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The Ghosts of Columbine

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Undoubtedly the biggest news story of the week is the shooting deaths of over 50 members of the audience at a Country & Western concert in Las Vegas, a massacre perpetrated by a lone, middle-aged gunman, Stephen Paddock. 

It is now officially America’s worst random mass murder episode, narrowly eclipsing the shooting in an Orlando, Florida nightclub in June 2016 where 49 patrons were killed by Omar Mateen. Mateen was eventually killed by police after they stormed the nightclub to rescue surviving patrons.  It later transpired that his name had been known to the FBI who had previously interviewed him and concluded that he posed no real threat. 

Two years later it turned out they couldn’t have been more wrong.  He claimed allegiance to ISIS and seemingly deliberately targeted the venue because it was frequented by members of the Florida gay community and that incident was thus categorised as terrorist-related. Paddock, however chose to take his own life before police could storm the hotel room he was using to spray the unsuspecting concert-goers with machine gun fire. 

His motive is a complete mystery and it may eventually transpire that he took his reason with him to the grave.  Certainly so far his close family members seem utterly baffled as to how this man in his sixties with no criminal record would suddenly decide to commit such an atrocity.  As details emerge, it was clearly well planned and even dress-rehearsed, his arsenal of lethal weapons collected over time and modified to make them even more deadly, his hotel room chosen meticulously for its proximity and birds-eye view of the concert arena and a plethora of surveillance equipment installed in the room to monitor an approach from members of law enforcement.

The only predictable element of this still unfolding tragedy is the inevitable clarion call for a review to the country’s liberal gun laws which always follows closely on the heels of any such incident.  This is unlikely to have any effect on the status quo, given the considerable political influence on Capitol Hill wielded by the powerful pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA) which is the self-proclaimed champion of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution where the right to bear arms is enshrined in law.  They further argue that ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’; though as British comedian Eddie Izzard rightly adds ‘the guns do help quite a bit’.

The problem is that the thinking on both sides of the gun-owning argument are deeply flawed. First off, the right to bear arms was written into the Constitution by the nation’s founding fathers not to ensure that every deer hunter in the country had more than enough rifles to kill a large herd, no less than it was a free licence for anyone to arm themselves to the teeth and cause murder and mayhem, not even simple self defence.  The clause was put there for the sole purpose of ensuring that citizens could never be downtrodden by a repressive government and therefore should always have the right to take up arms against the oppressors.

On the other side,  there are so many millions, possibly billions,  of weapons in the USA right now that restricting sales wouldn’t have much effect and anyway, those with criminal intentions somehow will find a way to source the weaponry they need by fair means or foul or simply choose another method for their mass killing such as a bomb or chemical gas.  

But neither side of that argument addresses the fundamental issue of why so many similar atrocities continue to happen in the USA time after time, mostly for no apparent logical reason or justification.  In his 2002 documentary ‘Bowling For Columbine’, a reference to the original schools massacre committed by 2 seemingly straight-up students at Columbine High School in Colorado, filmmaker Michael Moore explores in depth the issues of gun sales and gun ownership in the USA and compares it to its northern neighbour, that of Canada. 

Canadians love hunting as much, if not more, than the average American.  Inside every rural Canadian is a wild woodsman just waiting to get out and go and hunt a bear or a wolf or a moose and they too keep arsenals of weapons in their homesteads for just that purpose.  The only difference is that that’s all they use their weaponry for.  Of course there is gun crime north of the border but the figures are infinitesimal in comparison to that of its southern neighbour and as for those random massacres which happen in America on an all too regular basis, they’re practically unheard of in Canada.

Moore’s conclusion therefore is that there is something very skewed at the core of the American psyche.  Not all Americans, of course, but an appreciable enough percentage of them to cause this aberrant behaviour that leaves law enforcement, politicians and even psychiatrists scratching their collective heads and wondering what causes it.

What worm crawls inside the brain of a high school or college student or a middle-aged man, from relatively affluent backgrounds and with no known links to fanatical groups or history of insanity,  to wake up one morning and decide to commit mass murder?  In the case of the Columbine teenagers, they looked into the eyes of their classmates and teachers before they pulled the trigger; in Paddock’s case he committed the act from a remote distance; but in both cases, as with so many others, the result was a bloodbath, a body count in double figures, families and lives torn apart, grief and tragedy to haunt all concerned for the rest of their days and for what reason?  None that any sane person could fathom or comprehend.

It’s easy to buy guns in America but it’s just as easy to buy guns in Canada so on that level you would have to agree with the NRA about it not being the gun that kills but the hand on the trigger:  Rather, to misquote Shakespeare, something is very rotten in the state of the United States and until that disease is eradicated, all the gun controls in the world won’t put an end to these tragedies.  And how ironic that hundreds of thousands of people flock to Las Vegas every year to gamble in the city’s casinos but little did this week’s victims know that they would end up losing at a very sick game of Russian Roulette…..

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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