Point of View Columns

Welcome to Fantasyland

Political discourse, particularly on the right wing of the right wing, has been untethered from reality for quite some time. Consider, for example, the search for “truth” that would “prove” that President Obama is (a) a Muslim, (b) a foreign born illegal immigrant or (c) the anti-Christ. The voyage on the irrational ocean has visited ports that legitimize the shutdown of the federal government and the degradation of this country’s international credit rating. And the ranting in the wake of the Oregon gun tragedy further highlights the Teapublican fondness for fantasy.

Demonstrating his now legendary lack of grace and class, days after the massacre in Oregon Donald Trump resurrected the action hero view of gun ownership. He stated that if the students and faculty and security guards all had guns, death would not have visited Umpqua Community College. The fact that combat veterans and war journalists are unanimous in recounting the chaos inherent in firefights that take place during war should cause even the most committed gun-lover to pause and consider the vision of armed gunmen and gunwomen with little or no military training shooting to kill.

But, doubling down on his cinema-based theory of public safety, Trump went on to say that if he were subject to attack he would, in effect, channel his inner Charles Bronson/”Death Wish” persona. And once again, even the most avid proponent of universal gun ownership may wish to reconsider their position with the vision of a near-septuagenarian plutocrat firing away at real and or imagined enemies.

And, in keeping with the Teapublican tradition of being the party that is the gift that keeps on giving, Ben Carson offered thinly veiled criticism of the victims in Oregon (and presumably the victims in Aurora, Columbine, Tucson and Sandy Hook) for “just standing there” and allowing themselves to be shot. Channeling his inner Rambo, sans the bare chest, Carson went on to say that if he were confronted with situation similar to that in Oregon, he would have exhorted his companions to charge the gunman, encouraging them with the knowledge that “he could not shoot all of us”.

Dr. Carson has by now given brain surgeons a bad name, or at least removed “brain surgeon” as a synonym for a brilliant person. Perhaps, because he is such a brilliant brain surgeon he might be excused from knowing that an AR-15 automatic rifle fires 15 rounds per minute, so clearly it is possible for a gunman in such a fashion to “shoot all of us”. More importantly, this supposedly brilliant and thoughtful man should know that the term “fog of war” is a reality based reference. No one knows what they might do if a gun was aimed at them, and only highly trained combat and law enforcement personnel actually know what to do when the bullets start flying.

But not being satisfied with pouring rhetorical salt on the real wounds of the real victims and real survivors of all of the many real gun massacres in this country, Ben Carson has been quoted as saying that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” than see the passage of any gun control legislation. And with these statements Dr. Carson has made it clear that he is not running for President of the United States of America, instead he is running for President of the United States of Gun.

The further tragedy is that in addition to all this careless, heartless, senseless and insane talk about guns and gunfights and “bullet riddled bodies”, the Teapublican Party runs the real danger of having its leading candidates ultimately giving it the identity of the Fantasy Party. In addition to fanatical devotion to guns, no matter the cost in blood and treasure, the leading Teapublican candidates truly believe that a multibillion dollar wall (with a great big door) will curtail illegal immigration. The party is now totally wedded to the concept of repealing the Affordable Care Act “on Day One”, thereby vaporizing the healthcare coverage of over 20 million American men, women and children with no alternative plan.

On the foreign policy front Teapublicans propose to project strength by “telling” the Supreme Leader of Iran what he should do and by refusing to even speak to Vladimir Putin. We hear of plans to reprise the tragic horrors caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, once again accompanied by the promise that the U.S. military actions will be brief, limited, surgical and successful (this time)(really)(honest).

The final tragedy is that instead of offering thoughtful alternatives to the agenda of the Democratic Party, the Teapublicans have shrouded themselves in a world of fantasy and denial, setting forth policies that will never work, from “Day One”. And that is too bad, as the American people deserve better.

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Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun

Given the proximity of the Washington Naval Yard gun massacre, as well as its incremental horror, one could have hoped that Congress would have taken time out from cutting food stamps allocations and trying to eliminate Obamacare to pay attention. One would have hoped in vain. To the collective shame of this country, the Washington Naval Yard joins Aurora and Tucson and Sandy Hook and Fort Hood as another synonym for atrocity while the Congress does absolutely nothing.

The Teapublicans and the right wing of the right wing are adamant in their defense of what they contend is their constitutional right to own an unlimited number of guns including those that serve as hand held weapons of mass destruction.

Even the most common sense proposed limitations, such as background checks for mental illness and criminal records are met with outrage and implacable opposition. The fact that gun massacres with multiple deaths upon multiple casualties have become a part of the American way of life is met with a call for more guns in the hands of more Americans.

What is peculiar about this adamant and absolute Teapublican defense of the right to bear arms is that it does not extend to the right to vote. The same right wing avatars that are incapable in compromising on any limits, controls or oversight regarding the right to possess firearms have no problem with the multiple barriers to voting that are being erected across this country. In fact, the same Teapublican legislatures that trample even modest gun control proposals into dusty fragments are the same legislatures that are passing voter suppression laws the likes of which have not been seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In North Carolina for example, new voter suppression laws have been passed with the express purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the young to vote. The fact that members of these demographics are not part of the Teapublican base of support is not coincidental.

And so, we are now witness to the irony that it is easier for a black man in North Carolina to own a gun that it is for him to vote. Somehow in the fevered brains of the predominantly white Teapublicans in North Carolina and elsewhere fear black people who vote more than they fear black people who own guns.

The naked illogic of this situation should be obvious as the exercise of the right to vote is far more important to the preservation of democracy and democratic institutions than individual gun ownership. Unless you believe that there are federal black helicopters about to lift off and come and take you away, voting presents a far more effective and rational way to establish and promote policies.

Say what you will about the Teapublicans, but they have managed to turn selective hypocrisy into an art form. Somehow the right to bear arms is an absolute right that should not be subject to any limitation whatsoever.

However, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion, the Teapublicans in many states have taken so many steps to limit that right to choose that the right is virtually meaningless for women who desire such medical services.

While the right to own guns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons is inviolate on the Planet Teapublican – the right to vote of minorities, the elderly and anyone who is not a reliable supporter of the Teapublican Commandments can be modified and limited to make their right to vote virtually meaningless.

Indeed, to an observer from another country, it would seem that the only right that is absolute in the Teapublican Constitution is the right to own a gun. And it may be only a matter of time before this country is properly renamed “The United States of Gun”.

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Point of View Columns

Sarah Palin is Today’s Lady Macbeth

When you think about it, the Tucson Massacre on January 8th had to happen. It was just a matter of time. There has been so much violent and vile rhetoric flying through the airwaves and the internet that it was only a matter of time when it would be bullets instead of words whizzing through the air.

Last year Sarah Palin published a map on her Facebook site which “targeted” twenty members of Congress for defeat. In “targeting” these elected officials she cunningly used the visual of the crosshairs from a rifle scope. For those who still didn’t get the point, she exhorted her followers to “reload” as they went after their prey.

One of the twenty “targets” was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who received a bullet through the brain as eighteen other citizens, including a nine year old girl, were mowed down in a hail of bullets. Having the misfortune of falling afoul of the self-proclaimed Momma Grizzly, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head.

Almost before the gun smoke cleared, right wing of the right wing apologists flocked to microphones to proclaim the Tucson shooter to be a lone “madman”. A representative of Sarah Palin stated that “we never, ever, ever” intended the crosshairs targeting elected officials to encourage someone to shoot anyone. Others urged patience until it could be determined what the actual motive of the killer might be.

Sarah Palin has been winking at calls to kill President Obama that are shouted by her adoring beige shirts. She endorsed and supported Sharron Angle’s candidacy for United Senator in Nevada even after Ms. Angle called for “Second Amendment” solutions to reform government and urging her followers to “take out” Senator Harry Reid.

No one will ever know what has been coursing through the mind of Jared Lee Loughner. No one will ever really know what went through the mind of John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald or Mark Chapman or James Earl Ray or the Son of Sam. What we do know is that the toxic and gun-tinged rhetoric of Sarah Palin and her ilk has contributed to an environment in which the misguided can take her metaphors literally. The undeniable result is the Tucson Massacre.

Sarah Palin cannot be allowed to wink her way out of this. Her irresponsible use of her celebrity has created a cadre of gun toting, Bible beating, Constitution waving followers who actually believe that she has real answers for the real problems in their lives. And while she basks in their adulation she is also cashing in big time with her books and television shows and speaking engagements.

I have to wonder whether, in the quiet moments just after midnight, Sarah Palin considers the possibility that her words and deeds could have, in some very real way, contributed to the madness that was the Tucson Massacre. While we will all grow old and die waiting for a mea culpa from her, I wonder if she feels any guilt, any responsibility, any remorse.

Could Sarah Palin really go to the astronaut husband of Congresswoman Giffords and convey her sympathies without a twinge of regret? Could she speak to the parents of little girl who was killed and look them in the eye? Could she be so devoid of shame? No one could be that shameless.

It is clearly time for Ms. Palin to exit the public stage. Just as the comet of publicity brought her into view a little more than two years ago, it is time for her to just disappear in the very same, rapid fashion.

She has lost what little credibility that she ever had by reason of her irresponsible language and her inspiration of the worst emotions that dwell in American society –bigotry, prejudice and fear, always fear.

Talk of her running for President of the United States or even having influence over who is chosen will start drifting away just like the gun smoke in the Tucson parking lot.

She is condemned to be a latter day Lady Macbeth. She can wash and wash her hands forever, but the blood of the Tucson Massacre victims will be on her hands.

Just as it was with Lady Macbeth – no one else can see the blood, but it will always be there for her.

It is a punishment that she deserves.

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