Sequel to Newtown..Navy Yard

As Paul Farhi in The Washington Post has noted, this country seems to have very quickly moved past the absurd, horrible events of the past week at the Washington Navy Yard.  I don’t believe that it is just because I live in the Washington area, or that a relative actually worked in the office where the slaughter occurred, that I feel this nausea over how my fellow countrymen/women have reacted. There has certainly been a decent amount of news coverage, the President has commented on the event, and there have been some thoughts shared by politicians of various stripes. Bu tit feels as if we have come to accept that periodic mass killings are simply a price we must pay for the inability of our citizenry, and our political representatives, to face the sad reality that the US is an excessively and unnecessarily violent nation and to take the kinds of steps that reasonable people of goodwill ANYWHERE (not just in our “exceptional” nation, a sobriquet that I am beginning to believe is an apt one but not for the best of reasons) would take. 

Clearly the lack of certain “features” of the killings–no innocent children shot, for example–have helped to dampen the sympathy factor. They were just government contractors at work, unluckily selected by Aaron Alexis–they won the lottery, just not the one they would have wished for. One might guess that somewhere, a member of the Tea Party may even have uttered words suggesting that the loss of a few government workers is not so terrible if it diminishes the per se “too large” federal government, especially if it reaffirms our commitment to the almighty Second Amendment.  Most of all, in this country where for too many people, other people’s suffering is of no import if it doesn’t directly impact us or our loved ones, only a limited circle felt the full impact of Alexis’ apparent madness.

Since Newtown, no real progress has ben made in taking meaningful steps to reign in gun ownership in the US.  The cowardice of our political leadership to make a full-court press once it became apparent the Republicans would kill any effective legislation is truly detestable, and I include the president in this denunciation. Even now, Sen. Reid has indicated that he does not expect to see any new legislation introduced in the US Senate and that appears to be because he had done the vote-counting…and that is for even laws that, in my view, are of minimal impact.  The president sounded tired when he bemoaned the Navy Yard killings, noting how the folks who were killed probably didn’t expect to find that kind of violence in their workplace, and essentially deferring to Congress on the issue. I’ve seen very few quotes from our politicians this week, notable because these are people who eagerly seek their place in the  media.

I don’t believe that I am alone in feeling both horrified at the acceptance we as a nation are showing about these killings, and depression over the fact that I am not sure what assertive steps an individual like myself can think of taking with any hope of having an impact on this issue.  Joining any of the gun control organizations, while perhaps somewhat of a positive move, doesn’t seem likely to achieve much because those groups have been around for a while and, even with the aid of a Newtown, they don’t seem to have a lot to show for their efforts.  Mobilizing politically to seek defeat of politicians who stand in the way of reasonable legislation doesn’t hold out much promise because many of these folks are elected from districts in which gun control is anathema, or even if they represent a more enlightened constituency, seem to be electable despite having done nothing to stem gun violence.  Personally, I will continue to seek to identify a means of participation in efforts to control guns in this country that seems to hold some prospect of achieving success.  It seems to me that a confluence of phenomena will need to occur in order for legal action to be taken that is anything more than a watered-down, lowest common denominator stab at appeasing a restless majority of people who I am convinced know that we have gone and are continuing to go down the wrong path, idolizing an erroneous interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  it will be some combination of horrendous loss of life, an especIally egregious example of someone gaining possession of a gun through normal channels (maybe a Muslim? But then we’d probably just pass legislation singling out certain ethnic groups as being unable to legally own certain types of guns), some kind of bipartisan partnership of respected leaders in Congress (maybe non-Tea party aligned Republicans could sign up?) plus some other magic ingredient.  Or when I take the longest range perspective, I think that it is a hopeless cause for the next twenty years but if we start educating our toddlers now, we can raise a generation of Americans who will have the good sense to push for rational changes to how we facilitate the proliferation of guns. Common Core standards for teaching about our country’s history of violence, and about the US Constitution?  That will not happen in my lifetime but if we leave education up to the locals, too many of them, like the good folks in TX who are now so upset about the non-Common Core state standards in that state, will slash and burn any good faith efforts.  Have to keep searching–for the Full Moon.

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Why Can’t We Get It

I don’t feel compelled to add my words to the millions (if not billions) that have been written since the Newtown killings except to this extent: I am just amazed how we , as a nation, cannot come to grips with the stark facts that have been displayed umpteen times since this latest mass tragedy (of course, there have been numerous shootings since that one but none with as high a death toll).  I expect nothing in the way of rational policy pronouncements form the NRA and it supporters but an awful lot of seemingly mainstream types, in politics and out, are diluting the obvious prescriptions with their chatter about the need for dialogue, the need to address mental health issues, and the need to address violence in entertainment.  As many wise people have already pointed out:

1.  There is no need for discussion except for those who care about this country to “discuss” with their elected officials the fact that they expect them to either enact meaningful gun control legislation or face defeat at the next election.

2.  We certainly should offer robust mental health services in this country but, relatively speaking, our country is not more mentally unhealthy than countries where death by guns is a tiny fraction of our toll.

3. We certainly should attempt to roll back some of the violence offered by the entertainment world but that possibility hinges on we, the people–if we don’t watch, or buy, or play, there won’t be violence offered to us.  I don’t have a lot of hope for this, as I watch the latest trailer for some mindless horror film.

Beyond dispute, the phenomenon we must address is ownership of guns and the sale of guns. The menu of options for doing this in reasonable, yet meaningful ways, has been well laid out in various op-eds, newspaper articles, blogs, etc. I am pleased to see vast numbers of commentators and survey respondents seemingly getting behind the array of ideas–will their energy dissipate before they lobby their elected representatives?  More than likely it will but one can hope.  I like the fact that adored celebrities seem to be willing, in at least a general way, to go public with their belief that we must do something in response to Newtown. Its time, they say–no, its way past time and it will continue to be unless the American people actually get over their ADD and maintain steady pressure by word and deed.

Among a whole lot of things about the current gun control “discussion” that drive me nuts–and cause me to wonder on a daily basis why we, as a nation, can’t get”it”–are the following two:

— Even advocates of gun control, out of a sense of realpolitik perhaps, seem like they will be content if assault weapons are banned and no other guns are proscribed.  While, I, too, would be pleased to see assault weapons knocked out of the market, I can see no reason why handguns should not be subject to far more restrictive ownership laws than they are.  Other than hunting–which should not involve either assault weapons or handguns–I can’t think of a single quasi-legitimate reason why people need to possess guns.  I don’t especially view most hunting as even falling into this category but I can concede this point. Yes, if we want to end the mass murder scenarios of recent years, assault weapons as the guns of choice must be dealt with but (as I will get to in my second drive-me-nuts facet) most gun violence in this country involves handguns.  To stop at limiting assault weapons really won’t get at the true problem in this country–its not that we have infrequent, yet dramatic, mass killings such as Columbine and Newtown but that on a daily basis, obscene numbers of people are gunned down.  Which is why…

–…the second point that absolutely drives me mad is that for many citizens who have sounded off, it is the fact that children were gunned down that broke the camel’s back.  Why?  Are the daily senseless killings in this country any less objectionable?  Is it okay when three twenty-year olds are shot for no reason?  How about an elderly couple–long life lived so no problem?  I look at innocence as innocence, regardless of age, and while children may present the case of the most innocent of people, they don’t hold the exclusive franchise.  I think it is an indictment of us all that we have allowed gun violence to flourish to the point where a Newtown could occur, but is not that event that should push us towards gun control.  Great that it is a catalyst but there are far more compelling facts of life that should have everyone up in arms, so to speak.

What is so hard about this, people?  How can so many of us still indicate in surveys that we have no problem with the NRA and respect it? One could argue that that organizations acts in a manner traitorously to the people in this country when they lobby to stifle gun control. They are no less a danger to the people who get shot in this country than, say, the evil Soviet empire was.   More innocent, non-military Americans have died, essentially at the hands of the NRA and its supporters and paid stooges in legislatures than at the hands of  so-called US enemies like North Korea.

I really hope that Biden’s Task Force does not stop at proposing half-assed measures.  We need to go for more, to actually have a meaningful, rational effort at halting this problem over time. Will we demand this?  Will we buy into the empty arguments of gun advocates?  Will we continue to see our country slide further into a decline that started a little over 30 years ago?

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Commitment

As I understand it, for a Buddhist, “searching for the full moon” is a quest for enlightenment. Pondering possible titles for this new blog, I fixed on this one because, at bottom, I think that is what I am after and what I would like to help any readers move towards as well.  What does “enlightenment” look like?  Not sure but I do believe it includes trying to make sense of the world around me–that means exploring politics, social trends, ideas, etc.  I believe that it also means exploring the world in the sense of traveling around it and so I will think out loud about what I see and experience in my journeys, hopefully increasing in frequency as I age and this blog does so as well. It also means, I think, taking a critical look at events, and words of others, and sharing my understanding of what is true and not. Too, I am fairly certain enlightenment encompasses acting in an enlightened way–attempting to do good in my community, writ both large and small–and so I would like to use this blog as a call to action from time to time.  For example, at this time, for rational gun control efforts in the US. I fully expect this to be an ongoing “search,” involving constant exploration on my part, with no end to the quest in sight.  And that’s okay, I am comfortable with this fact.

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The trick is to…

The trick is to figure out ways to explore the edges of possibility that surround you (the”Adjacent Possible”)

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