In the farce that was the 2008 campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin, one of the main fools was played by Joe the Plumber. Well, his name wasn’t Joe. And he wasn’t a plumber. But that was the stage name of Samuel Wurzelbacher of Ohio. He was the hood ornament on the Fox-sponsored GOP clown car that year.
Last Friday, a deranged man went on a slashing and shooting rampage, killing six young people near the UC Santa Barbara campus. He then committed suicide, leaving behind a video and a 140-page manifesto that expresses a shockingly demented hatred of women.
Just days later, the country is still reeling from the savagery of this crime, the killer’s unhinged misogyny and the soul-numbing reality of yet another mass shooting of young people in America. But today is the day that ‘Joe the Plumber’ published an “open letter to the parents of the victims” of the Santa Barbara spree. And here is what Mr Wurzelbacher wants the parents – and all of us – to know:
“Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
I was certain this was some kind of inappropriate sick satire.
But no, this is a verbatim quote from his letter published on Barbwire.com – which (naturally) boasts “a decidedly biblical worldview”. As you might imagine, this unconscionable affront to the grieving parents of murdered children has set half of the internet on fire… while the other half pours gasoline.
Wait a minute though. I think there is tremendous power in this twisted slur. Think about it. He declares something to be true: Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But I think Mr Not-A-Plumber got it exactly wrong. Our dead kids DO trump your gun rights.
Our dead kids. They have names. Cassie, Steve, Corey, Kelly, Matt, Daniel, Rachel, Isaiah, John, Daniel, Lauren, Kyle, Areceli, Kristi, Shawn, Joseph, Cassandra, Susan, Justin, Kayla, Bryan, Randy, Aaron, Seth, James, Bart, Alicia, Thurlene, Chanelle, Chase, Dewayne, Emily, Naomi, Marian, Anna Mae, Lena, Mary Liz, Kirsten, Emily, Ryan, Ross, Brian, Austin, Daniel, Matthew, Caitlin, Rachel, Emily, Matthew, Jarrett, Henry, Lauren, Daniel, Erin, Michael, Julia, Mary Karen, Reema, Leslie, Maxine, Nicole, Catalina, Ryanne, Daniel, Gayle, Ryan, Chavares, Christina, Daniel, Russell, Demetrius, Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, Ana, James, Grace, Emily, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, Claire, Trayvon, Jordan, Katie, Chris, Veronika… and so many thousands more.
The horrifying fact is that 8 children every day are murdered with a gun in America. In the 15 years since Columbine, more than 43,800 children have been shot to death. In their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, in their churches, in their cinemas and malls. Their short lives, ended, with a bullet.
There is only one way to honor the memory of our kids who have been murdered with guns. There is only one way to give them a voice. There is only one way to save a child – maybe yours – from being murdered with a gun. We must change the laws to more effectively regulate the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition in this country.
What makes this entire situation so galling is that it is a failure of political will. After the massacre of babies at Sandy Hook, various incremental and sensible gun control laws were supported by 70% to 90% of the American people. But the 535 members of the House and Senate were unable to pass anything at all. And the President caved to the political status quo. in the year-and-a-half since Newtown, there has been something on the order of 15,000 gun homicides… 4,000 of the dead are kids under 18.
My friend Peter suggests a simple yet powerful idea: a pledge. Similar to the “Taxpayer Proection Pledge” that Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform have used to successfully bludgeon politicians for 20 years now. It could be implemented immediately and at almost zero cost by an existing gun control advocacy group such as Moms Demand Action. We are in the midst of an election year. Every member of Congress is up for reelection along with 1/3 of the Senate. That is nearly 1,000 candidates for Congress, all drawn to the glare of the tv lights. Take the pledge to each of them, at every campaign stop. Democrats. Republicans. Incumbents. Challengers. Send it to all of their campaigns. Give them a week to return the signed pledge. And then, confront them. Loudly. Publicly. Notify the local media. Ask them to sign the pledge, or to explain why they won’t. It might look something like this:
When 70% or 80% or 90% of Americans want various gun control measures, they should get done. Notwithstanding the NRA’s threats, bribes and extortion. NRA pretends to represent gun owners, but they are paid lobbyists for the gun manufacturers and sellers. Their job is to make America safe for guns. It is the job of Congress to make America safe for Americans. And we must start by defending our children’s lives.
Should our politicians be held to account on gun control issues through the use of a pledge like this? Is there a better way to do it? I’m only interested in constructive ideas. You can spout off about your 2nd Amendment rights… but you should really go do that somewhere else. It’ll never see the light of day on this page.
The End (so far)