Are You Liberal, or Conservative?
I think a couple of stories this week will make some people's heads explode. "Confound it, Randy! Are you a heartless Glenn Beck conservative, or a bleeding heart Barney Frank liberal?!"
Weekly Weird News
Yeah, well, I'm just not going to fit into one little box.
Here are the stories, from True's 6 November 2011 issue. First, the "Randy must be a conservative!" story:
The Truth Hurts
After his deputies arrested a man on attempted rape charges, Spartanburg County (S.C.) Sheriff Chuck Wright called a press conference to announce, "Our form of justice is not making it." Walter Lance, 46, he said, had been arrested more than 20 times before. "We had 20 opportunities to make sure this guy didn't rape anybody and we failed to do it," the sheriff said. "I'm tired of looking at victims saying, 'There's life after this'. I'm tired of saying, 'We're sorry, we can't keep them in jail.'" So he gave citizens some advice: "I want you to get a concealed weapons permit. Don't get Mace. Get a firearm." Wright says "It's too bad someone with a concealed weapons permit didn't walk by" when the woman was being attacked. "That would fix it." But Wright doesn't think everyone should be armed. "I don't think some people should be able to procreate," he said, "much less have a weapon." (RC/WFYY-TV) ...In time, we'll have to have a permit for that, too.
Ah, but then (in the very same issue!) there's the "Randy must be a liberal!" story:
Completely Prohibited -- Unless
Matt Epling was incessantly bullied at MacDonald Middle School in East Lansing, Mich. His last day of eighth grade was the final straw: he was given a "Welcome to High School" beating. School officials did little, so his parents decided to go to the police. But fearing retribution from his bullies, Epling killed himself rather than tell the police what happened. In the nine years since, the state's Republican lawmakers would not let an anti-bullying law through, saying it would create a "protected class" of citizens: gays. Michigan is one of only three states without an anti-bullying law; meanwhile, "at least 10" more bullied students have committed suicide in the state. So this year, "Matt's Safe School Law" was finally put to vote in the Michigan Senate. According to the proposed law put forth by Republicans, torment is not bullying if "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" is behind the bully's actions. The law specifically addresses "cyber bullying" -- but only if the bully uses "a device owned or under the control of a school district" -- not a student's own cell phone. Also, Republicans would only support the bill if it didn't require schools to report bullying, didn't have provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold school officials accountable for failing to act. With that, the bill passed -- 26 Republican votes in favor vs. 11 Democrats opposed. (RC/Detroit Free Press, Time) ...So if it's signed by the Republican governor, Michigan will still be one of three states without an anti-bullying law.
So I'm a Republican? Or a Democrat? I'm neither; I'm a staunch independent, which is a huge political force in the United States. According an October poll, About 34.3 percent of Americans are Republican (conservative), and 33.1 percent are Democrats (liberal). That leaves about the same percentage -- 32.6 -- as "neither one, thank you." And how many are one or the other because their parents or spouse were (or were opposite)? Plenty of Democrats vote Republican "sometimes", and vice-versa, so I believe the "true independent" share to be much larger -- larger than either party. We are sick of the "us vs them" mentality of politics. The "us" is the entire country, dammit!
(There are of course some minor parties mixed in that 32.6 percent, from Libertarians to Greens to whackjobs like the American Nazi Party, but the vast majority are independents. Like most independents I think for myself based on the issue at hand, not based on what some party hack thinks ought to be in their platform, sometimes only because the other party thinks the opposite -- "us vs. them".)
Let's Talk About the Stories
But enough preliminaries, let's talk about the stories. Bullying first. Seriously, this is the conservative response to kids being tormented to the point of killing themselves? "Better dead than red" updated to the 21st Century equivalent, "Better dead than pink"? Really? Hey, no matter that some of the kids are simply confused, and they're trying to understand their feelings (driven by surging hormones: surely you remember that phase!) That happens whether you're gay or straight. I don't know if Matt Epling was straight, gay, or thought he "might be" straight or gay. And I don't care: it's none of my business. But the fact is, he's not an aberration, considering there's more than one teen suicide from bullying alone, in Michigan alone, per year. And that piece of garbage legislation is what conservatives, who like to tout how much more "moral" they are than others, think is a solution? Really? Can anyone defend that? "Eh, so what that it will take another five or 10 years to get something through that actually addresses the problem. What's five or 10 or 20 more dead kids? Hell: they probably wouldn't vote Republican when they reach 18 anyway! Guffaw guffaw guffaw." That's not governance, that's disgusting.
That doesn't mean that none of conservatives' concerns are valid, by the way. This is the country where "Freedom of Religion" is enshrined in our basic rights, after all. Any law that defines "hate crime" should certainly cover Christians as equally as Muslims, and cover whites as equally as blacks. If a group of white skinheads beat up someone solely because they're black, or Jewish, yeah, that's a hate crime. Same as if it's only because he's white, or Christian -- or gay. Does anyone really see it any other way? (I would, in fact, like to hear some reasonable and thoughtful contrary arguments; Comments are open below.)
So while this may be considered a "liberal issue," I don't see it that way: I see it as basic humanity. I adopt it not because Democrats are for it, but because it makes sense. Just like the gun story.
Guns? Are you Crazy?
Ah, the gun story. As much as liberals liked the bullying story and right on'ed the tagline there, conservatives surely loved the gun story. A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay attempting to explain "why" Americans "like" guns. I won't repeat that here, but I'm getting a little more firm as time goes by that the South Carolina sheriff is right. The "liberal" solution seems to be "call the police". When is the last time you did call the police? How long did it take them to arrive, even in an all-out emergency? Would you want your wife or mother or daughter to wait that long (assuming they even could call the police) if they were targeted by a rapist?
If you've been reading True for some time, you know that I'm pretty involved in what's loosely grouped into "Emergency Services". I was a sheriff's deputy in California; I was an advanced life support medic there too. (And I'm a medic again, here in Colorado, as well as a volunteer for the local sheriff's office.) With my radio communications background, I am their go-to guy for all radio stuff -- they can't afford to actually pay anyone to do it. And yes, I harp on the local cops that they need to learn how to use their radios correctly, because "when it comes to saving your life, your radio is more important than your gun." (Yep: I've said that to their faces. They still don't want "radio classes". They are required by law to shoot regularly, though, to "qualify" to carry a weapon.)
Anyway, we have our local radio channels going 24x7. I listen in my office, and there's a county radio in the room next to our bedroom. I know how long it takes to get cops somewhere when there's an emergency. Our county is 542 square miles. On weekdays, there are typically two sheriff deputies on duty; nights and weekends, one. There are limits to how fast someone can drive on mostly dirt roads. A typical run for me on an ambulance call is 10 minutes, but I've rolled for as long as 30, just to get there and start assessing what's up.
Get the picture? So... do I have a gun? You're damned right I do! I know I'm on my own in an emergency, and likely for quite awhile. For a cop to get to my house at any random time, I know for a fact that it will average more than 20 minutes. How many people can a maniac kill in 20 minutes? Ask the two kids who went into Columbine School in 1999 (13 dead, 21 injured), or the single gunman at Luby's Cafeteria in Texas in 1991 (23 dead, 20 wounded), or the McDonald's in Southern California in 1984 (22 dead, 19 wounded), or Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead, 25 wounded). And it's not just in the U.S.: one guy took out "at least" 85 people in the recent youth camp massacre in Norway according to the BBC report I read (plus 66 wounded).
What if one of those victims could have shot back, early on? How many lives would have been saved? I can tell you this: if you were trying to protect your children in one of those situations, you'd be praying for a gun. Not Mace, not pepper spray, a firearm. And you know it.
I know the "liberal" response is two-fold: 1) let "everyone" carry guns and there will be bloodbaths as citizens shoot it out in the streets, and 2) there will be accidents and innocent children will die. (OK, some adults too.) My response: 1) our openly-gun-carrying police officers don't engage in bloodbaths on the streets every day, do they? They're not better at it, either -- they're worse: studies show civilians are MUCH more likely to shoot actual criminal perpetrators (vs innocent bystanders) in shooting incidents than the police. Plus, crime has gone down in states with a "must-issue" (a concealed carry permit) law, not up. And 2) Have you gotten rid of your car, which kills a lot more children (and adults) every year than guns? Why not?
I'm not at all saying that "everyone" should carry a gun. There are rational reasons not to. When I told a good local buddy I was getting one, he said he never would. It's not because he's a liberal (and he is), but rather because he's bipolar, and if it was "right there" he could well be tempted to shoot himself when he was down. Pretty rational decision, isn't it? He figures the odds of him shooting himself are greater than the odds he'll need a gun to protect himself, so the decision is "don't get one." Who wouldn't respect that?! Yet, there is plenty of disrespect for people who do choose to get one. "What, are you paranoid or something?" No, I'm realistic. The odds of our house being a target -- of criminals or other predators, such as bears -- is high enough that I made the decision to have one handy. Just like I have several fire extinguishers handy. I'm not "paranoid" of fires, either, but it's pretty cheap insurance to have some extinguishers around "just in case."
In addition to my friend, who rationally decided not to get a gun, there are plenty of people who should not be allowed to have one, even if they want one. The mentally ill, criminals, and more. We already have those laws in place, and I favor their use. I'm in favor of "enhanced" sentences for using guns criminally; I'm in favor of enhanced sentences for those who use knives or other weapons criminally, too.
So yeah, those folks are out. For others, why not? If you were honest enough to admit you'd want a gun to protect your children in a horrible situation like those I mentioned, can you honestly say it's OK for you, but not for other honest, law-abiding citizens like you? And let's stipulate "if properly trained," of course.
Yes, even though I was an openly-gun-carrying police officer in California, when I decided to buy a gun again I didn't just say "Heck: I'm already trained!" No, I went and took a class from an expert, starting over from scratch. I asked my wife to come too (and she did). Rather than take the minimum, we went for a multi-day class that included classroom and range instruction. Sure enough, I learned (or relearned) a lot. I think it's important to get that teaching, just as it's important to be taught to drive a car: both guns and cars can be lethal weapons.
What's the bottom line here? In "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (the "unalienable Rights" proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence), "life" comes first -- the first "right" that Americans claimed were "endowed by [our] Creator". The ability to defend one's life from violence is basic to that. Guns equalize even the weak against the strong predators (human or otherwise) that would attack us. Anything else is, literally, a case of you condemning thousands of people to death each year.
What Do You Think?
Still, in the face of all of this, I'd like to hear "reasonable and thoughtful contrary arguments" to this, too. If you disagree to either of my explorations above, you have a choice: whine or scream and stomp away (which means you have no reasonable or thoughtful contrary arguments to post), or stand up for what you think, just as I just did. Because I wrote this knowing that it would piss off both liberals and conservatives -- I know that not everyone will take up my call to think about these issues, and discuss them; plenty will, indeed, whine or scream and stomp away, even though they will have to admit, at least to themselves, that they have no reasonable or thoughtful contrary arguments to post.
We can't expect our politicians to come to a consensus and compromise if we won't do so first on these basic issues. Please do read the comments posted so far; consider the arguments made, pro and con. It's time to discuss these basic issues and come to greater understanding.
Update: Reader Reaction
There are now more than 100 quite thoughtful comments on this entry. Time for a brief summary from that crop.
From the Right
From the Left
You have rational reasons that the equation doesn't come out to having a gun. That's fine! I'd never try to convince you otherwise. I'm just glad you had the chance to make the decision in the way you wanted; it was not dictated to you. That, of course, is the point, rather that what you decide is right for you.
While I didn't emphasize it much, I did start with disgust in the polarization of politics, which does indeed shove each party into extreme positions. We definitely do need rational discussion -- just as you've provided here -- rather than extremism. Thanks for the example of how it's done.
From the Middle
With few exceptions (e.g., Zero Tolerance), my goal isn't to convince anyone of a particular side of a particular issue. Rather, I'm interested in getting people to think about issues rationally, rather than emotionally (e.g., "EEK! Guns KILL people!!"), to understand the implications of the issue. That makes better citizens, and better voters. Because we for damn sure deserve better politicians, and I can think of only one way to get them!
From Outside the U.S.
The page you link to is very short, and worth a look. I wouldn't send my kid to either house until I had met the parents and evaluated how responsible they are. But yes, that page is eye-opening.
On the Other Hand, the Unsubscribes
As expected, quite a few people stormed off in a huff. They're partisan; they not only hate the other side, they can't stand it that there are non-partisans in the world. A few of their parting shots:
Straight up and down isn't a "slant". You'd know this if you weren't so slanted.
What a paranoid position! And poor, poor Glenn Beck -- but screw Barney Frank! Who gives a shit about the other side! Yes, because I "bash" him similarly, I must on his side, not Beck's! That's an example of thinking? Yet, I have on hundreds of occasions bashed non-thinking on the left, because -- again! -- I bash stupidity regardless of party affiliation, as you've seen in more than a year of reading True.
"Anti GOP"? In your more than a year as a reader, you've seen that I'm not. I'm anti-idiot, whether the idiot is in the GOP or not.
Politics is part of life -- unfortunately. So is sex, crime, and death. And when someone does something truly stupid, it gets covered in True -- though there's rarely any "pushing".
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