There’s this ridiculous misconception in America that non-gun owners want everyone else to give up their guns. Even worse, that somehow gun owners are being discriminated against because not everybody wants one, or wants to see one, out in public spaces.
For example, I saw this meme online yesterday about the Olympian, Kim Rhode. Apparently the fact that she only won bronze in a competition that isn’t followed by a large majority of Americans escaped the notice of whatever 2nd Amendment zealot took the two minutes to create this meme. Everything’s a conspiracy to trash a dude’s “God Given” right to bear arms.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not trying to diminish this woman’s achievements. “Just a bronze” in the International Olympic Games is amazing. That takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and even more talent. Still… I can’t get pumped about it. Basically, I don’t care about skeet shooting just like I don’t care about what some stranger on the street had for dinner last night. It’s just not interesting to me.
So here’s the thing about guns, for me anyway. I don’t own them. They scare the crap out of me because they are tools designed specifically to end life. They scare me like the thought of stage 4 cancer or heart surgery scares me. If I find myself in either of those scenarios, the chance that my life expectancy just took a nose dive is very real. Right there staring me in the face, real. That’s how I feel about guns. If there’s a gun around, my chance of getting shot by it increase by 100% compared to if there was no gun. That’s real math, folks.
But, honestly, I really don’t care if you feel the need to own a gun. Own it. Go shoot at a range and get good at using it. Respect the hell out of that single or double barreled killing machine. Just keep it the hell out of my face.
I’m sick of seeing photo after photo of people and their guns on Facebook and everyone else online. I want to see your gun about as much as I want to see your dick pic. Basically, not at all. I don’t need to know you have one, I’ll just assume you do. That’s okay. You have an ass crack and a 50/50 chance that you have a pair of undies on, too. I don’t need to see any of that either.
One step further, here, I’m going out on a limb to assume that a lot of those who get it all twisted that I don’t want to see your gun will also get it all twisted if a woman breastfeeds her baby in public. Or because the movement Black Lives Matter exists. Or if any other religion besides your own, Christian-based one, is attacked on a daily basis on the grounds of what a person wears or how he prays. The problem with insisting that your rights MUST NOT be infringed should go all ways, shouldn’t it? But, no, that’s not my experience with gun rights zealots.
Here’s another thing. The most common idea that gun owners have about open carry, or publicly carrying their weapon in any way, is that I’ll thank them if problems arise. I don’t feel that way at all. If someone starts shooting up a place that I’m also occupying I’ll duck and dive and hope for the best. Call me a fatalist, but if it’s my time to go who am I to argue? Besides, I’ve seen crazy before. The thing about crazy is that person has no idea they’re it. This is why I don’t trust gun carriers in public. If you think you need to carry a weapon at all times just to be safe that’s called paranoid, which happens to be a type of crazy.
So there ya go, I’ve had my say.
P.S. All comments are welcome, but if I don’t like yours I’ll delete it. Sure you have freedom of speech rights, but I own this blog and what I publish here is totally on me. You want to write about how anti-gun people are crazy, go right ahead… but do it on your own blog.
I was recently accused of being a GOP hater, no matter what, and regardless of the agenda. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been accused of a lot worse things, so that message cut about as deep as, well it bounced right off if you must know. But this morning I thought it might behoove me to address it.
Highlights of the Republican National Convention: a hubbub on the floor as Anti-Trump delegates attempted to force a roll-call vote (they were summarily ignored by loyalists*), a cribbed speech by Mrs. Trump (sorry, the third Mrs. Donald Trump, just to clarify), a whole lot of Anti-Hillary yelling and screeching (because an entire day’s event should be based on what you don’t believe), and Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse (the guy’s a steaming pile of horse shit**, in my book, but everybody has a bit of good in them, right?).
Actually, I haven’t watched a lick of the convention. I honestly can’t care about it; I’ve already heard enough out of the GOP. They have now officially nominated a man who thinks we need to build a wall between us and Mexico and named some ridiculous specific height – because surely there are no ladders that tall. He believes we should block all Muslims from entering the US and target those already here, just in case they’re radical – because that’s not unconstitutional at all, not to mention stupid on fiscal, moral, and logistical levels. He openly mocked a physically challenged reporter, made that insane statement about what he could do on Fifth Ave in NYC and not lose a single voter/fan/morally untethered American, incited violence inside of his rallies then blamed protesters outside. You poured that gasoline, (I want to write sir but I reserve that word for men I respect).
So let me ask you this: why should I have watched the convention? I’ve known everything I needed to know about that man since his reality TV show. He’s nothing but a big, dirty mouth. I honestly can’t believe anyone could support him. What American parent would tolerate such behavior out of their children? What child would have felt a quick backhand to the mouth if that language came out of it – not that I condone physical punishment, it’s as unnecessary as me watching the RNC.
And of course I’ve heard the Trump rhetoric deniers*** who run around saying things like, he doesn’t really believe that and he’s a big supporter of women and feminist values or we need him because he’s anti-establishment.
I’ll take those one at a time, thanks:
What about the Democratic National Convention? I’m honestly not watching that one either. I had hope for the future of America several months back, but I don’t right now. Both party’s conventions seem like made-for-social-media events, with equal amounts of the ugliest we Americans can muster. I have, sadly, come to expect this on the internet. Trolls have turned it into a (cyber) place I frequently feel unsafe wandering through. But that this type of behavior has landed in the middle of the elections and seems to have taken over? As an adult person, I just don’t know what to think or how to deal with it. I’m sad. I’m disgusted. And I’m depressed that this process represents me, as an American, to the rest of the world.
I wish I knew what to do…
* Loyalists? Yes, that’s what I consider Trump fans loyalists. I believe he wants to turn MY country into a monarchy and himself its king.
** Steaming pile of horse shit? Actually, I think I’m underestimating the value of horse shit. At least it’s got use in the garden.
*** Deniers? Of course I used this term on purpose. These folks are the same lot who talk about climate change as though our weather patterns aren’t causing chaos somewhere new every few weeks.
These shootings. This violence. How do we make it stop?
Every single time I hear a news story about a black man being shot by the police I am stunned. Like a jab to my solar plexus it pains me, it takes my breath away. I am left doubled over in fear, then shame, and with a sorrow that radiates through the whole of me.
Then, as though we’re living in some sick dystopian story, filmed in black and white and red, the media jumps in with gleeful headlines that may as well read, LET THE BLAME GAMES BEGIN!!! This violence and the the strife that comes with it means dollar signs to the media. And I am disgusted even more.
Our behavior – that of the black folks who get themselves shot, or the cops doing the shooting, or the gunmen demonstrating their sociopathic rage by targeting whatever group they hate most while armed to the teeth with firepower meant for the battlefield – none of that behavior can be explained in a 2.2 minute news segment. Never mind that, the media isn’t much interested in helping us gain a deeper understanding of the problems or the people involved. It doesn’t translate well to “the general public.” Nobody’s paying attention to the news ticker streaming across the bottom of the screen long enough to list the myriad reasons we’re in this mess.
But that’s what I keep thinking about. We’re focusing on the symptoms, not the cause. Progress can’t be made that way. How can we cure this cancer with an aspirin?
Alton Sterling was killed selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Let me step back from that, as consuming a picture as it is, and take a moment to ask a few questions. Why was he out there selling those CDs in the first place? Why are we not fighting harder to improve our economy? Why, in the United Goddamn States of America, does a grown man have to resort to selling CDs in front of a convenience store to put food in his belly? Why do we hate him because he lives in an impoverished community? Why do we fear him for it? Why is it so easy for him to carry a gun? Why does he only feel safe when he carries one? And why, oh why do so many Americans simultaneously use the color of his skin as a cause and a justification for his killing?
Five Dallas cops were picked off by a single gunman. Senselessly killed. It was blamed on Black Lives Matters, on every single person directly associated with the group and even those of us who support its necessity. But what about these questions: How did no one who knew that shooter not notice his hatred? Why was he not identified as on the very edge of insane behavior? Are we so self-centered, so afraid to butt in when we know someone is troubled, that we no longer feel the need to turn a man around? Instead we wait until after and point fingers. He should have found God. His family should have stepped in. He shouldn’t have had a gun like that. Maybe all of those things would have helped. But let me throw this out there: If it takes a village to raise a child, how is a person to go on without that same community support? WE failed that man. Our sense of community is broken and he is only a symptom of it.
And what about the cops doing that shooting? Which “that shooting?” Any of them.They take a human life and are put on administrative leave. Blue lives matter too, ya know. Oh, really? It never occurred to me that when a human life, a human heartbeat, is purposely stilled that I should have compassion. This part, to me, is incredibly frustrating. Of course all lives matter, but up until Trayvon Martin, America didn’t prioritize the life of every American. Up until that time we only prioritized the monied and the connected, the “respectable” folk. Which is to say we prioritized quality of life of White Americans. The rest be damned. So Black Lives Matters sprung up around the country to highlight that unfairness. The injustice of one group of people being held as more important than all others. The name of the group is not ONLY Black Lives Matters, so get off your high horse and use your brain for once, then take time out to show you have a heart.
But let me go back to the cops for a minute. Why are we hiring men and women who are so hungry to use lethal force? Why are they so distanced from the people in the communities they serve they’re so willing to pull a gun and shoot? What the hell ever happened to the motto To PROTECT and SERVE? Protect comes first. And as a cop, only protecting yourself is not what you signed up for.
Where is the training to manage a risky situation without a gun? Why is training not a bigger priority? As a nurse, I trained for three years to earn my RN. Every year after I was required to prove my skills were still accurate and to continue my training and education. Is that something police have to do? Because I definitely see a parallel here. Medical mistakes and negligence have been a priority topic in health care for a while now. The fewer mistakes, the better. Why are we not focusing our attention on police departments across the country in this same way?
Playing The Blame Game is much too fun. It’s much more engaging and makes better headlines. It gets our hearts pumping. But it’s so ugly. And that’s what saddens me the most. We Americans have become so ugly, so nasty. If our behavior had a smell, it would be worse than a ripe pig farm sitting in the middle of an industrial waste site. If it had a color it would be the color of evil, whatever that is to you. If it had a sound? Unfortunately it does have a sound. Gun shots. That’s the sound of our collective ugliness.
Now I need to collect myself and take a deep breath because here’s the thing. I wish I could end this with some witty something or other to give you hope. Honestly, I’m too disgusted and depressed for that. Instead, let me show you something I found in our front yard”
Here are two pictures of a Sunflower bloom. The first was taken three days ago, the second yesterday afternoon. Stop and think about that for a second… What a difference a couple days of bright, warm sunshine can make.
Go ahead, take that as a metaphor, if you like.
I got in a spat on Facebook this morning; a comment battle, some might call it, but it wasn’t quite that contentious. I hate when that happens, to be honest, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I get sucked in by good intentions, then can’t stop myself because every now and then I want people to stop. Stop for just a second, and think. Think about something outside of their own four walls. Outside of their own struggles. Outside of their own little lives, and realize that some people live different ones; they have different priorities, needs, and desires.
The spat was about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The basic gist of it is this: There are a whole bunch of American workers up in arms because they currently make $15 an hour (or maybe even less) and have been working the same job for years. I get their point. I honestly do. For me, the real beef isn’t about minimum wage so much as it is about what’s fair.
These workers have years of job experience. Job experience is hugely valuable. If they have that much experience, it also means they do their job well enough, at least, to have kept that same job. Being good at the job you do is also hugely valuable. I trust that no one would disagree with either of those points.
But framing the minimum wage according to one’s personal situation, and that alone, isn’t fair. Here’s the thing, minimum wage was not meant to assist only entry level workers. That’s the argument people most commonly make, but that’s not true. It was meant to be a living wage. It was intended to create a country where no matter what your ability, a worker could make a decent living.
The argument always goes like this: well you shouldn’t expect to be able to live on what you can make as a cashier at McDonald’s because that’s just an entry level job. Maybe it was for you, but that’s not true for everyone. What if a person’s very top intellectual capacity is one that allows him to be a cashier and nothing more? What if no matter how hard a man works he can’t read or do math well enough to do a more sophisticated job than clean a restaurant or bag your groceries? Do you mean to tell me that man, who is the best damn cleaner you’ll ever meet, who shows up every single day to bag your groceries and help carry them to your car, who takes pride in a bright shiny floor after he’s done buffing it — You’re telling me he doesn’t deserve to live comfortably? Let me tell you something, bub, the current minimum wage doesn’t allow even that.
Here’s another thing. If you don’t want the minimum wage increased, then shut the hell up about about paying taxes for food stamps, and Medicaid, and any other federally funded program we have that protects the welfare of the poor. Because you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You have to pick one or the other.
After all that’s said and done, though, I think we have a much deeper problem in our country than what’s a fair minimum wage. Our bigger problem is we don’t respect a hard day’s work anymore. We don’t value a woman for doing a good job if it’s a job that won’t make her rich. Or at least buy her a nice new car. And we sure as hell don’t respect a woman who opts out of working a paying job to raise her children. And isn’t that sad?
When did we stop valuing a man for his best contribution? And don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m not talking communistic, we all share equally, kind of deal. All I’m saying is hard work = hard work regardless of whether you have the smarts, luck, or family ties to be the CEO, or not. Let’s be blunt here: if you read the studies on human perception, a lot of what makes a CEO a successful one, is how straight his teeth are or if she’s got good hair. So you go ahead and think this is some crazy, revolutionary idea if you want to, but that there is just not right.
Funny, isn’t it, that we celebrate the beginnings of sport seasons – Week One of the NFL season is always a big day in my house – but we don’t get as excited about political seasons. I’m wondering: why is that?
Sports are meant to entertain us. The games are usually pretty exciting, but their outcomes have no real impact on our daily lives. I’m just gonna step over all a y’all Steelers fans, here, because you’re crazy 24/7/365. But honestly, what is most important, the thing we should really pay Super Bowl or World Cup level attention to, if not our political system; who runs it, and what the hell they’re doing with our money?
Say you pay $200 or $600 for a ticket to see your favorite team play, or watch your favorite band in concert. You expect them to put on a damn good show. You expect quality for that money. You expect to feel like, even if your team didn’t win, it was a damn good game. Those are reasonable expectations. Why don’t we have those same expectations in politics?
Nobody’s going to lose their job as a result of a poorly executed tennis serve, but a few tens of thousands might as a result of a poorly executed debate. Why is it so much less important to us? Why are there twelve ESPN stations and CSpan has, like, three? And they’re way up in the high numbers where nobody accidentally scrolls (FYI, I checked my cable provider’s website for the exact channel numbers for CSPAN and found a 1/3 page ad for ESPN’s streaming service on the homepage… I already feel a little vindicated.)
So how are we going to change this? I say WE because I assume, if you’ve read this far you do care about this stuff. So, how?
What to do? First off, let me say, DO NOT rely on some political meme you found on Facebook, no matter how funny or real it looks. That’s also stupid. What you should do is learn from lots of different sources. Read them, and then find out something about the organization that published the material.
Everyone has an agenda. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But you should know what their agenda is before you go embracing their data, conclusions, and politics. Mom and Dad used to tell us to wait a half hour after lunch to go back in the water at the beach. Their agenda probably had more to do with them wanting just a half hour of relaxation than it did cramps. Here’s Politico’s About Us page. I found it by scrolling down to the bottom of their homepage. I also like Snopes to debunk stories that sound either too good or too bad to be true (see political memes above). Some sites, like FactCheck.Org even publish how they’re funded. FactCheck, is a resource I like, but it is commonly cited as having a liberal bias. Finally, don’t forget to check the politicians’ websites. Fingers crossed they list clear information about where your politicians stand on the issues and what they’re doing in your name.
Spend a little time considering what you really care about, then research what’s happening in your community (local, state, and national). Then research your candidates so you can pick one who most matches your concerns.
You can take it slow. And maybe you should; it’s not easy. I like what Rand Paul has to say about staying out of foreign conflicts, but I would never vote for a man who said if you believe that every American has the right to quality health care “You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.” Things get messy in politics, but that doesn’t mean we should opt out.
Did you notice in any of the above where I told you what you should think and why? You didn’t. Well. Maybe the part about campaign finance reform, but okay. That’s not my point. Of course I care if my candidates win or lose, but I care more that we become involved. This is my country. It is your country. If you’re not willing to stand up and be FOR us, work FOR us, then you shouldn’t call yourself an American. Not being involved has resulted in one current presidential candidate leading in the popular polls. That he can spout his filthy rhetoric and retain his popularity is beyond me. I find it frightening, but I also believe he is a direct result of our disinvolvement in the political system.
Hell yes, I want America to be a great country. But I’m more interested in watching a good game in the elections. A fair one. One that involves the best of the best political players. Any other scenario, in my mind anyway, is pointless.
On the one hand, I’d like to know who Neil deGrasse Tyson plans to support in the presidential elections. But on the other? I hope he never answers that question publicly. Why? Because politics is outside of his realm of expertise. I mean, sure, there are plenty of scientific and environmental issues looming large on the political stage these days: Flint; 2015 as the warmest year in the history of recording such a thing; fracking and the increased incidence of earthquakes… But these are all single issues, though, which should be discussed and discovered separately, just like every other issue that is important to the voting populace.
Something’s been bothering me for a long time… relative to how we come to our opinions about the world. It’s been a growing irksome thing, to me, for decades. It started back when Princess Diana began visiting one impoverished area then another. Her intent was heartfelt — the way she highlighted our failings as a species was quite effective. And we all adored her using her position for the good. But in the intervening 30-odd years, that scheme has turned grossly self-serving. I never cared when Angelina Jolie went to Africa (and wherever else) to lend her celebrity to the plight of the impoverished. I always figured it was a ploy to put herself in the public eye and make a bigger name for herself. Maybe she does have a good heart, but how do I know? I don’t know the woman.
And these days it’s come to the level of downright ridiculousness. Who in their right mind would rely on someone like Jenny McCarthy to instruct their opinion about vaccinations? That’s not smart. Of course it’s not! Who would take as scientific truth that the earth is flat because some rapper is claiming it? Come on! Are we even for real? And don’t get me started about celebrity endorsements of political leaders. I could care less who some backwoods, longbearded, famous-assed redneck thinks will make a good president. And I’ll add just one more item to this list: I’m sure as hell not gonna listen to some dude (any dude) tell me what can or cannot happen inside of my uterus. Let’s just get that straight right now.
My point is, I think it’s important we respect public individuals for their personal skills, not their opinions. Good actors are famous because of their acting skills. Good business people are known for their business acumen (c’mon Zuck, you’re no baby-raising guru). Physicists know the hell out of physics, and a skilled horsewoman will train the heck out of your horse if you ask real nice. Of course, if you happen to know a person well enough to have gained respect for them. Maybe then you respect their opinions. But I mean, you know them, like IRL know them. Not reality TV know them. Or Twitter feed know them. Or you watch their vlog every day and feel like you know them, know them. None of those things are real.
Hell, I’ve known some people for years. I love them. I respect them. But we 100% disagree about almost every social and political issue coming down the pike. So you see? Right there! Even knowing a person very, very well doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their opinions. Or their opinions are worth a pound of salt. I suppose I just wish we weren’t so lazy headed when it comes to important stuff. Because that’s how Hitlers are made, isn’t it?
I was reading a story by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, today, called “Pride.” There was a line in the story that made me stop what I was doing to write this piece. It reads, “Good use can be made of everything, if you are willing.”
The reason it stopped me in my tracks, so, was because it made me think of Barack Obama. It brought to mind all that he’s faced in the seven years he’s been president. I admire this man, for a lot of reasons, but if I’m honest? It’s his blackness that I admire the most. That sounds silly, I know, so let me explain:
It’s not that I admire President Obama for the color of his skin. Rather, I admire what he’s done with it. He’s allowed himself to be a flash point for racism. He became the President of the United States of America because he dared to be.
President Obama doesn’t make the color of his skin an issue. He doesn’t pander to anyone by using his blackness as a weapon, or a calling card, or as a social divider. No. He asks us to look beyond his appearance and see that he is an intelligent man who considers an issue fully, and thoughtfully, and then takes a stand. He demands that we remember the substance of a man is in his heart, not in his DNA.
But dared? Yes, I used that word, purposely. It’s an interesting word to use, right? Here’s why: There are millions of Americans who use it in the context of how dare he? As though some little colored kid should never dare to dream so high. He dared like, he thinks he’s so high and mighty. He dared to think he’s better than me? Not around these parts. Not in this house. Not on my watch. Did that make you cringe? I’m not sorry. It was intentional. Those ideas (and worse) are voiced in America — land of the free, home of the brave — all day every day.
Yes, he did dare. He dared to willingly make himself a target. He dared to run for the presidency of the United States in spite of our latent but rampant racism. I don’t know, maybe part of why he dared was because of it. Not out of spite, but because somebody had to shine a light on it some day, why not him?
And my, oh my, it sure is shining big and bright now, isn’t it? But how does this tie back to that quote from Alice Munro? “Good use can be made of everything…”
I believe that President Obama has made good use of the way racism silently infiltrated America. I believe that his brown face and kinky hair alone allowed all the closet racists to crawl out and let their racist flags fly. I believe, ultimately, that that’s a good thing.
I am sick of hearing the phrase “I’m not a racist, some of my best friends…” Because we all know how that story ends. We know it’s just a bunch of words people use to excuse their deeper beliefs and behaviors, and to dodge the more serious conversations. Our president made good use of America’s racism because, and I’m being my typical hopeful self here, what I hope is that we will begin again to have honest conversations about race and poverty and all the inequalities in our country. It’s the only way to finally move, as a nation, away from those things, and toward what is greater. Because, let’s be honest, we are not a great country, unless we all have a fair shot at greatness ourselves.
But we must be willing…