Friday, April 12, 2013

No Respect, No Pride: Marksmanship in America

Marksmanship; this defines gun sportsmen and aficionados craft. In America, we have many pretenders. It looks so easy on TV, so I think I’ll buy one is about as much thought that goes into the purchase. You’re not going to infringe on my liberties…or so the argument goes… It’s been divided between right and left instead of between common sense gun safety management measures (poorly labeled as gun control) and paranoid schizophrenic tendencies making an illogical quantum leap suggesting that the government will take all of our guns away and react by stockpiling more ammo and artillery.  The greatest marketing gimmick of our generation has to be the phrase, “Obama’s coming after your guns” because gun sales go through the roof and the toy soldiers enlist! When you yell "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” at the top of your lungs while conveniently ignoring the “well-regulated militia” part of the 2nd Amendment language, it only reveals intellectual laziness and your ability to speak in fluent bumper sticker or Internet meme.

The NRA-inspired extreme faction of gun advocates continue to parrot shameful fallacies and appear bewildered when any evidence-based notion that may indeed stem the rash of mass murders this country has experienced since Columbine. Instead, with an uncanny indifference to the lives being claimed every day, they cherry pick data and arguments to make our gruesome reality seem nonsensical and even unimportant. Their attitude, which appears to be, “Well it didn’t happen to me or my immediate friends and family” displays an emotional disconnect with humanity.  For example, one lady in Arizona confronted Sen. John McCain on the gun issue during a town hall and decided that she would never vote Republican again after his insincere response. Why does something have to happen us directly before you can consider changing your position on an issue? Of course, I’m being a bit insensitive toward the lady, but my underlying point is that there is overwhelming support to change our ways as a society after the Sandy Hook carnage. We can’t keep living in a perpetual state of insecurity with so many unstable citizens lurking among us, yet people insist on maintaining their steady grip on as many guns as possible while stockpiling more. Do they ever bother to look at their collection and ask themselves, “Am I prepared to shoot at government personnel or members of our military when the time comes?”  I must also acknowledge that this issue transcends race, class and political party lines. Democrats like their guns too, and some of them have expressed a keen interest in the contradictory fringe movement to protect themselves from government tyranny while waving a flag and demanding that the government do a better job of supporting its troops. Republican and Democratic congressmen/women alike are kowtowing a fine line regarding the sensitivity, emotion, passion and energy dedicated to the gun debate. Unfortunately, instead of being debated from the center as a serious public health issue, the debate has to be repeatedly defended against the notion of a large-scale government gun grab or federal gun registry.

This irrational fear from so many otherwise stable people is based on nothing more than the NRA’s need to boost the gun industry’s profits and membership. The NRA depends on members and followers to stay in a constant state of fear rather than trust in their own ability to think and rationalize. For example, the way this country deals with trauma like the massacre at Sandy Hook is to allow the Sandy Hook hoax video to be embedded into their minds, and they share that untruth on social media as a “yeah, that has to be it” viral strain on America’s psyche. That’s the poison pill, the kool-aid, many in our country chose to ingest instead of having an honest discussion about the implement(s) used to mow down 20 children and 6 educators in a school setting. In a culture largely desensitized to violence, I begin to wonder if pulling a trigger is tantamount to swiping a credit card in terms of the ease it takes for wannabe gangsters and glorified copycats. Before you dismiss this notion, impulse buys and impulse rage originate from similar sets of psychological patterns in the brain. Think about the reasons people die on Black Friday in an attempt to take advantage of a bargain. Albeit temporary, it brings a short sense of relief or cessation from the grim reality so many people face in this country. Whether inflicted on themselves or others, they seek retribution through the barrel of a gun.

On a personal note, guns take away an element of personal inner peace for me. I choose to stay away from them, yet I manage to respect the culture and remain in awe of Olympic-level sportsmen/women. Their ability to consistently hit their target with remarkable consistency commands admiration. I respect the fact that they have dedicated a good portion of their lives to training and repetition; the same goes for the military members, U.S. Marshalls, the local police force to the avid hunter accumulating meat to feed his or her family. Target shooting, hunting or being forced to take the life of another human being requires deep cerebral focus and nerves of steel. Like leadership, it’s not a skill that every single law-abiding American can or should possess. After taking a week of work-related anti-terrorism training and having opportunities to hunt, I have absolute respect for our gun culture; however, I chose not refrain from participating in it. It’s simply not for me. Some find it irrational of me to avoid owning a gun since I have a family, but I envision the world a lot differently than they do. I don't wake up with the sense that someone is going to take out my family. If I had a gun, it wouldn't stop all of the other ways my family could possibly die. It all comes down to a calculated risk for me and so many others who avoid gun culture.

I can’t think help but think the pseudo-advocates against gun safety management measures (gun control) are no further along than those who adamantly defend the confederate flag with the heritage, not hate argument. As a Black male, I really don;t think about that flag too much until a member of the KKK starts waving it around. Back to my point, they gun heads, as I like to refer to them, claim to take pride in guns, and yet refuse to allow the evidence-based notion that not everyone is as responsible as they are. Instead of advocating for sensible solutions such as training and making sure this dangerous trend doesn’t continue to be such a hazardous public health issue, they only seek to maintain the status quo. Multiple children getting eviscerated...This too shall pass…. This inside-of-the-bubble mentality is also tantamount to the climate change deniers who claim that it’s cold where I’m at today, so global warming can’t be real. In other words, it doesn’t directly affect me, so why should I allow the government to make laws that directly infringe my rights?

While I cannot simply dismiss the passionate argument for the status quo (easy access to amass an arsenal of military-style weaponry) as a stupid one, it is rooted in utter laziness. The thought that you may have to go through a few extra steps to purchase your next gun…Are they really afraid that they will fail the mental stability test? As long as this nonchalant attitude prevails over critical thinking and reasoning , large swaths of this country will continue to be under fire. We’ve lost more than 3,000 of our citizens since the Sandy Hook tragedy. While that may not emotionally affect some of you reading this, keep in mind that we’ve been at war for nearly 13 years, spent trillions of dollars and quite possibly risked our entire future for a lower amount of American deaths on 9/11.

I’ll never understand the reasoning and logic behind anyone outside of the military needing 30 rounds in one clip or anything other than a shotgun or hand gun. Nope, instead you want to fire off as many rounds as possible against that imminent intruder (that statistically may never come since you have as much chance as hitting the lottery). You don’t want require background checks or require training (ya’ know, like they do with cars). Where’s the pride in that? If you have any conscionable honor whatsoever, you shouldn’t want people to be accepted into your culture if they can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

And to deflate another talking point, cars are not made for the sole purpose of killing things; however, guns are. Whether it’s people or animals, that’s the primary purpose of the object. With the car/gun comparison in mind, consider this: you may also enjoy target practice, but even with that, out of a populace of 310 million; only the skilled and revered should have abated restrictions and continual access to these weapons. The notion that everyone should have access to these weapons is simply asinine. We do not give anyone a driver’s license without driver’s education and a passing test grade. That is the responsible measure our society has taken to grant people the privilege of owning a vehicle. Whether they fail or succeed, we can  place our trust in them after they complete the required efforts. No, the policies and regulations do not save everyone, but a lot of people are safer because of those laws and education centers put in place.

While, you’re off in fantasy land thinking awaiting your Bruce Willis in Die Hard moment, lives are continually at stake due to our reckless inaction…Your unhealthy level of paranoia is continuously fed by pro-gun groups like the NRA who want nothing more than to get as many guns into as many hands as possible. Where’s the pride in marksmanship? What happened to common sense ideals and taking pride in gun ownership that the NRA used to stand for? If you’re encouraging people to go out and buy guns without training, you lack respect for your cultural pastime. If you’re a respectable gun owner standing on the sidelines while the NRA speaks for you, then I challenge you to encourage training and tell the NRA to focus on positive measures such as gun training and education. Cops and other special forces go through a lot of training to eliminate as many caveats as possible when faced with a life-threatening situation. From what I understand, the situation is quite overwhelming.

A lot of people are buying guns for untold reasons, but most of it centers around irrational fears and fantasy situations. Talking heads Wayne LaPierre and Alex Jones are given multiple platforms to spew outrageous falsehoods and suggestions, which tend to monopolize the media attention and divert those resources from a serious debate.

My point is this, don’t be intellectually lazy by suggesting that criminals don’t obey laws or this is just the first step toward President Obama taking away all of your guns. Trust in your ability to think and seek a balanced position that values humanity. If your first instinct after Sandy Hook was the government is definitely going to use this incident to come after our guns, then I must suggest that you seek better guidance than the one or two pro-gun sources you are following. Words can’t quite capture my feelings on that mentality, but it's a very warped view of that tragic moment in our country.

With that in mind, realize that we need a new era of consciousness in America. We’re not going to agree on everything. We’re not going to alleviate the country from every single gun-related crime.  What can you do? If you agree that we need a respectable gun culture then you must confront the talking heads speaking for you. The NRA doesn’t have to be a self-serving entity. It can work for you and make your gun culture one of respect instead of one of fear and clearly misrepresenting common sense policy changes. Lastly, just relax and recognize that no one is coming to take your gun(s).

In reality, gun-related deaths claim thousands of lives and gun-related injuries/deaths cost billions of dollars in healthcare each year. We have this prime opportunity to address this issue and frame the debate toward a sensible, rational outcome. If we fail to do so now, there will be no turning back from the repetition of imminent carnage we continue to experience in this country. Undoubtedly, our gun culture is here to stay. However it is time to refocus the efforts on marksmanship and taking pride in ownership through proper use and education. Without it, there are just a bunch of paranoid delusional citizens running amok in place of a well-regulated militia. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Women's Rights: Are They Really Under Attack? In Search of American Womanhood

Note: This is an older article from my first attempt to start this blog earlier this year. Most of it is still relevant given the recent political developments involving the definition of rape and scope of limited abortion rights. 

During 2011, state legislators wasted our precious tax dollars by introducing over 1,100 anti-abortion measures at a time when the focus should have been directed toward more pressing issues. Many of us tend to agree that more critical issues such as budget deficits, education and economic stimulating policies would have been a better use of time and resources; however, this stingy wedge issue clearly is not going away anytime soon. So mainly out of frustration, I’ve decided to focus my very first article on the issue of abortion as it pertains to womanhood.
Imagine an airborne sedative which affects only women in certain regions; specifically, Republican-held states. That’s the only surreal logic I can come up with in regards to the complacency of women as their inherent rights are eroding in nearly every Republican-led legislature across the country in an effort to force a male-oriented, moral, Christian female ideal. For this instance, I’d want to focus on the recent developments in the Virginia state legislature where the Republican leadership produced two controversial bills which Gov. Bob (Bob’s 4 Jobs campaign slogan ranked 47th in job creation last year) McDonnell is expected to sign into law shortly.
The two bills are geared toward stemming abortion and potentially outlawing female contraception (birth control). For the  anti-abortion bill, the Republicans who claim small government principles, will require a doctor to insert a probe  into a woman’s vagina to retrieve an ultrasound-produced image and subject her to a waiting period in an effort to get the woman to reconsider their abortion all while disregarding the woman’s consent. Virginia Republicans are literally going down the wrong avenue toward eliminating or even stemming abortion; especially since they oppose proper sex education and access to contraceptives.
I can’t even imagine the circumstances that would make a woman consider an abortion, but I have a couple of ideas that should be considered in this debate. The approximate 77% of men vehemently opposed to abortions should spend that same amount of energy either coordinating adoptions for the 10s of 1000s of unwanted children right here in our country or promoting responsible fatherhood. If you’re not willing to consider your involvement in the creation of life, then your debate lacks depth at best and presents unrestrained hypocrisy at worse. Unless you’re an OB GYN (I can never figure out why men want that job), you’re essentially unfit to debate the issue of women’s reproductive rights. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum went as far as stating that abortions are the reason for the bad economy; an argument that not only lacks depth, but basic logic. In essence, you’re committing a grave injustice against women by violating and retracting their most basic rights.
Secondly, the approximate 23% (need to confirm these figures) of women who are part of the pro-life movement appear to be choosing their Republican membership over their womanhood, and this too shall be explained. While I do not claim to fully understand the bonds of womanhood or feminist theory, I’m further confused as to how one can exchange personal morality for the well-being of your entire gender. If you’re truly concerned about protecting the life of a child, I would recommend expanding the dimensions of your pro-life stance to actually include the women in question. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of life is three-fold:
a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body

b : a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate                                beings

c : an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to                                  stimuli, and reproduction

Furthermore, the male sperm is required to actually conceive life, which would make the sperm and egg equally vital to conception; but you already knew that. That’s the argument you need to add and use to hold men as accountable as women in this legislation. If we’re going to go to this extreme, then men need to undergo “urethral sounds” (Google it) to locate potential obstructions and ensure each sperm has an equal opportunity to reach the egg.  (Attention men, this is where you cross your legs and scrunch your face – I know I did).
Moreover, life is not viable before 21 weeks (the timeframe is still up for debate), but there are for instances that need to be accounted for. The short-sightedness of the current crop of Republican men leading this effort do not have the best interest of females at the center of their policies (i.e., not even in cases of rape or incest). As a pro-life female, (I assume this definition would include the well-being of the woman) this is where your womanhood instincts should naturally kick in, thus sparking you to to yell “ENOUGH!” If you’re not doing this right now, then I can’t help, but think you’re failing to address a much bigger concern here, which are overall women’s rights. You can take action by calling your state officials and asking them to reconsider parts of bills that will have unintended consequences for your unknown sisters out there. You can propose reasonable legislation that has to do with 21-week viability, or influence amendments to hold men to the same reproductive standards (sorry guys); or you could propose legislation that requires teens to inform their parents or gain parental consent. No, instead you have chosen to sit submissively on the sidelines and allow your fellow women to be subjected to a man’s will. Where is the honor in that? Where’s the honor in letting men reject an amendment on the Virginia Assembly Floor to at least gain a woman’s consent to an invasive procedure?
Progressive or indifferent women do not get a pass of this issue either. According to the Virginia Election Commission, only 28.61% of registered voters participated in the 2011 election cycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate data that separated the men and women, but this tells me enough of the story; you didn’t bother to vote en masse, and I’m willing to bet that is the case across the country! I understand that Tuesday’s are an inconvenience, but it is one day out of an entire 2-4 year cycle. Maybe you couldn’t find a sitter, a ride, had to work or just didn’t give a hoot. Well, do you care now? If so, eliminate the excuses and coordinate an effort that will allow you to vote during the next election cycle. Whatever, the case, you’ve essentially given the right of way to a bunch of male ideologues who do not care about the consent of your fellow sister when forcing a “trans-vaginal ultrasound”  in exchange for her reproductive decision. Your [in]action or lack thereof, gave them the green light to potentially outlaw birth control in your state; never mind male contraceptives or limiting access to erectile dysfunction prescriptions. With that in mind, I have an opinion that this is no longer about saving children anymore; instead, it seems to be more about solidifying men’s control over women and ensuring your rights are substandard to theirs.
Although I am clearly a man, albeit atypical, I hope this article will foster discussion in search of a way forward with this volatile issue. I’m frustrated that so many of our political resources have been utilized on this sole issue when there are so many other complex issues challenging our nation. I’m even more concerned by the level of complacency and submissiveness displayed by too many women regarding this issue. My objective here doesn’t pertain to changing your principles as much as addressing a major concern. You see, when we uphold the ideals that woman are as capable as men in terms of what they do with their reproductive organs, we can progress toward more pressing issues. The outcome should ultimately be equality; the solution lies within proper education which I will argue at a later date. The unfortunate scenario that continues to be evident across the country is that men ultimately get the final say about what YOU get to decide regarding your body. If that’s your prerogative during your time here on this Earth, then so be it. I know you’re capable of doing more. I know you are capable of demanding that men stand down on an issue that doesn’t pertain to them and debate it amongst yourselves. Arrive at a reasonable junction, and help each other maintain your rights and dignity. It is time to stand as one, because it is your right to dissent when your rights need defending. This is one of those defining moments…who will you let seize it? It’s your choice!

About Political Cognizance

About Political Cognizance

What is political cognizance? Cognizance is defined as a state of awareness, fully informed or knowledgeable. Political cognizance refers to a heightened state of awareness about American politics and how they affect our liberties and state of being. Even with a two-party system, our political system is very complex and deliberately complicated. Depending on single one-sided news sources limits your capability to be truly aware of situations and how they could potentially affect you. 

When we chose to remain ignorant by selecting information sources that reinforce our belief system, we commit the greatest intellectual atrocities known to man, which is choosing to argue with emotions and personal values rather than facts. Neither side of the political spectrum has the capability to achieve the necessary reforms if they can't act as a reflection of their constituents who compromise and cooperate on a daily basis. As the political atmosphere continues to become more polarizing, it has become increasingly difficult to decipher the spin and get the real story. Combined with both sides having corporate interests and the borderline narcissistic image portrayal in the 24/7 media cycle, we end up with the extreme political philosophies sharply dividing the country rather than finding solutions to our most challenging problems. 

The Political Cognizance page aims to create a forum for sensible debate on the current issues affecting the country. It is my hope that after reading the debates from varying ends of the political spectrum, you can manifest your own opinion, become better informed and be encouraged to take action. In essence, I want to you trust in your ability to think. I will be taking your ideas to create a balanced, solutions-driven political philosophy in preparation for a campaign run in the near future.