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Montebello E-News

  June 7, 2007 

Dream no small dreams,
 for they have no power to move the hearts of men.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
German poet, dramatist, novelist, theorist, humanist, scientist, and painter,
1749 - 1832 

 In This Issue

1.  Guns or Roses

2.     From History to Hysteria, Part 1

3.     Announcements

4.     Some Fun Facts

5.     The Flashback Quarterback on Money for College and Communities

6.     About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”

 

Online Community Lesson

 Guns or Roses

Baby boomers might remember photographs out of the Sixties in which demonstrators placed flowers in the barrels of guns held by soldiers or policemen.

I, like most readers, have viewed from afar the battle over the right to bear, and the responsibility of bearing, arms.

It is abhorrent to civilization that there be a proliferation of lethal weapons.  The bitter pill which we might have to swallow—the fact to which we might have to admit—is that we are not as civilized as we imagine.  But does this necessitate a gun culture?

Those who want guns controlled have enough trust in the rule of law that they do not see government becoming tyrannical or their neighbors becoming criminal, such that the public need not have guns to protect itself from government and neighbors.  Those who want unfettered possession of guns mistrust government and neighbors.  Who is right?

Each side will cite statistics.  Statistics are somewhat useful, but cannot be decisive, because, if we accept the assertion of the essay “How Little We Know”, we cannot have all the facts and, therefore, cannot make decisions with certainty.  If we look to this week’s essay, “From History to Hysteria”, we cannot rely on interpretations of history to incontrovertibly support or sully one position or the other.   (One does not have to go far for proof.  Just listen to liberals in the role of strict constructionists and conservatives in the role of judicial activists when interpreting the U.S. constitution’s second amendment.)

Now, let us mix in the position advocated by the essay “Walks outside the Box”, namely, that we think outside the box to come up with sustainable solutions.  What might such a solution be as that would relate to the ownership of guns?

Perhaps two societies co-existing, governed not by Federal or state statutes, but, rather, by local ordinances.  In other words, a homogenous community would be formed where everyone held the same or similar views on guns.  This means that everyone in Montebello would agree that a resident would have the right to bear a concealed gun, while everyone in Monterey Park would agree that no resident would have the right to any gun.  Expectations about what to do and what not to do would be consistent within the homogenous community.  Outsiders would have to be alert to differences when they crossed city limits.

Of course, things would not be this simple, as the law of unintended consequences would rear its testa brutta (ugly head) unless there were extensive thinking outside the box.  For example, if Monterey Park became a “gun free” community, would not criminals find the city to be prey for the picking and gravitate there?

A different solution was explored in “Walks outside the Box, Part 2”, April. 26, 2007, namely, portable, nonlethal tools for self-defense.  This would be consistent with the American proclivity for inventions.  But the law of unintended consequences would ask, “How would the invention be misused?”, as misuse, too, is part of American culture.

If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to lessonanswers@mymontebello.com with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

1. In coming down in favor or against the right to bear arms, we

(a) must realize that our knowledge would be insufficient to knowledgeably decide.

(b) must accept the opposing view of others as appropriate for those others, because we could not fully understand their situation. 

2.  We can solve this conundrum if we

(a) think outside the box.

(b) acquiesce to the reality that no solution will be perfect, but that the more thought we give to a solution, the fewer unintended consequences we are likely to have. 

 

 

From History to Hysteria, Part 1

(1) Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.
(2) Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana
Spanish-born philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, 1863 – 1952

          We recognize George Santayana, if at all, from his second quotation.  What we do not recognize is the possible contradiction—more than a paradox—between his first and second quotations. 

          Why a contradiction?   

          Hold that question.  On one level it seems as if the first and second quotations were in harmony.  It is good, in fact, prudent, to be skeptical of what others tell us, because 

·        schools give us a survey of history;  that means that we get only a glimpse, and it is dangerous to make a judgment based on a glimpse;

·        history is not made relevant to us when we study it, so we are apt to forget much, if not most, of it;

·        history, as we learn it, is an interpretation, a faith, as somebody chooses the events, reasons for events, and personalities about which and whom we learn. 

So, when somebody calls us to action of great consequence, we should hesitate to act until we evaluated that planned action in the light of history.  (This is consistent with the point in the essay “The Eleventh Commandment, Part 1”, January 11, 2007, “the greater the consequence of our judgment or more irreversible our action, the more time we must take and more reluctant we must be to decide or do anything without the confirmation.”)  It would be great coffee conversation to muse upon the history which we have and have not learned in school. 

There is an eye-opening example, taken from the book Power, Faith and Fantasy, a history about America’s involvement, since 1776, in the Middle East: 

…Seward’s voyage set a precedent for other Civil War-era personages to make semiofficial visits to the Middle East.  The most acute and observant of these was George B. McClellan, the onetime commander of the Army [replaced by President Lincoln during the Civil War]…  Most Muslims, he ventured, had “little but life to lose in this world, and much to gain in the other by entering it from a conflict with the unbeliever.”  …Westerners would never understand Middle Eastern peoples “so long as we… judge them by the rules we are accustomed to apply to ourselves… [and] weigh their actions by their own rules.”  McClelland nevertheless believed that change could be effected gradually in the region, through education and widening exposure to the West. …

The words of McClellan—which I have not confirmed—leaped out at me.  While McClellan’s advice of one hundred thirty years ago applies today to only a relatively small number of people, the advice is still valid and has yet to be followed:  we do not sufficiently understand the people of the Middle East.  We are paying a heavy price now for that failure of understanding.   

So, with regard to any decision of consequence which we make, being skeptical of what government tells us is good for our health.  Literally.  It seems as if Santayana’s second quotation would follow logically from the first. 

But the greater cause for discomfiture lies not in the harmony of Santayana’s two quotations, but, rather, in their contradiction, to be explored in the next part. 

 

 

Announcements

FOR EVERYONE.  Meeting.  The next regular meeting of the Montebello city council will be at city hall on Wednesday, June 13, 2007, at 7:30 p.m.  If you wish to speak during orals, come before 7:30 p.m. and sign up.  If you have more to say than there is time allotted, prepare a one pager, make copies, and hand out before you speak. 

FOR EVERYONE.  Protect yourself.  “Bookmark” this hyperlink:  http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/ .  This is a government Web site which provides much useful information for the public.  For example, you can get a free newsletter about scams and fraud and read helpful statistics at the Web site: 

During 2006, consumers filed 207,492 complaints [regarding the Internet]. Complainants said they lost $198.4 million, the highest total ever. … 

But the report shows that the “average” complainant was a man between 30 and 40 living in California, Texas, Florida, or New York. Individuals who reported losing money lost an average of $724; the highest losses involved Nigerian letter fraud, with a median loss of $5,100.  Nearly 74 percent of the complaints said they were contacted through e-mail, and 36 percent complained of fraud through websites, highlighting the anonymous nature of the web…. 

Even with this Web site helping us, we must look to ourselves for protection.  Self-help was advocated in a different context, in “Walks outside the Box, Part 2”, April 26, 2007. 

FOR ELECTED OFFICIAL, CIVIL SERVANTS, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS.  Grants available.  Competitive-funding announcement from OJJDP National Juvenile Justice Program.  In short, the funding is for programs which have a national scope and national impact on combating juvenile delinquency, reduce victimization of children, improve the juvenile justice system and support OJJDP mission to provide national leadership.  Grants to be made from a $20,000,000 corpus.  For more information:  http://ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/grants/solicitations/FY2007/NJJPrograms.pdf .

 

 

 Some Fun Facts

The typical laboratory mouse runs two and one-half miles per night on its treadmill. 

A rat can last longer without water than a camel. 

The Siberian Tiger is the largest cat in the world. It weighs up to 300 kg (660 lbs.) and can eat 27.2 kg  (60 lbs.) of meat at one mealtime. 

Bats always turn left when exiting a cave. 

 

 

The Flashback Quarterback on Money for College and Communities

 

Thirty-second advertisements for election campaigns are the stuff of propaganda.  They do not educate, but, rather, obfuscate.  Lies repeated lead to a democracy cheated. 

In an interview on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” in May, 2007, former Vice President Al Gore said that 80% of election-campaign budgets in 2006 were allocated to thirty-second advertisements. 

Cause for concern?  Yes, if you do not like to make weighty decisions based on inaccurate or incomplete information.   

“How Little We Know, Part 2”, April 6, 2007, suggested that the public take charge of election campaigns and, thereby, put a stop to the propaganda barrage.  If the public took charge, an appreciable portion of the billions now going from election campaigns to television companies could be redirected for college scholarships and community improvement.  Say who?  Say you and I.

About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”

To learn about this newsletter, Montebello E-News, and the accompanying, growing Web site, “My Montebello”, visit www.mymontebello.com.  Also, you will find instructions and contact information for submitting announcements for publication in this newsletter.

 

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