- Created on 19 December 2012
Tio Hardiman, Director of CeaseFire Illinois, shares his thoughs of a world with no violence in Huffington Post.
The Connecticut Massacre should serve as the tipping point to start a serious dialogue across the nation regarding sensible gun control laws and treating violent behavior as a public health issue. There are over 15,000 homicides a year across the United States and year after year our great nation has to experience another tragedy. What have we really learned from the Colorado Massacre, Oklahoma City Bombing, and several mass killings that have plagued the United States? Some people like to talk about more gun control and some people would like to address the issue of violence as an infectious disease. Right now, in the United States we are losing way too many people to senseless acts of violence and there is relevance regarding both sides of the argument. Protecting the second amendment is very important, but where does the buck stop when so many innocent people are killed each year?
Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of the bigger picture. Imagine living in a world where violence was not tolerated in any form or fashion. This way, young people would not be exposed to violence in the movies, media or music. However, we may have to rethink some of our history lessons, which tell the stories of world wars throughout the history of the world. What would the conversation sound like when you do not promote violence as a lifestyle? Let's start by imagining that most people living on the earth would live to the age of 99 and nobody would be shot or killed across the world for years. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but we have to create a vision without violence hopefully sooner than later. Imagine young people growing up in a world where love, acceptance, humility, and friendship were the main lessons in life? This would be great due to the fact that we are all part of the bigger human race. Hopefully, the world leaders will take a good look at the issue of violence being treated as a public health crisis and maybe people like Adam Lanza could have received the help he most drastically needed before allowing his sick thinking to consume his mind which led to the mass killings in Connecticut.
There is no time for judgment in this situation because it's hard to predict the future. Young people deserve a chance to grow up without the threat of violence and together we can make this a reality for the entire world. The United States should pay respect to all of the victims of violence by organizing a mass memorial across the nation to help bring much needed attention to the issue of sensible gun laws and how violence spreads like an infectious disease. Timing is everything and today is the right time to take this gun control issue connected to public health all the way to the top in order to help our children understand that you can live in a world without worrying about violence. This post is dedicated to all of the victims of violence worldwide and the little children that were killed in the Connecticut Massacre. Rest in Peace!
- Created on 18 December 2012
(CNN) -- The proliferation of semiautomatic weapons in the hands of Americans of the types that were used in the Newtown massacre is sometimes framed as a public health issue in the United States.
There is considerable merit to the notion of treating gun violence as a public health matter. After all, homicides -- around 70% of which are accomplished with firearms in the United States according to an authoritative study by the United Nations -- are the 15th leading cause of death for Americans.
But framing gun control as a public health issue doesn't quite do justice to the problem. It's probably more or less inevitable that most Americans will die of cancer or a heart attack, but why is it even plausible that so many Americans in elementary schools, colleges, movie theaters and places of worship should die at the hands of young men armed with semiautomatic weapons?
Americans generally regard themselves as belonging to an exceptional nation. And in terms of living in a religiously tolerant and enormously diverse country, Americans can certainly take some justified pride.
That tolerant pluralism was on display Sunday night at the interfaith memorial service for the 27 victims in Newtown, which featured priests from several Christian denominations, clerics of the Muslim and Baha'i faiths as well as a rabbi, a memorial that was led by the country's first African American president. But there is another side to American exceptionalism that many Americans seem strangely unable to recognize: Americans kill each other with guns at rates that are unheard of in other advanced industrialized countries. Britain, with around a fifth of the population of the United States, had 41 gun murders in 2010 while the States had around 10,000.
The scale of this death toll really resembles a national security problem as much it does a public health issue.
Consider that jihadist terrorists have only been able to kill 17 Americans in the United States since 9/11. Meanwhile, some 88,000 Americans died in gun violence from 2003 and 2010, according to the U.N. study.
That means that in the past decade, an American residing in the United States was around 5,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow citizen armed with a gun than by a terrorist inspired by Osama bin Laden.
Consider also that there are cities in the United States today that exact a higher civilian death toll from violence than the war that is going on in Afghanistan.
Last year, some 3,000 Afghan civilians died in the Afghan War out of a population of 30 million, which makes the civilian death rate from the Afghan war 1 in 10,000.
Yet residents of New Orleans are being killed at a rate that is six times that of Afghan civilians killed in that war. New Orleans had 199 murders last year, or 6 for every 10,000 residents.
Washington, D.C., where I write this from, had 108 murders last year or 2 for every 10,000 residents, making it twice as deadly as the Afghan War is for civilians.
The numbers of Americans dying in homicidal gun violence would be even worse if it weren't for the fact that some of the techniques the U.S. military has learned on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have been imported into American hospitals. So while the number of gun-related violent incidents has actually almost doubled in the past decade, you are more likely to survive a gun shot today than would have been the case even a few years ago, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Legislation to control the spread of deadly semiautomatic weapons will not, of course, eliminate such violence. Critics of efforts to tighten gun laws can point to Norway, which has very tough gun control laws, and yet Anders Breivik was able to acquire semiautomatic weapons and kill dozens of people in and around Oslo last year.
But Breivik was, in fact, an exceptional case and the murder rate in Norway is still eight times lower than in the U.S.
The Second Amendment is, of course, very much part of the American fabric. But the intent of the founders was that the amendment protected the rights of citizens to bear arms in a militia for their collective self-defense.
Today, we are not likely to need to organize local militias for our defense now we have something called the Pentagon.
Semiautomatic handguns and semiautomatic assault rifles that fire many rounds in a minute were not envisaged by the founders nor do they do much more to enhance self-defense than an ordinary pistol or rifle.
Such semiautomatic weapons also are not much use for hunting deer and the like. But they are very good for killing lots of Americans quickly.
If the murder of 20 small children in Newtown is not an opportunity for the country to challenge the theological position of the gun lobby that the Second Amendment allows pretty much any American to possess military-style weaponry, when will that day ever come?
- Created on 14 December 2012
The war against Susan Rice, waged by a handful of Republican Senators, led by John McCain, finally snared its sole casualty this week, as Ambassador Rice withdrew her name from consideration to be President Obama's nominee as secretary of state.
It was a bad day for the Republican Party, which already has, to put it mildly, an image problem with minorities and women.
It was a bad day for the Obama administration, which now, even as it had planned to pick Senator John Kerry anyway, appears to have lost a fight with a gaggle of sniping Senators before they even had a chance to nominate anyone to replace the popular Hillary Clinton at State.
And it was a bad day for African-American women, who even after an election in which their overwhelmingly preferred candidate won a substantial victory, have watched Ms. Rice be set aside, not for a lack of competence or qualification, but simply because she landed in the middle of Washington's unique brand of palace intrigue.
If reports out of Washington are to be believed, Ms. Rice and Kerry were the only two people under consideration to replace Clinton in a job Ms. Rice told NBC's Brian Williams on Thursday, she certainly would have wanted.
In stepping aside, Ms. Rice dutifully spared the administration and the president an ugly confirmation fight, which again, we have no way of knowing whether they planned to wage at all.
McCain's anti-Rice jihad, which fed a nonsensical, virulent campaign against the administration over the tragic attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, had an uncomfortably personal feel to it. The eternally bitter McCain, having failed to beat President Barack Obama for the job both men wanted in 2008, has seemed to cast around for ways to trump him in office. In true bipartisan spirit, it's the same approach he took to President George W. Bush, who beat him in the 2000 primaries, only to find McCain gleefully undercutting him — back then, from the left — at every turn.
Meanwhile, it doesn't take a Washington insider to guess that many Senators would prefer to see one of their own nominated to replace Mrs. Clinton, herself a former Senator. Hence the relative silence, even among Democratic Senators, on behalf of Rice. Mr. Kerry is a respected member of the club of 100, and freeing his seat would offer Republicans the added bonus of re-running Scott Brown.
Beyond the intramural politics of the Senate, the attacks on Rice by McCain and his hangers on, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and the newest member of McCain's Musketeers, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, were especially ill-timed, coming on the heels of a presidential campaign in which Republicans seemed to be angling to send women back to the 1950s, stripped of access to abortion and birth control, and to send African-American and Latino voters back to the pre-Voting Rights Act era.
The Republican Party has a brand problem. It is viewed by many women and minorities — the party lost not just African-Americans and Hispanics, but also Asians, by historic margins — as out of touch, distant, or even hostile. In that context, McCain, the GOP and their media matrix going after Rice over an attack she could not have stopped (the CIA was in charge of security in Benghazi and the State Department under Secretary Clinton is in charge of our diplomatic outposts; meanwhile it is Congress that failed to appropriate more funds to secure our embassies abroad — led by conservative budget-cutters in the GOP), and over statements she made on a television show, rather than over her actual conduct of her job, were puzzling.
They were especially so since Mr. McCain was among the chief defenders of another Ms. Rice — George W. Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who after presiding over the greatest intelligence failure in modern American history ("I believe it was called, 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States'...) with the resulting, catastrophic loss of life, not to mention the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, went on to become Bush's secretary state, with the full support of Senator John McCain.
McCain characterized Rice as "not very bright," itself a problematic way for an older, white Senator to talk about a Harvard-educated, accomplished woman who has held substantial positions in the field of diplomacy, including her current job as ambassador to the United Nations. And he vowed to do everything in his power to stop her from ascending to the top job at State.
He and Graham — who fears a primary in his bid to be re-elected, and so is following the McCain playbook of falling into the arms of his party's right wing — never raised a single substantive objection to Rice. The sniping over her failure to use the word "terrorism" to the liking of the Senators never touched on her actual resume, her record as U.N. ambassador, or what on earth her use of declassified talking points on Meet the Press had to do with her potential to speak for the president abroad. (Hint: She would not have given the classified versions of events impacting national security on foreign television, either.) Having Senator Ayotte along for the ride seemed to be a bid for cover, to deflect from the optics of two older, white men attacking a woman of color.
Meanwhile, the Senators made it very clear who they wanted President Obama to choose Mr. Kerry. And they did so in a way that seemed utterly disrespectful of this president's right to choose his own cabinet. Now, even if in reality, Mr. Kerry would have been chosen anyway, it will appear to many that the administration did so under duress.
And lost in all of the intrigue is the fact that a woman fully qualified for the job had the rug pulled out from under her before she even had a chance to apply.
- Created on 17 December 2012
Gun control advocates have urged bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines after all of the mass killings over the last four years, but watched as Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama, ignored the issue.
But that could change after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Here's why:
1. This shooting is different
It's unfortunate but also unmistakably important that 20 very young schoolchildren were the victims. The shooting has gripped and angered the public and lawmakers in a powerful way, and that will influence politicians in both parties. The residents of Newtown could emerge as a powerful voice in politics and make it harder for groups like the National Rifle Association to defend allowing the possession of the weaponry used in the shooting.
2. President Obama will lead on the issue
Democratic strategists, including those advising the president, have long been wary of this issue, believing voters in the South and Midwest will turn against the party if it pushes gun restrictions. After the Tucson shooting in 2011 and the one in Colorado earlier this year, Obama's aides quickly downplayed taking any action on gun control.
But Obama no longer has to worry about winning reelection. His comments on Friday and Sunday suggested he is more determined than before to push for legislation that would put new gun limits in place, and his aides told the Wall Street Journal Sunday that he would push for limits on high-capacity magazines. Leading Democrats in the Senate, such as New York's Chuck Schumer, say they will introduce legislation. If Obama strongly calls for gun control, he will have allies throughout his party.
Just as importantly, Democrats will push Obama on the issue. No longer worried about making sure Obama wins reelection, party officials can more easily demand Obama and his team take action. So can the supporters who backed him in 2008 and 2012. It's easy to see Obama shifting to a bolder stance on gun control, as he has on gay marriage. And a strong push by Obama would like to force some kind of compromise by Republicans on the issue, even if a comprehensive gun control bill is not passed.
To be sure, there is one big challenge: a bloc of Democrats from more conservative states, such as Arkansas' Mark Pryor, are up for reelection in 2014 and may be wary of backing gun control and then having the NRA campaign against them in 2014.
3. The voices of gun-control advocates are stronger than ever
More than in past shootings, voices beyond traditional gun control backers emerging to call for action. One of the most surprising was Fox's Rupert Murdoch, who declared on Twitter "We have to do something about gun controls."
Ultimately, a bloc of Republicans will have to buck a core tenet of the modern GOP: strong, unquestioned opposition to gun control laws. But this is the biggest chance for greater gun control measures to pass in a decade.
- Created on 12 December 2012
(The Root) -- It's ridiculous that we still have to explain this. That with a black woman in the White House, another starring in the TV show everyone's talking about and another who created said show -- plus scores more breaking barriers in politics, business and sports -- we still have to explain why certain images simply aren't OK.
Kerry Washington, the star of ABC's prime-time political drama Scandal, told Oprah Winfrey recently that her character, Olivia Pope (a fictional version of real-life "fixer" Judy Smith), represented a "new moment":
For a long time, the only images you saw of black women in media were very stereotypical images, and then we went to this place where all the images of African-American women had to be flawless, perfect -- you know, Clair Huxtable -- so we could erase that legacy of negativity.
I get what Washington is saying. We've come a long way, and one would think that we should be looking forward instead of back. But unfortunately, there are some who still need a history lesson -- namely one Caroline Wozniacki, the former No. 1 women's tennis player in the world.
At a recent exhibition match against Maria Sharapova, Wozniacki decided that it would be fun to stuff her tank top and tennis skirt with towels in order to imitate Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams. When she waddled lopsided to the court and served her first ball as "Serena," the crowd didn't gasp or boo or hiss -- it laughed.
And she's done this before, complete with sound effects like Serena's trademark primal scream. Actually, a few tennis players have. Apparently this is what's hot on the court in 2012.
In November at a charity exhibition match in Slovakia, Novak Djokovic padded his shirt with towels before his first serve in front of a small crowd sipping champagne. The announcer even got in on the joke: "Serena Williams to serve." Afterward Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, explained, "We wanted to play quality tennis, to entertain crowd, came up with some good shots, good impersonations. I hope you liked it." Later that same month in Toronto, Andy Roddick stuffed his shorts and then threatened to "stick this ball down" the throat of an official, all in imitation of U.S. Open champion Serena Williams. In every case the crowd roared with laughter.
This seems like an actual thing in tennis. I'll have to admit that I don't watch (unless Serena is playing), but making fun of the sport's stars is apparently an end-of-the-season ritual. At that same match in Toronto, Roddick also impersonated John McEnroe, Sharapova and Djokovic with jerky arm moves, hair fixing and insistent ball bouncing. But when it came to the black woman, her mannerisms and physical quirks weren't enough, because they never are. Instead the big booty and her temper get center stage.
All this reminded me of a quote I've often repeated from Williams herself. During her one-on-one interview for the first volume of HBO's documentary The Black List, Williams summed up the challenges of her career:
Every article that I do read, it's like, you know, "She overpowered her opponent." Meanwhile I'm thinking, "They don't know how hard I can really hit," because I'm telling you, I'm not even hitting the ball as hard as I can. It's a lot more than just hitting the ball as hard as you can. It's all about strategy and moving your opponent and just really figuring them out. Like, I never get credit for [the] mental, and it's kind of frustrating.
Yes, it's frustrating. Frustrating that even in jest, caricatures are caricatures. The big-chested, big-bottomed black woman is an easy punch line that still hurts. It's still not OK. Despite her grand slam titles, her gold medals and Wimbledon wins, the sum of Serena Williams can still be reduced to her parts. And people will laugh without a clue (or care) that the joke isn't just tired -- it's offensive, it's dangerous and it needs to stop.
"It's an image that we have seen before," explained Whoopi Goldberg on The View Tuesday during a discussion about Wozniacki's impression.
Not only have we, as black women, seen it, but we've tried to sink it. The meme that our bodies are our only means of distinction gets swatted down every day by women who recognize the figurative and literal catcalls. Williams herself is one of them. If only the women like Wozniacki could get that. But we can't hold our breaths -- or the accomplishments.
"You can make as much fun as you want to," Goldberg said. "She's still gonna beat your ass."