Month: May 2014

Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

This film review’s a week late, so chances are good that you’ve seen the movie…but in case you haven’t, I will be writing about plot points that you might not want spoiled.

Apropos of this movie’s time-travel story, I am suffering a big, ol’ case of déjà-vu after watching X-Men: Days of Future Past. When the original X-Men movie was released in 2000, I had access to a lot of fellow comic geeks who anticipated the movie. Same with X-Men 2: X-Men United in 2003. I’d ask the X-Men fans what they thought of the movie, and it was nearly unanimous: Awesome! Loved it! Couldn’t be more pleased!

I was disappointed because I thought the X-Men movies were so awful. An hour-long debate would usually commence with the film admirers (not that debates over the nuances of the various elements of comic book worlds was uncommon). I had plenty of ammunition: “What happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else…” Come on…and why does Wolverine have to throw in swear words at the climax? What, to show he’s tough! Unnecesary! Why does Jean Grey have to leave the Blackbird in order to lift it out of the path of the deluge? Just stay on the plane! It’s a formulaic movie conclusion, just like in the first movie, when we’re supposed to hold onto our seats while Cyclops lines up a shot with his optic blast for heightened tension…unnecessarily! Why do the X-Men movies conclude with such lousy planning and loose plot points?

X-Men: The Last Stand was released in 2006, and I was pleasantly surprised. Imagine my shock when X-Men fans nearly revolted, trashing the movie. To me, it seemed to bring the X-Men movie universe back to the roots of what made the comic so excellent: for instance, the tension between homo sapiens and homo superior, with the Mutant Registration Act, and the X-Men’s mission to show human beings that they would stand for them against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This was one of the most interesting themes of Chris Claremont’s lengthy run on Uncanny X-Men. The Last Stand included elements of the Dark Phoenix saga, arguably the best storyline from the comic, and the movie did a fine job of incorporating Jean Grey’s dark alter-ego into the fold (considering that incorporating the alien components of the Shi’ar universe into the plot might have been too much for movie-goers). The special effects were so much better in The Last Stand than the previous movies, and I finally felt there was an excellent visual representation of what a battle with mutants should look like on the big screen. The conclusion was satisfactory, also, for a change. Yet, my interviews with comic book fans yielded the same conclusion: Brett Ratner RUINED it! (IT RUINS IT!! Why does it ruin it, precious?)

I finally reached karmic satisfaction with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class in 2011. The fans loved it. I loved it. All was good in the world because there was consensus of what a well-wrought X-Men film should look like. Kumbaya, X-Fans…

…which brings us to this week’s release. I’ve talked to a few comic fans. I visited my local comic shop. I’ve scoured the internet for feedback.

Awesome! Loved it! Couldn’t be more pleased!

Whoa. Déjà vu.

When I left the theater, I could only utter one word to my wife (who enjoyed the movie and probably wanted to kick me out of the car while it was moving): SUCK!

SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUUUCCCKKK!!!

X-Men: Days of Future Past did indeed suck, and I’m right back where I was with the first two movies. I spent an hour debating the finer points of suckitude with my comic-book dealer, my brother-in-law, and a few internet buddies. I’ve accumulated quite an arsenal of reasons why the movie sucked, all of which are summarily dismissed by the seemingly brain-washed masses that so badly need this movie to be cool. I fail to understand why they had to yet again incorporate a formulaic conclusion, with unnecessary tension, lousy planning, and loose plot points.

There is one consistent factor on the timeline of my disappointment, and his name is Bryan Singer.

I will quote John Scalzi, writer-extraordinaire and critic I respect, from his review of X2: X-Men United: “The X-Men movies are fairly dour as far as superhero films go, and you have director Bryan Singer to thank for that.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and it applies to X-Men: Days of Future Past, also.

The exchanges between Professor X and Magneto wanted to make me rip the hair out of my head…perhaps that is how Xavier became bald, after realizing the awful way his character “matures” in this movie. Attempting to show how a whiny, dejected Professor X became the wise mentor of the group was the downfall of this film (along with the myriad plot threads that consistently make no sense whatsoever). Having to suffer through the dialogue between Professor X and Magneto was too painful, and since it was the main gist of the character crisis of this film, you can see where my fury starts. What a waste of talent in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to deliver such rotten, vapid dialogue.

The most unnecessary scene involved Professor X when using Cerebro to find Mystique. The Professor just can’t find the gumption to make it work, and good ol’ Wolverine has to interject, giving him the go-get-‘em attitude. Let’s send you back to my body in the future so you can hear some empty platitudes from your future self, so you can come back with those useless, empty platitudes that will have no effect whatsoever until the culmination of the plot that will end up saving everybody at just the perfect moment! I found myself grumbling to myself at this point: Just get on Cerebro, find Mystique, collaborate a better strategy than just showing up and getting slaughtered by Magneto, and maybe we could have a better ending than the one I am positive will be dished to us…maybe some dignity could have been retained for Charles Xavier’s character, the rock-solid ethical cornerstone of the good-guy mutant agenda (until this rotten film representation).

Before I rip the conclusion of this movie apart, I’d like to mention some of the unbelievably stupid plot points that make no sense whatsoever:

• At the very beginning, Charles Xavier has to explain to the future Wolverine how difficult a man he was in the past when Magneto pipes up: “You’ll need me, too,” to which Xavier agrees! Do you think these wise, old men might have suspected a problem with involving Magneto, who was safely imprisoned anyway? Do you think they might have surmised that he might SCREW THE WHOLE DEAL UP, ya know, since he’s the most powerful mutant super-villian alive, intent on destroying humanity in grandiose fashion?! Do you think even a reformed Magneto himself might have known that maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea? I guess not, because they glossed over it pretty quickly at their preliminary planning session…

• So Beast manages to develop a serum in the 70s that allows him to change back and forth from beast-mode to human-form at will, like a werewolf…weird how that was always the one scientific concoction that eluded him throughout the entirety of his character’s history (including when he was introduced in The Last Stand, when a similar formula was developed, much to Beast’s surprise). The great thing about the serum also, is that it allows Professor X to walk again!…and oh yeah, it takes away the mental powers of the world’s most powerful telepath. Talk about convenience for the sake of writing a script that anticipates a faulty conclusion…

• And speaking of Beast, did they retain the make-up artists and choreographer from Jack Nicholson’s werewolf in Mike Nichols’ Wolf?…from twenty years ago. Archaic and hackneyed.

• So all Magneto has to do is study some tech-specs of the Sentinels, inject some railroad ties into the machinery, and he gets to control them completely. I wasn’t aware he had that ability. Why didn’t he do that in the future scenario?

• And speaking of the sentinels, Bryan Singer made a point about stressing the lack of technology from the 70s, but those Sentinels sure looked modern. In fact, I’m pretty sure if we marched giant robots on stage behind the President in 2014, a crowd of people wouldn’t start clapping, but instead would run away in terror at just the sight of them.

• And speaking of the President, wouldn’t the fact that Magneto had killed JFK (or might have…this didn’t make much sense either) with his mutant powers have been more impetus to declare mutants dangerous than the assassination of a scientist like Bolivar Trask? Just saying…

• I don’t mind them sending Wolverine back in time instead of Kitty Pryde (like in Uncanny X-Men 141 & 142). I understand there are going to be some concessions for the sake of movie goodness. But really, just the sight of William Stryker with a taser in him (did they have tasers in the 70s?) sends Wolverine into a psychic trauma at precisely the correct time that he is needed to thwart Magneto? The script just started falling apart at that moment…

• …and Magneto acts all chummy with the mutants until he decides he’s going to coldly kill Mystique to avoid future Armageddon. However, he later realizes that all they need is a DNA sample and realizes that killing her is unnecessary. Sorry, Mystique (and sorry for not saving the future, also!). The assumed assassination is thwarted, but events still transpire because Mystique AND Magneto are now both intent on creating a public show of terror that will instigate the start of human dominance and sentinel takeover…even though they are both aware of what will happen if they do! The pair even had a conversation about it! I thought these characters were supposed to be intelligent leaders of the mutant movement. How dumb and nonsensical.

It’s obvious that the script was designed to take the bare essentials of the comic-book storyline and make it work somehow on the big screen, adding convenient device after convenient device, so Singer could utilize his special tactic of having characters whine at each other about their character flaws (and Magneto picking up big structural pieces of architecture). But nothing was more disappointing and mind-numbing than how this movie ended this confusing time-travel fiasco. I’ve always suspected comic-book time-travel plots would not be a good thing to try on the big-screen, and I was more-than-right here.

We are supposed to believe that the events of the past align perfectly with the timeline of the future, so that we can enjoy a climatic finale where the future mutants might be killed if the past players don’t mess up their mission. This makes no sense in a time-travel story. It opens up to too many possibilities, like what moment they should have leapt to (like when Trask was born, instead of precisely before the assassination), how time physics work (how much time was needed for Kitty Pryde to hold steady about Wolverine’s head without sleeping, eating, or bleeding out?), and at what precise time the horrific future would have been avoided (and what does it matter if the future players die?! They will cease to exist anyways?!!).

And by the way, at what point was the apocalyptic future prevented? It was the point where Mystique changed her mind and lowered the gun that was to kill Trask in front of a public audience. We are supposed to believe that the world collectively gasped a sigh of relief, abandoned their fear of mutants, jailed Trask, abandoned the Sentinel program, and prevented the mutant genocide…AFTER Magneto and Mystique proved through terrifying fashion that there are all-powerful mutants that COULD easily assassinate the President and his cabinet on a whim. Yep, I’m not buying that crappy interpretation.

Then, Wolverine wakes up at some random moment in the future to discover all things X-Men are happy-go-lucky again. He and Professor X talk about it, wink at each other, content in the knowledge that Wolverine is in fact the mentor of the mutant race and responsible for making Professor X the leader that he is. Garbage conclusion. Awful, awful movie.

I’ve been told (and I have read) that I shouldn’t expect realism if I’m going to see an X-Men movie. I don’t expect realism; I expect some semblance of verisimilitude. I assumed that the intention of this movie was to wrap up the plot points of the previous movies. If that’s the case, then Wolverine would have to awaken sometime between the first X-Men and X-2: X-Men United, and any newer X-Men movies will carry on after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. However, I suspect any newer sequels will retain the all-star cast accumulated, including Cyclops (Bryan Singer’s buddy, James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and Professor X (Patrick Stewart OR a clean-shaven James McAvoy…not sure how that would make sense). The final moment of Stryker revealing himself as Mystique makes me suspect that new X-Men movies will employ the comic-book standby of alternate timelines. Good luck getting casual movie fans to understand how that works, Marvel! Since you’ve overused it in the comic-book universe, why not start to work it into your movie plots? You’ve lost me, and as a life-long comic book reader, I actually understand how that works…it means that the events of Days of Future Past only represent one timeline, where the Sentinels destroy the remaining mutants, and the story in the movie becomes irrelevant because the apocalyptic future is still happening on other timelines. Only one timeline was saved, and there are infinite timelines where different conclusions occur. Try to run that idea past your movie-watchers, Marvel.

P.S. It wasn’t all bad. I really enjoyed the introduction of Quicksilver into the Marvel movie universe. The scene where he saves the day playfully while listening to Jim Croce’s “Time In a Bottle” was easily my favorite…even if Bryan Singer somewhat plagiarized it from Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

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Edward Snowden: Appeal from a Whistleblower

I was excited to watch last night’s NBC interview with Edward Snowden, so I guess I’m a political nerd, or a news junkie, or just genuinely fascinated with the current American landscape. We haven’t been exposed much to Snowden, and I was genuinely interested to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. If nothing else, he has become iconoclastic, if not an icon. I admit I’m still undecided about his actions, mostly because much of the opinion can only be formed based on media commentary and government propaganda. I have to say, my impression of Snowden has improved because of this interview.

I’ve taught a few classes of technical writing, which focus on elements of business correspondence. We’ve dealt with the issue of whistle-blowing in these classes, and I usually have a bad taste in my mouth after mimicking the claims made in several of the textbooks concerning whistle-blowing. A general synopsis: employees should seriously consider the repercussions of whistle-blowing, like losing your job, challenging authority, losing legal battles, having a blight on your resume, and hurting the operations and financial stability of your corporation. I usually add my own commentary about whistle-blowing, which usually expands upon the evils of corporate tactic, but I don’t elaborate much because I don’t want students to get the wrong impression and hurt their own chances at finding work and keeping a job. There are obvious repercussions to whistle-blowing: just look at Snowden. However, there are obvious problems in our government systems, our corporate businesses, our healthcare system, our legal system, our education system, our consumer systems…and everybody’s encouraged to keep their mouth shut and let those who supposedly know better dictate how we are supposed to live.

Don’t rock the boat. There are too many people on it. If you try to rock it too hard, then we’ll cast you overboard…and we’re light on life preservers.

I agreed with much of Snowden’s testimony because I’ve seen it myself in action within a corporate working environment. You spot some error or unethical tactic in the operations. You report it to your superiors, using the right channels, and you are told, “Yeah, it sucks, but that’s the way things operate.” Administrators are put in charge, and they have the final say in all matters…and I’ve yet to find an administrator who’s willing to change the system for good communal ethical reasons, instead of gate-keeping minutiae, corporate politicking, increased authoritarian power, financial profit, or personal gain. I found myself nodding in admiration of Snowden more than disgusted by his “traitorous actions.”

I think I spotted one mistake of Snowden’s. When asked if he was a patriot, he said yes. The look on his face told me, “Oh crap…I shouldn’t have said that.” Considering many of the news headlines are running, “Snowden calls himself a patriot,” he probably should have abstained from the gotcha question. Unfortunately, much of what he said will be lost because of that inane designation…and it’s a shame because almost everything else was quite relevant and well-spoken.

John Kerry seems to have taken it upon himself to oppose Snowden’s testimony. He seems most incensed by the “patriot” comment. Today, he piped up about Snowden “being a man.” In light of the close scrutiny of the misogyny displayed by the Santa Barbara shooter, perhaps Kerry should have chosen his words more carefully…maybe consider how telling someone to be a man can create a bit of pressure on a male, under which some men snap or make the wrong decision. Does Kerry seriously think “being a man” means to turn one’s self over to a metaphorical lynch mob? Is serving jail time part of that masculine identity? If a woman had whistle-blown on the NSA, then should she “be a man” and face the music, played by a government with egg on its face? A very desperate ploy, Secretary Kerry.

I think John Kerry would be better served to first consider the sins of the father before chastising the son. There is little admission of guilt about what seems to be legitimate violations of citizens’ privacies by government institutions. By the day, more and more of Edward Snowden’s account seems to be kosher. Our government representatives are bellowing louder and louder at Edward Snowden, hoping to pin all of the injustices and mistakes upon one, solitary whistleblower.

Methinks our government doth protest too much.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Bart the Scribbler

If I hadn’t included Bartleby the Scrivener in my curriculum that semester, none of it would have occurred. Bartleby’s not uncommon for an introductory literature course. I don’t assign blame to any one individual, but if I hadn’t used it, maybe what happened to Bart and I wouldn’t have happened.

He seemed like a normal kid when the semester started. He answered when his name was called for roll. His name read Brian Simpson, but he wanted to be called Bart — three guesses why. He pretended to pay attention when I lectured and even raised a few poignant questions. He seemed like a potentially bright student.

The day came early in the semester when the students were assigned the Melville story. It was to be a simple study in the use of character in literature. Nothing mind-blowing, it was just a simple reflection on the first-person narrator, Turkey, Nippers, Ginger Nut, and, of course, Bartleby. It was a fairly difficult read. I thought it might weed out some of the lesser-enthused students from those who might be interested. Of course, when I addressed the class, nobody wanted to contribute.

“What did we learn about the narrator from the interaction between him and Bartleby in the story?” I asked. Blank stares answered.

I don’t know why I asked Bart. It might be because his was the only name I remembered at the time. He did have that easy-to-remember moniker.

“Bart, would you like to take a shot at answering how the relationship between Bartleby and the narrator helped define the NARRATOR as a character?” I asked in my best authoritative voice. I raised my hand into the air in theatrical fashion without even looking at Bart. I always felt that dramatic appearances and voices would help grab the kids’ attention. After a moment of letting my performance sink in, I looked directly at Brian Simpson. He returned my stare and answered his reply.

“I’d prefer not to, sir,” he said.

I must admit, the first time he answered me that day, I was thoroughly amused. A few of the other students got it and guffawed at the cheap laugh. I smiled at him, but he did not return it. He remained placidly calm.

“Well, at least I know one of you has read the story for today,” I said. I returned my attention back to the class. I spent the rest of the class period lecturing and receiving mostly unenthusiastic responses. Bart didn’t speak up again that day.

A few classes after that one, I had another opportunity to talk with Bart. We were analyzing Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and I asked him a question. I noticed he was doodling on a piece of paper, drawing little cartoon characters like he was still in high school. I was somewhat irritated by his lack of concentration and I thought it was my duty to disrupt his juvenile behavior. I gave him my sternest look and my gruffest voice.

“I’d prefer not to answer today, sir,” he said. He continued to draw without even looking up.

The class was deadly silent. They could see on my face that I was no longer amused. We were no longer studying Bartleby, so his answer now seemed downright offensive. What was I supposed to do, though? I didn’t want to create a scene. Contrary to what most students believe, professors don’t enjoy dressing down students in front of others — at least, I didn’t. Taken aback by his response, I simply shrugged my shoulders and carried on with the class.

Subsequent classes saw the same behavior from Bart. I made sure to ask him a question each class just to test his endurance. He assured me that he was more than capable of outlasting me by answering with his now obligatory answer. I should have rebuked him quite noisily at some point during the semester. The other students might take a hint from Bart’s behavior, though none of them ever attempted such a thing. He would continue to doodle to his heart’s content, ignoring me until I would directly address him. He would inform me of his preference to refrain with an amused countenance.

I cannot fully explain why this student held power over me. All I can say is that I respected him to a degree. He had chosen an identity from literature that he had creatively chosen to assume. I was intrigued to see where his experiment would take him.

There was a problem with Bart though that would eventually have to be addressed. He was no longer turning in his assignments. He had a row of zeroes running across my grade book that started from the very day I became reacquainted with Bartleby the Scrivener. I decided it was time for a confrontation.

Eventually the time came for the mid-term exam. The other students dutifully went about the task of completing their exam while Bart sat in his back corner writing on his exam. I could see from my perch at the front of the room what he was doing.

One by one, my students rose, handed me their exams and walked out of the room. All of them did this, save for one. When Bart was the last student in the room, I rose and approached his desk. I was a little unnerved by the anticipation I had amassed from the thought of this altercation.

“May I see your exam, Bart?” I asked him. I fully expected him to answer “I would prefer not to,” so I swiped his test from the desktop before he could protest.

Sure enough, the paper was full of scribbling. He may have started doodling legible characters when he had started, but he had finished by drawing oblong circles and squiggly lines all across the front. The paper had become so thick with ink that the pen markings had run through his paper onto the desk beneath it.

“Bart, is there any reason you continue with this behavior?” I started. “It’s getting a little tired. I understand where you draw your inspiration from, but this is no way to act at a college level. I’m sure you can be a good student, but this behavior is not helping you in the least bit.”

“I just would prefer not to do the work, sir,” Bart said.

“I understand that, but it’s not really fair to the other students,” I said. I was prepared with all of the normal clichés.

“It’s normal to find homework and tests tedious,” I continued, “but in order to be successful here, you need to apply yourself and finish your work. Now I’m willing to let you finish your test and turn in your work at your leisure. That’s not something I would concede to very easily, but in your case, I’m willing to make an exception. Do you think you can make an effort to finish your work for me, Bart?”

He looked down at his desk where his scribbling was freshly imprinted. I thought that I might be making a breakthrough, but he looked up from his pondering with that cool look I had become accustomed to.

“I would prefer not to,” he said.

I felt my cheeks flush red with blood. I was not angry, but embarrassed. How could he continue to be so defiant in the wake of my most generous offer? I could easily get in trouble for making such a proposal, but I was willing to take the chance. Couldn’t he see the lengths I was willing to go to ensure his success here?

“Fine. Then I will be forced to give you an ‘F’ for the class, Bart. I strongly suggest that you withdraw before it comes to that,” I said. I abruptly got up, crumpled his test into a paper ball and threw it into the trash receptacle. I shoved the other exams in my briefcase and exited the class. Bart remained in his seat nonchalantly witnessing my tirade. I knew he wasn’t going to be influenced by my temper, but I performed the act for my own edification, not his.

As expected, Bart did not withdraw from the class and continued to blow off his assignments. He was present at every class, but did not contribute. I no longer called on him. I consigned myself to the realization that he was a lost cause. I saw him occasionally when I walked the halls of the campus. I made every attempt to be cordial, saying hello and smiling, but he never addressed me in return. He passed me as if I wasn’t even there.

Inevitably, the end of the semester came. Bart turned in a scribbled-on final exam and I gave him the grade I felt he deserved. Having failed Bart, I thought that I could put that part of my academic career behind me. I vowed I would never let a student dominate in that fashion again.

I taught the same course during the summer directly after the spring semester when I had the pain of teaching Bart. The first day of the summer semester, I was flabbergasted to find Bart sitting at a desk in the back scribbling away. The other students must have thought I had seen a ghost because I stood at the front of the class for several minutes without speaking. Eventually, I made my way to my briefcase and checked my roster sheet again. I had checked it when I first received it to make sure that the name Brian Simpson was not on it. His name was nowhere to be found as I looked it over a second time. I looked up at Bart to see if he was watching my disbelief, but he continued to be focused on his scribbling. I stumbled through that first class, growing angrier every time his visage passed my gaze.

The next class period, I made it a point to get there early to cut him off. I stood in the doorway and waited. When he appeared at the end of the hallway, I stayed my ground. He walked towards class and held my heated stare the entire way. He stopped a foot short of me, easily entering my personal space as if it already belonged to him.

“Go home,” I said.

“I’d prefer not to,” Bart said.

“I don’t care what you would prefer, you are not coming in this classroom,” I said. I was ready to exchange blows if it came to it. He stood there waiting for more, so I obliged him.

“Your little act was cute for awhile, but it has overstayed its welcome. I checked with the registrar and you are not enrolled in this class. You have no right to be here, especially since all you want to do is play games and waste my time. GO HOME,” I finished with built-up vigor.

Bart stood where I was sure he could feel my heated breath. He showed no emotion and calmly observed my pent-up rage. He stood there for several minutes without decision, and eventually turned and walked back down the hall with a quiet pace.

I was satisfied with my hard-line stand, but the next class found Bart in the same seat. I quietly apologized to the other students that I could not conduct class that day and went directly to the department head. I told her the whole story, and after the appropriate channels were taken, Bart was expelled from the university. The campus police were notified and he was barred from showing up on school property. I heard that he had shown up several times in the parking lot and had to be escorted off, though he never resisted the show of force.

I suppose I should have felt good about my actions, but I did not. I felt miserable. I had lost the contest. Bart had challenged my abilities as a teacher and he had won. Worse, he had used the medium that had been my passion against me. I certainly should have seen the conclusion of our relationship simply by perusing the literature. After that summer course had ended, I informed the department head that I would be engaging in a year-long sabbatical. I was not certain I would return.

I had occasion to see Bart one more time. I was at a supermarket shopping amongst the other civilians when I saw him. He was with a small group of young people. He appeared to be carrying on like any other youth his age, not showing any indication of his former persona. He was engaging in conversation. He was laughing and he was joking. I felt I had to talk with him in this vulnerable state.

I approached Bart and he saw me coming. His comfortable face calmly transformed back to its familiar appearance. He looked as if he expected my coming. His companions stood speechless, like followers of some learned prophet.

“Bart, I had something I wanted to say to you…” I said.

“I know you,” he said, “and I want nothing to say to you.”

I was startled by his reply — his dedication to the persona — but I continued anyway.

“Bart, I’m sorry things had to happen the way they did. Maybe you were right to do what you did or maybe I was right to do what I did. I know that your life was altered by me, but I want you to know that you have altered me as well.” I paused to compose myself. He calmly let me continue, preparing to finish his performance. I helped him the best that I could.

“I hope you are happy with who you are…and where you are,” I said. I offered my hand. I now understood the answer to the question I had asked him last spring in that fateful class.

He smiled at me and obliged my hand.

“I know where I am,” he said, and doing so, finished his role as Bart the Scribbler and mine as the narrator of the tale.

He left me and we both continued to play the parts in life that we preferred to play.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Is Gun-Love a Mental Illness?

The recent mass shooting in Santa Barbara will surely start a fresh round of battle for the American gun debate. Gun-enthusiasts are already jumping to the defense of guns with their tried-and-true methods of aggressive deflection…and why not? It’s been working quite well for the NRA, as instead of legislation supporting background checks or enforced registration, laws allowing for easier purchase and public carrying are the order of the day. Those of us who campaign for gun-regulation find ourselves outnumbered in public forums and legislative bodies. I often assume that most who might oppose gun-proponents either become intimidated by the bullying tactics or frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement of a problem with guns in our country. It’s the height of defeatism to acknowledge that mass-shootings will continue to occur…but they will, and they are occurring with more regularity. There does seem to be consensus on this fact from both sides of the debate.

I find myself asking the following questions, and I follow with my opinionated answers:

Are increased mass-shootings occurring because of more guns in our country or increased mental illness in our society?

Many of the arguments from the NRA ask us to consider increased attention on mental illness instead of taking guns away from responsible citizens. According to the NRA, television, movies, and video games create an environment of encouraged violence, not gun-proliferation. There is a sickness in our American society, for which we cannot blame the gun. This sickness is mentally-based and prolific, and more individuals are succumbing to mental illness. Yet, the NRA appeals to the psychologically-undiagnosed gun owner under the assumption that he is unaffected by the social environment. In order to defend ourselves, the psychologically-balanced must arm themselves to shoot the mentally-ill gun-users in defense. More guns are sold within a country that is already heavily-armed. More Americans succumb to psychosis generated by a violence-inducing culture. It seems that only after the fact of a mass-shooting we can verify a mentally-ill individual, not prior…and more guns are needed to thwart the mentally-ill. We might assume that both gun-proliferation and increased mental illness are to blame for an increase in mass shootings, not just one component.

Why do we assume that mental-illness and gun-ownership are two mutually-exclusive conditions that are not affective of each other?

A key component of the NRA’s argument to focus on mental illness is the assumption that responsible gun-owners are not capable of succumbing to mental illness. This is central to the problem of curing mental illness in our country. It is difficult to understand how pervasive mental illness is in our community. According to the Mental Health Association, one in five Americans suffer from mental depression, and many Americans with depression are undiagnosed. It is easy for Americans to deny they might be mentally-ill; in fact, it is encouraged by many of our social messages. “Snap out of your funk.” “You’ll be fine.” “Buck up and be a man.” “Stop being a cry-baby.” “Get back to work, like a good American.” “Strap yourself in order to defend yourself.” Most Americans are encouraged to hide their mental depression, and violent episodes usually become the most objective evidence of mental illness of an individual. The NRA further propagates this denial of mental illness in its defense of gun-ownership. The NRA should further consider how their agenda for gun-proliferation can also affect the social policies, norms, mores, and laws, within our environment, that increase mental depression and violent episodes in its citizens. Personally, I find myself suffering more and more agoraphobia within the NRA’s version of America.

If we need to focus on mental illness as the primary cause of mass shootings, and mental illness is becoming more prevalent, then why would we want more guns in more citizens’ hands without regulatory psychological examinations?

The assumption of gun-proponents is that gun-opponents want to take their guns away. They fail to listen to the suggestion of implementing background checks and gun regulation in order to decrease public gun violence. I personally have testified on numerous occasions that it is legitimately lawful for a home-owner to possess a gun if they want to defend their self, family, and property, as long as they lawfully register the gun, take gun-safety training, pass psychological examinations, and practice safe gun-ownership on their own private property. A citizen should be able to decide if they want to have a gun in their house; conversely, a citizen should also be able to decide to not have a gun in their home because he thinks it is safer not to own one, as several studies concerning inter-familial murders and suicides have supported. The problem with many of these mass shootings is that they take place in public, where there is not any choice by the victims. If the second amendment protects gun-ownership, then it should be reserved for the citizen’s property, not his neighbor’s. For the protection of the public trust, it is certainly necessary to determine if individuals are psychologically stable enough to carry arms in public. It should not be assumed that an American consumer is both mentally-stable and responsible when purchasing a tool that is designed to maim, destroy, and kill. It should be assumed that an educated American consumer is purchasing arms for three reasons only: 1) to protect one’s property, 2) to hunt responsibly, or 3) to use in sporting competitions. Regulation of guns is necessary to ensure that guns are only used for these purposes by an American citizen who is not a soldier or duly-appointed law officer/security guard (and I think the second Amendment should be rewritten to reflect this…though I know gun-proponents think that would be like re-writing the Bible). Any extension beyond these three criteria contributes to the furtherance of gun violence in public. Promoting a lack of regulation will increase the American misuse of firearms, and it will continue to generate more mass-killings, more failed vigilantism, and more innocent deaths. Those of us who choose not to arm ourselves will have to live in fear of our lives because those who block regulatory legislation have taken the choice to avoid gun violence away from us.

How would gun-proponents react if they were told they could not own a gun because they have demonstrated mentally-ill tendencies?

Many gun-owners promote themselves as law-abiding citizens. I suspect much of the antagonism against gun-regulation comes from the idea that American law will likely change regarding gun-ownership. Citizens who love guns and possess guns might be told they can no longer purchase guns, or they will have to forfeit the guns they already possess. If criteria for designated psychological traits are created that prevent gun-ownership for potentially violent individuals, then I suspect a lot of psychologically-imbalanced, violent individuals will become law-breakers…and here’s the boiling point of the American gun debate: we cannot conceivably agree on psychological criteria for citizens who might be too mentally unstable to own a firearm. If we designate a tendency for violence as a criterion, then we might assume that having a large gun collection or an overwhelming fascination with guns as legitimate indicators. If we examine rhetoric of an individual to determine rational thought and mental stability, then the inductive/deductive claims of NRA supporters and gun-proponents might work against them in determining their ability to possess a firearm. If we create psychological exams to determine who might be most insensitive of taking another’s life with a firearm, then we might learn that many existing American gun-owners are the most willing to engage in a gun-battle, and most self-confident about taking another human life. If we want to curb gun violence by determining who is psychologically stable enough to possess a gun in public, then we might be disappointed to learn that the majority of Americans do not qualify to safely own a gun.

Why are gun proponents so adamant in defense of gun-ownership when mass-shootings occur?

Santa Barbara is the latest, but I’ve already examined multiple arguments online and in the news made by gun-proponents who hope to deflect attention away from their precious guns. I’ve made it a habit of examining the comments sections of many a legitimate online gun-related article, where gun-enthusiasts flood the internet with their attacks on gun-opponents. As a blog-writer of many subjects, I’ve found that my essays promoting gun-control have primarily been examined and attacked. There is a passion for guns in this country, and even minimal scrutiny will indicate this for the casual observer. I often wonder what the motivation for this is. Out of all of the debates occurring in this country, I’ve found that mentioning gun regulation generates the most attention. I understand the legitimate claim of gun-ownership for protection, but certainly the enthusiasm against gun-control cannot be generated out of a passion to secure one’s self. Within most internet comments, I observe a subjective love for the inanimate object of a gun. I often assume a personal relationship of the gun-defender with his own weapon. This relationship is adoring, to the point that it seems to reflect a love for the weapon over the love a person might have for human life (other than a gun-defender’s own life, of course). A gun-defender defends his right to own a gun as passionately as he might defend his own child. I have concluded that it is subjective love of guns that motivate the gun-defender, and it has been confirmed by the frequency of gun-defenders’ rhetoric generated in the American gun debate.

Why are their arguments so aggressive and dismissive?

Examining the subjective love gun-proponents have for their guns, I have deduced two commonalities. The first is that gun-love inspires aggressive, antagonistic claims. Most of the comments of gun-proponents are designed to defeat the opponent. I often correlate the tendency of violent rhetoric with possession of a gun, and perhaps it is unfair to do so…however, a psychological profile of one who possesses a gun might indicate a tendency to aggressively bully those who do not possess a gun. Certainly we might assume that a man that has a gun strapped to his person might display more confidence in public exchanges. I often assume that possessing a gun enables more aggressive rhetoric, and the comments I read do not debunk my assumption of aggressive tendencies for gun-proponents one iota. Second, gun-proponents are adamantly stubborn about their position. They do not regard rational opposition or consider the validity of logical retort. They rehash the same tired arguments, even after they have been thoroughly debunked. Gun-proponents simply do not listen, electing to assume their aggression and fervor will win the argument. Perhaps, gun-possession creates a loss of hearing or lack of comprehension. I certainly believe that gun-love can selfishly create willful ignorance and dismissive tendencies. These two commonalities—sustained aggression and dismissive apathy—can be designated as psychologically deficient in any person, gun-owner or gun-abstainer. I notice these two traits are present in the majority of gun-owners in their rhetorical representations.

Couldn’t we assume that being a “gun-nut” might, in fact, demonstrate legitimate craziness?

I do not like using the term “gun-nut” or “crazy” because it is too easy to utter…and it too frequently escalates the ire of gun-proponents. However, I often find myself succumbing to my frustration by calling gun-proponents “gun-nuts” or “crazy” after sustained debate…and usually it comes after gun-proponents have labeled me a “leftist, liberal nut” or “a crazy gun-control freak.” We obviously have a problem designating mental illness in this country. The Santa Barbara shooter “suffered” from misogyny and ostracization…if he was mentally ill, then there are too many potential mentally-ill male shooters existing about us today. Many gun-proponents seem to want to defend their right to be able to shoot someone whom they find to be threatening…I do assume this might be the start of legitimately insane thinking, as I know from conversations with soldiers and police officers how debilitating it can be to the psyche to take someone’s life with a gun, enemy or otherwise. I know I could not fire a gun at another human being…and I have been designated as foolish for confessing this. Apparently, based on my interactions with gun-proponents, it is crazy for me to want to avoid getting shot. It is crazy for me to want my neighbor not to be shot. It is crazy for me to want to end gun violence in the American public. It is most crazy for me to call for a reduction of guns instead of an increase in guns within the American public. Gun-proponents think gun-control advocates are nuts. Gun-opponents think gun-enthusiasts are crazy. If both sides are mentally-ill, then we will never be able to properly designate mental illness or mentally-unstable gun-owners. If we’re all crazy, then mental illness becomes the norm…and arming everybody who is crazy will certainly result in greater mass shootings (which should succinctly silence the NRA’s argument to arm more citizens, but of course, does not). We defeat the purpose of the argument by cavalierly calling each other crazy.

Is a love of guns a legitimate mental illness?

So the question I ask boils down to this: Is gun-love a legitimate mental illness? I pray that it is not. I reserve hope that gun-proponents will acknowledge their gun-love and concede that their stance might be illegitimate. I wish for a cessation of aggressive rhetoric and fervent dismissal of gun-control rationale. But most of all, I hesitate to conclude that gun-love is an indicator of mental illness out of pure, unadulterated fear. If gun-love is indeed a mental illness, then at least half of America suffers from this stubborn psychosis…maybe more than half.

Physicians and psychologists have difficulty mapping the human brain and its frailties, using objective tactics. The difficulties of the human condition might be blamed on the emotionally subjective products of the human brain…and gun-love is certainly a subjective product which cannot be practically, objectively mapped for better study of the American character.

I find no edification and must succumb to circular reasoning. I return to the premise of my first question. We have the difficult “nature vs. nurture” problem to consider about the American gun problem. Are gun-users mentally ill because of their individually diseased mind, or is the proliferation of guns and American culture to blame? With careful choice of my words, I can testify to one personal conclusion only: the American gun debate is driving me legitimately insane, if I wasn’t crazy at the start.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Remembering Tim

I have nothing but memories remaining of my youngest brother, Timothy Allan Guffey. It’s easy to drift back into these memories, as a part of every waking day has been spent thinking about my lost brother, for nearly eight years. I don’t need a holiday as a reason. I’d like to say the majority of these memories are happy ones, but they are not. Most remembrance comes with requisite pain and regret.

I was often a crappy older brother to him. I loved him, but I tormented him also, as older brothers are wont to do. I remember the discovery of his fear of the vacuum cleaner. I performed my house-cleaning chores one day when he was a baby boy, and I noticed he would scream when the vacuum approached him. Instead of pacifying my brother, I moved the vacuum closer to him, even lifting it up so he could see the undercarriage. It produced the most genuine show of terror, as Tim screamed loudly and trembled as his beloved older brother surely was about to suck him up. I recall the face he made even today. At the time, a wave of guilt washed over me. How could I experiment so cruelly with my baby brother’s frailties? I turned off the vacuum and picked him up to pacify him. He continued to scream until I assured him that I would never do such a thing again. I’ve never forgiven myself for causing Tim such fear, as the face he made still haunts me to this day.

I broke that promise to my baby brother, Tim. I neglected to address his terror a second time, when he was a soldier in our United States Army. I am complicit with the Army by allowing the terrifying machine of war to consume his life.

Tim was such a loving boy. He was so compassionate, kind, and loving. He would smile and cry, hug and squeeze, cuddle and cling, to the point where my teenage masculine side would unfairly cast him aside. I would make fun of him for being a girlie-man. He was Timmy to me, but he wanted to be Tim. He proved through his service that I was the “girlie-man,” and he was the alpha-male. Now, I regret my part for helping to destroy that boy’s wonderful personality, for supplanting that valuable happiness in him with adolescent challenge, authority, and bullying. I should have sheltered and protected my brother’s smile; instead, I scoffed at it.

I recall another face of Tim’s, the face he often made when he returned on leave from his two tours of duty in Iraq. His was a countenance of sheer depression, sadness, and frustration. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he was one of the first soldiers deployed to Iraq. I remember one conversation we had, after his first year of deployment, when he told me how right I was about the reason he was in Iraq: oil. I had told him before going that this was not a dignified war…that our President was lying…that the true reason we were sending our Army to Iraq was to secure foreign oil for domestic consumption. He was dubious before he arrived in Iraq—he wasn’t supposed to be talking about it and why couldn’t I be more supportive?—but he needed little time in Iraq to confirm that what I had said was absolutely true. After a year, his face stopped smiling as much as it once did when he was a teenager.

He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Army knew about it. He was given psychological examinations, but with most medical care given to soldiers, it is given with the sole purpose of getting a soldier back to his unit. If it’s a physical wound, then it doesn’t need to be fully mended before sent back to fulfill one’s duty. If it’s a wound to the psyche, then it’s even easier for a doctor to push a wounded soldier back into the line of fire because there is no outwardly-appearing wound. Mental wounds can be more deadly than bullets, as many of our returning soldiers can testify. If my reader scoffs at the reality of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, then let me assure my reader that I am willing to engage in physical combat in order to convince him of this disease’s legitimacy. It’s real, and so very deadly in its consumption…

After two tours of duty, his face showed the wear and tear of the Iraqi War. He drank heavily. He never smiled. He did not want to talk about much of anything. I tried to cheer him up, but I was too immersed in my own agenda. Like most Americans, the war in Iraq was somewhere else. Those of us who did not have to be there were more concerned about what was happening here. I recognized there was something wrong with him, but I did not appreciate the magnitude of his depression…and that’s my sin of willful ignorance.

The last time I saw my brother on leave, he asked that I take him away to Canada. He didn’t care about procedures and dishonorable discharges; he just did not want to go back to Iraq. I dismissed it fairly quickly. He’d be okay. I told him just to finish his service and come back to us. He could attend college, like I was doing. I even told him that I couldn’t leave for Canada because I was in the middle of my college studies, and he didn’t want to interrupt those, did he?

I didn’t see my brother again. He committed suicide before he could be deployed again. He couldn’t see a way out of his dilemma, I chose not to assist him, and now I don’t get to enjoy his company anymore.

There’s so much more to his story. I can’t bring myself to share anymore details of our life together, other than to confess how his ghost still haunts me to this day. I fantasize about making a different choice and often think of the adventure we would have had avoiding the United States government in the wilds of Canada. I am often reminded of my brother in the literature that I teach in my classes. Several students have witnessed my inexplicable breaking-down in class because of a mention of Iraq, suicide, or PTSD…or even an explanation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The short story, “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich, is the most explicit, translating my grief in a manner that is too spookily accurate. I often contemplate a visit to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to investigate his military life, to look for remnants of a noble soldier that shouldn’t be forgotten or left unappreciated. I often mean to read the book, Hidden Wounds: A Soldier’s Burden by Nate Brookshire and Marius Tecoanta, but I can never bring myself to open to the first page.

I blame the U.S. Army and George W. Bush for the death of my brother, but I reserve a fair share of culpability for myself. I blame myself for destroying my brother’s happiness and ignoring his immense sadness, and I will never reach the stage of loss known as “acceptance.” Memorial Day is intended to invoke memories of honor and respect, but I selfishly focus on my own dishonor and the disrespect I showed to my youngest brother in life. It’s small penance, but it is a necessary albatross, when remembering the service of Specialist Timothy Allan Guffey, my sweet, wounded soldier and precious little brother.

I miss him more than I can ever express. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Tim.

{My brother, Tim, respected that I wanted to write for a living. I question whether to appeal for donations in this blog, and I wonder if Tim would mind. I can never really know.

If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Conditioned Routine

Gunther stood naked in the searing water flow of his morning shower, staring at a glob of conditioner in his hand. This morning, he had inexplicably screwed up the washing order by squirting out conditioner for application before scrubbing with shampoo. It wasn’t like Gunther to mess up such a simple part of his morning routine.

Gunther was the kind of man who thrived on routine. He was meticulous. He kept a clean home, perhaps to the point of maniacal precision. Everything in his condominium was usually in its designated spot, and he spent four hours every Saturday morning picking up, vacuuming, and inspecting each nook and cranny for dust bunnies and smudge marks. He always purchased the newest appliances and accoutrements to decorate his palace, including such niceties as a single-cup coffee brewer, a three-piece, solid-white leather couch set, and the biggest, most expensive, high-definition plasma TV on the market. He had managed to chase away two perfectly viable female companions who made the mistake of moving into his abode. Gunther didn’t really care much about their departure. He valued the sanctity of his idealistic set-up over the frustration of scattered Vogue magazines and caked make-up on the brim of his bathroom sink.

Gunther was a man that took pride in his appearance. He shopped at the trendiest shops, and his closet was full of posh suits and flashy color. He was on friendly terms with his barber, with whom he made a point of scheduling appointments with every three weeks. Above all, his morning preparatory routine was sacred. He woke up promptly an hour-and-forty-five minutes before work each day to exercise, shower, shave, trim, pluck, brush, floss, eat, make the bed, do the dishes, and replace any item in his home that was out of sorts. An extra ten minutes might be allocated for taking out the garbage or picking up after guests from the night before. Every task was done in its proper order, and he never wavered from their completion. He certainly had never made the mistake of conditioning his hair before shampooing.

Gunther rolled the conditioner about in his palm, analyzing the path the substance took within the canyons of his open hand. The hot shower began to cool to a tepid temperature as he played with the passionfruit-smoothie scented conditioner. Gunther remembered a conversation during a business lunch with a colleague a week before.

“I have absolutely no love for Bush,” the work acquaintance had said. “I certainly didn’t vote for him. I think he should be a man and take his share of the blame.”

Gunther hadn’t been sure how to respond. He had no love for the president, but he was tired of all of the Bush-bashing that his situation seemed to inspire from well-meaning friends. It seemed to be the only way people knew how to reach out.

“I guess we’ll have to let the history books vilify George W.,” Gunther had said, giving his stock reply.

Gunther shook off the memory and returned to his shower where he still had the dilemma of how to rectify the conditioner problem. He prided himself on keeping the level of his bottles of shampoo and conditioner even throughout their life expectancy. If he dumped the conditioner from his hand to the shower bottom, the shampoo-conditioner race would go unevenly in the shampoo’s favor. Heaven forbid that there be a little shampoo left in its bottle when the conditioner’s ran out. If he used the conditioner before shampooing, his normally well-groomed hair would be unthinkably mussed and stiff for the rest of the day…or would it? Did people absent-mindedly condition first, then shampoo? Did it ruin their days if they did? Would the world end if he defied the very specific instructions on every bottle of hair-cleaning muck he had ever read? Could the order that every child inherently learns before the age of three be altered? Wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat. When hair is clean, THEN apply conditioner.

He turned his hand to its side, allowing the conditioner to fall and spatter on the linoleum floor of the shower. He watched the conditioner form and float in the puddle of water at his feet. He followed its journey as it traveled and traced a few monotonous circles around the drain before finally falling to the dingy depths below.

Gunther grabbed the shampoo and squeezed the bottle forcefully, depositing an excessive amount into the pit of his hand. The mass filled his palm and overflowed everywhere. He threw the bottle over the glass shower door, and he heard the half-full bottle land hard on the ceramic tile floor, probably cracking one of the tiles. He vigorously washed his hair with too much shampoo, irritated by his mistakes.

For the past five months, Gunther had been messing up his routine more and more frequently. He sometimes forgot to clean out the sink, leaving pasted whiskers about the basin. He would return home from work and notice that he had neglected to wash the dishes that morning. He left the remnant of a circle on his clear-glass living room table where the sweat from a beer can had accumulated and solidified, inches away from the stack of coasters he vehemently used in the past. His carpeting had wear marks and lint from neglecting to run his vacuum through it. Now he wasn’t even capable of washing his hair correctly.

Eleven months ago, Gunther’s younger brother, Jacob, was on leave. He had made the trip back to Chicago from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, shortly after returning from a year spent in Iraq. Gunther was excited to see his brother after such a long hiatus, but he immediately noticed Jacob had changed when they met at a bar close to their parents’ home. Jacob had a new look to his face that Gunther couldn’t put his finger on. Maybe it was maturity, but he thought it was something else.

When the pair met, there was excited hand-shaking and hugging and goofy smiles. Some awkward conversation and catching-up on the events of Gunther’s structured life followed. He made sure to tell Jacob about the 103-inch plasma TV he had purchased. Before Jacob had enlisted, Gunther used to love hanging out with his brother to watch movies and play video games. When he purchased the TV, he had thought about how impressed his brother would be to play Halo or watch The Lord of the Rings on the monster monitor.

“…and the picture!” Gunther had said, “Once you’ve watched a baseball game in high-definition, you’ll never go back to regular screen.”

“Sounds cool,” Jacob responded. Gunther detected his brother’s response might only be feigned excitement. He was disappointed. He thought Jacob would have been delirious about the TV.

Only after sufficient amounts of free-flowing beers and a few lop-sided games of pool in Gunther’s favor did he think about asking Jacob how things were going with him. Gunther remembered the immediate change in Jacob’s eyes.

“It sucks,” Jacob said simply as he jabbed his cue-stick at the white ball.

The air in the bar seemed to thicken and become heavy.

“What, you can’t talk about it?” Gunther pressed.

“No, I can talk about it. I just don’t know what to say. I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“Tell me what goes on over there.”

Jacob stood up from the table, his missed bank shot still rolling toward the middle, breaking up a cluster of striped balls. He looked toward Gunther, but he was looking at something a lot further away.

“It’s hot, for one thing,” Jacob said. “It’s hotter than any damn day we’ve ever complained about here in Chicago. And they hate us. Man, they hate Americans.”

“Did anything happen to you? Did you have to shoot anybody?” Gunther asked his brother, suddenly concerned by the change he witnessed in his brother. Gunther never really thought of his brother as a soldier. Being in the army was more of a career choice. Iraq was just an extended business trip.

Jacob continued as if he hadn’t heard Gunther. As if Gunther weren’t even there. Jacob was somewhere else.

“Not all of them hate us. Some of them are really glad we’re there. There was this one guy in their police force I trained that was really cool, but he…,” Jacob trailed off.

Gunther didn’t say anything. He stood by the pool table with his cue at his side and watched his brother’s spirit travel a world away.

“I seen him…His legs landed…There are so many explosions over there. You can’t sleep. There was one time I was in this little traffic booth, and I nodded off for a second…A SECOND…and all of a sudden there were these red-hot tracers as long as my arm just tearing the booth apart all around me. I don’t know how I wasn’t hit, but I was okay. I seen my buddy, though…My buddy, man, he just…”

Gunther grabbed Jacob’s shoulder.

“That’s alright, Jacob, it was a stupid question. Just drop it and play pool.”

Jacob looked Gunther in the eye, returning from the sand and torment to the bar in Chicago.

“…blew up.”

At the end of that evening, after over-medicating on alcohol, they walked out of the bar towards Gunther’s Lexus. Jacob had leaned over to Gunther and asked his brother if maybe they wanted to drive to Canada. Gunther had laughed, assuming it was a joke.

“No, really,” Jacob slurred. “I won’t have to go back.”

Gunther smiled drunkenly at his brother.

“Deserter,” Gunther said and playfully punched Jacob’s arm. Jacob smiled at his brother, and then stared through the windshield at what was ahead of him.

As Gunther turned the keys in the ignition of his luxury car, he asked Jacob if he wanted to check out Gunther’s TV.

“No,” Jacob said. “Just take me back.”

They both rode uncomfortably in silence as Gunther drove his brother back to his parents’ home, from which he would return to Fort Campbell and then transport back to Iraq for a second tour.

Gunther remembered his brother’s funeral, five months ago, as he dried himself off, kicking the discarded shampoo bottle out of his way. He remembered the sheer power of the rifles’ report as the soldiers delivered their twenty-one gun salute. He remembered how he had jumped uncontrollably as the rifles fired each time. He remembered thinking how getting struck by one of those bullets would tear through a man’s flesh, ripping and razing the body’s insides, leaving a hole the size of a basketball in him. He remembered thinking how horrible it must have been for his brother to have been struck by a bullet that way. He remembered thinking how easy it could have been that night to drop everything and kidnap his brother for a road trip to Canada.

Gunther had returned to work the day after Jacob’s funeral. He had convinced himself it was best that way. Others supported him on his decision. Return to his routine. Get back to work. Forget about the grief. Get back on the horse. Move on.

The newspapers had proclaimed Jacob a local hero who had given his life in combat for his country, but only for a day. Gunther’s friends and co-workers had arrived in droves at the funeral to support and comfort him. Jacob was a hero, everyone’s hero. He was their hero. Everyone offered to help Gunther in any way they could at any time.

“It’s just like Vietnam,” one bubble-headed secretary had said to him a week after the funeral. Gunther had just stared blankly at her. She wriggled uncomfortably for a moment, gave a curt smile, and turned away to file some nameless file that needed sorting, scared by his non-response. He frightened her from any further attempts at consolation.

People’s tendency to compare Iraq to Vietnam irritated Gunther. He couldn’t see the connection. It seemed to him that Vietnam was at the forefront of people’s minds during the course of that war. American people cared about Vietnam, whether it was positive support or fervent protest. They paid attention to it. Even the hippie protestors who accused soldiers of baby-killing when they returned from the bloodbath acknowledged that there was a war going on. It didn’t seem to Gunther that anyone wanted to acknowledge that there was a war being fought in Iraq. Just like Gunther himself failed to acknowledge it before his brother was killed.

Gunther found himself at work over the course of those five months thinking about his brother. A few times, he caught himself thinking about what he and his brother would do when Jacob returned. He had been in the army, in Iraq, for so long that it was natural for Gunther to think of his brother as simply misplaced. He was still going to return. He was going to love hanging out in Gunther’s expensive condo and playing games on his costly plasma TV.

His friends quickly abandoned trying to comfort Gunther. It was just too difficult. There wasn’t anything to say to him that was effective, so better to not say anything at all. The best thing for him would be to get over his grief and forget everything as quickly as possible. But Gunther didn’t seem to get with the program. Nothing said to him was right. He moped too much. He fell out of his routine. Functioning properly required getting back to his habitual practice soon.

“The funeral was almost two months ago.” Gunther had heard some whispers a few cubicles down. “Why can’t he just get over it?”

He started to think bad things about his country, his people. If the war ever came up in his presence, people would fidget and change the subject as quickly as possible. The Iraqi war simply interfered with everyone’s tidy, successful, ordered American lives. Gunther understood that interrupting the American workplace with such trivial subject matter was simply unacceptable. He tried. He just couldn’t muster up the willpower to care.

Five months ago, Gunther started neglecting his routine. He stopped socializing. He stopped shopping for new appliances. He went to work and stared at his computer screen for hours before realizing that he had done nothing productive. He discontinued his weekend house-cleanings and let stuff accumulate wherever it landed. Gunther did try to return to the routine he enjoyed before his brother’s death, but he just kept failing. The mistake with his conditioner this morning was just another of a long list of mishaps that had occurred in the last five months. It was another mistake of many attempts to assuage everyone else into believing everything was going to be okay. It was another failure in his performance of pretending to be a good American.

From his bathroom, Gunther dressed himself and trekked through his living room, avoiding the broken glass shards that littered his carpeting. He walked into his kitchen reflexively to continue his former routine. He went into a cabinet and pulled out a coffee filter, stood up and noticed the clock. He was about fifteen minutes behind where he normally would be in his routine. He had not called off over the course of these five months, but the idea entered his mind this morning. If he couldn’t remember to shampoo before conditioning, he would be no good for the rest of the day.

He sighed and threw the coffee filter onto the counter. He moved to his living room and looked at the aluminum baseball bat he had removed from his hall closet the night after his brother’s funeral five months ago. It remained in the same spot on the carpet he had dropped it almost half a year ago, still surrounded by little crystals of glass. He decided he was not going to work today and deliberated on whether he should bother calling in or not. Gunther sat on his white, leather couch for the rest of the day, staring at the spider-web pattern formed in the shattered monitor of his expensive plasma television.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
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Opinion about the VA Scandal

The current fervor in the news media over the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ inability to improve medical care for veterans is a good thing, in some ways. The attention increases the public’s knowledge of the deficiencies of medical care for veterans and demands action is taken. It is obvious that revision is needed for our veterans. However, this is nothing new, and it should surprise no one who has paid attention to procedural problems for our veterans over the course of the last few decades. The system has gotten worse for our veterans, as the slow processing has directly resulted in the deaths of several veterans who needed immediate attention. It’s about time that this has become a priority, and the news media should be lauded for fulfilling their ethical role here…finally.

There is the typical problem, however, as it is now politicized. Anything having to do with veterans becomes an easy method to discredit the President. Benghazi and the government shutdown are recent examples of how easy it is for politicians and political journalists to use our veterans as a platform to attack. Regular Fox News shill, Sean Hannity, continues to make the VA scandal a platform to attack Barack Obama. I wonder if he knows how many veterans might find his “support” distasteful. Hannity disrespects our veterans by assuming they want to represent his personal campaign against their Commander-in-Chief.

Since this has become a political issue, we can once again see how Republicans and their media representative, Fox News, think these problems become solved: fire the government official in charge. Calls for the dismissal of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki abound, perhaps rightfully so. What I don’t see is a solution, even if Shinseki is removed from his cabinet position. It seems like this is the first and only suggestion for all problems with the government. Fire Kathleen Sebelius. Fire Lois Lerner. Fire Hillary Clinton. Fire Barack Obama. Now, we need to fire Eric Shinseki. I’m often confused by Republicans’ ideas, but apparently our government is supposed to work like an episode of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice…weird how that same philosophy was not utilized with the 2008 housing crash…in fact, the executives in charge of the banks were retained under the auspices that their dismissal would further damage the economy, as new appointees would not perform better than existing “leaders”…I suppose my confusion rests within the differences between public executives and private executives…I just don’t see much difference.

Collectively, we seem to have forgotten the past decade. We sent so many troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. How did we not anticipate there would be a need for expansion of our veterans’ healthcare? I suspect we did and chose to ignore it. I assume there was resistance to providing the necessary funding (see the Affordable Care Act if you don’t believe that politicians want to resist funding healthcare). There is one voice that has been missing from this discussion of the VA scandal, and his is a voice that has been sorely missing since Barack Obama was elected. George W. Bush needs to stop painting and start addressing some of the problems in this country that occurred during his presidency. He’s getting a pass for his mistakes, and his biggest mistake was the Iraqi War. We went to Iraq to sustain the American oil industry, and he needs to answer for this, especially to our veterans. Bush is less scrutinized than Richard Nixon, and Bush may have committed greater crimes than Nixon in the office of the President. He is certainly complicit in the current VA scandal, if Barack Obama is to be skewered because of it.

The problems in our government healthcare system meant to accommodate veterans should be addressed. In fact, medical care for currently enlisted soldiers should be improved also, as it’s well known that professional physical and mental care for soldiers often boils down to getting the soldier back to his or her unit, often at the expense of the individual soldier. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that mentality has found its way into our veterans’ hospitals. We fall all over ourselves to shake a soldier’s hand and thank them for their service, but we turn a blind eye when it comes to actual care and respect for our soldiers and veterans, whether it’s providing healthcare, education, or jobs for returning soldiers. We need to stop paying lip service to our troops, and provide to our veterans what they have earned.

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Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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American Politics in the Fourth Circle of Hell

We can find the perfect illustration of modern American politics in 14th century European literature. In the seventh canto of the Inferno in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the sins of the avaricious and the prodigal are punished. The author and his host, after dispelling the garbled words of the god of wealth, observe the unrecognizable faces of the souls of the wealthiest sinners, toiling laboriously and uselessly in defense of their ideologies, working against each other willingly, and with each other without recognition, to effort fruitless endeavor in an eternal Moebius loop. In this H. R. Huse translation:

As the waves of Charybdis break
against each other as they meet,
so in this place the souls must clash.

Here I saw more people than elsewhere
on one side and the other, shouting loudly
and pushing weights with their chests.

They bump against each other and then all turn,
pushing back the load and crying,
“Why do you hoard?” or “Why do you squander?”

Thus they go on each side
of the dark circle to the opposite point,
shouting their insulting refrains.

When they reach the place, they turn again
through their half circles to the other clash.
And I, my heart oppressed, said,

“Master, now tell me who these are
and if all the tonsured ones
on the left are of the clergy?”

And he to me, “In the first life
all were so twisted mentally
that they could not spend with moderation.

Quite clearly their voices bark this out
when they come to the two points of the circle
where contrary faults divide them.

Those whose heads are tonsured, as you see,
were clerics and popes and cardinals
in whom avarice shows its strength.” [Dante aligned clergy members with politicians, at times—SG]

And I, “Master, among such as these
I must surely recognize some
who were defiled by these vices.”

And he to me, “You conceive a vain thought;
the undiscerning life which made them sordid
now leaves them too obscure for recognition.

Throughout eternity they will clash;
some [the avaricious] will arise from the graves with fists closed,
and the others [the prodigal] with their hair shorn.

Bad giving and bad keeping have taken from them
the fair world and placed them in this strife
which words of mine will not glorify (1433-4).

Avarice means to hoard one’s wealth for the sake of hoarding wealth. The American Republican Party, with its battles against taxation, universal healthcare, and the minimum wage, fit the category of the avaricious too beautifully to deny. They worship the wealthy (see Jamie Dimon’s appearance before Congress), and work to keep wealth in the hands of the wealthy. Cutting food stamps, closing public schools for the sake of charter schools, lowering capital gains taxation, defending oil barons, pilfering the planet of its resources and its health…all in the name of the Republican credo: “extreme greed for wealth or material gain for those who already have it.” When I hear the word “conservative,” I have long ago supplanted the term to mean “avaricious.”

The Democratic Party is not safe from rebuke as their members perpetuate the vicious semi-circle under the guise of the prodigal. Having accepted the Free Market as God and been blessed with wealth by Fortune, Democrats fervently oppose the avaricious by insisting upon reckless spending. The Democratic idea of helping those without money continues to be to fund larger government expenditures. The lavish, extravagant spending pushes our country further into debt, and most of the wealth spent by Democrats finds its way back into the pockets of the wealthy, both the prodigal and the avaricious, instead of helping those without wealth, or even a living wage. Liberals are indeed prodigal, and they constantly shout and fight the avaricious Republicans without realizing they are the same faceless, wealthy sinner.

Taking some literary liberties, I envision two enormous meal-grinding wheels in Dante’s fourth circle of hell, with the avaricious Republicans pushing the spokes on one wheel and prodigal Democrats manning the other. A line divides the two wheels, and as the two parties pass one another amidst their toils, the individuals look up from their labor to shout insults and protestations at one another. What do the two parties grind with their meaningless exertion?…Why, the soul of the United States of America. For what purpose?…The perpetuation of the Free Market, the appointed God of the country, which both parties serve at the expense of its good citizens. There is a place waiting in hell for the modern corporate soul of American politics, and this fourth circle expands as more Americans take their place at their selected ideological grinding wheel.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. “The Divine Comedy.” Literature of the Western World: The Ancient World through the Renaissance. Trans. H. R. Huse. Eds. Brian Wilkie & James Hurt. Vol. 1. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 1398-1571. Print.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Analyzing Music, Not Maurice

My intention today was to analyze some of Maurice Eisenstein’s rhetoric from his blog, and I noticed access to his blog was renewed so I can do so…but I hesitate because I am overloading on Eisenstein. It’s a bit exhausting, and besides, I don’t want my reader to think Eisenstein is my White Whale. While I admit some animosity towards him, I find myself possessing more pity for him. I have some hope that he can see the error of his ways and commit an about-face. I think it is possible he can reconsider his rhetorical attacks and reconfigure his pedagogy…maybe I wear rose-colored glasses, but that is how I feel about Maurice Eisenstein.

Also, a good friend requested more fun in my blog. Whenever I need to relax and have fun, I pop some music into my spin-table. Yes, I still listen to CDs; I’ve yet to succumb to the downloadable movement. This morning, I’ve sequestered myself to my basement/man-cave, away from prying, spying eyes. I’m listening and dancing to some good music, hoping to release some of the anxiety and stress that academic rigor can cause…just thought I’d share some of the maniacal “professor’s” choice selections on this gorgeous morning.

I started the morning with Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. I’ve long yearned for a reinvigoration of the disco era, and Daft Punk is the closest thing to the Bee Gees released of late. The Motown bass and high-chord, electric-guitar strumming reeks of the 70’s, my favorite musical decade. I’m not looking to chill; I’m looking to groove. Tracks like “Give Life Back to Music,” “Lose Yourself to Dance,” “Touch,” and “Contact” get my shoulders hopping and my hips popping. I do often enjoy the mellow jazziness of “The Game of Love,” “Doin’ It Right,” “Within,” and “Motherboard,” but it’s not that kinda morning. I turn the volume up for “Giorgio by Moroder;” I can’t help but envision Arnold Schwarzenegger reciting a musical history as I dance to this funky beat. I close out Daft Punk with the requisite disco anthem, “Get Lucky.” FYI, if you haven’t checked out Stephen Colbert’s video for “Get Lucky,” do yourself a favor and find it on YouTube. Colbert had to remove the video from his site (here’s why), but you can still find it out there. It’s one of the funniest, most enjoyable things I’ve ever seen on the Colbert Report.

Next on the turntable is Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP. Yes, I’m aware that Rolling Stone has panned the album as her worst contribution yet. To tell the truth, I’ve listened to The Fame, and I remain unimpressed. I still find “Poker Face” to be mostly annoying. I wasn’t a fan of Lady Gaga until I spent a lonely Thanksgiving evening watching her special with the Muppets…and you better not make fun of my love of the Muppets! Suffice to say after watching the Muppets special, I performed a 180 about Lady Gaga. My wife, a fan of Gaga, gleefully bought her new album, and we’ve been bopping to the creative diva since. “Rocket Number Nine. Take off to the planet…to the planet…Venus!” signals a new dance set, and I comply enthusiastically. I’m reminded of Madonna’s better 80’s songs…I work my way through “G.U.Y.” “X Dreams,” and “MANiCURE,” performing my best white-guy’s dance with flailing arms and missteps. I sit down to sip at some coffee and listen to “Do What U Want” and “ARTPOP,” quietly grooving while I catch my breath. I’m back on my feet with “Swine,” “Donatella,” “Gypsy,” and finally, “Applause.” Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP remains a guilty pleasure.

Now it’s time to annoy the wife and sing at the top of my lungs. I’ve been meaning to revisit Green Day’s Dookie since reading the article from Rolling Stone’s March 13th issue. The album’s twenty-years-old, which is difficult for me to process…whatever. This old man can still belt out some punk-rock! I realize quickly that my vocal range has changed a bit since my younger days, but I quickly adapt after fumbling through “Having a Blast.” You can’t help but find the necessary energy with Green Day’s Dookie. I’m pleased with my rendition of “Longview” and move to “Welcome to Paradise” and “Basket Case.” Perfect! I’m charged up enough to try my favorite, “She.” I’m starting to lose my voice, but having too good of a time to stop. I croak out the under-rated “Sassafras Roots,” but realize I’m going to have to give the vocal chords a rest. I just listen to “When I Come Around.” I change the album to Pearl Jam’s Vs., both to sing with a voice more in my range and because I become a bit nostalgic for the 90s. I sing “Daughter,” “Glorified G,” “Rearviewmirror,” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”…and I’m spent. Feeling energized and good about things at this point.

It’s afternoon by now. I’ve turned off the stereo and noticed the wife has gone outside to garden and play with flowers… The silence reminds me that I should be filling out another application for teaching opportunities at yet another university…this time, Ball State…I need to construct another cover letter and some teaching philosophy statement (nevermind that my teaching philosophy is in the cover letter!…I notice online college applications like to make applicants repeat themselves thoroughly…perhaps frustration is a method for winnowing out potential candidates…works on me!). I remember I’m waiting for any clue of a response from over ten other universities and schools, and I wonder if I should bother with yet another all-afternoon session of preparing application materials. I think about having to move to Muncie, Indiana. I think about the stack of bills that are not getting paid because I don’t have a job.

My good feeling has gone away, with depression filling the void. I turn the stereo back on.

I sit back and let the magnificent Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend wash over me. I can’t help but think of the Beatles when I hear this album. “Obvious Bicycle,” “Unbelievers,” and “Step” mellow me out, and I’ve mostly forgotten about the minutiae of unemployment by the time “Diane Young” makes me bop in my chair (and makes me crave Smirnoff vodka for some reason…:)). I wonder if “Hannah Hunt” and “Don’t Lie” are on the songlists at my local karaoke joint, as I’d love to take a stab at singing them on stage. “Everlasting Arms” conjures the spectre of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” “Finger Back” astonishes with some of the most staccato voice work I’ve heard; Ezra Koenig is most impressive on this track. Then, Koenig actually finds a higher gear on “Worship You”…simply spectacular. I repeat “Ya Hey” so I can pull out the lyrics and truly appreciate the artistry of the track. The slower, moody “Hudson” hauntingly concludes the history-spanning tale of war, visions, and birthplace. “Young Lion” appropriately outro’s the fascinating musical concoction.

I’m not getting out of my seat at this point, so I let whatever’s in the next chamber load up. It’s Muse’s Live at Rome Olympic Stadium, a staple of my collection. I’ve listened to it cover-to-cover more times than I can tally, and I’m not stopping it this afternoon either. If there’s such a thing as a Muse-head, then I guess I qualify. Thanks to my buddy, Kevin Kliver, for turning me on to the band back in the day.

It’s about 2:00 pm, and time for me to publish. I can assure my reader that I will continue listening to music, despite the fact that I should “be more productive.” I have the Grateful Dead’s Mars Hotel, the Beach Boys Greatest Hits, Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, and my newest acquisition, The Black Keys’ Turn Blue, lined up to fill the rest of the afternoon and evening…and it will be time well spent by this slacker! I’ve accomplished nothing of any real work-place value, unless you count relaxing aesthetic appreciation as efficient employee production…and I could care less if you don’t…let the administrators of the world worry about time-allotment and task efficiency. The human mind needs to play some days. Money only holds a specific value in the world, and it’s ephemeral compared to the value of happiness and a clean mind. I kinda wish more Americans remembered this.

Thanks, Hollywood Slinky, for the request. I needed it. Hope you enjoy too.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Analyzing Maurice Eisenstein, Part One

I had no plans prior to the weekend to immerse myself into Maurice Eisenstein’s case against Purdue University Calumet and Yahya Kamalipour. However, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about Eisenstein (sorry, subscribers only), and I found myself spending the majority of the past three days reading and studying the text that can be found. It really is a fascinating and interesting case, and we can easily find the motivations of Eisenstein all over the internet, mostly from his own writings . I’ve also found further evidence for my claim that he is a faulty teacher. I don’t believe there is much merit in the effort to remove him from his tenured position, as Purdue’s expensive legal efforts have failed, but I don’t think he can hide behind the First amendment as a shield to prevent us from seeing he is an unethical college professor.

Unfortunately, the impetus for most all of Eisenstein’s actions and rhetoric can be found within the eternal conflict between Israelites and Palestinians. It’s unfortunate because the long history of violence there and stubborn refusal for consensus over sharing land remains stalemated to this day. I hesitate to even write about this conflict because criticism of the conflict is usually read as aligning one’s self on one side or the other. Eisenstein’s ideologies fall on the pro-Israel side, and he has attacked anyone that disagrees with him (or whomever he perceives as disagreeing with him) as being an anti-Semite. It is difficult to present one’s self as an intermediary in this global conflict, and the complicated clash can even be found on a smaller satellite campus of Purdue University in Northwest Indiana.

The blog article Eisenstein wrote which attacks Yahya Kamalipour supports assumption of Eisenstein’s aggressive ideology. After reading Kamalipour’s retort and Eisenstein’s original attack, I publicly responded to Eisenstein, accusing Eisenstein of being a bad teacher and suggesting methods for the university to counter Eisenstein’s pedagogy. A colleague sent me an e-mail asking that I reconsider my allegiance to Kamalipour. I was implored to research Mark Bruzonsky, who Kamalipour invited to speak at Purdue University Calumet (PUC). The assumption is that since Bruzonsky is an anti-Semite, this proves that Kamalipour is also insidiously anti-Semitic and Eisenstein might be justified in his attack.

I complied by studying Bruzonsky’s credentials and his daily blog. I could not find a recording of Bruzonsky’s speech at PUC, so I had to direct my studies of his ideology within his recorded rhetoric…and there’s plenty to form a studied opinion within his blog.

I will say that Bruzonsky is harsh and highly critical of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, but I don’t read Bruzonsky as being primarily anti-Semitic. He seems more to be an equal opportunity critic; if anything, he’s more critical of the United States and Obama with our involvement in the rest of the world. I don’t necessarily disagree with many of Bruzonsky’s criticisms, as America’s recent history in the world resembles a war-mongering nation. Unfortunately, George W. Bush’s presidency grossly smeared our world reputation, and I don’t blame foreign nationals for painting us as war-campaigners. Multiple drone attacks by Barack Obama’s presidency don’t necessarily improve foreign relations, either.

The situation with Israel and Palestinians is obviously a touchy subject, one that I hesitate to even broach, knowing the violence and bloodshed that has taken place there. I notice Bruzonsky has criticisms of Palestinian leaders also (though admittedly not the same number of articles he has that critique Israel). What probably bothers me most about Bruzonsky is how criticism of Russia and China seems to be light, or even promotional of these opposing nations. I will not say that I agree entirely with every statement of Bruzonsky (there were a few points where I raised an eyebrow), but the majority of his writing seemed to be kosher for critical foreign-affairs journalism. After reviewing Bruzonsky’s blog, he seems to be most critical of war, violence, and intimidation. His rhetoric is harsh and adversarial, but he seems to promote the underdog, to use sports analogy. Ultimately, I would like to have heard Bruzonsky’s PUC presentation to make a more educated decision on him.

After studying Bruzonsky, I turned back to Eisenstein’s rhetoric and explored his blog. Amidst his attacks and self-defense, we can find that Eisenstein’s distaste for Kamalipour is rooted in his invitation of Bruzonsky to the PUC campus. By Eisenstein’s own admission, he feels an injustice has occurred because a pro-Israelite speaker, Peggy Shapiro, was declined the opportunity to speak, prior to Bruzonsky’s invitation. Shapiro was invited by Eisenstein’s wife, Marie Eisenstein, who is co-chairperson of the Jewish Community Relations Counsel, a subsidiary of the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. Eisenstein attempted to sponsor the speech at PUC, and it appeared the presentation was confirmed. After some mysterious meeting of the history/political science department at PUC, Shapiro’s invitation was declined, and the presentation was not allowed to happen. Shapiro herself wrote about her disappointment and confusion of the withdrawal of the invitation, and Eisenstein obviously holds a grudge because of this omission. We can assume that Bruzonsky’s presentation and Kamalipour’s involvement, as an Iranian, motivated Eisenstein’s attacks…it’s clearly a motivating factor, identified by Eisenstein’s own rhetoric.

To be fair to Eisenstein, I made sure to study Peggy Shapiro’s blog. If Bruzonsky’s rhetoric is inflammatory, then it’s only fair to analyze counterarguments. Shapiro’s rhetorical arguments are indeed incendiary, pro-Israelite, and anti-Palestinian, but her arguments are no less volatile than Bruzonsky’s. If anything, I found mostly rhetorical similarities between Bruzonsky’s and Shapiro’s arguments, but opposing ideologies within the different claims.

It might surprise Eisenstein to learn that I might agree with him on one point: Peggy Shapiro should have been allowed to speak at Purdue University Calumet. If Mark Bruzonsky is allowed to speak, then it is only fair to assume that Shapiro’s arguments could be presented in a public forum at the college campus. Students can make decisions for themselves about presented arguments, and there are usually opportunities for refutation at these public speaking engagements. If there is opposition to a person speaking on campus, students are allowed to protest en masse, as may or may not have occurred when Bruzonsky spoke on campus.

Campus decisions about who and about what can be spoken was a topic on Up with Steve Kornacki this past Sunday. There is quite a bit of hand-wringing about who is selected to speak at commencement addresses and other campus functions. Apparently, political affiliation extends now even to inane campus traditions and ceremonial student interactions. I agree that censorship is indeed a dangerous practice, and it is not one I would like to see extended to public intellectual forums on university grounds (I do not align public campus speeches with classroom lecturing, as I will write about at a later date). Kornacki and his guests explored the assumed importance of public speeches on campuses, and mostly belittled their function, seen as having little impact on students anyway. However, it was agreed in this forum that the decision to invite speakers is the university’s perusal, coinciding with opportunities for students to provide input (or protest for disagreement).

Herein lies the rub for Maurice Eisenstein. He may have a case of sour grapes about his own preferred speaker not having an opportunity to speak, but he cannot attack another faculty member because that professor’s preferred speaker did get a chance to speak. The decision to exclude Peggy Shapiro was made by his own department; Kamalipour’s sponsorship came from a different department, communications, within which Eisenstein has little input. Eisenstein’s frustration of what he certainly feels is the university’s reneging on his own sponsorship of Peggy Shapiro cannot justify his attacks on Kamalipour. Eisenstein’s impetus can be boiled down to little more than what we would find within the communications of a children’s playground: “How come he gets his way, but I don’t?” (To be fair, I basically did the same in my own fashion in this blog posting.)

Attacking Yahya Kamalipour is unjustified. Eisenstein characterizes Kamalipour as anti-Semetic because of his choice of sponsoring Bruzonsky. This is a tremendous leap, and it is guilt by association. Too many assumptions of Kamalipour are reported by Eisenstein because of Bruzonsky’s speech on campus. As Eisenstein had not interviewed Kamalipour or properly researched him prior to his attack-laden blog, Eisenstein has potentially committed libel with his ad hominem rationale. As PUC professor Colin Fewer has chaired a panel to explore Eisenstein’s libel, Fewer is now included in Eisenstein’s character assault. I would prefer to assume Eisenstein’s attacks are fueled mostly by his indignation at Peggy Shapiro’s omission from public speaking; however, I suspect Eisenstein may also be motivated by intolerance against Palestinians, or those with Islamic faith generally, or simply those who align against what he perceives as necessary, complete support for pro-Israel sentiment. His vitriol does characterize him as possessing these prejudices, but I would like to believe that Eisenstein is merely jealous of Kamalipour. This is reason enough to be weary of Eisenstein’s credibility as college professor. If he is indeed letting his prejudices drive his methodology, then this is a much more egregious case against a college professor who has been charged with educating students at PUC.

Eisenstein has created two strong cases that we can point to concerning his unethical behavior as a college professor. Today, I pointed out how his attack on Kamalipour is unjustified, as he has primarily used evidence of an ad-hominem, guilt-by-association fallacy, unduly connecting Yahya Kamalipour and Mark Bruzonsky. At a later date, I will analyze the second case I’ve found and scrutinize his rhetoric to question his validity as college professor.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}