It puts a strain on my enthusiasm to get a pair of heavy snows in a few days. The attractiveness of the sparkly fresh blanket of water in crystal form does not make up for the difficulty of having to toss shovels of the blasted stuff into piles growing constantly higher along with battling those rogue or guerilla elements that tumble down a pile to muddle where you’ve just shoveled. On the good side a fine old snow is easier (as long as your roof is in no danger of collapse from its weight) to cope with than too many a person I look back on thinking “Too bad I couldn’t have put them in a heap that would melt happily away in the spring.” This sentiment does not apply to all my fellow human beings. But the thought does fit rather too many. There would be comfort thinking they might someday recognize there is little to no redeeming value insisting others heed their untested (and often unchallengeable) assertions. The prime value of these seems to be in hearing the sound of their own voice and going on with the firm belief that a confident bluster of their unquestioned views will suffice and save them the tedious effort of searching our fact and analyzing content. But what’s easy for them may prove hard on society and certainly difficult on any of us who desire thoughtful review of content over cant as a way to engage important issues. It seems ever the case, however, that those satisfied with bluster don’t want to look beyond and are inclined to be distinctly unappreciative of anyone asking “Have you thought about” of them.

I can apply a finger to an exact place in time when I first felt bluster bully shove through to assert its primal authority. I was fifteen and had glommed onto the job of sound and lights for theatrics at my grade level. For a boy like me inept on the basketball court but nimble with dictionary and alphabet this was a welcome chance. (I’d considered – God knows why – trying out for hockey, but for that you had to skate and not sit on your butt out there on the ice. We did not ice skate in Illinois where I’d come from, a handicap I couldn’t correct. In any case hockey moved faster than I could keep up with, something a drama never did.) So, I now return you to sound and light by Harry age fifteen. Given explicit written instructions about the sound, I followed them to the letter. I set up the reel tape machine (that dates things doesn’t it), checked the tape, and got the first cue set on the tape. With tape ready the instructions said plug into the auditorium amplifier. All was ready. But I noted an omission. We were plugged into the amplifier but it was not on and we’d never checked what levels to use on the four auditorium speakers. I brought (no doubt with all the decorous humility a fifteen year old can possess) this omission to the attention of the director who flew into a rage at my interference. Weren’t her instructions clear enough? Do what was written period. I was humbled after that exchange, and pissed off too at not being listened to or understood. The complaint from out front came soon as the music cued. “LOUDER, we can’t hear.” I turned up the player; its four inch speaker was no match for an auditorium with balcony. “LOUDER, don’t you understand?” An angry director stormed back stage to check my work. All was as I’d been told, but the bad result was laid to me. We did final rehearsals and performed with the backstage player deafening everyone back there while hardly making a dent out front, especially when sound absorbing bodies filled the seats. I recall making a last ditch attempt to get permission to turn on the main amplifier (why would we plug into it if not to use it) and set volume levels for the auditorium. As I remember, the result of that was distinctly emasculating. I know because when I got home I had to sew things back on.

Like a heavy snow the things (tape machine, cables, amplifier, etc.) were far and away easier to cope with than the moody caprice of a person hell-bent set on having the rest of humanity see things their way or else. Saying “Let’s look at,” “examine,” or “try” reviewing something is not radical or awful. It should be welcome as a way to mutually engage in problem solving and making for a better overall situation. But so many times it’s a case of heaven help you if you suggest a scenario or conclusion outside the one that’s in the scope of the true believer. When we don’t apply fact and reason and instead give way to loud or convincing voices we will often go on perpetuating the problem where everyone backstage continues to be deafened, those out front get a poorer result, and the overall result is of less benefit.

Consider, just take a guess, what the response will be in the wake of the recent Florida school shootings if you meet with a gun control advocate and ask reasonable questions about other issues impacting teen survival. Teen driving deaths (the stats are tricky because age 20 is often included) are annually around 3 to 4 thousand. Alcohol and drug related teen deaths are murkier yet to sort out but a number near that of driving deaths seems plausible. Then teen suicide, at a thirty year high, adds several thousand more with young males outstripping the females. It is difficult to trust numbers because related deaths or unreported causes play a heavy role, but in any case the larger question might be how can we help lower those numbers and will new gun legislation help the bigger picture? By asking the above a surprising number of people will reach a conclusion that reminds me of the drama coach insisting on her version and no other. What was your reaction?