Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bang, bang, you're dead

Bang, bang, you're dead.
Brush your teeth and go to bed!

Playground chants illuminate our childish fears and fancies. It was unfathomable to us as children that people didn't really just get up and "go to bed!" And so we continue to struggle mightily when tragedies strike, and people do NOT just get up after the bang, bang, as in Colorado this weekend.

But the way in which we struggle with this, particularly after the first day of shock, is interesting and informative for those of us who people-watch. 

In the Sun Times this am, Sneed tells us of "very sad" behavior exhibited by a pastor. Said minister of the church which James Holmes' family attends has an upbeat message about rejoicing in the day on his home answering machine. 

Yes, it's true. During this terrible, sad time, this pastor has neglected to remember to change his insensitive and situationally (new word!) inappropriately happy answering machine message on his personal/family machine.  

Aren't there issues of actual importance and meaning to ponder regarding the Colorado shooting? I hope that changing her home answering machine message is one of the last thing my pastor has on her to-do list if such a tragedy were to strike my congregation or community. 

Then there would be the discussion of whether or not it was appropriate for a six year old to be at a midnight showing of the latest dark Batman movie--where she was shot and killed. Is now really the best time to scold her mother for bringing her?

Is there ever a good time to scold her mother for bringing her?

Why do horrific events like this spawn less important lines of conversation? Do we so need someone to blame that we look for anyone whose behavior could possibly be culpable of insensitivity, foolishness, stupidity or just plain forgetfulness to go off on?   

Why is human nature so inclined toward passive and helpless blame instead of action? Why not take our collective helpless rage and ineffable sadness about this tragedy and channel it into passing sensible gun control laws? Laws that would, at the very least, make it more difficult for mentally unstable individuals to buy mass quantities of guns and ammo. 

Quibbling about smaller issues, or even vociferous never-ending arguments about whether or not guns should be completely banned, is a waste of time and energy. Time and energy that we could use to save lives by limiting the amounts and types of guns and ammunition owned and sold. 

We will never stop these massacres. No amount of gun control will do so. But we can, at the very least, use them as powerful ammunition (pun intended) to drive a discussion about sensible gun limits so that the daily massacres (and that is NOT an exaggeration) that are happening in Chicago and other cities can be decreased. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich

United States Representative Joe Walsh is apparently an expert on heroes. Who knew? I thought that perhaps someone who is an expert in a particular field might have some experience in that same field. But I see no sign in Walsh's biography of any heroic activity. 

Perhaps he's been too busy defending America's 1% against the tyranny of unscrupulous taxation to extend himself in any heroic behavior. Or, wait, perhaps defending the wealthy from taxation IS his heroic behavior. 

But, I digress, even before I start. :-) 

Rep. Walsh criticized decorated U.S. veteran Tammy Duckworth as not a "true hero." She's not a "true hero" because true heroes don't talk about their heroism, says he. And it is this silence that explains why we are "in awe" and "indebted" to real heroes.

Tammy Duckworth is a veteran of the war in Iraq, during which she lost both legs and the use of one of her arms. Now, Joe, if you want to have a discussion about whether simply fighting in a war makes one a hero, I'm open to that. It seems a bit like Vietnam boomerang to me, this insistence post-9/11 that all veterans are heroes. 

Websters suggests that a hero is "a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage."

I don't think it is disrespectful of the great service and sacrifice veterans have given our country to suggest that perhaps calling them ALL heroes dilutes the term. That perhaps the need to do so is similar to the current societal norms that all children deserve A's or that everyone should get a trophy for participating. 

But to suggest that because a veteran refers publicly to her service she is somehow less deserving of our respect or that her war service and sacrifice becomes somehow less heroic is, at the very least, ridiculous. At the most, it seems misogynistic. 

Once upon a time, men believed that speaking about challenges, pain, and hard times was something only the weak did. And, since men ruled the world, Western culture accepted this bias as normal. But the boys are no longer in charge. We know that preferring to speak openly of life's challenges is just as acceptable as opting to keep them private--and perhaps healthier.

Duckworth is doing what every politician does. She is running for office on her past experiences. The constituents of the Eighth Congressional District would be better served if Walsh explained his own experiences and behavior rather than dissing a vet's choice to discuss hers.