Thursday, August 11, 2016

Donald Trump's Second Amendment People: A Remedy With No Basis in Reality

In 2010,  Catherine Crabill unsuccessfully ran for the representative seat in the 1st Congressional District in Virginia. Catherine was a self-proclaimed member of the Ultra Conservative Tea Party.   At one point the election, she expressed her views on our democracy by stating that the second amendment was designed to protect citizens from tyranny and that the citizens may have to turn from the ballot box to the bullet box.

Around that same time, Sharron Angle, Former Representative to the Nevada Assembly, and current President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, stated on the Lars Larsen radio show,
 "You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said, it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that's not where we're going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, 'My goodness what can we do to turn this country around? And I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
 Previously, Ms. Angle had told Bill Manders on his radio show that the second amendment is 
 "to defend ourselves. And you know, I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies. 
After Sharron Angle lost her bid to defeat Harry Reid for a Nevada Senate seat, Congressman Jim Clyburn, as reported in the Miami Herald, lashed out at what he called her endorsement of a ballet box to the bullet box policy of affecting change when he said,
"Sharron Angle's endorsement of 'Second Amendment remedies' in her losing Nevada campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords."

While there is no proof her words actually incited a mentally deranged man to attack a member of the U.S. Congress, there is a danger is espousing revolutionary rhetoric. The massive majority of Americans have no interest in overthrowing our own government - we live in the greatest democracy in the history of human civilization.  We are patriots. We love our country. We embrace our liberty.  We just don't agree on everything. We are a melting pot of ideas too.

But there is something more to "Second Amendment Remedies" than a few quotes from the radical right wing of the Republican party.  Major candidates and elected officials have suggested that bullet boxes are permissible when ballot boxes fail to bring desired political results.

Just prior to the Gifford shooting Sarah Palin used gun sight crosshairs on her website to identify congressional districts where she felt  change needed to be targeted.  Do you remember whose district was in the crosshairs? Gabby Gifford's, of course.

After the San Bernadino shootings, Senator Ted Cruz defended our right to bear arms but went a  step further saying that the second amendment is even more than a right to bear arms. He stated the the second amendment can also be used as a
"fundamental check on government". 
 How is that possible unless it is a tyrannical government we must overthrow?  A single gun owner has the power to check our government?  I think there may be an even more valid argument for gun control if that is how our national conservative politicians interpret our second amendment.

In 2014, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clark spoke to the National Rifle Association's Leadership forum, Here is what he said about second amendment remedies:

"you have to be willing to resist any attempt by government to disarm law-abiding people by fighting with the ferociousness of a junkyard dog. For it says in the Declaration of Independence that it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for our future security.”

Do these folks actually believe that our founding fathers wrote one of the greatest living documents of all time and then left a back door for individual gun owners to murder politicians when they don't agree with their policies or when we are supposedly going in the wrong direction?

When Donald Trump tells the crowd at a rally that 'the second amendment people" can take matters into their own hands AFTER Hillary Clinton gets elected so that she doesn't appoint liberal Supreme Court Justices, he isn't speaking "off the cuff" or blundering off-message.

On the contrary, Donald Trump is sending a clear message to his core followers, those angry white people chanting words of hatred at his rallies: he shares their values.  In his view the election is rigged, and in response he boldly infers to what Clark, Angle, Cruz, and Palin have already stated.   Trump essentially suggested that if he doesn't win at the ballot box, his "second amendment people" might want to use their own bullet box.

Donald trump is Ivy league educated and a graduate of one of the highest rated post-graduate business schools in the world- University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. He didn't obtain those degrees by weaving baskets with his daddy's money.

Donald Trump is an educated man. Even his casually placed taunts are calculated for maximum effect. He knows his audience. Sometimes he uses a coded language he thinks only they understand.  This time his words were a direct threat to Ms. Clinton- and to the very structure and core of our democracy. The code was easy to break and he cannot walk this back.  He is speaking to a movement in a language they clearly understand and he has placed his gun sight cross-hairs on the next President of the United States, once she wins the "rigged" election.

Threatening the life of  a US President is a class E felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871, punishable up to 5 years in Federal Prison.  The Secret Service are in charge of enforcing that law.  If Donald Trump continues to pander to the radical right wing of his party in this manner, he may one day find himself in handcuffs as an accessory to a federal crime.  

Our Second Amendment is simply worded and carries a strong, patriotic message.. Our right to bear arms is to protect us from tyranny.  The democratic party does not currently control the legislative branch of our government.  There are many, many conservative judges sitting on the federal bench.  Our government is not committing  tyranny against us.   I doubt it ever will because WE THE PEOPLE are the government of the United States.

"WE THE PEOPLE in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence..."

There is no such thing as  a Second Amendment remedy in the U.S. Constitution. There is no amendment that calls for the assassination of  elected officials we don't agree with.  A liberal politician isn't committing tyranny. Liberal and conservatives are participating in the democratic process established by our Constitution,

But there are second amendment people who believe in  second amendment remedies and Donald Trump just gave those far-right wackos the green light to kill his opponent if she wins the election .  That is more than unfair and unbalanced- it is a fearfully dangerous precedent spoken by a candidate with morals no higher than the cash in his wallet.

I hope the Secret Service read Title 18 loud and clear to Mr. Trump.  I hope they gave him a warning that was both stern and strong.  He has gone too far and needs to find his own remedy for his dangerous and unapologetic campaign.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Diner Talk and Terrorism - Remembering Ross Township

Flags Fly at the Ross Township Municipal Building

Two years ago Friday, a deranged gunman attacked citizens and township officials at a monthly supervisors meeting in Ross Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania   Three people died including the zoning officer- who I had the honor of working with the winter before he was brutally murdered.

I was their alternate sewage officer at that time but was not present at the meeting.  The primary sewage officer was at the meeting and threw himself over a railing on an emergency exit ramp and fell 15 feet onto hard ground.  He punctured a lung and never fully recovered.  He passed away this past year. I count him as the fourth casualty.

His name was Truman Burnett and he was older than me by a few years.   We were never friends but I respected him and was honored to cover for him when he went to Florida for the winter, fishing in the summer, or when he sold headstones at the West End Fair at the end of August. Each time he would call me and say something like, "Hey kid, I'm taking a week off to go fishing.  I'll call you when I get back"   And just like that, I was covering for him.   I miss him calling up and saying, "Hey Kid".

A week after the mass shooting I was sitting at his desk.  There were bullet holes in the wall with small State Police ID tags taped next to the holes.   There was no "Hey kid" phone call.  When I arrived, a security officer was screening everyone before we entered. The carpet in the meeting room was removed- ruined from all the blood.

  I looked across at the zoning desk of Dave Fleetwood, who was mortally wounded that night. Dave was always so careful about making certain we used a buddy system when we would drive to properties in violation.  He recognized that there were some unstable characters out there and that safety in numbers was prudent.  It is ironic he died in a meeting room full of people.

The window the shooter used in the initial stage of his attack was now boarded up. The room felt sad and full of death. It was very difficult to work there those first few weeks.  I kept thinking about how easy this could happen at any township meeting. It doesn't matter if the shooter is a certifiable or a member of ISIS- the result is the same: innocent people who care about their community will die.

Lots of local folks knew the Ross Township killer and  his family.  He was always crazy, they would tell me.   He was the person who sat at the counter of the local diner and complain loudly about the state of the world- government can't be trusted, and other dark schemes .

At our local diner, there are a couple of crazy old men who sit at the counter and complain loudly about the state of our country- how our government can't be trusted, and other dark schemes.

Here is a snippet of the conversation/monologue overheard while eating breakfast at our local diner:

     "They are discriminating against the white man in this country.  We need to fix that.  This is our country, a white country, built by white men and we need to protect our rights.  We have rights too, ya know.  And we have to do whatever it takes to protect our rights!"

Whatever it takes. That is a dangerous statement one should take to heart,  Now at every township meeting (and there are several each month) I scan the audience for strangers and when the front door rings indicating another person is about to enter the meeting room I tense up just enough and remember to keep low and get to the nearest exit as fast as possible and then run for cover.

This is the new reality of local government service.   Then again, I do the same thing at the movies, at a restaurant, at a concert, or a sporting event.   Perhaps it is simply the new reality that we all share- public meetings, movie theaters, schools, concert halls, festivals, races, or simply riding a train, flying in a plane, or hopping on a bus.  Pay attention to your surroundings and be ready to run for your life.

That should not stop us from enjoying our freedom, so valiantly fought for by so many in the name of country, a freedom that others have spilled blood and given their own lives to defend.  That is why their sacrifice must be deeply respected because if it weren't for them, soldiers and citizens alike, there would be no elections in this country, no freedom of speech, no bill of rights, no right to keep and bear arms, no right to assemble, no rights at all.

My thoughts and prayers are with Ross Township this day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Presidential Election: A Choice Between Two World Views

A black sports-like car is driving through our local neighborhoods with a very large  American flag hanging out its window and a sign on the dashboard that says "Fuck Your Opinion".

A local businessman walks into a meeting wearing a baseball cap that says "Make America Great Again". He launches into a 10 minute lecture on how we are all being manipulated by mainstream media.  We are political playdoh, easily molded by the great evil forces unleashed upon us by the corporate candidate. Everyone is complicit. It's a huge conspiracy. The election is rigged.

We try to argue our point but he talks over top of us, barely taking a breath and unwilling to listen to another point of view. He does not want to have a conversation.  He does not want to have a debate. He wants to lecture us. Fuck our opinion.

Welcome to the 2016 Presidential election.

The jobs report is released and its good news, wages are up and there are 225,000 new jobs in the economy.  One candidate sees the silver lining. The other candidate sees the dark, ominous cloud.

During the Iraq war,  four American contractors were captured by Islamic radicals, beaten, burned, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their bodies hung from a bridge. It was one of the most horrific images of that war and brought forward a sense of outrage in our country.  That story on CNN was a completely different story on Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera reported on an opposite view that held a different conviction. An oppressed people were standing up and fighting back against a foreign invader.  They were defending  their families, their culture, and their country from the United States of America.  The attack on our citizens was a culmination of that anger and betrayal.

Two opposite world views is dangerous, the abyss is too wide between the two sides.  There is no compromise.  One group wants to build a wall the other group wants to build a bridge.  One group preaches tolerance while the other group is intolerant.  One candidate believes our nation is great now and the other candidate believes he can make our broken nation "great again".

Two world views as political movements exposes the fragile underbelly of our democracy.  We must stand up and fight for an inclusive dialogue to bring both groups onto the same playing field, under the same rules, But the movements continue to walk on opposite paths to the presidential election and we may simply have to make a choice and decide which world view is best for our country.

The democratic candidate proclaims that we can work together to better our country. The republican candidate proclaims that he alone can fix our broken system.   Hillary Clinton places a detailed plan on her website that explains how she will work to improve our economy.   Donald Trump calls her the devil and his supporters chant at the rallies "Trump that bitch".  

An opposite world view has taken hold with millions of citizens in our country, Theirs is a dark movement with a dangerous candidate to lead them.  His followers don't care what you think. They place signs in their car windows to taunt us. There is no compromise.

I am choosing civility over thuggery.   I am choosing the bridge over the wall.  I am choosing the silver lining over the dark cloud. I am choosing experience over ego. I am choosing our great nation over our broken nation.

On election day, I'm with her.  

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, New York Times

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Greens Feed Store - a Diffle County Story

Here in Pennsyltucky local politics boil on the front burner. Folks here proudly wear the American flag, agree on everything wrong with the State and Federal government, and then use political officials and public meetings to tenderize and roast their neighbors. We celebrate a rich history, dating back to the original European settlers, of in-your-face politics, behind-your-back planning, and stab-you-in-the-eye at the most perfect moment in front of the gossip hounds that will surely proclaim your demise to everyone they know. This isn't for the weak-of-mind or faint-of-heart. If you can't handle the heat, get out of the dutch oven.

I was young and had just been hired by an elected Board of Supervisors to help out with their zoning. Their officer, Frank Selense had broken his hip when he was pushed over a wall by an angry property owner named Robert Depue Jr. Frank had refused to issue a permit for a wall DePue had already built without permits. Perhaps there was a way to resolve the issue without lawyers and Hearings, Perhaps in California, I don't really know. But not in Pennsyltucky. In this state, we go to war. Zoning officer Frank Selense was bound and determined to make Robert Depue's life miserable.

According to Ruth May, our local historian on all matters having to do with local families- the zoning officer's Great Uncle Bill (on his father's side) had impregnated DePue's Great Aunt Ada (on his mother's side). She was fifteen years old at the time. There was a shotgun wedding and later a nasty divorce and custody battle. All of this occurred before Mr. Depue and Mr.Selense were born. But the seeds had been sown and the two families have been feuding ever since.

Robert told Frank that the township could kiss his farmer butt before he would ever get a permit for a wall. Frank pulled out a citation book and threatened to fine Robert a thousand dollars. Robert told Frank where to stick that citation. Frank told Robert to take a flying leap through the hole of a rolling doughnut (clearly someone in Frank's family had read Kurt Vonnegut Jr.). Robert responded by making certain that Frank the Zoning Officer took a flying leap off his illegal wall. The following week I was hired to "run things till Frank returned" and "don't piss anyone off".

A week or two later, one of our elected officials, Bob Branson- a tall and lanky man with a huge tuft of thick blonde hair, angrily told me that some troublemaker opened a Feed Store without any permits. I printed up a few "Stop Work Orders" and raced over to "Green's Feed and Eggs Farm Store" that was an empty barn the last time I had driven past it. The property was owned by Old man Barker, a crotchety, opinionated, argumentative farmer with an unusual gait and deep, haractersdeep pockets. I plastered the building with notices.

I went inside and I told the cashier to close the store. I told her "if Barker wants a store he will have to get permits for it", A few weeks passed by and still the store was open. I then called Barker and threatened to file charges against him in our local court. He hung up on me.

At the next township meeting, the entire room was filled with the local farmers, old man Barker, and a nice fellow from the PA Department of Agriculture. At a public meeting, in front of a packed room, I was schooled on a small, arcane section of the state zoning law, a section that was added a few years later, buried deep in a budget law. The new law read something like this: "Farm stores are legally exempt from the law and local agencies may not issue permits or deny permits for farm stores."

At the meeting, one farmer after another hounded, pounded, beat my soul and body down, while old man Barker sat in the back row and laughed out loud. The next day I drove to Greens Feed and I took down the notices, my tail hanging between my legs, I also bought a dozen eggs. They were the best eggs I have ever eaten,

Welcome to Diffle County, friends.

All characters are fictional and not intended to be confused with real people anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two Barrels

copyright 2014   Rick Fisher