- Created on 18 June 2013
Guns killed more preschoolers in one year than they did law-enforcement officers in the line of duty. Ask yourself if this is really what we as Americans meant by putting our children first?
American companies manufacture enough bullets each year to fire 31 rounds into every one of our citizens. How many more mass-murders will it take to get Congress to pass sensible gun regulation?
The number of children and teens killed by guns in 2010 was nearly five times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shouldn't our legislators be as concerned about the wars at home as they are about the wars overseas?
"Ana's love for singing was evident before she was even able to talk. In a musical family, her gift for melody, pitch, and rhythm stood out remarkably. And she never walked anywhere—her mode of transportation was dance. She danced from room to room and place to place. She danced to all the music she heard, whether in air or in her head. Ana loved her God, loved to read the Bible, and loved to sing and dance as acts of worship." These are the words 6-year-old Ana Grace Marquez-Greene's parents released in a statement after she was killed by gun violence last December 14 in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Ana's father and mother are co-founders of the Sandy Hook Promise and have been standing up and speaking out for common sense gun safety laws ever since. Despite their courage and the courage of the 25 other families who lost children and loved ones that horrendous day, Congress has done nothing to protect children instead of guns. Nothing.
We can do better. We must do better.
Seven children and teens are killed by guns every day in America and a child or teen is injured by a gun almost every half hour. Every three days guns kill more than 20 children and teens, enough to fill a school classroom. We have likely had the equivalent of 67 Newtowns in the numbers of child deaths since December 14.
On January 29, 2013, a 15-year-old honor roll student chosen to march in President Obama's Inauguration parade was taking shelter from the rain under a canopy in a public park with a group of girl friends from school when she was shot and killed by a gun less than a mile from the president's Chicago home. Hadiya Pendleton's courageous mother and father have spoken out and come to Congress to ask them to protect children, not guns. Yet nothing has changed.
We can do better.
America's military and law-enforcement agencies have 4 million guns. Our citizens have 310 million guns. How many have been purchased without background checks? We do not know. We can do better.
Alton Perry had been nicknamed "the greeter" at his preschool because of his eagerness to see visitors at his classroom door. Alton was particularly happy on February 26, 2013 when he brought mini-cupcakes to share with his class in honor of his second birthday. Later that day, his grandmother, who had a history of mental illness, shot and killed Alton and his 6-month-old brother before turning her husband's gun on herself. We can do better. We must do better for our children's sake.
Minnesota fourth-grader Devin Aryal loved soccer, Spiderman, school, and the color green. On February 11, a middle-aged man began in shooting passing cars at random in St. Paul, killing 9-year-old Devin. Upon arresting the shooter, police found the man armed with bullets, loaded clips and two large knives. A judge ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation; it was unclear how he obtained the 9-mm handgun used in the shooting.
Nine-year-old Shayla Shonneker loved playing outside with friends and riding her bike. Unbeknownst to her, in April an Oregon City military reserve member was practicing holstering and unholstering a loaded gun when it accidentally discharged 50 yards away. The bullet shot through the wall of the house, striking Shayla in the face and killing her.
In May, a 5-year-old Kentucky boy was playing with his rifle when he accidentally shot and killed 2-year-old sister, Caroline Sparks, with a single shot to the chest. The 5-year-old little boy had gotten the weapon, a .22 caliber Crickett single shot rifle marketed to children, for his birthday. We can do better.
Since 20 children, most 6- and 7-years-olds were mowed down with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in December, more than 1,300 children and teens have likely been killed.
The number of children and teens killed by guns in one year in America would fill 134 classrooms of 20 students each. It's time for every parent, grandparent, faith and community leader to stand up to a do nothing Congress and say, "Enough – do something now!" The overwhelming majority of Americans agree we can and must do better.
Polls show the vast majority of Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners, Republicans and Democrats, support universal background checks as a first step to making America safer for our children and for all of us. The Children's Defense Fund is launching a "We Can Do Better" public awareness and social media campaign created by Fallon Worldwide.
Look at our website to find the latest research and actions you can take to protect children, not guns in your home, in your community, and as a citizen to help create a better, safer America for all children. Together we can—and must—do better right now. So many child lives depend on it.
- See more at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/child-watch-columns/child-watch-documents/we-can-do-better.html#sthash.i7LPDTQm.dpuf
- Created on 18 June 2013
Did you know that the official African-American holidays are: Kwanzaa, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth? What do you, and your family, do to celebrate Juneteenth? Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, the Juneteenth holiday is an abbreviated form of "June Nineteenth." It marks the day Blacks in Texas belatedly received word that President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had freed the nation's slaves.
Black Americans should commemorate Juneteenth as the date in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with his troops at Galveston Island and read President Lincoln's proclamation freeing the state's 200,000 slaves. The proclamation had originally taken effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but word didn't reach Texas until two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and more than two years after the proclamation was issued. Explanations for the holdup vary. Depending on who's doing the explaining, the delay could have been attributed to anything from bureaucratic delays to a slow mule. Once freed, several self-sustaining Black farming communities grew up in Texas, and across the land, as freed men tilled their own soil.
Descendants of slaves should institute some modern-day ritual as we continue the country's oldest celebration commemorating the end of slavery. An African-American tradition since the late 19th century, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or day of observance in 42 states. On June 19th, 2013, the Dr. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, will join with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to host a ceremony to unveil a statue of Frederick Douglass at the U.S. Capitol with Myers reading Douglass' historic speech: "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." The speech is a classic: July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester's Corinthian Hall and told his audience, "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.'"
But some are asking: "Is Juneteenth still relevant?" These days, some consider Juneteenth as being "controversial." In the early 20th century, economic and cultural forces caused a decline in Juneteenth celebrations. The Great Depression forced many Blacks off farms and into cities to find work. In those urban environments, employers did not grant leave for Juneteenth celebrations. July 4 was the established Independence Day holiday and a rise in patriotism among Black Americans steered more toward what they considered "Independence Day" celebrations. At the height of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Juneteenth lost more gravitas, particularly among militant Blacks who perceived it as obsolete in terms of their goals. Some argued that Juneteenth wasn't a cause for celebration inasmuch as it symbolized that Texas Blacks had remained enslaved after the rest of the South had been freed.
Washington's Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Museum has emerged from the controversy to an annual Juneteenth celebration whose focus remains on the recounting of Afro-American culture and includes such traditional activities as a community barbecue, music, poetry readings, games and fireworks. It also features storytelling and re-enactments of battles fought by the all-Black 54th Regiment Union forces of the Civil War. Malcolm Beech, head of the Cultural Heritage Museum and a group of African-American Civil War Re-enactors says, "Juneteenth is a very important day for us to keep alive in our history as we continue to tell stories of Blacks that were soldiers, slaves and freed men."
As it moves forward, Juneteenth has become an occasion for reflection and time to recognize our achievements in life and economic development. Some have even equated the holiday with having the same importance among Afro-Americans as does Cinco de Mayo among Latinos.
Making it a point to trade, or buy something, from another Black, would be a worthwhile practice for African Americans to engage in during Juneteenth. This should also be a time for Blacks to focus on education and self-improvement, and to retrace our outstanding ancestry.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
(Photo courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Library)
- Created on 17 June 2013
(CNN) -- "The stupidity is simply staggering," Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, told Roll Call. He was referring to the political miscalculation of anti-abortion forces in the House Judiciary Committee who insisted this week on reviving the culture wars, years behind us, still again, with yet another proposed abortion bill.
This bill, championed by Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. "I'll be very frank: I discouraged our leadership from bringing this to a vote on the floor," Dent said.
My e-mail box was flooded with headlines that began "This again?" and "This ... is the GOP's idea of outreach to women? Really?" and "He said what?" The latter referred to a remark by Franks, chairman of the committee, that "incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," as a justification for the bill ignoring rape and incest victims.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were apparently willing to allow the time when an abortion is legal to be reduced by one month. They sought to add exceptions for rape, incest and the woman's health -- all of which were rejected by Republicans on the panel.
But it appears the House Republican leaders, recognizing a train wreck, added the language to the bill anyway to avoid an embarrassing defeat. The bill will also include an exception for a medical emergency in which the woman might die. This new altered version goes before the Rules Committee on Monday. There are, by the way, 22 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. All men. Not a single woman.
It's hard to avoid inflammatory remarks when discussing rape. And the line between inflammatory and insulting is thin. It's also porous. So if Franks thought he had to address the issue of rape, he should have done so judiciously.
His remark says to women impregnated by rape: You don't count. There aren't enough of you to matter. That's not just insensitive; it's immoral.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, first pounced on the statement's factual inaccuracy. "I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low," she said. "There's no scientific basis for that."
Then Lofgren, one of five women among the Democratic minority on the committee, added, "And the idea that the Republican men on this committee can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous."
It might be that Franks' argument, such as it is, echoed a comment by Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Aiken, who claimed during his Senate campaign last fall that women's bodies have a built-in mechanism to prevent impregnation from "a legitimate rape." Aiken's candidacy went into a tailspin from that misinformed remark, and never recovered.
Fact checkers have pointed to studies that indicate Franks' claim is as suspect as Aiken's. One study by St. Lawrence University found that pregnancies resulting from rape were higher than from other instances.
Franks later walked back his low-pregnancy-from-rape argument, saying he was not claiming it was harder to get pregnant from rape. Franks apparently based his claim on there being fewer pregnancies from rape than from consensual intercourse. Even so, that's a "Duh, do the math" excuse.
GOP aides now say Rep. Marsha Blackburn will be managing Franks' anti-abortion bill. Given her record -- "no" votes on major equality or women-protection legislation and "yea" for issues like ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood -- that's hardly an improvement.
And it misses the point. It's not the who, it's the what -- the argument itself does not stand.
During the Judiciary debate, Franks said, "When you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that's impossible. ... And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose for such an amendment."
So, Franks' argument then became a technical one, that if a rape wasn't reported, a decision after 20 weeks to abort was made too late. But why is it too late? Does psychological trauma have a timetable? Each case of rape that produces a pregnancy is as individual as the woman who was raped. And the ordeal -- psychological, emotional, physical, spiritual -- is not term-limited.
The issue of abortion raises real and poignant moral questions. Franks made many remarks that show his obvious, deeply felt, conviction that abortions after 20 weeks are wrong.
But majorities in Congress and of Americans, also with deep conviction, came to a different conclusion: They feel compelled to support exceptions for rape, incest and health.
Franks' outrageous comment and the viewpoints of other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee illustrate that when one party becomes so narrowly composed that it represents a particular religious culture, we're headed to what people in other countries face when a ruling party begins making laws from religious theology, without regard to a democratic, secular society -- thus excluding other religious viewpoints and dismissing those who suffer as too few to matter.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.
Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
- Created on 17 June 2013
As someone angry over government fraud and waste, I can understand the need for our elected leaders to tighten their financial belts when it comes to spending our money. But I’m just a little confused about why penny pinching is becoming the overriding theme behind President Obama’s first long trip to sub-Saharan Africa later this month. Published rep...
- Created on 17 June 2013
(CNN) -- Fifty years ago, we stood at a moral crossroads as a nation.
The day was June 11, 1963. That morning, then-Gov. George Wallace attempted to block integration of the University of Alabama with his futile "stand at the schoolhouse door." Hours later, civil rights leader Medgar Evers would be gunned down in the driveway of his home by a white supremacist. In between, my uncle, President John F. Kennedy, took to the airwaves in a historic televised address on civil rights -- one that would forever change the way our nation perceived the struggle for racial equality.
"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue," President Kennedy said that night, hours before Evers was killed. "It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities." You can listen to his speech here.
It was a seminal moment in our history. President Kennedy defined for the nation the struggle for equality not just as a constitutional or legal issue, but as a moral one as well.
Five decades later, we're again at a crossroads as a country. As we mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's famous speech, the question he asked the American people that evening from the Oval Office remains strikingly relevant -- shouldn't all Americans be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities?
Sadly, when it comes to the treatment of people with mental illness, addiction and brain injury, equality remains unattained.
In America in 2013, thousands of our fellow citizens are still marginalized. They are still discriminated against. They face stigma every day. Today, too many Americans are told that they're less entitled to health care than those who have diseases like diabetes or cancer or asthma, just because the origin of their illness is in their brain. Without equality, or parity, insurers can refuse to cover mental illnesses at the same level as other physical illnesses, making it harder for people to get well and often further isolating them in their struggle. Together, we must change that.
Eliminating the stigma of mental illness -- and finally achieving parity for its treatment -- is the next chapter in America's civil rights movement.
When I represented Rhode Island in Congress, I fought for the rights of people with mental illness, and was proud to sponsor -- along with my father, Sen. Ted Kennedy -- the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to provide access to mental health treatment for tens of millions of Americans who previously were denied care. Signed into law by President Bush in 2008, this landmark legislation requires health insurers that offer coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders to provide those benefits in a no more restrictive way than all other medical and surgical procedures covered by the plan. This was a proud moment for me, but those with mental illnesses are still waiting for some pieces of this law to be implemented.
For those with mental illness, this October marks another landmark 50th anniversary -- President Kennedy's signing into law of the historic Community Mental Health Act. This legislation, and the words he used to describe it, laid the foundation for contemporary mental health policy.
These historic dates are important to remember, but as we look back, we are reminded not just of inspiration and achievement, but also where we have fallen short. Because while President Kennedy set us on the right course, the words he used to describe the insufficient attention and resources devoted to mental health in 1963 could still be said today: "This situation has been tolerated far too long. It has troubled our national conscience -- but only as a problem unpleasant to mention, easy to postpone, and despairing of solution."
He then said, "The time has come for a bold new approach."
This October, as we mark this important occasion, I am proud to launch the inaugural "The Kennedy Forum," an annual event that will serve as a vehicle to honor President Kennedy's efforts, celebrate the progress made in the past half-century, and rededicate the entire mental health community to further progress. We have to eradicate the stigma of mental illness once and for all, and treat mental illness equal to other physical illnesses, so that all Americans can lead dignified lives and share in the benefits of our society.
We are confronted with a moral issue but also a historic opportunity. We have the chance to take action and live up to the principle upon which America was founded: that all people are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Patrick J. Kennedy.
Editor's note: Patrick J. Kennedy is the former U.S. representative for Rhode Island's 1st congressional district, serving from 1995 until 2011. He is a son of the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.