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Category: Politics

The NRA is Right
I’ve had a change of heart recently on the subject of gun control. The change comes as a result of listening carefully to the arguments of gun rights advocates, particularly those of the NRA.

According to them, we on the left want nothing less than to strip them of their rights under the Constitution and come after them and their guns. That argument has been the driving force over the last few years behind the great surge in weapons sales here in the United States. The more I listened to this argument, the more it made sense. The NRA is right; that is the position I should be advocating.

Before I came to this realization, I had been taking a fair and open (liberal, that is) stance on the subject of guns. Gun ownership in and of itself is not wrong, I had reasoned, and firearms have an honored place in American history and culture that ought to be respected. I had conceded the valid points made by gun enthusiasts and restrained myself from overreacting to incidents of gun violence.

Not anymore. My new position, as recommended by the NRA, calls for the immediate confiscation of all guns everywhere in this country, including from the police. I will not call for the death penalty for firearm possession, as I consider life in prison without possibility of parole a sufficient deterrent. I might, however, be open to the forfeiture of citizenship as punishment, just to make doubly sure the law is obeyed.

I would acknowledge that this kind of confiscation might prove to be an unfair hardship to responsible, conscientious gun owners, but I am not convinced that such people actually exist. During the recent debate in Congress over requiring background checks for gun purchases, it was widely reported that 74% of NRA members supported such checks. If there is such a thing as responsible, conscientious gun owners, then surely they would be part of that 74%. So where were they when the NRA leadership fought hard against the checks and stopped the measure? Where were the mass resignations and the angry letters? Where was the stepping up and taking of responsibility?

There was none. Their profession of righteousness was a pose. Their concern about the carnage was hollow. The 74% are lousy fellow citizens because they do not recognize the duties that come with the exercise of any right. 74% — that’s roughly three and a half million gun owners — do not see a duty to keep these weapons out of the hands of criminals, crazies, and terrorists. These people deserve to have their citizenship forfeited.

It’s possible that, given my history of vacillation on this issue, I might switch back to my old stance on guns. I might return to a more balanced and reasonable position, but unless the 74% start acting like grown ups, that return is hard to imagine. If they start living up to the basic duties of citizenship, I might still come around. Until then, I will do exactly what the NRA expects me to.
No
I am a secret nudist. I sleep in the nude. Sometimes, I eschew underwear. I have been to nude beaches and have run, jumped, and cavorted in the altogether. And, underneath all these clothes, I am always bare-ass naked.

Even so, the San Francisco Supervisors scared the hell out of me. On November 20, 2012, they passed an ordinance banning public nudity in the city. That is not the part that scared me, though. It was the fact that the ban squeaked by on a 6 to 5 vote that sent shivers up my fully clothed spine.

Some of the rationales presented by the losing side included references to freedom of expression, San Francisco’s reputation for openness, and the ever-popular “slippery slope.” The slope here, it seems, threatened to send us careening downward into outlawing, among other things, “piercings, tattoos, and yellow hair.” To my mind, that would only happen if gravity were reversed and we were in danger of sliding up the slope toward patently unconstitutional bans.

We are not close to that here. As to limits on freedom of expression, the only communication now prohibited is the right to declare “I am naked” to legions of more modest strangers — by actually being naked. Wouldn’t a simple tweet serve just as well?

I don’t think I need to outline for you the arguments in support of the ban, which encompasses such public places as parks, streets, plazas, and public transit. Let’s just say that your otherwise pleasant trip on the Muni might easily be spoiled by someone’s in-your-face expression of freedom.

A part of me is thankful, I suppose, that the city of my birth is the one place on earth where such questions are asked seriously and discussed with a straight face. Another part of me, however, is reminded of a poem by the Russian Nobel laureate Yevgeny Yevtuschenko entitled “City of No, City of Yes.” His City of Yes is a beautiful, loving place where all is given and nothing is denied. The City of No, by contrast, is repressive and cold. In the end, he decides to divide his time between the two. According to Yevgeny, too much of a good thing is not such a good thing after all.

He might have had something there. I love my City of Yes by the Bay. I love the wackiness, the kookiness, the openness to odd beliefs and odder lifestyles, and the rejection of mere appearance as a standard of personal worth. So, yes to the City of Yes, yes to its people, yes to its humanity.

But no to full frontal freedom. Secret nudists, after all, need a place to freely express their modesty.

High on Austerity
You know, I kind of like austerity. Really.

There’s a stoic pleasure that comes with self-denial, a sense of control and mastery. Strip to the basics, hunker down and tough it out through sheer force of will. Yeah, like an animal. A wolverine, or a badger, or the nastiest bug you’ve ever seen. Rugged, resilient, too mean to die. Form a goddamn husk if necessary. Grrrr.

That’s the austerity high. Not fun, exactly, but when you come out the other side you feel empowered as a survivor. The rush of deferred gratification can be very gratifying indeed, and the self-righteousness you feel is way more fun than real righteousness. If you’re alone, particularly — living out of your knapsack, sleeping under bridges, depending only on yourself and letting others do likewise.

I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I understand the austerity high. Of course, I was a young man then, with no job and no dependents; a lone wolverine. The prospect of living it now, however, is not so appealing. I’m married, I’ve got a kid, and if I have an animal identity, it’s more likely some kind of house pet.

The missus, I can say with confidence, would not be fan of the husk look. I don’t want my kid hunkering down under anything. Same with old Mr. Bronstein up the block, or the Ogilvy twins. I don’t want vets, or poor people, or middle class families, or any of my fellow citizens to feel any more pain than they need to. There is, after all, more than enough naturally occurring austerity to go around.

I certainly don’t want my government to make it worse by adding a layer of official, government-sponsored belt-tightening. In fact, I want my government to do just the opposite: soften the blow, ease the pain, smooth out the bumps. Isn’t that what we have a government for in the first place — to keep things sailing on an even keel so we can all thrive?

So please, beloved leaders — don’t fail the gut check the way the Europeans did. Just back away from that austerity panic button re-e-e-al slow, and nobody will get hurt. Which is what we all want, right?

Thank you, and good luck in the upcoming election. Be sure to spend whatever it takes to get elected.

Hate
I did a Deep Cover cartoon a couple of weeks ago (7/19/12) that dealt with hate. It’s a topic that has interested me for a long time, both others’ and my own. Later, I saw comments on the web suggesting that I had “played the race card” by bringing up race as a possible reason for the crazed antipathy some people have toward Barack Obama.

My point, however, was not that racism was the reason for peoples’ hatred. I was simply saying that it’s the one motivation they will rarely cop to. They’ll admit to believing he’s the antichrist, or an alien, or a commie, or any other of the nutcase theories about him, but never to flat-out racial bigotry. I don’t think racism is necessarily at the bottom of their hatred, though it might be. The reason people hate Obama is because they like hating him. They get off on it. The rationale behind the hatred is irrelevant.

As an emotion, hatred provides a pretty attractive up side. It unplugs the rational mind and all the pesky nuances rationality can introduce into your thinking. Giving in to hatred, in other words, simplifies things. All considerations become binary: bad, not bad. Any logic, no matter how false or simple-minded, will do fine.

Hatred brings its own special rush, as well. The feelings of righteousness, of empowerment, ferocity, and clarity of purpose are all part of the hate high. For those reasons, hate can be positively addictive.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this addiction; it is deadly poisonous. Ask the members of the Sikh temple or the workers in the federal building in Oklahoma City. The killers in those situations were poisoned by their addiction, and so were the innocent people they killed.

I confess that I still hate George W. Bush. I’m not proud of that, though in my defense I consider it a completely rational hatred (if there is such a thing). He did, after all, start a foolish war that killed a million civilians. If there were ever a good reason to hate, that would be it. But what’s the point? He’s out of power, and I’m not getting the hate high anymore. All it does now is make me feel lousy.

More enlightened people than me might suggest love as the antidote to all this hate, and they might be right. That approach sounds so rational and sane, but I can’t get there with W; not yet, anyway. So I try not to think about him, because to do otherwise would only poison my state of mind. I guess that’s my solution to the hate epidemic, whether it’s racial or not: admit you’re an addict, and resolve to avoid the drug. Then hunker down and wait for sanity to return.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee