Archive | June 2015

Like it or not: Gun ownership is a civil right

A sickening act of terror outrages a nation and people demand strong action to prevent something like it from happen again. Not wanting to appear weak on fighting terrorism, the government proposes sweeping changes that infringe on our civil liberties. The new laws don’t really do much to prevent future attacks, but the government makes full use of the new laws and regulations, bringing charges against people for things that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends, and most of us agree we don’t like it.

The massacre of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina last week in a racially motivated attack. No one disagrees that the shooter should not have been able to get his hands on a gun. This crime has prompted new calls for stricter gun control laws. This would be a mistake.

There is an almost-universal failure on the part of many of our country’s best educated minds to view the right of firearms ownership as a liberty somehow not on par with our other Constitutional guarantees.

Everyone is outraged when people in power tread on our right to free speech or our right to not be subjected to warrantless searches or cruel and unusual punishment. Yet somehow the right to bear arms is considered antiquated and irrelevant. Defending that right is somehow seditious or extreme.

Firearms ownership is a right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, in the Second Amendment, coming right after the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech, of the press and religion. The amendment guaranteeing this right to the American people was placed second among a list of 10. That makes it important.

The argument against the Second Amendment today is that because the United States has a professional military and well-armed law enforcement agencies, that there is no need for ordinary people to have guns. Nothing could be a lazier reading of our Constitution or a more contemptuous view of one’s fellow citizens. Please keep in mind that there are about 80 million legal gun owners in the United States. If a fraction of them were homicidal maniacs, our streets would endlessly run with blood. And while the levels of gun homicides and suicides in the U.S. dwarf the rest of the civilized world, that’s no reason to infringe on the civil rights of our citizens.

Furthermore, exercising one’s rights has nothing to do with perceived need. Most eligible American’s don’t feel the need to vote, but no one would suggest we be stripped of that right or have those rights restricted.

While there is universal agreement that guns should not fall into the hands of criminals or the mentally ill, the laws that are already in place to prevent these dangerous people from obtaining firearms are often laxly enforced or have loopholes. In the recent Charleston shooting, the attacker was legally prohibited from obtaining a gun but took advantage of a loophole and took possession of one as a gift.

There are two central failures to the national issue of guns in the U.S. One is the failure of pro-gun advocates to realize that there is indeed a problem of too many of the wrong people obtaining guns.

But the more alarming problem is the refusal of gun-control advocates to acknowledge that firearms ownership is a fundamental civil right.

Literature for You: Supernova Black Hole Butthole

Supernova Black Hole Butthole is now published. I am still new at the Amazon publishing game. I would like it if there were an option for people who buy things from Amazon’s kindle store to get them in printed book form as well, even if that means a smaller payout to the author.

But that doesn’t matter, because I have more fiction for sale on Amazon, out there and ready for the world to see, for a small fee.

This story was the first one I read at the Cash Prize Literary Open Mic at The Cobra Club in Brooklyn earlier this year. I didn’t win the prize at that open mic but the story was very well received and someone asked me after the reading if this was available online for purchase anywhere. Now it is.

So enjoy and thank the very talented Justin Melkmann for his awesome illustration.

A Father’s Day Quest for Laziness

This Father’s Day my quest is to be as lazy as possible without appearing to be ungrateful or a bad father. If I could move my couch and laptop to the nearest White Castle and camp out for a day feasting on delicious burgers and watching hunting shows.

There were days before I had children that I enjoyed extreme forms of laziness. I have spent some days doing nothing but eating and watching ‘Law & Order’ reruns. I’m not proud of being that lazy, but sometimes you just have to be. I spend the rest of my time trying hard to achieve ambitious things, so a day here and there of intense couch warming is not out of line.

But having children means that those days of restorative sloth are behind me for the time being. If you are the father of small children you have some kind of work to do just to make sure your children don’t wander into traffic and get themselves killed. Children have to be fed every day, and if you don’t change their diapers with regularity they begin to smell bad and behave strangely.

This coming Father’s Day I will relax as much as possible and I plan to travel with my family to Staten Island to the Punk Island festival. This will be the first time in several years that our band Blackout Shoppers is not playing the all-day FREE festival (our guitar player will be out of the country). I’m eager to be able to go and enjoy it without having to worry about bringing equipment or being ready to play. My wife and I plan to bring ear protection for the girls and they can walk now so it may be a chore keeping them out of the mosh pits because they love to dance when they hear music. But any stress will be well worth it.

I am very lucky to have the father I have. He raised me with a good sense of right and wrong and a love of reading and the arts. Not everyone is so lucky, but having a good father is not a prerequisite for being one. I’ve discovered that fatherhood is a lot like hunting. If you have good instincts and are willing to put in the time, you’re chances of success will be much greater.

At the end of the day Sunday I will have relaxed as much as I can and my children will have survived my indulgent slacking off.

Of course I’d like to do better than having children that merely survive. I want my daughters to be willful and strong, and smart enough not to be subservient to the societal groupthink that is slowly choking the life out of the American intellect. I want my girls to be able to be legendary warrior-poets and forge their poetic souls to the cause of their people and be among the elite of their future world. But I’ve got to get them potty trained first.

Jump Off the Tranny Bandwagon

The latest media spew about the woman formerly known as Bruce Jenner has made the transgendered the cause du jour. Compared with appearing on the Kardashian television show, appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair as a transgendered person is actually a step up from the tabloid sewer for Bruce Jenner. But whatever you think of Caitlyn Jenner, we can at least agree on two things: 1) people have a right to do whatever they want to with their bodies, and 2) the rest of us don’t have to like it.

And for all its good intentions, the increasing acceptance of the transgendered has reached delusional levels that stand to do long-lasting harm.

People who are transgendered should be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. Treating people with respect means telling them the truth, and if we tell the transgendered that their problems can be solved with hormone treatments and surgery, we’re not being truthful. Gender dysphoria is a mental condition and ought to be treated as such.

There are other disorders that cause people to want to radically alter their bodies in ways that reputable practitioners of medicine will not perform. There are people who wish to have their limbs amputated or become partially paralyzed, and no legitimate doctor will approve such surgery. Gender reassignment surgery should rank among those surgeries doctors won’t do. I am well aware that many transgendered people do not get genital surgery and it’s considered rude to ask if they have. Indeed it is rude to ask someone about the state of their genitals, but if you are making a public pronouncement that you are not the gender you were born into, it begs the question of ‘Just how serious are you about this new identity?’ At any rate, with or without surgery to the genitals, transitioning from one sex to another requires very serious and extreme medical treatment. Those afflicted adults are entitled to seek whatever treatments they can afford, but they shouldn’t take offense when the general public considers it to be the ghastly mutilation that it is or decline to endorse or pay for it.

This is not an excuse to disrespect people who are suffering from gender identity disorder. Trannies shouldn’t lose their jobs for being transgendered, unless their jobs are something incredibly gender specific that their transition would render them incapable of performing. But let’s at least respect our transgendered friends enough to speak to them truthfully.

Someday medical science will have a better answer for people who do not feel that they are in the right body. Right now the going treatment for people who feel they are actually of the opposite sex is to treat them with hormones and surgically alter them to make them look like the gender of their choice. People should be free to do that to themselves if it makes them happy, but the compulsion to do this results from a person’s mental state, and making someone appear to be a man or a women when they are not will not change their basic biological reality, only turn them into a caricature of the opposite gender.

There will come a time, sooner rather than later, when today’s reliance on gender reassignment surgery and all its variant treatments will be considered barbaric and indulgent. Future generations will look at photos of transgendered people the way we look at photos of Chinese foot binding today: as brutal, outdated and an affront to human dignity.

Goodbye Alumni Club

The secret to a good bar has nothing to do with what beers are on tap or what its décor looks like. The only valid measure of a bar is its character, it supersedes all other measures. I’ve been in bars that reeked of piss and fruit flies that were a thousand times better than the cleanest, sleekest pre-fabricated gastropub.

Dive bars are often the best bars to visit. One of the finest pubs in the recent history of New York was the Village Idiot, which closed its doors in 2004 and had the most eclectic crowd ever. My first visit there a 6-foot-plus transvestite played pool with some tipsy yuppies while construction workers drank at the bar. Mars Bar had bathrooms that were even filthier than CBGB’s bathrooms, which were legendary for their filth. But it didn’t matter. Mars Bar and Village Idiot brought some of the most interesting varieties of people to drink together.

Of course there’s a certain hip cache to the dive bar now, but you can tell which bars are faking it and which bars aren’t. I like to think I’ve visited enough bars to be able to tell the difference without too much effort, but I’ve been out of the drinking game for more than five years now and my visits to bars are few and far between.

And New York City has lost some of its best dive bars. There are a few though that are keeping things alive. Nancy Whiskey, Rudy’s and The Patriot are all the real thing: good dive bars with real character.

But great New York bars are not restricted to the five boroughs, and one of the finest bars ever recently hosted its last hurrah.

The Alumni Club just outside the city limits in New Hyde Park, New York is a place I discovered through my wife, who was a long-time regular and used to tend bar there. It sat among a row of storefronts and its location was generally unremarkable. You needed a car to get there though theoretically you could take a Nassau County bus.

The Alumni Club was a bar that was both eclectic in its clientele and without pretension. While it had its population of longtime regulars, no strangers were ever made to feel unwelcome. I don’t even drink and I was welcome there. I would even bring in large beverages from the 7-Eleven across the street and no one would mind. I’d always ask the bartender if he or she wanted anything. I’m convinced the bar lost no money on my account; my wife could drink enough for both of us.

There was almost always some offering of free food and the owner or bartender encouraged visitors to eat. Once I went there to catch the end of the Georgia Bulldogs game and found they were in the midst of a “casino night” themed evening. The bar had some system worked out where they weren’t technically gambling there but I wasn’t sure how it worked and I figured the less I knew the better.

But the best part about the Alumni Club was the character and good atmosphere. It was not in a trendy part of the city and had nothing to prove. People who went there were working people who wanted to drink, not people who wanted to be seen drinking.

Needless to say a bar of this caliber of excellence tends to have many loyal patrons and when the bar announced it was going to be shutting its doors, employees and patrons alike began planning the farewell party.

The last Saturday this May was the Alumni Club’s big blowout party that included a lot of food and copious amounts of alcohol. T-shirts made for the event read, “We drank it dry.” Patrons lived up to the boast: when bartenders showed up for work the next day they found that the place had run out of beer.

This week Alumni Club will close its doors for good. Guests and employees will remember their alma mater with pride.

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