John Hamilton

John Hamilton
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
December 31
I've been around a while, lived in a lot of places, worked in numerous trades and professions, served in the Army, went to school a lot, followed a guru, and write a blog, "While we still have time." My birthday isn't really December 31. I had to put something in.


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JANUARY 5, 2013 11:47PM

Full Circle

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Likely the most misunderstood concept from Eastern spiritual traditions is the Law of Karma. Westerners tend to interpret it in terms they understand - retribution from "God" for misdeeds. What Karma actually means is cause and effect, no wrath of "God" needed. Consequence depends entirely on antecedent.

It took a couple of days after the Sandy Hook School shooting for the notion of Karma to sink in. I was grieving deeply for the people murdered, and the senselessness of it boggled my mind, like it did for most other people. Though the news media botched the story at almost every turn, a picture started emerging of a dysfunctional family that combined divorce, isolation, mental "illness" and assault weapons in what turned out to be a deadly mix.

A guy at the Guardian says that Nancy Lanza, the killer's mother, is a "scapegoat," but I'm not buying it. Owning an assault rifle is an irresponsible act regardless of the circumstances. Assault weapons by definition are for assaulting. While humans may hunt wild animals, they assault other humans. The only reason to buy an assault weapon is for the purpose of assaulting people. I've been searching the Web for a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but can't find it. Supposedly he said a gun changes the home and its occupant.

Whether Gandhi said this or not, I have found it to be true. When I was growing up guns were always present in the home - for hunting and sport shooting. The ideas of home invasion or second amendment "rights" were unheard of in those days.

For a few months while I was in my late 20s I kept a shotgun in my apartment for hunting and self-protection. Life had gotten serious, and for a while I felt a need to be prepared for trouble. It became a burden, and I eventually gave the shotgun back to my dad, glad to be rid of it. I haven't had a gun since, and I feel safer than I did when I had one. More accurately, I don't feel safe or unsafe. I'm free of the possibility of using a gun to harm or kill another person, which would more likely than not be under regrettable circumstances.

Assault weapons were unheard of in those days, but gradually have encroached on "American" consciousness since then. Though "we" may have "lost" the "Vietnam" war, it has left a lasting legacy. Kill people. Make up a reason, any reason. Just kill. Enjoy it or don't, it doesn't matter. Just kill.

"We," as a people, invaded "Iraq" twice, finding useful enough reasons both times. Many children died both times, and our "sanctions" between invasions ensured the deaths of an estimated 500,000 children. "We" have also invaded "Afghanistan," again with a useful enough reason at the time, though the "mission" was quickly abandoned. "We" are still there, for different reasons, mostly, it seems, to postpone the embarrassment of the carnage that will follow "our" exit.

Karma works in mysterious ways, but I think it is safe to say that a casualness about killing people elsewhere will inevitably find its way home. I served in the U.S. Army during the "Vietnam" war, and though I "served" mostly in "Germany," I heard countless stories of casual brutality, sadism, random killing, and destruction of villages, crops, forests and countryside in "Vietnam." Committing such crimes was bad for the soldiers involved, for their commanders, and for the lying politicians who concocted the "incursion." But it was worse for the country as a whole. A culture of killing was spawned, and is now in full bloom in "America."

What do our high priests of public discourse have to say about this? A perfect example is Joe Klein, Time Magazine columnist, who said in a recent interview defending indiscriminate drone attacks, "the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get(s) killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror." Thanks Joe, Oracle at Delphi, er, Washington, D.C.

I suppose we could redefine the killings in Sandy Hook as indiscriminate acts of mental illness, but the effect has certainly been to terrorize, more so than the "911" attacks. This type of mayhem comes from "us," and "we" don't know who will be next or where.

Recently on Democracy Now a "Canadian" physician, Gabor Maté, was interviewed about the great unhappiness that has beset modern civilization. Dr. Maté's work is focused on drug addiction, but his findings are pertinent for society as a whole. He described the his findings on brain development to show host Amy Goodman:

...the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means - large head, narrow pelvis - we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input. When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.
It is safe to say, I believe, that something went wrong in Adam Lanza's brain development. Somewhere along the line he wasn't getting the attention and nurturing that humans need to grow into responsible, sane citizens. It might have had something to do with his parents' zeal for becoming rich, which seems to have held top priority in their lives.

And owning assault weapons. At least in his mother's case. We have come full circle. Casual assassinations, coups d'état, invasions, incursions, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, torturings, indefinite detentions, drone attacks, no fly zones, bombings, napalmings, and on and on and on - they have come home with a vengeance. It was dumb to foment violence around the planet and not expect it to come back to haunt us. Now that we're haunted, maybe "we" will think twice about the next drone attack or rendition for torture.

Not likely. As in "our" response to climate change, connecting the dots of antecedent to consequence is beyond our collective intelligence. There are some encouraging signs, as in the scorn that is being heaped on National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre. Momentum is building for enactment of some law or laws controlling the sale of assault weapons. The political and economic priorities of the wealthy are under increased scrutiny.

Still, there is no hint that our "leaders," have any intention of changing the way we behave towards the rest of the world. Or towards ourselves. We have the highest rate of imprisonment of any country on the planet. Why, one might ask, does a people so zealously want to put its fellow citizens in prison, where they will be mistreated, by and large, and have their lives ruined? It bespeaks an attitude towards our fellow-man and woman, and ultimately ourselves.

We can't go on forever like this. We will have another Newtown, maybe this year. We will have pictures like these to grieve over again. We don't grieve over the children of "Iraq" and "Afghanistan." Joe Klein speaks for us on this matter. When we speak for ourselves, and render the callousness of Joe Klein to the proverbial dustbin of history, maybe we can save our civilization. Otherwise, we might ourselves end up in the proverbial dustbin of history, like so many empires before us. The warning signs are abundant.

I'm optimistic. We have a dysfunctional political establishment. The "Republican" party is little more than a criminal organization, and the "Democrats" aren't much better, both obsessed with plotting each other's defeat, and gathering "power" to themselves. A slow awakening is taking place. People are starting to see our power structure for what it is - craven, self-rewarding, murderous, greedy, sociopathic. It's a house of cards. Strong winds are blowing. They will most certainly blow away our power structure. Let's hope they don't blow us all away too.

I wrote about guns and hunting in previous posts, here, here and here. I wrote about mass shootings herehere, here and here. One would think that one has covered the subject by now, but each new incident brings out new explorations. I should reread them to make sure I'm being consistent and not repeating myself. There's only so much time in the day. There are some things to link to at the bottom of these posts.

Here's a song from Steve Miller. I bought the album when I was a soldier (in a PX, yuk, yuk), and never forgot it. Here's another, from a different album. This is some of the music that got me through the Army.

Dylan had a song about reaping many years ago. He predicted climate change too.

Bill Moyers had a bit to say this week about the NRA, and its money interest in gun sales.

For some good technical info and myth debunking about assault weapons, gun ownership and the NRA, click here.

Slate posted a history of school shootings.

The Daily Kos made note of the racial disparity in news coverage of gun deaths.

On another, but not completely unrelated topic, I managed to get the last comment in on this New York Times article. As the unsustainability of our infinite growth economic system becomes more problematic we can expect more chaos, and, given our national proclivity for violence, more shootings.

Here's a Gabor Maté video.  You can read more about his work at this site. This site also. Here too.

This video is of someone I used to know. He pursued inner peace heroically, and died in a motorcycle accident not long after this video was shot.

R.I.P. Ravi Shankar. I saw him perform twice, in 1972 (New Harmony, Indiana, of all places, at a pathetic rock fest. He was great, far more gracious than the event deserved.) and 2007 (Madison, with his daughter Anoushka. He was better in 1972.).

Update, January 9: Jon Stewart talks about gun control.

Curiously, there haven't been any mass shootings by females. Maybe this is why. For the full show, better quality, click here.The pertinent song is at 1:12:10. If you want to play along, it's only two chords, B and E, barred at the 7th fret. Here's the words. Enjoy!

Update, January 11: It turns out the "right wing" claim that Adolph Hitler was a gun control enthusiast is false. Read about it here.

Not to be outdone, a group of Sandy Hook "truthers," who believe reports of the shooting are part of a big hoax, has emerged from the woodwork. 

Live by the sword...


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Wonderful take on how we got to Sandy Hook - and what the future holds if we don't change. So many good things here I don't know where to begin. I'm not familiar with Dr. Mate but I have read some about the human brain, and especially the developing brain in adolescents and young adults. What he's saying may take everyone off the hook but research bears it out, particularly in cases of impulsive actions in youth who don't consider the consequences or see any other option. And of course it really doesn't take anyone off the hook - because there's other factors involved too as you thoroughly point out. Like our attitudes toward ourselves and other human beings for one.
I'm glad you're ultimately optimistic for the likelihood of change - what you've written helps me and may help anyone else who reads this (and I hope a lot do) feel optimistic as well; and sometimes it's pretty difficult to feel that way.
Thanks Margaret. My Open Salon posts don't get read as much as they used to. I suspect their OS editor is only part-time, and probably not very well-paid. You can tell by the home page, which doesn't get updated very often.

I have some updates on my main blog (, which I repost here. There's a YouTube Video of Gabor Maté linked there. I can just link it here: . It's pretty inspiring. He's Canadian, so he talks about First Nation people a lot, because he works with them. First Nation is what Canada calls their indigenous people.

As for change, it's inevitable. We can help it along, but it may be that the best thing we can do is help ourselves - not narcissistically, but meditatively, which has powerful effects on the energy around us.

You may have noticed that "leftist" opposition tends to be toothless and whinging. They don't realize how they empower the powerful by indulging in a transactional parent-child identity relationship, ceding all power to the powerful. Once they step back with their egos they can avail themselves to ease and confidence, but ego-attachment is almost at a DNA level.

That will change. There's a "leftist" radio station here in Madison that is losing listeners, but doesn't have a clue of how to change, so they just double-down on haranguing, complaining and displaying outrage. At some point either the station will cease operation, or it will change. Climate change is here to stay in our lifetimes, so as long as humans exist there will be a ferment and synthesis until the right note is hit, and change will come rapidly. Truth is greater than falsehood.

By the way, keep writing. You have great ability to go deep into a subject, and by doing so you show others the way. We're here until we aren't, so there's always something we can do.