Monday, February 4, 2013

America the beautiful? Where?

Am I the only one who was appalled by these kids singing America the Beautiful at the Superbowl?
I'm sure they were invited in the purest of motives, to help us all heal from the horror of Sandy Hook-Newtown-12-14 slaughter, whatever you want to call it.
But by the same token, these poor kids mouthing the words to America the Beautiful when they have been through America the Horrific?  The hypocrisy of those who arranged this little love fest is overwhelming. Meanwhile, in rapid succession over the last few weeks we have had:
* A 15-year-old  who performed at the Inauguration and was killed less then two weeks later in Chicago.
*  A 22-year-old Latino who  made the mistake of pulling into the driveway of a suburban Atlanta man when his GPS steered him wrong and was shot and killed for his trouble (and the shooter held the victim's three teenage companions until police arrived and arrested the shooter).  None of the four in the car was armed.
* A guy in Phoenix who took a gun to a legal deposition and killed a lawyer and the man who was suing him. Nice way to settle a legal dispute.
* America's greatest sniper in the Iraq war and another veteran who were shot and killed on a rifle range by a third disturbed veteran.
(Really, if a trained sniper armed with whatever armament he had cannot defend himself, who can?  I'm not making light of this.  These were a couple of military heroes trying their best to help a fellow veteran, but this cannot be an advertisement for "We need to arm ourselves to protect ourselves from the mentally unstable.")
* Twenty-two Iraq and Afghanistan veterans a day --A DAY -- are committing suicide, nearly all of them with guns. 
* Our president had to prove that he has shot a gun at least once to campaign against gun violence.
* And, since 12/14, at least 1,600 Americans have been shot and killed.  See here and here.
These were people and now they are graves.
In the last week of January alone, 22 murder-suicides were committed in America leaving more than 40 people dead, husbands, wives, children. 
So who am I to talk about gun violence?
I have lost two brothers and a sister-in-law to gun violence.  On Labor Day, 2004, my brother Bo shot his estranged wife Rose and himself to death in front of his three youngest sons and a grandson.  They left behind 11 children.
That one-and-a-half-year old grandson, now eight, has been the victim of horrendous, ongoing mental and emotional problems, and he doesn't even understand the source of any of it.  And my nieces and nephews have been assaulted by unbelievable guilt and pain, as have I.  That pain does not end.
My brother Tom?  I am not even allowed to talk about him.  He was shot and killed in 2008 by a member of his wife's family.  The police have not found his body or been able to charge the perpetrator but they know what happened, if not why.
I cannot even bury Tom and I often imagine the terror he experienced in the moment, seconds, before he was killed.  Can you imagine someone you loved experiencing that?
Rose also experienced unfathomable terror.  She did not deserve to die that way.  And Bo?  He was one week into an anti-depressant regimen that may have given him the calm and fortitude to kill Rose and himself.  The drug he was taking has been blamed for many other suicides.
Do you imagine that this epidemic of gun violence is simply a class thing?  Black inner-city youths killing each other?  Think again.  My family is as white and Anglo-American and Middle Class as they come. 
So yeah, I think I have a little cred to talk about gun violence.
In both these cases and in many of the 32,000 or so homicides and suicides we experience every year, the intersection of rage or despair or mental instability and a handy gun results in deaths that simply would not have happened if the moment were allowed to pass and the gun had not been at hand.
And those of you who insist that we need semi-automatic weapons and 30-round magazines to protect us from a tyrannical government? 
"Tyrannical government" is code-speak in some circles for "the blacks are coming to get us."  But in either case, a popularly elected government gone mad or minority marauders, this is total fantasy and the worst kind of fear-mongering.  Even if you really had to protect yourselves from a real, honest-to-God "tyrannical government," you civilians would need a lot more armaments than you can ever stockpile. 
Our government has nuclear bombs,anti-ballistic missiles launched from submarines, hellfire missiles, drones, shoulder-launched rocket launchers, Apache helicopters, armored Humvees and I don't even know what else. Not to mention 12 years of warfare experience against small arms and roadside explosive devices.
And if you had to go up against a "tyrannical government," you would really be going up against your own sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands,wives, military, police and first responders.  You will not be wiping out some abstract enemy, you will be wiping out your friends, relatives and neighbors.
Who do you think would be coming for your guns?
Which isn't even a question.  As President Obama says, there is no legislation, no proposal, no intent to take any of your guns away from you. 
But, whatever we can achieve in gun control, otherwise known as "sensible gun laws," it's time.
It's time for all of us to change our attitudes against unfettered, unregulated gun ownership.
Oh yes, it is time.

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