DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown USA

This is the third time I have tried to write something about the school shooting in Newtown, CT.  It is hard to find the proper words to express the horror, dismay and bewilderment with this event.  Everything one tries to say seems inadequate, trite and so familiar for it has been said too many times before.  I am no longer surprised at these events. They are all too frequent and familiar.  In the United States multiple public shootings  are at about the rate of one a month. Some  are major news events others just local and quickly fade from view.

While  multiple public shootings are not unique to the United States,  we in Canada have had some rather dreadful ones. My previous  posting was a remembrance to the Montreal Massacre.of university female students.  Certainly, the Brevik shooting in Norway  was almost unique for that so very peaceful country. And a similar shooting  of young children to the one in Newtown happened in Scotland.  I mention these  three shooting because  each had a response for which we can have some admiration as a positive outcome. In Canada, the Montreal shootings lead to the Long Gun Registry, in honour of the young women murdered.  (Sadly, our Conservative Government has shut this down and may see ways to weaken further some of our gun laws.) In Norway, we saw a Nation mourn but not give in to fear and hate but stood its ground in the high principles of the rule of law and the judicial process. They were not going to let the murders change their basic national values. And the murders in Scotland resulted in tougher gun laws  in Britain.  One can only hope that the multiple shooting in Newtown will result in some recognizable socially admirable change. It would be nice to think so. President Obama hinted that change in gun laws may happen, this time, where it has not happened after the countless previous times. Nothing less than real change could honour the lives of the murdered children of Newtown.

I lived in Connecticut for a number of years.  I know the region where Newtown is located. I had an aunt and uncle who lived in an adjacent town.  It is a lovely wooded picturesque part of the state with winding roads and historic homes on spacious lots.  It is a quiet and restful  part of the state. My relatives home was on Peaceable Street, That seems to sum it all up.  For years my Uncle enjoyed this country living, taking the train each morning from the Branchville Station to New York City where he had an architecture firm.  In may ways Newtown and Georgetown and the other historic small communities represent the best of America. I love New England small towns. I would have stayed and made a life in New England, if I was not so determined to see that my son was raised a Canadian, with Canadian values..

Newtown has a couple of interesting claims to fame. It is the birthplace of the wonderful board game of Scrabble.  It's creator, James Brunot, lived there.  How many families have spent countless hours together playing this stimulating game.  I know our family did.  Ironically, it is also has the headquarters of the retail trade association for the firearms industry, The National Shooting Sports  Foundation.  This is a very powerful pro gun lobbly, representing the gun manufactures in Connecticut.

Connecticut has  a long history of manufacturing guns Most of the major companies are located in the State: Colt, Winchester,  Marlin, Remington, Smith and Wesson, Sturn, Ruger, O.F. Mossberg & Sons.,Sharps Rifle, Connecticut Shotgun; there many be others.

 In looking these up I also learned that Eli Whitney contributed to the gun industry by developing interchangeable standard parts so they could be mass produced. And I had always thought he was famous for developing the Cotton Gin. He had been a member of the historic church I served in New Haven, Ct. His home was next door until the church relocated to Whitney Avenue. (Don't you just love historical trivia.)

  Perhaps it is because of the long  history of gun manufacturing and its acceptance as part of the community, it has maintained a low profile and the State has some of the strongest gun laws in the US.

I had a parishioner, who was an industrial photographer working for Winchester. Photography was also a hobby with him and I often saw some of his photos. Now I wish I had asked to see some of his work photos., say, a wonderful picture of an M 16 weapon made by Winchester.  If I had been a gun enthusiast I might have been more interested in his work photos.

I have rambled on. I think this may be my way of avoiding the pain of trying to express myself over the shooting of first grade students in a wonderful school in a lovely town in semi rural New England.  It makes no sense.  For America's sake,  I trust it finds the courage to have that conversation about the role of guns in the country.  Limiting guns may be easy compared to the real cultural discussion  about violence in America. The gun is just the convenient and readily available  instrument reached for to resolve a problem.or express rage.

Violence has deep roots in the United States. It started with centuries of the systematic genocide of the native Americans. Then there was  a long history of enslaving some of its inhabitants.  The US is a country founded in a violent revolution.  It was shaped on thew anvil of a war against itself, the Civil War. The West was won at the point of a gun. Still today, the folk heroes of that era where criminals and killers.  This continues. Movies and TV dramas created in the United States are often filled with gun violence. I find it interesting to compare the differences between American police dramas and those created in Canada or Britain. I personal refuse to rent any video where there is a character on the cover holding a gun. (This falls in my "only in America file". I usually can spot the American productions easily. In the end I seek out an Australian, British or Canadian film. I have avoided pointing out the dominant role of the military and wars in American society and history, it is so obvious and unique among Societies. I guess I could go on with cultural comparisons.

  My point is that the problem with gun violence in America is more profound than limiting access to guns. That may prove the easy part. The real task will be to revisit the violence in American culture, own up to it, and find ways to transition away from it..

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Montreal Massacre

Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women.On December 6, 1989, in Montreal at √ącole Polytechnique a lone gunman entered the engineering school separated out some young women from their class mates and proceeded to shot them.  He killed 14 before he killed himself.. His motive?.  He hated women.  I leave him nameless as a symbol of his unworthiness at a human being.

The young engineering women students deserve to be remembered today, by name.  Their lives were very precious and accomplished until the day they died.   We can still grieve the loss of their future. We can wonder how wonderful their lives could have been as young women beginning a profession in which women were not well represented.  They were trail blazers and might have gone on in careers of creation within our society.  No doubt they would have gone on to be lovers, wives, mothers, and possibly even grandmothers by now.  Sadly, death prematurely cost them, and us, their future.

As a tribute to these students, Canada created the Long Gun Registry.  Sadly, this year, our Conservative Government eliminated the Registry and will destroy all the records in accumulated.  It may or may not have been a useful registry. I have no way of knowing. I do know all the police organizations supported it's retention and tried to have it saved. Police departments used it to help identify who might own a long gun before they approached someone they considered dangerous.  I would have  preferred it if the government has erred on the side of those who used the Registry.  It is the nature of our Conservative government to make decisions on the basis of ideology rather than factual evaluations. This is just another example of their anti-intellectual approach to decision making..

The Quebec government announced today that they will go ahead and maintain a Long Gun Registry in their province. They are using the courts to help them force the Federal government to turn over to them that part of the Registry that covers that province.  They at least will continue to honour the 24 women massacred that fateful day .  I only wish more provinces had joined them in maintaining a regional Registry after forcing the federal government to give up the data from their province.

The Halifax Disaster  December 6, 1917

It was the largest man made explosion until the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshimo. It was the explosion of the  French munitions ship the SS Mont Blanc after colliding with the Norwegian ship SS Imo in the narrows of Halifax harbour. The Mont Blanc caught fire and finally exploded as people on the shore watched, unaware of the danger.  The explosion caused a force blast in the air, followed by a tsunami and then the outbreaks of fires as flaming debris landed on the largely wooden city.

I  have always known the story of the famous Canadians disaster because me mother told me about it. It happened the year she was born.  Years later, as a young woman,  she worked in an office for a man who was on a train about to enter Halifax. He was in the city the day after the incident.  When I was a student in High School we studied a Canadian novel based on the Halifax disaster,   Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan. Finally, when I lived in Boston I was reminded of it for each years since the disaster the people of Halifax delivered a Christmas Tree to the city as a reminder of their gratitude for the aid the people of Boston offered them.. Their train was the first relief to reach the city.  This is just one example of the bond between the people of New England States and he Maritime Provinces.

Today, is a good day to remember the  bonds between our two countries, even as we celebrate the War of  1812, and disagree as to who won that war so long ago.