Point of View Columns

Exactly What is the Number?

If you live in the United States and care remotely what may happen to you or your family and friends, if you care about any or all of your fellow human being who live in this country, then you should be very concerned that, as of the end of February 2023 thousands American men, women and children were killed by gunfire.

Consider that the United States has the highest rate of death by gunfire of any country in the world except for Yemen – which just happens to be in the middle of a civil war. A half-way rational explanation might be that the United States is in the midst of an undeclared civil war except the only ideology that is seemingly worth dying for is the sanctity of owning a gun. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Despite the deluge of bloodshed that affects every city and every state in the nation, there remain an extremely powerful cohorts of adherents that gun ownership is a God given right embedded in the Constitution. And while no one should presume exclusive knowledge as to the will of God, literally nowhere can the absolute right to unlimited gun ownership be found in the Constitution.

This is the Second Amendment exactly as it was written and ratified in 1791:

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.

One need not be a devoted student of history to understand that the militia were the first and last line of defense of the colonies prior to and during the revolution (as well as the first line of offense in decimating the indigenous population) and there were concerns that the new national government might accumulate too much power. Hence the militia were considered to be a bulwark against overreach by the national government. And, by the way, the National Guard in each state is the institutional descendant of the militias.

And, by the way, you can read the Second Amendment backwards and forwards and it simply does not refer to gun ownership as an individual right – like free speech, or freedom from self-incrimination. But the gun ownership will never let facts, even facts set forth in the Constitution itself, get in the way.

Nevertheless, one has to believe that there is a limit to the carnage that can be considered acceptable. Obviously, we have not reached that number yet. Last year 20,138 Americans were killed by guns (suicides were not included). Consider the fact that 20,138 dead mothers, babies, elderly citizens, teenagers, neighbors and strangers was not enough to move the defenders of so-called gun rights.

Consider the fact that in 2022 20 little children were literally shot to little pieces by yet another madman with a gun. In any sane country, there would be a real call to action.

We need look no further than New Zealand when another madman with an automatic rifle killed fifty men, women and children in two mosques. Within weeks there was not only a ban on the sale of automatic weapons, there was also a ban on the ownership of such weapons. Last year there were 48 gun-related deaths in New Zealand. Even considering the difference in population, there is no way that 20,138 American deaths can be deemed acceptable.

It is clear that 20,138 dead Americans in one year is not the number that can serve as the basis for change of American gun laws. It is also clear that thousands dead women, children and men are not enough dead Americans to serve as the motivation for change.

The question is, what is the number?

Perhaps we should ask Florida governor Ron DeSantis – so far 2,724 Floridians have died in his state. This number is not enough for him to break of his romance with the gun lobby? Governor DeSantis, what is the number? What is the number of dead Floridians that would be too much for you?

Would you feel differently if a member of your family was in that number? Or would that be a sacrifice that you would be willing to make on the altar of the Second Amendment.

Perhaps we should ask Texas governor Greg Abbott – so far this year 3,513 Texas children, women and men have died from gunfire. The state is on the way to having almost 40,000 dead Texans before the end of the year. This is a number close to the entire American military death toll during the Vietnam War. Governor Abbott, what is the number?

What is the number of dead Texans that would get you to turn your back on the gun lobby and begin to actually protect the men, women and children that you have so far falsely sworn to protect?

And again, if one of those dead Texans had the last name Abbott would that make a difference. Or are you comfortable being a member of the clergy of The Church of the National Rifle Association?

And to all those adherents to some mystical and unlimited right to own guns, are you prepared to answer the question, what is the number?

If their answer if that there is no number of dead Americans that should warrant limitations on gun ownership, we begin to understand that the gun lobby and their adherents have entered into a murder-suicide pact with the American people.

And if that is truly the case, then the worst of times are yet to come.

And we should all be afraid.

Very afraid.

Point of View Columns

Lies at the Foot of the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The next time that Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott or Marjorie Taylor Greene take an Anti-Immigrant Demagogue Holiday in New York, they might want to take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and read the plaque at the base of the statue. While someone might have to help them with some of the words with which they are unfamiliar like “poor”, “wretched”, and “homeless”, one would have to wonder if the full meaning of the Statue of Liberty would seep into their consciousness.

If they took the time to think about it (“thinking” being a herculean effort for these three) they might realize that when it the statue was assembled and unveiled on October 28, 1886, New York City had already been the point of arrival for millions of immigrants from all over the world for over two hundred years. And while there has always been an anti-immigrant virus in the American bloodstream, the sheer number of immigrants who have become Americans should have eliminated that virus from the American bloodstream.

This Less Than Tremendous Trio might have given some thought to the fact that the only non-immigrant descendants in the United States are what’s left of the descendants of the indigenous peoples of North America, indigenous peoples who were the victims of calculated racial and cultural genocide until they were almost extinct – like the buffalo and the passenger pigeon.

It is clear that when Greene and Abbott and DeSantis are talking about stopping the flow of immigrants to this country they are not particularly concerned about the negative economic impact of immigration. Indeed, in states like Florida and Georgia and Texas, the homes of DeSantis, Greene and Abbott the agricultural sectors rely heavily on immigrant labor. Indeed, the history of the American economy reflects a hug reliance on immigrant labor – whether voluntary, enslaved or involuntary (e.g. the Chinese labor on the transcontinental railroad construction).

And while anti-immigration advocates don’t seem to have a problem with Ukrainian men, women and children coming to the United States by the thousands, there is a problem with Haitian, Venezuelan and Mexican men, women and children. Clearly the concern is not American sovereignty – many immigrants become citizens who are fulling committed to the American Way. Clearly the problem is not that immigrants will somehow drain this country of various public service resources – immigrants give as good as they get.

So, what exactly is the problem? Clearly blond and blue-eyed Ukrainians are welcomed with open arms provided with housing, healthcare and employment. Dark skinned Haitians are beaten with batons and trampled with horses at the U.S.-Mexican border, given one hundred dollars and flown back to the hellhole that is now Haiti – a hellhole for which America carries a heavy historical burden of culpability.

It would appear that the issue is about race – which is the case in America since before the United States even existed. And it can be no coincidence that the opponents of non-white immigration are also against reparations for the descendants of Black enslaved people, and they are also against the teaching of racial truths in American schools, colleges and universities.

Donald Trump was on to something when he revived Ronald Reagan’s Make America Great Again slogan (without attribution – but what else could we expect from a true grifter like Trump). The MAGA chant was not meant for Black Americans or Latinos or Asian Americans or the descendants of the indigenous peoples, all of us wondering exactly hen was America great for us?

But the not so subtle, barely subliminal message in Make America Great Again harks back to a time when “minority” concerns were not a priority for white America. There was a time when racial segregated communities and internment camps and reservations were part of the American Way, and it was a time when very few white Americans found any of this to anything more than regrettable, but necessary, ways to keep America great for its white majority.

Today Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump are blowing dog whistles that all of us can hear.

We know now that when America is Great Again it will not be Great for indigenous people. Asian Americans, Latinos or Black Americans.

Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

It is time for women and men of goodwill to believe and unite, while there is still time to Make America Great for the First Time.