Monday, 5 October 2015

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly....

Apologies for the delay in posting my reports on our Lowlands Tour of northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. There was this "little" matter of a mass shooting in my home town of Roseburg, Oregon, and somehow in the past 5 days I have spent a lot of time not finishing off those blog posts but rather scouring the Internet for updates, sifting the falsehoods from what may be the truth about events as they unfolded, while trying not to get dragged into debates about gun-control (sorry but that is so insensitive just now!) while still trying to answer this one honest question from bewildered friends: 

"Why can't Obama just make his legislature do what he wants?"  


So why the impasse? This may not be The Right Answer but it's the one that I give:  

Unlike the government structure in the UK, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the US federal government are truly separate. A system of checks and balances means the President and the Congress can stop each other from doing certain things, but neither can force the other to do anything. 

With respect to gun ownership and regulation, yes, culture and society have a huge role to play in the lack of legislative change, but perhaps not for the reasons that the media (with its gleefully endless debate about the Second Amendment to the Constitution) and ordinary people themselves when interviewed (with their glib "right to bear arms" argument) might lead you to believe. The fact is, the U.S. federal government is constrained by the anti-federalist movement. This crystallised during the Civil War and has gathered strength ever since but probably has its roots with the Louisiana Purchase when the U.S. doubled its land holdings overnight, prompting westward emigration on a massive scale, followed only much later by the formation of new states, each with its own soft-touch imposition of 'law and order' over a "Wild West" where men had by necessity protected their families themselves with their own guns. Meanwhile, people don't relinquish responsibility for the safety and security of their family and property easily, especially in rural areas where self-sufficiency is both essential and prized. 

As for top-down legislation, the rest of the world sometimes fails to comprehend just how many powers lie with the states, not the federal government, much less to appreciate the implications arising from this allocation of powers. <Political Opinion Mode> Unfortunately, the powers that Congress does have that could be used to impact gun-control are held by two bodies that are increasingly controlled/influenced by an irrational right-wing faction funded by the NRA -- hence the deadlock between the executive office and the legislature </Political Opinion Mode>.


In the 26 years since I first came to England, I admittedly have gone native. But I was, am, and always will be an Oregonian, born and bred. My parents were married in Roseburg in 1952. I was born in Roseburg in 1968 and grew up in a tiny town about 30 miles north of Roseburg. My parents moved back to Roseburg a few years ago and all my visits 'home' are now centred around Roseburg. I visited the Umpqua Community College campus every year of my teens, competing in county-wide inter-scholastic contests. (My speciality was English so Snyder Hall, the scene of the shootings, was the UCC building I knew best.) In high school, I won a scholarship to UCC but didn't claim it, getting a full-time job instead, but my sister completed her accountancy qualification at UCC a few years ago and a family friend graduated from UCC this past June, having decided to pursue a career in the legal system following the death of her son (by accidental shooting) two years ago. 

However far away from home you may wander in adulthood, tragedies like this reach out over thousands of miles as if they were none and draw all our thoughts and energies home. In the past five days, I have sobbed with grief, howled with pain, lashed out in frustration with hot, heedless words. Much has been said and indeed much more will be said. 

But not here. None of it is relevant to a UK-based blog about bicycles and the joys of cycling. 

On topic posts will resume soon. In the meantime... tell your people you love them. Hug the ones you can reach. Phone the ones you can't. 

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