Monday, September 05, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

Labor Day is one of those holidays which has almost totally lost its original meaning. We mark it now as the end of summer, and with a nod towards "working", usually for someone else. There's nothing wrong with working, of course, but the holiday was originally meant to salute organized labor. You know - unions that protect their members from unfair treatment and go mano a mano with management when the current collective bargaining agreement nears expiration. There's much less of all that now. The Congress, the Department of Labor and the courts have all pretty much sided with management, and so both organizing and striking have dried to a trickle in the last 30 years or so. Celebrating the organized American worker has given way to another holiday tradition - taking the name of the holiday and adding in huge letters the word "SALE!!". The people ringing the cash registers probably aren't even getting extra pay for working a holiday. "Eight bucks an hour? Is there any way to pay 'em less?"

Pima County, Arizona, I read, takes in both urban and rural territory in the nation's great Southwestern desert. Naturally, both major political parties are there, and so they both do things that they hope will bring in cash. The local Republicans have used raffles to swell the coffers, exploiting the little urge to gamble which we all feel from time to time.
Pima County is also near the site in Tuscon at which a man used a hand gun to open fire at a crowd of people gathered at a strip mall to hear Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The speaking stopped when the bullets started flying. Before they could get the shooter under control, six people were dead and another 15 were injured, including Congresswoman Giffords, who was shot in the head, an injury from which she is still recovering eight months later. Good luck to her and her (now retired) astronaut husband.
What's the connection here? Merely this. The prize for the Pima County GOP fundraiser raffle is not a set of golf clubs, a free trip to Las Vegas, a marriage enrichment weekend or season tickets to the Phoenix Cardinals. No, it's.....a handgun. A Glock 23 to be precise, similar in most ways to the Glock 19 used at the Tucson shooting.
If I were a Republican bigshot, I would try to do things that would not remind the voting public of what happened on that January day. But the bigshots themselves don't seem to be bothered at all with this little coincidence. "We've been doing this for years" they say, "and no one has complained." Well, sure. Lots of things have long histories, but that doesn't make them right, nor does it mean that something couldn't be changed from time to time if circumstances change.
Where are all those smart job creator types when they're needed most? Maybe such affairs are left to junior interns who tend to blame the victims for getting in the line of fire and forgot to pack their own pieces at the Tucson event, though it was run by their Democratic enemies. But they had plenty of time to change the raffle, yet didn't. What, I ask, could they have been thinking?


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