The news has been all over the place lately. We saw the official swearing in of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday, and then we got to see the public swearing in on Monday.
There was "lip-gate" - did Beyonce lip-sync the National Anthem or not. The First Lady's bangs took over the news days before we actually saw them, and there were the questions of "what will she wear?" and, "haven't the Obama girls grown?" But believe it or not there was some real news.
In his Inaugural address, the president talked about immigration, entitlements, spending, our military and the security of our country, gay marriage, and gun control. We'll take these one at a time.
Immigration: There are millions of undocumented immigrants working and living among us; many are children, migrant farm workers, and others brought here through no fault of their own and subject to physical and mental abuse, prostitution and illegal activities. Congressman Paul Ryan said, "Republicans and Democrats are willing to work together on immigration reform"; and we have seen a bi-partisan group of Senators vowing to put an immigration reform bill in place that deals fairly with this issue. We can only hope.
Entitlements: I didn't hear of a proposed change when it comes to welfare and Medicaid unless it is to give more and more to the deserving and undeserving alike.
Revenue and spending: Congress raised taxes in December, but the debt limit and Sequester still loom. They extended these until March 2013. If threats become reality, and the sequester goes into effect, there will be automatic federal spending cuts to the military and other domestic and discretionary programs. Immigration is important, but the area of revenue and spending is where bi-partisanship is needed
National security: When Secretary Clinton spoke before congress this past week, she made it clear that we are living in a very dangerous time. Defending our nation and its citizens is not just boots on the ground; there are other peacekeeping efforts that must be protected. We have embassies throughout the world where our ambassadors and citizens live and work - we need to find the resources necessary to protect them. Had the bills that are still sitting in the house been passed we might not have had an Ambassador and three other patriots lose their lives in a fierce battle with terrorists. While taking full responsibility for recent failures, Clinton testified about the tragic incident in Benghazi. She answered the questions directly and without faltering. She showed emotion when speaking of the families of those lost and when answering some of the more mundane questions as well. Let's hope Senator Kerry can continue with her good works once he takes over the reins as Secretary of Sate.
Gay marriage: Equality has always been a problem for too many of our fellow citizens. Whether being a female, a black, Hispanic, gay or disabled individual, some people are treated differently; maybe it is time for each of us to put our personal biases aside and look at individuals for who they are and for what they can bring to the table. Being straight or gay shouldn't determine whom we love and marry - maybe the time really has come - maybe President Obama is right.
Guns! Again! Still! This debate just never ends, and wouldn't one think reasonableness should prevail eventually? We don't need militias forming in Texas as was reported by a U.K newspaper or even as suggested right here in our own little corner of the world in Chautauqua County. Reminds me of a fairy tale in which the moronic voice says, "they're coming to take them away, away, they're coming to take them away!"
There is no one coming to take away legally owned guns. There is no slippery slope here, there is no backdoor activity going on with plotting and planning on how to sneak into our homes and take our guns. What we need to do is look at the big picture of violence in our society.
We have violent video games played by children and adults alike. We have television shows that are crude, violent and disgusting. Hollywood makes movies that show people getting their heads blown off and being dismembered. We have a mental health system that is barely a system at all. And, we have guns - assault weapons, high capacity magazines and people eager to use them. Let's be reasonable and take these things one at a time, deal with them, and solve this problem. There needs to be legislation that takes all of these things into account and makes sense of where we need to go as a nation.
We need consistent background checks, curbing the sales of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. We need to take baby steps until we get this thing figured out, and maybe, just maybe we can save a few lives along the way.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org