Speaking Truth To Impotence
Suddenly, and none too soon, an interesting assortment of ordinary Americans have somewhat miraculously rediscovered their voices. Maybe it has something to do with the evolution of social media; or perhaps it’s a reaction to being completely ignored, for too long, by our governmental representatives; or maybe it has to do with witnessing our rights, freedoms and values being trampled, ignored and distorted into an ugly incomprehensible mess. Who knows? But a tipping point seems to have been reached and, I for one, find it very refreshing to see everyday citizens rearing up and letting loose.
In the short space of just a few weeks a number of powerful reactions to a diverse set of issues have rocked the American scene.
Here are some of the most notable . . .
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is a Republican. He is also the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee On Veterans Affairs and, ostensibly, quite dedicated to our veterans’ welfare. Indeed, Sen Burr and his fellow committee members worked diligently on crafting the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) were delighted by how comprehensively the bill would address some of the biggest problems facing all American veterans and offered full-throated endorsements of the bill.
Here’s what just one VSO, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association, had to say, in their letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs endorsing the bill:
This legislation would accomplish many of the goals for which veterans and military service organizations have been advocating for years, including strengthening the Post-9/11 GI Bill, expanding advance appropriations for more of the VA’s budget, expanding dental care coverage for veterans, expanding benefits for surviving spouses, expanding care related to military sexual trauma, instituting new rules for VA’s claims processing reports, and much more.
Indeed, who could vote against such a bill after the sacrifices our veterans have made so unselfishly?
Republicans could. Including Sen Burr. The bill failed the Senate on a 56-41 vote, a party line vote that included all but 2 Senate Republicans.
At that time, Sen Burr made this statement:
With $17 trillion in debt and massive annual deficits, our country faces a fiscal crisis of unparalleled scope. Now is not the time, in any federal department, to spend money we don’t have. To be sure, there’s much to like in the Sanders bill. And if those components were presented as separate, smaller bills, as part of a carefully considered long-term strategy to reform the VA, hold leadership accountable and improve services to veterans, we would have no problem extending enthusiastic support.
So. It’s that simple, in Sen Burr’s mind, the VA isn’t underfunded it’s just poorly managed like all “big government” Obama organizations. [Since that debt seems so important to Republicans perhaps they should have thought over their decision to fund two wars with money we didn’t have—less debt, fewer permanently disabled veterans.]
Fast forward to Memorial Day Weekend, which Sen Burr decided would be the perfect occassion to scold VSOs for not supporting the Republicans’ “off with his head” approach to VA Secretary Shinseki. Evidently it’s more important to Republicans to embarrass the administration rather than actually fix any of the problems of the underfunded, overextended VA because that might entail spending.
Not only did Sen Burr choose an incredibly indelicate time to troll veterans, he did it via the Cowards Choice of forum —the Open Letter.
The difference, though, in this particular political showdown, is that the gloves came off and the veterans immediately ripped the Senator a new one without even a trace of politesse. Which might actually force this well-groomed, old ingrate who prefers “serving” in designer suits, rather than uniform, to think about what he says and why he says it in the future.
Here are a few of the uncharacteristically choice replies Burr received from VSOs—
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) characterized Burr’s letter as a “monumental cheap-shot” that was “one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we’ve witnessed in more than forty years of involvement with the veteran community.”
In case that didn’t make the point strongly enough, the VFW described Burr’s scolding accusations as “ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the words and profoundly wrong, both logically and morally,” breaching “the standards of the United States Senate.”
Separately, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) responded that Burr “should be ashamed” of himself. And further warned that Burr’s letter “clearly displays why the vast majority of the American public puts no faith in their elected officials to do what is right for this country.”
Indeed, records show that Burr was MIA for a large portion of testimony given before his Senate Committee, before the vote on this bill was taken.
As PVA pointed out:
Perhaps you should have shared with all veterans in your ‘open’ letter that you cared so much about their health care that you were not actually present during the testimony that the V.S.O. representatives provided, and you did not ask a single question.
It’s hard to say how soon Burr will actually get around to reading these responses, though, because he’s now committed to the much more important mission of fundraising for Thom Tillis (R-NC) until November.
Nevertheless, here’s the promise that the VFW has made to him:
For years, the V.F.W. has come to Congress with hat in hand, and for years we’ve heard the same old story. You can be assured, Senator, that you’ve done a superb job in showing us the error in our ways. You can also be assured that in the future, we will spend a substantial percentage of our time seeking to inform our members and our constituents of the repeated failure to act by our elected officials.
In another example, we have a father finding his voice in the midst of unspeakable grief. Richard Martinez lost his son, Christopher Michael-Martinez, to a murder spree embarked upon by Elliot Rodger, a mentally ill young man who took seven lives, including his own, near the campus of the UC, Santa Barbara, last weekend.
Martinez blames Congress for failing to enact stricter gun laws, when they had the chance, after another mentally ill gunman took 26 lives, in 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
In an interview with CNN following the mass murder Mr Martinez said:
We’re all proud to be Americans. But what kind of message does it send to the world when we have such a rudderless bunch of idiots in government?
I can’t tell you how angry I am. It’s just awful, and no parent should have to go through this.
These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don’t take care of our kids.
In another interview, a slightly more composed, Martinez asked:
Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights, but what about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop?
When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness. We don’t have to have live like this.’ Too many have died.
That’s a very valid question because, clearly, Tony Strickland, who is running for an open California congressional seat, in a nearby district, wasn’t fazed enough to pull his “Protect your gun rights. Vote for me!” robocalls that went out hours after the shootings.
Also, on the topic of gun control, there was the public pwning of the Open Carry Texas outfit that bravely stormed a local Chipotle to make a statement. Outfits like OTC typically defend their gun flaunting saying that most Americans feel “safer” when guns are in evidence and, If I had to take a guess at where such an opinion might fly, it would be Texas. But, as Mark Follman, of Mother Jones, has documented, the general public, even in Texas, is not all that receptive to fellow customers decked out in assault rifles while they order their burritos.
OTC has since decided to scrub their YouTube account of some of their more embarrassing public humiliations, at the hands of restaurant managers, and to release a statement calling for a moratorium on open carry in restaurants.
Open Carry Texas acknowledged, on its Facebook page that its tactics to normalize firearms in public, were backfiring. Carrying rifles and shotguns into businesses is the approach that has “gotten the most resistance and suffered the largest setbacks.”
We must once again adjust in a way that shines a positive light on our efforts, our members, and our respective organizations. “We have decided the prudent path, to further our goals, is to immediately cease taking long guns into corporate businesses unless invited.
Forget Congress. So far, expressions of public disgust have been the most effective method for decreasing guns in our midst.
Last, but not least, the amazing outpouring of #YesAllWomen in response to the dismissive #NotAllMen meme that’s been kicking around for a few months. See #NotAllMen get that not being overtly violent toward women doesn’t exonerate them from the objectification and sexual harassment that #YesAllWomen experience throughout their lives and at which society at large looks the other way.
For a period of time, some 51,000 women per hour found their voices and offered up wise, witty, frightening and profound insights about being a woman in a world dominated by men in the 21st century.
Cheers to all of the people who have found ways around being shouted down and silenced by society to testify to the continuing truth and goodness of their common objectives and their desire to hold their governments accountable to defending those values.
May our voices only grow stronger with time . . .