Regarding Sandy Hook…

Man, this last day has been a vacillation between being heartbroken and enraged.  I keep thinking about those families in Newtown, Connecticut, this being the silly season and all.  I think about how many of those murdered children had gifts at home waiting for them.   I think about the parents anticipating the looks on the children’s faces Christmas morning.  I think about all the plans that were made to travel and visit family.

I think of how utterly trivial all this holiday consumer crap is in comparison to losing a child. Hell, pretty much everything else in life is trivial.  Those parents would have stepped right in front of those bullets for their kids without a second’s hesitation.

Then I think about the person who killed those innocent kids and I can’t find words to describe him, or words I would utter publicly to describe what I feel about him.  I won’t say his name, though.  Ever.  And that’s that.

What else can I say about an event so tragic, I keep forgeting that 6 innocent adults were killed as well?

The other reason I’m so worked up is because I’m so tired, as many of us are, of seeing these tragedies result in no effort whatsoever to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of another tragedy.  The next bloodbath comes, and I wonder how many more of them will it take before we realize that we bear the responsibility of preventing this?  I mean we can’t keep our kindergarteners safe.

So in my furor, I took to the twitter-verse looking for a fight with every lobotomized ideologue dumb enough to defend gun rights.  I was surprised and encouraged to see that a lot of like-minded people were doing the same.

The mainstream media was doing the same as well (well, some of it).  To my more encouraged surprise, no one on my side of the argument appeared to be biting on the typical right wing talking points and fallacies (now is not the time; it’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment, etc.).  People were pissed.  The situation was too grave.  And when the sane people pushed, the loons quickly found that the ice beneath their feat was not only thin but cracking.

Maybe America is finally ready to to do something about gun control.

That’s not fair, a majority of us have been ready for years.  But maybe now there are enough of us, sufficiently motivated, to spur the politicians to act.  I wrote every representative I have, Democrat and Republican.

Because our current system is not just untenable, it’s illogical, immoral, and unjust. It’s easily demonstrable.  Instead of scoffing at the gun nuts clamoring for even more firearms, play those scenarios out.  What would really happen if you were working or out running some random errand, and all of sudden shots start firing?  You pull out your gun and you see someone with their gun out firing shots.  Are they the shooter?  Is that just another well-armed citizen like you?  What if they turn their gun on you?  Do you shoot first?  Do you hesitate and put yourself at risk?  It’s goofy.  The fact is the status quo is failing, miserably and absolutely.  We cannot continue to let the defenders of that status quo control–or better, stifle–the conversation.

The first step is to not fall for the rhetoric, which is working so far (though it’s only the 1st day).  The second is to maintain a sense of context.  This specific case may not have been preventable with simple gun control laws, but that doesn’t mean at least some of the 10,000 gun deaths we have every year in this country weren’t preventable.  Gun control is about the epidemic not the one event.

There are sensible measure we can take right away that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with, such as closing loopholes and doing background checks on everyone looking to buy a gun.  Even a majority of NRA members support that.  Then there are things we need to investigate and discuss further; like ways to better identify potentially dangerous people who shouldn’t have access to guns.  Additionally, we should consider that peripheral issues such as improved mental healthcare might do considerable good.

We live in an “ocean of guns”  in the U.S (89 guns for every 100 people, highest in the world).  It’s too easy for just anyone to get a gun legally.  The NRA is hellbent on putting as many guns into as many hands as possible, while simultaneously giving us greater legislative freedom to use them against one another.  They are behind crazy laws like  stand your ground, which has led to a substantially increased number of penalty-free murders by moving the goalpost on what’s considered self-defense.  They pushed for legislation allowing people on the Terror Watch-list to purchase guns and for loopholes that have created an environment where 40% of  firearms are purchased without any background check (mostly over the interwebs).  And they oppose, with bookoo lobbying dollars, basic, common sense gun control laws that even the NRA membership supports.

This is because the NRA is really just a lobbying organization for the gun manufacturers.  That’s who gives the NRA most of its funding.  The NRA works for arms dealers who sell guns to our military and to the people our military fights.  Those arms manufacturers have sold–directly–some of the very guns that have killed our troops.  So they’re not morally above creating an environment where everyone feels they have to have a gun.

You’ll hear the gun nuts arguing for this like it’s a good thing.  We should’ve armed teachers (the same ones they think are overpaid by the way) After that it’s waitresses, I suppose…then cashiers, office managers, doctors, and finally the clergy.  They won’t be happy until they see every pastor and priest standing before their congregation wearing a Kevlar vest.

We also need to study the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what the Founding Fathers wrote and said about it ( here’s a hint; they meant militia literally), and what the subsequent court decisions have interpreted the Amendment to mean.  Because that’s the actual process of determining Constitutionality.  We do this for the 1st Amendment, which is why you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater or accuse someone of rape without proof.  The 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right but we need to have an understanding of what that right is and what it’s meant to be.

Finally, we’ve got to have the resolve to see this through.  Once the sting of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary wears off, it will be easy to fall back into old habits until the next tragedy rekindles the outrage.  At that point, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.  And a lot of bloody hands to wash clean.

Free. Thought.

http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/67018_10151178359071275_1472706550_n.jpg

What I Hate About Republicans: Bigotry

GOP-style nonsense.

The Solid South was a voting block comprised of the repatriated Confederate states.  From the reconstruction era until the late 1960’s the Solid South voted largely democratic, as the Democratic Party has been pro-slavery prior to the Civil War.  For over 100 years, the Solid South allowed the Democratic party to enjoy a considerable political dominance, especially in the Congress.

The Solid South in Blue

In 1968, in an effort to break up the Solid South, Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign employed a tactic known as the Southern Strategy.  It was a blatant appeal to racism.  Republicans played on southern whites’ anger over the Civil Rights Movement.  They joined the opposition to Civil Rights legislation, polarized racial divisions, and worked to discourage black voters from going to the polls.

It was a largely successful strategy.  The GOP had finally broken the Solid South.  It also popularized the euphemising of bigoted rhetoric.

Throughout our nation’s history, both parties have run on a variety of hate-based platforms.  Of course, prior to the Civil Rights Movement, you could just come out and say who you wanted to discriminate against; we don’t want women in the workplace; we don’t like Jews, Irish, Chinese, etc.  The Civil Rights Movement helped marginalize that archaic way of thinking.  Hate-mongers were forced to find new ways of conveying their message. The Southern Strategy proved effective.

Reagan/Bush-I political Strategist Lee Atwater

In a 1981 interview, political consultant, and former Republican National Committee Chairman, Lee Atwater, gives a compelling description of the strategy’s evolution:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Republicans didn’t care that it was a slap in the face of the black voters who had supported the party for over a century.  The Southern Strategy helped sweep them into power.  And they’ve never looked back.

Now, in every election, Republicans rail against the potential threat of the other.  Rick Santorum compared gay marriage rights to the legalization of incest and bestiality.  Santorum and and fellow presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich both immediately referenced black people when discussing welfare.  Gingrich has generated additional buzz by referring to Barack Obama as the “Food Stamp President.”  Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump led a Republican movement demanding that Barack Obama produce his original, long-form birth certificate to prove his citizenship.  If not these, then it’s illegal immigration, women serving in combat, or Sharia Law.

Hate-mongers can always find a reason to hate other Americans–even if they have to invent the reason out of whole cloth.  And there is good cause to continue the practice so long as bigoted anger gets results at the voting booth.

Yet somehow Republicans dispute this obvious through-line of hate politics.  According to them, they’re merely arguing the issues.  Apparently it’s just pure happenstance that minority groups ALWAYS end up on the other side.  That’s the danger of this coded language developed by the Southern Strategy.  Everyone knows what it actually means, yet it allows Republicans to play the big innocent.  It’s not about race, or gender, or religious beliefs; it’s about balancing the budget.  What’s so wrong with that?

To be fair, there are a few minorities in the Republican party–whom the GOP  loves to trot out before the media to chastise their own minority groups and blame them for being abused and discriminated against.  What you don’t see from these minority Republicans is any effort to get the party to tone the rhetoric down (I’m sure they’d be thrown out on their asses if they did).  I guess it is always better to have a whip in your hand than a plow.

So okay, we know racism is out there.  We know that homophobes and Islamophobes exist.  And we know misogyny and chauvinism are pandemic.  Political opportunists and true believers alike will always try to leverage prejudice to their advantage.  Its just politics, qué no? 

But real people’s lives are being affected by this bigotry.   The GOP works to deny minority groups those unalienable rights endowed upon all human beings by their Creator, and are currently enjoyed by many Americans, based on the antiquated idea that white heterosexual Christians are the real America and any expansion of that definition will lead directly to our nation’s demise.  Those rights are not negotiable.

This is not some extreme, fringe element of the Grand Old Party. This is mainstream Republicanism.  It’s accepted on both sides of the aisle.

Meanwhile, it’s nothing more than old school hate in latex gloves.

And it’s unmitigated bullshit.

It’s also the number 1 reason I hate Republicans.

Next up: How they make this whole shameful approach even worse in how they employ that bigotry.  They use it to divide and disenfranchise the lower economic 99% of the population and line their benefactors’ pockets with billions.

Stay tuned.

(Solid South image from: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2008/06/party-like-its-1928/45225/. Civics lesson image from: http://www.seattlegayscene.com/2012/01/republican-senator-hops-on-the-same-sex-marriage-bandwagon.html.  Forced integration image: http://www.ordoesitexplode.com/me/hope_from_history/.  Lee Atwater image from: http://www.pensitoreview.com/2011/08/17/roves-brain-lee-atwater-in-1981-gop-push-for-budget-cuts-is-stealth-racism/)