Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lisa, Don't Take a Dive

When boxers, jockeys, or other athletes let themselves be beaten, they are labeled as crooked. What should we call a lawyer who gives up on a case she could win?

Lisa Madigan is the Attorney General of Illinois. Her job, according to her website, is to represent “the People.” Lisa claims to fulfill the obligation that the law places on her to look beyond representing the “parochial interests of State agencies and governmental units to what is the greater good and the more significant interest.”

Why, then, isn't she trying to uphold the Illinois law that bans carrying concealed weapons?

One popular theory is that she doesn't want to alienate downstate voters by taking a strong anti-gun stance, because it might jeopardize her chances of being elected governor if she decides to run. She isn't likely to be doing that, because if she did she would be placing her own political ambitions above the interests of her clients, which might well be seen as a violation of the code of ethics that governs her and all other attorneys. It would also be a pretty risky political strategy, because she would alienate the majority of voters, who don't want people carrying concealed weapons. Maybe she figures that people will vote for her even if she betrays the cause of gun violence prevention.

Another theory is that Lisa is avoiding taking a stand on gun violence simply because she avoids taking stands on all controversial issues. Her website boasts of her efforts to protect senior citizens from being taken advantage of, women and children from being abused, the environment from being degraded, and her work on other issues with which hardly anyone would argue. It doesn't look like she sticks her neck out often. For example, with all the political corruption in Illinois, why is it that the U.S. Attorney has such a long list of successes in prosecuting politicians and she doesn't seem to have a list at all?

Some people theorize that Lisa hasn't appealed the case that threw out Illinois' gun law because she is afraid of losing the case in the Supreme Court. But she has already lost the case in the federal court. If she loses the appeal, we are in the same position we are in now. There isn't anything left to lose. On the other hand, if she appeals, she can turn her loss into a win. It shouldn't be too hard a case to win, either. The federal court decision that she would be appealing is contrary to every other federal court decision on the topic of concealed carry. Since the day that the Illinois decision was announced by the 7th Circuit of the federal court, two other federal courts have taken notice of the Illinois decision and have ignored it. It's pretty clear that the Illinois decision is regarded by other federal courts as wrong, and that the Supreme Court would reverse it.

Lisa hasn't said why she isn't appealing. She won't even admit that she isn't appealing. She's pretending that she is just waiting for the legislature to act. But if the legislature acts, she won't be able to appeal. Lisa is bobbing and weaving, but she isn't throwing any punches. She's just pretending to be fighting for the People. It's not a very convincing performance.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

To My Gun Nut Friends

So many people were upset when Attorney General Holder suggested that it is OK to kill American citizens on American soil that he backed away from that position. But not so many people are upset that our government kills other people in their countries every day.

Lots of people are objecting to the idea that our government may be using drone aircraft to spy on American citizens on American soil. But there isn't a lot of opposition to our government using drones to spy on other people in their countries, and even to kill them, their families, and innocent bystanders.

Lots of people aren't bothered that we are still imprisoning people from other countries for years without charging them with crimes. We're still sending them off to be interrogated (tortured), too.

Lots of gun lovers talk about how they want to keep their weapons so that they can fight off our government if it becomes tyrannical. I haven't heard one of them complain about the tyranny our government exercises all over the world.

Our government has been acting badly for a very long time. We tyrannize and terrorize large parts of the world. The gun lovers obviously aren't concerned about tyranny or justice, or they would have already started shooting. They are just concerned about themselves.

I'm quite concerned about how our government is acting, but my focus is not so narrow that I am only worried that my government will abuse my rights. I know that might happen. What bothers me is that it happens to other people every day, all across this country. People get rousted by local police departments for no good reason, and for lots of bad reasons, like racism. People get prosecuted and jailed for crimes they didn't commit.

There is so much wrong with the way our government works that sometimes it takes a real effort to remember that it does some things right. The corruption is outrageous. The abuse of power and privilege is deplorable. The inequality is disgraceful.

But I have chosen to respond to injustice using peaceful methods, not only because they will ultimately succeed, but more importantly because the other path would destroy me more quickly and certainly than any tyrannical government could. To put one's faith in guns is to turn oneself into an instrument of fear, intimidation, death, and destruction. That's not who I want to be.

And so, please give some thought, as you scream at me in meetings and send me angry emails and Facebook posts, to the fact that I am not the fool or coward that you like to think I am. I have just made a choice to be concerned not just with my own welfare, but also with how others are treated, and to approach the world with love and compassion, rather than with suspicion and hate. I disagree with you, but I do not despise you. I wish you no harm. And I wish you would not be so eager to harm others.

The world is not as dangerous a place as you seem to think. I am not afraid. You don't have to be either. I am not a danger to anyone. You don't have to be either. You can put away your guns and embrace your fellow human beings. They aren't really all out to get you. Most of them don't even know you exist, and don't care. You are creating your own prison of anxiety. You can free yourselves. Being alive doesn't really amount to much if you spend all your time worrying about dying and thinking about killing.