Gun Control Momentum Shift: Media Coverage, John Lewis And Republicans In Flight

Change is in the air – on Capitol Hill and with tuned-in mainstream media members who devotedly followed the story long after Ryan churlishly shut off the C-SPAN feed.
paul ryan sit inedited

The Republican Party’s shameful hypocrisy on a variety of social issues, including gun control (as oxymoronic an American phrase as ever was uttered) and LGBTQ equality has been apparent for more than a generation. While leaders have cynically worn the mantle of “compassionate conservatism,” issues of dire public safety have been wedged between sanity and voters.

The concerns of gun violence and LGBTQ security became inextricably linked in the consciousness of most after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this month. Too many lives, the majority of them gay and/or non-white, were lost to a hateful lunatic carrying an easily obtained assault weapon. Naturally, the GOP wasted no time repeating the tired, duplicitous script. Encouragingly, a small but strong group of media observers like Rhuaridh Marr of Metro Weekly immediately called them on it. He wrote:

“America has two troubling constants. First is that with such an overwhelming number of guns in our society (about 4 million of them rifles) and lax regulation, mass shootings are going to happen. Second is that when those mass shootings do occur, politicians will offer their ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then resume taking NRA funds to block any attempts at curbing future shootings.

After [the] tragic events in Orlando, however, that second constant has taken on a rather twisted nature. As condolences flocked in for the families and victims of the Pulse Orlando nightclub massacre, which left 50 dead and another 53 injured, among them were a number of staunchly anti-LGBT politicians.”

Gun violence, and party-sanctioned “othering,” has contributed to the growth in mass shootings and the rise of unapologetically bellicose and aggressive intolerance – Trumpism. Simply observe the socioethnic divides and tense engagements at any of the 2016 candidate’s rallies, then follow Trump’s Twitter offerings afterward. We need to “Make America Great Again” with more cis-gendered male whiteness – and weapons. It’s a perfect storm of divisive, lethal intolerance even as the Republican Party clings to the wishful insistence of inclusiveness.

The brash and openly sneering hatred of Trumpists makes the elite uncomfortable, but this is the monster they methodically created. The New York Times’ Editorial Board highlighted the double dealing of “Republican politicians who see [anti-gay] prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish…[They have created an environment] where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain.”

For whatever reason (another conversation for another time) the media, the voting masses and the Democratic opposition have historically given the GOP free pass to practice this not very artful con. A popular former President by the name of Bill Clinton once suggested (at the 2012 party convention) that the idea of modern-day Republican humanism is a red herring. Because at the end of the day, the agenda has one focus: further enriching the rich. Clinton said, “They’ll hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold to give tax cuts to upper-income people who’ve been getting it all along.”

Nothing has changed. Except the year. And maybe, just maybe, the approach of our journalistic and elected advocates.

This is not 2004, when the last assault weapons ban lapsed and a struggling, incumbent President George W. Bush floated a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage with much success. Instead, it’s 2016, one year since marriage equality became the law of the land. And now it’s the year that the Democratic House Caucus, muted since the 2010 midterm election “shellacking,” finally stood up to the disingenuous Ryan agenda that makes the majority of us less secure by every measure. Georgia Representative John Lewis, a Civil Rights legend, reminded the nation this week that fulfilling civic duty with courage doesn’t have to be a lost art. Under the threat of much panicked, procedural bullshit intended to silence his voice, Lewis spoke to the chamber on behalf of a weary nation:

“We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence: tiny little children, babies, students and teachers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors. And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker, nothing! Not one thing…We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation. We are blind to a crisis. Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul? Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage?”

Though the liberal House members’ unprecedented sit-in ultimately failed to bring proposed, modest gun reform legislation to the floor, Lewis and company did well by the victims of Pulse, Sandy Hook and every family grieving the loss of a loved one. Change is in the air – on Capitol Hill and with tuned-in mainstream media members who devotedly followed the story long after Ryan churlishly shut off the C-SPAN feed.

The last image I saw before turning off late coverage of the showdown was that of House Republicans running into the Washington night. As they fled from the close call of having to vote for reforms desired by the majority of Americans, a significant crowd of protesters shouted “Do your jobs!”

In a host of major cities like Chicago and San Francisco, pride parades will take place this weekend. Let the images of these joyful, life-affirming celebrations unite with the hopeful stand of John Lewis and his supporters, contrasting with the dark scene of Republicans in retreat.

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at
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