Friday, June 26, 2015

The Four Things We Just Can't Talk About

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, June 26, 2015
By Bill Gouveia

            Guns, religion, race and politics. 

            Those are the modern day Four Horsemen.  The four things you simply can’t discuss rationally today in America.  The topics which need to be debated, that cry out for compromise, that involve the basic rights of each and every citizen of this country.

            Yet for some incomprehensible reason, we refuse to engage in meaningful discussion on these issues.  Most of us cling to our personal beliefs and positions on each of these volatile subjects, and decline to admit there may be other valid ones.  We make these things bigger problems.

            For example, take the recent tragic shooting in South Carolina.

            A young white supremacist with an arrest record walked into an historic African-American Church with a gun supposedly gifted to him by his father and shot and killed nine black people.  Captured shortly thereafter, he allegedly confessed he did so because he hated black people.  He believed they were taking over the country, and he wanted to bring back segregation.  He hoped his actions would start a “race war”.

            Grief and sorrow over the awful and violent act was felt almost universally.  But after that, reaction began to fall into sadly predictable examples.

            Some conservatives and Republicans, including a few currently planning to run for President, tried to ignore the obvious racist aspect of the attack.  They claimed it was not yet possible to know what actually motivated the shooter.  They ignored the obvious failure of gun control regulations to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of convicted criminals.

            Perhaps even more amazingly, they and others wondered out loud if this were in fact an “attack on faith” as Fox News and other media outlets suggested.  After all, the murders occurred in a church.  Perhaps this was an attack against Christians, they opined.

            They act in this manner because they cannot afford to insult or offend the conservative voters who they need in order to win their various primaries.  Moderate voters seldom vote in primaries of either major party.  Those tend to be dominated by the more extreme members of each group.

            And God forbid (oops, bad expression) that this overtly racist act be recognized for what is so clearly is.  Not even the direct admission of the accused racist murderer himself is enough to get them to do that.  Because, you see, a discussion on race does not help them politically.

            And they immediately move to absolve guns of any blame in this.  You can’t blame inanimate objects for murder, they note.  The attacker could have used a knife, or a rope, or a shovel, or almost anything else.  They are quite clear about this not being about guns.

            And again – they are totally wrong.

            Does anyone truly believe this was an attack on “faith”?  Is there the slightest bit of evidence to support that?

            This was absolutely a racist attack in a state that flies (for now) the Confederate Flag over its capitol.  It was allegedly perpetrated by a man wearing the flag of various Christian countries famous for their racist regimes.  And it was performed with a gun he never should have had.

            Would tougher gun laws have prevented him from obtaining this gun?  It’s possible, but unlikely.  Chances are he would have shot these people even if he was subjected to stricter regulations.

            But is that a reason not to have tougher laws?  When the murder rate goes up, do we stop passing laws because some are not following them?  Should we really just stop trying?

            And yes, he could have used a shovel.  But he didn’t.  Most mass murders use guns.  You can kill people much faster and more efficiently with guns.  That’s why you don’t need a license or a background check to own a shovel. 

            Liberals and Democrats share blame here.  They talk the talk on gun control, but are unwilling to take on the job of making it happen.  They also have to get reelected in their primaries. 

            But it’s not just our leaders.  As a people, we need to be tougher on guns.  We need to stop mixing religion and government.  We must address the rampant racism in our country. 

And we must learn that politics involves talking to other people, not just at them.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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