Saturday, December 29, 2012

The way my father explained it...

When my father returned from WWII, he had spent a huge amount of time in combat with the 110th infantry division, the Timberwolves. He was not in Europe for D-Day. In fact the ships carrying his division were the first to actually land and unload at a dock having gone direct from New York to France. But missing the Normandy invasion did in no way leave my father out of the action. For a time he was with the Red Ball Express running supplies to Patton’s rapidly advancing army. His next assignment was to fight through the lowlands of Holland, through dikes and marshes into Germany.

The Timberwolves were trained as specialists in night combat. During the Battle of the Bulge, my father and his dividion were right at the edge, holding a defensive position as the Germans swept through into France. When spring came they picked up stakes and pounded their way through Germany. Dad was among the first to cross the bridge at Remagen, and with his division liberated the concentration camp at Nordhausen. At the end of it all, my father was sick of two things (besides seeing so much death and destruction): Sleeping on the hard ground, and guns. He did not want to go camping and refused to have a gun in the house. The pearl handled Colt that my grandfather had given him to carry in a shoulder holster during the war was given away to get it out of the house.

As a young man getting my first BB gun, my father warned me, “do not point that at anything you do not want to kill.” And so I learned that guns, even as harmless as BB guns were to be taken seriously. And it irks me that there are so many who take them as a joke, or believe they can be taken lightly.

In Omaha, Nebraska, for a time as I was growing up, my Dad was the manager of a hardware store which was also the largest gun store in the region. The stories about the foolishness of gun owners as they brought loaded guns into the store, pointing and joking and having forgotten they were loaded went on and on. There was no end to it, and seeing how callous gun owners were irked my father who had seen so much death at the working end of a gun. Folks, mainly men, would stand at the gun counter, taking aim with rifles and pistols down the aisle of the store, and my father would turn to discover himself in their sites, just as he had known himself to be in the sites of snipers in WWII and ready to be killed in less than an instant.

I would not be troubled by firearms in the US, if I knew each father was one like mine. They are not. Children die from playing with their father’s guns. Young men and women buy guns without ever seeing the seriousness and caution that should be a pre-existing foundation for ownership of dangerous weapons. The costs of this imbalance are enormous. For each Newtown, each Aurora, each Columbine, there are hundreds of additional, smaller incidences of gun violence each week.

This said, I will allow comments if they actually address how we can have a society that tolerates guns and provides for the more absolute safety of kids. With the deaths in Newtown and the more regular incidences of gun violence in which children are affected in cities and towns across America, more must be done.

Did I suffer as a result of my father not allowing dangerous guns in the house. No. He bought me a ShopSmith for my 14th birthday. Before that time as I was growing up I was constantly involved with saws, hammers and the like, fixing and making with Dad. Folks think that guns are the manly wonderful thing to do with your kids. I would like folks to know that there is another direction that gives so much more.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Thank you. That was simple, rational, and eloquent.

    I am a carpenter who works alongside gun nuts who fail to see that our role as home builders is inconsistent with their rabid desires to own guns for their own protection from "the other".

    I want to live in a society that works together to build safety and prosperity through community not one where everybody is constantly arming to defend their own castles.

  2. John C4:22 PM


    What you touch on here, is a small piece of a much larger problem. Our society has become such that parents no longer feel responsible to participate in the education of their children. They send the kids off to be taught everything by someone else for 12 years, and take no active role in education. Worse yet, when the parents do try to take a role and some administrator doesn't like it the parents are scolded or worse. Then we wonder why these same kids have no morals, no creativity, no common sense, and most importantly no sense of responsibility for their own actions. I know many people that are trying to turn this around, either by using programs much like yours, or by homeschooling their own kids.
    As far as gun safety, all it really take is teaching those that don't know any better. Many people who have never been around guns in real life only know what they see on TV and Movies (or worse yet in video games), they see people callously pointing guns at each other or just tossing them around like its no big deal. And a basic gun safety course should be highly encouraged for anyone who is looking to acquire one. I hesitate to say required, because in case you haven't figured out by now, I am not too enthusiastic about the federal government creating more laws that exceed the limits of the constitution. Interestingly enough, the very group that it is fashionable to hate right now, the NRA, is the largest active gun safety education organization in the world. And typically, they are more than willing to help anyone or any group get these kinds of classes started.
    Just like everything else, the private sector and/or the local communities do a much better job than the federal government and at a much smaller price tag, whether its education or taking care of the those that have run into hard times.

  3. John, the NRA may be doing gun safety programs, but obviously not of sufficient coverage in light of the problems. Particularly as you point out that parents are not accepting greater responsibility. As long as we have gun violence at the current level, we have to look at a wide range of means to fix things.

    All rights are paired with equal responsibility. If gun owners want unrestricted rights, they should be willing to step up and pay the piper. I do not think the NRA is doing enough, and if they don't do it, policing themselves as gun owners, perhaps the federal and state governments should be doing more. And we have completely different views of government.

    But please stick to my discussion. How do we get children doing creative things? Arguing about the NRA is not the solution I have in mind.

  4. John C6:09 PM


    I apologize for the misunderstanding, my intention was not to turn the argument to the NRA.
    The key to sparking the creativity in any child is to be found within the sphere that child inhabits. The parents and the people closest to each child are the only ones who can determine what will cause that spark. For some the opportunity to create things in wood is it, for others it may be writing, music, painting, etc... The important thing is that those people who know the child best are the ones to figure that out. You'll note I did not say they should decide what it is, that is up to the child. Where each of us can help the parents is by offering the opportunity for children to explore the avenues of creativity where we excel. It is our responsibility to allow the kids to explore (and keep them safe while they do it). You have a very rare set of circumstances where you are, most schools have done away with everything that can't be measured by a score on a test, or that requires a teacher to work with each child as an individual.
    I think if every artist (regardless of medium) offered of himself (or herself) to the children closest to them we would be making a giant step forward.
    But, we can no longer wait around and think the government is going to it for us.

  5. John C., I quote: "I think if every artist (regardless of medium) offered of himself (or herself) to the children closest to them we would be making a giant step forward.
    But, we can no longer wait around and think the government is going to it for us."

    In that we agree completely. Take matters into our own hands and engage our children's creativity through example, and by putting our own creative resources, tools and materials, in the hands of kids.

  6. My wife and I employ the following methods in order to increase creativity for our children.

    1) we try to be role models to our children by showing them, that it is OK to be creative and to make things with your hands.

    2) We encourage them to be creative by e.g. hanging up the pictures or drawings that they make. That way they can see that we really appreciate it, and that we are serious about things that are home made.

    3) We make them help with projects that they can manage, e.g. food preparation, mowing the lawn, stacking firewood etc. This maybe isn't so creative, but it is to teach them that they have to participate and take responsibility for the work that is required to keep a family running.

    Off course there are other things involved, but these 3 points probably gives an idea.

  7. Dear Doug

    You and I have had our thoughts on this subject tossed back and forth by us both. As a gun person I like yourself was taught at an early age guns are not toys and to never think a gun is unloaded. So I agree we need to come up with a plan that works for all of us and does what is needed to protect those who choose to own them. My sugestion is all gun owners have to take a gun safety coarse and provide proof of a gun safe or lock so that the gun can not be used with out the owners consent.
    also that the owner of said gun be held liable for action taken with the gun in there possesion. we need to start holding people liable for there actions. when I was growing up if I broke a wimdow or something that belonged to a friend or neighbour I was responcible for fixing or replacing it my mother and father would not bail me out and let it go I learned to respect others and their property. So please keep up the good work and lets make America great again I love my country and would not want to live anywhere else.

    Thanks Stephen (the Fluffy Woodwrker)

  8. Doug

    I to agree we can no longer wait for the government to do what we all know is right and yes I also agree that we need to step up and take part of the lives of the childern that are being brought into this world. But, I also beleave we need to also step up and make our elected officials stop padding their own pochets and invest in the schools and up the wood and metal shops and home econ. and art classes again this no child left behind never worked and standradized testing is bull puckies. Not every child is a math wiz or an artist but they all have their talents that need to be shaped. So where do I sign up I am not a professional but I do beleave we need to past on the knownlegde.

  9. Stephen, there is no place to sign up, but there is a place to start. Use your skills if you have them. Develop hand skills if you do not. When you are with kids, take time to instruct them in what you know, and in the values of Craftsmanship. Jonas give a pretty clear idea in his comment. Do not let kids slide by without asking them to show responsibility... the word itself has to do with "response." and is related to the second part of education that tends to be ignored. What is learned must be expressed by doing... not by taking a test as an artificial expression of knowledge, but by actually demonstrating what one has learned. That is in part why the hands are essential to learning.

  10. How do we get children doing creative things?

    We have to fight fire with fire. We have to glamorize creativity just as guns are glamorized. We have to publicize, lobby, argue and protest on behalf of creativity like folks do for guns. We have to sell the idea that being creative will make you feel self reliant which makes you permanently powerful, as opposed to the temporary sense of power that a person feels when they have a gun. This has to be impressed upon children throughout their upbringing. As a teacher, I am not relying on parental or governmental support. I must work with all my might on a daily basis to inspire my students to want to become loving people who can think and create rather than fearful people who are brainwashed and want to destroy. This is the least I can do.


  11. Chris, thanks. You hit the nail right on the head.