Monday, December 17, 2012

fixing, hoping for change...

This morning I'm fixing a few things I'd screwed up. No craftsman ever has escaped the opportunity for error and mistake. I've been trying to finish the order for 500 boxes and while I was matching and fitting lids, I routed the edges of some too deep from the edge, making them a sloppy fit... My choices were to make new boxes, make new lids, or let my sloppy work slide. But when you've made something in real life, the work speaks loudly for itself. There is inescapable truth in it.

I chose to remake lids, and then had them laser engraved with the required logo on the underside, and now am waiting for the finish to dry just a bit before rubbing it out. It was a relatively easy fix, but it required admitting to a fellow craftsman that I'd messed up. The laser engraver asked how I had screwed up, so I fessed up. What craftsman in the whole wide world has never made a mistake? Woodworkers make lots of them, so regardless of how good you get, there's room for humility and fessing up. I was wrong, I made a mistake.

And while I'm on the subject of mistakes, we might ask our politicians and ourselves about gun control. That our nation has been very wrong about gun control has been brought to light again and again as our communities, small and large, have faced unnecessary violence. What follows is what Molly Ivans wrote about the issue in 1993, 10 years ago:
"In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster. Those who want guns---whether for target shooting, hunting or potting rattlesnakes (get a hoe)---should be subject to the same restrictions placed on gun owners in England---a nation in which liberty has survived nicely without an armed populace. […]
"Michael Crichton makes an interesting argument about technology in his thriller "Jurassic Park." He points out that power without discipline is making this society into a wreckage. By the time someone who studies the martial arts becomes a master---literally able to kill with bare hands---that person has also undergone years of training and discipline. But any fool can pick up a gun and kill with it. "A well-regulated militia" surely implies both long training and long discipline. That is the least, the very least, that should be required of those who are permitted to have guns, because a gun is literally the power to kill.
"For years, I used to enjoy taunting my gun-nut friends about their psycho-sexual hang-ups---always in a spirit of good cheer, you understand. But letting the noisy minority in the National Rifle Association force us to allow this carnage to continue is just plain insane."
There was certainly nothing "well-regulated" in the Newtown shooter's access to guns. In the meantime, in the press, we will witness the witless. Gun toting, NRA proponents from the Senate refused to go on Sunday talk shows, hoping for just a bit of time to cover their butts and get their stories straight. These are folks, who unlike craftsmen, cannot admit they've made big mistakes. In my case, remaking a few lids, took but a few hours. In the case of gun legislation or the lack of it, and their refusal to act, there are 30,000 gun deaths every year. It is a national tragedy, and a national shame.

I realize that most have not come here to read my ideas on this. I hate stupidity and arrogance, and I believe working with wood gives a person insight into a reality, perhaps unobserved by those who contend with rhetoric alone. Woodworking requires intelligence, attention, and is the arch enemy of arrogance. About the time you get cocky, you inevitably make mistakes that you fix or that will be there for all to see. With regards to gun legislation, the mistake our politicians and courts have made is there for all to see. We should demand that the laws be fixed. We have suffered too many tragic consequences already.

I know that I have readers who are on the other side of this issue. To them, I offer this challenge: Tell me what you say to the parents of children from Sandy Hook School to explain your position. Then tell me what you will actually do to make certain nothing like that ever happens again.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Back in the mid-90's we were having a discussion in Canada about registration of hand guns. The late Peter Gzowski was interviewing a knowledgeable individual, probably in the RCMP, and asked this question: "How many people, in Canada, actually need a hand gun for their personal protection?"

    There was brief pause for thought, then the answer: "About six."

    Ever since I have wondered who those six could be.

    Wyatt Earp, when Marshall of Dodge City, brought a large measure of control to the town by requiring visitors to check their guns at the first establishment they visited - which provided an opportunity for the business owner to do a little more business when the guns were recovered.

    Our daughter-in-law is working in Boston at a good job with significant responsibilities. When I heard the news last Friday I just wanted her out and back in Canada. Anyone with a grudge or some wacko idea could go into the lab building and start a slaughter. It's too easy.

    You are our good neighbours, and you have to make the decision. We live, satisfactorily, without handguns.

    The United States has a strong democracy, your government benefits your society, and does not need the threat of arms to keep it in control. You do so with the ballot box.

    Please, get rid of handguns, your society will be safer.

    Regards - Miles Thompson

  2. Miles, Thanks for your thoughts.

    To those who think they need to carry guns, I ask, what or who are they so frightened of? There was a guy on TV posing with his guns, and the man was so overweight, he could have died of a heart attack any minute. So I would say that his fears were misplaced. He'll much sooner die from what he eats.

    I have a greater fear that we will lose our capacity for calm discourse than of being hit by a stray bullet.

  3. David Soos6:51 AM

    I am not NRA fan, but most people seem to be missing the point, it is a lack of mental health treatment that seems to me to be the real issue. All these murders have severe unteated mental health issues. The police are the mental health providers of last resort in our country.

  4. David, there are a lot of folks with mental health problems that are not violent. There are lots of folks killed in gun violence that resulted from temporary passion... Anger that could have passed if guns had not been present, and that would not have gotten attention in mental health screenings. This link to ABC news in Australia will tell about their experience with successful gun legislation.

    It is far easier to put some simple restrictions on guns than to try to isolate every person with mental health problems.

    And then, I do think we need to offer folks creative opportunities that would engage them in positive action. It would alleviate in both normal folks and those with mental disorders, the darker inclinations.

    You say you are not an NRA fan, but mental health is their current buzz, blaming the Newtown tragedy on mental health as an attempt to divert attention from the frightening American fascination with guns.

  5. Congratulations on finishing that commission. It was a huge job, and even with the mistakes was one you can be proud of. I tend to save my mistakes as lessons, including the box that cost me the tip of a finger in the jointer.