As the Year of the Dog starts….

Happy Lunar New Year to all concerned. I note that The Rabbit (oddly perhaps) is a dog-year person. He has indeed confirmed this in recent years, having become a greyhound rescuer and more…. So on the Dog Year see Chinese New Year 2018.

But my mind is exercised, as many must be, with that dreadful shooting in Florida. It isn’t enough to say it is an act of evil, because some lessons seem crystal clear to me at least.

See also John Barron on ABC News (Australia).

The facts about America and guns

  • There are almost as many guns (300 million) in the US as people (population: 323 million). This is twice as many guns per capita as 50 years ago.
  • Americans represent 4.5 per cent of the world’s population yet own 48 per cent of the world’s privately held guns.
  • Not all Americans are gun-lovers. Fifty per cent of all guns are in the hands of just 3 per cent of the population.
  • The average gun-owning household has 8 guns.

Now consider this:

Gun violence in the US reached record heights in 2017 — more than 60,000 incidents, killing more than 15,000 people, according to a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence.

Compare:

Afghanistan suffered more than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, as deadly suicide and complex attacks killed and injured more people than any previous year in the war-torn country, according to the UN.

In its annual report released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, documented 3,438 deaths and 7,015 injuries – a decline from the record-high figure in 2016.

Do you find that comparison shocking?  Here’s another story: Australia’s murder rate falls to record low of one person per 100,000. Figures refer to 2013-14.

By comparison, the United States had a murder rate of 4.88 people per 100,000 in 2015, according to the United Nations office on drugs and crime. The office said in 2014 the UK’s rate was 0.92 and New Zealand’s was 0.91.

The report, by the Australian Institute of Criminology, shows knives were the most common murder weapons, responsible for 86 deaths while beatings accounting for 37 deaths.

Guns killed 32 people, marking a 63% decline since 1989-90.

And for those who may question Australia’s gun laws and their relevance, see Snopes.com: “Statistics do not demonstrate that crime rates in Australia have increased substantially since the government instituted a gun buy-back program in 1997. ”

Why the hell should any civilian in a western democracy have such unfettered access to military-style weaponry as appears to be the case in the USA? No-one seems to know. This is what yesterday’s shooter had:

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POTUS/DOOFUS — no worse, much worse

One of my former students, a writer living in Europe, posted on Facebook: “I cannot believe what he has done now. The fact that I do not need to explain what I am talking about is enough.” A commenter noted: “I yearn for the day when we never have to say his name again, or look at his face, or hear his horrible voice” and my friend responded: “Or look at his tiny hands.”

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On US site Foreign Policy: Why Trump’s most un-American moment can’t be overlooked.

As a person of Jewish parentage, I feel the danger evoked by the president’s retweets especially keenly. When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally pull out a book of family photos from the former Czechoslovakia, where both of her parents had been born. The early pages were full of well-dressed Moravian urbanites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then there were photos of the smiling faces of their grown children, all people who were later murdered in the Holocaust.

Yes, truly vile. See London Mayor, UK politicians open fire on US President for retweet of far-right group. As every decent Briton (or Australian) should!

Instead of bothering with the Buffoon-in-Chief’s execrable taste in retweets, which says volumes about his tact and intelligence, visit 7 questions Muslims are tired of hearing. Or Hundreds of Muslims marching against terrorism in London ‘ignored by British media‘ (2015).

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Fact is DOOFUS apparently — according to that hack spokesperson of his — didn’t know what vermin he was retweeting! If anything this makes his offence worse! We should all always know what the source of our posts/tweets actually is!

Finally, an apt Twitter exchange:

Brian Klaas Retweeted Donald J. Trump

More people were killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting than have been killed by Islamist terrorism in the UK since 2005.

Brian Klaas added,

I fear Donald Trump really is mad…

Unwise, for sure. Now the “other guy” in North Korea is not the full quid either, to be sure. Trouble is, between them these charlies are threatening us all! This is the worst scene I can recall since the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s. And here is something Kennedy had to say.

Kennedy, in his memoirs, wrote about the seven lessons he learned during the crisis, number six being, “Don’t humiliate your opponent,” which is, of course, a central face issue. And, as Ting-Toomey put it, “By understanding the face-honoring process intuitively, intellectually, and diplomatically, the two statesmen learned to honor and give face mutually in the eyes of their salient referents and in the arena of international diplomacy.”

That’s from a 2004 article by Sarah Rosenberg. It’s pretty much a commonplace among those of us who have ever conducted cross-cultural relationships, personal, business, educational or political. Trump just seems to have no idea! He has obviously not grasped the significance of face, especially among Koreans — wherever in the peninsula they live.

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That’s me 27 years ago visiting Wollongong with a group of Korean and Mainland Chinese from my class at Wessex College of English in Sydney. It was in that year that I began to learn about face. These students were good teachers.

How it played out for me later you may partly get from a professional post: On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students.

This post has become very long. Written over two days, it has four distinct sections.

— The first part is my immediate response to questions being asked about possible cultural factors in the tragedy that occurred at Virginia Tech. It should be noted that I do not aim to “explain” that tragedy.
— Then I present some other posts I have found that take up the same or similar questions. The most significant one comes from a Korean-American pastor.
— In the third section you may read further thoughts based on my own observation of Korean and Korean-Australian students in Australia.
— I conclude with reflections on the need to have a perspective shaped by something more than monoculturalism.

****

In the past fifteen years I have both at school and in the tuition sector had quite a bit of contact with parents and students in the Korean community. Before that (1990-1991) I learned something of Korean culture and attitudes from young adults studying English at a Sydney language college. Some of the conversations at that college went into some depth. There were some very thoughtful people in the groups I had then, many of whom were very keen to share, at times very personally and very deeply. I was interested as I had known virtually nothing about Koreans before that. What I learned stood me in good stead later on.

That someone in Donald Trump’s position seems not to have a clue about such matters ought to concern all of us. Indeed, he seems to deliberately cultivate his ignorance, preferring rather the stage show of one of his revival meetings to a mature engagement with the problem North Korea presents. That at least is how it seems to me, and it scares me more than I can say! I cannot recall anything quite like it before, not even from Reagan at his “Evil Empire” best, or George W Bush in full “Axis of Evil” mode.

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Donald Trump pursuing an Emmy or Academy Award for worst performance as President of the United States.

Tell us, when will these things happen?

Well!

Signs of the End of the Age

Matthew 24:3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 24:4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many.24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 24:7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 24:8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains.

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See Comment: Why Trump’s threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea is extraordinary — even for him

President Trump took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and, in his maiden speech there, called the leader of North Korea “Rocket Man,” decried “loser terrorists” and said certain parts of the world are “in fact, going to hell.”

But Trump’s perhaps oddly chosen colloquialisms masked what was a pretty astounding escalation of his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. Just to be clear: The president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map.