Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Disease Within

"America the Beautiful" a famous patriotic song from the late 1800s, is often sung celebrating the natural beauty of the United States of America. The song is relevant even today as it captures the vast unsurpassed beauty of this land in all its majesty. This and other characteristics of this nation still draws people from all over to its shores. The creativity this land sparks in its people, is second to none. Its music, literature, films and technological ingenuity has infiltrated every corner of the planet like no other force. Its overwhelming economic and military might is constantly molding the globe, not always with positive outcomes. Its universities are cauldrons from which people from all around yearn to sip at any cost. The crown America wore soon after the second world war, as the leader of the free world, is still intact. This fact is mentioned over and over again at every podium by every politician, as every speech ends with, "God Bless America. The greatest nation on earth". But in no means America is perfect. It was always meant to be a work in progress and centuries later it still is. The constitution that was drafted many centuries ago, is sacrosanct, and continues to challenge the nation to shape itself to the best of its ability.

Even though the constitution was drafted by mostly white slave owners, at a time when America was at war with itself, it took human nature and desires of all mankind into account. It was not in the interest of the people of that time to enshrine words such as "... all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" into the Declaration of Independence. But they did, with some vague vision of the future. For which they established a system of government, which to a large extent would keep absolute power in check and prevent the president from becoming a tyrant. But there is only so far they could see.

The American system of government is not perfect, and has proven to be profoundly dysfunctional in the recent past, more so than ever. Under President Obama's administration, the polarization of politics, exposed the deep flaws within the American system. Leading to appalling moments of grid lock and the people's work being sacrificed at the alter of racially motivated partisan politics.

All nations around the world have problems that are symptomatic of their unique system of governance. But one aspect that runs common across all systems is corruption. The impact of corruption sometimes is direct as people in power momentarily enrich themselves with the people's money. But most often it is a corruption of humanity that is more destructive. While monetary corruption may be less of a problem in America, moral corruption has become a main stay in a bitterly divided political environment.

If one were to pick one issue around which there is a degree of insanity bordering on total moral bankruptcy, it is the issue of "guns". Many nations deal with epidemics, which are devastating to the health of their people. The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and now the Zika virus in Brazil has brought nations to their knees. If there is one epidemic that plagues this mighty nation it is without question, guns.

A disease is defined as a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people. Every year 30,000 people die of gun violence in America. When a handful of people were infected by the Ebola virus in this nation a few months ago, the whole nation was on high alert. The fear was palpable. But only when little children are gunned down in their school by demented people, is when America momentarily wakes up to this scourge, and then goes back to sleep as the news cycle breaks.

Enough has been said and heard on this issue. I have written a few essays on this issue as nothing troubles me more. All sides of the argument have been presented. People who want to hold on to their guns and feel deeply about the 2nd amendment, refuse to understand what it means. They negate the fact that the 2nd Amendment only gives you the right to bear arms if there is a need for a "well regulated militia" against the tyranny of a state. No matter how delusional and pained one is by the verdict of the centuries old Civil War, there is no tyranny of the state that can be identified in the United States of America. Even if there is, there is no way it can be confronted with guns of any sort. The state has significantly bigger ones.

Another argument that is often put forth, is that guns are an instrument of personal safety. That maybe the case, if you were living in a war zone. Statistically the chances of you or your loved one falling victim to your own gun is much higher, than by an assailant. This is a fact which most gun owners are in denial about.

The third most commonly heard argument is, owning guns is a way of life, a family tradition. Big game hunting is a favorite pass time in many parts of this country, no matter how barbaric and inhumane it is. What is certain though, is that one does not require a bushmaster machine gun to kill a bear or a deer in their own habitat.

The last but most ludicrous argument that is used by gun ownership proponents, is that guns don't kill people, but bad people behind them do. This is like saying cigarettes don't cause cancer, it is the hands that put cigarettes to lips do. There is no doubt, you take the gun out of any scenario, it really does not matter if it is a good person or a bad person involved in conflict, the harm done is dramatically less.

There is no rational argument for gun ownership in the present, modern society we live in. If you were living in the jungle, in a tent, maybe there is one. Even there the chances of you being killed by your weapon are higher than a large animal. As most animals do not consume human flesh as a source of their diet. They much rather stay clear of the deadliest animal on earth.

What prompted me to write this piece, even though much has been said, was a mind numbing fact I read in a recent New York Times article. Since President Obama took office in 2009, shares of Smith and Wesson and Sturm, Ruger and Co. have each increased more than 900 percent, far surpassing and even outperforming tech stocks such as Google and Apple (up 800 percent). This fact reveals that the business climate for many gun manufacturing companies has never been better. Another bizarre behavior that has become prevalent in this nation, is that gun sales skyrocket whenever there is a mass shooting of a horrific nature and there have been far too many in the last eight years. People believe that the government would come after their guns in response to the shootings, even though time and again it is proven that it is impossible for a government to do so. So this human behavior defies all logic leading me to conclude that it is a symptom of a mental illness that is deep seeded.

Most often things change when there as an economic climate to facilitate it. The economic climate has never been better for guns today, so the chances of any drastic change happening is limited. Lobbies such as the NRA, who serve the gun manufacturers, have every incentive to make sure nothing changes. Therefore they would do anything for this disease to go unaddressed.

President Obama has always openly expressed how powerless he has felt, for not being able to address this problem with any significant legislation. So on January 16, in his final few months as president, he decided to address it with an "executive action". By circumventing the congress, which has been the most rabid opponent of a president in American history, he used his limited power to enforce new federal regulations on how guns are bought and sold. Shedding tears he said, as president he had to respond to the countless parents who had lost children to mindless gun violence. He could not ignore them anymore with inaction. Even though some called his reforms "sweeping", they were only marginal. The reality is, much like anything in this country, the real reform and enforcement happens at the state level. The federal government can only nudge, and the states have to follow through with real action.

There are almost as many guns in this nation as there are people. America has the most well armed civilian population in the world. There is no way any government can take away guns from its people. That is bound to spark a real rebellion, as it will be seen as tyranny. So the best thing to do, is to incentivize people to give up their weapons on their own, make sure there is a strict limit on how much ammunition one can purchase per year, and completely outlaw assault weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds per second. The only way gun violence will decrease, is when there are fewer guns in society. The Australian gun by back program enacted after a mass shooting in 1996, decisively proved this fact. Nations with less guns, or strict gun ownership laws, loose fewer people to gun violence. This is an undeniable statistical fact.

This month Smith and Wesson, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the nation, alerted Wall Street analysts and investors that it believed its full-year sales would be higher than expected, above $650 million for its fiscal year, which ends in April. That is up more than 57 percent from its 2012 sales of $412 million. This economic reality spells death to more people in this country, as this disease within will continue to spread unabated. It is what its.