Before we heard the NRA leadership speak up on Friday it sounded as if they were humbled by the events in Newtown, CT but when they spoke on television in that very odd media event, on the last day in the Mayan calendar, they were not in the least apologetic. Now I understand why guys like to use the phrase “double down” so much because that is exactly what the NRA did. “The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” they said. I am not sure this would past the tests of logic, or that if a Venn drawing were made of this statement, it would be at all accurate. Let me just mention two possibilities that are not considered in this tautology: 1) if the gun was not available in the first place the bad guy would not have the gun, and, 2) If the bad guy happened to be a mentally ill young person mental health intervention might prevent the act of desperation. The media is reminding us that there was an armed guard at Columbine and he was unable to stop the killers.
The NRA recommended a National Shield Program for schools which would place a security guard with a gun in every school. They showed no interest in limiting the kinds of guns available to citizens or limiting the availability of clips containing large numbers of bullets. They insist that we need these guns to keep our government honest and to dissolve our government should it become necessary. That certainly is the intent of the Constitution, although after seeing some of the radical ideas held by some of my fellow Americans I fear that it would be possible for a small minority to cause an inordinate amount of grief if they so chose, and it seems possible that they could so choose at any moment. Our country is a lot bigger than it was when the Constitution was written, with a much larger population and more lethal weapons.
The NRA made a scathing argument against violent video games, music, and movies without so much as one consideration for another Constitutional guarantee which is often cited by those who create these kinds of items, a guarantee known as the Freedom of Speech amendment which is every bit as difficult to like when it is used to protect things we don’t like or which we don’t think are healthy influences in our society.
I do not believe that we are free to harm each other. We hold to the ideals of the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, not just for some. Even in a free society freedom is not absolute. When we own a house we are admonished that we hold it for purposes of quiet enjoyment. We are always asked to be mindful of our neighbors. No one is suggesting banning all guns. Hunters and gun enthusiasts will be able to possess their guns as long as they are responsible and keep their guns safe. Limiting guns that fire large multiples of bullets without reloading seems perfectly reasonable but not when you propose it to a group of people who are anything but reasonable.
The NRA must believe that they alone know how to read the Constitution, that they have a direct line to the forefathers because they defend all gun ownership with belligerent inflexibility. If they need guns to defend themselves in the event that our government turns totalitarian then why not just bury a cache in the backyard and be done with it. Twenty, six and seven year old children died, hundreds of children have been traumatized by witnessing these incomprehensible assassinations.
Who does the NRA remind me of? They remind me of the Republicans who refuse to raise any taxes. By refusing to bend they have a control over the American dialogue about guns which is totalitarian in nature and contrary to the very freedom they say they are trying to protect. The NRA is as extreme and out-of-control as those extremists in the Republican Party and they raise my hackles in exactly the same way. I just can’t listen to them without getting angry because I know that they do not want a dialogue about anything. They just want to have their way. The oxymoron inherent in this authoritarian approach to freedom should be obvious to everyone. And yet, in spite of everything I think I know about the NRA and despite how important I feel it is to end their control of America’s gun discussion, I bet we will find that we cannot budge this group of extremists and that is a sad state of affairs. I hope this impasse will someday be breached.
For almost four years we have listened to the extreme ideas of the modern Republican Party: things like what deadbeats we are if we rely on our own government for any of our support, even Social Security; things like signing a pledge to never raise taxes; things like repealing the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade; and things like planning every move to make sure that our President would not get a second term. They have called Obama Hitler, a Socialist, a liar, and have implied that he was a non citizen, a Muslim, and a possible terrorist. Then they chose Mitt Romney as their candidate. Mitt Romney has been around for quite a while and he has never embraced an ideology that was this radical in the past. This led me to believe that he had been chosen as a figurehead and would have to dance to the tune of the right wing of the Republican Party.
Until that stunning debate last week he continued to espouse the radical ideas of the new right, although sometimes in such garbled form that it became clear that the ideas did not originate with him and that he had not internalized them. He made the kinds of mistakes people make when they memorize a script and then try to ad lib. His remarks about the 47% were terribly insulting to almost half of America, but it seemed that he was not really clear about what he was saying because he explained it in at least two different ways after he said it. At the debate we were all astonished when a much more moderate Mitt Romney showed up. I believe that President Obama was so surprised and perhaps disgusted that he decided that to engage would be senseless.
Who is the real Mitt Romney? My guess is that there is no real Mitt Romney or that he really has no idea what he will do. If he does not get really specific about what tax cuts he will make and what loopholes he will close how can we explore the math? We will have no way to know the effects of his tax plan. Have the Republicans asked him to be deliberately vague? Does he think we won’t notice? No one in the GOP is giving the American people much credit for any intelligence or gumption. I remember Mitt Romney used to say that he isn’t worried about the poor because they are taken care of by government programs. Does anyone else remember this? Does CNN have this on tape? Today he said that he isn’t worried about the wealthy because they can take care of themselves. What are we, the voters, supposed to think? If the wealthy are the 1% and the poor are the 47% then that leaves only 52% to be the 100% of the middle class that Mitt Romney is suddenly passionate to help. I never heard him offer to be so nice to the middle class until, let me see, just last week.
Then there is that other issue that Romney is a “pro-lifer” who wants to defund Planned Parenthood on day one. Yet he assures us that there are no anti-abortion laws currently on the agenda (as far as he knows) that he will need to consider. This is no reassurance whatsoever. We can assume that if there is such a law to consider at any point in his tenure he will sign it. One of my sister’s likens Mitt Romney to a “snake oil salesmen” and I can see that. I see him more like those blobs that float around in a lava lamp. They are fascinating to watch as they shift their blobby shapes, but they are constantly changing and cannot be counted on for anything beyond temporary, mindless entertainment. How can anyone vote for a lava lamp? I know we want a strong President, and I know Mitt Romney seemed that way in the debate, but I don’t think he really will be a strong President. He changes his views too easily. He may sound more moderate now, but I still believe that all Republicans have to dance to the tune of the new right or be very quiet.
Mitt Romney chose his VP running mate today. He picked Darth Vader (Paul Ryan-R-Wis.). I was hoping he wouldn’t go there. Paul Ryan has a prodigious intelligence but so did Darth Vader. After all Darth Vader created the Death Star (with flaw). Mr. Ryan is also to the right of, well, everyone. This backs up once again what Mitt Romney owes to the extremists in the Republican Party. Romney is General “what’s his name”, the guy who does the bidding of Darth Vader. He is abandoned to die in the implosion of the Death Star because he is not a warrior. Mitt Romney should be careful, very careful or he will find himself on the Dark Side of the Force.
Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are quite extreme. He believes our government can no longer afford safety net programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Welfare, Food stamps. He would reform or gradually discontinue such programs. The problem is that the American government belongs to the American people. We chose to spend some of our money on ourselves. We support taking care of the vulnerable members of our society. We can accept reform but we do not expect that every solution to safety net issues will lead to some form of privatization. We do not all have endless (or indeed, any) faith in the altruistic impulses of private businesses. We know they have to tend their bottom line. While this may make such programs profitable and disinclined to fail, we do not expect private companies to adopt any policies, however humane, that do not lead to profit. Any solution that asks us to look to the same businesses that just fled America in droves, or even in the ones that have stayed in America because their customer base is here, is asking us to have very short memories indeed.
We will have to reform our safety net if we cannot afford it. Sending our nation’s budget into bankruptcy is not a goal of any American. However, we need solutions that involve public/private partnerships. We need oversight of business. Protecting vulnerable people in our society is not a free market concern. The programs Americans devise to help themselves through troubled times and through what we hope is a productive and comfortable retirement will not respond well to the “do they boost the bottom line?” test. Remember Paul Ryan/Darth Vader is the man who wanted to hand seniors a government voucher and send them off to private insurance companies. With no public oversight we can expect to lose things like coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and no lifetime cap on coverage.
Mitt Romney shows he is in thrall to the far right. The Tea Party will rule. We can expect punishing budget cuts. We can, in short, expect this team of Mitt and Darth to treat our government as if it is theirs, not ours. We can expect them to behave as if we are the hapless children who have no idea what is good for us and they will be the intelligentsia/patriarchy who step in to set our limits. The economy might recover from being treated in this fashion, but will our Democracy?
This article in the link that follows does a good job of summing up Ryan’s Medicare stance, which thankfully is not as radical as it once was.