Something I rarely tell people is that at a summer job during college I witnessed a coworker be shot and murdered with a semi-automatic rifle. I was 20 years old and was only about 20 feet away when I witnessed the whole gruesome ordeal. I won’t get into the specifics except to say that it forever affected my feelings towards guns.
I will also note that I grew up with guns in our house. My dad is an avid hunter and a gun owner. But my whole life I can remember him saying that gun owners have a responsibility to make guns harder to get by crazy people. That a responsible hunter should want stricter regulations, waiting periods, and bans on weapons meant only for man-killing. My great uncle was a marksman in World War II, a rifle enthusiast, and a life long member of the NRA. He renounced his membership when they started becoming paranoid zealots.
All this to say I have strong history that has led to my belief in sensible gun control that includes a ban on assault weapons and large-ammo clips, bans on concealed weapons of any sort, extensive waiting periods and psych evaluations, and strict limits on the number of guns a person should be allowed to own.
Friday’s events have wrecked me. 20 children are dead and I can’t seem to stop crying. I cried at work. I cried when I got home. I cried before bed. I cried at the gym this morning as I was unable to escape my thoughts and being constantly bombarded by the 24-news cycle blaring on all TVs at the gym. I cried again this afternoon watching the stories of teachers who protected their children as the carnage took place around them.
There is a place for crying. But it is not enough. Action must be taken. Last night I signed up for monthly contributions to the Brady Campaign. I have posted extensively on Facebook and engaged with friends who hold slightly different opinions than mine. But more must be done. An easy first step is for any of you reading this who feel the same as I do to contribute to the Brady Campaign. Another step you can take is to write to or call your Representatives and Senators in Congress and demand that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004 be brought to an immediate vote and passed. Those are starting points. We must also pass stricter hand gun laws and increase our mental health services infrastructure, to name only a few more.
Please don’t let this fade. Don’t let us find ourselves shedding more tears every other month ad infinitum. Don’t let more children, YOUR children, be the next to die senselessly at the end of a military grade weapon. Take action. Gun Control Now.
I stopped by Mollie Stones after the gym tonight. A homeless guy was sitting out front. I recognized him because I’ve bought him chocolate cake and milk a few times before. As I walked in he said something about poetry but I didn’t understand him because I was rushing past. I told him I’d bring him a piece of cake again. When I came back out and I kneeled down to give him his cake, he said that he writes poetry and asked if I’d like to hear one of his poems. So I slowed myself and stopped to listen. His poem was about music and its place and effect in our lives. It was a phenomenal poem. And given that my day started with a powerful musical experience, it was fitting that it ended with a unique music-related experience too. A few learnings: Sometimes you literally need to slow down and open yourself to enjoying the things around you. And if you stop to listen to people, like really listen, you might accomplish two goals: The other person will feel heard (which is exactly what some folks need at times), and you might find that your life ends up a little richer as well.
On the way to work today I decided to listen to music instead of read my book. I scrolled through playlists and played Lorin Bassnectar’s Live at 43 set from Liquidate. Holy crap, I started grinning ear to ear. I felt like my mood suddenly jumped into the sky and was soaring up there with the rainy clouds. As I walked to work, several people I passed by did a double take, probably at my insanely happy grin. I just grinned back, too happy to care. I forgot how freakishly good breaks can put you in a ridiculously stellar mood. Happy Friday indeed.
Also, it has drum-n-bass tracks mixed in. This makes me even happier. I continued listening to the mix while at work, all the while grinning wildly. You can download the mix here for a limited time only: Live at 43: Liquidate.
It’s so interesting how eight years changes the meaning of the word “mandate.” In 2004, George W. Bush won the election by 3,012,166 popular votes (a 2.4% margin over Kerry) and 286 Electoral Votes (a 31 Electoral Vote margin over Kerry’s). Bush said:
“I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.” source
Here’s how Vice President Cheney put it:
“President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation’s future and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.” source
Barack Obama won the 2012 election with 3,227,862 popular votes (a 2.7% margin over Romney) and 332 Electoral Votes (a 126 Electoral Vote margin over Romney). And yet the media was a flurry the next day over how Obama and his team should not take this as a mandate. My dad, no doubt echoing FAUX News, said to me that it was no mandate. I dropped the numbers above on him. Then I said, Obama isn’t even claiming a mandate. Obama’s own victory speech was about coming together to solve problems:
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America. source
I’m not claiming Obama’s win was a mandate. I just find it amusing how the Republicans and the media to whom they distribute talking points, so easily changed the definition of “mandate” eight years later. Especially when the margin of victory in 2012 was larger than it was in 2004.
When I talk to many of my friends, they say that their interest in politics piqued when Al Gore had the election stolen from him. I was still young (just out of college) and having too much fun in the last year of San Francisco’s dot-com bliss to really care. I remember watching the results in disbelief with coworkers, but Dubya didn’t quite yet seem like the horrible country-killer he would soon become.
It wasn’t even the beginning of the unnecessary and unprovoked Iraq war that pushed me into political fanboy-dom. Though, at the time I lived in a warehouse with nine other people and we held anti-war seminars, stayed home from work, walked the streets in protest, etc. But that still wasn’t the tipping point for me.
I remember the pivotal moment vividly. I came home that Tuesday night in November of 2004, to a warehouse full of roommates and friends avidly watching the election results. We didn’t have cable or a TV, but were using our rabbit ears and projecting the results onto our wall in the movie room. The mood was somber amongst my friends. Florida, the source of so much drama four years prior, had been called for Bush. Ohio followed. And it was over. The bumbling idiot who had made a mockery of our country for four years was assured another four years to do even more damage. There was a lot of speculation in the warehouse movie room that night as to how this could have happened. There was also a call to action: All liberals needed to go make lots of liberal babies. I’m not sure if that work began in earnest that night, but eight years later, many of those same liberal warehouse friends are married with babies.
I remember walking out to the main room and noticing one friend lying on one of our six couches and staring blankly at the ceiling twenty feet above. I asked if he was okay–what was wrong? He said he couldn’t believe what had just happened. He was despondent over what another four years of The Decider would bring. And that’s when it really hit me. So much had gone wrong in four years and so much more was about to go wrong. And yet I knew relatively little about how or why things got to be this way. I was determined to understand more.
Immediately following that night in 2004, my friends and I walked around in a disillusioned haze. I thought that Democrats and Liberals had no hope. For about a month I was resigned to living alone in our little Liberal bastion bubble. Then around Christmastime my outlook took a turn for the better because of three books I read.
The first book was Robert Reich’s Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America. This book was instrumental in giving me hope that liberal ideals weren’t dead. Instead Liberals just needed to be more confident in owning their political beliefs. To this day, Reich remains one of my favorite political figures. He’s smart, witty, and committed to Liberal values that would make FDR, JFK, RFK, and LBJ proud.
The second book was The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, written by two conservative editors of The Economist. Of course, “conservative” outside of the US means something less absurd than it does here. I devoured their history of the rise of the Republican Party. Perhaps it was so palatable because of the mostly unbiased presentation of history. (I say “mostly” because the last chapter was so partisan/pro-Republican it felt incredibly out of place with the rest of the book.) That being said, I felt so much more knowledgable after reading this massive tome that laid bare the tactics and grand agreements that were made to bring about today’s powerful GOP. And, as G.I.Joe would say, knowing is half the battle.
The other half of the battle for me was about communication. I needed to understand how to convey my Liberal ideals to my less liberal friends and family members in a way that mattered to them. Thus, the third book I read was Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff. In this handy guide, Lakoff succinctly provides a framework for promoting liberal values and how to stop falling into the Right’s devious framing of issues. For example, calling it “tax relief” implies that taxes are something you need relief from, aka a burden. Call them what they are: tax cuts, which is more neutral, and can even be painted negatively, if your goal is to pay for things instead of cutting services. There’s much, much more in this pithy guide, and it gave me a new vocabulary and improved my hopes that we Liberals, too, could compete with good messaging.
That same year my dad and I got in a discussion about taxes. I told him that Bush hadn’t cut his taxes, and instead the vast majority of the tax cuts had gone to the rich. And then I said, why are taxes so bad anyway? He and my mom both were state employees (Cal-Trans and a teacher) whose salaries were paid for by California taxes. He was also on our local school board for 12 years and cared deeply about education. Guess where that money came from? Taxes. Then I landed it. I said that every year on tax day I was proud to pay taxes, even in the face of my tax dollars paying for two wars I didn’t support. The reason I was proud is that I made my way through K-12 public education and went on to Harvard and was now making more money than he and my mom were. I was the embodiment of the American Dream (and, as a single male, paid more in taxes than they did). It was my civic responsibility to pay back into the system that educated me and gave me a bright future. I was proud to fund education for my niece and her cousins so they could have the same opportunities I did. I was proud to pay for the great California road system that he spent so many years of his career building and maintaining. In short, I was proud to be a citizen of the United States and pay my membership dues. Interestingly about a year later he was talking to me around tax time again and was relating a story about how he had encouraged his coworker to vote for a local tax measure because it would help pay for schools, something any proud American should be supportive of. Thank you, George Lakoff.
Of course, I read countless other important books in the subsequent years. Too many to count or list, really. But those three stood out and turned me into the political junky I am today.
Two years later, in 2006 I studied the Senate races and put out my first guide to Which Senate Candidates to Support to Take Back the Senate. Six of the seven candidates that I promoted and gave money to ended up winning and helping the Democrats retake the Senate, putting an end to George W. Bush’s reign of unchecked terror.
To this day, I eat, drink and breathe politics. It’s of fundamental importance to me, but also to the nation that I want to see the USA become (or rather, return to). I long for the day that the Democrats hone their message even more finely. That they embrace the populism that Obama has delicately courted lately. That a new progressive powerhouse candidate rises on the national stage and brings about changes that benefit the Middle Class in the way FDR’s and LBJ’s policies did. We shall see if this comes to pass. But until then, I’ll continue to learn as much as I can so that I can advocate and educate within my circle of friends and family members.
I’m no graphic artist, but I made good use of PowerPoint and jpegs to create the following map. You can print it out and use it as a guide for Tuesday night. You can even grab a blue and red crayon and fill in the states as the media calls them. (Just don’t color in Florida too early or else you might want to keep a bottle of white out handy too).
Of course there’s the Big Face Off between Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney. More specifically, you should keep an eye out for results from the following eleven swing states. We should have a pretty good idea who has won each of the following races by midnight in each timezone.
There are also eight Senate races and four Gay Marriage ballot measures to watch closely. Here’s a list of all three types of results to watch for: SS (swing states), SE (Senate races), and GM (gay marriage).
New Hampshire SS
Virginia SS SE
Wisconsin SS SE
North Dakota SE (A complicated one, because the Democratic parts of the state are technically in Mountain time.
New Mexico SS
Arizona SS (Not really “swing” but it’s worth watching to see if reduced Republican margins indicated that it’s headed toward swing territory in the future)
HMS Romney was commissioned in August 1762 under her first commander, Captain Robert Walsingham, but was paid off by February the following year. When she recommissioned in June 1763, it was under the command of Captain James Ferguson. Romney became the flagship of the commander of the North American station, Rear-Admiral Lord Colvill, and served in this capacity for the next three years. After a brief refit at Portsmouth The Romney recommissioned in March 1767 under Captain John Corner, as part of a squadron sent to North America under Samuel Hood. While serving off North America, Romney achieved a degree of notoriety after being sent to Boston Harbour to support the commissioners, who had asked Hood for help in enforcing the Townshend Acts. She arrived on 17 May 1768, but being short of men, Captain Corner began to impress seamen from the harbour. This was unpopular with the locals, who took to attacking the press gangs. Events escalated when the commissioners in the town ordered the seizure of the merchant vessel the Liberty, which belonged to John Hancock. When sailors and marines from the Romney attempted to seize the vessel, mobs attacked them and then turned on the commissioners. Many of the officials took refuge aboard the Romney, before transferring to Castle William. These incidents heightened tensions that would eventually lead to the Boston Massacre in 1770.
As promised, here’s an update to my voter guide with the addition of a whole slew of endorsements from organizations. And lest you accuse me of showing only one side, I have included the SF Chronicle’s center-leaning endorsements as well (even though it makes me soul hurt a little).