UNCIVIL UNIONS: I can’t wait for this civility thing to be over so I can start insulting people again. A severely imbalanced one-man militia pops a member of Congress, and the rest of us are supposed to bite our tongues? And for how long? If we observed a moment of silence for every random idiotic act of gun violence, we’d need to develop telekinetic mental powers in order to communicate. What about the poor guy who got shot in the head on Santa Barbara’s Westside last year by a couple of Lompoc hard cases who mistakenly believed he had a safe in his home stuffed with cash? Doesn’t that warrant a moment of silence? Miraculously, in that case, the bullet did not penetrate the man’s skull, and he managed to survive, though I’m sure with serious problems. I’m surprised the NRA hasn’t sued the gun manufacturer for shoddy workmanship.
It’s good we take a moment to reflect on the near-death experience of Arizona Congressmember Gabrielle Giffords, but what about 9-year-old Brisenia Flores — also of Arizona — who was allegedly shot to death by Shawna Forde, a member of the Minutemen vigilante group that keeps illegal immigrants from crossing the border and snatching all the lettuce-picking jobs that would otherwise be taken by the native born? According to prosecutors, Forde was unusually entrepreneurial, teaming up with select drug dealers to raid the homes of other drug dealers and using the proceeds to keep America American. She was so whacked that fellow vigilantes notified the FBI, who once again lived up to their stereotype by doing nothing with the info. Flores was killed in one such home invasion, as was her father.
In Arizona, as is well-known by now, it will soon be legal for college students to pack heat in class. I don’t know if this will make anyone safer, but it should lead to a dramatic upsurge in student grades. Meanwhile the Georgia Legislature is considering a bill to allow the faithful to carry guns to church. Whether a well-armed populace is safer, as gun supporters insist, or more susceptible to sudden onslaughts of fatal lead poisoning, has yet to be studied. And this is no accident, according to an article in the New York Times. It turns out that that the NRA — probably the single most effective lobby group in the country — has successfully frozen funding for such research projects undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Back in the ’90s, the group released a study suggesting that keeping a gun around the house for protection was not without peril. The presence of such guns, the study found, sometimes had fatal implications during domestic disputes, and that no matter how well hidden, they had a nasty habit of winding up in the hands of children. After that, politicians backed by the NRA first sought to dismantle the agency itself. When that failed, they went after the funding for gun-related research, and in that, they succeeded. So the next time someone exclaims how crazy it is for Starbucks to allow customers to pack heat, give them a bump on the head with the butt end of your pistol. Clearly no research exists showing a correlation between gun violence and too much caffeine.
Fortunately for us, Santa Barbarans have not embraced the handgun as an instrument of personal expression to the extent other communities have. In general, Santa Barbarans are more passive in our aggression, as witnessed by Abercrombie & Fitch, which has escalated its campaign to make all of Santa Barbara reek like those scented magazine perfume ads. Where other stores blare bad music out onto the streets to convey a sense of fun and liveliness inside, Abercrombie & Fitch has long blown some weird aromatic concoction out its front doors and into the faces of unsuspecting passersby. Presumably these are synthetic pheromonic agents designed to compliment the oversized photographs of pseudo-tumescent pouty-lipped adolescents to whip us all into a state of subliminal arousal so we’ll spend more money. But recently, it’s gotten even worse. Now, the vapors blow clear across State Street. It’s almost enough to knock you off your bicycle. As to why this would be, I can only speculate. Perhaps there’s been a sudden shift in meteorological conditions. Maybe it’s a statement of solidarity with air polluters everywhere, now that the new Republican majority in Congress has taken them off the Top Ten list of crimes against nature. My hunch is it’s all part of the broader anti-panhandling and anti-homeless crusade now gathering steam in Santa Barbara. Clearly, it works, because you don’t see people panhandling in front of Abercrombie & Fitch.
Maybe the emerging juggernaut of the Milpas Community Association (MCA) will deploy vapor blowers to chase the homeless away from the Milpas corridor. This group, while relatively new, is already a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen whether the MCA will stay focused on solving issues of serious concern to many Milpas residents, or whether it will focus instead on drawing big scary lines in the sand as part of a hyperventilated citywide campaign to take over City Hall come election time this November. If the group really wants the homeless off the streets, why were its strategists, like Jim Westby, so hostile Tuesday to using Redevelopment Agency funds to do just that, by placing mentally ill street people — the ones who often cause the most heartburn — in a refurbished old motel where they could be housed and given treatment?
The MCA is clearly intent on making law enforcement — new cops — the number-one priority in the city’s upcoming budget deliberations. That’s fine, I guess, but are we really in the midst of a crime wave? Do we really need more cops, or can we do a better job deploying the ones we have? When my next-door neighbor’s wall got tagged recently, was it necessary to dispatch two black-and-whites to the scene to document the crime? Don’t get me wrong; I really appreciated the personalized service when one of Santa Barbara’s finest came knocking on my door to return my son’s stolen wallet a few weeks ago. But I would have happily gone to the police station to pick it up, especially if so doing meant the officer in question would have had more time to devote to the “protect” part of his job description rather than the “serve.” In the upcoming budget debate, I expect the question will be how much to spend on the ounce of prevention as opposed to the pound of cure. To the extent that I’m involved, I’ll try to keep it civil.