Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Thoughts and prayers ain't enough"


    Cynicism comes so easily nowadays. The country is divided by hatred and mutual incomprehension, our divisions longstanding and entrenched, our leaders paid off or impotent. Lies spewing from corrupted news sources, with no agreement which is fair, which foul. Our president is a superannuated infant, reflecting the worst among us, astounding even the most jaded every single day with his bottomless baseness and continual bad faith. 
     What hope for progress is there? Haven't we been steadily deteriorating for years, decades? 
     Umm no, not really. Fifty-eight Americans were killed Sunday by mindless violence. When I was growing up, that was a good week's casualty list in the Vietnam War. The last administration did actually catch the will-o-the-wisp of health care, not in an ideal form, but one much improved, available to millions of people, heretofore cut-off. The unexamined hate that used to be just accepted, the stage convention of our public life, the curtains and the scenery, now seems glaring wrong, in many quarters, and is challenged. We can't avoid the horrors, they fill our vision. But the good is there too, if we look for it.
    Or bumble upon it. I was walking the dog Tuesday morning and there was Lee Goodman, who lives a few blocks down my street. Writing on his garbage can. Which is something he does, getting the word out. Lee quit his practice as a lawyer a couple years back to devote his energy, full time, along with his wife Nancy, to repealing the 2nd Amendment.
    A quixotic quest, in an era when even discussion of the possibility of discussion is shouted down by paid lackeys in government and their duped constituents. But he's doing it. He wrote a book, outlining his ideas. Tuesday he emblazoned his garbage can with a sign: "Thoughts and prayers ain't enough," a rebuke to the hypocritical pro forma pieties that our leaders mouth in lieu of actually doing or saying anything. 
     In one light, a futile act. How many people go down Center Avenue and see a garbage can? In another, a testament of faith in the ultimate victory of rationality, of goodness. The internet has raised communication to a howl, where reaching a million pairs of eyes is nothing. Only a start. Still, there are those quiet voices speaking to anyone who will listen. Even an empty street.
     We talked a bit. The new Dick's Sporting Goods on Skokie Blvd., he said, is carrying long guns. He led a protest there the night before, and was pleased with the turn-out. Hunting rifles and shotguns are not the problem, in my view, and opposing them only gives credence to the right wing canard that the left wants to ban all guns everywhere. Lee goes over the line, sometime, in my view, such as when he protested the installation of an old Army howitzer by Village Hall. 
     But Lee's committed anti-gun, no half measures thank you very much, and I understand the purity of his stand. If all the people pushing for silencers and armor-piercing bullets can cash their checks and mail out their hyperventilating fundraising appeals, then Lee can organize his quiet protests and deliver his trash day messages. If there were more people like him, then maybe our country wouldn't be in the mess it's in.
     He isn't bowing his head in resignation at our national disgrace, but is doing whatever he can to combat it, and I have to respect that, and add what little boost I can, barely more than a sign on a garbage can, but it's all I've got.
     After I wrote the above, I noticed this tweet, from my friend Rory Fanning, which sums up what I was trying to say better than I could manage:


  1. With a nod to Joseph Welch ...

    At long last!

    There actually is someone advocating the one thing that needs to be done: repeal the Second Amendment?


    Just like in the other major struggles, go for the whole enchilada. Chipping away won't amount to anything. The impediment is this poorly written sentence. (What are all those commas in there for anyway? It's like it was written by someone out of breath who was dictating a thought he'd had while out for a run.) ONE SENTENCE that has gotten thousands of people killed over the years. Without it we could have a much more civilized discussion and pass laws applicable to the time and place and much more easily corrected.


    1. During the Heller vs. DC court fight, experts in 18th Century grammar were brought in, in an attempt to decode that sentence.
      I've heard it called the single most incompetently written piece of prose in the English language.

    2. And, since Neil is the first person I read in the morning, I wrote that before reading Brett Stevens in the NY Times –

  2. I've always thought that one of the problems with the Second Amendment is that, when it was written, "militia" had a very different meaning and purpose than it does today.

    Back then, "militia" was what we would now call guerrillas, partisans or irregular fighters. Their advantage in the Revolutionary War was that they could form quickly, attack and disperse, melting into the populace, before the British regulars could arrive. Militia played a huge role at Saratoga and several other Colonial victories. That's the biggest reason the Founding Fathers wanted them enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The key is that they coordinated with and supported the regular Colonial troops.

    Now the term has become corrupted to mean any armed group that operates apart from, and usually in defiance of, regular, normal authority. Under this meaning, the phrase "well-regulated militia" is a contradiction in terms; their whole point is that they don't submit to any kind of regulation outside of themselves. From there it's a small step to everyone with a gun, the bigger and faster-firing the better, declaring himself to be his own militia. And we have the mess we now find ourselves in.

  3. Excellent post Bitter Scribe! Thank you!

  4. As James Madison told the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787,

    “A standing military force… will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

    With this situation in mind, the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, which says that, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Madison’s original version of the Second Amendment reads as follows:

    "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person." Hartmann has written about this in the past. A similar article by Robert Parry

  5. If the second amendment were repealed, and this seems unlikely because it would have to be called for by 2/3 of the senate and house as well as 2/3 of state legislatures and ratified by 3/4 of state legislatures.
    But if this happened what mechanism would be used to seize the 300 million guns in the country and what would be the penalty for gun ownership? Would this mean nobody could own any type of gun for any purpose.
    While this all might be possible and would certainly lead to less deaths from firearms is anyone sure this is what they want to happen.
    Is this the only amendment in the bill of rights that should be repealed?
    And what should we do about people driving vehicles into large groups of people?
    I am terribly sadened by the tragic loss of life caused by people acting violently. It's hard to find practical solutions to madness .
    The call for more regulation of firearms and enforcement of those laws and laws that already exist of which there certainly aren't enough seems a more reasonable solution.

    1. Repealing the second amendment wouldn't automatically make gun ownership illegal. It would only take away the constitutional right to bear arms. There are a lot of things firmly in place in our society to which we have no constitutional right. Owning and operating a motor vehicle? Not a right.

    2. I agree, reluctantly, that repeal is unlikely. However, repeal would not necessarily mandate confiscation of firearms. That kind of legislation would be even harder to pass. Even I, who have never owned a gun, would probably go out and buy one just to let people know you can't take it away from ME. And even more unfortunately, repeal would not even obviate the right's reasoning that personal defense is a natural right that cannot be taken away by government laws.

      Supply side is the only method I can envision that would work. How it would work I have no idea, but if gun manufacturers were threatened with economic ruin, perhaps they would come up with a device that would render guns ineffective, harmless and worthless at least for criminals and head cases.


    3. Tony , that makes sense. so how would repeal help solve the problem of gun violence? I checked to see what kind of differences there are in gun laws in different states and found this piece from the guardian : there are some wild differences from state to state , region to region. would repeal lead to more uniform regulations across the country? would repeal allow for more restrictive laws? I think yes. would more restrictive laws lead to less killing? maybe? if so I'm all for it. I would turn in my guns today if it would end or even reduce the carnage. I don't think there are a lot of others who would be willing to.

    4. Repeal would do nothing. It's a red herring. Laws need to change.

  6. Repeal of the Second Amendment is not necessary to enactment of sensible gun regulation. As Justice Scalia wrote in the part of District of Columbia vs. Heller that the NRA doesn't want you to read:

    "Like most rights the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. The court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in sensitive places, like schools."


    1. I'm always glad to see you post that excerpt, Tom. If even Justice Original Intent himself readily conceded that, it gives one hope for the possibility that logic, rather than commerce, paranoia and bravado, someday might be brought to bear on this issue. I agree that repealing the 2nd amendment is a bridge *way* too far, though.

      However, just because "The *right* of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" doesn't mean that there hasn't been plenty of infringing with regard to the manner in which they are kept, the potency of the arms themselves, nor other aspects of arms-bearing. And constitutionally so. "Common sense" gun regulations are in the eye of the beholder, of course, but folks who equate the dangers posed by auto ownership with those created by largely unfettered, unregulated gun ownership, as an example, seem to fail the common sense standard right off the bat.


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