Point the trigger finger at everyone else

Friday afternoon, May 18, I was walking across my West Village neighborhood running some errands. Here and there my path crossed with college students in graduation gowns from NYU, Columbia and The New School.

It’s that time of year, and as I watched the graduates and their proud, happy friends and families, I thought of the eight young men and women and two teachers at Santa Fe High School in Texas who just hours before had lost their lives to a 17-year-old armed with a shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun. Those kids would never see a college commencement or even their own high school graduation, which was scheduled for June 1. What a despicable tragedy.

No matter what the gun rights advocates say, all these deaths are about a country with far too many guns, plain and simple, full stop. Las Vegas, Parkland, Newtown, Orlando, Aurora, Santa Fe and Sutherland Springs, Texas, and so many more: It’s not about guns for duck hunting or target practice or protecting the home or shooting varmints in the cornfield. It’s not about the Second Amendment giving us the right to bear arms when the British are coming.

Nor is it, as incoming NRA president Oliver North would tell you, about young boys “on Ritalin,” who are “steeped in a culture of violence.” Or, as Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick claimed, first, that Texas schools have “too many entrances and too many exits” and then, to George Stephanopoulos at ABC on Sunday that the Santa Fe deaths weren’t because of guns but because ”We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games, which now outsell movies and music.”

To which Fred Guttenberg, who lost a daughter in Parkland, Florida, three months ago, had the most appropriate response: “I think those are the most idiotic comments I’ve ever heard regarding gun safety,” he said. “Let me be clear. He should be removed from office for his failure to want to protect the citizens of Texas.”

Dan Patrick said, “It’s not about the guns; it’s about us.” We can talk about that, Dan, but it is about guns—88 of them for every hundred Americans, more than 300 million guns, with a mass-shooting rate eleven times higher than any other developed country.

No contortion of argument—twisting and turning to make the problem about anything other than guns—is going to change that. You sound like that clown Mo Brooks, Republican congressman from Alabama, who said last week that rising oceans aren’t about climate change. No, he suggested, ”Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Stop throwing rocks in the ocean, people; you’re drowning our coastal cities.

Seriously, it’s about keeping guns out of the hands of those who are dangerous when they have weapons in their possession. It’s about banning assault rifles and other instruments of destruction that should never be allowed off a military base or a battlefield or placed anywhere near where civilians can get their hot little hands on them. (Philip Bump in Friday’s Washington Post noted “a stunning statistic: More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while [deployed] in the military.”)

Yet Dan Patrick, Ollie North—an arms dealer of long experience—and all the other extreme gun advocates insist that the proliferation of weapons in this country isn’t the problem. And here’s where I can agree that it’s not just about guns—it’s also about our current political climate. From the top down in this administration and among too many of its supporters, it’s always about pointing the finger at someone or something else other than the real problem, whether guns or graft or collusion. As said here before, it’s the world according to Bart Simpson: Whatever it is, I didn’t do it, unless it’s something good, in which case I did do it, even if I didn’t.

Except that Bart has some semblance of a moral compass. And he’s a cartoon character. Whatever happened to responsibility, that basic premise of legitimate conservative thought? Whatever happened to accountability? Instead, the president and his cronies blame everyone but themselves for their problems and wrongdoings.

Donald Trump and his administration are the Walmart of corruption—one-stop shopping for graft and influence peddling (and while we’re at it, fiercely anti-union). When it comes to fessing up, forget about it. They shout and obfuscate and lie.

Barack Obama’s a perpetual target of the pointed finger going all the way back to Trump’s birtherism. High crime, not enough jobs—blame undocumented immigrants. And as the scheduled summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un seems to have crumbled, count on Trump to accuse everyone and everything but his own thoughtless impetuosity, prematurely polishing the Nobel Prize for peace while ignoring any semblance of knowledgeable diplomacy.

Many of the leaks that characterize this administration are nothing more than attempts at the finger point, aides working mightily to shift blame, to single out a fall guy. And of course, witness the current fiasco as Republicans and the White House work like thieves to wreck the legitimacy of Robert Mueller’s investigation

When Trump doesn’t get the result he wants, when the truth comes out, he will, as ever, yell foul and WITCH HUNT! and cover-up and fake news and deep state and cast aspersions on everyone but the truly guilty party—himself.

As a result, democracy may be mortally wounded, as lifeless and deprived of its promise as those kids gunned down in their schools. What a despicable—and reckless—tragedy.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.

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