Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: Gun Control

Year One

blog

I started this blog one year ago tomorrow. Not that I expected anybody to read it, but as a way for me to pour burning liquid emotion onto my keyboard in hopes of having it coalesce on the screen into something resembling understanding, logic or rationality in order for me to carry on. All too often, I have failed.

My first post was simply a reposting of a blog entry made by Jessica Redfield who had escaped a mass shooting at the Eaton Center in Toronto. She had posted it on June 5th. One year ago tonight, she was one of twelve murdered and 58 wounded at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Here, frozen forever, is her last Twitter post:

JessicaRedfield Twitter

Having been cast to live in Texas as a result of the world-class medical facilities at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and seeing them as the best chance we had to fight my wife’s rare and aggressive breast cancer, I had become increasingly angry at the cavalier attitude Texans have with their guns. The “Come and Take It” crowd, most of them displaying Zimmerman-like bravado (when armed with a firearm), hiding anatomic shortcomings (if shoe size is a true indicator and not some urban legend) and compensating by driving the tallest, most ridiculous looking monster-trucks legal to drive on public roads.  The shooting in Aurora drove me to write. It was a cathartic exercise.

Mixed with equal parts sarcasm, anger, depression and pomposity, I put down in words my boiling rage. A few comments popped up, although in the vast universe of the internet I have no idea how these people tripped over my little blog. And so it went. Until December 14th.

I was sitting at the hospital while my wife was being restaged when the first news reports began to flash about a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. A shooting at an elementary school will be very traumatic for the children, I thought, assuming that the victim(s) would be adults involved in a deadly dispute of some kind. Slowly the details emerged. Children were among the victims and their numbers kept climbing. Like most of the world, I read the reports in disbelief, hoping for a clarification from the news outlets of a terrible mistake. Instead, the numbers continued to climb. More children were injured; more children were among the dead.  Like many other dates that are seared into our collective consciousness, I will never forget where I was when I heard the news. My wife and I made the hour drive home from the hospital that evening, although I cannot remember actually steering the car. That night, I shook.

The next day I told my wife that I needed to do something, anything to try to change the world in which I had sentenced my children to live. I was ashamed for my previous inaction and tacit acceptance of gun violence; I was ashamed for the country. The rest of the world looked upon America as a land populated by blood-thirsty renegades armed better than Dirty Harry with a fuse shorter than a Bruce Willis’s hair. Surely, after this mind-skewing, paradigm shift, Washington would act responsibly? Americans would demand it! Politicians would push and shove their way to the front of the line to co-sign responsible gun legislation! Unaware of any grassroots organizations and devoid of any previous political activism, I reached out to the one group I knew with a history of fighting the gun lobby, the Brady Campaign.

“I haven’t had a representative in the Houston area for three years,” said the head of the Texas Brady chapter. Roll that around in your head for a second. Houston is the country’s fourth largest city with a population of over 2 million people and the Brady Campaign has no local chapter? Hell, Connecticut has three!

And yet, in spite of my newly embraced activism, it all still seemed a little remote. I could still only partially allow myself to invite in the nightmare of what it would have been like if it had been my children. Emotionally, as a parent, as a human, it was a door I was only willing to open a crack, lest the devastating emotion behind it drown me. That all changed on a conference call.

The head of the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign invited me to participate in a call with hundreds of other members and a guest speaker. It was scheduled for Monday, January 7th at 5:00. Because I was still at work, I stayed late and joined the call already in progress. There was a woman speaking with intimate knowledge of the shooting in Aurora. I listened intently, but removed and muted. However, as I listened, I began to piece together who the speaker was. At the moment my mind made the connection, she spoke the words that will forever haunt me. It was Jessica Redfield’s mother, and she was describing, in vivid detail, the events of that night and how, where and why her daughter had been murdered. I could no longer prevent that nightmarish door from opening. Jessica Redfield’s mother was telling me how that door had been ripped from its hinges and cast into space. Suddenly, it was all very real. I had come full circle. What I had started in July as an angry blog by simply cutting and pasting an entry from a theater shooting victim had brought me to listening to the mother of that same victim on a January night. Surreal. Emotional. Devastating. Goose bumps. Real.

I assumed I would write a few articles and make a few calls on behalf of the Brady Campaign. However, soon, word spread and I was being asked to speak at local area democratic clubs. Then I was asked to debate a state representative on a local PBS television program. (The Tea Party twit backed out at the last minute!) Immediately, armed with logic, a rational ethos and compassion, my inner Toby Ziegler/Josh Lyman/Josiah Bartlet took over. I carried photos of the Sandy Hook victims in my wallet. My speech ballooned to 45 minutes. I was able to scan the crowd, in front of whom I was soon to speak, and pick out the planted RWNJ’s itching to ask me to define an assault weapon. It became my personal goal to piss off at least one person in the crowd at each speech, although living in Texas, that was not a lofty challenge. Panel discussions followed and more speeches.

But soon, I found that while the name “Brady Campaign” got me in the door to speak, they did little else locally. I believe the Brady Campaign in Washington continues to do wonderful things standing up to the vitriol of the NRA and battling in state legislatures across the country. However, I needed to belong to something at the local level. What I found was my gender shutting me out of the most amazing group of people I had met in this fight.

It seemed that whenever I was asked to speak, so too was a rotating posse of equally exorcised and like-minded members of the Houston chapter of the newly formed Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, or just Moms Demand Action. These women were phenomenal. Educated, passionate and ready to go toe-to-toe with any gun rights wing nut, this group of similarly accidental activists bolstered my spirits and strengthened my resolve. Fuck not with a mama bear protecting her cubs, lest you unleash her limitless wrath. Enrage 100,000 of them and I pity the NRA. In short, they were the grassroots organization I longed for. I longed to be an “honorary Mom.”

We saw each other everywhere. From speech to speech, there they were. They were on-stage at a rally on the steps of the state capitol in Austin where I managed to get into a verbal confrontation with a RWNJ who tried to crash the proceedings (with his young grandson in tow). They were at a protest outside the Houston-hosted, annual paranoia jamboree (officially known as the NRA Annual Conference) where, again, I got to piss off a different RWNJ. It was there that I saw Neil Heslin, father of Jesse Lewis. Jesse was just one of the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook. I stood ten feet from Mr. Heslin and wanted to speak to him, but my brain could conceive of no combination of words that could pacify him or rally him. What could I say that didn’t sound shallow, condescending or meaningless?  His eyes conveyed a pain, a hollowness that seemed to match the emptiness he must have felt inside, an ember and ash hole where his heart had once lived, a void which Jesse once filled.  I also saw Erica Lafferty, daughter of Dawn Hocksprung, principal of Sandy Hook and one of the first killed on that still inconceivable day. Ms. Lafferty had the same look of pain, but also a sense of fury behind her eyes that I wanted to bottle. And the Moms were there at a press conference with United States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee outside the Rothko Chapel commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and beseeching the Senate not to filibuster the Manchin-Toomey amendment. This was a cause with character (and characters). I was not alone in this. There were now faces and voices with which I could bond.

And so, it has been one year since Aurora and 217 days since Newtown. The challenges that lie before us are still all there. Washington is still lethargic and paralyzed. The Texas legislature has passed 14 laws weakening gun laws. Countless assault rifles have been sold to those paranoid “patriots” convinced that the president will come knocking on their door to confiscate their guns. And the American public, with their fruit fly length memory and fickle attention span have moved on to other more current atrocities, shifting their outrage to a new target, resigned to the fact that their demand for gun control legislation (within the confines of our instant gratification society) was not fulfilled.

 Brady Fact Sheet

It has been one year since Aurora. One year, but for me, this is only Year One. We haven’t done enough. But we are not alone and we are not dissuaded. In a country awash in guns, there will be another mass shooting. Americans will again display their transient outrage and, maybe, Washington will listen. It is a long road through an unfair and uneven process, but change will come. We will be here fighting for those who cannot. And when change does come, ask yourself, “What did I do?” Let this be your Year One.

Jesus Shrugged

Jesus Shrugged

Six months ago today a young man with a history of mental illness, knowing his mother owned a legally obtained arsenal, shot and killed her, took these weapons designed to obliterate human flesh and proceeded to an elementary school where he shot his way in, murdered six dedicated educators and blew the faces off of 20 terrified six year old children with between 3 and 11 bullets each.

The fact that words could ever be arranged in this order, in one run-on sentence, capable of painting a scene of horror beyond Hollywood’s imagination (or sense of propriety) should have shocked us. Neither Edgar Allan Poe nor Stephen King could (nor would) conjure up a story with this plot, so sick is the premise. And yet, this sentence describes America in the 21st century. Worse yet is the reaction we had. We did nothing. “Pray,” our politicians told us. Any other solution is a knee-jerk reaction, anti-American, unpatriotic and unconstitutional. We allowed the seeds to be planted years ago by the NRA (and others) which today have blossomed into the paralysis we see in Washington, the evisceration of existing law and the flooding of America with firepower and an absence of responsibility.

While neither Hank Reardon, Dagney Taggert, Jim Taggert nor any other characters in Ayn Rand’s myopic, self-centered, Gold-is-the-new-God, dystopian, It’s-all-about-Me, fantasy have children, the rest of society seeks a balance between personal and societal advancement. Personal responsibility, the overriding theme of Atlas Shrugged, is rewarded in personal wealth. This shallow, simplistic idea only works in the abstract world of fiction. In reality, we are all part of an ant colony whose success or failure depends not only on our own participation and success, but on the participation and success of the other ants.

And in spite of this, the Tea Party (the new Republican party of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio) seeks to add Atlas Shrugged as the new, New Testament. The King Ted version of the Bible. Jesus Shrugged. God, guns and screw everybody else. I’ve got mine, you get yours. You’re on your own. Come and take it. Molon Labe.

181 days have passed since the (still incomprehensible) horror took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Spineless Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, afraid for their NRA rating (and the cash that accompanies it) and catering to the dullest, most simplistic but vociferous, absolutist, “patriotic” constituents, snubbed every attempt to clutch rationality from the jaws of paranoia and closeted racism, lied about imaginary gun registries, drove up gun sales with inflammatory rhetoric, ignored tear-stained relatives, friends or victims of gun violence declared “victory” for the Second Amendment and chuckled as “King Obama” lost. It is if any battle is worth political annihilation of the republic as long as this president loses, topic (or victims) be damned. How very patriotic.

Gun ownership in this country is down to less than one-third of households and yet gun sales continue to climb. If fewer people own guns, but guns continue to sell, it can only be surmised that the same people are buying more guns, which begs the question, how many guns can one shoot at once? It seems to me that the NRA needs to team up with doctors to develop an accelerated evolutionary path for these “patriots” so they can grow additional index fingers with which to pull triggers. Anything less is unconstitutional and against their God-given right as guaranteed under the Second Amendment and conferred upon them in the new, new testament.

America’s best days are ahead of it, but only if we stop trying to live in the past.

Six months with no action. Shame on Congress, shame on us.

Gunistan

After seeing the blinder-wearing, simplistic, dogmatic, vitriol of the attendees at the NRA Paranoia Jamboree in Houston (and its glaring lack of racial diversity), I now agree with the speakers at the convention, such as:

Governor Rick “Prayer, Guns, and um…um… oops” Perry

Senator Ted “Filibuster and Lie about an imaginary Gun Registry” Cruz

Ted Cruz website

There was NO gun registry language in the proposed legislation that Senator Cruz first filibustered against and then voted against. In fact, there were strict penalties in the legislation for anyone attempting a gun registry. That did not stop the Senator from posting this on his website and causing dim followers to froth.

Senator John “Poison Pill” Cornyn

Attorney General Greg “Keep your guns, come to Texas” Abbott

Representative Steve “If Babies Had Guns They Wouldn’t Be Aborted/Win an AR-15!” Stockman

Texas Representative Steve “What’s the Supremacy Clause?” Toth

Governor Sarah “Helicopter Hunter” Palin

Ted “Messy Pants” Nugent

Wayne “Tyranny, Confiscation, Tyranny, Confiscation” LaPierre

“Leadership” Forum!

Senator Rick “The Bill of Rights came from God” Santorum

and Glenn “Am I Still Relevant?” Beck.

When these Pavlov-inspired  “leaders” have the ability to distill a solution to all of society’s ills down to a bumper sticker (“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”) and have it swallowed whole by their one-note flock who hug the Bible in one hand and an AR-15 in the other, who can somehow justify loving God and can, with a clear conscience, kill His creatures, who cloak their racism as patriotism and assemble arsenals to defend themselves against the America they profess to love, who consider “victory” to be any time the “fake” black president loses and, of whom  44% consider the possibility of an armed rebellion against the government likely in the next few years, yes, maybe we should give them what they want. Let them secede. Concern over the porosity of our border and a demand for an impenetrable fence begins to sound good. In fact, we should insist that the fence continue around the entire Texas perimeter and commit every gun manufacturer and gun owner in the other 49 states to live in this newly minted country we’ll call Gunistan.  God bless Gunistan. Lock and Load.

Wow. Just, wow.

While the rest of the country is trying to curtail the carnage caused by a society drowning in firearms, the Texas legislature recently passed 12 bills weakening Texas gun laws. So take your guns, hug them tight, tuck them in at night under your pillow and the rest of us will leave you alone. Please do us the courtesy of doing the same. No longer will you fear Texas turning blue. It will forever be, blood-red.

Gunistan

GUEST POST: From a Friend

05nra_span_cnd-superJumbo

Today, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre asked the question in his NRA conference keynote speech “How many Bostonians wished they had guns two weeks ago?”, while rhetorical, I took the time to answer.

Wayne,
I can’t speak for everybody in the city, but when I was terrified for my life and all sense of security, the first thing that I thought of was not “I wish I had a firearm”, in fact, that thought was probably the last thing in my mind. I didn’t even begin to entertain that possibility until long after things had settled down. And when I did entertain that possibility for a fleeting moment, I cast it aside as baseless paranoia that would only endanger in the long run, not protect. My first thoughts were about my loved ones and a desire to stay safe through smarts, caring, and a trust of those authorities that remained. Not through a desire to display my ‘self-defense’ by having the leverage to impose a threat upon others, but though a solidarity in my community that was holding each other in its arms, and not pointing its arms at each other.

What I learned a few weeks ago is that if those impulses to have a gun and succumb to your fear are what strikes you immediately, you are probably an unstable person. You are probably a frightened person, and you are probably buying a gun in this spur of the moment decision out of a personal fear. Because its the easy way out, and we’re inclined to take that action as human beings. But it’s also the dangerous way out, people make horrible decisions while dictated by fear, that’s one of the reasons why terrorism is horrifically dangerous. If me and thousands of other Bostonians had a gun, things may have been escalated to state of uncontained paranoia, with shots fired at people mistaken for a home intruder, or a naive view of a who the terrorists were leading to the slaying of individuals who were outside who were Chechnyan, muslim, or whatever John King was suggesting the bombers were at a given time. Because that’s what happened without a gun, some people got assaulted, or yelled at, or falsely accused, but at least they didn’t die. Fatal actions occur when we act on our fear instead of acting with tact and logic. The situation may have been a lot worse if we all had guns.

But many say these events were a sign of a police state. Yet, trough trusting the state government of Massachusetts, and the Watertown and Boston Police Departments, we still were not in a police state, we were in a middle ground where we respected government instructions and everything turned out OK. What the NRA and Wayne LaPierre fail to understand is that a firearm is not the ultimate way to be defensive, and that it’s not the only way to be safe. It turns out, when it does its job right, government protects. So does staying smart, and listening to instructions and advisories can save lives a whole lot more than giving each individual an unbelievable power to slay. Just because we have the right to a well-regulated militia, doesn’t mean we should depend on it at the first sign of panic. These things should only be used when all other options are gone, and we shouldn’t be using fear and vitriol as the NRA does to suggest that all other options are gone.

So yeah, that’s my little ramble about why the actions that shook my life didn’t impact me enough to get a firearm, nor will I get one in case I am ever afraid in the future. Fear can make monsters of us all, and the last thing a monster needs is a weapon.

I don’t know, I may just be crazy to think this, but at least I’m not Wayne LaPierre crazy.

Your pal,

Boston Strong

Statistical Significance

I wrote comments to two gun articles, one in the Houston Chronicle, one in the New York Times.

To a Houston Chronicle editorial on May 1st, I wrote the following comment:

“The NRA is an anachronism, society’s vestigial tail. When common sense becomes more common, reason and sanity will outweigh paranoia and fear-mongering. Kudos to the Chronicle for embracing civilization.”

My comment was met with six nasty, elementary grade reading level, grammatically challenged, rebukes from gun lovers.  In a “thumbs up/thumbs down” poll, my comment received 5 thumbs up and 26 thumbs down.

To a New York Times article on March 28th, I wrote the following comment:

“No, we don’t have a problem in this country!

300,000,000 guns?

87 deaths every day, including 8 children and 11 women?

90% of the public wants universal background checks and yet Congress is stymied by what to do?

Senators Paul/Cruz/Lee want to filibuster against background checks?

Republicans think voting “Nay” to every bill is a solution?

We are no longer a Christian country. We worship guns. To bastardize a phrase from the murdered John Lennon, AR-15’s are bigger than Jesus.

If this moment passes and we do nothing (again) we have failed the victims of Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Chicago and your town. Shame on us.”

My comment was met with one nasty, grammatically challenged retort telling me that crime had gone down due to the increased number of guns in society (in classic post hoc ergo proctor hoc attribution). This was met with two responses to the nasty remark showing how the writer was, in fact (damn those nasty facts!) wrong and questioning the writer’s tenuous grasp on reality.  In a “thumbs up” poll (the Times has no thumbs down option), my comment received 114 thumbs up.

Now, I’m no statistician, but there does seem to be some disconnect in these reactions. Draw your own conclusions.

Oh, and on a totally unrelated issue, the NRA’s new president, James Porter, takes over on Monday. No, not the catholic priest convicted of molesting 28 children in the 1990’s, the other one, the nut case. You know, the guy from Alabama who said President Obama was our “fake president” who wants to make the United States a “European socialistic, bureaucratic type of government”; who said Hilary Clinton was “trying to kill the Second Amendment at the United Nations”; and who refers to the Civil War as “the War of Northern Aggression”? Yeah, that guy. Outgoing NRA president David Keene said Porter was a “perfect fit” for the NRA presidency. First time I’ve ever agreed with the NRA. Now that’s statistically significant.

Two Videos, a Picture and a Question

Simple post today. Just two videos for you to view and think about and one picture for you to think about and answer.

Here is the first video:

How Many More Rounds?

If that didn’t move you, you have no pulse.

Here is the second:

Deja Vu

Now a question. How many more presidents, Republican or Democrat, will have to reorder those words and give the same speech with the same emotion and sincerity before we demand Congress does something? Before we demand that the “gun culture” in America is a failure that does not provide security to its citizens and that we embrace legislation similar to other industrialized nations who neither suffer our gun caused carnage nor understand our acceptance of it in the name of some bastardized definition of freedom? How long?

Now a picture for you to consider:

NRA Terrorist Organization

Discuss, debate, ruminate and then ACT. Now.

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

Say what you want about the NRA (and I’ve said a lot), but their strength is in their organization. They are big and bad because they are organized. With a historically Pavlovian and rabid clutch that froths at the mouth and considers victory to be anything President Obama loses, they are armed to the teeth, stand ready to denigrate any opposing position and contribute readily to the NRA coffers. Meet Goliath.

The other side consists of a patchwork of dedicated and passionate activists from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to Moms Demand Action to Americans for Responsible Solutions to Preventing Newtown and including a myriad of locally organized groups focusing on federal, state and local issues relating to gun violence. Meet David.

The chasm that exists between these sides cannot be bridged by debate. One side deems compromise as a “slippery slope” toward an infringement of “God given” rights (as if the Constitution and its amendments were somehow belched from a burning bush onto stone tablets) while the other continually feels the need to genuflect to an unalterable second amendment while ignoring that the solution required is a national one and not provincial, and constantly engaged in a meaningless argument with the opposition that ultimately leads nowhere but to further division.

The NRA will never negotiate nor compromise on anything when they have the high ground (to use a military analogy, if not a moral one). Nor does it have to. Goliath will never bend when David is only armed with a river rock. The solution lies in the organization, assimilation and merging of the various gun control groups into a well-funded, well-oiled machine with a reach capable of touching the highest offices in America and a grassroots organization fervently motivated to affect change.

There has been precious little discussion of this happening however and that does not bode well for the movement. Inroads need to be taken to merge the organizations and their coffers into one cohesive giant with a war chest ready for battle. The nation’s gun addiction needs a national solution. Too many times have we heard that Illinois has strong gun laws but there is daily carnage in Chicago. The same argument goes for Washington, D.C. and now for Massachusetts with people questioning how the Boston Marathon bombers got their guns. Only when these groups speak with one voice and carry a large enough boulder to damage Goliath will he pay attention. Only when the message is crystallized and the messenger big enough will Congress blink.

This is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, while the patchy gun control groups realize their strength in numbers (90% of Americans want stronger background checks) but weakness in fragmentation, the NRA is suffering a previously unheard of fragmentation within its ranks. High profile members are publicizing their departures from the group. Members are speaking out that the NRA does not speak for them. There is a disconnect between the leadership and the rank and file. So too, other groups are commanding attention, such as Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (based in, of all places, Newtown, Connecticut).

In effect, momentum can be achieved on two fronts. First David will get stronger by the coalescence of the various gun control groups while Goliath will weaken through the fragmentation of its membership and the membership’s uneasy acceptance of its leadership.  These two tectonic shifts may result in Congress “showing some guts” to address gun violence in America. We know how the story ends. But, only when Goliath feels threatened by an equal will it negotiate. Only then will America realize that we do not have to accept daily gun deaths in deference to those preparing for some fantasy, tyrannical government overthrow. Only then will David raise the first amendment to equal footing with the second. Only then will logic and compassion replace paranoia and paralysis. Only then.

Texas George (or Administering Medicine to the Dead)

4

Speaker John Woods, whose girlfriend was murdered at the Virginia Tech massacre listens to John MacLean perform his incredibly moving tribute to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary called Six. Photo credit: Austin Dowling

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.       

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, March 21, 1778

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

                                                Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Chapter 3, 1961

The gun “debate” in the United States pits two sides against one another which could not be more different had they hailed from different edges of the ever expanding universe.  One side uses rationality, compassion and fact, believing that life is paramount and government’s supreme priority is the defense of its citizens. The other side uses paranoia, fear and hyperbole, gets exorcised at the words “tyranny,” “Obama,” and “confiscation,” and is armed to the teeth to defend themselves against the very republic which they claim to love. Logic would tell you that the fight is not fair. Logic would suggest that reason and compassion would reign over hysteria and fear. Logic would be wrong.

This country finds itself at a moral crossroad at a time when it also intersects with a political movement bent on a systemic abdication of empathy in favor of some financial utopia; an Ayn Randian egoism on steroids. Let us assume that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party was formed with the intention of restoring the federal government’s financial ledger. Let’s also ignore that the ledger wasn’t upended in the first place by Republicans plunging us into two wars based on specious arguments and bloodlust following 9/11. Place into that caustic mixture a society where the internet has led to more granularization of beliefs and less debate and compassion, a youth with the responsibility memory of a fruit fly and the belief that there is a cosmic “reset” button on life, a proliferation of 300,000,000 guns with no oversight because of a lobbying group with rabid members who salivate at the concepts of “tyranny” or “confiscation” and cannot hide their racial/political hatred for our sitting president and would burn the country down to see him fail and you have a toxic environment where compassion and logic are trounced by hysteria and hyperbole.

Nowhere is this confluence of concepts more evident than in Texas, a state being torn from the safety of republican clutches and turning purple before our eyes. While the cities are democratic strongholds, the rural areas are staunchly red.  Unfortunately for Republicans, the urbanization of the country, combined with the influx of citizens relocating from democratic northern states and the burgeoning immigrant population arriving from the south clash in a cultural maelstrom which will result in a blue Texas. Once that happens (and assuming California and New York remain blue), there is no mathematical formula that wins Republicans the White House. The only question is when Texas turns blue, not if.

In the gun debate the lines are equally color coded. Red states love their guns. Blue states don’t.  Which leaves Texas in the unenviable position of being the stage from which we all get to watch Republicans pander to the NRA and their rabid, and predominantly white constituency, who ignore the impending tsunami in hopes of returning to the “glory” days of the wild west where guns were plenty and white men ruled the world. Everywhere there can be seen the angry clamoring for this return to Mitt Romney’s 1950’s America. “Secede” bumper stickers jockey for placement on pickup trucks already adorned with Browning logos, Keep Christ in Christmas clings, and that little imp peeing on the words “Gun Control” next to a picture of a cannon and the Greek words Molon Labe (Come and Take It).

Lawmakers, both on the local, state and national level from Texas enrobe themselves in the American flag in order to conceal the Texas flag they truly wear, as if one is not part of the other. They are increasingly suspicious of the United States Constitution and make legislative overtures ignorant of the Supremacy Clause in feel-good measures enabled to allow Texas to enjoy the fruits of the US Constitution a la carte while simultaneously ignoring the burden borne equally by the 50 states to uphold the union.

Beyond the Ted Nugent’s and Alex Jonses’ of the Loon Star State, it is also home to other less colorful, but potentially more damaging (and entertaining, were it not people’s lives hanging in the balance) due to their lawmaking potential. These include:

  • Governor Rick Perry whose solution to gun violence following the sickening murder of 20 first graders in Newtown Connecticut was to pray and who is wooing gun manufacturers to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott who has advertised in New York newspapers for New Yorkers upset at the impending sensible gun legislation to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas where EVERYBODY has at least one gun and “gun control is when you use both hands.”
  • US Rep Steve Stockman who invited twisted has-been rocker Ted Nugent to the State of the Union speech in violation of all common decency and decorum in front of the families of Newtown in attendance, and who is also pursuing the “persecuted” gun manufacturers to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas. As a member of the House, he has pledged to prevent any gun legislation from being voted on. A true patriot.
  • State Rep. Steve Toth, (a minister) and Tea Party sycophant who in the weeks following Newtown held a “Gun Appreciation Day” on the steps of the state capital in Austin and has introduced his version of cafeteria style US Constitution adherence legislation called the “Firearm Protection Act” prohibiting local law enforcement from implementing federal gun laws. He appreciates guns and protects firearms. Did I mention he’s a minister? To bastardize the murdered John Lennon’s quip “Guns are bigger than Jesus.” Welcome to the Church of Glock. This is also the same “representative of the people” who cancelled his appearance on a local PBS television show when he found out he had to debate me, a “far left wing radical!” You see, he wants to represent the people, just not talk with them.
  • US Senator Ted Cruz, another Tea Party twit who joined Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee (and 11 other senators) in a ridiculous filibuster designed to prevent any gun legislation from being voted on by the senate. He claims he will do whatever is necessary to defend the Second Amendment, which is Tin Foil Hat language for “I’m going to do everything I can to prevent the “libtards” from starting down the path toward registration and confiscation.” Again, they defend the gun and every nutjob’s right to them with callous disregard to the carnage caused by these “good, honest, law abiding Americans.”

Here is a breakdown of the campaign funding various Texas legislators have received from the NRA since 1990:

Legislator

District

Party

Amount

NRA Grade

Ted Cruz

Junior

Republican

$      9,900

A+

John Cornyn

Senior

Republican

$    17,850

A

Louie Gohmert

1

Republican

$    11,450

A

Ted Poe

2

Republican

$      9,500

A+

Sam Johnson

3

Republican

$    23,450

A

Ralph Hall

4

Republican

$    25,450

A

Jeb Hensarling

5

Republican

$    20,900

A

Joe Barton

6

Republican

$    47,948

A

John Culberson

7

Republican

$    22,550

A

Kevin Brady

8

Republican

$    17,500

A

Al Green

9

Democrat

$             –

F

Michael McCaul

10

Republican

$    19,500

A

K. Michael Conaway

11

Republican

$    11,000

A

Kay Granger

12

Republican

$    13,950

A

Mac Thornberry

13

Republican

$    27,450

A

Randy Weber

14

Republican

$             –

A

Ruben Hinojosa

15

Democrat

$             –

D

Beto O’Rourke

16

Democrat

$             –

N/A

Bill Flores

17

Republican

$      7,000

A

Sheila Jackson Lee

18

Democrat

$             –

F

Randy Neugebauer

19

Republican

$    16,950

A

Joaquin Castro

20

Democrat

$             –

C

Lamar Smith

21

Republican

$    30,750

A+

Pete Olson

22

Republican

$    12,450

A

Pete Gallego

23

Democrat

$      1,000

A-

Kenny Marchant

24

Republican

$    10,750

A

Roger Williams

25

Republican

$      2,000

AQ

Michael Burgess

26

Republican

$    13,150

A

Blake Farenthold

27

Republican

$      4,500

A

Henry Cuellar

28

Democrat

$    18,350

A-

Gene Green

29

Democrat

$    12,950

A-

Eddie Johnson

30

Democrat

$             –

F

John Carter

31

Republican

$    22,450

A+

Pete Sessions

32

Republican

$    64,000

A+

Marc Veasey

33

Democrat

$             –

B

Filemon Vela

34

Democrat

$      1,000

AQ

Lloyd Doggett

35

Democrat

$             –

F

Steve Stockman

36

Republican

$      1,000

A

The total here is almost $500,000, and this counts only the contributions made to those currently holding office. It does not count the amounts contributed to unsuccessful candidates or those who previously held office. It does make me wonder why the NRA would spend so much money in a state so gun hungry as Texas.

6

Former Virginia Tech student and EMT Kathy Staats who responded to the shooting there on April 16, 2007. Photo credit: Austin Dowling

Which brings me to Texas George. You see, there was a Gun Sense rally sponsored by Moms Demand Action at the Texas capital in Austin last weekend. Hundreds of people attended to listen to the reasoned and compassionate speeches of victims, family member, first responders and legislators. While one young woman, a volunteer EMT at Virginia Tech who responded to the mass shooting on the morning of April 16, 2007, relayed to us her attempts to secure an oxygen mask to a student whose jaw had been blown off by a bullet and who later died, a local genius who called himself Texas George walked up to the front of the crowd holding a sign with the nonsensical message “Stop Gun Ban.” As other people in the crowd tried to get in front of him to block his asinine, attention seeking stunt, I noticed the sickest part of this display. While he held the nonsensical sign in his right hand, he held the hand of his no more than 6 year old grandson in his left. Two thoughts rang through my head. First, how insensitive and callous to bring your grandson to such an event where his grandfather was being berated and shouted down (by me in addition to others), but that his grandson was roughly the same age as the 20 children blown apart in Newtown, Connecticut. And while that juxtaposition played around inside my head, the most poignant image of that day would have to wait for me to see it the following day.

Texas George

Texas George and his inane sign. There are 300,000,000 guns in America. What gun ban?

The image below shows my child standing behind a woman holding a sign denouncing the murder of 8 children a day in America.  My initial (and eternal) pride in seeing my son stand up for something he believes in and which saves lives gave way to the sick feeling that slammed into my stomach when I linked the message about children to the sight of my child. Something I will never forget and something Texas George, Ted Cruz, Steve Stockman, Steve Toth, Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and any other defender of our “God given” right to blow away any of His creatures will never understand. Joseph Heller’s protagonist would question everybody’s sanity in this drama. Logical discourse with these people is like administering medicine to the victims of Newtown.

My son, Cameron (left) and his friend Austin listen to speeches while a woman holds a poignant sign.

My son, Cameron (left) and his friend Austin listen to speeches while a woman holds a poignant sign.

BlinkerMan!

550px-Turn_signals_4

Is this the hand of BlinkerMan?

This is the story of one Lionel Moore, accountant, pizza aficionado and, who, on a cold March morning, became the hero/vigilante known as BlinkerMan.

Where he came from and where he lives now does not matter. The car he drives is known only in whispers and hushed tones, based on the unreliable reports of witnesses and passersby. Some claim it to be an old Mercury Grand Marquis, the color of which is debated as grey, tan or white. Others claim it is either a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4. Still others claim it is not a car at all, but a blue 1964 Vespa. His actions have taken place in areas as widespread as Middletown, Rhode Island and Storrs, Connecticut to Burke, Virginia and Houston, Texas. It seems the only thing people can agree on, whether supporters or detractors, is that he was there and he made a difference.

The first reported incident occurred in Rhode Island in March of 1983 in the town neighboring that picturesque seaside tourist destination, Newport. Witnesses claim that following one particularly long red light on West Main Road, a disadvantaged late model red Ford Explorer, devoid of the once ubiquitous directional stem coming off of the steering column changed lanes without notice. According to eyewitnesses, what followed is reported here:

“All I did was change lanes,” claims Bob (whose last name was withheld at his request).

“It’s true,” said 86 year old Mary P. of Bristol, “I was behind him when he suddenly pulled in front of me. There was no warning, no directional light, nothing!”
Thanks to the cat-like reflexes of Mary P. she was able to swerve onto the sidewalk and avoid an accident only to mow down the prized rose bush of Middletown resident Sadie McQwerty and come to a stop only after pinning her rose bush and mailbox to Ms. McQwerty’s garage door.

“It’s sad,” said Ms. McQwerty, “Where is the governmental oversight? How can we, as law abiding citizens, be forced to purchase automobiles without the directional stem being required on all cars? There was a time once, when all cars had blinkers. Not now. I can’t believe we have to endure this. I miss that rose bush. You know, I tried to prune it back after the accident to see if it could be saved, but her rear tire snapped the bud union and there was no saving it.”

Which leaves this reporter to wonder, was Ms. McQwerty’s rose bush the first fatality caused by the automobile manufacturer’s assembly line malfeasance? Of course, what happened next caused a statewide stir and generated newspaper headlines and letters to the editor for weeks afterward.

According to Bob (whose last name is still being withheld at his request), unaware of the rose bush murder taking place behind him, he continued northward on West Main Road when:

“All of a sudden, this car came up on the right side of my Explorer and, out of the corner of my eye I saw his driver’s side window going down. The next thing I knew my passenger side window exploded inward, covering the Big Mac I was eating while driving in shards of broken glass, and lying next to my fries, covered in special sauce was a directional stem! I took the stem, wiped the special sauce on my shirt and stuck it in the hole on the steering column in which I used to keep my lit cigarette while I was texting and driving. It fit like a charm! I clicked it down and the left blinker blinked! I clicked it up and the right blinker blinked! I don’t know who that person was but they’re a hero to me!”

And so it was that reports started to surface, first in Rhode Island and then further out into Connecticut of windows being smashed and directional stems appearing. In one particularly strange occurrence, outside of a Panera north of Houston, Texas last week, a patron who had arrived at the restaurant earlier in the afternoon found a directional stem tucked under the windshield wiper of their pickup truck.

“What struck me odd, in addition to the stem, which I had never seen before, was how BlinkerMan was able to get it up under the windshield wiper of my truck. As you can see, my truck is a good twelve feet off the ground.”

As if to prove the point, eighteen year old Austin Bibble removed the specially constructed stepladder assembly from under his truck’s chassis and leaned it against the open driver’s side door in order to climb up into his vehicle.

“See, it’s not easy! I don’t know how he did it. Oh, look, I can see Oklahoma from up here!”

Reports of this kind now seem commonplace across America. It seems that BlinkerMan continues to traverse the roadways of our nation, constantly on the prowl for cars not equipped with directionals, smashing windows and leaving their startled drivers with a safety device once under consideration by many in Washington, D.C. as mandatory and in the public’s best interest, but whose existence was snuffed out by the ever behemoth NRA who claimed back in 2006 that the requirement of these implements was an infringement of the Second Amendment.

“We fought to have that particular piece of legislation struck down because it was only created by misinformed and uneducated liberals who sought to penalize the good law abiding people of this country by requiring this so-called “safety” device. We saw it for what it was, a backdoor attempt to extend this to a national gun registry and the first steps toward a run up to a national Day of Confiscation of all guns,” replied Wayne LaPierre while clutching his custom red, white and blue leather wrapped AR-15 with a particularly fetching American flag wrapped silencer.

When asked if he ever personally used the directional in his car, Mr. LaPierre replied, “I have told my driver to NEVER use that symbol of an overreaching Obamastan tyrannical government, or I would shoot him.”

Attempts to reach BlinkerMan have failed repeatedly. Requests posted on his Facebook page and Twitter accounts have gone unanswered. Unconfirmed reports out of Hollywood claim that a movie version is being planned with Woody Allen in the lead role and Lon Chaney in full Phantom of the Opera makeup as Wayne LaPierre. According to Mr. Allen, “Hey, it can’t be worse than the Hulk.”

Phantom Wayne

Phantom Wayne

Here is a How-To link for those unfamiliar with the concept. More on this story as it develops. Until then, drive safely.

JL Glasses