Thursday, April 18, 2013

"...The Blame, Dear Brainiacs, Lies Not With...."

Whatever else the news was, it couldn't possibly have come as a surprise.

And if you're one of those well intentioned folks who actually did experience that emotion, you need, in my humble o, to regroup, rethink and reconsider.

Because of all the things that this issue is, it is neither complicated nor unpredictable.

President Obama’s ambitious effort to overhaul the nation’s gun laws in response to December’s school massacre in Connecticut suffered a resounding defeat Wednesday, when every major proposal he championed fell apart on the Senate floor.

It was a stunning collapse for gun-control advocates just four months after the deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown led the president and many others to believe that the political climate on guns had been altered in their favor.

The national drive for laws that might prevent another mass shooting unraveled under intense pressure from the gun rights lobby, which used regional and cultural differences among senators to prevent new firearms restrictions.
One by one, the Senate blocked or defeated proposals that would ban certain military-style assault rifles and limit the size of ammunition magazines.

But the biggest setback for the White House was the defeat of a measure to expand background checks to most gun sales. The Senate defied polls showing that nine in 10 Americans support the idea, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” a visibly angry Obama said as he delivered his response to the nation.

The public reaction to Congress' unwillingness and/or inability to put a tourniquet on the blood flowing in our schools, theatres, shopping center parking lots is almost always some form of outrage at that very Congress that seems unwilling or unable to act in the public interest.

Turns out that while that arrow of outrage is well intended, it misses the real target way wide and way left.

America is not a democracy. It is a republic. And in a republic, the mass of citizens don't make policy, enact laws or create rules. Instead, we choose a representative to do all of those things for us.

And that body of representatives is known, collectively, as the United States Congress.

Now, if you're one of those folks bitterly dissapointed, let alone surprised, at the outcome of the latest vote on any and all measures that consitute gun control, please take a breath and ask yourself this question.

Do you sincerely believe that the Senators and Congressmen/women that voted this latest effort into the ash pile are stupid?

Because common sense would dictate that only a truly, truly stupid person would intentionally do something that would almost surely cost them their pretty plush professional position, complete with perks, pleasures and guranteed health care.

And if your retort is taking the shape of the "politicians are in the back pocket of special interests" argument, think again.

Unless the NRA is prepared to offer up lifetime salaries, health care, et al to the aforementioned politicians, it really seems unlikely that the fault for the failure of reasonable gun control legislation lies with, for example, the NRA but lies, in fact, with another, larger, more insidious group equipped to a tee with their own version of special interests.

The voters who put those Senators and Congressmen/women in office in the first place.

And who will, almost surely, return those Senators and Congressmen/women to office the next time the need to pop into the booth and flip a lever comes around.

Regardless of whatever hysteria, paranoia and/or dark visions of back room deals with the devil might be aimed at or blamed on those who walk and work in the hallowed halls of the District, the simple, pragmatic truth, almost all of the time is the truth that seems to be eluding all of us as we whine, whimper and wring our hands about gun control in America.

Our elected officials do what we tell them to do.

And, clearly, while admittedly sadly, it's obvious that more constituents are telling their representatives they want less, not more, rules and regs.

On almost everything.

Even checking the background of someone who might be thinking of picking up an AR 15 and killing little kids in school classrooms.

Put insensitively...the bubbas still outnumber the brainiacs.

So, okay, what about those polls that say ..."nine in 10 Americans support the idea, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill..."?

At best, wishful thinking.

Most likely, simply bullshit.

No one, except those who make up the wack job demographic, wants to be perceived as uncaring or unfeeling.

So, of course they tell the pollster they support the idea.

Here's a thing, though.

The pollsters with the clipboards in the malls who take your name and ask your opinion about things like this ain't got nothin, data gathering wise, on the politicians who require precise, empirical data to make the decisions that will prevent the home fires from burning down their chances at another term.

Blaming Congress for failing to act is, actually, an incorrect notion.

Because, in fact, Congress , as it has and as it likely will for a while yet to come,
did act.

They said we don't need any more rules right now.

Actually, we said that.

And they did what we told them to do about it.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"...Some Facebook Posts Don't Go Viral...They Simply Are Viral...."

Yesterday, I did something I've never done before.

I unfriended someone on Facebook.

First of all, please make no mistake.

In the grand scheme of things, in a world filled with so many experiences, good, ill and everything in between, that deserve our attention and consideration, my little punch of the delete button, to paraphrase Bogie, "doesn't amount to a hill of beans..".

I only share the action with you by way of making a larger point.

As if you hadn't already figured that out.

People who know me, and/or read me, know that I'm not, by nature or nurture, a knee jerker when it comes to the hot button issues of the day.

While never lacking an opinion, I make full hearted, and throated, effort to look before I leap, think before I speak and ponder before I pontificate.

And while I'm not passionate about, for example, zealously defending, say, the Second Amendment and the interpreted license it apparently gives to everyone with a need/desire to shop the latest Big Lots sales on gun cabinets, I do believe that every "right" that the framers of our Constitution profoundly provided us is worthy, deserving and, at least, entitled to open debate and discussion.

I suppose, if only by literal definition, that makes me a zealous defender of freedom of speech.

And, in that spirit, I am, by both nature and nuture, always ready, willing and able, if sometimes only begrudingly, to hear anything you have to say about anything you have something to say about.

At least, I was.

Or so I thought.

Until yesterday.

Shortly after the bombs went off in Boston.

No reasonable person, worth our notice or concern, can see this act as anything other than what it was.

A horrific act of cowardice, perpetrated by hearts, minds and souls so saturated with hatred and/or insanity that only evil could live in their toxic bloodstreams.

And regardless of any differences any of us might have with each other in terms of philosophy, personal, political or otherwise, all of us who think of ourselves as reasonable people are, as we were after Sandy Hook, as we were after Aurora, as we were what now seems like a long, long ago September day in 2001, united in our horror, dismay, disgust, revulsion and even anger that evil like this can so easily find its way into our school halways, our movie theatres, our tallest skyscrapers....

...and the finish line of our celebrations of the spirit of competition and community.

The postings that flooded my Facebook home page yesterday were pristine proof of that unity.

With one exception.

A woman I do not personally know. A woman who became a Facebook "friend" like many of those friends we acquire on FB, someone who knows someone who knows someone else who actually is someone we know. Someone whose life seems worthy of witnessing or whose occupation might come in handy in our own professional lives.

Or maybe, as the old chestnut cliche' goes, a stranger who is actually a friend we simply haven't yet met.

I won't mention her name here. Because that action would simply spill worms from a can I'm not interested in opening.

But believe me when I tell you that the temptation to damn the worms and shine a light on this woman is pretty powerful at the moment.

Because, amongst the stories of bravery and courage and support and human compassion that are flowing out of Boston like sleek ships down the Charles River, this woman's contribution to the flow deserves mention and then some.

If only as a blunt, crude, even profane reminder of how deeply rooted is this hatred, this hatred that lurks just beneath the surface, churning, bubbling, festering, waiting for another opportunity to be injected into the marrow of our national backbone.

And, most insidiously, not hatred spewing from a stereotypically dark, forboding super villain, hiding in shadows, one arm wrapped around an assault rifle or an explosives detonater, the other affectionately wrapped around a smug, smiling Satan.

But spewing, like vomit resulting from a foul meal, from the heart, mind, soul and lips of a seemingly average, everyday, basically nice person.

The kind of person who might help kids find their way to class in a Connecticut school hallway...or smilingly take your ticket as you enter a Colorado movie theatre.

Or offer you a bottle of water as you run the streets of Boston in celebration of competitiion and community.

Hatred, so apparent, and sad, as to be as repulsive as the sights of shattered store windows, severed limbs and blood stained streets.

Hatred that amongst the calls for thoughts, prayers and compassion flooding the page of FB yesterday, flashed in these eyes with the blinding light of...well....a couple of explosions.

Hatred that gave this seemingly average, everyday, basically nice person the psychic energy to post an unmistakable placement of blame for yesterday's acts of marathon madness on the current occupant of the White House.

An irrational indictment of the political process that, in this woman's twisted sensibilities, was responsible for what she sees to be catastrophic cause and effect.

Those who are responsible, she offers, for placing one man in a house on Pennsylvania Avenue are equally responsible for the dead and dying on the streets of downtown Boston.

No reasonable person reading her post could see it as anything other that what it was.

A terrible, tragic ignorance that has festered into a hatred, an evil that has infected the parts of her heart where concern and compassion for her fellow human beings once, we want to believe, resided.

Ironically, for me, anyway, I would still offer, in the course of purely intellectual dialogue, that she has the right to speak her mind as she wishes.

That's the bedrock of the freedom we enjoy as citizens of this country.

And I would, and will, defend that right no matter how horrific the comment or how much personal revulsion I feel as a result.

But she inspired me to do something that I have never done before.

I unfriended someone on Facebook.

Because I passionately, even zealously, defend her right to free speech.

I simply don't want to hear the sounds of her hatred.

With friends like that....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"...Come On, Larry, Let's Shoot Each Other Straight..."

Turns out there is such a thing as a stupid question.
(CNN) – The chief of a powerful gun owners group said Wednesday he doesn't trust the methodology of polls showing an overwhelming number of Americans favoring universal background checks on gun sales.
"I'm not sure I believe any polls at this time. I don't think they know how to ask the right questions," Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during a contentious interview on "The Situation Room." When Blitzer asked if that included Fox News' survey, Pratt said it did.

Nearly every national survey released over the past several months has shown a large percentage of Americans support increased background checks. The latest, a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday, showed 86% of those questioned favoring some form of background checks that are not currently required by law for gun sales.

The CNN survey, along with the previous polls, found no real partisan divide, with very strong support for the checks from Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Those figures, however, weren't enough to convince Pratt.

"Your polls are hokum," he said, explaining that polls of gun owners groups, like Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association, show only small support for increasing background checks. Gun Owners of America has 300,000 due-paying members, per its website, while the larger National Rifle Association has 5 million. Both reflect a small percentage when compared to the overall population.

"When you ask the people involved, maybe we have a reason to suspect how these polls are put together," Pratt said.

At the core of his opposition was the potential for the federal government to keep a registry of gun owners, which he declared unconstitutional.

"The background check is national gun registration," he said. "And all that's on the table right now is to make that more comprehensive gun registration scheme than we've already had."

Sen. Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican who played a key role in negotiating a deal on expanding background checks, will receive backlash from gun groups, Pratt argued.

"He ought to be held politically accountable, and the way to do that is in the primaries," he said, adding his group was "looking for a viable candidate."

Toomey is up for re-election in 2016.

First, a disclaimer.

I concede the point that this, and, for that matter, any, online essay that uses both the words gun and control assumes that a sizeable section of the readership will drop out and move on to Nick Searcy's Facebook page just as soon as the aforementioned words are linked together.

To those who take pride in their inclusion in that demo, thanks for stopping by. And please give my best to Nick.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pratt's observation piqued my interest...

"I'm not sure I believe any polls at this time. I don't think they know how to ask the right questions," .

Okay, here's a question.

If I accept the premise that a background check is tantamount to a national gun registration (and, for the moment, I'm only accepting that premise for the sake of this piece, not necessarily because I agree with what I am also thinking might be a little Chicken Littling on Pratt's part), then, what possible reason could I have for objecting to my name appearing on such a list?

My name appears on lots of government registration "lists" of things that I possess and/or own.

My car, first and most obviously.

My house.

The list, like the beat, goes on.

Every time I read the kind of assertion that Mr. Pratt is prattling here, I get the suspicion that, once again, there's a message hidden in the spoken message and it goes a little something like this:

SPOKEN..."We object to a national gun registration list because it is an infringement on our individual rights...(HIDDEN... we object to the government knowing how many guns we have and where we keep them because we are convinced that the government is gearing up to come to our house in the dead of night, confiscate every single one of our weapons, including, but not limited to the AK-47 and AR-15 that we feel fundamentally necessary for our rabbit hunting needs and drive away into the darkness, leaving us defenseless against the homicidal maniacs who have free access to whatever weapons they need and/or want as they have no regard for laws or simple sanity for that matter").

First of all...puh-leeze.

That kind of psuedo survivalist paranoia deserves its own three page spread in the next edition of the DSM-IV.

And that kind of paranoia accomplishes nothing but spreading the fear it breeds.

Fear which breeds ignorance which breeds more fear which breeds more paranoia.

And the wheel on the short bus goes round and round.

Not to mention discrediting any real, reasonable and/or sensical contributions passionate gun advocates might be trying to add to the conversation.

But, I digress.

My original question has to do with Mr. Pratt's original perspective on questions.

And, tell you what, Lar.....let's make a deal.

I'll accept your premise that background checks constitute a national registration list, if you'll accept my premise that the mere existence of a list poses no threat to anyone's right to bear arms.


Okay, then, please answer my question.

What possible problem would I have with it being public knowledge that I own guns?

Seems to me that if, as you fun, zany zealots rant rhetorically, the primary purpose of said ownership is assuring my ability to secure family and possessions, then I'd want as many people as possible to know that I'm packin.

And yard signs and door stickers are all well and good, but when it comes to getting the word out, nothing beats a big ol' nationally available list.

Unless, of course, you need to be unlisted.

Which just sort of automatically, if unfairly, makes people suspicious that you have something to hide.


Do you, Larry?

How's that for "the right kind of question"?