‘Another mass shooting, this time by an 18 year old killing 19 fourth graders and two adults in an elementary school in a small border town in Texas. Only a week after a massacre in a grocery store in Buffalo, killing ten innocent shoppers. How can anybody think this is not about guns?’ Camp said, looking sad and upset.

            ‘Yes, only in the USA is this possible. Both killers were teenagers wielding military grade assault rifles, the kind used in wars, as in the Ukraine.’

            ‘How can teenagers be allowed to purchase and own such destructive weapons and tactical assault gear? It defies any kind of reason and common sense.’

            ‘And yet, politicians like Ted Cruz want more guns in the hands of Americans, even teachers, in order to protect themselves. If guns make everybody safer, the US would be the safest country on earth. I never heard of these protection rifles. They’re called assault rifles,’ I said.

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Drugs, Death and Dylan

‘The longest day of the year is coming up,’ I said, as I sat down across from Camp who looked dapper in khaki pants and a short-sleeved shirt, Birkenstocks and sunglasses.

‘Yep, and I decided that in order to celebrate summer, I’m dressing the part.

‘Well, if you want my opinion, it suits you. Casual is in you know.’

‘No, I didn’t know but I have a closet full of clothes I never wear. I thought I’d try some of them and since nobody is dressing up working at home, I’ll support the garment industry.’

‘By wearing your old clothes from home?’

We both concentrated on the lovely scenery and our beers.

‘Here is a frightening statistic Camp,’ I said. ‘Over 400 overdose deaths in the past 3 months, 170 alone in May. These are people who inject what they believe is a rush or a high and what they get instead is a fatal shot of fentanyl laced heroin.’

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National Rifle Addiction

Winter is back here to stay it seems. Our yard looks like a gigantic merengue, the trees are frosted and I’m bundled up with hat and gloves. The gunmetal water of Howe Sound looks cold but when the clouds part to let the sun through, it’s winter wonderland, if you don’t have to drive, that is.

Campbell was already seated at our usual table, scanning the Globe and Mail. As soon as I sat down he pointed with his index finger to an article in the paper,. “Did you hear the speech from that teen Emma Gonzales addressing the gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale? It was just two days after a crazed school mate killed 17 of her fellow students in Parkland, Florida. He pulled a fire alarm and then fired point blank into the exiting students with his AR 15 that he bought at a gunshop. He was too young to buy a beer but no problem to buy a military style assault rifle including the accessories to make it fully automatic as well as all the ammo he wanted.”

“I haven’t heard the speech yet but Clare has. She was all fired up about this young woman and the eloquence and passion of her speech. I guess she really put it to the lawmakers who accepted donations from the NRA.”

“Yes, she really did; pointed out that Trump himself accepted 30 million and then she divided that by the gun victims in 2018 so far. It came to $ 5’800. That’s how much a life is apparently worth but as the year goes on, that figure will go down. And what did the lawmakers do in response to this latest tragedy? They sent thoughts and prayers.”

I could only shake my head at the cowardly and senseless mindset that would make anybody support such a destructive and insane gun policy. “Can money really buy somebody’s reason, common sense and conscience?” I asked, knowing the answer already.

Camp just gave me a look that was louder than words. “They always quote the 2nd amendment , like it was one of the ten commandments. The law was meant to arm the populace, so they could overthrow a despotic government if the need arose. That was long before automatic weapons. I think they still used muskets and long rifles when the amendment was passed in 1791.”

“Sounds like they missed their chance though, instead of the government, they’re killing each other,” I said. “Kids killing kids. What for? An amendment?”      “Trump told a group of the survivors from Parkland, that were invited to the White House, that he wants to arm the teachers. Said that attacks would end with more militarized education institutions and by wearing concealed weapons.”

“Does he know that over 75% of all teachers from kindergarten to high school are women and where should they conceal their Berettas and Colts?” And does he think all teachers are gun experts or NRA supporters?”

Vicky arrived with a couple of fresh pints, pointing at the blue sky peaking through the clouds. “Just look at that beautiful blue,” she said, making both of us turn around. “It’s not words that makes the view beautiful, it just is. You two always worry about things out of your control. Like the weather or the price of beer.”

“Vicky has a point Camp. We spend half our life planning the future and worrying about the past and the other half checking the internet for what we’ve missed,” I said. “We’re all so scattered and confused.”

“Speak about yourself. I’m trying to make a living selling books and advocating for changes to improve our little town. Not all of us have the luxury of leisure like you and the time to get bored. By the way did you watch any of the Olympics? I can’t believe it’s already eight years since the Vancouver games.”

“We watched Tessa and Scott ice-dance their way into everyone’s heart and to Olympic gold , and we saw the women’s hockey team lose a heartbreaker to the US in a shootout. They should have both won the gold.”

“I watched some of the highlights but I always liked the cultural vignettes. Imagine, I didn’t even remember that it snowed in Korea. Come to think of it, you used to love to ski, didn’t you.”

“Yeah, I gave it up after a couple of bad falls but you’re right Camp, I should get involved in something useful. I’m thinking about taking a course in brewing and distilling. With all these new craft breweries springing up there must be opportunities.”

“Now you’re thinking with an alert mind.,” Camp said, “and the benefits could be rewarding.”

I’m not sure if he was having me on but I let it go. Better to quit while I was ahead.

“Check out the eagle over there,” Camp said and we both watched the majestic bird circle overhead, his aim unwavering and focused.


Guns, Crazies and History revised

It’s a perfect Indian summer day here on the Sunshine Coast. Baby blue skies, summery warm in the sun and cool enough to wear a sweater in the shade. Camp was sitting at our usual table on the patio, alone except for a couple of locals. He was immersed in the latest news and about to share his insights with me.

“Fifty nine dead, over five hundred wounded, the worst massacre in the USA which is saying a lot. One crazy loner, a retired accountant, armed with a truckload of automatic assault rifles is responsible. When are the Americans going to realize that guns and crazy people don’t mix. In fact guns do not belong in glove compartments, purses, pack pockets, pick-up trucks, hotel rooms, houses and apartments.”

I sat down and signalled to Vicky for a couple of pints. “Camp, you’re preaching to the choir. I grew up in country that is armed to the teeth, where every able bodied male that has served in the Swiss military has a semiautomatic rifle and ammo stored at home. I looked it up. Switzerland has about 47 guns per 100 residents while the US has 89 guns and Yemen 55. Yet in Switzerland gun ownership comes with a lot of education and gun crimes are unusual. In the US 33’000 people died due to gunshot wounds in 2015.”

“People with guns kill other people,” Camp said. “It’s as simple as that. They should outlaw all handguns, automatic rifles and assault weapons. Hunting rifles only with background checks. Gun control and a buyback of prohibited firearms in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which left 35 people dead, stopped mass shootings and plunged gun death by 72%.”

“You obviously have done your research Camp. You need to watch Jim Jeffries u-tube video about gun protection. He says it all.”

We solemnly sipped our beers, gazing out at the tranquil harbour spread out before us. Hard to imagine what snaps somebodies mind to where they become a harbinger of death and mayhem. “Only humans murder humans and only humans know how to hate and loathe,” I said.

“On the other hand only humans know love and show kindness to strangers and only humans display compassion,” Camp countered.

“Yeah, but we always find ways to hurt one another,” It’s a miracle that we made it this far as a species.

“I want to change the subject to something closer to home and equally troubling. Muriel and I went to see a film adaption of Richard Wagamese’s novel,: ‘Indian Horse’ at the Vancouver film festival on Monday. The story follows the life of Saul Indian Horse, who was taken away from his Ojibwa family and placed in a Catholic residential school where he was not allowed to speak his language. As was the directive he was denied his Indigenous heritage as he witnesses abuse. He finds escape in hockey, where his talent helps him escape the nightmarish school and he eventually became a professional player. However, the traumatic experiences of the past continue to haunt him and he is also constantly belittled and taunted for being native. It’s a fantastic film and profoundly moving, about a very sad chapter in Canadian History. We really have not come to terms with the fact that we are still racist and prejudiced and that we constantly revise the true history.”

“It all comes down to a lack of education,” I offered.

“Yes, but it is us, the colonizers, who are lacking the education, not them,” Camp said. “Treating them as victims rather than as equals and part of our national family does not improve their lot in life. If you have a chance, go watch this movie.”

“Yeah, when we were in Mexico last year and I brought up the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero to Carlos, my language teacher, he asked me about the 1500 indigenous woman missing or killed in Canada.”

“We have a lot to learn,” Camp said. I looked at the calm waters of Howe Sound and wondered how much mystery lurks just below the surface and is hidden from view, a good metaphor for the way we view our collective history. “We can shape the future and we can revise the past but we cannot escape the present,” I mumbled, feeling a bit confused.

“You’re wiser than a tree full of owls,” Camp remarked with a lopsided grin. “And presently my mug is empty which calls for a refill I believe.”

“Two pints coming up,” Vicky acknowledged our hand signals.