The past few weeks were filled with notable events, often coming so fast that it is hard to digest one before the next takes our attention. Many are horrific, others significant, and still others may change our world in ways we yet know. Taken in sum or in part, they can be depressing and continue to challenge my view that the world is basically a good place and that given the chance, most people will do the right thing.
In no particular order, here are a few thoughts on the major and minor events of the last few weeks that have set me to thinking.
Turkey. The attempted coup in Turkey yesterday proved one old adage. When the person you are trying to over throw takes off in an airplane, do not let them land back in the country again. More seriously, it is not only good for Turkey that their democratically elected President Recep Erdogan was able to disrupt and ultimately defeat those attempting the coup, but it is also good for NATO and for the United States. Turkey is a lynch pin in a wide range of western policies ranging from the defeat of ISIS to relations with Israel. However, President Erdogan will never be accused of being a nice guy. Do not expect it to be a pretty sight in the coming days and weeks as the government rounds up those that tried to bring them down. And those suspected of helping them whether or not they actually did.
Mass killings. When is it “too soon” to talk about them besides offering up only “thoughts and prayers”? When some politicians try to go beyond platitudes they are accused of politicizing the events. At the rate that they have recently been coming, we will never talk about them because one can hardly comprehend what happened before another occurs. Our society is increasingly violent. We need to look seriously at ways to stop the violence and provide for the safety of the average citizen. This does not mean solely protection from alleged Islamist terrorists — many of whom have no religious background and are primarily disgruntled or mentally unstable petty crooks looking for a cause — but in other ways as well. According to recent studies by the American Automobile Association and the American Safety Council, 56% of all fatal crashes in the multi-year study are caused by road rage and 37% of the incidents involve a fire arm. In the United States.
Black Lives Matter. When did discussions in our country become “either or” discussions? Why does supporting the Black Lives Matter protesters become anti-police officer or vice versa? Why does one have to choose a side when in the end we are talking about the well-being of our communities and those that live in them? A serious discussion needs to occur at the community level to get everyone back on the same page. In the end we all want the same thing — a safe and pleasant community — so why not protest when citizens believe that they do not live in a such a community? But more violence and targeting police officers will not bring that about. Ironically, the police chief in Dallas had been working hard to change the atmosphere and context of police-community relations and by many accounts had made great progress. It is so sad and so senseless that his community and our nation suffered the loss of five fine police officers.
Gun Safety. When did working for increased gun safety become anti-gun? Another example of a complex issue in our country becoming an “either or” argument. I despair that we will ever have a serious discussion about this issue. Any discussion that contains “libtards”, “red-necks”, “do away with all guns” or “from my cold dead hands” is going nowhere from the start. There is a middle ground. When over 30,000 people die from guns every year in the United States we have a problem. We must address it.
Congress. Do not get me started. I will say this, Congress just left Washington for a seven week summer break (and oh yeah, to campaign for re-election). According to the current schedule, they will only be around, you know, actually working on bills, for about two more weeks before the November elections. Please note that most weeks when they are in session, work (actually a chance that they may vote on something) never begins before 6:30 PM on Monday (and usually it is noon on Tuesday) and never goes past 3:00 PM on Friday (usually actually ends about 8 PM on Thursday). We should all be so lucky. According to govtrack.us there are currently 10,896 bills and resolutions before the current Congress. On 3 January 2017 the 114th Congress will end and all bills not addressed by then will die. To see the light of day again, they must again be put forward by our legislators. In the one to two weeks left of actual legislating (unless they meet in a lame duck session after the election — note that one can only be a lame duck after an election that you lost, not because you are declared one 10 months prior to the election) they will have to address appropriations bills across the government in order to keep it functioning. Once again we are facing an omnibus continuing resolution that provides some money to keep things going until they can figure it out (and some are calling for that to carry over until next March so that the new Congress can deal with it — and remind me why we elect these people) or there will be another government shutdown.
The Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke out this week about the future of the nation should Mr. Donald J. Trump (R-Manhattan) become our next president. Let’s just say she didn’t think it would be a good thing. She caught a lot of criticism from both the left and the right about a Supreme Court Justice inserting herself into the election process. In my view, the criticism is justified. We cannot be naive enough to think that they do not have personal opinions, but publicly, and repeatedly opining about the qualifications of a presidential candidate creates the perception of bias. Not good. Late this week Justice Ginsburg issued a statement expressing her “regret” but no apology. Hopefully, this will be a lesson. However, historians point out that through out our history Supreme Court Justices have been political and made political statements. As outlined in many articles this week, including one in historynewsnetwork.org at least nine Supreme Court Justices became involved in Presidential politics. William Howard Taft was the president before going to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. I am sure his political views were well-known. Another, Charles Evans Hughes resigned from the Supreme Court to run for President, lost the election, and then come back many years later as Chief Justice. And there are others. For goodness sake, Chief Justice John Marshall was both Chief Justice and Secretary of State under President John Adams at the same time. Still, I think it best if Supreme Court Justices stay above election politics.
And then there’s this. At the Republican National Convention two security zones are to be established by law enforcement officials. One will be in the direct vicinity of the convention center and run by the Secret Service. Another, larger one will encompass much of center Cleveland. Since Ohio has laws that allow for the open carrying of fire arms without a permit, fire arms will be allowed in the second security zone. Here is what bothers me. Guns are okay, but a partial list of items that are not okay includes air rifles, BB guns, knives, slingshots, metal cans, thermos bottles, tennis balls, umbrellas with metal tips, coolers, gas masks, string, tape more than six inches long and on and on. For the safety of the participants. Here’s a question, because it caused confusion in Dallas. How are law enforcement officials supposed to know which people carrying guns are citizens exercising their rights and which are terrorists bent on mass destruction?
There has been so much more that has confused, amazed and appalled me these past few weeks but that is enough rambling for the time being. I am sure there will be more confusing, amazing and appalling events to come, especially with the Republican Convention beginning on Monday followed the week after by the Democrats. Good luck to us all.