Jul. 27th, 2012

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So Roger Ebert's last couple of blog posts, on the "need" for gun control in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shooting and how injuries from the shooting demonstrate the need for universal healthcare, have been sufficiently irritating as to demand a reply. Here are mine:

Dear Roger,

I know that almost 600 posts in, it's unlikely that you or almost anybody else will read my post, but I have to say this:

I saved my health - and quite possibly my life - with a handgun that I was legally permitted to carry. And I never fired a shot.

I was working alone in a hotel overnight. Our lobby security doors hadn't properly locked shut, when three men walked in. I was doing some cleaning in the lobby and stopped to ask if they wanted a room. Rather than reply, they looked around the lobby, down the hall, out at the parking lot where a car was running, and at the front desk area. They refused to make eye contact with me, and they were all wearing hoods pulled over their heads on a 80 degree Arizonan night. The guy in front had his hand clutching something in his pocket.

A rush of instinctual alarm washed through my entire body. It was completely different from the thrill of a roller coaster or horror movie. I've never felt it since.

I reached for the pistol I kept in the small of my back. I drew it from the holster and held it out of sight slightly behind me. While I never showed them the gun, they of course knew I had it.

We quietly stared at each other for several beats. I calmly decided I would shoot the guy in front first if he pulled a gun from his pocket; then the guy on the right and the guy on the left. I'd practice multiple-target shooting on the range. I was confident I could hit each of them before they got close enough to touch me.

Without a word, the three men hastily turned and ran for the car, which screeched out of the parking lot before I could get a plate number.

Another hotel less than half a mile away was robbed the next night. The male clerk was held up at gunpoint and violently beaten by three men, wearing hoods, who drove off in the same kind of car.

I saved myself from that fate. I looked vulnerable: A college-age female, 5'2", and completely alone. But I had a tool that gave me the power to intimidate three dangerous, predatory men.

The greatest negligence of the feminist movement was to ignore the liberating power a personal firearm grants to women. Having a firearm gave me the freedom to work a somewhat risky job and live as a single woman in a bad neighborhood without any fear. For most men that would be an unremarkable way to live; for a woman it is rather extraordinary.

Shootings have statistics, but experiences like mine - where a potential violent crime is nullified by the presence of a handgun - aren't officially counted anywhere.

But they do happen. I have first-hand experience.

I didn't receive any responses, but after reading many comments in support of Ebert's position (mostly from men; for whatever reason, his blog mostly seems to attract male commenters), I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed with the oft-repeated casual statements that "nobody needs a handgun."

Even women who clutch at their skirts and shriek about banning guns "for the children" are aware that females face greater predation from violent criminals (barring men who make a career choice to work in organized crime, of course). The usual response from anti-gun female advocates often boils down to "if we remove all the guns, men won't prey on women" or "women should avoid dangerous situations," neither of which is realistic or satisfactory. But at least women understand female vulnerability. Men, and especially the men of Ebert's blog commentors, are simply oblivious.

So here was my second response:

You know, I always find it interesting when men blithely declare personal firearms can not possibly serve a purpose in our society. Maybe because they've never been at a physical disadvantage with almost every person they encounter, and can't imagine what it would be like to be smaller, physically weaker, and - from the perspective of our culture, at least - easily victimized?

I wrote above about how I, as a college-age small female, was able to successfully prevent myself from being robbed while working a graveyard shift, alone. The mere threat presented by the presence of my (unseen!) firearm was enough to deter three predatory men from attacking me.

In a moment when there was NOBODY else to save me - no coworker, no police officers - I saved myself. My firearm was a tool - the ONLY tool - that allowed me to defend my personal space. If I hadn't been carrying it, I would have been robbed at the very least; potentially beaten and possibly worse.

For a small woman, there is no self-defense tool that is as effective as a firearm. Firearms completely negate the disadvantages of body-type. They perfectly level the playing field. Not so for any other self-defense method. Even a woman highly trained in hand-to-hand combat is unlikely to prevail against a much larger opponent, and lesser tools (pepper spray, tasers) are unreliable and often ineffective. For example, out of curiosity, I had my prison guard buddy hand-taser me, and I was shocked that the sensation was much milder than, say, waxing leg hair.

So if there aren't any tools except for firearms that women can effectively use to defend themselves, and women aren't permitted access to firearms....then what? What am I supposed to do? Not live in a bad neighborhood? Not live by myself? Not work alone at night? Not go by myself to see the late screening of a movie? Not take my dog out at 1 AM when he really needs to pee?

With all due respect...fuck that, and fuck you if you think I should modify my behavior so as to not tempt dangerous criminals into victimizing me. As an American woman, I am entitled to live an independent life, free from the effects of criminal molestation. I require a tool of self-defense in order to live the way that best suits me, and that tool is a firearm.

When people talk about preventing ordinary citizens from having firearms, whether they realize it or not, they are talking about disenfranchising the only truly effective form of female self-defense.

Knock it off.

Another drum Ebert has frequently beaten on is Universal Healthcare - he is in favor of it, even though at his age he would most certainly have died of his thyroid cancer if he'd been receiving UHC in Europe (although being a beloved celebrity probably wouldn't have hurt).

I think universal healthcare in America is probably, unfortunately inevitable - get ready to die much younger than your parents did - but the worst part about oncoming universal healthcare is the plan to do it in the absolute worst way possible. My thoughts:

...We do not have an economic system in place that makes American universal healthcare financially feasible. If healthcare providers and insurance companies are permitted to set pricing on their services, with the expectation that the government has unlimited funds to pay out, it will create an economic disaster for taxpayers.

American universal healthcare has to be more than the government paying healthcare bills. It has to be draconian control of the entire system. The government has to have the power to set pricing, limit malpractice lawsuits, reduce medical school costs, and deny care when it's responsible to do so. The taxpayers can't pay $400.00 for a bag of saline. Doctors can't afford to spend $50,000.00 a year on malpractice premiums or $300,000.00 for their education and training. And we can't spend $10,000 a day for tens of thousands of people with end-stage diseases to linger in intensive care for weeks or months before dying. We literally can't afford it.

But do you think healthcare providers and insurance companies - the businesses that contribute to campaign funds - will permit that degree of government interference in their pricing structures? Nobody is that naive.

Roger, when I said in a comment a year ago that we couldn't afford universal healthcare, you responded with disbelief that the "wealthiest country in the world" couldn't pay for healthcare.

We're not the wealthiest country in the world. America [has a negative] net worth and therefore does not have "wealth." We are almost $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt, and we're gaining about 1,000,000,000,000.00 a year. A trillion. That's 10 to the 12th power.

That's a lot of debt, and there will be an economic apocalypse if we don't start reducing it. The apocalypse isn't going to happen during your lifetime, but at 32 years old, it will probably happen during mine. People my age - even my self-identifying socialist friends - laugh at the idea that we will ever receive Social Security. What a joke!

Also, I work in downtown Seattle. I drive on roads riddled with deep cracks, potholes, and outright structural failings. The estimated time it would take to restore the damage to the Seattle area's roads - if people stopped driving on them - is 50 YEARS. I commute over a bridge with a 55% sufficiency rating, considered by the Federal Highway Administration to be "functionally obsolete." Another local bridge got down to an 8% sufficiency rating and was permanently closed, bringing economic devastation to the small businesses in the area as commuters had to reroute. Does that sound like something that would happen in "the wealthiest country in the world?"

National debt and infrastructure - these are the biggest problems facing my generation, but they aren't sexy issues, so nobody gives a shit about them.

But tell a sad story about a pregnant lady, and then some Americans will cheerfully let the debt rise and the roads crumble while we line the pockets of for-profit healthcare providers and insurance companies.

Obamacare is the worst of both worlds; it's a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to for-profit corporate interests, and the process is going to be managed by government bureaucracy.

Roger, please, stop writing about universal healthcare unless you're willing to talk about what realistically must happen before American universal healthcare can be realized without hurting average American citizens!


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