All posts by Vern Loomis

It isn’t What It is … and It always Never was

President Trump and his staff of Pro-life Christians walk into a bar.

The bartender says, “Every 24 hours, COVID-19 kills another thousand people.”

“Not on my watch,” says the president, and everyone laughs.

Get it; not on my watch? No wait, that’s not it. You see, they’re all Pro-life Christians; now do you get it? No, not really? Okay, maybe it’s not funny. Maybe it’s an absurd postulation. Why, for Christ’s sake, would Pro-life Christians be hanging out with Trump? Christians are merciful, respondent to the pain and suffering of others, right? Pro-life sentiment reveres the sanctity of life, right? With Trump you can look, but you can’t see any of that morality; it’s just not in his wheelhouse. While he might pay lip service to Pro-life and Christian declarations, he blatantly lives and governs otherwise. So, in what world would Pro-life Christians chum-about with and back-slap one who exemplifies the antithesis of their professed morality?

That would be this world. Trump is surrounded and abetted by Pro-life Christians. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s true. Trump’s cabinet/staff includes Mike Pence, William Barr, Mike Pompeo, Kellyanne Conway, Mark Meadows, Kayleigh McEnany, Paula White and others who have displayed Christian grounding and Pro-life affirmation throughout their lives. Donald Trump is the unique outlier under the White House roof; he’s the only late-bloomer. He became Pro-life in 2012, neatly concurrent with his presidential ambitions. He went full Monty a short time later as a born-again Christian. He did what needed to be done; he put a check mark in the proper boxes and adroitly became one with a large block of voters and a supportive Christian team. So, there they now are; all united in avowals of Christian morality and Pro-life sentiment. And here we now are: an intolerant and fearful nation; backs turned to the huddled masses; offering up human sacrifice to escape the economic discomfort of COVID-19.

It’s a strange picture isn’t it; seeing them work together, seeing Pro-life Christian support for a president whose daily governance is grossly at odds with Christian idealism and concern for human life. His Pro-life pronouncements are heard and recorded, but the words don’t hide what the eyes can see. There’s the inhumane travesty taking place at the nation’s borders (and the administration’s continuous anti-immigrant, anti-DACA fervor). There’re the thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 deaths accepted as reasonable price to pay for supposed political/economic expediency (and for something as trite as anti-mask vanity). The visuals jump out at you; the inhumanity; the suffering; the dying. Alongside it is the support; Pro-life Christian support for a president who cultivates intolerance, misery, and death. It is strange fruit to nurture, isn’t it?

Why are they there? Why are Pro-life Christians giving credence to an amoral and merciless president, a president openly dismissive of human life? It’s not like it just now revealed itself; Trump’s disregard of truth, decency, and humanity was apparent long before it was amplified by COVID-19. It was on display prior to, and throughout his ongoing presidency: the lies, the veiled entreaties to violence, the overtures to racism; the cultural divisiveness; the ridicule of the disabled, the denigration of immigrants, minorities, and women; the callous imprisonment and separation of desperate families at our border. The devaluation of human life is not new, not subtle, and not ending; so why do Pro-life Christians stand with him? Why did they ever? Why do they still? It’s been four years now; four years of witnessing; four years of validating hypocrisy and disregard for human life. Somehow Trump’s Pro-life Christian supporters still talk the talk for him; still walk the walk with him. How can they be what they claim to be and still be there? What do they get from it? What’s the draw?

Is it just a matter of show-case hypocrisy; a pretense of values not truly held? Trump’s timely adoption of Pro-life Christian values can easily be seen in that light, but what of the rest? Are they all just faking it for appearance sake? Or is it something else? Does Pro-life avowal come with a nine-month expiration date? Does the high regard given prenatal life somehow allow for the disregard of postnatal life? Is it really possible that embryonic and fetal life is deemed of higher value than life outside the womb? Is that the fallback to grace? It seems a stretch, but who’s to say it can’t be made? Maybe some cognitive steps to that judgment can be imagined:

Life in the womb, particularly its latter stages, could be perceived and labeled as baby. Preventing its birth could be perceived and labeled as killing. What could possibly be worse than being labeled a baby killer? Conversely, what could possibly be better than being recognized for saving a baby – or just being for the saving of babies? Pro-life avowal grants it; the recognition and self-validation gained of being a baby savior. It has better graphics than regard for human life in general. So, with that kind of thought process, perhaps it’s possible to value embryonic life over its later stages. It might even provide a wild card of sorts; one that can trump or excuse pernicious behavior: “Yeah, but I’m still Pro-life, you can’t forget that.” Maybe Trump’s staff has arrived at such a station: “We’re Pro-life; we’re all about saving babies, future babies – the other stuff, the other lives; they don’t really matter all that much.”

So, maybe one can get there, but it still seems a stretch to struggle down that path; to actually suppose that a conscientious person can justify and facilitate the misery and death of the already born, because they’re supportive of the yet to be born.

If it’s not that; if it’s not shallow hypocrisy; if it’s not a convoluted mental process prioritizing the yet to be born over the already born, how else can it be explained? How can Pro-life Christians still abide with him? They have to be getting something from it. What’s the draw?

Christianity will have power,” Donald Trump promised as a candidate — perhaps that’s the real draw. The promise follows up on the “Christianity is under siege,” theme that he and his audience like to repeat. It’s a false and glorified claim. It’s false because in the United States there’s no one waging war against Christianity. While it may have lost some of its long-held popularity; some of its preeminence, Christianity is not under siege. “Under siege” is nothing more than glorified pretext for its slowly waning influence. And it’s only just a little. Despite some fading, Christianity continues to be the dominate religion and a dominant political power in our “secular” nation. Our leaders are still chosen accordingly (Jefferson and Lincoln were the only presidents not formally affiliated with a Christian church). There is no siege on Christianity, but there may be an assault on Washington: it’s a Christian quest for more power; more political and cultural control over the lives of all Americans.

“If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else. You’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that,” Trump offered the Evangelicals. His offer, and its acceptance, gives credence to the notion: Christian empowerment is the real objective; “Pro-life” is simply the rebel-yell made towards getting it. Maybe that’s why they’re still there; still supportive of a president who talks “Pro-life,” while his actions trash Christian morality and the sanctity of life. Maybe that’s it, validation and power; a quid pro quo: verbal and ballot box support given in exchange for the promise of executive support. It might still be seen as hypocrisy … but at least it’s not the shallow sort. It’s deep and layered: Trump’s faithful supporters have to pretend they’re not seeing the president’s pretense as he exploits their pretension of upholding pretended Christian morality. Yeah, it gets complicated. Christianity’s dalliance with Trump exposes its Pro-life pretense. It isn’t what it is, or something like that … and it always never was.

If it were more than pretense, if Pro-life was really about the sanctity and full breadth of life, its totality would be recognized and championed – not just its presence inside a womb. It wouldn’t herald the embryonic and fetal beginnings of life, and somehow be silent (or complicit) when the lives of still breathing humans are dismissed or abused. If it were truly about the reverence of life, Trump’s Pro-life Christian staff and his Pro-life Christian supporters would not stand for the abuse of life taking place at the border; would not stand for lives needlessly given over to COVID-19.

All that groveling in a quest for power; and to think they already have it – at least as much as needed. They have the power to worship; to pray; to live a moral Christian life. They have unfettered access to what’s perceived as salvation’s path; freedom to spend their life’s journey upon it. They’re free to proselytize if the wish; to offer access to that path. Christians have the power and freedom to live their faith completely, even ostentatiously if they wish. Yet it’s not enough; it seems more than “freedom of religion” is desired. What’s still lacking; what’s being reached for appears to be this: a bit of authoritarian power to impose Christian values upon others. There’s an absurdity to it; the needless need to control more than themselves. In abiding with, and abetting an amoral president to satisfy that need, they make mockery of the morality they seek power to promote.

“I will never lie to you,” was a promise made by one of Trump’s Pro-life Christian staff members. “I will never lie to myself,” would have been a better utterance. Can it be made by a Pro-life Christian who supports this president? Can anyone with humanistic values support this president and not lie to themselves?

There’s still time to step away.

The post It isn't What It is ... and It always Never was first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Garden of Statuary Delights

During his holiday remarks at Mount Rushmore, President Trump said he plans to establish, via executive order, a “National Garden of American Heroes,” described as “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.”

It seems a lot of thought has already gone into it — enough to already have produced site and content specifications. There are still unresolved questions though, and some of those specs appear to be … well, perhaps just a little subjective. So, before handing out the funds, revving up the bulldozers, and introducing the chiselers, how about a bit more thought?

Garden of American Heroes has a Garden of Earthly Delights kind of ring to it. That’s not to say it sounds bad, but like Bosch’s garden, the Trump garden will likely be subject to ongoing controversy and interpretation. So, taking a cue from Mr. Bosch’s vision which is depicted on three separate panels, the American Heroes garden might do try something similar: a layout of three separate areas. It will help quell inevitable dispute. The areas would be comparable to the “In God we trust” concepts of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Those honorees that helped make America what it is today, but were unfortunately host to irredeemable impulses would initially be stationed in the Hell sector (maybe someone like Andrew Johnson). The really good players with hardly a fault would reside in the Heaven sector (maybe someone like Mr. Rogers). The rest; all those with somewhat dubious credentials would find comfortable residence in the Purgatory area. It could also be mandated that all statuary be constructed on wheels and easily rolled from one sector to another. Depending on political climate, Daniel Boone, the Lone Ranger, or Ronald Reagan could easily be moved from Hell (just an example) to Purgatory, or whichever area is deemed most appropriate. Nothing need be toppled or destroyed — when the reigning political climate changes, they could be simply moved accordingly. There would be hardly a disruption, and repeat visitors would always have something different to see.

Section 1: “These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal.”  Why stone or metal?  Why use material that could better be put to use in building something useful like the National Wall? There’s so much plastic/latex floating around: empty water bottles, shopping bags, discarded covid-19 gloves, used condoms, etc. . Why not specify plastic waste as the statuary material? It’s moldable, lasts forever, and its re-use would help clean up the environment.

Section 1: “My Administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory.”  It’s been three years already.  You do know we can see and hear, right?

Section 3-c-iii: Statues should depict historically significant Americans … opponents of national socialism or international socialism.” Sorry, Bernie, sorry most Democrats.  I think this means you’re out (your humanitarian cause is apparently deemed worse than treason).

Section 3-c-iii: None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.” Congratulations, President Trump – I think this means like what you said before: “There were fine people on both sides.” (You name them – it’s whoever you want it to be.)

Section 3-c-v: “The National Garden should be located on a site of natural beauty that enables visitors to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and be inspired to learn about great figures of America’s history.”

It’s still to be determined, but some possibilities almost suggest themselves. Liberty Island might be appropriate if reconfigured to provide more room. The present space-hogging statute depicts no real person, it wasn’t made in America, and its beaming presence has become anathema to national directive. Its removal would provide room to commemorate real American heroes; real heroes like John Wayne or Antonin Scalia. The salvaged material could find redemption if melted down and reused as material in building the National Wall. And there’s also this: if reconstituted as suggested, it could then be said to have greeted visitors on two different borders!

Another location worthy of consideration is in Kentucky, near Arc Encounter (not far from Williamstown). The two attractions in close proximity would offer visitors a dual opportunity, just like Walt Disney World and SeaWorld. As with Orlando’s double attraction, the venues would be unrelated, but equally attractive to visitors. A location there would also find quick appropriations from Senate Leader McConnell (and the leader would likely find a place in the Garden).

El Paso, Texas might provide another favorable site. Visitors would have access to city accommodations, and as special bonus, a view of the National Wall. The Wall could, in fact, become a major part of the attraction – just like The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Aside from merely seeing it first hand, visitors could be invited to post messages or prayers on the wall, as they do in the Old City. (“Thank you Jesus for letting me be born on the righteous side.” or “Thank you President Trump for erecting this awesome wall that will keep the undeserving and the undesirable out.”) After a prayer of thanks, visitors could then walk through the Garden of American Heroes and honor the folks whose bravery and vision provided the inspiration that propels our great country forward in building the courageous wall of freedom just visited.

Section 4-b: “…. particular preference for statues of the Founding Fathers, former Presidents of the United States, leading abolitionists, and individuals involved in the discovery of America.” Congratulations President Trump — I think this means you (you’re on the inside track).

Section 7: “The term ‘historically significant American’ means an individual who was, or became, an American citizen and was a public figure who made substantive contributions to America’s public life or otherwise had a substantive effect on America’s history.  The phrase also includes public figures such as Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra, and the Marquis de La Fayette, who lived prior to or during the American Revolution and were not American citizens, but who made substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of the future United States.” Sorry, Native Americans – I think this means anyone but you.

Clerical Duplicity and a President Chosen by God

It’s a thriving nation; Taiwan gets a lot of visitors for whom English is often a first or second language.  As an aid to its travelers, translations are added to many public signs.  Several years ago, I came across this helpful notice: “APPROACH INTIMATELY FOR CLEANLINESS AND DISCRETION.”  It was in a Taipei subway station, posted above a row of restroom urinals.  The English instructions were pretty clear in context, but could also, I mused, be suitably displayed behind the bar of a singles bistro.  Translation happens.

I sometimes flash back to that notice when I hear testimonial to the will of God.  Unless you’re wired for direct access, Christian reference to God’s will is usually based on Biblical knowledge.  Familiarity might still call for caution.  The Bible was originally written in three languages: the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic; the New Testament in Greek.  From those origins, and down through the ages, it’s been completely translated into nearly 700 other languages.  Each time, a translator’s perception was put to test twice: discerning the meaning/intent of the original text, and then choosing appropriate word/phraseology in the target language.  The English translation has subsequently been re-translated more than fifty times — each version’s choice of wordage dependent on the translator’s cognition and purpose.  What many deem to be God’s word has passed through multiple filtration layers of human perception and judgment.  Conjecture happens; approach with discretion.

That’s not all.  Biblical inclusion (book/chapter/verse) wasn’t a direct hand-off from God or angel.  Beyond mortal choice of wordage, it was human deliberation that determined Biblical composition.  Human minds decided which ancient (or less than ancient) scrolls were worthy of inclusion in the holy book of God’s word.  What’s now accepted as The New Testament portion of the Bible was assiduously compiled and eventually canonized (deemed sacred) in the 4th century after Christ (the final book of Revelation was included amidst controversy).  Compiling the Old Testament was a greater task and the canonization process wasn’t completed until almost a thousand years later.  All told, nearly 15 centuries of human thought, debate, and deliberation were required to determine the arguable content and composition of what’s now known as the Holy Bible.  Disputation happens; approach with discretion.

There’s more.  It seems early Church authorities found God to be somewhat vague or remiss in conveying the totality of his will through Biblical verse.  The concept of Natural Law was introduced, allowing Church clerics to fill in the gaps — upper echelon Church officials could surmise God’s will when deemed necessary.  Although not an official part of God’s word as found in the Bible, Natural Law can suitably be appreciated as an evolving addendum to it, allowing Papal authorities creative license in conveying God’s expectations to mankind.  It’s been extensively cited over the last 50 years to articulate Church position in matters of sexual, marital, and reproductive morality (see Humanae Vitae).  Arrogance happens; approach with discretion.

As if all that’s not enough, those who espouse God’s word/will have wide opportunity to do so selectively.  The Biblical scrolls are expansive – contradiction of message abounds.  With biased scrutiny, one can find Biblical justification for nearly any endeavor.  In such manner, presentation of God’s will becomes spiritual guise for human ambition and a tool for manipulation.  It’s not uncommon — Biblical selectivity has served human ambition for centuries, often with violent and disastrous consequence (ex. invasion of Iraq).  Bias happens; approach with discretion.

So it’s not as portrayed.  God’s will isn’t really accessible through God’s word, because God’s word is not really accessible.  We have access only to man’s word of God — translations of translations that were filtered through the human mind.  Even if one has faith that man was spoken to by God thousands of years ago, the word handed down is no longer God’s word or even the word of the man believed spoken to.  Like that message on a subway wall, it’s a questionable translation but many times over.  What’s presented as God’s word comes to us through a labyrinth of human assertion, human translation, human assemblage, human addendum, and human selectivity.  It is what it isn’t; it isn’t God’s word.

The assertion would be funny was it not so odious: Donald Trump was chosen by God to lead our nation.  Educated people with Biblical guidance say so.  The Evangelicals were the first to announce Trump as God’s chosen vehicle: Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Stephen Strang, Wayne Allyn Root, Lance Wallnau and Jeremiah Johnson have made use of the big tent to speak accordingly (ex. “And I just have to think that God, in some reason, put him there for a purpose. I don’t know what that is, but we need to get behind him and support him.” – Franklin Graham; “God sent Donald Trump to wage war against destructive spirits.” – Lance Wallnau).  Several of Trump’s political appointees have joined the choir.  Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Jeff Sessions, and Mike Pence have said outright, or alluded to Trump’s presidency as an expression of God’s will.

Even if considered pure and unadulterated; even if considered the original and untranslated word of God, there’s still no basis for citing the Bible in proclaiming Trump to be God’s chosen delivery man.  He’s not cited therein at all — not anywhere, not even in the book of Revelation.  Although one can find the word “trumpet” here and there in the Bible, there’s no mention of a man called “Trump” (at least in current versions).  So some Biblical selectivity and imagination is required to recognize his godly appointment — and maybe an assist from Natural Law.  Trump’s “chosen” status was noticed by Evangelicals primarily for his campaign declared willingness to criminalize abortion.  Oddly, or perhaps fittingly, the word “abortion” appears in the Bible exactly as often as the name “Trump” (never).  It’s not missing because of a simple translation error — even as concept, Biblical reference to abortion is lacking.  Its closest approach to the procedure is in a verse concerning miscarriage:

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, as according the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.  (Exodus 21: 22-23)

That’s it, and while the verse concerns miscarriage rather than abortion, its conspicuous implication is that while both have value, a mother’s life is more precious than that of an unborn child (a contention more reflective of Pro-Choice rather than Pro-Life argument).  It takes human ideation to make more of it — to turn a Biblical verse concerning male initiated violence resulting in miscarriage into a divine proscription against abortion.  There are other verses that urge human procreation (Genesis 1:28), that declare children a blessing (Psalms 127: 3-5), that humans (at least prophets) are known by God before conception, but there’s no word from God that actually broaches the matter of abortion.

So how do clerics contend knowing and proclaiming God’s will concerning the issue?  With abortion, God’s directive can’t be derived solely through biased verse selection — there’s none clearly present from which to even choose.  Human invention is required and is accomplished in two ways: through creative interpretation of Biblical verse, and through suppositional addendum to Biblical text (Natural Law).  Resorting to either presents an arrogant assumption of speaking for God or willful misrepresentation.

It took a long time for Catholic clerics to solidify recognition of God’s will concerning abortion.  Its perceived severity revolved around the idea of ensoulment — the moment when soul and body unite in the womb.  Until the 17th century it was thought to occur long after conception.  Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) adhered to Aristotle’s strange calculation: 40th day for males, 90th day for females.  Abortion was considered sinful, but not murderous if it occurred before then (the moment of ensoulment).  It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that the weight of Church opinion shifted and ensoulment was surmised to occur at conception.  It took centuries of human thought and debate to settle upon that position as God’s intended will.  In 1968, Pope Paul VI pushed the envelope of God’s will even further with the issuance of Humanae Vitae.  The encyclical utilized Natural Law to formulate an imagined view of God’s will that reached far beyond the issue of abortion, extending into all manner of procreative/sexual morality.  Despite lofty titles, the Pope’s encyclical and the concept of Natural Law are repositories of human opinion.

Protestant/Evangelical thought eventually followed the Vatican lead, but with greater dependence on creative Biblical interpretation rather than Natural Law to derive God’s will.  In the 1980’s, Jerry Falwell blossomed on the national Televangelist scene with this repeated message: “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception.”  It was off to the races; Evangelicals were second to the starting line in divining God’s intent regarding procreative/abortive issues, but have since taken the lead and now proclaim it with fervent gusto.

If it’s not really addressed in the Bible, why do Christian clerics push the abortion issue as if compelled by God?  What’s the impetus for reformulating and supplementing the message of a god deemed to be omnipotent and omniscient?  Editing the manuscript of a perfect God shouldn’t be necessary.  The implications of doing so should be disturbing: (1) God is deemed perfect, but his message is flawed or incomplete, or (2) God is deemed imperfect, therefore his message is flawed or incomplete, or (3) Clerics are imperfect and manipulate God’s message for personal or institutional gain.

At least one of the above is present when holy men revise or append Biblical text.  Accepting either of the first two undercuts the base of Christian belief.  Accepting the third implication allows for belief, but requires acknowledgement of clerical duplicity — that Vatican and Evangelical leaders have manipulated the import of God’s will.  With political resemblance, Pope Paul VI and Jerry Falwell created an issue around which to divide, rally, and rule.  In their respective camps, the power and prestige of each was enhanced as their support base solidified around what each deceptively proclaimed to be God’s will.  The divide continues: Vatican and Evangelical leaders continue to misappropriate God’s will and are thus complicit in creating the most divisive and polarizing issue in America today: abortion.  It lies beyond reconciliation because tagging God’s will to argument demands implacability.

So here we are today; a nation divided, locked in place with a vile president deemed chosen by a perfect God.  The divide began when Christian clerics forged God’s will to human opinion.  The president’s deification began when he adroitly assented to their duplicity.  It set up the completion of a deceitful double play: God’s will was long ago misappropriated to clerical opinion, and now is tagged to the tenure of a president.  The hypocrisy works for both.  An unscrupulous president receives deification and unwavering political support; clerics receive a political ally — with an added bonus.  In declaring the president to be a man chosen by God, they absolve themselves of responsibility — the president’s malevolent behavior is all put in God’s court.  They joined hands in the 2016 election; the faithful are now in the arms of a ruthless and vengeful politician.  The shepherds have led the flock into the lair of the wolf.

Elections happen; vote with discretion.

Hell Yes, Take Them Away!

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!”  With that unequivocal statement, Beto O’Rourke ignited right wing gun pundits who’ve kept some powder dry for just such a remark:

“Who is this “we” he speaks of? Democrats? Liberals? Bring it, fools. Come and try to take my legally purchased guns. I double-dog dare you to come to my house and attempt to violate my Constitutional rights. It’s won’t be nearly as easy as Beta O’Dork thinks. (Def-Con News)

“My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” (Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain)

“Why do you oppose federal licensing?” Because leading Democrats are threatening confiscation. “Why do you oppose ‘universal’ background checks?” Because they would create a registry. “And why do you oppose a registry?” Because leading Democrats are threatening confiscation. Unwittingly or not, O’Rourke and his acolytes have stuck a dagger into the exquisitely calibrated gun-control messaging on which their party has worked for the better part of 20 years. (National Review)

It’s not just on the right; Beto O’Rourke also seems to have agitated many on the Left.  On Meet The Press, fellow presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg implied Beto’s comments played into the hands of the NRA (though he himself favors the banning of new assault rifles). Morning Joe Scarborough exaggerated O’Rourke’s buy-back proposal, painting it as a “kick in the door” confiscation policy that could never happen. He derided Beto’s words as just more red meat for gun owners.  Senator Chris Coons said O’Rourke’s proposal was “unwise and feeds into the right-wing refrain that Democrats are seeking to take all guns away from Americans”.

The timidity goes on and on: tread softly, or you’ll upset them. It’s like an abused housewife’s non-confrontational stance taken towards a drunken, violent-prone husband. At least in her moment, the reaction is understandable; it allows for her survival. The same can’t be said for those who really want gun reform. Treading softly has neither placated the abuser nor decreased the violence. Fifty years of pandering to the NRA’s problem child has only made him more belligerent and dangerous.  Politically measured “reasonable” proposals keep his toys in place and maybe his threatened tantrum at bay, but little else. We still have nearly 13,000 murder-by-gun deaths every year. The safe, “not-to-extreme” approach maintains status-quo variations of toothless regulation while gun violence continues.

O’Rourke doesn’t really propose “busting down doors” to confiscate assault weapons, but why shouldn’t he? Why shouldn’t anyone? It’s condoned for other recognized dangers and legal concerns. Police are given warrants to enter homes for drug busts and child porn searches.  Authorities knock on doors searching for fugitives or immigrants without papers. “Door busting” warrants are often obtained for even violent free situations (ex. Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort).  So why not rap on the door that hides a killing machine?

The weapons are legal, but shouldn’t be; military assault style rifles provide for what their name implies: an efficient means to assault. Their design is for warfare and the killing of human beings. If you really have a need to kill animals (or even just like to) there are plenty of guns designed and readily available for that purpose. If you really have a need to kill human beings (or even just want to) there are plenty of guns designed and available for that purpose, too. Most of them are referred to as assault weapons, and they’re perfectly legal. Imagine that: they’re perfectly legal. Manufacturers are allowed to sell weapons to civilians that are specifically designed to kill human beings, yet hold no legal responsibility when used for that purpose. OxyContin anyone?

Does the thought of an AK-47 in your husband’s hands make you a little uncomfortable? How about if your young son acquired one? Would you be at least a little concerned? You probably should be; some vivid red flags are fluttering. Statistically, males are prone to violent outbursts.  They commit 70% to 90% of all murders.  en perpetrate about 98% of all mass killings and constitute at least 90% of all modern day serial killers. In domestic settings, 80% of spousal murders are committed by men, and in the workplace, males account for 97% of all rampage style killings. Think about this: your son or spouse with an AR-15 has fantasies of killing a human being; not just in a passing pique of anger, but coolly in a measured way. Yes, that thought is really there; he has an image in his mind.  Before he buys a car, a guitar, a game, or anything else, he imagines using it; it’s what people do.  AK-47’s are machines specifically designed for the potent killing of human beings; their intended use is imagined when the purchase is contemplated. It might not mean he immediately intends to kill scores of school children, innocent co-workers, or that a meltdown of some kind is imminent. But it does mean this: he’s at least pictured himself using that weapon to kill a human being; that for some psychological reason, he has a need to imagine and posses that kind of power; to project that kind of threat. Do you see the red flags flapping? If acquired, three things have come together: a male, a fantasy, and the tool that can make it happen.

It’s illegal to knowingly download images of child pornography, even if alone and in your home.  Even in fantasy mode, it’s recognized as dangerous and a threat to innocent children. It’s perfectly legal to load an AR-15; you can even do it in the presence of a child; you can expose him to the beauty of holding a weapon that’s capable of killing forty people in less than a minute.  Is it real, or is it fantasy?

The child pornographer is sexually perverted. His downloads serve no healthy, useful purpose; they feed obscene fantasies and encourage purveyors. At some point he might act upon those fantasies and harm a living child; he’s weird and dangerous; something’s not right in his head.  It’s why we fear, loath, and distrust him. If discovered by authorities, his perversion would be dealt with quickly (unless he’s a well-connected Caucasian billionaire). There would be a warrant, a knock, and if necessary, a “door busting” entrance to seize his computer and arrest him.

The civilian owner of an assault weapon is mentally perverted. His military style firearm serves no healthy, legal purpose.  It simply feeds obscene fantasies. At some point he might even act upon those fantasies and kill real people (a lot of people in a short amount of time). To have the psychological need to possess such a killing device means something is not right in his head; he’s weird and dangerous. It’s why we should fear, loath, and distrust him. Perhaps we do, but we enable his perversion anyway. We respectfully tread softly while 13,000 men, women and children are murdered every year.

We don’t need AR-15’s, etc. for “sport” or subsistence hunting. We don’t need them for target shooting.  We don’t need them for protection. They’re only really “needed” by those who clearly shouldn’t have them; gang members, criminals, and those with the psychological need to project an air of deadly power. Is there a reliable way to recognize those who shouldn’t have an assault weapon? Sure, it’s easy; it’s any civilian who wants to have one (and it’s most likely a male).

So, hell yes, we should knock on doors and get them off the street. It’s the guns; the assault weapons. Their owners and purveyors are moral perverts with unhealthy needs. Like child porn addicts, their gratification is found in violent fantasy. Maybe it remains just that: a bit of fantasy with perhaps some violent underpinnings; maybe it’s only a fluttering passing thought and nothing more; unless it…well…you know… you’ve probably seen the headlines a few times.

It’s the gun, an assault weapon that animates the fantasy and arms the reality. It’s the gun, an assault rifle that provided a means to kill 58 people in less than ten minutes; it’s the gun used in so many mass shootings; the gun solely designed for the efficient killing of human beings; the gun with no essential legal purpose; it’s a supremely lethal gun and it’s still in the hands of three million adolescent adults with comic book fantasies.

So, hell yes, again.  Make them illegal. Take away the AR-15’s. Take away the AK-47’s.  Recognize and call out the perversion. Stop treading softly. Knock on doors. Get rid of them. Beto O’rourke’s plan would make a decent start: a buy-back program. Propose sixty days for amnesty and compensation; cut the compensation in half through the next sixty days; after that, no compensation and no amnesty. Anyone still in possession of an assault weapon would then be subject to arrest and gun confiscation. It’s not so draconian a proposal; the assault weapon holder is offered compensation, amnesty, and most importantly this: a chance to renew his life.  He should feel fortunate; consider how other perverts are treated. The child porn addict gets only this: an immediate arrest and a scarlet letter.

Hell yes, take them away!

The Quiet Coup

Does William Barr appear to be easily manipulated?  Do you really think he lacks inner strength?  James Comey thinks so (James Comey: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr).  How about Mike Pompeo and Stephen Miller?  Does Donald Trump have them acting out of character?  Do you think Lindsey Graham does his bidding out of fear?  Is Mike Pence really cowed into submission, or does Steve Bannon stroke Trump’s ego because he lacks intestinal fortitude?

All of the above have forceful personalities.  They didn’t arrive at their stations through lack of will or low self esteem. To suggest they’re being idealistically manipulated is nearsighted and dangerous.  William Barr, the others, and much of the Republican Congress appear sycophantic not out of fear or lack of self-control; they behave that way because they and Trump are kindred spirits.  They’re not just groveling; they like what Trump likes, they want what Trump wants, and they’re strong and willful enough to go after it, even if it requires a curtsy.

Have you heard about the coup?  There actually was one, but not the coup ballyhooed by Donald Trump.  The real “coup” started long ago in a barely noticed manner; it triggered the quiet rise of authoritarianism which now animates Trump’s presidency.  Amanda Taub laid it out in The Rise of American Authoritarianism.  The 2016 article (prior to Trump’s election) is both prescient and sobering.  It deserves a more thorough reading than what’s summed up in the following quick takeaways:

  • The authoritarian profile is characterized by the desire for order and a fear of outsiders.  It looks for a strong leader who promises necessary action to protect from outsiders and prevent feared changes.
  • Authoritarian personalities are drawn to the clearest and loudest authoritarian voice.
  • Covert authoritarian personalities (latent authoritarians) can be moved to overt authoritarian behavior.
  • The authoritarian personality increasingly sorts into the Republican Party (law and order and traditional values).
  • Authoritarians and latent authoritarians compose a large enough bloc to be politically powerful.
  • The authoritarian personality is not a new or Trump phenomenon; it will endure.

Religious institutions have authoritarian roots and thus provide low hanging fruit for aspiring autocrats (especially when spiritual morality has the depth of a bumper sticker).  Taub’s article provides inference of a religious component, but falls short of citing its paternalistic tradition and devotion to dogma and prophecy as instrumental in forging an authoritarian profile (ex. Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus).  It does go far, though, in explaining and describing what’s seen in American politics today.  It also sheds light elsewhere.  There’s instability and much to fear around the globe: immigration, economic turmoil and disparity, religious/social upheaval, climate change, famine, and the ever present reality of violence and war.  It’s an opportune time for the rise of authoritarian and despotic leadership that we see arising throughout the world.

“The Rise of American Authoritarianism” article shows that authoritarian personalities have slowly sorted into the Republican Party over the last fifty years.  That bloc now seems to have reached a controlling influence: 55% of surveyed Republicans scored high or higher on the article’s authoritarian scale.  In blunt terms, half a century ago the party began the process of culturing authoritarian minded voters that now dominate the Republican electorate (and consequently, its primary elections).  More and more Republican representatives sent to Washington (or elsewhere) are apt to be sympathetic (or owing) to authoritarian values.  The profound result of all this is the election of a president who cultivates authoritarian passion.  Perhaps more ominous, though, is a contingent happening: court appointments.  Court nominations at all levels are ideally chosen as vectors of impartiality.  Everyone knows the opposite is true: candidates are chosen that appear most likely to express perceived bias in future judicial proceedings.  Trump and the Republican Party are shaping the judicial system accordingly: two appointments to the Supreme Court (a third is likely) and record setting confirmations of judges to federal appeals courts.  They won’t all, of course, perform as expected, but a general bias will take place beyond the expected conservative/liberal slant: with or without awareness, throughout the court systems, decisions will be made that reflect sympathy with authoritarian ideals.  The judges will be in place for decades and their decisions much longer.  Each one of those sympathetic decisions will pave the way for future authoritarian inroads.

It doesn’t take all that much representation to determine our country’s direction.  Somewhere between 50% and 60% of eligible voters cast ballots in presidential elections (about 40% for midterms).  Combining the two, perhaps roughly half of all eligible voters are shaping political destiny.  In 1992 Ross Perot, a third party candidate, received nearly 20% of the popular vote.  That was an anomaly; third party votes generally have significance only as spoilers in close races between the two major parties (Republican and Democrat).  Usually the winning presidential candidate receives roughly half of all votes cast.  Because nearly half the country takes a pass on Election Day, the winning candidate receives about half of a half (one quarter) of potential votes.  Within each party are factions vying for political influence.  To gain dominance, a faction need only appear to represent half (or even less) of perceived party supporters.  If that party wins, it means roughly half of a quarter (one eighth) of the eligible voting population may dominate in determining national direction.  That’s all it takes.  A president (and more) can be politically empowered by as little as an eighth (or less) of the voting population.  In the face of voter apathy, an energized eighth of the American electorate can democratically nudge the country down the slippery slope to authoritarianism.

If it’s contended that Trump has neither the time nor the tools to actually push the country into irrevocable authoritarianism, it’s sobering to view what’s transpired in a short amount of time.  To his political base and much of the Republican Party, Trump has quite successfully delegitimized the news media, the Department of Justice, political opposition, and judiciary constraints.  Through all the fiascos of his first two years, Trump still enjoys Republican popularity and support.  It’s not just how much he’s managed to do (or undo) in a short amount of time, but how little he’s had to do it with.  He’s not the most gifted politician, but what if he was?  Trump has demonstrated that an authoritarian base is here and ready to use.  A tainted judicial system is in place; it will progressively soften to autocratic appeals over the coming years.  What if one really gifted comes along: someone cunningly intelligent, someone with a coherent plan and political savvy, someone with charisma and charm?

Donald Trump didn’t create the wave, but he adeptly rides it.  Fifty some years ago the old Republican Party sought to seduce and control the authoritarian personality.  The seduction succeeded, but not the control; the old guard lost it.  The new Republican Party is now home and voice to American authoritarianism.  It won’t be silenced through an impeachment or a single presidential election cycle.  It’s here for the long haul.  Figure heads like James Comey and Morning Joe pundits portray Donald Trump as a larger than life puppet master, a maestro manipulating those around him into groveling postures of obsequiousness.  The conjecture provides nearsighted assurance that Trump has a unique presence and those around him are uniquely weak: all will be better when Trump is gone.  It’s dangerously complacent; it’s not seeing the forest for a tree.

They’re not at the gate.  The authoritarians are in the castle.  There’s no time left for wishful thinking or complacency.

BUI: Born Under the Influence

Some of it is physical, but there’s more than muscle and mass to consider.  Men seem to perceive, process, and react differently than women.  A biological base to our differences is obvious, as is the likely interplay of socialization.  It’s not necessarily a negative: male specialization has been integral to the survival of our species.  Physical strength, aggression, and audacious behavior have enabled males to nurture and protect tribal identity, while concurrently spreading their half of the genetic seed.  But it’s not always a positive either: male aggression and perilous behavior can also be lethal to tribe, family, and self, especially in today’s world where masculinity is combined with modern technology.

Male boldness is visible and well documented.  4,833 people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest (thru 2018).  288 have died in the attempt.  89% of the climbers were male and they comprised 96% of all deaths.  In 2017, Alex Honnold scaled the 3,000 foot shear face of Yosemite’s El Capitan alone, without aid of ropes or safety gear.  He’s made similar vertical climbs at other imposing cliff sites (as of this writing, he’s still alive).  At least 31 wingsuit BASE jumpers plummeted to their deaths in 2016; apparently all were male.  These risk takers are (or were) all brave, though not necessarily heroic individuals.  Their feats were performed not to escape or disable danger, but to experience it.  Such flirtations with death pose immense self risk, but little danger to others.  The same cannot be said for all male inclination towards audacious behavior.

We (males) capriciously put lives at risk, including our own, for no apparent survival benefit.  Often our displays are acts of aggression, and they’re not always just angry reactions.  Sometimes our behavior is planned; sometimes it’s simply bizarre and beyond rational explanation.  It’s not quite monopolized; females too, are seen to exhibit such behavior, but not nearly to the extent observed in males.

Males commit 70% to 90% of all murders.  Men perpetrate about 98% of all mass killings and constitute at least 90% of all modern day serial killers.  In domestic settings, 80% of spousal murders are committed by men, and in the workplace, males account for 97% of all rampage style killings.  The propensity towards violence and instability is clearly evident.  Less visible are some underlying neurological conditions that might give biological evidence to male associated instability. Men are three times more likely to be born with ADHD.  There are also several neurological diseases that display earlier and more severely in males: OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are three following that pattern.  Later in life, males are twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  None of these conditions are twined to a misanthropic nature, but they do indicate the presence of neurological instabilities that are closely associated with males.  That these recognized expressions exist provides reason to suspect the existence of other less conspicuous volatilities; predispositions that trigger some of our male associated acts of violence.

What Lies Beneath?

Brain Wave (by Poul Anderson) was a 1953 science fiction novel that posited the earth finally passing out of a stellar radiation field that had dampened cognitive function for eons.  Suddenly, every earthly animal with neurological activity became five times more conscious.  Humans, along with all animal species, were no longer cognitively suppressed (leading to human/non-human ethical complications).  Could something in that fiction be relevant to our nonfictional reality?  We like to think of ourselves as being completely aware, with an unimpeded rational thought process.  Maybe we’re not really so free and unimpeded.  Maybe evolution (rather than cosmic radiation) has bent us towards behavior patterns of which we take little notice.  We (males) have a shown proclivity to exhibit risky, bizarre, and violent behavior, yet are inclined to see ourselves as being completely cool and rational: “I’m totally okay” (even when it’s clear that some of us aren’t).

It might be comparable to alcohol.  In the history of the world, has any man in any bar, ever felt unable to drive home safely after two drinks?  We look around and observe others who are clearly inebriated and pose danger on the road, but see ourselves as completely unimpaired.  We might shake our head when another with five or eight drinks loudly declares himself still fit to drive; we ourselves have had two, yet clearly have it all together.  We’re under the influence, but don’t admit or even feel it.  We might drive home a thousand times without a mishap, but the two drinks have sent alcohol to our brain and have made our travel less certain.

Our male propensity for risk and violence is like that: we’re all at least “two drinks” along, but feel sober (and those further along than just two are equally confident).  Individually we think we pose no danger, but in fact have always been under the influence.  We’ve never known sobriety; two drinks minimum is our only plane of reference; our condition feels normal and unimpaired.  It’s not always a fixed plane; our level of impairment is multiplied by external events: humiliation, a terminated relationship, substance abuse, loss of employment, financial setback, etc.  From whatever baseline, we jump ahead and are suddenly more than just two drinks under and are no longer even close to “okay”.  We’re in a heightened state of flux and not quite predictable.  After an eruption, it’s not uncommon to hear: “He didn’t seem like the type.” or “I didn’t see it coming.”

So there’s a biological “drunkenness” that leaves males more inclined to exhibit risky, aggressive, and even misanthropic behavior with little pause for reflection.  It’s not the boldness, but various expressions of violence that arouse concern, especially in this era of lethal weaponry when an individual gone amok can reek havoc on so many.  When it happens, the easily available weapon of choice is usually a gun.

It took sober minded mothers (MADD) to arouse awareness and activate meaningful DUI regulation.  Recently, it’s activist children (Parkside) trying to motivate the nation to meaningful confrontation of another glaring danger: the proliferation of guns.  There’s something telling in that it took our mothers to awaken us to the drinking/driving/death reality, and it’s now taking children to shake us from the stupor of a nation’s infatuation with guns.

So Many Guns

We’ve a long history with guns. They’ve been present through all of U.S. history and the prior European conquest of America.  In some form or another, hand held guns have killed for more than 500 years.  That’s a lot of years, but just a blip on the historical time line of humans killing one another; guns have simply made the process more efficient and impersonal.  As with other human innovations, firearm refinements have come incrementally.  Bit by bit, they’ve morphed into incredible deadly machines.  Guns of today have visual resemblance (triggers and barrels) to early predecessors; beyond that, the similarities fade.  It’s now “rate of fire” per second rather than “rate of fire” per minute. While the lethal power of our weaponry has continuously advanced, human nature hasn’t.  Our mental/emotional soundness is as fragile (or inebriated) today as it was ten thousand years ago; we’ve armed our Stone Age mindset with 21st century killing machines.

Throw a dart at the calendar.  The gun statistics (U.S.) for that one single day will likely include the following: 135 gun related incidents, 37 murders (7 children), and 63 injuries.  Mention of a particular mass shooting will probably be old news, because one happens about every 30 hours.  Nearly everyone of these gun related acts of violence will be perpetrated by a male.

Gun ownership appears ubiquitous and nearly religious (“a god-given right”).  The U.S. adult population (15 & above) is roughly 265 million.  There are approximately 310 million civilian owned firearms in the USA.  That’s more than enough to arm every adult (except that 3% of all gun owners own 50% of the guns).  At least 39% of adult males claim to own guns, while female gun ownership is pegged at 22%.  About 42% of all homes have at least one gun present.

So Little Need

It’s a bizarre reality: so many guns and so little need.  Law enforcement has a need (much of it to deal with the 310 million civilian guns in circulation).  Some ranchers, farmers, and rural dwellers can claim a legitimate need for livestock protection and pest control.  Far on the fringes, there might still be some for whom a gun is needed to provide food and protection.  For the vast majority, though, that time has long past.  We have no survival need to hunt; shooting animals has become little more than a traditional exercise or an entertainment venue.  Most gun ownership for protection is delusional; the presence of a gun actually increases the likelihood of both personal and household victimization.  Why then, the infatuation?  At least a few reasons present themselves: tradition, machismo, fear, and NRA/weapons industry marketing.  We (especially males) have been targeted by gun makers, and our BUI mentality provides an easy mark.  The NRA’s marketing campaigns have always nurtured ego enhancement through conflation of gun ownership and ideals of strength, independence, and patriotism.  Invariably, the Second Amendment is called upon to portray weapon ownership as an expression of patriotic fervor.  Posing private gun ownership as protection from tyranny or foreign invasion is obsolete by about a century.  It’s now little more than a “two drink” fantasy; a passionate hustle aimed at those of us under the influence.

The birth of our nation occurred in the flint-lock musket era of small arms development.  It was state of the art technology that required 20 seconds of practiced reloading time.  A skilled and calm soldier (or civilian) could fire up to three rounds a minute, if aiming time was minimal.  Armies were without airplanes, tanks, helicopters, missiles, etc.  Aside from rather bulky cannons, soldiers armed with muskets provided the essence of battlefield might.  Anyone with tradable goods or financial means could acquire a musket and be as well armed as any soldier in any army.  The Second Amendment of 1791 provided the authorization for a state to reach an armed equivalency to federal or foreign armies (protection from tyranny): “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  In 1791, “well-regulated Militias” were today’s National Guards, and armed equivalency required only muskets.

Second Amendment Fog

The Second Amendment is now cited as providing the Constitutional right of all citizens to own virtually any type of hand weapon.  They’re no longer “three shots per minute” muskets; with today’s modern machines, a semi-automatic rifle enthusiast can easily fire 60 deadly bullets in a minute (without aid of a “bump stock”).  However incredible the fire power, our armed citizens lack equivalency to National Guard troops, the U.S. military, or supposed foreign invaders.  In whatever imagined standoff, automated rifles would provide but token resistance to the array of weaponry available to state supported military forces.  Citizens armed with modern rifles afford no significant protection from tyranny; they have meaningful significance only to the non-military victims they’ve come to target.

The NRA and arms industry is undeterred by that reality; they continue to market weaponry as the patriotic expression of constitutional rights.  The ad campaigns have evolved and spiraled into themselves: guns for patriotism, guns for sport, guns for self enhancement, and guns to protect against people with guns.  The circle of death is complete: with a population already saturated with weapons, gun ownership is now promoted as necessary protection against the success of previous marketing campaigns (imagine the tobacco industry promoting active cigarette consumption as protection against second hand smoke).

Dire Straits

Our situation needs acknowledgement: born under the influence and guns all around.  The statistics are undeniable; we (males) are prone to acts of audacious behavior that are often violent and even misanthropic.  It’s obvious we need some separation from the weapons that magnify the repercussions of our instability.  It’s a need resisted; we’re under the influence, yet sure of our clarity.  We look about and all is normal.

It’s normal; we accept forty thousand gun deaths a year through murder and suicide.  It’s normal; we accept the marketing and political manipulation.  It’s normal because we provide the votes.  It’s normal because we purchase the guns.  It’s normal because we’re under the influence.

A Passage Through

If meaningful regulation is ever to occur, it will likely come through those least under the influence: female activists and legislators.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did it in 1980 (but faced less resistance).  Perhaps the recent influx of female representation in the legislative body will be the catalyst to sustained effort.  There are some positive signs: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), revival of industry accountability, the curbing of bump stocks.  To be meaningful and lasting, true gun regulation will necessitate actual reduction of weapons in circulation; both number and type.  True regulation will remove the most egregious weapons that make mass killings easy, and will attempt to keep guns from the hands of those demonstrably under the influence.

The industry, its political sycophants, and those most under the influence will howl about loss of freedom, liberty, and constitutional rights.  It’s obfuscation; the only thing truly lost will be a quick and easy route to murder and mass killings.  Even if erring on the side of caution, nothing more than this will occur: accessibility to a machine whose sole function is to kill will be lost to one deemed most likely to use it.  The “loss” is really a freedom gained.  It would allow for passage through a dangerous period of instability: someone under the influence will not become a murderer, and those who might have died will still be alive.  Regulation means only that and nothing more (when under the influence, it’s easy to feel otherwise).

• Photo can be viewed here

Happiness is a Warm Gun

John Lennon wrote the song in 1968; twelve years later he was murdered. His killer was a man, a young man armed with a crazed fantasy and a warm gun.

*****

You’d be a little creeped out upon finding that your Uncle Joe or the neighbor two houses down had a penchant for child pornography, wouldn’t you?  You’d know, or at least suspect, what was on his mind if you caught his eyes lingering for more than a second on your kid.  Even if it was your heretofore favorite and “harmless” Uncle Joe, you’d be forever fearful and distrusting; you’d know he had dangerous proclivities, and your child would never be left alone in his presence.

What if instead of a child fetish, you learned your neighbor (or Uncle Joe) had a fascination for guns?  It’s not so scary or repugnant, right?  Actually, you’d have already known because Joe or your neighbor would likely have shared the fascination long ago.  It’s socially acceptable after all; you might walk away with a bit of angst, but it would dissipate and you’d probably not dwell on it for long.

What if instead of guns, your neighbor collected knives: suppose he had a prototype of every slicing and stabbing tool invented by man; examples of every weapon or instrument used to cut or mutilate the human body.  Would that creep you out a little more?  Why?  Both collectors are fascinated with killing instruments.  Guns are clearly the more dangerous and lethal, so shouldn’t you feel more jitters with that collector?

We imagine what they’re imagining, and it disturbs us.  We see a warped and dangerous mind in the child pornographer, and feel revulsion.  We’d have a similar reaction towards the neighbor’s knife fetish, but the response would probably be less visceral; we’d likely file our discomfort under “kinky” or “weird” rather than placing it in the “oh my god” folder.  With the gun collector, we hardly experience angst at all; maybe just a funny feeling to be filed under “odd”. The pornography collector is a pervert.  The gun collector is an enthusiast.  Funny about the nomenclature; isn’t it?  We’ve come to give the gun enthusiast a pass; we’ve stopped imagining what he’s imagining.

In nearly every American strip mall, there seems to be a martial arts studio.  People sign up for a lot of reasons: exercise, self-protection, goal achievement, ego-enhancement, parental or peer pressure, camaraderie, etc.  Hardly anyone does so for the ostensible purpose of doing violence.  It’s there though; maiming the human body is imagined and practiced; it’s at the core of what it’s about.  You don’t learn how to physically incapacitate another human being without visualizing the techniques involved, and practicing them.  Fantasized scenarios come with developed skills.  If you’re of a healthy mind, the fantasies are socially acceptable: standing up to the bully, protecting the vulnerable, preventing an assault, etc.  You’ve learned the skills and you fantasize their use.  You might even attempt to actualize a fantasy; placing yourself in a situation where the art can “justifiably” be drawn upon.  Gun enthusiasm is like that too; it involves fantasizing violence: deadly violence upon a human being.

When we contemplate the purchase of an automobile, we fantasize.  We pick the car or truck whose image and function best fits our purpose and fantasy.  We do the same with a gun.  If we purchase a .22 caliber rifle, our fantasy might involve killing a small game animal; if it’s a .30-06, it might be about killing a deer; if it’s an AK-47, our fantasy includes the killing of a human being.  Guns are for killing; when we buy them, that’s what we imagine doing with them.   Specific guns are manufactured to kill specific things.  When we purchase a gun specifically designed to kill a human being, we specifically fantasize the killing a human being.  To suggest otherwise is pretense or naiveté: it’s whistling past the graveyard.

Fantasy is the first step made towards a desired outcome.  Before you buy an assault rifle, you’ve already fantasized its function.  You’ve imagined killing a human being and are now purchasing the requisite tool; you’ve taken the first two steps towards making it happen.  If you’re somewhat stable, the fantasy may be for justifiable or even heroic purpose: killing the bad guy that’s really gone crazy, holding off the Russians, or maybe protecting the real America from the other America.  To whatever purpose, you’ve imagined killing.  You have in hand the special tool designed to make it happen.  You’re getting warm.

It should be apparent by now that we pose danger.  We have a tendency to express violent and controlling behavior; it likely dwells in the male genome.  We’re not all certifiable; most of us have been quite calm and rational through the better part of our lives.  It is observable in the statistics though; the murders, the rapes, the assaults – pick any type of violence; it’s almost all of male origin.  Our half of the American population murders nearly 15,000 people a year; the stats of other violent crimes are equally telling.  It’s true that most of us will enjoy a lifetime free of displaying the most egregious forms of violence; but the susceptibility is there.  What’s so clear in statistics isn’t always so apparent or even detectable in daily lives.  The inclination can easily go unnoticed, except perhaps in retrospect.  A common refrain is: “He kept to himself”, “I never saw it coming”, “I can’t believe it”, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it”, etc.  Unfortunately, it often takes an overt act of violence to reveal a prior covert threat.

That’s why it’s laughable when the enthusiast says “It’s not a gun issue; it’s a mental health issue!”  The second part is true, but likely includes the enthusiast.  There really is a mental health issue, but it encompasses a large group: human males.  It’s all of us; it’s in our genes!  If addressing mental health is the path to ending gun violence, we need to monitor about 160 million males in the United States.  Were the idea adequate or practical, an obvious start would entail a close examination of those who fantasize killing with the purchase of weapons.  They’ve purposely taken the first real steps towards gun violence; isn’t that a dangerous sign of mental instability?  Effective monitoring of any meaningful breadth is not seriously being proposed and would actually be resisted as invasive by its present advocates.  Proponents of the “mental health issue” as the solution to gun violence are gun enthusiasts, gun merchants, or beholding politicians making pretence of concerned action.  The obvious problem is avoided: males prone to violent fantasies and the proliferation of guns.

It’s not complicated.  In mathematical form, it’s something like this: (x) guns + (y) males = (z) deaths.  There’s only two ways to decrease (z): reduce the number and type of guns (x), or reduce the number of males (y).  Anything else is avoidance and window dressing.  Personally, I’d opt for reducing (x).  It’s the less disruptive option (at least for males), and has actually been shown to work (ex. Australia).

Just One Thought

Just one thought
before the darkness,
just a thought
and stepped away,
from the embers,
from the calling,
from the burning rage
and creed.
Just a thought
before the darkness,
just a thought
crept in the way,
of the calling
from the darkness,
just a thought
within the fray.

No one but you (it’s all about you).
Yet it’s enough
to carry through,
to know the voices,
children laughing,
to see beginnings,
hear songs of joy (and yes sadness)
alive because of
one last thought.
You had one last thought
and stepped away
and none will know,
nor need to.
It was you (it’s all about you)
and it’s enough
to carry through.

Contraception, Abortion, and the Not So Holy Alliance

I’m looking at a large and stately oak tree. It has hundreds of branches and thousands of acorns. Each acorn has the capacity, the blueprint, for becoming another stately tree.  But right now it’s not — it’s an acorn. So when does it become recognized as tree? — Surely not when it first falls to the ground. Probably not yet either, when it’s covered with soil. When the first anchoring root is sent into the soil, is it now a tree? Maybe not — it does have a skinny little tendril, but it still looks like an acorn.  How about when the spring rains come and moisture swells the paired halves? The outer shell splits and something begins to poke through; it’s alive and growing, but is it a tree? When the sprout bends upward, just barely poking through the soil, and into free air — now is it finely a tree? Perhaps, but it might still rest on opinion or a scholarly learned definition. Change continues, two leaves appear, and the shoot grows taller. It sure looks like a little tree, and at some point recognition is undeniable: It really is an oak tree, no matter what frame of reference.

OK, it’s outrageous to compare the process of becoming a tree to that of a human being. There’s no moral based  equivalency, but a mutual creative unfolding does take place. Irrefutably, when egg and sperm unite, the blueprint is put in place to guide that first cell into the process of becoming a fully recognized human being. But where in the process does that recognition become undeniable? Is it at conception? At birth? Or somewhere in between? In that first cell, with the blueprint just completed, is it already a human being?  Or at five months, is it really just an assemblage of cells? Answering “no” to both questions precipitates a period of moral uncertainty and the necessity to entertain arguable ethical considerations.  Answering “yes” to either removes uncertainty and the need for further thought.  Catholic and Evangelical voices have become united in answering “yes” to the first question.  To their dishonor, both rather deceitfully claim God’s behest in support of their answer.  The maneuver intractably stifles exploratory dialogue, and has repercussions far beyond procreation argument.  It began long ago.

Some Historical Perspective

Europe was in turmoil.  The Church was under siege.  By 1870, revolution in France and Italy had erased much of its political/cultural control and had reduced its geographical footprint to the Vatican — hardly more than 100 acres in the city of Rome.  Pius IX and the Catholic Church were in survival mode.  Facing unrest from within, and destruction from without, Pope Pius IX began formal implementation of “Papal Infallibility.”  It was a centuries old concept that had been rejected as demonic in 1324 by Pope John XXII, but now seen as savior in the face of possible extinction.  Approved on July 18, 1870, the doctrine is two-fold: “Papal Infallibility” gives indisputable authority to the pope’s ex cathedra decisions on matters of faith and morals.  The second part, “Papal Primacy,” grants unbridled control over Church governance.

Of the two, “Papal Infallibility” receives most attention because it sounds even more presumptuous than it is. By simple definition, it would seem to broadly imply divine attributes to papal opinion, but in reality is confined to special papal decrees — thus far with minor impact.  It’s been implemented only twice, each time for nothing more than matters of saintly recognition.  “Papal Primacy” sounds less presumptuous and authoritative, but really does hold broad application and delivers ominous power to papal opinion.  It’s comparable to granting dictatorial power to an elected president and leaving Congress and courts with only advisory influence. The overriding papal judgment elaborated in one such decree, by Pope Paul VI, is prominent in current Church procreation thought.

Fast-forward 100 years: It’s 1968 and unrest seems everywhere. Civil rights marches, anti-war protests, political rallies and disruptions dominate the news. Music too, is in the air (and marijuana).  The Beatles, Airplane, The Doors, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and so many others — all part of a clarion call to change and new freedom. That one word seemed to be the age’s key refrain: Freedom! It had many apostles and when used, inferred validation of purpose.  For the Church, the word held another inference: loss of influence. In effect, the Church was again under siege, not by violent mobs or armies, but by something more insidious. It faced a growing apathy and the prospect of irrelevance. The 60s era of freedom also came with a dawning concern for world population limits, promotion of contraceptive options, and the ensuing “sexual revolution” — all anathema to historical papal position on reproductive morality. The Vatican voice was losing its prominence as the world’s moral authority.

The ship almost changed course prior to the storm. In 1963, Pope John XXIII assembled his Commission on Population and Birth to study questions of birth and population control.  The group was inherited by Pope Paul VI and expanded to nearly 75 members, including an executive committee of about 15 cardinals and bishops. With an overwhelmingly one-sided vote, in 1966, the commission proposed that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil, and thus an allowable practice for married Catholics. It seemed Church policy was about to change, but in 1968, utilizing “Papal Primacy”, Paul VI disregarded the body’s recommendations and instead, issued his own statement, Humanae Vitae. The encyclical pushed aside argument for artificial means of contraception and reinforced abstinence and timing as the sole means of birth control that observed “Natural Law.” It may not have halted the Cultural Revolution, but did provide visage of the approaching clash and a clear moral bulwark from which to defend the onslaught.

Condemnation of birth control would seemingly infer condemnation of abortion.  Church position follows that course, but did have an early rewrite. Until the 17th century, prevalent Catholic thought was that the moment of ensoulment happened long after conception. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) maintained Aristotle’s “calculation” that ensoulment occurred around the 40th day for males, and the 90th for females. All abortive procedures were thought sinful, but didn’t rise to being murderous until after the human soul was present. Centuries later, with microscopic observation of reproductive cells possible (but likely not souls), opinions somehow shifted, and by 1875 conception and ensoulment were widely surmised to occur simultaneously.

Current Position and Alignments

Vatican position now holds abortion (to avoid childbearing) as sinful and murderous. All artificial means of birth control are seen as counter to God’s natural law, and may in themselves be abortive. Accordingly, the gift of procreation should be limited to married couples, with each sexual act being unitive and lending at least a small chance to the possibility of conception.  Exception is given to married couples who are naturally infertile. Reasserted by Pope Paul VI in 1968, this long-held Vatican position could have another modern day rewrite. Current Pope Francis seems to hold relatively liberal views with Church doctrine and has not displayed enthusiastic initiative in support of Humanae Vitae. In fact, he’s stepped away from some of the encyclical’s rigidity. Pope Francis has indicated some sympathy with regards to contraception’s possible role in fighting disease (AIDS, Zika). A reappraisal of Humanae Vitae is not completely unthinkable under his tenure.

Protestant Christian groups are many, and historically have shown little alignment with Catholic thoughts on contraception and abortion.  Most have had less stringent views, particularly with contraception.  In 1968, a gathering of evangelical leaders hosted by Christianity Today and the Christian Medical Society, issued “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction.” The statement noted that not all participants were in agreement as to whether induced abortion was sinful, but did have accord in deeming it necessary and permissible under certain circumstances. The same publication advised Christians that human population control efforts should be aimed towards the prevention of conception rather than towards the prevention of birth. In contrast to stringent Catholic articulation, contraceptive constraint was clearly of less concern in Protestant camps.

Evangelical views began to shift with the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. Early on, it was not so much the abortive and contraceptive procedures themselves, but the perceived loosening of conservative Christian values that seemed to energize Protestant voices. Just a quiet murmur through much of the 70s, concern (first with abortion and then contraception) found profound amplification and range in the next decade. Jerry Falwell championed renewed focus on the issue, his message being heard throughout the 80’s in an explosion of network evangelism. “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception” was delivered to an expanding audience that soon began to espouse abortive characteristics to artificial contraception. For different reasons, Catholic and Protestant churches were coalescing into a unified front opposing the availability of both abortion and artificial contraception, and now, even those differences are beginning to merge. Originally articulated in Catholic precept as the obvious and natural relationship between God and man, Natural Law is increasingly finding Evangelical acceptance in support of opposition to artificial contraception. In lieu of current controversy with defining contraceptives as abortive, Natural Law provides an oppositional fall-back position from Biblical based argument.

For Catholics and Protestants alike, Natural Law and/or Biblical text, provide foundation for Christian opposition to abortion and contraception. For both groups, the Bible is deemed to be God’s word, while Natural Law is seen as God’s intent or order evident in the natural world. It may be adequate to juxtapose the two stances this way: The Bible is God’s word, as received and recorded by man, while Natural Law is God’s will, as perceived and elucidated by man.

Clerical Overreach

There’s an inescapable problem with citing either source as evidence towards divine censure of contraception (or even abortion): It’s not substantiated. Each requires human invention (Natural Law) or creative interpretation (of Bible) to reach that conclusion and becomes nothing more than arguable opinion. Claims to divine corroboration, then, have no validity. The following are several Biblical verses widely offered as testament in contraceptive debate:

Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

And Judah said onto Onan, Go into thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. (Genesis 38: 8-10)

Lo, children are the heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies at the gate. (Psalms 127: 3-5)

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1: 5)

He telleth the number of the stars: he calleth them all by their names.  Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. (Psalms 147: 4-5)

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, as according the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. (Exodus 21: 22-23)

Nearly twenty-five English versions of the Bible (and counting) are in existence, which in itself is problematic to divining God’s precise will. The English translations are descendant from prior languages, muddying clarity even further. Still, it’s the passages above (from the “King James Version”) that persist and are most often cited for argument in English speaking lands. While not exhaustive of Biblical allusion to pregnancy and birth, there’s little else to offer more detail or less need for supposition.

It’s at least plain from given Scripture that an omniscient God considers pregnancy and birth to be seen as blessings (or sometimes, as with Onan, a familial responsibility). Procreation is cited as God’s gift to man; that theme is clear, but not much else. Genesis 38: 8-10, is frequently cited as testament against contraception, but can just as easily be seen as rebuke for avoiding customary heritable obligations.  The text most often provided for condemnation of abortion is Jeremiah 1: 5. It’s used to allege that because one is already known by God while in the womb, any abortive means should be considered murderous.  The premise for that conclusion appears to be contradicted in Exodus 21: 22-23, which infers the mother’s life, is more valued than that of the unborn child. Verse by verse, there’s no clear consistent rebuke of contraception or abortion to be found in Biblical text without recourse to interpretive expansion and opinion.

Injecting the term “Papal Infallibility” prompts for unequivocal acceptance of opinion. “Natural Law” attempts the same response. The concept stems from the time of Aristotle and has been refined and incorporated in Catholic dialogue. Natural Law addresses scriptural vagueness and limitation of scope, enabling a convenient expansion of clerical authority while avoiding the appearance of Biblical adulteration. It’s under the banner of Natural Law that much of the Church’s opposition to contraception and abortion are found.  That it’s cited in Catholic (and now Evangelical) doctrine admits hierarchical dissatisfaction with Biblical content as single provider of God’s message.  The creation of Natural Law bridges the gap between scriptural evidence and human proposition, loftily lending an air of spiritual authority.  Pope  Paul VI’s reference to Natural Law in Humanae Vitae should be viewed accordingly:

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”….”Hence to use  this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and his holy will.

Natural Law and creative interpretation of scripture are each utilized to inveigh against contraception and abortion. It’s paradoxical that either veil is used for argument in expressing the will of a god considered to be omniscient. The digression from given scripture suggests either suspicion of a negligent god, or clerical desire for an expanded role exceeding Biblical script.

Beyond the confines of religious certainty, the recognition of embryonic and fetal life as human is enigmatic. A process is visibly taking place, and it’s clear that life is unfolding — but how to define and codify it? Certitude is evasive, leaving ample room for speculation and vigorous opinion.  It’s the prospect of terminating the process, of aborting, that really sharpens opinion. Is it ever ethical? Can there be extenuating considerations? If considerations are admissible, what are the boundaries and who defines them?

Catholic and Protestant voices readily answer and provide certainty, but not without defiling the wellspring of their authority. When clerics creatively manipulate or append Biblical testament, their appeal to providence is discredited. The ploy extends breadth to moral authority, but with consequence to actual integrity. The damage is not confined to just that — it extends past procreation argument and into the social and political fabric beyond church dominion.

Cultivation of Implacable Thought

Nothing is more polarizing than proclaiming “God’s will” to advance a controversial opinion. It begets a spiritual obligation to rigidity of thought and action, leaving no room for compromise or accommodation.  It’s not surprising that religious leaders would play the God card in valid representation of scripture — they’re expected and entrusted to do so. It’s disturbing though, and dangerous when clerics counterfeit scripture to play that card.  It’s not done through ignorance — there’s been centuries of scriptural study, with tomes of elucidation on every nuance of Biblical testimony. It’s likely not done in pursuit of a better good; Pope Paul VI even warns against that type of transgression in Humanae Vitae:

It is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it — in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family, or of society in general.

The lingering consideration is that religious leaders have willingly misrepresented scriptural authority to bolster their own. Prostituting “God’s will” for authoritative gratification has pushed the contraceptive/abortion issue to an ascendant posture beyond reconciliation. Single-topic intransigence provides fertile ground for political exploitation. Little is required beyond declaration. It delivers the goods, and because it’s a preeminent position, often provides cover for action (or inaction) that would otherwise merit condemnation.

Collateral Damage

Traditionally, Republican politicians wave the pro-life banner. Since at least 2000, white Catholics and Evangelicals (especially), have tended to support Republican candidates. While Blacks and Hispanics have a large presence in Catholic and Evangelical groups, they’re often marginalized in GOP policy and face more imminent threats than posed by procreation policy. White Christians are less marginalized, and in the last four elections their vote has gone to the Republican candidate by significant margins. 2016 exemplifies the trend: 60% of white Catholics voted pro-life and Trump, while 81% of white Evangelicals did the same. It’s reflective of the previous three elections. For white Christian voters it was not a mandate for change, but simply business as usual.

American politics and the Republican Party aren’t singularly dominated by white Christians, but the impact is significant, and in close elections can be crucial — as evidenced in 2016. The campaign and election results for that year provide vivid example of pro-life’s ascendant position and its determining influence.  Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump showed little in the way of holding traditional Christian or humanistic values. The opposite was more visibly true, but he did wave the pro-life banner.

The president’s first year has been reflective of the campaign’s conspicuous display. There’s an abundance of loud talk and activity running counter to Christian and humanistic concerns. Some administrative action (or lack of) can easily be seen as life threatening (gun policy, environmental degradation, immigration stricture, bombastic international diplomacy, healthcare constriction, etc.). Peril to the living is real and clearly visible.  That the pro-life banner was sufficient enticement for so many Christian voters conveys two possibilities: It’s deemed more important than all other considerations combined; or it’s a hypocritical affectation for self image and display. In either case, Catholic and Evangelical dissimulation provides the ladder to this ascendant position. In posing human opinion as God’s expressed will, Christian clerics bear prominent responsibility for the formidable voting bloc made available to political use — and abuse.

Politically it’s great strategy, sewing up a faithful block of voters. Whether intentional or not, Catholic and Evangelical leaders are partner to the manipulation. It may not have seemed like much, centuries ago, to have enhanced authority and Biblical reach with Natural Law. It may not seem like much today when proclaiming “The Bible clearly states this or that”, when it doesn’t quite do so. It is just a stretch after all. But it’s more than the simple stretch for a bit of self enhancement. It’s religious, and proclaims God as author to declarations never made. A spiritual deception is presented, and has multiple consequences: The faithful are shackled to an intractable position, dissemblers are given veil, and manipulators are given prey. In view of present reality, is it exaggeration to say the world suffers for it?

The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst

When we hear the word terrorism, among the first images we likely visualize are the Twin Towers and a bearded Osama bin Laden.  3,000 Americans died on September 11, 2001.  Osama is dead, but the war on terror continues.  Close to 5,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with hundreds of thousands of non-Americans.  More than a trillion dollars have been spent in an unending campaign.  Such is America’s resolve when faced with terror and threat.

Threats to America are still alive, and at least one has another guise.  Could it be time to include a new image when visualizing terror?  The figure taking shape wears suit and tie and has no beard.  It’s an image of Wayne La Pierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice-president and spokesperson.

Osama bin Laden didn’t fly planes into the Twin Towers.  Perhaps he never actually killed with his own hands at all, but is certainly recognized as killer and terrorist.  Bin Laden was a facilitator – someone who provided the means and inspiration for others to execute.  La Pierre may never have killed with his own hands either, but he’s complicit in providing the means for others.  So is it hyperbole to label La Pierre a terrorist?  Why should it be?  As an advocate of NRA intransigence, he’s an active facilitator to murder.  The mouthpiece of the arms and ammunition industry, La Pierre is implicated in the slaying of 161,000 Americans killed since 2002.  Every year, nearly 12,000 Americans are murdered with guns.  That’s the equivalent of four 9-11’s each year – one every three months.  Think about it.  Fourteen years ago we suffered the first 9-11 and are still addressing it.  Since then, every ninety days, year after year, another 3,000 Americans are attacked and killed, yet we do nothing.  Actually it’s worse than nothing – we help promote it.  We even vote for it.

The NRA has lost its way, and if it ever had a soul, that’s gone too.  Formed more than a hundred years ago, its original objective was to provide training in marksmanship.  It was an organization for training youths and adults in good soldiering, hunting, and sporting practice.  The group remained as such for decades, but nearly fifty years ago, primarily as reaction to the 1968 Gun Control Act, the NRA began to evolve into a potent political machine.

Today, the NRA has about 5 million dues-paying members.  The organization receives additional financial support from the arms and ammunition industry.  They assist the NRA’s several politically active lobby groups.  Probably no one on the outside has precise knowledge of funding details, but political clout indicates the amount is considerable.  It’s a 12 billion dollar a year industry – they can afford to be generous.  If the NRA has sold its soul, the arms and ammo manufacturers now own it.

All attempts to control and regulate an industry gone rogue are resisted.  It’s reminiscent of the tobacco cartel in our not too distant past.  Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when most homes had ashtrays in every room.  Celebrities, athletes, and even doctors extolled the benefits of inhaled smoke.  Today the NRA and the arms industry promote the healthy scenario of guns placed in every home and carried on every person.  It’s coupled with an image of bravery and freedom.  Purveyors may sell it as patriotism, but to the industry, it’s all about the money.

Most Americans favor more stringent gun regulation – even NRA members are sympathetic to more regulation (nearly 75%).  The NRA hierarchy opposes meaningful oversight.  They’ve sided with the arms and ammunition industry and the money.  Why not? – twelve billion dollars a year provides an affluent lifestyle for scores of gun executives, at least one well known lobbyist, and still has surplus to assist the campaigns of obliging politicians.

Recently, La Pierre was invited to Washington at the request of our president.  Trump thanked him for the NRA’s help in procuring the votes aiding his election.  Not only that – they reportedly discussed how best to use NRA influence to assure confirmation of the latest Supreme Court judge.  Imagine:  A man who helped facilitate the murder of more than 160,000 Americans was thanked by an American president – and then asked to assist in seating a Supreme Court Justice!

On that single strange day, about 30 more Americans were murdered with guns. Of that number, probably at least two were wives shot and killed by deranged spouses.

Shortly after their meeting, our president acted to rescind a bill providing oversight of gun ownership by the mentally ill – those receiving social security checks due to their recognized impairment and those legally recognized as unable to handle their own financial affairs.

Over the course of two weeks in February, the country was in turmoil over the attempted roll-out of new travel and immigration restrictions – reforms declared necessary to make America safe.  Elected government officials were beginning the process of knocking on doors, separating parents from the lives of their children.  For lack of a piece of paper, non-citizens posed an imminent threat to true Americans.  In that same time-span, Citizen Wayne La Pierre helped facilitate the real murder of nearly 450 Americans.  He sat with the President while doing so.

In an April address to the annual NRA convention in Atlanta, President Trump declared the end to an eight year assault on 2nd amendment rights.  Incredibly, during the eight years of siege, recipients of those rights were still able to murder about 96,000 Americans.

Somehow the President makes it right in his head.  Wayne La Pierre makes it right in his head, as do the gun makers who support him.  All the NRA members who send in forty dollars a year make it right in their heads, along with all of us who vote for our legislators – we all make it right.  Everything is alright.

Somewhere, a child sits on the top step of her porch, watching the antics of her siblings.  It happens without warning, like a clap of thunder.  It enters just below her left eye.  Her life and everything she might have become are already over as the projectile passes through the right side of her skull.  She’s gone, and no one can make it right again.  The bullet comes to rest in the hearts of those who love her, and that can’t be made right again either.  Nothing will ever be alright again.

If we truly wish to make America safe, shouldn’t we look towards an actual source of danger – the pervasive violence facilitated by an unregulated industry?  Isn’t that the threat taunting us – the one we should face?

We build walls to make America safe.  We dismantle families to make America strong.  In their hour of greatest need, we turn our backs on the dispossessed to make America great again.  Perhaps we prefer the choreography of fighting imaginary dragons.  What valiant and courageous knights we’ve become!   We somehow claim valor in facing such threats, while in our midst is a real dragon.  We don’t fight that one.  We feed our children to it.

On our streets and in our homes – twelve thousand murders every year, another 9-11 holocaust every three months, over and over without redress.  In the White House, Wayne La Pierre is embraced and saluted by our president.  Such is American resolve when faced with terror and threat.