Sunday, May 25, 2014

Before the Second Amendment, There's the First. Use It.

This afternoon I came across a post by Michael Moore, the documentary film-maker who is either a god or Satan incarnate depending on your politics. Apparently, Mr. Moore was asked to comment on the senseless tragedy that unfolded near the University of Santa Barbara a few days ago. A disturbed young white male from an upper middle class background used guns and knives to murder six people before taking his own life.

Here is what Michael Moore had to say in the form of a Facebook status that I decided to share on my Facebook page out of a common sense of rage and frustration:

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

Shortly after my post, I received an email from a good friend whose opinion I greatly respect. Unlike some of the folks I expect to hear from after I post this blog, my friend is a thoughtful and intelligent and well-regarded by me and our mutual colleagues. Here is the email received in response to my sharing of Michael Moore's post:

A few thoughts......
First - know that I am truly saddened by the event at UC Santa Barbara - it was and it is truly horrific....
Second - I'm a bit surprised that you would share Michael Moore's post - it easily leads one to believe that all of this tragedy was done with the use of a gun when 3 of those killed were killed with a knife - could it be that mentioning that a knife was used for 3 of the killings would take away  most / all of the credibility for the rest of his statement?  Seems to me that providing half truths to support a position is not worthy a repost....
Third - although he doesn't want to write it, it seems what Mr Moore is saying is that we have individuals with mental health issues that need to be addressed, yet he somehow draws the conclusion that if we take away guns all will be good (except maybe for those 3 housemates who were killed with a knife....).  He apparently isn't aware of root cause analysis.
Fourth - might you still be one of the folks who has a gun in their house that is easily accessible to those who shouldn't have access to it?  (I hope not, if so, we need to talk....)

I enjoy reading your posts & blogs - this one just didn't feel right...

I'm posting these because I shot off a response that I wanted to share. It feels right to me and I believe that it's incumbent on those of us who share Michael Moore's frustration, including me, to speak out. We may never achieve any success, but I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I made some effort.

Here is my response to my friend's comments:

Thanks, J.

Actually, I took Moore's condemnation to be more of a general venting of frustration 12 years after he came out with Bowling for Columbine because nothing has changed. He wasn't focused on this individual tragedy, which is why he starts out by saying he's done talking. 

No matter what we do, there will continue to be murders and assaults using knives, cars, poison, abuse and guns. I'm not willing to give up addressing the problem of the proliferation of firearms because of an inability to achieve a perfect solution and harmonious society.

I was just thinking about something the other day, before the latest tragedy. When I worked in D.C., I was dating an aide to a Senator from Nebraska. She was active in the anti-gun lobby because her brother had been killed by someone with a handgun. She talked about the statistics, variations on Moore's cites from a 1977 perspective. She acknowledged the challenges in dealing with the NRA because of its constant warning about the government taking away guns and stomping on Second Amendment rights. That's what struck me. Ever since Robert Kennedy's assassination, I can remember hearing about the government wanting to take away everyone's guns. And it works up the pro-gun crowd time and time again. However, since 1968, there's never been a serious attempt by anyone in elected office to confiscate guns. While there was an assault weapons ban in place for awhile, it was pretty limited and allowed to expire. Handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles have never been subject to any confiscatory legislation. 

So, if the government isn't taking anything away, what's wrong with some regulations that take a step in assuring a more safe use. Again, it won't be a perfect solution, but how many lives does it have to save to justify implementation? One, a hundred, a thousand, my grandson, your daughter?

Read "Glock", the history of the manufacturer. Fascinating story about the success of the gun, its rise to prominence among law enforcement worldwide, the marketing that was used to achieve that result and the financial pressures exerted on and by the gun lobby to make sure that nothing changes in Americans' access to guns. 

I'm ignoring the Fourth point. I'm still bad ALTHOUGH it's not loaded or near ammunition, it's hidden away, it's out of reach for anyone too young to get to it and I really intend to get a trigger lock for it.

Thanks again.

If you feel passionately about the issue, don't tell me. Tell your Congressman and Senator. There's nothing more that I can do besides what I'm already doing. People that agree with me and Michael Moore have to make themselves heard directly, not merely as poll respondents. People who don't agree with me are entitled to their opinion. All I ask is that they take the time to have an informed opinion, not one based on scare tactics and imaginary government conspiracies that have been erroneously prophesied for more than 50 years.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Grandson (Part 2)

Dearest Beloved Grandson, 

I am writing this while awaiting word of your arrival from your parents. After waiting at home all day and timing contractions, your father sent me a text at 4:32 p.m. confirming that they were with you at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul. 

I am at my office and I have work to do but I am having a hard time concentrating on anything but the desktop on my iPhone. I am trying to will it to light up with a phone call or text from your father, telling me that you and your mother are healthy and, finally, sharing your name with me and my 1,300 Facebook friends. I thought if I shot something off to you, it would make time pass.

You should know that this world is full of strange coincidences. Your parents told Grandma and me eight months ago to the day that you were expected. So, for eight months, I had been meaning to share some advice with your father. I kept forgetting, even though we believed that you would join us last week.

This morning, at 9:26 a.m., I sent your father the following text:

"Time for me to tell you what someone told me before you were born. It doesn't matter how much you've read or how much you have discussed the birth of your child. You have never felt anything like the way you are going to feel when your son is born. Enjoy the experience and each and every moment that follows thereafter. Don't wish away any part of his growing up. It passes all too soon."

Thirty-seven minutes later, your father called me to tell me that your mother had gone into labor. While I realize that the going away festivities started for you last night, it struck me that you waited until I gave your father a last piece of guidance before you felt he was ready to say "hello".

Thank you for having so much confidence in me. I will try to be a wonderful Papa for you. 

I will teach you patience and respect for the wishes of others. I will start by not posting this letter until given permission by your parents as it will, in effect, serve as a birth announcement for the dozens of friends who will want to be called Uncle or Aunt. 

I will be honest with you. In eight days, we will celebrate at your bris. I'm not going to lie; it's going to hurt. You won't walk for a year.

Lastly, for now, I will not spare you from stupid jokes. See above.

With all my love and tear-filled eyes,


Molly, Teddy and Phillip
May 4, 2014