August 2012

A dark night for America

By David Grant Long

Like all good-hearted Americans, I felt real bad for a little while about the recent recordbreaking mass slaughter inside an Aurora movie theater, then just mildly bad when I was reminded of it by the endless TV coverage. Then it sort of faded into the growing mass of other mass killings that makes us all feel terrible for a little while before getting on with our own lives, which, after all, have their own share of worrisome travails.

SLEEPWALKING IN AMERICAAs a special nod to the victims – 12 killed, 51 injured, which is the above-mentioned record- setter in terms of total people damaged – the flag on the U.S. Capitol building, which houses 635 cowardly, money-grubbing asskissing legislators beneath, was lowered to half mast, a special honor usually reserved for dead presidents and other bigwigs.

This led me to wondering just what the cut-off limit was for a mass killing to be deemed worthy of this flag-lowering? Ten casualties, maybe? Certainly not six, the number killed at a recent wedding celebration, and a mere one or two is obviously out of the question, since the flag would be in constant motion, confusing tourists and wearing out the equipment that makes it go up and down.

Perhaps an even dozen is a reasonable criterion, then, for expressing the regrets of the disgustingly petty and unprincipled “lawmakers” who lounge in air-conditioned comfort beneath the dome. “Mr. President and my esteemed colleagues, I rise on this sad occasion to move that we lower our flag to give whatever comfort it might to the grieving family members . . . blah, blah. blah.”

Within a few days, after the suspect’s background had been gone over with a magnifying glass, after the families of the dead and wounded, his classmates and neighbors and the most articulate of the eyewitnesses had been interviewed and the funerals shown from a respectable distance, the coverage lessened, finally being mentioned only when “new developments,” or one more step in the long legal process that will inevitably lead to the suspect’s conviction and sentencing occurred.

What won’t happen is that any form of gun control – even a modest, commonsense measure such as renewing the assaultweapon ban that Congress allowed to expire a few years ago because few wanted to risk the wrath of the NRA – will be proposed in Congress or discussed in any depth during the three staged “debates” between the two candidates for president whose main job is supposed to be protecting all Americans from such random violence.

No, once the flowers at what the media always refer to as the “makeshift memorials” have wilted and the debris has been carted off, and once the interest of the public, whose attention span is about that of gnats, has been diverted by some other sensational crime, the Aurora incident will become just another in an exponentially growing list of such acts – very sad for those who lost loved ones and received grievous wounds, but not really anything that affects anyone’s else’s life in any real way. (“Too bad about that Batman thing” and so on.)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opined that no new laws were necessary since some of the stuff the gunman had was already illegal, thus proving that such laws did no good anyway.

In fact, the guns, including the one with the 100-round-capacity magazine that he used to mow down the moviegoers, were perfectly legal and legally obtained, as were the thousands of rounds of ammunition he purchased on the Internet. Nor did Romney want to discuss the assault-weapons ban he signed while governor of Massachusetts or any other topic that might alienate rightwing supporters whose love of guns decides their vote in any election.

What Romney may truly believe in his cynical black heart will remain as private as his income-tax returns (which likely show he paid no taxes some years while he greedily earned money in off-shore accounts and stashed even more away in Swiss banks, apparently for that rainy day when the American economy goes belly-up from powerful businessmen like him shipping jobs out of the country and performing other slick maneuvers that cost Americans their jobs but made him even richer).

And President Obama has not performed noticeably better as far as protecting the public from armed lunatics, confining himself to making speeches about how awful it is and how we should work harder to end all violence, whether gun-related or not.

Those are our lame choices in November, along with Congressional candidates of both parties who are controlled by the NRA and its money.

In the end, of course, it was the American public – that’s you and me, fellow goodhearted but preoccupied citizens – who helped kill and wound those midnight movie buffs and the crowd at the Arizona mall last year where the Congresswoman, a federal judge and other less prominent people were used for target practice by a crazy man with easy access to the means to make himself a shooting star, and all the other similar cases where some guy with an enlarged hair up his ass decides that blasting a few dozen fellow beings is the way to go.

And nothing is going to change – except gun sales will increase and the NRA will recruit new members – until and unless the rotten bastards who get paid far better than those of us who have actual jobs are run out of office and replaced by lawmakers actually motivated by protecting the public interest.

And that is only going to happen when public financing of elections makes it possible for smart, ethical people who are not already rich to tell the public their ideas and philosophy, as the incumbents and filthy rich people are now the only ones who have any shot of being elected to office.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

David Grant Long writes from Cortez, Colo.