The time for resistance is now

A white male terrorist killed 11 people in a synagogue on Saturday, and the pretender in the White House responded by saying they should have hired an armed guard.

I don’t even know where to begin. The violence of the last week has hit me in the heart so hard, I can’t even begin to put the feelings washing over me into words.

Children in cages and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who was so obviously unqualified for the job, despite the objections of millions of women and men, and bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats, weren’t bad enough, now we’re killing black people and Jews just because they’re black people and Jews.

We have a pretender in the White House claiming that armed guards would have prevented the unspeakable tragedy in Pittsburgh, even though the white male terrorist shot three armed cops.

What’s worse is the thought that people should have to worship behind armed guards. That’s preferable to banning military-style assault weapons in this country because the NRA owns Congress.

It all goes back to who has the money and power in this country, and in the last four decades, that money has bought all the power.

This is NOT the last gasp of white supremacy. This is the ascendance of absolute power for upper class whites and the war economy.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun control laws, but we can’t get them through Congress.

The majority of Americans want campaign finance reform, but we can’t get that done.

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, but the Republicans cheated and placed their pretender in the White House, and they’re cheating in this election by tampering with voting machines, suppressing the vote and intimidating voters.

We have 800 military bases around the world. No one else has anywhere near that number. We are wasting our resources on a war economy because that’s what the ultra-wealthy want to protect their resources. War means profit, and they don’t care how many lower-income people die for their profit.

We don’t matter to them. We are expendable.

And even though we have abolished the draft, lower-income people have no other recourse if they can’t afford college. It’s called the Poverty Draft when the only way to a better life for young men and women is to go into lifelong debt or risk their lives in overseas adventures set up by the Pentagon.

When our nation spends about two-third of its wealth on the war machine, it prevents us from modernizing our infrastructure — or even keeping up with its decay. It takes money from research into renewable energy and necessitates our war-for-oil policies. It takes money from education — which the ultra-wealthy see as welfare, anyway.

And it makes us a more violent nation, especially when our so-called leader refuses to roundly condemn violence and racism — when he is, in fact, a violent racist and misogynist.

And the fact that he gets away with his violent rhetoric, with putting children in cages, with insisting we need a wall to keep immigrants out because they are “other,” means we no longer can call ourselves a functioning Democracy.

When he was a candidate, he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and get away with it, and he was right. The Republican Party has condoned his every evil move.

Violent racists have been emboldened by his insistence that “there are good people” among the Nazis chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

Back when racism and violence were considered inappropriate behavior, we thought we’d never see the likes of Nazis again, but now we’re nurturing them.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, he suggested we might “reform” Social Security and his approval ratings tanked. But now, when Mitch McConnell (the man who broke the Senate) suggests it, there’s hardly a ripple.

With the lack of regulation in the markets, we’re being set up for the worst economic collapse in history. The Great Recession will look like a little dip in comparison.

And it’s all because avarice, racism and disregard for human life are the new normal.

I’m not sure voting will be the solution anymore. We have broken down the walls between the branches of our government. If the Liar in Chief wants to nullify the elections, he owns the Supreme Court now, so he can.

We have been warned repeatedly, but we have ignored it. Remember the derision Hillary Clinton faced when she talked about a vast right-wing conspiracy? They don’t care who knows about it now because their takeover is pretty much a done deal.

And now, white male terrorists aren’t seen as the ones at fault when they walk into a synagogue and declare open season on Jews. The fault lies with the victims because they didn’t choose to worship behind armed guards.

Well, I stand with my Jewish siblings today, and my black and brown siblings because we are all children of God.

When you attack them, you attack me. I will not be silent in the face of fascism.

 

 

 

 

 

The children will save us

 

Although the local paper claims “dozens” attended an anti-gun rally in Asheville yesterday, more than 300 people gathered to protest the failure of Congress to pass sensible gun legislation, including a good number of youth, who will be coming of age to vote in the next four years. Go ahead, Congress, ignore them at your peril.

 

I think something snapped on Valentine’s Day.

Another 17 people died in another mass shooting at another school while Congress remained steadfast in its determination to ignore the carnage and bow to its overlord, the National Rifle Association.

Yet again, campaign contributions mattered more than the lives of children and teachers.

But this time, something different happened. This time, the students stood up and said they have had enough.

When the current occupant of the White House tweeted the sad, tired thoughts-and-prayers refrain, students — survivors of the massacre — answered. They’re not interested in the thoughts and prayers of people who take blood money from a terrorist organization, they said. They want action, and they want it now.

Some of these kids can vote already, and within four years, all of them will be able to go to the polls ad throw these accomplices to terrorism out of office.

They were well represented at an anti-gun rally Sunday afternoon, a rally that was put together in just 72 hours

I heard one of them speak at the rally, and while the local paper claimed “dozens” were there, I saw more than 300 people in that audience. So, yeah, 30 dozen. And probably one-third of them were middle- and high-school students.

The 14-year-old student who spoke was eloquent. She talked about the failure of previous generations to make the NRA answer for its crimes, and about our failure to ban this bribe money from our electoral process.

She wants to go to school and not fear for her life, but to be able to concentrate on learning. She and her fellow students should not have to take time out of their day for “active shooter” drills, which offer no better solution to the problem than duck-and-cover drills offered to the problem of nuclear proliferation when I was in grammar school in the late 1950s.

While I think guns in private hands are a menace to society and I think the lack of gun deaths in countries that regulate guns is pretty good evidence that the tactic works, I’m willing to compromise. Assault weapons should be banned permanently, but yes, hunters should be able to hunt for food.

Handguns, however, are a different story. More people are killed with their own guns in their homes than are able to shoot a bad guy with a gun. If a gun is in the home, a fight is more likely to end in death than if there is no gun handy.

Handguns kill innocent people more than they protect anyone.

Do you want to know why police shoot unarmed suspects? It’s because they know the suspects might have guns and their lives are at risk.

You don’t think that’s a good enough excuse? Well, neither do I, but as long as we have virtually unfettered access to guns in this country, trigger-happy officers have that excuse.

The gun lobby, the NRA, will tell you a good guy with a gun is the solution to bad guys with guns. And they know it’s not true, but they also know it sells guns, and that’s their real goal: profit. That’s all they know how to think about. If you think they care about you, think again. They are the very definition of a terrorist organization because they exist only to promote death and mayhem.

Let’s say you’re in a theater at the premiere of a superhero movie. Someone pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Before the cops get there, you pull out your gun and start shooting in the direction of the person with the gun. The theater is dark. Are you going to hit the shooter or the person in the seat he’s crouching behind?

When the cops arrive looking for the bad guy with the gun, they don’t know you’re not their target and you may be dead before they figure it out, along with a couple of people next to you because, remember, the theater is still dark, and even if it’s not, innocent people are going to get caught in the crossfire.

Also remember that the school in Parkland, Fla., had not one, but two, armed officers. They can’t be everywhere.

So, there goes the good guy with the gun argument.

Then there’s the argument that we have to turn public spaces into armed fortresses, that we should surround schools and other public spaces with impenetrable walls and set up metal detectors at all the entrances.

Land of the free, my ass, right?

You know what we can do?

Again, the answer is simple, since every “civilized” nation has done it:

  • Regulate gun ownership the way we regulate cars and drivers’ licenses, or make them illegal for everyone but cops and the military.
  • Ban assault weapons, and make the ban permanent so Congress can’t let it lapse again at the behest of the NRA.
  • Require a license that must be renewed periodically. Require people to pass a safety course and a test, and repeat the process for every gun they want to buy.
  • Close down gun shows, or at least shut down gun sales at these shows.
  • Ban online private sales.
  • Register every gun with a title, the same way we do cars. Require a transfer of title at every private sale and require buyers in these transactions to prove they have a license to own a gun.
  • Ban sales to anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence or aggravated assault.
  • Since the Second Amendment specifically mentions a well regulated militia, we should require gun owners to join a militia and attend regular meetings.
  • Require liability insurance for gun owners, the same way we require insurance on cars.
  • If a gun is stolen and the theft is not reported immediately, make it a crime. If the stolen gun is not reported and it’s used in another crime, charge the gun owner as an accessory to that crime.
  • Make neglect of a gun a crime. If a child gets a gun and kills someone, charge the irresponsible gun owner with murder.
  • Repeal the damn Second Amendment and end the right to own guns. This carnage is not what the founders intended. They had no idea how guns would evolve and how their intentions would be perverted.

And don’t tell me it’s too soon to talk about this. Columbine happened almost 19 years ago. The time for change was then, if not before. Too many innocent lives have been sacrificed already, and in honor of those dead, we need to have this serious conversation NOW.

It’s time to fix this, not to make more excuses, shrug our shoulders once again and wait for the terrorists to strike another time — maybe in your child’s school, maybe at the theater you’re sitting in or the mall where you’re shopping.

We’re not safe, and if Congress can’t or won’t act, there’s an election coming in November. Make sure you participate, and let your members of Congress know the only way to get your vote is to support sensible gun laws.

 

Where do we go from here? Some thoughts on guns and zealots

shooting scene

I don’t even know where to begin. Fifty people dead at the hands of a religious zealot in Florida and everyone wondering how this could happen.

I do have some thoughts on how this came about, and what we might do as people of conscience.

First of all, understand that Muslims are not the only religious zealots. So-called Christian zealots who denigrate LGBT people are as much at fault as Muslim zealots.

Zealots of any stripe are dangerous. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist and a “Christian.”

So this man was a zealot who happened to be Muslim. It is not a reason to hate all Muslims, and be assured that the majority of Muslims are not happy with this man, who, by the way, I refuse to name. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.

Next, every one of us who supports restrictions of any kind on LGBT people can share in the blame for this. Did you vote for Amendment One in North Carolina? That was a vote to deny LGBT people equal rights under the law. And if your religion is the reason you voted for Amendment One, you need to go back and read about the separation of Church and State in the Constitution.

Do you support the bathroom restrictions in North Carolina’s Hate Bill 2? Then you support singling out people who pose no threat. You also support further marginalization of an already marginalized group of people and you target them for harm by making them “less than” or “other.”

These kind of actions feed the hate of zealots, makes them feel more comfortable in their hate, and in their mind, justifies it.

My late sister was married to the love of her life, who also happened to be a woman. Her marriage in 2007 was one of the happiest days of MY life because it allowed her the protections that come with legal marriage. She deserved that as much as any straight person I know.

Next, let’s talk about support of the NRA and its extremist agenda of assuring unfettered access to guns for everyone.

Not everyone should have a gun. Mandatory background checks and regulations specifying who can not have a gun are a necessity if we are going to keep people safe.

The man who killed 50 people and injured 53 more in Orlando was on the no-fly list because of suspected terrorist leanings, but he was able to buy a gun capable of that carnage. A friend on Facebook asked why this guy wasn’t on the FBI’s radar, but he was; he was just able to buy that gun because the NRA has bribed so many members of Congress that we can’t even have a law denying a gun to suspected terrorists.

And please don’t give me crap about Second Amendment rights because you’re probably one of those people who voted to restrict the rights of LGBT people to marry, and that’s a violation of their First Amendment rights. You can’t worship the Constitution in pieces — you either want the rights it conveys or you don’t.

You also need to realize that the Second Amendment conveyed the rights of gun ownership within “a well regulated militia,”  not unfettered access to every weapon ever devised.

Perhaps we need to start listening to reason. Perhaps we need to start showing respect for each other and listening to real concerns on both sides.

I don’t want to take everyone’s guns away. I choose not to own one, but if you are a law-abiding citizen who wants to hunt or who wants to own a gun for personal protection, I don’t have a problem with that.

I do, however, have a problem with semi-automatic weapons.

I do have a problem with people being able to buy a gun without a background check.

I do have a problem with a suspected religious zealot being able to walk in and get a gun even though he is considered too dangerous to get on an airplane.

We have become a circus in this country. A crazed, insane, zealot-run circus. We refuse to talk to each other and what’s worse, we refuse to listen to each other.

These 50 people are dead because we can’t get Congress to pass a law denying guns to suspected terrorists.

These people are dead because we allow the vilification of innocent LGBT people without challenge under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Well, your freedom of religion should not restrict the rights of others. That’s what freedom of religion means. You worship in your way and you don’t get to impose your beliefs on me. You don’t get to have a theocracy that aligns with your beliefs.

It’s time to start having a real and reasoned conversation in this country, about guns and about religion.

Let’s lock out the NRA and other powerful, moneyed hate groups and start to talk to each other, and more importantly, to listen, with respect, to people’s concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

We live in a war zone

By my friend and former colleague, cartoonist Matt Davies.

By my friend and former colleague, cartoonist Matt Davies.

Another 14 dead and 17 wounded, this time at a center for people with developmental disabilities.

No place is safe in America. No person is safe.

This isn’t true in other industrialized countries. That’s because they have laws restricting access to guns.

We don’t have that because we have the NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies anywhere, any time.

It doesn’t even matter when people with guns shoot innocent school children, we can’t pass any restrictions on people’s access to guns and ammo.

A few days ago, a pro-gun person suggested on Facebook that, according to Freud, I must be sexually repressed because I think we need common sense regulations on guns. I replied that Freud also said I was envious of his penis, which made Freud wrong on two counts.

I suppose that’s proof that some of us equate guns with penises, and penises are pretty important to some men’s view of themselves.

But that’s not what’s keeping us from sensible gun regulation. What’s keeping us from passing any laws at all is the money paid out by the NRA to legislators.

NRA Congress (www.nracongress.com) posted a list of members of Congress who have received money from the NRA, along with the amount each has received, and whether each of the members of Congress has identified himself or herself as “pro-life.”

Here’s what I came up with, based on that list:

  • The NRA has spent $3,781,769 on current members of Congress.
  • All but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont) have some of these people in Congress now.
  • Of the 231 members of Congress receiving money from the NRA, all but five are Republicans.
  • Fifty-three Senators and 178 Representatives are on the list.
  • Of the 231, all but 10 define themselves as “pro-life.”
  • Texas, with 24 Congress people receiving a total of $144,538, is the state most beholden to the gun lobby.

And this is why we can’t get anything through Congress, even though some 90 percent of Americans want sensible gun laws. Nothing matters more to Congress than money, and the NRA has a lot of it to spread around.

So, people who shouldn’t have guns have little trouble getting them. And the rhetoric stirred up by the right has people angrier and angrier — at Planned Parenthood, at Muslims, at anyone other than the NRA.

When an angry American shoots up a place, he (and nearly all of them are men) is called mentally ill, and we all shake our heads and say what a shame it is that people with mental illnesses can’t get proper treatment.

The problem is that angry people can get guns and ammo. And they can commit acts of terror.

After yesterday’s shooting of more than 30 people in California, the FBI and the police kept repeating that they don’t know whether this was a terrorist act. Of course it was a terrorist act. It doesn’t matter whether the people involved were Muslim, Christian or atheist. What matters is that they took high-powered weapons and killed 14 people and injured 17 more. That in itself is a terrorist act.

As for mental illness, I have long been an advocate for adequate diagnosis and treatment. Yes, most of these shooters have a mental illness — no healthy person would take a gun and shoot strangers because he’s angry that they can get an abortion or for any other reason.

The problem is that these people can get guns. There are huge loopholes in the few regulations we do have, and we can’t get Congress to pass any more.

The Second Amendment has been twisted and perverted to fit the desires of gun manufacturers, and the rest of us have no protection from these organizations. We don’t need more “good guys with guns;” we need fewer bad guys with guns.

Perhaps we need to call the NRA and gun manufacturers out as the terrorist organizations they are. And yes, I do consider them terrorist organizations because they support domestic terrorism with their refusal to accept any regulations of the deadly weapons they make and promote.

It’s time to tell the truth: The Second Amendment was never intended to allow unfettered access to guns and ammo, and the NRA is a terrorist organization.

 

 

 

 

Let’s stop pretending we’re a civilized nation

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I’m trying to wrap my heart around the terrorist act in Charleston, SC, that left nine innocent people dead. It isn’t easy.

In the aftermath of this horrific act, I have seen apologists for the young terrorist say he’s been withdrawn and lonely in recent years.

Others have said it was an attack on the Christian faith.

The NRA says the availability of guns had nothing to do with it.

And the flag of hate still flies at the Capitol Building in Columbia.

Nine human beings are dead, their lives snuffed out by a hate-filled young man whose father gave him the gift of a weapon for his 21st birthday.

When the terrorist is apprehended, we see him being led off wearing a bulletproof vest, just in case someone wants to hurt this poor misguided white boy.

As I looked at that image, a flood of images depicting the rough treatment and the murders of young black men came to mind. And some still have the nerve to say we are “post-racist.” I think we’re more “post-civilized.”

When President Obama said people in “other advanced nations” don’t have this kind carnage on a regular basis, I wanted to remove the word “other” from his speech.

How can we call ourselves civilized when we make excuses for white terrorists while we condone killing blacks who carry no weapons?

We have the nerve to call these victims of our racism “thugs,” while calling a blatant act of racist terror an attack on Christianity.

How can we call ourselves civilized when we allow people to die from lack of access to health care?

How can we say we’re an advanced nation when we restrict voting rights, pay workers slave wages, take reproductive decisions away from women, cut funding to education, take food out of the mouths of children by cutting food stamps, send poor children to prison for missing school and advocate indiscriminate use of guns (but only among white people)?

We are quick to blame the victims of our institutional violence — an NRA board member actually blamed the death of the pastor, a state senator, on his vote to ban guns from churches.

Want to know what’s really sad? A 5-year-old girl knew enough to play dead when she saw a white man with a gun.

I don’t care if this man has a mental illness; he got a gun and killed nine human beings because of the color of their skin. I am an advocate for people with mental illnesses —  I sit on the board of our local NAMI affiliate — but I can’t advocate for a society that shrugs off this kind of violence again and again and again …

I seriously doubt anything will be done to stem the violence in this country; I seriously doubt we as a society will move to restrict guns in any way. In fact, as this terrorist was executing black churchgoers, the general assembly here in North Carolina was debating loosening what few restrictions exist here.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to protect my black friends or my biracial great-granddaughter, who will cheerfully tell you she’s black.

I would pray for peace, but it’s not God who will bring it. We have free will and we use it to perpetuate institutional and individual violence. It is up to us to stand up and call out people who think we need more guns and more excuses.

There is no more time for silence on these issues. Every one of us needs to work to make us a truly civilized society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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