Monday, July 16, 2018

Kim Climbs the Nuclear Summit

North Korea must wonder: “Why can’t we have both – nuclear weapons and free trade, too?” The U.S. has both, as does Russia, China, England, France, Israel, India, and Pakistan. It is a fundamental question that deserves a logical answer.  Imagine this exchange between leaders, Trump and Kim:

Trump:  Kim, you must give up your nukes.
Kim:  Why?
Trump:  Because you cannot be trusted with nukes.
Kim:  And you can?
Trump:  You don’t need nukes. America will guarantee your regime’s safety.
Kim:  And who will keep us safe from America?

The lack of logical response is the main reason Kim will not give up his nuclear weapons. Why should he? He did not steal them. His people built those weapons with their own hands, just like our people built our nukes. America could use military force against North Korea – give them a “bloody nose” – for having a small sample of what we have in abundance. But, how illogical is that?

Having a nuclear weapon is not dissimilar to owning a gun. Being a gun owner does not mean that you want to shoot somebody. It means you want to be able to defend yourself.

Nuclear weapons are defensive by nature. They are deterrents. Except when America first used Nukes in 1945 against a defeated Japanese nation, (ostensibly, to show the Japanese how such a weapon works), nukes have not been used since. 

It is the international community’s concerted effort to brand Kim as a “madman” that has painted him into that “no-nukes-for-you” corner. The irony is that President Trump’s own diplomatic initiative has exposed Kim – not as a madman, but according to Trump himself, as an “honorable man” who is “smart”, “funny”, and “tough”. Trump, in effect, has fashioned an escape hatch for Kim to get out of the corner. 

In the wake of Kim’s meetings with China’s Xi and South Korea’s Moon, the world could further see for itself that the North Korean leader can be personable, even charismatic. After years of atrocities, this recent flurry of face-to-face talks have humanized the man. In Singapore, crowds cheered at the sight of Kim. One girl remarked that even his signature on the Singapore Summit’s communiqué was “cute”.

Perhaps, Kim is not such a bad guy after all, except for that tyranny thing which must be some sort of birthright – and oh, what a tyrant he is! At the age of 26, he took on one the most impoverished (and sanctioned) nations on Earth and turned it into a nuclear power. It may well be said that no nation in history has ever achieved so much with so little. That, in itself, must garner a measure of the world’s respect.

--> If Kim Jong Un can piggy-back off of Donald Trump’s self-serving efforts to habilitate Kim’s image; if he can further convince the world that he is responsible, and capable of accepting responsibility – that he will address the human rights abuses of his regime – he may yet earn the nod of enough of the world’s leaders that he will, grudgingly, be accepted into the fraternity of nuclear nations.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It Takes a Will

I’ve been busy trying to figure out how to get 300 million guns out of the hands of 300 million American citizens. It’s hard. But, how else do we begin to stop school shootings plaguing this nation?

Arne Duncan, former Education Secretary under President Obama, proposes that all parents pull their children out of school until Congress acts on gun control legislation. The problem with that proposal, besides congress lacing a spine, is that there is no legislation on Earth that can control 300 million guns in the hands of 300 million scared Americans.

Singer Kelly Clarkston’s frustration with this dilemma spilled over when, prior to a performance, she refused to invoke a “moment of silence” for the victims of the Sante Fe School shooting. “No,” she declared. “No more ‘moments of silence.’” She is right. A “moment of silence” in America is just a break in the action before the shooting starts again.

There have been 288 school shootings in America since 2005. During that same span of time, there were eight such shootings in Mexico, six in South Africa, five in India, two in Canada, and one each in Russia and China. 

One conservative radio host proclaimed: “No one has a solution to the school shootings in America because there are no solutions.” Actually, there is a solution. Don Quixote said it himself, said: “There is a remedy for all things except death.” The remedy to America’s gun problem, however, will take a gargantuan will that America does not have. Americans simply lack the courage – the will – to exist without a gun in their hands.

It all reminds me of the Egyptians when Moses told the Pharaoh: “Let my people go.” The Pharaoh said, “No.” He had not the will. Followed a series of calamities, culminating in the deaths of the Egyptians’ firstborn, including Pharaoh’s own son. Only then did he say to Moses and his Hebrews, “Get out!” The Pharaoh found the will.

Does every school child in America have to die before Americans find the will – before we discover that our 300 millions guns do not keep us safe; they only kill us? 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Parole Board Letter

January 25, 2018

Members of the Parole Board
Michigan Department of Corrections
Grandview Plaza Building
206 E. Michigan Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933

Re:  Larry R. Carter, MDOC #258499

Dear Members of the Parole Board:

Problems and solutions usually begin at a singular source. I am the source of the problem that ended Lillie Blue's life, which began my 22 years in prison. I took Lillie's life. That terrible act was marked by a flash of anger, confusion, and then lasting shame. 

I had lived a relatively normal life until that moment. I owned a home in Newaygo County, (which I still own). I paid my taxes, cut my grass, and had, only days before my horrific crime, creosoted the cedar post fence I had erected around my property. I was raising two sons, Lawrence and Thomas, who were 15 and 13, respectively, in 1996. (My three daughters were grown.) I was working two jobs, and nearing completion of a master's degree from Western Michigan University. In February 1996, just six months before my crime, I participated in a ceremony hosted by Deither Haenicks, president of WMU, that culminated in my induction into the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society.  

Please understand, by showing this "Honor Society" award I am in no way seeking to boast. This honor mattered 22 years ago, and only from February 1996 to August 1996. Once I committed that terrible crime, membership in any "honor society" became mute and irrelevant. The only relevance it holds today - and why I mention it - is that it is a testament to my standing in my community prior to my crime. This honor marked a seminal moment in my life, from which I might have entered into a realm of true service, and good work. Instead, I chose selfishness. 

Lillie, at that same time in 1996, was living a good life, as well. She was a manager of the Gantos Boutique on the West Main Mall in Kalamazoo, attending Davenport Community College, and raising a teenage son of her own, Rodney, who was 17. Lillie's only other child, Monique, was married, and the mother of a beautiful two-year-old boy, Neal, Jr. (I, too, had a two-year-old grandson, Jalen.)  Lillie was very proud of little Neal, and he loved her.  

Now, at 66 years of age, I do a lot more looking back than I do looking ahead. I suppose that is natural. I go over my many mistakes, one by one - and the good deeds - seeking to reconcile the contradiction my life has become. I wonder whether, in the end, if there is a chance that I might one day be called a "good person"? I suppose all humans hope for that as they near their end. Then, I am reminded of something Miquel de Cervantes wrote in his novel, "Don Quixote":  There is a remedy for all things except death." I fear that may be my answer. 

I have always believed that strong families make strong communities, and strong communities make strong nations. I was a good family man and an active participant in my community. I as an early riser, and a hard worker. My brothers and I learned a work ethic early on from our father whom we would follow into the woods to cut down trees. He did the cutting with his axe. We sawed the felled trees into chucks with our immense cross-cut saw. Then, we split the chunks, and took the wood home to feed into our only source of heat - a pot-bellied stove. It was during those years in the 50's and 60's, in the backwoods of Newaygo County, that I learned discipline, and the self-respect earned by a good day's work. 

I still hope for a chance to not only speak to my grandchildren about their need for discipline and a work ethic, but to speak to other young people in my community, especially the young, African-American boys who so quickly grow into unruly and aimless young men. I can help, given the chance. It is not a matter of my personal redemption. God will decide that. It is, for me, a simple matter of wanting to help our precious African-American community that is so vital to the strength of this nation, but seems to be tearing itself apart. 

I am an old man, but I am still a source form which solutions can come - we all are when we go about seeking to save this world one child at a time. I can make a positive difference. Perhaps I can instill into some of those boys a renewed respect for their black community - convince one or two of them - for instance, to pull up their pants, an start walking around like real men, instead of "sagging" their pants below their backsides, and walking about like clowns. 

No matter what I might bring to the table, great shame will ever be a part of me now, a reminder of what happens when we let selfishness rule the day.  


Larry R. Carter, 258499 

Monday, April 9, 2018

The More Guns, The More Targets

Is anything more shallow than this gun debate? Stricter background checks... maybe. Ban bump stocks... maybe. Arm teachers, arm preachers...

The only serious people in this so-called "debate" are the children, (who resonate as the true adults in the room.) the actual adults busily posture and say ridiculous things. One NRA supporter proclaimed, "Guns save lives!" That's a bit of conundrum - for guns, that is - considering they were created to end lives. 

And, how about the president? In a speech immediately following the Parkland, Florida shooting, he said to the students, "You must answer hate with love, cruelty with kindness." This from a man who has, on numerous occasions, declared, "You hit me, and I will hit you back ten times harder." How unbelievable can a president be? Fortunately, these young people see through him like glass.

One Florida congressman, when asked about raising the age limit for buying an assault rifle to 21, responded, "I want to be sure not to infringe on anyone's Second Amendment rights... even an 18-year-old's." 

Second Amendment Right: The right to bear arms. America is the only nation with such a right written into its constitution, composed at a time when Blacks were in shackles, and Native Americans were being brutally driven west, and into oblivion. The Second Amendment was included in the constitution because our Founding Fathers, for all of their brilliance, were a ruthless lot who thought it their right to trample upon the rights of others, especially people of color, in the name of "Manifest Destiny." 

And it was not enough that America's armies overwhelm the armies of Pontiac, Sitting Bull, and Santa Anna. To ensure a ceaseless dominance, the "Fathers" put forth the Second Amendment - guns in the hands of every white male citizen, which, by inference, gave each man the authority to perpetuate this doctrine of superiority throughout every crease and corner of the land. This is the amendment the NRA, and what appears to be the majority of Republicans in Congress, brandish as their shield. It is the reason America is awash in guns and targets. 

*****

A state representative in Colorado, Alec Barnett, wears a bullet-proof vest to work. It is because we have so many guns that so many people feel like targets. 

*****

These days, "Get guns out of the hands of dangerous people," appears to be the most popular catchphrase. With that in mind, President Trump, in a meeting with select members of Congress, suggested going into the homes of the mentally ill and simply taking their guns. His vice president, Pence, agree, though offered due process to those whose guns the government would seize. Trump retorted: "We'll take their guns first, and give them due process later." Does he know what "due process" means?

Who truly, are these "dangerous people" whose guns the government would take? The real aim should be "potentially" dangerous people, which must, therefore, include us all, considering people are at the top of the food chain... without guns. Put guns in their hands, like we do here in America - 300 million guns in the hands of 330 million citizens - and you have created a killing machine unparalleled in human history. Add this: We want more guns. Fox's Sean Hannity said as much: "We need more guns, not less." Trump would end all "gun-free" zones - especially schools; he calls them "soft targets." (They are targets, at all, because to gun owners, targets are the primal pursuit. 

*****

In China, a crazed man attacked a classroom of elementary school children with a knife. He slashed many of them, but no one died. That is the difference the Second Amendment makes. At Sandy Hook, we lost many small children. That Chinese community lost none. 

*****

At the same time Trump was speaking to those select members of Congress about his desire to arm teachers, an armed teacher in a Georgia high school, Jesse Randall Dalton, was firing a gun in his classroom, before barricading himself in that classroom. This man had been a sociology teacher there since 2004 and was considered "popular" by students, and staff, alike. Mentally ill, or just having a bad day? 

Certainly, Dalton has some mental issues. Now, try to imagine a multitude of such people - similarly functional, otherwise good Americans who occasionally have bad days - woven into the fabric of this nation. Take their guns? Do it. We could get 30 million guns off the streets in a fell swoop.  

On the 5th of March, Florida lawmakers put forth a bill to arm "some" teachers. Let's be honest: These school shooters are not idiots. They do not wake up and decide to shoot up a school. Most school shootings are well planned. The shooter, usually a student, is intelligent, manipulative, and tactical. He knows the school and the personnel. He knows how to get in, and where to go to do his damage. If there are armed teachers, he will make it his priority to find out which ones are armed, and which are not. If there is an armed guard, any planned assault would likely begin with an immediate "capping" of that armed guard. That student might begin his assault months earlier with softening chit-chat, lulling that guard into a sense of complacency. But, even if no assaults occur at a particular school where an armed guard is posted, how soon before one of those guards become trigger-happy, and "caps" a student he claims appeared to flash a weapon when it was a clipboard? 

This nation has plenished itself on violence. It is the only nation in history to enslave a race of people, commit genocide against another, intern still another, and drop an atomic bomb on the same race of people abroad that it interned at home. 

This is not about bump stocks and background checks. It is about the mentality of a people - American people - who expect to have their way and see guns as the guarantor. this nation must look into the soul of itself, rather than scapegoat the mentally ill. It must wonder why we kill so indiscriminately - not just at home where 35,000 people a year die from firearms, but abroad, where America has killed more people - men, women, and children - in the past 20 years than any other nation on Earth.  

This gun debate should be about substance - why people in this country refuse to relinquish their tools of death. No nation is as powerful as the U.S. because no nation can match our military might. America's citizens are an extension of that national psyche. Guns allow us to project strength we doubt we would otherwise have. Is it any wonder people get their backs up at the thought of losing their guns and being thus diminished?

We have lost sight of who, and what, we are. Humans were not meant to have guns as a distended part of their being. We were given the gift - words and reason. Were made able to resist pride, and concede where there is no need to fight. We talk. We compromise. With guns, we do not have to talk.

America is the largest exporter of arms worldwide, and in that way, the largest exporter of targets. We claim we want to stop bullying in schools and on the internet while being the biggest bully on the planet. We boast of our hunting traditions, then go after hapless animals with assault rifles.

*****

The NRA tough guys ought to try hunting with a single-shot .22 rifle, like I used as a 14-year-old in rural Michigan. With me, the furry ones always had a chance. 

*****

There is an arms race in America. No one is safe. At the end of this face gun debate, ther will still be 300 million guns in circulation - proof that, for all of our so-called "exceptionalism," nothing exposes us for who we are than how selfishly we cling to these deadly symbols of power. 

Meanwhile, our children hunker down in their classrooms - not out of fear of a foreign power, but of another "active shooter." Time for our children - like those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High - to grow up. They appear to be the only one who can save us.  





Monday, February 5, 2018

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Back in the days of the gladiators in the Colosseum, there was no fun in "thumbs up". The fun was in "thumbs-down" - patrons exhorting their emperor to command an execution. 

That's how the criminal justice system does it in America - no fun in leniency, or mercy. The people want blood; give it to them.

This past week, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, in the sex abuse trial of gymnastics' doctor, Larry Nasser, sentenced Nasser to 40 to 175 years in prison. Then, she said to him, with a gloating that was unseemly for an officer of the court: "I just signed your death warrant." The courtroom erupted in applause. Thumbs-down.

Welcome back to the Colosseum, or "America," as it is called today.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sexual Harassment: Taking the Bull by the Horn

The problem with sexual harassment crisis sweeping this country is the infinite number of subtleties in the male-female dynamic. Rather than tackle it full-bore, let us take one bite out of this unfolding drama:

A woman has accused Senator Al Franken of groping her backside at the Minnesota State Fair as her husband took their photo. After the incident, the woman says she “felt humiliated, and quickly walked away.”

Wait. This is a grown woman. Could she not have turned on Franken and declared, “How dare you touch me like that!” She told her husband what Franken had done. He is grown, too, I presume. If he is too “civilized” to punch the “perv” in the mouth, at least he should have confronted the senator, and commanded, “Don’t you ever put your hands on my wife!” Neither of them did anything; both ran from an old, fat senator like two cowards.


Must others fight these most fundamental of battles that aggrieved men and women should be fighting for themselves?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Evil Exists, But Not Within Our Grasp

“Evil” is easy to say, but it is hard to do. (It may be impossible.)

Humans act out of emotions. Many killers kill out of a sense of pride, not evil. They feel wronged; they want to avenge that wrong. Ever hear President Trump boast, “if you hit me, I will hit back ten times harder.” That is the persons a mass killer projects. It is his delusion that, not only must he strike back at the world, but he must inflict a hundredfold grief upon any world that would treat him cruelly.

When President Trump heard about the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas (besides calling the man “evil” and “deranged”, and assuring the world that America does not have a gun problem), he brushed it off as “a mental health problem.” In a way, he is right, except that he sees mental health only in the extreme. (All sins are a mental health problem.)

People suffer mental illnesses on a scale similar to how they suffer physical illnesses from colds to cancer. We all get a touch of madness from time to time. It is called anger and lust and pride and greed. We will do what it takes to satisfy that madness. (Having guns at the ready does not help.) Most of us, once we are done, return to our good and former selves, similar to how we overcome the sniffles. We are not evil. We are simply weak – slaves to emotions we think must be satisfied. 

We are quick to label people “evil” when they commit acts we abhor. By our standards, the senator who votes to pull the rug of healthcare from beneath the poor is evil; presidents who levy economic sanctions against poor nations in a deliberate attempt to starve that nation’s people are evil; the child who pulls the wings off of houseflies is evil. 

I lack the theological background to put into words the true concept of evil as mankind imagines it. In any case, true knowledge of evil is as unattainable as true knowledge of the divine.

These people who commit mass killings are not evil. They are simply selfish and terribly mean. We make statements attributing evil to them, we are merely satisfying our need to assert control, and display a moral authority we do not have.