Sunday, June 21, 2015

Armed Camp USA

Photo, David Goldman, Getty images/AP on yahoo.
Mother Emanuel AME church, 21 June 2015. 
An NRA board member, Charles Cotton of Texas, had the gall to blame Rev. Pinckney, also a state Senator, for the racist murders that took place in Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC.  "He voted against concealed-carry....Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”  

With the confederate flag flying high in the background of these obscene murders, the NRA fired its propaganda gun to let us know that the answer to violence is more violence, the answer to guns is more guns, the answer to murder and hate is to arm everyone, everywhere.  "No gun-free zones."

If the people in that Bible study group in that church had had guns, then what? Well, according to Cotton, who displayed incredible moral turpitude, they would have been able to shoot back.  That's right, to shoot back at a guy they could not ever have imagined, in their wildest dreams, would be there in the first place. But the church would have been a safer place; sure it might have become  a battleground of self-defense, but eight people would have survived the onslaught. Alas, Rev. Pinckney himself was shot dead because he didn't carry a gun, and had voted against "concealed carry."  Yep, he "expressly" voted against "concealed carry," America.  That would make it legal to hide and carry weapons into churches, restaurants, school, theaters, shopping malls, and other public places. The reverand shot himself in the foot, as it were. Too bad.

Really? Do you really believe this kind of thinking? So low, and so vile? Is this what America is buying, over and over again? Is this what we are allowing to continue after every tragic demonstration that guns kill innocent people who don't think like Cotton and the NRA?

Can you imagine Rev. Pinckney hiding a gun in his jacket pocket or his pastor's robe every day before going to church or the legislature or Bible studies or family gatherings, in case he might be murdered by a madman with a gun? Do you imagine his even thinking such a thing? Would anyone in his Bible study group think like this?

Do you want to live every day as if you might need to shoot someone before they shoot you? Do you want to take a gun with you before leaving your house, wherever you go, in a ritual like brushing your teeth?  Do you really want to live like this?

Who thinks this way?  How many Americans really think this way?  Why would any of us, living in an advanced country in this century, want to live this way?

The NRA is selling a sick, twisted ideology. It wants to turn our country into an armed camp.  Armed Camp USA. The United States of Arms.  It's profitable for gun manufacturers and gun sellers, multi-billion dollar industries, but it's totally twisted for the rest of us.

Why are we buying it? Expose it for what it really is.  As twisted as the white supremacist who went into that historic African-American church with a concealed weapon and the intent "to kill blacks."  As twisted as the racist who sat with his intended victims for an hour, surrounded by loving, accepting people, then firing away.

The NRA should be brought down with the Confederate flag.  Wake up America. This can't be the kind of country you want to live in.

On gun control laws:
“This is not a matter of any single mass tragedy or any words the president can say,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "The bottom line is, Congress so far has failed to act because it is filled with too many craven and irresponsible politicians who are nothing more than lap dogs for the corporate gun lobby.”   Read more:

Thursday, June 18, 2015


"I've had to make these statements [of condolences and tragedy] too many times...time to address the issue of gun control."  President Obama on Emanuel AME church massacre, in grief and sadness.

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston,
Evil entered the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, last night, an historic African-American church that goes back before the Civil War.  A symbol of freedom to this day. A sacred place.  A young white man with a gun, a boy really, shot nine men and women praying together. "I want to kill black people," he announced. The face of evil, and so young. It shocks me. 

The theologian Reinhold Niebhur preached that evil exists in the world.  Always has, always will.  All we can do is fight it as best we can, over and over, generation after generation, crime after crime, war after war, murder after murder, hate crime after hate crime.  

It's hard for me to accept this reality. I tempered my utopian idealism long ago, but I still quiver and quake in the face of evil. How could a kid, the age of some of my own grandchildren, be so filled with hate at such a young age, and how did he get a gun? How could he sit in a Bible study group in a church, pray with people for an hour, then open fire.  Nine good people killed, including the Church's pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney.  An insane presence in their midst, a sick, angry, rageful child turned killer.   Would any of us have even suspected such violence in this place in this time from this boy?  

We've made little progress in dealing with mental health issues in our society, even less in passing laws to limit weapons of war on our streets or guns in the hands of the insane, children, the anti-social, the hate-filled.  Just the opposite.  The NRA has been busy, and successful. Many state legislatures are passing laws that defund mental health programs and loosen gun restrictions, allowing just about anyone to carry guns into restaurants, stores, public places, for example. Wander through Walmart's with a gun  Give a gun to a kid. It's okay.  In fact, the South Carolina legislature itself recently passed a law making it legal to carry guns into restaurants.   Aren't our legislators and our elected officials liable too?   I'm glad President Obama chose to raise the question, with justifiable anger and sadness. 

Maybe some good will come of this once the grieving has passed and the healing begins.  Maybe all good people will band together against racism and hate, against relentless gun violence, against the silent killers of the soul that encompass race and class and poverty.  It's what the Rev. Clementa Pinckney would want, this wonderful man and leader who walked in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and our civil rights pioneers.  The photos of the Charleston community, which I find engrossing and fascinating, show an outpouring of grief, silent vigils and gatherings that include people of all races, backgrounds, faiths, and ages, all coming together to mourn. Is this a sign of hope? Will any change come out of this latest tragedy?    

For a history of the Emanuel AME church:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ukraine Uniting

    "For most of the 20th century, Ukraine was the victim of two equally malevolent empires—Germany and Russia. Germany's contribution to Ukraine's devastation was the two World Wars; Russia's was the imposition of Soviet rule and the concomitant destruction of Ukraine's peasantry and elites. 
     Unsurprisingly, a constant images in 20th-century Ukrainian commentary is that of their country being caught between a hammer and an anvil./ The 21st century may be witnessing a fundamental break with Ukraine's tragic geopolitical position. While Russia is acting according to its historical script, post-Holocaust, post-unification Germany appears to be emerging as Europe's benevolent hegemon."    Newsweek, May 30, 2015

This is one of the most succinct descriptions of the 20th-century Ukrainian experience I've seen.  Ukraine's modern history in a nutshell. It is a tortuous, conflicted history, between a rock and a hard place.

Putin's relentless aggression against Ukraine, his orchestrated "hybrid war" to destroy and destablize the country, so shocking to the world and most of all to Ukraine itself, is more than the resumption of the Cold War.  It's also a return to the geopolitical stage of the early 20th century, the World Wars and their aftermaths. Revanchism and patriarchy together, personified in one man.

In part this history also encompasses the issue of why a Ukrainian national identity has been so fragile. It's something I thought about when I lived in Starobelsk. Ukraine has had a hard time cementing itself together, building on its unique cultural traditions and shared visions.  There's wasn't much "E pluribus unum" in Ukraine. I struggled with that.

Today I think this is changing.  With the illegal Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea and Putin's criminal aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine has become more unified than ever. War has reinforced the transition.Ukraine has to survive.

This is one of the ironies of luddite Putin's revenge, so backward-looking. Ukraine is finding its unique identity, finding its voice. It's a work in progress, but beyond Putin's relentless Reign of Terror in the east, beyond his lies and cynical propaganda campaign, a new Ukraine is emerging.

I believe president Poroshenko is trying his best to make it happen. He is addressing corruption and the economy. He seems to be honest and commited. I believe it's what the vast majority of people across Ukraine fervently want, peace and prosperity.  Not all of Lugansk and not all of Donetsk oblasts are in the hands of Putin's army and terrorist proxies, not yet.  The areas now occupied are not free, not autonomous, not strong.  They are decimated and destroyed; millions have fled. They are Putin's wastelands.

Sadly, Putin's War continues. Mariupol and the Azov region are in danger. Minsk 2 meant nothing from day one, when the terrorists destroyed Debalteseve and then gloated over it.  "Our trophies," they laughed. Minsk 2 is only a hook for politicians to hang their hats on.  Nothing more.  The war never stopped and Putin is now stepping it up, a tragic pattern of destruction, orchestrated with glee. His criminal gangs, biker gangs, hoodlums, and soldiers (not acknowledged even to their families) are destroying everything in their path.

Only Putin can stop the war, but that's not going to happen. It exposes his paranoia, betrayal, and evil.  He is a mad dog. There's only one glimmer of hope on the horizon as far as I can see.  The longer Putin's War lasts, the more unified the rest of Ukraine  will become.  In the long run, Putin will lose, and take Russia down with him, and Ukraine will be victorious.  

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