Another Mass Shooting

 

The deaths of seventeen people at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day has again ignited debate in this country over what, if anything, can be done to end or at least impact the number of mass shootings in the United States. The debate focuses on the Constitutional right to bear arms guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment, the power of the National Rifle Association, what constitutes reasonable gun control measures, the need to address mental health issues and access to guns by the mentally challenged, and how to improve communications between law enforcement and social service organizations that may have prior knowledge of attack planning or indications that someone might carry out such an attack.

In the aftermath of this latest mass shooting social media is once again abuzz with prayers from the faithful for healing, comfort, and peace for the victims and their families. These are followed by dismissal of those prayers as ineffective or a waste of time by secularists. There are similar camps and arguments over access to military assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks and their ownership by ordinary citizens, with both sides of the divide ensconced in their positions. There are calls for Congress to arbitrate the discord and act, not along Party lines, but in response to the public outrage that demands that something be done. Sadly we have seen this all before and are very likely to go down this road again, again, and again.

Perhaps we’ll witness a different outcome this time. The teenage survivors of this shooting are determined to make this tragedy a turning point in the debate. A March for Our Lives demonstration is scheduled for March 24th in Washington, D.C.

There is, however, another factor that underlies the cyclical nature of these mass shootings and our response to them. I wrote about it previously in this blog (April 18, 2017) in the context of my reaction to the death of my father, but I believe it to be applicable to this discourse.

Though any loss is tragic, my feelings and reactions are directly proportional to how well I knew the deceased. I do not feel the same in the presence of strangers nor, I believe does anyone; we distance ourselves. We may be horrified by the brutality or enormity of it in case of wars or natural disasters [or mass shootings], we may empathize and find it sad that he or she is no longer with us, but we immunize ourselves and continue on without much further thought or reaction. – Excerpt from Silver Taps.

We must force ourselves to get past this human tendency. We need to identify with the parent who lost a child, to the sibling who lost a brother or sister, to the relative who lost a family member, to the teacher who lost a student or colleague, to the individual who lost a close friend. Their pain and anguish over these sudden deaths must become our pain and anguish. We must put ourselves in the mindset that this might have happened to me or someone I love. Otherwise our defense mechanisms will keep us from being invested over any length of time and once again  we’ll move on… until the next mass shooting.

 

The Roots of Evil

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To date I have used this forum to promote discussion of my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro. However, a blog should also serve to engage readers’ interest in upcoming publications. Later this year I hope to release my next book, Tarnished Brass, which looks at America’s involvement in the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992, and the aftermath of that conflict to include the origins of the violent street gang MS-13.

The timeliness of this upcoming release coincides with recent news coverage and comments by the President and the U.S. Attorney General highlighting the growing threat posed by this organization.

Mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals who illegally entered the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 engages in a broad range of criminal activity characterized by extreme violence toward rival street gangs and those caught in the crossfire. The savagery of their attacks is the principal reason the organization has become the focus of Justice Department efforts to incarcerate or deport its members.

The gang’s mobility within the United States has resulted in increased violence not only in Los Angeles, but in the southeastern, central, and northeastern sectors of our country. Additionally, El Salvador remains one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America with the violence that characterized a war ravaged nation supplanted and exceeded by the violence perpetrated by MS-13 gang members.

Cowboys and Cattle Drives

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Today’s San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo parade featured 125 longhorn cattle. It celebrated a tradition of moving large herds of this special breed from Texas to markets in Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana where the post-Civil War demand for meat to feed a hungry nation brought higher prices.

The trek was both arduous and dangerous, and required special skills to both protect and control the cattle along the way. This new methodology gave birth to the cowboy; men who were willing to forgo sleep to keep the cattle moving, faced threats from Mother Nature, Indians, and cattle rustlers, and endured long stretches of isolation with few comforts and infrequent interaction with anyone other than their fellow trail riders.

The cowboys worked sun-up to sun-down throughout a cattle drive, doing so in shifts to allow both rest and time to eat. The herds were especially vulnerable at night and had to be guarded lest any occurrence like lightning and thunder, animal predators, sudden movement or strange sounds caused them to stampede. To keep them calm during the hours of  darkness cowboys took to singing. Not every man had to have a “soothing voice,” but all had to know how to sit a horse, handle a rope, set a brand to the hide without burning the animals flesh, saw off horns when they got too long and posed a danger to other livestock, administer medicine when infection or disease threatened the herd, and shoot with a rifle or revolver to fight off Indians and rustlers. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

The cowboy legacy lives on in rodeos, movies, television, books, and at active cattle ranches across the West. While there are only a few longhorn cattle remaining (a symbol of a bygone era,) for its part Texas remains the largest cattle raising state in the nation, still providing beef for both domestic and international consumption.

Lone Star Literary Life

RECENTLY ON TOUR: FICTION

Palo Duro by Max L. Knight

I wanted to give one final shout out to Lone Star Literary Life (LSLL) for their recent sponsorship of my blog tour. They are truly an asset to Texas authors and I’m most appreciative of their efforts on my behalf.

I also wanted to thank all of you who participated in the Giveaway. There was an overwhelming response (almost 800 entries)! Congratulations to the winners – Stella M. of Paltaka, Florida, Amanda S. of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and Amy D. of Franklin, Pennsylvania. Though LSLL focuses on writers and stories from the great state of Texas, it’s obvious that their literary reach each extends well beyond its borders!

Prizes will be mailed later this week. Enjoy the book.

Day Ten – 2018 Blog Tour

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Everything in life has an ending, and today marks the last day of Lone Star Literary Life’s promotional tour for Palo Duro. My thanks go out to everyone involved in making it a success – the bloggers, reviewers, and coordinators, especially Kristine Hall who orchestrated the entire project.

The start of this journey began in 2015 when my wife and I made the trip to West Texas so that I could complete my research for the story. Visiting Palo Duro Canyon and the surrounding area left an indelible impression on me, and some of the memories of that trip are captured in the Scrapbook Page photos appearing in Books and Broomsticks.

If you have never visited the canyon or that part of the United States, I encourage you to go. Palo Duro Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in size and is just as majestic in its own right, and the West Texas plains are both vast and starkly beautiful.

The final entry in this tour is fittingly another review of my book by Ruthie Jones. For those of you considering whether to add Palo Duro to your reading list, look to the comments of other readers, not my own, as your guide.

The complete review can be accessed on Reading by Moonlight. Here is an excerpt –

“All the accounts in Palo Duro paint a bloody picture that the author neither sugarcoats nor glosses over. But the book also shows the many people on all sides who were filled with determination to build and preserve their culture and history (Native American) or promote and maintain their culture and way of life (white settlers, military, or just someone looking for a new life in the Wild West). And don’t skip the Afterwards as it provides a nice follow up on the real characters.

A big Thank You goes out to the author, Max L. Knight, for presenting this historical fiction of a volatile time in US History in such a unique and interesting fashion.”

 

Day Nine – 2018 Blog Tour

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Next to the last day. For me its been a fast and fun experience. I have especially appreciated the forthright reviews of Palo Duro. Someone once said “there is no pride in authorship.” That is not true… I certainly take to heart all comments about substance, style, and grammar. It is the only way to move forward as a writer.

Today’s review comes from Kristine Hall. The following is an excerpt from her website, Hall Ways Blog.

HALL WAYS REVIEW: ✪✪✪✪ 

“In Palo Duro, readers are given thirteen sub-books, each focusing on a historical event or person(s), as related to the Southwest of the 1800s.  The events and people tend to weave in and out of the bigger novel because they are all connected in some form or fashion. While initially, some of the stories seem to be irrelevant (but highly entertaining and immensely interesting), author Max Knight makes sure readers know that nothing is randomly placed in Palo Duro.”

As a former school teacher, Kristine Hall does point out the misuse of semi-colons and quotation marks in the book, commenting…

“I don’t imagine there are many who are distracted by a misused semi-colon or quotation marks, but anyone who reads my reviews knows it’s my curse/blessing.”

Such attention to detail is not only warranted, but much appreciated!

Day Eight – 2018 Blog Tour

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Final Stages!

There are only a few more days left on this promotion tour for Palo Duro. As we wind down there are always new projects to pursue and even a few more insights into past inspiration and future publications.

The Clueless Gent offers an interview in which I discuss my next book, Tarnished Brass, a look at U.S. involvement in El Salvador in the mid 1980s and the rise of the violent street gang, Mara Salvatrucha. Several news articles lately have addressed Justice Department efforts to eradicate gang violence in the United States, but little is known about this largely forgotten war and the origins of MS-13.

Finally, if you enjoy listening to Spotify, there is also a playlist in Tangled in Text where listeners can enjoy epic musical scores linked to the subject matter in Palo Duro. Though temperatures are expected to rise in Texas today, it is still frigid out there, so settle in another day and stay warm while listening to selections from some of the greatest movies ever made about westward expansion.