As with many others, I have been consumed by the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut. I wrote a post on Saturday, something I try not to do. Signed a couple of petitions (see here and here). Watched the memorial service last night. Was moved and inspired by Obama’s speech.
It is at moments like this that I am relieved and proud that Barack Obama is president. He gave a powerful speech. He got to the heart of the matter. I am confident a real response to this tragedy will happen.
Moving from alarm, to depression to hope, I discussed with friends on Facebook the events as they have been unfolding. I think the discussions were informative and re-produce slightly edited versions here. The discussion crossed intellectual gated communities, an interesting exchange on my left was initiated by my Israeli friend, Orly Lubin, joined by American based friends Peter Manning, and Esther Kreider-Verhalle. In the second, from the more libertarian side of things, there was a civil exchange with my friend Tom Cushman, which I will post tomorrow. I hope we can continue these discussions at Deliberately Considered.
The discussion on the left was between those, including me, who saw a major change in Obama’s approach to leadership and gun policy, and those who see a pattern of compromise and ineffectiveness in domestic and foreign policy.
Orly: You Americans are the masters of understatements – Hannan and me were furious – between Jesus and god bless America, couldn’t hear the word “gun” nor the word “control” – but what do I know, don’t speak american, I guess.
Jeff: Yes, I think you don’t. Though I also don’t like certain religious aspects of American.
Orly: OK, I will stop assuming. I can understand.
Peter: I think this is at the Gettysburg address level. It was brilliant. The hard politics will come after this masterful speech. Wait and see.
Orly: Shoyn (really?), as they say in Yiddish, will wait and see. though waited for him in Israel for four years and saw nothing… and doubt I’ll see him do anything on that front during the magical “second term,” as well — what we are doing in the West Bank and Gaza is not that much different than Newtown.
Esther: “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.” Obama should use whatever power his executive office holds, not just to engage, but to take action. And yes, very good speech. I realize that asking for less religion in it is not the American way….
Jeff: He may be himself clinging to his religion but he is moving against guns. He can’t do everything, i.e. there have been profound constraints on him in Israel Palestine, Orly. But perhaps now, he is gaining power. This is indicated by how forcefully he is coming out on the domestic fiscal front, and now on guns.
Orly: OK, so I don’t understand Americaneze. This is from a friend of mine, highly versed in american language: from an article on the Huffington Post:
“But like the three speeches before, the president stayed vague on the methods of seeing that change through. This could very well be out of a sense of proper setting. A vigil isn’t always the best time to make policy points. But that may not be much comfort to those who are tired of the debate being ducked.
Obama’s advocacy for gun control has, to this point, had an inverse relationship with his rise in elected politics. The state politician who once touted a comprehensive plan to get guns off the streets of Chicago was absent from the debates once he came to Washington. The Senate candidate who said it was a “scandal” that the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 became a president who pledged to pursue gun-control reform only within existing law.
Over time, caution was how the president became defined on the issue, his eloquent words of sympathy no longer sufficing.
‘The president’s tears were nice,” said Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, shortly after Obama addressed the Newtown shootings in a statement on Friday. Hoover lost her husband to gun violence when she was 30 years old, and was attending a candlelight vigil outside the White House gates. “But he was supposed to lead us. He told us that if we elected him, he’d give us hope. I need hope.’
See, this whole thing has become so utterly ridiculous…when you have to spend a bunch of your speech rattling off the names of other massacres and even that is a short and cursory list ["Well, I'll stop there. If I went on listing other places with massacres, well, we'd be here all night!"] it just all sounds pointless and silly. And when you have this record of having been very pro gun control while a senator an a candidate then crept away from it the entire first term…well, come ON. And let’s be clear here: During obama’s first term, the only serious gun -related legislation that got passed was to permit guns to be carried in National Parks. Yes, now you can bring your AK-47 to yellowstone. Since you were trained in its use as a youngster, I’m sure this will make your visits to our fine national parks even more momentous. I realize that there are no Grizzly Bears in Israel–you folks don’t even have bison and let me tell you, as an American, I have been way too close to bison and they are creepy. Smell bad. You’ll WANT to pop them one. National animal, my ass! Also!! I do believe but check me on this, another fine piece of lawmaking since ’08 allows people to carry their concealed weapons into states that don’ot have conceal/carry laws. Something like that. Lucky us! Conceal your AK-47 and carry it to a National Park for a season of family fun; if that wildlife gets too crazy, you can blow it away. And let’s not get started on the ‘revised’ castle laws in Florida, Wyoming, and so on. You act edgy in a public place, i dont like your face, and I can blow you away and then claim self-defense.”
Please. This is all such crazyland stuff. Normal people would not be here. A normal country would not be here. Gettysburg shmettysburg.
Jeff: I think that Obama opened a door yesterday. He committed himself to action. His tactical maneuvers of the past are irrelevant now. I can’t be sure what he will do, but do know that after the speech many politicians are speaking out in favor of gun control. A decade of silence by the Democrats is over and as I said, Obama can’t turn back. If that isn’t an important move, Orly, I don’t know what is. And more could come.
Peter: This speech was a ‘set-up’ for later action. Who can criticize looking after children? Then the gun people will have little ground on which to stand: defend what? Freedom bought with the blood of children massacred almost before our eyes? Why ‘defend freedom’ with guns?Surely, it is an abstract concept; not reduced to having “my guns”‘ Obama’s stance makes concrete the objections to ideological, reactionary and primitive thinking.