Red Badge of Cowardice?


During our lifetime, there comes a minute, a day, or an event that implores us to make a decision separate from our own personal gain and in the best interest of the least and the unprotected around us.  The decision could be as personally horrific as rushing into the carnage of a terror attack to provide assistance to the victims, or it could be as personally satisfying as standing up to a schoolyard bully whose daily intimidation of a weaker few becomes just too much to tolerate. When faced with this decision, this point of reckoning, we have to decide, will we stand in the face of our fear and act, or will we fall to our fear and retreat?   Easy and without sacrifice? Hell no, that’s why we call it courage.  It is one thing to expect courage from the common man, that plain Jane who rushes into a burning building or intervenes, with little regard of her own reputation, on behalf of a stranger.  It is certainly another thing to expect courage from from those sworn in obligation to defend us, the American people, without any purpose of evasion.  I refer not to the first responders whose bravery is beyond question; I refer to those chosen to represent our expressed needs.

A few days ago, the US Senate had the opportunity on seven separate votes to show courage in the face of a small, but well funded gun lobby, but chose their personal political interests over the will of the people.  A factually detailed account of the votes is detailed here from The Washington Post’s, Rachel Weiner.  Now, as a realist, I knew the assault ban didn’t stand a gay’s chance at Chick-fil-a of passing.  America has been successfully defending itself against the domestic threat from Bambi herds since the ban’s repeal in the Bush years, and it’s certainly not letting go of the grip now.  Reduced the load number in clips?  Please.  ”Super-size me” is America’s mission statement, and it certainly doesn’t apply only to its double bacon double cheeseburgers. Hundred round magazines are a god given gift right up there with 900 cable channels fired from a universal remote.  To stop and reload is a colossal waste of energy akin to prying that Forever Lazy from your cold, dead, couch-bound, body and actually pulling down your pants to pee!

Never, senators, in my wildest dreams would I ever expect you to buck the system and take a personal stand on those particular rights-not-privileges.  Being the eternal optimist, however, I did believe even the highest paid political hack would have a hard time putting a price tag on going against over 90% of the American people. That’s right, nine out of ten US citizens believe expanding firearm background checks to include online sales and gun shows is a good idea.  Even John McCain put on his slippers, opened his front door, and yelled at his own party to get off his lawn and vote for this bipartisan compromise.  The amendment failed 54 – 46.  Four Democrats opposed the amendment: Max Baucus (MT)Mark Begich (AK)Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AR).  Four Republicans supported it, and should be commended: Susan Collins (MN)Mark Kirk (IL.)John McCain (AZ), and the bill’s co-sponsor, Pat Toomey (PA).  (Majority Leader Reid changed his vote to no in a procedural move to bring the legislation back up, but he won’t; that’s a whole other blog on courage…or lack, at times, there of.)  But that’s a majority you say.  And you would be right, but the leadership set the rules at a 60 vote majority, so this amounts to just another obstructive filibuster.

Some of the 46 neh sayers lament the bill would create a national database of gun owners.  In the words of Barbara Bush, senators, “reading is fundamental”.  Read the damn bill.  It expressly says that no database will be created.  And quite frankly, what if it did?  I don’t believe one of you ever droned on about all the databases the Patriot Act created as it eviscerated our First Amendment rights in the name of simulated homeland security.  You make these things up because you know there is no compelling reason to oppose closing these gaping loopholes and keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery, much less owning a firearm.  I brought this up on Twitter yesterday, and though there were a few who began to call me names (a sure sign of limited, intelligent opposing debate points), others said criminals don’t follow the rules anyway.  I would agree, that’s why they are criminals, but I would also add the perpetrators of these heinous crimes such as the ones at Sandy Hook, Tucson, Columbine, and Aurora were/are not criminals in the sense you are saying.  They were/are suburban, Caucasian boys that procured their weapons of mass destruction online, at gun shows, or over the counter while on prescribed meds from a mental health professional.

Come on, let’s just call it what it is.  These 46 senators don’t represent the American people; they don’t even represent the Democratic or Republican parties.  They represent the Green Party.  They are paid political performers for the NRA who in full disclosure should wear special interest patches sewn to their suits like NASCAR drivers.    At least then we would know who was sponsoring them.  I bet they wear flannel pajamas to bed with little Pepe LaPierre cartoon characters on them, though how well they sleep I really don’t know.  Tell me, Senator Baucus, how clear is your conscience?  As I type, I look out my window upon a blanket of new snow.  It appears so deceptively pure against the backdrop of the Century 16 theater.  Senator Heitkamp, tell your stories of western pride, outdoorsmanship, and libertarianism to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  But before you do, read her post-vote, op-ed in The New York Times.  And to Begich and Pryor, are you that afraid of receiving an F grade from your gun lobby that you are willing to fail the families of Sandy Hook and the mothers, fathers, siblings, and spouses who have lost loved ones to the scourge of gun violence in the United States?

Yes, senators, you have been bloodied in the skirmish of public opinion, but this is only one battle. This is your chance; this is your red badge of courage.  The war is not lost yet, as we, the people, continue to fight.  I encourage you to reverse your retreat, pick up the flag with a new found bravado, and lead bravely into the next round. There is no cowardice in admitting you are wrong…or in today’s vernacular, evolving.