Archive for July, 2013

Justin Carter, Pop Tart Guns, and the NSA

Posted in Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by oneagainstdumb

I know I may be a little late to the conversation on this particular subject, but when I found out about this story it made me both sick to my stomach and fearful of where our country is headed. For those of you who don’t know, Justin Carter is a 19 year old teenager in Texas who made a sarcastic post on the internet stating, “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.” Why do I think he was being sarcastic? Well, apparently in the next two lines he wrote “lol” and “jk” which I assume to mean “Laugh out Loud” and “Just Kidding”. Justin is now in jail and has been since February for making a terroristic threat. His parents cannot afford to bail him out because the bond is set at $500,000, so I guess Justin will have to sit in jail until his trial.

To me his post appeared an obvious joke, albeit a very bad one. If there is one thing I have discovered on the internet, is that people will make the most offensive, ridiculous, or hate filled comments because they believe they are protected by anonymity. I receive hate emails all the time from individuals who will say things they probably wouldn’t say to my face. It’s easy to tell a guy to “Go f–k himself !” over the internet when a retaliatory punch is not possible. I chalk this up to just one of those drawbacks of having a World Wide Web. It’s kind of like free speech. It only works if EVERYONE can express their opinion, and you have to take the bad with the good.

Now, I am not saying that the police were wrong for investigating Justin as a precaution. However, the question remains, “On what grounds did the police have in arresting him?” If they had found journals talking of how he was going to kill people, plans laid out on how he was going to do it, a stock pile of guns and ammunition for committing such an act, then I could see bringing him in. As far as I know, they found none of these things. This appears to be another case of people tossing common sense aside for the intention of protecting children.

And why is it that when it comes to protecting children, we act like nonsensical buffoons? We are now living in an age where a child can no longer point a finger at another child and say “Bang!” because it can be construed as threatening someone with gun violence. Kids also have to be aware of how they eat their pop tarts to make sure at no point it resembles a gun, otherwise they can be suspended. The funniest part of all this is that most children don’t understand what the fuss is about because they are the ones thinking clearly. Their minds have not yet been warped by the hysteria and paranoia that the media enjoys whipping up on a regular basis. The sad part about all of this is that these petty gestures by schools will not make any of us safer. I have a nephew about to attend kindergarten, and the last thing I am afraid of is him being shot with a pop tart.

So what does this have to do with the NSA? Well, paranoia breeds stupidity, and stupidity is the number one enemy that can lead to our country’s demise. As of right now, the Obama Administration claim they are not using PRISM to spy on US citizens but to spy on possible terrorist threats. Whether you believe them or not is up to you. But what happens when the next school shooting occurs? What happens if school shootings get categorized as terrorists acts? Will the people then allow the government to spy freely on citizens in an attempt to protect the children? Will our fourth amendment right to privacy prevail, or will we continue to give up more freedoms for the sake of safety. Who is to say how far we will go if we are willing to jail a nineteen year old for a badly worded joke. I’m waiting for the government to start up the bear patrol any moment now (Simpson fans will know what I am talking about).

There are many things that cause much more death in our country than school shootings. Drinking and driving deaths number in the thousands every year. However, I don’t see a lot of people calling for the banning of alcohol. We do what we can to protect our citizens, but there are limits on how far we should go. In the end, I believe privacy matters in this country; I believe retaining our common sense matters. I would rather live in a slightly riskier place than in a world where we act like hysterical idiots just for the promise of safety. Because realistically that is all our government can offer, a “promise” of keeping us safe. But the foolishness spreading all around is fact.

The Old Man and the Intersection.

Posted in Philosophy with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by oneagainstdumb

I thought I would take a moment to talk about an incident that occurred a few months back that made me wonder where we are headed as a people. I was driving down Fairfax avenue in Hollywood when I came to a stop at a traffic light. There were four cars ahead of me, but when the light turned green none of them moved. Then slowly the cars inched forward until I could see the cause of the delay. There was an old man pushing his dilapidated vehicle to the side of the road. It had died on him just as he had reached the intersection. My first instinct was to get out of my car and go help. But seeing that the old man was having no trouble moving his vehicle, I decided to wait patiently rather than cause a second hold up by leaving my car. The three drivers ahead of me had different ideas. One after another they quickly sped up and swerved around the old man. One of the cars came dangerously close to hitting him. They almost seemed angry as if by causing the delay, the old man had greatly inconvenienced them somehow. If a single driver had done this, I would have attributed the incident to one inconsiderate asshole, but all three acted the same way. I waited until the old man pushed his car safely off to the side before proceeding. I felt a little sorry for him knowing how it was to have an unreliable car. I did own a Ford Ranger once.

Then I started to think about The Old Man and the Sea. For those who have never read the novel, it is about an old man who fights a Marlin for days determined to bring in this catch of a lifetime. He shows a great deal of strength, enduring hunger, fatigue, and injuries, but more importantly, he displays an enormous amount of patience throughout the battle.

In order to succeed at any worthwhile endeavor, one needs to have patience. The operative word here is “worthwhile”. People can achieve wealth quickly by capitalizing on trends or cheap fads, but I’ve never heard of a Nobel prize winner becoming a scientist over night. As I see more children addicted to the internet, smart phones, and tablets, using twitter, vine, or anything that only requires an attention span of a few seconds, it really worries me. How is our country to produce the scientists, engineers, and great minds of the future if our kids cannot focus their energies for any prolonged periods of time (Playing World of Warcraft for twelve hours straight doesn’t count). I’ll admit that I can become inpatient as well. But when I do, I try to remember the big picture. I try to be a bit more understanding. I try to set a good example for my nephew, because I know that it is only through my actions that he can learn the value of patience. So whether it be a long term goal or simply waiting for an old man to push his car to the side of the road, I am hoping more people will take the time to contemplate the situation before acting. For I will be the old man in the intersection one day, and I don’t want to get run over.