Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived last week’s mass shooting, wrote a beautiful essay for CNN.com that declared: “At the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools. But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.”Cameron, God bless you for that sentiment. But just one piece of respectful advice: If your generation and mine want to get serious about a gun control crusade, we all need to get out of Facebook and into someone’s face: the N.R.A.’s.This fight can’t be won on Twitter or Instagram. They do get people into the streets. But social media have created a world of faux activism — “Hey, I tweeted about it” — that the bad guys take advantage of. The N.R.A. is not just in the chat rooms. It’s in the cloakrooms of Congress and state legislatures. And it’s there with bags of money and votes it uses to reward lawmakers who do its bidding and hurt those who don’t.I loved seeing the 100 students from your high school taking buses Tuesday to Florida’s capital to directly press lawmakers. That’s a great start. I hope every high school follows.But, ultimately, nothing will change unless young and old who oppose the N.R.A. run for office, vote, help someone vote, register someone to vote or help fund someone’s campaign — so we can threaten the same electoral pain as the National Rifle Association, which, according to PolitiFact, spent $203.2 million between 1998 and 2017 funding its candidates, defeating gun control advocates and lobbying. This is not about persuading people with better ideas. We tried that. It’s about generating raw electoral power and pain.
“That leaves Mattis as the last man standing — the only one who has not been infected by Trump’s metastasizing ethical cancer, the only one who has not visibly lied on Trump’s behalf, and who can still put some fear into Trump.
Well, Secretary Mattis, here’s some free advice to the last man standing: Don’t just stand there. If you just stand there, you’ll be next. Because Trump and Sanders will be looking to enlist your old uniform next in their defense — that is, if Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus first to escape responsibility for the bungled operation in Niger.Secretary Mattis, we don’t need any more diagnosis of the problem. We need action. And I am not talking about a coup. I mean you need to lead McMaster, Tillerson and Kelly (Pompeo is a lost cause) in telling Trump that if he does not change his ways you will all quit, en masse.
Trump needs to know that it is now your way or the highway — not his. That is how you talk to a bully. It’s the only language he understands.Tell him: No more ridiculous tweeting attacks on people every morning; no more telling senators who forge bipartisan compromises on immigration or health care that he’s with them one day and against them the next; no more casual lying; no more feeding the base white supremacist “red meat” — no more distracting us from the real work of forging compromises for the American people and no more eroding the American creed.
Led by you and you only, Secretary Mattis, your little squadron with Tillerson, Kelly and McMaster still has power. And if you can’t together force Trump onto an agenda of national healing and progress, then you should together tell him that he can govern with his kids and Sanders — because you took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to wipe up Trump’s daily filth with the uniform three of you wore so honorably.”
David Lindsay: I’m afraid I agree with Tom Friedman. I second this piece.
“It’s also corrupt. Because it’s driven by money and greed — by gunmakers and gun-sellers and oil and coal companies, and all the legislators and regulators they’ve bought and paid to keep silent. They know full well most Americans don’t want to take away peoples’ rights to hunt or defend themselves. All we want to take away is the right of someone to amass a military arsenal in their home and hotel room and use it on innocent Americans when some crazy rage wells up inside them. But the N.R.A. has these cowardly legislators in a choke hold.
What to do?Forget about persuading these legislators. They are not confused or under-informed. They are either bought or intimidated. Because no honest and decent American lawmaker would look at Las Vegas and Puerto Rico today and say, “I think the smartest and most prudent thing to do for our kids is to just do nothing.”
So there is only one remedy: Get power. If you are as fed up as I am, then register someone to vote or run for office yourself or donate money to someone running to replace these cowardly legislators with a majority for common-sense gun laws. This is about raw power, not persuasion. And the first chance we have to change the balance of power is the 2018 midterm elections. Forget about trying to get anything done before then. Don’t waste your breath.Just get power. Start now.”
Yes, and, here are the top three comments, which I endorsed.
Jocelyn Ahlers Vista, CA 2 hours ago
I am starting to wonder whether the NRA could be called a terrorist organization, or, at the very least, a sponsor of terrorism. Terrorism is defined as the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political or ideological in nature. The ads and political monies the NRA spend deliberately attempt to convince people that the only response to mass shootings is for everyone to own weapons. At the same time, they quash any efforts to enact sensible gun control legislation, leaving the door open for anyone to amass an arsenal that can easily kill and injure hundreds. And then they circle back around to convince people that they should own weapons to protect themselves from nuts with weapons. If that isn’t using the threat of violence (enabled by lax gun control) to further a political/ideological aim, I’m not sure what is.
And none of this even begins to address the politics of race inherent here. If people of color were gathering weapons in these numbers and using them to commit heinous acts such as this… Well, I’m thinking the response would be different.
Reply 257 Recommended
matteo Port Washington, NY 2 hours ago
Tom’s right on this one. We should follow the advice of the nation’s chiefs of police: register all guns like cars; require licensing exams, strict licensing policies on the municipal level; Require insurance to cover these murderous events events, thus getting insurance companies who bear financial risk to conduct investigations; automatic weapons only for Police and Armed Forces. There’s a lot we can do that’s common sense and still gives legitimate law abiding citizens the right to bear their arms.
Reply 208 Recommended
JDS Ohio 2 hours ago
I heard on the mainstream radio today that the “kit” Paddock apparently used to convert a semi-automatic weapon to an automatic one cost about $50, and are legal, at least in Nevada. Would it be too much for the NRA to outlaw these kits? Are deer hunters using automatic weapons to shoot deer? Do we need automatic weapons to defend our homes? I’m all for a sane interpretation of the second amendment; let’s have one.
Reply 149 Recommended
“Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a famous memoir, “Present at the Creation,” about the birth of the post-World War II order — an order whose institutions produced six decades of security and growth for a lot of people. We’re now at a similar moment of rapid change — abroad and at home. Many institutions have to be rethought. But any book about Washington today would have to be called “Absent at the Creation.”
Surely one of the most cynical, reckless acts of governing in my lifetime has been President Trump and the G.O.P.’s attempt to ram through a transformation of America’s health care system — without holding hearings with experts, conducting an independent cost-benefit analysis or preparing the public — all to erase Barack Obama’s legacy to satisfy a few billionaire ideologue donors and a “base” so drunk on Fox News that its members don’t understand they’ll be the ones most hurt by it all.”
Great column Thomas Friedman, thank you.
I had to read through many weird comments before I got to one I could endorse, which is:
What an excellent, insightful, important and hugely depressing column. Trump’s very slogan, Make America Great Again, meaning Let’s pretend it can be 1950 again, is precisely the opposite of what we need. I became a grandfather two months ago, and I want, and have a duty to try to make, her world a better place, or at least not a worse place, than it is for me. The current president and the GOP leadership seem committed to ruining her future.
“Bader, who has served multiple administrations in diplomatic and policy jobs related to China and is now a private consultant, begins by asking the best question any American strategist could ask when thinking about how to deter a nuclear-armed foe: What would George Kennan do?
Kennan was the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union, which had tens of thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at us for roughly half a century.
Kennan, argues Bader, would grasp that “while some situations may be unacceptable, they do not lend themselves to short-term fixes. The North Korean challenge is one of them.” ”
David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments.
Great column Thomas Friedman. I loved your proposal. “What should the American proposal say? It should tell the North Koreans, says Bader, that in return for their complete denuclearization and dismantling of their missile program, we would establish full diplomatic relations; end the economic embargo and sanctions; and provide economic assistance, investment and a peace treaty to replace the 64-year-old armistice agreement.”
In response to Susan Rice’s excellent op-ed, I wrote: ” I read a good idea by a commentator at the NYT who suggested, the US should woo North Korea into a de-escalation. We could, for example. offer to pull our military forces out of South Korea in exchange for their giving up their nuclear weapons program. It would be useful if talks could start, aimed at giving both countries what they want or need. I add to the commentators idea, it might be necessary to let the North Koreans keep the nuclear weapons that they have. This might be acceptable, if we could get them to allow verification that they stop all further development. I continue to be depressed by most of the discussion. It is arrogant for the US to think that it has to be in charge of North Korea, when they are China’s neighbor and vassal state. We should remind ourselves continually, that this part of the world is not our backyard, but China’s.”
I’m not sure Your approach is better, Mr. Friedman, but your right, we should laugh at every missile launch as pathetic and stupid.
“Trump connects with these gut issues and takes them in a destructive direction. It’s vital for Democrats to connect with them and take them in a constructive direction.What issues? Here’s my list:
• We can’t take in every immigrant who wants to come here; we need, metaphorically speaking, a high wall that assures Americans we can control our border with a big gate that lets as many people in legally as we can effectively absorb as citizens.
• The Muslim world does have a problem with pluralism — gender pluralism, religious pluralism and intellectual pluralism — and suggesting that terrorism has nothing to do with that fact is naïve; countering violent extremism means constructively engaging with Muslim leaders on this issue.• Americans want a president focused on growing the economic pie, not just redistributing it. We do have a trade problem with China, which has reformed and closed instead of reformed and opened. We have an even bigger problem with automation wiping out middle-skilled work and we need to generate more blue-collar jobs to anchor communities.
• Political correctness on college campuses has run ridiculously riot. Americans want leaders to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country when globalization is erasing national identities. America is not perfect, but it is, more often than not, a force for good in the world.Voters don’t listen through their ears. They listen through their stomachs. And when you connect with voters in their guts, they feel respected, and when they feel respected, they will listen to anything — including big issues that are true even if Democrats believe them. Such as the fact that a majority of Americans like Obamacare and want to see it built to last, and a majority of Americans do not like the way Trump is despoiling the environment and bringing back coal. Indeed, the biggest wind power states in America — Texas, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — are all red states. The Democrats literally have the wind at their backs on health care and clean energy.”
“A few days ago I was at a conference in Montreal, and a Canadian gentleman, trying to grasp what’s happening to America, asked me a simple question: “What do you fear most these days?”
I paused for a second, like a spectator waiting to see what would come out of my own mouth. Two things came out: “I fear we’re seeing the end of ‘truth’ — that we simply can’t agree any more on basic facts. And I fear that we’re becoming Sunnis and Shiites — we call them ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans,’ but the sectarianism that has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East is now infecting us.”
It used to be that people didn’t want their kids to marry one of “them,” referring to someone of a different religion or race (bad enough). Now the “them” is someone of a different party.”
Good column. Here is a good comment I support:
Christine McM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 5 hours ago
Brilliant analysis. This shift shaping of truth for me is the most dangerous aspect of what’s going on. Donald Trump is a master at it: and yet except for columns like this in the New York Times, and other reputable media, very few call him out on it.
So far nobody has been able to deal with a president who’s a serial liar. Add to that, this sickening sycophancy of his staff, praising him to the skies about things ordinary Americans despise, and you see Orwell unfolding before your eyes.
Yes the technology may be different and faster but the underlying premise remains the same: greed and lust for power or a recipe for crash and burn throughout history.
How do you trust officials Who live by different rules than you do? how do you trust officials spouting alternate versions of quickly verifiable data?
You can’t. But if you have a solid base of people for whom the truth doesn’t matter and who flock to the seductive promises of a salesman, you have the situation we face today.
Donald Trump is so dangerous because he’s never been seriously challenged when changing the norms and expectations of the presidency. People are cozying up to a strongman out of fear and/or opportunism.
Without institutional support Donald Trump crumbles. Unfortunately we aren’t there yet. And the only way to make sure he doesn’t change the rules by setting up his family for life is to vote.
FlagReply 332 Recommended
Don’t give up…It could happen…
When things seem bleak
Our chances weak
I’d like to have a furtive peak
At Trump’s clear plight, his show of fright,
At probes that his name mention,
Is money laundering his grift,
Did Putin give his side a lift?
I simply long to get the drift
Of what’s got his attention.
And when the truth comes out at last
No fizzle, a bombastic blast
Revealing a pernicious past
Turning his hairdo white,
The Rust Belters will still deny
What’s evident to every eye
As juicy as Mom’s Apple Pie,
Trump always was alt-Right.
The Tea Party in futile rage
Impeachment refuses to wage
Their Donald is a Saint, a Sage,
And so two thirds is never reached
The tricky Trump is not impeached
Although Pence privately beseeched,
Don in a Tweet, resigned.
“Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.”
“. . . Boeing and General Electric restrained Trump from getting rid of the Export-Import Bank, which would have left U.S. exporters at a big disadvantage. The federal courts prevented him from imposing his Muslim ban. Border-state Republicans blocked his Mexico wall and other Republicans are blocking his draconian replacement of Obamacare. U.S. farmers, whose exports to Mexico have soared since Nafta was signed, dissuaded him from walking out of that trade deal.
As for the next 100 days, who will protect us? Myself, I am not counting on the Democratic Party. It’s too weak. On the issues I care about most, I’m actually counting on California. I believe California’s market size, aspirational goals and ability to legislate make it the most powerful opposition party to Trump in America today.”
Bravo Thomas Friedman. Great writing. You have cheered many of us this 3rd day of May! Now, to make New England as cutting edge as California…….
“I promise you that Trump will spend the rest of his presidency dealing with the disruptions caused by this cocktail of population explosion and climate/environmental degradation — and his generals know it. But in today’s politics, bombing is considered presidential and ignoring science and defunding family planning, when populations are exploding and droughts expanding, are ho-hum back-page news.”