Sunday, May 10, 2009

John Lennon Exhibit Takes on The Lobby

These days, the lobby people want to talk about more than any other is the "Israel lobby." You don't hear a peep from anyone about the gun lobby. But, on Tuesday, an exhibit will open in New York, at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame museum, that celebrates the life of John Lennon, a great musician, and a lifelong spokesman for peace, who was gunned down outside his apartment building, the Dakota, in December, 1980.

If you go to this exhibit, you will see, on display, a brown paper bag that the coroner handed to Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, with what he had on him at the time, and right beside the display you will see a Petition imploring President Barack Obama to work with Congress to enact stricter gun control, and an end to the insane proliferation of assault weapons on our streets.

As the cover of one of Yoko Ono's albums reads: "More than 932,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980," a number that has climbed exponentially, and continues to escalate daily.

If you happen to be a youngster of color, you are many hundreds of times more likely to be a victim of gun violence than of graduating from high school.

And, if you follow the news at all, you see that, whether you're a marketing professor at a major university, the head of a major bank, an investor with Bernie Madoff, or a Kaiser employee who just lost his job, a parolee in Oakland who gets pulled over by four Oakland police officers, or a newspaper reporter, Chauncey Bailey, threatening to expose corruption, you're more likely to be a victim of firearms now than at any other time in our history, except maybe during our inception when, as the Second Amendment states, a citizen militia had the right to arm itself in its own defense. Increasingly, we are using arms to destroy ourselves, and each other.

We know that this President would like to have another term in office. We also know that antagonizing the gun lobby, as well as the estimated four million members of the NRA, and over 50% of American households that own guns is no way to get reelected, but the plain and simple truth is that more Americans will die as a result of the gun lobby than anything the "Israel Lobby" can do to them, yet one doesn't hear a word about this even from the most progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

Congress clearly cowers in fear of any mention of the NRA, or gun control, so it is up to the executive branch to stop the madness of gun violence now by banning the sale, and possession, of assault weapons once and for all.

President Obama faces many challenges, but pandering to the banks, Wall Street, and citing a Second Amendment right to bear arms isn't going to earn him high grades, especially from the mothers of those inner city youngsters who, even as I write, are falling prey to gun violence. As a community organizer in Chicago, Obama walked those streets, and he knows who are victimized by the Bush laissez-faire deregulation of gun laws. He knows that those who bear the brunt of the steady, and out of control proliferation of assault weapons are also the ones who suffer twice the unemployment rate of their white counterparts.

Undoubtedly, Mr. Obama has the opportunity, and the potential, to be among the greatest presidents this country has ever had. He needs to rise to the occasion, take a stand on this important issue, and not be intimidated by those who think they have a constitutional right to potentially harm themselves, or someone else. President Obama needs to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, passed by President Clinton, that was allowed to sunset, in 2004, under President George W. Bush.

If you plan to visit the exhibit that opens on Tuesday, be sure to look for the Petition, and sign it.. What better way to pay tribute to a man whose entire life was devoted to peace than to push for regulating firearms.

Think about this: if John Lennon had been shot, and had survived, he might be writing this instead of me.