"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A few (hopefully) last words on guns

Well, last words for awhile, anyway.

1)  That teenagers anger about what adults have done (or not) about gun control is perfectly valid.  As Anderson Cooper pointed out, the bullets from an AR15 shred human bodies.  People don't die neatly and discretely the way they do in movies (and when Quentin Tarentino shows us how much damage bullets do, we denounce him for reveling in gore.  Funny, that.).  Cooper's solution is to make people see what guns do, though I'm not sure putting the whole nation into PTSD is going to improve our attitude about gun laws.

2)  It's only, as Van Jones pointed out, a "mental health" issue when a white man wields the weapon.  Black people are proof we need more prisons, or even that they need to be shot in the streets.  "Mexicans" are proof we need a border wall.  White people?  Well, that person must have been crazy, because no true white person.....

Will this change?  I'm not sanguine.  Massive areas of Harris County flooded after Harvey; but equal portions of the county suffered no damage at all.  While I was enduring 5 hour traffic jams trying to make a trip that should have taken 30 minutes, because of street flooding that lasted for weeks, other parts of town were unaffected.  While in that traffic jam I was listening to people on the radio talk about how little damage Harvey did to Houston, how quickly the city had returned to normal.  "Normal," especially in a city as sprawling as Houston, is very much a matter of location.  I know people whose entire neighborhoods were destroyed by the release of water from the reservoirs designed 80 years ago to protect the city from flooding.  Other parts of town, however, suffered no such damage.  And now over 50% of county residents, per a poll, don't want to pay higher taxes in order to enact flood control.  If we don't, of course, we'll go down in popular opinion as the city on the flood plain, and our economy will start to decline as companies and people decline to move here.  But even after Harvey, taxes are anathema.  Which is partly understandable, as the only tax the local governments can raise is property taxes, and people whose property has been reduced to bare ground aren't anxious to pay more taxes on that property.  But, of course, we made this bed for ourselves decades ago, consistently refusing to allow any other basis for taxes (such as income).  We created this dilemma for ourselves, in other words, and three years of consecutive 500 year floods, capped in the third year by over a year's worth of rainfall in 36 hours, is still not enough to make us look up and around and think fundamentally about what we are doing.

So, will the kids make us reconsider our political and governmental and societal (it's not a Constitutional issue, despite what you've heard) fundamentals?  Well, my generation thought it would change the national attitude about war and race, and now we have one of the most openly racist Presidents in American history in the White House, and consider a movie about a science-fiction African country directed by an African American to be, not just a major cultural event, but a major world event, largely because it is proving popular outside of America.  No shade on "Black Panther," but it's success ain't exactly the equivalent of Obama's first election to the Presidency or the end of, and certainly doesn't erase the election of Trump after him.

I'd like to see things get better.  I want them to get better.  But this mad identity of guns with life itself, with the reason to exist and the basis of our freedom, did not spring sui generis from the brow of Wayne LaPierre, and it won't be blown away by the righteous indignation of teenagers who have seen first hand what bullets do to bodies.  They are standing up to the obscene nonsense that they are actors and dupes in a "deep state" conspiracy.  Constituents are reacting to the shooting in Florida in Pennsylvania and Colorado.  Even CPAC is feeling the heat.  Will it be enough this time?  Only if we make it so. Heat burns, but heat doesn't last.  The NRA knows this, which is why they are quite now.  We can't rely on heat alone, on anger, on outrage.  If we end up satisfied that "the kids" are alright and "the kids" tried but, after all, what can you do?; we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

It's going to take much attention to what got us into this mess, and such a commitment to changing fundamentals because we can't continue to live this way.  Can we do that?  Yes.  Will we do it?

Aye; there's the rub.


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