a week, and the King, was exasperated and said: "What are we going to do with this horse?" He called for a farmer from the mountain country nearby, who knew the ways of animals, to ask him how to solve this problem. The old mountain man came, looked over the horse, and said. "Mighty King, all know that you are kind and good, and want to hear every person's problem, and the people trust you to help them. But you have not thought that the animals also know your wisdom. I have discovered that this horse has a rash and is coming to ask you to help him, so he rubs the chain." The king examined the horse and had his best doctors treat the rash and the horse never returned. The people throughout the country rejoiced in the wisdom, because it solved the problem with enlightened compassion.
I hear "chains rattling" in our nation. Can you hear them? Can you wisely determine how to treat the rash of extremist actions. For you see, in a Democracy, radicals often stimulate change. Sometimes the change is good, and often the change is unwise.
Consider an imbalanced college student who shoots up a theater in Colorado, riveting the national population.
In Connecticut, a stressed young man shoots and kills scores of elementary students prompting the President to weep with desolate parents.
In San Antonio, a troubled young man shoots and kills one person as people evacuate theater.
Or remember 9/11, a few political radicals, perhaps willingly brainwashed "religious radicals" fly an airplane into the World Trade Center, killing thousands, but impacting millions and spawning war in at least two nations.
So it is, that after a particularly savage shooting that the subject of Gun Control, takes center stage when "nuts" do insane things.
Our Congressional representatives are faced with conflicting pressures that become more intense when radical terrorism hits within our borders, even in our elementary schools. In the U.S. Congress, politicians are cowed, by the prospect of radical, wealthy demagogues targeting voting districts and funding campaigns against them, if they move the "wrong" way. Recently a good friend in the US Congress called and told me that one of the "wealthy elites" had funded millions to oppose him in his district. He was more emotional than I have witnessed in the 30 years we have been friends. "We can't afford to make those people unhappy!" he growled.
In America, families who would never have considered "gun control" are now calling out for change. From time to time, I drop by a little gun store in Clovis, New Mexico, to see what is new. I come from farming and ranching families and was raised with a gun. From the time I was 8 years old, I could shoot a bird with an unfailing aim. I even became so skilled that I could hit a bird on the fly with my little 22. So it is fun to me to drop in the Clovis gun shop when I travel that way. When Obama ran for US President, that store manager swamped me with rhetoric about how Obama was going to "take our guns away".
Two years later, the gun shop owner sheepishly said: "Our rhetoric gave us record sales and profits and more people have guns than ever." His face said it all. The industry created a political myth to generate business. Today, with shootings popping up everywhere, more and more people are flocking to stores to buy guns. The more guns that are out here, the more of these radical random massacres seem to occur. And sadly, it is all too often the innocents, our children who are killed. Ironically, the very myth that the gun retailers, activists and lobby created, may have become a self fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps a psychological profile, a registration and a time delay for delivery should be required for people to buy guns. But, steps like that don't fully address the issue and can't solve the problem. They do provide political cover for our politicians, but do not solve the problem.
"GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE"
When I was a kid I loved to hunt and was an active member of the NRA, the popular saying was, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Then once in a waiting room to do a television interview about one of my books, I found myself sitting with the head of the National Rifle Association. Our chat changed my entire view of that group, because his comments were so radical, so unbalanced and frankly distorted. I was frankly amazed that a national figure like him would make so many radical statements. I began to read and analyze every word that the NRA published, and found that the organization had slowly shifted from a stress on hunting ideal, preserving nature an ideological political dominated institution.
So, I observed yet again, that radical "nutshit" is not limited to uneducated or emotionally troubled people or religious crazies. The "nut cases" can also be educated political ideologues, wealthy business eccentrics or politicians coveting power or money. "Power and Money" seem to be motivations for almost every person that does something stupid. Even a crazed killer often kills to show his power over his victims. But in a Democracy, it is important that leaders and enlightened citizens show wisdom, reason, balance, and care when dealing with radicals. True patriots know that radicals can stampede normally balanced people into making unbalanced or emotional decisions.
THE UNITED STATES HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LAND OF VIOLENCE
We live in a violent world, whether we try to avoid or ignore the fact. The United States has always been a land of violence. It was a land of violence before Europeans took it from the indigenous tribes and it has continued to be violent since. We have created systems of law enforcement, courts and high ideals, but violence abounds here. You may not see it, but ask any night shift policeman or emergency room doctor in your community.
The "Wild West" was filled with armed and violent people and one by one the worst of them were eliminated or put behind bars bringing a semblance of rational community order. But, it seems that there is a "rattling" in the air, when we hear the sounds and cries of violence in our nation.
The problem in dealing with radicals or extremists is that they have the potential to hurt or kill innocent people to make their point. Political and religious radicals are shown by history to be the most dangerous ones of all for this reason. The Tea Party crowd, wrapped in a Bible draped flag, forces political acts that sometimes threaten to put millions of American's out of work. That is a form of violence. The unwise reaction of George W. Bush to 9/11 resulted two wars, including one the longest continual wars in our history with thousands of American deaths, billions in treasure lost and hundreds of thousands of deaths of other nationalities at the hands of our military. At the hands of "our boys". No wonder our veterans coming home have the highest suicide rate in the nation's history.
HOW MANY GUNS ARE ENOUGH?
A few years ago, I was in a store looking at guns and my wife said: "Sweetheart, how many guns are enough?" I replied to her, "How many pair of shoes is enough?"
But her question stuck with me, so I purchased a good camera and created a new hobby that took me around the world, photographing beautiful flowers and animals and then enlarging them into beautiful framed wall images, some 3 x 4 feet. By that one little question, she brought me a new and much more satisfying approach to recreation and collection. While capturing a beautiful flower in the Amazon jungle, or seeing a family of deer in my viewfinder, I know that instead of destroying that beauty, I will preserve and enjoy it for many years. In my case, I enhanced my lifestyle enormously. Perhaps those who love guns need to consider "How much is enough?" No person, or government should take away our rights and our power, but we must also be willing to consider the impacts of freedom if in the hands of radicals or those emotionally driven to do insane things. My change of recreational habit was instigated by a "seed" idea from a loving wife. She was right. I still love to hunt, but do so more and more, with a camera.
We still need guns, law enforcement, and wise laws. Balance is the key. We don't need to be stampeded but radical acts often force radical responses. I worry about some of the people who I have met, who are educated, affluent and should know better, but who have allowed themselves a luxury of foolish judgment. One day in a gun licensing school, the instructor said: "When I go to church on Sunday, it makes me happy to know that I have a loaded gun under my suit jacket while I sit in my pew." Well, honestly, it made me not to want to go to that man's church, and certainly made me think I didn't want to sit in the pew in front of him. After hearing him talk I wondered if people were safer or at higher risk because of his "license to carry". I thought, "What if he heard a man and wife arguing one hits the other, would he do something irrational?" or "What if a kid fired off a fire cracker, would this man shoot him re-actively?" Then we hear of the politicians in Texas voting to allow college kids to carry their guns on campus. I often believe that things like this prove that people evolved from monkeys.
My wife and I joined the Safari Club of Dallas for a few years. It is one of the most affluent, and largest clubs of Texas. We met some nice people and made interesting friends. We sat with nice people who love to go around the world, and spend $50,000 or more to shoot a trophy. They were justifiably proud of their success, their wealth and their adventures. Some of their guns were beautiful handcrafted works of art. We have shot some of their guns, valued at $55,000 or more. But we noticed that an increasing number are opting to set the guns down and do "camera Safari's". Some of them have told me, "Those animals are so beautiful, I'd rather enjoy good photos of them, than to kill them." It is a commendable evolution. I recall one bright Saturday morning, I was hunting in the woods of the Ozarks, listening to the birds, enjoying sun beams streaming through the forest and creating sparkling light in the dew. I saw a rabbit and shot it. When I went to it, the creature was still alive as it looked at me and seemed to say: "I was just having breakfast and enjoying the morning, why did you shoot me?" I had to reexamine my habit. I shot it to prove that I could. I shot it to fulfill a deep evolutionary need to be the hunter. I shot it to fulfill the ego need of being a good marksman. But, I didn't need the food I then realized that recreation that destroys life, indiscriminately, means that we are taking something.
We need to consider, as my Tibetan Buddhist friends later told me: "It is not the damage to the life you take that is of concern. The dead is in peace. It is what the killing or taking does to your spirit that should be of concern."
So, I still go out with the boys, hunt a little, but then I try to make a spiritual prayer a part of the event of nature, pick up the camera, and I tend to "shoot things" with a camera, and ponder a lot of who and why we exist. One thing is certain, the camaraderie of being with men in the field, enjoying nature, is a good thing, when a pinch of moderation insight is added. I have been impressed with the number of hunters who have quietly come to me and said: "As I have become older, I don't enjoy killing things anymore". It suggests that they have been thinking about life, mortality and what we have in common with other living beings.
A STREAK OF BLOOD ACROSS YOUR CHEEK
When a child goes on a hunt with his dad, there is a bonding experience. The early morning rite of travel in darkness to the "hunt" with "Dad" was often how we were taught to be men. Those memories with my father, shivering in the cold as we quietly waited for the sun to rise in some "wilderness" are special. I still recall hearing every squirrel, every bird sound through the darkness. My Dad whispered and described every sound, every nuance of nature. He taught me to blend in with nature and to sit patiently or stalk quietly, test physical skills and your mental acuity. You learn discipline, observation, concentration and appreciation for nature. I learned to love my father more. You learn always to "leave it cleaner and better than you found it" so that the next person could enjoy it. Part of my heritage is from the Cherokee indian tribe, so there is a spiritual appreciation of nature. The celebration rite upon shooting your first deer was a streak of blood across your face. In the old days, the Indians used to eat the still warm heart of an animal, to "absorb its spirit" while they said or sang a prayer of thanks to the animal for providing food to them. Nothing should ever take the bonding experiences of father and child of a hunting trip. When I present photos of my kids and grand-kids camping in the woods around a camp fire or one with my son with clay pidgeon (skeet) in perfect sight, just as he pulls the trigger on a perfect shot, I know that the photo and memory will stay in his possession for years. He doesn't need to kill an elk and mount the head of a rare species, to enjoy the satisfaction of being in nature, or using his gun. As I think of it I would give anything for a photo of me and my Grandfather and father camping in the mountains. I would easily trade the old stuffed deer head that I inherited for that photo.
PERHAPS WE NEED TO GIVE THE TROUBLED ONES A DOSE OF NATURE
Perhaps we need to take the "nut cases", (or as Senator John McCain calls them Whack Jobs) and radicals on a few outdoor camping hikes and get them re-attuned with mother earth. Let them shoot a few dead trees to prove their skills. Let them hike and fish and chop wood and sit by a campfire under a starry sky. Get them out of the pressure packed existence, away from the conflicts and anger that often arise in this world. Perhaps the solution is not to take away guns or make every school a secured and armed prison. Perhaps the solution is to get our people reconnected with something beautiful and real. Perhaps that nervous kid, that angry young man, that politician desperately seeking approval, could use a dose of "nature therapy". Perhaps we should enlist wise guides to take them out and show them the beauty of sunrise from a mountain-top or see the beauty of glimmering mist and dew in a moment when the sun's rays hit after dawn.
I took a man and his boys from Fort Worth to our family farm in West Texas and at sunrise me and a teenage boy were sitting near a pond when a doe and 2 fawns came into view. He lifted his gun and I whispered, "Wait". We watched the mother lead her two fawns to the edge of the pond and drink. He whispered, "Can I shoot it now?" I shook my head, and said "wait". In a moment, we saw horns and then a beautiful buck with a full rack, watching us, watch his doe and fawns. Those seconds seemed like an hour. The kids said: "We aren't going to shoot them are we?" I said. "No, this is priceless. The buck snorted a message and the doe took her fawns away. Then he gave us one last look and disappeared into the trees. The kid was confused and asked "Why?" I said. "How many times in a lifetime do you get to see a deer family like this, their daily routine. I think you will remember this for a long time."
Those radical politicians? It would do them, and our nation good to get them out of office and into nature. Who can argue with Mother Nature and Mother Earth ? Those angry kids, troubled and frustrated as they may be, might change their lives if they could get "out" and touch nature. Perhaps we should make these trips mandatory! (Especially during voting season).
Some years ago, a friend from Vermont brought his wife and another couple to visit our "Upper Ranch" in New Mexico. His friend had been a business executive and after a nervous breakdown could hardly function in life. We put him on a horse, and took the mountain trail up into the Sangre De Christos Mountains. It was physically challenging, and when his horse bolted and jumped on a narrow trail overlooking a steep cliff, I feared that he would panic and go over. But he stayed on the bucking horse, calming it, and slowly climbed to the crest. Hours later, as we rested on the crest of the mountains with a "forever" view, he seemed changed. His wife later told us: "Whatever you did on that mountain, snapped him back into health. He is back with us, healthy and happy."
Nature can do that for people.
I have never met a criminal or murderer on my hikes through nature's special places. Something about nature and natural beauty tends to "treat" the minds of men with a prescription that can be addictive. But, the addiction is a good one.
My view here surely must sound simplistic, but truly, riding horse through the wilderness and seeing a bear and her cubs can wash away a lot of tension and anger.
A photo of it is more lasting than a gunshot. And that can be instructive to an entire life. A rug might be nice, but a beautiful photo on the wall, is also nice.
We have voices now for "gun control" and for higher security for our schools. We should remember that walls normally don't keep people out, they lock people in. If we live a life of fear behind locked doors we have lost a little more freedom. Somehow, even though I rarely hunt to kill anything, I would find it sad to lose the freedom of owning, buying or having my guns. I have often wondered, how do we deal with this? Should we make people have a special identity card, with a bill of good mental health from their doctor, in order to buy a gun? Can we keep violent, criminals from owning guns? How do we keep them out of the hands of immature kids? How do we balance freedom with the insane acts of radicals? Then I see politicians in Texas pressing to allow college kids to carry guns on campuses and then am assured that these politicians prove, without a doubt that they evolved from apes and monkeys. This matter takes wisdom and enlightened judgement.
I have a friend who went to Africa to kill an elephant, whose tusks now sit proudly in his den. He told me that an elephant mates for life and even after separation for years, still recognizes and reunites with it's mate. I knew he loved his hunting dog, even sleeps with it, when his wife allows. I said: "James would you mind if I shoot your dog and stuff it to put on the wall?" He looked at me like I was crazy. "I love my dog." He said. "Well, that elephant's brain was far more developed than your dog, why kill it?" I said. The question confused and frustrated him, because it made him have to admit that the killing was simply an act of ego. Alas, ego. Indeed, is the act of a killer partially ego and anger and power? Can we pass laws to deal with that?
The movie, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is instructive and worth pondering There are times when enlightened people must take actions to protect loved ones, and do it will skill. On the other hand, we still must fight for the rights of freedom and enlightenment at every opportunity. The opportune word here, is "Enlightenment".
Our nation is facing and dealing with some important and deep issues. We need balanced, enlightened thinking on this, so that we make balanced and wise decisions that will bless, not penalize future generations.