Friday, February 23, 2018

The Death Lobby

Well - almost a month since my last post. Looks like every post I make this year is going to have a disclaimer at the top lamenting how lazy I have become. I wish I could do better than post every time someone important dies, but that seems to be a pattern as well.

Two people I know died this week - a woman I knew almost entirely online, though we both lived in Boston, and would see each other around once in a while; and a man who was one of my family's closest friends when I was a kid - both are hard to deal with. And Billy Graham died - almost a hundred years old. (The other two both died too young - that's not a fair distribution of years on this earth; they would have made better use of the extra 30-40 years he got.) I can't get too nasty about Rev. Graham - he was a huge part of the cultural landscape where I grew up, the greatest evangelist, the model for all us white protestant evangelicals.... He was presented as a hero, a completely benign figure - and by the time I got old enough not to care about his religion anymore, the next generation of white protestant evangelicals were running rampant, and by god did they make him look good. He never quite embraced the overt fascism of Swaggart and Falwell and Bakker and Robertson, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, the whole disgusting crowd, including his own vile son Franklin, as bad as any of them. But he never quite did anything against them - and he probably went along with most of their political beliefs.He had no guilt about cozying up to the likes of Tricky Dick. Still - treating religion as primarily a matter between you and your god is not going to destroy the republic - he did that, or did it more effectively than the others; there is nothing in Graham's approach that obliges you to take one side or the other politically. You could get converted and actually go do some good in the world, if you were inclined: publicly at least, for most of his career, maybe when he was actually in charge of his career, he made religion a personal decision (if not a private one, exactly.) Behind it all might have been the same neo-confederate viciousness that animated the next bunch of TV preachers (and of course, the love of money), but you could take the meat and throw the bones away, with old Billy.

That's harder to pull off now. The big news in the world these last two weeks has been the latest mass shooting at a school - another horror show, with the usual reactions in the wake... But a twist - this time the survivors of the attack immediately took to the streets and TV camera and their social media accounts to demand gun control. They've been driving the conversation - they are putting the NRA defenders on their heels a bit. Publicly, I guess you could say: Marco Rubio might look like he's about to cry when he's on stage, but we all know he can comfort himself by counting the 0's on his NRA campaign contributions. The subject is a hard one to say anything new about - there's no real mystery about how to address the problem: gun control. The usual sensible, limited responses - ban assault rifles and military gear; longer waiting periods, stronger background checks, closing loopholes for buying guns, imposing more national laws, so you can't buy a gun off the shelf in one state and drive to the next state to gun down some teenagers. And most of this is very popular, and would pass easily, if it were put to a referendum (and everyone voted.) But that isn't the problem - the problem is that the Republicans control the legislature (and presidency, though that's not where this can be solved), and they are on board all the way with the NRA. And well compensated for it.

It's another instance of the failure of democracy in this country - the public supports gun control, like they support public health insurance - but that will never pass. Or - it will not pass until Democrats control the legislatures again. People skirt around the fact, talk bout "politicians" or "congress" as though the reason nothing gets done is that no legislators support gun control - but that is not true. This is a partisan problem. This problem is caused by the Republican party. Democrats would pass something - by the time they were done, it would be watered down and ineffective, but it would be something, it would save couple thousand lives a year, and Republicans would run against it because it didn't go far enough (pure shamelessness is part of their MO) - but it would pass. But nothing will pass with Republican votes.

So vote. Voting is the key. Voting, voting, voting. Voting and money - the other thing that might move the GOP is if you can get at the source of their cash. The NRA is starting to see sponsors withdrawing - if their money starts to dry up, their contributions might - cut off the cash cows and you can see change. we'll see.

Meanwhile - the NRA and their patsies (including the dumfounded dipshit in the white house) run through a bewildering array of bullshit to steer the conversation into a ditch. Arming teachers? I was flipping through channels on TV last night, and on PBS, some lady was explaining how it might work - I didn't stay long enough to see what side she was on, but it doesn't matter. People are discussing arming teachers as a response to classroom shootings - am I hallucinating? Part of it is clearly just meant to muddy the waters - get people arguing about arming teachers, or compare gun control to deporting illegal immigrants or something and the debate disintegrates into nonsense and trivia and nothing happens.... But you also see price tags: 14 million dollars per school district to buy guns? You don't think the gun lobby sees that and starts drooling?

Argument is pointless. There is no reason to argue with people who would suggest something like arming teachers. There is no point arguing with people who whines about kids eating tide pods, so how can they understand gun control? or who equate voting with mass murder (they support background checks for guns, if you'll support stronger ID laws for voting!) Or who think the answer to gun violence in schools is more prayer or banning baggy pants. Or just arguing ith people who claim that gun control is a terrible attack inindividual freedom, so propose turning the country into a police state to protect us from all those unregulated guns. It's madness. Fuck them all.

Right now, I say just ban them. No more guns. If you have to repeal the second amendment to do it, fine with me, it was a bad idea in 1790, and it's completely pointless now - though it also clearly allows for all the gun regulation you need. That's my argument. It's probably not my position - but I'm not making laws, so it's not on me to find something fair and reasonable. I'll do that when there are actual laws being discussed. The NRA works very hard to frame the debate in cultural terms - guns as fetish objects, as a sign of a kind of toxic masculinity mixed with white resentment - fight that.