A few thoughts … On perspective

By Sandy Compton
Reader Columnist

My brothers and I and our significant others once stood in Grandpa Earl’s east field on a summer night, watching sunset fade away. Hanging in the sky 10 degrees above the horizon was a brilliant, silver-white dot. My sister-in-law asked, “What’s that star?” I answered, “That’s Venus.”

I never forgot what she said to that. With a bit of incredulity in her voice, she said, “You mean, just right over there?”

That caused me to start looking at the sky differently. 

Yes. Venus is just right over there — somewhere between 160 million and 26 million miles, depending on its travels around the sun in relation to Earth. As this goes to press, Venus is about 105 million miles away, and recently visible as one of a “convergence” of five planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus and Jupiter— and the moon in our evening sky. 

“Convergence” is not a good descriptor. Though the five might all be visible to a human watching from Earth — you will have to use a good pair of binocs to see Uranus — they are far from converging. They are, instead, aligned. That only means that from our position on our planet, they are in a somewhat straight line from us as we look out into space. 

In the case of the alignment that recently graced our sky, Uranus was least visible, being waaaay out past Saturn — almost 1.8 billion miles from the sun — and so appears to be not all that large, even though it’s third in size behind Jupiter and Saturn.

If we were on Uranus (where we would be flattened by its gravity) looking back this way, we wouldn’t see anything out of the ordinary; just the sun as a faraway extra bright star. Looking toward the sun from Uranus, we would view the “dark side” of the aligned planets. 

The rule of planetary alignment visible from Earth is that all the planets we see have to be on the same side of the sun as us, for they show their presence by reflection. Because they are our solar system neighbors, Mercury, Venus and Mars are most visible, even though all are smaller than Earth. 

So much for basic astronomy. My real point here is about perspective. How we see things in the natural world depends on where we are standing. How we see things in the cultural world depends on where we stand. And, it’s way past time to tell our legislators to take a stand about weapons of war — read: AR-15s and such devices — that doesn’t reflect the views of the arms industry and their lapdog, the NRA. Or is it the other way around. 

No matter how you look at it — whatever your perspective is — these two institutions are in bed together, but it’s the general public who is getting screwed. (Sorry, editors. I don’t know how better to put it.) As of April 3, there had been 131 incidents in the U.S. this year alone in which four or more people were injured or killed by guns, and many of those who suffered or died had not seen their 13th birthday. 

I don’t understand how we can send kids to school — public or private — in today’s world, but we do. And, in the meantime, we allow mentally ill persons, angry persons, really unfit persons, almost any person who has the bucks — or a credit card — to buy weapons designed for one thing, and one thing only: to kill human beings in the most efficient — and horrible — way possible. 

Will Rogers once said of the arms industry (about 90 years ago), “I never took a human life, I only sold the fellow the gun to take it with.” Basic price of a “knockoff” AR-15 — which is just as deadly as the “premium” models — is less than $400. 

It’s not all about mass shootings. Almost 10,000 people in the U.S. have already died in 2023 of gunshot wounds. The only country leading us is Venezuela, one of the most violent places in the world. By contrast, Sweden had 60 deaths by gunshot in 2022 — six-zero. Evidently, Sweden has a different perspective on gun regulation than the U.S. 

The Second Amendment is the prevailing argument about gun regulation, but I feel it is misconstrued. Here it is: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

To my knowledge, no “well regulated Militia” exists, and from my perspective, that negates the absolute right to own any type of gun. As long as we allow weapons — especially weapons of war — to be sold indiscriminately, public safety will continue to deteriorate. Even gun owners, of which I am one, need to put that in perspective.

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