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The Same Scratchy Blues Record Plays Over and Over Again

The Same Scratchy Blues Record Plays Over and Over Again
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By Don Portolese

Lately, life for me seems like a scratchy old Blues album. The old-school crackle of a needle on vinyl brings me back. The deep, sad songs of Robert Johnson or Howlin’ Wolf crackle to life and take me to a time of so much sorrow. The needle hits a scratch and begins to skip, playing the same portion of the song, over and over. We are stuck in endless repetition, and I realize we can’t get beyond these Blues unless we can get beyond this divide.

In a lot of ways life has become a skipping record for so many of us. No matter how much we “try” to solve the problems that currently plague our society, that scratch slaps us back, dooming us to repeat the same old song. The words repeat themselves as the needle keeps playing the same old sorrows and the same tired solutions between hiccoughs of vinyl.

Of all the words that repeated themselves regarding the tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church the two words “unfathomable” and “inexplicable” rang the most hollow. This record has played over so many times that it is simply disingenuous to cry surprise. Dylann Roof told the world on Facebook that he was taking his fight to the “real world.” It’s high time we took a long hard look at this real world if we want to stop future Dylanns from doing the same. Racial hatred is a reality that we must change. Gun laws must be seriously reconsidered without delay. Those with mental health issues must receive treatment. Unfortunately, we are forced to listen to the same old songs in response.

Racism comes from lack of contact, lack of living among and understanding the similarities and differences within and without our personal ethnic construct. Whatever racial, ethnic or religious identity we cling to, we need to understand that no one has the right to take a life in the name of anything. Racism is also rooted in an unequal distribution of wealth. Is it any wonder that as the disparity between rich and poor widens that racial tensions continue to soar? It is a very simple dynamic: Those with money become richer and more envied and despised. Those without it are treated as a disease to be quarantined in substandard environments with ever-fewer opportunities to “cure” themselves.

Disenfranchisement and mental illness are a lethal cocktail.  Without hope or opportunity, we have little respect for life and nothing constructive to contribute to the world we live in. The same blind hatred that spurred Dylann Roof to kill nine African Americans in a historic hall of worship is what fuels so many religious fanatics of all ideologies throughout the world. Yet, rather than address this problem, we get the same tired old answers.

The same tired response to our gun problem also plays on endlessly. The callousness of NRA board member, Charles Cotton, is beyond comprehensible: “And he [Reverend Pinkerton] voted against conceal and carry. Eight members of his church, members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed them to carry handguns in church, are dead. Innocent people are dead because of his position on a political issue.”

The thoughtless comments of the NRA and other gun “rights” groups blaspheme this whole debate by suggesting a man of God should have voted in favor of conceal and carry laws. Shouldn’t we be using all of our energy to live in a world where a house of worship is the last place on Earth something like this would happen? Shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to prevent guns from entering schools rather than arming our teachers and administrators?

Gunfights are messy. Trained professionals miscalculate and kill innocent people. Yet the NRA, once again, dangerously asserts that these 9 people should have all been packing heat. This Wild West approach to solving this issue has not worked and will not work. Yet politicians do nothing as the NRA bends our political system to its will and seriously compromises our safety in the process. Following up each mass shooting with callous comments, finger-pointing and a thinly veiled disdain for anyone who dare suggests guns are part of the problem is the same tired, careless song playing over, ad infinitum.

As with so many other mass shootings, the Right is billing the recent tragedy in South Carolina as a mental health issue. Well, they at least have one aspect of this redundant record right. However, if, for conservatives, mental health is the real problem, why does their track record contradict their convictions?

Republicans have consistently voted to block or played politics with important programs, funding and legislation designed to reintegrate veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into society. Of the laws and funding to suffer the Republican chopping block are laws that bolster medical and mental health services, employment training programs, rehabilitation programs for addicts, homelessness prevention programs and other services to help reintegrate our veterans, many of whom face mental health problems as a result of their combat experience. In all, Republicans have voted down almost 2 billion dollars in funding for veterans.

If the GOP considers this a mental health issue, why have they consistently voted against funding and programs designed to help our soldiers who are desperately in need of mental health services? And, if we can’t even treat our veterans with the dignity they deserve, how does that bode for civilians like Dylann Roof who suffer mental health problems?

The GOP has also consistently undermined parity laws, which give the insured more coverage for mental health services. They have consistently voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which greatly expands mental health coverage for all. How can they continue to use the mental health card to trump efforts to solve a problem they finally admit needs a solution?

If Republicans don’t want to admit that race and gun availability play a role in this tragedy, then we should at least focus on the one area where we all agree that we should begin work. However, the GOP had best be prepared to put their money where their mouths are and stop using this issue as a political scapegoat. The American public is getting tired of listening to the same record playing over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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