Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas for non-Christians

Well, it's that time of year again.  Christmas.  Lights, trees, carols,  As a non-Christian, this holiday has a very different meaning for me.

For many, Christmas is a disillusionment, being far more about presents than it is about the actual religious holiday.  In my case, we are modest about gift-giving, but the spirit of the season is an important one.  Let me explain.

I think there is sufficient historical evidence to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed (despite the fact that he probably would have looked very different from the depiction above).  This being the precedent, if we dismiss the idea that he was directly the son of God, his story is no less amazing, and no less inspiring.

He would have been born of modest means, but was well-studied in the traditional spiritual beliefs, being able at a young age to debate religious scholars at an equal level.  Being a young man, he set off on his path, passionate in his beliefs.  He was both student and teacher, eagerly sharing his ideals with everyone, regardless of their background.  He believed so deeply in his cause that he was willing to die for it.  In doing so, he set in motion a chain of events that would alter human history for the following 2,000 years and beyond.

What did he believe?  That all are equal regardless of race, background, or social status.
That all deserve mercy and compassion and above all  That we must follow our spiritual beliefs wholeheartedly, even when inconvenient - even unto death...without compromise.
That austerity and servitude to each other were keys to achieving happiness.

As a parent, I can want nothing more for my boys than that they accept other people unconditionally, without regard for color, race, or belief; that they carry with them a heart overflowing with compassion and love; that they are merciful to the weak and helpless; that they are at times both student and teacher in their lives; and that they follow their passion with total resolve, even when inconvenient and even if it means risking their lives.

Most importantly, that they fully understand that one need not be divine to change the world.

I cannot say whether or not Jesus was divine.  What I can say is that the legacy he left was an enduring one, and that at this time of year I am inspired by his example.

May you all have a happy holiday and see your dreams fulfilled.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Warrior Thoughts

The media is once again overwhelmed with coverage on the latest tragedy - a shooting at an elementary school in suburban Connecticut.  As a martial artist I feel I have to put forth my opinion about it.

While both the pro-gun NRA lobby and the anti-gun lobby are using this as a way to justify and strengthen their respective positions, I respectfully have to say --- it is not about you.  It is not even about some mentally disturbed angry little person seeking attention.  The cold, sad reality is that it is, and always has been, about children.  Children and heroes.  The poor children who are now gone, and the heroes who risked their lives trying to protect them.

As a martial artist, I honor the fact that it is the highest duty to give your life in service to others.  Even more, there is no greater or more noble cause than the protection of our children.  The fact that this is the moral and right thing to do does not in any way diminish the courage and bravery of these heroes.  Rather, it should serve to underscore the fact that, although we have surely lost our way as a society, our foundation still has a glimmer of hope for the future.  These brave people embodied right action in the right moment, and should remain as examples of what we as martial artists must aspire to be.

I grew up in Illinois, and was a registered and lawful gun owner.  Although I never owned any "assault" rifles or shotguns, I owned and fired many different types of handguns, and qualified on nearly every caliber and make of revolver and automatic at the time.  I felt a duty as a citizen to be well-trained in firearm use, and I was prepared to defend myself and my liberty if needed.  That said, I would gladly be the first one in line to give up my right to bear arms forever if it would save the life of even one child (or one hero who would die protecting him/her).  My rights are secondary to protecting the lives of innocent people.

Our Constitution and its Historical Setting
At the time our great country was founded, we were beset on all sides by potential enemies.  We had just very narrowly won our independence from England at a terrible cost, and were a very weak fledgling nation.  However, we still had France on our Western border (owning the Mississippi Delta all the way to Canada).
We had Spain to the south in Florida, and again in Mexico and far west in California.  There was every reason to believe we would be in need of a continental militia again very soon.  For those who would dispute this, bear in mind that we fought England again during the war of 1812, and English troops managed to burn the White House.  Our Constitution rightly allowed for citizens to bear arms in case we needed to raise a militia.  In modern times, we have both a standing professional military of 5 branches, as well as a State national guard, which is our citizens' militia.  By this rationale, it is no longer necessary for private citizens to bear arms.

The second major objective of the Constitution's second amendment is to allow private citizens to bear arms in case our government were to become as oppressive as the English one we fought to win independence from.  In such a case, we would be expected to overthrow it and start anew.  Whether or not we can argue this has already happened (DHS and TSA anyone?), the idea that private citizens could stand any chance against the standing military is ridiculous.  Even with the best weapons private citizens can buy, they stand no chance whatsoever against the might of the US military if martial law were declared.  If you doubt this, imagine what good your 12 gauge shotgun would be against an F22, a drone, or an M1 Abrams battle tank.
Our liberty is kept secure by the patriotism and level-headedness of our citizens serving in the military, NOT by the private sector.

I think it is very important to be clear on the context of how our Constitution came to be what it is, rather than allowing special-interest groups to twist the meaning in order to serve their own political agendas and corporate sponsors.  The life of even one child or hero is worth far more than someone's hobby, be it hunting or target shooting.

The Media
I agree with Morgan Freeman's comments that the media fuels the desire for unknown losers to want to be remembered, even if they are remembered only for the shocking horror of their crimes.  I agree it is necessary for the public to get access to unbiased reporting on important events, but not while glorifying the monster who is responsible for the incident.  Media and special interest groups represent the impending doom of our great nation if they cannot be held to rational, constructive guidelines.  When their freedom of speech results in the loss of life, especially the lives of children, they must be held fully accountable.  When special interest groups care more about their agendas than they do about the society that permits them, they must be disbanded.

Being a martial artist is about mastering the self to allow our natural courage to manifest.  Sometimes the most courageous thing to do is not to fight, but to be willing to lay down arms - forever.

It is time for all guns to be banned in America.  Period.
This can never be allowed to happen again.  Look into the eyes of any of those children, or any of the heroes who gave their lives protecting them, and I dare you to believe otherwise.