David - Part 1
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woohooligan Jun 21, 2016
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We're taking a little intermission from the ongoing story, featuring David... and while you might expect me to talk a bit here about David and Goliath, I'm going to talk instead about hope.

Hope is a wonderful thing. It picks us up when we're down, it gives us the strength do face huge obstacles, it allows us to take risks and do things when the odds seem stacked against us... but the only way we can have hope is if we first have doubt. When you say "tomorrow is another day", you don't have hope that tomorrow will come (except in extreme circumstances), you have faith that tomorrow will come, and by stating the obvious you're affirming your hope that tomorrow you'll overcome whatever it is that's got you down today. And while hope can sometimes be fragile, it can also be remarkably resilient.

The comic page I published last week was the third installment of a story arc that I've thought from the beginning was pretty risky, but I accepted that risk because I had hope that you fine folks would understand what I was trying to accomplish. So far so good. I've not had any complaints, people are still marking my updates as favorites on various social media and new people are still routinely following me on Facebook and Twitter. And then last weekend was something of a gut-punch. Two events happened around the same time and sort of coalesced.

The first was the Orlando Pulse club shooting. While I don't frequent the clubs, Tiffany and I both identify as pansexual, so we are part of the GLBT community. I've been to a club once or twice when I was younger -- Tiffany spent quite a bit of time at them when she was in her twenties. And as bad and as personal as it was, neither of us could help but think, "our government did nothing when someone was shooting 6-year-old children. What reason do we have to think they'll act now?" Within hours of the shooting, I was posting part 13 of the "A Good Name" story arc, but I didn't make any mention of the shooting. The next morning (and over the next few days) I shared a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help the victims. I shared Lynn Manuel Miranda's impassioned sonnet delivered during the Tony Awards. I shared a news article about politicians walking out of congress on their traditional moment of silence after the event.

The second event was that the transmission in our car failed suddenly and without warning, while we were on the way back from my oncologist visit on the day after the shooting. So over the couple of days while I was sharing those things on twitter, I was also trying to put on a happy face about our car, with the knowledge that our credit is so bad that ANY solution for an over $4k repair was extremely unlikely, as was any chance of our getting any kind of trade-in... and that Tiffany's mother needs to see a specialist for her hyperparathyroidism in Hamilton that's an hour's drive from here, which isn't feasible to do in a taxi. This was a time that we really needed hope and we really weren't feeling it... and luckily, we got it, since we wound up with the extremely unlikely trade-in on a smaller, older, and more expensive car which will cost us an extra $260/mo we weren't expecting to have to budget any time soon. But it IS a car, and we're grateful because nobody needs to remind us about beggars and choosers.

But while being grateful for a solution to the unfortunate car problem, putting on the happy face about that situation on Twitter and Facebook felt... selfish. Every time I mentioned this personal struggle we were going through at home, I felt like a complete DICK because I hadn't said anything publicly about the Orlando shooting beyond a show of solidarity on Twitter. And it was even harder on me because I know that the only way I can reach my career change goal is by continuing to promote myself and remind everyone how much work I'm putting into these comics and how much even a dollar pledge on Patreon means to me... but I can't even mention that dollar pledge (that, I HAVE TO mention to reach my goal), without feeling like a horrible person. Before you say it, look, I know that horrible things happen in the world all the time and I don't comment about most of them. And I know that no matter what horrible things are happening, I still have to pay my bills. I know my response wasn't rational, but I'm human and during the week I was emotional and I just couldn't help feeling selfish every time I tried to put on the happy face and express hope about resolving the car problem or reaching my career goals.

What I really wanted more than anything though was hope about the shooting, which didn't seem forthcoming for several days. And then I found it. First, although I think there's no meaningful difference between labeling it a "terrorist act" or a "hate crime", I noticed that Donald Trump's strategy of saying the craziest, most loathsome shit he can imagine is starting to backfire. I think the days of his being able to brag about shooting people and having his poll numbers continue to climb are at an end.

Secondly I did a little more specific research into how people genuinely feel about the subject of guns. Stephen Colbert opened the Late Show, as they frequently do, with commentary about the shooting. There was something different though in Colbert's comments.
"It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time. With nothing changing... I don’t know what to do, but I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything... Love gives up hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script... But let’s remember love is a verb. And to love means to do something.”
And then he did something truly beautiful: he tried to change the script. He brought on his previously scheduled guest, Bill O'Reilly, and he put forth the most valiant effort I've seen to date, to find common ground on the subject of gun violence.

So thank you, Stephen. I'm going to take your lead and also try to change the script. In late April, I published another page of my comic with a fairly lengthy commentary about our gun culture. I debunked the myth that guns prevent violence (nope, they actually increase it), I debunked the myth that a gun is a good way to protect yourself (you're probably at greater risk from sugar and cigarettes and doing nothing about them), and I debunked the myth that guns are needed to prevent the rise of a tyrant (your AR-15 isn't going to stop a tank). Although I still feel those are key points, those are all things we all know already. All these things have already been said, they're already part of the ongoing script.

I think the elephant in the room here is the second amendment. That one item seems to be like our Goliath -- it has us all paralyzed in fear. Every time one of these shootings happens, we hear it left, right and center. Republicans say it. Democrats say it. Gun advocates say it. Peace protestors say it. "I don't think we can do anything because of the second amendment." Well, you're wrong. On this point, everyone is wrong. And I think we have a responsibility to stop saying "the second amendment is stopping us." The second amendment isn't stopping anything, we're stopping it by saying this.

First, the second amendment is itself an amendment. How many times has the constitution been amended? Twenty-seven? We amended the constitution to give women the right to vote, and poor people, and to abolish slavery. Hell, the eighteenth amendment abolished the sale of alcohol! (And we later rolled that amendment back.) Yes, suffrage took eighty years from 1840 to 1920, but women's suffrage passed. There was a time in this country when no one questioned slavery, when everyone assumed it would be a part of our country until our sun exploded. Oh and look, we abolished it. Yes, we did fight a civil war, but are we really going to say that we think the corporate gun lobby is that powerful? That they could cause another civil war to protect their profits? I don't think so. So we just need to get over this idea that "oh, our hands are tied, because the second amendment." Again, the second amendment isn't stopping anything: we are.

Secondly, we already restrict gun sales - private citizens aren't allowed to own miniguns in the US, and for that matter, we already HAD a federal assault weapon ban! And while several people brought law-suits against various parts of it, all of them were rejected by the courts, so the ban held from the time it passed in 1994 until it's planned end in 2004. I'm not sure how many people are aware of this, but the reason we had the assault-weapon ban was because of a steep climb in the murder rate starting around 1963 and peaking in the mid-90s. While crime in general has been on the decline for the past couple decades, there's no reason we can't continue to work at it, after all our violent crime rate is still over twice what it was in 1960.

Third, even if the federal government won't, we may find that the states individually outlaw assault weapons all-together. Heck, prohibition started that way.

Fourth, millennials and people of color care. More and more, people are supporting the idea of common sense gun laws. Already 90% of us support expanded federal background checks for firearms purchases. Admittedly, even if we passed those laws today, we would still have three guns for every man, woman and child in the US, which I think is obviously way more than we need or should ever have had, but frankly, a given shooter can only realistically use at most two at a time anyway (one at a time if they want to hit something). And while polls currently show that millennials are very marginally conservative on "gun rights vs gun control" (about 54%), they still mostly support expanded background checks and in particular, they support the creation of a national gun-sales database, something the NRA managed to outlaw in 1986. But as I've said before, laws can be changed, so we can amend that law... which was in itself an amendment of a 1968 law.

Furthermore, if you look at Pew Research Center demographic data (August 2015), the people who show the strongest support for "protecting gun rights" (compared to "controlling gun ownership") are white, rural men. Those are the only demographics (outside of Republicans at 71%), in which "gun rights" polls higher than "gun control". As the country is gradually becoming less white (though no less male), I doubt that blacks and latinos (who both poll "rights" at only 24%) are likely to shift their opinions much. Which means that in the upcoming decade or so, even without pressure from us (like me writing this), public opinion will likely reach a tipping point where "gun control" is favored over "gun rights".

I still think we should bring that pressure. I think we should flood our congressmen with demands to do those things that the we the public have been asking of them, like federal background checks. It's true that as it stands right now, with the country drowning in a sea of guns, those background checks won't catch a lot of criminals, but since we've already established that private citizens aren't stopping gun crime, it doesn't make any sense for us to continue to make it easier for criminals to get them and we have to start somewhere. We have to take baby steps until we get to our goal of a nation with fewer of these tragedies.

While these things may not be earth-shattering news, I think they are what Tolkien had in mind when he said (through Gandalf), "It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." So I have hope that some day soon, our politicians will be full of something other than shit: I hope they'll be full of conviction.

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maarvarq Jun 21, 2016
Here's hoping that the USA comes to its senses soon. In the 20 years since Australia's gun laws were tightened https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Australia#The_Port_Arthur_massacre_and_its_consequences we have had *no* shootings with 5 or more victims, and only a handful with fewer. Of course, we still have some lunatics e.g.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Leyonhjelm who feel naked without their guns, but our Federal government hasn't become a dictatorship, and armed gangs don't roam the streets preying on unarmed citizens. We're a nation of former convicts - what's *your* problem?
woohooligan Jun 21, 2016
woohooligan <snerk> Thanks, Maarv. ;)
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