Monstrous

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January 27, 2023- Frankenstein has never been alone- at least in the minds of onlookers.

The characters in a recent historical fiction series about World War I traded the insult “Monster!”, with some regularity, as the decidedly monstrous acts, which some of them indeed committed, came to light. “Women at War” pulls few punches, in delineating both patriotic acts and inglorious schemes-among both French and German adversaries, in the early days of the “Great War”. Few of the principals are spared the consequences of their flaws, sometimes almost immediately following their acts of honour and heroism. Only two-a priest and a brothel owner, consistently behave in a truly wretched manner.

“Monster” is a seldom used word, these days, as we focus on origin stories whenever encountering despicable acts. In my life, I have encountered few hideous souls-and even they were made, not born, into monsters. I learned the details of the last one’s life, even as she was doing her utmost to freeze my soul.

I have only been so characterized once, by someone who had scant room to talk, though his life experience should never have happened, especially to one so young. When children seem monstrous, almost invariably, they have had diabolical role models, whose actions should not be witnessed by anyone. The only question is, “How far back does the monstrous lineage go?” Hitler, after all, was raised by a hideous father, whose own story foreshadows his child’s descent into demonism.

I ponder this tonight, in thinking about the most recent spates of massacre by firearm. I know many people who believe, honestly, that firearms are necessary for self-defense. None of them would think, for a moment, of using a gun on a child, or other innocent person. In each of the recent cases, someone who is either filled with self-loathing, or has been indoctrinated in the ideology of fear, has carried out an assault on innocents. Time, and juries of their peers, may well cast the perpetrators of these crimes as monsters.

For now, each of us has to weigh our own actions, daily, and rise above our own basest instincts. Let us defend innocents from those who would harm them for their own gain, and not harm anyone in our own right.

Disgruntled

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January 23, 2023- I awoke this morning, preparing to head for the second of ten consecutive workdays. Opening the shades, after completing my early morning routine, I saw-a light blanket of snow! This led to a check of the website of the school district, where I am assigned this week, and revealed a two-hour delay in the school day, followed 30 minutes later by the school closure announcement. We do not mix icy roads and school buses, whenever it can be avoided.

I thus had ample time to reflect on the events of the weekend-four sets of mass shootings: Two in Louisiana and one each in California and in Arizona, causing a total of 21 innocent deaths and at least 20 more injuries. Today brought 9 more dead- Seven in Half Moon Bay, CA and two in Des Moines, IA. The Half Moon Bay shooter was said to be “disgruntled”.

In all the back and forth between “sides”, as to how to address the mass killings, there are salient points made about the ease with which firearms may be obtained, by someone with a deadly agenda-which is almost always of fairly long standing. There are equally salient points made about mental illness attending these events. No one who is right of mind is going to shoot, stab, poison or run over another human being. There are few points being made about the spiritual aspects of the problem.

Most of us have been disgruntled with others, or with the “system”, at one time or another. Those who have been disgruntled with me, of late, have chosen to either use their words or distance themselves. Ditto for my being upset at other people. Fair enough; who among us can please everyone, all the time. There is a reasonable expectation that being upset at another person does NOT mean that person should forfeit life and limb. Those of us with a spiritual grounding, a belief in the Eternal, tend to pull back from our worst impulses-to the extent we entertain them at all.

Motor vehicles, firearms, ordnance, bladed implements and toxins are all readily available in our society. Regulating them, especially hand-held weaponry, would likely help some, in reducing the death toll-as it has in Australia and some European countries. More fully focusing on the many aspects of the mental health issue will take a plethora of resources-and if done correctly will vindicate those expenditures.

Yet, one thing and one thing only will put our society over the barrier that keeps matters uncivil: There must be encouragement of spiritual education-as parents, children and communities see fit, so that each human life is viewed in the manner with which it is endowed by the Eternal. Emotional release that is achieved by ad hominem or heterogeneous attacks needs to be discouraged. This does not mean a Kumbaya Nation; it means that, despite how some people aggravate one another, it does not end in death or dismemberment.

It means a retreat from fatalism.

Waukesha

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November 22, 2021- The small children, ages 7 and 9, told their mother they never want to go to a parade ever again. There is no more heartbreaking statement that can ever be heard.

A celebration of community, of diversity, of life should never become the stage for the passions of the disaffected, the disgruntled, the deranged. This is true whether one is talking about the United States Capitol, on the day of a Constitutional procedure, or the downtown of a vibrant little city like Waukesha, Wisconsin, on a day of wholesome togetherness. It was true in Las Vegas, on the day of Route 91 Harvest, in 2017, and at houses of worship in North Charleston, Pittsburgh and Sutherland, TX. It was true during the Boston Marathon, in 2013 and in the halls of learning in places like Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. It has been true, every single time a disaffected, disgruntled, deranged person has taken out a twisted sense of entitlement and revenge against the broader public. It is true, whether the individual, or group of same, is a State Actor or just a private person wanting the world to know that he feels wronged, that his rights are above everyone else’s.

Four of the people slain yesterday were grandmothers. They were seemingly targeted by their assassin, for reasons presently known only to him. They were, in my humble estimation, innocent of any wrongdoing. They were there solely to bring “Comfort and Joy”, the theme as it were of the parade itself. There were small children, 18 at last count, injured. There were high school bandmates and cheerleaders, the very epitome of everything that is positive about life. There was a little girl, dancing in a pink suit, narrowly missed by the perpetrator’s vehicle.

I have a family member, five hours from Waukesha, who is a cheerleader. Here in Prescott, the youngest child of two dear friends is in his last year of playing in a high school band. If either of them were to be the least bit injured in an incident such as happened yesterday, I would be apoplectic-even more than I am right now.

Human life is given by the Creator, by God-if you will. Human life is not given, just so that it may be randomly taken, or even threatened, by individuals-no matter how righteously they present themselves or their cause. Human life is given, that its holders may pursue their positive, life-affirming, socially-advancing talents and faculties to their utmost.

Waukesha, may you heal-as the communities afflicted before you have healed; nay, are still healing. America, may we regain our sanity, little by little, until this sort of horror becomes a bad memory.

Astroworld

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November 8, 2021, San Diego– A lot of the conversation with friend, J, at Harpoon Henry’s Restaurant, in Dana Point, had to do with self-assessment and self-accounting. This was my first visit with her in two years, due to both the pandemic and the current circumstances of her life. J and I normally walk a bit along a beach of her choosing- Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point being her favourites. For the time being, such walks are on hold, but it was a good time for catching up. We agreed that it has been quite a year, all around. There have been ongoing debates and recriminations passed around, unwitting public figures being drawn into the limelight and a penchant for name-calling taking the place of people owning their decisions and the resulting behaviours. Through all the negativity, the pandemic continues, albeit in a slowly diminishing manner and responsibility takes a vacation-not in the beach towns, but at large public events.

Astroworld’s hip hop concert, over this past weekend, ended in horrific fashion, with eight people being crushed to death, and dozens more injured, in a stampede. There are further intimations of people being jabbed by hypodermic needles, laced with illicit drugs, at certain points during the Travis Scott concert. The performer himself couldn’t hear people calling for assistance for those injured or dying, until it was too late.

It is time for musicians, performance artists- and politicians to take stock, not only of how their words and actions immediately affect their audiences, but also how these infest the muscle memory of significant segments of society. Travis Scott cannot bring back his dead and injured fans-nor is he, alone, likely to curb the increasing tendency towards lurching towards abandon, when crowds of people are whipped into a frenzy. Astroworld should be a wake-up call for people to exercise restraint and look out for those around them. In the same way, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, North Charleston each should have been a wake-up call for curbing the access by mentally ill people to firearms.

The solution is spiritual. J and I each have chosen different paths to the sacred. Yet, both of us have found that sacred, in a way that makes sense to us, as individuals. It would have been all too easy, at least for me, to embark on acts of throwing caution to the wind-and giving vent to the wildest of urges-had I not been raised to act in a conscientious manner. Even so, trial and error have taken their toll, though thankfully not in a manner that was injurious or lethal to another human being. I can credit belief for the fact that such tendencies have gradually faded.

My heart always aches for those who suffer, needlessly, in events that go awry or where destruction is intended. The stampede at Astroworld and the apartment collapse in Lagos, also this weekend, are only the latest examples of the consequence that accrues, when we do not-even for the briefest of times, look upon the well-being of our neighbours with the same vigilance that we look upon our own.