President George W. Bush has remained silent in the aftermath of the school shooting in Red Lake, Minnesota that claimed the lives of ten people, including the shooter, 16-year-old Jeff Weise.
In April 1999, President Bill Clinton addressed the nation just hours after the Columbine High School massacre, sending his condolences to the families of those killed and injured, and to the country, which was in shock.
Clinton continued to pay close attention to the case, discussing it again several days later in his regular radio address. He gave the country time to heal, but stayed close to the issue, proposing new gun control laws and new security measures to keep America's schools as safe as possible.
President Bush has the opportunity to bring Americans together on several key issues this week, such as the astounding proportion of Native American families living under the federal poverty line and how this contributes to the breakdown of the family unit and leads to psychological problems and unnecessary violence.
31% of Native Americans live below the federal poverty line, as opposed to 11% of whites and 27% of blacks and Hispanics. The annual average violent crime rate among Native Americans is twice that of blacks and 2 1/2 times that of whites. Native American youth are twice as likely to commit suicide than young people of other races. The overall death rate for Native Americans under 25 is three times higher than that of the rest of the population in that age group.
The US Commission on Civil Rights found that Native Americans of all ages are 670% more likely to die from alcoholism than other groups. They are 650% more likely to die from tuberculosis, 318% more likely to die from diabetes, and 204% more likely to suffer accidental death.
Native Americans are the single poorest ethnic group in the United States, with roughly half the average income of other Americans.
With a 45% approval rating (the lowest of his presidency), Bush might want to think about addressing the real problems of this nation rather than focusing all of his energy on war and the life of one woman (Terri Schiavo).
Earlier this week, Bush said it is always better to “err on the side of life” but he doesn't seem to believe the words that come out of his mouth. As governor of Texas, he held court over 152 executions. Bush even went so far as to ridicule one woman, Karla Faye Tucker (#58), in an interview with Talk Magazine, pursing his lips and impersonating her talking to Larry King prior to her execution, whimpering, “Please...don't kill me.” Aside from the fact that Tucker never spoke these words, mocking a condemned woman doesn't exactly cement the veracity of Bush's claimed desire to “err on the side of life.”
President Bush has exerted all energy possible, however, to “err on the side of life” in the Terri Schiavo case. He has used all of the power available to him to fight for her life, but cannot find it in his heart to respond to the murders of 9 people and the suicide of a deeply disturbed 16-year old boy.
While Bush could use this “opportunity” to bring Americans together in the fight against poverty and racial inequality, he chooses to focus his attention on one woman, one constituent, rather than millions who would be positively effected by serious social reforms.
With the number of Democrats in the United States on the rise (in the past week alone, the percentage of Democrats in the United States has risen from 32% to 37%, while the percentage of Republicans has diminished from 35% to 32%), Bush might consider reaching out to minorities in a genuine way, by supporting measures to decrease poverty and crime among minorities, rather than in a superficial way by deriding pro-choice America and homosexuals.
The truth is, not only does Bush not buy into his own rhetoric, he has no interest in strengthening American families and communities. He has no interest in protecting America's children. He has no interest in protecting America's minority population.
He has no interest in truly “err[ing] on the side of life.”
Katherine Brengle is a 23-year-old writer, college student, peace activist, and host of the Bristol County Democracy for America Meetup. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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