Month: October 2015

The Goals vs. Gains of Political Correctness: Losing the War of Words & Making Enemies Where There Were None


Today I came across a video of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perryas she took offense to a guest’s use of the term ‘hard worker’ Saturday, arguing that it diminished the experiences of slaves.“If there’s somebody who is a hard worker when he goes to Washington, it’s Paul Ryan,” argued conservative guest Alfonso Aguilar. Harris-Perry didn’t disagree but wasn’t a fan of his word choice. She went on to say, “I just want to pause on one thing, because I don’t disagree with you that I actually think Mr Ryan is a great choice for this role,” she said. “But I want us to be super careful when we use the language ‘hard worker.’ Because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like.”

As soon as I finished the video, I immediately began writing this furious blog entry. I have no tolerance for that kind of bullshit and cultural reappropriation, especially to a well-meaning and harmless guest’s totally innocuous off-hand comment. She took it out of context, transported it to a new setting, and then manipulated it by endowing it with a racial and oppressive dimension it didn’t have before. The man’s words were condemned for an offense he could have never foreseen or prevented, and he was baffled and embarrassed needlessly. This is a glaring example of political correctness gone awry and the self-righteous overreach of those who rigidly enforce PC doctrine. I find few things as vile as vigilant censorship and an attack on free speech, especially when done in the name of lofty goals like equality, social justice, tolerance, and egalitarianism.

I have to say that I am socially very liberal, while being perhaps a little more fiscally moderate, but I consider myself a progressive, egalitarian, and open-minded person who is committed to equality and social justice and accepting everyone for who they are. I’m a registered liberal Democrat, but I also envy much of what socialism provides for its citizens.

Having said all that, there is one issue that I absolutely HATE to acknowledge I find myself agreeing with conservatives about, and that is political correctness. I am much more progressive, sensitive, and tolerant of Political Correctness than most Republicans I’ve met or seen online. In looking for a picture for this article, I poured over dozens of mean-spirited, racist, and hateful memes, all taking aim at the hated and maligned PC movement. Whereas, I recognize its objectives are good and noble, and that it started as a way to give voice to the voiceless and promote multiculturalism and cultural plurality. Disenfranchised groups could choose how they wished to be called, and the spirit of the movement was to provide safe environments where we could use uncoded and respectful language we could all agree on. People could pick how they chose to define and describe themselves. It was a way of taking ownership back, and probably even more obviously, a shift in power to the previously marginalized and disenfranchised.

Yet now, I feel like it’s gotten out of control, and actually curbs and muzzles free speech, sanitizes it of its character and strips away the vernacular, and removes anything remotely controversial or contentious. That might sound good to you, but the kernel of our healing and reconciling as a nation lies in that uncomfortable gray area where language breaks down, and we must find new ways to communicate. When everyone is so ultra-sensitive and easily offended, we don’t have a discussion anymore, just a unilateral wall thrown up in the face of the offender, and a public shaming of them, perhaps as cruel as the embarrassment once felt by the victim at the hands of a merciless majority. You see? It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s not just the advocates of political correctness being victimized and crying foul, but now the majority, who like to cast themselves as the oppressed minority, and stripped of their First Amendment rights.The Right call the Left sissies and whiners, but that’s no better than the pot calling the kettle black. Or should I say African American? 😉 Either way, the burden is on the P.C. movement, because more often than not, the conversation terminates with them. It’s a conversation ender, and someone feels vindicated, and someone feels silenced, but neither one learned a damn thing!

I don’t advocate racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other language that doesn’t belong in a civil conversation. Everyone deserves to be respected, and should have the right to be addressed with dignity. I’m talking about the overreactions and demonization of certain phrases or words, or even symbols that some overly sensitive people find objectionable. Listen up: the moral of this story is this: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO CONTEXT AND INTENT. There, I made it easy for you, and now you know what to look for.

Let’s say a white linguistics teacher is teaching the powerful book, N–gger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy, (You see? Even I’m afraid to write the full word in the title of the book, for fear I may invite anger or censure!) and the very purpose is to dissect and understand the history of the word, and why it is still a powder-keg loaded word today. Some in the PC Police might condemn this teacher’s actions, and claim he has no right to use that word and is unfit to teach black students. This even happens in high schools, when well-meaning teachers teach lesson units on works like Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird, both which contain frequent uses of the n-word. I’m not saying this should be casually thrown around either. But rather, it should be used as a teachable moment, where the word is a jumping off place for more serious and rigorous discussion. It’s all about context and a well-meaning teacher’s intent to educate his students about all the realities of the world, even the dark and shameful parts. That’s how kids learn.

I remember when I was in high school, I read Elie Wiesel’s biographical book, Night, about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–45, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. It was graphic and disturbing, and often hard to read, but it captured my attention, and taught me an invaluable lesson about man’s inhumanity to man and the strength of an indomitable spirit to overcome even the most hopeless and desperate situations. Years later, in Boston, I saw Wiesel speak, and got to meet him after the presentation. What I remember most is how firmly he locked eyes with me, and as he looked me straight in the eye, he gave me a surprisingly firm handshake for a man his age. He was so strong, even after seeing all that and losing that much. I instantly knew how a man like that could have survived. And after reading his thrilling book, I had to reflect on those few students in my class whose parents forbid them from reading the book, perhaps because it was too realistic and had things like nudity or sexuality, or some other inconvenient fact of life. If you’re sheltered from even finding life in a book, I’d hate to see how real life’s gonna treat you.

And that’s ultimately why I draw this line between political correctness, and editing, redacting, abridging, rewriting, forbidding, or banning a certain book for containing something controversial, indecent, profane, political, or rebellious. It’s when we coddle children from toddlers up through their teenage years and into young adulthood, and we send them off to college enabled, entitled, weak, dependent, helpless, and overly sensitive. And I speak as someone who was ostensibly no better, and just as connected to a psychic umbilical cord. I’m not going to start parroting some conservative meme I saw today, depicting tough cowboys fighting for their freedom of speech with weak, dainty, effeminate, delicate, and breakable ‘pansies’ or ‘whinny babies’ as they said. I’m no tough guy, and I could never tell another human to ‘man up.’ At least, not in so many words. I will say that children learn best from exploring, discovering stuff on their own, building things with their own two hands, playing with all kinds of different kids, being exposed to as many different ways of life as they can, and perhaps more important than anything else…failing. And failing often. Kids need to learn how to fail, and face challenging adversity. They need to break their arm, get lost and spend a night in the woods, build a campfire in the wind, fail an exam, not get cast in the school play or make it on to the baseball team. Kids need to have microcosms of our own adult lives, and gradually be given more and more responsibility, so that by the time they do go off to college, they’ll have failed so often, they’ll have taught themselves how to succeed.

The problem in some of the more extreme and militant corners of the politically correct movement, is many of these young college students have been raised much like the kids I described above, but the stakes are raised by the fact that they come from a diverse range of minorities: Hispanic, Arab, Jewish, Black, Trans, Lesbian, Gay, Overweight, Female, etc. They carry with them all the traits of the group above, but have an added dimension of their race, gender, orientation, religion, or cultural identity. Many of them will have been taught how to identify and represent themselves, and also learned the respect and courtesy they should expect of others. This is where the breakdown happens. Kids are still kids, and universities are more widely diverse than at any time in human history. That’s a lot of jostling cultures and conflicting belief systems to come up against each other, and try and get along. Just the sheer fact that they’re all mixing and mingling at all is a small miracle, and shows how far we’ve come as a nation. But that’s where our high expectations have to end, and we have to be realistic about the kind of results we’re going to see.

Those minority students are guaranteed by law the right to the same education as their white and homogenous counterparts. They have a right to be treated with respect and insist on a professor treating them fairly and protecting their best interests. The problem is, there are necessarily going to be times when things are said and feelings are hurt. Perhaps the professor didn’t word something right, or a fellow student said something offensive. Perhaps even racist. Unfortunately, these things happen, and we still live in a society not that far removed from slavery, indian genocide, sexist and subjugation of women, and just months out from gays earning the right to marry. This country’s just a handful more police shootings of unarmed black men and no justice served from turning into widespread race riots. They’re fed up in the streets, and white America only watch helplessly, knowing that someone should do something, but not quite realizing it’s us. These are fresh wounds, and classrooms now turn into battlefields, as Antietam, Gettysburg, and Fredericksburg are fought with words, as students try and understand what they’re learning, while trying to express themselves and not look stupid. But people always do. Because some people just weren’t raised the way you were. And the things you value might not mean anything to someone else. Should it? Sure, in an idea world, we would all demonstrate and exercise empathy, understanding, acceptance, respect, and value other people’s feelings. In that world, those minority students wouldn’t have to worry about being unfairly judged for not fault of their own, and just for being born. To those in the majority, they undoubtedly value stuff the others don’t, like the right own guns or their freedom of speech. If they’re from the south, these are cultural characteristics of many people from Dixie. There’s a rugged and rebellious streak that runs through many of those who identify from this region, and their individualism, intense love of freedom, patriotism, liberty, right to bear arms, and right to say what they please, are the values worth fighting and dying for.

Where does an honest dialogue and difference of opinion cross  over and become a racist incident or hate crime? What if an offended student had accepted an apology, and opened the door for another heated conversation? It may sound funny, but there’s no telling where that relationship could have gone. But we’ll never know. Doesn’t it take two parties to fight and offend the other? If so, why does one get to shut down a dialogue and stop the free — and potentially healthy — exchange of ideas, while the other is cast as the aggressor, regardless of who said what? Modeling courtesy, treating people with the dignity they deserve, and respecting the wishes and boundaries of others you may not share views with is the cornerstone of mature discourse and healthy work and school environments. When taken to the extreme, political correctness is much more dangerous to our society, than free speech, and harms much more than it helps! We shouldn’t end up violating one group’s rights and freedom of speech, in order to take pains to protect the right of another group — NOT to not be offended or challenged. Obviously, if there’s legitimate harassment, intimidation, hate crimes, or other serious violations, than a minority, individual, or group must be protected and their dignity and rights championed. But a difference of opinion, however distasteful that opinion might be, is the foundation of interpersonal communication, and learning how to communicate with those you may not like.

To completely change gears, how about all the noise a few months back, when states were finally taking down Confederate flags from state capitol buildings. Personally, I believe no symbol of hate like that flag belongs on state or federal land, and especially a building that legislates laws for EVERY citizen, not just white racists or Civil War enthusiasts. It may be a part of the south’s heritage, but so was slavery and cross burning, but we don’t allow that anymore either. I wouldn’t allow a flag with a cross on it either, or a Star of David, or a Wiccan symbol. It’s a neutral place for everyone, so it’s only fair we clear it of stones bearing the Ten Commandments or flags that mean family to some, but hatred, racism, and forced servitude to others. Like it or not, the Confederate flag was born out of a legacy of slavery and rebellion against a nation trying to abolish the hateful practice. The first place I believe the Confederate flag belongs is in a museum (remember, it’s all about context, and a museum is a place to learn history and where such a controversial object fits into history). The second place, is wherever private citizens want to display it on their property. People have the right to free speech, and I’d never deny anyone that.

However, having said all that, political correctness played an ugly and sometimes necessary role in that whole national conversation. The country was certainly divided and mostly fell along party and regional lines. As you can see, I mostly supported removing the flag from public and advocating for the feelings and needs of those who were victimized under the Confederate flag. However, there was instance where the PC Police went too far, and totally missed the point. It wasn’t before long that people seized on the show Dukes of Hazard, and soon, certain parties were calling for the show to be pulled from the air, banned, digitally edited to erase the Confederate flag on the roof of the General Lee, and eventually, toy companies were scrambling to pull toys, edit websites, and all the rest of the mess. Here is another example of an overreaction and people blowing something way out of proportion, without taking context or intent into consideration. The Duke Boys weren’t racist, even if they did have a car named after the General of the Confederate forces and a Confederate flag painted on the roof. They were proud southern boys, ‘never meanin’ no harm’ — as the song says — and like many in the region, they showed off their legacy. Not once was there anything to even suggest that Luke and Bo were racist or had any ill will towards any group…other than Boss Hogg, the law, and authority figures, perhaps. The task of going through and digitally removing the flag from the General Lee in every episode is time intensive, and completely unwarranted. The car isn’t being used as a symbol of hate, and it’s not even prominently featured enough to draw attention to itself. Rather than attacking the show and car reflexively, perhaps they would have realized it was a sanitized set dressing, and completely neutralized within the context of the show. Furthermore, if parents were that concerned, it seems like the perfect teachable moment to discuss how the flag can have two meanings, and in this instance, it’s a source of regional and cultural pride, but take the time to tell them its more malevolent history, and why it’s still being debated today. Kids can handle it. Black Americans can handle it.

We can’t possibly scour history for every vestige of slavery or some other shameful period in our nation’s history, nor can we sanitize words or artifacts from a time we’d rather forget. We must engage with history, and put it in its proper cultural context, and see what we can learn about our ancestors, and ultimately ourselves. The Politically Correct movement has its heart in the right place, and its aims are lofty and noble. It truly is about inclusion, and giving voice to everyone, while advocating for respect and sensitivity. I just think it’s gone off the rails. It has been taken too far, and we need to use common sense, and most importantly, pay careful attention to context and intent. Each case has its own set of challenges and circumstances. I would simply urge caution, patience, and a little thicker skin. None of us use language as precisely as we’d like to.

Ben Carson’s Absurd Comments Are More Dangerous Than You Think


As a candidate, Donald Trump may be brash, bigoted, sexist, narcissistic, unorthodox, and offensive, but his shockingly high poll numbers suggest the wilder his antics, the more his fans love him, even though his candidacy seems to defy all logic, common sense, and good taste. Despite all this, I contend it’s not The Donald we should fear, but the Doctor, who’s a much deeper and insidious threat to America. When Donald speaks, we know where he stands, and there’s no elegance, poetry, or rhetoric in his words. He speaks in blunt and overly simplistic hyperbolic phrases. Trump is unapologetic in his selfish and transparent grab for the crown. He may sound like a demagogue or passionate champion of Conservative xenophobia and jingoistic saber rattling, but make no mistake: Trump is not there to change lives or improve America. He is there for the same thing that has likely motivated him all his life. Hint: It’s not money. Or at least, not that alone. Money is only as good as the power it buys. The President of the United States is the most powerful position in the world. There’s no telling what Donald Trump would do with such power.

No, the one you want to watch is Ben Carson. Just yesterday, he soared past Trump in the Iowa polls, and New Hampshire is within reach. He has a large percent of the Tea Party and Evangelical vote wrapped up, and he’s become the darling of the middle, who might find Donald Trump’s opinions and courage to be refreshing, but know he’d never make it out of the Primaries, and stand a chance in the General election. His views and demeanor are too caustic, and he’s as far from Presidential a man can get.

On the other hand, Dr. Ben Carson seems like he strategically hid in Trump’s shadow all this time, yet benefited from Donald’s cult of personality and siphoned supporters who grew to find the soft spoken Dr. to be more approachable, nuanced, and most of all, Presidential. After all, Dr, Ben Carson is a celebrated brain surgeon, and a titan in his field, He is a gentle, soft-spoken, tender–yet strong, thoughtful, contemplative, and logical mind, as well as a deeply devout and committed Conservative. Perhaps most important of all, he’s a Washington outsider, and has never held any public office. He is a self made man, and for all intents and purposes, he is a rags to riches story, and proof the American Dream comes to those who work hard, not those who depend on the government to subsidize their life of crime and indolence. And did I mention he’s black? Carson is almost the anti-Obama, and makes the Republicans look hip and progressive, and goes far to capturing a much larger share of the black and Latino vote. He’s gentle and bookish demeanor, yet strong and decisive opinions have made him very popular amongst women. With each passing day, it’s becoming more clear that Ben Carson might be exactly the dynamic outsider candidate and charismatic leader the Republicans need to retake the White House. Lord knows, the establishment candidates with familiar names like Bush and Paul are failing to connect with voters, and in national polls, are shamefully stuck in the single digits, well behind Trump’s 32% and Carson’s 22%. With each new passing day, it seems more feasible that Carson could emerge a dark horse candidate, and overtake a Trump who’s looked surprisingly vulnerable lately, and betrayed his own liabilities. With Trump against the ropes, only a man who’s fought mostly in the billionaire’s shadow could know and exploit all the boxer’s moves.

And none of that would be as frightening as it truly is, if Dr. Ben Carson was actually a brilliant, curious, inquisitive, cerebral, contemplative, rational, open-minded, scientifically rigorous, well researched, and knowledgeable mind like he purports to be and is considered by his adoring fans. You’d think at the very least, the qualification they’d definitely ask of a brain surgeon is that he at least have his own brain. Dr. Carson proves that with hard work, sometimes a full heart is more important than an empty head. If you doubt how fundamentally stupid and misguided this odd man is, read this article and all of the laughingly fallacious arguments he makes. Prison makes you gay…’I Would Not Just Stand There and Let Him Shoot Me’….Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery…Jews couuld have prevented the Holocaust if they had had guns….Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to be President….and so much more!

I can’t help but laugh at how outrageous and ludicrous Ben Carson’s inflammatory comments are, but then I must take pause. There are thousands of his supporters who completely agree with his sentiments, and eat up his words enthusiastically. To them, he’s a kinder and gentler Trump, who still tells it like it is, and speaks truth boldly and unapologetically. He is the outsider, and not a career politician. In this election, it seems that at least on the Right, they want straight-shooters and not slick and polished politicians. Ben Carson’s voice rarely waivers or changes pitch and volume, and his delivery is rather slow, deliberate, staccato, modulated, articulate, authoritative, deceptively sound and credible, and above all else, calm, cool, and collected. If Ben Carson is the anti-Obama, he’s also the anti-Trump. Where the tycoon is loud, Carson is quiet, where Trump is cocky and defiant, Carson is humble and self-effacing, where Donald is caustic and confrontational, the good doctor is conciliatory and collaborative. Where the billionaire is hyperbolic and strident, Dr. Carson is gentle and nuanced. Dr. Ben Carson doesn’t tell any less truth (as he and his followers see it) than Donald Trump does, he just tells it in sweet and dulcet tones that’s easily more agreeable and less divisive to hear, and delivered in a manner only befitting a President.

Ben Carson is funny to listen to, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous or lethal to our democracy. Despite his cultivated laid back scholarly and academic demeanor, this man is reckless with facts and figures, is not a rigorous scholar and student of the scientific method, and is arguably more of a demagogue than Trump, because Carson actually believes his fatuous lies and Conservative fallacies. Whereas Trump claims to be Presbyterian, it’s hard to imagine faith has guided any decision in his life, and the threat of a theocracy or zealous religious administration would be minimal. On the other hand, a Carson administration would be dictated by his deep and devout strict faith, inevitably guiding his hand in affairs like legislating Planned Parenthood and federal funding for abortions and women’s reproductive health, Supreme Court Justices he appoints — particularly in regard to Roe v. Wade, which he has declared he’s committed to overturning, Congressional bills he vetoes or signs into law, the scope and impact of any executive orders he issues, whether he commutes sentences and pardons reformed and deserving prisoners, the way he may disenfranchises or dismantles entitlement programs, and many more areas of governance. And this only covers his decisions regarding to domestic policy. His handling of foreign policy could mean the difference between extracting ourselves from Afghanistan and Iraq, not inserting ourselves into other conflicts and starting new wars, gently helping the UN and NATO police the world’s conflicts, but only intervening when absolutely necessary and using only minimal force, trying to disentangle our economic and commercial interests from war zones and areas that are historically hostile to the United States and its allies, using aid packages and money to help the poorest and most devastated nations, such as countries in Africa afflicted with famine, AIDS, civil war, etc. And there are countless other moral and far-sighted choices our next President will face outside our country. Finally, we deserve a President who fundamentally believes in science, which you’d think an accomplished brain surgeon would, but you’d be wrong. Again, his faith prevents him from investing in the proven truths and undeniable discoveries science has made in the last 2,000 years. As you might expect, Carson does not fully embrace climate change or the aims of environmental regulations. Dr. Ben Carson’s background as a neurosurgeon doesn’t necessarily translate to a decent understanding of climate science. Carson told an audience at the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday that “climate change” is what happens any time temperatures fluctuate.

“Of course there’s climate change,” Carson said. “Any point in time, temperatures are going up or temperatures are going down. Of course that’s happening. When that stops happening, that’s when we’re in big trouble.”

Carson has previously said that he has not seen any “overwhelming science” demonstrating climate change, which prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to send him a flash drive containing the report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Carson recently told Time magazine that he never received the flash drive. Carson told Time he is “very familiar with the various arguments” about climate change. But “it doesn’t matter about global warming or global cooling,” he said, because “at any point in time the earth is getting warmer or colder. That’s not the big factor.”
What matters, he said, is the “responsibility to take care of” the earth.

In recent remarks, Carson emphasized that humanity must take care of the planet for future generations. “What is important is that we recognize that we have an obligation to take care of our environment,” Carson said. “I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative, if you have any thread of decency in you, you want to take care of the environment because you know you have to pass it on to the next generation. There is no reason to make it into a political issue.”

So Carson suggests he has seen no proof climate change even exists, yet believes it’s our moral responsibility to take care of the earth we live on, so we can pass a healthy planet on to our children. Okay. So how does that happen? Apparently, not politically. Elves? Prayer? I’m sure the fluctuating temperatures will work themselves out. Glad to see the good doctor is well informed and ready to lead the second largest polluting nation in the world!

This man is the worst. What makes him so dangerous is that people take him for granted, underestimate him, and until only recently, didn’t see him as a threat to their campaign. Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and all the rest completely ignored Carson, and almost certainly wrote him off as not standing a chance. Jeb Bush has been the most unfortunate beneficiary of Ben Carson’s soaring popularity, being cast aside and left for dead in the unseemly single digits. His father and his brother were both Presidents!!! He was the heir apparent, and now he’s airing his dirty laundry and venting his anger at being attacked and humiliated by the upstart savage billionaire sitting comfortably at the top of the polls. Once upon a time, I actually resigned myself to the fact that if I had to live with a Republican elected to President, I would either want it to be Governor Kasich from Ohio or Jeb Bush. A BUSH! That’s inconceivable to me, but it’s true. Of all the candidates, Jeb’s actually one of the most moderate and sensible ones. As much as it pains me to say, I could live with another Bush White House. Having said that, it’s pretty bad when Jeb Bush is the most centrist and moderate candidate in a race of 17 candidates. This crop of Republicans makes Westboro Baptist Church look reasonable and open minded. They are ultra conservative, mostly deeply devout Evangelicals, committed to bringing down Hillary Clinton anyway that can, hoping to defraud Bernie Sanders as a socialist commie and enemy of capitalism, itching to defund Planned Parenthood, desperate to take down Donald Trump but completely helpless and ineffectual, proud of their NRA ratings and doing whatever it takes to prevent ANY gun control measures, promising to dismantle Obamacare, all vehemently against the Iran deal, and generally ready to attack Obama for two terms of gridlock, obstruction, and overreach. The Republicans seem to be on a mission from God to erase and reverse every one of Obama’s accomplishments and the eight years he ran this country into the ground.

Ben Carson is no different. In some ways, it seems like Ben Carson is harder on Obama than everyone else. It’s hard not to think it has something to do with him being a black man in another party. It’s perfectly understandable Carson wants to set himself apart, and firmly establish the narrative that even if he were to become only the second black man elected to President of the United States, he is nothing like the man that came before. In a country that still tends to see in binary, we forget that just because two people may share the same skin color, similar cultural legacies, and both rose quickly through the political ranks in pursuit of the highest job in the world, the similarities end there. We still assume all blacks are Democrats, and all doctors are white. We still live in that world. I despise his politics, lazy mind, and fallacies dressed as facts, but I do still admire Ben Carson for his contribution to medicine and his courage to stand with a party that doesn’t have a great track record with race, and embrace a party that wouldn’t all embrace him, and for fighting against the stereotype of the black liberal and being whoever he wanted to be. To do all that, and skyrocket through the hierarchy of rank and file Republicans, defy all low expectations of you, take the GOP by storm, leaving men with dynastic names like Bush in the dust, and to end up here, in nearly a statistical dead heat with the lead candidate! That’s impressive, and truly a fairy tale story.

Having said all that, just because I admire how far he’s come in such a short time, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do just about anything in my power to ensure he’s not elected (within reason and the boundaries of law). It’s that important that we protect America from a man like this. He has crazy and outlandish ideas, and dangerous solutions for making America great again. He may seem calm and collected, but Dr. Ben Carson is a loose canon, and we must not let him loose on America. Nobody in their right mind wants a bigoted blowhard like Donald Trump, but I guarantee, you wouldn’t want Ben Carson either. Both men would be terrible for this country, and could seriously damage America’s standing and safety in the world. Maybe instead of opening this country up with a scalpel and cutting away what he sees as disease (Planned Parenthood, Gay Marriage, ObamaCare, Gun Control), perhaps he should go back to operating on brains. If he’s lucky, he may even get to perform the first successful brain transplant…on himself!!!

Shakespeare vs. Mozart: Who Impacted Society More?

Jon Ferreira’s Answer to the Quroa Question: “I believe that Mozart gave humanity infinitely more than Shakespeare. Is Shakespeare’s fame an accurate reflection of his merits? He has many more Google results.”

Shakespeare & Language
I think that most of the other people who responded to this question did a good job demonstrating just how much Shakespeare has contributed to our society — primarily in the way of vocabulary and language. Shakespeare’s timing contributed a great deal to his legend, due to the fact that he was writing at a liminal period in the history of the English language, specifically in the malleable and fluid early years of Modern English. His invention of words, coining of phrases we still use today, clever use of dialogue and soliloquoy, extensive literary and Biblical allusions, masterful use of meter and verse, and brilliant employment of figurative language and metaphor, are just a few of the many ways Shakespeare innovated the English language, and passed down a legacy we have inherited and continue to use today. There can be no doubt that no other writer has shaped language as impactfully as William Shakespeare. His works have also inspired countless writers since. We still use his language and expressions today.

The Threads of Genius: Mozart vs. Shakespeare
As great as Mozart was, his genius is understandably more limited and less ubiquitous than Shakespeare. You could say that Mozart changed music, and influenced every composer after him, but finding the traces of Mozart in all the various genres of music today is more challenging, and certainly his influence on classical, baroque, etc. is easier to chart a trajectory. Finding remnants of Mozart in rap, for instance, might be a little harder to do. Mozart was a necessary stepping stone, which fundamentally changed music and furthered the art form, but it has splintered and evolved and changed so dramatically in the years since. He was unquestionably a musical genius, and unparalleled in the field, but his influence is necessarily less impactful and felt in our everyday lives, as Shakespeare’s demonstrably is. For example, Shakespeare phrases and words are still uttered by humans every day all across the world. The impact he had on language is unmistakable, and far easier to see the legacy. If anything, Shakespeare doesn’t get enough credit for all that he did. He truly does deserve the high praise and adoration he gets. Mozart may be unparalleled in music, but even though music is important to a lot of people today, we don’t need it to live and communicate. Mozart touched the arts, but Shakespeare has cast his shadow everywhere — through our language, science, art, psychology, and much more. His fingerprints are EVERYWHERE!

Literature Before Shakespeare
The Renaissance was a time when human enlightenment reached new heights not seen since the classical Greeks and Romans. In literature, England had seen Geoffrey Chaucer — often considered the father of English literature, and he had gone far to give voice to his characters and create colorful archetypal roles. The major works of the time are Edmund Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’ and Philip Sidney’s ‘Astrophil’. The real Renaissance was born in Italy though, and grew out of the productive and verdant period of the late Middle Ages. Before Shakespeare, Italy had its own literary genius in Dante Alighieri, author of the masterpiece, The Divine Comedy (1308-1320). In the late Middle Ages, the overwhelming majority of poetry was written in Latin, and therefore accessible only to affluent and educated audiences. However, Dante defended using the vernacular, and he himself would even write in the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and the aforementioned Divine Comedy; this choice, although highly unorthodox, set a hugely important precedent that later Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow. As a result, Dante played an instrumental role in establishing the national language of Italy. Dante’s significance also extends past his home country; his depictions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven have provided inspiration for a large body of Western art, and are cited as an influence on the works of John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and Lord Alfred Tennyson, among many others. In addition, the first use of the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme, or the terza rima, is attributed to him. So Shakespeare was not the first person to revolutionize his country’s language and innovate freely, but he was unique in how he portrayed his characters. His characters were unusually human and frail, and preternaturally self-introspective. We take it for granted today, but many scholars argue that Shakespeare didn’t just capture the human condition better than any other writer, but that he actually shaped and crafted it. What we take for granted today, might actually have been the Bard’s invention.

Style & Substance: Writing a Character From the Inside Out
Although many people new or unfamiliar with Shakespeare might think his language fancy and unapproachable today, for its time, it was actually quite accessible. It was still elegant, lyrical, and ornate, but it was also muscular and digestible. Before Shakespeare, literature was very florid and characters were written from the outside. Often the poetry or the use of the third person made characters distant and stylized. They spoke very self-consciously, and it often came across as impersonal and obtuse. In the ancient Greek and Roman plays, the characters were much more expressive and emotive, but they were often tied to their own hubris and the will of the gods, that their introspection was minimal as well. Chaucer’s characters were colorful and well sketched, but they were never like real people that you could touch or feel. Their thoughts were prosaic, and did not reach to great depths.

Shakespeare changed all that.

How Shakespeare Shaped Our Psyche & Conscience
Shakespeare changed and shaped the modern psyche more than any other writer in history. His characters spoke eloquently, but also naturally. They asked questions all of us human beings ask, and contemplate mysteries and life’s riddles much in the same way we do. Shakespeare created introspective characters that contemplated their place in the universe, and struggled with their very existence. They were still animals, as we still are today, and caught up in carnal and primitive games of ambition, jealousy, anger, lust, love, etc. but also governed by insightful and rational brains, capable of great honor or deplorable acts of carnage and sin. The Renaissance was an age still ruled by the all powerful Church, superstitions about nature and necromancy, vested in the concept of fate and fortune, and wedded to unenlightened views of medicine, particularly the concept of the Humorism, a system of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person—known as humors or humours—directly influences their temperament and health. The four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, and each corresponds to one of the traditional four temperaments. Conversely, as these rather primitive superstition, witchcraft and devout Christian belief intermingled, there was also the emergence of a new and rational thought. It was not quite the Age of Enlightenment yet, but humanity was beginning to reason more, and science was beginning to shape human behavior. Shakespeare captured all of this.

Shakespeare characters were not only one dimensional characters on a page or pretty poetry to read, but were three dimensional, and asked hard questions of themselves and each other. They contemplated their place in the universe, and were wracked with guilt and shame, as they were forced to see themselves as they truly were, and forced to face the consequences of their actions. The characters were all deeply virtuous and noble in their own small ways (even the “bad guys”) and they were all deeply flawed and petty in other ways (even the “good guys”). Perhaps for the first time in history, Shakespeare had created flawed and inconsistent characters who were capable of good and bad deeds, and who resembled us like never before.

Shakespeare’s characters were all capable of great insights and triumphs, no matter what their station in life. Often the lower class servants were the most wise and empathetic. Kings were allowed to fall, and peasants to rise. Shakespeare was concerned with the human condition, and was truly egalitarian in how he handed out brains, compassion, mercy, empathy, nobility, etc. The good and the bad, the smart and the dumb, the lazy and the ambitious, the comic and the tragic, could all be found spread out throughout his casts, in the high court and low valleys. Shakespeare also employed high brow humor and low brow humor to diversify his cast, and to appeal to a wide audience. That is why Shakespeare was unquestionably the most popular playwright not only today, but in his day….he was accessible to everyone. Shakespeare’s demographic was the breadth of humanity.

There’s a reason why Freud was inspired by Shakespeare to use themes and tropes as the basis for some of his psychoanalytical research. Shakespeare’s plays explore the full range of human emotion and practically every philosophical and Epistemological argument and question a human could ask in a lifetime. Nobody does it better than Shakespeare, and many scholars believe that he asked questions and raised points in ways never explored before. He gave his characters a voice, and subsequently, gave us a voice too. Hamlet became not only every troubled youth and goth/ intellectual kid out there, but a young man grieving a father, a confused boyfriend manipulating his girlfriend, a son angry and hurt by a thoughtless mother, a loyal friend to one and a deadly viper to others. Hamlet was us, and despite all his flaws, we cannot help but love him, and claim him as our own. Even his “evil” characters like Macbeth, Richard III, and Iago are infinitely charming and funny, and can’t help but ensnare us in their traps. Shakespeare wrote human beings, with all their flaws and foibles, strengths and triumphs, highs and lows, humor and stoicism, and every other trait that makes a man.

Shakespeare is more than deserving of his reputation. Not only did he practically invent and innovate a good portion of our language, he defined what it was to be human, and gave voice to our questions, thoughts, and emotions in a way that had never been done before. He helped shape our modern psyche.

Doctor Who Starts Strong!


I must say that although we are only three episodes in, I really like what I’ve seen of Doctor Who this season so far. The season began with a dynamic bang with that great moment when the Doctor is saving a little boy’s life and realizes halfway through that it is his future arch-nemesis, Davros, and his decision would impact the lives of billions of innocent beings and the futures of countless worlds. Nothing like starting with a good old fashioned moral dilemma to really get the intellectual juices flowing, and set the tone of the show and season. This paradox of essentially saving a young Hitler’s life is a compelling one, and I think it really set up a nice dialectic throughout the first two episodes. This theme of “mercy” which features so prominently in the second episode is one that most of my own work concerns itself with. The themes that I like to explore in my work is that of mercy, redemption, empathy, and forgiveness. These ideas were brilliantly explored and tested in a really well crafted and superbly written two person scene with Davros and the Doctor, where they go back and forth and round and round in a roller coaster ride of deep emotion and old wounds inflicted upon each other over many millennia. I think this episode really revealed the essence of the Doctor more than any other in Capaldi’s tenure…that of compassion. It is his virtue and his achilles heel, and that’s what we love about the Doctor. Despite his grump curmudgeonly disposition, the Doctor is really a big softy. He’s got too much heart. Two, in fact. I thought this scene was the finest work I’ve seen Capaldi do in the series so far.
Sometimes Doctor Who can rely heavily on special effects and bizarre CGI aliens, and often at the expense of thoughtful story. I like my Doctor Who closer to Star Trek than to Star Wars. These episodes set the bar high, and asked more of us in one episode than last season did in twelve. In a refreshing sign, episode three returned to the more sensational and spooky, but was a nice homage to the Alien/ Alien movies. The setting and plot were very familiar tropes — alien/ monster/ghost loose on a remote and claustrophobic ship with a trapped and terrorized crew, and a smart hero must save the day. The tropes were familiar, but still new and original takes on the themes. I think Ridley Scott would be proud. It was engaging and compelling, and I look forward to the sequel airing today.
Finally, it has become quite obvious that Clara Oswald is officially more important than the Doctor. She has long outgrown her supporting role status as a companion, and the Doctor has made her the center of his universe. He is literally willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to save her. She features prominently in every episode, and often sets the pace and the tone of the show. She often initiates the action, and the Doctor seems to hopelessly follow along. Clara Oswald has long outstayed her welcome, and no matter how improved the writing seems to be this season, it is still handicapped by having a character that is a soul sucking entity that devours everything in her path. She sucks the air out of the show, and sadly, everything must pass through the prism of Clara. I am far more interested in the complex and engaging Doctor, especially as played by the brilliant Peter Capaldi. She needs to go. The sadist in me wants to see her killed off, but being Doctor Who, I know the show is sentimental and precious with its companions, and very rarely kill off one. Very few beings die in Doctor Who in general, and the show shares this trait in common with Star Trek. Fundamentally family friendly and optimistic. But I still want to see Clara die. At the very least, she’s got to go. It’s time for a new companion. Maybe two. I also feel that we’ve been overloaded with female companions, and I understand the practicality and fairness of that, I would like to see a male companion again. One that perhaps challenges the Doctor, and offers traits that don’t come naturally to the Doctor. Perhaps a rugged and more violent companion. A fighter. That might be a nice Ying to the Doctor’s intellectual Yang. Either way, it’s time for a new companion.
So far, I am very impressed with what I have seen this season. The writing is strong, and the directing and acting are of a high caliber. I hope the season continues to be thoughtful and not just Sci-Fi CGI-sensational. I prefer to be wowed visually and intellectually. That’s what first drew me to Doctor Who, after all.

Pointing Guns & Fingers: Who’s To Blame For America’s Epidemic of Gun Violence?

Who’s to blame for this unyielding barrage of mass shootings that has gripped this country for the past two decades, if not longer? All I know is that my liberal friends and my conservative friends are sticking to the same predictable script, and it’s all just a lot of noise for a few days or a week, and then we’ll all quietly forget that we live in a country plagued by an epidemic of gun violence. Mass shootings are becoming almost a daily occurence. So far in 2015, we’ve had 355 shootings in 336 days and today’s shooting was the second today alone! Just days ago, President Obama pleaded for this to stop and for us to take action, and saying “we can’t let this become normal.” Today he said, “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world…This is not normal.” I’m afraid it has become normal. We’re ten mass shootings away from an average mass shooting every day of the year in 2015. This is the new normal.

Personally, I don’t care for guns, but I respect that possession of them is enshrined in our 2nd Ammendment, and that it is the law of the land. Just as I would hope conservatives could respect Roe v. Wade and marriage equality is the law, and must be enforced and upheld as such. I support sensible gun ownership, and although I don’t hunt, I respect those that do.

I’m not proposing we take anyone’s guns away, but perhaps take reasonable steps to control the flow of guns in this country, and the types of artillery we’re putting on the street. The average American isn’t allowed to possess a weapon of mass destruction like a dirty bomb or a ballistic warhead, yet some of the hardware out there could be considered weapons of mass destruction, and have no place in a civil society.

Cars kill people, yes, and no, we shouldn’t ban cars. Obesity kills people too, and no, we shouldn’t ban McDonalds. Americans should have autonomy, and be able to enjoy their rights and take responsibility for their poor decisions. But cars weren’t designed to be lethal, even if they are used that way sometimes. Airplanes weren’t meant to be used as missiles, but 9/11 taught us this was no longer true. Anything can be a weapon, in the right hands. But some objects were designed to be weapons. Guns were made for one purpose…to kill. To say that it’s unfair to blame an inanimate object is a disingenuous argument. No sensible person would propose we ban baseball bats because some angry fool used it to beat another man to death. It’s not the bat’s fault. But guns aren’t just any object, sold in a store, and passed around the dinner table. They aren’t used at your kids Little League Game or kept in the refrigerator at work. They are, ostensibly, weapons of mass destruction. Their purpose is to kill or maim. We don’t allow people to store ricin in their cabinet, enrich weapons grade plutonium in their kitchen, or store dirty bombs in their basements. A gun may not have the potential to cause that level of widespread carnage, but it still has the potential to kill a lot of people.
In this country, we issue licenses for fishing, selling homes, bonding plumbers, driving cars, practicing law, and operating on patients. We register our cars, pay taxes, get boating and pilot licenses, take background checks at work, submit to credit checks to hook up cable, and disclose our illnesses and medical conditions on physicals for life insurance. Yes, we live in a free society, and the Constitution ensures our civil liberties, but we are still held accountable to the society around us. Sadly, we seem to have more oversight and control over these other areas of our lives, than with gun ownership — a potentially very lethal hobby. Just because a right is protected and guaranteed in the Constitution doesn’t mean it is the wild west, and all rules are off. Voting is also ensured, but we have rules and regulations regarding our right to vote. Freedom of Speech is also guaranteed, but it is not a blank check, and with each of these freedoms, comes great responsibility.

I’m sure there are reactionary liberals out there who would like to ban guns outright, but I’m not suggesting anything like that. I respect that gun ownership in this country goes back to the early colonial days, and we have a proud tradition of gun possession, weaving its way through our history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the Wild West, and up through the 20th and 21st Century. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, heavily skewing the global geography of firearms and any relative comparison. The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people.

Americans love their guns! I get that. And I have many friends who are proud and responsible gun owners. I don’t propose taking away their rights or confiscating their guns. I think many gun owners and NRA members are whipped into a defensive frenzy at the very suggestion of gun control, spreading the fear that it naturally must equate to the abolition and seizure of legally owned weapons and a tyrannical violation of their 2nd Amendment rights. Every time we have this discussion, both sides predictably divide, and become polarized in their language. Extremists on both side confuse and complicate the matter, and there can be no reasonable discourse.

What liberals refuse to understand or accept is that America has a long and proud tradition of gun ownership, and it was at least important enough to our Founding Fathers to enshrine the possession of guns in the Bill of Rights. Many on the Left argue this is a misreading of the document, and guns were only meant for a well regulated militia, in order to protect the fledgling nation from the tyranny of King George. But honestly, how are we to know? These were hunters and sportsman, and the average family owned at least one gun. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the Founding Fathers included it in the Constitution to ensure we had the means to feed ourselves, protect ourselves, and forcibly resist the bonds of tyranny. It was obviously important enough to be the SECOND of ten amendments! I grew up in Maine, and I was surrounded by hunters and outdoorsman, and gun ownership is very high in this state. Although I would never hunt, myself, I respect those who do. I would never suggest we take away guns from those who are legally entitled to own them.
Having said all that, a gun is not an innocent victim, and something that simply falls into the hands of either the sane and responsible or deranged and dangerous. We do have the ability to place some regulations and restrictions on who should own it, how and when one acquires one, and what kind of excessively lethal weaponry we’re sending out onto the street. Fully automatic weapons with high capacity cartridges/ magazines simply have no place in our society. No one is hunting deer or rationally playing target practice with a high velocity machine gun, designed to simply obliterate a target. These are military weapons, and belong only on a battlefield. They serve no useful function on our streets. We don’t allow civilians to ride tanks through the streets or place land mines in their front yard. Hand grenades are regulated under the National Firearms Act (“NFA”), a federal law first passed in 1934 and amended by the Crime Control Act of 1968. The 1968 amendments made it illegal to possess “destructive devices,” which includes grenades. (26 U.S.C. § 5801.) There’s no doubt that a live hand grenade designed for military combat fits within the law’s provisions—non-military people may not possess them. Bombs, grenades, rockets, missiles, and mines (and similar devices). How a defendant intends to use the device is irrelevant—mere possession is enough for a conviction. High power guns meant for battlefields should fall under the same provisions, and should be highly restrictive.
Perhaps the most infuriating thing to those of us who propose sensible gun control laws is the bitter resistance to background checks. It’s especially hypocritical, considering as a society, we all undergo background checks every day, from mortgages, credit checks, criminal background checks for employment, life insurance research into our medical histories, driver’s license checks, passport to fly, and much more. You may call yourself a Libertarian, and bristle at such intrusions on your civil liberties, but like it or not, we live in a Republic…or Representative Democracy, as the case may be, and we live in a society of laws and civic duty. There is no reasonable argument that can be made why someone purchasing a lethal weapon — capable of inflicting mass carnage and much loss of life — should NOT have to register their weapon and undergo a criminal and mental health background check. Why should we require such commonsense measures be taken to drive a car, teach children, practice medicine, or any other number of things, and not do the same when it comes to guns? GUNS. To objects designed to kill and maim, and even when handled safely and responsibly, are lethal dangerous weapons, always capable of taking a life.
Gun nuts would have us believe the government would keep a registry of guns and gun owners, for the sole purpose of invading them in the middle of the night, and seizing all their weapons. That would be the tyrannical government, bent on enslaving the populace and taking away all their rights. Firstly, that’s just crazy conspiracy theory crap that has sadly trickled down into the populace and urban-rural lore. Secondly, if the U.S. Government wanted your guns and was coming after you in the middle of the night, I’m sorry, I don’t care how many high profile military grade weapons you have, you and your separatist survivalist nutjobs don’t stand a chance. Have you seen what the U.S. Military is packing these days? One drone strike, and it doesn’t matter how many guns you have in your arsenal to fight the ‘Good Fight,” cause your dead. On the other hand, you could come out of your compound and actually participate in government, rather than fear and despise it, and play an active role in shaping how it works. That seems like a more reasonable and realistic way to hold onto your guns.

Waiting 24 hours, 48 hours, or even three days seems like a minor inconvenience, at best. I’m not sure I can believe anyone needs a gun so badly they can’t wait a day for it. Perhaps you should plan ahead better. People often have to wait for new cars, new merchandise, and the chance to move into a new house. After you file your taxes, you have to wait for the return to come several weeks later. When waiting at the deli counter, we take a number, and wait our turn. When we see a red light, we stop, and obey basic traffic laws. That’s what it means to be an adult. Patience. And the ability to delay instant gratification. That’s what it means to live in a civil society, where we aren’t only responsible for ourselves, but have a duty to others.

If waiting 48 hours to get your hands on a brand new gun even helps to save ONE innocent life, than it is absolutely worth any minor inconvenience your delay cost you. This is such an inconsequential and easy compromise to make, and shouldn’t the saving of lives be more important than your 2nd Amendment anyway? Again, we’re not proposing taking guns away here, just finding better ways to regulate them. We do it with every other industry and potentially dangerous thing — yes, even cars. And the FDA with food and medication. And the FAA with air travel. And on, and on… Why should guns be any more privileged and sacred than these other important areas of our lives?

Okay, now on to mental illness. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, and is a strong advocate for those afflicted, I completely recognize that something is seriously broken in this country when so many deranged and disturbed individuals are taking guns and shooting up innocent people. Many of these people suffer from diagnosed or undiagnosed conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizo-Affective Disorder, and others. There is no doubt that this country needs to do a better job at early intervention, and not letting loner individuals slip through the cracks and become psychotic and homicidal.

We need an educational system which truly invests not only in the academic needs of its students, but its psychological as well. We need to practice holistic learning, where we treat the whole child, and find ways to reach them early and often. If we can diagnose children when they’re young, or when they begin to exhibit symptoms, we will be able to find effective medications, enroll them in therapy that is helpful, supportive, and not stigmatized in the way it is today. If we all were to understand that therapy and counseling is healthy for anyone, and that we could all stand to gain from talking to someone regularly, perhaps these loners wouldn’t feel the need to escape into the Internet, with its White Supremacist groups, Neo-Nazi organizations, anarchist groups, and sick and twisted grip it can have on fragile minds.

Psychotic mass shooters are often lonely and frightened, and many want to die, but don’t have the courage to take their own lives. Perhaps they’ve tried. Yet, they somehow are thrilled and stimulated by the idea of taking other people’s lives. There’s power in that. Some of these small people seek recognition, some seek fame, some seek infamy, others want to punish those they perceive wronged them, while others want to inflict carnage on the innocent. As we saw last week, many are driven by ideology like an extremist need to punish abortion providers and fight a righteous war for human life. I am not defending these monsters at all, and yet, I think it’s important we recognize that these are human beings, and they are profoundly disturbed and mentally unbalanced. They are sick. It’s easy as a society for us to simply label them sick and perverse monsters and cold blooded killers, but they each had families…they were once children…at one time, they had hopes and dreams of fitting in and belonging to something. Somehow, somewhere along the line, WE failed them. I’m not saying they aren’t responsible for their actions, but they’re sick all the same. We wouldn’t expect a patient with two broken legs to run a marathon, and in some ways, we can’t reasonably expect these profoundly sick individuals to maintain their sanity and fight the homicidal tendencies brewing inside them. It is a sickness. Some may be hearing voices telling them to commit the crime, while others may legitimately feel they will finally be recognized and liked once they commit such a heinous act. These people belong in hospitals and halfway houses, NOT in prisons, and not locked up in their rooms, on the Internet, stockpiling weapons, and planning a mass shooting. They need to be diagnosed early, because statistically, with proper medication and treatment, many of these individuals could have lived normal, non-violent, and nonviolent lives.

The problem is, we live in a complex society, where it’s not possible to point fingers at one thing in particular. I can’t, in good conscience, blame guns for all the mass shootings this country has seen over the last 10-20 years. They are inanimate objects, and it’s not wholly fair to scapegoat a legal weapon. However, those who would claim guns play no role in our disproportionately high gun mortality rates are fooling themselves. I just returned from Portugal, where last year they had less than 50 gun deaths in the whole country. They also have many regulations on gun ownership. Of all the developed superpowers, only America has staggeringly high gun homicide and suicide rates. No other civilized country within our standing has gun mortality rates anywhere close to ours. There aren’t regular mass shootings at schools and businesses in England, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, Spain, Holland, Norway, China, Russia, etc. Sure, there have been the exceptions. Obviously, as we saw earlier this month, Paris fell victim to a terrorist attack. No one is truly safe these days.

And in regards to domestic terrorism, who could forget Anders Behring Breivik, the far Right terrorist and mass murderer in Norway? In 2011, he killed eight people by setting off a van bomb amid the Government quarter in Oslo, then shot dead 69 participants of a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp on the island of Utoya. Clearly, killing 77 people in one spree is prolific and rare, but it’s also memorable because these things simply don’t happen in much of the rest of the world — particularly Europe.

Not too long ago, Australia had very permissive gun laws, and then they had a mass tragedy. In 1995, a man named Martin John Bryant began a shooting rampage at a popular tourist resort in Tasmania, and killed 35 people in the process. Almost immediately, Australia was so shocked by the carnage, they decided to take drastic measures. As a response to the spree killing, Australian State and Territory governments placed certain restrictions on semi-automatic centre-fire rifles, repeating shotguns (holding more than 5 shots) and high-capacity rifle magazines. In addition to this, limitations were also put into place on low-capacity repeating shotguns and rim-fire semi-automatic rifles. The Tasmanian state government attempted to ignore this directive but was threatened with a number of penalties from the federal government. Though this resulted in stirring controversy, opposition to the new laws was overcome by media reporting of the massacre and mounting public opinion in the wake of the shootings. America has had had its fair share of shootings like this….the Virginia Tech shooting claimed 32 lives…in Sandy Hook, a disturbed young man killed 20 children and six adults in an elementary school. And yet, we haven’t had our watershed moment, where we decide as a nation that enough is enough. We haven’t reached the breaking point, where we decide that giving up a few minor conviences is nothing compared to the number of lives it could save. Even though This IS normal. This IS a daily occurrence.

Clearly these other civilized countries have their fair share of mentally disabled and disturbed individuals. Clearly, they have people who have the potential to be homicidal. The difference is, most of these countries have socialized healthcare, and care for their citizens from the craddle to the grave. Secondly, they have varying rates of gun restrictions and control. Some of these countries have almost as much access to guns as we do, but there still isn’t that relationship that we have. They don’t sleep with their guns the way us Americans do. If you’re curious as to what other countries have the highest rates of gun homicides, don’t look to our neighbors to the East or members of the G8. The countries with the highest gun mortality rates include El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, South Africa, Brazil, and other poor countries. These are countries with high crime rates and often a low standard of living. And us. It’s like the Axis of Evil, and yet, we’re on the list.

And yet, you might say, Canada has almost as many gun rights as we do, and they have hardly had a single mass murder attack on their soil over all these years. This is a very strong argument for not blaming guns, and it almost works. However, again, Canada has national healthcare, and is much more comprehensive in treating its citizens. Secondly, and probably most importantly, Canadians have very different dispositions than we Americans. Wherever I travel in the world, I meet a lot of people whose opinions of Americans comes out of the lurid headlines, where all they hear about is school shootings and gang violence in Chicago. Interestingly, many of these people are afraid or uninterested in ever visiting America. Many think that it must still be like a Wild West show, and everyone is packing heat, and shooting each other dead in cold blood. They honestly think that about this country. And why shouldn’t they? Canada may be able to be permissive with their guns, because their population is more well adjusted and responsible with their weapons. They are not us, and we can’t hold them up as an example why we should have limited to no gun laws and restrictions. America has a troubling history of gun violence, and it seems to be embedded in our very DNA. What I do know is that most of our trade partners and allies do not suffer from the same kind of gun violence we do, and they have more restrictive laws than we do. And I’m not even suggesting we curtail Americans’ rights that much. I’m simply suggesting some reasonable gun legislation.

At the end of the day, I don’t know that this argument will ever be settled. Gun enthusiasts see guns as their God given right, and one protected by the Constitution. It is our cultural inheritance, and built into the fabric of this country. On the other hand, those on the Left believe that national security is at stake, and there are lives on the line. It only seems reasonable to allow some minor restrictions and regulations, if it saves lives. In every other aspect of our lives, we impose regulations, especially if it concerns public safety. But the two sides couldn’t be more apart. As a liberal myself, I recognize the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment, and respect law-abiding gun owners. At the same time, I think that the real compromise has to come from their side. Their stubbornness is unjustified, and can only harm lives and public safety. A minor inconvenience certainly seems worth it if it even could save one life.

Perhaps there is no one area we can point a finger at. Our society is complex, and there are a lot of culprits in making these cold blooded killers. There are many areas that likely failed these young men, such as a poor education, inadequate healthcare, mental health stigma, easy access to guns, access to high capacity rounds and lethal weapons, the Internet and social media, video games, poor home life, poverty, etc. Again, this crisis is not going to be solved by banning all guns….nor will it be cured by completely fixing the mental health care system. It’s not fair to completely let guns off the hook, and blame all this violence on mental illness. Ultimately, it will likely be a combination of all these things. No matter what, it’s not enough to point at mental health as a way to deflect from the responsibility of guns.

It’s not fair to only single out guns. The irony is that many of the gun supporters pointing at mental health are the very people that routinely underfund or defund mental health clinics and services in their states and cities. Furthermore, it is their actions and words which tend to fuel the stigmatization of mental health, and perpetuate the ignorance that leads to things like psychosis and alienation. Precisely the kind of things that incubate cruel thoughts and facilitate violent tendencies. We wonder where these monsters come from? We created them. We ostracized and ignored them. One very important step to removing the stigma on mental health is to fund it, and hold it in the same esteem as the regular medical field.

The best way to prevent such widespread gun violence is to regulate guns in a reasonable way, taking pains not to violate gun owners’ Constitutional rights, yet also striving to protect the safety of the public. There is no reason to have weapons of mass destruction out on the street. There is no need to have guns with high velocity bullets capable of piercing armor and bullet proof jackets, and with magazines of 20 – 60 bullets. Hunters don’t need those types of weapons, homeowners don’t need them, and they are simply weapons meant for a battlefield. Or for police officers. Civilians do not need those types of weapons. Combined with background checks, mandatory waiting periods, and other reasonable measures, we could reasonably expect a decline in gun violence. Even if such measures saved one life, it would be worth it. But we all know it would save significantly more lives than that. The very future of this country depends on such compromise.