Friday, December 28, 2012

Mark Kemp's Weekly Fast 5

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Since the holidays got in the way of my posting last Friday, today's Fast 5 includes stories and topics that have caught my attention in the past two weeks. And what a couple of weeks it's been! Since my previous survey, the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murder has led the national news, along with the fiscal cliff, the non-apocalypse and the holidays. (On a personal note, my family suffered a loss on the eve of Christmas Eve - a cousin whose death at 48 came far too soon.) In short: a whiplash of emotions.

A moment of silence observed in the White House on December 21, 2012
  • Pete Souza
  • A moment of silence observed in the White House on December 21, 2012
In the days since the horrific Dec. 14 school shooting in Connecticut, we've had a little time to process the tragedy. So much has been written and said - demands for gun control from the left, calls for armed guards at schools from the right. Much of it from both sides has been shrill, emotional and ultimately... understandable. When children are shot and killed by a madman with a gun, it quite naturally works our emotions. But if we're to learn from this tragedy and move forward, a little dispassionate contemplation of violence in our society is in order.

Among the best pieces I've read in this regard, one came from the left, another from the right, another from a libertarian's perspective (see next week's cover story in Creative Loafing), and yet another from the perspective of someone trying to understand the shooter. That was the one that moved me the most. It wasn't about the politics of guns; it was about the spirituality of compassion and understanding.

Personally, I'm for reasonable gun control. But if gun-control legislation already in place is not keeping random mass shootings from happening, we can't look to gun control alone to solve this problem. We have to look at how we have created conditions that are conducive to mass killings. Are we in the media partly to blame? Is the constant stream of blame-gaming on social media a factor? Is the problem a lack of god in classrooms or too much god in classrooms? I don't have any answers, but in all the noise I've heard and read, one piece keeps resonating for me, and it's my No. 1 link in today's Fast Five.

1) Tikkun Daily's Miki Kashtan sees Adam Lanza in all of us.
From the story:

The very first thing I wish for is honesty about the role of violence in our lives. At every turn we learn, again and again, that violence is an acceptable solution to conflicts and issues. The media, video games, our foreign policy, and our criminal justice system all demonstrate the same logic. Whatever the personal traits of a single individual, and whatever else we want to say about access to guns, Adam Lanza didn't invent the option of a violent response. Blaming specific individuals and calling them monsters when so much violence is a daily presence will not create any real shift. If we are serious about reducing or eliminating violence, I believe it would take a fundamental and deeper examination of the very premises and foundations of how we live our lives, from the metaphors we use to the role models we look up to.

2) "Class Is in Session": Racist Facebook posts hide fear
Speaking of blame-gaming on social media, CL's new commentary writer Charles Easley, who pens our "Class Is in Session" column, debuted this past week with a piece on racism in Facebook posts. He looks at why people feel comfortable making racist statements in social media, and what's behind it. Hint: It's fear, purely and simply. Easley is an educator with a background in media and communication, and he writes frequently on issues of race. We look forward to more great things from him. Don't miss this one.
There were other excellent columns in Creative Loafing this past week: Ailen J. Arreaza writes about the human aspect of the immigration issue in her "Give Me Libertad" column, and John Grooms - aka "Boomer with Attitude" - discusses why we should not honor Jesse Helms with a building or anything else.

3) Will The Avett Brothers' popularity overshadow N.C.'s roots music past and sterling present?
An excellent piece from Raleigh's always-perspicacious Indy Weekly from Creative Loafing contributor Corbie Hill on the Avett Brothers, and how the Concord group's popularity has swayed perceptions (and perhaps misperceptions) of traditional N.C. and southern folk music.
From the story:

Stereotypes make the South digestible; rather quickly, the music of The Avett Brothers is shaping its own stereotype, its own emblem of what the South can sound like. Bands like Mipso are preordained to Avett comparisons - no matter if they like it, no matter if it's warranted, and no matter if it hurts or helps their career.

Lots o booze
4) Deadly Persuasion: 7 Myths Alcohol Advertisers Want You to Believe
You know what's more deadly than guns - or pot, or acid, or most other drugs, for that matter?
This is not an argument against gun control or for criminalizing booze - it's just a sobering observation to consider as the marketing world gears up to tell us how to celebrate the New Year. In my personal experience, alcohol has killed too many relatives and wreaked too much family havoc.
This piece, published in 1991 by the Center for Media Literacy, goes back a LOT farther than two weeks, but as we gear up to celebrate the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, it's a good one to ponder, because it raises big questions about why we do what we do.
From the story:
We are surrounded by the message that alcohol is fun, sexy, desirable and harmless. We get this message many times a day. We get it from ads and, far more insidiously, we get it from the media, which depend upon alcohol advertising for a large share of their profits. Thanks to this connection, alcohol use tends to be glorified throughout the media and alcohol-related problems are routinely dismissed.

RIP Roger
  • RIP Roger
5) Finally, a song by the late Phil Ochs for my cousin Roger Newby, who died Dec. 23 after suffering some hard times over the years. My heart is with his mother, my aunt Carolyn, who loved him very much. I'm satisfied, however, that Roger is now at peace. Only a coin toss separates him from me. Nascentes morimur.
"Show me the whiskey stains on the floor
Show me a drunk as he stumbles out the door
And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
And there but for fortune, go you or I..."
- Phil Ochs

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