Awakening To Tragedy … Again

Courtesy of Dan Rather …


Morning headlines of mourning.

A night of violence and loss.

A dawn that brings no comfort.

Our national map of tragedy has a new place in which we stick a pin of pain.

We see once more what happens when instruments of mass death are untethered from any semblance of logical restrictions.

As always, there are new names to learn of people who will never hear their names again.

All that life snuffed out in an instant.

The press will publish old pictures of smiling faces eulogized.

Motives? As if any will be justified or bring peace to the families now torn apart in bloodshed.

We repeat and repeat and repeat these tragedies, as if we are powerless to address them.

But there are answers and ideas that go unheeded.

Our politics don’t allow progress.

Mass shootings are part of our American identity.

Meanwhile, a lesser volume of death simmers unremarkably below the surface.

Lives cut short in tallies of one or two; often the victims know the killers.

And often the violence is self-inflicted, a permanent end to mental anguish.

Once again, we await more information.

There will be press conferences, maybe an arrest and even a trial.

We also know that there will be another such story that will crest upon the headlines.

Only to disappear except for those who have no choice but to live its consequences daily.

Again, and again, and again.

Club Q

Short, sweet, and to the point … words of wisdom from across the pond.

Coalition of the Brave

Six years ago, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, came under attack by a gun-toting lunatic, who killed 49 people at the LGBT venue. On Saturday, Club Q in Colorado Springs, came under attack from a maniac, and five people are confirmed to have lost their lives, thanks to a combination of the strange attitude towards guns in the US, and prejudice against the LGBT community.

The situation is still evolving, but it seems likely this attack was motivated by homophobia. It was made possible by easy access to deadly weapons, and a culture that worships guns. We hear the usual arguments, namely that guns are necessary to oppose tyranny, but how many lives have been sacrificed in the name of that particular philosophy, versus how many tyrants removed from power in the US? When does the culture of gun love change?

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From The Mind Of Filosofa

Today I have so many thoughts on a variety of topics rattling around in my old head that I thought I’d share some of them with you.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still reeling from all the shootings last week and over the weekend.  So many things have gone wrong in this country over the past 4+ years, some I fear will never be reparable, such as the gun culture, but not only that.  I was watching a clip a few days ago of Congressman Jim Jordan literally browbeating Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of “robbing Americans of their civil liberties”, yelling at him, interrupting him, gesticulating wildly, and demanding an exact date when people could stop wearing masks, stop social distancing, etc.  My thoughts were that this is not the way a professional lawmaker behaves!  Finally, Representative Maxine Waters told Jordan to “shut your mouth”, which I found very appropriate under the circumstances, but now the most unqualified member of Congress, Marjorie Greene, has made a motion to have Ms. Waters expelled from Congress for what she said to Jordan.  This, my friends, is just one example of the lack of intelligence and professionalism in certain of today’s members of Congress.

Then, I saw a question posed by a friend on Twitter:  Why do people who refuse the vaccine because they believe their god will protect them, think they must own a gun?  Think about that one for a few minutes.

This country has many problems today, perhaps more than at any other time in its history, and the gun culture is in the top five.  Worse yet, as long as a vast majority of congressional republicans are in the pockets of the gun lobby, ie NRA, this isn’t going to change.  They will obfuscate even policies that 80% of the people in this country support, in order to keep their donors happy.  This is not what we elect and pay these people for, and we are being cheated on a daily basis.  I have readers from all over the world, and those who are outside the U.S. are appalled by our gun culture.  Remember when the former guy called certain countries “shithole countries”?  Well, that’s how the U.S. is coming to be viewed around the globe.

There are those who would say that immigration and the economy are our biggest challenges today, but in my book, we have far greater problems.

Also in my top five is racism … and other forms of bigotry such as those who are intolerant of the LGBT community, those who believe men are superior to women, those who would demand that everyone follow their religion and that laws reflect their own beliefs and biases.  The blatant racism we see in police departments across the country is intolerable!  What’s worse is that it’s always been like this … we just didn’t see it.  The internet has placed such things under a large microscope, and we are just now awakening to the horrors that Black people have been living with … forever.

Then there’s our response … or lack thereof … to climate change in recent years.  Sure, there are many of us here who do our best to respect the environment, planting bee-friendly flowers, turning our thermostats down, driving less and driving fuel-efficient vehicles, but there are those who selfishly refuse to be inconvenienced.  Just yesterday I read an article by a woman who said we should support the fossil fuel industry, should not have re-joined the Paris Climate Accords, and basically argued that climate change is a hoax.  It seems to me that half the people in this country believe that way, are unwilling to make lifestyle changes in order to preserve this planet for their own grandchildren.

The majority of Republicans still believe the Big Lie, that the former guy won the 2020 election, despite all evidence to the contrary.  As long as that many people are that ignorant, they will continue voting for people like Marjorie Greene, Mitch McConnell, Jim Jordan and others who are intent on destroying what few democratic principles are left in this nation today.  And the votes of the few will outnumber the votes of the majority if the states are allowed to continue creating legislation that disenfranchises Blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the elderly, and the young.  If they have their way, our government will be elected only by white people of privilege.  The rest of us will become second-class citizens without a voice.

It is obvious to me that this nation is on a downhill path and the only hope for the future is for people to become educated about reality, to stop believing the myths and conspiracy theories that fill the airwaves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on such places as Fox ‘News’, Twitter and Facebook.  Unless people wake up and learn to separate fact from fantasy, I don’t even want to think about what the U.S. will be twenty years from now.  Fortunately, I won’t be here to see it, but my daughter and granddaughter will, and millions of other people will have to live with the ‘legacy’ we are leaving them.

How The World Sees Us Now

We know about the divisiveness, the chaos, the hate that is dominating the headlines here in the U.S.  We are fed a steady diet of daily abominations, accusations, and ignorant spew.  But how do people in other countries see us?  Until four years ago, we were largely viewed with respect … sure, we had our flaws, but we tried to do the right thing … most of the time.  We helped our allies and others around the globe.  We were doing our part to promote solutions to climate change, nuclear disarmament, and to contribute to a global defense structure.  And then, came Donald Trump, riding the waves of the populist movement all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, occupying a chair that he would never fit.  So … how are we viewed abroad today?

From an article in The Guardian back in June …

The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US, extensive new polling reveals.

More than 60% of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the United States as a global leader.

A report based on the survey’s findings argues that the shock of the pandemic has “traumatised” European citizens, leaving them feeling “alone and vulnerable”.

In almost every country surveyed, a majority of people said their perception of the US had deteriorated since the outbreak. Negative attitudes of the US were most marked in Denmark (71%) Portugal (70%), France (68%), Germany (65%) and Spain (64%). In France, 46% and in Germany 42% said their view of the US had worsened “a lot” during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, PEW Research released a new poll of 13 foreign countries that reveals that perceptions of America have dropped drastically in recent years.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at their data.


Let’s hear directly from some of those people, shall we?

  • Have you tried turning your country off and then on again?
  • I think Mexico is probably now in favour of that wall
  • Sad. Disappointed. We used to think pretty highly of you, but now we just feel sorry for you. You are so divided we’re not sure how you can ever come together as a country again. Your guns are out of control. Your racism is dividing you. Your politics are a disaster. Your healthcare system is a joke. Your pandemic is out of control and you will soon be in the depths of a depression, with more than 30m people without jobs. How do you feel so far?
  • Being an Italian and knowing roman history, I can say that in my opinion America is showing the classic symptoms of an empire in decline
  • The US always appeared like an older, stronger brother – now it feels like this brother started using meth.
  • Being in the U.K. right now kind of feels like being a little boat that has broken down and everyone’s too busy being mad at the captain to fix anything. But then you look to the left and there’s a big cruise ship burning as it sinks with people fighting on every deck, and the captain’s throwing gasoline on everything, and you feel a little bit better about the s***** boat you’re in.
  • I used to really admire America. The last few years have changed that perception drastically. The blatantly corrupt politics seem to have the whole country in such a tight grip that from the outside it looks like a 3rd world country. Your president is lying constantly and obviously yet he has outspoken followers in the millions who just disregard his lies. There seems to be no safety net for the average person at all and you seem to rely on luck to get through your life.
  • I live in Germany. When I was younger, I always wanted to live in America. I thought it was great. Now, not even for a million dollars, I would never move there
  • I knew there were lots of idiots, but the sheer quantity is mind blowing. And how so many Americans just can’t handle a view that’s different to their own or at least allow others to have a different view, is crazy.
  • You’re a country blessed with diverse land, money and democracy. But you have become your own worst enemy—healthy patriotism has turned into extreme nationalism and xenophobia, freedom has turned into anarchy. Also guns, like howww are they still a thing? Sad.
  • The Second Amendment is there to protect your precious democracy from tyrants. Ironic who the gun owners support the most.
  • What saddens me the most is how the basics, such as universal healthcare and social support are so reviled by so many. Worst is that those who are the most vocal are probably not far from those who would benefit the most.
  • I keep wondering why the “richest” country in the world still doesn’t have national free health services.
  • I can’t believe how Americans can politicise EVERYTHING?! Wearing masks, postal service and before these newer topics universal healthcare, free (or at least vastly cheaper) uni, higher taxation etc. are a reality in most developed countries, but in America it seems like you can just scream socialism and people are against everything. From my German point of view the two party system and electoral votes is seriously f**ked up and even the moderate democrats are pretty right-wing.
  • With the economic divide larger than ever, I don’t believe the majority of Americans, who struggle to live decently, pay for healthcare and their kids education, still buy the freaking “american dream” BS.
  • Trump is an Emperor, with his princess and princes. Everyone with any insight or brains can see it, but there are a lot of supremely uninformed Americans in the Rust belt, the south and parts of the north who have been fed the line from Fox and Facebook that he is their saviour.
  • I’m a Canadian, living in Mexico since 2014. I seriously can’t wrap my head around it from either vantage point. It’s like watching a slow-motion car wreck – it’s horrifying and you know nothing good is going to come of it but it’s fascinating at the same time.
  • As a Millennial from Toronto, I grew up thinking America was awesome. I thought it would be cool to live in New York when I was older. The past 5 years have been such a s*** show, I am so thankful to be from Canada. I dont think its Trump that is the main problem (although hes a huge one.) Its his legion of supporters that feel the same way he does. They will not go away once he leaves office. The problem is more permanent than some realize. Its been sad to see the US deteriorate.
  • I feel sorry for the sane people over there.
  • Sadness
  • I genuinely feel sorry for you people.

Remember when we were mostly respected by people in other countries?  Remember when Trump said he would “make America great again”?  Remember when we thought of this as a country of equal opportunity for all?  Remember when we had a president, not a tyrant in the Oval Office?  Think long and hard about it between now and November 3rd, for your vote could help save this country, or it could help sink it.

It Happened Again!!! 🤬

Yet another shooting of an unarmed black man by police, this time in Atlanta, Georgia.  27-year-old Rayshard Brooks had a bit too much to drink on Friday evening, and while waiting in line for food at the Wendy’s drive-thru, he fell asleep in his car, blocking the drive-thru and causing customers to have to drive around the vehicle to pick up their orders.  So … the police were called.  I don’t know why the on-duty manager at Wendy’s couldn’t just go out and see what was wrong that Mr. Brooks’ car wasn’t moving?  I don’t know why the Atlanta police department dispatched armed officers.  But the result is that now Mr. Brooks, father of four young children, is dead, shot by police.

DAMMIT!  There are ways of dealing with situations that do not require shooting and killing!  The police story differs from what was captured on cellphone video, but it appears that Mr. Brooks did resist arrest, but when police deployed a taser, Brooks ran away and then police shot him.  The man had too much to drink and was on foot, had no weapon and was no danger to any other than himself.  Why the f**k did they feel a need to shoot him???

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for the immediate termination of the officer who fired his weapon, and the other officer involved was placed on administrative duty.  The mayor also announced the resignation of Chief Erika Shields, saying …

“There has been a disconnect with what our expectations are and should be as it relates with interactions with our officers and the communities in which they are entrusted to protect. Chief Erika Shields have been a solid member of APD for over two decades and has a deep and abiding love for the people of Atlanta. And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities.”

A kind way of saying she asked for the police chief’s resignation.

Predictably and justifiably, protestors came out in droves.  And then … they broke out the windows and set fire to the Wendy’s where Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep.  Sigh.  Now, I fully and completely support protesting the police brutality against black people … if I were younger or had the strength, I would march right along with them.  But … destruction of property is a step too far.  And, it’s counter-productive, for then the police are on edge and likely to be even more trigger-happy than they would otherwise be.

Protestors also completely shut down the interstate connector in Atlanta, I-75/I-85.  As of this writing (Saturday @10:00 p.m.), police are confronting them and lobbing smoke bombs into the crowd.  The likelihood of somebody else being shot and killed before daylight on Sunday is high, in my opinion.  I hope the cops have the good sense to leave their guns holstered!

There are a few situations that call for police to use their guns.  Very few.  Many moons ago, when I lived in Kingsport, Tennessee, I was driving home with two of my children in the car after dark one night.  About a block before reaching home, a fuse blew and my headlights went out.  Since I was almost home, I drove the final block, pulled into my driveway, and saw flashing blue lights behind me.  Okay, I got out of my car and was met by a police officer, holding his gun pointed right at me, telling me to put my hands on top of the car.  Turns out he thought I had seen him and had intentionally cut my lights.  He didn’t shoot me, did check the lights to verify what I told him … meanwhile, my children were petrified, for he kept his gun in hand the whole time.  He didn’t shoot me or the children, likely because I wasn’t black, but … why the damn gun???

It is time for major changes in every police department in this nation, people!  If somebody is shooting up a Wal-Mart, then I fully expect the police to go in with their weapons drawn.  If there is a report of a hostage situation, or a robbery in progress, then yes, I certainly expect the police to go in with their guns drawn.  But you do not shoot a woman asleep in her bed (Breonna Taylor) or a man sleeping in his car!  Perhaps if every Tom, Dick, and Harry in this country didn’t own a gun, the police might feel less inclined to “shoot first, ask questions later”.  Then again, in the case of a black person, perhaps they would.

I don’t pretend to know the solutions, but I know this much … if I had to name the two biggest problems in our society today, they would be racism and guns.  Each in and of itself is bad, but together, they are a combination that is killing this nation … literally.

The Downward Slide …

I ask you to watch the following short (just over 3 minutes) video clip by Robert Reich, explaining six ways in which the United States is becoming less like an industrialized nation and more like a third world, or developing nation.  Take a look, and then we’ll talk a bit about it.

To that, I would add a couple:

  • Gun violence – The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn’t a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average. Our murder rate also dwarfs many developing nations, like Iraq, which has a murder rate less than half ours. More than half of the deadliest mass shootings documented in the past 50 years around the world occurred in the United States, and 73 percent of the killers in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally.

  • Healthcare – In many areas of the U.S., especially in the deep South, life expectancy is lower than in Algeria, Nicaragua or Bangladesh. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care to its citizens; even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of poor remained uninsured because governors, mainly Republicans, refused to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. And now, of course, Trump has chipped away at ACA such that it covers far fewer people than it did three years ago.

  • Education – The U.S. education system is plagued with structural racial biases, like the fact that schools are funded at the local, rather than national level. That means that schools attended by poor black people get far less funding than the schools attended by wealthier students. The Department of Education has confirmed that schools with high concentrations of poor students have lower levels of funding. It’s no wonder the U.S. has one of the highest achievement gaps between upper income and low-income students, as measured by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Schools today are actually more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s. Our higher education system is unique among developed nations in that is funded almost entirely privately, by debt.

Truth is, I could probably think of more, but Mr. Reich’s clip pretty much cover the worst of the problems in this country.  Most of the situations described by Mr. Reich and listed above did not happen overnight but have been building up for years or even decades.  The gun culture has been with us since the start, but has become worse with the enhanced influence of the NRA and legal access by civilians to military-style assault weapons.

Reich’s first point, that political power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ ruling in 2010, when the Court ruled that to limit donations to political campaigns was an infringement on the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  Thus, large corporations with money to burn can now effectively buy our politicians.

His third point, that those in power stoke racial, ethnic and religious tensions, is the one that I lay directly at the door of Donald Trump, for he has been doing just this since the day he announced his candidacy back in 2015.  He has stoked fear of ‘other’, has played into the hands of the religious right, has adopted policies that are discriminatory by nature.  Divide and conquer.

All in all, while the U.S. economy appears to be stable, while Trump has touted the economy as his accomplishment (it isn’t, for the current economic upswing started with the Obama administration after the 2007-2008 financial crisis), and while unemployment is very low, the average working class family is no better off today than they were ten years, or even twenty years ago.  The wealthy, on the other hand, are reaping the fruits of our labours in lower taxes and increased wealth.

Meanwhile … since the wealthy and giant corporations are paying almost no taxes, benefits to the rest of us are being cut, and still the national debt continues to grow.  Folks, this is not sustainable.  This nation cannot simply keep on giving money to the rich, cutting benefits to the poor, and owing more and more money to both its citizens and other nations.  The U.S. was once respected by other nations and appreciated by its citizens.  Overall, neither of those things are true today. banana republic-4The question becomes, then, how do We the People make the necessary changes to put this country back on the right path?  There is no simple panacea, but we start by voting out those politicians who are indebted to special interests and the wealthy.  We stop supporting politicians who are in the pockets of the NRA, fossil fuel industries, and others.  We use our vote to express our displeasure, to make changes.  If we don’t, then I promise you we will continue on this downhill slide toward a banana republic, as Mr. Reich said.

Think about it.