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“If I Only Had A Gun…”: It’s Clear To Me Now, Jewish Civilians With Revolvers And Hunting Rifles Would Have Made All The Difference

Of course. It makes perfect sense. Why couldn’t I see it before?

There could never have been a Holocaust had the Jews been armed. Granted, the Nazis swept aside the armies of Poland and France like dandruff, and it took six years for Great Britain — later joined by Russia and the United States — to grind them down. But surely Jewish civilians with revolvers and hunting rifles would have made all the difference.

Much as I’d love to take credit for that insight, I can’t. No, it comes from presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson in a recent interview with CNN. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said.

This has become a recurrent theme on the political right, the idea that unarmed victims of violence are to blame for their own troubles. And not just in the Holocaust. Rush Limbaugh said two years ago that if African Americans had been armed, they wouldn’t have needed a Civil Rights Movement. The founder of so-called “Gun Appreciation Day” said, also two years ago, that had the Africans been armed, there could have been no slavery.

There’s more. When nine people recently died at a mass shooting in Oregon, Ted Nugent declared that any unarmed person thus killed is a spineless “loser.” Carson seems to agree. “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” he said. Or, as Clint Eastwood says in Unforgiven when Gene Hackman complains that he just shot an unarmed man: “Well, he should’ve armed himself…”

It’s so clear to me now. Guns don’t take lives, they save them. Guns make everything better. Carson is a surgeon, not an optometrist, but golly gosh, he’s sure opened my eyes.

As a friend recently observed, what if Trayvon Martin had had a gun? Then he could have killed the “creepy-ass cracker” who was stalking him. Surely, the court would have afforded him the same benefit of the doubt they gave George Zimmerman, right?

And what if the men on Titanic had been armed? That tragedy might have had a happier ending:

LOOKOUT
Iceberg dead ahead!

CAPTAIN
No time to port around it. Get your guns, men! We’re making ice cubes out of this sucker!

KATE WINSLET
Jack, is that a Colt in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO
It’s a Colt, woman. Now, stand aside.

Hey, what if Jesus had been armed?

“Thou wisheth to nail me to what? I think not. Come on, punks. Maketh my day!”

The possibilities are endless. So I’ve taken the liberty of composing a new campaign song for Carson, to the tune of “If I Only Had a Heart” from The Wizard of Oz:

When a man’s an empty holster, no courage does he bolster
No confidence is won
What a difference he’d be makin’, he could finally stop his quakin’
If he only had a gun

He could stand a little straighter with that ultimate persuader
And wouldn’t that be fun?
He could put an end to static with a semiautomatic
If he only had a gun

Can’t you see, how it would be?
Woe would avoid his door
The crazy guy would pass him by
Or else he’d shoot — and shoot some more

Oh, the shootin’ he’d be doin’, and all the ballyhooin’
The way the folks would run
His life would be so merry in a world of open carry
If he only had a gun

If you think Carson might like the song, I would not mind at all if you shared it with him: http://www.bencarson.com/contact.

What’s that? You think I’ve lost my mind? You’re calling me crazy? Boy, that makes me so mad I can hardly control myself!

If I only had a gun…

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, October 19, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Civil Rights Movement, Gun Violence, Holocaust | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Julian Bond R.I.P.”: A Voice Of Unflagging Witness For Peace And Human Dignity

It’s always a shock when someone who is an eternal symbol of precocity dies, especially when it’s at a not entirely inappropriate age. To most Americans Julian Bond, who died on Saturday at 75, was a civil rights leader known for his wit and urbanity, and for long service to the great cause of his generation. To Georgians who remember the 1960s, he was the preeminent figure who united the civil rights and antiwar causes, and black and white progressives, and invariably made his enemies look foolish and small.

A quick personal anecdote: my best friend in high school had her purse stolen when we were in downtown Atlanta participating in an antiwar protest. What upset her most was not the loss of money or ID, but the Julian Bond autograph she carried around with her.

His national celebrity was attributable to two events: first, the refusal of the Georgia House of Representatives to seat him upon his election to the body in 1965, allegedly on grounds of his sympathetic comments about draft resisters. The Georgia House was forced to accept Bond by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966, shortly before that chamber helped elect the ax-handle-wielding segregationist restauranteur Lester Maddox governor of the state.

But Bond’s second big national moment was even bigger: in the chaos of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, after he was seated as a delegate via a compromise with a slate chosen by Maddox, his name was placed into nomination for vice president by the McCarthy-supporting Wisconsin delegation.

During the vice presidential balloting won, of course, by the nominee Hubert Humprey’s choice Ed Muskie, Bond sheepishly withdrew his name on grounds that he was well short of the constitutional age for the office of 35.

Bond went on to serve for two decades in the Georgia legislature, which he left to pursue a seat in Congress in 1986. That led to the low point of his career, a bitter and unsuccessful campaign against his old SNCC colleague John Lewis. It’s likely that Lewis–who remains in the House nearly three decades after that campaign–was the only person who could have defeated Bond that year.

The two old friends soon reconciled, and Bond went on to become president of the NAACP for ten years. Throughout his later years, Bond became a familiar face on television talk shows, the college lecture circuit, and controversial topics. He was a very important figure in securing civil rights movement support for LGBT equality and marriage equality, and his final arrest at a protest occurred just over two years ago, when he joined a protest at the White House against the XL Keystone Pipeline.

We will miss his voice and his unflagging witness for peace and human dignity.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 17, 2015

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Human Rights, Julian Bond | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King … Charles Koch?”: Why the Koch Brothers Are Heroes In Their Own Minds

When Charles E. Wilson appeared before a Senate committee in January 1953 as President Eisenhower’s nominee to become Secretary of Defense, he was asked whether his large holdings of stock in General Motors, where he had been president and chief executive, might cause some conflict of interest. “I cannot conceive of one,” he replied, “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.” While Wilson is often misquoted as saying that what’s good for GM is good for America, a quote often used as a symbol of corporate arrogance, his intent seemed at least somewhat more benign. But however you interpret it, Wilson was almost certainly sincere in believing that when you get right down to it, the country and its largest corporation, as GM was then, rise and fall together.

Koch Industries is not quite as big as General Motors was then, at least not relative to the rest of the economy. But the two men who control it, Charles and David Koch, seem just as sure that what’s good for them is good for America. They probably wouldn’t put it that way, and maybe they don’t even think about it that way. All they know is that the things they believe are right and true, which in at least one way makes them no different from you or me.

This weekend, the Kochs, who plan to spend nearly a billion dollars of their money and their friends’ money to elect a Republican president in 2016, held a confab where they could gather to discuss their plans to move America in a direction they find more amenable. When Charles addressed the plutocrats, he told them to give themselves a hearty pat on the back:

Charles Koch on Sunday compared the efforts of his political network to the fight for civil rights and other ‘freedom movements,’ urging his fellow conservative donors to follow the lead of figures such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.

‘History demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished,’ Koch told 450 wealthy conservatives assembled in the ballroom of a lavish oceanfront resort [in Dana Point, California].

‘Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement,’ he said. “All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”

Other reports note that Charles talked a good bit about the disadvantaged and downtrodden, and how they will be the true beneficiaries of the expansion of liberty that is the Kochs’ fondest dream.

You can call that ridiculous, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But while Democrats see the Kochs as cartoon villains, twirling their moustaches as they contemplate a future with low top-end marginal tax rates, I assure you that they believe themselves to have only the purest motives for their political action.

Ask any liberal activist why it’s a threat to democracy when the Kochs spend millions to elect their favored candidates, but less so when liberal billionaires do the same thing, and you’ll get two answers. The first is that “We can’t unilaterally disarm,” which is also what you hear from candidates who support campaign finance reforms but would like to get money from super PACs. It’s reasonable enough, if not particularly high-minded. The second answer, and perhaps the more common one, is that when the Kochs advocate for things like low taxes for the wealthy and loose regulation on corporations, they’re being self-interested, while a liberal billionaire who takes the opposite position is acting altruistically.

It’s an answer that is simultaneously true, at least to a degree, and unsatisfying. First of all, there are times when the Kochs advocate on issues that don’t have anything to do with their bottom line. And if they succeed in helping a Republican get elected president, only a portion of what that president does will affect them directly, even if they wind up being pleased with almost all of it.

Secondly, it runs the risk of devolving into a caricature that doesn’t help us understand the Kochs. Right now, Charles is probably asking himself why anyone would make a fuss about his speech. After all, he believes that the liberty embodied in unfettered capitalism is a source of prosperity and human flourishing. How could anyone think otherwise?

Of course, there’s a difference between telling yourself, “We’re advocating for the right things,” and telling yourself, “This thing we’re doing is as noble as anything anyone in our nation’s history has done.” But perhaps grandiosity isn’t surprising in a man whose fortune is estimated to be over $40 billion.

We all justify our actions and rationalize our decisions, and no one thinks they’re the villain of their own story. We all believe we’re good people, that we have a strong moral sense, and that the world would be a better place if it were ordered in the way we’d like. If would be shocking if the Kochs thought differently about themselves.

My point isn’t that we should automatically forgive people for their outrageous claims of moral rightness, any more than we ought to excuse outlandish claims of suffering and oppression (see War on Christmas, The). But it’s useful to appreciate that when someone like Charles Koch looks in the mirror and says, “You know, I really am a lot like Martin Luther King,” he may be utterly wrong in a hundred ways, but it isn’t a surprise that he feels that way. It’s human nature.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 2, 2015

August 4, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Koch Brothers, Women's Suffrage Movement | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s Time To Hit Reset”: Black People Should Stop Expecting White America To ‘Wake Up’ To Racism

After the race-related events of the past few weeks and months, it’s clear that the people who speak for black America Have a Dream, in the wake of the one Dr. King so resonantly expressed.

The idea is that the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960s wasn’t enough, that a shoe still has yet to drop. Today’s Dream is that white America will somehow wake up and understand that racism makes black America’s problems insurmountable. Not in-your-face racism, of course, but structural racism—sometimes termed White Privilege or white supremacy. Racism of a kind that America must get down on its knees and “understand” before we can move forward.

The problem is that this Dream qualifies more as a fantasy. If we are really interested in helping poor black people in America, it’s time to hit Reset.

The Dream I refer to has been expressed with a certain frequency over the past few weeks, after a succession of events that neatly illustrated the chance element in social history. First, a white woman, Rachel Dolezal, bemused the nation with her assertion that she “identifies” as black. Everyone had a grand time objecting that one can’t be black without having grown up suffering the pain of racist discrimination, upon which Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church put a gruesome point on the issue. Dolezal was instantly and justifiably forgotten, after which the shootings motivated the banning of the Confederate flag from the American public sphere.

However, practically before the flags were halfway down their poles, the good-thinking take on things was that this, while welcome, was mere symbolism, and that what we really need to be thinking about is how to get America to finally wake up to—here comes the Dream—structural racism. A typical expression of the Dream is this one, from Maya Dukmasova at Slate: “There is little hope for a meaningful solution to the problem of concentrated poverty until the liberal establishment decides to focus on untangling a different set a pathologies—those inherent in concentrated power, concentrated whiteness, and concentrated wealth.”

Statements like this meet with nods and applause. But since the ’60s, the space between the statements and real life has become ever vaster. What are we really talking about when we speak of a “liberal establishment” making a “decision” to “untangle” notoriously impregnable things such as power, whiteness and wealth?

This is a Dream indeed, and the only reason it even begins to sound plausible is because of the model of the Civil Rights victories of fifty years ago, which teaches us that when it comes to black people, dreaming of an almost unimaginable political and psychological revolution qualifies as progressivism. After all, it worked then, right? So why be so pessimistic as to deny that it could happen again?

But there are times when pessimism is pragmatic. There will be no second Civil Rights revolution. Its victories grew not only from the heroic efforts of our ancestors, but also from a chance confluence of circumstances. Think about it: why didn’t the Civil Rights victories happen in the 19th century, or the 18th, even—or in the 1920s or 1940s? It’s often said that black people were “fed up” by the ’60s, but we can be quite sure that black people in the centuries before were plenty fed up too.

What tipped things in the 1960s were chance factors, in the same way as recent ones led to a breakthrough on the Confederate flag. Segregation was bad P.R. during the Cold War. Television made abuses against black people more vividly apparent than ever before. Between the 1920s and the late 1960s, immigration to the U.S. had been severely curtailed, so black concerns, while so often ignored, still did not compete with those of other large groups as they do today.

There is no such combination of socio-historical factors today. No, the fact that Hillary Clinton is referring to structural racism in her speeches does not qualify this as a portentous “moment” for black concerns. Her heart is surely in the right place, but talking about structural racism has never gotten us anywhere significant. Hurricane Katrina was 10 years ago; there was a great deal of talk then about how that event could herald some serious movement on structural racism. Well, here we are. There was similar talk after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict and, well, here we are.

The old-time Civil Rights leaders did things; too often these days we think talking about things is doing something. But what, really, are we talking about in terms of doing?

Who among us genuinely supposes that our Congress, amidst its clear and implacable polarization, is really going to arrive at any “decisions” aimed at overturning America’s basic power structure in favor of poor black people?

The notion of low-skill factory jobs returning to sites a bus ride away from all of America’s poor black neighborhoods is science fiction.

In a country where aspiring teachers can consider it racist to be expected to articulately write about a text they read on a certification exam, what are the chances that all, or even most, black kids will have access to education as sterling as suburban white kids get?

Many say that we need to move black people away from poor neighborhoods to middle-class ones. However, the results of this kind of relocation are spotty, and how long will it be before the new word on the street is that such policies are racist in diluting black “communities”? This is one of Dukmasova’s points, and I myself have always been dismayed at the idea that when poor black people live together, we must expect social mayhem.

And, in a country where our schools can barely teach students to read unless they come from book-lined homes, what is the point of pretending that America will somehow learn a plangent lesson about how black people suffer from a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and therefore merit special treatment that no other groups in America do? Calls for reparations for slavery, or housing discrimination, resonate indeed—and have for years now. However, they result in nothing, and here we are.

Note: I’m not saying it wouldn’t be great if these things happened. However, I argue that they cannot happen. It was one thing to convince America that legalized segregation and disfranchisement were wrong. However, convincing America that black people now need the dismantling of “white privilege” is too enlightened a lesson to expect a vast, heterogeneous and modestly educated populace to ever accept.

How do I know? Because I think 50 years is long enough to wait.

Today’s impasse is the result of mission creep. The story of the Civil Rights movement from 1965 to 2015 started as a quest to allow black people the same opportunities others enjoy but has shrunken into a project to show that black people can’t excel unless racism basically ceases to exist at all. This is understandable. The concrete victories tearing down Jim Crow allowed have already happened. Smoking out the racism that remains lends a sense of purpose. And let’s face it: there’s less of a sense of electricity, urgency, importance in teaching people how to get past racism.

But the result is that we insist “What we really need to be talking about” is, say, psychological tests showing that whites have racist biases they aren’t aware of such as tending to associate black people with negative words, or white people owning up to their “Privilege,” or a television chef having said the N-word in a heated moment decades ago (or posing for a picture where her son is dressed as Desi Arnaz wearing brown make-up).

So, drama stands in for action. Follow-through is a minor concern. Too many people are reluctant to even admit signs of progress, out of a sense that their very role is to be the Cassandra rather than the problem-solver.

So little gets done. In a history of black America, it is sadly difficult to imagine what the chapter would be about after the 1960s, other than the election of Barack Obama, which our intelligentsia is ever anxious to tell us wasn’t really important anyway. Maybe we’re getting somewhere on the police lately. But there’s a lot more to being black than the cops. There is much else to do.

This new Dream, seeking revolutionary change in how America works, is not only impossible, but based on the faulty assumption that black Americans are the world’s first group who can only excel under ideal conditions. We are perhaps the first people on earth taught to consider it insulting when someone suggests we try to cope with the system as it is—even when that person is black, or even the President.

But this “Yes, We Can’t!” assumption has never been demonstrated. No one has shown just why post-industrial conditions in the United States make achievement all but impossible for any black person not born middle-class or rich. What self-regarding group of people gives in to the idea that low-skill factory jobs moving to China spells the end of history for its own people but no one else’s?

To be sure, Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights hero and intellectual, famously argued in 1965 that automation and factory relocation left poor blacks uniquely bereft of opportunity, such that he called for the Civil Rights movement’s next step to be a call for job creation to a revolutionary degree. However, 50 years is a long time ago. Immigrants moving into black communities and forging decent existences—many of them black themselves—have shown that Rustin’s pessimism did not translate perfectly into later conditions. Today, community colleges offer a wider range of options to poor black people than they did 50 years ago. Books depicting black inner city communities such as Alice Goffman’s On the Run and Katherine Newman’s No Shame in My Game tiptoe around the awkward fact that there are always people in such communities who acquire and keep solid jobs—something even black activists often bring up in objection to “pathologizing” such communities.

I am calling neither for stasis nor patience. However, the claim that America must “wake up” and eliminate structural racism has become more of a religious incantation than a true call to action. We must forge solutions to black America’s problems that are feasible within reality—that is, a nation in which racism continues to exist, compassion for black people from the outside will be limited and mainly formulaic (i.e. getting rid of flags), and by and large, business continues as usual. Here are some ideas for real solutions:

1.    The War on Drugs must be eliminated. It creates a black market economy that tempts underserved black men from finishing school or seeking legal employment and imprisons them for long periods, removing them from their children and all but assuring them of lowly existences afterward.

2.    We have known for decades how to teach poor black children to read: phonics-based approaches called Direct Instruction, solidly proven to work in the ’60s by Siegfried Engelmann’s Project Follow Through study. School districts claiming that poor black children be taught to read via the whole-word method, or a combination of this and phonics, should be considered perpetrators of a kind of child abuse. Children with shaky reading skills are incapable of engaging any other school subject meaningfully, with predictable life results.

3.    Long-Acting Reproductive Contraceptives should be given free to poor black women (and other poor ones too). It is well known that people who finish high school, hold a job, and do not have children until they are 21 and have a steady partner are almost never poor. We must make it so that more poor black women have the opportunity to follow that path. The data is in: studies in St. Louis and Colorado have shown that these devices sharply reduce unplanned pregnancies. Also, to reject this approach as “sterilizing” these women flies in the face of the fact that the women themselves rate these devices quite favorably.

4.    We must revise the notion that attending a four-year college is the mark of being a legitimate American, and return to truly valuing working-class jobs. Attending four years of college is a tough, expensive, and even unappealing proposition for many poor people (as well as middle class and rich ones). Yet poor people can, with up to two years’ training at a vocational institution, make solid livings as electricians, plumbers, hospital technicians, cable television installers, and many other jobs. Across America, we must instill a sense that vocational school—not “college” in the traditional sense—is a valued option for people who want to get beyond what they grew up in.

Note that none of these things involve white people “realizing” anything. These are the kinds of concrete policy goals that people genuinely interested in seeing change ought to espouse. If these things seem somehow less attractive than calling for revolutionary changes in how white people think and how the nation operates, then this is for emotional reasons, not political ones. A black identity founded on how other people think about us is a broken one indeed, and we will have more of a sense of victory in having won the game we’re in rather than insisting that for us and only us, the rules have to be rewritten.

 

By: John McWhorter, The Daily Beast, July 11, 2015

July 13, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Civil Rights Movement, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Beyond A Little Tone-Deaf”: Pat Buchanan Warns Of Another Civil War; The Time Of Mass Right-Wing Civil Disobedience Is At Hand

In his latest column at WorldNetDaily, paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan argued that given the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the state capitol grounds, a “rebellion” unlike any seen since the Civil Rights Movement “is likely to arise from the right.”

Buchanan situated this “coming era of civil disobedience” in a long tradition that began with the Founding Fathers. “What else was our revolution but a rebellion to overthrow the centuries-old rule and law of king and parliament, and establish our own?” he asked.

“U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been defied and those who defied them lionized by modernity,” he added without noting that the positions his civilly disobedient activists would support wouldn’t be “lionized by modernity,” given that they’re based on the teachings of a man who — if he ever even lived — has been dead for 2,000 years.

Buchanan connected the coming struggle with the Civil Rights Movement — in particular, with Martin Luther King, Jr., whose “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he quoted. “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,” King wrote, to which Buchanan replied, “what is an ‘unjust law’?”

Apparently, they are the ones that atheistic liberals have yet to write, but most certainly will in the coming years. “Laws will be passed to outlaw such practices [like refusing to perform a same-sex wedding] as discrimination,” Buchanan wrote, “and those laws, which the Christians believe violate eternal law and natural law, will, as Dr. King instructed, be disobeyed.”

For all his high talk about morality — especially as it pertains to racial injustice — Buchanan was a little tone-deaf as to a certain issue of current import: the causes of the Civil War. “That war was fought,” he wrote, “over whether 11 Southern states had the same right to break free of Mr. Lincoln’s Union as the 13 colonies did to break free of George III’s England.”

He concluded by saying that a similar separation is on the horizon. “If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart,” he explained, “the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.”

“Something like that is happening in the country. A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural and political views and values, is taking place.”

 

By: Eric Kaufman, Salon, July 10, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Civil War, Pat Buchanan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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