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Soundtracking the Resistance - Still Marching

The Gun Control Fight Continues

Mar 30, 2018 Michael Stipe Bookmark and Share

This week we talk the anti-gun violence movement which seems to be picking up steam, plus scandals, redistricting, Julian Assange, racism, Wes Anderson, and CHVRCHES.

The Big Event

It all went pretty well last weekend didn’t it. Trying to estimate crowd size with any degree of accuracy is a nigh on impossible taskunless you’re the Trump administration in which case it’s obvious the entire world packed onto the Mall for his inaugurationbut estimates comfortably place it at the top end of the largest protests in U.S. history.

Broad turnout figures range from 1.2 to 2 million people across the country, with the biggest event taking place in D.C., as it should when we’re partly here because the clowns on the Hill hold (and rarely use) the power to do something constructive in response to repeated deaths from gun violence. That doesn’t match the two Women’s Marches in the Years of the Trump, but it follows directly behind. If nothing else, the President is at least ensuring a lot more people get out and about.

Several artists joined as well. Paul McCartney was marching, doing it in remembrance of John Lennon, infamously gunned down in New York in 1980. Michael Stipe shared part of a new song, dedicating it to the anti-gun violence campaign. Others performed, including Common, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande.

There were opposing views though. Last weekend Killer Mike gave a controversial interview on NRATV promoting gun ownership. He also came out against children protesting in school. He later apologized, claiming the clip posted was “used in the wrong way,” but the whole thing was more surprising given his liberal leanings. He was an early Bernie Sanders supporter after all, and he maintains his support for gun ownership.

Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal, a terrorist attack survivor who was performing when the Bataclan theatre was stormed in Paris in 2015, hedged a lot less. He branded the Parkland shooting survivors calling for more gun control as “pathetic.” His statement added “all of you protesting and taking days off from school insult the memory of those who were killed and abuse and insult me and every other lover of liberty by your every action.”

In the numbers brought to the streets, and the publicity achieved, the weekend was still owned by the gun control advocates. Will anything change though? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but don’t we go through a familiar cycle after every atrocity? Normally a set pattern kicks in. People needlessly die, people protest, some (never enough) lawmakers nod their heads, the issue loses salience, the routine goes on. That’s what the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where a gunman killed 17 are trying to avoid.

The standard pattern hinges on a committed group of gun enthusiasts and a large web of vested commercial interests combining to campaign endlessly for less restrictions on firearms. This usually beats a public that, while generally backing tighter restrictions, quickly moves onto other things.

Just look at the fact gun legislation often ends up going backwards, not forwards in the wake of atrocities. Donations to the NRA are believed to have tripled in the weeks following the Parkland shooting. Naturally, when you watch some kids die, the obvious reaction is to give money to make sure no one can take away the guns that enabled so many of them to die. How delightful. To misquote Ron Perlman circa the Fallout series, with that kind of money, gun legislation never changes.

Except maybe it does. Many of the survivors of the Parkland shooting have been doing an incredible job pushing the issue, and the campaign they’ve helped reignite has seen initial successes. Congress managed some positive new measures, including encouraging states to upload information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Funding has also been made available to improve security at schools without arming teachers, the harebrained scheme championed by Trump that aims to stop gun violence in schools by flooding them with even more guns.

Then we have Trump occasionally raising the specter of a ban on bump stocks. After backtracking on his surprisingly strong stance on gun control in the immediate aftermath (because that free and independent spirit got a stern talking to from the NRA), it’s not really much more than rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, but hey, if that means one person doesn’t trip over them on the way to the lifeboats, it’s at least a minor improvement.

Don’t forget the successes the campaign has had directly either. In Florida, age limits have been raised for the purchase of weapons. The same happened in the private sector where several stores have raised the age at which they’ll sell weapons. Apparently sending an 18-year-old out with an AR-15 assault rifle is a bad idea after. Sending a 21-year-old out is still cool, but again, minor improvements.

What’s been particularly unpleasant to witness is the way the forces of the Second Amendment have regrouped to turn their rage on the survivors themselves. Just this week a Fox News presenter decided to make fun of one of them for failing to get into a couple of colleges he applied for. There’s been much talk of crisis actors and Scooby-Doo style meddling kids, and while it’s not a good look, it does tell us the NRA and its Republican pals are rattled. They’re not writing this bunch of teenagers off as Big Star-esque innocents (it’s hard to remain innocent in that sense when you’ve witnessed a massacre in front of you). They, and what they’ve touched off, are a threat.

Now it’s all about the follow-through. Progress is slow and rare when anyone is talking gun control; that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. The Simpsons once sent up the phrase “won’t somebody please think of the children.” It turns out they’re capable of doing their own thinking, and it might not be a bad idea to listen.

What’s Going On

While we’re on the subject of guns, an independent autopsy revealed that Stephon Clark, killed earlier this month by police officers in Sacramento, was shot eight times. Most of the bullets hit him in the back. The 22-year-old was unarmed and joins an ever-climbing list of African Americans shot to death by the police. The officers said they fired because they thought he had a gun, but all they found was an iPhone.

Given the ease with which all transgressions wash over Donald Trump, it’s impressive he has almost managed to find himself embroiled in the least-surprising-scandal-ever scandal arising from Stormy Daniels’ allegations. The pornographic actress claims Trump slept with her over a decade ago. It’s unlikely anyone doubts that. As usual with these things, it’s all about the cover-up. According to Daniels, Trump’s lawyer paid her offan act that itself could breach campaign finance restrictionsand a ham-fisted goon threatened her in a parking lot. It’s all very tawdry, unedifying, and oddly fitting for the Age of Trump.

Remember when Julian Assange stood for something? If you don’t, that’s okay. It’s been a long time since he even pretended to stand for anything other than himself. The free speech advocate bravely attempting to shine a light on government and corporate wrongdoing has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, on the run from Swedish police seeking him in relation to sexual assault allegations. This week he had his Internet access cut-off by the embassy, removing the very tool that brought him attention in the first place. That’ll make it a lot harder to stay in touch with all those repressive regimes he’s been cozying up to for years.

Redistricting is back in the news this week as the Supreme Court heard arguments against a gerrymandered Maryland map. In this case it’s the Democrats stacking the deck in their favor, proof this scourge is openly practiced by both sides. A decision is still due on a similar case in Wisconsin heard back in October, and there has also been movement on partisan redistricting in Pennsylvania recently. It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will decide there is such a thing as seeking too partisan a political advantage though.

Speak Up!

Everyone in the indie world has to love Wes Anderson, right? It’s a law or something. Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo used to anyway. He definitely doesn’t like Isle of Dogs though, taking to Twitter to accuse it of racism amongst other sins.

On this theme, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, aka creator/star of Atlanta, aka young Lando Calrissian, aka that person who appears to be irritatingly good at everything has shot back at Marvel after the abandonment of plans for a Deadpool animated series on FX he was to write with his brother. A now deleted pop culture packed spoof screenplay appeared on his Twitter account to make clear there might have been a bit more behind it than him being too busy, as was suggested.

Song of the Week: CHVRCHES “Never Say Die”

If you’re aiming for bittersweet, synth-pop isn’t a bad way to go. It’s almost impossible not to leave a bouncy feeling in the music somewhere, but that just makes the worried introspection all the more effective.

That’s what CHVRCHES are up to these days anyway as the Scottish band readies for the release of its third full-length. “Never Say Die” does a good job of evoking the confusing world of broken promises, fear, controlling figures, and fading hope we’re all embroiled in.

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