Timely Tidbits

Posted on September 5, 2014. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns |

Set aside this Sunday to visit a grandparent. If yours are still living, don’t delay or miss the chance to honor them on National Grandparents Day with that greatest of all gifts—your time.

If you don’t have grandparents to visit, be a surrogate grandchild and visit someone else’s.

In our too-fast world, unhurried moments with people who have long lives and experiences is nectar for the soul.

The preamble to the National Grandparents Day law, which was adopted in the U.S. in 1978 as the first Sunday following Labor Day, claims among its purposes “to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”

The holiday strives to boost national awareness; you should seek individual awareness within your own life and relationships.

Chances are, nobody loves you any more unconditionally than a grandparent.

Nobody relishes time spent with you more.

And nobody has a greater wellspring of accumulated wisdom and perspective to share with you.

It’s possibly a national truism that nobody needs the fundamental benefits of strong intergenerational interaction more than our collective society does in this day and age.

The most senior grandparents among us grew up with solid ideals about hard work, fair play, doing right and giving back.

Despite our commitment to formally schooling our young adults for 17 of their first 22 years, many would struggle to articulate the freedoms, rights and responsibilities of American life and citizenship with the plain language and common sense that almost anybody of Social Security age could.

Perhaps the only place most of us have a chance to be exposed to that homespun eloquence is the proverbial parlor or porch at Grandma or Grandpa’s house.

Make your reservation today. And then savor it on Sunday.

Shameless activists

One of the finer grandmotherly traits in short supply today is recognizing shamefulness.

Before a shooting-range instructor could be peaceably laid to rest following a tragic accident on Aug. 25, commentators howled across mass and social media channels about needing more firearm laws to rein in our gun-obsessed culture.

What happened in White Sands, Ariz., was an on-the-job accident, and is accordingly being investigated by the Arizona workplace safety agency. Police early on said no criminal charges were warranted.

Expert shooting instructors have safety rules and regulations to follow—just like those applying to a great many other jobs that include inherent dangers.

The tragedy of firearms instructor Charles Vacca is not unlike that of an experienced utility worker who gets electrocuted for just an instant’s lapse.

Most people, me among them, have jobs where even a big mistake isn’t fatal or physically harmful. But for some vocations, mortality is just one missed step away.

A “prevail-upon-the-government” response to every accidental tragedy is unwarranted, unwise and unworkable. We might as well write laws forbidding parents to allow children to play in the street.

It’s unfortunate but true that parental guidance varies wildly among different mothers and fathers.

Personally, I chose not to allow my daughters at age 9 to shoot automatic weapons.

But the cold, hard truth is that texting while driving with a 9-year-old in your car is much less safe than taking her to a gun range.

The warmer, emotionally slippery rationalization is that, well, guns seem more dangerous.

I wouldn’t personally take a bungee cord leap, or go base-jumping, or ride a flying trapeze, or get in a ring on top of an angry bull.

People die in terrible accidents in those scenarios. But simply being dangerous doesn’t mean they should be illegal.

Americans by the thousands die each year from falling (27,000 deaths), drowning (3,000), driving (33,000) and poisoning (36,000).

The honest “news” of this story ought to be the incredible safety record amassed by shooting ranges relative to other industries and activities.

Even with 300 million guns in America, there were 600 accidental gun deaths in 2011.

Here’s a sobering contrast: Your odds of dying from an accidental firearm discharge are only a little better than dying in an airliner crash. Yet your odds of dying from a criminal assault involving a firearm are 30 percent greater than from riding in a car.

For media pundits to sensationalize this most rarest of mishaps (instructor-supervised accidental deaths at gun ranges are close to zero) to generate publicity for a pet political cause is a moral atrocity.

A grandma’s shame on them.

A grandfather’s grief

A quiet Jonesboro neighborhood was shattered by gunshots and grief on Tuesday when a 26-year-old man killed his former girlfriend and then committed suicide a few minutes later with police in pursuit.

It’s an old story, but every time it’s replayed it cuts anew.

Watching the coroner’s van leave, a relative expressed weeping resignation to senseless loss: “There goes my granddaughter.”

There have been too many untimely goodbyes to daughters and granddaughters at the hands of abusive males.

Arkansas ranks 17th among states in homicide rate for women. We can learn from other states’ successes, and strengthen our laws around approaches that have proven results. This issue needs more headlines and more action. It’s a measure we should strive for 49th in.

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