Friday, December 04, 2015 12:54 PM
We must fight for liberty—freedom isn’t free. That makes us a fighting kind of people even though our present military is less than 1% of our population—and civilian-military engagement, like all social interaction, is less today than it was during the Big One, or even during Nam. No, today’s young whippersnapper doesn’t spring up to drive to the recruitment office and prove his manhood (or, as of today, her womanhood).
But we do express our combativeness by buying guns—we’re not going down without a fight. And, yes, there is crime—and certainly more crime in certain places than others—but, by and large, the suburbs are designed to be lived in without gunfire. In most cases, everybody is too busy with other things. Putting aside the far greater, so-called white-collar crimes, we find that crime stats follow poverty stats. That seems clear to me—what do you think? You end crime by ending income inequality—by giving a hand to the underserved, by making the whole place rich and not just your patch of it.
I’m troubled by the undeclared aspects of recent news—the unadmitted connections between things we favor and things we disapprove of. The Senate just passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood (which won’t pass but plays well to the base, I guess?) but the GOP are bending over backwards to deny that there’s anything wrong with the 2nd Amendment. You can’t revere the sanctity of life for the unborn if you don’t care about tens of thousands of annual gun-related killings.
There’s something else notable about mass-shootings and gun violence in general—there’s always wounded as well as killed. In San Bernardino 14 people died—and 17 were wounded. I’ve never been wounded by a bullet and gone to the hospital—for anything from a Band-Aid to a wheelchair for my paralyzed body—but I imagine that pretty well ruins your whole day. And on top of all the death that day seventeen people had that experience. There’s always more wounded than killed (maybe the same mind that goes to trigger-pulling isn’t that keen on the whole aiming thing) and with gun-shot wounds, you have to go on living with whatever havoc a hunk of metal has wreaked on your poor, baby-soft skin.
The truth is these right-wingers don’t revere the sanctity of life—not nearly as much as they fear being disarmed. They only want to revere their God above women’s reproductive rights—and opposing legal abortion is the only way they can do it without revealing how backward they are. But they should try it—I’ve got my sixtieth birthday coming up in a month or so, and I’ve never owned a gun or handled a firearm—and I’ve never been in a situation where that made a bit of difference. I’ve almost died from disease, fire, traffic, and bad-living—but I’ve never been shot at. Am I just lucky—or does not being a part of the gun culture make me lucky?
Anyway, there’s a far stickier wicket in the unacknowledged issues department—religion. We make the distinction between ISIL terrorists and average Muslims who have no truck with violence—and we have this right-wing nonsense about grouping everyone together—terrorist and Muslims, terrorists and Syrian refugees. But what we don’t address is the part being played by religion, both in the Planned Parenthood shootings and in the San Bernardino shootings—these people imagine themselves in some kind of battle between good and evil—a battle where dogma outweighs human life.
I don’t blame religion for what these people did—if they didn’t have a religion to turn to, they would have made up one of their own—crazy is crazy. I’m just saying that there is an association between religion and crazy—cult-leaders are an embarrassment—as are pedophile priests—yet no one sees an obvious connection between a strong fundamentalism and mental imbalance. If you think about it, Al Queda and ISIL are really just cult-leaders gone pro, and gone global. Reality won’t be obscured, though—there are communities now that purposely isolate themselves to lessen the cognitive dissonance between their overblown zealotry and the run-of-the-mill Protestant. It is far more difficult for such nut-jobs to maintain their self-importance when they are individual oddballs sprinkled throughout our average communities.
The original pilgrims’ decision to separate church and state was the first time that a society put practicality above its supernatural beliefs—at least publicly. You have to remember, back then, they still believed in a monarch’s ‘divine right’ to a throne—entire governments were based as much on religious dogma as on bloodlines. And the colonists still accepted that—they would remain loyal to the crown—even if they couldn’t decide on exactly which divinity was granting the right. That whole Revolutionary War stuff would come a hundred years later—America has always been more about getting on with life without letting religious nonsense cause trouble, than it has ever been about freedom or democracy. Indeed, you can’t have either of those things until you chuck religion, anyway.
Religion is okay for kids, and it’s okay for people to believe something in their hearts—but our important decisions should never concern themselves with anything other than justice and fairness and kindness, no matter how many people believe in stuff they can’t see. That’s what separation of church and state is all about. Those Christians who wish to drive a religious wedge into American politics and government are just as dangerous as ISIL—perhaps more so, in the long run. And right-wingers who wish to lay off all gun violence on the mentally ill should take a look at ISIL’s behavior—and ask themselves, “Are these Muslims, or are these just sociopaths using religion to cover their troublemaking?”
Millions of people live their lives, going to church on Sunday, but not basing their lifestyle on their afterlife—they accept religion in its rightful place and leave the rest until they have more evidence—a sensible approach. But some would have us all join them in their conviction that all life is just a journey towards an afterlife, with very specific rules—some will even go further, convinced that the world will end on a specific date—then the afterlife, as if the end of the world is just a feature. And religion doesn’t have to worry about charges of false advertising, because no one comes back to complain—of any religion, by the way—so we can assume that all are satisfied customers, regardless of faith. End-of-Days people have had their embarrassments, it’s true—but it is the nature of religion that most of these people just pick a new date and carry on.
Now these beliefs are beautiful and strange—I would never resent anyone investing their interior life with such exoticism—but there is a bullying quality to evangelism, to caliphate-building, to confessions and shaming, to exclusion, regimentation and dogma—these are the signs of someone using religion for self-aggrandizement—and I really don’t see how people fail to see through their bullshit. So—religion—good stuff—but keep it to yourself, please—and don’t go terrorist, whatever your faith.
A final question—since it was reported yesterday that this year’s mass shootings outnumber the days in the year, giving an average of more than one mass shooting per day. Where are all the stories of the brave, armed-for-self-defense Americans that fired back at these crazed gunmen? If we need guns for self-defense, why are none of these victims defending themselves? Is it because only the nut-jobs feel the need to carry weapons? Is it because we don’t live in the Wild Goddamned West anymore—and the average American prefers not to carry a gun?
Hieronymus Bosch did all these religious paintings, by the way–anyone want to debate me on that point about the connection between fundamentalism and mental imbalance?