Parents and Children

A message to my children…

There’s going to come a time – and it will probably be much sooner than I expect – that you’re going to become curious about your father. You may want to find out more about the man you know as “Daddy,” and in your attempt to learn more, you may come across this blog. Hopefully this is one of the first posts you read because it contains a warning:

You don’t have to continue reading.

If you continue to read this blog, you will indeed learn more about me. You may be faced with a realization that I am an actual human being with an identity that doesn’t revolve entirely around raising three children. You may not particularly enjoy this realization, and may come to the conclusion that you liked it better when you knew me only as a father.

I’ll make a confession: Even at the age of 39, I still don’t truly know my own parents as people.  For the most part, I just consider them as “Mom” and “Dad,” and I have come to realize that it was a somewhat conscious decision on my part to keep it that way.

I haven’t remained completely ignorant of who they were. Along the way, I’ve learned things about them, or come to understand some of who they were beyond being parents. But I haven’t wanted to delve any deeper, because I’m not sure what good can really come of it.

As often happens when I become philosophical, I will reference an episode of The Simpsons. In the episode “Lisa the Iconoclast,” the town of Springfield is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial. During the preparations, Lisa discovers that revered town founder Jebediah Springfield was not what most people believed him to be. Instead of a brave and heroic pioneer, he was really a traitorous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld.

Jebediah SpringfieldImage source)

Jebediah Springfield (Image source)

Lisa plans to reveal the truth to the town, but decides against it at the last second. She realizes that the myth of Jebediah Springfield had more value than the truth. Celebrating the idealized version of Springfield made people happy and brought the townspeople together. Revealing the truth would likely ruin that and divide the people, with very little gained.

That’s kind of how I feel about my parents. I may not know everything about them, but I know that they were good parents who provided me with love and support. I had a happy childhood and was given every opportunity to succeed in life. Why would I really want to learn anything that might tarnish those good feelings?  If the truth happened to be that they weren’t as good of people as I believe them to be, what good does it do me to learn that? In this case, I feel ignorance really is bliss.

I understand if my warning hasn’t eliminated your sense of curiosity. The good news is, I don’t have any deep, dark secrets to hide. I may not be perfect, but I don’t think you’ll ever discover anything about you that will make you want to change your name or disavow any knowledge of me.

Also keep in mind that the person I was before I had children is not the same person I am today. The person who wrote this post is not the same person who wrote this, and is certainly not the same person who wrote this.

If you do choose to read on, I just want to make sure you remember one thing: I’ve tried to be a good father, and I love you all very much. You’ll have to decide if that’s all that really matters.

Posted in The Cutlet, Twins | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Morning Has Broken

Today is my 39th birthday, and last night, I received an amazing gift: I was able to sleep through the night and didn’t have to clean up any vomit. That may not seem like much of a present, but after the last few weeks, that’s what I wanted more than anything.

As you may have guessed, things haven’t been going well in the Cutter household. For over two weeks, the Cutlet has been suffering from a stomach illness – or perhaps a series of them – which has caused her to repeatedly wake up in the night to throw up or void her bowels; often at the same time.

The doctors believed it was just a particularly bad virus, but we were starting to become concerned. She lacked energy during the day, she didn’t have much of an appetite, and she was losing weight that she couldn’t afford to lose. We pretty much had to force her to eat and drink, and it got so bad one day that we gave her ice cream simply because that was the only thing she would agree to eat.

The illness has also seemed to strike her brother, as we’ve also had to spend a few nights cleaning up vomit from Cujo’s crib. As a result, there have been very few nights over the past two weeks where Mrs. Cutter and I received an uninterrupted night of sleep.

Dealing with sickness and a lack of sleep is bad enough, but we’ve also had a family crisis in the form of our new au pair.

Her native language is Portugese, and when we interviewed her via Skype, we knew that her English wasn’t perfect, but we thought it was passable. Apparently, it was far less perfect than we thought. She speaks clearly enough, but we’ve realized that her comprehension isn’t very good. Part of the problem is that she’s very good at picking up context clues, knowing when to nod, laugh, and say “yes” without really understanding what we’re saying.

We could have dealt with her being slow to learn the language. We figured that after a few weeks, she’d pick up enough to be proficient. However, we were soon forced to deal with more serious issues that couldn’t be worked around.

Her job duties include picking the twins up from their preschool. She claimed she was an experienced driver, but that was an exaggeration. When we took her driving, she seemed so uncomfortable that we hired a driving instructor to give her a lesson and assessment.

The instructor did not give an encouraging review. He had worked with several au pairs before, and he said that she was one of the least capable drivers he had ever encountered. He said with a little work, she would probably be fine getting to and from school in a regular car, but he wouldn’t recommend having her drive the minivan or take any highways.

We wanted to avoid this scene (Image source)

We wanted to avoid this scene (Image source)

Perhaps we could have found a way to manage that situation, but in her first few days, there were a couple of incidents that made us believe that she didn’t have the necessary training and experience to deal with two small children. She’s a nice girl, and she fits in with us personality wise – that was actually what caused us to choose her in the first place -but it was impossible to ignore those other factors. We had no choice but to replace her.

Breaking the news to her may have been the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. I figured I had another 15 years before I’d have to crush the hopes and dreams of a 21-year-old girl. There were quite a few tears as we told her that she would have to find a new family or return home. The worst part may be that due to the language barrier, we’re not sure if she completely understands why this happened.

That difficult conversation was only the start of our problems. She has two weeks to find a new host family, and she needs to continue to live with us during that time. Unfortunately, since we don’t believe she can capably handle the job, we’ve had to ask the old au pair to continue to work some days, while either Mrs. Cutter or myself have had to work from home on other days.

Now, we have to go through the frustrating process of finding another au pair. In the meantime, we’ve had to ask our parents to help out with the kids. We’re trying to find a replacement as quickly as possible, but after making such a mistake, we’d rather take the time to make the right choice.

As a result of all these problems, Mrs. Cutter and I have had to miss a bunch of work – with more time off to come – and I know my performance has suffered when I have been on the job. And I feel like I’ve been on the cusp of getting sick for quite some time now.

Speaking of my health…want to know how tough things have been? I have some sort of skin condition which has caused welts to break out all over my torso. Yet that hasn’t even been one of my most pressing concerns. Don’t worry, it doesn’t itch too much.

But last night gave me hope that the worst is behind us. As mentioned, the kids made it through the night, and everyone seemed to be in much better health this morning. It may be frustrating to search for a new au pair, but I’m confident we’ve learned from our previous mistakes, and will make the right choice this time around. And we’re fortunate that we have family who is willing to help us out.

I have hope that the worst is behind us and that my fortieth(!) year will start off better than how the thirty-ninth ended. The dark night is over, and dawn is finally here.

Posted in Randomness, The Cutlet, Twins | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Optimus Prime: An Exercise in Iconoclasm

Someone once said that you don’t truly become an adult until you examine your childhood heroes and question if they were truly worthy of adulation. (I don’t know if someone actually said that, but it sounds good, right?) If that’s true, then there is no doubt that I am a full-blown adult. (As if having three kids wasn’t evidence enough.)

As a child in the 1980’s, there were two great icons of leadership in America: Ronald Reagan and Optimus Prime. The bloom is long off the rose as far as Reagan goes, and now I’m starting to wonder about Optimus as well.

Optimus Prime may not deserve his sterling reputation

Optimus Prime may not deserve his sterling reputation

Every so often, I find myself thinking about the original Transformers cartoon. (Don’t judge.) In hindsight, it feels like the Autobots could have – and probably should have – ended the Decepticon threat early on in the series.

The Autobots had the means to take out the Decepticons. They greatly outnumbered the Decepticons (although the ‘Cons’ ranks did seem to mysteriously grow when convenient to the plot), and they had humans on their side. Maybe Earth technology and weaponry wasn’t as advanced as the Transformers’, but they could still do some damage.

They also knew where the Decepticons’ base was located: On the bottom of the ocean. Yes, the underwater location would have made an attack trickier, but it was far from impossible. In a way, that was an advantage as human casualties would have been minimal.

So why didn’t the Autobots ever launch an assault on the Decepticon base? Why did they seem content to just sit in their volcano and wait for the next time Megatron came up with a plot for world domination? Why were they always reacting instead of acting?

Perhaps you could explain their passiveness by saying that the Autobots sought peace, but that doesn’t seem realistic. It was fairly obvious that the Decepticons weren’t going to ever stop trying to conquer Earth and Cybertron. Peace is a noble aspiration, but at what point do you face reality?

Their passiveness likely had a cost as well. You have to figure that despite not being shown on screen, there were some human casualties during the various Decepticon attacks. Don’t some of those deaths fall upon the head of Optimus Prime?

In Transformers: The Movie, we find that 20 years after the events of the second season, the Decepticons have conquered Cybertron. Would the Autobots’ home planet have suffered that fate if the Autobots had been more proactive?

Maybe Optimus simply wasn’t the great leader that I once thought he was. He was courageous, led by example, and clearly cared about his fellow Autobots. But was he willing to make the tough decisions that a truly great leader needs to make? It doesn’t seem that way.

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

…Even Cold November Rain

Two days after the twins were born, I found a semi-private area in the hospital and took a few minutes to mourn my former life. I said farewell to my leisurely evenings of watching TV on the couch, as I knew they were now a thing of the past. Instead, my time would be spent feeding babies, changing diapers, washing breast pump parts, and attempting to get in a few moments of sleep.

I was correct to believe that my life had been permanently altered. But what I’ve come to realize is that even if I hadn’t been blessed with two new children, my life would still have changed.

I typically don’t embrace change, but it’s become clear that my feelings on the subject are inconsequential. Change happen to all of us; even if we try to maintain the status quo in our lives, we can’t stop the world from changing around us.

This is no longer representative of my free time. (Image source)

This is no longer representative of my free time. (Image source)

I recall the summer of 2009, and how different my life was. My free time was spent drinking, playing kickball, and participating in other such activities. There are times when I feel slightly wistful for those days, but it’s not like I could go back to that life even if I wanted to. Most of my friends from those days have either similarly started families or found other ways to occupy their time. Just as I have moved on, so too has the world.

It feels that change comes more frequently than ever these days. The Cutlet will be entering first grade in the Fall, the twins have begun preschool, and in another week, we’ll be getting a new au pair. (The first one went and found herself a husband.)

I don’t know if I’ll ever love change. But considering that change seems to be the one constant in my life, my hope is that I can at least learn to accept it.

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Mike Pence: Because We Really Want White Men to Vote for Trump

Last week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that his running mate would be Indiana governor Mike Pence. This was clearly a bid to win the affection of hardcore right-wing Republicans, as Pence is basically a stereotype of an ultra-conservative politician come to life.

Upon learning about Pence, a scene from the movie Rocky Balboa came to mind:

I imagine that when trying to decide on a vice presidential candidate, Trump’s campaign manager made a similar speech:

“To beat this guy, you’ll need the Latinos. But you’ve said some racist things, and they hate you. And your misogynistic history means the women aren’t going to support you, so you’ve lost their vote. The gays? The Muslims? The blacks? They’re all out too.

“So what we’ll be calling on is good old blunt force white male power. We’re going to get the most conservative vice presidential candidate we can find, and make absolutely sure every white Christian male above the age of 40 is firmly in our camp. Every move we make is going to be based around getting white men to cast their vote for Trump.

“Yeah! Let’s start rallying the white people!”

TrumpPence

“Oh, and for some reason, we’re going to design your campaign poster so it looks like a T is f***ing a P.”

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

O Captain, My Captain

Despite threatening to stop playing kickball several times over the past few years, I can’t seem to quit the adult version of everyone’s favorite children’s playground game. I no longer travel to the National Mall in DC for my kickball fix, instead opting to play in a local league with a few of my co-workers.

Since I was the one who proposed the idea of a team, I decided to take upon the role of captain. Back in my kickball heyday, I would take my job as captain VERY seriously. I spent a lot of time formulating strategy, coming up with lineups, and writing long recaps of each game.

I’m not quite as intense these days. Fortunately, we’ve got a small team, so there’s not much work to be done. It’s more a case of making sure everyone is facing the right direction and knows when it is their turn to kick. Of course, considering that we’re 0-3 right now, maybe a little extra intensity is in order.

The return to captainhood made me think about a post on the subject of captaining that I wrote for the kickball league’s blog a few years back. (Yes, I wrote stuff for the league’s blog too.) With nothing else pressing to write about, I decided to re-visit that post and share it with you. (I made a few edits for timeliness and to remove a few league-specific details.)

O Captain, My Captain

Congratulations! You have chosen to become the captain of a kickball team! Prepare for all the glory and adulation that comes along with that title. But don’t get TOO excited – this job comes with real responsibilities. Unless you want to simply shirk all your duties as captain (a course of action that many captains unfortunately opt to take), you’re going to have to put in some effort.

I’m not saying you need to dedicate all of your time and energy towards captaining. Not everyone has the time nor desire to carefully cultivate a lineup, and then later write a lengthy “recap” email that only minimally touches on what happened in the game. No, that is the territory of the truly great captains. For you mere mortals, you can probably do a suitable job with a lot less effort.

The way I see it, a captain simply needs to facilitate his team having fun and put them in a position to win games. Whether or not a team actually has fun or wins is largely up to the team itself, but a good captain can go a long way toward making that happen.

Of course, this can be a tough balance. Even on the most fun of teams, people will get discouraged if they lose all their games and aren’t competitive. And if a captain takes the desire to win too far, it’s not as much fun for everybody.

Remember, this is a social league, so captains should try their best not to be like this guy:

http://deadspin.com/5788716/kickball-rec-league-captain-sends-out-fantastically-bitchy-email-to-his-underperforming-team

In order to gain further insight on the art of captaining, I gathered up some famous captains from around the world for a round table discussion.

Joining me today are:

Steve Yzerman, former Detroit Red Wings captain

Captain Planet, environmental superhero

David Beckham, former captain of the British football team

James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise

Cap’n Crunch, cereal spokesperson

 

Cutter: Thanks to everyone for joining me. I wanted to start out by asking what makes you a successful captain.

Planet: That’s easy; I’m one fifth heart! And heart is all a good captain needs.

Crunch: It also helps if your players eat a healthy breakfast. That’s where I come in!

Yzerman: But your cereal, it is not healthy.

Add some sugary cereal, and you've got a healthy breakfast! (Image source)

Add some sugary cereal, and you’ve got a healthy breakfast! (Image source)

Crunch: Like my commercials say, it’s PART of a healthy breakfast, along with eggs, juice, and perhaps a multi-vitamin or two.

Beckham: I’ll be honest with you: Most of my success is due to my good looks. If I didn’t look like a model, would anyone really give a crap about me?

Kirk: I agree with that. My good looks made me an effective leader and allowed me to have sex with women of all sorts of alien races.

Yzerman: But you don’t have to be good looking. In Canada, I’m still considered a sex symbol, eh?

Beckham: You play hockey, so expectations are lowered. In football it is a different story. I owe almost all of my fame to my handsome face, my chiseled abs, and the fact that I married a pop star.

Kirk: *laughs* A pop star? I wouldn’t go quite that far.

Beckham: The Spice Girls first album went platinum eight times! How many times did The Transformed Man go platinum?

Kirk: Hey, that album was a classic. It was just before it’s time.

Crunch: I had the Spice Girls CD back in the day! Which one was your wife?

Mrs. Beckham (Image source)

Mrs. Beckham (Image source)

Beckham: The skinny brunette with the disproportionately big rack.

Crunch: Oh. I preferred the blond one.

Yzerman: The sad thing is, the stupid Spice Girls are more famous in America than I am. And I won the Stanley Cup three times!

Beckham: Americans at least consider hockey to be a major sport. I came to the States and the sport still couldn’t draw ratings.

Yzerman: Major sport? Hardly. Maybe in places like Washington where the local teams have been so bad that they’ll jump aboard the bandwagon of any team that gives them some hope. But most of the country doesn’t give a crap.

Beckham: Well, isn’t it considered to be “cool” to like hockey?

Yzerman: Maybe back in the ’90s, eh? Hockey stopped being cool right around the same time your wife stopped being relevant. You want to know how unnoticed hockey is in the U.S? That picture up there? It isn’t even me! That’s my teammate Niklas Lidstrom. But I bet nobody reading this even noticed, eh?

The real Steve Yzerman (Image source)

The real Steve Yzerman (Image source)

Beckham: I don’t get Americans. All a bunch of wankers if you ask me. Especially that Landon Donovan guy. No wonder the sport never became popular if he was considered the country’s best player.

Cutter: Let’s move on. What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a captain.

Planet: Climate change deniers. People used to love it when I showed up to save the day. These days, half the people just throw things at me and call me a tool of the liberal media.

Crunch: For me, it was when I had to stop the Soggies. They were a real menace!

Beckham: What the hell are you talking about?

Crunch: The Soggies – They’re an alien race dedicated to making cereal soggy.

Yzerman: And you stopped them? You’re like two feet tall, eh? What did you do to them, cut the roof of their mouths?

Crunch: Cap’n Crunch does not cut the roof of your mouth! Those are lies! Lies!

Kirk: The Soggies? That’s nothing. Try fighting the Borg some time.

Resistance is futile. (Image source)

Resistance is futile. (Image source)

Yzerman: Wait, you never fought the Borg!

Kirk:I know, but now that my timeline was rebooted I probably will.

Planet: What was up with that whole timeline alteration thing, anyway?

Kirk: Seriously, I don’t know. It didn’t make much sense to me either. But it’s not like we should have expected logic in time travel when the movie was written by the creator of Lost.

Planet: Speaking of movies, did you hear that they’re making a movie about me?

Kirk: Dear Lord, that is going to suck so hard. Is Hollywood really that out of ideas?

Planet: Pretty much. I’m just hoping that they have Vin Diesel play me.

Beckham: I would go with Rob Schneider.

Planet: You better watch it. You don’t want to get on my bad side. I can go HAM if I want to:

Cutter: Guys, we’re running low on time. Is there anything you’d like to add?

All: Do you have –

Cutter: Keeping in mind that I already explained that I don’t have any illegal drugs with me.

All: *silence*

Cutter: Thank you, guys. This has been quite educational.

Posted in Randomness, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty

 

GNR1

We were supposed to leave for my family’s annual beach trip last Sunday morning. Those plans were changed when Mrs. Cutter saw that Guns ‘N Roses would be playing at FedEx Field on Sunday night. Until recently, I likely would have passed up the chance to see them live, as GNR consisted of Axl Rose and a constantly changing roster of backing musicians.

But at the end of 2015, there were rumors that the original band was planning a reunion tour. Those rumors proved only partly true; for one reason or another, neither Izzy Stradlin nor Steven Adler have returned. But Slash and Duff McKagan are indeed back in the fold, and 3/5 of the classic lineup is probably the best we’re going to get. I figured there was no way I could pass up a chance to see them, so tickets were promptly purchased.

I was glad they came to DC early in the tour. It was their second stop, meaning they’d likely still have a lot of energy, and perhaps more importantly, they wouldn’t have had much of an opportunity to break up again.

Seeing that we’re old and lame now, Mrs. Cutter and I were somewhat wary of attending a concert that was scheduled to begin at 8 PM, especially considering GNR’s reputation for late starts. We realized there was a chance that they might be playing well past midnight, so we had to plan ahead. I took a nap in the afternoon, and drank a couple of sodas with dinner. I felt confident that I would be able to hang no matter how late the show went. (Mrs. Cutter was less confident)

The opening act was Alice in Chains. I’ve never had much of an opinion about them one way or another, but as they played a collection of their greatest hits, I realized that I do like a lot of their songs.

Once AIC finished, we didn’t have too long to wait for the main event. They actually started earlier than expected, and I only made it back from the bathroom with about a minute to spare.

It was a little jarring to see Axl at first. Although I’ve seen recent pictures and clips, I guess I still kind of expected the 1989 version of him to walk out on stage. It also felt like he needed a little bit of a warm up. The first couple of songs were slightly shaky at times, but once they got to Welcome to the Jungle, he found his form and mostly sounded like the Axl of old.

GNR2

The rest of the band was excellent – especially Slash. This show made me truly appreciate just how good he is. (Yes, Squinty. He is definitely still cool.) I’ve watched clips of the band since he and Duff left the group, and the difference is remarkable. The classics sounded remarkably better, and the songs they played from Chinese Democracy made me believe that the album would have been hailed as a classic had these guys been a part of it.

They played most of their hits – the only song of note that was missing was Don’t Cry – and threw in some lesser known songs as well. I was pleased they played Coma, since that had always been a favorite of mine. I was hoping that due to being the Washington D.C. show, they would play I.R.S., but apparently, I’m the only person who likes that song.

GNR3

The crowd was somewhat interesting. Many of the attendees were in their thirties, forties, and fifties, and I got the impression that many of them were trying to party like they used to – and finding they weren’t quite capable of doing so. For some reason, a rotating cast of drunk people decide to camp out in the aisle next to us. Most notable was the shirtless guy who looked about fifty who alternated between screaming, barking, and wobbling around like he was about to pass out.

At the end of their main set, the combination of caffeine and adrenaline had me still going strong, but Mrs. Cutter was dragging. I told her we couldn’t leave until we at least heard Paradise City, so we powered through two songs in the encore until Slash began to play the familiar opening chords.

Despite the thrill of hearing Paradise City live, I was actually a little disappointed. It felt a little rushed, and I thought they needed to let it breathe a bit. On the other hand, there was an impressive pyro display at the end that helped make up for it.

Once the final note was played, we rushed out of the stadium, hoping to beat most of the traffic. As we were leaving the parking lot, we actually saw drunken shirtless guy stumbling along the side of the road. I’m not sure where he was going, but I was relieved he wasn’t going there by car.

It was an excellent show, and it was well worth the cost (Yay, Ticketmaster fees!) and delaying our beach trip by a day. I’m just hoping that next time they come to town, Izzy and Steve are with them, and my dream will finally come true.

 

Posted in Pop Culture, Trips and Events | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

More Writing Samples from a Kindergarten Student

Since my last post was a bit heavy, I wanted to lighten things up.

A couple of months ago, I shared some of my daughter’s writing assignments in school. It was as adorable as it sounds. Now that she’s done with kindergarten (time flies, no?), they sent home a large packet of her writing.

Here are a few of the pictures and stories that were included.

Yesterday I went to the park with my brother and sister. I wore my super hero costume.

Last month, she went to a PJ Masks themed birthday party, and all the kids received masks and capes as favors. She was really into wearing it for a few days. Then again, this might be referencing something else since in the picture she appears to be wearing animal ears and does not have a mask on.

Next, we have a multiple-part story which I like to call “The Adventures of Butter Cream the Bunny.”

img_2857-1

One day I saw a bunny. I noticed that it was Butter Cream. She said hi. I could also understand her.

Mrs. Cutter remarked that we’ve learned more from her school work than from talking to her. For instance, I did not know that the Cutlet either encountered a talking rabbit or that she can understand animals. Either way, I’m kind of annoyed this information was kept from me.

img_2859-1

I showed my dad Butter Cream. He said I could keep her. We had many adventures. When it was night, we went to bed. Now our day had to end.

Or maybe the knowledge of the talking rabbit was not kept from me? While I have suggested to Mrs. Cutter that we get a pet rabbit, I don’t recall ever giving my daughter permission to keep a rabbit that she found.

It feels like I would have remembered the talking rabbit part, so there’s a chance this is a fictional story.

img_2860-1

Part two

Oh yes, the story of Butter Cream is too much for just one part. The above picture shows the Cutlet and Butter Cream cuddling in bed together. Do rabbits actually cuddle?

img_2861-1

Me and Butter Cream were having fun at the fair. I saw a cat. It was Sugar Sprinkles.

When the fair was in town last summer, Mrs. Cutter and the Cutlet went without me. I don’t recall ever seeing cats at the fair, but I guess there is at least one there. I’ve also realized that Butter Cream looks a lot like Pikachu.

img_2858-1

I brought her to school. We played at the playground. When the teacher came, Butter Cream hid in my lunch box. I went home.

I hope the au pair washed the lunch box that day. I can’t imagine it’s especially hygienic to have a rabbit in with your food.

And thus concludes the epic Butter Cream saga. I hope you enjoyed it.

We’ll wrap things up with one more:

I love my mom a lot because she is nice and cuddly.

It’s true; Mrs. Cutter is nice and cuddly. And according to this drawing, she also looks like a Shopkin.

Posted in The Cutlet | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Cutter’s Guide to Fixing America: Guns

I originally began this post in the wake of the mass shooting at San Bernadino. I couldn’t quite get it right at the time, so I saved it as a draft. I actually hoped that I would never finish it, because that would mean that the subject of guns and mass shootings hadn’t become a topic for discussion again. As we all know, that has not been the case.

I’m not sure my words will actually influence anyone’s thinking. If you disagree with what I say, I don’t think I’m going to change your mind. But hopefully, at least some of you maintain an open mind, and don’t automatically dismiss what I have to say.

The Cutter’s Guide to Fixing America: Guns

I sometimes allow my children to use an iPad. Sometimes, they’ll fight over it, get too rough, or become frustrated and throw it on the ground. When that happens, I tell them that they’ve proven unable to properly use it, so I take it away from them. It feels like we may have reached a similar point when it comes to guns in America. How many deaths do we have to endure before we say “this isn’t working?”

I’m not completely opposed to the existence of guns or for people to be able to own firearms; I simply don’t want anyone else to die in a shooting. I don’t want the next incident to take place in my town. I don’t want my family or friends to be among the next victims.

Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone feels that way. There is a certain segment of the population that loves their guns, and either refuses to admit that they may be a problem, or simply don’t care. I’m going to look at a few of the common arguments made by these gun enthusiasts and try to make some sense of them.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun

While you’d assume the opposite, mass shootings like the one in Orlando often empower the pro-gun crowd.  After the San Bernadino incident, I read arguments that California’s relatively strict gun control laws helped make it possible. Their logic was that the laws made it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns, and those gun-carrying citizens might have served as a deterrent – or even been able to stop the shooting.

Have we really reached a point where vigilantism is our only hope to remain safe? And would we truly be any safer?

Remember the Tamir Rice case? How about what happened in Ferguson? Those are just a couple of instances when the judgement of police officers’ use of lethal force was called into question. Keep in mind that these are police officers – men and women who have undergone extensive training. If we don’t trust them to make the right decision with guns, what hope do the rest of us have?

Many gun owners think that if they were in a dangerous situation that they’d be able to calmly take out the shooter. I’m not so sure.

GunMeme1

Yes, there have been cases where armed citizens have stopped or deterred crimes. There have also been cases where would-be heroes misidentified the shooter and almost shot the wrong person.

And let’s not forget about people like George Zimmerman. Do we really want to depend on our fellow citizens to identify and take down potential terrorists or mass shooters? “Hey, that dark-skinned guy looked like he might be pulling a gun. I didn’t want to take any risks, so I shot him!”

You may have seen this meme before:

ObamaGuns

This is supposedly proof that the president is a hypocrite. He pushes for gun control, and meanwhile surrounds himself with armed guards. The sad thing is, many people will agree with this meme because they don’t understand the difference between a member of the Secret Service and John Q. Public who wants to obtain a firearm.

I actually agree that more “good guys with guns” are necessary, but that doesn’t mean relaxing gun laws so that anyone can get one. It means that we need to have armed guards at public places like schools and churches. If police officers can’t serve in that role, then the guards would need to undergo an exhaustive vetting process and undergo extensive training, and be subject to frequent reviews.

It shouldn’t have to come to that, but given the current state of affairs, I don’t see any other choice.

Criminals will find a way to get guns regardless

I acknowledge that despite gun laws, criminals still find a way to obtain them. If there were tougher laws, some people would still find a way. Does that mean we shouldn’t make it harder for them?

Since my kids are adorable, I’ll use them in another analogy: If we don’t want one of the twins to have something, we’ll put it on a high surface that they can’t reach. It’s still possible that if they’re truly determined, they still might find a way to get it. But as they’re pushing a chair over to the counter in order to reach it, there’s a good chance that I’ll notice them doing it and put a stop to it.

Likewise, if we make it harder for would-be criminals to obtain guns, the more likely it is that they’ll be caught.

As for the criminals who already have guns, I’m all for a concentrated effort by our law enforcement agencies to track down illegal firearms. As has been pointed out, the existing gun laws on the books aren’t enforced as well as they could be. That seems like a good place to start.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people

Here’s another meme that’s popular with the pro-gun crowd:

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Assuming you believe the Bible (which is a dicey proposition in its own right), Cain killed Abel with a rock. But I’m pretty sure that if Cain walked into a nightclub with a rock, the death toll would be significantly less than 50. And if rocks are such efficient weapons, then why do people need guns in the first place?

I understand what the meme is trying to say: We should figure out WHY people are killing each other and stop that, rather than becoming so concerned with HOW people are killing each other. I agree that we need to figure out why people are killing each other with such regularity. But until we figure that out – and as I’ll discuss below, we don’t appear to be very close to doing so – can we make it a little harder for people to kill others with such efficiency?

It’s not a gun problem, it’s a (fill in the blank) problem!

So yeah, let’s figure out the why. Unfortunately, nobody can seem to come to much of an agreement on that either. After every mass shooting, people offer reasons why it isn’t a gun problem. Here are some examples:

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a terrorism problem!”

Not all mass shootings are the work of terrorists, so it’s not always a terrorism problem. And if we really want to stop the terrorists, making it harder for them to obtain weapons seems like a really good step in that process.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s an Islam problem!”

Similarly, not all mass shooters are Islamic. I’ll talk about the Bill of Rights more later, but for now we should remember that government persecution based on religion is one of the things it doesn’t allow.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a hate problem!”

I agree with this. I’d love it if we could all get along and nobody felt the need to shoot anybody else. Unfortunately, humanity has found reasons to hate one another since the dawn of time, and that problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem!”

I agree that mental health is a problem in America, but blaming it for the gun violence doesn’t explain this:

GunDeaths

You’re telling me that America either has that many more mentally ill people or is that much worse at identifying and treating them? Let’s hire some Japanese doctors immediately, because they’ve apparently found the cure for mental illness!

Whether the shooters were motivated by religion, hatred, or mental illness (or some combination of them), they all had one thing in common: They were able to obtain firearms. That makes me think that it is – at least partially – a gun problem after all. So while we’re busy fixing all of those above problems, maybe we can work on the gun issue too.

I need to protect my family

Some gun owners claim that they need a gun in order to protect their home and family against burglars or other intruders. When I hear people talk about home invasions and needing to defend themselves, here’s what comes to mind:

Statistics show that gun owners are far more likely to harm themselves or a family member than actually stop any would-be home invader. I have some really bad news for all you semi-automatic rifle owners out there: If you are facing a threat that can only be stopped with such a weapon, it is very likely that gun or not, you are going to die. (There is one exception which I will talk about below)

If you’re that concerned about your safety, why not rig your house with booby traps? It worked pretty well for Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, right? You can even go a step further and set up some explosive devices that will put a stop to any potential intrusions upon your homestead.

You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Setting up booby traps would put my family in danger! I have small children around!” My suggestion is to just teach your children how to properly use and respect the booby traps. That should be enough to ensure that they are never harmed by them.

Seriously though, if you’re that concerned about your safety, there are lots of ways to protect yourself: Learn martial arts, stock up on pepper spray, carry a taser gun. Perhaps you could even learn to use a bow and arrow. It worked pretty well for Katniss and Hawkeye.

I have to protect myself when the zombie apocalypse happens!

I mentioned there was an exception, and here it is: If the zombie apocalypse does happen, people with semi-automatic rifles are probably going to have a better chance for survival. I concede this point.

The Constitution gives me the right to buy a gun

This is correct…technically. According to the current interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, American citizens are allowed to own firearms.

Here’s the thing about the Constitution: It’s an imperfect document that in some cases, reflects the time in which it was written. Perhaps the smartest thing that the founding fathers did was acknowledging that the Constitution was imperfect and would likely have to change over time. That’s why we have the ability to amend it.

For an unbiased history of the Second Amendment, please read this. If you don’t feel like clicking that link, here’s a brief summary: The Amendment was written at a time when the validity of a standing national army was in question, partially because there was fear that the national government would use it to usurp states’ rights. As a result, militias consisting of armed citizens were seen as necessary for national defense.

I’d say that times have obviously changed, although if you ask some people, the whole “gun control” movement is just the first step for the national government to somehow take over the country. Because…

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Sigh…this is not Nazi Germany – Stop making everything out to be Nazi Germany! Whenever the government talks about doing anything that might restrict rights, people start making comparisons to Hitler. Yes, the Nazis disarmed their people. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end.

It’s also amazing how many people don’t understand just how government works. The government was the one who granted us all those rights in the first place, so they can take them away if they so wish. People surrender individual rights all the time in order to serve the greater good. For instance, I can’t drive my car 100 MPH on the highway; that “right” has been taken away from me.

What’s amusing (and by amusing, I mean so ironic that I have to nervously and sadly laugh) is that many of the people worried about civil rights when it comes to the Second Amendment, seem perfectly okay with violating other civil rights. I’ve heard talk about banning anyone from the country if they are Muslim. There are some people in favor of the government rounding up the country’s Islamic residents and putting them into internment camps. Apparently, in their minds Amendment Two carries more weight than Amendment One. The Constitution giveth, the Constitution taketh away.

That leads to an important question: Since Islamic people are the ones who might actually be in danger from the government, shouldn’t they be given the easiest access to weapons so they can defend themselves?

The real enemy

Recently, the president spoke about gun laws. He didn’t say anything about “seizing everyone’s guns,” instead he promoted a message of, “let’s make sure the wrong people don’t get them.”

You would think that the truly responsible gun owners would have been on board with his message. You’d think that they’d see that the criminals are giving all gun owners a bad name, and threaten the right of all citizens to own a firearm.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment that perhaps there is a middle ground between “everyone has the right to own a gun” and “Obama’s comin’ to take our guns!” This seems to be mostly the fault of one organization:

Instead of working to make sure guns are used responsibly, the NRA has instead fostered an environment of “us against them.” They’ve made it seem like ANY additional gun laws are an egregious violation of civil rights. They’ve caused all gun owners – responsible and criminals alike – to be lumped together.

Why are they doing this? If you answered, “Because they care about and want to protect the civil rights of Americans,” you’d be wrong! While I’m sure some members do genuinely care about civil rights, like many things in this world, it’s much likely more about money. The NRA essentially serves as the lobby for weapons manufacturers. And stricter gun laws would likely be very bad for business for them.

The NRA is powerful and has been fighting restrictions on guns with all the might they can muster. But aren’t we about at the point where someone calls the head of the NRA in front of Congress and asks, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Here’s my question to the pro-gun crowd: Why are you so worried about tougher gun restrictions? Assuming that the government isn’t really planning to seize everybody’s guns (And bad news: If the government wants your guns, they’re going to get them one way or another), then what are you afraid of? If you’re truly as responsible and deserving of owning a gun as you claim, then shouldn’t you have nothing to fear?

So what can we do?

We’re a far way away from “Obama coming to take your guns,” but if the mass-shootings continue, it just might come to that. So it seems that responsible gun owners and anti-gun crowd should realize that they have some common ground: Get the guns out of the hands of those who would put them to evil use, so that all would-be gun owners are not punished.

As it turns out, the Second Amendment allows people to bear arms, but it doesn’t prevent stricter regulation. (The word “regulated” is right there in the text!) It’s been done before, and can be done again.

First off, since they have little purpose besides mass murder, semi-automatic weapons should be banned from civilians. Next, let’s place some heavy taxes on the sale of guns and ammunition. Sure, it will cost more, but if owning a gun is necessary for the protection of your family, then money should be no object.

Most importantly, let’s switch the burden of proof. Instead of relying on the government to identify people who shouldn’t have a gun, let’s require would-be gun owners to prove they deserve one.

You want a gun? Fine. You need to complete an extensive training class and be subject to an exhaustive background check. And the fun shouldn’t stop once you have the gun. Every gun owner should undergo an annual mental health exam to make sure they are of sound mind. (Also helping the country’s mental health problem. That’s killing two birds with one bullet!)

If anti-gun lawmakers were smart, they’d find a way to allow the NRA to profit from these reforms. If that happened, I’m willing to bet there would be a lot less opposition.

In conclusion

This is not a simple problem, and it isn’t going to be solved easily. I’m not naive to think that anything I’ve suggested will immediately fix the problem. Criminals will still fall through the cracks, and people will still die from gun fire. But actual ideas seem to better than what I’ve heard from most of the pro-gun crowd, which is nothing.

I can guarantee one thing: If we continue to do nothing, nothing is going to change. The mass shootings will continue, and we’ll have to listen to this debate once again. Is that what any of us really want?

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I’m No Kenny Powers

You may remember the show Eastbound and Down. It chronicled the life of fictional former baseball pitcher Kenny Powers as he tried to make a comeback. Powers endured several setbacks along the way, many of them self-inflicted. He often conflicted with would-be friends and family, mostly because despite having a heart, that heart was buried under several layers of asshole.

In the fourth season, Kenny Powers had finally retired from baseball and was living a relatively mundane life in the suburbs with his wife and children. However, the quiet life didn’t quite agree with him. He resented that he wasn’t famous anymore and had to work a regular job. Instead of doing drugs and partying all night, his social life was reduced to having dinner with other couples in the neighborhood. While at these dinners, Kenny could barely contain his contempt for the inane small talk that took place.

As I watched, I found myself relating to one of the characters on the show…but it wasn’t Kenny. I’ll admit that I can be an asshole at times, and can often make social situations uncomfortable for those around me. But I’d like to believe that even in my worst days, I was never quite as bad as Kenny Powers.

Instead, I’m probably a lot more like Gene:

Aside from realizing that actor Tim Heidecker should be the leading candidate to play former Eagles coach Chip Kelly in the movie biopic, watching Gene makes me think we have a lot in common. We both like to follow our sports teams (he talks about Wake Forest football), we both like to play sports (assuming you want to qualify golf as a sport), and like all cool men, we wear visors. (Honestly, this is probably the real reason I identify with him.)

Gene was probably a fun enough guy back in the day, but now he’s settled into his comfortable existence as a husband and father. He just wants to get through life without receiving too much harassment from his boss, his wife, and especially this idiotic “friend” who has been forced upon him. Gene doesn’t really want to be friends with Kenny. However, their wives are friends, so they’re forced to hang around with each other.

You don't remember the Paul Reiser Show??? (Image source)

You don’t remember the Paul Reiser Show??? (Image source)

I’m sure nobody remembers the short-lived Paul Reiser show. (I doubt more than a few episodes made it to air.) I wouldn’t remember it either, except one part did strike a chord. Reiser’s character talked about how his current friends all seem to either be the husbands of his wife’s friends or the parents of his children’s friends.

That’s pretty much how it works. Every time Mrs. Cutter makes a friend with a married woman, she REALLY tries hard for me to become friends with the husband. Sometimes she becomes a bit overbearing. “Oh, you like professional wrestling? You should talk about that!!!”

The good news is that so far, most of my new friends seem like okay guys. While I can’t claim to have found my new BFF, at least there aren’t any Kennys in the group who I dread having to talk to. I do accept the possibility that I am the Kenny of the group, and the other husbands cringe when they see me coming. But that’s okay. They’ll learn to find me charming eventually. After all, unless our wives or kids get into a fight, they don’t really have a choice.

Posted in Pop Culture, Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment