We Must Find the Courage to Defy the NRA

A statue in the United Nations Sculpture Garden. (Photo credit: Karl Fredrik Reuterswar / Flickr)
A statue in the United Nations Sculpture Garden. (Photo credit: Karl Fredrik Reuterswar / Flickr)

When I first moved to the United States from Canada, I was shocked by the casual normalcy with which Americans treated their guns. Canada is no stranger to guns — we rank 12th in the world in gun ownership with about 1 gun for every 3 Canadians — but we lack a culture of firearm fetishism. Few Canadians feel an urge to purchase a gun for non-hunting purposes, and Canadian gun owners just don’t feel the need to walk around strapped. Efforts to circumvent our gun control laws were an anathema; I remember as a child reading a two-page spread in the Toronto Star dedicated to an investigative story about a homicide committed using an unregistered firearm: it had been purchased across the border in America.

The first time I saw a gun, I had just moved to the United States. I was shopping for athletic clothes at a local sporting goods store when I wandered over to the outdoors section. There, within a display counter, were a collection of handguns. I stared in horror at them: lying just inches from my face behind a wall of plexiglass — a weapon that existed only for the purpose of killing another human being with a quick pull of a trigger. This was a machine invented only for ending life, easily purchased for a few hundred dollars.

I couldn’t help wondering, “is human life worth so little to Americans, that the means for taking it can be found on sale next to the sleeping bags and ice coolers?”

I was sixteen at the time. Nearly two decades of living in America has done little to blunt this initial reaction I had to American gun culture. I’ve been in the United States — where most people love their guns — all of my adult life. I’ve lived in Arizona — where most people really love their guns — for several years, during which time I met many people with Concel & Carry Permits and who never went anywhere without a gun in their purse or holstered at their hip. I’ve fired a .45 (which, admittedly, was pretty fun).

But, I’ve never stopped wondering why Americans place so little value in human life that we are unwilling to do anything about this country’s senseless hyperproliferation of guns.

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Stereotypes and the State Department: Why aren’t we rallying behind Stephen Kim?

Stephen Kim, a former State Department contractor who was charged with espionage in 2010. (Photo Credit: Cliff Owens / AP)
Most of us know the name of Edward Snowden, the computer programmer who leaked so much classified government data that journalists are still sifting through it. Snowden, who has been hailed simultaneously as an American hero and an American traitor, is currently living in exile in an undisclosed location in Moscow as he faces charges under the Espionage Act for revealing classified information pertaining to (among other things) America’s overseas unmanned drone program and the NSA’s expansive metadata and phone surveillance programs.

Most of us also know the name of Chelsea Manning, who prior to taking her new identity as Chelsea served as Bradley Manning in the US Army where she leaked the largest package of classified information to the public via Wikileaks, including documents pertaining to US airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and is currently serving 35 years in prison.

Few of us know the name of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a Korean American former mid-level contracted analyst who worked in the Pentagon’s prestigious Office of Net Assessment think-tank and then later in the State Department’s Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation. In 2010, Kim became one of a handful of analysts and journalists targeted by the FBI; these investigations were a manifestation of the Obama Administration’s sudden and unprecedented crackdown on internal leaks in the wake of the Manning case.

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Maxine Hong Kingston to receive National Medal of Arts at White House today


Last week, the National Endowment of the Arts announced its 2013’s winners of the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honour for achievements in the arts. Among the list of 12 recipients are two Asian Americans — both women. In addition to Billie Tsien who is receiving an award for her contributions to architecture and arts education alongside her husband Tod Williams, an award will be given to acclaimed and pioneering Asian American author Maxine Hong Kingston.

73-year-old Kingston is renowned for her significant contributions to Asian American literature, particularly in providing an early feminist voice in the budding literary genre with her 1976 book The Woman Warrior. In that book, Kingston combined autobiographical reflections with a reinterpretation of traditional Chinese mythology to produce multiple perspectives through which she explored the identity of a first-generation  Chinese American woman. The Woman Warrior‘s unique blend of oral history with personal narrative defies genre, and has consequently become according to the Modern Language Association the most-taught text in modern university classrooms (according to Wikipedia).

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House Republicans propose legislation to sue Obama over Obamacare

John Boehner is making a "Boehn"-headed move.
John Boehner is proving he’s pretty”Boehn”-headed.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. By the 54th time, sue.

House Republicans advanced a draft of legislation today that would grant Congress the authority to file a civil lawsuit against President Barack Obama for constitutional overreach. If the legislation passes, it would authorize the House to file civil action and seek injunctive relief against the president and other departmental heads for failing to act “in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of (including a failure to implement) any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision.”

Just so we’re clear, Republicans want to sue the president for failing to implement the ACA (also known as Obamacare), the landmark achievement of the Obama administration that these same Republicans have attempted to undo or override in 54 successive failed votes.

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President Obama (and I) wish the nation a Happy Diwali!!

President Obama celebrates Diwali in 2010 by participating in a traditional candle-lighting ceremony in Mumbai.

Today is the first day of Diwali, a five day Festival of Lights that is one of the most important festivals of the year for many South Asian people and other Asian American people. President Obama marked Diwali with the following statement today:

Today, here at home and across the globe, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists will celebrate the holiday of Diwali – the festival of lights.  Diwali is a time for gathering with family and friends, often marked with good food and dancing.  It is also a time for prayer and reflection about those less fortunate.  It is a testament to the compassion of these communities that so many of them have helped those that have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Many who observe this holiday will light the Diya, or lamp, which symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. As that lamp is lit, we should all recommit ourselves to bring light to any place still facing darkness.  Earlier this year, we were reminded of the evil that exists in the world when a gunman walked into the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire.  In the wake of that horrible tragedy, we saw the resilience of a community that drew strength from their faith and a sense of solidarity with their neighbors, Sikh and non-Sikh alike.  We also saw compassion and love, in the heroic actions of the first responders and the outpouring of support from people across the country.  Out of a day of sadness, we were reminded that the beauty of America remains our diversity, and our right to religious freedom.

To those celebrating Diwali, I wish you, your families and loved ones Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak.

I join the president in wishing all of my readers a Happy Diwali!