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We're waking up this morning to scenes of devastation and heartbreak in Oklahoma.
The media are talking about the difficult and heroic work being done by first responders -- police, firefighters, EMT and medical personnel, and neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers. Bad things often bring out the best in us.
It's clear that there's another group of heroes who deserve our praise and thanks -- teachers and school personnel. With two schools hit during yesterday's tornado, it was teachers who stood the front line for our children.
We entrust the most precious things in our lives -- our children -- to teachers. In normal times, they do the heroic job of teaching our kids the 3Rs and lots more ... teamwork, good behavior, self-esteem.
But in the face of danger -- be it yesterday's tornado or last December's terror at a school in Newtown, Conn. -- the true heroism of our teachers shines brightly. We're hearing stories of teachers who shielded their students from falling debris with their own bodies and teachers who stayed with their kids until they were reunited with their parents rather than rushing off to check on their own families and homes.
We don't thank them enough, these everyday heroes.
It's really pathetic how fearful politicians are of the National Rifle Association. I guess, though, when you think of how much money the gun lobby controls, it's understandable. But where are the
politicians' balls when it comes to making real progress on an issue that brought the nation to its knees only a few months ago with the senseless shootings in quiet, little Newtown, Conn.
The President spoke about finally getting tough, and most of us cheered.
Our leaders in Congress were moved to tears when they met with families of victims from Connecticut... and Colorado and Arizona and so many other places where guns (I know, I should say people with guns) shot and killed innocent people just going about their everyday lives in movie theaters and shopping malls and walking down the streets. So how, then, did we get to where we are now, with such toothless, watered-down legislation being brought to the table for our lawmakers to consider?
Some more background checks. OK, that's good. But what happened to legislation that would make it illegal -- or at least more difficult -- for citizens to get things like assault weapons and clips that hold multiple rounds of ammunition? Do hunters really need military-style weapons to kill deer and ducks? Who needs to be able to shoot dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds? Certainly not hunters. That sort of equipment is for trained police, soldiers and security personnel, but not for our next-door neighbors.
I'm generally anti-gun, but I've tried to be understanding of those who want to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. But I just don't get why some people -- led by the NRA -- feel they need such high-powered killing machines.
And I just don't get why our elected officials are acting like scared followers instead of the leaders we elected them to be.
Attorney General Eric Holder re-ignited the discussion about some banks being too big to fail with his comments last week.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing in today's New York Times, seems to support the idea by pointing to some examples of business failures that had a substantial impact that went beyond a paper loss in the stock market. He uses as an example the case of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that got caught up in the Enron debacle. When the company was indicted and then went under, 28,000 people lost their jobs.
I can see Holder's point that some businesses might need to be immune to indictment or prosecution because of the
overall economic impact that might ensue. But if companies can't be prosecuted, then certainly people should be -- especially those whose greed or arrogance caused them to do things in a company's name that are illegal or unethical.
Big fines and penalties should be imposed on companies who behave badly, although perhaps not so stiff that they might knock the company out of business. But the people doing the bad things and those knowingly allowing them to happen -- even at the very highest management levels -- should be held accountable with the real theat of huge fines and real jail time. Perhaps those threats will make businesspeople think carefully before treading close to or over the line of legality and ethics.
I didn't see the news conference by NRA spoksespeson. I'm basing this on what I've seen reported in the trade press so far.
But I just cannot believe the position taken by the NRA in its first public statement since the tragic Newtown shootings a week ago.
According to one trade pub, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre “blamed violent video games and movies, the media, gun-free
zones in schools and other factors,” the report says, adding that
LaPierre “said that the students in Newtown might have been better
protected had officials at Sandy Hook Elementary been armed.
In a statement probably designed to boost gun sales, he also said "putting a police officer in every single school in America might make schools safer.” He added, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." He didn't address the question of how did the bad guy get the gun in the first place?
I hate guns, but I do understand the basis of the Second Ammendment. I don't think, however, the framers of the Constitution and the Ammendments were thinking of assault weapons and automatics with clips that hold multiple shells. These firearms are designed to kill many people quickly. Why would an ordinary citizen need such a weapon?
The NRA, in its statement, seemed to be playing clearly to their most staunch constituents. And totally off-putting to anyone else -- even someone who might be a moderate on the sensitive issue.
Instead of saying that guns are part of (even a very small part) of the problem, the NRA simply goes on the attack, placing blame everywhere but on guns, gun owners and matters of gun control. The NRA places blame for gun violence on the media and even on gun-free zones near schools. Say what!! Gun-free zones near schools are the cause of mass shootings?!!
From a PR point of view, the NRA statement will backfire by rallying those already angered and frustrated by gun violence to take stronger action. Instead of just scratching their heads and bemoaning the situation to friends, many more people -- spurred by the NRA's terrible PR positioning -- will become more active, pushing their Congressmen, backing politicians who are pro-gun control, and, if necessary, taking to the streets to keep the outrage going and the issue front and center on the nationbal agenda.
So, Mr. NRA CEO - nice going.
By the way, you might take a closer look at whomever is advising you on PR matters. They just helped you win a big one -- for the other side.
Sadly, now we all know where this small Connecticut town is.
What we don't know, but can only imagine, is the terror felt by parents waiting for news of their children. We can only imagine the strength overcoming fear that enabled heroic teachers to do what they could to protect their precious little ones and try to shield them from "the bad guys."
What we probably can't imagine, unfortunately, is a world where guns are available only to bonafide police and public safety personnel. The deep pockets and influence of the gun lobby makes that hard to imagine, despite all the talk we'll soon hear from politicians.
That, too, is sad.
My daughter Jennifer sent me her thoughts as she was getting ready to take our grandson Jack to school this Monday morning, up in Maine...
It is snowing right now, a beautiful silent scene, evoking the simple
childhood joys of the first snow of the season. All is calm, all is
quiet, all is untouched. There are no tracks worn in, no tire marks
making the clean canvas a sight for sore eyes. It is simple.
I want to keep it that way, bottle it up and let no one walk upon it. Let it just be, so pure, as nature intended.
But for better or worse, that is not how it is. It is impossible to live in a bottle.
so, it is in the middle of this beauty, that my stomach churns with
anxiety and sadness and horror, as I prepare to send my 7 year old off
to school this morning. His sweet, pure, freshly falling snow of a soul.
His world is different than mine. He doesn't know of the evil, of the
impossible to make sense of. He knows nothing of Sandy Hook.
endless tears for the families that lost their loved ones. There are no
words. And I cry for my children too. For knowing that the simple, clean
snow they play upon can not stay that way forever. Mud and dirt and
sand will creep in and there is no stopping it. I mourn for the families
in Newtown, and I mourn for the loss of my innocent children's
understanding of this world.
For now, I will watch the snow fall.
Soon, I will drop my older son off at school and pray- something I just
do not do. I will pray for his safety, for his innocence, and for his
And when he comes home, as I know he will, we will run and
laugh and play in the snow-- plowed through and grit covered as it may
And we will laugh and we will love, and I will shed a silent
Childhood is fleeting. The world shows its ugly face too soon. I
will try, hard as I might, to shelter my children from all that is
evil, from the very knowledge of its existence even. But I can't.
I've always been proud to say I was a Boy Scout. In fact, I made it all the way to Eagle Scout.
I learned a lot as a Scout. I learned the Morse Code, which I still remember. I learned how to tie all sorts of knots, although these days, about the only knot I can tie is my shoe laces. But the lessons about about leadership and responsibility and kindness have stuck since my days in Scouting. The Scouting experience was a good one for me.
That's why I'm sad to see, as reported by the Associated Press today, that the Boys Scouts of America are still upholding an outdated and unfair policy that excludes gays from membership. The Scouts' national spokesman said a special committee of Scout leadership has concluded that the policy of excluding gays "is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts."
What century are their leaders living in?
And how does their decision square with parts of the Scout Oath and Law, which states, in part, "On my honor, I will do my best...To help other people at all times."
The Boys Scouts' official website further explains: "DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world."
Where does it say we have a duty only to some people, but not to some who happen to be gay? How is this policy demonstrating "courteous, friendly and kind," which are part of the Scout Law that suggests how Scouts should behave in their daily lives.
I understand concerns leaders might have about a troop scoutmaster who is gay and might behave improperly toward a youngster. But assuming all gay people will behave badly is wrong and unfair. I've heard stories of straight people in local troop leadership positions who were physically or mentally abusive or openly expressed religious or racial prejudice to their kids. Should the Scouts ban all straight men from joining?
The Scouts organization should be setting a positive example. Their out-of-date and prejudicial policy will hurt what is a good youth organization. It may hamper efforts to recruit young Scouts and adult leaders, and it will certainly hurt the group in terms of seeking corporate support and partnerships.
On my Honor... this makes me sad.
... CommPro has a column that offers an interesting insight into the Boy Scouts' policy on gays.
I love this headline from today's online edition of the television trade journal TV Week. It just goes to show there's a positive side to almost any story. It just depends on your perspective. Obviously the headline writer drafted this one from a TV executive's point of view...
Pat Robertson Says God Told Him Who Will Be the Next President. But Pat Says God Told Him Not to Tell.
Hallelujah, the Money Will Be Spent on TV Political Ads After All.
Do we shoot the messenger or consider fixing the message?
Since the horrendous shootings in Tucson a few days ago, there’s been much talk about the tone of political discourse in this nation and, in turn, the role the media might play in the incitement of nastiness, hatred and even violence. I had planned to stay out of this discussion online, but today’s headlines and a recorded statement by Sarah Palin are forcing me to change my plans.
Like many people, I’ve noticed and despaired over how nasty some of the political rhetoric has been in recent years. I’m not sure where and when it began to get so vitriolic, but it seems in part, at least, to have taken a new turn when talk radio gained popularity in the mid- or late-90s. Much of it – not all – seemed to be conservative talk shows.
I can certainly understand how frustration with government and our politicians can lead to anger. Some of the shenanigans that have gone on in Washington and elsewhere have made me angry. But the vast majority of us don’t let that anger provoke us into violence, beyond possibly shouting at others when they disagree with us.
We may never know if the tenor of political rhetoric – whether at a campaign rally, on talk radio or reported in the news media – led to the senseless act of the gunman in Arizona. But we as a nation are correct to question how we discuss and debate politics and other sensitive issues. Have we, in general, become too hateful in our discourse? Have we gone too far in how we depict issues and those with whom we disagree, both in words and images that might connote violence or racism or other prejudice?
This week, our lawmakers and leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, are asking these questions and most are not pointing fingers at each other. Most seem to be accepting joint responsibility and are urging all of us, Red or Blue, to try to tone it down. They do not seem to be calling for infringements on free speech, but rather for everyone to make the effort to put civility back into the political debate.
The news media for the most part, I feel, have not been the instigators as political discussion became more nasty in recent years. Except for some talk radio and a few of the syndicated weekend pundit TV roundtables, the mainstream media has been pretty much reporting on the political discussion. Where it’s taken a nasty tone, they’ve been doing their job recording and reporting it. They’ve been the messengers.
Some don’t like what the message has become, so they are now saying shoot the messenger rather than suggesting we re-examine the message and how it got that way. Sarah Palin is taking this tack and I don’t think it will serve her or the rest of us well.
A page on Palin’s website unfortunately used gunsights to show Congressional seats that the Tea Party was targeting for change. Now that the poor choice of graphics has come to the public’s attention as an example of how questionable discussion might lead to misplaced violence, Palin has gone on the attack. Her target this time – the media. In the midst of national handwringing and what can be productive self-questioning, she has the nerve to position herself as a victim of the media. How dare she! Her aides even had the gall to tell reporters the gunsight graphics were, in fact, surveyor marks and not gunsights. How foolish and gullible does she think the American public is?
I think Palin is one of the primary promoters of nasty and hateful political rhetoric. I felt it strongly from the first time I saw her speak, at the Republican National Convention in 2007. That was the first time most of us had seen her. Behind that pretty face and disarming folksy tone, I saw someone who seems to honestly relish calling others names. I understand that it’s part of the political process to say your opponent is wrong and to play on voters’ frustration. But she took nastiness to a new level and she seemed to enjoy doing it.
And then to make it even worse, Palin injected something very offensive into the pot she is now trying to stir. I wonder if she really knew the origins of the term “blood libel” when she used it in her recorded statement yesterday. As a Jew, I am deeply offended and hurt by the reference. (I won’t explain it here. Click here to read The New York Times’ explanation of the term and its origins.)
Palin has every right to state her position on issues, but like all of us -- citizens, politicians and the media – we owe it to ourselves as a nation to state and debate those positions with civility. Nastiness that elevates to hatred is counter-productive. Political leaders – and would-be leaders – need to be called out when they cross the line. Sarah Palin is one who has repeatedly crossed that line. Whether or not she will ever own up to it, her actions have contributed – even if in a very very small way – to the tone that may have added an ember to the flame that ignited in the Tucson gunman’s sick mind.
It wasn’t the messenger, but it may have been the message.