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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Running (For President, or Away From It All, Either One)

In Politics on November 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

cubs-election-tweet

SERIOUSLY.

Since I’m always long on thoughts but we’re all short on time, I’m going to break this into sections. Feel free to scroll to whichever one applies to you.

If You’re Caucasian

If You’re a Doctor

If You’re a Christian

If You’re Not a Trump Supporter

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If You’re Caucasian

If you’re Caucasian and a Trump supporter, you should know that seeing a Trump sign in your yard or a pro-Trump post on your Facebook feed feels like a personal punch in the gut. It hurts, because it means you aren’t bothered by the danger he poses to me and my children of colour. For the first time, I’m frightened of my fellow citizens.

This is a man with a long history of racism. Starting in 1973, he has faced housing lawsuits for openly discriminating against people of colour. He claimed an American judge was unable to perform his job because of his Mexican heritage (because that Mexican heritage would mean the judge would be against Trump. Because of Trump’s racism.) The children of Trump supporters have begun taunting children of colour in schools. (This actually happened to the young son of a friend of mine, whose schoolmates jeered that he’d be deported once Trump became president. He and his parents are U.S. citizens.) Trump did not immediately denounce the endorsement of David Duke. He has been endorsed by the KKK. The white supremacist movement sees him as their saviour. No matter how much you might not want to believe it, all this doesn’t happen unless Trump is doing something racist.

His supporters claim that his 1990s lawsuit against the town of Palm Beach to allow his club Mar-a-Lago to accept blacks and Jews is evidence that he is not racist. Except … that’s not exactly what happened. Unsurprisingly, he benefited financially from their membership. Please, don’t just believe whatever Donald Trump tells you. You know he doesn’t always tell the truth. And he tells you it’s the media’s fault, and incites violence against the press even when they report the truth, so the blame can be shifted from him.

Donald Trump is running on the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Which clearly means he doesn’t think America is all that great at the moment. But when Colin Kaepernick takes a knee to protest America’s current condition, Trump supporters issue death threats. Where is the justice there? Also, when his supporters say “Make America Great Again,” we hear, “Go back to a time when racial discrimination and gender inequality was legal.” Do you see how that sounds? What if we said we wanted to go back to a time or place when whites were oppressed? How would your feelings change then? The idea that Trump should be celebrated because he’s “not politically correct” is dangerous. Political correctness is not bad; it’s kindness and decency. It’s saying that we shouldn’t mock the disabled or make fun of a person’s appearance because as human beings we should have compassion and empathy for others. Why would you want a world where that isn’t valued? Being against political correctness is the first step in going back to normalizing hate.

I’m not a liberal, and I very much believe in the liberal bias of the mainstream media. (I talk more about this later in this post if you’re interested.) But I have a journalism degree, and I have to tell you: the left has been more honest in their reporting than the right during this election cycle. If you refuse to consume news from any source you consider liberal, you are not being told the whole truth. 

Knowing all this, if you are OK voting for Trump because the prejudice he would usher in against others would not affect you, that is kind of the definition of white supremacy. At least you should know that.

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If You’re a Doctor

This is what Trump thinks of us.

Trump doctor quote.PNG

So let me get this straight. Doctors, who have devoted themselves to helping people, who save countless lives, and who have sacrificed years if not decades of time with their own families to care for patients on weekends and holidays and in the middle of the night, don’t deserve to walk on a “very expensive and chic” avenue – but Donald Trump, who has never cared about anything but himself, does? (I don’t actually believe doctors should be zillionaires, but I’m pointing out the hypocrisy here.) Let me also note the absurdity of Donald Trump, who has zero medical training, claiming that he believes his friend’s foot injury should have healed naturally. Oh, so of course the board-certified, residency-trained doctor who operated was wrong then, if Donald Trump thought it would have healed on its own. Silly me.

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If You’re a Christian

If you’re a Christian and a Trump supporter: I’m astounded that any Christians are supporting Trump. But that being said, I do understand one particular train of reasoning: that Christians no longer have religious freedom (eg. pharmacists are being punished for refusing to stock the morning-after pill, CEOs are being ousted for supporting Christian groups) and that the only way to protect people who are just trying to obey God is to make sure there are more conservative judges on the Supreme Court. The people who follow this line of logic say they will have to hold their noses to vote for Trump, but they will do so because there is a better chance of him nominating a conservative justice than of Clinton doing so. I at least understand this viewpoint, though I don’t agree. (My pet issue is gun control, for which Hillary Clinton and more liberal Supreme Court justices are the only solution. I do agree that that there is no sociolegal protection for Christians, but I don’t think such protection is ever coming our way. That’s kind of what God has always told us, isn’t it? “They will hate you because of me“?) So I can at least see this perspective. What I cannot abide are the Christians who are actively trying to convince themselves and others that Trump is actually a decent choice.

The fact that Wayne Grudem initially wrote an article explaining why Donald Trump was a “moral” choice made me ill, not least because I knew many Christians would take it as gospel. He claimed voting for Trump is the moral choice because Trump is more likely to be tough on abortion. First of all, Trump is not pro-life. He’s an opportunist who’s claiming to be pro-life now to get Christians to vote for him, and they’re falling for it. Secondly, how on earth can fellow Christians determine that abortion is a more pressing issue than racism? We care about the unborn, but not about the suffering of the post-born? How dare a Christian leader imply that the lives of us non-white folk are less important than trying to get Roe vs. Wade overturned (which, come on, is never going to happen)? I so appreciate this rebuttal and the fact that Grudem ended up coming to his senses and renouncing Trump. Personally, I feel there is no way I can stand before Jesus one day and tell Him that I voted for a man so evil, no matter to what end.

We know that Trump is not a decent man. He talks about sexually assaulting women, he makes fun of women’s bodies, he criticizes the looks of Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz. Why would we reward a person who behaves this way by handing him the Presidency? Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus our thoughts on things that are pure, noble, right, and admirable. By no stretch of the imagination does Trump do this. And it’s not intellectually honest to convince yourselves that “Hillary probably does worse.” No one has ever heard her say things like this, and he has. It’s as simple as that.

We know he is not a Christian. By their fruit we will recognize them. He’s a proud adulterer, he’s had three wives, he cheats those less powerful than him, he repeatedly attacks those around him. More than that, he’s never asked God for forgiveness. I love Max Lucado’s response to a self-proclaimed Christian never having asked for forgiveness: “Can a swimmer say ‘I’ve never gotten wet’?” Compare the version of masculinity displayed by Trump to that displayed by Tim Kaine. Which one of them is the true Christian?

The hypocrisy is astounding. To paraphrase a Daily Kos meme, imagine how Trump’s supporters would bellow if Hillary Clinton showed up on stage with her five children by three different men, was a serial adulterer, had filed for bankruptcy multiple times, rooted for the housing crisis that caused untold suffering for thousands, wouldn’t release her tax returns, admitted to tax evasion, and had no political experience. And was a reality TV performer! Why is all that disgusting history suddenly OK when it comes to Donald Trump? I’ve heard that Donald Trump’s children being relatively normal should reflect well on him. Except he left them, and it was their mother who raised them, so she should get the credit. And by that standard, Chelsea Clinton should reflect well on Hillary. (And I don’t think DJT’s kids ARE all that great. Donald Jr.’s repulsive Tweet comparing refugees to Skittles should give any Christian pause, given what the Bible says about how we are to treat foreigners.)

And how, I ask you, can anyone justify this incredibly disturbing story?

Then there’s the utter cruelty and hypocrisy of blaming Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity, but not holding Donald Trump accountable for his own. Trump supporters, once called out on this, then pivoted to say that Hillary Clinton denigrated the women who accused her husband, so she should be blamed for that. Except that, at the time of the Lewinsky scandal, Hillary believed Bill. Would you expect a wife to embrace people she thought were telling lies about her husband? If that’s the case, why don’t you demand that Melania Trump embrace the exhaustive list of women who have accused her husband of assault? Then there are the people who blame Hillary for staying with Bill. Is that not Biblical Christianity, to stay in a marriage? Yet, if she had left, those very same people would have vilified her for divorcing him.

In the era of Bill Clinton, we Christians argued that character matters. We risk losing all our credibility with non-believers (if it isn’t lost already) when we don’t apply that same standard to Donald Trump. Believe me, you won’t find a Hillary voter who is more appalled by Bill’s behaviour than me. When I was in college, I was a White House intern during the Lewinsky scandal, and I was assigned to the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic investigation. It was very uncomfortable to be a teenage Christian and probably the sole person on that team who believed that Bill Clinton was in the wrong. But I did, and I still do. And because of that, I hold Donald Trump responsible for his actions. I also would not vote for Bill Clinton. But I don’t for a second believe that any wife should be punished for her husband’s behaviour.

Speaking of non-believers: they see us as craven opportunists, aligning ourselves with Donald Trump, someone they can clearly see does not live a Christian life, because he promises us something in return (conservative judges.) So what that tells them is that when it benefits us, character apparently doesn’t matter. Christian support of Donald Trump is doing more damage to American Christianity than a liberal Supreme Court justice ever, ever could.

The same people who believe the Republicans’ constant harping about HRC’s e-mails as evidence of “if there’s smoke there’s fire” should apply that same axiom to this: a list of all the women, including a 13-year-old girl, that Donald Trump is accused of assaulting in one way or another. It is our responsibility as voters to read this and think about it. At the very best, this man has not behaved honorably. At the very worst, he is an unrepentant criminal.

And if you think Hillary Clinton is a criminal because she deleted e-mails and because four people died in Benghazi, you must also be outraged by the fact that George W. Bush lost 22 million e-mails and that thousands died because of his fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Because if you’re not, I’ll know not to take you seriously.

I am voting for Hillary Clinton in this election because I consider it my moral duty to stop Donald Trump, I believe voting for her will be more effective to that end than voting for a third party (but I have no problem with people who choose to do that), and I think she is an intelligent, experienced, hard-working woman who has been totally smeared by the right — but I will never identify as a Democrat. The Democratic Party certainly is not Christian-friendly and it strongly supports abortion. However, the Republican Party, with its pro-gun stance, anti-poverty measures, and white American nationalism, does not represent true Christian ideals either. So I’ll always be an independent. However, it’s important to remember that being pro-life is not a reason to vote for Trump. There is so much more to being pro-life than believing abortion is wrong. Being against gun violence; being against cruelty towards minorities; supporting programs for the poor; these are all aspects of being pro-life. Otherwise, we’re not pro-life, we’re just pro-birth. And on these counts, HRC clearly wins. That’s why this article is titled I’m Pro-Life and I’m Voting for Hillary.

On another note, the similarities between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler are so clear to me that it’s terrifying. People who point this out are often accused of making “lazy” arguments. What a convenient way to denigrate an argument that is true! Every time I’ve been in a Holocaust museum, I’ve overheard people wondering aloud if Hitler’s rise could happen here, and smugly concluding that no, it never could. Every time I’ve thought to myself, “Oh yes it could.” After this election season, no American can deny it. This can absolutely happen here. It is happening here. If Donald Trump were Hitler himself, his supporters would not renounce him. What do you think will happen by giving ultimate power to someone with these, and these,  and these similarities to Hitler? No doubt Hitler had some good policy ideas too. Should it not give us the slightest pause that people are turning a blind eye to this?

I always find it funny (in a really sad and depressing way) to imagine what would happen if Donald Trump was running as a Democrat. All of a sudden, the very people who are currently adoring him would be screaming that his lying, cheating, bullying, tax-evading self was totally unsuitable to be president. As an independent, I will tell you that I do not think that the Democratic Party would twist themselves into pretzels to support Trump’s nomination like this. In that way, they have found themselves in the position of having more integrity than Republicans.

Finally, the fact that every living president is against Trump, multiple prominent Republicans are against Trump, and multiple historically Republican newspapers have refused to endorse Trump, does not mean “Trump is his own man who can’t be controlled” or “the establishment doesn’t like an outsider coming in.” How is Trump an outsider? He is a white, wealthy, New York male who is the very essence of an American insider. Think about this: if every one of these people was trying to warn you of impending disaster, how would you prefer they tell you?

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If You’re Not a Trump Supporter

One of the most disturbing aspects of the world we live in is the disappearance of truth. There is no longer any truth. People simply choose not to believe whatever facts you present before them. Trump is not a person who stiffs small businesses. He’ll fight for the little guy! Trump didn’t lose the debate. Republican polls say he won! Trump may be unpleasant, but Hillary is just as bad!

For this elimination of truth, I actually place the original blame on the liberal media. I have a journalism degree, and the liberal bias of the mainstream media has been well-known in journalism for decades. As a non-liberal, it’s been painful to witness day in and day out. Here’s an example: when the New York Times published an article last month about the Christianization of the Berenstain Bears books, I knew just by the fact that it was the New York Times that the piece would be negative. Liberal sources never like Christianity. If the source was truly objective, I should not have been able to know that before reading the article.

But when mainstream journalism decided to allow this bias to go unchecked, it was only natural that conservative forces would eventually decide to create their own media. When FOX News came about, Truth was on its deathbed. Now, people simply tune in to the news that fits their worldview, rather than allowing themselves to be educated on what the world actually is. Which means there is no way to get the truth to everyone. I know people, Christians no less, who refuse to believe anything they hear about Trump if it’s reported by a “liberal” source. Even if it’s true! Because truth no longer matters. If the mainstream media had held firm to the cherished journalistic principle of objectivity all along, we would not have needed a right-wing media counterpart, and we would not have Donald Trump, buoyed by millions of deluded supporters, where he is today.

There are many Republicans who have shown true integrity, though – Lindsey Graham, the Bushes, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and many more – and history will treat them kindly. I also want to point out that there are many Christians who have spoken out against Trump from the beginning: Max Lucado, Russell Moore, Joshua Harris, Beth Moore, Jim Wallis, Jimmy Carter, and many more.

In closing, you know how people want Muslims to apologize for ISIS? I feel that exact responsibility as a Christian. So here it is: To non-Christians everywhere, I am so very, very sorry that some of my fellow Christians are supporting Donald Trump.

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Here are some additional articles I think are worth a read before the election:

  • Texas Newspaper Destroys Myth that HRC is Lesser of Two Evils

http://www.politicususa.com/2016/10/02/texas-newspaper-destroys-myth-hillary-clinton-lesser-evils.html

  • Mark Amore’s FB Post on Each of the Lies About Trump and HRC

https://www.facebook.com/markamore/posts/10208559836286327

  • Atlantic Endorsing HRC

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/the-case-for-hillary-clinton-and-against-donald-trump/501161/

  • Theologian Miroslav Volf on Who Christians Should Vote For (mentions that American Christians have been brainwashed)

http://religionnews.com/2016/10/05/who-should-christians-vote-for-theologian-miroslav-volf-makes-a-surprising-case-for-one-candidate/

  • This Election is Challenging My Faith

http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/15/election-challenging-faith/

  • 10 Reasons Why You Can’t be a Christian and Vote for Donald Trump

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2016/02/29/pieper-and-henderson-10-reasons-you-cant-be-a-christian-and-vote-for-donald-trump

  • Democrats Raise Money To Rebuild Firebombed GOP Office

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-raise-funds-north-carolina-republican-firebombed-office_us_580430eee4b0162c043cb7e1

  • Mormons Have Put White Evangelicals to Shame

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mormons-consciences-have-put-white-evangelicals-to_us_5802d33de4b0985f6d15724c

  • HRC is the Best Choice for Voters Against Abortion

http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-is-the-best-choice-for-voters-against-abortion-170258/

  • Pro-Lifers Who Support Donald Trump Are Kidding Themselves

http://www.vox.com/first-person/2016/10/25/13380272/donald-trump-pro-life-abortion

  • This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and His State’s Economy is One of the Best

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-gibson/mark-dayton-minnesota-economy_b_6737786.html

  • Trump Booted a Black Man From His Rally and He Was a Supporter

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/29/trump-booted-a-black-man-from-his-rally-and-called-him-a-thug-turns-out-he-is-a-supporter/

  • Trump: Tribune of Poor White People

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-us-politics-poor-whites/

  • 23 Things Donald Trump Has Said That Would Have Doomed Another Candidate

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/17/23-things-donald-trump-has-said-that-would-have-doomed-another-candidate/

  • Have We Forgotten the Point of Christianity?

https://sojo.net/articles/have-we-forgotten-point-christianity

  • How the Heck Can Voters Think Donald Trump is More Honest Than Hillary Clinton?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/02/donald-trump-hasnt-told-the-truth-repeatedly-in-this-campaign-voters-still-think-he-is-more-honest-than-hillary-clinton/

 

 

 

 

 

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Gun Rights, Updated

In Politics on June 17, 2016 at 3:08 pm

 

 

Five days ago the Orlando massacre occurred. The worst mass shooting in U.S. history (and you know every one of us is thinking, “until the next one.”) There have been over 1,200 mass shootings in the United States since Newtown (which was just in December 2012) alone. Every time this happens, I feel sick and heartbroken. I’m frightened for my loved ones. And although the vast majority of my friends and family are reasonable, intelligent people who recognize the desperate need for gun control in this country, I am still confronted with callous, heartless ignorance spewed forth by gun owners on the Internet in the aftermath of each of these tragedies.

I find this amazing. On nearly every other controversial issue, there are legitimate arguments for the other side. I believe abortion is wrong, but I can understand why people argue for it. I believe everyone is entitled to health care, but I can understand the reasons why barriers exist. In my heart, I don’t believe in capital punishment, but I certainly understand the arguments for the death penalty. But when it comes to gun control, I have never once been presented with a convincing argument for guns. Not once. In my experience, gun owners know this. Therefore, they resort to non sequiturs (“We should just do away with doctors and nurses then, since people die from medical errors”), insults (referring to Moms Demand Action as “Bloomberg’s minions”), self-determined absolutes (“Keeping guns away from the mentally ill might be OK, but further regulation and confiscation is too much.” Says who?) and death threats. Therefore, I’m reposting and updating my post from December 2012 with answers to nearly every anti-gun control argument I’ve encountered, in the effort to compile a comprehensive list to which we can all refer. When it comes to logic, proponents of gun control are clearly in the right. If you have additional arguments and rebuttals to add to this list, please send them to me.

  • Owning firearms is my right. It’s in the Constitution.

Perhaps it is, if you are an American. As a Canadian living in the United States, I can tell you that the idea that any person is entitled to own a lethal weapon seems patently absurd. I mean, you have the specified right to own a gun but not, say, health insurance or a refrigerator, things which are actually useful and much less likely to harm someone? That the government would even comment on this one object is bizarre. So why did they? Because the Founding Fathers intended to allow citizens to protect themselves from tyranny. Nothing else. If you are a gun-rights activist, do you imagine that the government today, in 2016, is coming after you? And if it is, do you actually believe that your personal store of firearms will stop them? It won’t and you know it, so your gun stash is not there to protect you from tyranny. I read somewhere that in the 1700s, it took a full 30 seconds to reload your gun after firing one shot. A mass killing using guns back then was virtually impossible. Do you think for one second that, if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would stand for the 2nd Amendment being used for massacres — school massacres, at that? If so, you are, frankly, delusional. Because did you know that those same Founding Fathers banned guns at the University of Virginia, the school they founded, and my alma mater?

If you need further evidence, check this out. The Second Amendment clearly states that it is applicable to a militia, not to every Tom Dick and Harry. How convenient that it became twisted to say otherwise once the NRA became involved. And don’t even get me started on assault rifles. Where on earth do we find justification for every random member of the public to own one of those? Why not nuclear bombs or RPGs for everyone then?

We also know that the Founding Fathers were regular human beings who could no more know what society would be like today than we can know what the world will be like in 2350, if we haven’t destroyed ourselves by then. To stubbornly hold to everything they said without considering how they have also been wrong is what children would do, not intelligent adults. We know they got some things wrong, because THERE HAVE BEEN 27 AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION SO FAR. If the Founding Fathers had written in the right to own slaves and the 13th amendment hadn’t passed, would gun owners honestly be fighting for the right to slaves in 2016 just because the Constitution allowed it?

As it is said, “Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” The fact that guns are legal increases the chance that I will be shot while buying groceries. (You can’t argue this. These mass shootings happen far more frequently in this country than in any other. The idea that the media is making this up and getting away with it is a new level of delusion and it costs people their lives.) Therefore my right to life and liberty is less important than your right to pack heat. If you are a gun-rights activist, at least be man enough to admit that.

  • Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill people. I guess we should ban fertilizer, knives and cars too.

Except that fertilizer, knives, cars and anything else you can think of have other, legitimate, useful purposes. The only purpose of a gun is to maim or kill. Guns are far more effective at killing than any other weapon. Admit it, gun owners: that’s why you want them. Additionally, a gun makes it possible to kill many more people, in much less time, than anything else. How many people do you think you could kill with a candlestick before being overpowered? One? A perfect example is the tragic school attack in China just hours before the Newtown massacre. The perpetrator used a knife and had 23 victims. Guess how many died? None.

  • Guns don’t kill, people do.

I love this one. Stop letting people have guns then.

  • Banning guns won’t stop criminals from having them.

Since when is the difficulty in enforcing a law an excuse not to write the law in the first place? Last I noticed, murder is still illegal in the U.S., but it keeps happening. Why don’t we legalize murder then, since people keep committing it? As a pain management physician, I can tell you how incredibly difficult it is to keep people from misusing their medication. Yet we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “You know what? Writing these prescriptions and drug-testing you is a real pain. From now on, you take as much Percocet as you want!”

We create laws because a) they act as a deterrent for, not an eliminator of, criminal behaviour, and b) they give us recourse to punish people when they break them. The fact that marijuana use has skyrocketed in areas where marijuana is legal is proof that when something is legal, it is more common. If guns were illegal except for law enforcement officers, police would be able to confiscate any firearm they came across. Gun producers would be shut down. Any intelligent person can see that simply in terms of sheer numbers, gun prevalence would decrease. With fewer guns, you have fewer shootings. I’m not saying no shootings. I’m saying fewer shootings.

  • I grew up with guns. It’s part of my culture.

That may well be the case. But sometimes cultures need to change. Slavery was once a financially critical part of America’s culture. Open discrimination against the disabled was once a part of our culture. Cannibalism was part of some cultures. But as society evolved, we recognized that these things were wrong and that we had to work to get rid of them. The disgusted reactions of the rest of the world to America’s “gun culture” is both telling and embarrassing.

  • We need guns to protect ourselves.

This conjures up the image of the nice, law-abiding citizen confronting an intruder in their home and thankfully having their trusty gun to protect their sleeping family. Except that’s not how it usually works. Most “self-defense” gun violence is between people who know each other, where the reality of who is defending and who is offending is not at all clear. Of all self-defense handgun homicides in 1997 for example, according to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, only 2.3% were ruled justifiable homicides by civilians. Which means the other 97.7% turned out to be just plain homicides. (And that’s not taking into account how often guns in the home are used in suicides or accidental injuries/deaths.) A tragic case earlier this week is a perfect example. This mom spewed the usual party line on Facebook about Democrats wanting to take away her guns and her ability to defend herself. She then used those guns to murder her two daughters in cold blood. She did this on her residential street. Who thinks that if she had used a bat or a knife that she would have been successful at killing both before being stopped?

And if you truly believe that you live in such a dangerous area as to need something with which to defend yourself, why not a Taser? That would incapacitate an intruder but not kill, and therefore could not be intentionally used to kill anyone else either. (And in case anyone is actually about to argue that occasionally people do die from Taser use, I will state the obvious – that the intention of the Taser, unlike a gun, is not to kill.)

  • Banning guns won’t stop violent crime. Crazy people don’t obey laws. 

It’s exactly because crazy people don’t obey laws that we shouldn’t give them the tools to break them. If a murderous person wants to be murderous, why would we not do everything in our power to prevent them from accessing a lethal weapon when it has no other possible use? Yes, they could kill with a car, but they can also drive to and from work in a car. The only thing they can do with a firearm is injure or kill. There is a serious moral failing in being lukewarm about preventing gun sales to the insane because it might infringe on your own gun rights. You are therefore saying it is fine with you that the rest of us are at risk every day.

  • We need better mental health care, not fewer guns.

As a physician, I totally agree with those who are calling for an overhaul of this nation’s mental health system. They are absolutely right. But this is yet another foil that gun-rights activists hide behind. First of all, it’s great to pay lip service to improving mental health care, but those same Congresspeople then vote against increasing mental health funding. In addition, this contributes to the stigma that the mentally ill are violent. Most are not. In fact a mentally ill person is far more likely to be the victim of violence than the instigator. Thirdly,  the United States does not have a higher proportion of mental illness than other developed countries. So mental illness alone cannot account for the nightmare we’re currently living in. Finally,why are the vast majority of mass murderers men? If mental health was the only contributor, the number of female killers should be almost equal.

We certainly do need better mental health care. But it makes no sense to do nothing in the thirty or forty years until that happens (if ever.) And what about all the perfectly sane people who kill using guns? How do we stop them from accessing guns when we have no way of figuring out who they are?

  • Guns are a fun hobby. There’s nothing wrong with hunting.

For those of us who are meat-eaters, we don’t have a problem with hunting. In a more moderate mood, I might be willing to concede that guns, when genuinely used for humane hunting with the goal of obtaining food for consumption or sale, might have a place in modern society. But if the gun lobby is so unwilling to be moderate, then I am too. Your hobby is not more important than human beings’ lives. There’s no way to adequately police whether people are using their guns only for hunting food. I enjoy knitting, but if knitting needles were being used in multiple mass killings of innocent bystanders, then I would gladly give up my hobby if there was a chance that just one fewer person would be killed. Because I’m, you know, a compassionate human being.

  • The solution to gun violence is more guns. If the victims had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened.

If anyone is actually saying this in regards to Newtown, we are not having a discussion with intellectual equals. Do you really think we should put lethal weapons into the hands of kindergartners? And to suggest that teachers should be armed is just laughable. The NRA has shown its simultaneously sociopathic and infantile worldview on this one. What happens when the school bully, or even the class clown, pinches his gym teacher’s pistol(s)? After the Virginia Tech killings (an event that hit close to home for our family, since my father-in-law has worked there for 30 years and my brother- and sister-in-law were freshmen in lockdown on campus that day) many sick gun activists have fought for open carry on college campuses. Why do the people who put forth this argument never acknowledge that human beings are volatile? Especially on a college campus where youth and alcohol use intersect? All it takes is one disagreement, one bad day, one bad grade, one person cutting in front of you in traffic, and your self-control can be weakened. We know that kids have been killed in road rage incidents. Why is this acceptable? For some people, it might take a lot to get them to actually brandish their gun. For others, it might not take much. How the heck would we know who is who? Why should my life depend on 100% self-control from every single person around me (which we all know is impossible to achieve)?

In the case of more recent mass shootings, how on earth do we know the victims weren’t armed? Who honestly thinks that in this gun-loving country, not one single person in the Pulse club that night in Orlando had a firearm? I have no doubt that someone did! But in the dark when there’s shooting, what are you going to do? Shoot back blindly and hope that of all the people you kill, one of them is the gunman?

(Updated to add: We know that the “good guys with guns,” as if there is such a thing, complicate law and order or turn tail and run when faced with gunfire. That’s exactly what happened at the Dallas Black Lives Matter protest when police officers were killed in July 2016. It was impossible to tell who was an attacker and who wasn’t when lots of random people were carrying assault rifles. And by the way, it wasn’t an open-carry proponent who brought down the killer. It was a robot. So the presence of gun owners did not make that situation one bit better. It is so clear, as the police are saying, that more people with guns just creates more confusion and more opportunity for death. I love the quote from the gun lover in this article, though. He claims it’s really simple to tell a good guy from a bad guy, because when the police ask a good guy to put down their gun, they do, but a bad guy will start shooting. OH, SO WE SHOULD GO UP TO A GUN-WIELDING LUNATIC AND ASK HIM HIS INTENTIONS. If we end up dead, he was bad. Simple indeed! How do these people sleep at night, knowing how they’re putting us all at such risk? How intellectually stunted do you have to be to believe these insane rationalizations?)

  • Places with gun control still have shootings. 

But they have fewer of them. Howard Stern said gun control on planes didn’t stop the 9/11 attackers (I have no desire to link to this statement and give him more traffic.) People have said that France’s gun control didn’t stop the Paris attacks. Gun advocates always say such nonsense, conveniently forgetting that the ATTACKS WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE WITH GUNS. The existence of gun control means that there are countless attacks that have never occurred. How many hijackings of American planes have occurred since 9/11? Zero. How many gun deaths are there in France? 0.06 per 100,000 people, compared to 3.2 per 100,000 in the United States (and that’s an old statistic.) We can thank gun control for both of these.

  • We need guns to protect us from Islamic terrorists. All this gun violence is because of them.

So many things wrong with this statement. First of all, gun advocates are cravenly using the ISIS connections of the San Bernardino and Orlando tragedies for their own purposes again: to obscure the real issue of gun control. Islamic terrorists are on a suicide mission. THEY DO NOT CARE IF THEY DIE. What difference would anyone else’s gun make to them?

Secondly, what about all the other mass shootings we’ve endured? Columbine, Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Oregon. None of those shooters had anything to do with ISIS. What excuse do you have there, gun lovers?

Thirdly, if you believe this, why on earth wouldn’t you want to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons? Yet one of the reasons the Democrats filibustered this week was to force a vote on preventing terror suspects from legally buying guns – something Republicans have actually opposed.

  • In the same way banning all Muslims would hurt law-abiding Muslims, banning all guns would hurt law-abiding gun owners.

In my opinion, it’s pretty insulting to equate the “hurt” of giving up a possession to the same hurt a Muslim feels when they’re the target of a hate crime or deportation. Not being willing to give up an object in pursuit of the greater good – saving countless lives – is indefensible. To see gun control as punishing gun owners, instead of as protecting innocent lives, is a truly self-centred worldview.

  • I don’t like government regulation. 

Then why do we regulate Sudafed sales? Why are Kinder eggs illegal? Why do we all take our shoes off at the airport and limit our on-board fluids to 3 ounces? In a civilized society that values the safety of its members, regulation is imperative. What does it say about this country that guns are legal and Kinder eggs are not?

  • Requiring all guns to be registered will give Donald Trump or another future dictator an easy way to identify and disarm citizens who could oppose them.

When I first heard this argument, I was dumbfounded. Then I realized that being a gun advocate must actually be more terrifying on a day-to-day basis than being a gun opponent. I’m frightened that my loved ones or I will be the victims of gun violence in a public place. But they are frightened that, at any moment, criminals will storm their houses and kill their families, or that the government will be taking them hostage any day now. It must be truly exhausting. Here’s the thing, though: this scenario is a remote possibility. The massacre of thousands of people, some of them kindergartners, is our current reality. It is fundamentally selfish and delusional to refuse to do what we can to change our bad reality because of the fear of an unlikely possibility. In addition, it doesn’t make sense. Don’t we currently register our cars? Aren’t the deeds to our homes public record? Couldn’t the government just as easily seize those? If the American government really became a dictatorship, does anyone believe their personal weapons would outmatch the government’s?

  • We don’t know if changing gun laws will actually do anything.

And that’s a reason to not even try? But the truth is, we actually do know. There was another New Town mass shooting once, in New Town, Australia in 1996. 12 days later, gun control laws were put into place. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since. By now we have all seen the statistics: every other industrialized country in the world has strict gun laws and nowhere near the gun violence the U.S. does. This New York Times article takes a succinct look.

  • The NRA isn’t evil.

Ah, I beg to differ. I truly believe these people should be prosecuted for mass homicide. Much like the tobacco industry in the 1960s, they have brainwashed the American public into thinking that what they’re peddling is great. And why do they do it? For profits. As ill as it makes me to type this, mass shootings mean mass profits. The deaths of human beings makes money for gun manufacturers, and naturally we can expect that kickbacks go to their tireless supporter, the NRA. Any group that is against background checks, that is against closing the gun show loophole, that would try to hold a rally in Newtown, Connecticut on the anniversary of that tragedy, is evil. Many people don’t know that the NRA also fights to prevent the CDC from conducting research into gun violence, and they fight to prevent doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients. What utter hypocrites! They believe in the Second Amendment, but not the First Amendment (the right to free speech)?

What unique kind of evil is required to behave in this way? If they’re so sure that guns don’t kill, why are they afraid of research into it? Why do they want to stop physicians from preventing the deaths of their patients? Because they want to continue brainwashing Americans into thinking guns are wonderful, and because they want to continue profiting from the deaths of those same Americans. Their desire for death is the only explanation for mind-boggling bills like the one in Iowa allowing children of all ages to own guns. Because the amount of tragedy we have already isn’t enough??? We should all be outraged. Non-insane gun owners should stand up and renounce this organization. Because if they don’t, they are morally culpable too. We’ll all have to account for our actions before God one day, and supporting the NRA will have no excuse.

  • It’s hopeless to stop gun sales, because America has so many guns out there already.

First of all, nothing is hopeless. The gun lobby wants reasonable citizens to believe exactly that — that it’s hopeless — so that we’ll shut up. But it’s not true. First of all, popular culture can change. Eliminating slavery and beating Hitler probably seemed hopeless too, at the time, but they both happened. In this case, one possible solution would be a widespread government buyback program, something that has been used successfully in other countries. I have no doubt that there are many people whose supposedly undying devotion to their Constitution (despite the fact that they probably can’t tell you anything else about it) will evaporate in the face of easy cash. In addition, if law enforcement was given authority to seize weapons, that would eliminate many of them as well. There are many gun lovers who claim that people will engage in shootouts with the police rather than give up their guns. That only bolsters my concern that gun advocates must be selfish, amoral individuals who believe their possessions are more important than others’ lives.

  • I believe in guns because I’m a Christian.

It is alternately fascinating and sickening to see how American Christianity has gotten mixed up with guns. That some people could consider guns justifiable from a Christian perspective is hideous. What does it say when a “Christian” belief exists only in your country? Why is it that this “Christian” perspective is not the same for Christians of any other nationality? Do any of us honestly believe that the loving God who knit every one of us together in our mothers’ wombs is pro-gun? In addition, how on earth can you be anti-abortion but pro-2nd Amendment? You care about an unborn child but not the children we already have with us? I am anti-gun because I am pro-life. The pre-born are important, but the post-born must be at least equally so. Who could possibly think that fetuses are worth fighting for but toddlers who accidentally shoot themselves are not? I’m glad that Pope Francis has spoken out about guns and Christianity, and I pray that other church leaders will wake up and do the same.

I appreciate this Christian author’s perspective, and I want to quote him because he gets it exactly right: “Would I be willing to give up my guns in northern Wisconsin if it would save a life in downtown Chicago? Yes. If it came to it. A thousand times over.” If there is any chance that limiting guns would decrease deaths — and there is no way you can claim that it wouldn’t save at least some lives — then any human being with a shred of decency should be supporting gun control. What it comes down to is, do you love your neighbour more than you love your rights? Your possessions? Did Christ not say that loving your neighbour was second only to loving God as the most important commandment? Cheering for guns that will only injure or kill your fellow man is the very opposite of love.

The simple fact of the matter is that America’s gun culture puts all of us at risk. I am at risk, you are at risk, our precious children are at risk of being slaughtered every single day because anyone around us may have a gun and could snap. Gun activists, how long will you put your heads in the sand? Does this not matter to you? Will it only matter to you if your own child is murdered by a madman? Will it even change your mind then? Understand this — if you support guns, you are saying you are OK with the murder of others. Gun ownership is unequivocally selfish. If there is ANY chance that eliminating guns could decrease the number of homicides in this country, you should be supporting gun control. And if your reaction to every gun tragedy is not wondering how to stop this from continuing to happen, but wondering how to make sure your gun rights aren’t affected, you are, quite frankly, a bad person. There’s no other way to say it. You are a bad person and you will have to answer to God for it. This New Yorker article says it well: that people who argue against gun control have made a clear moral choice, that the comfort they derive from carrying a weapon is more important than the safety of innocent children.

I feel like I live in a society that couldn’t care less about the safety of my children or theirs, because if they did, they would act on the one thing they could control: guns. We can’t control the prevalence of hate. We can’t control the prevalence of mental illness (although we could improve our care for those people, not that that’s happening either.) We can’t control the absence of self-control. These things have existed in every society since the beginning of time. But widely available guns don’t exist in every society. They don’t exist in any other society like they do in this one, actually. And that tells me that our lives are worthless to this society’s gun advocates, my fellow citizens. It makes me sick to my stomach. Many gun supporters (eg. the NRA) benefit financially from pushing guns. But gun control proponents gain no monetary profit from limiting guns, and instead endure incredible abuse from the other side. The reason we still feel so strongly about this because we feel so strongly about our fellow humans’ lives. Isn’t that how anyone would feel … that is, if they were a decent human being?

A Post for Gun-Rights Activists

In Politics on December 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

http://www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/pdf/facts/Brady_GodBlessAmerica.pdf

There are some issues that seem very black-or-white to the people who find them important. Gun control is one of those issues for me. It’s always seemed obvious to me why eliminating firearms (yes, I’m going to go there) is the right thing to do. But in the past, I could let it go. So 2nd Amendment proponents don’t agree with me. Fine. Live and let live. Except here’s the thing — they’re literally not letting us live. Disagreement on this crucial issue is costing us our lives. 4 days ago, 20 kindergartners were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. (Along with 7 of their adult protectors — let’s not give them short shrift just because they were lucky enough to grow up before dying.) The bile rises in my throat whenever I read about this horror and injustice. What can we do? we all ask ourselves. Well let’s start by calling opposing gun control what it really is: a moral atrocity. And let’s stand up and take down the offensive arguments the gun lobby has systematically and coldheartedly promoted. (Gun activists, please read this. If you are so certain about what you believe, you shouldn’t be afraid of what I have to say.)

  • Owning firearms is my right. It’s in the Constitution.

Indeed it is your legal right, if you are an American. As a Canadian, I can tell you that the idea that any person is entitled to own a lethal weapon seems patently absurd. I mean, you have the specified right to own a gun but not, say, health insurance or a refrigerator, which are actually useful and much less likely to harm someone? That the government would even comment on this one object is bizarre. So why did they? Because the Founding Fathers intended to allow citizens to protect themselves from tyranny. Nothing else. If you are a gun-rights activist, do you imagine that the government today, in 2012, is coming after you? And if it is, do you actually believe that your pathetic little store of firearms will stop them? It won’t and you know it, so your gun stash is not there to protect you from tyranny. I read somewhere that in the 1700s, it took a full 30 seconds to reload your gun after firing one shot. A mass killing using guns back then was virtually impossible. Do you think for one second that, if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would stand for the 2nd Amendment being used for massacres — school massacres, at that? If so, you are, frankly, delusional.

As it is said, “Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” The fact that guns are legal increases the chance that I will be shot while buying groceries. (You can’t argue this. These mass shootings happen far more frequently in this country than in any other. How many can we count this year alone?) Therefore my right to life and liberty is less important than your right to pack heat. If you are a gun-rights activist, at least be man enough to admit that.

  • Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill people. I guess we should ban fertilizer, knives and cars too.

Except that fertilizer, knives, cars and anything else you can think of each have other, legitimate, useful purposes. The only purpose of a gun is to maim or kill. Additionally, a gun makes it possible to kill many more people, in much less time, than anything else. How many people do you think you could kill with a candlestick before being overpowered? One? A perfect example is the tragic school attack in China just hours before the Newtown massacre. The perpetrator used a knife and had 23 victims. Guess how many died? None.

  • Guns don’t kill, people do.

I love this one. Do you live in a world where pistols go rogue and run around shooting at each other while their owners aren’t looking? Every gun that kills someone had a person at the other end of it.

  • Banning guns won’t stop criminals from having them.

Since when is the difficulty in enforcing a law reason not to write the law in the first place? Last I noticed, murder is still illegal in the U.S., but it keeps happening. Why don’t we legalize murder, and drugs then, since people keep using them? As a pain management physician, I can tell you how incredibly difficult it is to keep people from misusing their medication. Yet we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “You know what? Writing these prescriptions and drug-testing you is a real pain. From now on, you take as much Percocet as you want!”

We create laws because a) they act as a deterrent for criminal behaviour (not as an eliminator), and b) they give us recourse to punish people when they break them. If guns were illegal except for law enforcement officers, police would be able to confiscate any firearm they came across. Gun producers would be shut down. Any intelligent person can see that simply in terms of sheer numbers, gun prevalence would decrease. With fewer guns, you have fewer shootings. I’m not saying no shootings. I’m saying fewer shootings.

  • We need guns to protect ourselves.

This conjures up the image of the nice, law-abiding citizen confronting an intruder in their home and thankfully having their trusty gun to protect their sleeping family. Except that’s not how it usually works. Most “self-defense” gun violence is between people who know each other, where the reality of who is defending and who is offending is not at all clear. Of all self-defense handgun homicides in 1997 for example, according to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, only 2.3% were ruled justifiable homicides by civilians. Which means the other 97.7% turned out to be just plain homicides. And that’s not taking into account how often guns in the home are used in suicides or accidental injuries/deaths.

  • Banning guns won’t stop violent crime. Crazy people don’t obey laws.

It’s exactly because crazy people don’t obey laws that we shouldn’t give them the tools to break them. If a murderous person wants to be murderous, why would we not do everything in our power to prevent them from accessing a lethal weapon when it has no other possible use? Yes, they could kill with a car, but they can also drive to and from work in a car. The only thing they can do with a weapon is injure or kill. There is a serious moral failing in being lukewarm about preventing gun sales to the mentally ill because it might infringe on your own gun rights. You are therefore saying it is fine with you that the rest of us are at risk every day.

As an aside, I totally agree with those who are calling for an overhaul of this nation’s mental health system. They are absolutely right. The current ultimate treatment for the mentally ill in the U.S. is prison. That can’t continue. That being said, why are the vast majority of mass murderers men? If mental health was the only contributor, the number of female killers should be almost equal.

  • Guns are a fun hobby. There’s nothing wrong with hunting.

For those of us who are not vegetarians, we don’t have a problem with hunting. In a more moderate mood, I might be willing to concede that guns, when genuinely used for humane hunting with the goal of obtaining food for consumption or sale, might have a place in modern society. But if the gun lobby is so unwilling to be moderate, then I am too. There’s no way to adequately police whether people are using their guns only for hunting food. So take them away. If I loved knitting, and knitting needles were being used in multiple mass killings of innocent bystanders, then I would gladly give up my hobby if there was a chance one fewer person would be killed. Because I’m, you know, a compassionate human being.

  • The solution to gun violence is more guns. If the victims had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened.

If anyone is actually saying this after this most recent tragedy in Newtown, we are not having a discussion with intellectual equals. Do you really think we should put lethal weapons into the hands of kindergartners? And to suggest that teachers should be armed is just laughable. The NRA has really shown its simultaneously sociopathic and infantile worldview on this one. What happens when the school bully, or even the class clown, pinches his gym teacher’s pistol(s)? After the Virginia Tech killings (an event that hit close to home for our family, since my father-in-law has worked there for 30 years and my brother- and sister-in-law were freshmen in lockdown on campus that day) some gun activists suggested that the university should be allowing students to carry weapons, to which a professor promptly replied that he would resign from teaching immediately. Why do people who put forth this argument never acknowledge that human beings are volatile? All it takes is one disagreement, one bad day, and your self-control can be weakened. For some people, it might take a lot to get them to actually brandish their gun. For others, it might not take much. How the heck would we know who is who?

  • We don’t know if changing gun laws will actually do anything.

So is that a reason not to even try? But the truth is that actually we do know. There was another New Town mass shooting once, in New Town, Australia in 1996. 12 days later, gun control laws were put into place. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since. By now we have all seen the statistics: every other industrialized country in the world has strict gun laws and nowhere near the gun violence the U.S. does. This New York Times article takes a succinct look.

The simple fact of the matter is that America’s gun culture puts all of us at risk. I am at risk, you are at risk, our precious children are at risk of being slaughtered every single day … at school, in the movie theatre, at a gas station … because anyone around us may have a gun and could snap. Gun activists, how long will you put your heads in the sand? Does this not matter to you? Will it only matter to you if your own child is murdered by a madman? Will it even change your mind then? The Onion had a headline to the effect of “Nation realizes this is just something that happens now.” Understand this — if you support guns, you are saying you are OK with that. If there is any chance that eliminating guns could decrease the number of homicides in this country, you should be supporting gun control. And if your reaction to the Newtown school shooting was not wondering how to stop this from continuing to happen but how to make sure your gun rights aren’t affected, you are, quite frankly, a bad person. There’s no other way to say it. You are a bad person and you will have to answer to God for it. This New Yorker article says it well: that people who argue against gun control have made a clear moral choice, that the comfort they derive from carrying a weapon is more important than the safety of innocent children.

Bringing up God, by the way, is another interesting avenue. When I first moved to the U.S. I was incredulous (and still am) that the political party known for gun advocacy is the same party supposedly affiliated with the Christian Right. How can this be? Do any of us honestly believe God is pro-gun? And how on earth can you be anti-abortion but pro-2nd Amendment? You care about an unborn child but not the children we already have with us? I am anti-gun because I am pro-life. I care about all lives, not just some. I’ve also read that Anne Graham quote that says for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our lives, so we cannot have it both ways and simultaneously demand his blessings. Let me state here that I agree with her. When God is not the centre of our lives, chaos will naturally ensue, and as a society we cannot expect to do well. But to apply that quote in this context as an argument that guns were not the cause is offensive, both to the victims and to our collective intelligence. God gave us brains so we would use them. Only after we have done everything we humanly can to prevent such horror (such as eliminating weapons and access to them) can we sit back and say that this is all about our poor relationship with God. It’s like saying that a person died in a head-on collision because he had rejected God. Well OK, that might be true, but perhaps his not wearing a seatbelt also had something to do with it.

It is not OK that I have to live with a higher risk of losing my child because you love your guns. If your misplaced loyalty to a killing machine didn’t affect me, I could leave you to it. But it does. If your weapon gets into the wrong hands (and those wrong hands might be yours, for all I know), anyone in my family could be dead. That alone is reason enough to get rid of the weapon. There is no advantage to owning a gun that trumps the safety of the rest of us.

Gun activists, if you are still not convinced, and if you still believe yourself to have a shred of humanity, look at this Washington Post slideshow. Do not bury your head in the sand. If you believe guns are great, at least be big enough to own it. Look into the eyes of these innocent, dead people. Imagine what it must be like to be five years old, to see your small friends shot to death before your very eyes, to see your teacher slaughtered while trying to shield you, to be so terrified that you vomit all over yourself and lose control of your bladder, to scream for your mommy and daddy whom in fact you will never see again in this life, to feel a bullet rip through your own tiny body. Have the courage to imagine that scene and to recognize what it says about you that you still believe it’s more important for you to own guns than for kindergartners to be protected.

When I was getting my baby dressed for school Friday morning, those parents in Connecticut were doing the exact same thing. A few hours later, mine came home. Theirs did not. How will any of us survive if our children are next? Fellow gun-control advocates, what are we going to do about this?

UPDATE: Another great article laying out the simple truth. Withholding gun control is like withholding antibiotics, and we’re allowing a bunch of crazies to do just that. How I hope that this author is right, and that one day soon gun control will be as ubiquitous, and its rightness as universally accepted, as seatbelts and smoking bans. Especially because seatbelts (although I’m all for them, of course) generally only help the people wearing them (it’s rare that you’re going to kill someone else by not wearing a seatbelt) but gun control would protect us all. And how I hope that the NRA’s sunset is near, and that they’ll soon be thought of in the same category, and understood to be as evil and anachronistic as, the KKK.

Reinstated: My Faith in the People

In Politics on June 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Uva-logo.png)

Wow. A few minutes ago, after another week of soap-opera-worthy twists and anonymous leaks, President Teresa Sullivan was reinstated by a unanimous vote of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors.

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. Since I last posted, support for Sullivan continued to swell both on and off campus (or “Grounds,” as UVa insists on calling it.) The interim president, who is the dean of the undergraduate business school and the man with the least enviable job in the state of Virginia, Carl Zeithaml, was voted in by the Board and then stepped down three days later, saying he would no longer engage in planning for the presidency until Sullivan’s position was decided once and for all. (Part of his secret plan all along to cripple the Board and prevent it from moving forward? If so: genius.) Three members of the Board, at least one of whom had not been informed of the plot to remove Sullivan, called for another Board meeting on June 26 to consider reinstating her. Board Rector Helen Dragas (the orchestrator of the coup) released a lengthy statement on June 21 (11 full days after announcing Sullivan’s exit) outlining all the problems facing the university. However, she didn’t indicate what Sullivan had done wrong in dealing with them, or why we should believe anything Dragas says when she’s handled this so poorly. She also refused to back down, uttering the famous “We did the right thing, the wrong way.” Actually, she didn’t even write it at all, since astute readers noted that if you right-click on the PDF file, the author’s name is revealed to be John Ullyot, a senior vice-president at that pricey PR firm Dragas hired. I’m sorry, at $50,000-$100,000 a pop, you can’t get handlers who know how to fix rookie “Intro to Computing” mistakes like this?

The same day, the governor of Virginia released a stern statement and a separate letter to the Board saying that if the Board did not make a final decision on Tuesday the 26th, he would ask every one of them to resign on Wednesday. That move was meant to paint him as a strong, no-nonsense leader, but since I am now suspecting he was involved in this to begin with, I’m not so sure. After all, Peter Kiernan’s original leaked e-mail that started it all specifically said that nothing of this kind can be done without the knowledge and assent of the governor. And word had also been leaked that the Board had secretly sent a contingent to Sullivan the week of June 18 to ask if she would consider returning, and she said she would on the condition that Dragas resigned. Dragas has so far, amazingly, continued to refuse to do so, and the governor has refused to force her (and his office is leaking that he actually plans to reappoint her when her term is up on July 1, which will be truly unbelievable if accurate.) So the governor’s statement, though superficially firm and neutral, actually made it seem impossible for Sullivan to return. Additionally, I found it suspicious that he criticized faculty, alumni and students for protesting but gave the Board just a verbal slap on the wrist. Oh, so it’s the little people’s fault for not blindly following?

Meanwhile, Dragas’ sister wrote an op-ed basically saying “Don’t hate on my sister, she’s nice and Sullivan sucks,” a blogger presented the Declaration of Independence as written by the UVa Board of Visitors (if you click on no other link in this post, you must click on this one, it’s hilarious) and the Huffington Post published a very interesting piece about the fundamental misunderstanding of basic business principles displayed by a Board populated with supposedly prestigious MBAs. Oh, and people kept vigil-ing and making impassioned speeches from the steps of Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the school, for whatever that’s worth.

And then today, amidst rumours that Sullivan had taken back her condition that Dragas must resign, Dragas asked Sullivan if she could walk her over to this afternoon’s historic Board meeting. The lone Board member who voted no to the interim president, Heywood Fralin, moved to rescind the forced resignation. And Helen Dragas made a speech about healing the University… at the end of which she voted in favour of reinstating President Sullivan.

These people know how to create drama, we have to give them that. The crowds of people gathered outside began screaming and cheering, and after the meeting Sullivan was mobbed like a rock star, according to the Washington Post. After she made a few remarks, the entire crowd put their arms around each other and sang the school song. You can’t make this stuff up!

I’m very pleased that this wrong was righted, at least partially, and that President Sullivan was reinstated after an improper and unethical removal process. But true justice would have been served by Dragas’ resignation. Her continued refusal to do this makes me wonder if she knows she has job security through some backroom deal. The actual reasons for this entire disaster have still never been made public, and I suspect it involves financial benefits for people in high places — including the governor’s office. Additionally, Dragas had hinted all along that the Health System and hospital were somehow entwined in their reasons for wanting Sullivan out, and the explanation for how the medical branch was involved is very relevant to me personally.

I’m now reading headlines around the Web, and they all refer to the reinstatement of UVa’s “popular” president. To me, the fact that she is popular is totally irrelevant. I don’t have any feelings about her one way or the other personally, and I’m still against what happened to her. The outrage has nothing to do with how wonderful she is or whether she was doing a good job, it’s that the Board of Visitors’ actions were totally egregious. As far as I’m concerned, if she really was an inadequate president, I have no problem if the BOV wants to build a case against her now, openly and honestly. If what they said to begin with was true, the evidence should speak for itself.

But really, the Board of Visitors has no authority now. As an entity, it’s kind of laughable. Two weeks after a supposed unanimous vote to remove the president, they give a unanimous vote to reinstate her? Plus, minutes after that, they gave a unanimous vote of confidence in Helen Dragas. Please. Just because she stopped being a tool for two measly minutes? And now one of the most vocal opponents of the Board, Faculty Senate Chairman George Cohen, is backing off too and saying he thinks the faculty can continue to work with Dragas after all — even though they’ve been calling for her resignation for over a week. Is everything really going to be forgiven so Dragas can continue to sit on her throne?

We’ll have to wait and see, I guess, but at least the community can start repairing now. This unprecedented removal and reinstatement of a university president has secured a place in the history books of higher education. An unfortunate event … and as long as Dragas retains her position I can’t say true justice was served … and it’s disturbing that we the people still don’t know the real impetus behind this … and I urge the press not to let this go, but to keep digging …

… but in the end, I am very happy for UVa today.

By the way, have you ever wondered who would play whom in UVA: The Movie? Then click here (Bob Saget as Mark Kington is my favourite).

Orange and Blue and Greedy Too

In Food, My thyroid, Politics on June 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm

The University of Virginia is becoming the train wreck from which I can’t look away.

I am a UVa alumnus. It’s where we went to medical school. And though most people feel their truest affinity towards their undergraduate institution, it’s not that way for me. Even though I didn’t start there till graduate school, I really love UVa, and I feel very much that it was the defining university in my life. I realize that part of my affection for “The University,” as it’s obnoxiously called, has nothing to do with UVa itself. It’s the place where I met my husband, where I made wonderful friends, where I experienced some of the most concentrated personal and professional growth of my life. And it’s located in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is unarguably charming. But part of my feeling toward UVa very much is due to the characteristics of the place itself. It’s a school with rich history (the beloved pet project of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson) and talented and generous faculty, and an institution that generally has had high standards for excellence (it routinely ranks as the #1 or #2 public school in the United States.) I was proud to have been a child of UVa, where I genuinely felt (at least in the School of Medicine, which is the only department to which I can personally speak) that the faculty and staff truly wanted each of us to succeed, and cheered us on when we did. And I was pleasantly surprised by the doors that UVa opened.

Over the past nine days, however, UVa has been in the public eye, and not for anything good. A quick recap, for those of you far and wide who may not have heard this story: Two years ago, UVa’s popular president of 20 years, John Casteen, retired. An extensive search was conducted for the next president, and Teresa Sullivan from the University of Michigan was selected with much pomp and circumstance as the first female president of UVa. (Shameful fact: women weren’t even admitted as full students to UVa until 1970.) By all accounts she did well. Then on June 10 an announcement was made by the head of the Board of Visitors, Helen Dragas, that, by mutual decision, Sullivan was submitting her resignation after less than 2 years. In that resignation, Sullivan attributed her leaving to “broad philosophical differences” with the BOV. This was a shock to everyone — staff, students and alumni — as there had been no indication there was anything wrong. Dragas implied in her statement that the board had unanimously agreed to remove Sullivan. Rumours abounded. An e-mail was accidentally leaked later that night from Peter Kiernan, a member of the board of UVa’s Darden School of Business, indicating that Helen Dragas had contacted him months earlier to work on a special, secret “project”: taking down Teresa Sullivan.

Reporters then discovered that, far from being a unanimous decision of the governing Board, a formal vote had never actually been taken. Dragas had simply, over a period of months, gone behind the scenes to individual board members and drummed up support for removing Sullivan, and she did that until she had enough votes to support her. 3 of the 16 members did not even know a campaign to eliminate Sullivan was going on. Further, Dragas selected a time for the meeting to make this announcement that seems suspiciously self-serving: it was a summer Sunday when many students and faculty were gone, the governor of Virginia (who appoints the members to this board) was out of the country on state business, and the 3 board members who were kept in the dark and were apparently supportive of Sullivan were known to be unable to attend (one was recovering from surgery, for example.) Additionally, she called it an emergency meeting, which does not require the 3 days’ advance notice a regular meeting does, presumably so it would be more likely to slide under the public’s radar. However, this announcement doesn’t exactly meet the requirements of an emergency meeting, making this whole shebang possibly illegal.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that a firestorm has erupted on UVa’s campus. Students and faculty alike are outraged. The Faculty Senate has passed a no-confidence vote in the Board of Visitors. The Honors Council and Student Council have released calls for action. The Provost of the university said in a speech on Father’s Day that he wanted his sons to see him act in a courageous manner, so he was going to wait to see what the BOV did over the next few days to decide whether UVa was still an institution he wanted to help lead. Multiple faculty members have resigned or threatened to resign, stating that they don’t want to be part of an institution where such a backroom coup d’etat could occur without consequence. Several prominent alumni have halted their donations until Dragas and her right-hand man, Mark Kington, resign or a full explanation is provided. Peter Kiernan, the hapless author of the e-mail bragging about “explaining” his role in the situation, was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, Sullivan, like a classy person, stayed silent and out of sight until yesterday’s BOV meeting to appoint a new interim president, at which she had asked to address the board. They agreed, but only in private (of course; secrecy is what this board is best at, no matter how much it’s beaten over their heads that secrecy comes with serious consequences.) She waited in her office until the appointed time, at which point she began her walk across UVa’s historic Lawn with her husband, a law professor at UVa, to the thunderous applause of a crowd of thousands that had gathered in her support and that parted like the Red Sea for Moses to allow her to pass, patting her back on the way. I so wish I could have been there for that. I love to see people supporting an underdog, which is sure what she seems like at this point.

Sullivan gave a 14-page statement that you can read in full here, which strongly defended her record and in which she said that other institutions “are setting aside funds now to raid the University of Virginia next year given the current turmoil on our campus.” In fact professors at UVa apparently do not make nearly as much there as they could at other universities, for various reasons including the fact that the state of Virginia does not provide as much financial support as other states do to their schools. This means that UVa professors stay because they love working at UVa. How long can that desire be expected to continue if the school is known to be run like a hyperactive guillotine, you ask? Well, not long, apparently, as William Wulf, one of the top 20 professors at UVa, has just publicly submitted his resignation. The faculty are circulating a petition to refuse to recognize the newly appointed interim president who is thought to be a mere pawn of the money-hungry BOV. If prospective students aren’t scared away by this debacle, I’ll be shocked.

Meanwhile, Dragas released her own infuriating statement, a hilarious version of which you can read here, if you feel confident in your ability to keep your lunch down (and if you can excuse the bad language.) She states she and the Board know how upset everyone is, and how we the people deserve the truth. She then proceeds … not to give it. She blathers on forever in executive double-speak in that wonderful way public figures do without actually saying anything, but she does make it clear that the BOV is not going to listen to the concerns of the people they serve, and they are still moving forward with replacing Sullivan. And she never comes out and tells everyone what they are demanding to know: why precisely was Teresa Sullivan fired?

Look, I’m not naive. I freely admit I don’t know much about Sullivan. Before last week, I’d have been hard-pressed to name her as the current president of my alma mater. For all I know, she could be a serial killer and Helen Dragas could be the brave princess protecting us all from Sullivan’s hungry pickaxe. But if that’s the case, then why not say so? The fact that the BOV is refusing to provide an explanation does not make them look like the noble protectors of Sullivan’s reputation, as they’re trying to make themselves out to be. It makes them look like villains who know they did something unethical and shady. Which leaves it up to journalists and the public to try to figure out the real reason why. Conspiracy theories are running rampant, but the biggest one is that Dragas and her cohorts wanted to allow an online-education company (think DeVry or the University of Phoenix) to use UVa’s name in exchange for a cash windfall, and Sullivan refused to cheapen the school by doing so. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of Media Studies at UVa, has a fascinating Slate article on the businesspeople behind Sullivan’s ouster and their motives, and why it’s dangerous for the future of education. It is dangerous, and it’s frightening. Education is not meant to be run as a business, and it will never be successful in its goal of actually educating people if it is. It’s meant to be a public service. Not a free one, necessarily, and certainly not one that hemorrhages resources, of course — but its goal has to be higher than the bottom line, or only subjects that quantitatively make money will ever be taught. What is the human race without classics, Latin, or wildlife biology?

There have been numerous calls for Virginia governor Robert McDonnell to get involved, but he refused to “meddle” in the doings of an independent board. At first I understood where he was coming from, until I read a comment somewhere (wish I could remember where so I could give due credit) that him not getting involved actually is meddling, because it’s allowing a board to get away with illegal, dictatorial behaviour. Now McDonnell has released a lukewarm statement saying he wished things had been done a little differently, which is kind of like saying one wishes Enron had kept their books a little differently. If outright wrongdoing has taken place, and so far I have seen no evidence that it hasn’t, who is going to stop these people if not the governor? He also says people in charge often have to make choices that are “unpopular” with employees. Really, my friend? Thank you for opening my eyes to the ways of the real world! My beef, and I think the beef of most other people interested in this story, is not that the president was removed. It’s how it was done. There’s a difference, which we understand because we’re not, you know, four years old. And now there are rumours that McDonnell isn’t stepping in because he was involved in the takedown too.

Dragas (what an unfortunate name! Someone online has taken to calling her “Lady Draga,” which is rather inspired) has so far steadfastly refused to step down despite the growing demands for her resignation. Her crony Mark Kington just resigned tonight, but it’s not going to be enough. Last night after the marathon board meeting to pick the interim president, Dragas was apparently heckled as she walked to her car. She responded, “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” Who else can we believe, Helen dear? You haven’t told us a thing! Dragas supposedly pushed out Sullivan because she wasn’t making enough money for the university, but Dragas’ own continued presence on the board is causing faculty to leave and alumni to halt their donations. Now Dragas has hired a PR firm to repair her reputation. Guess who’s paying that bill, according to the Washington Post? The UVA Foundation, which is financed by alumni donations! My fellow UVa alums, WE ARE PAYING FOR THIS WOMAN’S SPIN DOCTORS. Am I right that we should no longer donate to our school until this disaster is rectified and an apology issued? I hate to do it, and not that the amount we can afford to donate would ever be missed, but money seems to be the only language with which to speak to these people.

The whole thing just smacks of Mean Girls-esque behaviour. Dragas apparently had it in for Sullivan from the first day she was hired. I don’t know why, because the BOV hasn’t explained any of their actions to us. But you could kind of tell even in that first e-mail they sent to us alumni, in which they repeatedly thanked “Terry” for her hard work and wished “Terry” well. I’m sorry, but when was the last time you heard anyone refer to former President Casteen as “John”? The current president’s name is Dr. Sullivan, and to deliberately use not just her first name but a diminutive to me seems intentionally patronizing and sexist.

So basically, I’m appalled. I keep waiting and waiting for the truth to come out and the Board to be forced to bear the public consequences of its actions, but I guess only time will tell. It’s at times like these that my love for the press, as a journalism major, swells my heart. Thank goodness we live in a society where, though imperfect, at least the press will demand answers. The WaPo and Charlottesville’s Hook have done great investigative pieces on this story, if you’re interested in more.

Admittedly one reason I’ve gotten so interested is because it’s an effective distraction from the fact that the next phase of cancer treatment started for me this week. On Sunday we took Peanut to meet her grandparents, so she can be away while I’m in isolation. I didn’t cry till after she left, so that’s an accomplishment. She’ll be away for two and a half weeks, which will be a blast for her as she splits that between both sets of doting grandparents, but an eternity for us. Yesterday I received my first Thyrogen injection, and today I received my second, as well as bloodwork and a test dose of radioactive iodine. Tomorrow I go in for a whole-body scan, and Thursday is my full dose of RAI. Thursday at 6 PM is also the moment when I am “released” from the dastardly low-iodine diet, which has forced me to sate my chocolate cravings with lumpy improvisations. I present to you low-iodine imitation brownies (try not to lick the screen):

Tonight is also my first isolation night in our basement. See my home away from home below (yes, that is my office, and yes that is our treadmill.) Cramped, yes, but just think of the quick commute!

So that’s what’s going on on this end. Hope you’re all well, friends. And hope our school will be too.

Rush-ing to Judgment

In Christianity, Politics on March 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I feel like a neglectful mother, having let so much time pass between posts on this blog. But rest assured I was not lazing around on the Riviera with a cocktail in one hand, spending my days ordering around a succession of butlers and selecting sequined swimwear. In fact life has been pretty eventful over the past few months at Chez Much, plus I’ve been posting on my other blog project, so time got away from me. But here I am again, and what has inspired me to write today? None other than, and I never thought I’d say this, Rush Limbaugh.

As you may have heard, Rush Limbaugh has come under fire (and, may I say, deservedly so) for referring to a female Georgetown law student who testified before a House committee as a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she was speaking in support of the Democratic national health care policy that would require her Jesuit institution to cover birth control under its health insurance plan. What bums me out about this? That part of what he said was right — but it will never be civilly addressed because it came from the mouth of a hypocritical, undereducated, misogynistic buffoon. My parents used to listen to his radio show, for no other reason than to attempt to treat hypotension non-pharmacologically, I believe, but I could never tolerate more than a minute of his vitriol before diving for the radio dial with the desperation of a starving man presented with, say, a perfectly cooked French fry.

Look, I didn't really want to include a picture of Rush Limbaugh.

What I find very frustrating about this whole situation is that Limbaugh’s basic opposition to this issue is correct. It is absolutely absurd, and a clear violation of the liberty to which this country pays so much lip service, to openly require a religious organization to provide something to which it has consistently and clearly been opposed. To speak specifically about the players in this case, Georgetown University is a Catholic institution. By virtue of that history, they believe that contraception is wrong. Just because other people don’t — even if a majority of others don’t — it is 100% unjustifiable to mandate that Georgetown go against their long-stated beliefs. And we should all be frightened if this law comes to pass. Is the freedom of each of us safe only if everyone else agrees with what we think?

To be clear, I do not believe birth control is wrong. And I do believe in universal healthcare. I’ve seen too many patients lose their homes and everything they own because they were unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer or get hit by a car. Make no mistake, this isn’t just a problem for poor people (as if that would make it OK to ignore) — we are all in danger of the exact same thing happening to us. That’s because very few of us in this country can afford even one medical catastrophe, but insurance company lobbyists stir up politicians to oppose government healthcare by ranting about the right to “healthcare choice”; as if my right to choice is more important than others having any healthcare at all. Healthcare is not like car insurance, either — you’re not likely to go bankrupt because of one car accident, but you very possibly could once your medical insurance company decides they don’t feel like paying to treat your chronic disease anymore. That being said, I don’t agree that supporting universal healthcare means compelling all institutions to follow a liberal worldview. I do not personally believe that birth control is wrong, but I do believe in someone else’s right to believe that it is wrong. And just as they are not able to prevent others from using birth control, so too should others not be able to force them to provide it.

But it’s really quite aggravating that the person who called attention to this had to be Rush Limbaugh, for crying out loud. I don’t understand why Republicans allow such morally repugnant people — Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, etc. — to be their spokesmodels. Limbaugh is a hypocrite who railed on drug users while concealing his own addiction, is on his fourth marriage, and is cruel to others. Solely on the basis of his treatment of other people, he should be disqualified from having a platform. (Of course there are Democrats who, by the same criterion, should also be denied an audience. Believe me, I ain’t partisan.) There is no way anyone could argue that the way he spoke of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student, was the way a Christian should speak about a fellow human being. There is no way. And he has done it again, and again, and again. At this point, if he wants people to actually listen to any good points he has to make, he should probably not be the one to say them. Because he had to be such a jerk about it, everyone is now just assuming that if he said something, it can’t have been a valid point at all. Thanks a lot, Rush.

The political terrain I inhabit — social conservatism, fiscal liberalism — is kind of a lonely place to be, at least in the U.S. I don’t know if another country out there has a political party that would fit me. I believe abortion and guns are wrong, and I believe social programs and spiritual families are right, among other things. To me it seems a very logical manifestation of a Christian mindset: help the poor and your fellow man, adhere to Biblical morals, don’t promote violence. But obviously very few people feel the same, since I don’t fit either of the major two American parties. That’s OK, because we’re theoretically allowed to disagree. But the poison-filled atmosphere we now seem to live in is choking civil discourse to death, and it’s a little scary. Have you perused the comments section of any major website lately? I actually had to ban myself from reading them anymore. The hate directed towards anyone who dares open their mouth gives me chest pain. But we can’t give in to bullying, from either side, and abandon our values just to have an easier life.

Ultimately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you believe birth control is fine (as I do), then enjoy your right to live as you please. But enjoying that right means that you also have the duty to respect others’ rights to live by their beliefs. Just as they cannot compel you to stop, you cannot compel them to start. And if it’s that important to you to have your school cover your contraception, realize that there are very few places in this country that won’t do that. Be fair to everyone and, rather than demanding that a centuries-old institution bend to your will … because who knows who will one day demand that you bend to their will? … don’t go to Georgetown.

Where Were You?

In Politics on September 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Ten years ago tomorrow, where were you?

It’s a question to which every North American over 12 will always know the answer.  Me, I was in med school, sitting in anatomy class, scribbling notes on a regular Tuesday morning.  This was before the days of smartphones, of course, so as long as our class was seated inside the auditorium, we had no idea anything was going on outside.  I was only half-listening when the guest lecturer started the 10 o’clock hour by saying that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center 350 miles away.  I really thought he was opening his presentation with some kind of introductory joke.  But when he requested that we observe a moment of silence, we all started to realize something was not right.  It wasn’t until a number of us headed over to the med school library at break and saw the streaming footage on computers and TV screens that had been set up just for that purpose, surrounded by crying students, that the full impact of what was happening started to hit.  I remember watching, transfixed, and then turning on my heel without a word and running all the way back to my apartment.  Because my dad had been scheduled to be working on a project at the Pentagon that day.  I think I skipped the rest of that morning’s classes as I tried to reach him or anyone else in my family by phone, but all the cell phone networks were down along the entire East Coast and communication was nearly impossible.  It was nightfall by the time I heard that he and the rest of our family were safe.

Of course, I was lucky.   I didn’t lose any close family or friends in the tragedy.  (The closest personal link to me is the heartbreaking disappearance of Dr. Sneha Philip, who was the daughter of family friends and who actually may or may not have died in the attacks.)  I am so grateful to be so lucky that I feel almost disrespectful writing a 9/11 memorial.  But I guess just being a human being (unlike the hateful creatures who supported the attack) means that you feel the pain of this event whether you personally sustained a loss or not.  It has coloured our history (“stained the pages of our life’s book backwards,” to paraphrase L. M. Montgomery) and now it is one of those times we’ll always remember.  I don’t consider September 11 to have been an attack on America so much as it was an attack on the West, an attack on educated thinking, even an attack on Judeo-Christianity.  Goodness knows I don’t agree with everything the West stands for (I’m looking at you, Katy Perry) but no nominally moral person is going to feel anything but disgust for a group who thinks that the murder of innocent bystanders is laudable.  So for all the victims of 9/11, may you find comfort in knowing that we won’t forget.  And may God help us change the course of history from here on out, and become the generation of humans around the globe who actually moved closer to world peace instead of mutual destruction.

Successfully Restored: Sanity. Also, Fear.

In Baby Howie, Politics, Tolkien on November 4, 2010 at 3:45 am

So Tolkien, my younger brother Baby Howie (although he is not a baby and his name is not Howie) and I took a little trip to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear in Washington, D.C. this weekend.  Not because we are such huge fans of Stewart or Colbert (who has time to catch any show regularly these days) but because so many friends and people we knew were attending and because we try not to turn down opportunities to participate in ridiculous things.  While I, like most people, definitely think Stewart and Colbert are funny, I was a little worried that the whole thing would be too uber-liberal for my taste.  One of the problems with being a political moderate is that, instead of remaining able to see all viewpoints, you usually just end up being annoyed by (and probably annoying) both sides of the debate.  However, my fears were unfounded.  While there were of course a few extremists here and there, the overarching theme of the rally seemed to be a polite request for a return to civil discourse.  And that, I can totally get behind.  I hate the current tendency in our society to completely discount opposing opinions by tarring them as coming from people who must be stupid or inbred or the like.  There are plenty of intelligent Democrats and plenty of intelligent Republicans (and I think this can be extrapolated to any country’s political parties.)  I wish we could all assume that people who don’t vote the way we vote might have very good, well-thought-out reasons for doing so.  I’m not saying we have to agree with them, I’m just asking for the basic respect that that would entail.  (In my next blog post I’ll draw out the map to my hometown, Utopia.)

So anyway, the rally was satisfying in the sense that it seemed to be attended by others who were likeminded in their desire to see a return to civility and, well, sanity, and it didn’t matter at all that we weren’t likeminded in our politics.  The only disappointing thing was that Comedy Central seemed to have grossly underestimated the number of people who would be attending (I don’t see how that’s possible, given that the Washington Post was predicting numbers in the hundreds of thousands for days beforehand) or just didn’t care to prepare, because things just seemed to be vastly smaller than necessary.  Public transportation was totally overwhelmed — crowds were 6 people deep at the Metro stations and no one could squeeze onto the bursting trains.  Once we gave up on that and headed back above ground, not a single taxi was to be found or called for.  Once we got a ride from a benevolent friend, we could not get within ten blocks of the stage due to the crowds, and there were hardly any screens or speakers set up, so after all the effort it took to get there (including roping my generous parents into providing a day of childcare for the Peanut) we couldn’t hear or see a thing.  T, BH and I eventually gave up and decided to find a bar where we could watch the rally on TV, but getting there was no easier either, given that the National Mall was a veritable can of sardines.  As many of you know, I am the very opposite of claustrophobic (claustrophilic, if you will … I love dark enclosed spaces) but for the first time I can remember I was actually a bit afraid of the crowd.  We were nearly crushed by the teeming mass of people, and could not move anywhere of our own will — we were literally pushed along wherever the wave felt like taking us.  I had the frightening, and not inaccurate, thought that if anyone was unfortunate enough to fall, they would be trampled to death.  And being short in a massive crowd does not help the psyche.  Plus, the cell phone service providers were all ALSO totally overwhelmed, so no one’s cell phone worked, which only added to the fear of being lost in a sea of humanity forever.  I mean, what is this, people, the year 2001??

However, once we eventually did fight our way out into the streets where our ribcages could re-expand, and once we did find an available table and TV screen, the day got much better, particularly once we were able to meet up with good friends.  From what I could read of the closed-captioning, the rally had its funny moments, but the program left us with some head-scratching.  I mean, the O-Jays?  Tony Bennett?  Mavis Staples?  What, was Shirley Temple not available?

The generationally-incorrect performer lineup was excusable, though, because the best entertainment was reading the hilarious signs carried by various attendees.  Let me close with my top ten favourites, in no particular order:

1. (carried by a resigned-looking 8-year-old) My Mom Made Me Come

2. If Screaming Makes You Right, Then the 3-Year-Old Down the Street Is A Freaking Genius

3. You May Be Right, But I Can’t Hear You Over All the Shouting

4. This Sign Is Heavy.  My Arm Is Starting To Hurt.  Why Did I Bring It?  I Should Have Thought This Through More Thoroughly. Dammit!

5. You Disagree With Me.  Let’s Sit Down and Have Coffee.

6. I Like Pineapples

7. Americans For … Oh Look! A Puppy!

8. The Person Behind Me Can’t See

9. I Don’t Have A Dream So Much As A Mild Preference

10. And my personal fave … I Thought This Was the Line for Georgetown Cupcakes

(Addendum: I actually sat across from Stephen Colbert at Newark Airport once.  I was too afraid of seeming like a crazy person to approach him, but that didn’t stop me from staring down his every move.  He was with a woman I assume was his wife, and they were having a private conversation that ended with, no joke, a fist-bump.  They then got up when a flight to South Carolina — his home state — was announced and I was impressed to note that they waited at the very back of the line and boarded last.  Good job, Colberts!)