Monday, January 17, 2011

Malice of the Absent

Finger forward, thumb cocked back, a squint perhaps, “Bang, bang you’re dead!”

Thousands of times daily, fingers on the playground, hands upon mesmerizing games, metaphorically uttered by co-workers, children and adults in the passing parade of people, politicians and pundits, and with desensitized distortions of life and death, on dark city streets, in wayward dusty small towns, borne to empower for fortune or in fear, yielding incidents that lead to tiny popping noises or to rattling deafening echoes flowing from fingers that leave blood on a street or in a hallway with life ebbing away, and with ever alarming frequency, carnage, terror, anguished horrified mourning on campuses, in workplaces, where we entrust our children’s very lives, and in the bright burst of sunshine of a shopping center like thousands upon thousands across the United States of America, reality imitates imagination that imitates reality at the point of a finger or gun.

And through all of it we remain in complete denial as a nation. We step beyond our failure to act to covering our eyes, blocking our ears, and failing to deploy our reason in the real forward steps of confronting a highly visible repeated catastrophe directly and vigorously resolving to change the accepted societal rules and laws to decisively correct our defective relationship with guns. Instead we once again weep, we memorialize, we comfort, we grieve, and we struggle with the discomfort of details that flow across our airwaves for a few days or sometimes a few weeks. Ultimately we as a nation in an ultimate irony, choose the weakness of will over the strength of our convictions.

Across the road in the early predawn of an autumn morning, a pickup truck backs into a trace of an old logging road across from my home. People get out, finish a steaming cup of coffee, speak in hushed tones, shoulder rifles, and silently move into the woods and fields. I slumber on a mere stone throw away, knowing all this, harboring no fear whatsoever, for these are my friends and neighbors. Across our land this image is repeated on a variety of landscapes in pursuit of a variety of game or perhaps just merely a bit of companionship or solitude.

In safety orange, these men and women, do not want or require automatic weaponry to burst out dozens of heavy rounds, armor piecing bullets, or high powered handguns with extended clips for rapid fire. They have planned their excursions since last season, buying what was needed in leisure not haste and if procurement of the necessary equipment required more time, more appropriate checks, longer waiting periods, and fewer places to purchase, they are fully capable of planning accordingly. Yet one disproportionally powerful nationally organized voice and an ongoing chorus of the insensible and inflexible have formed an alliance purported in part to protect the rights of those men and women in the predawn without consent based on honesty.

It is so beyond reason to twist every reasoned approach to the reduction of gun violence and the limitation of weapons of small mass destruction into a threat to the traditions and safe pursuits of responsible ordinary citizens who are our friends and neighbors. To rest their ability to have a rifle or two, a couple of shotguns, and yes perhaps even a pistol upon keeping full automatic high powered human assault weapons used in wars and a flood cheap high capacity and therefore high lethality handguns is irrational, irresponsible, and offensive.

Yet we continue to tread the path of inaction and to support the inaction of our leaders after every incident that focuses attention on the issue of the role of guns in our society in part because it is too complicated to discuss the issue rationally. And perhaps it is also due in part to accepting that the finger pointed, thumb cocked back, and shout of “Bang, bang you’re dead!”, will always lead to some actualization that we apparently are resigned to tolerate and live with while other lives are cut tragically short.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Must Denounce "Eliminationist" Rhetoric

We ought to be very concerned about the political terror violence in Arizonia that not only severely injured Representative Giffords but has now taken several fellow citizens' lives. SarahPAC had placed crosshairs on Gabrielle Giffords district this past election and while one cannot blame this particular act directly on that paticular political imagery, it deserves some focus. These types of highly charged appeals, with the steady angry drumbeat on the right, especially on the radio waves and the ultra conservative as victim web presence, has helped coarsen our politics and invited in hate crime, loner lash-out, and attempting to cast votes of anger with a gun.

From Joan Walsh, Salon editor at large: conservative leader has yet called for dialing back the rage on the right in the wake of the Giffords shooting. Sarah Palin sent condolences to Giffords' family, but said nothing about her unconscionable SarahPAC map putting 20 House members, including Giffords, in actual crosshairs for supporting healthcare reform, or her infamous Tweet telling conservatives "don't retreat, reload." Giffords' 2010 Tea Party challenger, Jesse Kelly, hasn't apologized for inviting supporters to "shoot a fully automatic M16" to "get on target for victory" and "remove Gabrielle Giffords from office."

We have no idea why Loughner allegedly tried to kill Giffords Saturday. But the fact that a well-liked, centrist, pro-gun rights Democrat like Giffords faced threats and attacks for her healthcare vote, or that she was targeted with violent imagery by the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president as well as her 2010 GOP opponent, ought to make conservatives pause. More than pause, it ought to make them denounce those in their ranks who are using extremist, eliminationist rhetoric.
We must reflect on that which we have all always known.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On Message

One item I have constantly remarked upon is the need to be able to ask a person on the street what the Democratic Party stands for and receive a good accurate answer. Ultimately, getting that answer is up to us because we have to provide it, promote it, believe it, rally for it, support it, stand fast on it, rely on it, and act on it.

There is demand within the party to simplify our message. There are many among us that look across the political landscape and envy the simple but always relentlessly on message jingoistic short sound bite mantras of the GOP and now the tea party. They won with such messaging it appears.

I for one do not believe we ought to simplify our core beliefs. Governing is complex; issues demand sophisticated approaches and nuance. But I do think supporting those core beliefs with an unadorned, direct hard hitting watchphrase is very appropriate.


Democratic Party members and voters roll up their sleeves and toil for a fair shake. We advocate for it in our workplaces, we support it in our approach to equal rights for all citizens, we push for it for the underprivileged, we seek it in how taxes are raised and used for the common good, we pursue it on environmental fronts to be fair to neighbor and the next generation, we champion it in education, we urge it in matters of justice, we strive toward it in economic policy, and we apply to every facet of societal responsibility.

If we carried such a central core belief into our politics, policy development, legislative undertakings, and governance when in power and principles when in opposition, and even into the recesses of our party structures, we might just become election winners again. The reason is simple, our living and breathing of such a message would be powerful because despite their current rise in power, Republicans do not ultimately live up to their messages.

Some of us might balk at such simplicity. That's understandable, we engage in politics for many diverse ideas, we struggle to put forth solutions to problems that require a degree of policy complexity. But that person on the street is not in the same place.

Perhaps that person will get there in approaching the vital concerns of our country in an engaged manner that has depth but we need to understand that it takes time, like swimming. First comes walking in the shallows with our catchphrase and developing an appreciation for it. Wading in deeper and learning about the brief bullet points of our platforms comes next. Risking a little depth and getting a deeper understanding of an issue or two of personal concern comes next. And finally strongly swimming toward vital goals to make our community, state, and country a far better place for now and the future can occur and perhaps even diving in as a party volunteer or public servant will as well.

We Democrats need to put forth this kind of progression in our politics. We need to appreciate every person at any point along this continuum and especially cultivate bringing in many with our core beliefs, expressed perhaps in a watchphrase upon which we can stay true to and earn their trust.

Maybe then I can walk down the street and ask somebody, "What do Democrats stand for?" Hearing a reply of, "Well they went all out to get that school funding right and paid attention to my spouse's health care, so it's like I keep hearing, Democrats work for fairness."

I do not propose "Democrats work for fairness" as the ultimate watchphrase for our Party. But I firmly believe we do need something like it and more importantly the approach to it and allegiance to it outlined above. And I also do believe that we ought to move in that direction without unintentionally kindly killing it by committee. We need to be off and running.