Stuff Happens

Another week, another mass shooting somewhere in America. This time the unfortunate place to be was Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where a gunman killed nine people yesterday before himself being shot and killed by police.

I have never liked guns. As a Brit it’s not something I ever really had to worry about in the UK, because most handguns were banned in 1997 following the Dunblane school shooting in Scotland in 1996, where a heavily-armed middle-aged man entered a nursery school and shot to death 16 children and one teacher. It is still the worst gun atrocity that has taken place in the UK. I am particularly proud of the political response that took place after this horrendous act of evil. After a public inquiry, it was decided that almost all private ownership of handguns was to be outlawed, and this actually happened. The UK now has one of the lowest gun-related homicide rates in the world.

One of the things I dislike most about the US is the gun culture. I live in Texas and it’s particularly prevalent here, as well as many other parts of the deep south, but it touches everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. That Americans have become so inoculated to gun violence and these prolific mass shootings is… I almost have no words for it (but as a writer I’m damn well going to try). The Second Amendment is woefully outdated. The fact that the NRA is near single-handedly repelling all efforts at effective gun control is horribly offensive. People are dying on a regular basis, but Congress still cannot pass even the mildest gun control legislation (such as better background checks for people seeking handgun licences, for example) without the NRA and its denizens flooding the airwaves with panic-inducing press releases detailing how the Second Amendment is under assault yet again.

Americans love their guns, and the sad truth is they love their guns more than they love its people. These tragic deaths are preventable, but the NRA and many right-wing politicians have whipped up the populace into such an anti-government frenzy that you would think the government was sending federal agents to your home right now to take all of your weapons, and probably your money and property too.

The blowback has already started. Governor Jeb Bush, a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, was quoted today as saying “I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this… stuff happens”.

Stuff happens.

Sorry nine people who died yesterday in an attempt to get an education and better themselves. Stuff happens. Sorry to the 10,000 people that have been killed in gun-related violence in the US this year (so far). Stuff happens.

Why some Americans are obsessed with keeping these killing machines close at hand I do not fully understand. I can somewhat understand the idea of wanting to keep your family safe and perhaps – perhaps – I can see that for some a gun might be the best way they can think of to do that. For the average person though, there is no need for them.

But guns don’t kill people – people kill people!

Not buying it, sorry. The fact that guns are so easy for the average person to obtain is precisely why there are so many gun-related shootings and killings. And it’s a lot easier to injure and kill people – especially a lot of people – with a gun than with a knife or almost any other kind of weapon. Sure, if guns were (somehow) banned then you would still see some kinds of violence, but instead of killing nine, maybe he would only have been able to get to one or two before being overcome – or maybe even zero. We don’t know, and there isn’t the political will amongst the right-wing establishment to find out.

Over the next couple of weeks you’ll see the usual talking heads on the news say that gun control would not have stopped him, he would have killed regardless, or would have found some other way to do it. Everyone will go about their business, and essentially nothing will change. And then there’ll be another mass shooting, a few weeks after that there’ll be another, and so on and so forth. A recent study by Harvard University showed that the rate of mass shootings has increased threefold since 2011. The interval between these types of events is becoming shorter and shorter until eventually we’ll be at one a day; the only thing the news will have time to report is where it took place and how many were killed, before moving on to the next.

America needs to kick its gun habit and get clean. More so than ever, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.


The Sky Is Falling

It’s been an interesting few weeks here in the US with regards to gay marriage. With the Supreme Court decision effectively legalising it in all 50 states just a few weeks ago, it’s been fascinating to see the fallout from the religious right as they are dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Here’s my deal with religion: I don’t care for it myself, but I’m happy for people that get something out of it, provided they don’t use it as a club to beat others with. You go to church/temple/mosque/whatever and think that it helps you in some way? More power to you. When we have elected officials refusing to execute their official duties in the name of religious tolerance, that’s when it becomes a problem.

And my absolute biggest problem with Christians in particular here in America is their hypocrisy.

The Bible contains many, many prohibitions. A few of the more egregious ones:

  • You can’t eat bacon or pork in general (Leviticus 11:4)
  • Torn clothing (Leviticus 10:6)
  • Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)
  • Marrying after divorce is adultery (Mark 10:11–12)
  • Women talking in church (!) (1 Corinthians 14:34)
  • Wearing a garment made of two or more fibers (Leviticus 19:19)
  • Eating seafood (Leviticus 10–11)
  • Working on Saturday (Exodus 31:14–15)
  • Trimming your beard (Leviticus 19:27)

There’s plenty of others out there but you get the gist of it. So, what makes the bible’s anti-gay verses so much more important than all of the rest? I’m sure somewhere there are people who strictly obey all of these and everything else, and whilst they probably lead incredibly backward and plain lives, they are at least consistent in their actions. The vast majority of Christians though? Not so much. Jesus tattoos…cheeseburgers…eating at Red Lobster…shaving your beard…wearing a blended sweater…working on the weekend…well you get the point. The hypocrisy is on such a staggering level that it’s essentially hiding in plain sight. Gay people getting married? Time to latch onto that and act like it will open a portal directly to hell and drag the whole world through it.

I get the feeling that religion isn’t meant to be like a buffet at a restaurant. You don’t get to pick and choose the bits you’ll follow and the bits you won’t. So when Rowan County, KY Clerk Kim Davies refuses to issue marriage licences to homosexual couples, maybe she should read up more on Mark 10 where it speaks about no divorce (she’s currently on her fourth marriage, which, the bible teaches, means she should technically be put to death).

I simply do not understand why gay marriage in particular seems to provoke this outrage amongst much of America. I don’t see them picketing seafood restaurants or men’s barber shops, so why this hatred for gay people? For the most part they’re just trying to live their lives the same as everyone else. They aren’t trying to turn you gay or subvert your children or any of the other nonsense stories that I’ve seen and read from fundamentalist Christians.

It’s a big world out there, full of both great and terrible things. People should try to embrace the former, repair the latter, and realise that gay people are not the enemy.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Donald?

I have been interested in politics for most of my life, and graduated with a degree in it back when I lived in the UK.

The American political system – and some of the… interesting… characters that inhabit it – can be quite illuminating at times.

A case in point is Donald Trump. I’ll get the tl;dr out of the way first: I don’t like him. I don’t like the greed and opulence that seems to surround him and people of his ilk. I actually find the accumulation of such vast amounts of personal wealth to be personally abhorrent, but that is often misinterpreted as people like me hate businesses and capitalism, which is something that could not be further from the truth.

I’d certainly characterise myself as someone who sits left-of-centre on the political spectrum, but, again, that doesn’t mean I love the Democratic party and hate Republicans, either. The skinny here is that Donald Trump is a clown sitting at the big boys’ table. I find both his rhetoric and his personality to be abrasive to the point of ugliness; I find his “plain-speaking” (that people apparently “love”) to simply be a synonym for being able to preach his sexist and racist nonsense without being able to be called out on it as easily (in the UK we would call such people “forthright” and “eccentric” – same difference); every day he remains in the Republican primary is a boon to the Democrats. He confuses “plain-speaking” with “saying stupid things”, and thinks he is doing the former when in reality he is actually doing the latter.

Donald Trump is unelectable as President of the United States. Let’s be plain: he’s unelectable as my local dog catcher, too. Every day that he keeps campaigning and associating his bullshit with the GoP brand is like another Christmas for Democrats. I really do not understand how a man so clever (at least on paper) can be so stupid. He genuinely believes that he is “sticking it to the system” by continuing to spread his ridiculous opinions in the face of a party that would very much prefer he didn’t do that. This may be good for Donald Trump but it certainly isn’t good for Republicans, and they sully themselves by maintaining an association with someone as toxic as him.

At least with the fallout from Thursday’s first Republican debate his misogyny is rearing its head a little more. I have no love for Megyn Kelly either, but that dislike does not extend to insulting her personally or implying that her menstrual cycle is the source of her issues. Donald Trump is not going to be President, nor is he going to be the Republican nominee for President. He will flame-out, hopefully in a spectacular fashion, sometime in the next few weeks or months. On the one hand it’s unadulterated entertainment, on the other you wonder how can people take American politics seriously with someone like this neck-deep in the middle of it.

I can’t vote since I’m not a US citizen, but if I could it would certainly not be for Donald Trump. He is a relic from a bygone age, and people who like him and actually profess to wanting to vote for him should seriously reexamine both their lives and his background – I don’t think they would like what they found in either case.