First Amendment Foolishness

The completely ridiculous attention paid to recent behavior exhibited by some NFL players has touched a nerve of mine. First of all, I am not addressing the players, their actions, nor their motivations; that has been more than amply discussed by many, and rather eloquently by both my co-conspirator Paul and our guest contributor Robert Kirby. Both of whom, I might add, have expressed feelings very similar to my own, and likely in a far more civilized fashion than I would have. What I am concerned about is the continued defense of these particular controversial actions by proclaiming them to be an issue of First Amendment rights. To those who hold that opinion, especially those who do so with an upturned nose and haughty air of condescension, I have two words:

You’re wrong.

In all honesty, that’s my sanitized response. What I’m actually thinking while you wax verbose from the pedestal you placed yourself upon is more like this:

(insert your favorite personally-insulting adjective here), please…

…followed by an eye-roll, of course. Why, you ask? Because it is contributing the the Constitutional illiteracy which in my opinion plagues our nation to a frightening degree. Here is the full text of the amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”

Let’s go back to the function the Bill of Rights. If you didn’t know this, know it now – the Bill of Rights does not, I repeat, does NOT list rights given to the citizens of the United States by the government. It recognizes rights our Founders felt were inherently held by the people, and specifically limits the federal government from violating them. There’s a huge difference between the two. The Bill of Rights exists to limit government power, not give the people power. One cannot give what one does not have, correct? To paraphrase, the entire document is essentially saying “…you have these rights, you’ve always had these rights, they are not ours to give, but yours, given to you by God, and we’re formally documenting this for all time in order to specifically limit the power of the government”.

Now, please return to the the text of the amendment and read the first five words again. Once again, even – read the first five words. Let them sink in.

“Congress shall make no law…”

Who does this limit? Congress. Who or what else is mentioned in the remainder of the text to indicate what follows also applies to others? Nothing. No one. Zero. Zip. Nada. All the nopes. Every single thing mentioned after those first five words only applies to Congress. What does that mean? It means if you are suffering consequences due to your words and/or actions, and those consequences are not being placed upon you by Congress, then claiming your First Amendment rights are being violated is absolutely incorrect. Doing so while holding it up like it is a holy relic which shields you from all criticism while you act as if anyone who disagrees with you is a heretical simpleton just makes you look foolish.

I expect many to disagree with my assessment. I invite your comments and discussion. For brevity’s sake I will include only one reference for those who wish to look elsewhere. The whole world is at your fingertips if you wish to seek further knowledge. Take a look at this article, which gives examples of various situations and how they would typically relate to the first amendment. Please note the first cited example perfectly describes the current situation involving the NFL and its ability to place limits on the behavior of players. Secondly, I would add this article was posted by a well-known bastion of leftist ideology, which certainly begs the question; If that “news” outlet doesn’t support your position on Constitutional grounds, do you really have a leg upon which to stand?

Please, I beg you, do not contribute to the continued dumbing-down of our society by jumping on this bandwagon! Learn what the Constitution actually states and means, do not buy into fallacies such as this. In my opinion, for decades now there have been those who have perverted the meaning of many Constitutional amendments through artifice and corruption, and they will continue to do so unless we educate ourselves and take corrective action. With that, I leave you with the words of one of my favorite Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson:

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Football, Free Speech, and Reality

For the second time, I am glad to share a guest contribution to The Frustrated Americans. Please read, comment and share Rob Kirby’s thoughts on the current situation with the NFL.

Recently, I’ve seen blurbs on the news and posts on Facebook referencing the newest sports-related drama involving the NFL. Lots of folks are upset athletes are kneeling during the National Anthem rather than standing respectfully at attention with their hands over their hearts. Even our president has been caught up in the theatrics, stating players who kneel should be fired. Many fans are saying they will boycott the games because of the players’ behavior. Other fans are defending the rights of the players to express themselves freely as a Constitutional right. Still, others enjoy the games and say they will continue to watch… and they really don’t care whether the players kneel, stand, or dance a jig for matter. I have friends from all three categories on Facebook, and the debates concerning the topic are entertaining to say the least.

As for me, I’m not watching NFL games this year. To be honest, I’ve never watched the NFL much in the first place. I’ve watched a couple of Super Bowls and a few games on Thanksgiving here and there, but I’ve never been much of a fan. I personally don’t want to waste my time or money watching grown men dress up in a suit of plastic armor, stretch a pair of tights over it, and beat the ever-living hell out of each other whilst chasing an oblong ball around the field. I can appreciate their talent, but I’ll never be able to stomach the amount of money they make to do these things, and anyone who calls them “heroes” is, in my opinion, being very generous to say the least. They are, at best, entertainers, just like actors and singers. Now, if one of them donates part of their fortune to cure cancer, or to feed the hungry, I might consider them heroes. Otherwise, they are just performing on a big green stage with white stripes and getting overpaid to do it. So I can’t blame my non-viewing on players kneeling.

That being said, I believe if an individual wants to kneel during the National Anthem, they have every right to do it! For that matter, they have the right to throw an American flag down on the ground and stomp all over it if that’s what they want to do (as long as it doesn’t belong to someone else). This is all part of free speech, so I say have at it! And just like these individuals have the right to do it, I have the right to call them moronic jackasses for doing it, because I also have the freedom of speech.

I believe the problem here isn’t really the behavior – it’s the arena these individuals have chosen to exercise their freedom of speech. Rather than setting up a march or a rally, they’ve chosen to subject all of their customers (that’s right… CUSTOMERS!) to their politics. For a long time, their customer base has been diverse… all socioeconomic statuses, all races, all religions, all political affiliations. And now these individuals have decided their right to express themselves is much more important than keeping a nonpartisan atmosphere so all customers can feel welcome. I’m guessing a lump sum of the NFL’s profits come from ticket sales and advertising. Apparently, the individual athletes aren’t worried about pissing off half their customers – thereby cutting their ticket sales in half and causing half of their TV audience to change the channel. I think that’s eventually going to sting a little.

In my unnamed job, I am occasionally required to salute the flag as it passes or when it is posted or raised. Don’t get me wrong… I would do it even if my job didn’t require it, because I have great respect for my country, for my freedom, and for my forefathers who died defending those things. It’s not about the flag… it’s about what the flag represents. But my job does require me to salute on occasion. Now if someone who works with me decides to take a knee in public instead of saluting, my guess is that it wouldn’t work out well for them. An individual has the right to free speech and expression. That person does not, however, have the right to a job. Having a job is a privilege – not a right. The problem with the NFL, a very large business, is that by allowing individuals the freedom to express whatever the hell they want to while they are on the clock and in an NFL uniform, the entire business appears to have embraced the same view. Hell, the team owners have even taken to the field to kneel with the players in a “show of solidarity” against Trump – who, by the way, is neither the American flag nor what it represents. When your corporation gets involved in politics to this level, you can expect to create a divide between yourself and a large percentage of your customer base. It would be like going shopping at Walmart and the entire time you are in the store, somebody is talking over the intercom telling you over and over how sorry your political party is. Sooner or later, a crapload of folks are going to get tired of hearing it and stop shopping at Walmart.

The NFL could have told its players to kneel on their own time. Instead, they allowed it to not only continue, but to grow to what it has become. I stopped reading most news articles and watching most news channels because of slanted politics. Since I’ve never really watched professional football, I guess I can’t boycott it. But I’m sure as hell not going to start watching it! It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. If everybody who says they aren’t watching anymore really stops watching, the NFL might just get a lesson in the importance of customer service.

On Your Feet, Gentlemen!

Like most Americans, I love football. I’m partial to the college game (Go Vols!), but I enjoy NFL games, too.  I don’t follow it like I do college, but if there’s a game on, I’ll usually have it on, even if I’m not watching every play. I have great memories of watching games on a tiny television at my Grandmother’s house after Thanksgiving dinner and of Super Bowl parties with friends.  I look forward to lazy fall Sundays at home with a game on.  Football is great entertainment, an opportunity to escape for a few hours and watch large men wearing plastic armor clobber each other.  But that’s all it is.

After a long day in the field on a recent Sunday, I was looking forward to watching a couple of games and relaxing. Unfortunately, politics has infiltrated football. As if we didn’t have to hear about this debate or that protest enough, now it has come to football. The latest craze in protests, as I’m sure you’ve seen, is for a few incredibly wealthy and privileged athletes to kneel, sit, or be absent from the performance of the National Anthem prior to the game. This is ostensibly to show their displeasure with race relations or something stupid uttered by the POTUS. As if that wasn’t bad enough (and certainly it was), the aforementioned POTUS had to insert himself into the conversation during a public appearance. Now things have really gotten out of hand, with entire teams kneeling, or staying in the locker room during the anthem. This is wrong and reflects poorly on the players, their team, and the league. It does nothing to solve the problems which they claim to be protesting.

Before I go on, I am aware they have every right to protest. I know it, you know it, we all know it.  They have the right, but that doesn’t make it right! By extension, I have the right to think they’re butt-holes for doing it, team owners have the right to forbid them from doing it while on the clock, and fans have the right to not partake of their product because they’re doing it. Constitutional rights do not exempt one from the consequences of their actions.

In addition, I think the POTUS should try focusing on the extremely long list of things which are more important than football. I agree with some of Trump’s ideas and not others. But I find it very annoying that he can’t seem to stay out of things which are just none of his business or shouldn’t rise to the level of presidential concern. He needs better handlers and someone really needs to do away with his Twitter account.  His chief of staff should do us all a favor and take a hammer to the presidential smart phone.

Anyway, if I owned an NFL team I would expressly forbid my players and staff from protesting in any visible form during the performance of the National Anthem. They can do that on their own time. They would be heavily fined the first time, suspended the second time, and looking for work the third. I know that won’t be a popular opinion, but I own the team, so who cares?  Heck, I wouldn’t let them have hair hanging outside their helmets either! If I managed the NFL, the team of every protestor would be penalized severely. How about you only get one time out in the second half? Maybe you get a 15 yard penalty on every kick-off? How about a big, fat fine for your team owner? Is your little hissy fit worth hurting your team? If I was in control of the media coverage of the games, no camera would come to rest on someone behaving badly during the anthem. If the media would quit giving them all this attention, they’d quit doing it. I watched the anthem being sung by a very talented young lady at a game last night and the coverage spent the entire time showing the players. This is just wrong.

There is a time and place for protests. There are ways to direct one’s energy where it may actually do some good. The performance of the National Anthem should be a time that transcends politics. Regardless of who is in the White House or what is going on in this country, those few minutes are supposed to be used to honor America and all of the things which make our country great. It is a moment when the focus should be on the pride in being an American. This is not the time to try and make a statement, no matter how valid it might be. Furthermore, pride in your country is not the same as support for any elected official.  The POTUS does not equal the flag. President Trump is not America.

NFL players need to remember they are grown men being paid insane amounts of money for playing a game. They are paid performers, just like actors in Hollywood. As a consumer, I don’t care about their politics anymore than I do about those of the elitists in Hollywood. Instead of being disrespectful and making themselves and their teams look bad in front of the entire nation, they should focus their money and influence on working to solve the problems they perceive worthy of protest. Many of them do just that and should be applauded for their efforts. The youth of today need every positive role model they can get and we all need heroes. There is nothing heroic in behaving badly during the National Anthem. So, gentlemen, get on your feet! Cover your heart with your right hand and think about how fortunate you are to live in a nation where you can become one of its wealthiest citizens for playing a game. That’s not too much to expect. You are professionals. Act like it.


Let’s Work with the Dreamers

The President’s decision not to renew Obama’s executive order allowing the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. (known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA) has resulted in the reaction most of us have come to expect; instant protests and media-driven hysteria.  Not one person covered by DACA has been deported since the announcement was made, but you would think the buses were lining up even as we speak. I do not like executive orders, including those resulting in something I support.  I would much rather those whose job it is to pass laws do just that.  I understand there are times when issues of national security arise where the President needs to act quickly, but those times are few and far between.  The President has given Congress 6 months to draft some form of legislation concerning this issue and I hope they do.

I will admit to knowing little about the process of being in this country legally.  I was puzzled by the fact that so many of those affected by DACA, the so-called Dreamers, had not simply taken the steps to become American citizens. I did not know until just recently Dreamers were required to follow the same procedures as any other illegal immigrant, which includes leaving the U.S. and requesting to be allowed back in.  I have no problem with people who are here illegally being deported and required to follow the process if they desire citizenship. They are plainly breaking the law and should not be allowed to continue doing so.  The Dreamers, however, constitute a different situation.  They were brought here as children. Many of them never knew their home country and have no home there. Why would they be required to return to a country of which they have no memory?  This makes no sense to me.

I have a pretty simple solution for your consideration. I’m sure there are nuances and legal technicalities which would prevent any simple solution, but you have to start somewhere, and I intend to start with common sense and logic.  So, I’ll lay this out and you tell me what you think.

For those Dreamers who are 18 years or older, if they are employed full time or are enrolled in college, they should be administered the test required for citizenship free of charge as soon as possible.  If they pass, they can take the oath and become full-fledged American citizens.  They should be required to take the test within one year of passage of the bill.

Any Dreamer convicted of a felony, violent misdemeanor, or drug-related crime should be deported immediately.

Any Dreamer who serves in the military receives citizenship along with their honorable discharge or after 4 years of service.

Dreamers who are younger than 18 are afforded these same opportunities upon their 18th birthday.

Anyone not meeting these conditions should be deported as soon as possible.

Once citizenship has been obtained, any special college financial aid or funding geared for Dreamers ends with the end of the current academic year. They will be eligible for the same financial aid opportunities as every other citizen.

This idea will only work if the flow of illegal immigrants and their children is stopped, which will only happen if there are consequences for their decision to try and stay here illegally.  I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to come here and make a better life for themselves and their family. But we are a nation of laws, and there are clear, legal means of living here and becoming an American. If they truly want to be here, they should be willing to take the oath of citizenship and mean it.  If the parents of the Dreamers would have done it, we would not be having this conversation. I would not be opposed to providing a similar opportunity to those adults who have come here illegally.  I see no reason why we can’t encourage those who have grown up in this country to become productive citizens.  They had no choice in coming here, but it should be their choice to stay here legally.  We should give them that choice.


An Open Letter to White Supremacists

Hate mongering jerks,

I can’t stand racists and hate-mongers, regardless of their skin tone.  I don’t care if you’re Klan, neo-Nazi, Antifa, BLM, Nation of Islam, or a solo on-line hater. If you hate people because of their skin color, religion, lifestyle, what they eat, for whom they voted, or whatever other stupid reason you can think of, you need to stop, or at least shut up. We’re all weary of your crap. Hate groups like you are trying to become relevant again.  The media is happy to help you by showing you behaving badly on the news. Most people with two functioning brain cells know very well you are completely irrelevant to the world today and have no place in modern culture. Unfortunately, there are too many in this country who lack that second brain cell, so you keep existing and keep being displayed by the media. The rest of us, however, have moved beyond hating each other.

I am writing specifically today to the white supremacists out there to tell you to remove yourself from the debate concerning statues and monuments to Confederate soldiers and leaders, as well as other symbols, such as the flag bearing the St. Andrew’s Cross. There is such widespread ignorance of history and so many knees ready to jerk, it is difficult enough to fight to preserve my history from the other idiots trying to make a political point by hiding it. You do not represent me or my ancestors and I resent the fact you have adopted these symbols as your own. Each time I see you marching in public, ostensibly in defense of a Confederate monument or with the flag, I am offended and angered. Placing a swastika on a Confederate flag is an abomination and insults the memory of thousands of men who died for it. The thing is, you don’t care about history. You’re just using statues as an excuse to cause trouble and get a little press. If this were actually about the statues, why were your minions yelling about Jews while marching toward a statue of Robert E. Lee?  That makes no sense.  Men like Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet would have nothing but contempt for you. Of course, you don’t know anything about them, so you wouldn’t understand.

All you have accomplished is to allow the media to lump those of us who are proud of our Confederate ancestors but hate no one in with the likes of you. Yes, this is stupid and no, it isn’t fair, but regardless, that is what has happened. Just so we’re clear, even though I vehemently condemn the removal of Confederate statues and memorials, we are NOT on the same side in this. In no way do I support your twisted cause. You are more of a threat to my heritage than those who are actively trying to erase it. In addition, you are creating an environment where violence is inevitable.  Yes, it has tragically already claimed one life, but it can get worse.  I’m sure some of you think you want it that way. We’ll see when you’re the one who gets hit by a car.  This debate will not be settled through violence, but violence may well be what drives it.  I hope that is not the case.

My advice to you is crawl back into your mom’s basement, take off your little Halloween costume, unplug your computer, and maybe read a book. Even better, read one written by a historian.  Otherwise, I hope your hood catches on fire and your jackboots hurt your feet. If you can’t make yourself withdraw from this losing battle, I hope you and Antifa or whatever group of thugs are sent in to escalate the situation wipe each other out next time.  Just leave innocent citizens and those of us who truly do respect our heritage out of it.

With no respect whatsoever,



Preserve History and Reject Racism

I read with horror today about the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is incredible to me to see this in 2017. I know racism has always existed and always will, but it is still difficult to see. I do not know what groups were involved in the initial protest, but the media indicates they were ‘white nationalists’.  I’ll go with that for now as I have no way to independently verify it.  It also seems that Black Lives Matter and Antifa were represented, so there were all sorts of racist idiots in Charlottesville today.  Supposedly, all of this started over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I have written about this recently, as I feel very strongly the removal of all things “Confederate” is very disrespectful to those of us with Southern roots and shows a profound level of ignorance.  I think proposing to take down the statue was a mistake, but I do not believe all of this violence is about a statue.

No, I think this was an excuse for racist groups to start trouble. They wanted a fight and they wanted the press coverage they knew would come with it. The media was only too happy oblige, somehow lumping white nationalists with conservatives.  They act like racism began right after the election in November, but I digress.  In my opinion, the proper reaction to the planned protest would have been to ignore it. They want attention? Well, let’s give them none. I remember seeing two Klan idiots on the steps of the courthouse in my home town in Georgia. There was not one reporter, counter-protestor, or onlooker.  Everyone just went about their business like the pointy hat-wearers weren’t there.  Unfortunately, the maturity level required for that response is sadly lacking in the modern world, so enter Antifa and BLM, two groups every bit as hateful as the white nationalists.  The resulting chaos was sadly predictable and resulted in the murder of one person and injury to many others.  To be clear, I understand that none of this would have happened if the white nationalists had stayed home. The responsibility for the murder of one person, the deaths of two Virginia State Patrolmen, injuries to dozens, and the general pain in the butt created for the citizens of Charlottesville lies squarely on the shoulders of the white supremacists. Personally, I’d be fine if we could lock all these groups into an arena and let them fight it out.  It is time for this country to get past letting these irresponsible, hateful children drive the conversation. My history and the unity of this nation is more important than all of them.

For those of us who are proud of our Southern heritage and feel it is worthy of remembrance, we must reject those who persist in hateful rhetoric and actions.  They are not our allies. We must speak out against them whenever they rear their ugly heads. We need to fight against the erasure of our history using intelligence, logic, and facts, not violence. We must acknowledge that our ancestors were flawed human beings, just like every human in history. In spite of their flaws, they deserve to be remembered and in many cases, honored. Trying to erase my history is disrespectful and offensive.  It is time for everyone to accept that we can disagree and still respect each other.  To do otherwise is to expand the ever-growing divide between people which could actually threaten our culture.  There is simply no room for racism in the conversation. If the racists become the representatives of Southern history, we will most assuredly lose it.  How long will it be, then, before we repeat it?

Why You Should Not Fear Campus Carry

Social media has been active with the usual gnashing of teeth and cries of doom as Texas’ campus carry laws expanded to community and junior colleges.  Texas is one of 10 states where it is currently legal for licensed students and faculty to carry concealed firearms.  In 2004, Utah became the first state to pass such a law.  There are now 11 states where it is legal for a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm to do so on college campuses.  It isn’t quite that simple, as the laws vary greatly by state.  Utah, for example, simply said that state laws applying to where a concealed firearm can be carried apply on college campuses.  Tennessee is on the other end of the spectrum, as only licensed faculty and staff are allowed to carry.  In between, there are limits on where and when weapons can be carried and by whom.  Twenty one other states leave the decision up to the individual institutions, which is a de facto ban on campus carry.  It is expressly forbidden in the remaining states and the District of Columbia.

According to the anti-gun crowd, this is a recipe for disaster and calls for the usual emotional response.  Their protests are what we’ve come to expect and cover a wide array of knee-jerk reactions, but I have condensed them into five basic complaints.

  1. An increase in firearms on campus will lead to an increase in violent crime.  This is a common theme in just about every anti-gun protest and is simply not supported by the statistics.  Studies suggest the rate of firearms-related crimes committed by persons with a concealed carry permit is about 2.4 per 100,000 people, not even close to the 3,813 per 100,000 for the general population.  By all accounts, those who go through the training and red-tape of obtaining a concealed carry permit are more responsible and safer than the average citizen.  Based on my personal experience, those who carry a firearm on a daily basis are very aware of the responsibility which they have assumed by choosing to go armed.  In searching the internet, I was not able to find a single instance where a concealed-carry permit holder committed any sort of crime on a college campus.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but clearly demonstrates the rarity of such occurrences.
  2. The college years are marked by excessive alcohol and drug use, which will lead to irresponsible gun use.  Drug and alcohol use are certainly serious problems among college-age students.  In every state, regardless of the laws governing campus carry, it is illegal to be intoxicated and in possession of a firearm.  Period.  It does not matter where you are or whether or not you have a permit.  If you are too impaired to drive, you are too impaired to carry a gun.  For me personally, I won’t even have a beer with dinner if I’m armed.  Legally, I could, but I have made the decision that I do not want any level of impairment if I have to make a shoot/don’t shoot decision.  We should be far more concerned with the damage done to students by binge drinking and driving while under the influence than drunken frat boys shooting up campus.
  3. College students lack the maturity and emotional stability to responsibly carry a firearm.  Tell that to the 18-21 year-olds who carry a rifle every day in defense of this country.  First of all, you must remember that in order to obtain a concealed carry permit, it must be legal for you to possess a hand gun, which means that you must be at least 21 years of age.  Some states allow for citizens as young as 18 to apply for a permit, but only if they are serving or have served in the armed forces.  We aren’t talking about children carrying guns.  We are talking about people our society considers to be adults.  Citizens.  Voters.  Yes, I know that not all 21 year-olds are created equal and I understand college can be an emotionally charged environment.  The pressures of maintaining grades, social interactions, and student poverty are very real.  Again, there is absolutely no evidence that concealed carriers are more likely to snap in such situations than other students.
  4. People carrying guns on campus will distract from the learning environment/create fear among students and faculty.  Why?  This is the least logical of the arguments against campus carry.  As we have already discussed, citizens with concealed carry permits are far less likely to commit a crime than the average citizen.  The more obvious question is, how will you know if someone is carrying if they are concealing the weapon properly?  That’s why it’s called “concealed carry”!  There are approximately 15 million people in the US today with a concealed carry permit.  Odds are (assuming you live in a state that actually aknowledges the Constitution) you walk by an armed citizen every day.  If you’re in a restaurant, you might be sitting right across from someone who is legally armed.  The only time you’ll know is if something bad happens and that citizen reacts.  Otherwise, you will never know who is armed and who isn’t.  How is that going to be a distraction?  The media is what creates fear, not legal gun owners.
  5. Campus and local law enforcement are sufficient to keep our campuses safe.  This argument holds as much water on campus as it does elsewhere.  When seconds count the police are minutes away!  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I have nothing but respect for law enforcement.  They have a nearly impossible and often thankless job.  They do the best they can, but they can’t be everywhere all the time.  For example, the University of Tennessee Police Department in Knoxville has 54 commissioned officers.  There are over 28,000 students enrolled at UTK, along with over 1700 faculty and even more staff.  The Knoxville campus covers 910 acres in the middle of a city of just under 190,000 people.  That means there are 54 officers to keep nearly 40,000 people safe, assuming no one from the outside community is on campus.  Major surface streets run through campus, so there is never a time when others aren’t on campus. That’s about one officer for every 740 people.  Clearly, it is not possible for the police, in spite of their best efforts, to monitor the safety of all of those people.  The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 is a tragic example.  It took the police 3 minutes to arrive on scene once the call was received, then 5 more minutes to gain entry into the building.  That’s remarkably good time given the circumstances.  Unfortunately, it was not fast enough to prevent the murder of 30 people.  Could a student or faculty member legally carrying a firearm have stopped this incident or at least reduced the number of casualties?  We can’t know the answer to that, but logic dictates any type of return fire would have at least distracted the shooter, if not put him down.  Even if it had caused him to panic and end his own life sooner, at least less innocent victims would have been injured or killed.

Sexual assaults on college campuses are becoming more prevalent.  If we continue using UTK as our example, the problem has grown significantly in recent years.  Young women are trained now to fight as hard as they can and make as much noise as possible if they are attacked.  This is good training, but only marginally effective.  Why should we hamstring a young woman’s ability to defend herself by not allowing her the most effective means of defense possible?  Why is it accepted that women will just have to be a disadvantage in a physical confrontation with a male assailant?  Young woman deserve to be able to protect themselves, to be empowered to go where they need to go when they need to go there, regardless of the time of day or whether or not friends can go with them.  Legally carrying a firearm is the ultimate empowerment.  This is one of the reasons why the largest growth in gun ownership in recent years has been among women.

So, what scares you about campus carry?  Nothing should.  In spite of what is being said, no one is advocating for sending hoards of armed teenagers off to college.  Rather, the object is for the laws governing the carrying of a firearm to apply on public college campuses just like they do anywhere else.  As a citizen, why does my right to protect myself end when I cross an imaginary line and enter the campus at UTK?  There are literally places where you’re on campus on one side of the street and off on the other.  Am I more of a threat on one side of the street than the other?  As a parent, I want my child to be able to protect herself when she goes to college.  Sure, I want her campus to be as safe as possible to begin with, but I understand bad things happen in the safest of places.  I hope she’ll choose to get the training and apply for her concealed carry permit as soon as she can legally do so.  Like most everyone who carries, I want everyone to be as safe as possible, except for those who seek to do us harm.  I want them to be scared.  Scared that the next person they decide to mug or worse will be the one to end their criminal career, one way or another.  I want the next lunatic looking for somewhere to go out in a blaze of glory to have a hard time finding a place where they won’t fear being stopped immediately by armed citizens.  Right now, most college campuses are giant targets of opportunity for such people.  Thankfully, the targets get harder every time a state decides to allow campus carry.  If your state doesn’t allow it, I hope you’ll contact your representatives and encourage them to introduce legislation which will change it.  If you oppose campus carry, I hope you’ll sit down and honestly think about the reasons why you feel the way you do.  Ignore what the media tells you and look at the facts.  I think you’ll see you really have nothing to fear.



The Rise of the Obliviots!

You’ve seen them. They walk among us every day. The person who leaves their cart in a parking space at the grocery store.  The driver who switches lanes with no signal. They are obliviots. I can’t take credit for the term, an honor that goes to my co-contributor here at TFA. Obliviots are those who are oblivious to what is going on around them and do stupid things because of it.  They drive me crazy!

I think they must use Walmart as a gathering place, sort of a home base or nest.  It doesn’t matter where the Walmart happens to be, there are probably more obliviots there per capita than anywhere else in that town (unless you’re in Washington, D.C., of course).  They’re in the parking lot, walking down the middle of the space between rows of parking spaces, or leaving their cart in a parking space, often within a few feet of the cart corral.  They’re all over the interior of the store.  You’ll recognize them by their carts parked in the center of the aisle while they study the ketchup.  You often see them in packs, parked side by side in the aisle to have a family reunion.  Their young are easily spotted as the obnoxious kid running loose in the store with no responsible adult within sight.  They are generally not dangerous in this environment, but care should be taken as they usually don’t pay attention when going from aisle to aisle and can run over you.

They are far more dangerous on the road.  I’m on the road a lot and there are days where there must be an obliviot migration going on! The texting-while-driving subspecies is the most dangerous.  You’ll see them up ahead, going 10 miles an hour slower than everyone else and barely staying in their lane.  I try to pass these people as quickly as possible. Invariably, I look over and the driver is looking at a device instead of the road ahead.  They’ll often speed up and pass you again after they’re done with whatever vital business distracted them from all that annoying driving. They also like to put themselves in the left lane and cruise along at their preferred speed, which is usually the speed limit or less.  The lane to the right of them is open, but that doesn’t matter.  The left lane is theirs and they’ll set the speed for everyone! I’ve seen them exit the interstate from the left lane.  They’ll also run up to where the lane is closed and expect you to let them in.  You really have to watch them!

Another sort of obliviot is what I’ll call the offended obliviot.  This one is offended by your religion, what you eat, your opinion, where you live, how you raise your kids, your holidays, how you choose to keep your family safe, the car you drive, who you voted for, and an endless list of other things which he finds disagreeable.  These people don’t realize that differing opinions are just as valid as their own.  Those with whom they disagree are described in any number of negative ways, usually racist, homophobe, bigot, etc.  They are consistently intolerant in the guise of promoting tolerance.

Without question, the most annoying obliviots are those elected to office.  They pass laws and make policies which affect us all, without any real knowledge of how most of us live our daily lives. They follow party lines and vote based on agendas serving only them.  They pass bills they haven’t read. They ignore their constituents.  And yet, more obliviots elect them into office over and over again.

The rise of the obliviot is upon us. They are the inevitable result of our lack of respect for anyone but ourselves.  It is the result of our focus on having an attitude rather than being polite to those with whom we interact.  It’s a simple thing to pay attention to what is going on around you and react in a proper manner.  It takes no extra time or energy to say “excuse me” or “please” or “thank you”.  How hard is it to watch your rear view mirrors or anticipate where your turns will be?  Unfortunately, it is less simple to deal with the elected obliviots.  All too often, our only choices are obliviots, but we have to keep working to find people who are paying attention and honestly care about the lives of their constituents.

In closing, I’ll just say that we all need to remember we are not the only person on the planet and we have no idea what the person next to us is dealing with.  We can all take steps to avoid being an obliviot and making a nuisance of ourselves.  We’re all going to fail occasionally, but it isn’t that hard to avoid most of the time.  Just pay attention and try to be a decent human being.  Don’t be an obliviot!

Dunkirk: A Different Sort of War Movie

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with World War II.  I’m reasonably sure I read every book on the war in the library of every school I attended.  Some of them multiple times!  The aviation of World War II has always been my focus, but I find it all interesting.  I suppose it is just natural for me to love World War II movies!  I grew up watching the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Lee Marvin save the world from the dastardly Nazis and Japanese and preserve democracy for us all.  Those movies were great, full of patriotic themes and unbridled pride in America and the American soldier.  In my opinion, the release of Saving Private Ryan in 1998 changed the war movie genre.  This movie certainly had its moments of pure I-love-America goodness, but it made the soldiers human.  It showed you their stress and their fear.  It showed you the moral dilemmas faced by soldiers in combat, who often had to make agonizing decisions as they tried to survive on the battlefield.  It was emotional, gritty, and at times, hard to watch.  In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan is the pinnacle of the World War II movie.  It was soon followed by Band of Brothers and The Pacific, both epic series which further humanized our heroes, making them that much more heroic.

Dunkirk is the newest movie set during World War II.  It is a different sort of movie.  The movie is set during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in late May and early June 1940.  Over 300,000 British and Allied troops were pushed to the French port town of Dunkirk by the advancing German army.  Boats ranging from Royal Navy destroyers to private fishing vessels were used to pull the troops off the beach and the breakwaters at Dunkirk to transport them back to England.  The troops were subjected to constant air raids by the Luftwaffe while totally exposed on the beach or crammed onto the decks of ships.  It was a desperate time, and it is no stretch to say had the Germans been able to wipe out the British, the war in Europe would have turned out differently.

The film focuses on three separate groups of people over different, but converging, periods of time.  A pair of soldiers trapped on the beach are the central characters.  Over the course of a week, it follows their herculean efforts to get on a boat and survive.  In order to get as many men off the beach as quickly as possible, the British government put out a call for civilian boat owners to travel across the English Channel and pick up as many as possible.  Dunkirk features the owner of a small yacht as he and his son make their way toward Dunkirk over the course of one day.  The third set of characters are two Royal Air Force Spitfire pilots who are trying to protect the ships in the harbor and the men on the beach.  Their story covers one hour.  The non-linear timeline takes a bit to grasp, but it plays out well and comes together nicely in the end.

I won’t go into specific scenes as I’m sure many of you have yet to see the movie.  I don’t want to be the spoiler!  I will tell you, however, there were numerous times when I found myself holding my breath!  The movie is tense throughout, but that is appropriate and accurate.  Put yourself in the boots of a young British soldier at Dunkirk.  You’ve been beaten back by the German army, which seemed unstoppable at that point in time.  You’re hungry, exhausted, and stuck on a beach in full view of marauding Luftwaffe bombers.  You expect the Germans to arrive at any time.  Your only hope of seeing home again is getting on a ship or a boat which could still be sunk by a u-boat or bomber.  The movie captures that stress as much as any movie could.  The soundtrack plays a large part in conveying the tension, both with music and sound effects.  At times, the music is a heart beat.  At other times, it is a clock ticking.  It is always effective.  The terrifying shriek of the siren on the Stuka dive bomber added a satisfying realism and convinced me that the director and his staff did their homework.

This brings me to the technical aspects of the movie.  One of the things I really hate is when the wrong equipment and machines are used for a movie set at a specific time.  It would be like watching a western with the hero carrying the latest polymer frame semi auto pistol! Anachronisms make it very hard for me to enjoy a movie.  Dunkirk avoided this as near as I can tell.  I’m no expert on early war British equipment, but they were all shown carrying proper Enfield rifles, their helmets were correct, and their kits at least looked appropriate.  Another thing which displeases me is when aircraft are portrayed breaking the laws of physics.  High performance aircraft such as the British Spitfire were capable of amazing things in the hands of a skilled pilot, but some things are just not possible.  For example, watch Red Tails sometime (if you can stand it) and you’ll see what I mean.  In contrast, the flight sequences in Dunkirk were extremely well done.  It appeared they were able to use real aircraft rather than computer generated ones.  I suppose it is harder to make a real aircraft do impossible things than a computer generated one!

As you have probably determined by now, I think Dunkirk is an excellent movie.  It is entertaining, compelling, and tells the story of human beings doing heroic things.  The characters are not flawless or larger than life, but they are relatable and believable.  Given the political climate in Hollywood these days, I am always concerned when a new war movie comes out.  There was no need to worry about Dunkirk.  It tells the story with obvious respect for those who were there.  I detected no effort to revise the history or insert any particular agenda, which is as it should be.  If you are a fan of war movies in general, you will definitely like this movie.  Even if you’re not, you will still enjoy it.  Go see it on the big screen.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Two types…

 Copied below is a “note” I published on social media a few years ago, with a link to the original post.  After being reminded of it recently, I decided to bring it here with minor revisions and invite discussion. What are your thoughts?

July 31, 2011 at 7:11pm

 The more I think about it, the more I feel there are two basic types of people when it comes to the concept of government. Apart, of course, from those who feel themselves to be the elite who must stand in control of us poor intellectually-challenged souls desperately needing their benevolence lest we plunge headlong into barbarism and anarchy (ahem — Washington D.C., cough, cough). Furthermore, I grow to feel that coexistence may not entirely be possible for these two types. At this point in time, I’m not sure what to call them; Victor/Victim, Contributor/Drain, Independent/Dependent, or something else entirely. Ask yourself these few questions, and decide for yourself where you may lie. Decidedly on one side, or somewhere in the very narrow space between. Is there a space between?

Life is tough — upon whom do you rely?

Do you stand resolute that through your work, your faith, and your determination you can live a successful life? Do you feel solving your problems should first be done by you? Are you eager to stand on your own two feet, beholden to no person or institution? Do you find it offensive when others insist they know best how to spend your money and live your life? Do you take the concept of personal responsibility seriously, and feel it is becoming far too rare? Do you find the thought of NOT doing what you can to provide for you and yours abhorrent and irresponsible? Do you find being forced to contribute to that which you do not agree to be robbery? Do you feel your safety and security is primarily your responsibility?

Does a just government grant rights or acknowledge them? Do you know the difference?

Do you feel it is the responsibility of others to assure you a certain minimum level of provision? Do you look to society to right the wrongs which may have befallen you? Do you think because others may have much, they somehow owe some of it to others and should be forced to do so? Do you think your personal safety and security is primarily the government’s responsibility? Can you allow another to live in a way you find disagreeable as long as they do you no harm? Do you feel others must be controlled by force of law because of what they MIGHT do? Have you ever uttered the phrase “…there ought to be a law!” ? Have you ever thought “I am (fill-in-the-blank), so I should receive special treatment”? Do you look to others to solve your problems?

Which paragraph describes you more accurately? Which type do you think makes for a stronger society?