Friday, June 14, 2024

OPINION: National ideas and local politics

by PATRICK WHALEN/Guest Opinion
| April 26, 2023 1:00 AM

I don’t have any brilliant suggestions for solving gun violence in America, but I do have some observations about the issue and how this issue and many others fuel the rise of the extreme wings of both parties, including here locally in North Idaho.

Another horrific shooting and a wave of the same old political commentary. If the victims are poor people in a big city, no mention of the crime occurs in our corporate media. If the victims are in an innocent and usually gun-free setting, and the shooter is the right political profile, the corporate media makes a big deal about it.

The Democratic Party cranks up the gun control rhetoric. The Republican Party cranks up the Second Amendment rhetoric. Nothing is accomplished other than political fundraising and photo opportunities for both sides.

If you try to understand gun violence in America, you must look deeper than the reporting in the corporate media since both sides offer only the shallowest of takes. The data on homicides in America, available from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, shows that murders in America are very highly concentrated in very big cities (almost all of which have been run by the local Democrat Party machine for decades).

The worst 1% of counties (31 counties) have 21% of America's population and 42% of its murders. The worst 5% of counties have 47% of the population and account for 73% of the murders. Unsurprisingly, 52% of counties in America had zero murders in 2020.

Rural counties with the highest concentration of guns had some of the lowest murder rates (and other crime rates).

It is my opinion that the mental health crisis in our big cities is a direct result of the political setting and the political incentives in these locations. The Democrat machine is supported and, in some cases (looking at you Chicago), controlled by the teachers union. The unions and the political machines cooperate in failing to educate the kids while nurturing unhealthy pathologies.

The constant need to find new victim groups and the unwillingness to solve societal problems leads to the flywheel of unfortunate events, then political posturing and followed by fundraising.

These problems spill out from our big cities, carried nationwide on the fundraising narratives of both political parties. Ever notice how both parties, particularly their extreme wings, use fear almost exclusively to bind the group together and motivate the troops?

Here locally, we see that dynamic in the situation playing out at North Idaho College, the libraries and the local school districts. A small group of people and a very few individuals seem to be fighting national issues that have never existed here. They seem to think they are protecting the kids from the most extreme left-wing insanities like “critical race theory” and the sexualization of children (which is occurring nationally but, as far as I can tell, not in our local libraries or school districts).

I oppose the censorship of books from our libraries, and I trust local parents to make the necessary parenting decisions. Having met several local librarians, I highly doubt they are sneaking books to children without parental permission.

A note to my friends on the right, if you find yourself on the side of censorship you should rethink your position. Freedom does not come from censorship. It is hard for me to believe that anyone on the political right needs to be reminded of that.

I support our local school systems, although I believe that we must find a way to harness the powers of competition to build better schools. Charter schools, home schooling, online schooling and other ideas must be given room to grow and compete. We need 21st century systems to emerge, but we cannot allow our existing system to be destroyed while that happens.

I support North Idaho College and groups like Save NIC and the North Idaho Republicans that are working to defend it from the strange group of misfits who seem determined to ruin it. Again, I think that they feel they are fighting to protect us from the bogeyman, but I see no apparent reason for that belief.

Keep local politics local and support common sense initiatives to protect the center. A wider tent is needed to support a thriving, healthy community. We can build that here.

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Patrick Whalen is a Rotarian and a founding member of the North Idaho Republicans.