Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Dear friends,

it's time to go (mostly) on mute and celebrate Christmas an New Year's Eve with my family and my friends here in the Northern part of Germany. 

This little blog is had now more than 30,000 visits since I started it and I thank every single one of you for reading along.




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Angry Opinion Piece 2 - Gun Control

I took me a lot of time and a lot of consideration to start writing. I posted pratically nothing related on Facebook or Twitter. I did not talk with my family or friends about what happened. I even wrote a long email to my best friend without even mentioning IT. The only thing I did was talking with my 3-year-old niece about orange juice and listening to her serious consideration if I should get some as well, when I come over for Christmas (The result was: "Maybe."). 

I seriously considered just keep going like this and allow only my rational me to deal with numbers and a couple of facts, carefully avoid the media and definitely stay away from REALLY thinking of those 20 dead children and their teachers. These little boys and girls were not much older than my niece curious for life and full of trust (one of the most impressing magic powers children have).
But is that what I have a blog for? Saying nothing while an opinion is building in my head and heart? Probably not. 

In the last couple of days there were a lot of people who said, that topics related to this
shooting should not be discussed while everybody is so emotional. I think, excuse me,  this is bullshit. 20 children age 5 to 7 and half a dozen of adults, who tried to protect them, died. And oh yes .... this IS emotional and will always be and if not we are doomed to hell. And when do we want to raise the issues attached to this? When people start to move on and forget?  Or when it happens the next time? NO, we need to do it now while we feel the pain

Then there is a group who would like to leave the gun control topic behind and focus on the mental illness part of the problem. I partly agree. Mental illness is one of the root causes of tragedies like this. And there is a severe problem in the USA with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnes as well as health care that needs to be solved, because these families need HELP. Urgently. For more on this topic you can read this courageous blog post of a mother who's son has a mental health issue and severe problems to control his aggressions.

While we do not know for sure yet if the shooter had similar problems like the boy in the 
blog post I noticed a big difference between the two mothers: While one desperatly tries to keep her son away from all weapons the other,  the mother of the Newtown shooter, was an avid gun collector. Her son had just to cherry pick from what was accessible for him at his own home including the Bushmaster .233 - a semi-automatic assault rifle modelled after a M-16 - he used to kill.
And now please tell me ONE SINGLE RATIONAL REASON, why a mom, a lady living in a 500,000 $ home in a wealthy and safe neighborhood in a quiet and peaceful town needs a semi-automatic killing machine?  I will tell you how many reasons there are for this:  ZERO! 
Security in your home? Are you awaiting a foreign armee or a terrorist attack in your living room or what? This is ridiculous. And because this is an opinion piece, I can tell you my opinion: guns like this should not be legally accessible for any private person. Period. 

But let's have a closer look at the situation:
The 2nd ammendment was ratified in 1791, when guns looked like this and while you click that link do not just look at the rifle but also read the post, because I agree with the author about the fact that the 2nd ammendment in the form it now exists is outdated and need to be revised. And NO, it is not untouchable. This is not a rule from god (and even if - who's god in this multi-religious country would that be?), but from the citizens of the USA. Legislation is an essential part of the democratic process and it is equally essential that this democratic process is used to ammend and rework the rules of living together if necessary and I am convinced in this case it is. It's overdue.

The usual argument when a statement like this comes from a foreigner living in a country with stricter gun control like Germany is, that we do not understand how important the right to own guns is for a lot of Americans.
Well, let me update you a bit about German gun culture:
In the beginning gun control was, when it was implemented, not our idea, but the Allies made sure  - and who could blame them - that after two World Wars the German nation would go "unarmed" into the second half of the 20th century although we are not SO unarmed now.
Still while I HATED IT to shoot and touch a gun and have no desire to do it ever again, lots of people here feel differently.  2 million marksmen are members of rifle clubs and organisations and every single village has a yearly, very popular event to find the new champion marksman. We also have hunters and people who claim the right to wear a gun for self protection (but the rules for this are very strict) or business (security, bodyguards, etc).  We have around 80 million citizens and 10 million registered guns.  This is by far not a gun free country full of pacifists. 

BUT - here is the big difference:  You cannot go into a shop and simply buy a gun. You need to go through several knowledge and aptitude tests including a health status and clean records for mental illness and of course criminal activity. You will have a gunholder pass and need - if your gun is at your home - special, secure lockers. There will be also checks after 3 years or less if the gunholder permission should be suspended or not. No permission is given without naming and proofing the exact need to own a gun.
Guns are - to summarize - much less accessible than they are in the US and only a very small minority of gunholders is allowed to actually wear the gun in public for self defence.

Does this completely solve the problem of criminal violence and illegal gun ownership? No.

Does this legal situation gives us a 100% protection against a shooting rampage like the nightmare of Newtown? No.

BUT I am convinced the high effort that is needed to either legally or illegaly (money, contacts, criminal energy) aquire a gun lowers significantly the likeliness that a potentially mad gunman could get those deadly weapons in his hands. In fact fatal rampages like the one in Newtown are very, very rare events over here.
Additionally I am also convinced that it is important to change the mindset in the Unites States and gun control - removing the guns - especially assault rifles - from the shelfs of the shops as an easy to get consumer good - is a big part of this. It has to STOP being something totally normal to shoot a gun, it has to STOP being a realistic, easy to achieve option to deal with a situation. It needs to become what it really is: a life threatening event.

I wish the families who lost their beloved children and family members  that they will able to find some peace. I think that is the best we can hope for. For the children and their teachers I am not worried, because I strongly believe that they were welcomed with open arms at a much better place than ours. 

In the name of these children let's work together to make this world - and not just in our own cities, our own country but in general -  a safer place. 

PS: The name of the shooter and his family was avoided intentionally. Attention and fame - even if it is posthum - are often part of the motivation for those crimes. We should not feed this. 

Angry Opinion Piece 1 - The Lockout

Before I start let's clarify something important first: 

1) It is NOT okay to call the President of The United States horrible rasist names because he was so "impertinent" to hold his speach in Newtown on a Sunday - in the holy hour of god foodball.
Pro tip: That is a) never okay b) disgusting c) merciless.

And it is not that I do not like football. I do - a lot. 

2) Is it then in sad times like this in general okay to talk and discuss passionatly something so relatively unimportant like hockey (replace with any professional sports of your choice)?  YES, in my opinion it is and I will explain you why:

I went through really rough times in my life. I had to watch helplessly how cancer killed both of my parents long before they could get old. There were very dark hours and that is when distraction is needed. Somethingelse you can put your focus on, something that you love and that lifts your spirit for a little while. It does not mean you "forget" anything or that anything is less horrible, but you can escape for a short moment and rest your soul. This short breaks from the fight help you to get up again and face what you need to face. And that is what hockey means for many of its passionate fans and this is why it is important although it is - just a game

The current unresolved labor dispute between the NHL (owners) and the NHLPA (players) and the ongoing lockout make me really, really, really angry and sad and it is time to list why.
BOTH organizations built together an succesful, popular, multi billion $ business of a league but now act incredibily irresponsible with risking to lose a full season - the second in less than a decade - and much more than that. 

And here is is why:
  • While both parties discuss how to best share millions of dollars thousands of people lose their jobs. The clubs themselves might still protect their direct employees, but the majority of people working around the NHL are not staff of the clubs.  They work in the parking lots, the cleaning company, the catering service, the gift shop. They are the waitresses in the bars next door of the venue or set up the guest rooms in the now mostly empty hotel around the corner. Those people are are in trouble, existential trouble and can forget about a festive Christmas.
    The business owners - the small local ones we all appreciate so much - still had to fight hard to catch up on lost revenue from the last lockout and suffer now badly from the recent one. A lot of them need to fix the holes with expensive loans on their businesses and private homes, cut back on staff and investment and not a small number of them had to give up or will need to give up soon.
    Alone in Pittsburgh every cancelled home game costs 1.2 - 2 million $ of local business revenue. And that does not even count in the millions of tax $ lost and / or frozen in billion $ high end arenas being mostly empty now.
  • The fans deserve better. I wrote already above what hockey means for the fans. In many of the NHL cities the hockey club is part of the local identity. The fans are the ones, who make this league valuable. If they would not pay for tickets, buy jerseys and switch on the TV every time their team is on this league would be worth NOTHING. Treat the people who pay for your million $ incomes with respect, gentlemen, and deliver your product.
  • Talent is wasted. Hockey is an intense sport and the professional players only have a relatively short career (one reason why they fight for their share with this intensity). As long as the lockout is in place this talent is wasted. The players lose a relevant piece of the time they can play in the NHL, they cannot make use of what they got and have fought for - like for example Sidney Crosby coming back from his injuries. Young players are limited in their development possibilties, older ones at the end of their career maybe lose the last games they could play.
  • The sport is damaged significantly for way longer than this lockout is in place. This is probably the point I understand least. Why would you bite the hand that feeds you? Fact is with a 2nd lockout in less than 10 years the NHL is losing value every day. Sponsoring partners and TV stations step back. Who would pay that much money to such an unreliable partner?  While the parties are busy discussing shares the actual share dissapears in thin air - day by day a little more. 

I understand that each side has its points, but that's life. If it is at work, in a marriage, a friendship, business or politics - standing in your corner and blaming the other for playing foul does not help. The key to success is compromise from BOTH sides. This is NOT about winning. 

And that's why I say it with my favorite Pirate AJ Burnett (and I am not ***ing):


.... and figure it out. NOW!  

It is almost too late already.