What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow


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Thoughts one day before the election:

Months ago, I committed to voting for Hillary because of the unique threat Trump poses. I’ve been vocal about my decision to vote for Hillary and have written about why it is important to stop Trump and have asked others to vote for Hillary as well. I have also asked for tolerance and understanding for the myriad experiences taking place during this election cycle. I have tried to offer perspective on why it is difficult for many to vote for Hillary even under these extreme circumstances and those like myself who will vote for her, but for whom it is a deep and oftentimes painful and confusing struggle. I had hoped that as a liberal reaching out to other liberals, I would be met with some measure of understanding. In some instances that has happened. Unfortunately, in far too many, it has not.

Hillary is not as dangerous as Trump. I believe that with utmost certainty. That is why I chose to vote for her. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that in this final week, I have been on the receiving end of and have witnessed much that has forced me to second-guess that decision to vote for her, that has made that personal struggle even more intense.

Yes, Hillary is not as bad as Trump. However, I have found that far too many Hillary-supporters are as dangerous in my mind as your average Trump-supporter. The level of intolerance and shaming I have seen has left me feeling that the divide between conservatives and liberals isn’t as wide as we might think or believe, that we are all susceptible to being both manipulated and instigated by fear. Even though I am voting for Clinton, I have still been called “selfish” and “irresponsible” for trying to express and share with others why that decision is such a difficult one; to offer perspective for those out there struggling to understand why and how this decision could be fraught, could be immensely challenging, even painful.

This has come from people who believe they speak for and represent the party of inclusiveness, empathy, open-mindedness, equality, freedom of speech and choice, and are fighting for the “common good.” I have witnessed a level of hate and intolerance and bullying that has left me spinning. In addition to the names that I have been called, in addition to the immense intolerance I have been shown by so very many, I have also watched women attacking other women for expressing their difficulties in voting for Hillary, for having a different perspective or a different struggle. I have seen groups of women calling other women “twats” and claiming that those women don’t even have a right to be called “women.” To me, this is incredibly destructive, it is the antithesis of empowerment. It is most certainly not inclusive or compassionate. And it certainly isn’t working toward any “common good.” The phenomenon or “trend” I am witnessing, of fear and anxiety manifesting as intolerance and discrimination and taking the form of browbeating and hostility, feels like a rampant response that has only escalated as election day approaches. Hate and intolerance doesn’t lead Democrats to a different place than it does Republicans. It’s the same road.  Continue reading “What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow”

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What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow

The Gun Crisis In America: Misunderstanding “Freedom”


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Human beings are a tribal people. We have always separated into groups within groups, both physically and psychologically. In the big picture, we are part of a galaxy, which is part of a universe, of which the Earth is one of the planets within that universe. On that planet are many forms of life. One of which is the human being. But it’s difficult to gain a true sense of identity as an individual when you are one of over seven billion people. So as a species, we break up into smaller and smaller groups: continents, nations, countries, states, regions, counties, neighborhoods, communities, schools, work, political leanings, religious affiliations, circles of friends… It’s easier and quite natural to feel “special” as part of a group that represents something we have in common, choices we’ve made, what we want out of life,. The people who “get” us and who we “get.”

As part of a group known as “Americans,” it is — like in many if not all other countries — near impossible to feel “connected” to all individuals comprising that group, even when we may feel a sense of “national” pride. So we continue to break into smaller factions as we whittle down our similarities and differences. And more than I wish, those smaller groups do battle with one another. Either over an inability to allow for other schools of thought and belief systems, over a need to feel superior or “important,” or over injustice, whether real or perceived.

In America, one of these many smaller groups, but large enough to be of considerable consequence to our daily lives, has chosen to define their freedom in a manner that works directly against many of the other values this group espouses. Why is this? Well, partly it’s an aspect of behavior of that larger group mentioned above, human beings. But it also belongs to a group that has a more difficult time comprehending the results and consequences of their actions. There are people out there, perhaps even a majority, whose internal, emotional needs outweigh logic, science, facts, reality, truth and common sense. I suppose most groups say this about opposing groups, but I think in some cases, it may well be true. Certainly one human trait is destructiveness. Destruction not only of others, but of ourselves.

I have had many conversations with many people on both sides of the gun-control debate/argument. As guns are not an important part of my life, it would be easy for me to dismiss their importance altogether. But I will not. Guns are important to the people who appreciate them and therefore have value. However –and there really IS a “however”– guns are — though not exclusively — widely used by human beings to kill other human beings. One group killing another group. One individual killing another individual. One individual killing a group. Let’s face it, guns were created for the purpose of killing, be it man or beast, despite the fact that they can also be used for other purposes: target practice or sport, for example. And, like cars, there are many different makes and models of guns. There are different levels of performance and quality and, for a gun owner, collecting guns can be exciting. Make no mistake, the creation of different guns is an art form and collectors are collecting creations they admire. Guns and the various levels of talent associated with using them, can say something about who you are, a form of self-expression. ALL of these things are valid and important and I would not want to see that devalued.

And…

While I am certain that for the average person, pulling a trigger and shooting another human being is most probably a very difficult and painful experience, one that many simply could not follow through with, it is far easier by comparison to shoot someone than engage in hand-to-hand combat and drive a knife into your “enemy.” It is certainly less personal. You don’t have to touch them, smell them, go near them, or even be seen by them. And let’s face it, for some people, killing another human being is simply far less difficult than we’d like it to be. And guns make it easier. Of course we all know inanimate objects do not often kill people (unless you’re REALLY standing in the wrong place at the wrong time), but guns are a very strong means with which to kill. And by the very nature of many guns, killing in larger numbers is made easier and more “practical” via gun use than knives. The other part of the equation is that knives have a place in our day-to-day lives. Food preparation, eating, whittling, cutting rope, etc.

Cars can and have been used as weapons. As have planes. But they, too, have other, more practical purposes. Purposes they were created for. None of these things were created for killing. Guns were created to be weapons. Like I said above, they don’t “need” to be used as weapons, but that is their primary purpose.

Lately there has been a “movement” by many American gun-owners to publicly display their love, admiration and commitment to their guns by taking them out into public places. Malls, shopping centers, restaurants… In a culture that is in the midst of seeing an overwhelming rise in not only gun deaths but in mass shootings, strapping a gun or guns to your back and strutting your stuff in public is less an act of enacting your rights and more an act of terrorism. The average American citizen is not comfortable with the public presence of guns. Unlike some other countries where this is the norm, America is no longer that place and hasn’t been for a very long time. In this day and age, anyone carrying a gun in public who isn’t a police officer is seen as a potential threat (and even some police officers are seen as potential threats).

Those who enjoy “enacting their legal right” to carry unconcealed weapons with them into places where doing so will very likely induce fear, anxiety, and unease, where there are children present, where people expect to go with some sense that they are not endangering their lives by doing so, is an act of terrorizing. You don’t have to point that gun in order to induce fear, agitation, alarm. The potential for something to go horribly wrong rises exponentially in such an instance. Anyone who does not understand this concept and acts out in such a way as to cause distrust and worry for one’s wellbeing, is already someone that the average person would consider worthy of concern.

I know that many of the people behaving in this manner do so with the notion that it actually makes a place more safe, not less. Someone is there to protect you if need be. Unfortunately, most people do not feel safer in a world where weapons like guns are that easily accessible. Oftentimes, if not MOST times, these public gun-toters do so under the guise of enacting their “freedom” under the 2nd Amendment.

That greatly misunderstood word: Freedom.

It sounds an awful lot like other countries and schools of thought that many Americans would deem, well, unAmerican. We live in a country of laws and we do so for a reason. They are not there to limit, but to protect, to create a life and a community wherein we can feel safe and secure, at least as much as is possible. And those laws are constantly changing with the times and the needs of the people, as we evolve, individually and as a nation. Using the excuse that it has always been so so it should continue being so is not a concept this country was founded on. Laws are changed all the time. Our nation was designed to do this. It is what, theoretically, allows it to function and continue on into the future, to grow. For instance, it is no longer illegal to sell and consume alcohol, slavery is now illegal, interracial marriage is now legal, gay marriage is in the midst of becoming legal country-wide, murder is illegal…

The 2nd Amendment, its creation and purpose, may not only no longer be relevant to modern-day America, it may be holding us back or, worse, sending us backwards. Australia’s staunchly conservative Prime Minister John Howard (11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007), a gun advocate, close friend of George W. Bush and a vocal supporter of the war in Iraq, wrote about America’s obsession with the 2nd Amendment:

“The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns — and plenty of them.”

After a series of gun massacres culminating in a shooter in the town of Port Arthur, Tasmania, who went on a rampage and killed 35 people in what is considered the worst episode of this kind of slaughter in Australian history, Howard instituted a comprehensive set of gun-control laws, much to the vocal opposition of many of his right-wing counterparts. The result? According to Time Magazine:

The results have been tangible: A widely cited 2010 study in the American Journal of Law & Economics showed that gun-related homicides in Australia dropped 59% between 1995 and 2006. The firearm-suicide rate dropped 65%. There has been no mass shooting in Australia since the Port Arthur attack.

I have heard many argue that the problem is not actually guns, but mental illness. It’s absolutely true that mental illness is a problem in this country. Since the Reagan era, help and resources for the mentally ill and their families has been horrifyingly limited. I know too many families with children who are mentally ill and potentially dangerous in the same ways many of our mass shooters turned out to be, who cannot get the proper help for their children UNTIL their children act out in such a blatant way as to get themselves committed for treatment and evaluation. They must PROVE through ACTION that they are a danger to themselves or others. For most, as we have seen with so many mass shootings and suicides, this can already be too late. At the same time, there must be a great level of protection for all people so that they cannot be “committed” simply because their family thinks they should be. There must be a strong and detailed process for this. And that process should not be decided on by Legislators, but mental health professionals from lawyers who specialize in mental health to the doctors who treat patients suffering with mental illness.

But that’s just a start.

Gun-control laws also need to be in place so that anyone who has been committed or arrested for actions that may be attributed to mental illness cannot acquire a gun without going through a very serious evaluation by the above-mentioned professionals. This, like those who have been incarcerated for violent crimes, should be red flags against gun-ownership. In order for things to change, in order for this country to become a safer place, both sides of the argument need be addressed. Suggesting one without the other is only going to prolong results and that means more deaths. The gun-culture in America still needs to change.

There was a time in U.S. history when the mentally ill didn’t simply reach for a gun to enact their dysfunctions. No, that is learned behavior. And distinguishing the mentally ill from the mentally stable is sometimes a very large grey area and, in some cases, quite subjective. If you can’t “cure” mental illness today, then other actions must be taken. And those actions are within our grasp.

As for the notion of guns and freedom, there are already many countries in the world where anyone can obtain, carry and use a gun with no laws barring them from doing so. Equating carrying a gun around in public with freedom is, well, not unfamiliar…

The following is a comment made by a recent Syrian national who had been living in Britain (which has tough gun-control laws) who recently left the U.K. to return to Syria to join the ISIS call for Jihad:

“I don’t miss a thing, you know? I felt like I was in prison in that country. And I am here, I feel free, you know? I can drive, I don’t need a license, I don’t need insurance, I don’t need this and that just to watch TV. You don’t need a TV license. All of these things — you know, you feel like you’re in prison, you’re being punished… Here, it’s freedom. Totally freedom. I can walk around with a Kalashnikov if I want to, with an RPG if I want to.” –Abu Sumayyah, Idlib, Syria.

Freedom.

The following images are American men and women enacting their “freedom” in well-attended, family-oreinted, public places.

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Luckily for many of us, the “freedom-displaying antics” of those pictured above and others like them has resulted in guns actually being banned from places they previously had not been. This should — at the very least — suggest that the actions of these folks and their intended results are not really in sync with reality or practicality. Might I suggest a reevaluation?

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If freedom for you means the right to carry high-powered weapons around without restriction, without having to pass a test or even knowing how to use your weapon, do you also think the government should not demand that you have a driver’s license and insurance to drive a car? Do those notions feel too restrictive for you? Are they tantamount to being in prison? Do you feel they unfairly limit your freedom? If so, then there are countries that already function without restriction or regulation for such things. I’m not saying “leave America.” I’m saying “Be careful what you ask, wish and fight for.”

The countries that mirror the freedoms described above are universally considered dangerous places to live. And for good reason. Many of their citizens often live in fear. And despite the fact that many of the groups and individuals carrying guns do so for their own protection and/or to stand up to a corrupt government, the consequences are always, without fail, bloody, lawless, terrifying and supremely damaging to the entire nation and its inhabitants.

These are very unstable countries with shockingly high murder rates. If every gun owner were a responsible, self-reflective, empathetic, sympathetic human being, maybe this course of action would work. But the human race does not function as such. That particular group is made up of so many smaller opposing groups, as mentioned above, that dependance on guns as a means of protection and a realistic solution to a nationwide problem is simply not realistic. It is pure fantasy, the proof for which is there for the taking in countries and scenarios being acted out across our globe. Syria and Iraq today, for example. Fear and instability are what these countries have in common.

On the other side of the coin, many countries that have strong and responsible gun-control laws have among the lowest murder rates on the planet. And mass killings are almost unheard of; they are a bizarre anomaly and not the rising daily event it has become in our nation. These results can be witnessed in countries like the above-mentioned Australia, which has a large gun-culture (and, like America, was a country “tamed” via gun-violence), but has seen massive reductions in homicides and mass killings since enacting strict gun-laws. But there are reports and findings that suggest simply enacting gun laws alone is not enough. The data changes from country to country and here in the U.S. from state to state. The culture itself needs to change. This happens through gun-regulation laws that directly link responsibility with gun-ownership. It means a higher awareness in conjunction with direct educational practices on the potential negative repercussions of gun use and abuse. It means teaching history. Accurately. It means looking to other nations and their laws and practices as examples of what works and what does not, and who we would like to hold up as an example, and who we would not. In this arena, America is NOT currently leading the way. Far from it.

Here’s a chart outlining countries with the largest firearms ownership per person around the world. America, of course, is on top:

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The following chart shows the homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 people in those same countries. Again, America leads.

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So what is it that America is and isn’t doing that led to such staggering numbers? If these were the statistics on ANY other crises in our country, be it bridges collapsing or buildings imploding or deadly gas leaks in schools or terrorist attacks, there would be a universal uprising by all citizens to be protected. We simply could not ignore or excuse the numbers. So what is it about our gun-culture that allows so many people to push it aside, blame it on something else, or simply demand “more proof?”

Then there’s suicide, the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Harvard School of Public Health:

“In 2010, 38,364 people killed themselves. In more than half of these cases, they used firearms. Indeed, more people in this country kill themselves with guns than with all other intentional means combined, including hanging, poisoning or overdose, jumping, or cutting.

“Though guns are not the most common method by which people attempt suicide, they are the most lethal. About 85 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm end in death. (Drug overdose, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, is fatal in less than 3 percent of cases.) Moreover, guns are an irreversible solution to what is often a passing crisis. Suicidal individuals who take pills or inhale car exhaust or use razors have time to reconsider their actions or summon help. With a firearm, once the trigger is pulled, there’s no turning back.”

Currently, the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) is comprised of men, women and children who feel that their government has systematically alienated and abused them, subjected them to lesser freedoms and treated them as second-class citizens. They are fighting for their rights. So why is it that ISIS is also synonymous with murder, terrorism, fear, insanity, irresponsibility and deemed an untrustworthy and unstable group? How about the following:

Here, a boy crouches, machine gun in hand, moments before the two blindfolded men seen below were shot. (Image source: ISIS video via MEMRI). The shooting of ISIS “opponents,” their hands tied behind their backs as they are shot in the back of the head by masked “executioners” has become an official mark of the group.

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Here, another boy waves the black flag of ISIS in celebration and solidarity (Image source: ISIS video via MEMRI).

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The dead bodies of the executed men were paraded through the town in front of children who had come to watch the “festive public execution,” as it was promoted. This happened in the main square of Manbij outside Syria’s largest city of Aleppo. The executioners then hanged the bodies crucifixion-style in the town’s main square as a warning to others. This is NOT an unusual or singular experience in this region. It has become part of the culture. Guns, violence, executions (outside of any law, I might add) and random acts of terror, humiliation and outright murder is commonplace. The examples of gun culture and its effect on both human beings and the many varied groups they belong to is well-documented and all of recorded history since the invention of the gun bears out the same results.

So why are there so many people in America who believe that, somehow, we can make the same choices and observe a different outcome? Why do they believe the desire by many for gun-control laws stems from the media “taking advantage” of tragedies like the Newtown, CT. elementary school shooting to further a “political agenda?” I would guess, in part, that some people are more interested in getting what they want and attaching themselves to any belief system that bears out their desires than in actually taking a breath, trying to understand the far-reaching effects of particular schools of thought and actions, and making the hard decision to do what is best for the safety of innocent human lives, our fellow citizens, our neighbors, and agree that the freedom for any human being, any American citizen, to easily obtain and use a weapon as potentially deadly as a gun, and most especially semi-automatic weapons, oftentimes with the purchase of high capacity magazines, is NOT what is going to make America more safe.

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Take a look at the recent standoff at the Bundy Ranch. Hundreds of armed men and women gathered to defend a man, Cliven Bundy, who had broken the law by not paying grazing fees on his property for over 20 years.

The basic history of the land fees goes like this: In 1933, Edward T. Taylor, a Representative from Colorado, reintroduced a bill which became known as the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA). It was intended to regulate grazing on public lands to improve rangeland conditions. This service later became the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which managed about 167 million acres of publicly-owned rangeland. As a result, farmers with cattle grazing on these federal rangelands are required to pay a fee.

Bundy claimed that he inherited “pre-emptive grazing rights” on public domain land since some of his maternal grandmother’s ancestors had kept cattle there. Bundy took his case to court and lost since there is no such thing as “pre-emptive grazing rights.” The court ruled that Bundy needed to pay the same fees as thousands of other ranchers throughout the U.S. Bundy and his family had actually been paying the grazing fees until 1993, after which, due to refusal-of-payment, Bundy’s grazing permit was cancelled. In court, Bundy failed to prove that he had special rights to grazing privileges that others did not. So, not getting what he wanted, Bundy decided he no longer acknowledged that the United States owned this land and therefore the laws were not valid and, as a result, he would not recognize or honor them.

BundyStandoffRight-Wing organizations and media outlets from Fox News’ Sean Hannity to the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity made Bundy a celebrity and egged on protestors to show up and stop the “tyranny” and “intimidation” of the Federal government. The circus that followed saw a well-armed group protecting Bundy’s “rights” and “freedoms” via threats of violence. Even Bundy himself acknowledged that he was not interested in a peaceful resolution. “You gonna be a peacemaker,” said Bundy, “you’re gonna be on the BLM’s side.” 

A protester aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management's base camp where seized cattle, that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, are being held at near Bunkerville

These men and women took an actively armed stance to defend a man who simply did not believe he needed to follow the same laws as others and, when he lost that battle in court, decided that they would defend Bundy’s personal lawless vision through threat of gun violence. Was this a last resort? No. Were there more legal channels to go through? Yes. Does this example of defying the law through violence work toward a safer country? No. It continues a culture of violence as a means to an end.

It wasn’t until Bundy revealed some of his other beliefs, such as his comments about black people in America, that some, though far from all, of his media supporters backed off. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” stated Bundy. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” Less freedom than slavery? Really? Is this who we are meant to follow? Is this the incarnation of the future of America we’re meant to take up arms and fight for? The ones the media agitates us to support? You want to talk about dangerous media manipulation? Here it is. Don’t believe the media is helping fuel fear and misinformation as well as a call for violent resolution that leads to misguided and potentially bloody standoffs? Check out Fox News’ “Judge” Jeanine Pirro’s Opening Statement on “diseased” immigrant children and about Iraq and ISIS and how we need to bomb them. And then bomb them again. All in the name of “Justice.”

Getting back to that grey area between mentally ill and mentally stable, I would suggest that Jeanine Pirro’s mental stability is seriously in question. Is she who we want calling the shots? Is she who we want to listen to and follow? What percentage of the American public does she represent? To me, she is an extremist as dangerous as any terrorist organization spreading propaganda and calling for violence.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against taking action. I’m not suggesting we simply trust the government and not speak up to support our beliefs and to protect our freedoms. No, our country was created to allow for protests and free speech and for change to be made possible. But not through armed-response. Once again, that misguided course of action is something that is currently being showcased across the globe and throughout the Middle-East, and the results are universally catastrophic.

There is a dangerously fine line between the mentality and media propaganda that allowed the Bundy ranch fiasco to come into existence and the “festive execution” of Syrians detailed above. Both saw themselves and presented themselves to others as individuals fighting for “Freedom.”

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And both promoted a “festive” and celebratory gathering. With children. And guns.

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Waving flags in celebration and solidarity. Remind you of anything?

Protesters gather at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp near Bunkerville, Nevada

Now understand, I have a deep distrust of the U.S. government. Particularly in this day and age when corruption and lies have become trophies for many in public office so long as they don’t get caught. America is a country of bullies. We like to see and present ourselves as saviors and those defending justice, but more often than not, self-interest is at the heart of our actions as a nation. And that example trickles down from the top and into the hearts and minds of potentially every citizen. It becomes our defining culture. It has proven to be the enormously ugly side of Capitalism and highlights many of the very real weaknesses inherent to all human beings and, more often than not, it backfires and we end up paying the price for our own lack of insight and our inability to take a step back and see exactly who and what we have become.

Take the deadly lawlessness under the guise of responsible American Business of Blackwater, which had a $1 billion contract to protect American diplomats in Iraq, and was later termed “an environment full of liability and negligence” by the State Department’s chief investigator. Despite the State Department’s initial evaluation, Blackwater became so powerful that, after Blackwater employees fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007 and a State Department investigation was initiated, they managed to force the inquiry to a quick close after Blackwater’s top manager threatened “that he could kill the government’s chief investigator and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.” The result? American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators, who were asked to leave the country because “they disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor.” 

Violence and bullying over law and morality. This is an American-made beast. It is a part of who we are and what we breed.

But these weaknesses are no excuse to not strive for growth, to not attempt to leave a world for the generations to follow that is a bit better than the one we lived ourselves. Publicly arming ourselves and educating that Might is Right is in no way, shape or form, going to move us forward. Only back.

There is a big difference between being responsible and honoring and respecting the lives of fellow Americans, fellow human beings, regardless of similarities or differences, by enacting laws that limit gun ownership, the types of guns available, the ability to obtain high-powered semi-automatic, high-capacity magazine wielding weapons, and having the “freedom” to do what one pleases and desires regardless of the danger to others, not to mention the stability of the country itself.

Guns are not going away. Know that. Embrace that. But creating and enacting laws that prevent mass shootings and high public death-rates, is not the enemy, nor is it imprisonment or taking away freedoms. It is being responsible and facing the truth of the dangers of a society with a strong gun presence and easy access to them.

The only reason these laws are being fought against is because there are powerful lobby groups (the NRA being one of the strongest) who stand behind those for whom the sale of guns is a colossal money-making endeavor. And for those people, those companies and organizations, bringing in that level of money is so far-reaching, so deeply embedded, that human lives, American lives, are not a higher priority. So they prey on those who love guns, who understand guns, and who are ready to fight, even spill blood, in an ironic attempt to defend that right, that “freedom.” No matter what the cost.

These people are not our enemy. They, too, are our fellow Americans. And they are systematically being compromised via fear-tactics and misinformation by those who have made it an art with a sense of pride and identity to manipulate others into fighting against their own well-being by preying on their needs, their desires, their history with and their love for that which has become a part of their identities, their guns.

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No one wants to strip you of your identity or that which you love. They only want to create laws that make our country a safer place, a more civilized, humane place to live. It’s one of the very things that separates us from so many other countries and makes us potentially “special.” It is one of the ways this particular group, Americans, can lead by example through our willingness to be self-reflective, to make difficult but necessary choices, to consider the safety and well-being of our fellow Americans, our fellow human beings, to be important above all other things.

Anything less will result in a country that does not resemble the America our forefathers envisioned. Nor that of any honest human being desiring to move forward by learning from the mistakes of the past, as well as the mistakes of the present.

The Gun Crisis In America: Misunderstanding “Freedom”

Mary Cheney & Her Lesbianic Home


Really, who is it out there that still finds some pride in being Republican? I’m sorry, but these days it seems to be a bastion of ignorance, intolerance and misguided anger. Fighting Health Care. And don’t tell me you simply don’t agree with Obama’s plan. I didn’t see any Republican’s trying to fix this nation’s health care problem under 8 years of Bush. No, I really don’t think the well-being of the American people is truly at the heart of today’s Republican Party.

Nor is Equal Rights and Freedom. Those crazy “liberal” notions. The intolerance of the Republican base is always astounding, though never surprising. I hate to paint in such broad strokes and often attempt to do otherwise, but when I see partisan politics overriding the well-being of a nation’s people, I get angry. And when I see the intolerance of hatred, on display any which way you turn these days, I get sick to my stomach.

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Mary Cheney

Here are some comments from the conservative Free Republic website in reaction to the news that Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, and her long-time partner Heather Poe, are expecting another baby:

I respect Dick Cheney, but I don’t understand why he is allowing his daughter to take innocent children into her lesbianic home. Can anyone claim that these kids won’t be scarred for life? So sad.
Also repugnant, IMNSHO, is the use of “they are expecting a child” when, for obvious reasons “they” could not POSSIBLY have conceived. It is the slight of hand that the left does with rediculous name reversals (like “FAMILY PLANNING”) that implies something that in fact does just not happen…
As much as I don’t like it, God will have to sort this out in the end.
Who is the father? Yes, you selfish lesbians, there is ALWAYS a father. Not that the baby will benefit from one. sick.
I wonder if Hallmark makes a card for this occasion? Yathink? Congratulations on your baster bastard?

“I respect Dick Cheney, but I don’t understand why he is allowing his daughter to take innocent children into her lesbianic home. Can anyone claim that these kids won’t be scarred for life? So sad.”

“Also repugnant, IMNSHO, is the use of “they are expecting a child” when, for obvious reasons “they” could not POSSIBLY have conceived. It is the slight of hand that the left does with rediculous name reversals (like “FAMILY PLANNING”) that implies something that in fact does just not happen…”

“As much as I don’t like it, God will have to sort this out in the end.”

“Who is the father? Yes, you selfish lesbians, there is ALWAYS a father. Not that the baby will benefit from one. sick.”

“I wonder if Hallmark makes a card for this occasion? Yathink? Congratulations on your baster bastard?”

Ahhh, land of the free and home of the brave… and hateful, and intolerant, and…

Mary Cheney & Her Lesbianic Home

Guns & Rallies: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should


6a00d8342297e353ef00e5539f78808833-800wiIs this a movement brewing or the death-throws of a dying party? I’m not sure. I’m hoping the latter.

It seems gun-rights activists are showing up in droves at Rallies and Town Halls where Obama is speaking. We all know about the guy who showed up with a legal loaded handgun at the New Hampshire Town Hall meeting. He was carrying a large sign which read:

It is time to water the tree of Liberty.

For those who don’t already know, that’s in reference to a famous Jefferson quote which states in its entirety:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Fun.

Then there was the guy who showed up at that same Town Hall meeting and was arrested for carrying an unlicensed pistol.

More fun.

gunWell, today, the great state of Arizona flexed its conservative muscles when about a dozen armed folks showed up outside an event in Phoenix where President Obama was speaking. But this time pistols weren’t the least of it. One gentleman, in addition to the pistol on his hip, was carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle strapped to his back. And according to CNN reporter Ed Henry, this guy was one of two spotted carrying an assault rifle.

Now we’re really having fun, right?

When asked why he was carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle while walking through a group of people partaking in a pro-Health Care rally outside a place where the President of the United States was speaking, the man answered simply,

“Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.”

And nothing spells true freedom like the ability to blow a man down in his tracks. Or to cause the President to fear that his life may be in danger. Or the lives of peaceful demonstrators at a rally.

No, nothing says freedom like physical intimidation.

Let’s hope these folks keep pouring out of the woodwork. Let the nation see what’s lurking beneath the rhetoric and ignorance of the Sarah Palins and Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world. Bring them out into the light.

Guns & Rallies: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church In Name Of Women Everywhere


jimmy cIn his opinion piece in THE AGE, Jimmy Carter discusses his reason for leaving the Southern Baptist Church after six decades: “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”

I have always found Mr. Carter to be a man of great dignity and integrity. In THE AGE, he continues:

It was… an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

Then later:

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

And finally:

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share…

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world.

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church In Name Of Women Everywhere

The Federal Gov’t. The RNC. Your Civil Liberties: One Of These Is Not Like The Others


Like all nations around the world, history has shown us that we must pay close attention to the actions of our government to ensure that the freedoms we hold so dear and have fought so hard to maintain, are not taken away from us while we’re busy looking elsewhere or simply coming up with excuses why it could never happen here. America a fascist state? Well, maybe not yet. But it is imperative that we not ignore the telltale signs of the possibility that we could end up far down that road before we even realize it.

I’m sure many folks remember the last RNC in New York back in 2004. People were rounded up, put in large cage-like holding pens and kept there until the RNC was over. Most were not charged, not allowed to make phone calls, or even told exactly why they were there. And we’re talking about thousands of people. 

So what’s happening now as a lead-up to this next RNC? Let’s take a look:

Glenn Greenwald, previously a constitutional lawyer and civil rights litigator, has been writing an ongoing series of articles for Salon.com on a slate of recent federal government raids on potential protesters in Minnesota, the home of the upcoming RNC. In his August 30th article, Greenwald writes:

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city… In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken [watch video here] as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as “Do you have Terminator ready?” as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. 

Several of those who were arrested are being represented by Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild. Nestor said that last night’s raid involved a meeting of a group calling itself the “RNC Welcoming Committee”, and that this morning’s raids appeared to target members of “Food Not Bombs,” which he described as an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group. There was not a single act of violence or illegality that has taken place, Nestor said. Instead, the raids were purely anticipatory in nature, and clearly designed to frighten people contemplating taking part in any unauthorized protests.

Nestor indicated that only 2 or 3 of the 50 individuals who were handcuffed this morning at the 2 houses were actually arrested and charged with a crime, and the crime they were charged with is “conspiracy to commit riot.” Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow preemptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested.

Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.

In his August 31st article, Greenwald continues:

Today’s Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.” Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force — an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI — was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate “vegan groups” and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

All of this is hauntingly familiar to many of the tactics used by the Chinese government to keep anyone from protesting at the recent Olympic Games in Beijing. Those tactics were largely criticized by the media here in the States, however I’m guessing you’ll have to do some truly ambitious digging to find much mainstream media coverage on similar activities by our own government happening mere weeks after the Olympic Games.

Check out this recent blog by Eileen Clancy, one of the founders of I-Witness Video, a NYC-based video collective that’s in St. Paul to document the policing of the protests around this week’s Republican National Convention. Clancy started blogging as the house she was staying in was surrounded by police and FBI. 

The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St. Paul has been surrounded by police. We have locked all the doors. We have been told that if we leave we will be detained. One of our people who was caught outside is being detained in handcuffs in front of the house. The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant. More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16.

We are suffering a preemptive video arrest. For those that don’t know, I-Witness Video was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements which were fabricated by police officers. It seems that the house arrest we are now under and the possible threat of the seizure of our computers and video cameras is a result of the 2004 success.

Do your homework, pay attention. There is a fine line between freedom and fascism and that shift could happen before anyone notices just how far it’s gone or just how much freedom has been lost. If we truly are in Iraq and elsewhere fighting for freedom and Democracy, then we damned well better be sure that the examples we’re setting and the rules we’re living by are what we want to put out there. Otherwise, we’re just uncontrolled bullies looking to control more people and more land. America has always held great promise, but it is not immune to the very same problems that have destroyed other potentially great nations. If you genuinely believe in America, then don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions that true freedom demands. 

The Federal Gov’t. The RNC. Your Civil Liberties: One Of These Is Not Like The Others