New Hope

Without a doubt the recent March For Our Lives in Washington by an estimated crowd of 800,000 teenagers to protest the sale of automatic weapons to the clinically deranged who seem to be targeting schools brings us all hope. The protest is part of the efforts initiated by survivors of the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That movement, which seems be gathering force, is determined to take on the NRA and others who are making a fortune from selling guns to those clinically deranged shooters — and the politicians who refuse to take meaningful steps to stop the carnage.

We must all be hopeful. But at the same time, we need to keep our balance so we don’t find ourselves vacillating between hope and a despair that so often results in cynicism. Think back to the 1960s when the young took on the “establishment” only to later become Yuppies worried about their promised pay raise so they could make the payment on the Volvo. The only real result of that movement was the elimination of history from college curricula — thought to be “irrelevant.” We must remain hopeful about this latest movement, which is clearly becoming a serious player in national politics, while at the same time we maintain our perspective.

The problem with such movements is not at the start. It is in maintaining the momentum when inertia sets in. After the initial enthusiasm (and clearly many of these young people are just along for the ride, having a picnic and drawing attention to themselves) there will come the inevitable let-down. That’s when the real work begins. The fight against powerful opponents like the NRA, the corrupt politicians, and the gun manufacturers who support them will be anything but a picnic: it will take courage, hard work and determination. And, given the typical American’s short attention span, concern about the Cause will have drifted off somewhere else. Once the lights and cameras are no longer looking at these kids themselves many will have lost interest and the few will have to find within themselves the strength and determination to push on and persist.

Because their cause is most just and worthy of success, I do not mean to disparage the effort of those amazing kids, many of whom were witnesses to the terrible events at their high school. But for so many followers it is mere hear-say, stories they have read on their iPads and stories that will soon be replaced by others less compelling but more current. And, as we know, the latest is always the most attention-grabbing. Let’s hope the kids at the core of this movement can continue to hold their ground, maintain their focus and determination to bring about results that will at the very least slow down the freight train of destruction that is clearly our of control — or at least in the control of those whose only objectives are profit and power, which amounts to the same thing.

No one who urges common sense in the insane war against automatic weapons wants to take all guns out the hands of hunters and those who are in need of self-protection. Many have even read the Second Amendment and realize that it was designed to protect the rights of the militia, not the so-called “right” to bear automatic weapons. But the freight train has considerable momentum, and it is powered by seemingly limitless funding and the fear of timid politicians who worry that if they take on the freight train themselves they will lose their well-paying jobs and actually have to find honest work. So the fight will be long and difficult. But these kids certainly have the right idea and it is impossible not to wish them well and hope that their fight is a successful one.

Advertisements

Gridlock

It is common knowledge that the Republicans in the Senate have vowed not to allow President Obama’s nominee for the vacancy in the Supreme Court ever see the light of day. It is also common knowledge that those same Republicans are deep into the pocket of the NRA and recently voted as a group not to pass any laws restricting the use of AK-15s and other weapons of mass destruction. They have bought into the dream of the gun manufacturers, who support the NRA, that every man, woman, and child in this country should be armed against….every other man, woman, and child.

Furthermore, it is widely known that the core of the Republicans in Congress met soon after Barack Obama’s election and vowed not to pass on any legislation the man favored, to adopt what has been called a “scorched-earth” policy of no compromise. But, as has recently been pointed out, this policy goes back further than Obama and those who chalk it up to the determination of a group of racists not to cooperate with a black president may have to rethink their position. It appears it is not racism; it is simply twisted political thinking. As a recent article points out:

The link between the design failures of the presidential system itself and these failures is clear enough. The worse things go for the president, the better the chances for the opposition party to regain power. Cooperating would merely give the president bipartisan cover, making him more popular and benefiting his party as well. Republican leaders have openly acknowledged these incentives. In the Obama era, this has forced the Republican leadership to mount a scorched-earth opposition, demonizing the president as an alien socialist who threatens America’s way of life.
This Republican belief that compromise always helps the White House, at least when it comes to electoral politics, goes back further than the Obama years. It started in force with Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and the Republican reaction to Bill Clinton’s election in 1993, and what they did in the year that followed was a model for how Republicans acted in 2009. The GOP’s midterm victories in 1994, 2010 and 2014 seemed to validate it.

What this means is that the commonsense notion that politics is all about compromise, reaching the decision that works best for everyone — even though it may not be the decision that each individual wants — has been displaced in our era by a group of small-minded men and women whose only goal is to oppose the opposition, to see to it that their party is strengthened and the opposition party rendered weak and helpless. The central notion of the “Common Good” that goes back at least as far as St. Thomas Aquinas, has been preempted in our era by “what’s good for the party is good for me.” The idea is that the political party that one belongs to demands complete loyalty because it is that party — and the money that goes into that party’s coffers — that will determine whether or not I keep my high-paying job. And please note: this is not about party loyalty. It’s about self-interest.

If the Supreme Court must limp along with only eight members for a while, or if more and more people must be killed by weapons designed for modern warfare (and not for killing deer) so be it. What matters now is ME. If I am an elected official my only goal is to remain in office and do whatever it takes to remain there. What is good for my constituency matters not a whit. What matters is what is good for me and for my ability to remain in public office.

The two main players in this sick drama are, of course, the PACs and the lack of term limits in public office. The entire situation could be remedied if the Congress were to address these two issues. But they will not because those two factors are what keep them in office. And professional politicians, which is what we are surrounded by today, know what side their bread is buttered on — if they know nothing else.

All In The Timing

In an interesting story on CNN recently, we are told about President Obama’s preparations for issuing an executive order that would address the issue of gun control:

Washington (CNN)As his administration prepares an executive order tightening access to guns, President Barack Obama met Wednesday with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a proponent of new gun laws who has become the chief enemy of the National Rifle Association.

Obama has met with a series of gun control advocates in recent weeks as his aides complete work on a potential order expected to expand background checks on gun sales by closing the so-called “gun show loophole.”

A timeline on the order — which has been tangled in legal and administrative questions — is still unknown. The President met with former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded during a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, on December 4 to discuss gun control.

But even as he works to tighten access to firearms, a new survey shows dwindling support for an outright ban on assault weapons, which both Obama and Bloomberg have advocated as a means to prevent gun deaths.

Obama is meeting with Bloomberg because New York has fairly tough gun control laws, though, apparently, they have not yet been overly successful. In any event, the comment at the end of the above quote is of most interest. To be sure, there is the question of whether an executive order at this time that is not supported by a Republican Congress could have any effect whatever. But in addition to that issue, there is the question of timing.

Since the recent mass killings in San Bernardino there has been minor hysteria in this country about possible terrorist attacks here at home, hysteria encouraged by some of the loudest and most unconscionable of the Republican candidates for presidential office. The mood has shifted from the 90% of the people who supported some sort of gun controls after Sandy Hook to considerably less at this time. It would appear that many of those who would have supported Obama then are now having second thoughts. Perhaps they think that by buying an automatic weapon themselves they will be safer from terrorism.

Apparently they have not heard about probabilities. The likelihood of another attack like the one in California is extremely low and the likelihood that a family of four, say, would be safer by providing themselves with automatic weapons is even lower: the likelihood that there would be an accident with that weapon and that someone in the family might be shot dead is greater than the probability that there would be any danger from terrorists in the first place. This is not to say that there won’t be any more mass killings. In this country with hysteria the order of the day — encouraged by political candidates like the Trumpet and his ilk — there is every reason to believe there will be more such attacks. My point is that the purchase of weapons will not reduce that likelihood or make us any safer.

But more to the point, Obama missed the boat. He should have gone before the TV cameras with his considerable rhetorical skills and obvious charisma and asked the citizens of this country to flood their Congressmen with requests for stronger gun laws immediately after Sandy Hook — when there was such strong support for such a move. To be sure, with the NRA and its millions of dollars hanging about in the background in Washington any sort of gun laws are extremely unlikely. But at that time, the chances would have been much better than they are now with the thought of terrorism clouding the judgment of so many of our citizens. It’s really a question of timing, isn’t it?

And So It Begins

A recent story about the ripple effect of Elizabeth Warren’s attacks on Big Banks in this country that are making huge profits with the support of the government that bails them out every time they stumble or bumble raises some interesting points. It begins with the following two paragraphs:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Big Wall Street banks are so upset with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, J..P.Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

This gambit is not new, of course, but there are a number of facets to this version that strike the interested reader. To begin with there is the given that the large corporations, including in this case the Big Banks, are throwing money at political candidates on both sides of the political aisle in order to be able to threaten to take it away if they don’t march to the tune the corporations have chosen to play. This is the way the game is played, as the NRA has shown for many years in order to guarantee that Americans continue to buy and use guns in the name of the Second Amendment — which most of those who clutch copies of the Constitution in one hand and an assault weapon in the other have never read and certainly don’t understand. Money talks and large money talks loud. The Koch Brothers have leaped on this train with both feet and threaten to determine its course for the next decade, at least.

But Warren is a woman of courage who now looks like a possible candidate for the highest office in the land so the stakes are very high and the Big Banks have started to plot their strategy. Perhaps you have heard the talk about how she “has it in” for the Banks because they foreclosed on her father’s home when she was a child. As they tell the story, this makes her a nut-case who is just out to get revenge. It implies that the Banks are squeaky clean and have done no wrong. But we know this not to be the case and wait and watch to see what new smear tactic they will employ while they see whether the threat to withhold money from influential Senators will get her off their backs and halt her campaign before it can get off the ground.

It’s dirty politics, or politics as usual if you prefer. And it works. It is especially gnawing to those who have read their history and know how worried the founders were about the influence of Big Money on politics. They knew that allowing money to accrue in the hands of a few would give them immense power: virtually all of the colonies instituted laws to fight against primogeniture. For example, George Washington did not inherit his father’s estate, including Mount Vernon, until his older brother died. And folks like Jefferson regaled the glories of the agrarian ideal, folks on their farms working the land, close to nature, or working at their jobs and maintaining the virtues of their forefathers. Jefferson, in particular, worried that “a rich country cannot long be a free one,” because men and women would be caught up in the making of money and ignore the “common good.” But, for all their concern about the abuses of power, the framers ignored the threat of great wealth when it came to writing the Constitution, sad to say, and we are paying the price. Or, more to the point, good people who want to do the right thing like Elizabeth Warren are paying the price. Hold on to your hats, it’s going to get ugly!

Actions With Consequences

Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado recently signed off on what are described as “tougher” gun control laws. These laws do not address the topic of assault weapons, sad to say, but they do promise stricter background checks on those who want to purchase weapons and they limit the size of the ammunition magazines. This would seem to limit the use of such weapons as the ones used in Newtown, Connecticut not long ago that fired off multiple bullets — as many as two shots per second. In a word, it is possible that the reduced ammunition magazines will also reduce the effectiveness of assault weapons, which are clearly designed to kill people and not put food on the table of a Sunday.  One can only hope. In any event, Colorado now follows New York with its tougher gun control laws and leaps ahead of Washington state and New Mexico both of which recently failed in their attempts to pass such laws. Needless to say, the Federal government is still talking about restrictions and the thinking is that after talking the issue to death they will swing and miss the ball entirely on the issue of gun control. So what else is new?

But what is most interesting in the article I read about the Colorado action was the reaction of the Republicans in that state who pledged to get even. As the article in Yahoo News tells us:

Republicans have warned that voters will punish Hickenlooper and other Democrats who voted in favor of the measures.

“I’m telling you, they have overreached, and there are going to be electoral consequences,” said Republican Sen. Greg Brophy.

And this seems to be the norm. Aside from the fact that several Sheriffs in Colorado have said they will not enforce the Colorado law (which is interesting in itself), those who profess to be protecting the Second Amendment to our Constitution insist that they will make sure those who voted for the new laws in Colorado are voted out of office come the next election. This, of course, is what happened at the Federal level in 1994 when a Democratic Congress under President Clinton passed stricter gun control laws and many of those who supported those laws were summarily defeated in the following elections. The opponents of such laws at that level, again in the name of the Second Amendment (which very few seem to understand if they read it at all) are supported by the NRA which in turn is supported by the gun manufacturers who have a not-so-hidden agenda and limitless funds and who are able to pretty much guarantee that those who support strict gun control in political offices do not hold those offices for very long. What spiteful personalities these important people have and such tiny minds as well. But this is the sword of Damocles they hold over the heads of anyone in public office who has the audacity to support stricter gun control laws — and this is why Colorado is the exception to the rule and why we are not likely to see any laws with teeth come out of the U.S. Congress this time around — or anytime soon.

Much Ado About Nothing

Unless you live in Ecuador and the rains have interrupted your electricity, I’m sure you have read by now the kerfuffle about President Obama’s attitude toward guns. The NRA wants to make hay out of wet grass, but with the money at their disposal — and all the hot air they are able to produce — they are likely to pull it off. Obama made an off-the-cuff remark about how “we” shoot skeet “all the time” at Camp David. Apparently he wanted to make it appear that he is one of the “good old boys” and win over those on the right who have their sights set on him. Big Mistake. He was immediately confronted by Representative, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) who apparently has nothing better to do than to challenge him to a skeet-shooting contest, certain that she would win hands down. And the officials at NRA were indignant as well. He poked the bear.

The story in HuffPost  includes the following comments:

The White House photo released Saturday is dated Aug. 4, 2012. The caption says Obama is shooting clay targets on the range at Camp David. Obama is seen holding a gun against his left shoulder, his left index finger on the trigger and smoke coming from the barrel. He is wearing jeans, a dark blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, sunglasses and earmuffs.

The National Rifle Association, which has rejected Obama’s proposals, scoffed at the photo.

“One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the organization’s spokesman.

White House Photo

White House Photo

Note, please, what is happening here: the NRA is attempting to shift the focus of attention away from the 20 children who were massacred in Newtown, Connecticut, not to mention the 270,000 deaths from guns in this country in the past decade, to the question of whether this President does or does not actually shoot skeet. Important, no? Give me a break. It couldn’t matter less. But it is a clever ploy by a devious group with money in their pockets (and therefore considerable clout in Congress) who are determined not to allow anything more serious than checks on future gun purchases come out of this Congress. The NRA will doubtless see that as a major concession. Given that they are the face of gun manufacturers who want dearly to continue to amass piles of money by continuing uninterrupted the sale of their product to all and sundry, the NRA has no scruples whatever about making a mountain out of a mole-hill. It will continue to divert attention away from the central issue.

Clearly what we have here are smoke and mirrors, a slight of hand designed to make sure we focus on the question of whether this president loves or hates guns rather than the question of whether this Congress will have the courage to do the right thing by the American people and push through meaningful gun control legislation, after which it will, presumably, return to more pressing problems — like global warming. My best guess is that Congress will wimp out….again.

The NRA On Hypocrisy

I get the feeling that this fight is about to get really ugly: the latest in the battle that is ongoing over gun control involves the mean, personal attack the NRA is running that charges the president with “hypocrisy.” Consider the following lead paragraph:

In a sign of how brutal, emotional and deeply personal the coming battle over gun violence is likely to be, the National Rifle Association on Tuesday accused President Barack Obama of hypocrisy for having the Secret Service protect his daughters even as he opposes the NRA’s call for armed guards in schools.

The vitriolic ad also calls Obama “elitist.” This word, of course, is aimed at the blue-collar rifle owners the NRA is keen to convince Obama wants to disarm. It’s a sure-fire “scare” term that is guaranteed to piss someone off. I have even seen it used against the liberal arts, if you can imagine, in an effort to cast aspersions on studies directed at improving the mind but not preparing students for work. It does seem to be effective in that it persuades people — and that’s the object. It appeals to the emotions, not the brain. And the charge that Obama is a hypocrite is also designed to get the knees jerking among the intellectually challenged.

The fact of the matter is that Presidents have always required protection — as do their families — because there are folks out there carrying guns (as permitted) who would just as soon kill them all. And kidnapping members of the President’s family is always a very real possibility. He is in a special, very public, position and it is not hypocritical on the President’s part to want the children of less public folks to be protected against nut-cases who carry assault weapons into schools. And Columbine has shown that having armed guards at the schools is not the answer: it just sells more guns. Obama’s concern is born of what appears to be genuine empathy for the parents of those whose children were massacred in Connecticut.

And, speaking of hypocrisy, those who live in glass houses should be careful about the stones they throw. Congress is opposed to gun control, for the most part, yet they have metal detectors at every entrance to their hallowed halls to make sure a madman doesn’t wander in and start shooting. So if the NRA wants to target hypocrisy (sorry!) they had best start with the folks they sponsor and help get elected to public office — those who toe the mark and do as they are told and who will therefore be able to count on reelection the next time around. And speaking of hypocrisy, it seems just a bit hypocritical for the gun manufacturers who fund the NRA and clearly have the most at stake in this gun control game to pretend they give a tinker’s dam about the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

But I think the most disturbing thing about this fight over gun control is the fear and hatred that are being stirred up by those who have decided to take the gloves off and fight bare knuckles. The level of discourse keeps getting lower and lower. But we now live in an era of fear and suspicion — and personal attacks funded by corporations whose only concern is with profits — where the emotions are carefully played like a fine instrument by people skilled at producing the melodies they want to hear. I think I can hear the orchestra tuning up in the background. Brace yourself!

New York: YES!

While the Congress of the United States prepares for what the NRA calls “the battle of the century” over gun control, the legislatures in the “blue” states try to do the right thing on their own. The “red” states, of course, are passing bills to allow teachers to carry guns to class with them, but the blue states are taking the high road. New York recently passed a tough gun control bill as the following article attests:

New York (CNN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo beefed up New York’s gun-control laws on Tuesday by signing into law a new package of firearm and mental health regulations that mark the nation’s first since last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cuomo, a self-described gun owner, said the December 14 tragedy spurred lawmakers to action and called it a “common sense” measure before enacting what are widely seen as America’s toughest gun laws.

“You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and common sense,” he said before inking the deal in Albany.

There are two things about this signing that I find particularly interesting. For one, Cuomo is a gun owner and yet he sees the wisdom in taking a restrained approach to gun purchase. After all, gun control is about control, not elimination. The bloat and rhetoric that comes from the political right on this issue is positively galling, especially the NRA’s most recent personal attack against the President and any who would have the audacity to try to interfere with our “Second Amendment rights.” I have never heard anyone talk about taking guns away from people — especially hunting and target weapons. The movement here is to eliminate the purchase of weapons of mass destruction, if you will, assault weapons that fire off hundreds of rounds a minute and are designed to kill people, not deer or pheasants.

The second interesting thing is that Cuomo’s appeal is to “intelligence and common sense,” and he is spot on. There is so much heat and so little light in the “debate” over tougher gun control it is refreshing to read that a group has sat down and put together a bill that is designed to introduce sanity into a situation that borders on the insane. Clearly gun control will not solve the problem of violence in this country, but it is a necessary first step.

As you may have read, while Cuomo was signing this bill conspiracy theorists were harassing good Samaritans in Connecticut whose hearts went out to the children who survived the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut as we are told in the following story:

A man who found six children in his driveway in Newtown, Conn., after their teacher had been shot and killed in last month’s school massacre has become the target of conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were staged.

One wonders what makes people like this tick when they write hate notes and repeatedly phone and then hang up on a 69 year-old retired man whose crime was that he reached out to help a group of youngsters who were traumatized by the shooting in their school. The very idea that the shooting itself was somehow “staged” in order to allow the government to take steps to restrict future purchase of assault weapons is over the edge and would require Freud working together with Adler and Jung to figure out how on earth those minds came so badly unhinged. One can only hope that the number of these nutters is very small and is dwarfed by the numbers of people whose hearts went out to those children and their families. I expect that is the case.

In any event, despite the fact that the Congress seems unable to enact legislation that would offend the NRA, states like New York have shown how it could be done. It won’t be nearly as effective as a Federal policy, but it is a step in the right direction.

No Surprise Here

It appears as though Congress is getting cold feet on the gun control issue. Pro-gun advocates in Washington were positively gloating on the talk shows on Sunday as they predicted that the Congress will come up empty on the issue of stricter gun laws– with the possible exception of more thorough background checks on prospective buyers of guns in the future. Even the relatively innocuous issue of high-capacity cartridge magazines seems doomed to be bypassed. As a recent Yahoo News story relates

Nearly a month after the massacre of 27 people in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers on Capitol Hill are dialing back expectations on what Congress can – or should – do on its own to curb gun violence.

After initial expressions of outrage, lawmakers and the White House are getting down to counting votes on what can actually be achieved on Capitol Hill, where limits on gun rights have has been a taboo for more than a decade.

What has happened is that the memories of the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut have faded and the muscle of the NRA, which brags 100,000 brand spanking new members, has grown. Consequently the Congress has decided in its wisdom that, barring an executive order (which seems doubtful), things had better stay pretty much as they are. Even Vice President Joe Biden’s recent recommendations to lawmakers which are said to leave out of consideration the dreaded assault weapons will be weakened even further. And this despite the fact that the President recently proclaimed that no weapons should be left out of consideration.

The real problem here, of course, is that Congress really doesn’t worry about doing the right thing any more — if they ever did. They worry about re-election and they recall the gun legislation of 1994 after which the Democrats who supported that legislation were voted out of office as the Republicans assumed the majority; later Al Gore was defeated in his attempt to win the White House — with many thanks to the power of the NRA that went after the dirty Democrats for having the audacity to vote for stricter gun laws. This Congress has apparently decided — if the votes have been counted correctly — not to make the same mistake twice.

As the economist Joseph Schumpeter noted long ago, what it really comes down to is that we are dealing with professional politicians whose only concern is with winning votes and staying in office. They aren’t any good at doing much else and they know they have a good thing going in a job that requires no positive results. It’s all about self-interest: the hell with the “common good”; it’s a dated notion anyway. I am sure I am not the only one who has received phone calls requesting money for a Senator who will run again in two years. Two Years, for goodness sake!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not in a position to question the courage of members of this Congress. I am scared to death of one gun, much less 5 million of them — which the NRA boasts is its membership. In any event, the Congress will make the prudent choice and veer away from the moral high ground once again as the memories of the dead children in Sandy Hook School fade and the fat-cats who manufacture guns and support the NRA sit and gloat while their membership grows, their profits rise, and fearful people buy more of their weapons while they continue to threaten recalcitrant politicians with removal from office. It’s called “real-life politics, circa 2013” and it stinks.

Guns And Violence

It appears that in the fight against insane violence in this country V.P. Joe Biden will not even attempt to suggest the restriction of the sale of so-called assault weapons even though, according to HuffPost, “The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option.” The results of Biden’s discussions with various groups interested in promoting or defeating tighter gun legislation will lack that one rather important item as the following news item attests:

Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will recommend new gun control measures to President Barack Obama, which include more comprehensive background checks on gun buyers and limits on the sizes of ammunition magazines. The proposal could lead to the most significant move on guns in 20 years, but one regulation highly coveted by gun control advocates was notably missing: a ban on assault weapons.

Apparently Biden and his group have decided that such an attempt would be an exercise in futility. The sale of such weapons has grown exponentially since the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and the Vice President seems to be retreating from one rather important feature of any viable gun control legislation because it would simply mean spitting into the wind. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, the NRA announced recently that their membership has grown by 100,000 members since the Newtown shootings. As a result the NRA has been flexing its considerable muscle — and has apparently done so effectively.

So unless the president effectively intervenes, the final results of these recommendations by Joe Biden’s group, assuming that there will be some sort of legislation forthcoming, will not really move this country in the direction of sanity; we will remain an armed camp waiting for the slightest excuse to pull the trigger and take out someone we regard as particularly nasty. This does not bode well. We might do well to reflect on the nature of violence.

I can think of no one better to think with on this topic than Hannah Arendt who wrote a book on the subject in the late 60s because she saw that this country was headed in the direction of increasing violence and she sought to understand why and whether or not something could be done to prevent it. She concluded that, contrary to widespread opinion at the time, violence is the result of a sense of powerlessness. When a person or a group begins to feel it is losing power it resorts to violence. The solution, as she saw it, is for groups to take action, to become more involved. This is an interesting notion and one worth pondering.

It is decidedly the case that an increasing number of people in this country feel this sense of powerlessness and disinterest. As the country grows more populous, problems loom larger and solutions farther away, debt becomes an increasing fact of life, and the government depressingly inept, the citizens of this country do indeed have grounds for feeling powerless: what is a person to do? How do we get out of the bind we are in? These questions start to press in on every side. Couple this with the fact that we see violence all around us and the message we get from TV and the movies is that the way to solve problems is to pull out a gun and shoot someone and it would seem probable that violence is a likely alternative for a growing numbers of people.

Thus, it would seem, this nation is increasingly becoming an armed camp that finds violence an acceptable alternative. The government might choose to increase citizen involvement in governance and deal directly with the problems that face the majority of people on Main Street in order to reduce the sense of powerlessness. This would accord with Arendt’s suggestion. But that seems unlikely. We can expect, then, that violence will increase rather than decrease — especially in light of the fact that whatever laws might result from this government’s feeble attempts to halt the sales of violent weapons will fall far short of where any sane person would want them to fall.

At a time when we should be thinking of the sternest possible steps to curb violence it seems we are to be handed a band-aid. Unless the president can persuade a reluctant Congress to do the right thing we are in for more rough times. Hold on to your hats!.