Thursday, June 18, 2015

Innocents die but freedom is safe

“America is stepping backward,” my wife said.

We were watching the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley, and Pelley was standing in front of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, where nine black people were murdered in cold blood by a young white man … because they were black.

There are tragic intersections in American life and this was one of them: The racism that is still rampant across American, and the American Culture of Violence.

Oh, I know, there will be calls for gun control, as if controlling the means of murder is even possible. If every gun law in America were strictly enforced it wouldn’t make a dent in the number of people killed by bullets. Meaningful gun control will never happen in the United States of Reloaders.

No, the base cause of this is, again, the American Culture of Violence. Twist any mind enough and it can justify horrendous bloodshed. And why not? Violence is presented daily to Americans – and we Americans hand it off to the world – as the solution to all of our problems.

Case in point: The motion picture “True Lies,” which was on TV one day last week when I was home for lunch, grossed $378,882,411 worldwide. Sure, it was lots of fun watching Roseanne’s ex and the Governator pretend to push a guy off the top of a hydro dam. And Jaime Curtis never looked better than when she … well, she never looked better.

But what was the movie’s subtext? Killing people is a solution to when bad guys kill people. The final body count, according to (yes, there really is a web site like that) is 71. Seventy-one human beings snuffed as if they were nothing. No fewer than 28 fellow humans are blown apart or ripped to shreds in the climactic scene at the end of the movie.

Oh, but it’s just a movie, right? But that movie still sends a powerful message. It says that if you’re on the same side as Arnold Schwarzenegger, a handsome, rich white guy, then you can kill bad dark-skinned people with impunity. And bad people are always dark-skinned, or they talk funny, or they’re otherwise not like we descendants of Europeans. And who better than Schwarzenegger to represent the white European immigrant who pacified North America? So it’s okay to eradicate those non-white bad guys, and a gun is the most efficient way to do that. Or a $30 million airplane loaded with guns, if you’re white, handsome, wealthy European immigrant Arnold.

Spewing death from a gun is offered as a solution on a daily basis, on television and in movies and especially in video games. Killing solves problems. The killer last week said he was tired of blacks “raping our women.” The solution? Kill them. (Side note: I have to wonder how many white women had been raped by those six black women killed in Emanuel Church.)

So, how do we address this culture of violence? Do we try to discourage image-makers from making images of bloodbaths? What part of $300 mil did you not understand?

No, there is only one way to address this kind of violence, and we can take our cue from our friends in Israel. Get used to it. Israelis long ago decided their own delusion about denying Palestinian statehood was more important than the occasional sacrifice of Jewish families. That’s what Americans need to do. Quit whining about it.

We have more freedom than any other nation in the world, including the freedom to own guns we don’t need and the freedom to hate people we know nothing about. That means, every once in awhile, innocent people are going to die. So get used to it. Our lives and our loved ones aren’t safe but, by God, our freedoms sure are.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Gardner makes good on campaign threat

Katie McDonough calls it like she sees it, and last Friday McDonough saw Cory Gardner as a fraud and called him out.

Full disclosure here: McDonough one of my favorite internet writers. She is the political writer for the webzine According to her credit blurb she "(focuses) on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice." If Salon were an 1850s whaling ship, McDonough would be the chief harpooner. And on Friday, she scored herself a white whale.

It seems Gardner is making good on a threat he made during his election campaign. If elected, he threatened, he'd make it harder than ever for poor women to access any kind of birth control. He wasn't shy about how he'd do that, either. First, he'd introduce legislation to make over-the-counter birth control legal. Then, he and his Republican cronies would make sure that the Affordable Care Act wouldn't cover birth control at all.

You may remember that I warned you about this back last fall. Of course, Gardner himself didn't state it quite that way. No, he trumpeted the first part of his plan in his campaign ads, disguised as something good for all women. You remember those campaign ads, don't you? They were the ones he scrambled to pull together to replace the ones about how his family's health care coverage had been cancelled because of "Obamacare." I called bullshit on that one, too, remember?

They were nice ads, too, full of Yuma County Republican women nodding agreeably as Cory laid out his bullshit plan before they all went back to baking cookies or selling insurance or whatever Republican women in Yuma County do when they're not having political smoke blown up their skirts.

And you may remember that I said at the time the plan smelled like what they scoop out of feedlots and spread on crops to make 'em grow faster. You also may remember that, while I warned you about the second part of his plan, Gardner didn't say a word it.

Well, on Friday, Gardner launched the first part of his nefarious scheme, and it didn't take Katie McDonough long to learn about it. Rather than quote extensively from McDonough's piece, I'll urge you to read it yourself. No, really, click on those last three words and read the article. I'll wait.

See what I mean? I won't pretend that Cory Gardner believes that the bill he introduced in the U.S. Senate will really help women. Frankly, Scarlet, I don't think he gives a damn. He wants votes from relatively affluent rural Coloradans (and if you own a $100,000 tractor that Gardner's dad sold you, you're his prime demographic) because they are the ones who vote and poor people aren't. People like Gardner have no clue what it's like to be poor, even in Yuma County.

I do.

I grew up in Yuma. My family's roots there go as deeply as Gardner's, but my family never rubbed shoulders with his. Unlike some of his constituents, Cory Gardner didn't grow up going to bed hungry. He's never known what it's like to have to choose between food and rent. He went to school with poor people every day of his life, and never saw them.

People like the Gardners never do.

But I saw them. Some of them were my friends. They were the kids whose dads trudged up and down Main Street looking for a day's work, starting at Hoch Lumber on the north end and ending with the Gleason Motors on the south end, and constantly being turned away. My family counted itself lucky to be one step ahead of the truly poverty-stricken in Yuma. They were the families who had the most kids, and could least afford them. They couldn't even afford, at 1960s prices, the only form of birth control available at Brownlee's Rexall Drug Store back then.

I won't bore you with a lesson on why some people are stuck perpetually in a cycle of poverty and despair. Usually, they aren't very likeable people, and if you don't know why, I don't have time to teach you. But what they suffer is not their fault, and free birth control under the Affordable Care Act is one of their few hopes of breaking that perpetual cycle.

Cory Gardner wants to deny poor people that hope. Either he's so clueless that he really doesn't understand why poverty exists, or he understands but he's cynical enough to put political ideology before the real needs of human beings. Either way, he's not fit to represent us in the U.S. Senate.

I've told you that before, and now Gardner is proving me right. I promise that I'll keep telling you as long as you keep voting for him.

An edited version of this blog appeared in the Sterling Journal-Advocate Monday, May 25.