Guns –as the pro-gun lobby likes to say– really do kill people, but those guns have to be in the hands of a person to do damage. The plea that gun ownership be kept in check so that the nutcase in your children’s high school can’t acquire one is largely being ignored by the officials in our government. The president and the nation’s attorney general agree that we need to do something about mental health. They are mum on the subject of gun control.
The fact that someone as clearly unbalanced as Nikolas Cruz could amass an arsenal of weapons should give us pause about the gun selling business. He was not exercising his Second Amendment rights; he was planning mass murder.
We’ve got sort of shoot the messenger administration in power. Senator Durbin reports an appalling truth and he’s faulted for the fact that the Congress can’t pass DACA legislation. People who’ve contributed to America, and lived here for years are being deported, and surely we can’t blame Dick Durbin for regressive policies carried out by the administration and its cohorts. Clearly, it’s their racism that is responsible for failing to allow immigrants who dream of a better life and whose dreams have been fulfilled during nearly a lifetime in the United States to continue living the American dream.
Most Americans come from a long line of dreamers. We are descendents of men and women who came here to start over and to do better. Chances are that your grandpa was an immigrant, or that great grandma came through Ellis Island. An ancestor worked the railroads or participated in the gold rush of 1849. There may be a Revolutionary War veteran on your family tree; he came to America to escape persecution. Some came for economic opportunities. Others travelled across the seas to find a freer society.
Still others were forced here against their will, and lived here enslaved until the Emancipation Proclamation attempted to integrate them into American life. Racism, then as now, worked to keep these newly minted citizens from enjoying their liberties and rights. Americans who were brought here in shackles have traversed a tougher road in becoming part of the fabric of this democracy.
The main agenda for the dominant party today is a kind of war against people of color. The urban poor are the principal targets of this unprincipled party line. The tax bill, immigration policy, the fight over healthcare, attacks on Medicaid and the defunding of CHIP, the call to close the borders, all affect services. Education, transportation, housing, are all left to flounder and founder under the burdens of making the wealthy a lot richer. Tax cuts to businesses and their owners will not trickle down to citizens living in or on the boundaries of poverty.
The predominantly white, rural poor may still support the underlying principles of a racist political regime. They are also financially at risk, but they may feel gratified that inequality takes precedence in our national life, and white supremacy is not just condoned but a guiding political ideal. Is having token representation reward enough for their loyalty?
Money that has been scooped from one purpose to another is said to be in fact funnelled when its use is not legitimate. This kind of laundering takes place everywhere, from government to private industry; politicians often funnel funds designated for one social need into another aspect of the budget. This may fall under the category of creative accounting, or you may just call it malfeasance.
Putting a coat of varnish on an old beat-up piece is one way of making it look shinier and maybe younger than its years and wear. Like “fake news,” the ever-so-popular-with-the-conservative-base meme, varnish gives an illusion of things being other than they are. Let me explain what I mean about “fake news”– for the most part this is a term used to denigrate the factual. Varnish, in its way, denigrates a reality as well; it alters –or attempts to alter–the age and condition of the furniture to which it is applied. In this way, varnish is truly a fakery, while “fake news” is a slur against truth.
Many of us are, or are descendents of those who have come from far away to be in America. The place we were born and the one in which we landed conspire to make our identity. We say we are Italian-Americans, or Americans of German ancestry. Some brought the homeland with them, for instance, naming a place in Maine after Denmark and another after Poland. Those of us lucky enough to be from my city mostly just say we’re New Yorkers.
As citizens of the United States, however, we are always recognized by our distinctive Americanness. Who are you? I am an American.
What does that mean? I am an American. It means I honor the hard-won rights, liberties, and responsibilities of all those singular and distinguished Americans who forged this “more perfect union.” Some of us continue to struggle to keep the ideals of our Constitution (and its amendments) intact. We are united in the laws of our land. We are one under a flag that represents American values. Nothing should divide us, although many things do.
Sometimes it’s our background, or place of origin that keeps us from acknowledging that we are all one people. Sometimes, it’s our ethnic heritage or religious beliefs that we hold above being an American. Sometimes it’s the ethnicity (or choice of worship) of our fellow Americans that we disparage, showing disrespect not only to our compatriots but also to our way of life. We allow differences in political orientation to distract us from who we truly are. We are not Republicans or Democrats. As denizens of a democratic republic, we are in truth both. We need to celebrate and esteem our “nation, indivisible” and recognize the unity that is these UNITED STATES of America.
Who needs civil liberties? The rights of our citizens were hard-won. Freedom did not just emerge from the blood and sweat of the Revolutionary War in documents of federation and constitutional laws. Some Americans had many more years to struggle to see their rights recognized. Many of our privileges evolved in the amendments to our Bill of Rights over the 3 centuries since that war established a United States.
The simple single answer is we all do. Remembering, as always, that with rights come responsibilities.
Sometimes it is not possible to quell the anger, fear and hatred of a policeman who stops a citizen for a tail-light violation. Situations get out of hand. The driver is arrested.
Many of the folks incarcerated have committed only the crime of “driving while black.” Responsible parents in the Afro-American community teach their children how to mitigate the outcomes of this very serious circumstance. It is one which affects the statistic in which 14% of a county’s population are prosecuted or jailed for more than 50% of the crimes committed there.
When 14% of a county’s population in places like Mississippi, for instance, are prosecuted for more than half the crimes committed in that county, it looks like that 14% are the bad seed. Looks can be deceiving. Statistics like these are clearly skewed. They are also deceiving.