Tag Archives: Newton

Violence, culture won’t change unless we do

“We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.”

They were the words of Barack Obama, but they felt like the message from a nation mired in the despair of a helpless malaise. Understanding that each of us bears some responsibility, not just to ourselves but to our nation.

I watched President Obama speak to the families of Newtown, Connecticut and felt more connected to my president than at any time since the attacks of September 11.

While nothing will fully erase the memory of failed economic policies, a hegemonic health care bill, divisive hypocritical rhetoric about taxes and the deficit, or the foreign policy disasters of the last year, Barack Obama made me forget all of those for a brief moment.

If you didn’t forget (and many on Twitter perversely decided it was a good time to make political jokes), I feel sorry for you.

Showing for the first time what a true leader looks like, Obama was compassionate, but firm, genuinely heart-broken, yet steady.

But nothing changes if we don’t. Let’s not flail around looking for scapegoats was his message. This isn’t an issue of the media as Morgan Freeman will have you believe. Violent video games aren’t to blame, nor is aggressive music or movies.

The President had the culprit correct when he named it several times: “we.”

Us.

This is our fault.

We let the NRA prevent us from banning assault rifles which no civilian could possibly need. We didn’t pay close enough attention when the extended magazine restriction hit its sunset.

We haven’t placed a premium on the mental health of our children, demanding that parents everywhere have a place to get help if they have a child who is mentally ill.

As a culture of parents, we’ve lost our way. Gone is the discipline and regimentation of our former generations, replaced with pharmaceutics remedies and video game baby-sitters.

Our parental culture, as much as anything in this country, is broken. No legislation will fix that. We have to.

My mother, an inner-city school teacher, has had conferences with the parents of struggling students, only to watch the parents berate and beat their children just outside the classroom. She’s had to call the police more than once.

Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Barack Obama said vote for “Change we can all believe in.”

Until now, we haven’t gotten the change we’ve sought because we only listened to the second guy, not the first. Voting for Barack Obama never was going to solve the problems this country faced.

We had to make sure that happened, no matter who we voted for. Too often has our president used powerful words only to fall short with his actions. We’ve suffered from the same delusion.

If Barack Obama leads us, he has a chance to follow through on his own words and those of Ghandi’s. His words Saturday make me believe he knows and understands that.

I’ve said from the first day he was introduced as a candidate that I hoped Barack Obama was the man so many thought he was. Not because of his politics, most of which I detest, but because of his potential as a uniting force in leadership. Four years in, he hasn’t even been a shadow of that leader.

He has a chance to be and because we cannot afford to wait any longer, because we can’t afford to have another Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Newtown, we need him to be.

Each of us must do the same and find out how we can help change the culture, change the laws, and yet all the while doubling down on the foundation of the United States of America.

That has never had to change. The foundation of America, a place where every person has a chance to flourish and follow his or her dreams, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that more and more, we’re only worried about our own dreams and success, forgetting that our own success is inextricably linked to the ability that others around us have to likewise succeed. “A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere” is what Dr. Martin Luther King said.

Somewhere along the line that idea was lost, perhaps perverted and altered. But that backbone is as sturdy as ever and we must lean on it, reminding ourselves that Democracy is freeing and empowering only when we demand it be so for everyone.

We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.

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Tone and Timing are Important in gun discussion following horrific tragedy

The acts were unthinkable, the tragedy incomprehensible and the evil unconscionable. If you were frightened and confused after Aurora, you were devastated and depressed after a monster opened fire in a kindergarten class.

Many lamented it was hard to even believe the crimes committed in Newton on Friday were perpetrated by anyone even close to human.

After texting and calling as many of my friends as I could to tell them how much I cared about them, I sat at my kitchen table, my head in my hands and cried.

I hadn’t lost any loved ones. I only know a handful of people who even live in Connecticut, but as a human being I was shaken to my very core. I was physically in pain over this.

So when person after person in my social media timelines took to snarky, “I told you so” gun law rants, I was blind with rage that they would be so insensitive.

We were just a few hours after an unspeakable tragedy and already this had become a political argument, and more than that it was a condescending, sarcastic conversation.

As Tommy Christopher points out (and if you read this blog you know Mr. Christopher and I rarely agree) you are allowed to react however you want to this tragedy and if you want to talk about gun control that’s fine.

Just a few hours later, Christopher, after watching S.E. Cupp break down on MSNBC trying to tell this story, used a more measured tone to admit that not only is it important that we talk about the issues at hand here, but how we do it.

It’s understandable for someone to jump from “What a horrible tragedy this is,” to “This could have been a lot less horrific if the shooter hadn’t been allowed to have an assault rifle.”

But saying something like, “Is this a good time to talk about gun control?” is condescending and perverse. This sort of self-adulation has no place in the moments immediately following a tragedy. Why would anyone want to play the “I told you so” game when 20 kindergartners are dead?

Furthermore, there were people screaming all over Twitter and Facebook, “Gun control.” Ok. What does that mean? What do you want to see changed? And to those wondering about the timing of the discussion, we’ve been talking about gun control for 100 years. As long as there have been guns, there have been discussions about gun control.

If you weren’t involved in the discussion, that’s on you, but no one was preventing you from being involved. There are myriad anti-gun groups you could have joined, dozens of elected representatives you could call and e-mail. Don’t blame the world because you weren’t involved and even worse, don’t be a sarcastic prick when dozens of families were devastated by a mentally unstable vehicle of pure evil.

I was glad to see so many people were ready to blame our gutless politicians for failing to stand up to the NRA on things like extended clips and assault rifles. Check out what a .223 caliber rifle looks like and tell me if you think a 20-year-old (or any civilian) should own one.

But can we wait an hour or two after we know the facts to start having that discussion? It’s incoherent to me how anyone’s first reaction was “POLITICS” when my first reaction was searing pain and despair for the families, and I’m as political a person as you’ll meet.

What I was disappointed, but not surprised to see, was how easily those who yelled about gun control were to shirk responsibility for their own actions. President Obama has been rated by gun control advocates as worse than President George W. Bush who was a gun-owner himself.

Since 2007, six of the 12 worst shootings in U.S. history have occurred. In other words, almost half of the deadliest days in U.S. history took place under the watch of Barack Obama.

Where has his leadership been on this issue? If you want to talk politics, where is the Nobel Peace Prize winner when his own city of Chicago is more dangerous than the streets of Kabul right now?

The National Journal insisted that the discussion about gun laws had to start at the top. We’ll see if this is a seminal moment in the gun law discussion. I hope, for everyone’s sake that it is.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was critical of the president for not speaking out more forcefully against guns.

As much as I hope some good can come from this tragedy, I would never say that I hoped this would create ‘political capital’ like Alex Wagner did on MSNBC.

To the left, everything can be used for political gain, as Chris Matthews reminded us when he said he was glad for Hurricane Sandy because it helped President Obama win re-election.

I don’t want to make this about left and right, Democrat and Republican because I would hope on a day like today we could all recognize the urgent need to do something about the violence in this country.

Gun laws are not the only piece to the puzzle, it’s irrefutable that there is a cultural issue at play here. Poor parenting and a culture of entitlement have lead us down this path. People believe the world owes them and when the world doesn’t deliver, they freak out.

The entitlement culture has to end and that is part political, part societal and each perpetuates the other.

Gun control is one step. Taking away all guns isn’t an answer, but we can’t be so afraid to infringe on the Second Amendment – extended clip restrictions and semi-automatic assault rifle bans for civilians wouldn’t do that – that we take no action at all.

We cannot be paralyzed by this tragedy, we must be galvanized by it. Furthermore, we cannot let it divide us along partisan lines because everyone’s goal is the same: peace. We have to find ways to achieve that as a collective, or we will surely fall further and further into the dystopian hell we are building.

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