Tag Archives: terrorism

Guns

By the time I was 12 years old, I was highly proficient with both rifles and handguns as a result of time spent learning to shoot at a camp I attended over several summers. My father belonged to the NRA and had a subscription to at least one gun magazine. We had guns in the house: two rifles and at least one handgun. Safety was paramount, and both my brother and I learned to respect firearms and the risk they presented if handled carelessly.

I didn’t give much thought to the societal impact of widespread gun possession until that awful day, November 22, 1963. I was a senior in high school and in my second period gym class when the teacher called us together and said – I remember his words precisely: “The President has been shot. Go take your shower and get dressed with dignity.”

Shortly after, the announcement came that President Kennedy had been fatally wounded. School was dismissed and my mother came to pick me up. When we arrived home, I went immediately to my bedroom, where I lay down and cried. If you are part of a generation that has followed mine, this may be difficult for you to imagine. But for us it was the sudden and devastating end to an era of idealism connected to the Kennedy Presidency that we had come to call “Camelot”. For my generation and even that of our parents, the world changed on that day and has not been the same since.

Over the four days that followed the assassination, the country sat, riveted to television, as the shocking aftermath played out with the killing of  the murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. We watched in grief the funeral of the slain President. Lyndon Johnson, who bore no love for the Kennedys, was respectful and did his best to reassure a shocked nation that our country would all get through the ordeal. Many of us weren’t so sure.

It was then that I decided I would never shoot a firearm again — ever. I was 17, idealistic and impressionable when Kennedy was assassinated. Now I am 71 and in many ways much the same person I was in 1963.  I have remained true to the vow I made back then. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, innumerable killings and mass shootings later – all of these have served to reinforce my resolve over the use of firearms as well as my disappointment over our collective, ongoing failure to deal with guns and the price we pay for misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution states, “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.” The NRA and its members and supporters conveniently ignore the “well regulated militia” specification of the amendment, stressing only “the right to keep and bear Arms”. In other words, few or, preferably, no, restrictions on gun ownership is the policy pushed  by a powerful lobbying organization and supported by a large segment of its members and sympathizers  The influence of the NRA and its gang of aspiring vigilantes has quite effectively stymied reasonable efforts at firearms regulation and, in so doing, has done much to enable both individual and mass murder in the U.S.

What can be done? It is abundantly clear that all the tears and hand wringing, prayers and speechifying after each new violent episode are useless in bringing action by  a Congress that has been bought by the NRA. In fact, there really is only one solution, one that will, in fact, work. In the words of our deranged President, “Believe me.” But it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, unfortunately. That’s because what it will take is for an overwhelming public expression at the ballot box, electing candidates who stand for placing reasonable limits on gun ownership and, very specifically, the processes associated with acquiring guns and ammunition. Put simply, national policy won’t change until elected representatives in Congress – both the House and the Senate — are voted out of office and replaced by individuals who can’t be either intimidated or bought by the NRA. Those of us who vote simply aren’t a big enough group to produce the change without help from the largely apathetic segment of the population that doesn’t seem to care. Can they be mobilized? Today, it seems like a longshot.

I’m old enough, with my youthful idealism now tempered by a slightly cynical dose of realism, to understand that it probably won’t happen in my lifetime. Still, I can hope. After all and if it’s any indication, a lot of folks in Las Vegas may have changed their mind about speaking up after this past weekend’s mass killings.

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Subversion of Purpose: Subversion of Country

When I began this blog a little over two years ago (yes, this is entry #104), I stated its main purpose as a literary one. Partly it was to flack my own writing, and partly it was to discuss writing, publishing, and culture in general. The turn taken since then in national politics, however, has led me to write much more about social and political trends and, in particular in recent times, my concerns over the willfully ignorant, bullying, narcissistic, misogynistic, science denying, and generally incompetent Neanderthal who now occupies the White House. Oh, and his coterie of fellow moral degenerates, ignoramuses, and incompetents.

It seems as if we are being assaulted on a daily basis with mean-spirited and potentially dangerous actions and pronouncements of this group of evil clowns, and there is little evidence that anyone has either the courage or the wherewithal to bring them to heel. Of equal and even greater concern is the fact that the extremism of the administration has served to unmask the true nature of the more extended Republican mindset and the heretofore somewhat repressed racism and religious bigotry of much of the American public, some 35% of which (as of today) remains solidly behind Trump and the Republicans.

What is the ugliness that has been set free upon us? The spectrum, unfortunately, is a broad one. Here are a few elements of the current American deconstruction.  The list is far from complete, as new ones appear every day and some that we aren’t even learning about until well beyond the tweets and Executive Orders:

  • The Trump-Ryan American Health Care bill: This, of course, was a doozy. Trump probably never read the bill, of course, since he doesn’t like to read. And so, while promising “terrific” health care for everyone, he backed a bill written by Speaker Ryan that would kick 14 million souls off the insurance roll within a year, and 24 million within ten years. When it appeared that it would fail because of the no votes of the wildly misnamed “Freedom Caucus” (29 angry white males) and some moderate Republicans, the proponents offered to make it better. How? By attacking such things as pre-existing condition coverage and the creation of an excluded diagnosis list. Yes, terrific for everyone. In the end, of course, it didn’t please anyone. It wasn’t mean enough for the Freedom guys and it wasn’t generous enough for the moderates or, of course, the Democrats. Trump tried to blame Democrats, in part, for the failure of passage. But, then, maybe he forgot that the Democrats already have a health care bill, the ACA (Obamacare). Now, Trump has hinted that he might actually try to sabotage the ACA in order to get what he really wants.
  • The Trump immigration ban: The first attempt was blocked by a judge, as was the “improved” bill. Several aspects of this are quite noteworthy. First, the original seven countries, all predominantly Muslim, have no Trump business interests. Other predominantly Muslim countries in the region do and, of course, were left off the list. Second, the ban was overtly religious in nature and therefore in violation of the first amendment. Put simply, you can’t ban a whole religion for no reason other than pure bigotry. Third, the original ban was written so poorly, was so sloppy, that it banned people with legitimate visas and green cards from entering the country. Duh. Fourth, there was no evidence that the ban would do anything to prevent acts of domestic terrorism. The U.S. already conducts extensive vetting activities, and immigration is limited to those who can and do pass careful review. Furthermore, it is simply unreasonable to impose a blanket ban upon a group of people because some lone terrorist might be among them. And, in case Trump hasn’t noticed, there have been no terrorist acts committed in the U.S. by immigrants from any of the initial seven banned countries.
  • Trump’s appointments: What the hell is it with Trump’s appointments? Flynn is out as the first casualty of the Russian affair. Bannon was just pulled from his seat on the National Security Council because, the administration says, he’s no longer needed there to oversee Flynn. Wait a minute. Trump put someone on the NSC that he didn’t trust? Yikes!!! And now Bannon is apparently pissed over being pulled, so maybe Flynn’s departure wasn’t the real reason Bannon was yanked. Will we ever know? Not from Trump, and certainly not from Spicer, who’s got about as much credibility as Trump, himself, being as he is Trump’s ass-kissing lackey. And then there’s Rick Perry. I don’t even know what to say about this guy, who wanted to get rid of the agency he now heads and, as it turns out, had no idea of what the agency actually does. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary? The man who thinks the pyramids were built as grain storage facilities? And this man was a practicing brain surgeon. Maybe he was just on a career search for his own.
  • And speaking of appointments, there’s perhaps the biggest doozy of all: Betsy DeVos, a person so ignorant about education that she’s both horrifying and a laughingstock among everyone except religious nuts, those who oppose the fundamental American value placed upon public education, and those who don’t actually think guns in classrooms are necessary for the prevention of bear attacks. DeVos is the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live, except that she’s frightening instead of funny. Now, isn’t that special? (My apologies to Dana Carvey.)
  • And, although the list could go on and on, say, to deal with efforts to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, build the “beautiful” wall, the wiretapping allegation against former President Obama, and more, we shouldn’t leave out foreign relations: Russian hacking, North Korean nuclear saber rattling, relations with China, issues surrounding the administration’s attitude toward NATO… It’s never-ending, and too much to get into in this piece.

So, I’ll bring it to a close with a few questions. When is enough going cross into too much? When will the conflicts of interest, the lying and the gross incompetence lead either to impeachment or removal through the 25th amendment. When will the Republicans grow a set and realize that they’ve become the party of angry, mean-spirited, and bigoted tolerance? When will they have the courage to take action against a demagogue? And when will American citizens finally stand up and say we’re angry and depressed, and revolted by what we see, and we’re not going to take it anymore?

NOTE: As I was finishing writing the entry above, the airfield attack with Tomahawk missiles ordered by President Trump was being carried out. As some toadying politicians of both parties congratulated him for his bold action, others, including myself, were not so thrilled. What the President did was unconstitutional. The constitution does not permit the President to initiate an act of war against a foreign government and, especially, one posing no immediate threat to the safety and security of the United States. What President Dumpkof should have done was seek authorization from Congress for the action. The precedent set by his failure to do so, one that reeks of power-mad dictatorship, is horrifying. If the President can do this, what other country might he, on his own and without advice and consent, attack? What weapons might he unleash without restraint? And yet even more questions present themselves. Why did the Generals proceed with implementation of a clearly illegal order? Are we facing the unholy alliance of a dictator with the military? And what is to be said of a Congress that is not only complicit in its own developing impotence, but is even cheering its support as it is being thrust into irrelevancy?

Paris: Where to from Here?

The civilized world has been seized with revulsion over the recent slaughter in Paris, and there has been no shortage of pundits pontificating upon the motivations of the human monsters who planned and executed the attack. At the risk of offering just another opinion among the many, I am going to be arrogant enough to offer my own take on the situation.

First, I am struck by the political correctness that I have seen, the bending over backwards not to blame Islam as a whole for the events, and by the Democratic nomination seekers in particular not to call the perpetrators radical Islamists. Instead, they’ve simply referred to them as “jihadists”.

The specific, trigger motivations of the attackers probably span a spectrum, but the core of it all clearly and indisputably is religion. Let me be clear, however, that I do not single out Islam as the only cause of such behavior. Far from it, in fact. Consider the holy warfare of the Crusades, the self-righteous persecution of Jews by Christians during the Inquisition, and the Christian bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan, not to mention the increasingly bigoted and incipiently dangerous pronouncements of some on the religious right, who would create an American theocracy. This time, however, it is radical Islamism, and to soft pedal it in the interest of political correctness is to avoid confronting the larger issue of behavior committed in the name of religion, in general.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me state clearly that I am not indiscriminately anti-Muslim. What I am, however, is adamantly against radical religious behavior regardless of its sect of origin. Thus, in the present case, radical Islam has become the justification for ISIS and Al Qaeda and their regional offshoots to commit aggression and atrocities on levels that demand both condemnation and active countermeasures. To see rape as a holy rite, to commit widespread and indiscriminate murder, and to glorify ignorance and bigotry is an obscene throwback to the dark ages warranting no sanctuary the modern world.

There are those in our country who now would have the U.S. engage much more actively in another hot war in the Middle East. If the lesson of Vietnam taught us nothing about involvement where we do not belong, however, then the Iraq war certainly should have. It most definitely has led us to the mess we’re seeing now, namely, a war unwinnable by us against committed forces fighting on their own ground. The answer, then, must come from nations in the region, with technical and material support from us. After all, we did lay the groundwork for the current chaos, and so have a degree of responsibility now for helping to end it. But we must not impose the clear provocation of placing American combat troops in the region, which will only make things worse.

What happened in Paris was barbaric and only the latest warning to humanity about the evils which can be justified by repressive, dogmatic, fundamentalist religion and the poverty, ignorance and bigotry it fosters. Our response, however, needs to be thought through carefully. Both political correctness and wholesale reactive and aggressive actions have no place in determining where we go from here, so let’s all take a deep breath and think this through, carefully and responsibly.