America, You’re Too Young to Die

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America, you’re too young to die. And yet you are.

America is a culture of violence. From urban gang violence to rural hate crimes to suburban mass murders, we are slowly killing ourselves. We kill the unborn, we euthanize the aged and comatose, and we commit suicide in record numbers. When it comes to mass violence, some of it stems from international terrorism (San Bernardino, Orlando) but much of it is homegrown domestic terrorism. Seven of the ten worst mass shootings in American history have happened since 2000. Three of the top five in the past two years (Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs). The tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL is now ninth on that list. The vast majority of mass shootings are by males.

America, it’s clear that we have a serious problem. And it’s going to require more than rocket science to figure it out. Otherwise, the tragic body counts will keep stacking up.

The question is WHY? Why has America become the land of the violent. Our colors now bleed red, white, (black) and blue. Actually, I think the reasons are clear:

1. FATALITY COUNTS HAVE BECOME RECORDS TO REACH. Mass shootings in America are out of control. It’s clear those who are mentally unstable, particularly the young, are using these tragedies to gain “fame.” On the same day of the carnage in Florida, another school shooting in Seattle was foiled. Evidently a kid dreamed of creating the “biggest fatality number” possible. He was turned in by his grandma. Good for her. If you see something, say something. It takes a village.

2. WE AREN’T DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM. Neither the Left nor the Right has a productive answer to the sticky wicket of gun violence. Removing firearms from law-abiding citizens (an objective of the radical Left) will not stop gun crimes. It won’t even curb crime or murder. Bad people will always weaponize their criminal behavior. However, the Right’s fervent, even unhealthy, attachment to all guns–particularly automatic weapons–is equally disturbing. The vast majority of Americans recognize there’s no need for the general population to own AR-15s, bump stocks or any other weapon of mass destruction. It’s time for gun legislation that has teeth. And I say that as gun owner. AR-15 rifles are not for hunting or sport. They are killing machines and should be outlawed from possession by anyone except the police and military.

3. AMERICANS ROUTINELY MISAPPLY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. The Second Amendment–and all “rights”–are not absolute. Every right we enjoy has a natural limit. “Freedom” doesn’t mean we are FREE to do (or say, print, buy) ANYTHING (that would produce anarchy). Freedom is always rooted to responsibility and if we cannot be responsible then freedom must be limited even removed. The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms may need to enforce some limits until other social and cultural issues are resolved in America (see points 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8). Without a doubt, if there’s valid reason (felony, misdemeanor criminal activity, history of violence, mental instability or illness), then such individuals shouldn’t have access to a gun of any type and stiff fines should be levied upon those who sell them. Whoever sold the gun to the shooter in Parkland, FL is equally at fault. It’s not right that firearm sellers are not held responsible for their part in these massacres.

4. GUNS ARE NOT THE REAL PROBLEM. The “elephant in the room” of school shootings isn’t guns or easy access to guns. That’s a red herring of those seeking absolute gun control. The real “elephant” is a popular media (music, video games, literature, television, movies) that glorifies, desensitizes and affirms gun violence. Several studies reveal PG-13 movies “showcase more gun violence” than R-rated movies. Hollywood’s continual stream of violent fare (and those who buy the tickets to see these movies) is clearly a factor to gun violence in real life. Face it, America, we become what we consume. And when we allow our kids to ingest bloody media, we shouldn’t be surprised by their aggressive and violent behavior. Is there a correlation between bloody media and gun violence? The problem is an R-rating won’t stop kids from seeing violent movies at home. But far too many parents tow their kids to R-rated movies at the theater and that can be controlled. Perhaps the “R” rating should change: “No one under 17 admitted.” Prove your age, like with alcohol, or you don’t get in. Movie theaters who violate would face fines.

5. THE RELIGION OF EVOLUTION. The cultural dissolution of morality since the 1960s has created this America we live in. Faith and religion of the Right are now sidelined, even mocked, by those on the Left. If you believe in God, particularly God as Creator or employ science to defend intelligent design, you are considered ignorant, backwards and intolerant. But maybe it’s time we considered how evolution creates a culture of violence. Think about it. Evolutionary theory’s fundamental idea argues that human beings are evolved animals who survive only by being the most “fit.” This survival of the fittest involves destroying weaker beasts. Violence is necessary to evolve. For decades Americans have been indoctrinated with evolutionary ideas and it’s only made us behave as animals. We bully, speak hate, consume violence, oppress, sexually and emotionally harass. If we don’t want a pregnancy we kill the baby. If we don’t like our marriage, we divorce. If we hate our life, we end it. If we want vengeance, we take it. World views have consequences, my friends. Evolutionary philosophy is not benign nor without excuse.

6. PARENTS WHO NO LONGER PARENT. It’s a common criticism of today’s parents: they let their kids do whatever they want. Discipline is lax, disregarded or even excused as disability. Children curse openly. Children lie and steal. Children punch, beat, bite and hurt. Children experience stuff far too young (and usually with a parent watching, even laughing). Few children are taught simple “ten commandment” morality anymore. I grew up in a gun culture (Montana). I grew up shooting firearms. Every pickup had a gun rack (usually sporting loaded rifles). But I was taught a very simple rule: you never point a gun (even a toy) at another human being. And I never did. I wouldn’t even play “war” video games later in life. I watched a parent the other day as their preschooler boy playfully pointed a gun at his parents and said “bang, bang!” I watched his parents laugh. Not once did they tell the tyke “we don’t point guns at people.” Trust me, if your kid points a toy at a person now, including you, he won’t have a problem doing it later with the real thing. Attitudes and actions of violence don’t happen by accident.

7. THE OBSESSION OF BLOOD AND VIOLENCE BY THE NEWS MEDIA. Let’s be honest: the news media’s 24/7 addiction to blood needs an intervention. Every news writer knows “if it bleeds, it leads” but that doesn’t mean the mikes and cameras need to roll for hours. Is it wrong to conjecture the media creates these “mayhem monsters?” Is it possible the violently predisposed are influenced, even inspired, to think the only way for a “name” and fame is to commit violent crimes (with huge body counts)? I believe so. News media used to be more tempered but ever since OJ Simpson it’s become a tragic norm. In the competition to be first with a story, the news media peddles fear, distrust, hype and anger…and often gets the story wrong. An oft-shared Parkland “fake news” story, propagated by reputable journalists, mainstream media and Facebook ignorants, was how it was the eighteenth school shooting in 2018. It wasn’t true. It wasn’t even close to being true.

8. THE SOCIAL MEDIA SEWER. The world has changed since Columbine (April 20, 1999). From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to SnapChat, social media has become a cesspool for ignorance, hate, disrespect and evil. Because people can say (photograph and film) whatever they want, and post it, they do. For example, the Left has engineered a “resistance” of hate for various cultural nemeses: Donald Trump, evangelical Christians, police and white men (to name a few). And with the help of left-leaning national media, the sewer keeps boiling. The Right is just as bad, preaching it’s own brand of inflammatory and hurtful rhetoric (wrapped in patriotism, values and the Bible). Out kids are watching though. They’ve grown up in a hostile political climate where adults bicker, badmouth and berate about everything openly. Disagreement is now considered “hate” by some and “ignorant” by most. My “truth” is right and I’ll just plug my ears and shout my points louder (until you hear me). In reality, we all need to take a big breath and listen more. Facebook has become a sewer for “fake news” and poor commentary because too many Americans cannot discriminate or think critically outside of our theological, philosophical, geographical, economical, educational and political boxes (even though we profess to be tolerant and open-minded). Here’s an idea: If you get caught saying something wrong on social media (and we all have), accept it and apologize (then correct or delete).

The bottom line is EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO HAVE A POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE VOICE TO DISSOLVE THIS CULTURE OF VIOLENCE in America today. We all have skin in this game and if we’re not careful all we’ll be left with is bloody bones.

Face it, we can scratch our heads when another Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs or Parkland happens but it’s really not hard to understand why it’s happening. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s not a religious issue. It’s not a poor versus rich issue. It’s not just Hollywood or white evangelicals or Muslim radicals.

It’s all of America.

And the question is whether we have the guts to change it.

Because, America, you’re truly too young to die.

 

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Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda (The Last Words of a President)

obama-vacation-2014 The war of words is in full bloom.  Evidently the Trump-Obama love fest is over.

President Obama claims he “could’ve won” a third term race against President-Elect Donald Trump, citing that his vision for America remains the one people really want. He then blames Hillary Clinton’s election night demise on coasting (because she figured she “coulda” won). And while there’s no doubt that Mrs. Clinton skated a bit in overconfidence, can anyone suggest that President Obama “woulda” had an easier fight?

Sorry Mr. President, but I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Every U.S. President wants to leave a legacy and President Obama is no different.  But let’s be honest.  What has he truly accomplished?  In the past few weeks, I’ve asked dozens of Americans on both sides of the political fence one simple question:  What has President Obama done to IMPROVE America (or even your own life) in the past eight years?  

What answer do I mostly get?  Crickets.  Stone-cold silence.  Ums and ahs.
   In reality, Barack Obama’s “vision” for America is seemingly an abject failure and his presidency will likely be viewed less favorably as history rolls on.  After all, he’s done relatively little to “better” America.  Consider the following:
  • Our country is more divisive, angry and violent.  Mass shootings under President Reagan?  Only 6 incidents. President H.W. Bush?  8.  President Clinton?  18. President G.W. Bush?  15. President Obama? 37 incidents.  Islamic terrorist activity on American soil rose significantly under President Obama’s watch: Fort Hood, TX (2009), Boston Marathon (2013), San Bernadino (2015) and Orlando (2016).  In comparison, Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton presided over two Islamic terrorist attacks on American soil over 16 years:  World Trade Center (1993) and World Trade Center/Pentagon (2001). No one can deny the vitriolic anger (much of it arising from the Left) since Donald Trump was elected. Evidently “Love Trump Hates” unless you lose, then all bets are off.
  • Obamacare has failed.  Despite promises, costs have gone up for most Americans and coverage has gone down. Many people can’t even pick their own doctor, despite the promotional promises.  The President’s namesake legislation is a bust and a financial albatross.  It was also a ruse and railroad job. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued in 2010, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”  That’s right, move on. Nothing to read here. We’ll pass it and then answer any questions. It’s like buying a car sight unseen. Caveat emptor.
  • The Obama foreign policy has been anemic, confusing and sometimes toxic.  No one will know for sure who ordered the “stand down” in Benghazi (or if it was ever ordered) but military chain of command dictates such orders stop at one of two desks: then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. From China to Russia to Syria to Israel, Obama’s foreign policy is largely questioned, occasionally ridiculed and often dismissed.
  • Many Americans are still un- or under-employed.  While the unemployment rate has fallen, most of the jobs added are part-time or government-paid.  During Obama’s presidency, hundreds of factories closed and dozens of companies moved production overseas, while the U.S. government became the largest employer of Americans.
  • Most of Obama’s political maneuvers have come through executive orders. To be fair, this President has used executive orders less than other recent Presidents (266 times), which is also troubling as it suggests apathy and/or loss of vision.  Since 1945, only three U.S. Presidents have used less executive orders, and all three served one term or less (JFK, Ford, HW Bush).  Surprisingly, the king of executive orders was FDR, with a whopping 3,721 in his twelve-year presidency.  Many of Obama’s executive orders will likely be rescinded by Donald Trump.  An “order” is a command. Legislation is law.  It’s easy to order but much harder to create law, as Obama will soon discover.
    I’ll confess that President Obama is a likable person with a great family.  He’s got charisma, attractiveness and passion.  But he’s also been coddled, cajoled and crowned by a leftstream media that’s never truly challenged him (like they do, rightly, Donald Trump). This President campaigned on “hope and change” but clearly lacks the leadership acumen to persuade political opponents to his “vision.” Most of Obama’s major ideas were legislated between 2008-2010 when the Democrats controlled both House and Senate. But when the American people held a mid-term Tea Party, the Democrats lost six Senate seats, 60 House seats and 10 governorships (the most ever for any mid-term election).
    The 2010 mid-term elections derailed the “hope and change” train and dumped Obama’s visionary reforms.  His remaining six years has been stalemates, silence, stagnation, shenanigans and stalwart partisan politics.  The President has roundly blamed Republicans for resisting his ideas and preventing his legislation, but that’s sour grapes. When has this President ever worked “across the aisle” with the Republicans?  Shortly after assuming office, President Obama almost gleefully stomped on Republican minority resistance with a clear rebuke:  “I won.”   And he was right in 2009.  But since 2010, all he’s done is LOSE.  He “lost” the House in 2010 and four years later the Senate flipped by 9 seats from blue to red.  He’s largely been a lame duck president, taking vacations and playing golf, relying upon those executive orders to do his agenda.
    In contrast, President Reagan pulled his own “trump card” and beat Jimmy Carter in 1980.  The people had mandated change.  But Reagan was up against a House and Senate that remained firmly and safely in Democratic hands (until 1984 when the Senate turned his way).  Nevertheless, Reagan’s winsome and engaging style won over his political critics and opposition.  Reagan’s massive “supply-side” economic vision–The Economic Recovery Tax Act–was the fruit of his leadership ability (signed into law in 1981).  President Reagan concluded his two-term presidency by ending the Cold War, working once again with critics and opponents.  President Clinton also learned to work well with a Republican House after 1992.  That’s politics.  You don’t quit just because you’ve lost.  And you don’t battle your critics using reporters at the golf course.
    President Obama claimed Donald Trump was unprepared and unfit for office, and that may be true, but to quote a childhood retort:  it takes one to know one.
    In eight years of office, President Obama has managed to submit a budget on time only twice (2010, 2016).  Maybe that’s because he loves to spend taxpayer money.  Or maybe it’s because he’s never governed or led.  In 2008, then Senator Obama said, “The bargain that any president strikes with is, you give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you. The American people should have no patience for what’s going on in your head because you’ve got a job to do.” 
    Candidate Obama eagerly promised “no vacations” or “leisure” if elected, but has now spent $80 million of tax-payers money jetting his family to Hawaii, Mexico, New York City, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Martha’s Vineyard and Africa.  Previous U.S. Presidents retreated to personal ranches and private homes.  President Obama hotels it high-class, with Secret Security in tow.  In contrast, President-elect Donald Trump has promised “no big vacations” and no presidential salary ($400,000).
 
Essentially, there’s ample evidence to suggest President Barack Obama’s eight years were at best a “nice political experiment” but, at worst, an utter failure. He has accomplished very little except further divide a fearful nation.  Naturally he’ll take credit for the 2015 gay marriage ruling, but this was likely to happen anyway, as the Supreme Court was leaning this way.

Consequently, President Obama’s quip that he “could’ve won” a third term is slightly delusional, if not entirely narcissistic. Given the 2016 political climate, he might have lost bigger than Hillary.

Ultimately, history will judge this President against his peers and his time.

Woulda, shoulda and coulda means nothing if you’ve done little though.

And I predict the Obama presidency will largely be forgettable in 100 years.  Much like William Howard Taft (1909-1913).  Can anybody name what he did?

Exactly.