Thought Experiments


December 17, 2022- I spent part of this afternoon, prior to taking in a Latino rock band’s performance at the Raven, listening to several jazz arrangements of classical pieces. These included renditions of ceremonial standards: The Bridal Chorus, Wedding March, and Pomp & Circumstance-which I regarded as an elegant drudge at my own graduation from High School, some fifty four years ago. Most such jazz arrangements are thought experiments; some are done with the knowledge and encouragement of the original composers-Maurice Ravel and Aaron Copland certainly smiled at the best of up-tempo versions of their work. Petr Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Bach would likely have felt the same.

The wedding-related pieces have been worked into certain nuptials, though I haven’t heard of any usage of Tom Kubis’ rousing version of “Pomp” in a graduation exercise. Methinks the kids would love it, but not so, much more traditionalist adults. Nonetheless, thought experiments, so long as they don’t lead to harm of anyone, or to disparagement of the tried and true, are good for individual and collective consciousness. This extends to most alternative adaptations of traditional music-though a few loud, up-tempo versions of children’s lullabies have fallen flat, mainly because of the decibel level of the performances (not good for tender ears) and the fact that the purpose of a lullaby is usually to get a child to calm down and go to sleep.

This brings me to “thought experiments” that have been broached recently, by prominent personages, and pertaining to everything from the United States Constitution to how people should live their lives when in private to the composition of life in the Universe (Some have posited that there are planets inhabited by Cat People and Horse People). Such exercises, besides being rather numbing to the consciousness of those entertaining such thoughts, and disruptive to the national fabric, are flying in the face of the forward march of history. They are allowed by said Constitution, but like the most raucous of loud and swinging lullabies, are best kept to the privacy of their fashioners.

Jazz interpretations of Classical Music, reasoned political discourse-regardless of viewpoint and careful research into any aspect of life in the Universe add luster to our social condition-at least from where I stand. Those thought experiments that solely reflect the egotism of their adherents serve no redeeming purpose.

Rights and Obligations


May 29, 2022- Every human right brings with it three levels of obligation: To self, to family and to community (both local and larger). This is just my opinion, for purposes of this blog post, but I’ve seen it play out, time and again. I have seen any person who demands a given right, without committing to a parallel responsibility, enter the realm of undeserved entitlement. Let us look at three rights that are encoded in the United States Constitution, in fact, the First, Second and Fourth Amendments, as cases in point.

The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to be honest; 2. Duty to family, to speak with integrity and honour; 3. Duty to community, to give the same rights to others, even if their opinions are at variance with own.

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. This is specific to maintenance of a well-trained militia.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to own only such weapons as one can safely clean, maintain and store; 2. Duty to family, to keep weapons locked out of reach of those who are not of mature or sound mind; 3. Duty to community, to refrain from endangering the public.

The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to not own more of anything than one can safely and securely handle; 2. Duty to family, to not place them in danger, owing to possession of illicit substances or unsafe equipment, including rusted-out or broken-down cars that may be attractive nuisances for children; 3. Duty to community, to not engage in activities that generate public endangerment, or to make readily available, items that themselves create a danger to the public.

This is only one set of observations among many, but these are in keeping with how i was taught-to regard the needs of others, in tandem with my own.

The Way It’s Always Been….


May 24, 2022- Fifteen people, who probably started their day with thoughts of a looming summer, ended it outside their bodies-gone to a higher realm. Fourteen of them had barely scratched the surface of this life. The fifteenth had so much more to offer, in the way of helping young people build their lives.

For that matter, an angry young man-raging for God knows what reason, chose to take that anger out on the helpless, the innocent. He might have chosen to state his anger in a productive way, taking the long road of peaceful protest and resistance to authority figures whose agenda seems to be the chipping away of legitimate rights for people of colour and others-but he chose to sow chaos and pain.

The reactions, far and wide, to the Uvalde massacre have been largely typical: Those who fear the loss of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are taking the lead, already, in politicizing the tragedy. Blaming their political opponents, calling for locking up the mentally ill and placing armed guards in the schools are reactions that have been offered so many times that they have become cliche’, almost cartoonish.

So, what do those who want to see the carnage stopped, be we liberal or conservative, suggest? I can only speak for myself, from a place outside partisanship.

I am not in favour of repealing the Second Amendment. I am in favour of making sure that one and all understand the U.S. Constitution, in its entirety. That takes Civics Education. I am in favour of firearms safety-handling, firing and cleaning, being a prerequisite for anyone seeking to own and operate a weapon. I had that opportunity as a child, and as a young adult-and took advantage of it. So did my late wife and so did our son. True firearms training entails having respect for the firearm.

I am not in favour of locking up anyone whose behaviour is erratic. I am in favour of locking up firearms-and other deadly weapons that may be carried into public spaces-and I am in favour of this being done-first by the legitimate owners of said weapons, or if they refuse or fail to do so, by lawfully constituted agencies of public order. I am in favour of a National Registry of firearms owners, with identification cards. This last is not 100% foolproof-no system of identification ever is- but it will greatly lessen the likelihood that a crazed individual-whether on the political right or left, or of no clear ideology at all, will be able to wreak havoc.

I come to this conversation, honestly, having actually taken action that helped prevent a school shooting-twice. The first involved locating, seizing and turning over to the police, a long rifle and a pistol that were intended to be used in a targeted attack on an elementary school. The plotters were identified, arrested and received proper retribution. The second involved notifying the police of an active threat against one of the staff members, at another school where I was an administrator. The police then took possession of two weapons, which the owner admitted he was going to use on the staff member and his family.

We have no choice but to pay attention-to our surroundings, to our family, friends and co-workers and to the pain that is being inflicted. We can learn Civics, firearms safety and acceptance of responsibility.

This is the way it has actually always been. The rest is mythology.

Constitution Day


September 17, 2021- It is fairly pleasant in Philadelphia, in the middle of September, as summer winds down and the gradual presence of autumn begins to be felt. Temperatures inside the hall, where the beginnings of a Federal state took root, also began to cool and on this date, in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 men, representing 13 states and collectively called “The Founding Fathers”. Later that year, the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania became the nucleus of what would become 50 states, and were followed by the eleven other entities, whose representatives had signed the document, and which ratified the Constitution between 1788-1790.

This constitution has been a model for both state constitutions and for those of nations which have come into being since 1790. It is a testament to the people of this country that, both attempts to subvert the Constitution, in 1861 and in January of this year, have, thus far, come to naught. That these actions were on behalf of those whose philosophies of governance and of social concourse were restrictive and reactionary perhaps made the matter more straightforward. That the second attempt mirrored the first shows, however, that elitism is a clever and persistent mind set, with the ability to appeal to people-of all ethnicities, creeds, generations and of both genders, and the capacity to oversimplify complex matters, in the course of making that appeal.

We are gradually moving away from elitism, of both the right and of the left, and as slow and painful a process as that is, our Constitution, with its amendment clause, is helping it along. Happy Constitution Day to all who honour the document and the ideas which it safeguards!

Staying Independent


July 4, 2019, Saugus-

I will continue (go back to) my photo blogs, in the next few posts.  Jumping ahead to the Fourth of July just seems best, though.

I had a conversation with someone very close to me, during the family gathering at a niece’s home, this afternoon.  One thing rings very loud and clear, from this discourse and from other conversations I’ve had, these past few months:  Many people are feeling put upon by aggressive individuals and groups, who take a point of view opposite that which they happen to hold.  Many individuals and groups ARE resorting to the use of force, when confronted with those taking such opposite viewpoints.

I was raised to hear other people out.  My parents, social conservatives, made a great effort to understand even the most seemingly ludicrous viewpoints.  I have maintained an open mind, as a result, throughout fifty-six years of adolescence and adulthood.  Civil Rights have long been a matter of supreme importance in my life, and that cuts both ways.  The Right cannot bully people of colour, of Faiths other than that of the majority in a community, or those living a lifestyle different from that which is conventional. The Left, likewise, cannot deprive people of more traditional bearing, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Violent behaviour, on either side, is the stuff of fascism (even when the bully calls self “Antifa”)

I am, as it happens, an obstinate soul, when people without authority try to force me to do their bidding.  Additionally, I question those who DO exercise authority, as to the ethical basis for their actions.  That is what I get from both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.    That is what I get from my Faith.

So, to my family-my elders, siblings and cousins:  You all matter, greatly.  Your point of view has at least some validity and is worth hearing, and pondering.  Our family is large, so there are all points covered, on the political spectrum. I will not plug my ears to any of it, so long as you do not ascribe to a coda of violence or or a policy of defamation against your opposite numbers.

To my children, nieces/nephews, and “grands”- You are, one and all, a great hope; you are people of immense promise and, especially if you are feeling vulnerable,  are worthy of all the support and love that we, your elders, can muster.  We cannot spare you from life’s ups and downs, but we can point towards the light. This is the very least we can do, in building and safeguarding your own sense of well-being and independence.

Most of the problems we face, when it comes to intolerance and reactive violence, seem to stem from the violent ones acting out of insecurity.  In truth, though, i have to ask, “How does a person expressing an alternative point of view, in and of itself, constitute a threat to my well-being?”  It may be annoying, but it is not a threat-unless accompanied by force-which then makes it an entirely different matter.

Staying independent means, to me, that one takes the time to carefully examine issues and evaluating a variety of points of view.  It also means extending that right to independence to every one else.  These are my thoughts as the Sun goes down on another July 4.

Second Class


August 10, 2016, Prescott- I find the ongoing raising of the issue of gun ownership to be one of the simultaneously most ludicrous, and most dangerous, activities of the political season.  The majority of firearms owners, which included my immediate family until 2011, and still includes my son, and several friends, are sober, careful people, who have had proper training in the care, use, maintenance and safeguarding of arms and ammunition.

I had my first class in firearms safety, in 1962, as an 11-year-old Boy Scout.  That class was offered by a Certified Trainer, at a National Rifle Association facility.  I  subsequently had training in a variety of weapons, as part of my overall training, whilst a soldier in the U. S. Army.  My son, in turn, had full certified training in the use of several firearms, prior to buying and properly owning a weapon of his own.

Although I  no longer own a firearm, I believe people are within their rights to do so, for the purposes of hunting, self-defense and target shooting, if that is their fancy. Where I draw the line is at the notion that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution suggests it is permissible to rise in insurrection against a freely-elected President.

It does not.  The framers of our Constitution warned against tyranny- either of the elect, or by the electorate.  There are many non-legislated rules and regulations, emanating from governments at all levels, with which I disagree.  These have been promulgated by liberal and conservative elected officials alike.  There are some rules of which I approve, while others loathe them.  None of us, though, is so privileged as to kill or maim an elected official, or any law enforcement officer going about the day-to-day keeping of order.  Likewise, no government official or law enforcement officer can be so obstreperous as to randomly, or systematically, engage in acts of oppression against ordinary citizens.  There can be no second class citizenry.

There is a process, some parts of which are cumbersome, often tedious, for effecting change.  Protest is a legitimate part of that change agency.  Rebellion is not.  No person, therefore, can legitimately swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, if his/her intention is to cherry-pick its provisions.  Our next  President must be…..presidential.  The people he/she defeats, must remain loyal to our government- and to our country.