Friday, December 25, 2015

Was an AR-15 Under Your Tree This Morning?

Did you wake up this morning to find a shiny, black AR-15 assault rifle under your Christmas tree? Or maybe you opened the wrapping paper on a cute, cuddly Glock pistol? 

I know many of you don’t celebrate Christmas, but that’s beside the point. Ever since the San Bernardino shooting, the country has reverted to (bad) form. The inevitable has happened. Again. As after each prior mass murder shooting, calls for more gun control have been followed by a surge in gun purchases, followed by the explanation that people just want to be able to protect themselves, as if  owning a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle guarantees one’s safety. Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun is the foundation of this argument.

I’m going to take a break from writing my opinion on this issue. Instead, I’ll give you some extracurricular reading and viewing. First, an opinion piece from The New York Times. It should take you about two minutes to read.

A longer time investment is required for a two-part video courtesy of correspondent Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:

If you’re wondering why I’m highlighting segments of The Daily Show it’s because I believe Trevor Noah has hit his stride and is more than amply filling the departed seat of Jon Stewart. Yeah, he can appear fawning, even awestruck, when celebrities come to visit. And I don’t care for the music groups he puts on stage more frequently than Stewart did. 

But his satiric takes on news of the day have won me over. Of course, lots of credit must go to the writing staff that, for the most part, is the same that served Stewart. 

A more radical change happened after Stephen Colbert left the Comedy Central time slot after The Daily Show. After first not giving The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore a chance, I’ve recently found his commentary on national and world events to be spot-on. 

As for Colbert’s Late Show on CBS, I keep wanting it to be better. Colbert, as well, seems to be too taken by his guests. Most of the time I skip his interviews. I watch for the few minutes Colbert reverts to political and social pundit, reprising the acerbic wit that made him famous. And have you noticed that he only wears blue suits? 

How, you might ask, can I watch all those shows that air from 11 pm till 12:35 am? I DVR them and try to squeeze in viewing while eating breakfast or lunch. In a few weeks I might have to add another show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. And there’s another show I will begin taping—Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC. Meyers has ramped up his former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update shtick to a nightly pace. 

For progressive political commentary must-see shows are Real Time with Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, both on HBO, the former on Friday nights, the latter on Sundays.

Random Thoughts: Now that you know some of my viewing habits, here’s a tidbit of strange shopping news. While stocking up Thursday, December 24, for the weekend and a quick visit by Dan, Allison, Finley and Dagny, I patronized the Stop & Shop in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers where I bought two seeded Jewish rye breads. 

One of the bread labels said it was packed on 12/24/15 at 3:25 am. I could hardly ask for anything fresher, Until, that is, I checked the second bread’s label which stated the bread was packed on 12/27/15 at 2:06 pm! Only the looong line at the customer service desk kept me from complimenting the store on its efficiency.

Memory Failure: I can’t rightly remember what grade I was in when I first read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It was either eighth grade or maybe an early high school year. It doesn’t really matter for the point I want to make, which is, I grew up in a tolerant time.

I say that because I spent the first 12 years of my education attending yeshivas, Modern Orthodox Jewish day schools with rich secular education programs. I don’t know if such schools would include A Christmas Carol in their curriculum these days. For sure, the numerous Jewish academies, many from the Hassidic community, that have sprouted up in Brooklyn in the last several decades have placed limited emphasis on secular studies. 

Too bad. A Christmas Carol is a classic.

Dickens Almost Got Me Expelled: Spoiler Alert—In the movie Creed, as the boxer Adonis Johnson Creed awaits his first American bout, he anxiously demands his boxing gloves be removed so he can settle his nervous stomach and go to the bathroom.

My IBS moment came before an English test on Dickens’ David Copperfield early on in my freshman year at Yeshivah of Flatbush. Between periods, right before the test, I raced to the bathroom. When I re-entered the room, I was accused by the teacher, Dr. Harran, of consorting with students who had just taken the test in his prior class. Accused of cheating, I was sent to the headmaster's office where I was informed the penalty could be expulsion. My parents were called in, my IBS was verified and I was permitted to take a make-up exam. 

I still suffer from IBS, but at least I don’t have to take tests any more. I do, however, sympathize with anyone who suffers any form of bathroom urgency. So I was more than empathetic to Hillary Clinton when she came back late to the podium from a break during last Saturday’s Democratic Party presidential debate.

And I was appalled at the crude comments spouted by Donald Trump. Trump is a real-life Archie Bunker, spewing bias, insults and “ter-let” talk. It might be perverse fun to hear him, as Archie made us laugh in the 1970’s and beyond in reruns, but the thought of Trump leading and representing our nation is repulsive and repugnant. 

To their credit, Jeb Bush and John Kasich have identified Trump for the bully and blowhard that he is. Too bad others who would lead the Republican Party and our country have not denounced and repudiated Trump. Their failure conveys the message that leadership without principle is more important to them than honesty, dignity and human values.   

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