Saturday, May 2, 2009

Uncivilized? Who us?

By Don Klein

The news reports were harsh and sobering. First, 89 killed in multiple attacks one recent Thursday in Iraq. Then at least 60 more died outside a revered Baghdad religious shrine the next day. Close to 150 dead in two days by acts of merciless Iraqi suicide murderers. Another 50 died a few days later

"Isn’t it awful what they are doing to themselves over there," I could hear many an American housewife say to her husband after listening to the TV report. "A bunch of animals those Muslims. They waddle in spilled blood," her husband would no doubt respond. Then they would resume their dinner.

They speak of the violence overseas with the concern of one who believes themselves above such malevolence. Their superior attitude is tinged with disgust because such behavior is uncivilized. They like to believe such conduct would not be tolerated here. Yet these very same Americans are likely to sit peacefully in their comfortable suburban homes and cluck their tongues when young Americans die senselessly every day in this country – and often times in a burst of absurd brutality not much different than what happens in the Middle East.

Every year about 12,000 are shot to death on American streets, in neighborhood schools, in work places, even in churches while attending religious services. That is four times the number who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001. Guns are the favorite death-delivering weapon in America representing seventy percent of all murders in the country.

Yet John Citizen and his wife, Mary, just sit around and take it like it was just another day in the park. Kids killing kids, disgruntled husbands slaughtering their families. A disturbed immigrant shooting down other immigrants in a citizenship class. The first thing angry men do is gather the family weapons and load up with ammunition and off they go who go on rampages looking for innocent victims.

Most of the time we never learn why they do these awful things because they take their own lives after they satisfy their thirst for blood and armed police arrive to confront them. There is nothing more cowardly then to attack unarmed people without reason and then end their own lives when people arrive who can fight back.

But cowardice is not the subject of this essay. Guns are. So is the seemingly American tolerance for the right of all citizens, including the psychologically unsound and the brooding irrational loner, to bear arms in their homes. "I believe in the Second Amendment," we hear gun lovers shout at every instance someone suggests gun control. They say if we banned guns it wouldn’t stop career criminals from getting them. That might be true, but so what?

It has reached the point that it is not the criminals who do the most heart-wrenching gun harm in this country. There were no career criminals involved in Columbine High School slaughter. Son of Sam was not a career criminal. The weirdos who went around shooting abortion doctors were not career criminals. There are too many ostensibly "ordinary" people who cause great damage with their guns.

Even Lee Harvey Oswald was not a career criminal, nor was his executioner, Jack Ruby. But they both had no trouble buying guns for their iniquities.

One of the most daunting facts is that in Virginia where an unhinged student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech just two years ago, the state has not yet enacted any laws prohibiting the free and unregulated access to weapons at gun shows. What an insult to the victims who were memorialized so tearfully by the nation at the time of the debacle.

Where are the hearts of the local politicians in this matter?

I’ll tell you where – they are with the National Rifle Association and the gun-loving minority in this country. Although the majority of Americans favor gun control of some manner, politicians follow the NRA money and influence. There is a malignancy in this country when it comes to guns.

It all started when our founding fathers assembled in Philadelphia after the Revolution and put together in 1789 a document which would govern the way future governments will behave. They made several mistakes, one was not outlawing slavery, the other was in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The Civil War corrected the slavery issue, but the Second Amendment calling for the right of individuals to bear arms persists.

This amendment was included in the Constitution at a time when the United States was in its infancy and when its populace lived on a frontier just moments away from harm by ferocious wild animals or hostile Indians or marauding gunmen. There was no effective police force available at the other end of a 9-1-1 call and the US cavalry at best was days away.

Certainly the right to carry arms made sense at the time. But who among us have to concern themselves today with grizzly bears on our front lawn or have to ward off rampaging enemies on the way to the supermarket? The Second Amendment is no more valid today than is the Eighteen Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. The difference is the latter was repealed in 1933.

It doesn’t look like whatever mayhem happens in our schools, or streets, or to our elected officials, or to our police, or in our office buildings will ever be taken seriously enough to repeal the Second Amendment. Making guns available to every Tom, Dick and Harry is the American Way.

Like the old axiom about not throwing stones if you live in a glass house, Americans will yawn when the subject of controlling guns in our communities comes up but will be outraged every time there is an outburst of deadly bombings in the Middle East as they remind themselves how uncivilized those damn Arabs are.

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