Right Wing Ideology:
Reactions to Newtown

While I could probably be charitably be described as a liberal firebrand, I'd at least like to believe that I'm moderate enough to recognize when my own position is flawed. I try to make a habit of self-examination (as I've mentioned before) and dispense with ideas that have been proven not to work. It's probably arguable as to how successful I am in that respect, but still.

I'd also like to suggest that at least this sets me apart from the right-wing ideologues. Because even in the wake of Newtown, with over two dozen dead and most of those children, numerous members of the extreme right wing have doubled down on the same gun control policies (or rather, the lack thereof!) that brought us to this point in the first place. One would think that this would at least give them a moment's pause!

Of course, the arguments take two positions, the religious and the anarchist. The former is embodied in the first two links, people like Huckabee or Dobson saying that this is the inevitable result of our culture turning its back on God. This, of course, ignores the fact that President Obama made open reference to Christian scripture in his speech in Newtown; that Christians of some type are still the majority in this country - we're clearly in the wrong for daring to support birth control, and abortion, and gay marriage.

I think it's worth noting that this is exactly the same as the Westboro Baptist Church's position: events like these are God's wrath on our sinful nation. And as far as I'm concerned, if that's the way God actually works, I'll burn in hell for eternity before I offer one word of prayer or thanks to Him, much less work to shape public policy to bring it in line with His dictates. Assuming I believed in the Christian God in the first place, which I do not. I'm just grateful that most of the Christians I know don't actually agree with that view of God's will. (I hope.)

More worrisome to me, though, are the anarchists, the latter four people I linked. I'm sure they would not appreciate being labeled with that term, but what else am I supposed to believe? These are the people, after all, who believe that yet more guns are the solution to this problem. Who dare to say that the American people should be prepared to take on their own government, and argue that gun rights are an important shield against the tyranny of the government. Who seem to think that the only way to stay safe is to protect yourself, preferably with as much firepower as you can possibly get.

This really kind of disturbs me. Isn't part of the point of having a government to "provide for the common defense", to quote the Constitution? If I can't trust the government to protect me, why do we even have that government in the first place?

Now, even if I didn't trust the government in that respect (and for the record, I do), obviously I can think of a few other things that the government should be responsible for, given my position on the political spectrum. But those mostly work out to social welfare, which means that your average right-wing ideologue would hate them even more than providing for the common defense.

Given the way these people are reacting to Newtown, I'm left with nothing to do but wonder. What is the government supposed to do in the ideal world of the right wing?


In the Wake of Violence

I am really fucking tired of having to read this kind of story...
Multiple people — including children — were killed on Friday morning when at least one gunman opened fire in an Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT.
I could go ahead and chart out the course of our national dialogue over the next few days. I mean, it's already begun. Although I think in this case the "now they're going to 'exploit' the tragedy to try to push gun control" refrain actually began before anyone on the left actually started calling for stricter firearm laws - indeed, after the president's press secretary specifically said that today isn't the day for that discussion.

For my own part? I'm tempted to ask when the hell is the day for that discussion. I could remind everyone of the utter bullshit that it is for the right wing to whine about 'exploiting' the tragedy, given their past behavior when the guns were aimed at them instead of someone else.

Mostly, though, I'm just tired of this. There are other nations that have actually banned guns outright, you realize. Last I checked, Japan wasn't filled with gun violence to anywhere near the same extent that the U.S. is. China bore witness to an attack on a school this very same day - one in which the perpetrator used a knife. Dozens of people were injured, not killed. And yet banning guns will only make us less safe, we're told.

There was a time in this country when guns were more strictly regulated - when assault weapons were banned, reducing the amount of destruction that someone could cause all by themselves. I haven't found a clear picture yet of what the perpetrators of this mass shooting were armed with yet, so perhaps reinstating that would have done nothing about this incident. And before I even finish writing this, we've got confirmation that an assault rifle was indeed involved. Because it's critical that we be allowed to 'defend' ourselves with weapons that are better suited for mass annihilation, right?

Above all, though, I'm tired of slamming into the same brick wall over and over again, for a discussion that isn't even the one we need to have.

The discussion we need to have isn't the one I laid out above, about the mechanics of gun rights and gun ownership. It has nothing to do with whether banning guns outright would be "effective". Or whether we even could manage to do so in a country with an active set of fringe movements that would no doubt rise up in revolt if the government tried to institute a policy of civilian disarmament. And yet that's always what the discussion becomes, despite the fact that no U.S. administration has ever proposed such a plan for the last century or more.

The discussion we need to have is about the definition of strength. About the society we've built: the society in which any person who refuses to deal out swift and violent death is 'weak', somehow, despite the fact that it takes far more strength to turn the other cheek and ignore provocation rather than react out of hand. Despite the fact that it would take far more strength to admit to ourselves that something is very seriously wrong when our first reaction to dozens of people dead is to say "don't talk about the problem!"

I do believe that there will be situations in this world to which the only practical response will be violence. Today, though, is a day to reflect on the inevitable consequences of resorting to violence - a cost that we have seen in every military action the United States has ever carried out. While I do believe that it is a cost sometimes worth paying, I can say with total certainty that this was not a situation in which it was necessary to use force.

Just I can say with effectively total certainty that every time we avoid this discussion - the one about what violence even is, when we should use it, and how we should react to it - we are repeating the same mistakes that brought us to this point in the first place.


Campaign Retrospective
Part 2: Connections and Confidence

Well, my first look back at the campaign trail was honestly kind of a negative one. I figured I'd take a moment to reassure my readers (particularly if any of those are the people I was working with!) that on balance, I enjoyed my time with the campaign.

I think I can trace that enjoyment specifically to one facet of the campaign. You see, back when we had about a month to go until the election, there was this team meeting that we all attended, and one of the fun things we did at that meeting was to go around and have everyone say one thing they were looking forward to in the rest of the campaign.

My answer to that question was shaped in large part by the responsibilities I was taking on by that part of the campaign - as I mentioned in the last retrospective, I was in charge of data entry, and that meant building a team of people that could work together to get that data entry done. I was just starting that task when we had this meeting, and so I said that I was looking forward to building that team.

In some respects, though, I was less specific than that. What I said was that I was looking forward to building connections with all of the people that would work to help re-elect President Obama. I was looking forward to seeing someone walk in the door of our office and being able to say "Hey, nice to see you again, how are you today?" rather than "Welcome to the Obama campaign office, can I help you with something?"

In the end, that's the kind of thing that brought me back to the campaign day after day. Even in the position that I had, there was always that voice in the back of my head that suggested I was out of my depth. And then I'd show someone else how to handle the database, fix another computer problem at the office. One of the regular volunteers would come and ask me for help with something. I'd go and find out the answer, whether that meant a search of the Internet or asking the people that we had running the office. In some respects, I was too busy working to have the time to worry about whether I could handle the job!

Now that it's after the fact, I can say with some confidence that we got the job done. Barack Obama can be called "Mr. President" for another four years. And while that goes a long way toward shutting up that annoying little voice, I can't say that it was all or even mostly my work.

So let me say that again: we got the job done. The way politics should be handled: with people coming together and working for what they believed to be the common good. In short, as a team.


Flawless Victory!

Sorta, anyway. (Link goes to the graph of my word count by day on the NaNoWriMo website.)

I mean, I think probably anyone who's ever done National Novel Writing Month has probably heard of someone who pulled off an incredible comeback. The first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was sure that the one Municipal Liason (in charge of organizing events for a given region) was going to fail, but then he wrote thousands upon thousands of words in a few days, to the point where he was beating me in word count despite my diligent adherence to meeting the expected words per day.

I've just never expected to pull one off myself. I've never seemed to be able to write more than two or three thousand words in a day, and usually I can't maintain the upper end of that pace for more than a few days at a time. This year, though, I didn't have a choice. I tried to get a few words out on November 1st, but in between helping with the Obama campaign and some dissatisfaction with the story I was trying to write, I didn't get anything else done for over a week - and when I did start writing again, I ditched the story I had started on the 1st in favor or a new one. Essentially returning me to square one in terms of word count.

The upside to this change in plans is that with the new choice of story, I was able to get fired up enough to maintain a pace of nearly four thousand words a day for the first few days, almost getting me back to par. I did hit kind of a slump in the middle thanks to a nasty case of writer's block (brought on in part by the scenes I was writing), but in the end I recovered and hit the goal line with maybe four hours left in the month.

So, what happens now? Well, in the end I wrote fan fiction. That's another thing I never expected to do; I've seen more than one story on Fanfiction.net that's over 100k words. Never did understand how people managed that kind of thing, but at this rate I'm going to be writing one of those myself. Yeah, the story's not done. Actually, the story before that story isn't done, since what I wrote is essentially a sequel to Midchildan Music, a story I started a while back.

It does simplify my goals a little. I need to clean up Midchildan Music's final chapter, post that, deal with some retcons that need to be done to Midchildan Music as a result of inconsistencies that I introduced in the story I wrote over the past few weeks (and things I don't like in Midchildan Music), and then work on finishing the story that was this year's winning NaNoWriMo project.

And somewhere along the line, I'll probably try to go back to last year's NaNoWriMo. That one didn't end successfully, but it's also a work of original fiction, and I can still try to finish that up sometime...