Here's who's responsible for Uvalde massacre. Plus, the Sussmann trial. And, generations.
By Gary Abernathy
No one but Salvador Ramos killed 21 in Uvalde last week
Last week’s terrible mass murder at an elementary school in Ulvade, Texas, understandably continued to dominate the news through Memorial Day weekend and into this week. Let’s say this again despite people who get upset by it — the thoughts and prayers of millions of Americans are with the surviving family members. The carnage inflicted by Uvalde resident Salvador Ramos — who was killed by law enforcement — was unimaginable. For the surviving parents, siblings, grandparents, other family members and friends, the grief will last forever. In fact, they need prayer more than they need new laws.
The politicized finger-pointing by some is inexcusable. The Republican Party did not commit this massacre. Neither did the gun lobby or, specifically, the National Rifle Association. Not even police mistakes are ultimately to blame. This monstrous act was carried out by Salvador Ramos. If not for him, those children and teachers would be alive. Let’s remember that.
I’m hearing people refer to Ramos, who was 18, as a child, as in, “We shouldn’t sell guns to children.” But 18-year-olds are not children. They’re emancipated from their parents. They’re legally responsible for their own actions. They can make all life and legal decisions. They can join the military, and must register for a possible draft. We let them vote.
No, we don’t sell them alcohol, although we did not that long ago, and in some states they’re still allowed to drink under certain conditions. As described by this informative website, “In 1984, the Federal Government passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act and established 21 as the national minimum legal drinking age ("MLDA") age. It was phased in over a few years, and today all 50 states require one to be 21 or older to purchase alcohol.”
However, there are still specific circumstances state-by-state where 18-year-olds can legally drink, such as in Ohio under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian or spouse who is over 21.
But as I wrote in a Washington Post column last weekend, some in Congress want to be able to say they did something. And so to assist them, and in the spirit of bipartisanship, maybe Republicans should agree to ban gun sales to people 18, or enact more stringent background checks.
I also referenced how so many leaders were avoiding the fact that the massacre was carried out by Salvador Ramos, instead choosing to focus on the weapon he used. I wrote:
Yes, cold, hard political calculations are at play in focusing on gun control. But also evident is an unspoken sense of helplessness that is at odds with a natural desire to convince ourselves that we are in control of our surroundings and our fate. Believing that there’s an obvious solution to something so horrific helps us cope.
The latest calls are to pass a law barring 18-year-olds from buying guns. But the El Paso Walmart shooter was 21. The Orlando nightclub mass murderer was 29. The perpetrator of the Las Vegas Strip massacre was 64. Still, maybe Republicans should give in and support banning 18-year-olds from buying guns, and support tougher background checks, so everyone can claim they did something.
Stories are emerging of how it appears that Ramos was bullied in school, had a difficult relationship with his mother and faced other negative factors. That sounds like half the people I know. It’s good to try to understand motivations, but too often stories like this about killers like Ramos end up sounding as though his schoolmates, family members or others are to blame for what he did. They’re not. He and he alone is to blame.
The question is, since millions of people have been bullied or come from bad home lives, what flips the switch and turns one out of millions into a killer? For those of us who believe there is evil in the world — not some bland concept of people who do evil things, but real, malevolent evil that grows in proportion to an increasingly secular world — the answer can be frightening, but it isn’t complicated.
But whether you believe in the concept of good and evil at work in this world, or you prefer to look to Freudian explanations, or you want to blame classmates, family members or society in general, the fact remains that it was Salvador Ramos who killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers last week. No one else.
I posted a tweet last week that got some blowback from some who apparently thought it was an outrageous notion. What did I say? I suggested that when crafting the Second Amendment, our founders were smart enough to know that weapons would evolve.
Some scoffed. “How could you possibly know that?” asked one responder. I know it because those who crafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights weren’t idiots. They knew then, as we know today, that the only constant is change. They were smart enough to know that one-shot muskets wouldn’t be the only form of firearms forever. In fact, repeating rifles were already in use in the 1700s in America. It couldn’t have been difficult to imagine that they would be able to repeat much more quickly as time passed, especially a couple of centuries from then.
Obviously, one reason people get so upset at the suggestion that people in the 18th century could envision the evolution of firearms is that their argument in favor of gun control is based on insisting that the founders wrote the Second Amendment at a time when one-shot muskets existed, and that’s what they had in mind when they referred to “arms.” To suggest otherwise wrecks their whole premise.
But our founders were certainly smart enough to know that the technology would continue to advance. They had good imaginations. You think no one ever held up a musket and said, “What if this thing could just keep shooting every time you pulled the trigger without reloading every shot?” Of course they did!
They could have chosen to say that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed “until such time as rifles can fire too many rounds in a short period of time,” or, more generally, “until such time as Congress determines that weapons have become too dangerous.” They did not.
People can rightfully disagree with the crafters of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights and other amendments. They can believe that the Second Amendment was a mistake, and that’s a fine debate, just as we debate many things in the Constitution. But the notion that its originators couldn’t envision a future with firearms far advanced from what existed at the time is insulting to them.
By the way, on the oft-derided notion of good people with guns stopping bad people with guns, someone emailed me to say that armed citizens stopping massacres just doesn’t happen. Actually, it happens, and it just recently happened in Charleston, WV. Check it out here.
Sussmann headline: ‘Clinton directed Russian collusion lie’
Michael Sussmann, the Clinton campaign attorney who was charged with lying to the FBI, was acquitted this week, and many in the media predictably celebrated as though it was a vindication of Hillary Clinton and proof that Special Prosecutor John Durham’s investigation is much ado about nothing. It wasn’t. Many also called it a “setback” or even a “rebuke” or similar comeuppance for Durham. Well, maybe, in the sense that any prosecutor who loses a case suffers a setback.
But the real headline out of the trial is hardly about the verdict involving a campaign lawyer lying to the FBI. The real headline is the one CNN ran on May 20: “Hillary Clinton personally approved plan to share Trump-Russia allegation with the press in 2016, campaign manager says.” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook spilled the beans during trial testimony. No one has disputed it.
As CNN reported:
Hillary Clinton personally approved her campaign's plans in fall 2016 to share information with a reporter about an uncorroborated alleged server backchannel between Donald Trump and a top Russian bank, her former campaign manager testified Friday in federal court…
Slate published a story on October 31, 2016, raising questions about the odd Trump-Alfa cyber links. After that story came out, Clinton tweeted about it, and posted a news release that said, "This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump's ties to Russia."
So, Hillary Clinton personally approved leaking a story about some secret backchannel between Trump and Russia that she knew to be baseless, and then, when Slate bit on it, she tweeted about it as though it was all news to her. Eventually, of course, more outlets jumped on board. Hillary played a compliant media to perfection.
As the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it, “The Russia-Trump collusion narrative of 2016 and beyond was a dirty trick for the ages, and now we know it came from the top—candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
The mainstream media outlets that are downplaying or ignoring this bombshell testimony are just adding fuel to the notion that they’re firmly entrenched on one side, and long have been. The fact that Hillary Clinton lit the fuse on a fake Russian collusion story that dominated — dominated — the news for at least the first two years of Trump’s presidency is huge news. But you wouldn’t know it from most of our legacy media outlets.
People are getting on with it, covid notwithstanding
I am struck by tweets I see from time to time with people saying something like, “Hey, I just tested positive for covid. Any suggestions for binge watching while I self-quarantine?”
Shouldn’t we be at the point where people don’t announce they’ve got covid and place themselves into quarantine? The vast majority of people, it seems pretty obvious, just ignore their very mild symptoms, don’t get tested, don’t announce anything and just get on with it.
I see the finger-waggers out there. Yes, they might potentially infect someone else, but if you want to guarantee you’re completely safe from covid — and there are people with medical conditions who have reason to be concerned — the only foolproof decision is to never leave the house. With vaccines and natural immunity, it’s past time to change our overall approach.
Doctors at Stanford Medicine and the Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory recently acknowledged the changes in attitudes and the rapidly-evolving approach to covid in an article in the Stanford Medicine News Center:
“At some point, we’re not going to be isolating everyone who has COVID-19,” (medical director Benjamin) Pinsky (MD, PhD) said. “When that happens, the value of testing will be decreased if the result doesn’t affect patient management. We don’t test every person with respiratory symptoms for the flu during influenza season because for most people it wouldn’t change their care.”
As mask requirements and restrictions on gatherings have rolled back, the burden of disease prevention has fallen more squarely on those who have the most to lose — the immunocompromised and those with children too young to be vaccinated.
“Leaving mitigation efforts up to people at high risk means they are going to need even higher levels of protection,” said Abraar Karan, MD, an infectious disease fellow at Stanford Medicine who has advocated for increased availability of high-quality N95 masks. “This is an ethically fraught position. But pragmatically it is what is happening. Unfortunately, public health decisions often run counter to health equity, which inherently means allocating more resources to the most vulnerable.”
In fact, many of us have argued from the beginning that protecting the most vulnerable should always have been the focus, rather than shutting down the entire country and economy. Whether our approach saved more lives than it cost and ruined through increased unemployment, drug use, alcoholism, mental health impacts, suicides and other negative outcomes will be forever debated. But we can’t let fear and uncertainty rule us forever. In fact, we never should have let fear and uncertainty about covid do half of what it did to this country, socially or economically.
‘Gen’ designations are just another way to divide us
“OK boomer” is a popular snarky social media putdown when a “Baby Boomer” expresses an opinion that someone younger than that age group wants to ridicule. In fact, it’s an easy cop-out, a way to avoid having a real discussion, and an example of ageism bias that we don’t accept when it comes to gender or race. For sure, so-called boomers, in turn, sometimes ridicule other generations with similar dismissals.
Looking at things through age preferences is a popular modern-day analysis. Candidate A attracts older voters, Candidate B younger ones — on and on, as though it matters — as though one age group is preferable or more significant than the other.
The gun control debate is the latest example of stories that include breakdowns on how people of different generations feel about guns. It’s a comparison put forth on numerous issues as they rise and fall — abortion, jobs, religion, etc.
Generational designations are used to explain things about us by “experts” who have determined the likes, dislikes, values, prejudices, attitudes, etc. of people within those brackets. Outside of the advertising world, it shouldn’t really matter. But there are people out there who proudly embrace these designations, apparently happy to let others define them.
It’s all a bunch of nonsense, and it does nothing but pit people against each other even without always realizing it. People of all ages are diverse and multifaceted. You can’t pigeonhole people. There are good people, bad people, smart people, dumb people, generous people, selfish people, materialistic people, charitable people, traditionalists, radicals, liberals, conservatives and moderates of all ages, shapes, genders and races.
Not that many years ago, people felt more connected to each other, regardless of generations. Dividing and defining us by generations is a relatively recent phenomenon. But it gives pollsters something else to ask about and explain.
The term “Baby Boomers” was first used as early as 1963 to discuss post WWII births. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that other generations regularly began to be tagged with their own names and defined by various observers, including in a 1991 book by Neil Howe and William Strauss called “Generations,” as described in this interesting 2018 article by Austin Thompson.
The designations sometimes vary, but here’s an example of what we’re told are the latest generational dividers by birth years: “WWII,” 1922-1927. “Post War,” 1928-1945. “Baby Boomers,” 1946-1964. “Gen X,” 1965-1980. “Millennials,” 1981-1996. “Gen Z,” 1997-2012.
Of course, the youngest generation always tends to think of itself as the smartest and most important. That has been true of all of us when we’re at those ages — our 20s and early 30s. It’s not until we get older and wiser that we realize how little we actually knew. As has been noted before, when we were young, we were certain we knew everything. When we got older, we are certain we didn’t. But the mix of older, wiser thinking with younger, more innovative notions is the right formula for progress— and both ingredients are necessary.
When we think of people who lived, say, in the 18th century, we seldom stop to ask ourselves, “Hmmm, which generation was he or she a part?” Think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin, age 70. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge, age 26. Today, Franklin would be considered a Baby Boomer, Rutledge would be a Millennial. But most people tend to think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as all part of the same basic generation.
In fact, that’s as it should be. Everyone alive at the same time at any given moment in history is part of the same basic generation in relation to the enormous span of human history — and that’s certainly how people are viewed by future generations when they look back. People in the year 2222 will look back at those of us alive in 2022 and the things that were happening, the world events, the elections that were held, the pop culture, etc., and make little distinction between those who were 75 and those who were 25. The things that happened will be credited or blamed on people as a whole.
We’re divided enough as it is on politics. Assuming that a person’s opinions or ideas can be known, dismissed or ridiculed based on age — whether from someone older or younger — is destructive. Using blanket generalities to dismiss or condemn ideas, opinions and attitudes are rightfully considered unfair stereotypes when it comes to gender or race. It’s just as unfair and inaccurate based on age, too.
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Gary, I noted in your writing that you suggest Republicans compromise with Democrats and pass legislation raising the age to buy a gun as well as expanding background checks. I got the sense that you do not believe these measures will make a difference (let me know if I am wrong on this). I actually believe these changes will prevent some gun deaths. I believe that teenagers should not be able to purchase assault style weapons, the accompanying magazines or tactical gear. So, even though you appear to be making light of these changes, I am with you in encouraging all lawmakers to come together on this. As always I respect your opinion and look forward to your take on current events.