Friday, October 6, 2017

Save Humanity From Itself

How to restrict and/or ban firearms to protect innocent lives that does not infringe upon law-abiding citizens’ constitutional rights versus why someone with no apparent warning signs or violent history decides to commit horrific mass murder in the first place? This is the perpetually controversial debate, and maybe there is no comprehensive answer to the latter question. Before we yet again have that debate, though, is it impossible to refrain, no matter how brief, from the spewing of differing worldviews, political agendas and speculative vitriol out of respect to victims, families and friends? The act committed is horrible enough without the disgusting entropic inhumanity that oftentimes accompanies it in the immediate aftermath.

Now that some of us have taken that pause, what exactly could have prevented yet another latest mass shooting? More gun control laws? More background checks? According to official reports, like numerous incidents before it, none seemingly could or would have prevented the tragedy as no obvious red flags presented themselves. Never missing an opportunity, this fact has not stopped politicians and pundits from advocating such non sequitur measures. If the forest is burning down, is it logical to continue throwing water on a camp fire that did not start it? What might have prevented the forest fire in the first place? Environmental impact aside, the forest, like the Second Amendment that anti-gun activists find abhorrent, could have been bulldozed and obliterated to mitigate such incidents...but then there would be no forest in order to see the trees. Not every incident is endemically comparable to every other one, and any systemic blanket comparison is foolish in a blind effort to implement any further restrictions or changes to the law without understanding the root cause(s).

This does not negate the necessity of any reasonable measures that can be and, in many cases, currently are applicable. After all, bans and restrictions on camp fires exist for susceptible wooded areas; even so, this does not mean everyone obeys the laws or rules. The same is true with gun control. Now, you probably are thinking, and granted rightly so, that forest fires - whether naturally occurring or accidental - and mass murder are not even on the same level. Victims of gun violence are family, friends, neighbors and, probably for the most part, strangers, while forest fires do not cause mindless slaughter...except to the animals, insects, plants, trees, etc, that live there and die because of them. Any senseless loss of life is tragic, though, no? Or, is there an arbitrary, sliding scale on what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable loss, simply because we, as sentient beings, identify more with humancentrist tragedy? Perhaps this is why politicians who advance stricter gun control have no issue with allowing the government-sanctioned slaughter of endangered species, like wolves, even as scientists explore the cosmos for the most basic forms of microscopic life.

The point is that until the mindset of humanity as a whole is enlightened to appreciate all life - especially in regions throughout the world where ethnic cleansing and mass genocide are prevalent - there never can be a comprehensive appreciation for any life on an individual level. No matter how much gun control legislation is implemented - even outright weapons confiscation that anti-gun activists preach, because to what would that extend and entail - the profound issue is individual, sentient beings who willingly take another life without conscience, remorse or repentance. The enduring failure to grasp this inherent concept will continue to prevent us from seeing the forest for the trees. That is the real tragedy, which will haunt us until the next one.

©2017 Steve Sagarra

Friday, September 22, 2017

Echoes In Eternity

For the majority of my life, I have been a student of the Second World War. I always will be, too. After all, it is the “good” war that justifiably, for the purpose of a succinct description, pitted the forces of freedom and righteousness versus atrocious evil. In correlation, the post-war era, particularly the Korean War and Cold War, is intrinsically associated with it. In recent years, though, I have become more attuned to and fascinated by the First World War. To be honest, I previously had never given the war its deserved acknowledgment. For unclear reasons, despite my grandfather and his brother having served, it never made any sense to me and never held much interest for me.

Of course, profoundly linked to the Cold War, I have studied the Vietnam War. In fact, my undergraduate thesis concentrated on the Tonkin Gulf incident. Yet, Ken Burns’ latest PBS documentary, The Vietnam War, recalled for me the remarkable connection to the First World War. Officially, the United States entered the Vietnam conflict as a main combatant in 1965; realistically, the war had started decades earlier for the Vietnamese at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In that singular event, not only was the seed planted for the next world war but also the “forgotten” Korean and the “quagmire” Vietnam to follow. For the latter, at least, pivotal moments highlighted in Burns' documentary did not make it inevitable until too late.

Inconceivably, numerous problems the world faces today, over a hundred years later in 2017, can be directly traced to the First World War. While the Second World War may have been the “good” war - and make no mistake, anti-semitism, Holocaust denial and the debate over nuclear proliferation sadly linger to this day - the repercussions of its predecessor still haunts the landscape of current foreign policy and international relations. Ideas about empire, nationalism, colonialism, self-determination, to name a few, are very much prevalent in tactful discussions, heated exchanges and direct clashes between the world’s nations and their citizens. Issues that engulfed the world in catastrophic war a century ago.

Thus, what we do now will not only affect the next generation, but also the one to follow. History has given us a roadmap for the consequential outcomes of those actions and decisions. Now is the time to choose wisely. Frankly, if history is any indication, I give humanity only a modest chance of learning from the past...because there always is some asshole seeking to bet against the odds in their favor. For as Albert Einstein so eloquently warned, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

©2017 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Keeping Up Relations, Again

With the announcement of a sequel to 1986's Top Gun, thought I would suggest a few plot points of my own for it...

*Iceman, on the previous recommendation of Viper upon his retirement, is commander of Top Gun. Maverick, like Jester before him and given his unpredictable style, is the lead instructor, using F-18s and 5th generation fighters to train a new class of fighter pilots for both modern and future warfare.

*Bureaucrats are attempting to end the program due to expense and ever-changing warfare strategies, and instead replace fighter pilots with unmanned drones. Iceman, Maverick and their trainees attempt to convince them of the necessity for fighter pilots and the human factor involved in air-to-air and air-to-ground operations.

*Maverick is married to the semi-retired Charlie, who still consults with the Department of Defense. They have a son and daughter, named Brad and Nicole for the late Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Charlie works with Mav and Iceman to convince Washington of the necessity to continue the Top Gun program, even testifying before Congressional hearings over the matter on Capitol Hill.

*The ending involves a mock battle of planes vs drones, with Iceman, Maverick and their trainee aviators taking on drone “pilots.” In the end, both are proved necessary and effective components of an overall military strategy. The bureaucrats back off their plans to scrap Top Gun and other fighter pilot programs.

Opening scene:

Iceman is on a training hop with two trainees. As Iceman continues to purposefully evade, the pursuing trainees taunt him seemingly unaware.
  “You know, Iceman here was crowned top of his class back in the day. Of course, it was remedial.”
  “You don't say? Should rename him Caveman, given these outdated tactics.”
  “You just keep coming, trainees. You'll understand soon enough the importance of studying your elders.”
  Suddenly, another plane descends behind the trainees from the intermittent cloud cover of the otherwise clear blue sky. Maverick, flashing his typically boyish grin, targets both to simulate their elimination.
  “Great balls of fire!” Maverick howls. “Always be prepared for the unexpected, trainees. Or, you'll be writing checks your bodies can't cash.”
  “Wait, what? Where'd he come from? Nothing appeared on the scopes.”
  Iceman chimes in. “You focused on what you were told about the combatants in the briefing, you failed to anticipate any changes in those parameters once you were on mission and trusted your instruments, which can be fooled, more than your instincts. You never know who or what else might be lurking out there.”
  Like Viper and Jester before them, the two veterans have just given their new trainees their first lesson.
  “Time to buzz the tower, Ice.”
  “You're still dangerous, Mav.”
  Both heartily laugh, relishing in their once-antagonistic camaraderie that has evolved over the years into real friendship.
  Slider, also an instructor at Top Gun, watches the events through binoculars from the control tower.
    “God damn, those guys.”


©2017 Steve Sagarra