Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mass Shootings, an Intractable Dispute and McConnell's Imprint on Our Future

From a Los Angeles Times article on the killings in Northern California Tuesday: “I thought this only happens to places like L.A. or New York,” Jose Garcia, owner of La Fortune Convenience, told the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-norcal-elementary-school-shooting-20171114-story.html).

Now, why would he say that? In the 16 deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 1949, not one, not one!, occurred in either Los Angeles or New York City (http://cnn.it/1F5wWwy).

Sadly, mass shootings are part of Americana. They happen in schools, in churches, in McDonalds, in nightclubs, on military bases. But not in New York or Los Angeles. 

Numb. Week after week crazed men and the occasional woman perpetrate numbing acts of violence against innocents, many of whom are children. As a nation we are repulsed. But let’s put our reaction in historical perspective.

From our earliest days as colonists to European monarchs, to our formation as the United States of America, we have rarely done anything but accept, and even condone, mass killings, either on our soil or in foreign lands, by our citizens or other peoples. Consider our treatment of Native Americans. Or the death trips chained Africans endured crossing the Atlantic below decks aboard slave trading ships. Or the way we turned our backs on thousands of desperate souls fleeing Nazi Germany. Or how we mostly ignored the ethnic warfare in Rwanda and the Balkans? 

It is hard to find solace in our historical record. 

From a Sunday New York Times article on Trump administration efforts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, here’s a quote: “After 10 months of educating themselves on the complexities of the world’s most intractable dispute, White House officials said, Mr. Trump’s team of relative newcomers to Middle East peacemaking has moved into a new phase of its venture  …” (https://nyti.ms/2ji06GG).

Now, Jews for decades have been pleased to be recognized for outstanding feats. Entertainers, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, athletes and so on, including a remarkable victory in the Six Day War, they all evoke cultural pride among the “chosen.” But there is no joy in associating Israel with “the world’s most intractable dispute.” Israel, for one, would argue it has sought peaceful co-existence from day one of its statehood in 1948 and even before. But let’s not argue that point.

I’d rather focus on the highlighted phrase. Should we not consider the friction over Kashmir between Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers, an equally, if not more, intractable, and potentially more dangerous, dispute? What about Korea? What about the Kurds wanting their own country and stifled by Iraq, Turkey and Syria? 

I’m sure there are other hotspots around the globe that could share equal billing with the Israeli-Palestinian discord, so let’s not be so quick to label any dispute the most intractable.

As long as we’re talking Israeli-Palestinian issues, earlier this month, November 2, marked the 100th anniversary of the issuance of the Balfour Declaration that stated the British government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  

Rather than go into a dissertation on the history and pros and cons of the document, let me be personal about the Balfour Declaration. Several years ago, as part of my part-time work as a real estate agent, I had the extreme good fortune of seeing a draft of the Balfour Declaration, with handwritten notations and edits, hanging in the home of a client. That was a priceless moment.

He’s the One: Stephen Bannon wants him thrown out of office, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is arguably the politico most responsible for the rightward shift America will undergo for the next several decades.

McConnell’s unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations during the last year or more of Barack Obama’s presidency has resulted in the appointment of conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and a slew of like-minded jurists to lower federal benches. These lifetime positions will set a reactionary tone for decades putting at risk hope for progressive, humane decisions that favor civil rights and individuals versus corporations and government (https://nyti.ms/2hqRzk3).

The Bannon trope against McConnell is a public relations fight that obscures what is really happening in Washington. Congress may be crawling along but the real deconstruction of government is happening at the cabinet department level where regulation after regulation is being rescinded or amended to eliminate or reduce safeguards intended to protect workers, the environment and consumers.

The avuncular McConnell is a tempting target, in appearance and legislative accomplishment, but keep in mind it was his strategy that made a vote for Trump synonymous with a choice for the next Supreme Court justice.