The data is in, the tears are being shed, and “nothing works,” “we can’t do anything about it,” “it’s the price of freedom,” are not solutions to our lamentable situation. Here are a few thoughts on how we can turn the great ship of our culture around. Some of them can be done by individuals, others would have to be done by governments or the media, with our support. There are surely many more -- these are what I thought of this morning. What else is there?
- Stop having “active shooter drills.” Call them “fire and safety drills.”
- Collect research on the most effective ways to protect oneself both at home and outside. Compare Senator Thune’s “become small” advice with some good advice.
- Do a comparison of domestic experiences with guns. Comparing us with other countries is helpful, but makes many people defensive. Is the death-by-gun rate in highly regulated U.S. states/cities lower than in lightly regulated states?
- Find out about gun regulation legislation presently under consideration. They nearly passed a law allowing more silencers, and I’ll bet there are a lot more laws in the wings. Your representative or senator may be able to provide this, and even if they cannot, they will notice that you asked.
- Share stories of victims who were not killed, only wounded. Occasionally there is a story in the news about them but not nearly enough. As a rule of thumb, there are many more wounded than dead.
- Share individual stories of people affected by gun violence; family members, observers, law enforcement officers, soldiers, and so on.
- Keep a running ledger of all the people killed by guns in the U.S. In the same week as Las Vegas, five people were killed in Lawrence, Kansas. We didn’t hear about them.
- Expand the ledger on the money received by politicians from the gun lobby. I have only seen figures so far about the NRA contributions, how about the gun manufacturers or other pro-gun groups?
- Find out what John McCain, who has gotten over seven million dollars from the gun lobby, does with the money. Does it benefit him personally? Does he share the money with Republicans running for office? Pay office staff? Take private planes? Leave it in the bank? Where does it go?
- Research the history of our gun obsession. Where did it come from? Why is it somehow related to religion and geography? Why the urban/rural divide? How did colonial and proto-Americans use their guns, and how many had them?
- Detail the differences between a blunderbuss and modern weapons.
- Place gun legislation in the context of other legislation where politicians have been bought (pharmaceutical industry, energy companies, big tobacco, etc.)
- Focus on white people. Pro-gun people can’t let go of “Chicago,” which is a code word for out-of-control black people. This is a white person problem -- we made the laws, enforce the laws, and can change the laws. I don't know this for a fact, but I'll bet as many white people, proportionally, are killed as black people, yet the news does not reflect this.
- Focus on tourism. I have been turned off traveling, for example, to Texas, by photographs of people walking openly down the street with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders or holsters on their hips. Make it visual. As you travel, post signs or photographs which shock you. “Leave your guns outside” at a Dunkin’ Donuts (I don’t know if any such things exists, I’m just imagining) would shock the hell out of me.
- For an academic take on gun control, read this, and find other essays and tracts. It was written just before the Heller decision which made gun ownership the right of an individual, not only a “militia.” http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/essays/guns.pdf.
- The Dickey Amendment is a provision first inserted as a rider into the 1996 federal government omnibus spending bill which mandated that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” (Wikipedia) The effect of this amendment was the prohibition of any studies of gun deaths as a public health problem. Pressure your representatives to act for repeal of the Dickey Amendment. The last time it was renewed, with only Republican votes, I understand, was just after the Newtown shootings.
- Learn your local and state gun laws and regulations.
- Support organizations which advocate for gun control. In New Jersey, there is Ceasefire New Jersey. I have not done extensive research on this, but you can begin here: https://blog.greatnonprofits.org/9-organizations-making-progress-towards-gun-control/. Michael Bloomberg is one of the well known people funding and supporting gun control groups.
- Take Gabby Giffords’s pledge: “I promise you that if we cannot make our communities safer from gun violence while protecting gun rights with the Congress we have now, I will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s.” The organization founded by her and her husband after she was permanently affected by a gunshot meant to kill her, is Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.
- There are a thousand other ways to turn things around, but my final suggestion is that you settle in with a deeper personal philosophy which undergirds not only your views about gun control but your views about everything. I follow the Rev. William Barber, a minister informed by his Christian background but ecumenical in practice and outlook, an inspiring speaker, and a spreader of peace. http://www.breachrepairers.org/ Whatever your view of powers greater than you, there are others within your group who are fighting gun violence. Find them.
No grumbling, I told myself. Get out there and do something. So I did something I have never done before; I joined a political campaign as a volunteer. As long as I’m not parading around with a swastika on my arm, any campaign would do, but the one I joined is JimJohnson4governor in New Jersey. He’s a progressive Democrat, I know his wife slightly, and respected friends speak highly of him (“I’d move heaven and earth to get Jim elected”). So instead of staying home grumbling about the daily cascade of scandal and chicanerie, at least I’m doing what a citizen is supposed to do. I think.
My mother was a politician for a while, and I can tell you, it doesn’t run in the family. This is my first personal immersion in what they call the “political process.”
My first outing was on Washington Street in Hoboken, getting signatures to get Jim on the ballot in New Jersey. He already has the required 3,000, but we want to get as many as we can. I am told that after the signatures are presented, in the beginning of April, the campaigns sit down with them to see how many of them they can get disqualified. One woman, for example, said she’d already signed a petition for Phil Murphy, another candidate for governor. You can’t sign two petitions.
I also needed to sign an Affidavit as a collector of signatures, including getting it notarized. I have been impressed by the rules for campaigning, and I haven’t even had contact with the fundraisers. Just collecting signatures is tightly controlled.
Next, I canvassed my building with Pilar, a young, Hispanic, bilingual paid member of Jim’s staff Brad, a young, black, college student from Union City who is interning in the campaign.
You can’t just waltz into a building and canvass, you have to have a resident with you. This made me a valuable member of the team, though I made myself more valuable as we went from door to door because I’m really interested in each of the people we talked to, and I got a gold star for schmoozing.
There are 25 floors, 9 apartments per floor – 225 apartments in all. It took us three and a half hours to cover half of them. It was exhausting, but fascinating.
We started with a list of all the people in the building who were registered Democrats, though I could see it was out-of date. I don’t know every person in the building, but did know for sure that some of the people had moved to a different apartment, or had moved away. Since I knew the list was out-of-date, I didn’t know what we would find – maybe one of those people who said “F—k you” to me when I was canvassing on Washington Street. Maybe people would be offended or disturbed at our visit – I didn’t know what to expect, and was nervous.
It went well. Some people were busy, and we exchanged a few words, left a flyer, and moved on. Most had a few moments to discuss what they considered an important political race.
We encountered one woman on her way to the trash compactor. She was interested in Jim, but annoyed with our mayor, Dawn Zimmer, who was “turning the place into yuppy heaven, with bicycles all over the place.” Yup, I could see how old-time residents of Hoboken would be disturbed at the gentrification of their town. Another old-timer said, “Zimmer wants to build parks for the homeless to sleep in.” This aversion to spending our hard-earned taxes on the least among us sounded more Republican than Democratic, but she was a hardcore Democrat, and she’s got a heart of gold – she has raised two adopted sons who have developmental problems. She’s walked the walk when it comes to people in need.
Three times I handed over the flyer for Jim, who is black, and the woman at the door looked at Brad, who is also black, trying to gauge whether he was Jim Johnson. One of them said, “Oh, you’ve brought him with you!” I was embarrassed. Jim is a good thirty years younger than Jim, and his skin color is much darker. I experienced vicariously one of those experiences that black people talk about – “Can’t tell them apart….” As if one black person spoke for all.
I took a chance on sounding the wrong note, but had to say SOMETHING, so I put my hand on Brad’s shoulder and said, “Just in case you thought that white people don’t notice this sort of thing, aren’t bothered by it, I want you to know I noticed.”
Brad is a gentleman, raised to courtesy and good humor (he calls me “Miss Ann”) and was gracious about it.
By the time the afternoon ended, I was tired. But I’ll do it again. I got a lot more than political capital out of the afternoon; I got to know my neighbors and learned their opinions, which I would never learn in the elevator. I exposed my own political beliefs to the people I run into every day; that was a little uncomfortable, but turns out to be a good thing.
Next up, being one of the “ordinary Americans” in a photo shoot for a Jim Johnson commercial. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the hospital:
African-American OR nurse
Polish cleaning man
Hooray for America!
Donald Trump is easy to figure out – many of us have known, or heaven forbid, had to work with, a sly, uninformed, vengeful, and narcissistic bully with a bunch of college degrees. Our reaction to him is what we have to watch.
While we are reacting to the latest swastika in a school near us, or up in arms about Trump’s latest Tweet, he and his friends from all over the world will be sitting in Washington, or New York, quietly pocketing our riches. They will sell off and privatize our national assets: parks, roads, schools, hospitals, prisons, the air waves, natural resources. If we continue in our outraged hysteria at his every provocation, we will have been looking elsewhere while this is happening.
Trump is not sexist – years ago he appointed his daughter to an executive position when she was twenty-five, and hired women managers before that was common. He is not prejudiced against people of color or Muslims – his business partners come in all human hues and many are Muslim, or Hindu, or something else. His hiring of inflammatory officials and his demeaning of others is a Byzantine diversion which makes the rest of us lose sight of what is happening. We allowed that to happen during the campaign and we cannot allow that to continue.
I am pleased they are doing the recount because it will drive Trump crazy. It’s easy to drive him crazy. He has packed on a lot of weight over the past few months – the pressure is getting to him. His skin is so thin that the slightest criticism unseats him. We should write clever, viral tweets in answer to his insane ones. Complain about Ivanka’s greed. Pay attention to his conflicts of interest and write to our legislators to make sure they are paying attention too. Support the American military veterans who are going to help the protesters at the Dakota pipeline. Contribute to Bernie’s Our Revolution. Sign up for Elizabeth Warren’s mailing list which will serve as an organizational tool. Befriend Robert Reich on Facebook – he is now the head of Common Cause. Pique Trump. Bother him. Write to our congresspeople. Write to the heads of government departments. Flood them with tweets, emails, phone calls, complaints. Let him see critics in the millions.
Most of these things cost almost nothing in either time or money. If you give $10 to five different organizations, it will add up, but more than that, they will gain media attention if they have millions of followers.
Mostly, we must keep our eyes on the progress in his main and only purpose – to siphon more of our wealth into the Trump club. We must remain organized and consequent, pressuring him at his every weak point. He, like all bullies, is exquisitely vulnerable if we will only keep our heads. Bernie says he's going to work with him, so does Elizabeth Warren. Maybe they can get something done. But let's keep our eyes on his main purpose.