King Parade Starts at 2 p.m. Monday

A parade to commemorate the life and work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King will begin at 2 p.m. Monday and move from NW 7th to NW 9th Streets and then to Broadway Avenue and Bricktown in Oklahoma City.

A program before the parade will begin at 12:15 p.m. Monday at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral at NW 7th Street and Robinson Avenue. The program will feature speakers honoring King and his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Here’s a list of other activities today and Monday honoring King.

Those Poor Oklahoma Conservatives

Let’s all shed some tears for those poor right-wingers who think they’re getting a bad deal in the discussion about incendiary and violent political rhetoric that has emerged after the recent Tucson mass shooting that killed six people and left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically injured.

Leading the crying locally is The Oklahoman editorial page, which argues that there has been “no restraint” (“Scissortales . . ., “ Jan. 15, 2011) in the speculation over the Tucson shooter’s motives in the media, a “restraint that was so evident after the 2009 Fort Hood shootings.” Then there’s this from the most conservative newspaper in the country:

The preachy call for restraint then is typically put aside when a mass murderer can be linked, however flimsily, to Christianity or conservatism.

Oh, those poor poor Christians and conservatives. Gosh, everyone’s against them, especially in Oklahoma.

The problem here is two-fold. First, there’s the false comparison between the Foot Hood shootings and the Tucson shootings. The shootings at Food Hood, to state the obvious, happened at a military base, which had a security apparatus that obviously didn’t exist at the Tucson supermarket where Giffords was shot. Also, the military apparently failed to appropriately vet the accused shooter in the Fort Hood shootings, Maj. Nidal Hasan. This was well discussed in the media at the time and Hasan’s religious views were a main issue in the debate.

Second, it’s simply a lie that the media didn’t tie Hasan to “radical Islamic rhetoric” or that there wasn’t a cry for stricter gun control laws after the shooting.

Glenn Beck, the Fox News pundit, said this after the Fort Hood shootings:

Has anybody over at the White House labeled Nidal Malik Hasan, you know, the terrorist,… an extremist?

And this:

Let me tell you this, if you don’t fight on the battlefield of ideas, with your mouth, with your mind… there will be another battlefield. It will be fought with guns… I know you see what is being created. I know you see that we are being led into an American cemetery. Society cannot survive like this. You cannot have, ‘This one is an extremist and we label them – for speaking out – and, ‘This one is not an extremist who is actually killing people.’

Here’s Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer spinning a “media critique” shortly after the Fort Hood shootings.

What a surprise -- that someone who shouts "Allahu Akbar" (the "God is great" jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan's religious beliefs.

It’s just a lie to argue that right-wing media didn’t use Hasan’s religious beliefs to fuel more anti-Islamic sentiment in the country. That it did it by supposedly critiquing the media doesn’t make it any different. The trope of the poor, media-wounded right-wing has become more than just laughable. It’s now an ingrained absurdity in our political culture.

Also, after the Fort Hood shootings, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued a statement that included this:

America has seen an epidemic of horrific gun violence at churches and synagogues, workplaces, health clubs, high schools, universities, police stations and now Army bases. This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places. Enough is enough.

The Oklahoman editorial page continues to use false logic in debating important cultural and political arguments. It also uses lies and fictional grievances to advance a right-wing agenda that includes carefully employing the language of weaponry and violence—Sarah Palin’s infamous crosshairs map that targeted Giffords’ district, for example—to inflame political agitation.


Oklahoma Congressional Delegation Gets Protection From Itself?

Image of Gabrielle Giffords

While it’s wrong to argue Sarah Palin is directly responsible for the recent Tucson shooting spree that left six dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (pictured right) critically injured, it’s equally wrong to argue the shooter acted in a complete vacuum of individualistic mental illness that has no reflection on the current political culture.

Palin, as we all know, put Giffords’ district on her infamous weapon crosshairs map designating it a political “target” for Republicans. Some media pundits have claimed the map, to the complete feigned incredulity of GOP leaders and pundits, is small part of a violent political rhetoric that might have encouraged the shooting.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has announced this charge to be “reckless” and “scurrilous.” Palin herself, in a terrible choice of words, called it “blood libel,” evoking an anti-Semitic term. (Giffords is Jewish.) Supposedly, a poll shows conservatives are not taking any heat over the issue.

But, as the saying goes, all politics is local. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, in response to the shooting, has created a “Dignitary Protection Unit” that will protect local U.S. Reps. Tom Cole and James Lankford, among other dignitaries, at functions in the county.

It’s a great idea—the cost to taxpayers will not even be that much because the unit will be made up of volunteers from the sheriff’s office—and I’m all in favor of it, but it seems to undercut the pro-weapon positions of our Congressional delegation and it also seems to indicate that, on a local level, at least Whetsel believes the Tucson shootings show politicians could be special targets these days.

What about our other political leaders?

If the shooting is just a huge aberration and doesn’t involve political intent, then what’s the point of the unit? If Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation—and this includes U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat—believe Glock 19’s and 33-round magazines should be legal and gun background checks should be extremely minimal, then why do they deserve special protection?

The point here is they DO deserve special protection because the country’s gun laws lack common sense and there was a political influence in the shooter’s actions even if he is mentally unstable. The country’s political discourse of gun violence—predominant among the right these days—also needs discussion and analysis. Sure, the country has a history of such violent rhetoric, but does that make it right?

The local protection issue was also echoed nationally:

“It is, ‘Contact your local law enforcement and we’ll help you as best as we can but good luck,’ ” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, who has a license to carry a gun and said he might do so more frequently. “It’s very difficult, with the sheer number of people.”

But why is Chaffetz even concerned? Hasn’t he heard this is just an isolated incident? Surely, as a Republican from Utah, he supports the National Rife Association’s agenda about access to guns. His web site shows he’s a big supporter of so-called Second Amendment issues.

Gun violence continues unabated in this country. Citing statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert states, “. . . more than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed.”

As the media argues with itself over Tucson, let’s don’t forget the two main points: (1) A 22-year-old man with little hassle was able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon and an extreme ammunition clip that was once banned by the federal government and (2) there are always political implications in a mass shooting that happens at a political event.

The right-wing bastion, with its NRA pro-weapon stances and its disinclination to ask larger political questions about the shooting, are on the wrong side of both points. This includes Cole, Lankford and Boren, who are going to get protected with help from taxpayers for their beliefs or political calculation that make them need protection.


Shooting Raises Speculation, Questions

Image of Picasso painting

The media speculation over why a man shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in Tucson Saturday is inevitably premature, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t obvious questions that can be asked at this point.

The first question is this: How is that any adult, with no particular gun training or extensive background check, can purchase a semiautomatic weapon, such as a Glock 19-9mm, the weapon allegedly used by the man charged in the shootings, Jared L. Loughner? The right-wing gun culture in this country has skewed common sense thinking when it comes to protection weaponry. Despite the rise of paranoid Second Amendment political rhetoric on the right—the mantra is “the liberals want to take away our guns”—gun regulations have become more lax, not stricter, in recent years. How many political organizations are more powerful than the National Rifle Association?

Here’s what we know:

(1) We know the same type of gun was also used in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

(2) We know the shooter used a 33-round magazine, which was actually banned by federal law from 1994-2004.

(3) We know some gun advocates will claim that the only answer to such shootings is to encourage more people to carry weapons and to establish open carry laws in as many states as possible.

Another question is this: Does political gun rhetoric—from Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map to Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies”—make us a more violent nation? The motive of the alleged shooter, of course, may never be clear, but this mass shooting or any mass shooting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s part of the cultural milieu even if a shooter is mentally unstable. The rhetoric of gun violence permeates our culture, from Palin’s political grandstanding to state legislative efforts to allow guns on college campuses. It’s difficult to simply dismiss it as innocuous or non-influential, even in the enactment of specific mental illness.

Again, it’s premature and maybe even an exercise in futility to establish the shooter’s motive, but all mass shootings deserve analysis and reflection. What can we learn about not only the shooter but also about our culture? It’s never too early to ask questions.