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Archive for July, 2013

Have We Forgotten our Responsibilities as Adults?

Regarding Trayvon Martin

 


The NRA’s Missed Opportunity

To Promote Gun Usage Among Blacks

 

Whenever a tragedy involving guns makes the news, the NRA is the first group to step up and lament “if only the victim[s] were armed the tragedy would never have happened.” Strangely, that paradigm was missing in the highly publicized Trayvon Martin shooting. Perhaps this was just bad marketing.

So when I heard Tavis Smiley suggest to Bill O’Reilly, of all people, that we should, “arm every black person America,” I thought this was the perfect opportunity for the NRA to jump into action. After all, such a suggestion would open the gun market to fourteen percent of the population. Certainly gun manufacturers would clamor for such an opportunity even though Bill O’Reilly thought the comment was “extreme” (really, O’Reilly thought that was extreme).

So when I went to the NRA website I expected to see Smiley’s suggestion splashed in banners across the screen. Let’s encourage every black person to freely exercise his or her Second Amendment rights!

I was surprised to find nothing of the sort.

Strange.

In fact, the NRA did offer Ten Post Zimmerman Lessons, not one of which was the suggestion that Trayvon, or black people in general, should be armed. The list seemed fairly comprehensive. It scorned Rev. Al Sharpton and his “fellow rabble rousers,” further insulting said rabble by calling them “an already unbalanced horde of hopped-up overreactors.” Gee, I wonder who constitutes the “rabble.” According to the article, there were probably as many, “guilt-addled whites as blacks.” Wow. Also included in the ten lessons is a swipe at Hillary Clinton because…well…you know…Hillary Clinton.

But no mention of promoting gun ownership among blacks.

I wonder why.


Trayvon’s Right to Stand his Ground

there’s a key question that I really wish someone would ask with regard to the Trayvon Martin trial.did Trayvon Martin have a right to stand his ground?this isn’t just a key question fis probablyr the case, but also a clear weakness in the concept of a Stand Your Ground laws.

few conflicts are so simple as having an easily identifiable perpetrator and clearly identifiable victim. Usually both parties feel that they are justified in their actions. Zimmerman was probably sincere in his belief that Trayvon was a threat to his community. Perhaps this was motivated by race, or maybe it was motivated by the crime trends of the neighborhood as expressed by Zimmerman. He, therefore, felt justified in following Martin. When confronted by Martin, he almost certainly felt threatened.

What about Martin, however? Here was a young man being pursued by a stranger. Did he have, by virtue of Florida law, a right to stand his ground in the face of a threat? After all, the law should apply equally to Trayvon and to Zimmerman. Unfortunately, Trayvon did not survive the cinflict to make such a claim.

This is the hidden contradiction of Stand Your Ground laws. Only the survivor can make this defence. The law enshrines the dangerous ethic of “might makes right” or puts the law on the side of whoever shoots first.


Snowden Ate My Homework

The US Should Stop Blaming Snowden for its Own Inequities

As a teacher I hear all kinds of excuses for failure. A student, with typical adolescent melodrama, bemoans how difficult my tests are and how I’m ruining his grade. You see, I’m the reason that he is failing. It’s not the fact that, instead of studying, the student chose to play video games, or go to a party, or watch TV. So, clearly, the problem is me.

See how it works?

So I easily recognize the claims made by the US government as just another version of the “dog ate my homework.” Snowden’s revelations were embarrassing to the administrstion for a reason; the administration was doing question about stuff.it’s embarrassing when that stuff is revealed.however, the problem wasn’t the revelations but the stuff that was revealed.

So blaming snowden in for destroying the trust between the United States and its allies is a diversion. It’s no more valid than “the dog ate my homework.”

Snowden is not the reason why our allies are upset with us. Our allies are upset with us because we, meaning our representative government, was spying on our allies. The argument could be made that if you don’t want your allies upset, don’t spy on them.

of course, there’s an added element.

It’s naive to think that our allies didn’t know that we were spying on them. It’s equally naive to believe that our allies on spying on us. So in a way, Snowden’s revelation was the problem. Snowden’s crime is in putting presumably great nations in the absurd position of having to acknowledge publicly, and take umbrage over what they already largely see as the nature of international politics. Now nations all over the world are forced to put on an adequate performance before carrying on as always.

It’s a snowjob on the global scsle.

But it is not one of Edward Snowden’s making. He just opened the inconvenient conversation. This is not a matter of national security or compromised alliances. This issue is about the embarrassment of elite levels of government and putting protocols in place to ensure that such embarrassment never happens again.

But it is in the public best interest that such revelations continue to happen. Whistleblowers are the only available check against state and corporate secrecy.


Contradictory feelings on the uprising in Egypt

And the role of the military and preserving democracy

 

Figure 1: Can Egyptian democracy rely on military overlords?

I have been watching the new uprising in Egypt with some fascination and trepidation. The source of my conflict is in the role of the military in protecting the nascent democracy.

It is clear that the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi was, at least in the eyes of the Egyptian people, inadequate in addressing the complicated economic and social instability endemic to modern Egypt. On the other hand, President Morsi was a democratically elected leader who may have benefited from more time to institute change. Regardless, the people decided that they had had enough of Morsi and were suspicious of the professed goal of the Muslim Brotherhood to create an Islamic Republic. Secularists and leftists organized and protested in the streets—something I believe could benefit the United States—and it is my belief that democratic leaders should be responsive to the will of their people. Morsi, clearly, was not.

So I’m heartened that the military acted in what appears to have been the interests of the people and deposed Morsi. When the military refuses to defend the government from its own people, the government is done. By all appearance, the Egyptian military appears to be a stalwart defender of democracy. Yet “appears” is the operative term, here. I fear that appearances might be deceptive with regard to the Egyptian military. I worry about ulterior motives.

I’m no expert on Egyptian politics, society or culture, but I do know that militaries in general are almost never stalwart defenders of democracy in and of themselves. As authoritarian institutions go, militaries are among the most authoritarian, a clear contradiction to democratic ideals. So while I’m heartened that the democratic will was upheld, I’m skeptical of the long term prospects of a so called democracy that is dependent upon the good will of the military.

Institutions act to empower themselves. When institutions can act autonomously with few checks against their power, this creates a certain potential for the concentration of power and influence. As the protestors celebrate the role of their military in overthrowing a hated leader, I fear for the future of Egyptian democracy itself. The goodwill of an institution, especially institutions premised on legitimized violence, only goes so far.

Militaries are always a potential danger to freedom and democracy. Egyptians would be best served to remember that.

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Postscript: As I was writing this piece, a New York Times article appeared on my phone about Egyptian authorities shutting down and pressuring media outlets for the sake of maintaining stability. If the people do establish checks against the growing power of the military, their experiment in democracy may be short lived. That military’s current actions bolster its reputation among the people lends it the kind of pseudo-legitimacy that could be a stepping stone to more dictatorial power later on. Take heed, Egypt.