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 Governor Cuomo passed legislation restricting the amount of bullets a magazine could hold to seven, but later rescinded, as it proved impractical.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.

Color Blind

Somewhere along the line, the group of protectors known as the NRA was overtaken by white men with dollar signs in their eyes.

Remember the John Grisham novel “A Time to Kill,” when the defense attorney pleads the case of a black man who is on trial for killing two white men in rural Mississippi in front of an all white jury? He takes the courtroom through an exercise where he asks everyone to close their eyes and imagine the trauma and plight of the defendant’s daughter, who had suffered unconscionable rape and torture at the hands of the two dead men. The climax of the scene, and theme of the novel, was when the attorney asked of the courtroom, “Now imagine that girl was white.”

The defendant was acquitted, the good guys won, and racial equality thereafter reigned in the South. They lived happily ever after. (This was a work of fiction.)

I’d like to take you through a similar exercise. There’s a group of well-funded, professionally organized men who have interpreted our Constitution in such a convoluted way as to demand that it is their God-given right to own high-caliber assault weapons.  They argue that a cross-referenced document of who owns what and how many of these weapons is an infringement of that right. They are arguing against background checks at gun shows and over the Internet to prevent criminals and the mentally ill with histories of violence from obtaining firearms. The thought behind this is more nuanced than a simple “Mind Your Own Business” argument: it simply means that the fear that it would make it easier for the government to collect these weapons is stronger than the fear of the general public, including children, that the unregulated masses within this group have unrestricted access to these weapons. Even though there have been an increasing number of mass public shootings and copy-cat mass murders and there have been no gun confiscations of legally held guns. The leader of this group has proposed an even wider berth of gun ownership, even within the confines of our children’s schools. That this would make enormous profits for this group and the gun manufacturers who support it, is not the point. The point is their right.

I want you to do something for me. Close your eyes.

Picture this group of gun-wielding men spewing pieces of the Constitution from well-memorized pamphlets handed out at meetings. Picture the signs that they display that say, “We don’t call 9-1-1. We shoot.”

Now imagine that that leader and his ilk are black.

Let’s question whether Republicans would cling to their Second Amendment rights to bear assault weapons if Wayne LaPierre was black. Imagine, if you will, instead of an oldish looking white guy, whose looks don’t incite fear until he opens his mouth and the crazy pours out, a black man. Samuel L. Jackson comes to mind. He’s spewing about his right to form a militia as given to him by God and the Constitution.

Do you feel differently? Tell me the truth – I won’t tell anyone.

To white America, in some parts of the country more than others, the idea of a well-organized black self “regulated militia” inspires terror. It sounds like the Black Panthers.

As it should.

The answer to that is not that black Americans are scarier than whites, but that once a group puts its (financial) goal ahead of the human lives of our citizenry, they have become a threat. And they are scary.  Yet we have become so complacent as a people to believe that white men are less threatening, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the mass murders that have terrorized the nation have been at their hands. A handful of Saudis attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and look at the measures we’ve taken to combat the Muslim stereotype. We could point to statistics of black on black crime and of black on white crime to try to justify the stance of the NRA to stand absolute against any reasonable restriction of high-capacity semi-automatic weapons, but it doesn’t compute.

In fact, there was a time NRA stood up to help train black Americans to protect themselves from the Ku Klux Klan and the local police in the South. There was a very real threat of white Americans coming to inflict mortal harm on black men and the NRA used its power, much limited in scope than it is now, to support the right to bear arms for newly freed slaves after the Civil War. Where soldiers in the North were encouraged to keep their rifles after the war, black American soldiers in the South were told no go. Southern white men were suddenly very pro gun control.

Black Panthers came in the 1960s to rectify that, carrying guns to the letter of the law. They armed themselves to the gills with weapons and a superior understanding of the law, believing that the power of equal treatment came with the ownership of guns. California’s open carry laws stipulated that guns must be seen and carried in a non-threatening way, and as such, the Black Panthers paraded with them.  Your liberal friends have passed around the Reagan meme, which quotes him as saying when he was Governor of California that “I do not believe in taking away the right of a citizen for sporting, for hunting, and so forth. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon nor is needed for the defense of the home.” Reagan went on to say that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” This was his response to the Panthers. He was all for gun control, if it meant limiting the access of guns to black citizens.

Somewhere along the line, the group of protectors known as the NRA was overtaken by white men with dollar signs in their eyes, and like Lance Armstrong, have taken a perfectly fine idea and pumped it full of steroids and padded their pockets doing it. And we let them. Because they don’t look threatening.

There are still threats of bad people doing bad things. There is still a need for protection. Some would argue that there is a real need for guns for domestic protection: for the house, to ward against intruders. Defenders of the NRA believe that the base of this group still stands for protection. Yet, the NRA’s official stance on arming a person who has committed domestic abuse on his wife, girlfriend, partner, friend?

Protect that the domestic violence abuser. The NRA has strayed so far from it’s roots as a protector of victims that it is now a protector of perpetrators.

In most states, a order of protection will not translate into an order to surrender firearms, even if the order of protection is granted because of a threat with a firearm.

In too many cases, as in the those of Diane Dye of Oklahoma, or Stephanie Holten of Washington, or Deborah Wigg of Virginia, the protection of a man threatening to use his constitutionally-ordained firearm to kill his wife has trumped the protection of the woman he threatened. His rights to bear arms usurped her right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or in these cases, her right to live, because two of the three are now dead.

At the hands of white guys.

If we’re looking at guns as a means of protection in this country, protection of the weak against the strong, the vulnerable against the powerful, the victims from the bullies, we need to look hard at who is writing our laws, who is financing our legislature, and most importantly, to adjust our ideas of exactly what a threatening mob looks like.

Liberal at a Gun Show

“Beautiful!” a man next to me breathed, but all I saw were the dead children of Newtown.

Gun rights purists can’t believe their luck. One lunatic on a Texas college campus has proven their point: it’s not the guns that kill people. If someone wants to wage deadly mayhem, he’ll find a means to do it. Gun control liberals can finally STFU now.

Except, a lunatic with a knife differs pretty distinctly from a lunatic with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Where Newtown saw thirty children shot multiple times, funerals spanning a month, and a nation in perpetual mourning, in Houston, Texas every single victim  lives. Two are in critical condition, the rest are stable. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, as is any human who has suffered the trauma of a physical attack.

Every attack on multiple people is different. Every one is isolated and born from unique reasons – the failure of the mental health structure here being the basis of some. To lump them together as an anecdotal instance to prove a political point is to compound that failure. No one wins here.

Yet, to dismiss the obvious point that a perpetrator with a knife is severely limited in the damage he can inflict does a disservice to the study of a problem we all want to solve. The real issue is the way we are trying to solve it. Gun rights activists – the purists, the ones who wave away any discussion of common sense restriction and the NRA who supports this kind of thought – attacks this problem with a pre-formed solution: the need for more guns. Then they back track through the circumstances to support that conclusion.

Let’s acknowledge right off the bat that gun control advocates are looking at an endgame as well. Some of us want to rid the country of guns. Period. But most of us don’t. Most of us want semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of non-military citizens. We want limits on the damage someone can inflict in minutes. But maybe we just don’t understand gun culture: the bravado, the righteousness, the patriotism and strength that comes at the hands of a gun. It’s a power I’ve never really considered.

And so I sought out to consider it.

We passed a scrawny kid, about twenty years old, before we even got inside the blue tent to pay our ten dollar admission to the gun show. “I have about a thousand rounds at home,” he told the girl next to him as they exited. I wasn’t sure how to take that – was it a lament? Only a thousand rounds? To do what with? Shoot up a target at a range, or a bison maybe, or enemies? Maybe it was a brag, like I have a thousand rounds of manhood back at my place, baby. The fact that I couldn’t interpret his intention probably says more about me and my lack of understanding of gun culture than anything else. But this is why I went to a gun show. To see for myself what it’s all about.

Still, I felt like an intruder as I made my way past the first booth – an NRA signup table full of literature and bumper stickers. I’ve been conditioned to think of them as the enemy and I wasn’t ready to face them head on, so we moved quickly on to a table full of hot sauce.  I tried a wasabi green tea dip that had a great flavor, sweet, with a kick that came at the end. I made my first gun show purchase. (No background check required.)

And then, fifteen minutes in, I was spotted. A local guy, whose son plays on the same lacrosse team as my son, recognized us as we pored over hard carved switch-blades. “Hey!” he called out, and at first I couldn’t place him. On the field, I know him as the dad with the sweet kid who handed out cupcakes on the field on his birthday. At a gun show, I was seeing a lot of angry ink and camouflage. The lacrosse dad didn’t compute, and it took me a minute to recalibrate the friendly face and soft voice of this man with the wooden barrel of the rifle he caressed like a woman.

We shot the shit (not literally) for a few minutes before he moved on to the Bushmaster display and we to listen to a Paul Revere historian lecture us about the difference between subjects and citizens.  As we turned away, he called over his shoulder, “I’m glad to see we’re on the same team!” My husband interpreted this to be 2nd grade lacrosse related, but I suspected differently. He meant 2nd Amendment related.

It turns out that the difference between a “subject” and a “citizen” is that subjects do what they are told and cannot affect change in their government. They have no say. They are slaves, which, according to this guy, is exactly what the Obama administration wants. He wants to rule over a constituency of slave-like subjects and it’s up to us, a gathering of about five people, to enact that change.

I saw tables of hand-carved handled rifles alongside more knives than I’d ever considered. There were pickaxes and holsters, wooden guns that held rubber bands for children. It was standing room only, slow moving through all that there was to see. Flags accented almost every square inch. There were more Confederate flags than I ever imagined existed this far North.

Live and learn, that’s what I was there for.

Displays were given to each seller, kind of like a craft fair, except the vendors were mostly older men, with exaggerated facial hair that seemed to make a statement of masculinity. I looked around for a clean shaven face and come up with only my own (and the woman selling the hot sauce.) That’s when I realized we were the only women in the place.

(So much for blending in).

The Bushmaster table had the good stuff and there was a three person deep perimeter to get to the assault weapons (which I would later be schooled do not exist.) Black, plastic looking, with more coordinating accessories than in my sister’s closet, AR-15s stood on tripods. They inspired awe among the people who crowded around me. “Beautiful!” a man next to me breathed, but all I saw were the dead children of Newtown. I calculated the mental health of those around me. I tried to judge who was sane and who was a maniac, who might take up arms and start a Paul Revere-like revolution, and who simply enjoyed the craftsmanship. But I couldn’t tell.

Could the vendors?

I perused a table of antiques from World War II, small green plastic soldiers that my son likes to play with. Metal tanks. GI Joe’s in the original packaging. Nazi paraphernalia. Swastika pins. SS badges. I asked the vendor if he sold a lot of the wooden boxes emblazoned with the Confederate flag, knives inside with Robert E. Lee’s picture hand-painted. He nodded. “People try to collect the whole set,” he told me.

A few children ran about, next to dads who looked through scopes with the gaiety of kids in candy shops. My husband held a rifle that reminded him of the one his grandfather had used, setting up soda cans in the backyard for him to shoot pellets at. My husband loves to shoot.

Targets.

It wasn’t really possible to leave without rubbing up against the NRA table. “Why,” I asked the bearded (of course) man at the table, “would I become a member?”

He didn’t miss a beat. “To protect your rights.”

“From what exactly?”

He explained that there were ridiculous laws enacted that turned normal, gun-toting Americans into criminals. Because of Cuomo’s freshly printed laws about the clip limits that legal guns must now have, the guns that this man has in his closet are now illegal. “I haven’t shot anything,” he told me, “but now I’m a criminal.”

He didn’t look like a criminal.

“But surely you don’t think assault rifles should be owned by every day Americans?” I asked him.

He rubbed his hands together like he’d been waiting for this question. He savored his response like a good steak. “No such thing,” he told me.

He went on to explain that the term “assault” is a human construct, an action that can only be attributed to a person, not an inanimate object like a weapon. His parter next to him rolled up a copy of Guns and Ammo and swatted him on his thick arm. “See that?” he asked. “That was a fully loaded magazine used to assault me.”  Never in all of his life, both as a civilian and in the service, had he witnessed a rife getting up and shooting someone all by itself.

This seemed like a long way to say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” but I got his point. He then explained to me that automatic weapons – like machine guns – are outlawed, and should be. They spray bullets in quick succession and have no place in non-military society.  But semi-automatic rifles? Those are fine, he said, because a person needs to pull the trigger for each separate shot. It requires a commitment to continue shooting. There is a pause between each bullet being released into the world. That pause is what? A second or two? But those seconds constitute what seemingly reasonable people deem the difference between auto- and semi-automatic, between acceptable and not, between having a rightful place in society and not.

Seconds enough to duck? To run? To return fire? To live?

He handed me a pamphlet that had a training session for women stapled on the back. Women are the untapped demographic that the NRA is targeting as purchasers. They’d had to add on a second one because the first had filled up quickly. “After I take you out and show you how to hold a gun and shoot it, you can decide if you’re still scared of it or if it’s the most fun you’ve had in your life,” he said.

I took the pamphlet, but I won’t be calling. His idea of fun and mine are probably different.  The pamphlet, handed out by the S.A.F.E. organization (Sportsman’s Association for Firearms Education), was full of information to help convince me that the NRA was looking out for my best interests. It warned me that police chiefs who came out in support of gun control were pawns of big city officials who coerced them into positions they don’t really support. The towed the line for fear of losing their salaries and pensions. “This is why you see chiefs and their officers in the background when privileged officials posture against citizen firearm ownership and the Constitution by definition.” It went on to say that they have “decided to try to get in tune with the 20th century” by creating SAFE Twitter and Facebook accounts.

I might suggest that they try to get with the 21st century by acknowledging the very real dangers of gun violence. I might suggest that instead of selling the public on the idea that semi-automatic rifles are not assault weapons in a Laurel and Hardy rehearsed routine, they take stock of who the enemies really are. They are not those in power who are answering the voices who shout for the bloodshed to end. They are not those who ask questions that go deeper than a badly written propaganda piece stapled to shooting lessons. The enemies are those who seek to quiet the questions, to quiet the voices who disagree, and to urge us all to suspend critical thinking in lieu of easy answers.

I’ll acknowledge this, though. Something about the presence of big men standing protection made me feel safer, thinking that if I ever needed protection, I might have guys like this “on my team.”

Protection from whom? Well, that seems to be the question.

NY Misses the Target on Mental Health: DC Gets It Right

Quite frankly, the biggest issue with New York’s new gun law is not what’s in it, it’s what’s missing.

New York took bold steps last week and with lightening-speed passed what has been called the “nation’s toughest gun law.” The stuff that makes NRA-types go nuts got all the media attention – bigger restrictions on assault weapons, a new limit on ammunition magazines, a ban on Internet sales, and real-time background checks to name a few.  But also within the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE) is a new provision that requires licensed mental health professionals – psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers – to alert local mental health officials if a patient “is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” The local mental health folks will then conduct their own evaluation and if they concur with the potential risk, that patient will be added to a statewide database of folks who can’t get a gun. If they already own a gun, local cops are going to bang on that person’s door, demand to see the gun and take it.

Mental health professionals have always carried an ethical duty to warn, but the state has generally left it to practitioners to decide when and how to report. Practitioners usually listen for an explicit threat, conduct a more thorough assessment, and then weigh a series of options that might include notifying those at risk, arranging hospitalization, and/or calling the police. That flexibility has given clinicians the ability to deal with a potential risk of violence without breaching confidentiality and perhaps keeping that person engaged in a course of treatment that in and of itself, may diminish risk.

The mandate in the new law is broad and in this environment, will likely be applied much more often than the current standard. Several prominent mental health experts have already expressed their concerns.  Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University told the New York Times, “It undercuts the clinical approach to treating these impulses, and instead turns it into a public safety issue.” Dr. Eric Neblung, a psychologist and the president of the New York State Psychological Association told the Wall Street Journal, “You’re turning psychologists into police officers.”

To the average person, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is a no-brainer. But get this: a large body of research suggests that people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime. One national survey found that those with chronic and severe mental were victimized a whopping eleven times more often than those in the general population.

And if we can’t get that imposing image of the crazed gunman out of heads long enough to consider the numbers, it’s important to recognize that New York’s new law doesn’t target the few mentally ill who could become shooters. It targets those who seek treatment – including cops, corrections officers and other uniformed personnel, who are often most reluctant to seek help. And if we are truly concerned about guns winding up the hands of unstable folks, why not make psychological testing a pre-requisite for getting a gun?

Quite frankly, the biggest issue with New York’s new gun law is not what’s in it, it’s what’s missing. The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act does absolutely nothing to enhance access to mental health services and contains no new funding for such programs. Perhaps that’s because our state is cash-strapped, or maybe it’s because including funds would have prompted some of the more fiscally conservative folks to hold-up the bill. Then New York wouldn’t have been first.

A day later, President Obama rolled out his gun control package. It contained all the high-profile stuff like background checks for gun show shoppers, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines and the like, but he also called for new federal investments in school safety and mental health counseling. 

In addition to $180 million in school safety spending, the President’s proposal includes: $15 million to help teachers and youth professionals provide “Mental Health First Aid,” to identified students; $40 million to help school districts, law enforcement and local agencies better coordinate services for students in need; $25 million to finance new, state-based strategies to better identify individuals ages 16 to 25 with mental health and substance abuse issues and get them the care they need; $25 million to boost school-based mental health services aimed at treating trauma, anxiety, and enhancing conflict resolution; and $50 million in new funds to train social workers, counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals.  That money would also provide stipends and tuition reimbursement for more than 5,000 new mental health professionals that want to work with young people in school and community-based settings.

Is it enough? Probably not.  It does, however, restore some of the $235 million the Administration ripped out of the state Safe and Drug Free Schools grants program last year and ensures a more proactive, comprehensive approach to keep our kids and communities safer.

While it’s true that New York, our legislators and Governor Cuomo can now lay claim to passing the first and toughest gun law in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, the absence of solid mental health solutions means that it probably won’t prove to be the nation’s best.

Photo: White House Photo

A Sensible Approach to the Gun Debate

Let’s look instead to the government that we have, the one created by the same founding fathers who listed both gun ownership and freedom of speech as inalienable rights.

The tragedy in Sandy Hook has brought the national conversation to gun violence, which inevitably leads to the seemingly insurmountable differences between those who advocate for gun control laws and those who vow that the only way to get their guns from them is to “pry them from their cold, dead hands.”  The facts that the only cold dead hands increasingly seem to belong to those of the innocent, unarmed variety only serves to cement their case: the answer, according to Wayne LaPierre, is to arm more good guys with weaponry in order to combat the bad guys with weaponry.  That this makes sense to anyone who isn’t a comic book writer illustrates the huge disconnect we feel with society, and each other.

Sensible arguments about passing legislation to restrict high capacity magazines are met with staunch opposition from many on the far right.  The argument goes back to the wording and the intent of the second amendment.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

In order to secure a free state, according to gun advocates, it’s necessary to enter into what has become a domestic arms race.  When the Constitution was written, goes the argument, the people had access to the same types of assault weapons as the government.  They all had muskets.  Yet, as the technology of weapons had become increasingly sophisticated it is up to the general public to keep up in order to ensure their freedom against a tyrannical government.  To leave ourselves unarmed, or un-heavily-armed – is to be vulnerable to the Hitlers and Stalins of the future.

The voices of those who echo this argument have turned deaf ears to the counter-argument that the American government has accumulated more weapons of mass destruction than the entire world over, and that no amount of AK-47s is going to stop them if they are so inclined to turn them on their own people if they are taken over by hostile tyrants.  The right to amass weapons to protect themselves is ingrained as a fundamental right and a threat to that right is perceived as a threat to their freedom.  And freedom is the cornerstone of this country, a source of pride to our citizenry, and a distinct part of our culture.

It isn’t going away.

Instead of alienating each other at this point, instead of yelling and trying to paint the opposing side as stupid, ignorant, or downright wrong, why don’t we come up with some constructive action that would serve to unite us and to become a rightful source of pride?  The fear of a tyrannical takeover might be dismissed by those who pass it off as a paranoid delusion of a gun nut.  They would be wrong.  Political takeovers happen, sometimes supported by this country for our own political gain, masked under the cloak of promoting worldwide “freedom.” Those who believe it could never happen here might have also believed that we were insulated from terrorists.  9/11 changed that game.

Yet, arming ourselves to the gills doesn’t seem to be the answer.  Firstly, because the government has much bigger gills and secondly, because with the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons, tragedies like the one in Sandy Hook have a greater chance of happening.  And no one, including Wayne LaPierre, wants that.

Let’s look instead to the government that we have, the one created by the same founding fathers who listed both gun ownership and freedom of speech as inalienable rights.  Let’s consider this experiment of a country that we have inherited and honor it by contributing to it in a meaningful way.  The best protection against a tyrannical government is not to load up the country with rifles (ask Somalia).  It is to participate in our democracy to make sure we have the strongest, most efficient government.  This includes electing a congress who serves the people, rather than solely focuses on an obstructionist political agenda.  The best protection is to make sure our government is functional, to hold our politicians responsible for governing.  This includes voting out those whose sole function is to make others fail.  This includes changing the notion of success in government from meaning to step over the bodies of those we have defeated by ugly and dishonest means.  It means supporting laws that restrict unlimited corporate donations to politicians in order to further corporate interests at the expense of the people in the name of “free speech.”  It means to make sure our children are educated, that it is for the good of the people to invest in making government function and cooperate, to stand united, to pick up the smallest and weakest of us, to actually leave no child behind.  This is the way we honor that magnificent document and the legacy we were born into.

And if we can come together and have a productive conversation without alienating each other, name calling, ridiculing – and demand that our elected leaders do the same – might we find our fingers slowly retracting from triggers?

So Secede Already

We need someone in a position of authority to finally say what needs to be said: the Civil War was a shit-show. No, not the emancipation part. I’m talking about the part where mouth-breathers were allowed to stay in same nation as the nose-breathers.

Daniel Day-Lewis might just be the greatest film actor of his generation. Film actor. But if he was really good he could stay in character as Lincoln forever–like Joaquin Phoenix’s faux hip hop character or the time Val Kilmer made everyone on the set of The Doors call him Jim. As a nation we’ve grown so stupid that if Mr. Lewis continued on as Lincoln in real life eventually people would forget he was acting. Then he could run for President, as the original Lincoln, and finally admit to the public that his past-Lincoln self, well, fucked up royally.

In a stump speech in Gettysburg he could say, “seven score and seven years ago a great tragedy befell this great nation. The preservation of our union has elicited unintended consequences, not the least of which is Lindsay Graham. My deepest apologies. Or, as you kids say, my bad.”

I imagine that if Daniel Abe were in office today he would still be the badass rail-splitting, vampire-slaying mo-fo he was back then. Just like the old days he would suspend the writ of habeas corpus and put together his very own militia all while wearing that awesome fucking hat. (No one wears hats like that anymore and gets away with it.  Even the cats from Queer Eye would be all like, “OMG, that hat is fierce.”)

Anyway. We need someone in a position of authority to finally say what needs to be said: the Civil War was a shit-show. No, not the emancipation part. I’m talking about the part where mouth-breathers were allowed to stay in same nation as the nose-breathers. The part where lunatics who believe the earth was created in seven days and the Westboro Church “has a point” no longer have votes equal to people who have all of their teeth and believe in climate change.

Had the south won, we northerners could have taken all of the black people and solved the whole problem of slavery. Selfishly we would also have inherited great music, heart-stopping (but delicious) food, humor, and the best sports teams anywhere. Am I stereotyping? Sure. But along with these cultural benefits, we would also have handy items such as key chains, traffic lights, elevators and air conditioning; all things invented by brothers. Think the south sucks now? Try walking up seven flights of stairs in Alabama because you’re apartment building doesn’t have an elevator, only to fumble around in your pocket to find the loose key that fits the door to your hot-ass apartment. And that’s after it took you an hour to drive two miles because there’s a stop sign on every corner instead of a light.

The south would have essentially become a hot, stupid Denmark. A no-man’s land full of white people wondering where the fuck all the culture went.

Seriously, it’s time to break ties. Just let it go. And take Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin with you. I completely understand that I’m throwing away Miami in this transaction but we’ll just re-open trade with Cuba. We’re even willing to give up Texas so long as you free everyone who lives in Austin. Once we’ve worked out the details (our team of negotiators will likely be the cast of the Sopranos) President Day-Lewis-Lincoln can re-establish and extend the Mason-Dixon line and bring our border patrol studs up from Mexico to patrol it.

I’m not being an obnoxious New Yorker by suggesting this, by the way. You’re the ones that started the petition to secede. No problem, amigo. You can have your guns and small-penis anger. We’ll take jazz and Chris Rock. It’s obvious we have nothing in common anymore. C’est la vie. (That’s French for “fuck it.”) Frankly, every time I see one of these hillbillies spout off about how much they love the 2nd Amendment because it’s the highest number their momma done taught them, I think, “Oh, Abe…. You’re a sly one! Joke’s on us you stovepipe hat wearing motherfucker.”

So let’s divvy it up. We get Obama, you get Honey Boo Boo. Seems like a fair trade. Besides, you haven’t invented anything since the cotton gin and cigarettes. We’ll get by wearing fine polyester blends and smoking weed instead. After that we basically just snip a few stars from the flag, re-write the lyrics to Fifty Nifty United States and we’re good.

So, yeah. Take your southern hospitality, Lindsay Graham, the Westboro Church, the NRA, and deep-fried-everything and shove it all up your big, white ass. Our new Secretary of Defense will be from Brooklyn and our President will be Daniel Day-Fucking-Lewis. As Lincoln. Back for another pass to set shit straight.