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A Nomad’s Notes: The actual emergencies America is facing

By the time this column is published, this farce masquerading as a government shutdown might finally end. But as I write this, it has just been announced this is the longest government shutdown in United States history, with more than 800,000 government employees affected.

Instead of holding an entire nation hostage for a “crisis” that didn’t appear to be so urgent until Democrats were the House majority, let’s discuss some actual crises happening now in the United States of America, in no particular order:

Drugs

The drug crisis — especially opioids — is so severe a task force was established in our county for the sole purpose of tackling it. Resident Superior Court Judge Ola M. Lewis initiated the Opioid Task Force in February 2017 to address the growing opioid epidemic in Brunswick County. The task force was absorbed into the Brunswick County Substance and Abuse Commission last October, which meets once a month.

According to the North Carolina Medical Journal, opioid deaths have rapidly increased from 100 deaths in 1999 to more than 1,300 deaths in 2016, and in 2017 more than 5,700 visits to the emergency room for opioid overdoses.

Most drugs, including cocaine and heroin, are smuggled into the United States through legal ports of entry. Ocean ports through which drugs come into our county won’t be affected in any way by a wall along the Mexican border.

Gun violence

I wrote about this subject in November after a veteran made an inappropriate joke about shooting anyone who didn’t stand for the national anthem, and the truth still remains: gun violence is one true emergency so many like to ignore.

When someone tried to use liquids to blow up a plane, liquids for flights were limited to no more than three ounces each. When someone in the United States tried to blow up an airplane with a shoe bomb, Americans were soon after (and still are to this day) required to take their shoes off in the TSA lines for security purposes. Yet when it comes to using this same logic for gun control, the cognitive dissonance is nothing short of astounding.

Statistics show in 2015 there were 373 mass shootings in the United States — more than there are days in a year. Those shootings killed 475 people and wounded 1,870 others. Jumping ahead, according to Business Insider, the U.S. this year has already reached 307 mass shootings as of Nov. 8.

A June 2018 Washington Post report shows there are 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the U.S. — enough for every “man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over,” meaning there are more guns in this country than there are citizens. These numbers don’t include firearms owned by law enforcement agencies or militaries.
After 35 people died in a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996, Australia immediately amped up their gun control laws. Since then, they’ve only had one other mass shooting.

Data published by SkyNews just after the Marjory Stone Douglas gun massacre last Valentine’s Day shows that between 1982 and 2017, 92 of 95 mass shootings were done by men, 54 of them by white men. Domestic terrorism is a real thing, and so is white domestic terrorism. But so many out there, including our president, want to ignore this information, because to them, any real or imagined terrorist can only be a person of color.

Systematic racism

All I really need to write here is, “Our president wants to build a wall to keep brown people out, and is using any sort of misinformation he can into scaring the American people into being in favor of an emergency that really is anything but.” But there is more to say than that, as I touched on in my November column. Aside from the fact that racism is an obvious emergency in our country due to the fact that our president is holding the country hostage because he wants to keep out a certain demographic of people, let’s look at some more statistics that apply to violence against people of color. A Vox report published just last week shows there are huge racial disparities when it comes to use of force by U.S. law enforcement. The report highlights two years: 2012 and 2015. Statistics from 2012 show black people represented 31percent of all people killed by police and 39 percent of people killed by police while not attacking, but made up only 13 percent of the country’s population. The report says the data are incomplete because they are based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, but it highlights the issue just the same. In 2012, minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the U.S. population but made up 62.7 percent of the unarmed people killed by police.

The number of hate crimes in the United States has also been upped against marginalized groups since Trump took office—two of my friends have experienced such things firsthand, and both times the offenders mentioned Trump’s name as they carried out their attacks. In November 2018 federal officials said hate crimes had risen 17 percent in 2018, with white supremacists and other hate groups more prevalent in the public eye, thanks to a president who has made them more comfortable to be open about their hate.

Feds also reported 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, compared with 6,121 in 2016.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said it well last November, after the 2018 numbers were released, when he said:

““America’s elected president has mocked the disabled, called Mexicans rapists and murderers, executed a Muslim travel ban, issued disparaging remarks about women and African Americans, and is working to roll back protections for members of our transgender community,” Gascón said. “The country’s increase in hate crimes should be a surprise to no one, but it should be alarming to all. We look to our elected leaders to set an example.”

Money used against a mostly fictional enemy at the border could instead be used toward education about different identities and marginalized groups. Because the biggest enemy of ignorance is an informed individual. 

Climate change crisis

On Friday former Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump should declare a national emergency over climate change instead of what he called a “fictional” crisis at our southern border, citing a Jan. 10 New York Times article that says our oceans are heating up faster than we previously thought. With climate change, or the heating of the planet comes the heating of the oceans, which means more marine ecosystems are dying off, sea levels are rising, and hurricanes are more deadly because of the warmer waters. We North Carolinians know firsthand this is true after facing down Hurricane Florence in September. Someone I know not long after the storm passed basically said on Facebook, “La, la, la, Florence isn’t because of climate change, I can’t hear you!” Firstly, I’d love to know why this person adamantly wants to ignore this fact. What do you have to lose by admitting climate change is a real thing? Do you perhaps own stock in oil or coal companies? Reputable news sources, including National Geographic and CNN, spoke with scientists last year about Florence, and they all confirmed the connection between climate change and the strength and long-lasting nature of Hurricane Florence’s fury.

A wall won’t mean squat if sea levels rise so much that entire countries are flooded underwater as a result. Just look at caves, which prove the unforgiving power of water, which is how caves are created in the first place. Back in October I covered Governor Roy Cooper speaking at the North Carolina Emergency Management 2018 Fall Conference at Sea Trail Conference Center in Sunset Beach on Oct. 22. At this event, Cooper said the state and country as a whole are living in a different era with climate change bringing about frequent storms.

“This is not going to be a once-in-a-500-years occurrence, and we have to rebuild accordingly,” he said. “We have to be smarter about the choices we make in investing these hundreds of millions, and in fact billions of dollars (in disaster relief funds) that we’re going to reinvest. And if we don’t do that, then we may find ourselves back in the same place.”

And he’s right. Instead of throwing money toward a structure that facts show us is not needed, let’s put funding toward infrastructure that will ready us for a more severe climate should climate change continue to exceed at such a rapid rate. Or better yet, let’s take steps to slow down climate change; being proactive rather than reactive.

I’ve told my friends and family that Trump’s wall idea reminds me of ideas 5-year-old boys have on the playground. “I’m gonna build a wall to keep you out, and there’s nothin’ you can do about! Nah nah nee boo boo.” A 5-year-old may think a huge wall for something is a good idea at the time, but a 5-year-old knows nothing about the logistics of pulling such a feat off. When I was five, I imagined creating an amazing aircraft that would be invisible in the sky and would have all the amenities and then some. But at 5 years old, I didn’t think about how such a thing would even be feasible, and how much the price tag would be. Trump knows this isn’t feasible. He doesn’t care. Trump knows how high a price tag is for this. He doesn’t care. Because this is a man who up until very recently has never really heard the word “no” in his life. It’s a foreign concept to him, and he can’t handle that. This man’s pride and ego won’t let him be denied. This man is going to get what he wants, even if he has to take us all down with him. And taking us all down, he is.

Lindsay Kriz is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.