Category Archives: Gun Control

Eighteen Years Gone: Here We Are

Sepy 11

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I always resented what seemed like immediate parlor games of everyone sharing – usually on social threads – their boring yarns about how they were in the middle of this, that or the other thing when they heard about what was the worst attack on American soil.

Doing so 2-3 years after Sept. 11, 2001 — especially when the act led to a disingenuous rationale for a war in Iraq that quickly revealed itself as coming from Page 1 of the Vietnam playbook made these personal remembrances seem trivial.

I had what I thought was a more pertinent question: Where are you now?

But some time has since elapsed, and maybe it’s time to flip the script.

This past week, we commemorated 18 years since 9/11.

And Sofia is old enough – and intrigued by events that occurred more than five minutes ago – to share our own experiences, just like my father did with me about the JFK assassination (Oswald didn’t act alone, if at all, but that’s another column for another day) and the Japanese army (they acted alone) bombing Pearl Harbor.

I don’t know what makes me the final arbiter of when it is time to suddenly change lanes on the discussion. I just felt like it was too soon before and not so much now.

Where was I that day? I was just getting out of the shower in the Center City apartment I shared with my future wife (then fiancé). She worked in Wilmington at the time, and called with the news of a plane striking one of the twin towers. I had the TV on, but was pre-conditioned not to get too involved with the trivialities of Good Morning America, when it was clear something else was going on.

First reaction? It was terrorism, clearly, but it could be passed off as some sort of accident from air traffic control to avoid public panic (just like blaming the JFK assassination on a lone nut). But, after the second plane hit, which I watched as it happened, it was clear was going on. The whole nation could be under attack.

As the crime-beat reporter for The Times Herald, I drove into work that day while many others were scrambling to make it home from their jobs.

For all I knew, the nation could have been under total assault and this was only the start of it. But, like many Americans, I defined myself by my job back in those pre-Sofia years.

I was told by the editor at the time that I was a free agent, meaning stops at police stations to comb through blotter were out. The rest of it is a blur. I believe I had four or five bylines in the Sept. 12 edition, although I only recall two – from a bomb scare called into the Plymouth Township Community Center and from talking to congregants who came to pray at one of the historically black churches in Norristown.

I remember the sense of unity between a lot of scared people of all walks of life. While I was not a fan of the president who I thought stole the election, I felt he then had the nation in the palm of his hand.

Who knew how much he would blow it?

Eighteen years later, we are more divided than ever.

A new psychology emerged – a sort of acceptable narcissism — wherein we were inundated with a spate of reality television.

And the ultimate sociopath, who seemed to find a resting spot on reality TV after failing as a mogul, was elected as president.

The real patriotism we all felt in the aftermath of Sept. 11 has been subverted and perverted into a game of who is more patriotic than who, based on superficialities.

Mass shootings are now so commonplace that we aren’t even phased by them anymore.

Children drink water with lead in it, and we shrug it off.

Eighteen years later, that’s where we are.

Maybe that’s why it suddenly seems better to remember where we were, and get back to that place of temporary unity amid fear and chaos.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Sept.  15, 2019.

No Retreat, No Surrender

GunArt2

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE – So now your president (not mine) is willing to do something about gun control?

He’ll knock on Mitch McConnell’s turtle shell, see if he pokes that obtuse face out, and will let us know.

Then, maybe if they get a permission slip from the NRA, they’ll consider some background check language to file under “Red Flag” legislation.

While it’s a start, and you can never run down a start, I think we all know it’s not going to be sufficient.

And I think we all know that the next mass shooting after these laws go into effect will meet with a lot of “I told you so” remarks and smirks from the right.

The reality is that so much more would need to happen before the passage of time – five years, 10 years, etc. – shows a marked decrease in gun violence (mass shootings, street shootings, accidental shootings and suicides).

There are many facets to gun violence. It’s not a single-cause crisis, and there is no one magic-wand approach to making it vanish.

It’s a syndrome, with multiple causes.

And solutions.

We would be spraying Raid everywhere, except the hornet’s nest, without addressing the type of assault weapons used in Parkland, Vegas, Orlando, El Paso, Sandy Hook and so many other tragedies.

There was once a ban on these tools of destruction, and gun massacres (six or more deaths) dropped 43 percent. After it lapsed in 2004, under the George W. Bush administration, there has been a staggering 183 percent increase.

They like to say that the key to prevention is to turn every outpost in the country – from elementary schools to beauty schools, from supermarkets to dollar stores, from Little League fields to houses of worship – into armed fortresses.

Not that simple.

“I didn’t do anything because I thought police would think I was the shooter,” said an armed witness to the El Paso massacre.

Still, despite rather hollow willingness and passing-the-buck drills, we need to start someplace.

Those who are quick wrap body armor around the sugar daddy that is the gun lobby don’t want to go there, but any willingness to go somewhere that leads us out of nowhere is promising.

At least we are seemingly working past the “too soon to talk about (gun control)” and hollow “thoughts and prayers” mumbo jumbo.

Most of the country, as has been the case for a while, remains in favor of background checks. Democrats more than Republicans, but not by as much of a margin as you would think.

And there was this, in the wake of the recent shootings, from your president (not mine).

“Mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger. Not the gun.”

Actually, hatred did pull the trigger of the El Paso shooter, who was bent on shooting Mexicans after leaving behind a manifesto that was dipped in the DNA of the rhetoric of your president (not mine).

Your president (not mine) was not a welcomed guest in El Paso, and it showed when all eight hospitalized victims refused to meet with him.

He won’t own that, but he seems willing to move – after which he will likely shove it in the face of his 2020 presidential opponent.

It might be worth the tradeoff.

What are being called “Red Flag” laws could just be a trap serving as sort of a political flypaper. It should, by no means, lead to waving the white flag on legislation – the type that would have to come after a powerful left hook in 2020 – really needed for substantive change.

Taking ancillary causes (mental health, video games, Hollywood, etc.) and making them the core issue could be as dangerous, long-term, as doing nothing.

There are people called epidemiologists who are experts in studying, well, the science of epidemics in all forms based on statistics.

And that’s where we have been for far too long with gun violence.

How do you explain, for example, that women also have mental illness but 98 percent of those pulling the trigger in gun violence are men?

There are varied definitions of who is or isn’t mentally ill, although it is generally accepted that as much as five percent of the population have a condition that would require a psychiatrist (as opposed to a psychologist, counselor or member of the clergy).

Research shows that only 43 percent get help, and it is also noteworthy than an estimated 60 percent of American counties do not even have a psychiatrist.

The epidemiologists point out that people with mental conditions are, in fact, 3.6 percent more likely to exhibit some sort of violent behavior but are 23 times more likely to be victims of violence.

The FBI did a study in 2018, and it pointed more toward factors beyond being insane.

This is more about those who go temporarily insane, as the study pointed to financial stress and disputes/bullying at school and/or the workplace with co-workers. Substance abuse was also cited.

What happens when someone is infuriated?

They might go home and punch a wall. They might get their drink on at the local tavern. They might go the gym and pump a battleship’s worth of iron.

But, in the land of the gun, there are other realities.

Even though our mental health issues are not different than that seen in other countries, the difference is access to guns.

We have 400 million civilian-owned firearms, which breaks down to 120.5 per 100 residents (i.e. more than one per person).

That puts us first, with lovely Yemen (just under 53 percent per 100) a distant second.

This is what we call a real red flag.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 18, 2019.

Playing ‘Taps’ for a New Generation

AAguns

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Another Memorial Day has come and gone.

Some used the long weekend to invite skin cancer at the beach, attend picnics or parties to celebrate the unofficial start of summer, and/or shop for bargains at stores being priced out of existence by online retailers.

In between, there was the normal pomp and circumstance – heightened this year on the 75th anniversary of Normandy — to honor those who died in service to our country.

Still, the sound of “Taps,” which used to give us goose bumps, is background noise to too many.

As much as that seems unfair, there is a stark recent statistic, and it tells us that we need to create a second day to remember those who have fallen on a different type of battlefield – the streets, schoolyards, and schools on the home front.

Despite an 11-year head start, more children have died since the horror of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. than all U.S. soldiers lost in combat overseas since 9/11.

According to a report from the Department of Defense, the military operations since 9/11 have left 6,929 soldiers dead (6,950, counting Department of Defense civilians).

Since the death of 20 first-graders – and six adults – at Sandy Hook, the number of children killed by guns has crossed the 7,000 mark.

And still counting.

While there was some fleeting 24-hours news cycle attention paid to a workplace shooting that left a dozen dead in Virginia Beach, the subsequent weekend saw another bloodbath on the streets of Chicago.

And I can hear it now.

“There goes Gordon again,” you say, with a snort. “That ‘Snowflake’ just loves to write about gun control.”

Actually, I hate it.

With a passion.

The day I don’t have to write about it anymore – and can replace with a list of my favorite songs by Three Dog Night or lessons learned from watching “Seinfeld” — will be cause for a Memorial Day beach barbecue.

What can we do to get on top of this magical place?

It’s so simple that, in fact, maybe we have been missing it all along. Maybe, no matter which side of the issue we are on, we just need to be realistic and keep open minds.

If you are in favor of some extreme form of gun control – like going door to door and collecting them – it’s just not going to happen.

It’s sounds nice, but so does kissing a frog who turns into a prince.

If you are one of those who don’t want the laws touched at all – based on some major misinterpretation of the Second Amendment or, more than likely, “just because” – you are setting yourself up for disappointment as well.

It can’t – and won’t – go on the way it is.

The ebb and flow of the political tide simply won’t let it.

At some point, whether it’s all in 2020 or in two-year increments beyond, mindsets are going to turn more toward change on the issue, if only because people have a “change” fetish.

It’s the only way to explain how someone who says they would have voted for Bernie Sanders for president went for the polar opposite, in terms of political viewpoint, by voting for your president (not mine).

It’s the only way to explain the historic vote of 2018 that put so many women, from so many different backgrounds and viewpoints, in Congress.

And it’s what put these same children – your kids, who wake up each day and go to school with at least passing thoughts that they may not make it home – on the streets in protest after a massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla. to demand change.

National firearm- and nonfirearm-related homicides by youths_0

Like it or not, here they come.

These are your next generation of voters, and they have this issue at, or the near the top, of their “change” list.

What they push for, and may get, could be more than any of us bargained for – including someone like myself, who isn’t looking for some radical attempt at change that it will leave people who want to defend their homes unarmed.

It will, pardon the pun, backfire on all of us.

So, maybe the so-called adults in the room need to have an adult conversation about it.

If I were someone who considers myself a responsible gun owner, I would not be angry with those who are seeking gun control. Once my knee de-jerks itself, my angst would be directed toward those who abuse the privilege of responsible gun ownership, which is one of the main untapped sources of ongoing problems with gun deaths — whether through accidental shootings, suicides, domestic disputes, hunting accidents, etc.

There was a time in this country when cars were on the streets without much policing. Eventually, there became a need for traffic laws – stop signs, red lights, speed limits, etc. – to mitigate the damage of an increasing number of cars, built to go faster, on the road.

These laws, which continue to be put in place to this day – while car manufacturers, foreign and domestic, strive to outdo one another with safety features – are there to save every life possible.

People still die in car crashes, yes, but the sheer number of lives saved with seat belts and airbags and DUI checkpoints is unknown.

Stricter gun control laws won’t stop every tragedy, either.

But it would be a step in the right direction.

And that’s a whole lot better than shrugging it off, saying that we are apples and oranges from other countries (Australia, Japan, etc.) who have succeeded in stemming the tide of gun violence.

And it’s a whole lot better than having a second Memorial Day to play “Taps” to remember children who have been gunned down on domestic battlefields.

This column initially appeared in The Times Herald on June 9, 2019.

Peace with a piece

The Worth of Words

Words Matter

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — A lot has happened in the wake of the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

That nation’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – yes, one of 25 elected female leaders around the world — said “our gun laws will change.”

“Our” means “theirs,” not “ours.”

Despite way more mass shootings – defined as four casualties (fatalities or injuries) – our leaders mislead us toward generic thoughts and prayers and said it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control.

Then they wait us out, until emotions are quelled and they can double down on an arcane interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Meanwhile, New Zealand – which already has strong gun laws in place — used one incident, with 51 fatalities, to vow to do more about gun control than we have with all those thoughts and prayers put together.

The Australian mass murderer, a sworn white nationalist so devoid of remorse that he flashed a white power symbol through shackled paws, had a manifesto praising – among others – your president (not mine).

That is not insignificant.

And it is not new.

In 2017, in Quebec City, Alexander Bissonette killed six in a mosque in Quebec City. The follow-up investigation revealed a fascination with your president (not mine).

When they say the POTUS – no matter who is in the chair — takes on the role of leader of the free world, this is why.

It is an awesome responsibility, and words matter more than, say, the leader of Uzbekistan or Albania.

Your president (not mine) insists upon all the absolute power that he thinks comes with the position, but none of the responsibility riding shotgun with words mattering to the point that it can be a matter of life and death.

And not just in New Jersey or New Mexico, but in New Zealand or Newfoundland.

Whether it is inciting violence abroad or at home – or issuing thinly veiled threats about who will be on his side in an armed domestic struggle — it is conduct unworthy of the office to act like a drunkard on a bar stool looking for a fight before last call.

Take it from someone who watches “The Sopranos” on a continual loop. Tony Soprano has 10 times more tact as a mob boss than your president (not mine) as King Pompous on his throne.

Scoff if you must, but consider the response when asked to comment on the tragedy – in a country that he probably couldn’t find on a map — your president (not mine) sent in the punt team and flew by the seat of his hindquarters.

“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” he said.

Other than that, this response was … very, very … huh … pathetic.

Not to mention hypocritical.

How so?

This is the same misleader of the free world who raises the vigilance level against all Muslims when statistics not only show a small percentage (roughly 6-8 percent, depending on the source) are radicalized to some extent.

And nothing legitimizes it better than when he fans the flames, making himself the radical Muslims best recruiting tool.

Think about the “logic” your president (not mine) uses for his babyish insistence on building a wall at the Mexican border and for putting separating children from the parents and putting them in cages.

He says it is all about crime, but undocumented workers commit crimes at a much lower rate than current citizens (56 percent fewer criminal convictions, according a study published in the Washington Post).

He cites drugs, when the vast amount of drugs come in from ports of entry (i.e., 25 kilos seized the other day at Port of Philadelphia).

For these pet projects/peeves, he twists stats for his own use when preaching to his unknowing choir.

When it comes to backing a car into a crowd of counter protesters on the streets of Charlottesville, shooting worshipers inside a black church in South Carolina or a synagogue in Pittsburgh — or mosques around the world — it is all conveniently dismissed as random.

car_attack_photograph

Since his followers like his plain and simple talk, let’s keep in that tongue.

Plain and simple: We have a white man in the White House who, by Making America White Again, made some with “serious problems” feel empowered enough to act out.

Your president (not mine) may not want to own it – he rarely does – but the deed is in his name.

The FBI reported last year that hate crimes rose for the third straight year, with white nationalists leading the way.

All the while he referred to himself as a “nationalist.”

Say what?

In a job with enormous consequences, one where words matter, it is just another glaring example of poor usage of language that will inevitably have consequences down the line.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald  on March 25, 2019.

Meet Me In The Town Square

Ex presidents

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Got something to say?

I’m not a hard guy to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

That’s where people gather, maybe have some coffee (decaf for me, lest a migraine will make my head erupt like Mount St. Helens), and respectively share opinions without fear of being blacklisted (or blocked on Facebook) for eternity.

They – whoever “they” are — say don’t discuss religion or politics. I ask why not?

So when a reader wanted to know why I refer to the current person who calls himself your president (not mine) as “your president (not mine),” I took the opportunity to engage.

I’m sure his question is one many of you are also asking, so I’ll lay it on the line.

Your president (not mine) has, to put it metaphorically, put tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty.

You just don’t make that lady cry and get away with it, period.

Obviously, beyond that, we need context.

The reader wanted to know which other presidents in my lifetime I did not consider to be “my president,” and my answer was “until now, none.”

I was born in 1965, so the list isn’t long.

It consists of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Although he ramped up Vietnam for reasons that still are not clear, LBJ carried the ball across the goal line on vital Civil Rights legislation (even though those goal posts now continue to be moved).

Nixon disgraced the White House, perhaps beyond repair, but I remember my mother crying in front of the television the night he resigned saying he was a good friend to Israel (and, despite being virulently anti-Semitic behind closed doors, it’s true). Nixon also created the same EPA that your president (not mine) is trying to put on life support.

Ford? Eh. Everyone was wise to the game when he pardoned Nixon. He paid for it when he lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Carter? Eh. He was a bit spineless, but he did create a tepid peace between Israel and Egypt and is cool in the role of ex-president.

Reagan? I find the idol worship of his long shadow especially ironic, as he was not as far to the right as conservatives make it seem when genuflecting at his altar. At the end of the day, though, I see him for what he was – a “B” actor playing a part for writers, producers and directors behind the scenes who are more worthy of my wrath.

George H.W. Bush? He was Reagan’s VP, meaning it was four years of the same trickle-down nonsense.

This is when I was becoming politically aware, and legal to vote (thanks to Nixon lowering the voting age), but my votes against Reagan and Bush didn’t mean it even crossed my mind to not consider either my presidents.

They were just presidents I didn’t like, not ones who belittled the FBI or threw hissy fits if made fun of Saturday Night Live.

Clinton, despite his dalliance with an intern (pales in comparison to affair with porn stars), brought enough peace and prosperity that I would rank him first in my lifetime.

For the same reasons I don’t do caffeine, I don’t do alcohol. If I did, George W. Bush might be the ex-president I would tilt a few with until last call. He could tell me about his drawings, and I could tell him about my songs. And I’m sure we could talk a lot of sports.

The reality, though, is that I made my bones as a political columnist being pretty hard on W. The way he squandered a chance to unite the country, instead dividing it with a war of folly in Iraq, is something we are still dealing with today.

With Obama, I saw that the antipathy toward him was skin deep, and that made me a watchdog on instinct.

Obama brought class, grace and eloquence (especially on the topic of gun control) to the White House.

But he was probably too decent of a guy. He made a fatal mistake by trying work across the aisle, when he technically didn’t need to, in his first two years. After the 2010 midterms, when legislative balance of power changed, forget it. He couldn’t get much done with a well-meaning social agenda.

International affairs? Other than supporting the rest of the world on climate change, not high marks.

However, it was he – not your president (not mine) — who turned the economy around (after W. left it in shambles) and also brought about a baby step in the ongoing healthcare mess.

Going from that to waking up to daily Twitter rants (with babyish ALL CAPS and cringe-worthy grammar errors) is a daily pill too bitter to put down.

Bottom line, not only does your president (not mine) fail to represent my core liberal values, but he seeks to stomp all over the whole nation’s core values – calling the press the “enemy of the people,” and wanting to squash other forms of free speech guaranteed to all under the First Amendment.

And, to be technical, it looks increasingly likely your president (not mine) was not legally elected anyway, as there is mounting evidence of outside interference of a hostile foreign government aiding his barely legal election (by way of the arcane electoral college).

Although this reader and I clearly disagree – he dropped the Kenya bomb, which I let slide – I invited him to engage again.

Same goes for the rest of you.

I won’t be hard to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 24.

For Those About To Rock

Gun Control

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 17.

 

Distant Replay: Sandy Hook

sandy-hook

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The best part of my day is picking Sofia up from school.

I relish the moment, knowing the day when she will opt for the long way home – i.e. the bus – looms in the future.

But I never relished it more than last Friday – Dec. 14, 2012.

The full details of the heart-wrenching tragedy in Newtown, Conn. were still not completely clear, but we knew enough.

When Sofia got in the car, she gave a big smile, completely unaware of what happened to other little kids whose parents sent them off to school, not knowing they would never see them alive again.

When I stopped to secure her in her car seat, which is part of the daily routine, there was none of the usual playful banter between us.

Losing the battle to fight back tears, and trying to imagine what those parents in Connecticut must be feeling, I just pulled her close and held on like I never wanted to let go.

It was a small snippet – one played out everywhere in America – in this country’s longest day since Sept. 11, 2001.

For me, that day ended when I got home from work.

Sofia was asleep. Sweet, innocent, unaffected – clutching her Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal – while our two cats, Hank and Licorice, curled up around her.

Unlike 20 precious first-graders, and the school staff members killed with them, she was going to wake up the next day.

I pulled her close again, and had the next of several hard cries – only pierced by therapeutic fierce battles with thick-as-a-brick conservatives on Facebook – that continued through last weekend.

When I took her to school Monday morning, there was a police vehicle on the premises. When I picked her up, it was there again.

Its presence was a sad commentary on the post-Dec. 14 world in which we suddenly live. Even sadder was the fact that I was relieved to see it there.

Welcome to the new normal. We never discussed the events with Sofia last weekend, instead changing the channel from the news to cartoons when she entered the room, but they addressed it at school Monday.

Later that night, she was seen hiding all the figurines in our Christmas village so ‘they would be safe from the bullets.’

She was assured that she had nothing to be worried about.

Where do we go from here in the quest to make that assurance a reality?

Here’s a start: We need to stop asking how these mass shootings can keep on happening in a civilized society.

The truth is that we don’t live in a civilized society.

During the whole ordeal, I was put in mind of those futuristic movies and novels that projected how our culture might be in the 21st century if we don’t have a serious gut-check moment.

And here we are, living it out like some self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s time for some serious soul-searching, and it begins in my own chosen profession of journalism.

The quest for Pulitzers and Peabodys – not to mention ratings and driving traffic to websites – were blatant.

Children who survived, despite being recently scared and permanently scarred, were interviewed. Reporters and anchors talked about the death toll like statistics at a basketball game, waiting to see where it would rank with other recent massacres.

Then we have Hollywood. The gratuitous violence has become so common, seen as so necessary to fill the gaps in mediocre story lines, that our children are undaunted.

They become so numb to it that it is no wonder they don’t act out more often when things don’t go their way.

And then there is the elephant in the room: Gun Control.

Gun advocates began playing defense almost immediately – pointing the finger at mental health, school bullying and armed teachers in every school.

They won’t even concede the obvious, that all of the above – along with social issues like the erosion of the Middle Class – are connected in an unholy alliance.

You can’t resolve one without the others.

You can’t break out your surgeon’s scalpel and carve gun control out of the mix.

This is no time to cling to your guns, or your religion.

If we need God in school, like some say, then we need God at the gun shows, too. We need God in places like our own state, where it is easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

President Barack Obama, clearly moved by the tragedy, was feared and smeared as someone who was going to ‘take your guns away’ in his first term, as part of a greater left-wing conspiracy to ‘take your country’ from you.

Now, in his second term, with the specter of Newtown, Conn. happening just easily in Norristown, Pa. or Your Town, it appears the same sane president bold enough to give us semi-humane health care is ready to go where no president has gone before with gun control.

By forming a task force charged with getting answers sooner than later, he would be giving your country back.

Not only to us, but to our children.

So, this season, let us drop the inane debate over whether to say ‘happy holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas.’ Unless you are abnormal – and I concede a lot of you are not (one whacky ‘Christian’ zealot already muttered that it was God’s wrath for gay marriage) – there is nothing to be merry or happy about.

For all the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning Tuesday, or those already given out during the eight nights of Hanukkah, there is only one gift to give this year.

It is the promise to work together for a better world – that civilized society where these tragedies are not supposed to happen – and where we hold our kids out of love and joy, not fear and sorrow.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 22, 2012 (the first Sunday after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook massacre)