In comparison with his remarks, much of the rhetorical noise around the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents, a shooting that left six of them dead, shrank back into perspective. If the only way politicians can criticize overwrought and violent rhetoric is to use more of their own, how are they helping? Of course, you and I would never use inflammatory rhetoric; it's only over the top when it is coming our way!--and then we can say, with serene righteousness, whatever we want to defend ourselves. Nobody has had more hard-core offensive rhetoric aimed at him or her than Obama, and I deeply appreciated his putting the priority on healing rather than hitting back.
I'm not arguing for lazy sentimentality. There are people in the USA who come very close to arguing that current White House policies justify armed rebellion. Right now, most of that noise is coming from the radical right, but not so long ago, it came from the radical left. As always, the poison isn't necessarily ideological, it is the primordial sin of naming one's opponent as alien, irredeemable, less than human. All that, plus conveniently forgetting that a certain percentage of the audience does not know how to deal with metaphors. If you use crosshairs as a symbol, for some reason they think of a gun!
I'm sure that some of us are just the right ones to confront this kind of communication (without adopting the same tone!!). But if we are to live up to the expectations of our children, as Obama put it, some of our leaders need to shift the whole conversation to a new plane--of common values, common challenges, and a common future.
On that last point, I appreciated this post from slactivist.
--more Yalagin Street photos by Judy
|inside the classroom:||inside the kitchen:||New Year's Eve:|
A sad note about guns.... For years, I've been listening to arguments back and forth about gun control in the USA, particularly about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.In the wake of Tucson's tragedy, students here in Russia are also asking me about gun violence and gun ownership in the USA. For better or for worse, part of our American national DNA is this awkward amendment putting private gun ownership up there with free speech, free assembly, and freedom of religion. Part of me wishes it weren't so--perhaps the part that still grieves my sister's murder with a sawed-off shotgun--but it seems that keeping and bearing arms will continue to be part of the exciting, scary, and messy package that is the USA.
Freedom of speech, press, and religion are clearly elements of democracy, but why does gun ownership evoke the same level of emotional support as those other freedoms--if not more? The "well regulated Militia" hardly seems to explain it. Aside from the frontier ethic of defending "what's mine," there's also a lingering sense, dating to our revolutionary past, that the citizen's gun is also a last resort against government itself, a form of insurance against tyranny.
Whatever the origins of this passionate support for guns, it seems useless to argue that it shouldn't exist. Dozens of shocking episodes of gun violence have come and gone and the U.S. gun lobby seems as strong as ever. But all other constitutional freedoms have their defined limits: speech cannot incite riots; press cannot libel; assemblies can be regulated as to time and place. After due process, even the sacred right to vote can be denied. Can we now find a critical mass, including gun owners, that will come together and define what IS and is NOT meant by "infringing" the Second Amendment? Yes, you have a right to keep and bear arms. But we collectively have a right to do whatever it reasonably takes to restrain you, or your unbalanced neighbor, from spraying bullets in the direction of our fellow citizens--especially our children! Where is the lobby for this right?
"The best of NASA space shuttle videos."
"Decency, hope, friendship: the real story from Moscow's race riots."
"Everything you think you know about the Dark Ages is wrong." Thanks to J. Christina Hodgson (via Facebook) for the reference.
"Roots of Contemplation/Roots of Action," a Quaker study retreat at Mt. Angel, Oregon, March 4-6.
A wonderful match of voice and guitar and band... Michael Burks in Denmark.