Jeff Spevak, Writer

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Tag: World Series

A part of the uniform, or a sign of a sick society?

The World Series is special. That awesome Game 5, with the vast pendulum swings of lead changes. And Game 7, with starting pitchers thrown into relief roles as if there’s no tomorrow, which there isn’t. We even had one of the victorious Houston Astros ending his post-series television interview by asking his girlfriend to marry him.

And at the opening ceremony of the final game, we were presented with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by four members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Except why were those officers wearing sidearms? And I tweeted out that question. Then, on with the game.

And this morning, I’m thinking I’m bothered by more than just the hypocrisy of armed police officers creating beautiful music. It’s a piece of a much-larger picture.

If I were in the position of needing a gun for self defense, I’m sure I’d be happy to have it. But few difficult questions have just one answer. There are usually 30,000 gun deaths in the United States each year. Very few of those victims were criminals shot while committing a home invasion. Most committed suicide, were killed in an accident or were murdered, either by a stranger or, more likely, someone they knew.

Thirty-thousand deaths is an epidemic.

Guns are not only tools for killing people, they are political tools. Politicians use fear to move forward their agendas. We have one such politician/carnival barker in the White House right now. We’re being encouraged to fear anyone who is not a white Christian American. Left unsaid: Trust only straight, rich men. That’s also a part of their equation. Everyone else is either a potential terrorist or someone who wants a free ride on your tax dollars. And the answer is point a gun at them, or build a wall.

It’s a fact that, in this country, most victims of terror attacks were killed by a socially disconnected white American male with a pile of automatic rifles on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel (58 dead), or who invaded a Connecticut elementary school (26 dead), or brought a gun to Bible study in a Charleston church (nine dead) or parked a truck rigged as a fertilizer bomb in front of an Oklahoma City federal building (168 dead).

Any threat, be it terrorism or the faulty maintenance of amusement-park rides, should be taken seriously. But fear is used to cloud perspective. One of seven Americans will die of heart disease. It’s the same numbers for cancer. Those numbers are of no concern to Congress or the president  as they work to disembowel the Affordable Care Act.

Nor do our leaders react to a list being compiled by The Washington Post, which says 813 citizens have been killed this year by police. Killedbypolice.net places the number at 994. The National Safety Council, The National Center For Health Statistics and the Cato Institute calculate that over your lifetime you have a one in 8,359 chance of dying in an incident involving a police officer. But those odds can go up, depending on circumstances. The most-frequent victims are white males armed with a gun or some other weapon. One in four people killed are mentally ill. Black males represent one-fourth of the people killed each year.

Of that average of 1,000 people killed each year in recent years by police, how many were unarmed? The Washington Post says it was about one in 10 in 2015. That percentage has dropped slightly each of the last two years. So we’re getting better? It depends on your reaction to one of those videos where it appears clear that a pissed-off cop executed an unarmed black man.

Numbers are easy to dismiss. Those same charts also reveal that over our lifetime, we have a one in 1,600,000 chance of dying from an asteroid hitting the Earth. I’ve never even heard of anyone being killed by a space rock. That number is simply an actuarial calculation based on the knowledge that humongous meteors are out there and the planet has been struck in the past. And if one the size that wiped out the dinosaurs hits us again, civilization is done.

Unlike meteor strikes, we see terrorist attacks frequently. Yet the Cato Institute calculates your chance of dying at the hands of a foreign-born terrorist as one in 3.6 million, and that includes the 3,000 people who died in 9/11.

So a story’s not told simply in numbers. In the just-completed World Series, was the excellence of the games, and the home-run record, a matter of great hitting or lousy pitching? It’s your perspective. We cheer when Air Force fighter jets fly low over a sports stadium. If you’re a shepherd in Afghanistan and you see a low-flying jet, you run. At a football game, people stand for the National Anthem. But when athletes kneel in protest of police violence against black people, outrage follows. Both are political messages. But one is allowed, one frowned upon.

One respondent to my pre-game tweet about the LA police quartet insisted guns are “part of the uniform.”

No, comfortable trousers are a part of the uniform. Guns are a whole other, and very ill-fitting, accessory in civil society.

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The Critical Mass

A good week for civility and treason

We wrapped up two of this country’s institutions this week, the World Series and an election. The series is the far-more American experience.

The San Francisco Giants won with great pitching, which is what always carries the event. In particular, the long-haired, dope-smoking Tim Lincecum, whose propensity for dropping the F-bomb during post-game interviews is really not that big of a deal, parents, because your kids shouldn’t be up that late, anyway. Lincecum spent his last off season getting busted for pot possession, not necessarily viewed as a character flaw for someone who works in San Francisco. In fact, it inspired a cottage industry of “Let Tim Smoke” T-shirts. When the smoke had cleared with the Giants’ four games to one series win over the Texas Rangers, Lincecum had twice beaten the Rangers’ ace, the rifle-totin’ southern man Cliff Lee. It seemed like a civil clash of cultures, and I was relieved when George W. Bush came out to throw out the first pitch before one of the games and was greeted by only scattered jeers. Despite my extraordinarily negative feelings about the last president, a baseball game isn’t the place to express it.

No, the voting booth is that place. On Tuesday, the anticipated backlash against Democrats did arrive, driven by fear and the manipulation of what political strategists call many of you behind your backs, “low-information voters.” For those of you who voted for Republicans and Tea Party-supported candidates because they told you government is too big, and the national debt must be cut, consider this: Did any of these candidates tell you what programs they would cut? I mean, besides de-funding National Public Radio?

Sanity prevailed in the rejection of unworthy candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Joe Miller. But for those of you who selected the likes of Rand Paul as your new leaders, good luck with that. They won’t be embracing America as a diverse country where pot smokers and deer hunters can play baseball together in peace. They’ll insist that you must conform to their vision of America.

Late Tuesday night, John Boehner, who is expected to become the new Speaker of the House, said that he hoped Obama would “respect the will of the people.” That’s an extraordinarily dense comment from a man who did not respect the will of the people following the 2008 election. In fact, from Day One of the Obama administration, Boehner was a co-conspirator in a vast right-wing conspiracy to undermine the president. It was an effort, I don’t hesitate to say, that crossed the line into treason.

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