Want to Change the Gun Debate? Body Bags…

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Once again, something that there is “no way to prevent” in a country that could prevent it in a heartbeat has been devastated by tragedy. Mass shootings have become almost commonplace nowadays in our existence, so much so that the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL (a suburban community north of Miami) that killed 17 teenagers and teachers and injured a similar number has barely registered in our consciousness. Something else that hasn’t registered in our consciousness? That this is the 18th (EIGHTEENTH, for those of you potentially with vision problems) such attack at a school IN 2018 alone.

Now of course the usual diatribe has begun. The conservatives and guns-rights fanatics have rolled out their gems of “mental illness” or that “there’s no way to stop this” or the “what good would new laws do” argument. Liberals, on their side, have opened their discussion of what they believe to be rational gun controls and funding of mental health treatment, but they can’t seem to coalesce around whether they should just try to work on certain weapons or rewrite the Constitution and just how much money it would take to eradicate mental health issues. And once again, those old chestnuts of “thoughts and prayers” and “now’s not the time to talk about these things” (if not now, then when the fuck is the time to talk about it?) comes to the fore.

Myself? I’ve grown tired of the constant stream of “thoughts and prayers” and the hand wringing and the “what will we do” cries that go unanswered. When you get ready to do something about the issue, give me a call. Until then, let’s not pretend to give a fuck about the issue. We didn’t care when 26 6-year olds were gunned down, why the fuck would we care over 17 teenagers?

But I digress. There’s one thing that we can do that would have a tremendous effect on changing the gun debate in this country. Whether we have the balls to do it or not is another thing.

During the Vietnam War, those on the home front of the United States were brought daily reminders of what the casualties of war were. In grainy black and white on their televisions (or, for those families that had a bit more money, color TV), U. S. soldiers were seen getting blown to shit by Soviet-made munitions, their fellow soldiers carrying their body parts back to the corpsmen to try to save so that they could defend a small Asian country against the “expansion of communism.” Some of those men came back with their minds permanently separated from their bodies. Some came back with the body parts either reconnected or gone, but even further disturbed by the horrors of war. Some, alas, didn’t come back.

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These daily images had a monumental effect on the psyche of the country. Seeing hundreds of blood-soaked bodies cross their screens nightly – and, for some, potentially becoming that next body to be broadcast back to the U. S. – changed the viewpoint of the Vietnam War from one of patriotic resolve to that of an imperialistic invading force trying to force our way of life on another country. It begat the protests that started during the early 1960s, but it was one event that was seen on television that changed the course of the war.

In 1968, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite went to the war-torn country following the Tet Offensive to give viewers his viewpoint on the course of the war. On February 27 of that year, Cronkite offered this opinion to the country:

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

This, along with the rest of his commentary and the non-stop images of war coming from the front night after night had a seismic effect on the Vietnam War. After it was aired, then-President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” It would force Johnson not to run for President in 1968, although it would take another five years before the war would be ended.

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The views of those body bags – filled with the remains of once vibrant and alive men who were defending this great country – was immeasurable. This effect of seeing the ramifications of war has an impact on the people – why do you believe that, since Vietnam, there hasn’t been any scenes of U. S. troops in the midst of battle that haven’t been completely scrubbed by the U. S. government? Why do you think that there haven’t been the scenes of caskets or body bags with the remains of soldiers, Marines, sailors and others that have been killed as a part of the “war”?” Why hasn’t there been the “live from the front” reporting, unless it is someone embedded (AKA “cleared” by the government) with a platoon?

Control what the people see and you control the discussion. That is true in virtually every armed combat situation that the U. S. military has been in since Vietnam and it holds true in the case of these mass shootings.

The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party learned this fact a long time ago. After what was arguably Ground Zero for these mass shootings, the attack by two shooters on their high school in Columbine, CO, in 1999, many saw the images of the two shooters strolling the hallways and gunning down their fellow classmates. People saw, through news reports, the blood-soaked hallways where people tried to drag themselves to safety. They SAW what happened, they saw the bodies, they saw the after effects. (And here’s a bit of sadness for you…Wednesday’s shooting in Parkland knocked Columbine out of the Top Ten largest mass shootings in U. S. history.)

There was a great deal of outrage after that attack and the gun lobby and the politicos noticed. The NRA and the GOP were able to stanch a massive change to gun laws and they learned from the Vietnam War. Thus, in virtually every situation since Columbine, there has been no video or photographic evidence that has been made public.

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Sandy Hook…no. Las Vegas…none. And to this point, we’ve seen nothing of Parkland. It’s time we change that situation.

The only way to have an effect on the Ignorati in this country – those gun-totin’, knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnon fuckheads who spout, “You’ll get my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” – is to either have someone that they love get mowed down by a hail of bullets from an semi-automatic weapon or, saving that, continually show the blood soaked hallways of the last shooting. Show the area where a group of people, cornered and unable to escape, were massacred by a gunman who made quick work with his assortment of weaponry. Bring the bodies out AND FILM THE GODDAMN THING. Broadcast the march of the dead and show people that yes, there were people who DIED in this attack (it would also shut the hell up these tinfoil hat fucks who scream “false flag operation” after every mass shooting).

The only thing that this country can understand is being beaten over the head with a sledgehammer. This country cannot change without seeing what the effects are of the actions they condone. Civil rights in this country didn’t move forward until blacks being treated like dog toys or being driven to the ground by a fire hose blast was seen by a massive number of people. The same applies to this situation – let’s start seeing the bloodied bodies being brought out of what was once considered a sanctuary – a school, a church, even a place of employment – and then there might be some honest discussion on the issue.

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You Defend ALL Rights for ALL People, Not Some of Them or Some People

Many moons ago, I defended this country as a United States Marine. It is, other than my wife and my son, one of the things that I’m most proud of and, surprisingly, I did it right. After a four-year stint with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, I’ve got the official documentation and diploma that says I was honorably discharged for my service to the country.

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Thus, this last weekend – hell, the last 25 years or so, but that’s a discussion for another time – was quite angering for a military veteran. The actions by the SCROTUS, Orange Foolius, and his ill-advised and quite ignorant commentary on the National Football League and, in particular, players who protest the indignities foisted on minorities by law enforcement personnel, last Thursday night lit a firestorm with people. In those comments in front of a group of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals in Alabama, the buffoon in chief whined about how football wasn’t a “real game” anymore because of the concern over head injuries that the players might suffer (let’s just forget the factor of the debilitating effects of CTE). Then he launched off into a topic that, until he brought it back, had pretty much died out.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” Orange Foolius blubbered to the slobbering masses, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch (and it wouldn’t surprise me if he wanted to go off on the tangent the Pennsylvania fire chief went on in describing Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin) off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Of course, the diatribe was in response to quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 season-long protest of police brutality and minority oppression by kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem. Don’t let the mere fact get in the way that it has since cost Kaepernick his position with the San Francisco 49ers, his team at the time, or the blackballing that has resulted from the other GMs in the league from his peaceful protest. In fact, other than a handful of players in the NFL (Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett most notably, who had a run-in with Las Vegas police that ended in a rather acrimonious situation), Kaepernick’s attempts to bring attention to the continued travesty that occurs far too often had pretty much been brushed under the rug.

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That was until the Tangerine Fool’s hacking of red meat to feed to a bunch of rubes.

After Herr Twitler finished his hissy fit, the entirety of the NFL spoke up as one voice. Instead of a couple of players, more than 250 took a knee. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, issued a blistering renouncement of Orange Foolius’ statements and entire teams, who would rather piss on the ground that Goodell stands on than join with him, linked together in a show of solidarity against the stupidity of the jackass in chief and him slobbering minions. This included the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (both donated to the presidential cause of the SCROTUS…wonder if they’re regretting that now).

These protests will continue probably for the remainder of the season, especially since this imbecile and his lobotomy-ravaged sycophants have tried to steal the concept of the protest, trying to make it about the “flag” and “the Anthem” and “the troops” instead of what it was about…the injustices facing minorities in this country, especially at the hands of law enforcement personnel. Be on the lookout for similar protests to begin in the National Basketball Association also.

Kaepernick’s protest was never about the military, nor the flag, nor even the Anthem. So why did he choose his moment last year to make his stand? Because every other means of protest had been taken from the people. Remember those idiots who said they would drive their vehicles into marchers in the street (they thought it was a great idea until a Nazi decided to do it and GOP legislators STILL want to reduce liability for drivers)? So, people don’t like marchers. Well, what about occupying an area and sitting or kneeling? Nope, that offends people too, unless you’re white, armed to the teeth and screaming about how “the gubment” is stealing your land…then you get acquitted. Kaepernick chose the least offensive way to go about making his protest (and, for those of you who say, ‘Why don’t he use his money to make his voice heard’…he has, to the tune of $1 million at the minimum) and it is one that the military men and women of this country should support wholeheartedly.

The military – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard – is 37% minority. That the dotard in the White House chose to go after minority football and basketball players (yes, we didn’t even touch on the Steph Curry and Golden State Warriors “visit” to the White House, but I’ve got to leave you some legwork to learning) is a damning sign when he doesn’t call out white supremacists, racists, or religious zealots (his very own “spiritual advisor,” the “Reverend” Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, suggested that football players should be thankful that nobody has “shot them in the head”) for their bullshit.

Beyond the racial factor, the military and its fighting men and women do not defend a flag. Those airmen and women, soldiers, sailors, and Marines do not defend a ditty written by a racist as he stood passively by in a boat, scribbling his screed, while watching those said defenders of the country die at the hands of British ships bombing the hell out of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The men and women of the Armed Forces – be they active duty or reservist – defend the people of a country, ALL people, whether they are white, black, brown, red or polka-dotted.

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They defend the Constitution, the law of the land, and ALL that the document entails. They defend the Bill of Rights and the 27 Amendments that have been made to the Constitution over the past 240 years. That means, when it comes to the question of the “methods of protest” employed by one group or another, they stand for it, even if they don’t agree with it. As a Marine veteran, I support the right of protest. It is one of the many rights that citizens are granted and that I defended for them and for this country. Freedom of speech is arguably (I personally think there’s not an argument) one of the greatest rights we have, the ability to speak out against the government, its politicians, and its institutions. And yes, sometimes that freedom of speech can be used in areas that make you uncomfortable or you dislike. Allowing such speech is the true test of the freedom.

I recall when I was growing up in Illinois there was a small town near Chicago called Skokie, a predominantly Jewish and Polish enclave. There was a band of Illinois Nazis (you wonder where that line “I hate Illinois Nazis” in The Blues Brothers comes from?) that petitioned for the right to march through the villa. After several legal attempts to stop the march were denied – on the RIGHT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH – the Illinois Nazis marched and people peacefully protested it. Such raconteurs as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos also have that same right to be heard; so does comedian Bill Maher, who sometimes takes angles on freedom that people don’t agree with.

Freedom of speech is exactly that…you have the freedom to express your ideas. Now, there is also that right to PEACEFULLY protest on the other side and there are also the consequences of the freedom of speech. If you are willing to accept the consequences of what your freedom of speech might entail – as Colin Kaepernick has been – then your freedom to do it is guaranteed.

The National Anthem is just a song. No military person is defending a song. Likewise, the same could be said about the flag. It is presented as a symbol of the country, not something to be worshipped on the altar of a god. If you are disturbed by someone who is making a peaceful protest by simply kneeling on the ground but you accept something like this…

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Then you are the one with a problem. And if you accept that – or accept a supposed leader in the SCROTUS who thinks that white Nazis are “good people” while calling minority athletes “sons of bitches” – then we can see where the problems in this country lie. And it goes beyond someone kneeling in silence to protest.

What If They Threw an Inauguration and No One Cared?

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This Friday, the States of America will once again pause to see the passing of the baton from the current President, Barack Obama, to a completely inept, out-of-place scuzzbag that will be referred to here as the GOP nominee. After eight years (and yes, that’s all he gets despite the wishes of others – the Constitution says so), Obama will pack up his family, take one last look at Capitol Hill and finally be able to shout “Fuck you, cocksuckers!” to those that obstructed him. At that moment, this idiocratic kakistocracy will take over.

For myself, I’ve never been a big fan of the inauguration of a President. I’ve never watched the parade, never cared about the speeches, and certainly don’t want to watch people dancing around in their finery. There’s only a couple of parades that I’m interested in:  the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (it’s always the signifier of the start of the Christmas season) and any parade that a member of my family is in. Other than that, I don’t really want to sit around for several hours (live) or a couple of hours (on television) to watch floats, bands and other parade potpourri walk.

This year’s inauguration, then, is no different for me…I won’t be watching it, much like I didn’t watch Obama’s, nor Bush’s, nor Clinton’s. What makes it even easier is because there is absolutely no reason to give any “celebration” to the cacophony of idiocy that the minority of people have subjugated on the country through their vote nor the person who it is supposed to celebrate. No one wants to perform, save for a 16-year old who didn’t even win the competition she was vying for, a church choir, dancers who might have been forced to appear and the Great American Redneck(s), and there’s plenty of nice dresses available (despite Twitler’s protestations to the contrary). And it appears that many are coming around to the notion that hey, maybe we should have thought about this a bit more.

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While his minions continue to harp about how much he’ll do the “first day,” the GOP nominee has himself stated that he won’t be starting his new position until MONDAY. In an interview with the Times of London, the GOP nominee is quoted as saying, “Day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday…my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration.”

The utter stupidity of this statement boggles the imagination. This fuckhead just took a job that is a 24/7 gig, not a 9-to-5 job. You don’t get weekends off…hell, you don’t even get VACATIONS off. Just ask the former Presidents how many days they said, “Fuck it…just going to go back to my mansion in (insert your favorite Presidential retreat here) and take a few days off.” As the President, you’re there FOR THE PEOPLE and the free world all the goddamn time. You’re taking briefings WHILE ON VACATION because, you know, shit can happen at any time. But this thimble-fingered imbecile seems to think that he’ll just be able to go about life, not a care in the world. How long before that wears thin on him?

Then there’s the constant circus that has been the parade of the Confederacy of Dunces to Capitol Hill. “Billionaire Betsy” DeVos, the choice of the orange-hued stain on the human condition for the Secretary of the Department of Education, couldn’t manage to get through her hearing without proving her total ineptitude for the position she was taking. Under questioning from Senator Al Franken, “Billionaire Betsy” couldn’t discern the difference between achievement testing and performance testing. She stumbled through another question on gun-free school zones by saying that weaponry might be needed to “defend against grizzly bears.” (Research into that has shown that, in recent history, there have been zero grizzly attacks on schools while there have been 210 attacks by people with guns since just 2013.)

Finally, Senator Bernie Sanders was the only one with the balls in the room to call her out. Sanders recited the litany of things that she hasn’t done that you might want in a Secretary of Education (didn’t attend public school, no collegiate background or degree in education, children didn’t attend public school, etc.) before noting that her family had donated “around $200 million” to GOP causes. “Do you think you’d be sitting here today if it weren’t for those contributions?” Sanders asked a woman who had NO REASON to be sitting there other than THAT REASON.

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I’d get into the GOP nominee’s choice for the Secretary of Health and Human ServicesRepresentative Tom Price – and his travails with non-payment of taxes, buying stock in companies and then writing bills to aid said companies and PROFITEERING off such actions or even the factor that major National Security Council personnel have been unable to brief their incoming replacements because those replacements HAVEN’T RECEIVED SECURITY CLEARANCES, but the real fun hasn’t even occurred yet. That comes on Thursday when former Texas Governor Rick Perry tries to tell a cadre of Senators that he’s ready to be the Secretary of the Department of Energy.

Perry, who once wanted to disband this organization before forgetting about it during the GOP debates in 2012 (now known as the “OOPS!” Moment), was reportedly thrilled when the GOP nominee asked him to fill the position. That was before he actually learned what the job was all about. Instead of ensuring the security of the nuclear arsenal of this country – the primary job of the Secretary of the department – Buckaroo Ricky thought that he’d be promoting the country’s oil and gas industry just like he did as the “guvner” of the Lone Star State.

Let that sink in a minute…this moron thought he’d be a glorified salesman, promoting a product to exactly whom isn’t known…

The continued Circus of Comedy that is being provided by the GOP nominee’s proposed administration (he’s already lost one person, former Fox News commentator Monica Crowley, due to her plagiarism of significant portions of a book she allegedly wrote…perhaps she can continue her wall research now) has sent many into a fit of navel gazing. The GOP nominee is coming into the office of the Presidency with the LOWEST APPROVAL RATING of any candidate since 1977. The GOP nominee’s approval rating is 37%, according to a Quinnipiac poll, a pitiful rating even for a scumbag that has shown no ability to grasp the importance of the job he ran for and no interest in even the base learning of the myriad of things he might face. Not only are the numbers overall for the GOP nominee in this shitter, his overall transition has been received less-than glowing reviews. An equal number of citizens of the States of America – 48% each – have said they either “approve” or “disapprove” of his transition period, according to a Gallup poll. The reason this is bad? NO ONE has ever seen numbers that bad when they were entering the Presidency.

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So we can lament the loss of the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus, but it isn’t like we’re without new performers. In fact, a new circus is moving into the White House soon – just as soon as “wittle Barron” can pull himself away from his silver-spoon up their asses brats at his private school and Melania can get her “model scowl” just right – along with the Head Clown and a cast of characters. Unfortunately, the comedy of errors they’ll be presenting won’t be making anyone laugh as they wreak havoc on the country. As such, I won’t be watching when this embarrassment for the country is jutting his chin out like Mussolini as he reviews whatever high school band marches in front of him during the inauguration.

One Problem Facing the U. S. – Indoctrination of the Young Rather than Free Thought

I was involved in a debate today after watching this young lady’s thoughts on the upcoming Presidential elections. On pretty much every count (and sadly), you can see that she has heard her parents say these things and, rather than try to think for herself, she looks for the approval of her parents. In breaking down her comments, you can easily see this for yourself and see one of the problematic issues facing the country.

After you’ve watched the video, let’s take the young lady’s comments one by one:

1) Gun rights

There is literally no possible way for the Democratic candidate for President, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to change the U. S. Constitution and remove the Second Amendment. To do such would require the vote of Congress to push through a Constitutional Amendment (think back to the one that rescinded the ban on alcohol), then it would require that 3/5th of the states – 37 – would have to vote it through also.

Clinton is looking for common sense gun control. She’s not looking for a ban on guns, which has been the mantra of the National Rifle Association for every Democratic nominee since the 1980s.

2) The Wall

While I would love to wax poetic on Pink Floyd’s opus, that’s not what the Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump, is talking about and that’s not what the young girl is opining on. We are discussing a multi-BILLION-dollar plan that would violate the Constitutional rights of people to use their land as they see fit (You’re going to force someone to build a wall that blocks them from their own property? There are plenty of Texas landowners whose property stretches into Mexico…what do you do about that?). The mere thought of seizing someone’s land from them for governmental use smacks of Communism.

3) Illegal Aliens/Drug Trafficking

It isn’t illegal aliens crossing the border that is the issue. More illegals stay in the United States after an expired visa than illegally come over the border into the U. S. These visas are for school, work or familial purposes and, after the visa expires, the holder is supposed to leave. Many choose not to leave.

When it comes to drugs, the “war on drugs” has been a colossal failure. Building any type of wall isn’t going to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country, it will simply force it through other avenues. Furthermore, how deep is that wall going? As we’ve seen on the border in California, tunnels can go quite deep in a way to circumvent it.

4) Clinton’s Senate background

If the young lady in the video is 11-years old, that means she wasn’t even born when Clinton was elected from New York in 2000. She would have been BARELY three years old when Clinton, after her failed Presidential run in 2008, accepted the position of Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and resigned her Senate seat. Therefore, she has no basis to make a claim regarding Clinton’s success or failures in the Senate. This is plainly something that she has heard from her parents, making her commentary massively biased.

5) Hillary and guns

Back to #1, folks. Even if she wanted to, it would be an impossibility.

6) Terrorists/Illegals entering the country/voting

A person in the United States is more likely to be killed by a piece of furniture than by a terrorist attack on our soil. The odds of dying from terrorism on U. S. soil from 2007-2011 was 1 in 20 MILLION. The basic fact is that, more than likely, no one in this country is going to die from ISIS – or anyone else’s – terrorism today.

Looking at voting, it would be another impossibility. Since many GOP-led legislatures have forced through some sort of voter identification law, the likelihood of an illegal having the required documentation is unlikely, let alone their efforts of going to a governmental operation (a polling place) and exposing themselves to authorities.

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For those that believe all the fallacies that the young lady presented in her speech (and was apparently taught by her parents), you should be ashamed. You aren’t allowed to create your own reality and many of the subjects broached here are of that “alternate reality” that makes up the bookshelves of fiction sections. You also shouldn’t be allowed to warp a young mind before it’s had a chance to be able to form its own opinions, especially on something like political beliefs. I know that there are things that arise in parenting where you would like to have your children follow in your footsteps, but it is true parenting (and much more satisfying, even if they don’t agree with you) when you allow them to learn for themselves.

Freedom of Speech is a Right Until Someone Disagrees with It

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WRITER’S NOTE:  Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Rather than trying to recap what has happened in the world over the last month (to give you a reason for the lack of material, real life invaded on essays – and moving from North Carolina to Florida had a huge impact itself), we’re going to pick up with the latest discussion du jour. Trust me, there’s going to be more concentrated efforts here over the next few months, especially with the Presidential Election on the horizon!

We’re only two weeks away from the start of the National Football League season and, to be honest, it seems as if they are in midseason form in many areas. Complaints about the officiating, season-ending injuries, suspensions for drugs and/or wife beating have been handed out and controversies over who should be playing are already raging and we have only seen each team play two meaningless preseason games. One instance, however, seems to have stepped beyond the bounds of the gridiron and into the public consciousness.

At the start of their game with the Denver Broncos on Friday night, virtually all of the San Francisco 49ers team stood at attention on the sidelines as the National Anthem was played. After the ceremony of the performance and the start of the game, it was noted by television commentators that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was conspicuously missing from the team lineup, instead sitting on the bench behind his teammates as the National Anthem played. What may have been an insignificant occurrence instead became the latest in media-driven hyperbole and faux patriotism.

Following the game, Kaepernick responded to questions about why he didn’t stand for the National Anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick stated, apparently in reference to many of the incidences regarding black people and their killing by law enforcement officers, among other things. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick didn’t hold back from those sentiments after some thought. On Sunday, as a vortex of controversy swirled in the air, Kaepernick doubled down by saying, “I’ll continue to sit. … I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to — I’ll stand.”

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Needless to say, this incited a boisterous outpouring of condemnation for Kaepernick, including fans of the 49ers burning his jersey, political pundits blustering that he should give up his job and leave the country and others who blasted him for his political stance. A much smaller segment of the population recognized the reasoning that Kaepernick was using but thought he could have done something other than not stand for the Anthem (for the record, Kaepernick said the protest was in no way a reflection on the military men and women who defend the country). An even more microscopic group agreed with Kaepernick, at their own risks.

First off, let’s look at the rules. There is NOTHING that states the athletes have to stand for the National Anthem. This is the path that officials for the 49ers took, issuing an official statement of support for Kaepernick but stating, “The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony…In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” The NFL echoed the 49ers brass, with spokesman Brian McCarthy saying, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Secondly, it isn’t the first time such a situation has occurred. Former National Basketball Association guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Chris Jackson) refused to stand for the National Anthem during a game in 1996 because of his religious beliefs. This resulted in a one-game ban by then-NBA President David Stern that was quickly rescinded because of Abdul-Rauf’s religious convictions (the two parties eventually negotiated a deal where Abdul-Rauf would recite Islamic prayers yet stand with his teammates for the National Anthem).

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It seems that the problems arise when people – some who would normally be the staunchest defenders of the “freedom of speech” – forget that this caveat of the First Amendment also applies to things to which you don’t agree. Everything is good for people when they are supportive of the messages put into the ethosphere, but when something is stated that violates the bubble that people have put around themselves, then they begin to deride someone’s “freedom of speech” to the point of having it taken away. Many have stated that Kaepernick should be forced to stand for the National Anthem, depriving him of his First Amendment rights.

As a Marine veteran, we are sworn in on an oath to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This oath also includes defending discussion that you don’t necessarily believe in, such as the statement that Mexicans are rapists or throwing a party for Martin Luther King Day that is questionable in nature. It is only through the respect of all speech, including that type of speech that you find objectionable, that the freedom of the First Amendment – and, by extension, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution – are truly exercised.

This seems to be lost on most, however. Some cite their service or that of another family member and view it as an affront (if they truly considered that oath that I spoke of earlier, they’d know they were wrong). Some cite that, by saying Kaepernick was wrong and being criticized for it, THEY are being silenced are also out of line…you can make your statement, but you also have to respect the rights of Kaepernick to his stance and not state that HE should be silenced. The rights granted by government cover a wide range of issues, including flag burning and having a Nazi rally march through a Polish neighborhood, and are not limited to just what is pleasant in your mind.

Kaepernick has made his statement and he is the one who has to stand with it and defend it. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect his right to be able to make the statement. Once you start to abbreviate or censor a form of thought, then that First Amendment begins to shrink, something that no one should desire.

In the 2016 Presidential Election, Only One Choice About Who’ll Get Things Done

IndependenceDay

As it is Independence Day or the Fourth of July (however you might look at it or, as my British friends see it, Happy Treason Day), it is time to reflect on the 240th year of the United States of America’s existence. Through a multitude of wars – including one Civil War that threatened to rend the country irretrievably in two – disagreements about leadership, self-inflicted wounds that were corrected and some very dark patches of our history that somehow may still exist today, the U. S. has always been a country that strived to be, at minimum, a country for the people and, at maximum, a successful experiment in the respect of individual freedoms versus governmental controls. In November, the citizens of this country will decide the future of the U. S. and, through examination, there is only one choice to make…one that will be able to get things done.

To say that the 2016 Presidential campaign has been tumultuous to this point would be a grand understatement. Perhaps because of the interconnectivity of people around the world, there has been a great deal of interest generated by the candidates – and most of it not for good. For those of us who will actually choose the 45th President of the United States, we’ve been handed a cartload of rotting produce and we have to paw through it to see which item is the least spoiled and potentially acceptable. There was an old saying in my Marine platoon: “You don’t get to choose the army you go to war with, you go to war with the army you have.” Never has there been a truer statement for U. S. citizens.

Let’s take a look at arguably the top four candidates for the office of President of the United States (and, for the first time, I will do so without using slang names for one of the candidates):

HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary Clinton Begins Presidential Campaign In Iowa

Arguably one of the best prepared candidates that we’ve seen for the office. Can you name someone who sat at the right hand of arguably one of the greater President’s in the country’s history (husband Bill Clinton), was elected in a landslide to two terms in the U. S. Senate (from New York), was tapped as Secretary of State by the man who defeated her in the primary in 2008 (Barack Obama), whose own legacy has yet to be determined, and has championed the rights of women, children, the LGBT community and workers across the country? There is no one that is left in the campaign that can boast a resume such as this.

With this said, there are downsides to the former Secretary. For the past 30 years or so, there have been consistent investigations into activities that she, her husband or both of them have participated in, some with merit and other without. There have been instances where there was the appearance of impropriety (albeit none of it proved) and there have been missteps – to be honest, Clinton has more baggage than the Titanic. It was the esteemed philosopher Reagan, however, who is attributed with saying (this means he also may not have), “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

DONALD TRUMP

TrumpSmug

In what was viewed as potentially the longest of shots before the GOP primary, Trump was able to outlast a 17-person field (arguably filled with too many fringe candidates for any of those running to garner what could be called a moratorium of thought in the party) to be the presumptive Republican nominee. More because of his name recognition rather than anything that he actually did as a businessman, Trump has coddled together enough support that he (more than likely) will be the nominee for the Republican Party…this despite the factor that no one in the Republican Party can stand him.

From the start of his campaign, Trump has derided virtually every class of human being not only in the U. S. but also around the world. The policies he has presented, of which there are few, are so completely anti-U. S. that they would first off have a difficult time being passed by any sane government and secondly wouldn’t stand the test of the Constitution. We won’t even get into his continued usage of white supremacist Tweets, statements of support from nationalist group leaders that he has to be cajoled into refuting or has never rebuked, inability to understand the military, its usage, its components or the general laws of warfare and a general lack of intelligence, knowledge of geopolitical situations, racially tinged commentary or just general temperament and couth that he seems to have little ability to demonstrate. Misogyny, xenophobia, racism and so much more…it all has a home in the mind of Trump.

GARY JOHNSON

GaryJohnson

If there ever were a time for a third party candidate to emerge from the wilderness, it would be this campaign. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is trying to be that “third choice” that would be able to throw a monkey wrench into the political system with the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians would seem to be a good choice for those disaffected with the current two-party system:  a political party that is socially liberal and fiscally conservative that believes in the U. S. citizen rather than the status quo.

Johnson, however, is far from Libertarian, I don’t care how many joints he smokes or edibles he partakes, Johnson was governor as a Republican and ran in the 2012 campaign for the GOP nomination. After being shunned there, he reinvented himself and was able to get the Libertarian Party to nominate him for President that same year. There is little to no evidence that he wouldn’t enact some of the draconian laws that he supported as a Republican, other than his word…in this day and age, that isn’t enough. Then there’s the way that the Libertarian Party has treated him, actually booing him during a Libertarian debate because he “wasn’t Libertarian enough.”

On that note, then there’s the party itself. The Libertarian Party advocates for as little government as possible, something that sounds great until it is actually employed (this was also the party the Koch Brothers originally got behind before realizing they needed to steal a real party to have any influence – hence, their move to the Republicans). Abolishing every federal government oversight organization – the Department of Education, Energy, and so forth – would not only decimate the country, it would allow for 50 different rules and regulations to be set across the U. S. The purpose of the federal government is to ensure that there is one set of rules for EVERYONE to play under, not the hodgepodge of beliefs that would explode (if you don’t believe me, just look at the question of women’s reproductive rights – you don’t think that would go to hell pretty quickly?). There is a need for a strong federal government and, while there are some changes that need to be made, it doesn’t require its dismantling.

JILL STEIN

JillStein

Dr. Jill Stein, an actual internal medicine doctor with a degree from Harvard Medical School (that snooty elitist!), is the nominee for the Green Party. An experienced campaigner who has been the candidate for the Governor of Massachusetts twice (among other elected offices), she earned almost 500,000 votes in 2012 for President, the most ever for a Green Party nominee. She left the practice of medicine when she felt she could do more in the political word for improving people’s lives through the quality of their local environment, hence her Green connections.

As a general rule, I don’t have an issue with the Green Party other than their myopic vision on the environment. Sometimes things have to be done in the world and it will have an impact on the environment, the key is to make as little an impact as possible. It’s not like we have other choices on places to live as homo sapiens and, as such, shouldn’t destroy the planet we live on, but that also doesn’t also mean that it is the ONLY topic of conversation or the overall guiding light of living.

With every bit of thought and analysis I’ve done, the only choice come this fall to be the 45th President of the United States is Hillary Clinton. If you are looking for a candidate with experience, she covers that mark. A candidate who will enact change without destroying the fabric of what the United States is, she’s the most logical choice (Trump? His OWN PARTY has said they will “keep him in line.”). Clinton has shown, through her past work, that she is a candidate who will be there for all people, not just one segment of the population (Clinton has a close challenge from Stein on this and, to a lesser degree, Johnson). Of these four choices, Clinton is the most logical, the sanest and the one who will be able to maintain the United States’ respected status in the world both diplomatically and otherwise.

 

Freedom of Speech Only Goes So Far…

CurtSchilling

Earlier this week, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and ESPN baseball commentator Curt Schilling offered up on his Facebook account an anti-transgender meme that has been making its rounds on the internet. In this particular meme (I’ll refrain from putting it on here because…UGH!), a rather unattractive man is wearing female clothing with the quotation beside him, “LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling shared the meme and, after a moment’s thought, deleted it, but not until after some people had screen-captured what he’d done.

To take it a step further, Schilling then stepped to his personal blog and tossed more gasoline on the raging fire. To give him credit, Schilling didn’t shy away from his personal beliefs (“There are things I have deeply held beliefs in, things that are core to who I am, things I am passionate about…whether you like that…or not is completely up to you.”), but he also had to know what was coming (more on this in a moment). That “other shoe” that Schilling might have been expecting came on Wednesday night when his employer, ESPN, terminated his contract, stating simply “ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

This wasn’t the first time that Schilling had stepped down this path. He was suspended after first Tweeting a meme that compared Muslims to the 1930s Nazis and, once ESPN kicked him off the broadcasts of the Little League World Series, followed up with a defensive post to another blogger that cost him the remainder of the Major League Baseball season (despite the factor that the post also defended the person who replaced him, former U. S. Olympic softball star Jessica Mendoza, against comments the blogger made). And this doesn’t count what other memes that Schilling shared over his Facebook feed.

Opinion over what Schilling has shared over his social media – this week and previously – takes an interesting course, one that requires some thought before making a statement. Plenty of people believe that Schilling was simply “saying what a lot of us are thinking. Apparently you can’t have an opinion at ESPN if that opinion isn’t a liberal opinion.” Others believe that Schilling will be quite happy on the unemployment line (probably not; Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and Schilling has sold off personal memorabilia to cover his expenses), saying, “Who would want to work for a company that would punish you for telling the truth?”

There are those that take the other side. “Schilling’s freedom to say what he wants hasn’t been denied; the government has not punished Schilling for what he said,” one person stated. “ESPN, however, has the right terminate his employment.”

That is the key point that many are missing with this situation. Schilling has all the “freedom of speech” rights in the world. The government cannot come after him and tell him “you can’t say that, Mr. Schilling, otherwise we will have to put you in jail.” It is one of the tenets of the First Amendment that allows everyone the right to speak out about…well, whatever they feel are the injustices of the world.

FlagBurning

What many seem to forget, however, is that with the freedom of speech also comes the consequences of that freedom. For example, it is allowable to be able to burn the U. S. flag in protest (and to dispose of it, but that’s another story), encoded by the U. S. Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson (1989). While you can go ahead and burn the flag, you also have to accept the consequences of what might happen if you do that; in some cases, there may be a major league ass-kicking that comes along with it…not condoning physical violence, but it is a potential consequence. In Schilling’s case, he perfectly has the right to freedom of speech, what he forgot was the consequences part.

ESPN is a part of the massive Disney empire, which is the target of boycotts by one organization or another probably several times a day, 365 days per year. They try to minimize those issues by offending as few people as possible with the multitude of entertainment options that they provide (this is probably why they chuck the Disney girls who come up through their shows out before they go wild…look at the recent arrests of Debby Ryan and Kelli Berglund and let’s not even get into Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears). Thus, when someone continually chafes their audiences through poking the proverbial bear with their social media actions (as Schilling has done here and in the past), there comes a point when ESPN can decide enough is enough and remove the problem by dismissing the person.

DebbyRyan

It isn’t the first time that ESPN has done something along these lines. After a profanity-laced tirade at a roast for Mike and Mike hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in which she went off on Golic’s alma mater Notre Dame by saying “Fuck Notre Dame, fuck Touchdown Jesus…and fuck Jesus,” former ESPN anchor Dana Jacobson was suspended for a week from the ESPN airwaves after irritating the Catholic League. Commentator Stephen A. Smith was suspended for his comments on domestic violence and SportsNation host Max Kellerman earned a suspension for his comments on the same matter. These barely even broach the suspensions and/or firings that have been handed out by ESPN in its history for “freedom of speech” violations.

Freedom of speech is a guaranteed right under the U. S. Constitution, but it is only guaranteed when you are speaking about the government. You can criticize the President, Congress, our military actions (or lack thereof), our political directions and decisions or an array of other things and there isn’t a thing that the government can do about it. They cannot come to the street corner where you might be ranting about these things, they cannot censor what you write on the subject and they certainly cannot arrest you for what you’ve said (within reason, of course…advocating for armed treason is one of those areas that they might have actionable cause).

When it comes into the private arena, however, the game completely changes. A company can (and does) look into your personal background, your social media (some companies nowadays ask for your social media names, at the minimum; state and federal legislatures are trying to prevent this) and monitor for where their employees might discuss the company. If this is a surprise to you, I’ve got a story that will emphasize the point for you from more than 15 years ago.

While working in the public sector, I worked with a gentleman who went into an online chatroom and discussed the company we worked for at great length. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly glowing in what he said about our company as he detailed out what he felt were problems that the organization had. Although he thought he had an online ‘handle’ (screenname) that would prevent him from being identified (they could trace ISP addresses, even back then), the company found out who it was and terminated him immediately, despite his protests of “freedom of speech” (this is an old refrain).

Fired

How many of us would be willing to lay our social media accounts in front of our employer and let them have a look at what we think and say? How many of us would be able to pass the scrutiny of such an examination that our employer wouldn’t have to dismiss us out of protection of their organization? I’ll be the first to say I’m probably not perfect as to some of what I’ve written on social media; I wonder how many people who read this can be that honest.

So it isn’t the factor that Schilling’s freedom of speech is being violated. It is a factor that Schilling didn’t consider the consequences of what his freedom of speech might bring onto the company he represents. For those who contend that a “liberal company” is “silencing” a “conservative” thought, it isn’t that at all; it is a business looking to protect its bottom line by eliminating a loose cannon that could cost it money, plain and simple.