Category Archives: Politics

A Response To Trump’s Anti-Gun Control Talking Points

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So NBC got their hands on Donald Trump’s talking points for his visit to Las Vegas in the wake of the worst mass shooting in America this century. They read like a Greatest Hits of pro-gun bullshit. These are the arguments you see again and again from gun fetishists. And since they are so common and I encounter these so often, I figured I would do myself the favor of countering these all right here so I can just refer the next gun enthusiast who regurgitates this stuff to this page where they can find the appropriate piece of propaganda and see my response to it without me having to type the same thing over and over again.

“Let’s gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment. The investigation is still in its earliest stages.”

This is a classic trope. We don’t know enough. It just happened. Have some respect. The investigation is just beginning. Of course none of this actually matters. It could turn out that the guy was from ISIS, obtained his guns illegally, and that no amount of gun laws or regulations would have ever stopped him from his attack. So what. Does a recent mass shooting somehow negate what we already know about gun violence? Of course not. Anyone who wants gun control doesn’t want it because of one incident. They want it because they’re aware that over 120,000 people are killed or wounded by guns every single year in America. I get that 558 of those are in the news right now, but again, even if it turned out that attack could not possibly be stopped by gun control, there are still the other 100,000+ shootings that may very well be cut down by gun control. By pretending that our conversation on gun control hinges on this one incident is to ignore all of the other victims of gun violence.

“The Second Amendment has endured for more than two centuries for a reason: it is a key constitutional right that is meant to protect people’s freedoms, and the President understands that.”

It’s cute how they say ‘the President understands that’. This is the only point at which they say that. Does that imply he does NOT understand the other points? They are correct that the Second Amendment has endured for more than two centuries, but for the most part it wasn’t used to defend the private ownership of guns until very recently. It wasn’t until 2008 in District of Columbia v Heller that the Supreme Court used the second amendment to justify ownership of guns.

I suppose it could be argued that the second amendment is a ‘key constitutional right’, but it’s less clear that it is or was meant to ‘protect people’s freedoms’. People have been arguing about the intention of the second amendment practically since its founding.

“The President believes that our founding principles, like freedom of speech, freedom of religions and the right to bear arms must be protected while maintaining public safety.”

Well that’s great, except that he doesn’t. His administration’s Justice Department is looking into Facebook pages that are anti-Trump with in an effort to identify dissenters. That doesn’t sound like believing in free speech. His Muslim ban makes it clear that if he does believe in freedom of religions, it’s certainly not all religions. And the fact that there are over 100,000 people shot in America every year shows that public safety is NOT being maintained.

“We welcome a reasoned and well-informed debate on public safety and our constitutional freedoms, but we reject the false choice that we can’t have both.”

No, they don’t. If they welcomed a well-informed debate they’d allow and fund research on gun violence. Instead they fight against it. It’s also worth noting that we have quite a few gun laws on the books right now that are not considered even by Trump’s administration to infringe on our constitutional freedoms. Arguing that any new gun control legislation automatically must being infringing on our constitutional freedoms is like saying whatever I’m planning on making in the kitchen must be poison. Until you hear the plans, there’s no way to know if that’s true or not.

“And when it comes to gun control, let’s be clear: new laws won’t stop a mad man committed to harming innocent people. They will curtail freedoms of law abiding citizens.”

Stephen Paddock was a law abiding citizen…until he opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people and killed or wounded over 500 people. There is this myth trotted out by gun enthusiasts that somehow law abiding citizens and criminals are entirely separate kinds of people and one can never change into the other. It is, of course, like so many of their arguments complete bullshit.

That said, this particular talking point does have some truth to it. A mad man committed to harming innocent people will not likely be stopped by new gun laws. A mad man committed to breaking into your house isn’t likely to be stopped by locks no matter how many you put on your door, but that doesn’t mean you leave your doors unlocked, does it?

New gun laws will not make mass shootings in America a thing of the past, but it could mean less people die. Sure, the new laws won’t stop some determined people, but it will stop others. Just like a locked door stops some burglars but does not stop others.

 “We’ve seen terrorist attacks with knives, by people driving cars into crowds, by hijacking airplanes”

First off, since these are Presidential talking points, does this mean that the Trump administration is finally willing to admit that the Nazi march in Charlottesville was a terrorist attack? About damn time.

Secondly, yes, people have been attacked using knives, cars, and hijacking planes, but that does not somehow negate the 120,000 people who are shot every year. This is like insisting you don’t have a problem with heroin because other people are addicted to cocaine and meth. It makes no logical sense the moment you think about it for a moment.

“Some of the cities with the strictest gun laws have the highest rates of gun violence.”

“This shows that more laws on the books may not work. The problems in these cities and many others isn’t too few gun laws.”

It’s true that the problem in these cities is not too few gun laws. The problem is being surrounded by areas that have too few gun laws. Most of the guns in Chicago come from surrounding areas where the gun laws are lax and thanks to strict gun laws in Chicago, mostly criminals have guns. This is not showing that gun laws do not work. It’s showing that in order for gun control to work in America, it needs to be on a national level. Otherwise you get places like Chicago and Baltimore. Essentially, the Trump administration and many gun enthusiasts simply draw the wrong conclusion about gun violence in cities like Chicago. Whether they do this because they don’t know what they’re talking about or that they assume we don’t know what they’re talking about doesn’t really matter. The fact is that they are wrong.

“Also, we’ve had examples where concealed carry has allowed people to protect themselves and stop a mass shooting in its tracks, such as last month in a church in Texas.”

A recent study shows that for every time a gun is used in self-defense, 34 innocent people die. The fantasy of some John Wayne-type law abiding citizen stopping a gunman intent on committing harm is just that, a fantasy. It hardly ever happens. In fact, if you own a gun and you fire it killing someone, the odds are 2 to 1 that you shot yourself as suicide accounts for 2 out of 3 gun deaths.

“Again, we welcome this debates, but in the wake of Sunday night’s tragedy, we shouldn’t rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.”

They do not welcome this debate. Trump has no interest in debating gun control. There has never been a time that he wanted to talk gun control.

As for ‘compromising our freedoms’, it’s worth noting that gun control laws already on the books are not considered by the Supreme Court to be compromising our freedoms. And without talking about specific gun control proposals any allegation that any new gun control law automatically compromises our freedoms can be dismissed as paranoid nonsense.

Finally, let’s put to bed the idea that we are ‘rushing’ to do anything at all about gun control. It has been 18,693  days since 15 people were killed by a gunman at the University of Texas-Austin. It has been 12,132 days since 21 people were killed by a gunman at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California. It has been 11,369 days since 14 people were killed in Edmond, Oklahoma. It has been 9,486 days since a man drove a car into a restaurant in Killeen, Texas and shot and killed 23 people. It has been 6,743 days since the mass shooting at Columbine where 13 people were killed. It has been 3,825 days since a man at Virginia Tech shot and killed 32 people. It has been 2,887 days since the mass shooting at Fort Hood where 13 people were killed. It has been 1,756 days since the Sandy Hook massacre. It has been 673 days since San Bernardino where 14 people were killed. It has been 480 days since a man went into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and murdered 49 people.

The LAST thing we are doing is ‘rushing’ to solve the gun problem in America.

– Jack Cameron

 

 

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If Only We Really Gave A Damn About Gun Violence in America

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I spent nearly ten years reading studies, articles, and books while talking to people I agree with, people I disagree with, and people who are just a lot smarter than I am about guns, gun control, and gun violence. I would stop short of calling myself an expert, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to guns in America. In the last year or two I’ve cut down on my research because I arrived at certain conclusions that made any further research on my part largely irrelevant.

  1. Most of America agrees that universal background checks and required training on the use and safe storage of any gun that is purchased is common sense gun control. People are less in agreement when it comes to requiring registration and liability insurance but most people like that too.
  2. That said, it’s worth noting that while most of America agrees, also most of America doesn’t care too much about it. We don’t see protesters supporting gun control doing marches, confronting prominent politicians, or doing much of anything really beyond online petitions and lip service towards the concept of gun control.
  3. What we in America have decided collectively is that we’re probably not going to get shot and 30,000 abstract dead Americans every year is a fine price to pay for easy access to guns. We don’t even pay attention to the 80,000 wounded every year from gunfire.
  4. There is a small but vocal population of gun owners who are nearly sexually aroused by the idea of the government coming for their guns or some home intruder breaking into their house despite the odds of such things happening being astronomically low. These are people who will shoot their fellow Americans regardless of what uniform they are wearing before they will relinquish their guns.
  5. Given points 2, 3, and 4, I have nearly zero expectation of any meaningful national gun control laws in the United States.

Now you may want to argue any of these points, and you may go right ahead and do so, but as I said, I did not arrive at these conclusions in any uninformed way. I recognize that America, like the Aztecs is a society in which human sacrifice is part of the culture. We just do it with guns rather than rolling people off of pyramids. And like the Aztec human sacrifices, it is not a practical thing, but a religious thing. Talk to any avid gun enthusiast and you’ll see they have every bit the zeal of the most passionate evangelist. As an atheist, I am well aware that when it comes to religion, no amount of common sense, statistics, studies, or facts will sway a believer from their belief.

Most of us are not gun owners. Most of us do not fetishize guns. Most of us do not hold the beliefs of a religious zealot. But, despite these gun fetishists following a belief system that kills ten times the amount of people who died on 9/11 every year, we do not treat these people the same as we might a member of a ISIS or a Nazi. I don’t see that changing any time soon either. Instead, we are tolerant or indifferent to their deadly religion.

When it comes to guns, people often look to politics, but really modern politics about gun control is all about getting out of the way of the gun lobby. The NRA is a domestic terrorist organization that works as the propaganda arm of gun manufacturers under the guise of representing American gun owners. They spend millions on members of both parties to make sure none of them do anything to mess up the sales of guns and ammunition to any American who might want them. I remain convinced that if enough people cared, protested, made calls, and voted out anyone who takes a dime from the gun lobby we might get somewhere on gun control, but I also remain equally convinced that won’t happen because most people, including you and me, simply do not truly give a shit. Not really.

– Jack Cameron

A Note About Comments: All comments are moderated. Feel free to comment if you have something beyond insults and something involving evidence to back up whatever it is you want want say. Comments with insults, unrelated or bad links, or off topic will be deleted.

The Republican Death Machine: Republicans Are Killing Women

womanIf you are a woman you are more likely to vote Democrat. If you are an unmarried woman you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are a minority, you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are a first generation immigrant you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If your gender is non-binary or your sexual orientation is not heterosexual you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are an atheist you are more likely to vote Democrat. If you make less than $15,000 a year you are far more likely to vote Democrat.

There is something else all of these groups have in common: Republicans have endorsed or enacted legislation to aid directly and indirectly in killing every group of people I have mentioned so far. I know that is a significant claim. Over the course of a series of articles on this site, it is one I intend to prove with facts and sources. It is something I will repeat. Republican policies are murdering the people most likely to disagree with them.

It is no secret that women are not fully human in the eyes of the Republican Party. We dance around this because it is too repugnant to say on a regular basis, but it is the truth. Next year’s ‘Equal Pay Day’ is April 10, 2018. That day is selected because in order for the average American woman to make as much as the average American man did in 2017, she would have to work until April 10, 2018. This is the 21st Century and whenever the subject of equal pay for men and women comes up, Republicans argue against paying women the same as men for the same amount of work. This alone shows that they see women as fundamentally less than human.

Of course Republican hatred of women goes far deeper than simply not paying them the same amount. In 2013 when the Violence Against Women Act was up for renewal 160 Republicans voted against it. This is the typical Republican strategy. They are too cowardly to openly commit murder. Instead they just help those who do in any way they can.

Republicans are famous for being in favor of allowing Americans to own guns regardless of their background. They have fought to keep domestic violence perpetrators armed. They have fought to keep the mentally ill armed. They have fought to make college campuses armed. They even suggest women purchase guns themselves which may seem to be a form of protection but research shows otherwise. Dr. Deborah Azrael, the associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center and a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health said, “What we know is that if a woman is going to be killed by a firearm, she’s most likely to be killed by a current or former intimate partner. What we know is where there are more guns, more women die. That’s just incontrovertibly true.”

Relying on murderous former lovers is not enough for the Republican death machine. This is where the Republican war on Planned Parenthood comes in. The current President of the United States said on the campaign trail last year, “The problem that I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation. It is like an abortion factory, frankly, and you can’t have it. And you just shouldn’t be funding it. That should not be funded by the government, and I feel strongly about that.”

Of course this is untrue on many levels, but it is the standard lie that Republicans tell. It is a well-known fact that abortions account for less than 3% of what Planned Parenthood does and that federal dollars have never been spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood. But, given this is the case, why would Republicans be so adamant about defunding Planned Parenthood? The answer is simple. In addition to keeping women poorer by paying them less, keeping violent attackers of women armed, and limiting a woman’s access to abortion, Republicans want to limit a woman’s access to healthcare in general.

Study after study has shown that the thing that lowers the abortion rate more than anything else is contraception and accurate, non-religious, non-judgmental sexual education. These are two areas that Planned Parenthood excels at. But this is not all that Planned Parenthood does. Every year Planned Parenthood conducts over 600,000 cancer screenings. Approximately 70,000 of those turn out to be women with pre-cancerous lesions or early-stage breast or cervical cancer. Early detection of cancer is one of the primary indicators of whether or not you will survive having cancer. Or put another way, cutting Planned Parenthood funding puts 70,000 women in danger of discovering they have cancer too late to do anything but die.

It is clear to anyone paying attention that Planned Parenthood does a lot more than birth control and abortion services, but it is also worth talking about these services. As I have mentioned before, safe and legal abortion was not the beginning of abortion. It was the beginning of women not dying on a regular basis from botched abortions. There is plenty of evidence to show what happens when abortions are performed by unqualified people. It is also worth noting that having the ability and the knowledge to control one’s reproductive life gives women a better chance to control their destinies. If that is taken away, women become less likely to move out of poverty. They become less healthy. They end up needing to rely on others for support and childcare. Ideally, what a Republican politician hopes is that these underpaid, under supported women forced to have children they do not want will end up thinking they need a man. Because the only thing worse than a woman in the eyes of a Republican is a woman not married to a man.

Marriage is important in the eyes of Republicans if for no other reason than the fact that unmarried women vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. This is a direct threat to the Republicans. Women are not fully human in their eyes and like any other living thing, they see the need to subjugate and control them. It was within my own lifetime that we got rid of laws allowing men to rape their wives. Republicans continue to fight for the right to rape women as long as you are married to them. In Ohio last February Republicans fought against closing a loophole that allowed forms of marital rape. In Iowa this year an anti-abortion bill was proposed that would allow the parents of an unmarried woman to decide whether or not she has a child regardless of her age. Their efforts to control women know no bounds.

The Republican message to women is incredibly clear: If you are a woman, expect to be paid less, expect to be in danger from men, expect to be told what to do, expect a lack of birth control options, expect a lack of healthcare, expect cancer to go undetected, expect to be raped, and if you get pregnant, expect no choice in whether or not you have that child. Expect that Republicans will do everything possible to control you and kill you because not only do you vote Democrat, but you had the audacity to be female in man’s world.

– Jack Cameron

Other sources for this article:
https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/economic-demographics-democrats/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-conservatives-are-terrified-of-single-women-20160328

If You Want To Stop Trump You Are My Ally

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These are not normal times. In some ways, the current political climate is simple. When the President of the United States is appointing open fascists and white supremacists, it is easy for a rational individual to take sides. Over the last few years I have engaged in countless political conversations on and offline. I would often point out that the extreme right is significantly different than the extreme left because the extreme right is embraced by the Republicans whereas the extreme left is largely ignored by the Democrats. This point has become less and less true over time.

It is easy to explain the dangers of the extreme right because everyone understands what a Nazi is. It goes without saying that bigotry and fascism must be resisted at all costs. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought against such things. When you have the President of the United States attempting to ban all immigrants of a certain religion, when you have Republican congresspeople voting against something as simple as giving  a woman the same rights as a man, when the Vice-President of the United States is not against so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for people who happen to not be heterosexual, it’s easy to be against them.

I see the current Republican Party as a former bastion of fiscal conservatism that has been entirely corrupted to the point where it has lost any claim of moral high ground and represents a clear and present danger to the future of the United States of America as we know it. They have become a party that embraces hate while claiming to be victims. They are systematically erasing safety nets for poor people under the delusion that anyone who is poor simply is not working hard enough despite the fact that most of them, including the President got their money from their parents. The cognitive dissonance involved in being a Trump-supporting modern day Republican boggles my mind.

We are at war right now. That war is a class war. And so far, all of the casualties have been on the side of the poor. They do not get too many headlines because rather than using tanks and bombs, Republicans use laws and fear to do their killing. This is not to say that poor people are not being shot. They are being shot every day. Some are shooting themselves as frustration turns to despair. Some are getting shot in domestic disputes. And far too many are being shot in the street by police officers so afraid for their own safety that they would rather shoot an unarmed black man than chance that he might have a gun. Worst of all, it is a class war that all Republicans and too many Democrats refuse to admit is even happening.

If this is war (and it is), then who we ally ourselves with is less important than their resolve to defeat the enemy and what they bring to the table. In World War II Allied soldiers did not spend a lot of time making sure that the soldier next to them wasn’t a racist. All that mattered was that they were willing to fight the enemy. In this case, if you want to take Trump and his ilk down and oppose them at every turn, I do not care who you voted for or if you even voted in 2016. All I care about is if you want to stop this shit show as quickly as possible. If you do, then we are allies. Period. I don’t care if you’re a so-called ‘Bernie Bro’, if you’re ‘Still With Her’, if you regret your voted for Trump, if you voted for Stein, if you wrote in your girlfriend’s name, or if you just wish you would have voted at all. It does not matter. Not in this war.

This leads me to the biggest problem the extreme left has. It is one of the reasons we failed in 2016. It is the one thing that can stop us in 2018 and 2020. We need to stop eating our own.

Last week Bill Maher and Cornel West argued about West’s calling the 2016 Presidential election a choice between a disaster and a catastrophe. Maher was indignant that West would dismiss Hillary in such a way. West went on about if only Bernie had been given a fair chance. Maher pointed out that literally anyone is better than Trump and logically endorsing Hillary in 2016 to stop Trump was the only choice. I would go on, but even if you haven’t seen the clip, you know this argument. You have probably had this argument. I know I have. Probably a few dozen times. They both have valid points and they are both wrong. I have been wrong when I have attacked Bernie supporters for being so stupid as to not vote against Trump. None of this matters. Bernie supporters should not be attacking Cory Booker. Hillary supporters need to get over the fact that some people will never like her no matter what. West and Maher arguing does nothing for our cause and helps only people like Donald Trump.

It goes further than this though. And here is where I expect things will get a bit uncomfortable for some people. This is not comfortable for me. I oppose bigotry because seeing an entire group of people as less than people is wrong. When someone is called out on their bigotry a common response is for the bigot to say that their accuser is actually a bigot…against bigots. This is not unlike a domestic violence perpetrator saying that calling him an abuser is abuse. And yet, there is a sliver of truth here. It is not abuse to call an abuser an abuser. But if we called that person an abuser and locked them in a cell by themselves 24 hours a day in solitary confinement, that is clearly abuse. Similarly if we call someone a bigot and then treat them as less than people, we are being bigoted. It is a fine line, but I think it’s an important one. The same smug feeling of superiority present in a Neo-Nazi is also present in the self-righteous left wing social justice warrior and in both cases it is a malignant affectation.

The solution to this is not an easy one. We must continue to condemn bigotry in all its forms. We must also continue to resist the urge to feel self-righteous. We must condemn without dismissing. We must reject without excluding. We must treat our enemy better than they treat us. And we must set aside our individual differences and recognize that our enemy is in the White House because in large part we were too busy fighting each other to fight the true enemy. It is okay if the person next to you or the person running for office does not share your every value. It is okay if we vehemently disagree on some issues.

Do you agree that Trump needs to be stopped and that resistance at this point has become a patriotic duty? Then you’re my ally. We can settle our other differences after we have won. Let us have the courage to accept each other’s differences. This need not be a weakness. The history of America shows it can well be our greatest strength.

– Jack Cameron

Black Man. White Cop. You Know The Rest.

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Back in high school I wrote this thing about racism. It was a bit of a disaster. Since then, as a white heterosexual male, I have decided to specifically NOT write about racism if at all possible because the last time I did, things went badly. But I kind of feel the need to break that rule.

His name was Alton Sterling. And if I tell you he was a black man who encountered a police officer you already know the rest of the story. You know the story because it’s the story of Dontre Hamilton. It’s the story of Eric Garner. It’s the story of John Crawford III. It’s the story of Michael Brown Jr. It’s the story of Ezell Ford. It’s the story of Tanisha Anderson. It’s the story of Akai Gurley. It’s the story of Tamir Rice. It’s the story of Rumain Brisbon. It’s the story of Jerame Reid. It’s the story of Tony Robinson. It’s the story of Phillip White. It’s the story of Freddie Gray. It’s the story of Sandra Bland. It’s the story of being black and unlucky in America.

We hear these stories of police shooting black men and women almost as often as we hear about white men committing mass shootings. And each time much like mass shootings we are outraged and paralyzed. Our outrage is understandable. How can these terrible atrocities happen in broad daylight on the streets of the greatest country in the world? Our being paralyzed takes a bit more explaining.

Part of it is the uncomfortable truth that racism is alive and well in America. We did not kill it with Civil Rights. We did not kill it by electing Obama. And if we did not kill it, then we have to admit it’s still out there. We have to admit that some of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and maybe even ourselves are racist or have racist tendencies. And that is really hard to do. It’s so hard to do that it would be much easier to simply deny it and pretend that racism is over. But it’s not. And what are we to do with that?

Another easy option is to simply vilify the police. This is unfair. The vast majority of police officers will go their entire career never firing a shot at anyone. And not every police officer is racist. But the terrible actions of a few make the police an easy target for blame. If we can blame it all on the police then maybe, we do not have to confront any racism closer to home. But this does not work because police officers come from the community. Despite their militarized appearance, these men and women are members of your community whether they act like it or not. They did not arrive at the police academy with no racist thoughts in their heads and suddenly become racist. They were racist before they were cops and the modern police environment nurtures that racism.

There are good reasons for this. Even a fully trained and ethical police officer will still sometimes have to physically put handcuffs on another human being and then put that human being in a cage. For most people, this requires a bit of a disconnect. I have gone on ride alongs with police officers and watched it happen. I have seen the moment when the person a cop is talking to stops being a person to him and starts being a thing. A good cop will tell you that you have the right to remain silent. What they are actually saying is, “Nothing you say will help you because you are no longer a person to me.” Unfortunately this depersonalization does not just make it easy to put someone in a cage. It also makes it easy to put them in a grave.

We’re paralyzed because even if we confront these truths we still don’t know what to do about them. I know that I have biases. I am aware of them and I do my best to combat them, but it is not always easy or obvious. And even being successful does not change what’s happening in this country.

I have given this a lot of thought. These are my suggestions based on what I know. I am interested in what you think of these suggestions. I am interested in other suggestions. I am interested in finding things we can actively do to stop this.

Keep Racists Afraid

One of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that racists think he has legitimized racism. When the Republican Presidential Nominee is saying things like “Look at my African American.” and calling Mexicans rapists bigots everywhere think that maybe it is okay to spout racist crap publicly. It is not. Fellow white people, any time we hear some blowhard saying racist crap whether it’s a stranger or your best friend, you need to call them on that shit. If we are going to ask our police departments to stop their systemic racism, we need to do the same.

Lethal Force

America has a love affair with guns. As a result we lose 30,000 men, women, and children every year due to gun violence. That’s ten 9/11s every year. Of those 30,000 about 1,000 are police involved killings. It is important to note that not all of these killings were unjustified, unwarranted, or unnecessary. It is equally important to note that far too many of them involved white cops shooting unarmed black people. In a time when we have Tasers, beanbag rounds, and verified de-escalation techniques using lethal force should be the cop equivalent of the nuclear option. It should never be used unless it’s the only thing you can use.

Federal Prosecutor

One of the biggest problems with police involved shootings is that the prosecutor who brings charges against the police is usually the same prosecutor who spends every other day of his life working closely with that same police department. Imagine this. You are a local prosecutor investigating a police involved shooting. If you charge the cop with murder, right or wrong, you are going to upset the rest of the police force which is going to make your job on every other case very difficult. Such a prosecutor is not likely to get endorsed by the police union during the next election. There is a clear conflict of interest in these situations. The way around this is to make every single police involved shooting a federal case with federal investigators and a federal prosecutor. Until this step is taken, I do not expect we will ever see a significant number of these cases actually get any justice.

Community Policing

One of the worst things to happen to modern police forces in this country was the use of surplus military hardware on the streets of America. Giving military weapons and vehicles to a systemically racist police department that already dehumanizes much of the population of a city is a recipe for slaughter. And that is exactly what we have seen again and again. If you give men weapons of war, they’re more likely to fight one. It should be noted that the blame cannot be placed on the police department or the military alone. The blame also falls on city councils and voters who do not approve adequate funding for police departments almost giving them no choice but to accept military handouts because they’re better than nothing.

This is not how the police force always worked. There was a time when a uniformed police officer walked a beat. The police officer knew everyone on that beat and more importantly everyone knew the cop. If a cop had a problem on his beat more often than not he knew the perpetrator. It’s more difficult to use lethal force on someone when you know them. It’s also harder to vilify a police officer when they’re someone you actually know and who has demonstrated that they are simply there to keep the peace. This is what was known as community policing. It’s something that is lacking in most police departments. If you wonder if your neighborhood has community policing ask yourself if you know the cop that patrols your area.

Raise Non-Racists

One of the things you can do is raise your children to be tolerant. Raise them to celebrate diversity rather than be afraid of it. Tell them that we are strong because of our differences and that no human being is superior to another and all life is equally precious. Show them movies with leads who aren’t white. Have them read Between The World and Me when they’re a teenager. Do not tolerate hate speak from children. If we can all commit to this, we can ensure that in the future bigots are the only minority who are afraid.

These are the ideas I have. I do not know what else to do. While I was writing this a 32-year-old man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers who pulled him over for a busted tail light in Minneapolis.

I am not okay with this being normal in the United States of America. I do not have all the answers. But I think it starts with talking. It starts by speaking up. It starts by giving a damn and saying, “Black Lives Matter.”

– Jack Cameron

Barely A Whisper Anymore

I woke up to the news that over one hundred people had been shot in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last night. At least fifty are dead. After the initial shock of hearing the news a small voice I can barely hear anymore said, “Maybe this is the horrible tragedy that finally gets us to clamp down on gun violence.”

The day before, also in Orlando, Christina Grimmie, a young singer who was on the television show The Voice was shot and killed while signing autographs. I heard that small voice then too. And then I thought, “She’s probably not famous enough. It would have to be a major rock star.”

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John Lennon shot four times on December 8, 1980

Oh yeah. That did not do it. If someone can shoot and kill a Beatle, a dead rock star isn’t going to do it. Maybe if it was someone important. Someone powerful. A leader of some sort.

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John F. Kennedy shot and killed November 22, 1963

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shot and killed April 4, 1968

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Robert F. Kennedy shot and killed June 6, 1968

Wow. Clearly the death of one person is not enough to galvanize the American people to demand common sense gun control. You know what works on the news? Blonde girls. That gets people all upset for some reason. A blonde girl goes missing and everyone is up in arms and the 24-hour news channels cover it for weeks. What if a blonde reporter got shot live on television? Would that wake people up enough to do something about guns and gun control?

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Alison Parker shot and killed on live television August 26, 2015

Okay. I get it. One person whether they are an attractive blonde girl, the biggest rock star in the world, or President of the United States is not enough to make people rethink our policies on guns and gun control.

What about numbers? Statistics like the fact that more people died last year from gunshot wounds than from car accidents do not work either because they’re just numbers.

The kind of tragedy we need to wake people up to the horrible damage easy gun access has caused is something like a school shooting. Maybe that would work.

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Fifteen people shot and killed including two teenage gunmen on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School

Oh. That didn’t cause people to change their minds about guns either. Well, it’s high school. High school can be rough for some people. Hell, who didn’t want to kill someone in high school?

You know what no one could ignore? You know what would really get everyone ready to give up their guns voluntarily just at the sheer horror of it all? If someone shot up an elementary school even the most hard core gun nut would have to pause and think we need some sensible gun control laws. That maybe we should make getting guns at least as hard as it is to get a car. That would do it.

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Twenty-Six shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 12, 2012

Twenty-six dead. Twenty under the age of eight. And that was not enough to really enact change. And so I wake up this morning to the news that over 100 people have been shot and half of them are dead due to a gunman. And a tiny voice wonders if we will do anything at all about the easy access to guns in this country. But that voice has become barely more than a whisper because I know the truth. We will do nothing.

We sacrifice over 30,000 American lives every year and pay for the freedom to own guns with their blood. The Aztecs sacrificed lives to their Gods. Experts say they sacrificed as many as 20,000 people a year. We have them beat. We sacrifice so we can own weapons. We do not ask for volunteers. People are chosen at random and while most are poor, no matter who you are, you could be next. The fact that you have not been chosen is the only reason you still allow this to go on. Today, far too many will hear of a massacre in a gay nightclub in Florida and incorrectly think, “I don’t go to gay nightclubs in Florida and so I must be safe.”

Last night over 50 people unwillingly sacrificed their lives for your freedom to own guns. By next week you won’t remember any of their names and be just as shocked as you are right now the next time a mass unwilling sacrifice is made. And you will do just as little as you always have to stop gun violence and the easy access to guns because this is America.

– Jack Cameron

I Want No Part of Your Bloody Revolution

In 1991 I was a right leaning teenager who did not want to go to war. I was pro-death penalty. I was anti-abortion. I was anti-gay. I was also anti-getting-shot-at-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet. Eventually I met up with some acquaintances that wanted to firebomb the local Army Recruiting station after hours. They called me up to see if I was interested. I turned them down because it seemed like a stupid thing to do and it would not solve anything.

Despite my conservative leanings, I ended up looking more and more at the whole political structure. I started reading Noam Chomsky. I went up to Seattle and watched the documentary Manufacturing Consent based on Chomsky’s book of the same name. And then I had this epiphany: The Republicans were corrupt. So were the Democrats. The whole damn system was corrupt and had been for decades if not longer. We needed a new American Revolution.

1992 was an election year and I would not be able to vote because I would not be 18 until a month after the election. This did not lower my interest in the election. I was angry at George Bush for getting us into a half-assed war. To my mind at the time we should have done nothing or gone right into Baghdad and declared Iraq the 51st State. This kicking them out of Kuwait but keeping Saddam in power and not really stopping them from doing the exact same thing again bugged me. Besides. George Bush Sr. used to run the CIA and was involved in everything from Iran Contra to the plot to sell crack in inner city neighborhoods to help fund more wars in Central America. He was a walking talking piece of the big machine.

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I still have my copy of Bill Clinton’s interview in Rolling Stone from 1992.

When Bill Clinton became the Democratic frontrunner, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone. They did an interview with him involving all of their top writers including Hunter S. Thompson. Each of the writers did an article about the interview. Each of them mentioned how Bill Clinton said he wanted more cops on the street while looking at Hunter. I liked Bill Clinton’s optimism. I liked that he was not an old man. I liked a lot of what he said. But he was a Democrat. That meant he was part of the corrupt machine.

 

And then there was Ross Perot. Perot wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He was a short firecracker of a man. A businessman from Texas who was somehow a billionaire. He was using his own money and insisted he could get America running the way he got his businesses running. He wasn’t afraid to say things that were not politically correct. He seemed pragmatic. I liked him. I bought his little book and read it. All I remember from that book is that he said that as a kid he wanted a job where he didn’t have to work outside. He was not part of the machine as far as I could tell. The establishment did not like him and I liked that. But he was a billionaire from Texas and probably not the guy who was going to help the common man. Still, there was something to be said for voting for a guy who was not a Democrat or a Republican because fuck the two party system, man.

I went to see Bill Clinton speak in Seattle during the election. It was an outdoor venue near the waterfront. They played David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ just before he took the stage. Regardless of your opinion of Bill Clinton and his politics, it is impossible to deny his ability to work a crowd. By the end of his speech I was all about this guy. When Ross Perot did a campaign stop, I saw him too and felt disappointed. That guy just didn’t have Bill’s charisma and seemed a bit unsure of himself. I didn’t quite believe Perot actually believed the things he said. I wanted so much to like Perot but I just couldn’t. I liked Bill Clinton, but he was part of the system and the system was totally screwed up and corrupt and needed to be destroyed.

As I said, I was not able to vote in 1992. So I did not have to make a decision. I watched all the debates. I watched Ross Perot quit, then come back, then quit again and completely implode. I watched Bill Clinton win and I thought about how it felt like a turning point for America. There was optimism in the air even though I was pretty sure it was bullshit. I mean I did not expect Bill Clinton was going to do a damn thing about the atrocities in East Timor for example. He probably didn’t even know where East Timor was.

Time passed. I learned more. I watched as Republicans started attacking Bill Clinton for fooling around as if he was the first President to ever do such a thing and saw their hypocrisy for what it was. Sure, the Democrats were part of the system, but at least they did not resort to this sort of character assassination. By this time I had changed my views on gay rights and abortion. I still thought the death penalty was necessary for some people and that everyone had a right to have a gun. But I really could not get past this ‘holier-than-thou’ crap pedaled by Congressional Republicans.

I started thinking about the system. The big corrupt machine. The eradication of the Middle Class. The completely hypocritical and useless drug war. The ‘tough on crime’ bills that ruined lives and did nothing to lower the crime rate and everything to increase the prison population. College was becoming so expensive that your parents had to make six figures or you needed a scholarship or a loan you would be paying back forever. The rich getting richer and richer while the poor weren’t just getting poorer. They were dying. Welfare recipients were cut to five years of service. After five years, you were on your own and could die for all they cared. The safety net for human beings was being erased.

I looked at all of it that I was aware of and came to a fairly disheartening conclusion: I cannot stop it without a lot of people helping me kill a lot of people. You aren’t going to convince the head of Walmart to stop keeping so much money. Talk to any seriously rich person and they will tell you how they are terrified of losing their money. It does not matter how much they have. I could see no way to create the revolution that I felt needed to happen without a lot of blood. And there was no way that blood would be one-sided. There were people who were alive right now who might have otherwise lived okay or even good lives who were going to die in such a revolution. And that’s when I made a personal decision.

I would not fight for the revolution. I understood those who wanted it. I wanted it. But if you seriously fuck with the system, the system will fuck you back. Every time. History is littered with examples. Look at Henry Wallace. Look at JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Look at George McGovern. Look at Edward Snowden. The revolution is tough. It will destroy your life. It will kill you. And each of those people had more money and more power than I will ever have. I am a bug to be squashed compared to those men.

I like Bernie Sanders. I agree with almost everything he says. I donated to his campaign. I have a bumper sticker with his name on it on my car and it’s been there for months. He is right that we need to get money out of politics. He is right that we need a political revolution away from never ending war and towards actual progress for the people of this country. He is most definitely a guy who does what he feels is right regardless of consequences and I respect that. If I were the young man I was in 1992 I have no doubt that right now I would be telling you how Bernie Sanders is our only hope for a sane outcome in this election and that a vote for Trump or Hillary is just more of the status quo in varying degrees. I would be shouting it to anyone who would listen and commenting on any Facebook thread of a friend silly enough to disagree with me because the big corrupt machine needs to be brought down and sure, we can all agree that Trump is terrible, but Hillary Clinton isn’t going to destroy the machine any more than her husband did. I would have ‘B-E-R-N-I-E’ on my forehead in permanent marker.

I am not the young man was in 1992. A few weeks ago I looked at the electoral count and realized that Bernie Sanders simply did not have the votes he needed to become the nominee. In every state he lost someone complained about it being rigged or about some sort of corruption or cheating. Maybe some of it was true. Maybe not. It did not matter. Not really. I was around in 2000 when I watched George W. Bush actually steal an election. This was how American politics worked. It’s like bedtime when you’re a kid. You might not like it or agree with it, but it is what it is and sure, you can change things but that’s not going to actually matter until next time anyway. They are not going to retroactively give it to Bernie.

And so I put my support behind Hillary Clinton. This move upset quite a few of my friends. They did not understand it. They thought I was compromising my values. Their mistake was thinking that just because we endorsed the same candidate we had the same values. That simply wasn’t true. My values are fairly simple. I want to be able to live my life with as few uncomfortable moments as possible while helping as many and hurting as few people as I can. I do not have any interest in being a soldier and I never have.

Hillary Clinton will likely lead us in what will basically be a more conservative version of Obama’s administration. The drone strikes will continue. Guantanamo will not close. And the use of force will always be on the table. But we will get a modest minimum wage increase, continued healthcare, continued gay rights, equal pay for women, and some actual infrastructure funding that is sorely needed. None of those good things will happen under Trump. Trump will not work with the Democratic Congress on anything he doesn’t care about. I drink Coke, but if you’re all out of Coke, I’ll take Pepsi because Diet Coke is terrible. I’m not going to burn the store down because there is no Coke.

Yes, the big machine is still out there making the trade of human lives for profits. In many ways it is stronger than ever. And for that very reason I do not have a lot of interest in directly fighting it. Back in 1992 you had to firebomb a recruiting station to get arrested. These days if you go to the wrong website, you can be put on a list, you can be detained indefinitely without ever being charged with a crime. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who spoke out against America, who advocated violence towards American people, who conversed with terrorists, but he never actually killed anyone. He mostly talked and wrote. That did not stop the Obama administration from killing him. It did not stop them from killing his 16-year-old son two weeks later despite his son being suspected of nothing at all. He too was an American citizen. Neither of them had a trial. We live in a very dangerous world where money is the only goal or God and suspicion is all that is needed to have you incarcerated indefinitely or killed. If you want a revolution, fine. But changing things takes time. If you want a revolution right now then it’s going to be bloody and people you care about are going to die for it. And I want no part of it because there is absolutely nothing pointing to that revolution being successful and even if it were, what guarantees are there that it would be any better?

I realize that you could read all of this and simply determine that I am a coward too afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I doubt anyone who really knows me would agree. But to make it clear, yes, I am aware that the entire political structure is corrupt and in desperate need of change. Yes, I am aware that Hillary Clinton does not have a spotless record and does not share every opinion I have. Yes, I am aware that for most of us our wages have gone nowhere, our job prospects are minimal, and in just about any way you look at it our lives could be better than they are. I am also aware that none of this will be resolved before November. You can go on and on about ‘What if this..’ and ‘What if that..’ and tell me all about how Bernie is the only real choice and how anyone who is voting for Hillary must be asleep and not awake like you. Go ahead. But Jill Stein and the Libertarian guy’s name that I can’t even remember aren’t popular enough to win and Bernie is not going to win anything if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. In November your choices are a former First Lady of Arkansas, former First Lady of the United States, Former US Senator, Former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presumptive Presidential Nominee who happens to have a former President of the United States as an advisor and spouse OR you can choose a person who publicly said women need to be treated ‘like shit’, a person who has said he is willing to nuke Eastern Europe, a man who encourages his audience to beat protesters, a man who calls Mexicans rapists, a man who makes fun of people with disabilities, a man who raped his first wife and said it was okay because spousal rape was legal at that time, a man who suggests we should keep lists or have people wear something to signify what religion they are, a man who failed to make money while owning a casino, and a man who repeatedly talks about wanting to sleep with his own daughter.

I know for some of you nothing I say will make Hillary Clinton someone you can vote for. That’s fine. If you want to vote for Trump. That’s fine too. If you want to vote for a third party candidate or write in Bernie Sanders or Minnie Mouse, you can do that too. We at the very least like to pretend it’s a Democracy and no one should take away your right to cast your vote however you want even if that means not voting at all. You have that freedom. As do we all. It your choice.

However, you do not have the freedom of absolution from the consequences of that choice. You do not get to say, “It’s Hillary’s fault I didn’t vote for her because she didn’t court my vote enough.” No. You did not vote for her because you did not want to. People fought and died to make sure you have the right to vote. The least you can do is own that responsibility.

It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to feel like maybe the world needs a horror like Trump to wake up. Such feelings are understandable but ignore the human cost. It ignores the people who will suffer and die under Trump. Right now bullies are hassling kids and using Trump slogans to do it. If he were President it would be even worse.

I understand that to some Hillary is the enemy and always will be. But you have to choose your battles. You want to fight with all your might to get Bernie in? Go right ahead, but that’s a battle you will not win. I personally think it would be better to vote for the person most likely to work with Bernie when he goes back to the Senate and that is not Donald Trump. It’s Hillary Clinton who voted the same as Bernie 93% of the time.

But damn, isn’t that kind of bleak for a leftist revolutionary? We can’t get the progressive in office so we have to go for the establishment candidate who is just going to give us more of the same of what we have had the last eight years? We can’t take down the machine because it will destroy us? We have to live actually live with this? Yeah, it can be depressing and disheartening if you look at things in a certain way. But I don’t.

Instead I look at this simple truth: There is more good than bad. Don’t believe me? Let me leave you with this story.

I have a good friend named Kristopher Brannon. We went to high school together. He was the one driving the car that took me up to see Bill Clinton back in 1992. For the last ten years he has been tirelessly advocating for the return of the NBA Super Sonics to Seattle as the human mascot, Sonics Guy. He has been to thousands of sporting events, parades, grand openings, festivals, and council meetings. His work is so prolific and inspiring that a documentary was made about him called Superfan. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival three weeks ago. After spending the weekend in Seattle for the premiere, Kris came back to his home in Tacoma to find it ransacked. His collection of Sonics jerseys and memorabilia were stolen. So was his late father’s ring. It was devastating. You want to talk about discouragement? Imagine spending a decade making thousands of appearances, collecting hundreds of unique and rare items, and then it’s all gone.

And then something happened. A friend of his started a crowdfunding campaign. She set the goal at a modest $1,000. It would not replace what was lost but it could help get him back on his feet. The $1,000 goal was met in hours. In two weeks that the campaign has been up, over $7,000 has been raised by over 200 people. (You can still donate to his campaign by clicking here.) There’s a benefit concert happening later this month. Kris had his possessions stolen by one person. He was helped by hundreds of people. Yes, the machine is out there and fighting it is near impossible. But there is good right here right now. This will be true regardless of who gets elected in November. It’s important to remember the basic goodness of humanity.

I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything. I just had some stuff I needed to get out. If it resonates with you, great. If it doesn’t, oh well.

– Jack Cameron