Another Day, Another Mass Shooting…Part One

SanBernShooting

It’s beginning to become arduously mind numbing. A delightful office party on a sunny morning in San Bernardino, CA, celebrating the holiday season was suddenly wracked by automatic gunfire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two people, a husband and a wife with the husband actually employed by the company throwing the party (and plenty of evidence continuing to come out about), came into the gathering with this weaponry, semi-automatic rifles, handguns and bombs, blazing a trail of brains, guts and sinew across the floor of what was once a happy celebration. When the scent of gunpowder was the only thing remaining, 14 people laid dead and 17 others suffered from injuries.

Of course, the usual procedural began before the bodies had even quit leaking blood. President Barack Obama, pulled out of an interview with CBS News as the bullets flew, made his usual commentary (accurate) that we are the only civilized country that has these issues, the same speech given five days earlier when a gunman shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. President Obama also called for politicians to put aside their differences and come to agreement on a plan of action to thwart future potential attacks. Pro-guns advocates threw up the “thoughts and prayers” bullshit (more on this in a minute) rather than take any logical approach to the issue. Meanwhile, those in the middle that might actually be affected by these insane actions feel another bit of our heart, our belief in the good of man, ripped away from us.

The “thoughts and prayers” platitude (just heard President Obama utter it too, not just Republicans) is about the most useless piece of wasted words that have ever been uttered. When people lie dead and injured from situations that are simply too outlandish to comprehend, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to do shit for them except to make your little heart feel good that you offered something up. In reality, you’ve offered nothing except empty words that have little actual thought or prayer behind it, a simplistic vagary that has become commonplace instead of actually taking legitimate action.

With that out of the way, how do we actually go about taking care of these issues? Both sides – and why there has to be sides on this issue is completely ludicrous (we enjoy seeing people ripped apart by gunfire, spreading their life essence on the ground?) – are going to have to give on the issue.

First, the rhetoric has to be squelched. As far back as President Ronald Reagan (if not further), the depiction of the President of the United States as a Hitler-esque figure has made the rounds. Back during Reagan’s heyday, however, those photos and comparisons were held in small groups that had a more difficult time in breeding their particular stew of radicalism because of the lack of connectivity.

Those same pictures of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Obama or even Hillary Clinton today can race across the United States as quickly as a fiber optic line can carry them. Along with those photos comes the rhetoric – of the federal government as “jackbooted thugs” (a term used by Campaign for Liberty and I have the e-mails), that the “New World Order” is coming or that several tragic occurrences (including 9/11) were “false flag” operations (situations “staged” by the government to allow them to impede the freedom of the ‘American’ people) – and the ability to meet and exchange radical rhetoric much easier. This leads to radicalization, whether it is on an international level or a domestic one.

No leader of the United States has looked for the destruction of the country or its beliefs. Every leader since Reagan (at the minimum) has been accused and vilified for this, however, and the rhetoric has ratcheted up as people become immune to the last outrageous statement that was made (something we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential races also). Instead of using incendiary words – yes, words can infuse a thought or action into someone’s mind that they might not have considered previously – try disagreeing on a different level, one where actual discourse about policy comes into play.

This also applies to other aspects of our lives. Tolerance of other religions (ALL religions), respect to a person’s particular thoughts and beliefs outside of a God-based nature, even someone’s opinions on politics or other seemingly insignificant issues can, in an unfettered discussion, devolve into a frenzy of rhetoric denouncing a person to their very essence, if not directly leading to questionable talk that wouldn’t be used if a person was standing directly in front of their opponent. The rhetoric, the speech…it has to be reined in.

Before it is accused, I am all for the “freedom of speech.” I am also all for speech that advances us as a country and as a species. Continually devolving ourselves to the lowest common denominator – or even lower – doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

The next step would be to put some regulation on the weaponization of the United States. In 1994, then-President Clinton passed, along with the U. S. Congress, a ban on assault weapons for a 10-year span. That law was allowed to expire in 2004 and, although there have been attempts to reinstate the law and make it permanent, the powerful gun lobby (re:  the National Rifle Association) has been able to squelch such efforts.

There is some evidence to state that semi-automatic weapons and their availability have little to no effect on the numbers of mass shootings. It is obvious, however, since the law expired in 2004 that there has been a rise in the usage of the weapons for that purpose. From 2004 to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, 27 mass shootings (the definition of a mass shooting is a minimum of four people either killed or injured, including the shooter, through the usage of guns) occurred; this leaves out those that have drawn attention in 2015, including this most recent shooting, the Colorado attack or the college shooting in Oregon earlier this fall.

Semi-automatic rifles are used in the military to give troops the rapid fire that is necessary during warfare to defend themselves and fight battles. The weapon is NOT meant for use by civilians; there is no practical purpose – hunting, target shooting, etc. – that these style of weapons would be necessary to find in the hands of the Average Joe. If you’re argument is that “you’re defending the country against the fascism of our government” then you need to go back and read the first part and reexamine your mindset.

Next, there needs to be some changes to other areas of our “gun culture.” People are supposed to have insurance on their vehicles that, in the event of an accident, can help to provide compensation for any victims. The ownership of weaponry needs the same treatment as this is part of responsible ownership. It would also provide for someone to report when their weapons are stolen or sold to another party because that would alleviate any responsibility for the weapon.

Finally, the left has to get used to the factor that this is a country that was built on the ownership of guns and that, treated responsibly, this isn’t a problem. In recent mass shootings three-quarters of the weapons used were legally purchased, hence back to the tightening of what weapons are available and the need to put controls in that area. But the complete eradication of guns from the U. S. society isn’t going to happen.

Through an amalgamation of some of these previous thoughts – our country’s overall rhetoric, control on some weapons, penalties for usage of weapons in serious crimes and the understanding that every situation doesn’t call for the banishment of something you disagree with – we might start to clamp down on the overall malignancy that is festering in our soul. The inability to implement some if not all of these suggestions will just continue to lead us down a road until drastic actions take place that no one will be pleased with.

Will it happen? If you see this same article again, with a different “Part” number and a different lead paragraph, then obviously it hasn’t…

Advertisements

As The Bullets Continue To Fly…

Gunfight

Thanksgiving…a time for all of us to join together with our families and friends and truly demonstrate that we are grateful for the bounty that our lives have provided for us. I was feeling quite heartened by these spirits as Thanksgiving Day elapsed, having a great time preparing (OK, thanks to Harris Teeter, there wasn’t much preparing) our Thanksgiving dinner with my lovely wife as our son bounded about watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (probably the first year he actually paid attention to it). The very next day, the bullets continued to fly as it ruined any amount of goodwill I might have mustered from that one day.

It started on Tuesday and I did try to ignore it but, as the news continued to grow, I grew more irritated at our current condition. Last Tuesday, city officials in Chicago finally got around to releasing the dash cam video of the death of Laquan McDonald, the 17 year old who was allegedly gunned down by police in an attack that dated back MORE THAN A YEAR PREVIOUSLY. The investigation supposedly had been going on that entire time and officials reluctantly (after being forced by an FOIA request from a journalist) released the video to the general public late in the afternoon. They also decided to charge the officer responsible for the shooting, Jason Van Dyke, with first degree murder while releasing the video.

If you haven’t had the chance to watch the dash cam video of that fateful night, it is angering. With no audio from the dash cam (a violation of Chicago videotaping procedures, by the way), we see McDonald (who was found with PCP in his system in the autopsy afterwards) acting erratically as he walks down a city street carrying what would later be learned to be a pocket knife. Several police officers, either in their cars or on foot, are following McDonald from a distance as they try to get the situation under control.

What happens next is outrageous. Van Dyke allegedly pulls up on the scene and steps from his vehicle, drawing his weapon. Within six seconds of Van Dyke’s arrival on the scene, the bullets start to fly from his weapon. In total, McDonald was hit sixteen (16) times, Van Dyke emptying a full magazine into his body. There are even shots hitting McDonald’s body while he is on the ground and no longer moving. The act takes all of 10-15 seconds and no other officer fired a shot that night; in fact, Van Dyke allegedly went to RELOAD and continue firing before an officer called him off. These other officers did add to the egregious nature of the act, however, by not offering any medical assistance to McDonald, even though that is what they wrote in their reports.

Van Dyke surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and it became known that the officer had 18 complaints against him over the 14 years that he had been on the Chicago Police Department rolls, but he had never been reprimanded in any of those cases. These incidences, which ranged from “roughing up” suspects to usage of racist language, are unfortunately common – if someone is getting arrested, it sometimes slows their prosecution process down to accuse the arresting officer of some malfeasance – but perhaps in this instance were indicative of something more.

What finally got me, however, was the support of Van Dyke from his union, the Chicago branch of the Fraternal Order of Police. In a Yahoo! article Saturday, the FOP admitted they were actively trying to raise bail money for Van Dyke (first through a GoFundMe account that was closed soon after launch and then through the chapter’s website) and providing an attorney for him. One of the officers from that chapter of the FOP even stated to Yahoo! “First degree (murder) is a high bar to set and of course it is political (the charges),” indicating some level of support for Van Dyke.

I know it is the job of a union to support its members, but we’ve seen this type of story far too often. Be it in North Charleston, the streets of Staten Island or even on a playground in Cleveland, police officers nowadays are far too often shooting first and asking questions later. I leave out Ferguson because, after all the evidence was in, there were some grounds for the officer’s actions in that situation. It is then followed up by fictionalized police reports – the same documents that are admitted as EVIDENCE in a court of law – and fellow officers who tacitly support ANY officer whose actions are questioned.

The Chicago situation is particularly angering on several fronts. We’ve mentioned the lack of medical attention provided and we’ve talked about the unduly long time it took to even bring charges against the officer, but what hasn’t been mentioned are the supposed “good cops.” Sure, you can write off some of these acts as that of a “bad apple,” but “bad apples” continue to fester when the “good apples” don’t get them removed from the barrel. The continued silence and/or tacit approval (as what the Chicago FOP is doing) of anyone’s actions is wrong, nearly as bad as that of the actual killing.

There was one suggestion that I made in a discussion that, when heard by a former officer, he responded as if I was cutting off one of his limbs. Every two years, an officer should go through a thorough performance, psychiatric and financial background check and review to determine their mindset and stability to remain on the active police force. Enforcing such a program as this would have found the Fox Lake, IL officer who, after a lengthy mourning process for a “hero” that was gunned down by a trio of “bad guys,” was found to have committed suicide because he was embezzling money and threatening public employees; in the Chicago case, there could have been more focus on the complaints against Van Dyke that might have prevented what happened in 2014.

The role of law enforcement officers isn’t an easy one. It also isn’t one where you are given free reign over all who are “beneath you” by your viewpoint, to do whatever you feel is appropriate. The people you are supposed to protect also have to know you’re equipped to handle the job…if not, then you shouldn’t be on the street. Perhaps if the bi-annual reviews were done (and other things more immediate, like video cameras appropriately used), we’d weed out the “bad apples.”

If that wasn’t enough, then Friday came along. Instead of the usual reports of “Black Friday” idiocy such as an old woman having that $99 HDTV “Black Friday deal” snatched from them by an 18-year old (you know, those heartwarming Christmas tales), the attack of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO, dominated the news. As we know now, a man who was obviously mentally off somehow penetrated the doors of one of the most secure Planned Parenthood branches in the United States and proceeded to kill three people and injure nine others. If this doesn’t bother you, then the callous response from a particular branch of politicians is probably up your alley.

During the day on Friday and into Saturday, NOT ONE of the GOP candidates for President issued a statement in support of the employees of Planned Parenthood nor those that were injured in the shooting. A few mumbled some support for the officer who was killed in the Colorado Springs shooting, but nothing about the business or the people who were there for the services. As of Monday, these GOP “leaders” are trying to come out with their lame statements even as they try to keep from even being seen as showing any support for Planned Parenthood.

Yes, these are our choices for the Republican nomination of the President of the United States.

When you lead this country, YOU LEAD ALL. If you cannot fashion the words, “The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic, despite my objection to the clinic’s purposes, is completely wrong. The people killed and injured is a tragedy that shouldn’t occur in the United States. My campaign extends our condolences to all at the clinic and to the state of Colorado” into a cohesive statement within hours of the arrest of the suspect, then you do not have the ability to lead the nation. Just because you have an opposition to an issue is no reason to remove the humanity from it. But, then again, we are also talking about the same party who believes that shutting the door in the face of refugees is the correct course to take.

While the two issues aren’t connected, they do show the continued degradation of our society. Continually allowing the “bad apples” – whether they are politicians or police – to ruin the whole batch can be changed. The question is whether anyone is willing to take on the dirty work to do it or not.

Equal Opportunity Outrage for Everyone!

The past week has seen the cup of outrage overflow onto the carpet of hysteria. Incidents that occurred in the United States and other areas of the world seemed to boil down to see who could “out-outrage” the others in some macabre competition. To run them all down – and this isn’t even looking back to previous weeks, when the “Outrage-O-Meter” was pegging itself – would take hours, but here’s a few of the choice tidbits from the Happy Ending Machine over the past seven days.

Last week, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, attempting to catch up to the bloviating gasbag that is Donald Trump, commented that the deal negotiated with Iran regarding its nuclear ambitions – and this isn’t negotiated with just the current U. S. administration but also the leadership of the United Kingdom, France, Japan, China and Russia – was President Barack Obama “leading Israelis to the doors of the oven.” Through trying to out-insult The Donald, Huckabee instead offended people on both sides of the Atlantic, not only the U. S. but also Europe and Israel – the very people he’s looking to “protect.”

Then there was the false indignation that the Republican Party had regarding the release of illegally recorded videotapes of a high-ranking member of Planned Parenthood talking untastefully and rather loosely about the usage of organs and tissues from fetuses by the organization. Rather than actually sanely speak to the head of Planned Parenthood about the issue, several members of the GOP rallied around the “defund Planned Parenthood” bandwagon, despite the fact that less than 2% of their operations are abortions and much of their work benefits women who otherwise wouldn’t have a gynecologist to examine them.

If that was an easy one to get people to fire up the pitchforks over, then the news from Africa just sent everyone on a bizarro rampage. An African lion by the name of Cecil – who everyone claimed was world famous but I had never heard of before this brutal happening – was lured by a big-game (but small-dicked) hunter/dentist from the U. S. (in particular the state of Minnesota) and his filthy “guides” (called such because who accepts money for hunting animals…isn’t that the job of the “hunter”?) out of his sanctuary in Zimbabwe. Once out of the sanctuary, Mr. Little Dick decided to pump a shot from a crossbow into Cecil which, as anyone who knows weapons will tell you, you better be a damn good shot to kill them on the spot. Alas, Little Dick wasn’t and the chase was on.

For the next 40 hours, the Three Assholes decided to track Cecil before killing him off with a gunshot. It was only THEN that the group discovered that Cecil had a GPS tracking device, which they allegedly attempted to destroy, then hacked the head off the lion in a last act of deviance while leaving the carcass. All in the “glory of the hunt.”

Finally comes this gem. A woman who was the daughter of one of the survivors of the Sandy Hook shootings wrote an open letter to comedian Amy Schumer on Medium.com that implored Schumer to take up a stance for extending gun control laws. What was the basis of this? The shooting in Lafayette, LA, last week that saw two women killed at a theater that was showing Schumer’s hit film Trainwreck.

The young woman writes in the letter, “Amy Schumer, I and many other Millennials look up to you so much. You are our generation’s epitome of what it means to be a strong, powerful, self-aware champion for the experiences and truths of being a woman and an American today…And we need your voice in this movement. We need your help…Write an op-ed. Support an organization. Demand change. Be a voice for our generation and for women – two groups who make up most of the victims of the gun violence in our country.”

And this doesn’t even get into the situation between Palestinians and Israelis on the West Bank in Israel, the NFL’s Roger Goodell upholding the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or the latest in a long line of cop shootings, this one in Ohio, that are dominating the headlines.

Outrage, when used appropriately, can be a powerful catalyst for change in the world. In the early 1960s, the outrage people felt when seeing how peaceful marchers seeking equal rights were treated in the Deep South forced quick change after over 100 years of supposed “freedom.” Outrage can also take longer periods of time, such as with the Vietnam War, and sometimes can have no effect at all (Bill Clinton, anyone?). But when it’s rolled out virtually every waking moment for a person, it begins to lose its impact.

The abortion debate has raged for decades and one instance isn’t going to change any laws or funding. In fact, I quite honestly would rather have a strong organization to educate women regarding their reproductive rights and options rather than some Puritan saying “don’t do it” and then getting knocked up for the second time. Politics is the same way, although this year with the addition of The Blowhard to the Presidential mix, the others are ramping up their similes and metaphors to a disgusting measure.

I personally have never understood the allure of “trophy hunting.” Why would I want to go into a restricted area and chase an animal (who can’t leave the restricted area) in a lame-ass attempt at “hunting?” So I can stick a head on my wall and say to the boys, “Yep, gunned him down all on my own (except for the guides, the drivers, the cooks for the camp, the hikers who stalked the beast, etc.).” The problem with the outrage here is that virtually NO ONE had heard of Cecil the Lion prior to this; where was the outrage (and honestly, there’s been plenty) regarding the theft of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns that has been ongoing for decades?

Having said this, I do have a respect for those that enjoy hunting. For those that get their food from the activity (a deer can provide a winter’s worth of food for a family), use the skin for making clothing or the remainder of the beast for tools, more power to you. These aren’t the people that need to be shut down; I believe, in fact, they’re the ones who are bemoaning that this idiot dentist from Minnesota even had a gun, airplane ticket and guides lined up for his “hunt.”

Finally, Schumer owes no one a statement, let alone becoming an advocate, for any cause that she doesn’t believe in wholeheartedly. If Schumer feels passionately that gun laws should be stronger, they by all means, Amy, fire away (no pun intended). She shouldn’t have to face any shaming from gun control advocates to step up in any way simply because her movie was on the sheet playing when a nutbag opened fire.

The outrage card is being overplayed and by a wide swath of our culture. It’s time to take a moment to pause and see if a situation can be calmly discussed – and potentially a solution reached – rather than rattle the sabers of outrage with nothing to come of it.