The Children’s Crusade–3/3

Parkland School Shooting
Victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida

Recipe for a Well-Balanced Country

High levels of humanity, characterized by empathy, generosity, neighborliness, cooperation and collective solutions to the problems of their society, are essential to all well-balanced countries. These all-encompassing solutions in first-world countries include controls on political corruption, universal health care, restrictions on predatory capitalism, reasonable judicial procedures, humane prisons, etc. As a result, their indexes of violence are lower than those of the United States and they have fewer serious problems in their societies than the Americans. This wellbeing in countries that look after their citizens isn’t due to coincidence. It’s thanks to longstanding, constant and well-thought-out execution of programs for the common good of all their citizens. That is to say: healthy politics.

Are there remedies for this inhumanity plague in the United States? There maybe but, given the well-dug-in opposition there to humane collective solutions, they would be neither quick nor easy to implement. Embedded inhumanity has become a jealously-preserved American tradition.

What about the American Dream?

The American Dream, rags to riches through personal effort, is a lie. In reality, gaining fabulous wealth is more of a game of chance than a meritocracy. You’re more likely to win a lottery than to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Elizabeth Warren has an interesting take on “self-made men.” She withholds that, without the resources the society provides them–free roads, education, police and fire departments, national defense, etc.–they never could have “made themselves.”

The failure of most American young people to achieve that essentially-unachievable
American Dream is a source of frustration and bitterness–and the cause of no little anti-social behavior. The great irony in most of these cases is that a significant part of what these young people are striving for doesn’t go beyond facile low-level, consumer-society objectives. If they’re rich they devote themselves to acquiring pointless bling. If they’re poor they risk their lives trafficking dope or assaulting liquor stores in order to be able to buy happiness, when happiness can’t be bought. Why don’t most American young people strive for something more worthwhile, both for themselves and their society? That’s not easy in a country that lacks both noble ideologies and valid role models for its youth. The reigning objective there is to get rich ASAP and their role models are limited largely to rappers, hedge fund managers and people who are famous for being famous.

Religion and Other Factors in Solving the Problem

The failure of popular religious solutions is also disturbing. The consensus after the Parkland shootings is that “They’re in our hearts and prayers…” is more cynicism than solution. The question is further complicated by racism, hypocrisy at high levels and inequality on all fronts. Add to all this the insecurity brought about by poverty, non-functional families and the lack of a universal health-care program. This pressure cooker of unfairness gives rise to a vast menu of ills in American society, a list that goes far beyond school killings. Mass gun killings account for just a tiny percentage of U.S. gun deaths. Many more people are lost to gun suicides or gang killings. According to British Guardian reporter Gary Younge, toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than terrorists. Until the root causes are dealt with there will be no hope for combatting these and other manifestations of brutality and insanity in the country. Americans will always be treating the symptoms, not the illness. The gun deaths, like fetid groundwater, will always find their way to the top.

The current gun-control proposals are pathetically inadequate. Even the most stringent regulations proposed today are not enough. Reducing the size of assault rifle magazines from 30 or 40 rounds to six or eight is not serious. Six dead schoolchildren instead of 26 is not a solution. It’s a parody. Even the elimination of assault rifles, which the Parkland students are advocating, falls short of the mark. Are we to overlook the number of school kids that can be killed by an assassin armed with a pair of semi-automatic pistols with standard 17-round magazines? Just for the record, President Barack Obama included a ban on gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds in a list of gun-control laws he asked Congress to enact in January 2013, but the Republican Congress passed on his proposal.

What’s the Latest?

The NRA countered with a whinging Twitter tweet affirming that “bans do nothing but infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Hats off to the kids!
The Empathy Biz
President Trump takes the Sick, Sick, Sick prize.

In closing we must thank CNN for this priceless vignette of presidential empathy/opportunism:

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign used a photo of a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting in an email Saturday that asks its recipients to donate money to the campaign. The email contains a photo of 17-year-old Madeleine Wilford in a hospital bed surrounded by her family, Trump and the first lady. The President visited Wilford on February 16, two days after the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead. Near the end of the message, there’s a link to the campaign’s donations page.

Note: The donations are for Trump’s election campaign, not the anti-gun campaign.

The latest, from Slate.comHow the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demonstrate the power of a comprehensive education.

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The Children’s Crusade–2/3


Nothing New Under the Sun; U.S. Tried to Curb Gun Deaths in the 60s

Attempts at gun-control regulation have quite a long history in the United States. According to an article by Seth Cline, in U.S. on Jan. 16, 2013, there was a major initiative in 1969. A commission formed by President Lyndon Johnson issued its own–admittedly timid–policy recommendations to address gun violence, which was rising amidst the social turmoil of the time. U.S. News and World Report said at the time:

Millions of Americans will be compelled to give up their pistols if Congress passes a law proposed by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. But Congress, it appears, is not at all likely to pass such a law—in this session, at least.

“Not a chance, none at all,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (Dem.), of Montana, when asked about the prospects of Congress accepting the Commission’s plan this year. Representatives of the Nixon Administration recently told a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee they saw no need for tighter gun laws now.

Pro-Gun Activists Respond with Fatuous Fire

The responses of the gun crowd were rapid and particularly ill-advised and seemed to delate their fear that the young people might put them up against the wall and win the day, or at least make it extremely complicated for the National Rifle Association and their Washington cohorts. The Washington Post commented:

As students were making their way to Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning to demand gun law overhauls, a Republican lawmaker a few states away wrote a Facebook post that appeared to question whether the teenage protesters were, in fact, students. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s comments came as right-wing media figures have attacked the credibility of a handful of students who have become the most vocal advocates for gun control since a lone gunman killed 17 people at their high school in Parkland, Fla.

Representative Metcalfe committed a grave tactical error. His comments, besides being singularly tasteless in the circumstances in which he pronounced them, left him open to easy rebuttal. It was a simple matter for the students to establish that they were, in fact, students and that they were serious about pursuing the gun-control issue to its logical end. The injured parties in this matter are, after all, the kids themselves. Theirs is the most cogent right to redress. They are the underdogs against one of the best-financed and most powerful lobbies in the United States. Nevertheless, they know they’re fighting the good fight and they’re determined to see it through. Over the past century nobody has managed it yet, but who is prepared to bet against these kids?

Metcalf was not alone in his below-the-belt attack on the student activists. The entire right-wing media machine had ground into action. The Guardian was following them:

The sleaziest and most direct attacks on individual students have come from the right’s more conspiratorial fringe. On Jim Hoft’s pro-Trump, conspiracy-minded website, Gateway Pundit, Lucian Wintrich performed a hatchet job on David Hogg, suggesting that he was “heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script”.

The survivors are not elementary school students, or public employees, either shielded from media intrusion or disbarred from speaking out. They are confident young adults, many of them media savvy, and more than capable of matching the president when it comes to online snark. Several made it clear that “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of slaughter isn’t welcome.

The reactionary media’s ignoble insinuations that the spokes-people for the students are actors are both naive and counterproductive. I suspect this behavior won’t take long to come back on them. In this CNN clip, recorded on 23 Feb. 2018, in a textbook case of the cynical inversion of reality, NRA chief, Wayne LaPierre, discusses the reactions to the Parkland shootings. There should be a law against this brand of cynicism. You have to see it to believe it.

President Trump’s own observations on the events were typically Trumpish. Elaborating on his proposal to arm schoolteachers he said, “This would be a major deterrent because these people are inherently cowards.” In fact, he doesn’t know whether they’re cowards or not. Some mass gun killers might not be. He’s just talking through his hat again. Then he assured us that he would have faced the killer himself, unarmed. This is what the Spanish refer to as. “…valor a toro pasado,” “bravery after the bull has passed.”

P.S. There’s a Gaping Hole in Trump’s Proposal to Arm Teachers

President Trump’s pretense not to notice the failure to intervene of four law officers on the scene is an eloquent indicator that his armed-teachers solution could never work. If four well-armed-and-trained deputy sheriffs are incapable of preventing a deranged 19-year-old from killing 17 people with an assault rifle, what can we expect an English teacher to do, no matter how big her gun? Trump’s “solution” is a sick parody of a remedial measure. It’s just black propaganda based on wishful thinking.

The President’s thinking on preventive measures is representative of most of the right-wing thinking on the subject of gun control. Instead of seeking valid solutions to the school shootings–and all shootings–President Trump and the gun lobby decide on the measures that benefit them–and the NRA–most and then seek arguments to justify them. Even they should admit that this is the shabbiest form of false problem-solving. But they can’t because solving the problem is not on their agenda. What’s on their agenda is preserving at all costs the grotesque, NRA-engineered status quo.

What’s at the Bottom of All This?

The underlying cause of America’s most serious problems is common to all of the society’s ills: poverty and racism, guns and knives, greed and corruption, militarism, inequality and entitlement. Those are all effects. The cause that underlies them is inhumanity, the coldness toward others which has been nurtured in the United States throughout virtually their entire history. And the election of President Donald Trump and the personalities he has selected for his cabinet have multiplied this inhumanity factor many times.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This lofty declaration is from the preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Today in America it sounds like black comedy.

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The Children’s Crusade–1/3

etaking back schools

Parkland Students Take the Gun-Control Bull by the Horns

After another horrendous mass school shooting followed by the usual limp thoughts-and-prayers condolences from right-wing politicians around the country, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Wednesday, 14 February, decided to address the matter themselves.

On  Feb. 17, three days after the mass shooting, they traveled to Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital, to call for a statewide assault weapons ban. This direct appeal to the state legislature followed protests outside schools, social media activity, and national television appearances. The legislators’ response was short and sweet. The motion to introduce a law to ban assault rifles was defeated, 36 to 71, in a vote along party lines. The procedure lasted 2 minutes and 38 seconds. Most of the 71 state representatives who voted against the ban enjoyed an A rating from the National Rifle Association.

William Rivers Pitt, writing for, sums up the current school-shooting situation in the U.S. succinctly, and with admiration for the students who are taking a meaningful stand on gun control:

It has been 19 years since Columbine, six years since Sandy Hook, five months since Las Vegas and four months since Sutherland Springs. There have been 438 people shot in 239 school shootings since 20 kids my daughter’s age were cut down in Newtown by the same weapon that took 17 more lives in Parkland last week.

In all that time and after all that blood, the script has not wavered an inch: There is outrage, the National Rifle Association (NRA) digs in and reminds Congress of the fragility of their re-election prospects, and it all goes away until the bodies drop again.

Not this time. This time, there are these youth, who have lived their entire lives deep in the shadow of unchecked gun violence in schools, who have lived their entire lives in a country fighting permanent wars all over the globe, and with the threat of terrorism thrown in their faces on a daily basis. They do not appear to scare easily, and they have mastered the art of social media in a way their chosen adversaries will never know.

They survived a horror in their own school and are taking action to keep it from happening again. They have stout hearts, and will need them, because they have squared off against some of the vilest people this country is capable of producing.

An NBC crew recorded this declaration from one of the student survivors of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting on Feb. 18, addressed to President Donald Trump: “You are in that exact position right now, and you want to look back on our history and blame the Democrats? That’s disgusting,” David Hogg told NBC. “You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us. How dare you? Children are dying, and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please take action. Stop going on vacation in Mar-a-Lago. Take action. Work with Congress.”

Solidarity with the Stoneman Students Quickly Materialized

Students from West Boca Raton High School were the first to react. They gathered in the courtyard of their school for a peaceful protest — 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims — but then someone opened a door and walked out, and others followed. “Everybody started walking,” one student told the local news channel. “It felt like half the school was walking.” As the students walked south on U.S. Highway 441 towards Parkland, 10 miles away, sheriff’s deputies lined the road to control traffic and protect them but did not interfere.

Students from around the country joined forces and forged ahead, convening two marches on Washington to demand congressional action on gun violence, the “National School Walkout” scheduled for March 14 and the “March for Our Lives” on March 24. According to the Huffington Post, two 16-year-old students from the Washington, D.C. area, Whitney Bowen and Eleanor Nuechterlein, founded Teens For Gun Reform just two days after the Parkland shooting.

NRA Financing for Legislators–and the President–Stickies the Wicket

Survivors of the Parkland school shooting have also expressed their disgust with President Trump and the legislators who receive campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. This fact proves to be an extremely tricky one for the politicians to refute. The Washington Post reports that Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the shooting survivors, boldly challenged the politicians accepting NRA financing:

“If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should have never happened and maintain telling us that nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association,” declared Gonzalez, a senior at Douglas. “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you! If you actively do nothing, people will continue to end up dead.”

Florida representative’s aide, Benjamin Kelly, claimed students interviewed by the news, including Emma Gonzalez, were actually actors.

The Solution to Gun Control Seems to Be a Different Kind of War

The American solution for the most varied and unlikely problems is war. They’ve got the war on crime, the war on drugs, on terrorism, on poor nations rich in resources, on their own poor… Now they’ve got a new war, with a new twist, new protagonists and new adversaries. It’s the war on legislators who are on the take–politicians at both state and national levels whose election campaigns are financed in greater or lesser degree by the National Rifle Association, and this war’s protagonists are American high-school students.

“But those campaign contributions are legal,” you protest. Yes, they are legal, because the members of Congress and the state legislatures legalized them themselves, for their own benefit and that of the NRA. But that doesn’t make them decent. As soon as the United States has a decent government that law will be repealed. (But then, as long as the law is in force, how are honest men and women supposed to get elected to office? That’s another problem to be overcome.)

Part 2/3 coming soon


Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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