Posts Tagged ‘Guns’

Or should I have entitled this, “The Insane Right Has Guns”?

The recent events in Tucson, Arizona will be argued – they are already being argued – by both sides of the gun issue. Nevertheless, all must agree that this event should not have happened. Was it the fault of Sarah Palin just because she labeled Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s district with a gunsight? Let’s not be silly, right Sarah? After all, just because Gabrielle complained about the gunsight  imagery and that it would have consequences does that really mean that anyone would have somehow been inspired by that? Does it? Surely no crazy person would have been influenced by that, right Sarah? Sleep well, Sarah. It was just a horrible coincidence – wasn’t it?

It would be easy to talk about the current political climate and how ever since the Tea Party spun itself up that politics have become ugly. There is a lot of nastiness in general, untrue accusations about the birth of our President, untrue accusations about health care and “Death Panels”, and untrue accusations about the disastrous state of the economy being due to President Obama instead of the insane economics of George Bush. It goes on and on. Gross lies and misrepresentations from the extreme right. Its proper name is propaganda. The question we must ask now is this: have they finally gone too far?

However, before we go there, we need to take a look at one of America’s sacred rights (it seems to have the same quality as a religious belief), the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment to the Constitution (apparently the writers of the Constitution had forgotten about this, so they had to put it in as an amendment). The entire extent of the Second Amendment reads simply, “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.” That’s it. A couple of years ago the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrated its knowledge of the English language by ruling that the right to bear arms has nothing to do with being in a Militia. This is the same Supreme Court that recently ruled that corporations have the same free speech rights as living people. Our Supreme Court is undoubtedly inspired by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where he says, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – nothing more nor less”.

Speaking of the Constitution, would it be possible to talk about it rationally for a moment? Let’s face it. It is a document written by people who lived in the U.S. over 200 years ago and it was written to address their needs. They were intelligent people, these writers of the Constitution, and they knew that times change and needs change. So, they put in the ability to amend the Constitution by their successors. The people who wrote the Constitution did not believe they were writing as religious document that could not be questioned, modified, or improved. That is the whole reason they built in the capability to write amendments. They were sensible people. Unlike a lot of people we hear on far-right-wing television and radio today. You know who I mean.

We seem to have reached a point where we are unable to conduct intelligent discourse amongst ourselves. Everything is presented as a life or death decision. I guess that’s how you sell “news”. The problem is that this is poisonous news and it is poisoning our country. A case in point is the recent mass murder that took place in Tucson. The killer, by all accounts, is nuts. His classmates in school were afraid of him. One of them even said they thought he might bring a gun to class. He was, by all accounts, nearly incoherent. He couldn’t say a complete, meaningful sentence. Oh, and another thing – he had a gun. And he used it. Now, any sensible person would say that crazy people should not have guns – but not the gun lobby and the far extreme right. For these people guns are a sacred right enshrined in a sacred document – the Constitution.

“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of other things”. Indeed. We Americans need to begin a sensible discussion about this subject, the subject of guns. I don’t want insane people to have guns. I also don’t want insane people to be brain surgeons or airline pilots. The airlines have figured out how to keep the insanity out of the cockpit. Same for the hospitals – there’s no insanity in the operating room. So why can’t we keep guns out of the hands of the criminally insane? And please, don’t tell me because it is our God-given right for all Americans to bear arms. The more we, as a people, persist in deluding ourselves about issues that only require common sense solutions, the more we will find that we are building an insane culture that can’t even make sense of the English language (sort of like the Supreme Court). It’s time for the ranting fanatics like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the Fox mob to just back off – they are stirring up the crazies – and I suspect they know it. It is time for a little civilization in America.

As Lewis Carroll said, “If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later”.

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A few days ago, during a rare joint session of Congress, a Republican Congressman, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, shouted out that the President of the United States is a liar.  Perhaps, just by accident, President Obama is the first black President of the United States.  Perhaps, just by accident, Joe Wilson is from South Carolina, the first state to secede from the United States and become the founder of the Confederate States of America. The first battle of the U.S. Civil War began when Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The Confederacy was created to preserve the right of Americans to enslave Africans, and South Carolina led the way. So, perhaps South Carolina’s Congressman Joe Wilson’s calling the first black U.S. President a liar is simply a coincidence, an accident of history. But I don’t think so.

Joe Wilson and the good ol’ boys in South Carolina are not alone in their animosity towards this man who was elected by the majority of the American people.  Ever since last November’s election fear and rage have been increasing, most ominously evidenced the extreme increase in the sales of guns and ammunition in the U.S.  The story goes that the gun buyers fear that President Obama will put restrictions on the sales of guns, but he hasn’t.  Even so, there is a movement that has spread to many states that attempts to restrict the power of the federal government to control the sales of firearms. Meanwhile, it has been a good year for Smith & Wesson and the other gun manufacturers. Even though firearms can be very expensive, items like the AK-47 and AR-15 and their ammunition are selling like hotcakes. It’s pretty much these same people who are enraged about the healthcare debate who are buying up all the firearms and ammo.

In 1993 President Clinton tried to bring about change in health care in America.  He wanted to create a universal health care system, much like the rest of the civilized world.  There was strong opposition in Congress and among many citizens and his plan was defeated.  However, even though there was strong opposition to the Clinton plan, the rage that we see among Americans at Town Hall meetings, and now even in the halls of Congress, was not there.  While the health care debate was heated, it was civilized. Today it isn’t.  Back in 1993 the debate was about the nature of the proposed plan and whether there would be too much government interference and mismanagement in health care – reasonable issues for discussion.  Today the issue is “death panels”.  The difference between the then and now is the lies and fear.

Ever since the day Barack Obama was elected many Americans have been arming themselves to the teeth with the purchase of assault weapons and massive amounts of ammunition.  Why? Why does the average American need a weapon that is intended for use in war – a weapon that can easily kill tens or hundreds of people. Is there a sensible reason for owning one of these, or are these people preparing for some sort of new Civil War?  Why is it that when America’s first black president proposes health care reform his message is met with outright lies and vitriol? Why is it that Joe Wilson not only shrieked “You Lie!” to the President, when he was in fact telling the truth, but now he says he refuses to apologize to the Congress – a Congress for whose rules of decorum and respect he abandoned. Why is it that people like Sarah Palin can create the lie about death panels and no one from Republican Party objects?  Why is it that a member of the  Party of the Liars calls the President a liar and then receives a million dollars in campaign contributions?

Stand back and take a look.  We are a nation divided – and heavily armed too.  Our radio and television “news” media no longer deal in news. It is political propaganda that now permeates the airwaves, led by uneducated former drug addicts and alcoholics, who only seem to care about ratings. Truth is accidental.  It is more important to whip up the uninformed American people into a frenzy and then use their rage to influence our lawmakers – who are already heavily influenced by the weight of all the money the lobbyists stuff into their pockets. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: where is this heading?

Our nation has lost the ability to have rational discourse.  The fires of emotion have been stoked by irresponsible people intent on using the rage of the uninformed for their own profit-making purposes.  Now the uninformed and enraged people who have swallowed the lies of the media, as well as their leaders, seem to have lost the power of reason. These irrational people no longer believe in civility or reasoned argument, and they have guns – assault weapons – lots of them.  Think about that for a minute.

And then tell me we are not on the eve of self-destruction.

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It happened again today, a psychotic man with a gun went on a rampage and killed several people.  There have been previous incidents, more shocking perhaps.  Columbine and Virginia Tech come to mind.  Remember the D.C. snipers a few years ago that terrorized that area?  The more I think about it, the more I realize that far from being unusual, this type of behavior happens all the type. People, who we think are stable and happy, suddenly just go out and run amok and kill people.

It’s interesting that the word “amok” is one of the very few words that has made it into the English language from the Malay language (now called Bahasa Malaysia).  People run amok in Malaysia too, except they tend to do so with parangs rather than guns because private ownership of guns is essentially outlawed in Malaysia.  The parang, a very big knife, sort of the same thing as a machete, is the usual weapon of choice and those men (they always seem to be men rather than women) who run amok typically choose a crowded village location to suddenly lash out at everyone in sight.  The person who runs amok will continue to try to kill everyone he encounters until he is subdued or killed by the villagers.  It is behavior that is not too different from our American psychos, except that the damage is usually less severe because parangs just can’t compete with guns when it comes to killing people.

Malaysia, and a lot of other countries, has dealt with the threat to the general population from psychos with guns by banning gun ownership and then strictly enforcing the ban.  The penalty for illegal ownership of a gun, or even a bullet, in Malaysia is death.  Same with Singapore.  The result is that you can walk the streets at night in Kuala Lumpur and feel a lot safer there than you would in New York City or Philadelphia or Washington D.C.

We are faced with a severe problem, a threat to public safety, that time has shown we are incapable of addressing effectively.  Despite countless massacres and loss of life, we have been unable to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of psychos.  We have also been unable to find an effective way to protect the people from psychos with guns.  The question is why?  Why is it that so many other countries are able to deal with this problem effectively and we can’t?  It seems to me that the reason is fear: fear that unless we have our guns we won’t be safe, especially from all the psychos who have guns.

Despite all the arguments made by those who favor gun ownership, our Constitution gives only one, single, justification for owning guns: the need for a militia.  Over the years this has been interpreted as guaranteeing the right to own guns even though the individual is not a member of any militia at all.  Gun ownership in the U.S. is pretty much a right enjoyed by anyone who feels the need for one (or more).  Yet, the most outspoken advocates of gun ownership, like the NRA, have never produced a viable solution for our very serious problem. What do we do to protect ourselves from psychos with guns?

Malaysia, the land that invented running amok and killing people, has solved the problem, but their solution is not acceptable for many Americans.  OK.  So what is the solution? How do we prevent future Columbines and Virginia Techs?  How do we prevent future attacks such as the one that happened today in a crowded gym? Why is the gun lobby silent on this issue? Why doesn’t the NRA come forward and present a solution that will keep us safe? It seems to me that those who are the most strident, adamant, and vocal about preserving their Constitutional right to bear arms also have a moral obligation to find a way to protect the lives of the unarmed and  innocent men, women, and children from the apparently limitless supply of psychos with guns in America.

So why the silence?

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