Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown, Courage and Sid's Ramblings

Thoughts on the Newtown Shooting

A high school in Columbine, a movie theatre in Aurora, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the University of Texas campus, a mall in Oregon, the Virginia Tech campus, a political gathering in Phoenix, the Fort Hood army base, a commuter train on Long Island, and innumerable incidents in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere … and now add to this an elementary school in Connecticut.  What does it take to convince Americans that a change in attitude regarding guns is an issue we cannot ignore?

The Second Amendment to the Constitutions provides that Congress shall pass no laws limiting the right of citizens to possess weapons.  Many believe that this was intended only to make certain that if citizens were mustered into a militia, they would have their own weapons to bring along with them.  Others, including a majority of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court -2012

interpret it more broadly and feel that it applies to all citizens and not just those subject to call up in a militia.  Hence, many Americans are able to legally possess and carry weapons. And they do.  

This is understandable for hunting, the sport of target shooting, for self protection in both domestic and business situations, and for people who happen to be gun collectors, just as many others collect stamps or coins.  As technology advances, however, guns have become more lethal and capable of killing many victims rapidly. Even pistols now contain large magazines which can be fired off quickly in the manner of assault weapons. Such weapons were used in the murders at the locations listed above.

Bushmaster rifle, similar to one used in Newtown shooting.

Why would anybody want such a weapon, which isn’t a tool for hunting nor for target shooting and is far in excess of what is needed for self-defense in the home or in a business?  I know that some Americans fear that law and order may one day break down in the United States and that they will need such weaponry to survive.  I do not feel such paranoia is a reasonable reading of what the Second Amendment intended and I would hope that someday, the Supreme Court will agree with me and say so.  In my opinion, I feel that such automatic weapons should be banned except for sale to law enforcement agencies.  As for collectors who would like to possess them for their “collections,” they should not be denied this opportunity, but any such weapons sold to them should have their barrels plugged.

I know people who belong to the National Rifle Association and most of them understand and respect weapons and know how to use them properly.  Unfortunately, such lethal weapons can easily fall into the hands of people who can, and do, misuse them.  In all of the incidents alluded to above, the shooter was always described as someone who to some extent had mental issues. I supposed that diagnosis fits all mass murderers.  

There are many people in this country possessing varying degrees of mental disturbances, diagnosed or not, and it is impossible to determine which ones will get their hands on weapons and become murderers.  Many “angry” people are harmless.  Some, sadly, are not.  The mother of the Connecticut mass murderer was a gun collector.  In selling weapons and ammunition to her, a gun dealer would have had no way of knowing that her son, living in the same house, had mental health issues.  

While the some people with mental health problems can be treated medically, others are out there in our communities, undiagnosed. Identifying people with such problems, and taking steps to keep them away from guns, would seem to be a herculean if not an impossible task.  It has been said that it is easier to purchase an assault weapon than it is to get an appointment with a psychologist.

An simpler way would be to restrict, as I have suggested above, the sale of those weapons which are capable of assaulting and quickly killing many people.  With all due respect to the National Rifle Association and the Supreme Court, this should be a primary goal of all thinking Americans.  As I asked earlier, why would anybody want such a weapon, which isn’t an appropriate tool for hunting nor for target shooting and is far in excess of what is needed for self-defense in the home or in a business?   

Finally it should not be ignored that the violence which is around us in motion pictures, video games and on television has a cumulative effect on children and young adults.

Scene from "Call of Duty" video game and the indestructible Wile E. Coyote

It is a giant step from a safe falling from the sky in a cartoon and momentarily crushing Wile E. Coyote to the carnage experienced daily in the video games which are part of the environment in which children grow up today.  That too, along with mental health and gun controls all must be addressed in dealing with this problem. 

The solution is like a three legged stool:  Its three legs: gun control, mental health programs and regulation of violence in the media all must be sturdy.   
(On Friday, July 27, 2012, on the occasion of another massacre, I posted an extensive article on this subject on this blog.  If you have a moment, please go back and read it.)

Jack Lippman


Recently, the United States Senate did not pass a bill to endorse the same rights for disabled people throughout the world as the Americans with Disabilities Act already provides for our citizens in this country.  Many Republican Senators had supported the bill and some were even its co-sponsors, but when the vote came, they voted against it.  Up until now, the question of disability rights had never been politicized in that manner.  It always had received bi-partisan support.

Why, may you ask, did they do this?  Well, certain right-wing conservative Republicans, such as ex-Senator Rick Santorum, backed by Tea Party people throughout the country, felt that passage of the bill would turn over the rights of Americans to the United Nations.  This was a complete fabrication, a lie, but readily believed by the “low-information” voters in this country who also believe that there is no such thing as climate change and that the President was really born in Kenya.  Conservative Senators, who of course knew better, also recognized that such people vote in their states.  Hence they voted against an excellent bill, which many of them had initially endorsed, out of fear that the Tea Party people would be out to get them the next time they were up for re-election.

Tea Party Rally

Now, let’s roll the clock back to 1932, when Adolf Hitler was legitimately elected to power in Germany and became the Reich Chancellor.  Many Germans, once they saw what he was up to, opposed his programs.  Most chose not to do so overtly, however, out of fear that Hitler’s supporters, who were often prone to violence, would be out to get them.  And so they acquiesced.

What is the difference between good Germans during the 1930’s who subverted their true feelings because of fear of the “brown shirts” and ultimately the Gestapo, and our good Republican Senators who subvert their true feelings because of their fear of the Tea Party people deserting them the next time they run for office or are challenged in a primary?  If one fears the consequences of taking an action in which one believes, and does not take that action, this manifests a lack of courage.  In Nazi Germany, it was understandable.  In the United States Senate, it is inexcusable.

Similarly, there is no place for such a lack of courage when legislation dealing with guns, mental health and violence in the media is introduced … as it certainly will be.  And when these issues reach the Supreme Court, the Justices must also be courageous.




Sid Bolotin

Our 18-day marathon celebration in November 2012 brought my wife and I first to Crown Heights in Brooklyn, NY, then to Swampscott, MA, an oceanside town twenty miles northeast of Boston, MA. After the ultra orthodox Chabad wedding of our oldest grandson, Jared, we motored to Massachusetts for a two-week stay in my oldest son’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving, followed by a wedding shower for the new bride.

Being the almost octogenarian patriarch of my clan and loathe to travel, the plane rides, the five-hour car ride from New York to my son’s house, and two weeks of being away from my home environs created the usual cranky angsts against which the joyous proceedings played out their celebratory emotions.

Ala the style of Hugh Prather’s “Notes to Myself”, I’ve decided to capture the multitude of my emotions as random ramblings sans any chronological ordering. Warm gratitude, deep silent joy, profound happiness, mild (sometimes severe) trepidation, and awesome wonder best describe the symphony of my feelings at the moments highlighted below.

  • Awed wonderment at how two teenagers hugging and kissing in my 1937 Buick could suddenly find themselves 60-years later as matriarch-patriarch of a clan of 18-beings
  • At various moments “becoming” my own maternal grandfather…the tall man in the black, double-breasted suit, and black homburg…with the long, white scraggly beard
  • Giggling in frustrated discomfort as we snuck three, adult Vermont grandchildren into our small hotel room with the clandestine assistance of under-the-table transactions with hotel staff…replicating similar sleepovers when they were youngsters camping out in bubbie/zadee’s bedroom
  • Overwhelmed by speeches made by my son and his son re their upbringing at the afternoon Kiddush (Kiddush refers to refreshments served either at home or at the synagogue following prayer services on Shabbat)  at Jared’s synagogue
  • Inspired by Jared’s inner strength that enabled him to relocate to Crown Heights and in only a few years become so happily immersed in the Chabad community with the help of the men (and women) who became his friends and mentors
  • Humbled by the blessings being bestowed on me by the members of Jared’s synagogue for being the author of such menschen (people of integrity)
  • Being greeted and endlessly blessed by strangers as I stood on a dark street in Crown Heights waiting for my son to get the car because my knees and back had finally surrendered to the pain of walking many blocks of hilly terrain
  • Tearfully marching arm-in-arm with my son, and Jared, and his father-in-law to lead Jared to veil his bride, then into the Rebbe’s study for blessings (the rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the last Hasidic leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement), and finally to the chuppah (a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony. It consists of a cloth or sheet, sometimes a tallis (prayer shawl), stretched or supported over four poles.  A traditional chuppah, especially within Orthodox Judaism, is outdoors.)
  • Leaning toward the seated, heavily veiled bride, Eve, to whisper a grandfather’s blessing with tears in my eyes at this awesome occasion…taking care to honor the Chabbad custom of no physical contact
  • Clasping Jared’s head between my hands to give him a tearful Zaydee’s blessing
  • Standing in front of Jared and his veiled bride, as I tearfully clutched the brimful glass of wine while reciting the first blessing under the chuppah
  • Observing and interacting in the spontaneous, fervent, athletic outbursts of joyful prayer, table-pounding, song, and dance by the men of the Chabad community
  • Watching my three sons and six grandsons plunge into the male-only dancing with wild abandon whilst my wife, three daughters-in-law, and three granddaughters joined  the women to do their own dancing on the other side of the divided banquet hall…as I   stumbled along with the men as best as my ailing knees/back/hips allowed
  • Vegging out with my son and his youngest daughter, Brooke, for three hours to watch “Homeland” on Showtime
  • Heart-to-heart discussions with Brooke who is in a Master’s Program in Psychology
  • Munching fried clams at Kelly’s, a famous clam stand in Revere, MA with my son and Pam, my oldest granddaughter…remembering previous gourmet indulging
  • Private, personal discourse with the bride in my son’s den as we got to know each other
  • Sharing my granddaughter, Pam’s joy re her just-purchased condo with a look-see, a shopping excursion for flooring and furniture, plus her request for my engineering expertise re the room layout
  • Marveling at Jared’s mother, Phyllis’s efforts to make her house kosher enough for Jared’s zero-tolerance Chabad criteria…while in the midst of preparing for Thanksgiving and the shower
  • Gazing in wonderment at my/our clan of eighteen gathered ‘round the Thanksgiving table as I gave my annual tearful blessing of gratitude
  • Grateful beyond belief that all participants had made it to New York, to Swampscott and back to their homes in Vermont, Boston, and western Massachusetts without incident…especially since some grandchildren had driven themselves
  • Surviving the living arrangements for two weeks in my son’s three-level house with eight adults and stairs everywhere…profoundly grateful to our daughter-in-law for tolerating us underfoot while she ultra koshered the kitchen, prepared the Thanksgiving feast for our clan, and then re-prepped the house for the bridal shower. Special thanks to our granddaughters who “bunked” together to allow us to bed down in Pam’s bedroom


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Jack Lippman
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