I hardly remembered the word existed. Then, yesterday morning, I read in the Guardian that the UK had decided to cancel a £5.9m contract to provide a training program for prisons in Saudi Arabia and the sun came up: But of course, there’s the word I had forgotten existed: h-e-r-o. Kudos to British Lord Chancellor and justice secretary Michael Gove who, after much wrangling, persuaded PM Cameron and foreign secretary Hammond that the dismal human rights record of the Wahabite Kingdom, certainly one of the ugliest regimes on earth, didn’t make the oil-rich and ruthless country a worthy partner.
This is a first in the agitated, incomprehensible phase the world is going through–countries in the West shamelessly vying with each other to grab the most lucrative deals, accommodating dictators and oppressors of all stripes, making sure that the oil never stops flowing (and effing up the planet) and that multinationals can continue to press impoverished locals into the new and improved brand of slavery. Our would-be leaders can only helplessly go with the flow. Look at Obama, shrinking and greying by the day. (How could a President who came with such promise turn out to be so indecisive and ineffective?) Look at Hollande, the French President, cheering on wave after wave of businessmen flying into Iran, ready to sign the biggest contracts of their career (note to Michael Gove: please take on human rights violations in that country, second only to China in number of executions. Or should Iranians take solace in the thought that the goodwill following the nuclear agreement will only last until the Islamic Republic starts reneging on the accord, which of course it will?)
The reversal that just took place in Britain is simply unheard of. Western politicians in a spat because a young Saudi risks beheading and crucifixion? Because a 74-year old British pensioner is condemned to 360 lashes for driving with homemade hooch in his car? Somebody pinch me, please. I’ve always been big on dreams but this is too much, even for me. What next? The vile troika Putin-Erdogan-Netanyahu putting an end to their shenanigans? The ice cap on North and South Pole restored? A roof for everyone, food for all, banks becoming honest, politicians serving the public? OK, I’ll stop here before going overboard but thank you Michael Gove. I owe you. The world owes you.
A lovely crisp morning with blue skies and perfect temperature, breakfast on the deck and… one more front-page story about a mass shooting–the facts, the accompanying hand-wringing, the op-editors weighing in. With all these stories, one after the other, it’s come to the point where we can’t find ourselves in a crowded place—mall, theater, downtown sidewalk—without having at least once the random thought that this would be the perfect place for a deranged individual to start mowing everyone down.
Is something going to be done about it or are we going to keep on being inundated with pieties ? The answer is fairly obvious : no one will risk losing NRA votes. Here is how the Washington Post puts it today : « The orthodoxy among political advisers for candidates is that no one votes for a candidate because of his or her support for gun control laws, but lots of people will vote against him or her for that single reason. » Even staunch Democrats such as myself need to read this sentence over to realize that the sorry individuals we vote for, putting them in power or wishing they would be don’t deserve our allegiance. From the top down, it’s the same story ; Obama is now on his way out but from Hillary Clinton to the rest of the lineup of wannabees for 2016 (I won’t even mention the pathetic flotsam that labels itself Republican—at least present-day ones; the GOP was very different one or two generations ago) lurching from one state to another on their drunken race to power, one eye on polls and the other on coffers that never fill up fast enough with campaign funds. That takes care of both eyes, then, not much left for vision. As for commitment, moral courage or heart, the words are as obsolete as the concepts.
Then there are the pundits and their discourse on mental health. They tell us social services and ourselves should reach out to lonely, friendless, depressed people. Good luck with that. I don’t know about you but if I see a neighbor or a guy in the street with tics and wild eyes, muttering to him or herself, I’ll run in the other direction as fast as my legs can carry me, thank you. Are these pundits serious ? Should every American be on the lookout for lunatics and bring them chicken soup or wrestle them to the ground before they walk into a theater with one or several Glocks ? Of the probable millions with mental problems, how do we as individuals or specialized organizations find the ones that will go berserk, be front-page news and cause immeasurable grief until erased from memory by the next awful incident ?
There is a way out, one only, but this blessed country of ours is too election-oriented to see it or too shy to actually say it, if and when they do actually see it : BAN GUNS. Which part of BAN GUNS is difficult to understand or to embrace? (To hear the voice of reason in this absurd debate which shouldn’t even be taking place, watch the stupendous Australian stand-up, Jim Jefferies, on the subject.) Banning guns, all guns, should become law, as it has in Australia and actually in the entire civilized world—a world to which our membership is shaky : beside allowing loonies to run amok, semi-automatics in hand, we are also the only country with the death penalty. How civilized is that ? Not only do we have mental cases loose in the street to shoot at will, with the NRA’s blessing, not only do we have beefy white police officers murdering blacks left and right, punching and tasering and pepper-spraying and pummeling them and banging their heads on the pavement and strangleholding and shooting them—then doctoring videos to show that they, the cops, felt threatened—but we strap people* on gurneys and inject them with doubtful contraband substances that make them writhe in agony before a very slow death.
That too, my friends, is civilized.
*Often black, often their guilt not satisfactorily proven, often poor, their only legal help an overworked public defender.