From Petty Politics to a People’s Pope

Some things that don’t make sense:

1.Gun-related deaths:

Nearly 90 Americans die each day as the result of gun violence. Ninety.  Each day.  The number of mass shootings is on the rise.  What’s perhaps more senseless is the fact that we as a nation — and especially our legislators — are failing to engage in meaningful and sustained dialogues over how we can lower the fatality rate. We are failing to stay with the discussion until something is done, until things get better. It’s as though talking about guns will create an ownership ban or a hunting ban, at least that appears to be the worry of the National Rifle Association and like-minded folks. Watch the NRA’s Wayne Lapierre spread untruths and refuse to budge again this Sunday, when he appears on Meet the Press in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings in D.C.

Let’s be clear: the Right to Bear Arms will always be.  But perhaps we might discuss — just discuss — what kinds of firearms average citizens should be able to purchase, whether there should be a registration process and testing similar to the system that’s in place for motor vehicle operators, how many guns one individual should be able to own (right now, there are more guns than citizens in the U.S.), whether some type of background-check system might be feasible. Certainly, there are acres upon acres of middle ground where both sides could meet. It’s not a stretch to say that we Americans are beginning to look like citizens of the most blood-thirsty, violence-addicted nation on the planet.

It’s time to talk.  It’s been time for a long time.

2. Threatening a government shutdown: Republican legislators are threatening to  shut down the government and risk our nation’s credit rating — again — over their distaste for Obamacare, (which, by the way, is law) and over their own party’s infighting.  Look.  We need to pass a budget and the continuing resolution — or CR — to fund the government.  We can’t have a nasty drawn-out debate every time this issue comes up.  It should be dealt with as it had pre-Obama — as regular business. We need to pay the bills we’ve incurred.  It’s simple math.  If Congress balks and refuses to allow the government to live up to its spending obligations it will not hurt them — they spend something like six months a year in Washington, actually working, and get paid handsomely for their minimal efforts. But it will hurt the rest of us.  It surely will cripple the economy. We need to insist that our representatives get this done.  On time.   The House has attempted to defeat Obamacare 40 times.  It hasn’t worked.  Enough.

3. House passing GOP plan to cut 39 billion dollars from food stamps: Republicans claim the bill will spur able-bodied and able-minded folks to get back to work. House Majority Leader Eric Canter said the bill will prevent middle-class Americans from paying for people who take advantage of the system.  What?  Take advantage of a system that doles out something like 4 or 5 measly dollars a day to eligible folks? Have you tried eating on 4 or 5 bucks a day? This thinking is so ignorant, cruel, and messed up that I am nearly speechless.  Denying this funding amounts to taking food out of the mouths starving families. It is heartless.  But I guess, if you have no conscience, know no poor people, and make north of $175.000 a year with vacation time virtually every month, you can afford to trim a little here and there — FROM THE DINNER PLATES OF OTHERS.

The thread that winds through all of these narratives is the Tea Party branch of the House of Representatives, an obtuse group that, simply put, is akin to the class bully. The Tea Party, which thankfully does not represent all Republicans, operates the way we teach our kids NOT to behave — via blatant disregard for others and the common good. It is homogeneous and sees diversity as the enemy. It abhors compromise. It feigns concern over mass shootings but won’t broach the idea of altering a single regulation. It threatens government shutdowns to achieve its ends. It adopts the terminology of the faithful yet its “deeds” speak of wealth, exclusion, and selfishness. It is, by and large, a shameful bunch.

Sometimes, to give them the benefit of the doubt, I imagine Tea Party Congress members are dumb SOBs, or, at least, people with limited life experience and restricted national and world views. Then I see the maneuvering they do; I see former Tea Party Congressman Ted Cruz, now a Senator, introducing the club’s unique brand of obstinance in that branch of legislature.  Then, I know this isn’t about dumb or daft. This is about immoral and spineless.  It’s about a bunch of wealthy guys drunk on power who are out to trample the poor, the struggling, even the middle class. To them, this is all a game. Their pawns are their fellow Americans — including their own constituents.

On the things-that-make-sense side — because with all of this depressing news — there must be a bright spot, right?  Enter Pope Francis.  You remember this guy.  When he entered the Pope-dom he refused the fancy digs, the fancy pope-mobile. He shook the hands and washed the feet of the down-trodden and the average folks.  He was as self-less and down-to-earth as they come.  Flash forward a few months and Francis’ manner is not just fascinating people, it’s inspiring them. The Pope spoke recently about inclusivity and welcoming all to the church.  He encouraged church leaders to not divide people by hammering traditionally divisive issues such as abortion, contraceptives, and gay marriage.  On the gays and others who have previously been outcast by the church, Francis championed a welcoming and merciful approach.  He urged love over exclusion and condemnation.

He is reaching out to the most marginalized ; that is love.

That is hopeful.

That is so very cool.