Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is Sandy Hook a Kent State moment?

In my previous post I wrote about a time when change was possible. However it didn't always seem that way at the time. In 1970, after a tumultuous year of protesting the war in Vietnam I was back at school and doing my best to focus on my studies. The anti-war movement was becoming fractured with some people advocating violent revolution (the ring leader of this group turned out to be an under cover cop). I wanted to end violence, not create more of it. The public too was growing tired of the protests. "Law and order" was the theme of the moment. That all changed on May 4th when four college students were killed at Kent State University by National Guard troops trying to protect that law and order.  My world was shattered. Sure the country had some problems but this was still the USA. Other countries gunned down their own citizens but surely not our country.  But it happened. These were not criminals. They were young college students who only wanted to help make our country a better place.
I couldn't continue in school. None of that mattered now. The only thing that mattered was to end the war and to put an end to Nixon and the fascist government that could kill it's own youth. I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Kent State was the tipping point. People who had been on the sidelines before came out and said "enough is enough". Momentum to end the war was now unstoppable.
So is the Sandy Hook massacre enough to wake this country up to the terrible price we are paying for the right to own guns? Have enough of our children died to get our blood boiling? Will this be the tipping point that will finally bring some sanity to the conversation? I certainly hope so.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The NRA is a terrorist organization

Shortly after president Obama was elected for his first term I read an alarming article in Time magazine about the sharp rise of extremist militia groups. Least we ever get comfortable in the feeling that maybe America has risen above hate and racism stuff like this comes along and slaps you in the face. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a group that tracks hate groups and their hate map for 2011 shows over 1,000 hate groups active in this country. These are vicious, paranoid people dedicated to returning this country to a government of white men, by white men, and for white men. There is no room for Blacks, Jews, Latinos, gays, or uppity women in their world. They hate us, and they are well armed.

When the NRA defends it's rigid stance against gun control the rhetoric is always about guns for hunting, or guns to protect your home. Would they ever admit to being the prime enabler of these hate militias? Of course not. Are they ignorant to the fact that they are enabling theses hate militias? Of course not. Why? Because their values are the same. The more right-wing anti-government hate is spewed out on talk radio shows, the more guns are sold, and more money pouring into the pockets of the NRA. We label Iran a terrorist nation because it supplies weapons to Hamas and other terrorist groups. These hate militias are terrorists groups and by extension the NRA is a terrorist organization.

So okay, there is always the extremist element, but a large percentage of regular people are in favor of having guns. Yes, but these people aren't asking for automatic weapons with huge magazines capable of mass murder in the blink of an eye. These are the people that maybe want a hunting rifle or a hand gun. So how is it that Republican congressmen can insist that the second amendment means we can't limit access to the most lethal varieties of guns? Could it be that these same politics really sympathize with the hate groups? Think about it. All the Republicans talk about it dismantling the central government and defeating Obama. This is the same thing the hate groups are saying. The Republicans know very well that these hate groups are among their constituents. They count on their votes. Much of their advertising is targeted to appeal to these kinds of people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We really CAN change things

I'm re-purposing this blog to talk about the things that have been on my mind lately. I want to keep writing as a way to never forget the children that died at Sandy Hook school. I am outraged at the discourse about how we can never do anything about guns, that gun control will never work, and that its really a mental health issue. It's gotten so that people believe that massacres are just a fact of life in the USA. It's not individuals that need more mental health care, it is our collective consciousness. Our nation is sick and we have to figure out how to heal it.

People think the problem is just too big to solve. We already have too many guns in this country, and an entrenched gun industry. How can we ever change this? How can we turn a country around that is heading into an abyss of endless violence?

When I was a much younger man the country faced other seemingly unsolvable problems. Racism was rampant and all attempts to pass equal rights legislation were beat back by segregationists. We were mired in an endless war in Vietnam that was taking a terrible toll in lives and destruction. Our attempts to bring attention to these issues were met with cries of "outside agitators" and calls for "law and order". But we prevailed, and we forced a sitting president to step down, and we forced an end to that war. Most of us were just kids, barely out of high school. We didn't know you couldn't change things. We didn't know the problem was just too big to solve. All we knew was our outrage and our blind conviction that the war was wrong and we had to change it. We were young, idealistic and had a whole lot of energy.

What we did in protesting and ending the war in Vietnam had far greater reach than just ending the war. It popped the cork that was holding back progress on many social issues like civil rights, and the environment. It opened the door for women to start demanding equal treatment. It changed the way the nation looked at its young people and bumped our consciousness up a notch. Sure, the wave of progress faded after a while. The Reagan years swept in a reactionary mind set which has not yet lost it's grip on our nation. But we did change things. Against insurmountable odds we made a difference.

So I say now, if we could topple LBJ we can beat the NRA. Stay tuned ...