Saturday December 15, 2012

Another school shooting: Have we hit rock bottom?

Editor of the Reformer:

A question that gets asked over and over again these days is: "Have we hit rock bottom?" There are many things that this question can be asked about. I would like to apply the question to gun violence.

It is Friday afternoon, Dec. 14. I’ve just been reading about the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School. At this time, little is known for sure. What does seem to be certain is that many people of all ages were killed by an as yet unidentified shooter. Children were killed. Let that sink in for a moment.

Have we hit rock bottom?

We may learn that the shooter was a loner or a good neighbor or a bellicose creep or any one of a number of other profiles that are used to describe these monsters. What we know for sure is that the victims were killed with guns.

There will be outrage over this slaughter and many will say that we need to get serious -- at long last -- about gun control. NRA types will somehow paint this as the fault of an insufficiently armed citizenry. They will argue that, rather than forcing us toward gun control, the carnage in Connecticut further proves that we need more guns, less gun control, free and unfettered access to guns that are even more lethal than the ones we presently have, and on and on.


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Have we hit rock bottom?

Is there nothing that will ever make the entrenched, NRA-bankrolled lawmakers face facts? Is there any body count high enough that will force the NRA and its backers that this has gotten out of hand? What is the magic number that will make all this horror stop?

I pray that we have hit rock bottom. It is long past time for our civilization to grow up and realize that gun violence has reached the tipping point. How many more children will have to be murdered in their classrooms? How many more parents will be tormented forever knowing that the last words they ever said to their beautiful children were "Have a nice day at school"?

G. Steven Ingram,

West Swanzey, N.H., Dec. 14

Silver spoon currency

Editor of the Reformer:

The American Dream is possible. Conceiving 2.5 kids is easy -- but when it comes to becoming financially successful in caring for them, that’s where the United States begins to punish the have-nots and have-even-less. The rich continue to be rewarded for having money in the first place, and capitalist America picks winners and losers before the race has even begun. How? By rigging the system.

According to a report done by Citizens for Tax Justice, the U.S. Government gave away $223 billion in corporate welfare from 2008 to 2012. Companies that didn’t pay any taxes over this period include Pepco Holdings, El Paso and Duke Energy. Sure, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, at 35 percent -- but this statistic is void of any meaning as corporations avoid paying their taxes in the first place. While the middle class was paying a 30 percent tax rate, General Electric -- instead of paying a 35 percent tax rate like was designated by the government initially -- actually taxed the government at 45 percent.

The cumulative sum of food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and housing vouchers for the poor cost less than 10 percent of welfare for the rich. The elite are more likely to attend college than those in poverty, but tax expenditures for student debt costs our government an annual $23 billion. All this could be enough to provide universal and free college education.

The rich are our politicians, corporate heads and presidents. They aren’t all bad people, by any means -- but they exist as powerheads in society simply because of our own socialization to the concept that the free market is a good place, that when the wealthy do well we do well. However, the trickle-down theory doesn’t work because there is no system in place to have the rich "reinvest" in America when it would save them money to do business abroad. Capitalism allows the elite to go untaxed while the lower classes struggle to pay mortgages or college costs or rent or grocery bills, and is so ingrained into our country that to question it seems, in the extremes, "un-American."

I can understand the motives of the economically elite who do find ways to evade giving up more money than they have to. They have their rights, too. However, the issue becomes more complicated when you step back and realize that the rich already control the conversation of democracy and monopoly of policy.

For those of us who don’t need to worry where to stash our billions, this doesn’t mean our voices can’t be heard, that our rights can’t be met, or a state of equality can’t exist in these United States. It just means we’ll have to keep on working harder to get it done because we can’t buy our way to justice.

Rebecca Alice Potter,

Guilford, Dec. 10

Return to civility

Editor of the Reformer:

I was a lucky child. My mom and aunt were Democrats, and my aunt’s neighbor was a Republican (a state rep, even). They would get together over coffee and discuss issues. It allowed me, as a child listening in, to hear both sides of an issue -- with total civility in the exchange. I was allowed to draw my own conclusions as to with which side I agreed. There was no animosity; just coffee and snacks and an educational discussion.

When I was in school, I had no fears of "not being on the same side of politics as my teachers" because I had no idea of their political persuasion. My math teacher simply taught math. Even my social studies teachers did not push their political agenda on us students. Again, I was free to make up my own mind how I felt about issues when presented with both sides.

But today, my children do not always have this same luxury of having both sides presented with civility and respect. Some teachers make it clear what their politics are, no matter what subject they are paid to teach. I long for the days when teachers helped students learn how to think (gather information), not what to think. I have heard students say they enter some assignment feeling they must "keep the teacher happy" and try to word their documents accordingly, or simply remain mum for fear of repercussions. We should be encouraging our kids to always ask, "What does the other side believe/feel about this topic?" To find true understanding and reach compromise, all sides of a topic should be willingly presented.

Coaches and parents know that few sporting events end in ties. There is usually a winning team and a losing team. And as good parents/coaches, we try to teach the kids to be respectful, humble winners and/or congratulatory losers. With winning, we do not tell them to rub the other team’s noses in their loss. With losing, we do not tell them they should take their ball and never play again. We tell them whether they win or lose, there is always another game, more work to be done, stuff both teams could do better and learn from the other team.

Let’s please allow our kids to deal with issues -- with a return to civility and respect for each side. Have them debate over coffee and snacks if it will help. We’re all in this together, and it takes all kinds of ideas and positions to create a great country.

Jessica Butterfield,

Vernon, Oct. 16

Editor’s note: An apology to Ms. Butterfield for not running this letter in a more timely fashion (though the spirit of the letter remains true, even after the November elections).

A call for new comic in the Reformer

Editor of the Reformer:

This morning we opened the newspaper and found a great article on cartoonist Hilary Price (Nov. 17-18 Weekend Reformer). We were wondering if maybe we could start seeing her comic (Rhymes with Orange) in the Reformer.

We are huge fans of her and think she is hilarious. We even have a couple of her books. We think the people in Brattleboro would love her strip. Thanks!

Cayden Leary,

Grace Leary

and Kristen Gottschalk,

Brattleboro, Nov. 21

Editor’s note: I will make sure that the next time we make changes to the Reformer comics page that Ms. Price’s column is offered as an alternate. In the meantime, if other readers feel the same, please send us your letters to the editor, too.