Death From Above
After the latest school shooting, the NRA has come under virulent attack by people demanding gun control. Major companies—such as Delta, United Airlines, and Hertz—have severed ties with the NRA after public pressure, but not Apple, Amazon, or FedEx. A boycott of companies that have not cut off their relationships with the NRA was planned for March 1.
People are particularly upset with Amazon and Apple because they offer access to NRA TV, a free online-only channel, which features live commentary and documentaries. The push against the NRA brought attention to this little known channel and has dragged its hosts into the limelight. NRA TV is similar to right-wing channels in that its hosts complain loudly about the liberal, untrustworthy mainstream media. When they launched in 2014, they promised “the most comprehensive video coverage of second amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world.” And, by God Almighty, do they deliver. For example, in a ‘roid rage-fueled rant, Grant Stinchfield—think of a beefy Bill O’Reilly—blamed the Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, and first responders for the school shooting in Florida, not guns.
Now, based on this argument alone, I think that when Grant Stinchfield dies, if he is given an enema, his family can dispose of his corpse in a matchbox. Nevertheless, as a staunch advocate of the principles of the Enlightenment, I support Grant Stinchfield’s right to a platform to exercise his right to free speech. In addition, I doubt that he, and those sympathetic to his views, can or should be silenced. Even if Apple, Amazon, Google Play, and Roku drop the channel, there is still YouTube, among other digital platforms. Social media platforms are the modern public square, a place for discussion and debate, in which we can exercise our First Amendment rights, which includes the right to offend. These views will not disappear if driven to lesser platforms, or underground.
I cannot think about encroaching on someone else’s right to free speech without arranging for this to happen to me and mine as well, but never mind. That’s another essay for another time. Meantime, let us say that the NRA loses one of its propaganda tools, and let us pretend that gun laws are passed. Will the problem be over?
I doubt that. Unless our Dear Leaders stop setting the murderous example, things will not change. We can blame the epidemic of murder on movies, music, video games, and on the readily available guns until we’re blue in the face, and we will be right. But where do we get the idea of violence as a national value in the first place? I remember when my brother had his first child; he and his wife taught the baby to curse, and they would laugh and laugh, but when the baby turned the insults in their direction, and they weren’t in a good mood, they would get angry with her. Stupid, right? Well, in my brother’s defense, he was very young too. But that is where the idea of violence as a virtue comes from: our leaders, our symbolic parents. They tell us that the military is to be worshiped when they do flyovers during football games. When it comes to movies, they tell us that violence is a necessary tool that has saved our lives time and again.
Our country is fundamentally, and institutionally violent. Both Republicans and Democrats embrace defense projects with warmth even when the Pentagon tells them to stuff it where the sun don’t shine, and the defense budget becomes more and more bloated. Obama embraced drone murders, and Trump, who is in a perpetual dick-measuring contest with his predecessor, has already surpassed his numbers. The unrelenting message is that killing makes us strong.
But let us say that we lose our American minds for a moment and decide instead to promote nonmilitary, diplomatic means to ensure peace. Let us say that we respect our neighbors, rather than kill them, or rape and pillage their countries when they’re not looking. And let us say that we pass gun laws. Surely that would be enough to stop the killing. It would certainly be a step in the right direction, but what about inequality?
There is an enormous body of evidence that the black maw of inequality breeds violence. When you don’t have access to mainstream markers of status—a nice car, a good-paying, stable job—and all you have to cling to is the respect of your peers, you are more likely to lash out violently when your only source of value is threatened. You are more likely to distrust other members of your society, and therefore feel a greater sense of alienation. You see this feeling displayed often when mass murderers leave a video, or manifesto. But you also see it play out in daily life, after all; what, if not inequality and racism, is the source of gangsta’ rap?
You see, the problem runs deeper than passing gun laws. It’s deeper than silencing and defunding the NRA. If we don’t change our ideology, and if we don’t fix income inequality, heads will continue to roll.
British Snails are Totally Over this Cold Weather
If you live in the Northeast, you probably noticed that winter storm on Thursday night. It wasn’t the worst storm to hit this winter, but it certainly wasn’t fun to walk home in either. However, the Northeast United States isn’t the only place suffering from some pretty brutal weather lately.
Easterly winds from Siberia hit Northern Europe this week and brought the United Kingdom its coldest spell in five years. While the UK isn’t known for its particularly beautiful weather, it definitely isn’t used to snow like this:
In fact, It’s so cold in England, that even the snails are calling it in. The Dartmoor Union Inn in Devon was promoting a snail racing championship for Saturday, promising guests, “each thrilling race will last about 4 minutes with guests able to bet on their favourite snail.”
The only problem is, it’s so cold in the United Kingdom that the snails are starting to hibernate. The pub posted on Facebook Thursday, “Unfortunately due to our snails being extra sleepy we have had to cancel the snail racing championships this Saturday!”
Luckily, snails come equipped to ride out a cold snap. They “make a dried lid of slime over the shell mouth, which seals in the snail for several months,” reports the BBC.
Luckily, “the beast from the east,” as the British Media calls it, is estimated to be completely dispersed and melted by next week.
As for the gastropods at the gastropub, The Dartmoor Union Inn has no current plans for escargot; they say the snail race will be rescheduled.
Poverty and Parenting
Lines are being drawn in the sands of the California desert as a Joshua Tree family fights to stay together after their destitute living situation was discovered by the police.
The LA Times reports that Daniel Panico, 73, and Mona Kirk, 51, were living on a plot of land outside of Joshua Tree with their three children for four years without running water, plumbing, or electricity. Police also reported that 30 to 40 cats were also found in a trailer on the lot and roaming the grounds. Kirk and the children were sleeping in a make-shift shelter they had constructed from plywood and tarp material, while Panico would sleep in a small trailer with the cats. Children’s toys, old furniture, and various refuse littered the “yard,” and police also found several holes filled with human feces. Understandably, the police removed the children from the parents’ custody, before charging them with three felony counts of child abuse.
“When it comes to raising children, we have a standard we have to live by,” Captain Trevis Newport, of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, told the LA Times. “In this case, we decided, let’s pull the kids from the residence, we don’t want them living in that environment.” However, friends and neighbors of the family tell a different story.
Jackie Klear, a longtime family friend from nearby Yucca Valley, says the only fault in Panico and Kirk’s parenting is refusing much-needed help from others. “They don’t want handouts,” she said. “I’m hoping this woke them up.” Klear is a troop leader for the Phoenix Scouts, a local scouting organization that all three children belong to. She also said that while not enrolled in school in any official capacity, the children were all well-read and educated, spending time at the Yucca Valley Library with their mother.
Newport noted that none of the children appeared malnourished, but did say that there was not an adequate amount of food on the property. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide if Panico and Kirk are guilty of a crime, or of simple pride. If the court finds that it’s extreme poverty and not bad parenting, the two will discover that help is not far, with a GoFundMe page set up by Klear, garnering over $12,000 dollars in two days in the effort to purchase them a house.
China’s blooming new dictatorship
Over the past few weeks, Chinese legislators have been considering a major overhaul in the Chinese constitution that would basically strip term limits from law. Currently, there is a portion of law that states rather clearly that a president can only stay in power for two 5 year terms. As the Chinese legislators ponder over the removal of this law, the reason for its initial placement has to be considered.
The law was placed into the constitution after the reign of Mao Zedong, one of the most modern examples of a dictator. In 1982, the amendment was put forth as a reaction to Mao’s merciless and complete hold on power in China. Mao was the party leader, much like the current president Xi Jingping, and developed an almost cult like following in China with his personality and ruthlessness.
The removal of term limits, which is extremely likely considering the fact that the Chinese Parliament is filled with people from Jingping’s party, that follow his leadership, will potentially cause another life long term. Much like leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it appears as if China’s Jingping is heading towards an area where he is able to hold all the power in his country in a grasp that nobody can shake.
It almost seems as if the world is swallowed up by all the dictator-like leaders at this point in time and it is scary to think that perhaps the age of democracy is at its weakest point since the inception of America. This idealogy, that to keep the country strong and to quell internal conflict it is worth it to basically install an all-powerful leader who will represent the country for years to come, is the same dangerous train of though that has brought about many tyrants that have caused plenty of suffering in the world.
A country like China, perhaps the world’s second most powerful country, heading in the direction of a dictatorship is particularly worrisome because China is the most populated country in the world, and the ability to manufacture and escape criticism is particularly dangerous there because so many people are potentially losing their democratic voice.
With some luck, this trend of all powerful strong men leading countries single handedly doesn’t extend everywhere around the world. It may be touching our country, but there is still that hope that democracy will prevail in America.