An Open Letter to All US Gun Owners

An Open Letter to All US Gun Owners

NRA logoThe NRA (and the small minority of Americans/vast majority of gun manufacturers they represent) continuously complains that any restrictions on gun ownership will lead to a “slippery slope” ending in everyone’s guns being taken away.

And indeed that fear has become a reality, but not the one they predict; instead they’ve done the slope slipping, from supporting some restrictions in the 80’s & 90’s to a “no restrictions are acceptable” stance now.

As a result, they’ve at last lost my willingness to accept some level of gun ownership, as that acceptance was predicated upon my understanding that most gun owners want regulations that keep gun carnage to a minimum.  Although I’m sure this is still true, even those folks have lost my backing as, through their silence, they are tacitly supporting the NRA’s untenable positions.

I’ve always known that the stance of gun ownership as a right bestowed to all by the Second Amendment makes sense only when the important opening words are omitted (which you will find is the case in all advocating documents and statements): “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

2nd-amendment

…but again, I was willing to work with Americans’ desire to own a weapon so long as they were willing to work with gun-control advocates on life-saving restrictions.

I never accepted that a hunter needs an automatic weapon to nab a deer (anyone who does has chosen the wrong past-time), that arming school personnel is the answer to children/youth being slaughtered in their classrooms (or in the case of the latest, and largest mass shooting in US history, carrying club-goers…that’s the ticket, arm folks who have been drinking…), or that people on the terrorist watch list must still be permitted to own guns because a rare few may be on the list erroneously.

But now, I no longer accept, for any circumstance, the notion that someone must be armed to be happy…or safe.  Unless you’re part of a militia formed to defend the security of these free States, I am now fully in favor of an Australian style ban on all guns, thanks to the NRA, and the power bestowed upon them by the silent majority of US gun owners.

I hope others, particularly my fellow Boomers, who have stayed silent about this as did I, will no longer as well.

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Wall St. Protests….Taking Up Where We Left Off

“How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry…. Yes how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see….”

1969 protest

1969 protest

Whether or not you were one of the protesters in our youth railing against “the man” (corporate greed and corruption), or the pillaging of the environment, the majority of us still agreed that rivers burning with pollution and companies making millions (billions in today’s dollars) by exploiting their workers or the public at large, and forever destroying pieces of the earth for their financial gain, were worth fighting to fix.

And now, we’re the ones being protested against.

We are “the man” we so reviled as youth.  We are the ones in charge of Big Corp that guts the middle class so that CEO’s can buy that yacht and third vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard; we’re in charge of a Congress that votes to bail out Bank of America with our hard earned dollars and then refuses to ensure that the entity cannot ruin our lives again; we are the ones who have turned our backs on the environmental gains made as a result of our protests, through lifestyles that are built on rampant waste.

What happened?!

Some say that we just grew up…that once the realities of making a living and raising a family kick in, idealism jumps ship.

Some say that many of us really didn’t care about those things as youth, so simply continued to live our beliefs (it’s not greed when it’s “capitalism” because we all hope to get rich someday; the earth is here to serve our needs, not the other way around).

But, even if either, or both are true, neither falls even close to a good reason for leaving our children worse off than we are, ensuring that the top 10%  make and keep 93% of our country’s wealth while they continue to lay-off workers and off-shore jobs, or that pillaging the earth of her beauty and resources is right way to get our needs met…

So, to the former, I offer a suggestion; that we think “and/both” rather than “either/or” – we can strive to have a good life without gutting the earth and harming others in the process.

To the latter, I offer this quote, not by a Founding Father or a high profile preacher, but from a comic book of our youth: “With great power, comes great responsibility” – which of course we all understood to mean great responsibility to care for the less powerful, to use our own capacities to better the common good – not line the pockets of the few and the rest of society be damned.

And to those who say that there are just too many things “out of our control” so what’s gone wrong over the past decade or more is not our fault, I offer this idea to ponder: That which you believe to be out of your control…is, even those things that are well within it.  Think Bank of America is a corporate leech?  Close your account with them.  Believe in global warming as a real problem?  Drive a fuel efficient auto and demand/use recycyled goods.  Angry about off-shoring our jobs?  Then buy only “made in America.”

Our kids are taking up where we left off oh those many decades ago.  Which they must, because we left off.

Take the poll while you’re at it….

“Civility” & The Press

inflammatory news storiesSo, how much responsibility does the press hold for keeping civility alive?

Does having a free press – which is a  cornerstone of American greatness – include a “no holds barred” approach to news reporting, printing/airing pretty much anything?  Or with great power, does great responsibility as well reside?

Take “reverend” whathisname who got the press in his pocket with his threat to burn the Koran.  The question afterward – How far would that situation have gotten if the press chose to ignore him? – was asked indignantly but never answered.  It’s well known that more stories are not reported than those that are, so we turn to the criteria for choosing one situation/comment/behavior, over another, thus considering it more “newsworthy”…

We’ve also known… for decades… of the ever-increasing needs of a starved 24/7 media system more intent on trumping the competition for 60 seconds than it is on the nation’s greater good…which both sides of the media aisle (“liberal” or “conservative”) claim as their motivation.

So: Is it the media’s responsibility to opt to report only the less inflammatory items in the best interest of improved national discourse aka not stoking crazy people, or is it our responsibility as media consumers to refuse to support such presentations by tuning out rather than droolingly tuning in when they go for the jugular to get better ratings?

They claim to be simply providing what the public wants; the public decries violent rhetoric that almost killed a Congresswoman yet continues to seek out blood in the water; Congress responds by considering a movement back about 150 years to the Wild West & takes a 2 minute break from name-calling; no one shows a modicum of true determination to end their part in this vicious cycle.

Here’s the real and most important question: If the media were to take their responsibility far more seriously, eg take the higher and more journalistically pure road, refusing to report nonsense as “newsworthy” or vitriol as verity, would it help make us a tad more “civil”?  Follow-up questions: would that be the end to the 24/7 news cycle, and the closing of more newspapers?  Is it a worthy price to pay for a nation ever more torn by extreme, and therefore extremely easily stoked, anger and personal dissatisfaction?

Once you’ve answered for yourself, we’ll have ourselves a start down the road of either less, or more, civil discourse.

“Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” & Front-line Homophobia

The survey sent to hundreds of thousands of men & women serving us bravely in all branches of the military, exposed two things about the military culture as it relates to sexual orientation:

  1. The majority really don’t care what your orientation is, so long as you’re skilled and competent
  2. The minority who do care are of the most “macho” ilk: those who are specially trained for front-line combat duty, like Navy Seals and Marine Special Ops

So, the real issue is, do you maintain a policy to keep a minority of your members happy?  The strongest argument for doing just that is the fear of the ultimate consequence: the threat by those service members that they will not re-enlist if the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy changes.  Thus, the argument goes, if we allow a gay or lesbian person to serve openly in the military, we will lose our finest and most trained, elite soldiers.

To which the sane and most effective response is:  We will not lose fine, trained soldiers.  We will simply replace homophobic ones with those who have equal capability but have been barred from enlisting due to their refusal to hide their sexual orientation.

Value added, we will weed out bigoted, small-minded men (the overwhelming majority are men) who may make good fighting machines, but clearly don’t possess other valuable qualities needed to be a truly great soldier & human being: acceptance of differences (really needed in today’s wars that emphasize “changing hearts and minds” as much as brute force); the ability to discern between fact and myth (critical thinking); and the capacity to assess someone or something based on effectiveness vs. personal fears/phobias.

And that is the best reason to overturn this policy.