Friday, June 13, 2008

Where Will this National Campaign Lead Us?

From the beginning John McCain has said that he will not tolerate negative campaigning, but, in true McCain style he seems to have forgotten those statements. Now he says he cannot control what independent groups say during the campaign. In other words, he has given his supporters carte blanche to say and do whatever it takes to discredit his opponent in the eyes of the voters.

The negative spin has already begun. FOX News ran a picture of Michelle Obama with a caption referring to "Obama's Baby Mama," a term referring to an unwed black woman with children. One commentator on that same "news" network referred to the Obama's fist bump as a "terrorist" bump. Subtle, but, nevertheless, very effective tools to manipulate those who are unable to think for themselves. Republican commentator, William Bennett frequently refers to Obama as Barrack Hussein Obama, yet another subtle inference that Obama is somehow a Muslim, and, therefore, a terrorist. Muslim after all, equates with terrorism in the minds of those who see evil behind every tree.

Obama, also, has said that he will run a clean campaign. It remains to be seen how he will react to the racism and inferences as the Republicans crank up their usual smear campaign through their surrogates in the media and otherwise. Will he, too, resort to dirty politics or will he stay above the fray and condemn those on his side who attempt to respond in kind?

This country could be on the brink of exposing its dirty underbelly of racism, the likes of which have not been seen in many years. Racial slurs and inferences are already traveling the Internet. FOX "News" may very well be just the beginning of the racial inferences in the mainstream media. The question remains as to how the country will react.

Attempts at picturing the Obama family as "different," i.e. "black," might very well backfire on the Republicans. I would like to think that the majority of white America will not stand by and tolerate racial slurs, whether blatant or otherwise. The black community certainly will not stand on the sidelines. If this were to go too far, the black community might explode as it has done in the past. It would not be unlike the Republican Party of recent years to push the envelope enough to cause an explosion, thus moving white voters to the McCain camp. At the very least Black America will turn out in record numbers to vote for Obama, especially if it perceives blatant racism on the part of the Republicans and White America.

I am, of course, looking at worse case scenarios, but in a country so polarized and so out of sorts with the national leadership on both sides of the aisle, one has to wonder just how far the people can be pushed. The last seven years of brushing aside the Constitution in the name of "national security" has shown just how ambivalent many Americans are, when it comes to their constitutional rights and the freedom so many claim is being saved by the continued killing of Americans in Iraq. As long as it concerns someone else, it seems, many citizens brush aside those of us who are concerned about our Constitutional freedoms. Just this week, Supreme Court "Justice," Scalia, tread heavily on the Constitution with his very political dissenting opinion on the Guantanamo prisoners' right to Habeas Corpus. He did not explain just how Americans are going to be killed because a group of people are given the right to seek relief from unlawful detention. He simply made a political statement and the President, who has treated the Constitution as a fish wrapper, immediately stated his agreement with Scalia.

Where will this campaign lead us? In the beginning I saw an energetic young black American energizing voters and promising a new start. There was the campaign veteran, a woman, also energizing millions and offering an alternative to the darkness of the last seven years. There was the Republican maverick, McCain, a seemingly middle of the road Republican, who did not hesitate to resist his party. The first two fought long and hard, dividing their party, and, in the end, closing the campaign on a somewhat positive note, but leaving a segment of the electorate with without a candidate, for whom they could vote. The other candidate took on a new face, supporting a bad war and changing his stands on key issues, in order to play to the far right.

We are at a fork in that road. I still see that young man speaking to thousands of enthusiastic Americans, black and white, but there is the dark side. The side that seeks to discredit him, to make him out to be a Muslim terrorist in disguise. It seeks to play on the old racist fears of many Americans and turn the campaign into a racial divide. Both candidates have the chance at this time to change this, John McCain most of all. It remains to be seen whether he has the desire to forcefully speak out or whether his desire to be president outweighs common decency as it did with the current president.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Child Shoots self with Grandma's Legal Weapon

Earlier, in June, I wrote a post about Georgia's new gun laws, which allow guns to be carried in more public areas. I expressed my concern about legal carriers, who are not trained in gun safety, and their response to a perceived threat. Now, in S.C. we have seen what can happen when a legal "carrier" is careless and doesn't protect a weapon.

A magistrate judge in S.C. was in a Wal Mart store with her grandson, when the child retrieved a weapon from the grandmother's purse and shot herself. Fortunately, the child was not killed, but was seriously injured. Fortunately also, the child did not shoot an innocent bystander. Granted, the naysayers will vow that the gun could just as easily been illegal. That's correct, but it wasn't and chances are, if it weren't legal, the lady wouldn't have been "carrying."

As a father, I made sure my guns were secured from my young son. As he got older, I spent time teaching him gun safety. When he reached high school, I reminded him to be cautious at other kids' homes, if a gun was brought out for show and an adult wasn't present. I taught him about semi-automatics and how they should be cleared before handling, and I told him to assert himself if he saw guns being handled dangerously. Lastly, I told him to leave, if no one listened to him.

I continue to shudder, when I think about the number of people, who may be legally carrying guns in my presence. Do they know how to safely handle that weapon in a crowd? Are they mentally stable? In Georgia you have to have been treated for mental illness to be denied a "carrying" permit. How many of these people are like the Carolina grandma, and don't secure their weapons? Finally, how many of them have out of control children, who may surreptitiously get into mom's purse and start blazing away at me?

Although such a scenario is unusual, it happens all the time in homes, when children shoot their friends, and has now happened in public. It is definitely something to think about.