NRA Genocide

Now that the flint hearted politicians have finished picking over the corpses of last Sunday’s mass murder, looking to score electioneering points, let’s not forget those Orlando victims as quickly as we have forgotten the victims of past atrocities. The TV’s talking heads continue to spin the story and try to give it an appropriate label, hate crime, terrorism, mental health issues. But we should try to not lose sight of the real culprit behind the cancer that is gun crime in the USA: The North American Rifle Association (NRA). The big money and lobbying of the NRA and it’s never ending blackmailing of lawmakers to support it or risk being destroyed is by far the biggest single reason for that attack and similar attacks in schools, or in movie theatres or just about anywhere else for half a century. In Orlando nearly 50 people were killed but will that be enough? If not how many will be enough: 100 maybe a 1000, how many will be enough for people to realise that the NRA have in effect been the authors of a slow burning genocide, a genocide against the American way of life. Genocide is an emotive word I know, I live in a country where to utter it can land you in prison or even get you killed. But what other word can be used to describe culpability in the gun related deaths of more than 1.5 million people over 50 years if not a genocide?

Flowers outside Orlando Pulse Nightclub
Photo by Adam Y Zhang

Unfortunately, like with many things in America it boils down to power and money. The power of the NRA and the money it’s members donate so they can lobby the government, media and threaten anyone who attempts to control guns. Did you know that if you wanted to buy 100 assault rifles and ammunition, you could do so quite easily in many states, even if you are on a terrorist watch list, by simply showing a copy of your drivers licence at a gun show or scanning in a copy to allow you to buy on-line without ever having any physical contact whatsoever with the seller. Most gun owners have been conditioned by the NRA to trot out the same tired phrase about it being their democratic right to carry arms because it is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the American Constitution as a ‘right to bear arms.’ But few will go on to explain that the amendment was only hastily made at a time of revolution, war and nationwide crisis in the late 1700’s when America had barely a rag tag army of militiamen to defend itself. So why does it still need such a law today when it is now the most heavily armed superpower on the planet? Is America really in imminent danger of invasion or is it simply about the arms manufacturers protecting their billion dollar industry?

Despite many attempts to control guns the country is still a hostage to the gun manufacturers who hijacked the NRA from the hunters and amateur marksmen, who ran it like a small club until the 1970’s. They then quickly turned it into the political lobbying monster we know today, which has ensured that for every 100 people (including children) there are actually 113 guns – 113 Why!? To put that into context just look at the UK were there are only 6 guns for every 100 people. Guns equal death – that is after all, with a few exceptions why guns were invented. So you won’t be surprised to learn that the difference in death rate from guns in the USA and UK is also astronomical. For every single gun related death in the UK there are almost 50 deaths in the USA.

I love gun shows
Photo by Universallogic

Over the years the NRA has advocated 101 different reasons to keep the lucrative gun industry rolling along unhindered by legislation. The latest of course in the wake of 9/11 is the ever present threat of Terrorism… but is it really a threat in the USA today. Yes terrorism exists we all saw what happened in Paris and Brussels, the horrors man inflicts on other men day after day in other parts of the world, on our news feeds but can the NRA or anybody else really use terrorism as the latest bogey man under the bed to limit anyone’s meaningful attempts at gun control? They can’t, they really can’t because when it boils down to it, excluding the events of 9/11 there are more people killed using guns in almost any random period of 3 or 4 weeks in America than have ever been killed through terrorism, not just gun deaths, in the last 50 years! I would also argue that the NRA’s heavy handed methods used to prevent any meaningful gun control has created and perpetuated a different kind of terrorism from within against the American system of government and its people, a terrorism that has claimed more American lives than all the wars that the USA has ever fought in.

Poor Gun Control = Self-inflicted Terrorism

America has been at the forefront of fighting terror and rooting out and censuring the supporters and financers of terror all around the world. So how is it possible that the NRA are allowed to constantly side-step any censure despite its own form of terrorism when it uses threats and its big money to maintain an iron grip on the nations lawmakers so it can thwart any attempts at gun control? If the NRA’s activities are directly or indirectly responsible for the majority of gun related deaths and crime involving a firearm in America, what makes them so different from terrorists? By any measure being even partly culpable for the unnecessary deaths of over 1,500,000 people is a an enormous crime against humanity. If the NRA ever appeared on any list of terrorist organisations based on its influence on lethality, they would be way ahead of the likes of Al Qaida, Hezbollah, Al Shabaab and yes Islamic State and top that list by a country mile. So next time you see some politician spinning the fear of terrorism as a reason for the USA to keep the gun laws as they are; don’t just view these people as NRA backed lobbyists but try and view them for what they really are: the purveyors of death and destruction, the facilitators of a slow burning genocide against the American people. Because no matter which way you cut it, even accepting that a high proportion of gun deaths are actually suicides, more than 33,000 deaths a year is a truly enormous loss of life by anyone’s standards.

Coffin, draped with USA flag
Photo by Robb & Jessie Stankey

Think about it just for a minute… If there are hardly any guns there is a lot less death, a lot less crime and of course the overstretched prison system could be cut to a fraction of what it is today. Just think about the money saved by not having to incarcerate 100,000 gun related criminals at a cost of anything up to $60,000 per head per year. Add to that gun related social, economic and state financed medical costs and things like early retirement through injury etc. and of course a dramatic reduction in the need for police and law enforcement agencies like the FBI and it is not just billions but trillions of tax dollars people, trillions of dollars. Money that could then be used instead for other things like a cheaper or even a free heath care system, better schools and roads and hell yes, much lower taxes.

Dollars and blood
Photo by Ccmerino

It is high time that the straw that the NRA has been able to cling to for far too long through bribes, threats and the character assignation of good people was broken. History has proven that the right to bear arms clause in the Second Amendment should have been struck out or severely amended as far back as the civil war. However, even for the most ardent president striking it out would seem inconceivable at this moment in history but a sensible amendment may not be beyond the realms of possibility if it ever came to a vote. Amending the amendment might be possible if enough people believed in it and a few good lawmakers had the guts to not only ignore the NRA but also severely file down that monsters unnecessarily shape teeth.

Unfortunately like a drug pusher who gives away free samples of drugs to hook his future customers or big tobacco, who did the same with cigarettes the NRA has made us believe perversely that the answer to too many guns is bigger and more powerful guns. They know that as a nation the USA now seems well and truly hooked on guns just in-case. But if you take most of the guns off the street and implement a tighter system of checking and licensing, which most sensible gun owners cannot argue against, then you probably won’t even need that gun under your pillow anymore.

The arguments against guns are not rocket science so why are the NRA able to get away with their dark activities, which seem to benefit just a few weapons and ammo manufactures and hard core gun enthusiast at the expense of a more functional and less fearful society? They block all attempts at government research because the results will be a no brainer, a great big no to things like assault rifles and a great big yes to things like background checks (which the NRA has successfully resisted even for people on terrorist watch lists and people with mental health issues). Why is that? Because once there is a report against guns people can begin to think about suing the culprits. The NRA saw what happened to big tobacco who tried to go against the science that linked cigarettes to unnecessary death and ultimately lost billions. That is why they keep their iron grip of the legislative process to block even the research that would contribute to a meaningful discussion about gun ownership. But time and public opinion is moving against them. How long now before a class action against them for perpetuating the bloody murder on the streets? Oh yes the NRA are very rich but so too are many of the ever increasing victims of gun crime. A few hundred dollars a head times 1.5 million or ten times that if you include people injured by guns. Now that really would be some day in court.

Finally, who am I to talk, I don’t even live in America. But when I look at other internal conflicts of the world it is hard not to feel compassion for the people of those conflicts and the innocent victims: Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria all this loss of life makes me feel sad. Yet when our newsfeeds suddenly burst into life with yet another mass shooting in the USA I sometimes feel extra sad, because deep down I know, as most Americans know that it is preventable if only there was a will to shake off the yoke that is the NRA. As for who will do that, I have no idea – someone brave, someone with a much bigger voice than mine. But as someone who was murdered by a rifle that came to his assassin in the mail once said, sometimes you must do some things:

“not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …”
J.F. Kennedy

Portrait of JFK
Photo by Ccmerino


Social Media Zombies

A few days ago I had to change planes on my way home from Budapest. I was supposed to spend no more than an hour at Sabiha Gokcen airport, which is Istanbul’s second airport (there will soon be a third) but because delays are now the norm rather than the exception at this airport, I was not surprised to see my departure time slip in half hour increments until we eventually had a one hour forty five minute delay. Despite Sabiha Gokcen’s modern terminal being less than 7 years old the design and fittings of its Domestic section ensures it is one of Europe’s most uncomfortable airports to spend any length of time in. I would personally rank it 3rd worst airport in Europe just behind the bus shelter experience of London’s Luton airport and the cold-steel chairs of Frankfurt.

Social Media ZombiesPhoto care of Steve Cutts

Ever increasing passenger volumes obviously contribute to delays, which inevitably contribute to unbearable overcrowding, where a growing number of passengers must use the floor instead of the limited number of chairs. So it came as quite a shock when I eventually fought my way through security and pushed through the throng towards my distant gate and arrived into an area of near silence. The area was packed as usual with about a dozen passengers having spilled onto the floor. You may imagine they were all somehow sleeping at 4pm in the afternoon or that they were a large group of nuns or holy men quietly contemplating the universe. But they were just the normal mix of passengers flying down to Bodrum: a few less head-scarved women than for the flights further east, a few European holiday makers regretting their unwise decision to break their journey at Istanbul to save money and a sprinkling Vomits (Victims of Men in Turkey), middle aged European women with over-dyed hair and wearing mutton dressed as lamb clothes, all flying home to their much younger Turkish, or should I say Kurdish boyfriends, who are at various stages of bleeding these delusional women dry.

There I go – digressing again – perhaps I will inevitably have to relent soon to the many requests to do a follow up to my Vomit piece of a few years ago, but for now back to the airport.

The reason for the uncanny silence at the Bodrum gate was because almost everyone there seemed to be mesmerised by their phone or some other device, reading, taping it or scrolling; some people were actually talking into the phone – whatever next? All remained calm as I stepped gingerly over the legs of the people sitting on the floor on my way towards the gate now flashing ‘Last Call,’ until a woman carrying a selection of over-priced pastries suddenly tripped over a stray foot. You may imagine that I would not be the only person helping this poor woman to her feet in a crowded room but I was. However, what was more disturbing was the fact that at least half a dozen of these people had photographed the incident and I suspect, even before I had brushed the pastry based debris from my trousers, had posted the incident on Instagram, Twitter, facebook or whatever.

It is hard to pin-point the moment that social media interest rolled over to social media addiction but I suspect for many it was long before the condition was officially recognised as an addiction by the UK’s National Health Service in 2013.

London based psychiatrist Richard Graham is one of many clinicians now dealing with the problem and he described these core early indications in addicts:

They start to miss or avoid doing the necessary things in life, even at a fundamental level of self-care. They delay eating or avoid eating or drinking, delay sleep, miss meetings or delay getting into work or college.

Ringing any alarm bells?!

Dr Graham treats around 100 social media addicts every year, ranging from very young kids to adults in their mid-30s; there are even one or two professional football players. Judi James, another expert explained that addiction comes when “people are using [social media] when they already have company – or are even out on dates. Or they are sitting up most of the night rather than getting some sleep. Social media should be a way to complete your social life, not replace it. An exaggerated use of social media can have the opposite effect and result in increased feelings of loneliness,” she points out.

Instagram is Down
Photo care of Ian Grace-Penny

Are You an addict… yet?

10 Symptoms you are a Social Media Zombie.

1. You can’t get to the main course in a restaurant before you get out your phone and instagram the prawn cocktail. Ideally, you would chronicle the bread basket within three minutes of arriving. Because, frankly, a romantic meal for two isn’t a romantic meal for two unless you have shared it with all your followers.
2. The very first thing you do when you wake up is reach for your phone or i-pad (always by the side of your bed, in fact – usually under your pillow) and check how many times your witty comment from the night before has been retweeted or liked. You often do this before you have even left the bed.
3.  Your children catch you trying to post Facebook updates while reading their bedtime stories. You know it’s seriously bad when you agree that you will pay them 25p every time they bust you. It has got out of control when they can buy an XBox with the proceeds.
4. You cannot visit a toilet without using the 27 available seconds to investigate how many people have liked your photo. Snapchatting a selfie while sitting on the loo is proof you have stopped understanding basic decent behaviour. Rather sadly, we now swipe, tap, scroll and wipe.
5.  Linda from accounts, on a Monday morning, asks how was your weekend. And your first reaction is “What? did you not see all the amazing photos I posted on Instagram? How can you not know that I had a great time?” But what you actually say: “Er, it was nice. Thanks.” And then think, I must un-follow Linda, the ungrateful bitch.
6.  You “like” your own updates on Facebook. You “favourite” your own Tweets. You “like” your own instagram pics. You “pin” selfies on Pinterest. Stop it… stop it Now.
7. You “check in” at Metro stations on the way to work. You “check in” when you go out to get your lunch, you “check in” at the pub after work. You want to “check in” when you get home, but you suddenly realise that though you have remembered your phone (of course), you have forgotten your keys.
8.  The first thing you do on hearing that someone famous has died is to Wiki their career and urgently, in a panicky rush, find the obscurest fact you can find about them so that you can post an update. “So sad about #Prince. Of course, his greatest achievement was being invited to sing at the Pope’s birthday party. #RIP”
9.  Someone tells you a joke, and instead of laughing out loud, you use the phrase “lol”. As in, you actually open your mouth and instead of uttering the purest, most instinctive proof of humanity, a laugh, you say “lol.” But then you do laugh at your own cleverness.
10.  Watching Game of Thrones/Downton/X-Factor your anxiety levels rise to almost unbearable levels as you desperately try to be the first person on your timeline to tweet “Has Simon had too much work done?”

Don’t become a social media zombie… STOP IT NOW – BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! Or you may just end up like one of these two:

Stay on the safe side, keep your devices away when you are having a moment with someone. And if you do feel that temptation to grab your phone, be strong!