The beauty and insanity of US democracy: Party politics, guns at Walmart and more
Take a load off, sit down, put your feet up, put the gun down for a minute, pour yourself a drink—non-alcoholic if you have the gun close by — take your advocacy cap off, exhale and let’s have a rational conversation about this and that.
You agree that we don’t have to agree to have a civil discussion, right? On that note, I love this country. I love the freedom, the diversity in cultures, ethnicities, languages and religions. I love some of the paradoxes — we preach fitness and health but love our escalators, elevators and cars. We say we’re against fat because it’s unhealthy, when it’s really about 90 percent vanity. We say our government is corrupt but we vote it back into office — how else could we have career politicians with permanent tenure in Washington?
We want change yet we cling to the Constitution and cry heresy at anyone who so much as hints we may need to make some amendments.
Then there is the two-party system. In a country as large as the United States (according to the CIA World Factbook, there are 313,847,465 people residing within our borders), we still cling to the two warring factions we call the Republican and Democratic parties, even though they have proven repeatedly that they are not up to the task of governing the people effectively.
Why is that? Is there anything else on “God’s green earth” (my mom used to say that all the time when I was growing up) where we are limited to only two choices? What kind of life would we have lived if that was the case? We would have staged a bloody revolt by now. Think about it for a minute: How about trying to find a spouse but getting to date only two people? The same goes for colleges and universities, buying a home, investing, choosing a doctor or church, stores, hairdressers, gyms, cars. Put like that, can you see the ridiculousness of our two-party system? Moreover, it gives our politicians no incentive to do better: they know it’s just an either-or proposition.
This brings us to guns, for they have been intimately woven into the political fabric of this country from the day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The current contentious debate over gun control rages on, and the tragic irony of it all is that the body count as a result of gun violence continues to rise as our legislators debate and the National Rifle Association tries to flex its muscles (or should I say stockpile more ammo?).
Even as gun control advocates passionately pleaded on Capitol Hill Wednesday for sound, commonsense reform, the staccato of gun fire reverberated across some states and bodies fell in death, were wounded or even kidnapped. A 5-year-old boy has been held by a gunman in Alabama for four days now, after the man shot and killed the boy’s school-bus driver. [Read more here.]
Incidentally, there is all this noise about gun control and not a whisper about manufacturing bullets designed not just to wound or kill the old-fashioned way but to rip the human body to shreds, nor about guns made to take out a crowd in just a second or two. It’s the alcohol-and-cigarettes dance all over again. This is our new Prohibition. Talk about controlling it, just not about churning them out to the public.
Walmart, our trusted one-stop-shop behemoth of an outlet for everything including guns, had to ration their sale of bullets on Thursday. Yes, America’s most successful variety store and largest retailer of guns said it was selling only three boxes of ammunition per customer because of the high demand in sales, CNN reported. (Interestingly, the chain didn’t explain how the rationing would deter a customer from making several trips to stock up on sets of threes from the same store or from simply visiting another location.)
So while Walmart works out the nitty-gritty, we see in this surge in gun and ammo sales that Americans love guns and that it’s not just the big, bad National Rifle Association (NRA) blocking reform, although the NRA has effectively scared gun lovers into thinking the conniving government is coming for all their guns.
NRA chief Wayne LaPierre said at Wednesday’s Senate hearing that law-abiding gun owners ought not to take the blame for violent criminals, but he seemed to forget that Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza’s mother was a law-abiding citizen with a stockpile of weapons readily available to her law-abiding son-turned-mass murderer.
Then there is the proposed placing of trained armed guards in every school. Problem is, mass shootings do not occur only in schools. So, what, we station them in every movie theater, mall, place of business, church, plane? Take a good look at this scenario. What do you see? Big government, ever expanding into a police state — the very thing conservatives rail against.
This brings up another important point conservatives rail against: Obamacare or government-funded health care. Well, all those gunshot victims, dead or injured, cost a pretty penny. According to the Firearm & Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania, from 1981 to 2007, an average of 32,300 Americans died each year from a firearm injury. We know that number has increased since. In fact, it is the second-leading cause of injury death after motor-vehicle crashes. Below is a rundown of their stats:
- While the ratio varies, there is an average of five nonfatal firearm injuries for every two firearm deaths.
- The 2007 age-adjusted death rate from firearm injury is 10.2/100,000, with an estimated nonfatal injury rate of 23.1.
- Firearms are involved in 67% of homicides, 50% of suicides, 43% of robberies and 21% of aggravated assaults.
The study goes on to report, “Deaths peaked in 1993 at 40,000 […] and fell below 30,000 in 1999. Yet even at these lower levels, firearm injury represents a significant public health impact, accounting for 6.6% of premature death in this country (Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) prior to age 65). The fatality rate of firearm violence is more than twice the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ ‘Healthy People’ goal for the year 2010.”
Now for the medical cost of treating the fatally wounded and injured. According to The Huffington Post, "Combining the direct medical costs of treating fatal gun injuries with the economic damage of lost lives, firearms-related deaths cost the United States $37 billion in 2005, the most recent year for which a CDC estimate is available. Non-fatal gun injuries cost an additional $3.7 billion that year, according to the agency."
It’s the beauty and insanity of our democracy colliding in a confusing mélange of paradoxes, contradictions and dangerous ironies. God Bless America, for though we may not practice it, we do preach exceptionalism.