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Posts tagged ‘Obama’

Tragedy in Newton: What’s wrong with the USA?

The post I had planned for this week seemed frivolous and inappropriate in the wake of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, so I’m going to take this time to briefly express my views, as simplified as they are, on this hideous and sickening event.

First of all, I grew up in Canada where guns are rare and for the most part belong in the hands of the police or terrible criminals. There was no “gun culture” in Canada so even as an American I feel no constitutional pull to “bare arms” in any way. I don’t want a gun. I don’t like guns. I don’t understand, other than hunting (which I’m also not big on) why you would need a gun. I understand the concept of protecting yourself but at what point does your right to “protection” start infringing on the protection of everyone else? Sean and I have decided that we only really want a gun “if the zombies come” because it’s not as if we’d be using it in any other way. Gun in one locked box. Ammo in another. Probably in two completely different places in our house. It’d be useless in a crisis and, frankly, I’m fine with that. Bringing a gun into play changes the game and it’s a game I’m not equipped or interested in playing.

.223 assault rifle, like the one used in the shootings.

.223 assault rifle, like the one used in the shootings.

Guns were made to kill. That is their purpose. Why regular people in no eminent danger feel the need to have them is foreign to me but I realize it’s a big part of the American culture so I can understand even if I don’t agree. Assault weapons on the other hand – AK-47, semi automatic weapons, fully automatic weapons – I simply can not abide. Assault weapons were created to hold and get out as many bullets as quickly as possible. They are weapons of war that I believe have absolutely no place outside of the military. They don’t belong in the hands of hunters, home owners, collectors or God forbid, mentally ill sociopaths. They are a weapon akin to a bomb as far as destruction, and as far as I know bombs are illegal.

photo 2 copy“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” I know, love and respect many people who say this but I think it’s a trite phrase touted for years that allows people to pass the buck. Of course people kill people, but the access to guns makes it a hell of a lot easier and destructive. A child who picks up his father’s gun to show a friend and ends up shooting himself can only do that because the gun is there. The angry and disturbed young man who shot 32 people at Virgina Tech could only accomplish that because he was able to get his hands on two semi automatic hand guns. Yes, it is essential we figure out what’s at the bottom of all the anger. Why these young men feel there’s no alternative but mass murder and suicide. We must get to the root of the problem and better respond to the issue of mental illness. We must weed out the cause, but in the meantime, we must also make it harder for disturbed people to follow through with their plans. Even without a “No Guns. Period.” law – which I realize is impossible – limiting the access to weapons can only help. If Adam Lanza only had access to a knife like the mentally ill man in central China that attacked an elementary school on the same day, rather than three semi-automatic weapons with multiple round magazines, the death toll would have been exponentially lessened, as it would have been in the movie theatre in Aurora, CO, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, or the High School in Columbine, CO.

We have to stop being afraid to talk about this. As Ezra Klein for the Washington Post said in Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States, “If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it. Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.” 

The innocent child victims of Sandy Hook Elementary

The innocent child victims of Sandy Hook Elementary

We have to stop falling back on old rhetoric and realize the system is broken if our citizens are not safe. Our children are DYING in their classrooms. Whatever you feel your rights are, they can’t possibly trump the safety of our children, or ourselves, as we go about our daily lives. Guns are a serious problem that needs to be addressed in a serious way. It’s not going away, if anything it’s getting worse. Time Magazine has a list of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years and 15 of them are in the US. The second place goes to Finland who has 2. Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, 5 have happened SINCE 2007 and that doesn’t include these Connecticut murders with it’s death toll of 28, now the second-deadliest mass shooting in US history.*

David Remnick from the New Yorker recently wrote an article entitled What Obama Must Do About Guns  in which he clearly and adamantly insisted our President stop falling back on empathy following such a tragedy and take some serious and decisive action to deal with the issue of guns. It may be a heated political topic that polarizes the country but what kind of country are we, and what kind of leader is he, if the safety of our citizens isn’t our paramount concern? As Mr. Remnick says, “We have grown accustomed to what will happen next. The President will likely visit a funeral or a memorial service and, at greater length, comfort the families of the victims, the community, and the nation. He will be eloquent. He will give voice to the common grief, the common confusion, the common outrage. But then what? A “conversation”? Let there be a conversation. But also let there be decisive action from a President who is determined not only to feel our pain but, calling on the powers of his office, to feel the urge to prevent more suffering. His reading of the Constitution should no longer be constrained by a sense of what the conventional wisdom is in this precinct or that. Let him begin his campaign for a more secure and less violent America in the wake of what has happened in Connecticut.”

A vigil for the victims outside a church in CT.

A vigil for the victims outside a church in CT.

Nicolas D. Kristof sites some excellent and plausible suggestions in his Op-Ed piece for the New York Times Sunday Review called Do We Have The Courage To Stop This? After pointing out this “isn’t about one school shooting, but the unceasing toll across our country. More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months (approximately 15,500) than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.” (2000 casualties in Afghanistan as of 09/30/20124,326 in Iraq since 2003, and 2,751 victims in 9/11 Attacks total 9,077) After suggesting such changes as limiting gun purchases to one a month to curb gun traffickers, restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines so a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading, imposing a universal background check for gun buyers (even with private sales), he directs us to the examples of other countries who have adjusted their gun policies in the wake of similar tragedies. “In 1996, a mass killing of 35 people in Australia galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “National Firearms Agreement” led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands. The law did not end gun ownership in Australia but reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and all but eliminating the kinds most likely used in mass shootings.” And it worked. In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings, but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The firearms murder rate also dropped by more than 40 percent with the suicide rate being reduced by more than half (Harvard Injury Control Research Center). Kristof also suggests looking to Canada which “now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun and it imposes a safeguard where gun buyers must have the support of two people vouching for them before the transaction is able to be complete.” Finally he cleverly suggests we simply look to our own history on auto safety. “As with guns, auto deaths are often caused by people who break laws or behave irresponsibly. But we don’t shrug and say, “Cars don’t kill people, drunks do.” We require seat belts, air bags, child seats and crash safety standards. We have introduced limited licenses for young drivers and are trying to curb the use of mobile phones while at the wheel.” And the policies have worked. With these governmentally implemented auto safety regulations America’s traffic fatality rate per mile driven has been reduced by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s. Kristof rightly points out that if we don’t get as serious about our gun safety as we are about our auto safety, many more will die because of our failure. **

photo 1 copyThis is no longer a situation that can be blamed on one crazed madman. Yes, one man is responsible but the problem is much further reaching. As John Cassidy said in his New Yorker article America’s Shame: Words and Tears Aren’t Enough, “All societies have deeply troubled and alienated young men, some of whom end up violently lashing out at the world. But in most other advanced countries, such as the United Kingdom, which banned handguns after what happened at Dunblane (in 1996, a former Scout troop leader entered a primary school in Scotland, and shot to death sixteen pupils before killing himself), these misfits don’t have easy access to guns and the gun culture that glorifies them. During recent years, politicians of both parties, President Obama included, have been far too reticent about spelling out this elemental truth. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at the cinema in Aurora, President Obama refused even to talk about the gun laws, preferring to keep the focus on the victims.” ***

We have to stop making excuses. We have to stop hiding behind an amendment from over 220 years ago and accept that we live in a different world now. A more unkind, angry world with laws that no longer fit the hostility of certain factions of society. Yes, we should also seek the root of the problem, to discover what’s broken in our system causing people to become so desperate they see no other way out or lets mentally ill people fall through the cracks, but in the meantime, we must seriously consider taking the weapons away. As Adam Gopnick, also of the New Yorker, recently said in his article Newtown and the Madness of Guns, “Let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.” photo 3

I cried my eyes out when I picked Loch up from school on Friday. Hearing his little voice in my backseat, seeing his chirpy face in my mirror. So many parents will never hear that voice or see that face again. That is unacceptable. So many people have been forever devastated by this senseless monstrosity. My heart is broken. My faith in this country is shaken. I’m sick to my stomach. I want to do something to help but how do you make people listen? How do we enact change if even cataclysms like this don’t wake people up?

We can do better. We should be better. If no one stops it, this will go on. As Nicholas Thompson says in America’s Culture of Violence “Voters need to be loud, politicians need to be brave, and the gun lobby needs to be defeated.” There are other issues at hand, but this is the first step and it must be taken.

Let us take this as a call. We must stop sitting in the complacency of our safe, little lives and realize if we don’t step up, that safety could be gone forever. There are rights and there is the greater good. When our kindergarden students aren’t safe in their own classrooms the time has come to stand up and say No More. Every killing is a tragedy. This is a call to arms.


*Ezra Klein Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States

** Nicolas D. Kristof Do We Have The Courage To Stop This? New York Times Review, December 15, 2012

*** As of 12/16/2012 Huffington Post and NBC News reports Dianne Feinstein is to introduce an assault weapon ban on the first day of congress. Please don’t turn this into an impotent circular debate of cow towing to your constituents and lobbyists. Pull together for once and do what is best for the country.

President’s Day

My plan was to post about Boundries today, but yesterday was my baby’s 4th Birthday and today is President’s Day and it’s got me to thinking, so I’ve bumped my prepared post for this, my train of thought on politics in America.

When I married Sean I remember being struck with the idea that if we had a child, that child could grow up to be President of the United States. Growing up as a Canadian, that was a trip to me. I’m sure other countries would have cause for debate, but with the power that the United States has wielded for so long as the “leader” of the free world, you could argue that being the President of the United States is, perhaps, THE most important job in the world.

The thing is, where we stand now, it’s a job I wouldn’t want my son to touch with a 50 foot pole. Loch is currently on the “I want to be a policeman” kick, and as much as I hate the idea of him strapping on a gun and doing the honorable, yet hideously dangerous and underpaid, work of a law enforcement officer, I think I’d prefer it to President of the United States. What does that say about our country?

I’m currently awaiting my interview for American citizenship. I’ve been living in the US for 13 years and am only now truly eligible for a passport. I did the work visas. I did the temporary green card after my marriage. I got my permanent green card after Sean and I had been married for 2 years and could prove our marriage wasn’t in fact a scam,and now, after thousands of dollars in legal and processing fees and countless hours of preparing and gathering the right documents and information, I’m finally writing my citizenship test and having my interview in March. I don’t need to do it. I can legally and happily live on my green card indefinitely. The thing is, I want to do it. I love this country. I want to be a part of it. I want to be the same citizenship as my family. But mostly, I want to vote. I want to be part of the democratic discussion. I want to count.

My problem is, will I?

I’ve lived in the country for the past 3 elections, Bush, Bush and Obama, and I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with both the electoral college voting system and American politics in general. From an outside perspective the whole process seems innately flawed. Ignoring idiocies like the “hanging chad” fiasco of the first George W election, I find it perplexing that the person who wins the popular vote (i.e. more people want him/her as President) can lose the general election. The way the states are played against each other, some being worth more than others is, in itself, undemocratic. The way you have to win some particular state to  win the election is, not only confusing, but somehow unfair. I’m sure Republicans in ‘Blue States’ are fed up with feeling like they don’t count, just as Democrats in ‘Red States’ must feel uninspired to get themselves out to a voting booth. It’s kinda like, what’s the point?

Coming from Canada, I used to think America’s 2 party system made it easier to decide. Less dissemination of votes, made for a clearer cut winner. You don’t end up with a leader, as you can in Canada, who only received 30% of the vote. But now that I’ve lived state side for over a decade, I see that, in someways, this isn’t a great system either. There’s no room for middle ground save candidates themselves that are either left leaning conservatives, or fiscally conservative liberals. America’s become, even more so lately, a ‘my way or the highway’ way of  “representing” the people. The parties are so at odds with each other that, again from an outsider perspective, very little is able to be accomplished. If you hold the Presidency and Senate or House, you can, in many ways, bully your policies through with little, to no, viable opposition. If you hold the Presidency but not the majority in the House or Senate, then you’re a lame duck, unable to do anything but watch your potential policies get debated to death and torn to shreds. This isn’t what’s best for the American public. We aren’t thriving under this system. If anything, we’re in the worst position we’ve ever been in both domestically and globally.

I tell Loch, you have to be flexible, you can’t always get your way, let’s make a deal. Politicians could learn a bit from my preschooler in the ways of listening and compromising. It’s like the leaders of America need a mom to come in and say “Enough! Work this s*#@ out!”  The way the government is running now, it’s as if, politicians are disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. Republicans actively and vocally loathe the Obamacare Health Plan, yet there is no other developed country in the world without some form standardized and subsidized health care for all. People dying because they can’t afford health care shouldn’t happen in a country like this, but nor should the few be responsible for the many. In Canada, you don’t worry about getting hurt or sick because you can’t afford it, you worry because it’s awful to get hurt or sick. Yes, Canadian’s pay a lot of taxes but frankly, we pay a lot of taxes here too. The only people that seem to be getting major tax breaks are the very, very rich and the very, very poor, and like I said in my post School: A Diatribe, where does that leave the middle? We need some compromise. We need our representatives working together.

I would skew liberal in today’s politics. Since there is no middle ground, I’d be considered a Democrat. But, I also don’t believe you should have to give away all your hard earned money to the government. I don’t think we need as big a governing body as we have. I think things (and money) easily get lost when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. I’d like to see less elected officials getting more things done.  I’m pro-a-woman’s-right-to-choose and pro-gay marriage. I’m pro-military AND pro-repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I’m against an open door policy for all illegal immigrants but I’m pro-immigration. I don’t think people should be asked for their papers on the streets like we live in Nazi Germany, but I do believe they should have papers. As an immigrant myself, I’ve had to go through infinite proper channels and jump thorough hundreds of government hoops to work and live in this country. It’s upsetting to me that I can no longer comfortably send my child to the local public school because of overcrowding, underfunding and the fact that over 68% are non-english speaking students. It’s upsetting to me that the statistics say that by 2035 the most spoken language in America will be Spanish. I’m all for learning another language. Canada itself is bilingual. But what other county in the world has had their primary language changed due to their immigration? If I chose to live in Italy, I better learn to speak Italian. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a moderate amount of assimilation.

The bottom line is, I come down right in the middle of American politics and I think what we need is to be flexible and work together. Human rights should be non-negotiable. Fiscal, medical, environmental and immigration policies should be up for debate. Compromises must be made.

I said I wouldn’t want my son to be President, and the way things stand right now, I mean it. Look at Obama. Had I been able to vote in 2008, I would have voted for him. I, like many of my generation, wanted to believe in change. I wanted to believe in hope. I wanted to see a new kind of government. One of transparency and working together, where the will of the people dictates policy and the country is not run by a few back room boys wheeling and dealing in Washington. I wanted more FDR ‘The New Deal’ and less wars for oil. I wanted to feel safer from terrorist attacks not like we were asking for it by acting more and more like the gross infidel we’re made out to be. I wanted to see new jobs and less dependence on foreign debt buyers. I wanted to believe in “Yes We Can”. Has Obama delivered on that hope? No, probably not. Does he deserve another 4 years do try and do so? Yes, he definitely does. And not just because the potential Rebulican Presidential candidates range from rich, bland, nothings to appalling, bigoted freak shows, but because Obama has had about the worst 4 years ever to be President. He inherited 2 unpaid for, unpopular wars, the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, near a collapse of the housing and job market and the oil spill in the Gulf, all the while being barraged with inane questions about his birth certificate. When I drive around town and see bumper stickers that say ‘Worst President Ever’, with the O of worst begin the Obama symbol I think, really?! Really?! He ended the Iraq war. Killed Osama Bin Laden. Took out over 30 top Al-Queda leaders. Helped topple Qaddafi’s reign of terror. Closed Guantanamo. Put regulations in place so we can’t be F-ed by wall street and the banks again, and helped avoid total catastrophic financial fallout set up by a number of monumentally, greedy and self serving politicians and bankers. And people HATE him? Hate him? I literally don’t get it.

We shouldn’t hate our President. I can tell you I was not a Bush fan, and I didn’t think he was up for the job of President, but since he was President, I felt he deserved my respect and, at the very least, my grudging support. I didn’t agree with his policies but  I believed in the democratic system to work through the issues. But to loathe him with the hatred usually reserved for murders? No. Totally disrespectful and inappropriate. It used to be that a few crazies or zealots might want to kill you if you were President. Now, it’s like half the country. To hate just because. To disagree for the sake of disagreeing. To work against because you simply refuse to work with. These aren’t qualities that made America great and they aren’t qualities that will make America better.

I’m nervous for America’s future. I love it here. It’s the land of opportunity. The land of free and the home of the brave. A country based on the ‘Can Do’ attitude of a frontier people carving their own path. But we didn’t make this country great by working alone. By looking out only for ourselves. Leading this country now is a lesson in negotiating. Negotiating a coming together. The Right has to stop shutting the Left down. The Left has to stop negating the Right.

As the quote goes: In War, is it whose Right or who’s left? This country is at war against itself. As we look back at the Presidents, leaders and history that came before, we have to collaborate to move forward. To become a country, American’s came together. To save our country we’ll have to do it again.

Otherwise we’re looking at a civil war of undereducated citizens in a country owned by China.

Why would I want my son to be a leader of that?