Guns: Getting straight to the point, gun control will not work in the United States. Americans love guns, want guns, want no restrictions on any kind or any number of guns they may own, and really don''t care if lack of gun control measures allow criminals, terrorists or paranoid schizophrenics to buy AK-47s with banana clips. Why do we love guns so much? I'm not a psychiatrist, psychologist or sociologist and I have no ready answers to that question. I do know that when Americns buy handguns or semi-automatic guns they don't buy them just to look at them; they intend to use them if the occasion arises--and it often does. I know from years as a newspaper reporter on the "police run" that we turn to guns quickly to resolve disputes. We have a penchant for personal violence. Maybe we still like to think of ourselves as "frontiersmen", even though the frontier disappeared 150 years ago. We absolve "the gun" from any responsiibility when mass shootings occur--e.g., the Tucson shopping center, Virginia Tech, Columbine. A mass shooting is not about guns, we say; it is about (fill in the blank). So, we will have our guns. To put restrictions on gun purchase or ownership would be to turn gun dealing over to the black market and organized crime. We will have our guns, just as we would have our booze during Prohibition.
Limbaugh-Beck, etc.: Do the nattering nabobs of right-wing radio and television contibute to a rising level of incivility in American political discourse? Well, maybe, but I think that's the wrong question to ask. The question should be reframed to ask: Wny does anyone take them seriously? None of these people--Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, etc.--is an informed political analyst any more than Jerry Springer is a professional marriage counselor. They are entertainers, and I suspect that none of them believe in the veracity of anything they say on the air. They have discovered a "schtick" that plays well to a large audience, and they milk it for millions in income. Like Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry, who discovered the riches that can be milked cynically from Christan evangelism, they found right-wing political ranting to be a gold mine. One of the most popular is Glenn Beck and the roots of his popularity are quickly apparent in his biography--i.e., he has been in show business his entire adult life and knows how to play to the crowd. Fox Channel loves him and why should they not? He is probably one of the most effective money-makers for Fox and its owner Rupert Murdock, the great white shark of cable television. In terms of money-making capacity, then, the rationale for the existence of the right-wing ranters is clear. The reframed question is much more difficult to answer--why does anyone take them to be anything other than entertainers?
Israel: The United States gives its 100% no-matter-what political and economic support to Israel, and justifies that support in part by identifying Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. What should be the U.S. stance if Israel is no longer a democracy? There are indications that Israel is today more of a theocracy than a democracy. Decison-making in the Israeli government seems to have fallen permanently into the hands of the ultra-Orthodox right wing. Even casual examination of the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" reveals that Israel has no intention of granting the Palestinians a functioning state anywhere west of the border with Jordan. Settlement building on disputed land continues apace, while the U.S. is kept amused with repeated statements of interest in reaching an understanding with th Palestinians. The unltra-Orthodox have made it clear that their geographic definition of Israel is based on ancient religious texts, leaving no room for a Palestinian state. Israel has increasingly insisted on being identified as a "Jewish state" that wants a majority of its citizens to be adherents of Judaism. There are powerful historical reasons for Jews to want a nation that is a safe haven for Jews. But to insist on identifying it as a "Jewish state" is to identify Israel by religion--a theocracy that is governed by theocratic principles. That is not unique in the Middle East.