There is so much that has already been said about the recent massacre of small children in Connecticut and it’s implications for our society. Some examples are here, here, and here. I asked myself, “Do I really need to weigh in?”. The answer is apparently yes, I do.
There is one article in particular circulating all over social media today entitled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”. In it, a mother details her struggles with her sometimes violent son who is clearly suffering from some sort of mental illness that eludes diagnosis and any clear path for how to live and deal with it. It is a powerful piece and her assertion that we need to start having serious discussions and action plans for how to deal with mental illness in our country is inarguably true. What we’re currently doing, which is essentially ignoring or locking up the mentally ill is not working. Something has to be done and until it is we will keep having these shocking episodes where somebody who always seemed “a little off” or “not quite right” surprises everyone by showing the world exactly what they were capable of. Would it have happened if Adam Lanza had gotten all of the help he needed? Perhaps. We’ll never know. My guess is probably not. What we do know for sure is that had he not had access to deadly assault weapons he simply could not have inflicted the damage he did in such a short period of time.
The thing this mother says in her article that I cannot agree with is that while mental illness is a difficult conversation, gun control is not. She says it’s easy to talk about gun control. It is indeed easy to argue about gun control, to throw around statistics and to get worked up about it on both sides. But there have been no meaningful discussions surrounding gun control. There is always one side who says that there has to be limits and another side who claims infringement of their rights at even the suggestion that ordinary citizens should not have access to semi-automatic assault rifles.
Can anyone tell me of a single instance of an armed civilian stopping a mass shooting? I don’t know of any, but I’d love to be proven wrong. This idea that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun doesn’t hold any water. The only thing that stops someone intent on killing as many people as possible is limited access to the weapons that would allow such a slaughter. Some have brought up the attack on children in China that happened the day before the shootings in Connecticut as proof that there are crazy people everywhere. And it’s true, there are mentally unstable people everywhere. The difference is that some of them have access to guns and some of them only have access to knives. I’d much rather have a child that was injured in a knife attack than a child that was killed in a shooting assault, wouldn’t you?
Every time I hear someone invoke the 2nd amendment to explain our right to carry assault rifles, I am reminded of the Pharisees who missed entirely the intent and spirit of the law as they attempt to condemn Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat from the wheat fields on the sabbath. What is the intent or spirit of the 2nd amendment? There is much debate about that, though I think we can all agree that it had a lot to do with providing an assurance that the federal government would not be able to use the army to control its own citizens. It was also meant to allow a person to protect themselves in their own home.
I personally do not believe that any civilian citizens should have the right to own firearms. I also do not believe that police should carry firearms. Military personnel, excluding MPs, are not allowed to carry weapons unless deployed overseas or serving guard duty at military installations and the like. They are not permitted, as police officers are, to carry their weapons home with them. And the fact is, we could all be armed up to our eyeballs, but if the US military chose to attack its own citizens, we’d be helpless to stop them. Our military and our government, with plenty of blessing from its citizens, have developed weapons far more powerful than anyone could ever hope to thwart with an assault rifle. Owning or carrying a gun may make you feel that you are safe from the bad guys or from our own government, but it is just that – a feeling. It is simply not true. An armed society is not a safer society and when we cannot even send our children to school without worrying for their safety, are we truly free? If we are not free and we are not safe, what is the point?
The other issue I have with the invocation of the 2nd amendment is the inferred belief that the US Constitution and amendments are sacred. What’s to say that we shouldn’t take a second and a third and fourth look at these things to see if they need to be changed or updated? The constitution was adopted in 1787. Just four years later the first ten amendments were ratified. Clearly, our forefathers did not see the constitution as the unchangeable thing that we tend to see. The world has changed a lot since 1791. Science and technology have created more marvelous and terrifying things than the founders of our country could have ever imagined. Why shouldn’t the constitution change as the world changes? Perhaps our current interpretation of the 2nd amendment does not serve the cause of the greater good. Perhaps we are missing the intent and spirit of the law.
So yes, we need to have meaningful discussions in this country about guns and mental illness. We also need to have meaningful conversations about the media. This tragedy has once again highlighted how reckless and irresponsible the American media has become. In their quest for what – ratings? sensationalism? – they report what they hear before they have the facts to back it up. Journalism is not simply repeating here-say. That is called gossip. And much of what we heard in the first few hours after the shootings was just that – gossip. From reports of the shooter’s identity to reports that his mother was a teacher at the school to the completely unverified reports that continue into today that the shooter was diagnosed with Asperger’s . That has not been confirmed by anyone who would know and yet the media seems to have no trouble spreading this as if it were confirmed fact. Think of how horrifying this must be for the parents of children with Asperger’s and for the children themselves. There has never been any link proven between Asperger’s and violent acts and if the shooter did indeed have Asperger’s it was not the underlying cause of his incomprehensible actions. If anything, it may have made it more difficult for his mental illness to be recognized and treated. But we simply do not know.
What we do know are the names and ages of his victims. Why is the media continuing to print the shooter’s name and picture when they could instead be helping to ensure that none of us ever forget his victims? We should not be reinforcing the precedent that was set with the Columbine shootings in 1999 that the killers get more media attention than their victims. And yet, this is what American media does over and over. They repeat the name of the killer. They show his picture over and over again. They allow this person to live in infamy, thus giving the idea to any other mentally disturbed person who imagines that the only way to mean anything is to kill innocents that they too will live in infamy if they can pull off such an attack. The media’s stand in these cases should be to refuse to give any meaningful press to the perpetrator of such a horrifying attack. Instead, let us focus all of our attention on the victims, their families, and their community.
In a situation like this we are all left with one question: why? It is often this question that instead of getting answered, gets buried under accusations and arguments. How many more people have to die in this horrifying way before we gain the moral courage to face that question? We, as a nation, have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, why? Why does this keep happening? And what can we do to stop it? It is only when we answer that question that any of us can truly feel safe and free.
Poor Romney. Poor sweet silly Romney. He really thought he was going to win. Despite my elation over the reelection of our 44th president for a second term, I really did feel an immense amount of compassion for Mitt Romney as he conceded the victory to Obama.
I said at the beginning of this seemingly never-ending campaign that I didn’t think the Republicans wanted to win, which is why they were putting Mitt Romney forth as their candidate. ( I still think this despite Karl Rove’s attempts at appearing shocked and upset when Fox News called it for Obama) It’s horrible to think they could use a person like that. I mean, he really wanted to win and he really thought he would. I can’t imagine his personal devastation.
Romney’s campaign was terrible. (I’m not saying Obama’s was faultless) he lied blatantly, switched positions and was never true to himself, though I think we’d all be hard pressed to know who that would be. Despite this, I believe he is a good person with good intentions. Most people are. And after putting yourself out there in this way, investing so much energy, time, and money into it, this kind of loss would be gut-wrenching for any of us. I think of his family who gave so much of their lives for his hoped-for success.
In all sincerity. I do feel for him. I think he was used by Karl Rove and the other white men who run the Republican Party for their own purposes. Some would say that’s just politics but I refuse to believe that. Politics has always been a dirty game, sure, but it doesn’t have to be filthy and both sides have a lot of work to do in that regard.
Good news for Romney is he tends to forget things like past actions and long-held positions. I suspect sooner rather than later this whole campaign and election debacle will be another victim of the Romnesia that invades his brain.
Until then, Romney, lay low, keep the TV turned off, and take a few rides in your car elevator. That should be fun.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. Thomas Friedman beat me to it and really, he’s done a much better job than I ever could. Considering the unfortunate fact that we can’t go more than a few days without a Republican candidate saying something offensive about rape (Jon Stewart’s take on this is hilarious, btw) it’s an issue that keeps coming up.
Sadly, the dialogue that usually surrounds these issues does more harm than good. I’m always particularly confounded by the mainstream conversations that happen surrounding abortion, which is why I was so pleased to see Friedman’s article. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I think it’s safe to say that with the possible exception of serial killers and mass murderers, everyone is pro-life. We like to live, we choose to keep living, we want to live as long as possible, we don’t kill people, and we love babies. So, the divide that exists is not about being pro-life or not, but about whether we agree that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her own body. And as Friedman rightly points out, many who proudly proclaim to be “pro-life” have a very narrow definition of what that means, one that excludes much of actual Life.
I have always wondered what would happen if people focused more energy on reducing the number and likelihood of abortions rather than arguing about whether or not they should be legal. What would happen if we all focused on finding ways to ensure that women never have to make this heartbreaking choice. (And it is a heartbreaking choice no matter what picture the extreme right paints of women who have had abortions)
Because of this I was surprised and delighted to hear a representative from the Christian Right talking about this very thing. I was listening to this episode of On Being yesterday and found myself vigorously nodding in agreement with much of what was said. It’s really simple – if we don’t want women to be choosing abortion then we need to create a social net that supports women making other choices. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, for example, is working on making the foster care system more compassionate and efficient.
To be clear, I believe that a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body is fundamental, and I also believe that her choices are between her, her doctor and her God. But in my opinion there are many things we could do to reduce the number of abortions performed every year:
1. Educate, educate, educate. All females need access to accurate sex education. (abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK)
2. Free and readily accessible contraception. The best way to avoid abortion is to prevent pregnancy. (once again, abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK)
3. Perhaps it’s time we confront our culture of violence against women. We need to erase phrases like “legitimate rape” from our vocabulary and have substantive discussions about culturally accepted objectification of women and the deeply ingrained distrust and hatred towards women and their bodies.
4. Make it easier to raise a child as a single parent. One example would be to make paid maternity leave a requirement. Another would be affordable child care. Other countries have great models we can learn from and these two things would benefit all mothers and all families, not just single mothers.
5. A complete overhaul of the foster care and adoption system. The statistics for children raised in foster care are beyond depressing, from rates of suicide to rates of graduation from high school. The system is failing children. We cannot ask women to entrust the lives of their babies into a system that is failing them at every turn.
These are just five simple, and I think obvious, suggestions, but what would happen if we actually focused on them?
I highly recommend listening to the episode of On Being mentioned above. As someone who admittedly tends to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the word “Christian”, it did much to open my mind and heart to the possibility of Christians recognizing this, taking responsibility for the areas in which they themselves have contributed to it , and questioning what it means to be christian and how this should affect the way they operate in the world.
John McCain’s disastrous vice-presidential pick aside, we all know that a presidential candidate’s running mate, in the long run, really has no bearing on many people’s voting decision. It sure does give some insight into the candidate’s mind, though.
Mitt Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate only confirms everything we already know about Romney: he’ll say or do anything he thinks will get him more votes.
Does this distinguish him from most politicians? Probably not. I have to believe that there are a few who remain sincere, who are principled, and will only say what they truly mean and truly mean what they say, but they are certainly few and far between.
The fact that Paul Ryan appeals to any American voters is beyond troubling, but apparently he is especially popular among the fringe Tea Party. (To be clear, I am referring to Tea Party as a whole as “fringe”, not just part of them.) This is not surprising given their penchant for contradictory views on everything from taxes to abortion. The Tea Party wants to have their cake, eat it too, and blame the “liberals” when they start to gain weight.
Mr. Ryan is an outspoken admirer of Ayn Rand and also an apparently devout Catholic. There is nothing wrong, I suppose, with having political opinions that are dramatically different from what your faith teaches and encourages you to practice. It’s clearly very difficult though, as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Ryan, and his ilk, have chosen to ignore those contradictions as well as the separation of Church and State and instead to simply legislate their beliefs. This makes them both poor representations of Christians as well as admirers of a woman who would have despised them.
Ayn Rand said: “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” So basically, you can’t give a shit about the well-being of others in order for a civilization to survive. It’s each man for himself. I’d say we’re getting pretty close to that these days, and while we may be “surviving”, are we thriving? Shouldn’t the goal of any civilization go beyond just mere survival?
Contrast her words with the words of Jesus: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” So, basically the exact opposite.
So how does a Christian, like Mr. Ryan, justify cutting services to the poor so that he can give more to the rich? How does he justify claiming to believe that the federal government has no business reaching into our personal lives while attempting to legislate control of women’s bodies?
(And, as an aside, did he seriously say that he was a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine? Is he seriously that dumb/obtuse/unaware to not have realized that he perfectly typifies the machine against which they are raging?)
I don’t understand it and I never will. Taking care of the “least among us” is not just a Christian value. It is an ethical value that transcends all cultures and belief systems. Without the interference of patriarchal consumerist societies, it is something that all humans would inherently do.
So, will the American people elect a man who chose as his running mate a person whose stated political and personal beliefs are diametrically opposed? Since Romney’s choice was clearly part of an effort to win over voters, what does this say about his opinion of the American people? Does he think we are too silly/misinformed/ignorant to realize that Paul Ryan’s ideas on everything from economics to politics to family planning are contradictory and unethical?
Is Mr. Romney right? Are we?
Sometimes I really wish that part of the Bill of Rights that seems to indicate that carrying weapons is the right of all Americans was just a
simple homophone mix-up. I mean, it happens. There/their, hair/hare, bee/be. If Facebook is any indication, homophones are quite possibly the most confusing thing about the English language.
What if our forefathers really thought that sleeveless tops were crucial to liberty? I mean, it’s plausible. Sleeves can be dastardly things and quite claustrophobia-inducing at times.
Joking aside, I am loathe to join in on the conversation about gun control, not because I don’t believe it’s an important one, but because it remains one of those things that no matter the research, no matter the statistics, no matter the evidence that a society that condones armed citizens is a more dangerous and violent society, those who oppose gun control will not budge.
Much like capitalism only works when all parties are ethical, the right to bear arms only works when all parties have an unshakeable respect for human life. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true and consequently in both cases, we need to reconsider our approach.
If the recent senseless violence (and all the senseless violence of the past) isn’t enough to make us do so, what will be? File this under the category of Things I Don’t Know.
Pregnancy and childbirth were very spiritual experiences for me. I recently heard a woman describing the emerging of a baby from its mother’s womb as the moment the universe cracks open to allow another soul in. As soon as I heard it I wished that I had described it that way.
Feeling a mini-human growing inside of you and then delivering that human into this world is nothing short of miraculous. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to God. The days after we brought our little bundle home I remember feeling like I suddenly understood something I’d only had a vague awareness of before. I struggled then, as I do now, to put it into words.
When you have your first child, you are suddenly no longer the most recent of your family’s generations. If this seems obvious, that’s because it is. Like, duh, right? But I doubt very much that I am alone in having experienced this realization so profoundly a few days after my son’s birth. I’ve never been afraid of dying, and have lived my entire adult life with a very keen awareness of just how short a lifetime can be. Even so, with my new baby boy nestled in my arms I was able, for the first time, to see my older self, to imagine old age, and to visualize dying. If this seems morose, I assure you it wasn’t. If this seems incongruous with welcoming new life, it didn’t feel that way. Envisioning the endless possibilities and new life that stretched before my son, I couldn’t help but to include my inevitable end. It will affect us both profoundly.
We tend to think of life and death as opposites, but in fact the opposite of death is birth and life is what occurs in between those two. And if you believe, as I do, that with each death we are reborn, then really birth and death are not exactly opposites so much as the beginning and end of a circle that, once drawn, no longer has an obvious beginning and end.
A new parent has a unique opportunity to really see and sense this truth, if they want to. At times, when I have described my experience with pregnancy and childbirth as a spiritual one, I am met with blank stares, or worse, my statement is ignored completely. I know, or I choose to believe anyway, that this does not mean that these people have not experienced something similar. They simply have not named it as I have. And really, the difference between a regular everyday experience and a spiritual one is all in the naming, isn’t it?
Having a child highlights the miraculous that exists in the everyday. As your baby speeds through the first year of life, going from a completely helpless creature to a talking, walking, eating human with their own agenda in the span of 12 incredibly short months you are reminded of the wonder of it all. Although you’ve managed to feed yourself with a spoon for years on end, the first time your child manages this feat there is celebration. You have put one foot in front of the other, propelling yourself forward at will, for longer than you can remember yet when your offspring moves from baby to toddler, Bambi-legs shaking as they shriek with delight at the realization that each time they lift their foot they are moving ever closer to you, happy and proud tears are shed.
If to be enlightened means to exist perpetually in the present moment, content and calm and ever-aware of our connection to all things, I am not there yet. But becoming a mother has certainly propelled me closer.