Monday, July 18, 2016

'Open carry's' theater of the absurd

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." – Hosea 8-7.

Recent events remind me of the only lasting memory remaining from having poked my head inside a long-ago gun show at the Astrodome:

          Metal detectors were at the entrance

          Yes, even a gathering of gun nuts didn't want nuts with guns joining the day's congregation.

          I use that example to illustrate why people who denounce gun control need to define their terms. After all, stationing metal detectors outside of a gun show clearly is gun control.

         But what about our freedoms?

Welcome this week to a national nightmare.

The Trump convention? That's not exactly what I had in mind. Ah, but coincidentally, what I have in mind is in fact happening in Cleveland, in one of several states, Ohio, that has embraced the insanity of open-carry.

We are seeing heavily armed individuals roaming the convention grounds, people with no badge and no business lugging around killing machines.

The same insanity was on hand – 20 to 30 individuals armed with military-style weapons -- when protesters gathered in Dallas to express their concerns and a sick individual with a killing machine took five officers' lives.

Didn't it make things safer that silly amateurs were on scene with their ARs and AKs? Yeah, boy.

As a Dallas police spokesman stated, "The challenge was sorting out witnesses from potential suspects. Texas is an open-carry state, and there were a number of armed demonstrators taking part."

So, no. As police organizations state vigorously. Open-carry can make a crime scene less safe, more confused, more chaotic. 

Open-carry is not about safety. It is show-and-tell that causes the class to do duck-and-cover.

In Colorado, where open-carry is a local option and where the right wing controls the city of Colorado Springs, a few months ago a man was advertising his intent to kill people, but a 9-1-1 operator told a caller that his walking down the street with a rifle strapped over his shoulder was within his rights.

Then he shot dead two people at random.

Aside from the self-evident safety problem that comes with allowing just anybody to openly brandish firearms is another issue that helps portray the matter in terms that suits its architects.

Open-carry laws are racist.

Maybe they aren't racist in intent, but, let's call them structurally racist, de facto racist.

When white people carry openly in an open-carry state, they are not going to be harassed or harmed. However, if a black man openly carries a firearm, he'd better hit the ground before the lead starts flying.

Among all the open-carry activists that night in Dallas, one was black. That man, Mark Hughes, not only was detained by police but was identified by police on Twitter for a short time as the shooting suspect. He's lucky he's not dead.

Since they know that many lawmakers will roll over and play dead for the NRA regarding laws like this, a gallant organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is calling on retailers to bar open-carry from their premises, as have Target and Texas grocery giant HEB. Kroger is resisting calls to join them.

I like Moms Demand Action's nomenclature, by the way. Gun control? It's like the War on Poverty -- a hill too far with an unreachable objective. However, gun sense? Every American should demand that of our lawmakers, of our retailers, of our neighbors, of our country.

Gun sense. Open-carry is not about self-defense. It's about exhibitionism. It's mostly about the entitlement of a white, fear-making class.

Like our gun policies in general, it couldn't possibly make us safer.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, July 11, 2016

‘Us vs. them’? Look around and know it isn’t so

        Oh, Dallas. Oh, boy.

Once more you are in the spotlight in the worst possible way – and you are impressing the hell out of us.

Book-ended days of infamy? Yes, but, compare.

In one, 1963, death in Dealey Plaza was presaged by character assassination -- in the Dallas newspapers and in mobs of right-wing goons.

Dallas in 2016 is a much more progressive city, with a model, proactive police force. All the heart-warming community statements and comings-together since a madman felled caring cops have affirmed it.

Be proud, Dallas. Be proud.

Forgive me for thinking this horrible event is going to result in more good than the many events that cause us to bury our heads in our hands. People are going to coalesce around the good guys on both sides of what some want to construct into a race war.

Said Dallas Assistant Police Chief Malik Aziz, "We cannot operate on the false foundation of 'us versus them.' This is all about us."

Or, as President Obama said, "America is not as divided as some have suggested."

Yes, some are deranged with hate. The Dallas shooter was that.

What is Dan Patrick's excuse?

Patrick, the non-stop embarrassment who is Texas' lieutenant governor, called protesters at the Dallas rally "hypocrites" for running from the bullets. By inference, he said these people – whom all observers described as peaceful – somehow called down fire upon those protecting them.

Given a chance to walk back his gutless comments, Patrick blamed people, particularly on social media, who incite violence.

Maybe Patrick, who gained prominence on right-wing radio, meant people like one-term Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, himself a talk radio host who has expanded the reach of his show since the shootings. Check out Walsh's tweet:

"This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you."

Oh, America. Oh, boy.

Like Patrick, this is a man whom voters elevated to a policy-making position. If you are looking for marks of shame, that's two.

What is it you say about Black Lives Matter? To call all participants "punks" is to identify one's self as part of the problem.

From the day black people started defying authority under Jim Crow, with leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. modeling non-violence, some in the movement lost their heads. It's going to happen in emotionally wrenching circumstances. King would have none of it, but it happened.

People who didn't want to see black people advance wanted to generalize about the vandals, the looters, the thugs – you know, like the thug King.

Black Lives Matter is a valiant movement -- born of much suffering and much injustice. To assail it for the actions of a few is to blame all white people for the actions of a few racist cops. Yes, and let's blame all fish for the next shark attack.

Now: Let's talk about social media, and the media in general.

It you look around you, you might notice that you live in a society that, despite its problems, is peaceful and peaceable and safe. People are mostly tolerant of others in a world of difference.

However, if you are living in the smart phone in your palm, or in the chaos of the nightly news, too often you are seeing society at its worst.

Black vs. white? Look around and tell me if you see a war. No, you don't. Police brutality? It happens, but professionalism almost always rules the day.

To electronic and digital impressions that make discord seem the norm, we are intimate. To our neighbors, to our own communities, not so much.

Let us live in that world, the neighborly one. Dallas, you are already showing us how.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cataclysm in a Cheetos bag

A barnstorm tour of Texas on a soggy week in May deposited me at a treasured place: a particular tennis court, opposite a particular racquet-bearing friend.

It's where we had gathered weekly for years, the essence of effort being the sweat and not the score.

And so we perspired once more, though more from the mugginess than the athleticsm. History-making monsoons had left much of the state submerged. Once-destitute reservoirs cried rivers of joy.

That tennis court is in a wonderful place, a tree-lined park with a jogging path and a playground abutting a grade school. But that day something was annoying me. It was not my backhand.

It was a pile of trash.

Over in my corner of the court (my friend and I have never changed sides in our "matches" – too much exertion), a winter's worth of debris had assembled.

As a picture, it was a still-life of a throw-away society.

Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, candy wrappers, soggy fast-food trappings. You know.

Amid it all was an expended eight-ounce Cheetos bag: trademark orange on the exterior, silver lining in the interior. I noted the little bag's positioning: yawning upward like a buttercup in the morning sun. I noted its durability. A Cheetos bag is junk-food package engineering at its finest.

I also noted the little reservoir of water in it. Three or four tablespoons of rain had collected over the preceding days.

That's just enough water for little mosquitoes to incubate and to grow big.

We've had a lot of serious topics to talk about lately. Zika is one.

A whole bunch of people are a whole bunch of scared about the Zika virus. I wonder if any of those people is the one responsible for the Cheetos bag he or she left to scoot along the ground, to settle against a fence and grow mosquitoes that might carry Zika, or West Nile, or heartworms that kill precious dogs and cats.

This puts trash in a new light, or ought to.

A lot of players contributed to that pile of trash. A lot of conscious decisions went into letting those items end up on the ground rather than where they wouldn't harm the planet or its inhabitants.

Litter doesn't just happen. Litter is something you've got to think through, like passing on the yellow line or shooting your gun in the air without regard for who might be in the projectile's path.

Like most states, Texas talks a good game about litter. "Don't Mess With Texas" is a world-class motto. Driving around the great state, though, one senses that it's just words.

Of course, let the state without similar eyesores cast the first stone.

Litter being a conscious act, each piece of trash has its own story. It's clear that a lot of the stories relate to secrets – the can of beer a driver doesn't want the wife or state trooper to see, the airline-portion bourbon that wasn't quite consumed when it went overboard.

What was the story about that empty Cheetos bag? Did the person who discarded it think for a second he might contribute to that global health care CNN might be discussing today? Nah. He or she just thought that disposing of it properly was too big a hassle.

Litter is a crime. But unlike many crimes where we feel helpless after it happens, you can do something. If you see it on the ground, pick it up. Make it your mission to keep your patch of planet clean.

Whatever its story, however that trash ended up there, the ball is in your court now.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.