For whatever reasons, this blog tends to get around 50% of its “hits” from outside the US. A large number of these are within the UK, so I sometimes feel obliged to “explain” the US to others, especially when it looks to the world like we must be a nation of idiots or lunatics.
Two big things have been big news here – one is the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Not much to explain here. Most people acted heroically, rushing towards the danger to help others, reaching out to families of victims, vowing to train and run in next year’s marathon (although realistically that’s unlikely as Boston has qualifying time and a rule that you have to have another marathon within the previous 18 months.) Yet, some idiots have already started saying the government did it. The “false-flag” nonsense originates with a professional conspiracy mongerer I won’t name here, as the bastard doesn’t need more hits, and has spread to his followers, and from there gone internet viral as these things do. The “theory” is the FBI did it in order to put down further security measures and take away more of our “freedoms” and “the Tea Party” will be blamed.
Factually, we don’t know who did it yet, but it seems that speculation is lining up along political lines with many progressives making the case that it could be a right-wing extremist group (proximity to Hitler’s birthday, tax day, and Patriot’s day as in WACO and Oklahoma City) while some on the right are already convinced it was the Muslims because they are always convinced it’s the Muslims.
In any case, many runners were running for charities or causes. The race was dedicated this year to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and included runners from that town, and their supporters in the Grand Stand. Their presence was organized by the mother of a child who was at the school but not harmed the day of the shooting, Lauren Nowacki, who ran that day, and fortunately finished before the explosion.
In the immediate aftermath of that tragedy — twenty elementary school children killed along with six of their teachers during the Christmas season – it really looked like Congress would finally do something about gun violence. There had been a plethora of notorious one-man rampages in the past couple of years in schools and other settings, including a movie theater and a Sikh temple.
[While gun advocates proudly point out that the US is not number one in the world for gun-related deaths once you adjust for the population size, it is the number one among developed nations, far exceeding any nation in Europe, all but one in Asia, and it’s own neighbor to the north – Canada. We’re doing great if you compare us to countries like Honduras. For that matter, our education system is even better than Chads, plus we practice far less female genital mutilation here. Go America!]
But Sandy Hook was different, maybe it was the number, or their ages, or the fact that Sandy Hook was a small, quiet town where violence isn’t expected, and not a city. There was a moment, an opening, a feeling that something had changed.
Please be aware, my friends in other countries, that not all Americans are gun nuts. True, a lot of us own guns, and a good number believe it’s our constitutional right to own guns owing to this small passage in our constitution, the meaning of which is subject to debate:
“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.”
We have had stricter controls at various times than we do now, including a ban on assault rifles, which were lifted under the administration of George W Bush. Some states and localities have strict laws. In New York City an unlicensed hand gun will get a year in jail — no ifs, ands or buts. Most Americans, at least until recently, believed there were already laws in place demanding universal background checks, and were unaware of the ginormous loophole that allows people to buy guns at gun-shows and privately without checks.
So after Sandy Hook, the President, who months earlier in a debate with Romney, shamefully changed the subject when guns were mentioned, finally pushed legislators to come up with comprehensive legislation including closing the background check loophole and renewing the assault weapons ban. There a little bit of hope. Polls were showing a vast majority in support of “common sense” reform. This majority including most gun owners. The powerful National Rifle Association, a major gun-advocacy lobby, seemed out of touch, and their counter-suggestion – that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”and therefore teachers should all be armed, was meant by derision. However, political pressure prevailed, even in a Senate that remains majority democrat. Watered-down reform that allowed plenty of loopholes (such as “neighbor to neighbor” gun sales with no checks) failed to pass. Even when a bill got the majority of votes, it still lost, as all these measures needed at least 60 out of 100 votes to pass. If you are wondering why the democrats would agree to the 60 vote threshold, per The New York Times, this was to prevent the Republicans from passing a law demanding that “any state with a concealed weapons law, no matter how rigorous, would have to recognize the concealed-weapons permit of residents from any other state.” In the end the bills would not have been approved in any case since our process would then have sent the bills to congress. The congress is majority republican, and because we vote for congressional representatives based on geographic districts, and these geographic districts have been set up in many states to retain a republican majority for years to come, nothing would have passed anyway.
The good news is the families of Sandy Hook haven’t lost their determination, and many Americans will continue to stand with them. The bad news is they will be fighting for years against powerful interests. People like the previously unnamed conspiracy-mongerer insist that Sandy Hook never actually happened, and the myth is part of the plan by the “lyin’ African” usurper, known to the world as the President of the United States to take away “our” guns. Politicians like Rand Paul make statements complaining that those pesky victims’ families (some of whom were in Washington for the vote) were being used as “props” by the administration. Other well-known clowns talk of black helicopters and FEMA camps being set up for gun owners (so stock up on ammo now). If it turns out that the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon Massacre turn out to be homegrown, this churning up of fear and stoking of racism and paranoid fantasies will be at least partially to blame.