Commentary

Giants first baseman J.T. Snow was charging toward home plate with another Giant on his heels in game five of the World Series, Oct. 24. Suddenly a tiny little boy dressed in a Giants uniform scooted out to the plate, reaching down to retrieve a bat. He was directly in the path of these two oncoming Giants, in mortal danger of being trampled.

In one smooth motion, as if he were fielding a grounder, Snow bent over and scooped up the child, cradling him against his hip as he loped toward the dugout. The crowd roared.

The child was three-and-a-half year old Darren Baker, son of the Giants’ manager, Dusty Baker. We all need scenes like that of human tenderness in this era of “all war, all the time.”

We are told that this World Series was the least watched ever. It is a pity since it was one of the most suspenseful and beautifully played I have seen.

Millions turned away from baseball to watch every tidbit in the televised coverage of the “Beltway Sniper.” For three weeks the sniper, or snipers, methodically shot to death 10 people and wounded three others in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Police have charged John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, in the killings. Investigators have reported that Muhammad was a “decorated Gulf War veteran” expert in use of the M-16 assault rifle. It brought an eerie sense of déjà vu.

Timothy McVeigh, convicted and executed for the murder of 168 men, women and children in the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building in 1995 was also a “decorated Gulf War veteran.” McVeigh, too, had been awarded an expert badge for marksmanship by the U.S. Army.

In the trunk of Muhammad’s car, police retrieved a Bushmaster XM-15, the civilian version of the military M-16 assault rifle and a telescopic site and tripod. It matched the ballistics of the .223 caliber bullets recovered from the victims.

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, said the Bushmaster is designed to circumvent a federal law banning assault rifles. “It complies with the letter of the law but it is still an assault rifle,” Rand said. Their sole purpose is to kill human beings.

Last year, Bushmaster Corporation sold 50,000 of these deadly weapons under the slogan, “Best by a long shot.” The CEO of Bushmaster is Richard Dyke, who served as finance chairman of George W. Bush’s election campaign in Maine until July 1999. He resigned when a Los Angeles police officer sued Bushmaster as the maker of the assault rifle that wounded him in a shootout with bank robbers.

The Beltway gun violence became an issue in the 2002 elections when Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a candidate for governor, whose father, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, hammered her Republican opponent, Rep. Bob Ehrlich, as a stooge of the National Rifle Association. Ehrlich has voted against every federal gun control measure that came to the floor during his eight years in Congress.

There was deep concern that the sniper would frighten voters in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties to stay home Nov. 5. Gov. Parris Glendening announced he would call out the National Guard to protect voters.

That is the climate of fear bred by the rightwing’s crazed gun culture. Foes of George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq warn that it will spawn more Beltway Snipers. Iraqi children, just as cute as Darren Baker, will die if Bush is allowed to take us to war. The world peace movement needs to be like J.T. Snow and wrap its protective arms around the children of Iraq.

At the same time, we need to dismantle the weapons of mass destruction hidden in our closets and under our pillows, the millions of handguns and assault rifles that kill 34,000 innocent people in the U.S. each year. At home and abroad the call is: Stop the war, stop the terror. Maybe then we can tune in to America’s favorite pastime with all its grace and humanity.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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