Friday, May 18, 2018

May 18: The Vast Blue Eye of the Sea, Santa Fe Shooting, Parkland Generation

In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely across Stubb's bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were pretty near to each other, Stubb hailed the mate.

"Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a word with ye, sir, if ye please!"

"Halloa!" returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch as he spoke; still earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew; his face set like a flint from Stubb's.

"What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!

"Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong, boys!)" in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: "A sad business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never mind, Mr. Stubb, all for the best. Let all your crew pull strong, come what will. (Spring, my men, spring!) There's hogsheads of sperm ahead, Mr. Stubb, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm, sperm's the play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand in hand."

"Aye, aye, I thought as much," soliloquized Stubb, when the boats diverged, "as soon as I clapt eye on 'em, I thought so. Aye, and that's what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy long suspected. They were hidden down there. The White Whale's at the bottom of it. Well, well, so be it! Can't be helped! All right! Give way men! It ain't the White Whale to-day! Give way!"

Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant as the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of the ship's company; but Archy's fancied discovery having some time previous got abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some small measure prepared them for the event. It took off the extreme edge of their wonder; and so what with all this and Stubb's confident way of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time freed from superstitious surmisings; though the affair still left abundant room for all manner of wild conjectures as to dark Ahab's precise agency in the matter from the beginning. For me, I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling him. Those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like five trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular strokes of strength, which periodically started the boat along the water like a horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi steamer. As for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the whole part of his body above the gunwale, clearly cut against the alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end of the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer's, thrown half backward into the air, as if to counterbalance any tendency to trip; Ahab was seen steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere the White Whale had torn him. All at once the outstretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed, while the boat's five oars were seen simultaneously peaked. Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three spread boats in the rear paused on their way. The whales had irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly discernible token of the movement, though from his closer vicinity Ahab had observed it.

"Every man look out along his oars!" cried Starbuck. "Thou, Queequeg, stand up!"

Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow, the savage stood erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed off towards the spot where the chase had last been descried. Likewise upon the extreme stern of the boat where it was also triangularly platformed level with the gunwale, Starbuck himself was seen coolly and adroitly balancing himself to the jerking tossings of his chip of a craft, and silently eyeing the vast blue eye of the sea.

Not very far distant Flask's boat was also lying breathlessly still; its commander recklessly standing upon the top of the loggerhead, a stout sort of post rooted in the keel, and rising some two feet above the level of the stern platform. It is used for catching turns with the whale line. Its top is not more spacious than the palm of a man's hand, and standing upon such a base as that, Flask seemed perched at the mast-head of some ship which had sunk to all but her trucks. But little King-Post was small and short, and at the same time little King-Post was full of a large and tall ambition, so that this logger head stand-point of his did by no means satisfy King-Post.

Something bad is about to happen.  All the boats have stopped moving.  The pod of sperm whales have disappeared from sight.  These eleven paragraphs end with a held breath.  Even Ahab seems wary.  They are surrounded by the "vast blue eye of the sea."  Underneath that eye, anything could be swimming.  Danger seems not just a possibility, but definite.

Well, it has happened again in the United States.  Another school shooting, this time at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.  Ten people dead (mostly students), and ten people wounded.  At this point, school shootings are not just possibilities in my country.  They are definite.  Parkland was not the last, and Santa Fe will not be the last.  Beneath the vast blue eye of the United States of America, there is danger.

I'm not going to lay this all at the feet of the Republicans currently in power in Washington, D. C., although they are the ones that could clearly have done something to prevent another mass shooting after Parkland.  No, this goes deeper than political affiliations.  Gun violence is embedded in the psyche of this country so that the mere suggestion of sensible gun laws has people up in arms, literally.

I come from a gun-owning family.  My father hunted.  All my brothers (and some of my sisters) hunt.  I have nothing against responsible gun owners.  However, the problem isn't the fact that responsible gun owners are going rogue and killing young people.  The problem is that automatic weapons are so easy to acquire.  That American society glorifies violence.  That we are governed by men and women who stay in power because they accept a lot of money from people who make guns.

When automobiles became common in the United States, there weren't any seat belts in them.  The glass used in windshields shattered into sharp knives and splinters of glass.  If a person got in a car accident at even a moderate rate of speed, he or she would end up dead.

Do you know what the government did about that?  It funded scientific studies to determine how to improve automobile safety and decrease the number of automobile injuries and deaths.  It didn't take decades.  In a few years, seat belts were a requirement in cars and trucks.  Windshields were made with a different kind of glass.  Nowadays, airbags are standard.

Politicians got together.  Saw that a lot of people were dying.  And they made changes, despite pressure from automakers, to protect the American people.  Because that was the right thing to do.

So, my question is simple:  why is it so hard to do the same thing for guns?

If you're a gun owner reading this post and getting angry, take a deep breath.  Google the pictures of the kids who died today in Santa Fe.  Google the pictures of the kids who died in Parkland.  Sandy Hook.  Columbine.  Virginia Tech.  Las Vegas.  I could go on and on.  Look at those faces.  Think about the families of those people.  Parents.  Spouses.  Brothers.  Sisters.  Children.

All of those people didn't have to die.

Putting more guns on the street, in schools, isn't the solution.  That's like putting more unsafe automobiles on the road and saying that will reduce traffic death and injuries.  It doesn't make sense.  Cars needed seat belts and safer windshields and airbags.  The United States needs REAL gun legislation to stop school shootings.

If the leaders in Washington, D. C., aren't willing to do that, then we need different leaders.

I am thankful tonight that my kids are safe at home, but, every time my wife drops them off at school in the morning, there is a little, uneasy part of my mind that stays on alert all day long.  My daughter has expressed the same kind of worry to me, as well.  That makes me incredibly angry and sad.

Nothing is going to change because of the Santa Fe school shooting.  There's going to be another one in a month or a week or on Monday.  I guarantee that.

When the Parkland generation of kids turns 18 and starts exercising its Constitutional right to choose who governs this country, I hope they do a better job than my generation has, because we have really fucked things up.

Saint Marty doesn't send his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families in Santa Fe.  He's going to vote this November, and he's going to think about the faces of all those young people when he's in the ballot box.

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