Loving Guns More Than People

Gun-Love

The only people with the power to do something comprehensive about mass shootings are the people we elect to public office, and the majority of the people we elect to public office not only do nothing, but they actively block anything being done and in many cases vote for legislation that makes the situation demonstrably worse.

These are the politicians who recite the mantra of “thoughts and prayers” after each mass shooting but do nothing to make it more difficult for people to acquire these weapons of mass destruction.

These are the politicians who suddenly become deeply concerned about mental health after each mass shooting but do nothing to actually fund mental health care or make it more accessible for all.

These are the politicians who recite “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” after each mass shooting while totally ignoring the fact that people with semi-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity magazines (and in some cases bump stocks) can kill many more people much more easily than people without them.

These are the politicians who after a mass shooting say things like “if someone wants to kill a lot of people, they will find a way even if we have no guns at all,” while ignoring the fact that for some reason these killers keep on choosing assault weapons as the easiest way to kill large numbers of people and that we try to regulate other means and methods of killing lots of people except when it comes to guns.

These are the politicians who after each mass shooting say we should arm underpaid teachers with guns in the classroom but are unwilling to even adequately fund public education.

These are the politicians who call other acts of mass killing “terrorism,” but if it is a white man with an assault rifle, then they talk about “troubled” people and “lone wolves.”

These are the politicians who say after each mass shooting that it is “too soon” to talk about gun control, which would make it impossible to ever talk about gun control given there are so many mass shootings.

These are the politicians who will do and say anything to keep their coveted A or A+ from the NRA.

But before we simply blame this on politicians, we must recognize that it is we who keep electing them over and over again. We are at the point where people around the world are asking, “When will Americans love their children more than their guns?” – and we don’t have a good answer to the question.

If we keep voting for the politicians who do nothing, who actively do the bidding of the gun industry and the NRA, and who allow these weapons of mass destruction to proliferate in our land; then we are doing worse than nothing to answer this question. If we are horrified by the mass shootings, but we are not voting at all, then we are doing worse than nothing to answer this question. We are actively blocking anything being done, and that means we really do care more about our guns than our children.

In the end, we the people are responsible for the actions of our politicians, and nothing will change if we do not care enough to change it. Up until now, we have shown that we do not care enough, and that means thousands of more people are destined to have their lives cut short because as a society we care less about them than we care about our guns. We really do love guns more than people.

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Last Chance

last Chance

For many persons and groups in the United States, the Trump Administration represents their last chance – the last chance for xenophobes to keep out and deport immigrants and refugees, even those who have been living in our country since they were children; the last chance for Christian theocrats to encode their religious beliefs into public policy and law and stack the judicial system with like-minded judges; the last chance for racists and white supremacists to maintain and expand white dominance of our culture and economy; the last chance for sexists and misogynists to perpetuate patriarchal systems and practices and control the choices of women; the last chance for those clinging to fossil fuels as our primary energy source to dismantle environmental regulations and avoid any responsibility or accountability for climate change; the last chance for those pressing for more income inequality to satiate their greed by entrenching regressive tax systems and tearing apart our social safety net; and the last chance for those who want to privatize public institutions to make more money from privatizing education, prisons, and healthcare.

When people see something as their last chance, they get desperate, they do things they would not otherwise do, they support people horrible persons like Trump to be their leaders because, well, they think he is their last chance. Perhaps this is why there is almost nothing Trump could do to lose their support. In fact as Trump doubles down on the worst of who he is, his support among those who see him as their last chance continues unabated and is even strengthening.

The “last chancers” do not care about collusion with Russia; they do not care about Trump’s affairs, sexual harassment, and sexual assault; they do not care about Trump’s corruption and nepotism; they do not care that he defrauds contractors and customers; they do not care about his ethics violations; they do not care about his violent rhetoric; they do not care about his blatant racism (many of them share it); they do not care about his attacks on a free press; they do not care about his denigration of the Justice Department or the FBI; they do not care that he is a threat to our democracy and to their very foundations of our republic – because he is their last chance, and when people think someone or something is their last chance, they can get desperate.

Given the attitude of the “last chancers,” those of us resisting Trump and standing against the threat his administration poses to our republic must realize that those who support Trump as their last chance will do almost anything to keep Trump in power. We have to realize that we are not dealing with the Republican party during the time of Nixon who put country over party. We are dealing with a party of last chancers, a party and supporters who are desperate to make their last chance pay off for them. Mueller is not safe, the FBI is not safe, the Justice Department is not safe, our immigrant and refugee friends and neighbors are not safe, and our country is not safe as long as the last chancers are in power. We cannot simply sit back and rest on the assumption that checks and balances and institutions will save us because we are living in the time of desperation of those who see this moment in time as their last chance. Our institutions may yet prove resilient. We may yet make it through this constitutional crisis; but it will take significant engagement, vigilance, and an awareness of what is at stake. And what is at stake? – any hope we might have for a just, participatory, pluralistic, and sustainable society.

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Be Like George

We have a six month old golden doodle puppy named George. He is addicted to chasing the red light of a laser pointer we have. Let’s just say that it is so bad that when we misplace the laser pointer or the batteries die, finding the pointer or getting new batteries becomes priority number one in our household. When he wants the pointer and there is no pointer, it is a pretty pathetic situation (yes I get that the dog has trained us – don’t judge).

At any rate, the pointer does come in handy when we want to distract George, get him to go outside, wear him out with some good running, or get him to go where we want him to go.

Last night as he was chasing the red light around and around the backyard and through the house, it dawned on me that the American people are a lot like George and our president’s tweets are a lot like a laser pointer distracting us, running us around and wearing us out, and getting us to go where he wants us to go.

Funny thing about our puppy George though; as he is growing up he has figured out that sometimes we use the laser pointer to get him to go places he doesn’t necessarily want to go, like outside or behind his dog gate when we need a break. When George sees the red light going someplace he does not want to go, he quits following it, and he looks up at us with that “are you kidding me” look, and we have to be more creative in getting him to go where we want him to go.

Perhaps we the American people across the political spectrum can learn something from George. Sometimes people try to get us to go places we don’t want to go, and as we grow up we don’t have to follow the little red light of the president’s tweets taking us places where we neither want to go nor should be going.

Perhaps we should try not following the red light of his tweets altogether. I mean let’s get outside and take some walks, throw a tennis ball, or play some frisbee. We can do this America. Be like George (except please don’t eat socks). Stop going where this man wants to take us.

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Simply Immoral

I can see having disagreements and differences of opinion about border security, about what combination of barriers, border control personnel, and surveillance technology should be employed. I can see having disagreements about how many immigrants should be legally allowed to enter the United States each year, about what number of immigrants would be most beneficial to a flourishing society. I can see having some disagreements about under what circumstances immigrants without documentation would be deported to their countries of origin.

These disagreements are part of what it means to live in a free and democratic society. We will never all agree about public policy, and robust disagreement and debate are part of participating in our political process. Allowing for such disagreement and free exchange of ideas is part of what has enabled our country to experience progress in many aspects of our common lives together. Freedom to disagree and debate views about public policy, even though it may be uncomfortable and confrontational at times, is one of the pillars upon which our county is built.

Yes, we can disagree about immigration and border security, but if you are okay with people who have lived here since they were little kids being ripped from their homes and families and sent to countries they have not lived in since they were small children; then you just don’t care about people, you lack a basic capacity to have empathy for other human beings, and you are simply an immoral person.

Your only hope to save whatever is left of your humanity is to repent, ask forgiveness of those you are harming, seek justice for their lives, and work for their well-being. This is your only possibility for redemption.

Until then, if you identify yourself as a Christian, please stop. You can’t be for tearing these families apart and be a follower of Jesus. It is antithetical to all Jesus lived and died for.

If you are going to be a heartless, compassionless, family destroying xenophobe; then stop trying to drag Jesus, who exemplifies the way of love, justice, and compassion, into your pit of hate and fear.

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Please Don’t Let Me Be Silent

Please God, never let me be a silent white person while my brown and black sisters and brothers are living in fear and experiencing injustice and violence.

Please God, never let me be a silent citizen while Dreamers are deported and refugees are rejected.

Please God, never let me be a silent Christian while my Muslim sisters and brothers are being discriminated against and not having their religious freedom respected.

Please God, never let me be a silent man while my sisters are being abused, harassed, and assaulted.

Please God, never let me be a silent cisgender straight man while my sisters and brothers who are LGBTQIA are not being given equal treatment, equal opportunity, or respect.

Please God, never let me be a silent person with health insurance while my sisters and brothers experience a life and death struggle for access to healthcare.

Please God, never let me be a silent person with shelter and food while so many of my sisters and brothers are hungry and homeless.

Please God, never let me be a silent human being while my nonhuman sisters and brothers are suffering, their habitats are being destroyed, and many are being killed to extinction.

Please God, never let me be silent while the whole creation groans in travail and cries out for renewal.

Please God, never let me be silent when the world needs me to speak out.

Please God, never let it be said of me that my friends remembered my silence when they needed my voice to cry out with them for justice.

Amen.

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Oklahoma, Step Beyond Fossil Fuel

Renewable_Energy_on_the_Grid

I completely understand why the fossil fuel companies in Oklahoma whose massive tax breaks have broken our state would want to control the state’s response to its brokenness, but I can’t understand why the rest of us would let them.

Letting oil and gas companies control how Oklahoma responds to its revenue failure and budget crisis is a little bit like allowing the person who crashed into your car control where you go to the doctor for your injuries and what body shop you can use to repair your car and then being told not to complain about your chronic back pain or about the paint not matching on your car or about the bumper that keeps falling off.

The fossil fuel companies in Oklahoma own this state. They own the governor and almost every state-wide elected office. They own the vast majority of the Oklahoma Legislature. They own the mayors of our major cities and most of their city councils. They own our universities and their presidents. They own most of the media. The fossil fuel companies own Oklahoma, and thus they utterly and completely own our state’s abysmal failure. And now they want us to trust them to come up with solutions for our state? Give me a break!

In addition to being a failing state in the present, Oklahoma has done very little to prepare for the post-fossil fuel economy. If we think things are bad now, wait 10-15 years when fossil fuel use is in significant decline around the world. 20 years ago, I had hoped that our Oklahoma oil and gas companies would begin to see themselves more broadly as energy companies and help lead the way in the transition to clean energy, but I underestimated their greed and their willingness to sacrifice the well-being of future generations both in Oklahoma and beyond for the sake of that greed.

Not only has Oklahoma done very little to prepare for the post-fossil fuel economy, we have also cut state spending on education far more than any other state since 2008, making it less and less likely that our state will possess the intellectual and creative capital needed to create a new economy. Our best students rightly see that their capabilities will be more greatly appreciated elsewhere unless their field of interest is fossil fuel friendly. Many of the students with great potential still get left behind because our lack of educational funding makes them less and less prepared to succeed in college and in their careers.

Oklahoma’s fossil fueled failures have state, national, and global implications. Perhaps no other states in the United States bear more responsibility for our inaction on climate change than Oklahoma and Texas, and this is why Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson, and Rick Perry are in the halls of power. They have willingly done the bidding of the major fossil fuel companies and their executives (many of whom are based in Oklahoma and Texas) to accelerate the Trump Train towards climate chaos – all while these same companies spend billions of dollars to confuse people about the science of climate change in order to make trillions of dollars in profits from their fossil fuel assets. Not only do they put profit over state and country; they put profit over the planet. This is the industry to which Oklahoma should trust its future?  – Not if we ever hope to make Oklahoma a flourishing state for all people and not a failed state that continues to contribute to the plunder of our planet.

The future for Oklahoma is not fossil fuel; it is wind, solar, clean energy technology, sustainable agriculture, creative arts, eco-tourism, and innovation for a regenerative economy that contributes to a more just, participatory, and sustainable society. If we really want to step up for Oklahoma, we must step beyond fossil fuel and embrace a diverse and sustainable economic future.

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Is Oklahoma Stepping Up?

Oklahoma wells

Look, I get Oklahoma politics. I understand that the oil and gas industry has more economic and political power than any other entity in the state. I understand that no major revenue bill will likely ever make it through the Oklahoma Legislature without the approval of the leaders of our large oil and gas companies.

It is not surprising therefore that it garnered a great deal of attention when the oil and gas industry and their allies announced their “Step Up Oklahoma” plan last week to fund teacher raises and basic state services. Numerous media outlets and state leaders lauded the executives of the oil and gas industry for being willing to compromise and support an increase in the state’s gross production tax from 2% to 4% in the first 36 months of a well’s production (by far the most productive period for the well) and then to have it increase to 7% for the rest of the life of the well.

Such a compromise, such a sacrifice by the oil and gas industry will cost them $133 million a year compared to what they are currently paying, but these leaders of the Oklahoma oil and gas industry are ready to step up and make the sacrifice for the good of the state.

Listening to the news and reading Oklahoma papers, one gets a sense that Oklahoma oil and gas leaders have put their self-interest aside and are taking one for the team, and one gets a sense that “Step Up Oklahoma” is the best and perhaps last chance we have to fund teacher pay raises and basic state services before the state completely falls apart. Indeed, given the economic and political power of the oil and gas companies, Step Up Oklahoma may end up being the way the state moves forward to address its revenue failure and budget crisis.

Given this reality, I understand why the Oklahoma Education Association would support this initiative while continuing to work on other potential solutions to the crisis our state faces. Times are desperate, teachers are fleeing the state, many school districts have gone to four-day school weeks, and students are not getting the quality public education they deserve. Similar crises exist across the state in other sectors such as healthcare and infrastructure. Oklahoma is a failing state on many fronts.

The proposal being put forward by the oil and gas industry is better than their previous unwillingness to entertain any restoration of the gross production tax towards its normal 7% rate, a rate that would put Oklahoma more in line with other oil and gas producing states. 4% is better than 2%, $133 million is better than no restoration at all.

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the oil and gas industry and its leaders who have stepped back for the past decade and enjoyed literally billions of dollars of tax breaks while Oklahoma’s state spending on public education decreased more than any other state in the country are somehow now suddenly becoming selfless and sacrificial leaders to save our state. It is much more likely they are trying to get out ahead of a growing movement in Oklahoma to have oil and gas companies pay their fair share as opposed to enjoying by far the lowest GPT among oil and gas states.

What a coincidence that on the day before oil and gas leaders announced their “Step Up Oklahoma” plan, they lodged a legal challenge to a potential state question that would restore the state’s GPT to 7%. The oil and gas industry likely understands that if they don’t show some compromise on GPT that the people may use the initiative petition process to restore the GPT at a rate much higher than what Step Up Oklahoma is proposing.

$133 million a year sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it is still much less than what oil and gas companies would be paying each year with a 7% GPT on all wells, a figure much more in line with other states. The oil and gas industry’s Step Up Oklahoma plan still proposes to raise more money through regressive taxes on cigarettes and gas at the pump than it is willing to raise from taxes on oil and gas produced at the well. Far from being a major sacrifice for oil and gas companies, Step Up Oklahoma is a well calculated move on the part of the industry to appear to be stepping up even though it has been stepping down for years while our state failed.

While I agree that we must all step up for Oklahoma, a much better step up for the common good of all Oklahomans would be for us to step up and restore the GPT to 7%, and hopefully Oklahomans will have an option to vote on this restoration in November by passing State Question 795 – if the selfless and sacrificial oil and gas industry is not successful in keeping it off the ballot.

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