Letters to the Editor -- January 11, 2013

Lesson offered from Wounded Knee

Dec. 29, 2012, marks the 122nd anniversary of the murder of 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. These 297 people, in their winter camp, were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms. When the final round had flown, of the 297 dead or dying, two-thirds (200) were women and children.

Around 40 members of the 7th Cavalry were killed, over half cut down by friendly fire from the Hotchkiss guns of their overzealous comrades-in-arms. Twenty members of the 7th Cavalry were deemed “National Heroes” and awarded the Medal of Honor for their acts of cowardice.

We do not hear of Wounded Knee today. It is not mentioned in our history classes or books. What little does exist about Wounded Knee is normally the sanitized “official government explanation” or the historically and factually inaccurate depictions of the events leading up to the massacre on the movie screen.

Wounded Knee was among the first federally-backed gun confiscation attempts in United States history. It ended in the senseless murder of 297 people.

Before you jump on the emotionally charged bandwagon for gun-control, take a moment to reflect on the real purpose of the Second Amendment: the right of the people to take up arms in defense of themselves, their families and property in the face of invading armies or an oppressive government.

The argument that the Second Amendment only applies to hunting and target shooting is asinine. When the United States Constitution was drafted, “hunting” was an everyday chore carried out by men and women to put meat on the table each night, and “target shooting” was an unheard of concept — musket balls were a precious commodity in the wilds of early America and were certainly not wasted “target shooting.”

The Second Amendment was written by people who fled oppressive and tyrannical regimes in Europe and refers to the right of American citizens to be armed for defense purposes should such tyranny rise in the United States.

As time goes on, the average citizen in the United States continues to lose personal freedom or “liberty.” Far too many times, unjust bills are passed and signed into law under the guise of “for your safety” or “for protection.” The Patriot Act signed into law by G.W. Bush, then expanded and continued by Barack Obama is just one of many examples of American citizens being stripped of their rights and privacy for “safety.” Now, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is on the table, and will, most likely be taken away for “our safety.”

Before any American citizen blindly accepts whatever new firearms legislation that is about to be doled out, they should stop and think about something for just one minute: Evil does exist in our world. It always has and always will. Throughout history, evil people have committed evil acts. In the Bible, one of the first stories is that of Cain killing Abel. We cannot legislate “evil” into extinction. Good people will abide by the law; defective people will always find a way around it.

And another thought: Evil exists all around us, but looking back at the historical record of the past 200 years across the globe, where is “evil” and “malevolence” most often found? In the hands of those with the power: governments. The greatest human tragedies on record and the largest loss of innocent human life can be attributed to governments.

Who do governments target? “Scapegoats” and “enemies” within their own borders… but only after they have been disarmed to the point where they are no longer a threat. Ask any Native American, and they will tell you it was inferior technology and lack of arms that contributed to their demise. Ask any Armenian why it was so easy for the Turks to exterminate millions of them, and they will answer, “We were disarmed before it happened.” Ask any Jew what Hitler’s first step prior to the mass murders of the Holocaust was: confiscation of firearms from the people.

Wounded Knee is the prime example of why the Second Amendment exists, and why we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to surrender our Right to Bear Arms. Without the Second Amendment, we have no right to defend ourselves and our families.

Alex Garcia

Reader takes issue with Fink’s stances

When Mr. Shaun Fink was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Indian River School Board recently, I expected he would waste no time trying to infiltrate the school system with his beliefs… Now, as the Coastal Point reports, in face of the massacre of our schoolchildren in Connecticut, Mr. Fink insists that every teacher in our schools should carry a concealed weapon.

This, of course, is exactly the proposal made by officials of the National Rifle Association, an organization that operates hand in hand with the firearms industry. It also is in keeping with the philosophy of the Dover-based Caesar Rodney Institute, where Mr. Fink serves as an official. The Institute has tax-exempt status and claims to be a non-partisan policy think-tank but operates like an arm of the Tea Party branch of the Republican Party.

Did those who voted to appoint Mr. Fink to the school board know about his ties to the Institute? Now that they do know and he is on the board, will they go along with him, or consider impartially, free of political pressure, how best to serve the district’s schoolchildren?

Surely, introducing multiple guns inside our schools is not the answer to the horrors inflicted on schools, malls, churches and theaters throughout this country. We need calm, rational discussion, aware that some of those involved in the decision-making, like Mr. Fink, may represent interests outside those of the children.

Carolyn Lewis
Ocean View

Mayer revisits stance on IRSD referendum

I’ve waited more than a month before writing to again raise what I think are fair and relevant questions concerning the Indian River School District Capital Improvement Referendum scheduled for Jan. 29, 2013.

In the meantime, I’ve visited the district Web site on a number of occasions, hoping to find data to support an increase of 38 classrooms and related projects at six schools. What I found is the “what” of the two questions on the ballot. What is conspicuous by its absence is data analysis justifying the “why” increase.

The District suggests that there has been an increase in enrollment of 1,262 students since 2005 with an increase of 273 students for the present school year. So, for the past seven years the district has managed to accommodate an increase of on average 180 students per year district-wide. How many students per building, per grade level, per classroom?

The district seems to have been able to “make do” with what is since this surge in enrollment began. Perhaps creative use of existing space and appropriate staff increases have helped to address the situation. The building plans conspicuously exempt the district high schools from construction under this referendum. So the “overcrowding” at certain elementary schools and middle schools, i.e., increased enrollment, seems to disappear by ninth grade.

That’s why data analysis needs to be presented and presented in a comprehensive and transparent manner. What are the projected enrollments at the kindergarten level for the next 10 years? How many students who entered kindergarten in the past 10 years completed fifth grade in the school they originally enrolled in? How many students who entered sixth grade in the district’s middle schools exited those schools at the end of eighth grade? What do those projections look like for the next 10 years?

Historical data should be readily accessible to the district, since it comes from its enrollment figures. Census data — specifically items such as live birth rates — are useful in projecting enrollment forward. If that data justifies building 38 new classrooms, then by all means let’s move forward! But the case for “why” needs to be as forcefully made as the explanation of “what.”

Let’s go one step further! According to the referendum newsletter, the District’s share of the projected cost of the construction project is $4,404,400 or 40 percent of the total cost of the project. The rest of the money comes from the State of Delaware. That’s us folks! There is no such thing as a “free lunch,” and the total price tag of over $11 million will be borne by the citizens of the district, Sussex County and the rest of Delaware.

The second referendum question asks the voters to approve funding for the local portion of salaries for new teaching positions generated by the district’s student growth, plus the cost of equipping the new classrooms and increased utility and fuel expenses generated by the additional space. That’s not a one-year expense, and it’s fair to say that the 11.5 cent per $100 of assessed value will be replicated, if not increased, in years two through who knows how long.

Where’s the data to support this increase? What was average enrollment per kindergarten class in 2006? How has it changed? Ditto grades 1-5 and 6-8?

I, for one, have not heard or read in the media of outrageously high class sizes in the district’s elementary and middle schools. Certainly, if a significant number of parents felt that class size had increased alarmingly, I suspect we would have heard and read.

What I have heard and read concerns the dire economic circumstances that many of our citizens face. A stagnant economy, with all its attendant ills, higher taxes — particularly those imposed by the federal government — and no real prospective for immediate improvement.

If there is real need for the projects and programs requested in the referendum then by all means, let’s go out and vote yes! As I stated in my last letter, I am pro-public school and a vocal supporter of education as an instrument for assuring a bright future for our great nation, but I need to know that due diligence has been performed if I am to support the proposed referendum. I didn’t see it when I originally wrote to Coastal Point on Dec. 7 and still don’t see it as I write this letter.

Lawrence Mayer
Ocean View

Editor’s note: Public meetings on the referendum were scheduled for Jan. 7 at North Georgetown Elementary School, and again from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 10, at Long Neck Elementary School; Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School; and Thursday, Jan. 17, at East Millsboro Elementary School.

Reader asks for rational gun discussion

In response to Theresa Garcia’s letter of Jan. 4, 2013, (“Reader speaks up for gun rights”), I want to look her directly in the eye and say, “Calm down and listen.” After recent national events in our country, we need to have a national discussion about the violence that is consuming our communities. We can’t do that with people on the left and the right screaming at each other, entrenched in their positions and unwilling to look at the issue reasonably from all sides.

For starters, Theresa, try reading the Supreme Court decisions of 2008 and 2010 that reaffirm our right to private gun ownership that cannot be limited by state and local laws. The Court has a conservative majority and, since appointment makes it a lifetime job, it’s doubtful that the conservative bent of the highest court in the land is going to change anytime soon. So sit down, be calm and listen.

When our forefathers wrote the second amendment to the Constitution, they were mostly concerned about the power of the monarchy to take away the right of the populace to bear arms. The English Bill of Rights granted their citizenry the right to “keep Arms for the publick defence.”

As you noted in your letter to the editor, Theresa, our founding fathers clearly saw the right as one of both personal defense and defense of our fledgling country. All men up to the age of 45 were required to own a late-model gun to be used if the colonial militia were called up. So, Theresa, historically, we come by this right over a period of more than 500 years in legal records. So sit down, be calm and listen.

Unlike many people today, I read everything and watch all news channels — not just the ones that support my viewpoint. I taught for 33 years in a large comprehensive high school that peacefully dealt with conflict among diverse students, teachers and parents. We taught people, old and young, to sit down, be calm and listen.

Theresa, I do not believe, as does Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun in a school is with a good guy with a gun. This, in the wake of the Newtown massacre of innocents! Mr. LaPierre just simplified gun ownership into the white hats vs. the black hats. The man is tone-deaf.

Human beings are not all good or all bad. Being human is being both. Using the NRA’s own words and yours, guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Why then, would you arm more people who daily face their own human weaknesses and put them inside the school building? Let’s everyone sit down, be calm and listen.

Columbine was perpetrated with many weapons, some assault rifles. Aurora saw more of the same. In Newtown, the perpetrator was said to have shot his way into the lockout elementary school with an assault rifle and then lay waste to 26 people, shooting one little boy as many as 11 times.

However, the 1994 federal assault ban legislation that ran out in 2004 was academically studied and it was concluded that the legislation did little to prevent murder committed with assault weapons. Horribly, Connecticut has current assault ban legislation on the books. If someone wants to shoot you, they will find a way. What’s to be done? We need to start by sitting down, being calm and listening.

Recent studies indicate that poor mental health, especially in combination with alcohol and drug use, seems to be a good prescription for violence against others. Add to that access to weapons, and the perfect storm arises. It could arise right in your own home if you ignore the warning signs; if you ignore the well-being of the people you love and those you don’t, those who live close to you or even those with whom you go to school and work.

The 2002 Beltway sniper and his associate were mentally unbalanced and had access to a Bushmaster .223. Bushmaster settled out of court with $500,000 to a victims’ fund because of mounting legal expenses in the wake of the shootings. It’s a piddling amount in contrast to the lives lost. A Wheaton, Md., memorial ends with the words, “seek reverence for life among all people.”

The fact is, Theresa, the 112th Congress was gridlocked more than any previous. The makeup of the 113th Congress has not changed with the new election. We face continued gridlocked over sequestration, budget woes, immigration and gun control. So, Theresa, contrary to your statement, “We are at the point in time where this right (to bear arms) is about to be taken away from us, piece by piece,” I say no, no, no. I don’t believe we are in any danger of having our second amendment right removed or even significantly limited.

But, what do we do, as a nation, to protect ourselves and our children from more violence? What is our legacy for future generations? Do Americans mirror Congress in our everyday lives or are they mirroring us? Shouting at each other about your rights, digging your heels in, dishing out disrespect to your fellow Americans isn’t working. More importantly, I do not believe that more guns are the answer. So let’s sit down, be calm and listen. Let’s have a national discussion.

Barbara Shamp

Reader questions popularity of gay unions

A recent newspaper article stated that same-sex civil unions have exceeded expectations. But have they?

There is more than one way to look at the numbers, so I did some calculations of my own. I looked at the 2010 Census numbers for adults in Delaware, the Gallop polling data on gays and lesbians as a percentage of the population, and the number of civil unions in Delaware since licensing began a year ago. I was very surprised at what I found!

Assuming all of those sources are reliable, over 95 percent of Delaware’s gay and lesbian population did not get a civil union last year. Regardless of how you crunch the numbers, it is hard to ignore the reality that the vast majority of the gay and lesbian population isn’t interested in getting a legal union.

Jordan Warfel