Freedom and Guns by James Brennan


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James Brennan

The time-honored tradition of singing the National Anthem before every professional baseball game has changed over the years. It has gradually morphed from a patriotic sing-along into a solo performance by the erstwhile song leader. And it seems that every soloist attempts to create greater improvisational riffs than his/her competitors. All this has left fan participation absent from the singing—except for one thing: When the words, “in the land of the free,” (more like FREEEEEEE) are belted out, there is an almost obligatory, orgasmic cheer from the crowd.

All this makes some of us wonder what being “free” means. Does it mean freedom FROM something or someone . . . like the King of England, or from slavery? Or does it mean freedom TO do or say something . . . like to speak out or to vote? Some in our nation believe that “free” means the freedom to do whatever we want to. If that were literally true, we would live in the Land of Chaos, where there there would be no genuine freedom.

Webster defines “Free” as enjoying personal rights or liberty, as one not in slavery; “Liberty” is defined as “freedom from external or foreign rule.” And “Freedom” is “the state of being at liberty from confinement or under physical restraint.”

Catholic theology maintains that freedom is one side of a coin that has that has responsibility on its other side; that we are truly free to do something only when that act is in correspondence with morality; that we are not truly free to do anything we want to do; that acting outside of moral constraints is not really freedom, but rather an exercise of license, ultimately leading to anarchy and unhappiness.

Freedom brings Rights with it. Webster defines “right” as an action “in accordance with what is just or good; a just claim or title; whether legal, prescriptive or moral; a privilege.”

Because a practice is legal under civil law does not absolve any action from being in correspondence with Moral Law. Possessing the “right” to do something does not make that action moral. Because a right is spelled out in our Constitution does not make that right limitless or beyond rational regulation.

There are no “rights” on earth that are absolute. Every freedom or right comes with moral constraints, rules and exceptions. The shooter in the Newtown massacre was not Free to do what he did. And the NRA leadership is not free to continue to defend  the boundless proliferation of weapons, ammunition and accoutrements of war under the cynical pretense that the Second Amendment guarantees such insanity.

Gun violence in our Nation is an immoral and irrational epidemic.

Our Senators and House members must examine their collective conscience, grow a backbone, and ACT to quell gun violence endemic in our country. Federal laws must be enacted NOW to ban immediately the sale of today’s machine guns—automatic rifles, pistols, and their accompanying magazines—regardless of their specific nomenclature.

Federal laws must be enacted NOW to establish background checks and 30-day waiting periods before the sale of any gun or ammunition is consummated.

Federals laws must be enacted NOW to forbid the sale of any gun by anyone except a licensed gun dealer, including sales at gun shows. Internet sales of guns must be banned as well.

I was raised in conservative Utah to hunt and fish. I loved my pistols, rifles and shotguns. All my extended family and many close friends own guns. The NRA is strong in Utah. Yet, I believe that the majority of those members have no problem accepting the banning of assault weapons and measured, rational regulation of all guns. Most NRA members are nothing like the strident, virulent spokesmen we see on TV bewailing the death of the Second Amendment. Those men are the brainwashed patsies of the corporate gun lobby.

President Obama, in his magnificent eulogy in Newtown, said the profoundly obvious: “We must CHANGE.” Change is often difficult, but it is not the end of the world.

But the legacy of our past failures to change our gun laws was the end of the world for those innocent children and their families in Newtown, and in the many previous similar mass shootings. Tragically, it is also the end of the world daily in our big cities for hundreds of our young people.

We cannot continue to justify the enabling of this horrible slaughter in our nation that prides itself in protecting not only our basic freedoms but also the lives of its citizens.

We MUST change.


Montara’s Sands . . .


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The sands remember

when you and I


on Montara’s beach

on a day long ago

when the fog swirled,

and the gulls screeched

o’r the cries

that new lovers make.


The rocks and sea remember

the vows we made on

Big Sur’s

Phifer Beach

when the sea

and wind


our love

be committed


be known.


The trees remember

the love we shared

beneath their bows

in Redwood Groves;

where we drank the wine

and ate the fruit

we fed one another.


Until one terrible day

the meadows heard

and remember

the anger and fear

that began to grow

soon to shred

our hearts

’til love’s passions

no longer could

join and mend

our souls again.


Our wounds remember

the words and acts of hate

where once were acts

of love;

torment now filling

our days, our nights,

gone the tender

caresses and words

  ’til our hearts

were drained

of blood and love

—and tears

no longer came.

Empty2roomThe walls of empty rooms

remember the silence that

filled the space

where once were sung

the songs of love;

and today no sounds

are heard at all.


The sands

rocks and sea,

rivers, meadows,

and trees

silently mourn

what we

and they



For this I pray:

that surely again

one day

the fog shall swirl

the gulls shall cry

to hide the sighs

and sounds of lovers

on the sands

of Montara.


Robert Brownbridge  November 1985

To End the Deficit, and Fix Congress, Warren Buffett says:


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Warren Buffett, in an interview with CNBC, offered great suggestions about how to end the debt ceiling and about how to fix Congress.

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” he told CNBC.”You just pass a law that says that any time there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 – before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution,seven (7) took one (1) year or less to become the law of the land all because of public pressure.

Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message

1. No Tenure/No Pension

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congress made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s),

then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message.

Don’t you think it’s time? THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!”

11,000 Deaths by Bullets in 2013 and The Right Not To Bear Arms


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At the current gun murder rate this year (2013) – 31 A DAY, CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS AMONG THEM – over 11,000 persons in our country will be dead by the end of the year. THIS IS THE HIGHEST MURDER RATE BY GUNS IN THE WORLD. This is outrageous.  (SEE FIGURES BELOW WHICH SHOW GUN DEATH COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE USA AND SEVEN OTHER NATIONS TWO YEARS AGO).



USA 10,718 . . .

JAPAN 48 . . ENGLAND 8 . . CANADA 54 . . ISRAEL 58 . . SWEDEN 21 . . SWITZERLAND 34 . . W GERMANY 42 . .



 By James Brennan

We all know the drill:  a horrific mass-shooting takes place; people die;  other people are wounded;  the American citizenry is incensed;  politicians express shock and sympathy, and resolve to “support” the surviving victims and bereaved families . . . and . . . nothing happens, nothing changes; the horror gradually fades from our national consciousness…until the next time.  And the cycle repeats…again, and again, and again

Then, after the funerals have been held and the media attention has shifted, and the spin-doctors of the NRA have done their thing, we do a collective sigh, shrug, and turn the page, as if what just happened was merely a bloody chapter in a Stephen King novel that we are powerless to change.

But these repetitive episodes of mass shootings  are not fictitious; the people who are killed and wounded are not imaginary characters or movie actors…they are our brothers and sisters, our fellow American citizens, twelve-thousand (12,000) of whom are killed–every year–by shooters of guns.

If there were a known, treatable disease that killed 12,000 Americans every year and we did nothing more to eliminate it than to wring our hands and say how horrible it was, we would be correctly called a pathetic and irresponsible citizenry.    How is this epidemic of gun violence any less a crisis than any other public health crisis?  How is it any less a national security issue than other terrorist acts?

Our Declaration of Independence (1776) states that our freedom, liberty, and life itself are given by our Creator.  Our Constitution (1789) presupposes and builds on those endowments.  Our Bill of Rights (1791) expands and enshrines those rights as the first ten Amendments to our Constitution.  The Second Amendment gives the right to “bear arms.”  Is this right limitless?  Is this federal right not subject to federal regulation?

What about the right to live free of the fear of gun violence?  The right NOT to bear arms?  The Bill of Rights includes the Ninth Amendment:  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  Those “retained” rights are at least equal to the right to bear arms.  Those rights include the right of children to go to school, play in their neighborhoods, and sleep in their bedrooms without the constant fear of being shot. Those rights include the right to worship in our churches free of the fear of guns in the pews.  Those rights include the right of people to sit on their front porches without wearing flak jackets.  Do those rights not also include the right of our government to enforce rational and strict regulation of the sale and possession of arms and armaments?

The National Rifle Association” (NRA) has become a gross misnomer.  The  NRA was founded in 1871 by two Union Army officers for “the promotion of marksmanship” of Union Army troops.  The NRA’s  interest in “promoting the shooting sports” began in 1903.  There is no date certain cited when the NRA shifted its sights to become Chief Lobbyist for the Gun Industry.  The sole thing that the NRA of today truly “promotes” is the greed of  the unregulated sale of guns  and ammunition by every means and market available.  The unbridled proliferation of arms advocated by the NRA would logically result in the carrying of  a concealed Glock pistol in every pocket and of installing a rocket launcher on every roof.

Cowardly, gutless politicians of both parties are so beholden to campaign funds proffered by the  bullies of the NRA that they are afraid to stand up and speak common sense truth to the Nation.  In a recent TV interview Mitt Romney said no further regulatory legislation was necessary to curb gun violence, that there were already enough laws.  “We cannot legislate evil out of existence,” he said.  What a cynical, pathetic response to a mammoth problem!  Should we therefore rescind all laws combatting specific evils…laws prohibiting slavery, child abuse , and murder?

Of course evil exists.  But must we not keep trying to reduce its effects?  A common sense place to start would be a comprehensive Federal Law to govern the sale of all arms, accoutrements, and ammunition: 1) Ban all mail-order/internet sales;  2) Remove ‘assault rifles’ (including their loophole model euphemisms), from all but the military and police, and ban their sale, PERIOD;  3)  Limit the sale of legal arms to licensed gun dealers only (no sales permitted at State Fairs);  4) Install national safety provision codes and waiting periods, enforced by licensed gun dealers, using a mandatory national computer network.  None of the above would inhibit the ‘shooting sports.’

Evil itself cannot be eliminated by legislation.  But the specific evil of unfettered gun proliferation surely can be.  Make no mistake:  the present state of gun proliferation is an evil; it is monetary greed–pure and simple–masquerading as patriotic principle.  And gun violence is a national disease.  Denial of this reality is a national psychosis.  Both cry out for (immediate) treatment.”




“It will be a time to kill or a time to die.”—Summer’s War [1984] by David Lee Woods


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David Lee Woods’ poignant 1984 essay addresses one of the tragedies of war. David was a faculty member at Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Francisco at the time he wrote the piece, shortly after the end of the school year in the Spring of 1984.

Summer’s War

     For me, war has always been someplace else. Even when I had on the uniform of my country, the war was someplace else, though in basic training I was taught “they” were the enemy, and I was to kill them. I have never looked down a rifle’s sight and looked another man in the eye.

     I don’t know if I could really pull the trigger and watch a man die. Even if I did not know the other man, or did not speak his language, deep inside I would know he is not my enemy. He, as an individual, has never intentionally done me any harm. We are both just in a strange place, in different uniforms, and each of us has a rifle in our hands. We have both been told that the other man is the enemy, and we must kill.

     I probably will will never have to make the decision because I took off my uniform years ago. The armies of the world do not want old men. They want the young men who have the strength to carry a full field pack and a heavy weapon. They want young men who are convinced that it is their duty to kill the enemy, or become dead heroes for their country.

     It is spring now, the time when flowers bloom on soldiers’ graves. Spring is also the time when we say good-bye to our graduating students. As students they have been in our classes, but we have also gotten to know them as real people. I have learned a lot about the hometowns of of many of my students – hometowns from all over the world. When they stop by my office to say good-bye, some of them give me their home addresses.

     Many of them have become a part of my extended family. They are like my own [sons and daughters], because to many of them I have become their American Dad. When they leave, I try to say good-bye to each if them in his or her mother tongue. I just said, “Maa Alsalama” in Arabic to a student going back home Baghdad. I also just said, Khada Hofiz” in Farsi to a student going back to Tehran. The both told me if I were ever in the Middle East they would be honored if I would come and visit them.

     After the second student walked out of my office, I realized that they are both going home to put on their own country’s uniform. I also know they they may be required to go to combat with a rifle in their hands. With their countries, Iraq and Iran, at war with each other, they may even have to look down their rifle sights at each other.

     I cannot comprehend the feelings that would go through me if I were to look down my rifle’s sight at the face of someone I knew, or see the same face that stood beside me in cap and gown, or a person who marched with me at our spring graduation.

     Though spring is traditionally the time for birth, for growth, and the time to look to the future, now in the coming summer’s heat, these two fine young men must go to war. It will be a time to kill, or a time to die. They know that in this summer’s war the time may come when they must kill a friend.

 But why?


Note: The above photograph of the metal sculpture, titled The Why Group, which is the centerpiece of the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden on Mt. Shasta, was taken by David Lee Woods. The woodcut pictured above was created by Thomas and John Bewick, as noted in a book 1800 Woodcuts by Thomas Bewick and His School, NY, Dover Publications , No. 1 Plate 160, B. Cirker, editor (1962)

One Day . . . in the San Lorenzo River


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To My Daughter, Kindree

One Day . . .
in the San Lorenzo River

One day so many years ago
with pants rolled up
to just below my knees

I walked into the gently moving
waters of the San Lorenzo river,
my bare feet grasped

the best they could
pebbles, rocks and sand
where I did my best to stand:

I could not lose my balance
I dared not fall –
no, not with you

at a fragile seven years
sitting proud and high
upon my shoulders

your arms, yours legs, your hands
clinging tightly to my neck
and my upper body.

Until suddenly you flung
your right arm up
and with finger pointing down

you loudly squealed,
“Look, daddy, look!”
“What, where?” I cried.

Quickly now, leaning farther out
you pointed deeper down
into the water ’round my feet;

And whispered, “Fishies, Daddy! Fishies!”
Arching higher on my shoulder,
and with finger to your lips

you commanded me
and all the others in the forest
to be quiet. Shhhhhh! you said.

For the next ten minutes,
or was it hours, it did not matter,
we stood and watched in silence:

You in a trance of joy and wonder
and I in reverence of your love
for those little creatures.

With such a glowing rising from you heart,
the fishies surely heard and felt your love
in the gentle whispering of their name.

The world became a better place that day.
I pray some day another child will sit high

upon her daddy’s shoulder when finding tiny creatures
in a forest, meadow or a brook;
and by her love and adoration

evolution will unfold!
ensuring all of life that walks
and flies and swims and grows
will ever be embraced.


Note: This poem’s writing began 5/20/87, completed in this form August 2006.
My daughter on my shoulders in the waters of the San Lorenzo River in the late Spring of 1976 has been a powerful image in my heart for these past 36 years.

Hawk and Dove


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The political and social struggles in our nation (and the world?) have become increasingly polarizing, divisive and detrimental to positive movement and progress. It has become common to demonize those we oppose to the point we refuse to engage in constructive and useful cooperation. As one party distances itself from the other, the likelihood of stereotyping, blaming and mistrusting increases. The duality of good and evil reigns and what we as citizens share in common is diminished. And as this happens, each opponent blames the other for its occurrence. And both sides lose. In my metaphoric poem, Hawk and Dove, both birds die in their struggle with each other and are carried away by an eternal river to the source of all life – the sea. Perhaps that is the solution to our human struggles: turn or return to our source and trust we shall be renewed again. After all, as in nature, our human struggles over time are always cyclical.


Crashing ocean waves move swiftly toward the shore until another force pulls them back to their source – the sea – again.

Inland from that roaring sea midst grasses green and brown, a nesting Dove hunkers down to protect her young from a hunter’s beak and claws.

In the sky, Hawk’s narrowed eyes search for food to feed her young. Then, as a falling shadow with folded wings and talons spread, she plunges down upon her prey.

Dove fiercely thrusts high her beak to pierce Hawk’s screaming throat. Too late. The talons stab Dove’s dying form now grasped and lifted skyward until gone.

Under blood red skies, Lark’s sweet song brings peace and sleep at day’s descension into night.


 Morning’s dawning rays bring light onto a shadowed slope on a distant mountain side. Beneath fir and pine and granite walls, lay Hawk and Dove entwined in death where once they both found life.

Near where they lie a canyon river rushes swiftly to the sea, taking soon the lifeless birds in its waters.

The river seeks only passage, surging always toward its destiny; its flowing never ceasing, with shallow channel, sometimes deep, narrow ’til it widens on its journey to the sea: the source where Hawk and Dove will be transformed into another form.


Look more closely now at the lines you’ve read: You could have been the Hawk and I the Dove. Or you the Dove with body crushed and I the Hawk with bleeding throat taken into death ’til finding life once more.


In a far-off place midst grasses green and brown, beaten down by tiny feet, infant doves are walking ’round their nest in search of seeds their mother used to feed them. As a young hawk rises from its nest and learns to hover in the sky.

Said the Children Up In Heaven


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The following poem was recited over a local Iowa radio station and was dedicated to my parents two days after my four year old sister Ruth died April 14, 1932. I found the poem among the personal effects of my mother following her death in 1990. The author of the poem is not known.

S A I D   T H E   C H I L D R E N   U P   I N   H E A V E N

O H ,   W H A T   D O   Y O U   T H I N K   T H E   A N G E L S   S A Y ?
S A I D   T H E   C H I L D R E N   U P   I N   H E A V E N .
A   D E A R   L I T T L E   G I R L  I S  C O M I N G   H O M E   T O D A Y .
S H E ‘ S   A L M O S T   R E A D Y   T O   F L Y   A W A Y
F R O M   T H E   E A R T H   W E   U S E   T O   L I V E   I N .

L E T ‘ S   G O   A N D   O P E N   T H E   G A T E S   O F   P E A R L ,
O P E N   T H E M   W I D E   F O R   T H I S   N E W   L I T T L E   G I R L ,
S A I D   T H E   C H I L D R E N   U P   I N   H E A V E N .

G O D  W A N T E D  H E R  H E R E  W H E R E  L I T T L E  O N E S  M E E T ;
S H E   S H A L L   P L A Y   W I T H   U S   I N   T H E   G O L D E N   S T R E E T .
S H E   H A S   G R O W N   T O O   F A I R,  G R O W N   T O O   S W E E T
F O R   T H E   E A R T H   W E   U S E   T O   L I V E   I N .

S H E   N E E D S   T H E   S U N S H I N E ,  T H E   D E A R  S W E E T  G I R L,
T H A T   G U I L D S   T H I S   S I D E   O F   T H E   G A T E S   O F   P E A R L
S A I D   T H E   C H I L D R E N   U P   I N   H E A V E N .

F L Y   W I T H   H E R   Q U I C K L Y ,   O   A N G E L S   D E A R,
S A I D   T H E   C H I L D R E N   U P   I N   H E A V E N .
S E E . . . S H E   I S   C O M I N G .   L O O K   T H E R E
A T   T H E   J A S P E R   L I G H T   O N   H E R   S U N N Y   H A I R .
W H E R E   T H E   V E I L I N G   C L O U D S   A R E   R I S E N ,

O H ,   H U S H !   H U S H !
A L L   T H E   S W I F T S ‘   W I N G S   F U R L E D ,
F O R   T H E   K I N G   H I M S E L F   A T   T H E   G A T E S   O F   P E A R L
I S   T A K I N G   H E R   H A N D ,  T H E  D E A R  L I T T L E   G I R L ,
A N D   I S   B R I N G I N G   H E R   I N T O   H E A V E N .

INTO THE GARDEN: Poems for Kindree and Susan in Celebration of their Vashon Island Wedding 9/1/2007


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heatherVashon Island Heather

That Love is all there is, Is all we need to know of love . . . . . . . . . . . Emily Dickinson

Love one another but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .Kahlil Gibran

A wedding . . . depends . . . only on two people with the courage to leave one life and find another, trusting each other for true patience, strength, forbearance and love to face any hardship . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pam Brown

If anyone wants to know what spirit is . . . just lean your head toward your love and keep your face there, close  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .jaluddin Rumi

Have faith in all those things not yet said or sung. . . . have faith in that and it will set you free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . after Rilke

The mountains and the meadows are calling; forest’s creatures are calling; the flowers, sea and sky are calling: come, be one with them with your divinity; enter into the mystery with poem and prayer to give to them as they have given you their beauty and their song for ten thousand years . . . R Brownbridge

The sun brings forth the beginning. The moon holds it in darkness. As above, so below. There is no greater magic in all the world than that of two people joined together in love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .Wiccan Blessing