Below the jump, some thoughts on topical issues relating to two things Americans are way, way too obsessed with. Contains politics, so don't read it if you don't wanna:
Regarding The Aurora Massacre:
Absolutely tragic, no other way to say it. That having been said, this whole thing where we're not supposed to say James Holmes' (the shooter's) name or discuss certain "bigger" aspects of this story so that he won't "win?" Look, I understand the feeling behind that... but he already "won" to the degree that he pulled off his crime. I understand the symbolism behind "denying him the fame he so craves;" but come on, that's largely impossible whether you participate or not. It's too late to deny this bastard "victory" (since he clearly doesn't care about being caught); so the only tangible "win" the rest of us can get out of this is to learn from it and prevent it from happening again...
...Which brings me to guns.
I think people have the right to own guns, because guns are tools and tools are only as good or bad the person using them. However, I also recognize the reality that it's incredibly stupid for anyone to be able to own any gun. I drive a car, for example, and to get the right to drive that car I have to prove that I know how to drive it, register it with a government agency on a yearly basis, get it inspected on a yearly basis and have a public record of what I do with it - because cars, while useful, are also dangerous. And if I prove that I'm incapable of using a car properly, my privilige to drive can be restricted and even revoked. To me, that guns should be at least as well-regulated as cars is pretty logical.
But it's not really about logic - it's about cultural mythology. It's about symbolism. Americans LOVE The Gun as symbol. It reminds us of ourselves as we like to see ourselves. Guns are symbolic of our revolution against an oppressive colonial government, our "conquest" of the western wilderness and the "spirit" of how both were accomplished - i.e. not through strategy or fighting-techniques informed by high-born martial legacy, but through a tool that any man of any background can pick up and become a warrior with. "God didn't make all men equal," goes an old saying that might as well be our secondary national motto, "Samuel Colt did." Guns and their attendant mythos are sacred to the American Psyche, so you're never going to get us to "quit" them.
But is it really too much to ask that there be common-sense restrictions on their use? Is it really "radical" to suggest that a Second Ammendment written in an era when foriegn-invasion by armed ground-troops was a very real threat and the "fastest" gun was a single-shot pistol may not be entirely applicablr in an era where foreign-invasion by armed ground-troops is a logistical impossibility and automatic weaponry is commonplace? A common gun-rights retort is that, "yes, people DO need to have assault rifles in case the enemy becomes our own government!;" in which case it seems to me that the Second Ammendment is even more obsolete: Sorry, Mr. Gribble, but The Government has nukes, radar-guided missiles and predator drones - if the Eeeeeeevil Kenyan-Born Secret-Muslim Communist President wants your ass dead, it won't matter how many AKs you've got stacked up in your post-Rapture Panic-Room.
Regarding Penn State.
So Penn State's football program doesn't get the "death penalty" for covering up decades of child-rape in order to protect the "honor" of a fucking athletics program. Instead they just lose a shitload of money, the Holy Program gets kneecapped for a few years and bunch of utterly-meaningless statistics and records get either wiped-out or asterix'd from the books. And yet some people think this is "too far." Me? I don't think it goes nearly far enough.
Granted, nothing can "undo" the crimes or the cover-up; but the sickness that allowed both things to happen - that allowed a monster to go about raping children while others covered it up goes higher than Joe Paterno and bigger than Penn State. The cover-up was possible because Football Programs wield far, FAR too much power in the American college system. Programs wield that power because it's often the college's main source of income - effectively supporting the rest of the institution. And they are the main source of income because alumni donors, and Americans in genral, care way, way too much about Football.
That we are willing, as a culture, to pump infinitely more money into bloated, greedy NCAA programs in order to maintain a talent farm for the bloated, greedy NFL is obscene enough, but predictable - you can't expect America to start caring as much about collegiate science, art and humanities programs that might yield cancer cures, energy-sources on the next transcendant works of art as we do about whether or not some guy can kick a ball between two poles... I mean, have you met us? Most of the time, these warped priorities manifest themselves in ways that are only superficially irritating; like raising men whose sole contribution to the world is throwing a ball pretty-good to the status of living gods. But the Sandusky Scandal represents the logical-extreme of this obsession: The willingness to excuse/ignore horrible crimes in order to protect The Game itself.
This is, incidentally, why while I feel bad for the players, potential players and other program staff whose careers have been impacted by this; I don't see that as a reason not to have done it - innocent of the cover-up they may be, it's all part of an institution that has frankly been crying out to be knocked-open, re-examined and probably dismantled to a large degree for a long, LONG time now. Yes, Penn State should be made to honor the commitments they made to scholarship athletes who may no longer be playing, up to an including financially-assisting them in finding placement at other schools' programs. Yes, either the NCAA, Penn alumni or their trustees should take the good-faith step of helping potential scholarship prospects already "in the works" get to the school (if they still want to) even if there's no real program waiting for them. But beyond that? Knock "The Program" over, find the rotten parts, reassemble if possible and above all else put the fear into every other Program that they're godhood - and their free ride - is over.
Now, obviously, you can't stop people from caring too much about NCAA football; but if colleges were better funded in other areas to begin with football programs wouldn't be quite so all-powerful, which is the only way you're going to stop the next Penn State from letting the next Joe Paterno cover-up for the next Sandusky. I'll probably be branded some kind of "socialist" for saying this, but y'know what'd be a good start? More federal funding for the non-athletic departments of American colleges. Start with the science and technology departments, since after all those have a tangible economic/security benefit to the nation as a whole so as to warrant such investment.