Enough.

The NRA has made the anniversary of Newtown “Guns Save Lives Day,” with the same amount of tact and sensitivity as the Westboro Baptist Church.

newtownI dropped my children off in front of their elementary school last December 14th, taking notice of two security guards in bright red jackets. “You’re bringing in the big guns,” I said at the time to Mrs. C, the school aid whose job it was in the morning was to make sure parents pulled their minivans all the way through the circular driveway of the school so that traffic didn’t build up in the road. Parents rarely acknowledged her; mostly they slowed their cars to a grinding halt wherever they found it convenient, long enough for their Aidens and Isabellas to jump out in front of the crosswalk and run into the school. The sound of Mrs. C. yelling at the parents and chastising the children not to run was the music of our mornings. But that day, she had backup.

It wouldn’t be until later that afternoon when I would realize how prescient and ironic my “big guns” comment was. By then, twenty children in Sandy Hook elementary would be mowed down by rifle fire.

But my own kindergarten and second graders would be safe.

It is now a full year later. A year where we saw the opportunity for gun legislation reform squandered; a year in which we saw more mass homicides at the hands of gunmen; a year where we witnessed the NRA taking control of the national conversation and steering it away from the protection of children, inviting hysteria not to the fact that we have twenty-times more gun deaths in the United States than any other developed country in the world, but fear that President Obama is trying to usurp our second amendment rights. The NRA has made the anniversary of Newtown “Guns Save Lives Day,” with the same amount of tact and sensitivity as the Westboro Baptist Church.

With the exception of those we laid to rest since last December, we are  a year older now. My daughter, who was five last year, is now the same age as the children buried by devastated parents, while a sorrowful nation watched, holding a bit tighter to our own kids. We opined this year, in editorials and blogs. Mommies marched in Washington, politicians made great speeches. Governor Cuomo passed legislation restricting the amount of bullets a magazine could hold to seven, but later rescinded, as it proved impractical.

A national registry was never born, as it infringed on the rights of gun owners. In a year where NSA revelations showed us that nothing we say, text, or type is entitled to privacy, gun owners retained theirs.  In a year when we vowed to leave no stone unturned in an effort to make this country a safe place for children to go school and for parents to drop their little ones off without their hearts in their throats, we saw roughly 33,273 gun deaths.

In a country that has only grown in gun violence, politicians steer clear of any language suggesting that gun confiscation could have any relevance to the national conversation. We can argue about the reasons why gun culture is so pervasive in the US – whether video games inspire violence or whether violence in our movies, games, and art is simply a reflection of the reality of our lives; whether near-constant war inspires a battle-mentality on the home front; or whether our laws are too little or too weakly enforced  – but what remains is that we have become so desensitized to gun violence that we buried twenty 6 year olds without making one significant change.  The NRA and their supporters have only grown stauncher, more inspired, and more audacious.

Policy- and lawmakers don’t want to rock the boat by asking for an infringement on second amendment rights. And while we waste more time trying to fit the outdated usefulness and rhetoric of that amendment, people die. While gun supporters terrorize their audience into believing that only bullets will protect them from both criminals breaking into their homes and into the executive office, we stand on the sidelines and watch how the Tea Party has co-opted the Republican Party and steered our government to a grinding halt. We have seen districts get redrawn; voters become alienated from the voting process, and trust in democracy diminishes. We’ve already experienced a government takeover. And guns didn’t protect us.

This afternoon, Colorado witnesses yet another school shooting.

It seems to me that the time for tact has vanished along with the wasted time for opportunity. The boat cannot be unrocked.

The masses are the big guns of a democracy. It’s time to bring them out – and to say: We’ve had enough.

America’s Exception to the Rule

What separates us from the third world and from the tyrants that run that world is not that we have weapons of mass destruction and that we are prepared to deploy them, but rather the opposite. We’re exceptional not for military might but for our restraint.

obama/putinKnow what’s funny? The conservative protest against a peaceful solution to the Syria conflict is absolutely consistent with the commonplace bloodlust of the party of “life.” And by funny, I mean disheartening. But I will give them this: unlike the flippity-floppity liberals, at least they have consistency on their side. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, the right come out en mass against gun control.

Let’s take a look at some of Obama’s changing positions. First, he says he won’t get involved unless they cross his self-imposed red line of use of chemical weaponry. Check. Then, he actually wants that threat to have teeth. He follows up like he said he would. And his position is this: unless Syria is willing to give up their chemical weapons, we’re going to start killing some people up in here. And then they agree. And Obama has the wherewithal nerve to agree. Punk.

The idea that John Kerry made a blustering mistake that “accidentally” led to a peaceful resolution is disingenuous. Say what you will about Kerry, ketchup, motorcycling photo ops with Assad, the man has put his time in. They don’t misspeak at that level, not with war at stake.

And to say that Obama was played for a fool by Putin says more about the “patriotic” right than it does about Obama’s intelligence level, which has never, through two elections and a near-constant six-year litany of insults, ever been called into question. But that’s okay. We need opposition to hold our leaders accountable. We need to question the motivations of our politicians, and we need to speak up when those questions meet with unsatisfactory answers. That’s the duty of the electorate.

In his Op-ed in the New York Times, Putin disparaged the United States in general and Barack Obama in particular for considering this country “exceptional.”  He asserted that this kind of attitude is dangerous and while it may seem unpatriotic to agree, I see his point. This kind of untouchable mindset, the kind that wallows in superiority, is a breeding ground for ignorance, which could be very dangerous indeed. And yet, America is exceptional. We are a country born of conflict and debate, and have built into our founding documents the elasticity to grow in fits and spurts. We foster disagreement here.  We might not like what people say about us. There is no way that Putin’s words appearing in a mainstream newspaper didn’t irk the shit out of a big portion of our populace. But find me a pissed off citizen who doesn’t equally believe in his right to say it. That’s our exception. It’s what makes us different.

What Putin actually meant, by throwing Obama’s words and those of the preamble back into our faces, is the word “superior.”  But that’s really beside the point, isn’t it? And the fact that Putin is wrong about us, doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is right. If you take a look at the people of Walmart, it’s hard to make a case for the hierarchy and evolution of humanity with America at the top of that food chain. But let’s take a look at Congress. They don’t make it easy either  – yet what separates us from the third world and from the tyrants that run that world is not that we have weapons of mass destruction and that we are prepared to deploy them, but rather the opposite. We’re exceptional not for military might but for our restraint. Putin said, “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.”  We can take this not as fact – commonplace? Really? But as food for thought. The times where the US has lived up to its place in the world have been when our leaders were thoughtful and analytical where others have been knee-jerk reactors. And this mindset carries down from a Constitution that promises thoughtful action into our legal system which tries to enforce that view.

Barack Obama has the dual obligation to be commander-in-chief and also to uphold and protect the Constitution. These should not be in conflict but as of late, they often are. Let’s take a look at the credo of United States to which Putin refers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This was a credo born in revolution, asserting that we, the underlings of the modern-day world, had the same inborn rights as those abroad. It was the cry of the vulnerable to the strong. The fact that we have risen up as one of the world’s superpowers absolutely suggests that we have a responsibility within that world. As we are now one of the biggest, that very credo allows that we need to offer our help to those in the position from whence we came: vulnerable, small, and un-equal. Exceptional, but not in a good way.

On a micro-scale, this is the way we need to address the growing problem of gun violence in this country. If the victims are the little guys, the gun manufacturers are the tyrants. And the inherited role of the United States is not to kowtow to the big guy, but to help the vulnerable. We have muscles upon muscles in this nation, and sometimes the smartest action is to flex them. The right would have us land a punch with every conflict. Or pull a trigger.

Yet, we might do well to remember our roots. And by doing so, become the exception.