At Home Abroad

You would’ve thought it was obsolete.  You see, we have the power to make it end, although the price is very high.  As a Cold War kid, I thought that the next war would be nuclear.  I’d been more or less resigned to that fate by the time I entered high school.  When it didn’t happen I thought maybe mutually assured destruction (right, Dr. Strangelove?) would end war.  Of course it didn’t.  Propagandized as just causes, America intervened in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and a vague country called “Terror.”  Nukes stayed out of it as we used more old fashioned and nasty ways of killing people.  Now Russia, bristling with nuclear capability, is using that threat to keep others out of its war of aggression against Ukraine.  Still backed by Trump, Putin is killing women and children and threatening to end the world if anyone tries to stop him.

During this war time, several multiple shootings have taken place here in America.  Grocery stores and elementary schools become graveyards even as Americans bray for more guns.  Russia need not invade; we will take care of killing each other, thank you.  Although the pandemic has driven many people to the edge we had this problem long before Covid came along.  Of course, one of the industries to profit from the disease has been the firearm wing.  Nobody feels safe and so they buy more guns, creating a deadly feedback loop.  No other “developed” nation on earth has this level of private gun violence.  The Bible in one hand and the automatic rifle in the other has always proven a deadly combination.

Many of us embrace multiculturalism.  There’s no reason we can’t all get along, accepting others for who they are.  A nationalistic backlash has unravelled this dream.  Violence, domestically generated, if not internationally shipped, has become our hallmark.  There are solutions and they aren’t that difficult to achieve.  Those who bully their way to elected office have already shown their true colors.  Life is cheap when personal aggrandizement is at stake.  Guns do have their fascination.  The sense of power in holding one is palpable.  What if, however, we laid aside our dreams of power for those of the common good?  We want to kill others for being born in a different geographical locality than us.  To think of it selfishly, supply chains and inflation have demonstrated how much we need those from all over the world in order to thrive.  Dreams of power, it seems, quickly become nightmares.


Herd Not Heard

When mass shootings become commonplace, you might think bipartisan efforts would be made to stem the violence.  If so, you misunderstand how little the pro-life party actually values life.  By pumping its adherents full of fear, they use the hand not waving a gun to pocket donations from the NRA.  Human life is only valuable to get yourself elected.  It’s difficult to remember days when I didn’t awake to hear of someone with more guns than restraint opening fire in a public place.  Mental illness, it seems to me, is fairly widespread.  It’s no deterrent, however, to purchasing military-grade weapons and using them when the stress levels get too high.  Meanwhile lives of those—whether fellow gun owners or not—are lost.  And Republicans argue that nothing should change.  You’d think the insurrection might’ve changed their view.

How does one go to bed secure knowing the next day they may be reading about another mass shooting?  Sure, the perpetrator will be caught, if not already dead, and families will be bereaved but we know our rights!  Funny how even the Bill of Rights can be prooftexted by those who do the same with the Good Book.  What is so hard to understand about “Thou shalt not kill”?  Coveting, however, and adultery, seem alive and negotiable, to gather by their support of 45.  Such selective reading generally turns deadly and constituencies become mere statistics.  What seems to be missing is a basic sense of social justice.  A social justice that applies to all.

The idea of wanting a country only for white men and their subservient wives is a relic that simply refuses to acknowledge that societies change.  We’ll never reach perfection, but that’s no excuse to stop trying.  Firearm regulation might be a rational place to start.  While party politics will get in the way of this the pools of blood will grow only deeper.  What seems to be missing is the acknowledgement that these are people we are losing to assuage one party’s ambitions.  Wouldn’t prioritizing education and providing mental health services be better?  Ah, but it might stop some of the wealthy from pocketing yet more money from those who are lined up against the wall.  Of course, you can be in the majority and still be gerrymandered into silence.  When the Gun Ownership Party begins saying aloud that it can’t win elections fairly, and makes noises about beginning to cull the herd, we should all be getting a little nervous.


Outdated Commandments

Recently, according to an ABC story a friend sent me, some self-righteous Catholics stole indigenous statues from the Amazon from a location in Rome.  The statues had been a gift to the Pope and placed outside the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.  Like mass shooters these days, the Christians responsible filmed themselves doing this and shared it on social media.  I’ve experienced a lot of religious intolerance in my life.  I lost my job and my childhood to it, among other things.  Stories like this are beyond sad because religion really does have the capacity to bring people together rather than to tear them into warring factions.  Unfortunately it tends to draw in the hateful looking for excuses for their violence.

Not unrelatedly, I attended a church program on gun violence.  Before this gets immediately blown up into “anti-gun,” please note—the program was about violence, not guns.  During the Q&A after the presentation someone asked who the panelists were trying to reach, “preaching to the choir.”  After that he admitted to being a gun owner and felt that his position was unfairly represented.  Tension mounted.  One of the panelists, the one who’d witnessed his first murder at age 11, and who’d spent time in jail himself, broke in and said “This is about violence, let’s not make it about guns.”  I was struck by his focus and control.  He’d told us earlier that if a gang member could be convinced to wait 24 hours before getting his gun after an insult or injury a shooting almost never took place.  Violence is often a spur of the moment thing.

What’s so troubling about those who smirk as they film themselves doing violence, like stealing statues outside a church, is that this is not an impulse act.  This is planned, hateful violence.  It wears the mask of religion, often titled “orthodoxy” or “conservatism” but it is in reality simply a way of excusing your hatred.  Ironically, the Jesus they claim to be following said, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.”  I guess we’ve got quite a few sinless conservatives out there, although I have to wonder if filming yourself might not count as pride.  It used to be called a deadly sin, but who’s counting?  Self-righteousness isn’t quite the same thing as vanity, although they sleep in the same bed.  But let’s not get lust involved, once that happens there’ll be no telling one sin from another.