Will Knowledge Ever Win The Political Sweepstakes?

Ed Raymond

One might assume that when slave owner Thomas Jefferson thought of the proposition that “all men are created equal” 232 years ago a civilized society over the next ten generations might have figured out how to accomplish the task. Evidently it is way too short a time for the four horses of Ignorance, Bigotry, Race, and Economic Inequality to be defeated by a crippled old war horse named Knowledge. Evidently the arc of history, bending by science and philosophy, is slow to respond to four powerful  horses. We are still confounded by a question that should have been resolved a century ago: Who is recognized as fully human?

We may be slowly making some inroads. A white North Texas Baptist minister and his family took in a black kid in 2014 who didn’t have a place to live anymore in Haltom City. Originally from Alabama, the boy’s birth mother agreed that Laderrious Mixon could live with the pastor’s family. The pastor and his wife adopted him in 2018. Now the pastor’s son and he are the leading football players on the high school team—and really consider themselves brothers. Personal knowledge that this black kid is fully human triumphed over racial bigotry.

We are now in the 158th year of the American Civil War. Never really at peace, the battles between the two combatants ebb and flow like the tides over the decades. We are not the first country to have a long civil war. In the 19thcentury British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli described the situation in England because of the Industrial Revolution: “We have two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy, who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets.” But it didn’t take England that long to settle differences. The 2018 midterm elections emphasized that Donald Trump is just another president of the Confederacy who has tinges of slavery and labels blacks, immigrants, browns, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, LBGTQ people, and women who want to control every aspect of their bodies as less than fully human. But I think reformers and change agents may operate at high tide for awhile. A few observations:

LBGTQ Candidates Were Elected In Record Numbers

The Victory Fund, A PAC formed to elect gay candidates, endorsed 225 gay candidates across the country and elected 153 to various offices. Over 400 LGBTQ candidates also ran for judgeships, boards of education, and other local and state positions. Coloradans elected Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected to governor in the United States. Oregonians re-elected bisexual Kate Brown, a practicing female Hindu yogi. We have had gay governors before, but they always kept the closet door locked. Democrat Krysten Sinema became the first woman and the first bisexual senator elected from Arizona. Gay Tammy Baldwin of Wisonsin was re-elected to her second term in the U.S. Senate. 

The U.S. House gaine Sharice Davis, probably the first time a triple-threat fully human being was elected to the House. She is a lesbian, a Native American, and a mixed-martial-arts fighter—from Kansas!! That’s where the Westboro Baptist Church has been yelling “FAGGOT” and “DEATH TO GAYS” for decades at funerals of military veterans and others. And if you know any history, Kansans have never treated Indians as fully human beings before. A Kansas Republican official called Ms. Davis a “radical socialist kickboxing lesbian Indian” who should be “sent back-packing to the reservation.” Kansans also elected gay Brandon Woodward and lesbian Susan Ruiz to the state legislature.

In Massachusetts “religious” conservatives collected enough signatures to put a 2016 law protecting transgenders from discrimination in public places on the ballot for repeal. This law covered bathrooms in public locker rooms, schools, hotels, and motels. The voters rejected the repeal. This vote will benefit LBGTQ people all over the nation. Perhaps some day gays will be considered fully human by all. The Christian Right is often wrong.

 The Campaign To Save Pre-Existing Conditions Worked In The Midterms

I have a number of favorite cynics. H.L. Mencken, a Baltimore reporter who covered the Scopes evolution vs. Bible trials in 1925, described the battle between Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Christian Bible: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” “Conservative” Trump-Republicans continue to insist that health care is a privilege, not a right. Americans pay twice as much for health care as any other civilized nation on the planet. Is it a matter of intelligence? What other reason fits? The free market? All other civilized nation have adopted some type of universal care.

I’m somewhat assured by the actions of some Trumpian states in the midterms that our grandchildren may be covered by universal care. At least the Republicans probably will not attempt to repeal Obamacare 50 times again. The Republican Supreme Court made Medicaid optional for the states after the Affordable Care Act was passed. A great mistake. Naturally most of the red states (they depend on contributions from blue states to make their budgets) refused to cover their poor and uninsured, always sticking to their goal of profits over people.

Voters in very red Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah approved ballot measures to join Medicaid and will add about 500,000 to Medicaid rolls. Currently Medicaid covers one in five Americans. Democratic victories in governor races, particularly Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin will probably add three more to the list of Medicaid states—adding 800,000 more people to Medicaid. In the end 37 states and the District of Columbia will have joined Medicaid. The horse of Knowledge will win the race over the horse of Ignorance in those states. In an October poll 56% of the people in the 17 states without Medicaid wanted their states to approve Medicaid. Rural hospitals have been closing by the dozens because private insurance companies overpower small hospitals. Many small cities die when schools and small hospitals close. If small-state Republican senators continue to vote with the One percent against Medicare and Medicare instead of with their small town hospitals, people will migrate from small towns to urban centers. We don’t need more people in big cities.

Blood Sacrifices For Gods And Guns

Aztecs in the 15th Century sacrificed children, prisoners of war, criminals, and volunteers at certain times during the month to appease, honor, and placate their gods. Sacrifices took place on the top of temples, and was usually performed by five religious priests. The blood sacrifice was held down by four priests while his/her abdomen was sliced open with an obsidian ceremonial knife. The beating heart was cut out and placed in a bowl by the god of the day. The body was then thrown down the temple stairs to a terrace. On the terrace other priests and citizens stabbed, pierced, and bled themselves as part of the sacrifice. Hymns, whistles, dances, and percussive music occurred during parts of the sacrifice. Some body parts would later be disposed of by feeding zoo animals. The bleeding head was put in a skull rack next to the skulls of other sacrifices. When prisoners of war were sacrificed the meaty parts of the body were eaten by troops who had captured him. 

Americans in the 21st Century sacrifice men, women, and children daily by shooting them  by the dozens (105 per day on average) to appease, honor, and placate the Second Amendment, National Rifle Association, and the gun lobby gods. The priests of the NRA and the gun lobby evidently feel that having a mass shooting every day (In 2018 we have had 307 mass shootings in 311 days so far) while killing an average of 34,000 people and wounding 100,000 each year is not enough bodies to sacrifice the Second Amendment--or even to amend it. On some days we kill more. Here are just a few daily sacrifice killings in recent years. Perhaps you will recognize some of these numbers: 12, 58, 32, 26, 23, 21, 16, 14,14, 13, 12, 12, 9, and 5. 

After all of these mass killings the National Rifle Association always throws out the pablum of mental illness as the cure for gun nuts shooting up innocent masses. If the NRA is actually serious about mental health, why doesn’t the NRA have its servants in Congress pass universal health care so that every citizen has access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment—to prevent firearm deaths? Why don’t they urge passage of a bill allowing the Institutes of Health to study how we can solve this major public health crisis of 400 million firearms awash in the country? The NRA recently told doctors “to stay in their lane.” How can doctors stay in their “proper lanes” when they have to remove millions of bullets from the dead and wounded annually? One first grader at Sandy Hook had eleven Bushmaster bullet holes in him. A doctor might not forget that carcass.

Who Pays The Bills For The 33,000 Killed And 100,000 Wounded Each Year?

The NRA gun lobby finds it easy to forget bullets and killing. The NRA gun lobby gods have only one interest: keep millions of firearms flying off the shelves and racks of thousands of gun stores. When over 800 people were wounded during the ten minutes the Vegas shooter killed 58 with over 1,100 rounds fired by AR-15s with bump stocks, who paid the hospital bills? A USATODAY editorial makes a good point: “No matter how many such massacres occur, Americans must never become desensitized to this wanton violence, must never be willing to sigh, clean up the blood—and move on.” 

We have five percent of the world’s population and nearly 50 percent of the world’s firearms in civilian hands. Citizens in other countries can’t comprehend our fascination with guns. Daisy Pusher of Canada writes: “Twelve more killed by gunfire (Thousand Oaks) in a country that bans Kinder Surprise eggs; I weep for you, America.” Mak of Brazil writes: Crazy people we find everywhere in this world, no doubt. But crazy people carrying so many guns we find in only one place: USA.”

In the recent shooting at Thousand Oaks (at least six more mass killings will take place until this column is published), the ex-Marine used a Glock.45 caliber with an illegal large capacity magazine to kill eleven in three minutes. A .45 makes a very large hole. Make the deranged shooter reload after six rounds. It will save thousands. As a Marine officer I carried the Browning .45 semi-automatic Model 1911 pistol. It’s a close-quarter killing machine. I have an expert rifleman’s badge shooting the semi-automatic Garand rifle. I have fired light and heavy .30 and .50 caliber machineguns, 60 and 81mm. mortars, and 105 howitzers. No civilian should possess a weapon with a caliber above .30, a muzzle velocity over 1,000 ft. per second, and a magazine with a capacity over six rounds.

The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine has come up with 15 points trauma surgeons use to prevent death and disability from firearms. The first solution is eerily similar to the Aztec sacrifice: “We cut open chests and hold hearts in our hands in the hopes of bringing them back to life.”