Headlines we could have done without

Author: Barrett Rainey

The first headline:

COMMANDANT TO AFGHANISTAN MARINES
“MAKE EVERY SHOT COUNT”

A day or so later, the second headline appeared:

GUN SHOPS RUNNING
OUT OF AMMUNITION

The next day, another:

DEATH THREATS CANCEL
MICHAEL VICK BOOK TOUR

Taken individually, each of those headlines stands alone as events in today’s news. Taken together, they tell a different story of a nation stagnating under political failure, citizens arming themselves against their own government and each other and a society where fear of lawlessness – steeped in ignorance – interferes with the conduct of our daily lives.

While the first story seems to be about the top general in the Marines passing along some common sense combat philosophy – probably already learned in basic training – it’s really more a tragic statement about our current national political failures.

The real reason for the general’s admonition is the sequester! The self-inflicted “let’s-play-political-chicken-with-our-national-economy-and-our-national-defense” idiocy our “representatives” have created in Washington. What the commandant was really telling the troops was “We’re running out of money to buy the ammunition and other weaponry you need to beat the enemy while trying to get yourselves out of that damned country alive.”

In fact, all our military services are being crippled by politicians – not all politicians – just the idiots who’ve absolutely no idea what the hell they’re doing in elective office. The army is cancelling training maneuvers and other preparedness activities. Including weapons use. The air force has curtailed training missions and many routine operations. The navy has called some ships back to port, limited flight operations because of the costs of aviation fuel and is foregoing certain readiness activities. The coast guard has reduced its sea-going drug interdiction missions. All services have begun laying off civilian support workers. Because our Congress has taken a meat axe to make indiscriminate cuts in our entire national budget.

The second headline is also a dreadful commentary on this country at the moment. A country slowly being paralyzed by paranoia and fear. Gun sellers are running out of weapons and the ammunition for the first time in our nation’s history because a bunch of scared people are hoarding it all to use on their government. Or their neighbors. Or each other.

New polling shows most Americans don’t own a gun and they’re not the one’s out there buying one for the first time. Today’s buyers are more likely to be people who already have guns and now are buying still more while putting dozens more boxes of ammunition into the crawl space under their homes.

The third headline – Michael Vick and his book tour – is really connected to – and an outgrowth of – the gun craziness and speaks to irrational fears and our personal safety. For all of us.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Vick. The savagery of his dog fighting years is repulsive – a stain he’ll carry for life. But he was convicted – served his time – has engaged in some extensive charitable work regarding animals – has rededicated himself to responsible animal care – and has resumed his professional football career in fine manner. The way I was raised, he did the crime – he did his time – he’s trying to make amends. That should square him with society. Those are our normal expectations of someone who’s done something wrong. As the anti-gay crowd is fond of saying “Love the sinner – hate the sin.”

Now he’s written a book about his experiences – and his growth – as a lot of people in public life have done. But his publisher has had to cancel all his book-signing appearances because of repeated anonymous threats to kill him if he appears in certain cities. For a book signing? In a book store?

In nearly all instances, threats against Vick are anonymous. That’s the curse of the blessing of technology today. The Internet. Cretins with the mental acuity of moss can lob their threats with no personal responsibility. But several police departments have taken it seriously enough to ask Vick to stay away. So he has.

Is it too much to connect the dots here? From cowards among us who use anonymity to foist their irrational hate on the rest of us so our normal behavior is changed to avoid violence? To national paranoia and more irrational fear that causes thousands of Americans to create personal armories to use against any of the rest of us who might appear to be a threat to them? To our very national defense which is hamstrung by politicians irrationally who fear the size of their own government and, in that fear, are putting our national security and those who provide it in jeopardy?

I don’t think so. Fear seems to have become our common national theme. It’s manifest in nearly everything we do. We’re being consumed by it nationally – in politics – in our personal relationships – in groups trying to divide themselves from the rest of us in what used to be a united country.

But if you really want to feel fear – to be afraid – put yourself in a fox hole in Afghanistan – 20-years-old – and your commanding general has just told you to be careful with your ammunition because politicians have made it impossible for the Marines to buy more.

Now THAT’s fear!

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