Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You Can't Vote Without Photo I.D. But You Can Kill A Bunch Of People

Ah, America. Now, we have this new mass murder. Wisconsin hasn't gotten nearly the publicity as Aurora, Colorado. Do we not feel as close to the death and violence of this one? After all, how likely is it that most of us will ever find ourselves in a Sikh temple, unlike a movie theater where any of us might be at any given time. Or maybe it is simply because the dead and wounded were "different" - men in turbans, women in saris - so that the common bond we felt for those in Aurora is missing. Six dead, three wounded, including a police officer who was trying to help the victims.

Do you notice how the perpetrators of shooting sprees most often choose locations where their targets will be sitting ducks - schools, theaters, houses of worship? The better to rack up the numbers before they're stopped.

I went to the National Rifle Association's website to see how they were reporting the incident. I was curious to see how dismissively they treated yet another multiple murder involving firearms. I assumed the organization would see this latest killing spree as one more reason why everyone should be armed - teachers, students, movie goers and priests. I naturally went to the "news and politics" section but low and behold, they ignored it altogether. That area of the site was pretty well devoted entirely to politics, especially the awfulness of Obama and the hysteria over his so-called secret plan to use the United Nations to confiscate America's guns. (I'm sure the National Rifle Association knows how ridiculous this notion is but it has to be a huge fund-raising boon for them.)

Evidently, the NRA didn't even consider the Sikh shootings - ho hum - worthy of being "news". To be fair, I didn't click on every page so perhaps I missed the section devoted to mourning the gunned-down dead.

The perpetrator of this horrendous crime was Wade M Page. The cops shot him to death so I guess all's well that ends well.

Wade M Page was a Neo-Nazi. He played in a racist rock band, End Apathy, which I gather was quite well known in white supremacist circles. Hate rock has a considerable underground following all over the world. Who knew there was such an appetite for poisonous lyrics about killing off everyone who isn't white...and well, I guess whites of a certain stripe are included too if they're on the other side, like the cop who interfered in Mr. Page's mission at the Sikh temple.

Is there any limit to the Second Amendment short of actually using your guns to shoot someone who was innocently attending church or school or a movie? Or do we actually have to wait for them to do it? I suppose if Wade M Page hadn't been killed and had ever gotten out of prison, even the NRA would have agreed with rescinding his right to bear arms....maybe. But what about before? Is there ever a time when speaking and singing and exhorting and threatening is enough? Is being a neo-Nazi enough? Is being a white supremacist enough? Is writing vile blogs enough? Is expressing your hatred of Jews and Blacks and Gays and Muslims (although, Sikhs aren't Muslims but what the heck, they are brown and come from the same general area of the world) enough or do we have to wait until you actually translate your venomous thoughts into action?

The FTA has a watch list of names of potentially dangerous airline passengers. Having your name on that list is enough to get you pulled aside for questioning and checked for weapons. The Southern Poverty Law Center also has a watch list of haters. Wade M Page was on their radar but they had no reason to believe he would go on a killing binge. Other than his being a neo-Nazi who despised certain groups of people and advocated ridding our country of them, of course.

In the U.S., we have the right to free speech and the right to bear arms but neither of those rights is unlimited. The example usually given is that you don't have the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. In Aurora, the shooter went one better. He fired into a crowded theater.

Can we predict with certainty who will do such a heinous thing? No, we can't. But if you announce your loathing of and wish to destroy certain groups of people, maybe we should take you at your word. Wade M. Page, as I understand it, bought his guns legally but perhaps he should have been on a watch list of people who have waived their right to bear arms by virtue of fomenting loathing in themselves and others.

The Aurora shooter, James E Holmes, is a slightly different story. He is still rather a mystery man. There appears to be nothing in his background that would point to him as a mass murderer...except possibly the arsenal he had assembled via the internet - the 1,000's of rounds of ammunition, the deadliest of guns, the high capacity magazines (100 rounds in 90 seconds). By all means, let us be sure that we don't allow anyone to vote without photo i.d. but buy a gazillion rounds of ammunition? That's a different story. No red flags there. We have our rights, after all. Evidently, to the N.R.A., the right-wing Republicans and the gutless Democrats, the Second Amendment is far more important than the most elemental right of all, the right to vote.

So, in the end, I guess we'll just sit back and wait for the next murderous occurrence, then shrug and say, "oh, well, it's the American way."