Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Part 2
“I have the right to be a child!”

Eight words, eight one-syllable words, shout the child’s version of Provision 2 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.  The official version is no less direct, no less compelling:

"Principle 2 The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration."

Every time a child is harmed, our credibility as grown-ups is challenged, the strength of our society diminished.  How much more so if that child is harmed not by a careless, evil or neglectful act, but by a set of policies.  By the “normal” way the society works?

The killing of children and their principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a single shooter who owned what can only be called an arsenal of weapons designed for killing shocked the world and set in motion a determination to finally – finally – bring gun control to the US.  It didn’t happen.

In the nearly four years since the Sandy Hook shooting, our children have not “enjoyed special protection” from gun violence.   In fact, according to Everytown for Gun Safety Research, there have been 191 school shootings in the U.S. since 2013, including occasions when a gun was fired but no one was hurt.

Less headline-grabbing but even more troubling is the news that in the US, again since the Sandy Hook deaths, an American child under 12 (under 12!  not inclusive of teenagers!) has died by intentional and accidental gunfire every other day.

If we take the best interests of the child seriously, then we cannot reconcile the ready availability of guns with the loss of life at Sandy Hook.  Our sympathies have not translated into the “enactment of laws” to make the world safer for our children.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Part 1
Missing Molly Ivins

When the Texas legislature in its 84th legislative session passed new laws permitting the “open carry” of hand guns and “campus carry” of guns on university campuses, my first thought was “Where is Molly Ivins when we need her?”

I could just picture the lead sentence in her next day’s column:  “Why are all those guys in the lege eager to make their masculine insecurities so public?”  

Molly Ivins’ wit skewered the pompous and the fear-mongering alike.  She made us laugh at the absurdities of our politicians’ ignorance, the often petty and equally as often overtness of their corruption, and the cruel impact many of their actions had on the most vulnerable Texans.

In my next few blog posts, I’ll be reflecting on what it means to live in a state where a majority of legislators think carrying a gun around is good public policy. And I’ll be inviting readers to situate this whole guns on campus thing in the context of teaching and learning, the increasing diversity of the students on our campuses, and the seeming ubiquity of violence as a commonplace in our communities --- violence against young unarmed Black men and boys, violence as domestic or international terrorism, violence as public policy, and violence as the product of fear more even than a cause of fear.  And I’ll write about the emerging pushback against official violence, including actions that students and professors are taking to resist or overturn these “carry laws.”

A rumor going around Austin claims that at least one member of the legislature requires everyone on his staff to apply for an “open carry” permit.  Some versions of the rumor add that the staffers have to own and carry a gun; another version is that they just have to go through the training to get one and bring their “carry” license in as proof.  A litmus test for staffers:  no pacifists need apply?  no freedom of expression in this office?   My mental picture is of an NRA official making regular rounds to our legislators’ offices with a suitcase of campaign cash to be handed over only after inspecting each staffer’s gun “carry” license.  (I mention this rumor here in the hopes that one of you who knows the legislature will write to tell me this is absolutely NOT true! Surely, if true, it’s not legal…..)

If you live in Texas, you’ll want to know who voted for these laws.  Check the lists to see how your legislator voted, and if you don’t want the moms in the carpool lane or the check out clerk at the grocery store, or the folks next to your kids at the movie theater to be “carrying” a gun, ask the candidates in your district what they are going to do about it:  Ask “do you favor open carry gun laws in our neighborhoods and on our campuses?”  and “if elected, will you work hard to rescind these laws?”  We do, after all, have an election in a few months and  the 2017 legislative session coming up in January.

And if you want to know what Molly Ivins did say about “our infatuation with guns,” read her 1993 column so titled. She ends with this discussion of the Second Amendment:

“’A well-regulated militia’ surely implies both long training and long discipline. That is the least, the very least, that should be required of those who are permitted to have guns, because a gun is literally the power to kill.  For years, I used to enjoy taunting my gun-nut friends about their psycho-sexual hang-ups – always in a spirit of good cheer, you understand. But letting the noisy minority in the National Rifle Association force us to allow this carnage to continue is just plain insane….I do think gun-nuts have a power hang-up.  I don’t know what is missing in their psyches that they need to feel they have the power to kill.  But no sane society would allow this to continue. 

“Ban the damn things. Ban them all.  You want protection? Get a dog.”

Where is Molly Ivins when we need her?

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