Thursday, January 20, 2011

Still not heard

There has been a lot of talk lately. There has been so much talk that it looks like not even a hail of bullets heard across the nation, if not the world, has made us hear the message that needs to be heard.

Immediately after the January 8 shooting in Tucson - Happy New Year! - people started talking, saying who should be blamed or not blamed for it happening. And yes, it was so easy, so tempting, to join in on the talking and blaming. I was all ready to say that the shooting happened because of Sara Palin and Glenn Beck and the Tea Partiers and their threats (see my last post), their cross-hairs, their gun-toting.

But that was like my dad always looking for someone to blame when something broke. The washer couldn’t just be worn out.

So, Palin, for example, with the cross-hairs on her website (one of which focused on Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic Arizona congresswoman said to be the primary target in the shooting), is an obvious target (pun very much intended!) for blame. But its not like of "General Betray-Us" fame and others on the left haven’t indulged in plenty of nasty, tough, provocative talk.

Politics is usually a tough business. Look at how the country burned - literally - in the 1960's. If that’s not enough, go back another 100 years and check out the Civil War.

I think "provocative" is the key word, and I, as much as I am loathed to, have to agree with the right-wingers when they say it is not fair that they be lumped together with an insane man. Yes, Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter, did target a congress member (who, by the way, graduated from Scripps College here in Claremont), but all reports have made it crystal clear that he has a very serious mental illness and is not rational. He may have been ticked off with the congresswoman after a brief, non-sensical exchange with her, as he was clearly ticked off with the college he was attending, but it is evident that he is seriously troubled and not in charge of his thoughts. To put it very roughly, he heard all the talking, all the voices, and these voices took over.

This may be an over-simplification, but I don’t think it’s an over-simplification to say that, with all this talk going on, there are two questions we are not hearing - or not hearing enough.

The first is, how come a man, who was known to many, including police, as mentally unstable, was able to buy a gun, much less a semi-automatic one? (I’d like to know why anyone can buy a semi- automatic - or even any - gun, but that’s for another posting!)

The second question has to do with people like Jared Loughner, who are so lost and alienated in our world and are desperate - sometimes violently so - for help. Can there be a place, a way, for them to be safe, contributing members of society?

A week after the shooting, I read an article about a petting zoo in the greater Los Angeles area where a number of autistic and mentally disabled adults worked having to close down. The zoo was owned and operated by the parents of an autistic man and was called Danny’s Farm. It was shut down, because neighbors said there was too much traffic and that the animals made too much noise.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tea Party express-way

Over the holidays, I went up north to the San Francisco Bay Area. As usual, driving up and down the state proved to be an interesting political lesson. Even more so this time.

When I drove up Highway 5, which goes through the Central Valley, the agricultural hub often called "the salad bowl of America," I got an eyeful (as opposed to an earful) of anti-government anger. In recent years, there have been a few signs claiming that the U.S Congress has created a "dust bowl" in the Valley. This time, there were dozens, if not hundreds, seemingly at least one every few miles. In addition to the dust bowl signs, there were signs condemning Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, the U.S Senator from California, as well as signs saying things like "No water + no jobs = higher prices."

Who put up all these signs? I wondered. The Valley looked pretty green to me, and I was reminded of all the outcry against federal power from Tea Party types that lead to the many Republican victories in the recent elections. Except that California is still solidly Democratic.

I also noticed that I wasn’t seeing any anti-abortion signs. I have usually seen these when traveling on Highway 99, another freeway running up and down the Central Valley. Whenever I saw these, I felt like I was suddenly in some Bible belt and that it would perhaps be better if I was invisible - or at least not so loud and rainbow tie-dyed.

While I was up north, I told my dad that I would probably not see such signs when I returned home down Highway 101, which runs closer to and sometimes on the California coast. I was right - I didn’t. As my dad suggested, it looks like it’s all about geography and demographics.

Something to learn, indeed.