Tag Archives: Washington

The Great Blood Compromise

16 Mar

 

The Great Blood Compromise

By L. Stewart Marsden

When the agreement reached the public, there was understandable criticism from many sides. But the overall fact was the two sides, having waged futilely at many levels for many years over the issue, had reached a compromise at last.

“It will ultimately save lives,” the Speaker of the House proclaimed, a solemn look etched by deep lines furrowed into his face as the cameras flashed. “No legislation is perfect,” he added before stepping down amid a hail of questions from reporters. He ignored them all.

When the law came into effect, thousands of semiautomatics and gear to upgrade them to automatic weapons were surrendered to Sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout the country. These were shipped to a central location in Iowa, where metal-crunching machines and huge vats, originally designed for the steel industry, were repurposed to destroy and melt down gun upon gun, including bump stocks and high-capacity rifle and gun clips. Armor-piercing ammunition was also, carefully, destroyed.

It took six months. Whether or not every weapon or ammunition clip had been collected and destroyed was a matter of fear among some. It was a matter of anger among gun owners and extreme 2nd Amendment supporters. It was a matter of hope among the survivors of past victims.

On February 10, one volunteer from each state, the country’s fourteen territories, as well as the District of Columbia were gathered in Washington at taxpayers’ expense. Their ages ranged from 18 to 93, and the ethnic and economic composite of the group was as diverse as the nation’s population.

They were quartered in the Trump International Hotel, in which each individual’s room was complete with a lavish supply of the finest cuisine and refreshment. Each was treated to exclusive amenities at the country’s expense, from spas to manicures; massages to coiffures.

They toured Congress, and met with dignitaries and the rich and famous who had gathered, and were touted in a televised ceremony that aired world-wide.

Part of their schedule was an unveiling of a memorial sculpture, onto which the face, name, age, and other personal details had been already etched. The President spoke solemnly at the event for a few moments, then posed with each of the volunteers.

The evening before February 14, Washington went dark for 65 seconds in tribute to the volunteers. NASA captured the event from space, which, again, was aired world-wide.

That first February 14 was chilly and rainy as the volunteers were bused to a point just below the Lincoln Memorial. One by one, they filed out of the buses and stood side-by-side along the western end of the Reflecting Pool, turned in the direction of the Washington Monument. Each was dressed as they would for a normal day wherever they came from.

Once positioned, members of the Marine Corps, in full dress, marched up and, one-by-one, stood behind each volunteer. The Marines covered the head of the volunteer they were assigned to with a black hood, then retreated a few steps back, rifles at the ready in stands.

“The Star Spangled Banner” was then played by the Marine Corps Band from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Spectators surrounded the mall, kept from the grounds by police barricades and officers at the ready. Family members of the volunteers stood at the west end of the Reflecting Pool, attired in black.

At the center of that gathering stood the chaplains of the Senate and the House behind a podium and microphone. Each prayed in turn for the volunteers, the Marines, and the nation. The chaplains stepped back and the Marine Detail Commander stepped to the podium. As he spoke, his orders echoed along the mall and seemed to hang in the air.

“Attention!” With rifles to their shoulders, the Marines came to a motionless stance.

“Half right … Hace!” Each Marine turned slightly to the right.

“Port … arms!” Rifles were positioned across each Marine’s chest at the ready.

“Ready … unlock!” The clicks of safeties being released sounded like metallic chatter.

“Aim!” Rifles were raised to shoulders, and each Marine pressed his/her cheek to the weapon and eyed down their sites.

A murder of crows chose the moment to fly from trees surrounding the mall and curved down the expanse towards the Washington Monument, loudly cawing at intervals.

A hesitation, then the Commander ordered,

“Fire!”

The volley of individual rifles sounded like rapid-fire to the untrained ear. Each volunteer crumpled to the ground differently, their life-blood seeping into the grass before the concrete walkway that surrounded the Reflection Pool.

There were gasps and moans, and finally weeping from the masses that had gathered to witness the event.

From the east end of the Reflection Pool a canon volleyed three times, its whitish smoke residue slowly dissipating, blown by a slight breeze.

Immediately more details of Marines marched in caskets for each body, carefully placing the volunteers into them. Each casket was then slowly hefted by Marine pall bearers, and taken to black hearses awaiting nearby, which drove slowly away.

A queue of funeral cars eased forward to pick up family members of the volunteers, and transport them to Arlington cemetery, where a special area had been designated for burying.

The media quietly and respectfully covered the day’s events without comment.

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Mary Cullens watched the coverage on her open laptop computer as she carefully packed her pink teardrop backpack in her bedroom. Focusing a bright flashlight beam on colored wires, she flinched when the seven honor guards at the special gravesite area fired three times, then carefully twisted various wires together with needle nosed pliers. She knew she would not be afforded those honors, but she also knew her name would reside in the annals of history as the first mass murderer after the initiation of what had become known as The Great Blood Compromise. After all, if one can’t be famous for something, why not infamous.

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Jury-Rigged

18 Jun

Grandfather Mountain, NC

Grandfather Mountain, NC

Jury-Rigged

By L. Stewart Marsden

I live in a condo in the mountains of North Carolina. The focus of the condo is a great room that has a spectacular view of Grandfather Mountain. The great room is about 24 feet high on the exterior wall, into which two sets of casement windows have been built, one set low, and one set high.

That wall is also southern-facing, and catches quite a bit of sunlight — and heat — during the day. In the wintertime, the heat is a welcomed source of comfort. In the summertime, not so much.

My parents lived in the condo during the summertime. They loved the green mountains and the area. In the wintertime, they migrated south to St. Petersburg and a temperate winter clime.

I’ve never seen the upper set of casement windows in the great room open before. It makes sense to open them, as hot air rises, and openings would definitely make the condo much cooler in the summer (there is no air conditioning).

Two maneuvers are required to open the casement windows: unlatching a lock lever by pushing it up; and cranking the hand crank one way or other to swivel the windows open. No sweat on the lower set of windows.

But the upper windows?

I called Andersen Windows, figuring they made the casement windows, and surely in vacation homes stacked casements are not a rarity, so they must have some device to do the trick.

Wrong.

“We just make the windows,” said the pinch-nosed customer service person who sounded like I was keeping her from her iPhone activity. “You might check with Home Depot.”

I called, but it was 9:00 am, and the people in the Windows and Doors Department don’t come strolling in to work until 10 or so. And they aren’t always there. Said the phone receptionist. Also pinch-nosed. Also irked because I interrupted some online iPhone game.

I went to Lowe’s.

Hardware stores are a man’s Nirvana! It’s so easy to get distracted by all the things you want but don’t need. But I was resolute, and kept focused, and wandered about until I found myself in the Paint Department. There I discovered telescoped handles for painters who need to reach high wall levels, or maybe ceilings. I mean this thing was industrial strength, and had a girth in the first section that took two hands to hang on to. Massive! And it extended — oh, I don’t know — maybe a couple hundred feet! There were four or five sections and I opened that sucker up all the way! I coulda scratched the back of the people waiting to check out with their stuff had I wanted.

Price: Like more than $50 bucks. At Lowe’s! I figured if push came to shove, I could buy it, use it to open my windows (not knowing exactly how) and return it for a refund. Then go back in the fall, buy it, close my windows, and return it again for a refund. I’m of Scotch-Irish descent, by the way.

Oh, like you haven’t done that before!

But I didn’t. I’m not Catholic, but I still have a conscience that can bother the heck out of me.

When I moved into the condo, I found many things out about my parents, who are now deceased. One, they were pack rats. I found copies of my dad’s public school primary through high school report cards! A little brittle from the wear of the years, but legible. They were in one of the drawers in a desk in the master bedroom. Along with paper clips, and little doo-dads and stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

I also found that my dad must have felt one electrical outlet could feed twenty more extension plugs and wires. Nearly every outlet looked as though it was regurgitating wires and plugs! Like the dad in the classic movie, A Christmas Story.

And, he had just about every tool known to mankind. Several tool kits. Screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, saws, ratchet sets, screws and nails … You name it.

I knew if I wandered about and fixated on opening that upper level of casement windows, I would be able to do it. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Hence MacGyver. Or the crew of Apollo 13 and NASA. Or any other do-or-die situation artist.

Like me!

So I wandered. And I fixated. And in the basement floor level owner’s closet (really a pretty nice-sized room) I found it! An extension painting handle, and one of those paint roller frames! So excited to try it out, I bounded back up to the great room, screwed on the paint roller frame to the extension pole, and then extended the pole!

This should not have been such an exciting and self-satisfying event, but it was! And, voila! It worked! My jury-rigged contraption worked wonderfully well, and I was able to unlock and roll open each casement!

Almost tantamount to a toddler making his first doody in the potty! Look what I did!

Jury-rigging. I used to call it jerry-rigging, for some reason. Then I found out otherwise. The term is nautical in nature. Basically means doing with what you have. Like replacing rigging on a ship miles at sea when there’s no marina or Lowe’s nearby. Like MacGyver, or the Apollo 13 crew and NASA.

It could also refer to rigging a jury, I suppose. Fixing a verdict. Or it could be the determination of something — some design or program — by a jury of folk. You know — “well I think it should do this or that” kind of process. Always works out good, right?

Kinda like our politicians in Washington, where everything is rigged to some extent, jury or jerry or whatever.

You wondered when I was going to get around to that, right?

Good place to stop.

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