Saturday, April 20, 2013

Viewing Life Through An Ideological Prism

We have a tendency in our society of view current events through a very narrow ideological prism…a type of vacuum or bubble if you will.  We tend to pay little attention to the long term cause and effect of any one particular event.
Take the recent bombings in Boston.  They are a product of decisions that we have made in the past.  And they will have a causal affect on our future.
Naturally the drama and tragedy of the bombings and the events that followed have gripped the nation.  (That is of course unless you live in West, Texas.)  But there seems to have been little thought about how decisions that were made in the past got us here, nor how these events will affect our society’s future.  For while the bombings and subsequent manhunt were playing out in Boston there were events occurring in other parts of the country that are very much linked to that horrible event.
Mere minutes after the bombers struck the pundits and experts weighed in. We listened while conservative pundits bemoaned the fact that Boston did not have CCTV cameras mounted on every street corner; even as they criticized the president for his intrusive big government policies.
“Had the cameras been in place, the authorities would have no problem identifying the perpetrators.  In cities throughout Europe, like London for example, they would be able to identify these bombers in an hour.  But here we sit chasing our tails.” 
Apparently it is not intrusive for the government to be able to track your every footstep.   
Naturally these same voices had a definite opinion as to the origin of the perpetrators.  Their general consensus was that they were undoubtedly Middle Eastern terrorists…Al Qaeda or some similar faction. 
And then the blame game started.  Within minutes of the explosions the ideological finger of bias and hatred was pointed at the president.  It was his fault because: “he hasn’t given the authorities the money they need to stop these guys from coming in.” This gem of political punditry ignores the fact that this president has deported more illegal immigrants in four years than the Bush administration did in eight.  And the cut backs in police, fire and border security funding are the direct result of austerity measures instituted by conservative Republican governors and conservative state and local officials.  Austerity measures have consequences.   
Of course we now know that these were not Middle Eastern terrorists but brothers from Chechnya who came to our country seeking asylum over a decade ago.  Friends and neighbors expressed disbelief.  Tamerlan, the eldest, was a boxer who represented New England in the National Golden Gloves competition.  He wanted to fight on the Olympic Team. Dzhokar, the youngest, was an excellent student on scholarship.  He became a naturalized US citizen on September 11, 2012. 
We know that Tamerlan was arrested in 2009 on a domestic assault and battery charge for assaulting his girlfriend.  We also know that the FBI had been tracking his movements, travel history and internet activity for over two years.  In fact they interviewed him as recently as 2012.  Something was definitely up with Tamerlan that caught the attention of the authorities. 
So the question that comes to our mind is: given all the attention that the authorities had directed toward Tamerlan…how was he able to acquire all the materials necessary to make multiple IEDs?  Not to mention enough firepower to hold the entire city of Boston hostage?
While all of this was taking place in Boston there we events going on in Washington that were very much related.
The US Senate, in an act of utter cowardice and self-preservation, voted down legislation which would have required that a background check be made on all gun purchases.  Rather than go against the NRA and the gun lobby, the Senate said “No” to legislation that was supported by 90% of the country.  Once again this poses an obvious question.  How did Tamerlan and his brother get their hands on the guns?  Did they buy them at a gun show where Tamerlan’s record would not have been an issue?
The NRA will view this situation as evidence that we live in a violent society and law abiding citizens need access to firearms to protect themselves from people like the Tsarnave brothers.  If the NRA and the gun lobby had their way they would flood the country with guns and let the good guys chase down the bad guys.  For as NRA executive Wayne La Pierre famously said:  “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 
But MIT security officer, Sean Collier was a good guy with a gun.  He was shot to death in his squad car.  MBTA police officer Richard Donohue was a good guy with a gun.  He graduated from the same police academy class as Sean Collier.  He’s in critical condition in a Boston hospital after being shot in an exchange of gun fire with the Tsarnave brothers.
And where were all of these gun advocates who just had to own a gun so they could protect their families?  There had to be hundreds if not thousands of them in the Watertown area alone…right?  Certainly their firearm expertise and their stated willingness to place themselves in the line of fire to protect their loved ones would have been a big help to the authorities in apprehending these dangerous fugitives…right? 
Thankfully they were where most gun advocates find themselves in times of trouble…hiding behind locked doors…peeking through the curtains.  Can you imagine the carnage if hundreds if not thousands of George Zimmerman wannabes were roaming the streets of Watertown in search of Dzhokar Tsarnave.
And then there is the issue of immigration reform.  Right wing radicals would have us seal up our borders and kill the diversity that is the very essence of who we are. 
Whenever the media talks about immigration reform the conservative media interviews someone with a Hispanic name.  It’s as if all illegal immigrants are Hispanic.  The conservative idea of immigration reform is to round up the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants and ship them back over the Mexican border.  We could do that if we wanted to dry our fragile economy into a recession.  We could do that if all the illegal immigrants came from Mexico.  But one of the many problems with that narrow minded plan is that only about half of the illegal immigrants in this country come from Mexico.  The other half come from Asia, Europe, Africa and other South American countries. 
The Tsarnave brothers were here legally.  Until just a few days ago they went about their business like the rest of us.
Our log winded point in all of this is that when we talk about gun control, immigration reform, intrusive big government, the economy and a host of other topics we need to stop examining them through the prism of narrow minded ideology.  These issues are all intertwined in the fabric of our democracy.  They are complicated and have far reaching affects on our society.  They need to be discussed thoughtfully and in a timely manner.
Or more tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings are destined to occur.    



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