Tuesday, February 25, 2003

When not in Rome

Ever see a movie or a TV show where some quack psychiatrist forces the hero to regress and determine where his pent up rage took root?

Of course you have.

Ever believe it could really work like that?

Of course not.

But maybe I'm starting to buy it just a little.

All thoughts, opinions, emotions, etc. have to have been born somewhere. Obviously, the most likely possibility is that they were born in our own past.

Anyway, the other night I came to a realization of why I may be so dead-set against this impending war in Iraq: I never went to Rome.

I know. I know. There I go again throwing out statements that make no sense to normal rational people.

Let me digress.

A dozen years ago, I was supposed to jump on a jumbo jet and jaunt across the Atlantic to the ancient city of Rome.

The planned vacation/field trip was jettisoned when George H.W. Bush (41) decided he wanted to go fight a war with the nation of Iraq.

Needless to say, I was distraught.

I remember being upset about not going to Italy. I also remember being upset about what I perceived to be Bush's war for oil.

What I don't remember is if I tied the two at the time.

It's easy to tie together now, though.

On Monday, I called my former Latin teacher — Bruce Strassburg — so he could refresh my memory on the whole ordeal.

Father Bruce, as we called him, told me they still haven't gotten to go to Rome.

Neither have I for that matter.

But I'm not bitter about that.

Not now, at least.

I'll tell you what I am bitter about, though.

I'm bitter that our president refuses to believe that there are options other than bombing Baghdad.

I'm bitter that the best war coverage I've seen so far was on MTV.

I'm bitter that our government is ignoring the scores of anti-war protests across the country.

And I'm bitter that somewhere in America there's a group of high school students glued to CNN — hoping that a war doesn't break out between George W. Bush (43) and the nation of Iraq.

And unfortunately, somewhere in America, a group of high school students is about to be let down by our president — just like I was 12 years ago.

A side note: I think it's humorous that Saddam Hussein has challenged "Dubya" to a debate and the White House has summarily rejected it.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said he didn't think that Hussein was serious about wanting to debate.

But the White House should reconsider — from a purely entertainment point of view.

I would imagine that every major network would kill to get a piece of the debate.

ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, even Comedy Central would want in the mix.

And all of America would watch.

You know all the people that don't watch the presidential debates? They'd watch this.

I've always said that wars should be decided with chess matches instead of the senseless deaths of young men. A debate would be even better.

The only reason to turn the offer down, I suppose, would be a fear of losing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The gun-loving liberal runneth amok

The Second Amendment makes all the others possible.

So sayeth a bumper sticker at the gun show I went to this past weekend.

Now normally, you wouldn't find me at a gun show — despite my staunch belief that people should be allowed to have them, carry them, etc., they actually scare me — but given the heinous shooting of two of our city's peace officers, I thought I'd go in and have a look-see.

First of all, I wasn't aware that there was to be a gun show, but as I drove down The Transit on Saturday morning, there were the big yellow signs: Gun Show Today. Arrows pointed to the South Lockport Fire Hall.

I drove by.

But as I thought more about it, I wanted to know what it was like inside and how were people acting — especially given the aforementioned tragedy.

Feb. 9, of course, 26-year-old Jason Kanalley shot Lockport Detective Captain Lawrence Eggert and Officer Steven Ritchie before fatally shooting himself. Eggert and Ritchie are on the long and slow path to recovery and this community is still in search of answers it may never get.

I turned around in the Lockport Mall parking lot and headed back to the fire hall.

I had a devil of a time finding a parking space. There must have been 200 people there when I got there - if not more.

I wasn't there to trick anyone into telling me anything they wouldn't anyway (I hate gonzo "journalism") so I dug my press pass out of my briefcase and pinned it to my jacket.

Entering the gun show, there was a man at the door asking if I had firearms and a sign stating that any firearms being brought in must be checked and not loaded.

And I thought: Hmm, not in Kansas anymore, huh?

I told the gentleman at the door who I was and that I wanted to talk to somebody in charge.

Enter Dick Cavagnaro, treasurer of the Iroquois Arms Collectors Associations of Western New York.

I told Dick who I was and asked how things were going, given the recent events. I asked if they considered canning the event or if they thought turnout would be affected.

Good, no, and no were the answers to my questions in that order.

"What happened in Lockport was a rare event," Cavagnaro explained, adding that there was no reason to link the gun show and the shootings.

And I wouldn't. It still hasn't been determined how Kanalley got his gun — an AK-47 — and I (surprisingly) haven't heard any rumors that it was gotten at a gun show.

Following the brutal Columbine murders, there was much ado about gun shows and how easy it is to get guns there.

One of the dozens of tables did have AK-47s on it. I counted four of them for $349 a piece.

As Cavagnaro and numerous law enforcement officers have pointed out, the AK-47 is legal to own.

But most of the guys at the gun show weren't looking for the firepower the AK-47 offered. Most, in fact, seemed to be looking at older guns - genuinely collectors guns.

"I don't get into the modern stuff," is how Cavagnaro put it.

Aside from the guns, there was also other military equipment: knives, helmets, canteens. There were people with video's about pheasant hunting. All sorts of stuff.

All sorts of stuff that wouldn't be legal to sell in this country if it weren't for the freedoms that we have — including the Second Amendment, which as the bumper sticker explained, makes the others possible.

I'd like to think that the First Amendment is pretty important too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

What about grapity grape?

Last week, we increased the nation's terror alert level from yellow to orange.

Attorney General John Ashcroft cited an ‘‘increased likelihood’’ that the al-Qaida terror network would attack against Americans, either at home or abroad.

The alert has been at lemony yellow, or ‘‘elevated,’’ which is the middle of a five-point scale of risk developed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It was last raised to orange a day before the first anniversary of the attacks, where it remained for two weeks. The highest alert level is red.

The color-coded system has been confusing for many, needless to say.

I know that red light is stop and green light is go, but I always forget if blue light is jog or skip.

I know that for some of you, blue light precedes "special," but at the Leffler household, Blue Light is a proper noun and goes best with pizza.

If we were smart, we'd have a purple horseshoes since horseshoes are lucky and luck tends to thwart terror attacks better than government spending.

Of course, you can't leave out "Soylent Green," which, as we all know, is made of people.

For those who didn't know, I'm sorry. I just ruined a bad movie for you.

Ashcroft, also known as Big Brother would tell you that the red condition is most severe, but we all know that Centrum Silver is what we really have to worry about.

I say we just call in Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition and have them fix everything.

Or as Kermit said, "Some day we'll find it. The rainbow connection. For lovers. For dreamers. And me."

Of course, Kermit also said, "It's not easy being green."

Green, though, is the lowest risk condition there is. Nothing should be easier than green.

If I was doing the color system, it would be all earth tones — taupes and grays. They're more pleasing on the eye.

Of course, they may not be as easy to discern on MSNBC. Especially if your television screen is off kilter.

Or, heaven forbid you still have a black and white TV.

I can just picture it: "Hello. This is Brian Williams. Today we're at dark gray, a step down from really dark gray, but its still more of a threat than just gray. Of course, folks, we haven't been at white since Sept. 10, 2001."

I'm thinking that Barbie pink means we should go out and love one another. So does aqua marine, but in another, more adult way (think the '60s).

Let's not forget purple haze (another product of the '60s). I think our president might still be in a purple haze, actually.

While were discussing music colors, I always liked raspberry beret. The kind you find at a second-hand Iraqi store because Saddam doesn't want people to think he's gone fem.

Oh, and on Iraq, I want to know if the Iraqis have their own terror code for the "likelihood" that the American military will drop bombs on their cities.

If so, I wonder how long its been at "there's no stopping these lunatic Republicans."

I know the prez wants to color code Iraq, too.

First blood red.

Then white.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

It's never too late to say 'I'm sorry'

Every so often, something happens that causes people to stop and take notice.

Saturday was one of those days. You know, the kind that people are going to remember where they were and what they were doing.

Another obvious one was Sept. 11.

The day Kennedy was shot stands out, too - of course, I wasn't anywhere, I was still a decade from birth, but you get the gist.

Usually these "where were you when" moments are sad and destructive.

But on Saturday, someone somewhere - probably right here in Lockport - found the space shuttle accident funny.

Disgusting, I know, but I'm certain it's true.

Because 17 years ago, On Jan. 28, 1986, when America lost her last space shuttle, I joked about it.

I was in sixth grade, 12 years old, still searching for who I was as a person.

I didn't take kindly to junior high - yes it was still junior high back then - and I developed a tough outer shell to hide my soft and bruised emotional inside.

Say something bad about me, I joked about it.

Something bad happened to me, I joked about it.

It was my defense mechanism. If I could turn it around, it wouldn't hurt me.

Soon, I was making jokes about things that were way off limits.

So on that Tuesday nearly two decades ago, when I saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explode (I'm not sure why, but I recall watching it in school) I decided to find it humorous.

I recall the smoke billowing from what was once a spaceship. It looked like a scorpion to me. I can't fathom now why I found that funny then, but I did.

And I wasn't alone. I remember friends of mine from school - acquaintences really, not friends - also thinking it funny.

And when I came home from school, I remember joking to my mother. I laid my hand flat on top of my other hand and pushed it upward to the sky - as if it were a space shuttle itself - and then when it reached to about my mother's eye level, I made an explosion sound and sort of chuckled.

This was how I said "hi" to my mother on this horrible, terrible day.

The horror that struck her gaze stays with me still.

And it hit me: maybe this isn't funny after all.

I learned something about myself that day. I didn't like me.

And I learned something about my mother, having upset her so. I don't think she liked me that day either.

And in the years since, I learned something about America and her love for the space program.

And this past Saturday as I watched this terror unfold before my eyes, I was saddened for the seven men and women that sacrificed their lives for a goal that I still don't fully comprehend.

And I was saddened once again for the seven men who lost their lives in January of 1986.

And I was sad that my daughter Emily didn't understand exactly what it was that she was seeing.

And I was sad that I had never told this story before.

And in 17 years, I've never said what I'm about to, but I should have.

To Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis, and Sharon Christa McAuliffe, after 17 long years, can you please forgive me? I've come a long way since then.