guns.AmericaTackling more Ask Roger Anything questions, where a theme seemed to emerge:

New York Erratic wants to know:

What is the #1 thing that annoys you on social media?

Mostly that so much of it is so banal. I post these blog posts to my Facebook and Twitter and get a few comments. I write, in response to an Esquire clickbait article, “If you think I’m going to click on this 80 times, you’re crazy;” it’s gotten over 120 likes, many of them in recent days.

Sometimes, though, it does some good. Which nicely segues to…
***
Jaquandor muses:

I often hear calls for “a national conversation” to deal with Big Issues. What would a “national conversation” look like?

Since we can’t seem to agree on simple concepts, such as facts about science, I think the “national conversations” bubble up in ways that I don’t think can possibly be entirely controlled.

The Ice Bucket challenge last summer was one of those events. WE decided, via social media, to triple the amount of money for research for a disease most of us had been either unaware of, or wasn’t of interest.

The sudden rush to remove Confederate battle flags from Wal-Mart, Amazon, and other retailers in recent days clearly was a conversation WE had. That emblem was obviously not a significant issue to most folk the day before the Charleston shootings. But when those people died, and their loved ones showed such grace in mourning, WE decided, or most of us, that the “stars and bars” that presumed killer embraced were suddenly toxic.

Now if you WANT to have a “national discussion,” such as the ones President Obama has periodically attempted to instigate about race, it’s usually a flop. “He’s a race baiter.” “Ooo, he used the N-word,” without any understanding of the context of what he was trying to express. “There’s just one race, the human race,” which is both true and irrelevant.

In this age of increasing partisan division, I am finding it harder and harder to even empathize with the “other side” (in my case, the political right in this country). I used to at least understand how they arrived at their worldview, if not share it, but now I increasingly can’t fathom how or why they would look at the world that way at all. Does this make sense to you, and if so, what can be done about it?

For me, this is less of a problem of left/right, and more an issue of “Do they really mean what they say, are they just trying to be provocateurs, or are they just intellectually lazy?”

I get the sense that some of them just SAY things because it’s sensational. Ann Coulter attacked Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) as “an immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history” because she changed her mind about having the Confederate battle flag on state grounds. Let’s ignore the fact that Nikki Haley was BORN IN SOUTH CAROLINA to immigrant parents. Facts need not get in the way of a convenient narrative.

My own defense mechanism is to declare that certain parties – Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and certain others – as unreliable reporters. I don’t mean “reporters” in a news sense, but that what they say, what they report, is, based on a great deal of observation, not worthy of my consideration.

This is actually useful, because it minimizes my outrage. I don’t spew in anger ranting, “How can Hannity say such a stupid thing?” Instead, I can calmly note, “Oh, there’s Hannity saying something inane again. Ho hum.” It’s SO much better for my blood pressure.

George Carlin said, over ten years ago on an album (closer to fifteen): “Wanna know what’s comin’ next? Guns in church! That’ll happen, you’ll see.” Nervous tittering laughter from the audience, and yet… here we are. How inevitable was this, and how do you see future historians looking back on our incredible resistance to the mere idea of giving up our guns?

Sure, Australia has a mass shooting in 1996, and the people decide to limit their guns. In 2012, 20 children and six adults were murdered at a school in Connecticut, and since then, nationally, there have been about as many laws expanding gun use as there have been restrictions. In other words, our “national discussion” is coming out of both sides of our collective mouth.

To be fair, history will also laugh at us for being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet:
*has massive income inequality
*is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave
*is ranked only 12th in freedom
*is 14th in education
*is a whopping 33rd in Internet download speed
plus relatively lousy scores in children’s health, and a bunch of issues about which we might consider having a “national discussion”, but can’t.

But we’re tops in gun deaths per capita AND in the number of prisoners. WE’RE #1! There’s some “national discussion” around the edges about the evil of mass incarceration; we’ll see where that goes.

At least the gun thing comes from an interpretation – a faulty one, I’d contend – of the US Constitution, backed, I’m afraid, by our Supreme Court.

After Charleston, I was watching a LOT of news. One security expert said churches, and other “soft targets,” need to have “situational awareness” when someone comes in who is a DLR, “doesn’t look right.” As someone who sits in the choir loft, I have seen a number of people walk through the church doors, who, some would suggest, “don’t look right,” but who have subsequently become members of the congregation.

Padlocking to keep “them” out is a formula to kill a religious body as sure as bombs or bullets would, just more slowly.

Moreover, I listened to two sisters of one of the murdered congregants of Mother Emanuel, and they talked about a fearlessness that comes from loving God. This is why, a week to the day after the shootings, they and over 250 others were present for the Wednesday Bible study.
***
SamuraiFrog interjected:

What is your opinion on the #WeWillShootBack hashtag that popped up on Twitter?

Thanks for pointing this out, because I was unaware of it. Not surprisingly, I’m generally opposed to it on both theological and strategic grounds. Nonviolent direct action as done by Gandhi and Martin Luther King were very effective, and shows the higher moral position; of course, both of them were eventually assassinated.

Did I mention that I LOVE Bree Newsome?

Sad but often true: when enough crap happens to black people, eventually a positive outcome is generated. Use fire hoses on black children, and white people get upset enough to want to do something about the situation.

The civil rights crusade has almost always needed white supporters, and they are welcome, although making sure white people are comfortable can be a drag.

Still, forgiving white supremacy can be a real burden. Mother Emanuel’s Bible study the week after the shootings was reportedly from the New Testament book of 1 Peter. I don’t know the verses they studied, but here are some representative verses from chapter 2, verses 19-21: “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God… if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

I can imagine some black folks thinking, “To hell with THAT!” So I UNDERSTAND #WeWillShootBack. I don’t endorse it, but I know where it comes from.
***
Thomas McKinnon says:

With all that is going on in the news, have you talked to your daughter about racism?

Tom, it’s post-racial America. What’s to talk about?

Actually, The Daughter and I often watch the news together and discuss what it means. When she’s seen stories from Ferguson to Charleston, from Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore in police custody, to Tamir Rice, who died about two seconds after the Cleveland police arrived. There’s fodder for a lot of conversation.

We both found the Donald Trump piñata story terribly funny. (Here’s a better picture.)

Current events have been a great point of entry, actually. I was loath to just dump on her some of the crap I had endured over the years. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I was thinking, maybe hoping, that we were getting there sooner than it’s turned out.
***
Arthur@AmeriNZ picks up on a theme from others:

Thinking of race relations in the USA, and maybe racial politics, who has surprised you the most?

Jon Stewart. I didn’t think, in his political analysis on The Daily Show, that race was particularly his thing. By his own admission, he was slow to hire correspondents of color. Larry Wilmore, who now has his own show, might get to pontificate occasionally from 2006-2014.

But Stewart started taking on the issue of race from his own voice. It may have started before this, but the pivotal program for me was the August 26, 2014 episode, where he first experiences the Ferguson Protest Challenge, then ends the Race/Off segment with, and I’m lightly paraphrasing here: “If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how exhausting it is to be living with it.”

More recently, Stewart parodied the “Helper Whitey” effect… in a segment with Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper. “First Williams [a black woman] would make a point, but Klepper [a white man] wouldn’t listen to her. When Stewart made the exact same point a few seconds later, Klepper jumped to agree.”

Who has disappointed you the most?

Bill Clinton, who got dubbed by someone as the “first black President,” for some reason, but who gutted the economic safety net, and continued the process of mass incarceration. Yeah, he did have a decent record overall on civil rights, but I guess I expected more.

Though the first person to really disappoint me was Jesse Jackson. He was running for President in 1984, when he used a slur against Jews in describing New York City, and that ended my support for him.

3 Responses to “The “national conversation”: guns, flags, race”

  • lisa says:

    I’m not sure there will ever be a civil “national conversation” about anything in this country. It appears Americans are polarized on just about every issue. And when we run across someone with differing opinions, we’re quick to label them with some derogatory term and dismiss their beliefs/opinions are wrong simply because they differ from our own. Gone are the days of actual civil discussion on any topic….on both sides of the aisle.

  • CGHill says:

    I did find some inspiration in Bree Newsome. This was textbook-quality civil disobedience, the sort you don’t see too often anymore. Half a century ago she’d have been at Selma.

  • Roger says:

    Chaz – precisely. That doesn’t get taught nearly as often as it was when I was growing up.

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