University and high school students march along Amsterdam Avenue at Lincoln Center.
Is Dylan right?
Has the NRA met its match?
Is a Democratic wave coming to wash a majority of gun-loving Republicans out of office?
The answer to these questions may be yes.
On March 14, 2018, two things happened to raise the spirits and the hopes of the majority of Americans. Republicans, who have refused to challenge the Trump administration’s corruption, dishonesty and xenophobia, are beginning to lose ground. They are losing to Democrats in special elections in deep red Trump country. The early morning hours saw a Democrat eking out a victory over his Republican opponent in rural Pennsylvania, in districts that Trump won by 20 points.
Police block traffic, allowing students to return to school
In another upset of the status quo, students across the country marked the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by walking out of their classrooms. Crying #Enough! and #NeverAgain! they are determined to hold politicians to account. The students are resolved to elect candidates who will enact sensible gun laws that will curb the massacre of innocents by wild men with assault rifles. They are committed to use their spending power to support businesses that have ended their financial relationships with the NRA and penalize the ones that haven’t.
Women, emboldened by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, are joining their peers in ripping off the gag that has silenced them throughout history. They are demanding a reckoning from the men who took advantage of their power to demand sexual favors with impunity. Institutions in every field are responding by exacting retribution for sexual abuse.
Suddenly, 2018 is shaping up to be as disruptive as 1968. The 21st century is waking from the torpor that allowed American democratic ideals to be perverted by autocrats who value lucre and disdain the needs of the vast majority of Americans.
The times, finally they are a-changing.
Pray for Paris.
Pray for all of us.
We grieve and we rage. As we did for Madrid and London and New York. And Beirut and Sbrenika— how many more? When? Where? How? Who will be next?
They have not taken away our resolve, but they have succeeded in terrorizing us.
This is not new— some of us remember the fear of a nuclear attack (knowing what we did to Japan) or the skyjackings and hostage-taking. But the danger was not so immediate, not so personal.
There was no Facebook, no Twitter. No agonized cries, no bloody visions, no harrowing, personal accounts confronted each of us all over the world, directly and instantaneously, as the terror played out.
There are no good old days. Evil and hatred, anger and vengeance conspire to redress old wounds, and the blood-letting doesn’t stop.
Filed under ISIS, Shooting
You know it intuitively. A “Stand Your Ground” law is simply a license to kill. When George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old , the law protected Zimmerman. He claimed he shot in self-defense, and with no evidence to support or refute his contention, the police were prohibited by law to arrest him. Under the “Stand Your Ground” law, someone who reasonably believes (s)he is in imminent danger may protect him- or herself by any means, including deadly force.
Not surprisingly, Florida, the first state to adopt the law, saw its gun homicide rate spike above the national average and stay there. Twenty-one more states adopted the law within a year. A 2012 study showed that far from deterring crime, the laws resulted in an increase of murder and manslaughter (500-700 cases per year) in the states that adopted the laws. Moreover, another study by the Tampa Bay Times shows that defendants who took cover under the “Stand Your Ground” law were “significantly” more likely to avoid criminal liability for a homicide if the victim was black.
As Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush worked with the National Rifle Association to pass the law the NRA had written. In April, 2015, Bush attended the NRA’s annual convention and claimed he was second to none in his support of the Second Amendment. He still supports “Stand Your Ground,” describing it as “a sensible law that other states have adopted.”
What a week!
It began with the mourners for the Charleston massacre victims. Their appeal to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s state capitol swelled to a national demand to remove all symbols that glorify the Confederacy and tacitly condone slavery.
The Supreme Court handed down two momentous, life-altering decisions. The first, King v. Burwell, upheld the Affordable Care Act, saving it from a precipitous collapse that would have snatched healthcare away from the millions who were previously uninsured. It also ensured a significant legacy for President Obama. The following day, on Friday, June 26, the Court affirmed in Obergefell v.Hodges that LGBTQ citizens will no longer be treated as second-class citizens, denied the right to marry anyone of their choosing. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights, the Court ruled, applies to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation.
The week was capped by the Charleston tragedy, as President Obama gave the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. After he spoke, Obama grew silent, then gave a plaintive rendition of “Amazing Grace” that will not soon be forgotten.
From mourning to celebration: June comes full circle to a fitting close. Gay Pride parades and festivals mark the Stonewall Riots that propelled gay activism and culminated in a victory unforeseen in 1969.
Democracy is not dead in the U.S., as many fear. This week it made a stunning recovery.
In case you haven’t seen Jon Stewart dropping his comedian persona when tragedy silences comedy, watch this. Grief, handwringing and then routinely, oblivion follow mass shootings in the U.S. Shame belongs there too. We have a “gaping, racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”
Why, asks Stewart, why do we go to war, fly murderous drones over strangers, torture and murder foreigners to protect the American people, but when one of our own kills Americans, we do nothing?
There was another day Jon Stewart couldn’t laugh. He’s becoming the go-to counselor when tragedy numbs Americans.
I arrived early at the Westside Rifle and Pistol Range. While I was waiting to take my first hour class on gun safety, I spoke with some of the women I saw who were coming to shoot with the Women’s Shooting Sports League.
Alexis, newbie shooter
There were all kinds of women: Alexis was bubbly and friendly; her brown curls bounced when she laughed— frequently. Erin, tall with long, red flowing hair, was very quiet until her friend Alexis arrived. She wouldn’t let me take her picture, which was too bad, because her arms were covered with the most beautiful tattoos I’d ever seen. Winding around her arms on a green ground were riotously colored maple leaves.
Erin told me this was her first time, though she’d shot a gun once before. “At first I was so tense and scared,” she told me, “and then, the second I shot, I’m like, ‘Oh, that was it?’ I don’t know what I was expecting – I didn’t know what to expect.”
Earlier, an older woman dressed in pants and a green sweater with gold necklace, earrings, rings and bracelets, was wordlessly picking up the pieces in front of her on the table. She was reassembling her pistol. I introduced myself and asked to speak with her. Her dour expression didn’t change. She barely looked up. “No,” she said flatly.
Later, after sitting sometime in silence, I asked how long she had been shooting. “I won’t tell you anything,” she replied with barely controlled fury. “Stop talking to me.”
I have yet to find out the source of her hostility. I hope she takes it out on the target.
Filed under Shooting, Women
Olympic medalist Hattie Johnson
The rifle was heavier than I expected.
I took a deep breath and exhaled, raised the .22 caliber rifle and settled the stock into my shoulder. It was loaded with live ammo. Next, the cheek weld—placing my cheek just so on the stock—the intimacy is undeniable—then guiding the rifle with my cheek in order to line up the sights.
It’s actually a lot more complicated than that necessarily brief outline. An instructor called shooting the most Zen of all the martial arts, because you have to exert complete control over both mind and body. You have to shut out every extraneous thought and be aware of every muscle and breathe at the right times. You have to know every part of the weapon that becomes one with your body.
What did I feel? Continue reading