Gun Violence Insomnia Blues
Publisher: michaelsalamone
Date: 2018-02-15T07:29:42-05:00

Photo by Walker, Harry [photographer] (1894–1971) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Possibly, like you, I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night, because I couldn’t wrap my head around the terrorist act in an American school, let alone that we seem to be averaging two of these mass shootings a week so far this year.

Don’t worry, like you, I haven’t come up with any answers. This missive isn’t intended as a lecture. I’m going to walk you through my thought process. When I have lots of questions, I like to poke holes in the answers I hear or read from so-called experts. If not for anything else, it helps me discern my own views on issues in a clearer, more thoughtful way. It also helps me cut through the bullshit our corporate media and corporate- and lobby-owned politicians clutter the American conversation with.

Once again we’re having the “thoughts and prayers” argument. First off, this is America. I know we can’t, but if there is one thing we SHOULD all agree on, it is that another person’s belief system is their right. Sure, if wishes could change the world, it would be a far different world, every few seconds actually, but people are allowed to meditate and pray. For people who believe in a Christian-Judaeo God, I just want to wrap up this section by reminding you that your God gave you free will. Prayer is a conversation. You can ask for guidance, but the work is on you. You have free will.

The right-wing talking point du jour seems to be that it’s not access to guns, it’s mental illness that makes America so prone to these types of terrorist attacks. Except, the right-wing won’t call them terrorist attacks, because they’re mostly white, male shooters with a history of domestic violence. They don’t want to alienate the base. Sorry, that was cruel, just like blaming mental health is cruel. Especially when neither political party is stepping up to supply Americans with the same right to single-payer health care that every other developed nation on Earth enjoys. A true conservative would want a more cost-effective healthcare system that gives everyone equal access to pull themselves up by their bootstraps with, instead of funding insurance mafias while children die, but that’s an argument for another day.

One in five Americans suffers from mental health issues. Be thankful that this right-wing talking point couldn’t possibly be true, because we’re unsafe enough already. In fact, people who suffer from mental health issues are more prone to be victims of violence or abuse. I don’t think we need to start putting them on some government list so the NRA can live to see another day.

NRA funding of Republicans seems to be the Democrat’s talking point, and while I do think that’s quite fair, I also can’t think of one piece of legislation the Democrats have offered on this issue either. Still, when you consider that the NRA throws many millions of dollars at GOP Congressional and Senate candidates, and over $30 million at the Trump campaign, you have to agree that our campaign finance laws are creepy and anti-democratic. The problem for the Democrats is, they’re rolling around with big money donors and not trying to fix that problem either. In fact, blaming campaign finance for gun terrorism is a great example of what our modern day Democratic Party does best: they point blame with one hand, and sit on the other, never affecting change. The Democratic Party is no longer in the business of governing. They don’t even seem to care they’ve lost thousands of seats in these recent years, as long as the checks keep rolling in from big donors. They’re just the foil in the American soap opera so empathetic people can blame the big, mean GOP for executing those donors’ will.

No one can argue against the point that gun violence in America is an epidemic. Suicide is on the rise in America as well. In fact, American life expectancy is on the DECLINE for the first time in decades, and that’s attributed to our high suicide rate as well as addiction to drugs and alcohol. Clearly, Americans are unhappy. We’re underpaid, underemployed, under-educated and struggling. People snap when under too much pressure. But a majority of us don’t shoot anybody, so that’s not the only problem either. Still, America’s sub-standard of living, in comparison to other developed countries with higher living wages, state-funded college and healthcare, and full employment, can’t be entirely overlooked either.

In tragedies like these, everyone searches for someone and something to blame. When they keep reoccurring, we look for something systematic. There’s nothing wrong with that. Clearly, I can’t find fault with my fellow non-partisans who are blaming inaction on gun issues by Congress. However, I do wonder what that legislation would look like. We use broad terms like “gun control,” but rarely talk specifics. While specifics like banning assault weapons and limiting how many magazines of ammunition a person can purchase may have helped in this specific case, it wouldn’t have any effect on the many mass shootings that take place with illegally purchased firearms, sniper rifles, or lots of other scenarios.

Social media has shown me many posts from people of color and far-leftists saying they can’t support banning guns in general because they’re often the target of government abuse, which is exactly what the second amendment’s purpose is. While that tugs at my heart-strings, and I wish people could defend themselves from tyranny, I just think we’re past that point. Through all our conversations on police shootings, we still haven’t demilitarized the police, and the American military is bigger than the next ten combined. My local police force has an army, an air force, and a navy. We know all too well that the government is spying on us, recording every conversation and tracking our movements. No matter how well armed you are, if the police or government come for you, you’re only buying yourself a little time before they murder you, and for what? You get to go out being a murderer too? That’s not attractive to me. Having the right to bear arms means nothing but more violence when you live in a police state.

So, where does that leave us? Per usual, America is in need of many, broad reforms. This is where centrists step up with their over-recited talking point: “That’s too hard. It will never happen. Why bother.”

Except for their apathy, they’re correct. In our current American political system, held hostage by two parties, a duopoly, serving the same corporate, banking and lobbyist interests, change isn’t going to happen. If the oligarchs decide the common citizen can’t have guns anymore, that’s what will happen. For that reason, I have to point the blame squarely at campaign finance laws. Until we overturn Citizens United and get money out of politics for good, we can’t address any of the other big issues. The terrorists are winning.

I’m a broken record on this point, but when polled on the issues, a majority of Americans agree on a majority of these big issues. That includes meaningful gun control as well as every other issue I name-dropped in this missive. The issue we agree most on is campaign finance reform, with 84% of Americans wanting it in some polls. If we start there, we can start electing candidates who will do the work of the people, not the money machines. Until then, all of these other arguments are moot, and nothing but filler for CNN to sell advertising around. Nothing is going to get done without massive campaign finance reform. Terrorist attacks like Wednesday’s school shooting are here to stay, unless we change American politics, or the oligarchs take all of the guns away, in my humble opinion.