Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"To his grim idol"

I have family members who, many decades gone now, came home to find a large boulder in their living room; and a boulder-sized hole in the ceiling and roof of their house.

Someone nearby was doing some blasting, and in a "Use enough dynamite there, didya, Butch?" moment, sent the offending rock hurling through space to land in their house.  Fortunately, no one was home and the damage was soon repaired.

But the response was not to build a boulder-proof shield over their house, on the odd chance this would occur again.  The response was to make sure whoever is handling dynamite and conducting blasting operations does it with more control and more good sense.  You would think that would be the response to the massacre in Newtown; but the response seems to be: we must put shields over our schools to keep the boulders from falling in.

Schools as "gun-free zones" are blamed for school violence.  Unarmed teachers are blamed for school violence.  Lack of security at the schools is blamed for school violence.  Lack of armed guards patrolling the schools is blamed for school violence.  The fault is in where we put the house, not in the guy handling the dynamite.  The fault is in not making the house boulder-proof.

What's wrong with this picture?

After Timothy McVeigh found it difficult to buy explosives, but easy to buy fertilizer, we didn't respond by making all federal buildings bomb proof.  We responded by controlling the ability of individuals to buy large amounts of fertilizer.  Had we responded by turning all federal buildings into inaccessible fortresses that could withstand even another truck full of fertilizer and kerosene, who would have thought this reasonable?

This idiocy reached what I can only hope is its nadir with Lucinda Roy's argument on Diane Rehm's show that compared school children to $10,000 in unguarded cash.  Ms. Roy's thought experiment involves removing every child from every classroom and replacing them with $10,000 in cash, left at their desks without armed guards.  This, she says, would be considered outrageous, and yet it is comparable to the treatment of our children in schools now where, she insists, they are not safe.

It honestly doesn't get more ludicrous than that.  But Ms. Roy is a professor at Virginia Tech, so we should take her seriously; or at least honor her personal experiences.

How about we do neither?

We control access to automatic firearms.  We control access to explosives.  Why can't we control access to semi-automatic weapons and the bullets that make them functional?  We can't suck all of the guns out of the hands of private citizens.  We can't stop any one person anywhere who wants to walk into the nearest school and start shooting.  But we can make it so much more difficult in ways that will actually work rather than banning rifles with pistol grips or bayonet mounts (two of the definitions necessary to be an "assault weapon" under the expired ban).

Alternatively, we could turn our public schools into fortresses and then cower in them, afraid of the world outside, afraid of what strangers might do, in the name of "security."  What lessons would we be teaching children in such places? 

We'll ban "assault weapons" (whatever the hell those are), and high-capacity magazines.  And the ones already loose in the country?  Well, maybe in 100 or 200 years, they'll have rusted away and no longer be a threat.  After all, it's not like we can control access to the things that make guns go "boom!"  We can do it with dynamite.  We can even do it with fertilizer.  But not with guns; never with guns.  Never, ever, with guns.

When it comes to guns, we even blame the victim.  Or women; we could blame women.

Maybe Garry Wills is right; maybe we have found our Moloch.


  1. Windhorse9:51 PM

    An accurate if distasteful analogy to the right-wing response in this situation would be if they were attempting to keep children from viewing pornography by making them wear blinders wherever they go. Of course they would never do that; its preposterous. We regulate the threat at the source, like explosives and other materials you mentioned.

    Which is only one of many possible examples that shows how disingenuous they're being in this matter.

  2. I'm very concerned that the outcome of this will be we really can't make more than symbolic gestures about guns, that no meaningful response is possible.

  3. Robert,
    First off thank you for all your posts on the tragedy and gun issues. I thought you would be interested in this NYT article on religious groups and gun control.

    (I am hoping the link works, if not it is under the US section of the site). What I find depressing is that down in the article evangelical leaders are hesitant to address gun control because it might separate them from the Republican party. It really goes to the issue of power, they have gained power and access to the party, but in my view sell their soul in the process. People complain about religion in politics, but the issue runs the other way. The corruption of our religious institutions.

    The peace that surpasses all understanding is at least not the threat of violence so there is an appearence of peace (the peace of the dictator), nor countervailing violence as peace (the supposed peace if we are all armed), but that absence of violence or threat. But what do I know.

  4. I "buried" the link in the post above, but Richard Land (who, IIRC, is former head of the SBC; I know I've heard of him before) was on NPR parroting the NRA line on "gun control" while tying it into how Jesus never said "Don't use lethal force to defend others."

    Which is such a high level of bullsgeschicte (fine German theological term; you could look it up) I almost smashed the radio in anger. But yeah, evangelicals especially are far more wedded to this world than they should be.

    OTOH, I can't say too much in favor of non-evangelicals and their fealty to the gospels. Or even mine. So I shouldn't throw stones. But still; do we have to wrap Jesus up with our love of guns and call it logically consistent?

  5. drkrick8:36 PM

    After hearing a representative of the then-novel (it was 1980) Moral Majority tell "60 Minutes" that "Jesus would be in favor of a strong nuclear deterrent," nothing Christians try to wrap in Jesus will really surprise me. It's so much easier to carry our beliefs to God for confirmation than it is to get our beliefs from God.

    But does it make me a bad person to chuckle just a little about mentioning throwing stones in the comments of this particular post?

  6. But does it make me a bad person to chuckle just a little about mentioning throwing stones in the comments of this particular post?

    No. It makes me wonder about creeping dementia that it took me five minutes to figure out the joke, though.

    And yeah, people are always finding means to justify the ways of man through God. Happily, the letters NPR read yesterday regarding the Land interview were uniformly critical, especially on the point of Christians and condoning violence. Nice to know the sentiment isn't limited to commenters on this blog.