The “national conversation”: guns, flags, race

Our “national discussion” is coming out of both sides of our collective mouth.

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…
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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 the 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.
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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 was 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.
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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.
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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 slightly 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.

June rambling #2: composer James Horner, and coloring books

John Oliver: Helen Mirren Reads the Most Horrible Parts of the Torture Report and What the Internet Does to Women.

The Internet Age of Mean.

11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility for its Racism. “The pernicious impact of ‘white fragility.'” Slurs: Who Can Say Them, When, and Why. And Churches Are Burning Again in America.

President Obama’s extraordinary eulogy in Charleston, SC.

A black man and a white woman switch mics, and show us a thing or two about privilege.

Using music in political campaigns: what you should know.

SCOTUS_SpideyThis is actual content from the Supreme Court decision by Elena Kagan in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc., decided June 22, 2015.

Bobby Jindal’s bizarre hidden camera announcement to his kids that he’s running for President.

Meh, cisgender, jeggings, and other new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Arthur shares the Father’s Day message from Upworthy.

For Adults, Coloring Invites Creativity And Brings Comfort.

This School Was SHOCKED By What They Found Hidden Behind The Chalkboard. Might I say, though, that the phrase “my mind is blown” is highly overused.

Anti-Slavery Hamilton Gets Pushed Off The $10 Bill, While Genocidal Slaver Jackson Stays On The $20 and Here’s Why Andrew Jackson Stays and Alexander Hamilton Goes. I’m not happy about it, especially since I’m a member of the church Hamilton once attended. And I’m still pulling for Harriet Tubman to get on some bill, preferably on the larger denomination.

Serena Williams Is America’s Greatest Athlete. It was true last September when the article was written, and after her French Open win, still applicable.

Now I Know: It’s Not Pepto Bismol Lake and King Friday XIII.

Jaquandor loves waffles.

Meryl explains Beanworld.

Two Weeks of Status Updates from Your Vague Friend on Facebook.

Evanier points to the 27 shows have been announced for the coming season featuring Audra McDonald, Bruce Willis, and Al Pacino.

Comedy Central in the Post-TV Era: “What’s the difference between a segment on a TV show and the exact same segment on a YouTube channel? Tens of thousands of dollars.”

Comedy Central is running every Daily Show since the day Jon Stewart began, on January 11, 1999, in a 42-day marathon over on this site. It started on June 26.

Eddie rambles about his health & Emmylou Harris’ cool award, among other things.

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Evanier’s Patrick MacNee stories.

Farewell, James Horner, who composed a lot of music for movies I’ve seen.

Jim Ed Brown of the Browns singing trio (“The Three Bells”) passed away at the age of 81.

From 2012: The making of Disraeli Gears, my favorite album by Cream.

SamuraiFrog ranks Weird Al: 50-41.

Tosy ranks the songs of U2’s Songs of Innocence.

Bohemian Rhapsody on a fairground “player” organ that is more than 100 years old.

Just for you, Dan: The Tremeloes, who covered Good Day Sunshine.

A Stevie Wonder cover: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing – Jacob Collier.

Muppets: Thor, God of Thunder.

GOOGLE ALERT (me)

Bloggers ADD has met, including yours truly.

Arthur takes the ‘I Side With’ quiz.

SamuraiFrog’s dad and Carly Simon.

GOOGLE ALERT (not me)

Roger Green lost both of his children, Amanda and Lance, in separate DUI crashes. “Green and his wife Anita raised their children in rural Oklahoma.”

News guys: Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, Bob Simon

Brian Williams on the moon with Neil Armstrong.

60 MINUTESIt was a Wednesday night. I was at our Dad’s group at church, and the pastor was reading this excerpt of the book Jesus for President, about, in retrospect, the obvious buildup to the Iraq war, featuring folks such as Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush.

It reminded me of something CBS News correspondent Bob Simon had said in January 2003 on the Sunday Morning program. The exact words I don’t recall, but it was, in effect: The United States and its allies are now occupying Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, allowing the inspectors to look for those “weapons of mass destruction” we were supposedly so sure existed.

There was no reason to go to war; the status quo is the way we should pursue things. Of course, the US ignored his counsel, and we’re still dealing with the effects to this day (e.g., ISIL).

Bob Simon knew something of the region. “At the beginning of the Persian Gulf war in January 1991, he was captured with colleagues by Iraqi forces. The team spent 40 days in a prison of Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein. He was interrogated, beaten with canes and truncheons, and starved by his Iraqi captors. He would later recount his story in the book Forty Days.”

I got home that evening and discovered that Bob Simon was dead from a car crash. He was described as a “reporter’s reporter”, winner of 27 Emmys and four Peabody Awards, covering a wide range of topics from Vietnam to making instruments out of rubbish to how elephants communicate.

This news upset me far more than I would have anticipated.

brianwilliams
Maybe Bob Simon was the kind of old school journalist/war reporter that Brian Williams, the suspended NBC News anchor, had hoped to be. Watch how his accounts of his time in Iraq had changed since 2003, which is a recurring pattern for him.

As bad as his six-month suspension, and loss of $5 million in salary, must be, what is worse is the public humiliation. He’s a Twitter hashtag, #BrianWilliamsMisremembers. Brian Williams on the moon with Neil Armstrong. Someone took the iconic picture of John Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father’s casket, and superimposed Brian Williams’ head, which, I admit, made me LOL.

The defense of Brian Williams seems to take two forms. One is that other news networks lie all the time. A quote attributed to Chris Rock read: “Fox News lies unapologetically for 20 straight years = #1 cable news network. Brian Williams embellishes one story = worldwide controversy.”

The other is that Cheney/Bush et al. lied about the reasons for going into the Iraq war, and Williams is the only one punished?

Frankly, I’m convinced that possible apology tour will not work, that his predilection for fibbing, which former anchor Tom Brokaw told him about, will do him in, even though he may well have begun to believe his own narrative, putting himself in the story, rather than a deliberate lie.
Cleared for release by Joint Staff Public Affairs
In the same news cycle, Jon Stewart announced he’d be leaving The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s faux news broadcast, which many critics think is far more substantial than the “regular” news.

As many are, I was saddened by the news; as a friend of mine said, Stewart had a way of expressing his own thoughts, but in a more coherent way. Here are some of his best bits.

Lots of speculation about who will replace Stewart. Some suggest Jon Oliver, former Daily Show contributor, who’s got a gig on HBO. Tina Fey or Amy Poehler both hosted the Weekend Update segment on Saturday night Live, are other names being bandied about.

Why not Brian Williams on The Daily Show? After all, he had wanted to be the Tonight Show host. Comedy Central might be a step down, but if Williams did some of the real news Stewart did, it just might raise Williams’ credibility to Jon Stewart level, which is quite high. Whereas he’ll be tainted for NBC, CBS, and ABC for a long time.
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I’ve only recently read the columns of David Carr, “who wrote about media as it intersects with business, culture, and government in his Media Equation column for The New York Times.” He died at his office last week. He was only 58.

November Rambling: Eddie, the Renaissance Geek, turns 50; Jaquandor’s book now available for purchase

The official video for Cuts Like a Winter by Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact

christmas savings

John Oliver’s Complicated Fun Connects for HBO. Perhaps John Oliver Is Outdoing The Daily Show and Colbert. In any case, Yet Another Study Shows US Satire Programs Do A Better Job Informing Viewers Than Actual News Outlets.

The Motion Picture Academy chose to bestow a special award to Harry Belafonte, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. “Belafonte’s remarks offer both a pointed and powerful rebuke of Hollywood’s past and a stirring inducement to continue the industry’s more recent progress on human rights issues.”

Re the Ferguson protests, which I saw described as “mind-bogglingly incomprehensible”: It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did, as even Antonin Scalia could tell you. So Mark Evanier’s thoughts largely echo mine. Related: video showing the moments leading up to the fatal shooting by police of a 22-year-old Saratoga Springs, Utah man, Darrien Hunt.

6 Things You Might Not Think Are Harassment But Definitely Are (BECAUSE APPARENTLY WE NEED TO CLEAR A FEW THINGS UP).

Eddie, the Renaissance Geek turns 50 this month and deals with melanoma on his birthday AND a disappointing Election Day with amazing good humor. No brain cancer, but there is cancer in the liver. Here’s a piece about the Purple Power Port. Insight into how Eddie’s brain works.

Why your brain loves rewards and how playing an instrument benefits your brain.

Jaquandor’s book STARDANCER is available for purchase. Now he’s off working on the next one. Please note, the book will NOT be available in all of these formats!

The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi, Uri Geller’s archrival.

I thought the Grimm fairy tales I own were rather grim, but the Grimm brothers’ fairytales have blood and horror restored in new translation. Also, fairy tale truths revealed.

Rise of the “Dones” at church.

Dustbury notes Kickstarter duds and password rules.

8 things you should never feed to cats and dogs. Such as chocolate, which we’re running out of, anyway.

Stamping Out Danger and a spy needed a perfect passport — down to the staples.

On Veterans Day, Marvel Comics saluted Jack Kirby… for his military service.

New Bill Watterson comic because we can’t have enough Bill Watterson.

Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins

Someone was doing a search for sources of vinyl records and discovered this image. “Damn, if Sonny Rollins doesn’t have a doppelganger right here at Corporate Woods.”

The Science Behind Why Some People Can Sing And Others Can’t.

Nice piece about Grace, who sings in my church choir.

The song Boy in the Bubble irritates me. More correctly, the fact that the 12″ version [LISTEN] hasn’t appeared on any Paul Simon album that I’m aware of bugs me. The only version I have I copied onto a cassette from a friend’s 12″.

The official video for Cuts Like a Winter by Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact. Also, Bang Bang (Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj) cover by Siren’s Crush, featuring Rebecca Jade (the first niece).

Music by Jayne Mansfield, backed by Jimi Hendrix.

When some network news program comes back from the break playing some old song, there’s a good chance the artist has died. Such was the case for Jimmy Ruffin.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Dolly Parton has long been an icon to the gay community.

You know it’s All About That Baste and All About That Base (No Acid). This has become a cottage industry!

Elvis Costello goes grocery shopping, 1978.

Elvis Presley is dead, but how did he die?

Fans of music who like to flatly say U2 is no longer relevant need to define what they mean by that.

The Crosby, Stills and Nash cover photo. As opposed to Famous Album Cover Photos Uncropped to Reveal ‘The Bigger Picture’.

Remembering the pugilistic power of Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone.

A story about Welcome Back, Kotter’s John Sylvester-White who played the cranky school principal, Mr. Woodman.

Noel Neill is 95. Here are pictures from an earlier time.

It’s a floor wax AND a credit card.

Muppet galore: Quongo and Roosevelt Franklin (who I LOVED) and Frazzle and Gonzo’s enlightenment and Cookie Monster and John Oliver and clap, clap, clap. Also, “Sesame Street has a series online called Welcome to the Furchester Hotel, which is British but also features Elmo and Cookie Monster. It’s cute, and there’s a new 11-minute episode each Friday.”

Unlock the Secrets of your Poop.

GOOGLE ALERT (me)

A whale of a tale. Hat tip to Mr. Frog.

GOOGLE ALERT (not me)

Hanceville to seek a $160K grant for firefighter equipment. “Fire Chief Roger Green asked the council to approve applying for $159,547.76 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. The Cullman County Economic Development agency will write the grant for the fire department, Green said.” This is in Alabama, BTW.

Malala, the government shutdown, and other things

I worked with Jeff Sharlet’s late mother Nancy, so I knew Jeff from when he’d beat me, legitimately, in SORRY when he was six.

I was quite moved to watch Malala Yousafzai on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this past week. Malala is the teenager shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan, but survived, and has since set up a fund to support girls’ education. Here’s Part 1, the section that aired, but see Part 2 and Part 3 as well. If those links don’t work, try this one.

When you listen, you’ll note that what she’s advocating for is essentially a liberal arts education, wanting girls to think for themselves, radical in the environment from which she came. The group that shot her was pleased she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize this week Jon Stewart may want to adopt her but she is reviled in her own hometown as not being Muslim enough or being a CIA plant.
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My job is funded by state and federal monies. Which is to say I’m still working, but if this partial government shutdown continues for a while, that could be a problem. Yes, the House GOP’s little rule change guaranteed a shutdown. And Speaker of the House John Boehner, last weekend, acknowledged there was a clean continuing resolution – there are no budgets anymore, just a series of CRs – last July.

I suppose it’s ironic that the “reason” for the shutdown, Obamacare, was instituted anyway on October 1, with all its technical glitches. Perhaps a better strategy for the Republicans would have been to ENCOURAGE participation of the Affordable Care Act, hoping to crash the computers.

And yet, if you give in to cynicism about our democracy, our democracy steadily erodes. If it’s their plan to get so sick of it all that we throw up both our hands and let them do what they do, I must say it’s a brilliant strategy.
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The Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857. I had never heard of this.

Sometimes you get a second chance to make a lasting impression.

Melanie has resigned herself “to needing help in private, but there is something that happens to me emotionally when I have to be helped to walk, or even be carried, in public. I do not handle it well.” Also: “Have you ever tried to pray for people who seriously want you dead?

The War on Q, W, and X.

It’s been a year since Mark Evanier’s mom died.

Voice and Hammer: Harry Belafonte’s unfinished fight by Jeff Sharlet. Jeff is prominently mentioned in the article College Writers Exit ‘Bubble’. I worked with Jeff’s late mother Nancy, so I knew Jeff from when he’d beat me, legitimately, in SORRY when he was six.

Roger Ebert’s scalding review of a Rob Schneider film, and what came next.

Disney’s first African-American animator, Floyd Norman.

This Scottish ad for breast cancer awareness may be NSFW, and may save someone’s life.

The reason I like this article is not because of the specific issue, which the homophobia of the Barilla pasta guy, but because Mark Evanier explains the First Amendment so well.

I too was surprised by the lawsuit after the Smiths/Peanuts comic strip mashup. Well, not by the suit itself, but by the fact it came from the Smiths’ music publisher. The Peanuts people have long been very litigious; I DO remember the barn in question.

The back roads of western New York State. Also, Albany’s lost boardwalk.

Entitled vacationers, plus Betty White plugs Air New Zealand.

Nedroid’s Party Cat series.

Jaquandor answers my questions about politics, film casting, and end-of-writing poetry, among other topics.

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