Monday January 22, 2018
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America needs non-violence and less guns

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Hardly a day passes when a senseless mass shooting does not occur in the United States of America, to the extent  that such murders now seem to have lost their shock value. Verily, the US is averaging a little over one mass shooting every day in 2015.

Therefore, in that respect Wednesday was just another day in America when a couple armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, attired in military-style clothing went on a shooting spree at a social services centre in San Bernadino, California that specialises in helping adults with disabilities and mental health problems. They killed at least 14 people and wounded 17 others.

The man and woman, Syed Rizwan Farook (28), and Tashfeen Malik (27) were later killed by police. According to reports, Farook, a US citizen, had left an event, possibly a holiday party for employees or a meeting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino “under some circumstances that were described as angry,” and returned with Malik armed with assault rifles.

Now that it has come to light that the perpetrators were Muslims by faith, this attack would be termed an act of terrorism. But that should not stop Americans from introspecting and looking inwards to realize that they, as a society, have a serious issue at hand concerning excessive violence. Over 310 million firearms are estimated to be in the hands of private citizens; that is, roughly 97 guns for every 100 people.

Source: FBI

Studies show that where guns are more available, there are more homicides. This, coupled with the fact that nearly nine percent of the US population has a serious anger problem, makes America potentially the most violent and dangerous country on the planet.

“Anger is a normal human emotion,” Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor, and a leading expert on US gun violence tells National Catholic Reporter.

“Everybody gets angry. But these are people who, when they get angry, break and smash things, and get into physical fights. … People who have a really short fuse,” and who can at times be “uncontrollable and destructive.”

The problem arises when angry people have easy access to assault rifles that can inflict excessive physical harm on others. The issue would, however, not vanish even if we were to take away all the weapons from the private citizens, for the ‘anger’ would manage to find some other means of violent expression.

Even the US security personnel have been of late accused of unnecessarily pulling the trigger on unarmed ‘black’ citizens, as the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014 and other such incidents show.

Let the Truth be told. America comes across as a trigger-happy and extremely violent country, for not only its military but also its private citizens are armed to the teeth. Americans love their weapons and are more than happy in waging unnecessary wars on hapless countries who pose no threat to them.

Iraq never threatened America, yet the ancient country was attacked under the false and malicious pretext of it possessing the weapons of mass destruction, which have not been found till date. It led to the creation of the ISIS, a death cult, that now poses a threat to the entire world. Now, in order to deal with this pressing problem engendered by themselves, the US would wage another war and the cycle of death and destruction would thus continue.

There’s too much violence in the words, thoughts and actions of Americans. Apparently, they have an excessive violence in their movies and dramas as well.

27-year-old former graduate student James Holmes, dressed in tactical clothing and inspired by a Hollywood movie, had in July 2012 attacked the packed premiere of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado, spraying bullets into the dark auditorium, killing 12 people – including a six-year-child – and injuring several others.

Why do such incidents happen in the US on a regular basis? Why do people have an easy access to weapons that, as history shows, are likely to be used against fellow citizens at the drop of a hat?

Mahatma Gandhi, who taught the lesson of non-violence and brotherhood to a world engulfed in sanguine wars in the early twentieth century, felt that possession of arms was not only cowardice but also a lack of fearlessness or courage.

Gandhi said: “I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart, a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice, but true nonviolence is impossible without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness.”

Perpetrators of violence or criminals, Gandhiji believed, were products of social disintegration. The only weapon that could counter ‘Himsa’ (violence) was ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence), which was more than just avoidance of physical violence. For Gandhiji, Ahimsa was love for fellow human beings and humanity.

Arun Gandhi, Gandhiji’s grandson, explains: “He (Gandhi) said ahimsa means love. Because if you have love towards somebody, and you respect that person, then you are not going to do any harm to that person.”

What Americans need right now is a sense of humanity and love, not only for their fellow countrymen but for the entire world. The US constitution says, “All men are created equal.” Therefore, the life of a human being in Syria or Iraq should be of the same worth as that of an American. Once we start seeing each other as human beings first, all differences in terms of race, language, colour, caste, creed and nationality would begin to wither away. And then, the Kingdom of God will be there in the world, instead of Satan who seems to rule the roost today.

The world is at war with itself, but the biggest battle is being fought within us, between the good and evil in our hearts. We need to win this war through the weapon of non-violence i.e. love. Only love and unadulterated humanity can save this world from its perdition.

(Image: BBC)

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  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Saying goes -you shall get what you sow and how you grow.American claim to world role model need to remove the defect in their base

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Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore

America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It's also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

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Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore
More than half the world's geysers are in Yellowstone National Park. VOA

January 2, 2018: When you think about America’s national parks, what probably comes to mind first is America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It’s also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

Yellowstone sits on an active volcano, the source of the more than 10,000 geothermal features in the park, including more than half the world’s geysers. National Parks traveler Mikah Meyer made sure he caught the eruption of the best-known of its 500 geysers – Old Faithful, which shoots a column of superheated water up to 42 meters into the air, every 60 to 110 minutes.

“They have geysers that range from Old Faithful to these geysers that are basically holes in the ground that give a glimpse into what the bubbling boiling earth underneath is like.”

And some of what bubbles up is mud. Mikah describes these ‘mudpots’ as a witch’s cauldron. “They look like some sort of witch’s concoction because you’re just walking along this boardwalk and suddenly to your left and your right you’ve got these giant mud pools that are bubbling up in random spots, and so it really is a place where you can see the earth’s underbelly.”

The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor.
The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor. VOA

He noted a constant feature of the park — steam. “Anywhere you are in the park it always seems like somewhere in your 360° view you’ll see some steam rising out of the ground.” These fumaroles, or steam vents, are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park, with temperatures as high as 138°Celsius.

Yellowstone is also home to thermophile microbes, which thrive in the hot springs. Trillions of these microorganisms are grouped together, so they appear as masses of color. Since different types of thermophiles live at different temperatures within a hot spring, they produce what looks like a rainbow in the water.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

And it’s not just hot water shooting up… Yellowstone also has 350 identified waterfalls that tumble down more than 4 1/2 meters. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is the tallest cascade in the park. At 94 meters, it’s twice as high as Niagara Falls.

An abundance of wildlife

Many of the more than 4 million visitors to Yellowstone each year come to see one of the symbols of the American West. Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, and the park’s herd of 4,000 to 5,000 animals represents the last-known wild bison population in the world.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

Mikah said they really catch visitors’ eyes. “I have this video of what I call a Yellowstone traffic jam which is basically anytime there’s any sort of animal on the side of the road, everyone seems to stop their car and take pictures or pull over and it’s an instant traffic jam!”

But bison aren’t the only iconic animals in the park. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, including predators like grey wolves and bears, and large herbivores, like big horn sheep, elk and moose.

Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco)
Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco). VOA

There are nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, five species of amphibians, and six species of reptiles.

But the main draw remains the regular eruption of Old Faithful. “If you’re on the hunt for geysers,” Mikah concludes, “you really can’t do much better than Yellowstone National Park.” (VOA)