Monday, April 21, 2014

SO, MR. AND MRS. TAXPAYER, HOW DO YOU FEEL?

By Edwin Cooney

Now that tax season is over for most of us, it’s probably a good time to evaluate our personal feelings as citizens and taxpayers.

So now that you’ve paid your taxes, do you feel more like a citizen or do you feel, for the most part, like a mere “taxpayer.”

Therein resides the second question.  Is there a difference between feeling like a citizen and feeling like a taxpayer?

Third, have you just invested in your country or have you been merely fleeced by it?  In other words, are you a driver or a victim of American society?

It is, of course, human nature to resist the tax collector, but a lot of things are indicative of human nature.  It is human nature to love, hate, procrastinate, excuse, rationalize, resent, share, give and complain just to name a few human tendencies both unproductive and productive, negative and positive.

The ultimate question is the historical and typical American inquiry: “so, where do we go from here?”

A lot of us for a lot of reasons (mostly having to do with concern for the security of our individual social status and pocketbooks) are sure that many other Americans are receiving a financial benefit for which our tax dollars are paying.  Even worse, we believe we weren’t consulted about making such gift payments. Even worse than that, we’re convinced that the recipients of our gifts don’t even appreciate our financial sacrifices on their behalf.   Worst of all, we’re probably right in that conclusion.

I think the healthiest way to “...go from here” is our acceptance of several basic truths, some of which may be rather hard to swallow.

TRUTH NUMBER ONE. Although not everyone pays income taxes, everyone does pay some kind of tax.  We’ve been assured by some socio/political ideologists that “welfare queens” and deadbeat dads don’t pay taxes, but that’s false.  If they smoke, drink, consume fast foods, purchase automobiles and the gasoline required to drive them, attend ballgames or purchase homes, they pay taxes.  They can’t avoid doing so, due to the next truth.

TRUTH NUMBER TWO. You can be absolutely sure that one of the reasons commodity prices are as high as they are in Twenty-first Century America is because producers and merchants who pay income taxes inevitably pass that tax burden on.  That’s the way it should be, of course.  It could hardly be otherwise.

TRUTH NUMBER THREE. The rich and the poor have one thing in common: they both vote for politicians who tell them what they want to hear about taxes.  People with a comfortable income want to be told by their elected representatives that they are justified in resisting taxes in order to preserve their “pile.”  Even more, politicians assure them that they will assist them in that effort even if it means shutting down the government to make it happen. The poor and those less well off want to be told by politicians they elect that there are resources out there that can alleviate their poverty and that the first responsibility of progressive government is to secure the well being of those less well off.   

TRUTH NUMBER FOUR. The rich and the poor are permanent elements of society.  We need rich people and the rich, although they don’t realize it (let alone appreciate it), need the less well off to sustain their status.  The medium and low-income earners in society constitute the vitally important laboring and market forces that ultimately sustain the rich.  Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Warren Buffett and others could never have become as successful as they are if it weren’t for the spending power of “the masses.”

TRUTH NUMBER FIVE. Too many of us have surrendered to the idea that success or the lack of it has primarily to do with personal morality.  No one, of course, much notices the sins of the idle rich since their sins are usually absorbed by the resources and mores of their cloistered societies.  The sins of the rest of us, on the other hand, are noticed and judged by an open and exploitive public.

TRUTH NUMBER SIX. The healthiest feeling in the wake of April 15th ought to be pride. Too many of us have been encouraged to believe that one serves America most nobly as a soldier.  With all due respect to the soldier, I assert that the citizen who sustains this, the most equitable of all human societies, with his love, labor, constructive concern and taxes, makes America worthy of our tears, our fears and our cheers!

Even more than the soldier, Mr. and Mrs. American taxpayer, you are our hero.  If you’d only allow yourself to act the hero, proud, yet humble and self-effacing, you would feel like the hero you truly are!

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY
  


Monday, April 14, 2014

OPEN WIDE – IT’S APRIL TIME

By Edwin Cooney

One of the reasons I’m a mere student of history rather than an “historian” is that I like to play with history as much as I like being taught by it.  Since time and history are inseparable, one can play the game of history by date, by day of the week, by year, by decade, by century, by millennium, and, finally, by month.

April, like its eleven sister months, marks beginnings and endings. It is the birth month of its share of celebrities, great and small.  It brings forth pain (April 15th -- Income Tax Day since 1955) and pleasure as the authoritative voices of thousands of umpires are heard once again across the land.  There has also been the pain of the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, 1865 and of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1968 and the terror bombing at the Patriot’s Day celebration in Boston on April 14th, 2013.

Strangely, April marks the beginnings of more major American wars than any other month.  The Revolutionary War, which commenced at Lexington, Massachusetts on the night of Tuesday, April 18th, 1775, began it all.

On Saturday, April 25th, 1846, President James K. Polk began composing his war message to Congress, after he learned that Mexico had refused to meet with his negotiator John Slidell to discuss financial claims against the Mexican government by American nationals living in Texas.

On Friday, April 12th, 1861, General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard (“The Little Creole”) shelled Union Commander Major Robert Anderson and Abner Doubleday (the man who didn’t invent baseball) out of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, thus beginning the Civil War.

On Monday, April 25th, 1898, a reluctant President William McKinley asked Congress to declare war on Spain.  McKinley’s decision brought about the resignation of Secretary of State John Sherman two days later on Wednesday, April 27th.  Sherman, who’d spent the previous 38 years going back and forth from the U.S. Senate to the Cabinets of Presidents Hayes and McKinley, opposed our hostility to Spain’s policies in Cuba. He was one of the few men ever to have bitter feelings toward President William McKinley.
 
On the evening of Monday, April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany and “the Central Powers of Europe” so that “...the world might be made safe for democracy.”

Monday, April 17th, 1961 was the date on which Cuban patriots, under the direction of the Central Intelligence Agency and in the face of the withdrawal of planned air support by President Kennedy, attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro without success.

April is the birth month of three presidents: Thomas Jefferson on Tuesday, April 13th, 1743, James Buchanan on Saturday April 23rd, 1791, and Ulysses S. Grant (his actual birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant) on Saturday, April 27th, 1822.

Other celebrities born in April include: actress/singer Debbie Reynolds (birth name Mary Francis Reynolds) on Friday, April 1st, 1932 in El Paso, Texas.; actor Eddie Murphy (born Edward Regan Murphy) on Monday, April 3rd, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York.; Actress, poet, playwrite and civil rights worker Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Ann Johnson) on Wednesday, April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri.; and Elizabeth Alexandra Mary House of Windsor (born Wednesday, April 21st, 1926 in London, England). Who is more of a celebrity than Queen Elizabeth II?!

BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS --  Thursday, April 12th, 1945:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s crippled, exhausted and diseased-ravaged body and indomitable spirit were conquered as he died of a cerebral hemorrhage while posing for his portrait at Warm Springs, Georgia (his little White House) at 3:36 p.m.  FDR’s sudden death sent Hitler into spasms of delirious but short-lived joy.  Adolf Hitler’s life both began and ended in April.  He was born at Braunau am Inn, Austria on Saturday, April 20th, 1889 and committed suicide in his bunker below the German Chancery on Monday, April 30th, 1945 as the Russians closed in on Berlin.  Hitler’s closest partner in the World War II Axis Powers partnership, Benito Mussolini, had met his end two days earlier.  A cadre of Communist troops in Northern Italy stopped Mussolini on Friday, April 27th as he headed for Switzerland to go into exile in Spain. Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci along with a number of other Fascist officials were shot by Colonnello Valerio in the little village of Giulino di Mezzegra shortly after 3 p.m. on April 28th.  His body was hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan at an Esso gas station (of all places!).

So, you may well ask, what does all this mean?  What does it say about the gifts of April?  What does it say about the potential of babies, actors, actresses, about presidents or dictators or queens?

It doesn’t say much, I suppose, that is very substantial, but it’s a way of chopping history into bite-sized morsels that are fun to research, read and write about.

Aren’t these historical morsels delicious!

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY



Monday, April 7, 2014

ME NEITHER – ME TOO!!!

By Edwin Cooney

So, you don’t like Vladimir Putin – me, neither!  After all, what’s there to like about him?  Didn’t he used to work for the KGB (or if you prefer the Soviet Secret Police)?  Of course, he was little more than a paper pusher, but it’s still on his resume. 

However, come to think of it, it didn’t put off Boris Yeltsin. Every freedom-loving American conservative politician has praised Yeltsin to the skies, but we still hold Putin’s KBG experience against him even if Yeltsin didn’t.

Going further with this brief analysis of Putin, he’s a rather extreme Russian nationalist, so he has to be evil, doesn’t he?  After all, we Americans despise extreme nationalists -- unless they are named Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater or maybe Sarah Palin.  We even pray that God will be an extreme American nationalist especially as we ask God to bless America – and comparatively screw all those foreigners who inhabit the rest of God’s creation!  Who the hell does Putin think he is bullying Ukraine or Crimea around like that? You don’t think we’d be that sensitive about Mexico or Canada if they ever exercised their sovereign prerogative and chose to ally themselves with Putin, would we?  (Fortunately, we wouldn’t have to worry about Canada too much since Mrs. Palin, living in Alaska as she does, could keep an eye on both Canada and Russia for us -- if we could get her to stay home!) Still, I’m with you: I really don’t like what I’ve read about Putin except that he’s apparently very fond of his dogs.

Since the late 1950s, I’ve taken positions on politicians left and right, foreign and domestic.  I’ve actually changed my mind both ways on politicians.  I once loved Richard Nixon and liked Ronald Reagan.  Today, although I’m prepared to give credit to both men for the positives in their service to the nation, neither man draws much in the way of admiration or indeed affection from me. No, it isn’t because they were “conservative.” Barry Goldwater’s absolute devotion to standards of equity in judgment evokes my admiration and even affection.

I’ve had a change of heart about Lyndon Johnson for his sense of racial justice in his later life and for Hubert Humphrey for his openness and his principles. I admire men (I’m thinking of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel) whose patriotism requires them to serve presidents of both political parties.

What I’m getting at here is the realization of how shallow my own conclusions have been on so many occasions.  When I think, for example, of the great men I’ve not admired I feel just a little sheepish because, as strongly as I’ve opposed much of their thinking and agenda, I can admire some of what they’ve brought to the national table.  In that group I include Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole, Paul Harvey, Milton Friedman and, yes, although it gags me to write it, even Newt Gingrich. (Note: although the jury is still out on Rand Paul, as far as I’m concerned he may be an additional someone to at least grudgingly admire.)

When I was growing up, the list of people to be admired included Billy Graham, President Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, Queen Elizabeth II, Dr. Jonas Salk, Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, and the original seven astronauts.  (Note: Chiang Kai-shek and of course Winston Churchill topped even the Queen on the international list of those to be revered.)

So, the questions are obvious, aren’t they?  You and I readily know whom we admire, but do we admire or despise perfectly?  The answer to that is "of course not."

Who might you admire, if only you’d allow yourself to do so?  What brings forth your capacity for admiration other than intellectual or emotional reinforcement of your own values and conclusions?  Don’t the most admirable among us have glaring weaknesses?  Are there aspects of those you least admire that are worthy of respect?

My admiration for Presidents Carter and Obama is pretty strong, but I do have some quarrels with both men.

Jimmy Carter with all his admirable insights and deeds was too self-contained for either his own good or the good of the country.  His near contempt for other politicians was arrogant, silly, and ultimately politically self-destructive.

Barack Obama’s aloofness and avoidance of confrontation aided him when he ran for president. It allowed him to avoid the “angry black man” label, but I fear it has gotten in his way when it comes to consensus building on matters of vital public policies such as health care and economic stimulus.  I also have serious reservations about the ultimate wisdom of his capture and murder of Osama bin Laden.  The capacity to commit international homicide via drone may turn out to be a serious breach of human rights and, sadly, as much as I’d like to, I can’t blame Reagan, either Bush, or even Rush Limbaugh for it!

When we’re young we have a tendency to admire or reject the actions of domestic and foreign leaders by the responses our parents, peers and teachers demonstrate for them.  As time goes on, however, our personal moods and fears take over.  Over the years, our perceptions are invariably altered for better or worse based on a lifetime of experiencing the rigors of a changing world.

My understanding of history tells me that the world will never be as it was when I became acquainted with it.  Ultimately, the world as it will be in the future won’t be my world and it shouldn’t be.  Those born into the America of 2064 or 2114 will live in a world of their own.  It will be a world beyond our judgment and what’s more…

Happily, it will be absolutely none of our business!

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY

Monday, March 31, 2014

SO YOU THOUGHT BASEBALL WAS ABOUT BASEBALL? – WOW!!!

By Edwin Cooney

The most amazing thing, when one thinks about it, is that America lasted as long as it did – from Thursday, July 4th, 1776 to Tuesday, May 4th, 1869 -- 92 years and 10 months -- without professional baseball.  No wonder we fought seven wars during those years; we needed a national pastime of some kind!

Until the spring of 1869, bank clerks, bankers themselves, mechanics, dockhands, and merchants (among others), practiced their professions in cities and towns across America.  However, at about 3 o’clock on sunny spring, summer and fall days, they metamorphosed into baseball players to play for the glory of a newspaper, a bank, a college, or regions of a city.  It was rough but it was fun. Even more, it actually helped sell newspapers. 

Most players belonged to the National Association of Baseball Players (NABBP).  Early in 1869, the NABBP decided to sanction professional baseball. So, on Tuesday, May 4th, 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, employing Englishman Harry Wright as manager, his younger brother George (the team’s star shortstop) and eight other men (only one of whom, first baseman Charlie Gould, was from Cincinnati) began playing professional baseball.  That day they defeated the Cincinnati Great West, a crosstown rival, 45 to 9.

The Red Stockings would go undefeated in 1869 and, even more impressive, would play games from Boston to San Francisco.  The players were under contract from March 15th to November 15th.  The following year they took up where they left off in 1869. They continued to win until they got to Brooklyn and played the Atlantics on Tuesday, June 14th, exactly 58 weeks to the day after their first victory.  They played eleven innings and lost 8 to 7.  Although they went on to have a record 36 wins and only 7 losses in 1870, by the end of the year, two American realities had taken hold.  First, incredibly, after their first loss the magic was gone.  Cincinnati fans had become fickle and home attendance dropped like a misplayed pop fly.  Second, the team’s owners, who after all were Cincinnati businessmen, became tired of paying baseball players minus a profit on their investment.  (Note: one story I’ve seen reported that the Cincinnati Baseball Company’s profit for their undefeated season was less than two dollars.)  The players were ready to move on to more lucrative environs.  About half of them, including the Wright brothers, went on to Boston.  Even more, they took the name Red Stockings with them.

In 1876, when Chicago entrepreneur William Hulbert founded the National League, the Cincinnati Red Stockings were “born again” but they lasted for only four years as a member of the new league. (Note: in Boston some were calling the Red Stockings the “Red Caps.”) Unlike those who are  “born again” with whom modern America is familiar, the “reborn” of Cincinnati were more the indulgent type than the spiritual kind. They would be expelled from the National League in 1880 because they insisted on serving beer and alcohol at home games and playing baseball on Sundays. 

One hundred and forty-five years after that historic May 4th game, baseball hasn’t fundamentally changed.  Sure, the bats are lighter, the gloves are bigger -- as are both the players’ salaries and team owners’ profits -- but baseball fans and players, from their willfulness and their superstitions to their egos, are pretty much the same.

In fact, superstition is no small factor in baseball.  There are players who, if they have a good game, will wear the same sweatshirt as long as their luck holds out.  Some players believe that there are only so many hits in a bat or that their bats get tired if they use them too much.  Hughie Jennings who managed the Detroit Tigers between 1907 and 1920 would throw a fit if he saw a cross-eyed batboy or if a black cat ran across the field before a game.  The irony here is that Hughie Jennings was not the typical uneducated dirt farmer or factory worker of his time.  He attended Cornell Law School in 1903 and 1904 and, although he never finished his degree, he passed the Maryland State Bar in 1905 and practiced law during the off-season.

In the 1930s and 40s, the sons of immigrants like Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola had difficulty convincing hardworking parents that one could make a good living playing baseball.   In his book “Baseball Is a Funny Game,” Joe tells the story that the first time his parents attended a St. Louis Cardinal night game, his father couldn’t understand how the owners could possibly afford to pay the bill for all the lighting in the ballpark.  Joe and Yogi came from “The Hill,” a heavily Italian neighborhood in St. Louis.  In the same book, Joe, who was signed as a catcher by the Cardinals before Yogi was signed as a catcher by the Yankees, also tells of a neighbor who said to him in a very thick accent: “Joey, you’re the first boy what comes from the Hill to get his name in the paper and no kill somebody!”

Today, in keeping with modern “globalization,” players come from all over the world.  In 2012, 243 of the 856 players on opening day major league rosters were born outside the United States.  The Dominican Republic had 95 players, Venezuela 66, Canada 15, Japan 13, Puerto Rico and Cuba 11 each, Mexico 9, Panama 7, Curacao and Australia 4 apiece, Nicaragua 3, Taiwan 2, and Columbia, Italy and South Korea each had 1.  Like their American contemporaries, each spring they leave their home and go far away to cities and a way of life that is both demanding and rewarding.  Some will almost -- but not quite -- make the big time.  Others will be released for reasons both just and unjust.  Still others will become injured and reluctantly return to the bosom of their home to recover and renew their dreams of major league glory.

You and I will listen and watch as a part of us imagines that we’re actually at bat or on the mound.  As we anticipate tomorrow, the memory of all those players, living and dead, from yesteryear are gentle on our minds.

Baseball, which returns each spring like the season, really and truly is about hope and hope is about you and me!  Is there anything more personal than that?

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY


Monday, March 24, 2014

THE BEAT GOES ON!

By Edwin Cooney

Four weeks ago I asked you, the reader, if America might be “fretting herself to death.”  Three weeks ago I followed up with an open search for “the really and truly.”  This week, the beat goes on.

What I’m trying to decide for myself is the value and workability of charter schools.  A few days ago, someone sent me a commentary by Dr. Thomas Sowell asserting that the Obama administration was demonstrating its genuine contempt for minorities, as he claims do most liberals, by limiting the steady growth of charter schools throughout America.  Sowell, a Senior Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, devoutly believes that those who advocate and administrate programs for the benefit of minorities are more interested in protecting their personal careers than they are in benefiting the poor. As a black man who was raised amidst the poverty of both the South and Harlem during the 1930s and 40s, he is especially effective as an advocate for alternative policies to traditional liberal problem solving

Charter schools are generally established and administrated by private groups contracting with public school districts, states or universities to educate school age students under a system that demands more rigid standards than those that exist under the traditional public school system.  Charter schools currently exist in 42 states and the District of Columbia.  Political conservatives and libertarians are generally their strongest and most enthusiastic advocates. However, they exist and even thrive in locations such as Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, cities heavily populated by blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups.  Students and teachers must meet stricter standards of performance or face removal.  Since the economic, social, and even spiritual welfare of our future is largely dependent on a well-educated, prosperous and peaceful population, political as well as practical administrative matters must be considered.

In order to get a broader perspective on this topic, I contacted a friend of mine who was a public school teacher in the state of New Jersey for over thirty years.  Contrary to Dr. Sowell, my friend whom I’ll call “Big Mickey” asserted to me in a responsive email:

“I believe that whatever helps kids is OK, but not at the expense of others.  Charters act like they are so much better but in reality the difference is very small.  Charters should not be "above the law" when it comes to educating ALL the students, not just the cream, or the quiet ones, or the connected.  They do not belong on public property, in buildings with public schools or using public funds that should go to public education. That is discrimination and theft.  We need to focus ourselves on making public education what it should be, not diverting our energies into these charters that only represent a tiny portion of the population.  If public schools were run the way charters are the results would be the same.  Charters are just a different name for the Private School System.  The efforts of some to discriminate AND SEPARATE has failed in the past and school vouchers have not prevailed.  I believe that charters are just another form of "vouchers" that really detract from our main problem which is how to make education important in this country.  Until we raise the cultural importance (as in other nations) we will continue to fail to really meet the needs of our kids and the American people.”

Big Mickey’s final point, the raising of the cultural importance of education in America, is particularly compelling.  Big Mickey insists that the most vital factor in the education of any student is that student’s parents.  “I might have a hundred students in the three or four classes I taught during a particular school year,” he told me, “but on parent’s nights, I’d be lucky if ten parents showed up for consultation.”

Many physical, emotional, intellectual, and social factors invariably come into play when a free society establishes a single requirement of all of its citizens as America began doing in the 1850s.  The requirement that every child receive a free education began in the state of Massachusetts in 1852.  Not only did the Massachusetts law require every town to establish a school, it required that parents send their offspring to school under threat of fine or even removal of children from their homes should parents fail to comply with the law.

Obviously, the time has passed to begin seriously discussing education reform in the United States.  Dr. Sowell’s concern is not without foundation, but whether teachers ought to belong to unions is a different question from “how can we educate our children and thus most likely guarantee our nation’s future?”

A well-educated citizen is the recipient of America’s greatest gift: justice.  Justice, to paraphrase the great Greek philosopher and teacher Plato, exists when one achieves all one is capable of achieving and is rewarded upon that achievement.

As for the wisdom and value of charter schools, I invite you to advise me.  However, in so doing, please address the education of the whole people, not just the highly capable.

If, however, your conclusion is based on your conservative or liberal ideology, skip it and get back to class where you belong!

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY

Monday, March 17, 2014

AS THE READER RULES

 By Edwin Cooney

Amidst the celebratory spirit of last week’s column, I offered my view of the world outside my year of personal bliss with three observations, one of which was:

In the year since Saturday, March 9th, 2013…
George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin thus granting the National Rifle Association and GOP/Conservatives a sense of political, legal and moral accomplishment.

That observation brought forth the following response from a reader and longtime friend:

“You should be ashamed of yourself for falsely asserting that the NRA gained "a sense of political, legal and moral accomplishment" in the George Zimmerman verdict. It is unworthy of you. The NRA took no position whatsoever on the Zimmerman case. It did, and does continue, to support the right of Americans to armed self-defense. But it was very careful never to characterize Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin as being lawful self-defense, nor a falling under the protections of Florida law. It consistently reported that that was a matter for Florida courts to decide. However, the anti-gun press took every possible opportunity to try to tie the NRA to the case. Somehow, every shooting becomes the fault of the NRA. I wonder why every criminal misuse of an automobile isn't blamed on the American Automobile Association.  Anyway, I am disappointed in your sloppiness here.”

My friend was right to be critical of my “sloppiness” in not having researched the NRA’s official position on the significance of the Zimmerman case, but his comparison of guns to automobiles was a counter error.  Automobiles, unlike guns, are designed to enhance the conveniences of life rather than for the destruction of life.  It can also be argued that guns, for a long time in human history, were the chief instrument for the preservation and even the nourishment of human life on a day-to-day basis.  Still, my friend’s point that gun ownership and the activities of the National Rifle Association have both become politicized is both valid and accurate.

Hence, my observation about the NRA last week in addition to being “sloppy” was very, very political.  Had I not included the NRA in my argument and pointed the finger only at conservatives, or most conservatives, I might well have escaped my friend’s wrath.  My recklessness, the constant bane of those of us who are budding columnists, was a purely petulant reaction to an ongoing peeve of mine.

My objection to those opposed to gun control isn’t due to my hatred of guns; I don’t hate guns any more than I hate people.  I agree with those who insist that “people, not guns, kill people.”  However, the insistence on the part of most conservatives and many gun rights advocates that progressive or liberal government policies is a legitimate cause to bear arms constitutes, as I see it, little more than political hysterics.

Insofar as I’m aware, gun control wasn’t a national issue during any presidential campaign before 1968.  Its chief advocate was Lyndon Baines Johnson who personally owned a number of guns.  In the wake of the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Americans began asking themselves: “If automobiles, alcohol, food production, medical and legal services, educational and building construction standards, air travel, and pollution levels ought to be regulated for the benefit of the people’s safety, why shouldn’t guns be regulated?”  With that perfectly logical question, the political fat was in the fire!

One of the hazards of political advocacy in 21st Century America is the right of those with darker and even ulterior motives to attach themselves to legitimate and laudable causes.  Thus American liberalism is invariably linked to socialism and socialists to communists.  American conservatism is linked to fascism and the Ku Klux Klan.  Thus President Obama, who is at most a moderate liberal or progressive, is cast as a socialist or even as a communist when he isn’t being accused of being a Muslim.  President George W. Bush was invariably linked to Nazism and Fascism by many opponents of the second Iraqi war.

The NRA is a legitimate organization made up of mostly well-intentioned American citizens.  However, it is both a political and lobbying group.  As I see it, its primary purpose is business, but its business is primarily pressure politics.  The right to bear arms and to be protected against tyranny is merely secondary to its ultimate purpose which is to keep the sale of firearms as free from government regulation as possible.  It is no more or less patriotic than the ACLU or, for that matter, than liberal causes such as the AFL or the NAACP.

In his latest message to me, my friend and critic asserted that I was entitled to my own opinions but not to my own facts.  He draws a distinction between his support or advocacy of a right and any accountability for the ways in which people invariably use and/or abuse such rights.  Endowed with both a brilliant mind and a powerful intellect, my friend, more than most people I know, has a capacity to compartmentalize cause and effect, applicability versus theory, better than most.  Thus, he sets a high standard for thought and theoretical analysis from which I’ve tried to benefit over the past twenty years.

However, unfortunate as it may be, neither he nor I can escape another painful modern American truth or reality – take your pick.  It’s all about politics which, in most debates, inevitably trumps patriotism or even principle!

As for my journalistic error, only one word applies – oops!

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,
EDWIN COONEY