Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guns again...

...and now for some commentary, because I am sitting here at my computer feeling an almost unbearable sense of despair -- for my country, my community, all of us.  I just read a news release a mere 37 minutes old about 5 people being shot inside an apartment complex in Texas; the gunman got away; two of the people targeted (in the head) survived, though god knows in what state; and then the reporter revealed that, in a town called Cypress a few miles away, 10 days ago, 19 people were injured in some kind of shoot-out and three teenagers killed.  In Detroit, probably somebody is dying right now.  In almost any town in America, probably somebody is being killed with a gun right now.

So I wonder why we do nothing.  Is this the new normal?  Do we just say, well, it's a second amendment right -- pile up all the rockets, grenades, bazookas, AK47s (or whatever the hell they are) with appropriate ammunition that you wish.  The Founding Fathers wanted us to have whatever we want; they foresaw -- what?  19 children dead in Texas, a few miles from another shooting ten days later?  What about all of the children?  Do we devalue them so much?  Or is it only black and brown children that we think can be picked off, one by one?  Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida by someone who quite obviously was a vigilante. We all knew that.  It was some kind of blood sport, that farcical trial, pitting his attorneys against the plausible lies of the opposition.  Cleverness won.  The dead kid couldn't tell us what happened, and it didn't matter.  It was Martin's fault because he was black, daring to wear a hoody, daring to walk at night while black.  Now, the vigilante threatens his possibly pregnant white girlfriend with a gun, and it's obviously HIS fault.  Why?  We think his girlfriend is worth worrying about?  We now think he shouldn't have guns?  What aren't people in the streets at long last?  Isn't it clear as day what we value and what we do not value, what kinds of manly sport we think can be played with impunity with a gun at your side?

Let me tell you this:  If I were not so old, I would pack up my books, yarn, and cats and move either to Great Britain (a village like Swanage, or maybe Oban, Scotland) or Canada and just design sweaters, write books, never listen to the news.  You can walk around in Scotland without worrying about whether some complete maniac is stockpiling guns in the cottage next door.  Canadian newscasts are not filled with news about dead babies, dead mothers and fathers, dead teenagers.  To make the news in Canada, you have to be an overweight mayor with a big mouth and a drinking problem.  In the U.S., we view such things as entertaining interludes between accounts of dead people.  Canadians also don't have to listen to inane, inaccurate "facts" about the Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison once warned, in slightly different ways, that the American republic would flourish for as long, and ONLY for as long, as the citizenry could be well-informed, EDUCATED, sufficient to make judicious choices and judgments.  Without education and civic information, by which I do NOT mean mere prejudice and fact-free superstition, there could be only anarchy.  Dead babies and Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz (not coincidentally from Texas) are aspects and expressions of anarchy.  Let's smash government, should we?  We don't need government if we have cowboys.  We don't need government if everyone carries a gun so he or she can blast away at anyone they choose -- such as the poor, inebriated young woman last week in Dearborn, Michigan, who made the mistake of trying to find help after a car accident and got shot in the face by someone who didn't even look to see who was standing on his porch.  That very dangerous man at the NRA, after all, said that the way to deal with a bad guy with a gun was to give a GOOD guy a gun. The more guns, the better. 

Should I go out and get a shotgun, do you suppose?   Or is it time to move to Oban?

Why are we doing nothing?  Why are those blathering idiots in Congress taking home paychecks?  In this, I include the blathering Democrats, the blathering Republicans, all of them -- not for an equality of ideas (I'm a woman, and so I can hardly approve of Republican policy choices, can I?  Vaginal probes?  No more contraceptives?  No health care for poor people?  REALLY? ) but because they are all infected with an immense, intolerable cowardice that can only end badly, in a gigantic pool of corruption and collapse.

This is NOT normal.  This is NOT what the founders and framers had in mind, for god's sake.  The Second Amendment is about militias.  The founding generation, two centuries removed from our own, wanted every household to be able to defend the state or nation against invasion.  So we had a right to own conventional firearms to defend the community against incursions.  There were no bazookas.  There were no military assault rifles.  Gun purchases were infrequent and expensive, done at a store where the owner knew your name and public reputation.  Remember that James Madison also said, famously (this information is found in STANDARD TEXT BOOKS), that the Constitution of the United States was not to be read as if it were sacred, as if it were Biblical.  Why not?  Because it had to be mutable.  It had to adapt to the changing circumstances of human beings.  If it did not, he warned, the genius of the document would be unrealized, and the republic likely would collapse.

I do NOT know how much more of this vicious, endless, mindless violence we can bear as a nation.  I do not know what it will take to get Americans out of their foxholes, into voting booths, into public office, into their elected officials' mailboxes, into chambers to yell and scream and make demands.  We can ban all of these instruments of death if we have the collective will to return the nation to some kind of safety.  There is no slippery slope.  To say (as the Supreme Court indeed has said) that we can offer reasonable regulations of guns and enforce them is good sense.  It is educated, well-informed, and altruistic.  It is a decision that aims to preserve the republic's children.

I am very, very afraid that we are seeing the end of a brilliant experiment in self-government, brought down by bigotry, racism, sexism, ignorance, and greed.  It is no answer -- only a complete cop-out -- to say that nothing can be done.  I at least go into classrooms and teach.   What are other people in this country doing to put an end to this?  How much longer will it go on before we sink?  Are we going to  hide in other foxholes?  Here's one that springs to mind:  "Well, it's only the mentally ill who shoot people."  Right.  So all of those stone-cold killers who walk through Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Newark, Houston, Cypress, Miami, Minneapolis, Los Angeles -- all of those people with "a right to carry" are insane when they fire the guns at perfect strangers (for sport) but sane when they are merely cleaning them?

I hold a hard-won Ph.D.  That Ph.D. happens to be in American legal and constitutional history.  I take the long view.  And this is utterly terrifying.


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