Diogenes the Cynic
Okay, I know it's a publicity stunt. And I know it's not likely to change anything concerning the gun control issue. And I'm absolutely certain hearts and minds aren't being swayed by the fact that members of one political party have sat down on the tacky carpet of the House of Representatives, refusing to move until legislation addressing gun violence in America is put to a vote.
But as meaningless stunts go, this one is symbolic of what's wrong with political discourse in this country today.
House Democrats, led by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, have brought their grievances to the well of the House, and are currently staging a sit-in, demanding Republican leadership allow them to at least cast a ceremonial vote on background checks for gun purchases, and a vote to stop people on the no-fly terror watch lists from being allowed to buy assault weapons.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has just announced that the House will go into early adjournment for the Independence Day break, preferring to take his balls and go home rather than endure the humiliation of having Democratic members of the House continue to shout "Shame! Shame!" every time he shows his face in the chamber.
The Senate has already defeated similar legislation along Party lines, and Ryan's Republican colleagues hold a solid majority in the House of Reprehensibles. He could easily acquiesce to Democrat demands, hold a vote, shut down the conversation, THEN adjourn. But he's decided to metaphorically starve the Democrats of an audience for their sit-in protest. He's called for an early adjournment, and knows that the American public will quickly tire of Periscope views from the darkened well of the House floor. We're a 24 hour news cycle society, and anything that lasts longer than that goes stale quickly.
Folks that are understandably upset about gun violence and mass shootings in America will soon be cooking hot dogs on the grill while family members swat at flies and bitch about the summer heat. Holiday travelers will be on the interstate heading for beaches and mountain resorts, not watching the drama of a protest on Capitol Hill. The current feeding frenzy of media coverage will very quickly dissipate, and in a few days the country will give a collective "Meh..." to the entire enterprise.
But for just a few minutes, I'd like to consider what's at stake.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress, and most Republicans in state legislatures across the country, are beholden to the campaign largess of the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers. Anyone of that political persuasion who votes against those special interests, no matter how well intentioned the legislation, is a marked man, politically doomed. And yet, a vast majority of Americans, including Republicans AND members of the NRA, support reasonable gun control legislation in the wake of these never ending gun massacres. It's hard to think of any potential legislation that enjoys approval ratings above 80-90% across the political spectrum.
But we can't close the loophole that allows gun show and internet purchases of assault weapons to proceed without background checks. We can't pass legislation that would keep a person with suspected ties to terrorists from purchasing a weapon of mass destruction. We can't even allow our Homeland Security officials to flag gun purchases for people they suspect are threats to our homeland security.
If John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" was being written today, it wouldn't include a single member of today's Republican Party.
If Diogenes the Cynic was carrying his lantern through the halls of Congress, he wouldn't find an honest Republican.
So yeah, holding a sit-in on the floor of the House led by a guy who was almost beaten to death crossing the bridge in Selma is indeed a "publicity stunt", as Paul Ryan put it. And he's got a point when it comes to people being denied their constitutionally guaranteed right of due process when falsely accused and placed on no-fly lists.
But at least the Democrats are trying to address the issue of mass shootings in America. All Republicans seem to want is for everyone to just go back to business as usual. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Grill your hot dogs. Take the fam to the beach. See you later in July, and all of this nonsense will just go away.
But this issue won't go away. The next mass shooting is probably already happening somewhere in America. There will be another one after that, and another a week later. And sooner or later an incident will involve someone who shouldn't have been allowed to purchase the weapons used in the slaughter.
Cowards adjourn and run home for the holidays while men and women of true character face the problem.
It might be a publicity stunt, but at least it's something.