Monday, August 06, 2012

mack the hammer...

Most of us by the time we've reached adulthood have had some experience with folks poorly equipped to cope. We might have found ourselves in difficult situations a time or two. It is common for human beings to have loose screws, to be stressed, anxious, incapable of sorting things out without help.

In the early 1970s I went back to school to study pottery, and one of my teachers had given a low grade to a student who believed he had earned better and decided that his only recourse was to threaten with a hammer. He would quietly walk into class with his hammer, sit with eyes glaring at the instructor, and tap loudly on the table to make his point. After he had done this several times, and my classmates had given the nickname, Mack the Hammer, he was reported to authorities and we never saw him again.

Those were relatively harmless times. As Mack demonstrated, even a hammer can be used as a weapon in a pottery class full of fragile things. Some of my fellow students were frightened, and yes, even if guns were not available to the kooks and deviants in our communities, we would still have various causes for concern. In fact, many years ago, we had a murder trial in Eureka Springs in which a hammer was the weapon used to kill. But still, after having seen what one man can do with a hammer, I count my blessings to be alive today, knowing that if those were gun toting times like these with lunatics and sociopaths so well armed, there is at least a chance some of us might have been killed.

In the early days of Educational Sloyd, as it was adopted in the UK, knives, the starting point in Scandinavian woodworking instruction, were disallowed over fear that they would present danger in school and be used as weapons. And so, there is indeed a balance in how we use tools, whether for good or for ill. Reasonable limits regarding tools and tools use are decisions that seemingly reasonable folks have always made except in relation to American guns.

These days, we have glamorized guns and gun violence in our homes and communities through the relentless entertainment industry, have broadly accepted the more extreme notions of the gun lobby as reasonable, and we have accepted as routine, threats to our safety far greater than those made by kooks with hammers or deviants and delinquents with knives.

I continue to be saddened (though no longer shocked or surprised) by gun violence, and wonder when some real courage will be shown by our political leaders. We need to teach our children how to cope with their own lives, how to become creative in their use of tools, and to align themselves with creative rather than destructive impulses. That is one part of the solution to gun violence. It happens in wood shop when children are introduced to tools and are taught to be responsible in their use. Tools allow children to align their own actions and purpose with the creative forces of the universe.

The other part of a fix to the problem of gun violence is to demand that our leaders act like adults, with wisdom and with courage. Assault weaponry, designed only for the purpose of killing folks does not need to be so easily accessible for every miscreant and sociopath on earth. Our politicians can make it harder for those who should not have guns to get them and still leave us plenty of more useful tools with which we can create.

Make, fix and create...

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