Showing posts with label gun control. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gun control. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Inevitable Year of Reckoning, a Year That Never Was


A contradictory heading.  How can both be true?  How can a year be and not be, or should not have been but is?

The answer lies in one’s perspective, and as I am now entering the outfield of old age, the game has been called.  It’s a matter of simple math.  Removing a year from your life when you’re approaching 80 represents a huge fraction of one’s remaining life.  So, waiting for COVID-19 to abate or to be solved is tantamount to a kind of purgatory, a state of being between life and death.

Purgatory implies some kind of judgement.  I’d say we are among the fortunate who can afford to stay in our house, surrounded by our books and streaming choices of theatre and  music, and for me my precious piano,  Judgement day is looking up, if you believe in religious fabrication.  I don’t; and have always argued that we make our own heaven or hell right here and now.

At first we hung onto every word of Dr. Fauci, for guidance and for any hopeful signs of a vaccination.  Any good news would release us, the most vulnerable, from being confined to our home.  Instead, what we feared, a therapeutic and better yet, a vaccination, will be a long time coming.

Ok, “normal” life will continue without us.  As “reopening” occurred, we watched boats pass by our house, their Trump flags flying, celebrating reverence for their King releasing them from bondage, going right back to their previous ways of ignoring social distancing, just making it more dangerous for the rest of us, but, hey, it’s their “freedom” not ours.

Until the thunderbolt of America’s original sin struck in Minneapolis of all places.  Racism, lack of opportunity, income inequality, white privilege, police violence, and the message that black lives really don’t matter, came crashing down on the country’s collective conscience with the murder of just one black person, George Floyd, by an imperious white policeman, Derek Chauvin, filmed for all the world to see.  The country burst into the same Chicago flames as in 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination.  Then too we had another elephant in the room, the Vietnam War which had fomented its own trauma.  There were also the Watts Riots of 1965, involving the police and a black man and they foreshadowed the 1992 LA riots which were sparked by the arrest and beating of Rodney King, all of which was filmed.  Cell phones were not around then, but a TV cameraman captured the gruesome details.

But the killing of the seemingly gentle giant George Floyd was different.  It came soon after filmed killings either by police or white vigilantes of other blacks and, over the past years hundreds, more like them.  It came after Dylann Roof’s mass murder in a Charleston black Baptist Church.  It came immediately after the filmed confrontation of a black man who was bird watching in Central Park and a white woman who felt entitled to call the police when he asked her to put her dog on a leash in an area where birds were protected.  But she chose to turn the call into a racial one, saying "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops, I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."  It was an open invitation for the police to take action which would not have been justified.  The mere fact that he was black gave the woman a sense of entitlement, the power, to make such a call.  Had she had a gun and was in Florida she might have shot him and been vindicated under its racially charged “Stand Your Ground” law.  It reveals the basis of a problem which has existed forever in this country, remaining unaddressed.

We all know the systemic basis for it all and this country’s failure to do anything while propping up the stock market to benefit the few is a sin.
Its failure to address gun control is just another, but related, sin. 

Its failure to invest in education as part of the long term solution overarches the entire topic. 

Hopelessness breeds a certain kind of despair which cam burst into flames when a match is thrown into the kindling.  But this is no mere match, as the video of the white policeman shows him kneeling on the neck of this poor man, suffocating the life out of him, the half shit grin knowing he was being filmed, the casual hand in the pocket.  It had the characteristics of the hunter proudly dominating his dead prey.  Like the ones of the Trump brothers grinning over their dead leopard, elk, elephant, or endangered sheep, the same shit eating grin of domination by gun or authority.

Many knew that with the election of a sociopathic reality TV star a Trumpocalypse might result.  Being so close to the election now, I was starting to think we might escape with merely part of our world being dismantled but COVID-19 gave him another way to pursue his egotistical ends, forcing himself into our homes each day with frequent preposterous claims about the virus, not giving the experts the floor, and refusing to wear a mask although that is the guidelines our health experts advocated.  Nothing applies to him and it makes him look weak.  One must wonder how he felt when he had to be taken to the bunker in the White House because of protests.

Well, he decided, I’ll look strong by clearing a way to St. John's Church across the park from the White House to pose for photos holding up a bible, as if he has spent his Sundays in church.  If this photo op meant pepper spraying protestors or using rubber bullets against them, so be it.  He wants us to know he’s a tough guy.  It invites commentary, the absurdity and the arrogance of it all and it would be funny if it were not so tragic, that that is the action our “President” thinks meaningful in light of this wake up moment in our history.

It is more than ironic that George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, was the one who took the conciliatory Presidential fork in the road, exhorting the crowds to not turn to violence and looting, urging protests in a peaceful way to honor his brother.  He also asked that the crowds turn to the voting booth to make their voices heard.  "Educate yourselves. Don't wait for somebody else to tell you who's who, educate yourself and know who you're voting for. That's how we're going to help. It's a lot of us! ... Let's switch it up and do this peacefully.''

Trump, meanwhile took the low road, urging the Governors of those States to “dominate” with force, warning that if they didn’t do it, he’d call up the military.  He said "I’m your president of law and order.''

It would have been an ideal opportunity for a normal President of the United States to show empathy, compassion, urging Congress to bring a bill to his desk to ensure a massive investment in education and in the short term economic relief for the most poverty stricken and unemployed.  But we know that this President was not born with an empathic bone in his body, only bone spurs.

He is like CV19 itself.  It knows nothing about empathy and only “thinks” of its own existence by replicating through infecting others.  It is not an “equal opportunity” infector, more seriously impacting those without access to good diets and medical care as well us elderly.  It ruins lives.  It kills.  And once a large number of unprotected citizens are infected, it leads to disastrous societal and economic consequences. Trump’s strong-arm behavior only exacerbates an already incendiary situation.  I fear it will worsen.

Yet, this is our moment to stand in solidarity with all people of color, to work towards an election of bringing people to Congress who will work together to find solutions to the systemic problem of racism and income disparity and full employment for all.  If we can afford to go to Mars, we can afford to do this. And it is time to remove the virulent President.  Indeed, make this a year of reckoning, one that might have been a year that never was, but now can count for something constructive.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

“Truthful hyperbole”


It’s an interesting juxtaposition of words, almost the dictionary definition of oxymoron.  Here’s another two words strung together which approach an oxymoron: “President” and “Trump.”   So it is fitting that oxymoronic terms should hang out together.  This term is expressed by Brad Parscale who according to the Palm Beach Post (great local reporting in this case) is “the ‘genius who won Trump’s campaign,’ and how he’ll get him reelected.

I guess we’ll hear more about this digital / marketing “genius” as the 2020 election gets underway. Stoking the Trump base and bringing in other digital followers will be his responsibility to get Trump reelected. 

This digital gunslinger is more than that, a modern day Elmer Gantry who tackles his calling with a evangelistic fervor, whipping up his crowds, “It’s not just me and my computer and a bunch of algorithms that are going to save us. It’s all of you that are going to save us.” By saving us, he means from immigrants, “socialists,” and gun control advocates.  The details of these issues are not discussed, but are to be dropped as puns, one-liners, the repetition of talking points, etc., “truthful hyperbole.”

At his disposal will be a war chest to turn sites like Facebook into an endless stream of propaganda and fake news, oh, sorry, meant to say, “truthful hyperbole.”  His plan is to turn out an army of faithful automatons, 1.7 million “volunteers,” “super Trump fans.”  A soon to-be-released app “’gamifies’ the experience of waiting in line to get in” to Nuremberg style Trump rallies.  How “exciting” is that?

It is the stuff of the great dystopian novels and we will be living it with people such as Brad Parscale the Wizard behind the curtain, pulling the switches.  

Meanwhile, in the real world, there is the Virginia Beach massacre:  twelve people shot dead by a deranged, supposedly aggrieved person.  Not an immigrant.  Not a Muslim.  Not a person of color.  Most of these shootings are not by such people -- as we all know.  Most are committed by angry white men.  Yet, we still hear about the murderers pouring over our borders.  Among the “solutions” espoused by this administration is to separate families, “build the wall” of course, and not achieving that just put into place tariff taxes by executive order.   Punish the innocent and let the NRA’s propaganda propagate.


It’s in our blood.  Guns.  The blood is on your hands, NRA.  We allow this?  How preposterous in a so called civilized society?  The 2nd amendment now goes hand in hand with “truthful hyperbole.”  The right to bear arms never, never would have applied to automatic weapons or handguns with enlarged clips for rapid firing, had the writers of that amendment could have conceived of such weaponry. 

I’m going to simply “reprint” one of the pieces I published a couple years before, the one I think that comes closest to the beginning of a solution.  And indeed, it’s only a beginning.  But no more “truthful hyperbole” please about “bad guys” crossing over the border.  Congress, face up to what is needed!

I’ve now written dozens of times about gun control and in particular the need to outlaw military type weapons, institute stringent background checks, age limits, etc., all the usual ideas and have seen the usual push backs to the same.

I’ve also (not uniquely) suggested that firearms be regulated in the same way automobiles are, requiring registration and tracking when one is sold.

I go back to this argument as it is more of a total solution than any others.

There are of course persuasive arguments against the bureaucracy of establishing a Federal or State system of a “Bureau of Firearms Control.”  Expensive.  Loss of freedom, Big brother watching, etc. etc.  But we tolerate those for automobiles, which also includes testing, insurance, inspection, etc.  We do so for the greater good of society.  We establish laws governing their use and prosecute when those laws are broken, even by generally “law abiding citizens.”  Gun ownership advocates make virtual talking robot arguments that gun laws only hurt the “good” people while “evil” ones ignore them and thus, we should have fewer gun laws.  Talk about circular logic.

We take off our shoes at airports because someone tried to blow up a plane with a shoe. My constitutional rights allow me to wear shoes!

Annual gun deaths are now approaching those caused by motor vehicle incidents (the latter declining and the former steadily increasing).

Getting to the difficult part, implementation.

First, indeed institute stringent background checks, age limit laws, and ban the use of military style weapons.

Secondly, as Congress now sees fit to increase our national debt, go further and institute a Federal program for buying back weapons voluntarily surrendered, with higher premiums for military style weapons.  Pay fair price.  Return them no questions asked for a specified grace period.

Those choosing to keep their weapons, and those buying new ones, must register them with renewals required.  If the registered weapon is given or sold to another, forms have to be completed, the item identified, with the new owner’s name and address.  Then the new owner has 30 days to register them.  Registration fees will support the process.

Gradually a data base will be developed and ones who have a collection of weapons, an arsenal, would be identified and flagged as dealers, subject to another level of scrutiny and regulatory control.

This is complicated stuff and the devil is in the details.

Indeed, some (especially the “bad guys”) will ignore all of this, but they will be subject to prosecution if found with unregistered weapons, or if someone is found with an unregistered weapon purchased or given by them.  It will take time, maybe decades, to work through this group.  It has to start sometime.

And while more regulatory control and knowledge of our lives is abhorrent to me, something has to be started NOW and a more comprehensive solution needs to be sought by our lawmakers.  No more Sandy Hooks, Parklands, Santa Fes.  Now.  Please.

We don’t even hear much anymore about thoughts and prayers regarding the latest incident.  It’s as if we’ve all become inured to them.  That strategy never did work.  We have heard enhanced rhetoric about turning our schools into heavily armed prisons.  Is that really preferable to a “Bureau of Firearms Control?”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Malfeasance of Action and Morality


I used to write more in this space about topics such as this, but it lacks the immediacy of Twitter.  This space deserves more thoughtful pieces.  I’ve written about gun control (or the lack of it) and our culture’s love affair with guns in more than two dozen entries.  There will be more as the next mass tragedy is brewing, although gun violence is a daily occurrence, but generally not reported on.  How our elected representatives can ignore the arc from Sandy Hook to Parkland is unthinkable, unconscionable; indeed, a malfeasance of action and morality.  I see the face of Mitch McConnell in my mind’s eye as I write this as he, in addition to Trump, represents the worst kind of pandering to the NRA.  Ballots for bullets.

This is the one year anniversary of the Parkland shooting and as an anniversary it is being appropriately marked, particularly by our local paper, the Palm Beach Post.  If it were not the anniversary, it would be forgotten by our NRA blessed representatives who instead want to shift the problem of violence to refugees who are actually trying to flee to a safer place.  So “build a wall BS” transcends any discussion of violence in this country perpetrated by native born citizens.  Blame any feeling of insecurity on refugees, innocent people on the most part. The rhetoric and the demagoguery of it all boggles the mind, no gaslights the mind, the exact intention of this administration.

I’ve turned to twitter to at least make a statement on this, asking our representatives to look at each and every face of the Parkland victims and read their stories.  Let them never forget these helpless victims of their inaction as they are steeped in rhetoric about "The Wall," ignoring the nation's plea for sensible gun control.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Post Midterm Thoughts


So broken: our political system and our way of life.   And still another mass shooting, this one in a CA bar.  We’ve become inured to them by lack of any action, the NRA’s tentacles wrapped around Congress.  There are solutions.  It only takes the will.

Anyone who caught Trump’s news conference yesterday, his firing of Sessions and replacing him with a Yes Man, should understand the fragility of our democratic system.   Demagogues play the Press to their propagandist advantage.  Demagogues demand obedience.

I had only one wish for the Midterms: gain the House, although like most moderate progressives, I was rooting for Beto, Gillum, et al.  Still, I sleepily emailed ebullient messages to a few friends at 3.00 AM declaring “victory” with the subject heading “bring on the subpoenas.”

But I am no Pollyanna, thinking that having control of the House will ameliorate the deep dark political divide in this country.  It might exacerbate it, but as with an operation, the aftermath therapy can be more painful than the procedure. 

We focus on Trump, which is the way he wants it but there are so many systemic issues. Our Constitution is the best political document ever drafted, but it was by 18th century thinkers. 

The 2nd Amendment needs updating.  Muskets are no longer the only “arms” that we have the right to bear.

The Electoral College needs fixing or abandonment, allowing the direct popular vote to determine the outcome of Presidential elections.  Slavery and concern that the average person might not be best suited to make those decisions led to the Electoral College.  We need to question its legitimacy in today’s world where information is readily available to everyone.

Similarly, another consequence of the great Constitutional compromise was the one giving each State the same number of Senators, irrespective of population.  I quote what Alexander Hamilton had to say about that in The Federalist below.  Who could have seen what now exists, with thinly populated states such as North Dakota, about the population size of an El Paso, Texas, having the same Senate representation as the entire State of Texas itself, giving the people of ND nearly 40 times the political clout to have their say over Supreme Court Justices, etc.?  Even a greater multiple when it comes to states like NY or CA.

Another bĂȘte noir of mine, and thankfully we now have a brief reprieve, is political advertising.  Super PACs representing special interests, as well as extremist political party advertising, are a form of government approved brainwashing, appealing primarily to emotional issues.  We’ve successfully removed cigarette advertising from our airwaves.  Time has come to remove political advertising and endless robo calls (spend the $$ on our decaying infrastructure, or healthcare, etc. instead!).  Make all political discourse over the airways subject to universally recognized debate rules.  If a candidate has something to say, write an opinion piece for local and/or national publication, maintain a Web site expressing plans and opinions.  Aren’t we sick of the political advertising which portrays the opposition as being sent from hell? 

Easier said than done, I know, but we have to do something to separate the democratic process from mass persuasion dollars.  The next couple of months before our new House representatives are sworn in are going to be critical. May we survive those days to get democracy back on track.


The Federalist No. 22 by Alexander Hamilton
Every idea of proportion and every rule of fair representation conspire to condemn a principle, which gives to Rhode Island an equal weight in the scale of power with Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or New York; and to Delaware an equal voice in the national deliberations with Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or North Carolina. Its operation contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail. Sophistry may reply, that sovereigns are equal, and that a majority of the votes of the States will be a majority of confederated America. But this kind of logical legerdemain will never counteract the plain suggestions of justice and common-sense. It may happen that this majority of States is a small minority of the people of America; and two thirds of the people of America could not long be persuaded, upon the credit of artificial distinctions and syllogistic subtleties, to submit their interests to the management and disposal of one third.