Ain’t that America

12 02 2015

Three Muslim students were gunned down by an atheist and somehow the more reassuring story is that the murders were not over religion, but a parking space?

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See how we are: gotta keep bars in all our windows

15 12 2012

A surprise, yes, but not as much as it should be: another mass shooting.

The shock, perhaps, was in the age of the majority of the murder victims. As President Obama observed:

The majority of those who died today were children. . . beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them—birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers—men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

Beautiful little kids, yes.

The on-average 30+ people who are killed every day in this country also were, years ago or perhaps just the day before, beautiful little kids.

I don’t know that’s there’s anything anymore can be done. Over 300 million guns in this country, and the first response to every damned mass shooting—and how terrible is it that word “every”?—is to say no, no, this has nothing to do with guns.

Over three hundred million guns, and maybe it is too late, maybe there is nothing more to be done but to prepare for the next shooting. Run the teachers and students and employees and customers through drills, train the doctors and nurses, prepare the counselors, militarize the police.

Unless, of course, that isn’t enough, and you think that  the problem is that not enough people were armed, that if only the teachers or the movie theatre ushers or the mall retail workers or the customers or the temple congregants had guns this all could have been prevented or stopped sooner.

Every person with a gun, every person a hero with a gun against every other person a villain with a gun.





Voices carry

23 08 2012

It’s a joke, but it’s not really a joke.

The whole Abortion Rights Militantthing, I mean. Yes, the capitalization and the ™  are completely unsubtle winks at my sardonic (re)appropriation of what is meant as a slur, but I ain’t jokin’ in my damn-near-absolutism on matters of law.

This absolutism, however, extends only as far as the law; the morality, the sentiment regarding abortion is another matter. I might recognize the decision to terminate a pregnancy as morally licit, but that doesn’t make it easy.

(In fact, the complications of the decision are precisely why legally it is best left to the woman—but I don’t want to sidetrack myself like I did last night, so I’ll just leave it there. Nor will I stray into a discourse on the evolving status of the blastocyst-embryo-fetus. . . .)

Nope, let me give this one over to sympathy for the beliefs of those who think abortion is always or almost always morally wrong, that the termination of a pregnancy means the killing of a child.

I don’t share that view, but it’s not wholly alien to me, either. No, I can’t get too worked up about embryos, but a fetus, the fetus is something else, and the further along the fetus, the more baby-like the fetus appears.

By the second trimester it’s not yet a human being, but it’s so clearly on the way to becoming one that I understand—I feel—a certain sympathy toward this small creature. It’s not one of us, not yet, but it could be, it could be.

If given a chance, she could become a human being; how could I not be moved by that possibility?

In teaching my bioethics course on assisted reproductive technologies, I cover selective reduction of multi-fetal pregnancies. These aren’t technically abortions—the idea is to kill some of the fetuses in order to save the rest, as opposed to ending the pregnancy entirely—but this procedure, generally performed at the end of the first trimester, seems to me essentially tragic. The woman (and her partner) want children, but their best chance of preserving the possibility of having some of those children is to destroy the possibility of some of those children. Again, how could I not be moved by the intertwined possibilities of beginning and end?

And I guess that’s where I both sympathize and part ways with those who are pro-life. I look at a fetus and see possibility; they look at a fetus and see a child, already here. I wonder at what could be; they wonder at what is.

Sometimes I can glimpse what they see right in front of them, sometimes I can imagine that the fetus is a child reacting in terror and pain to the ending of her life, and I can understand why those who are pro-life see abortion as murder, and its legality as a kind of sanctioned genocide. How horrible to think that we in the US allow over a million babies to be murdered every year.

But then I blink and what I see is not a child but the possibility of a child—and the actuality of the woman. And I think how horrible for the state to take away the control of her life, how horrible for the state to treat women as if they don’t exist.

Thus the final sympathy with those on the other side of the issue: we are each genuinely horrified by the state-sanctioned disappearance of human beings. We just don’t agree on which human beings.





Hold on

23 07 2011

Bombings are not rare.

Karachi, Mumbai, Kabul, Mogadishu. . . people are murdered every day by criminals and terrorists who see  their fellow humans  solely as means to their own bloody ends.

I don’t know why I’m particularly affected by the Norwegian killings. Do I find it easier to identify with white Europeans? Is it that this is so unexpected, as if it matters more when horrific things happen to people who live in safe places than those who are under constant threat? Is it that a bomb in that city makes me wonder about a bomb in my city? Why pay more attention to this than to what happens in Baghdad?

I don’t know why it matters more, why all those bombings and shootings don’t matter more. They all matter.

So my sympathy to all of them, all of their friends, all of their families, their communities.

This is the least we can do for each other.

_________

Credit: REUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix





Snips and snails and puppy dog tails

13 07 2011

I know, children die every day, children are killed every day. This is heartbreaking, nonetheless:

The search for a missing 8-year-old Brooklyn boy ended early on Wednesday when investigators discovered what they believed to be his remains . . . .

The grim discovery capped two days of intense searching for the boy, Leibby Kletzky, who had disappeared along a short walk between a Borough Park school and a meeting place with his parents on Monday. Police detectives searched around his neighborhood and used helicopters to find the boy, who was part of the Hasidic Jewish community. They recovered video clearly showing the boy alive.  . . .

The police said it was the boy’s first day of walking home by himself. “He’d asked his parents’ permission to walk home alone and the parents were waiting outside” for him to return, Mr. Browne said.

The parents live on 15th Avenue. They were to meet their son at 13th Avenue and 50th Street; six blocks from the school.

The police retrieved other video showing the boy walking near a hardware store in the direction of where he was to meet his parents, but not quite at that spot.

His first day walking home alone! He must have been so excited. . . .

My condolences to his family.





Put down that weapon

10 01 2011

I don’t know Jared Loughner.

I don’t know his politics. I don’t know his mental state. I don’t know his background, his personality, his history of drug or alcohol use, or his genetic profile.

I don’t even know that he killed six people and shot twelve others, although, given the evidence reported thus far, it appears likely.

It appears likely that Jared Loughner is an assassin.

But that’s just one piece of this murderous political puzzle, isn’t it? Some have examined his online postings and concluded that he was widely read or maybe just trying to impress people with works he couldn’t understand; one woman Tweeted that when she knew him he was left-wing; some speculate on the influence of the anti-semitic American Renaissance or conspiracist David Wynn Miller; Andrew Sprung labels him a “sui generis make-your-own reality psychotic”.

Many others have noticed have noticed that this occurred in a poisonous political atmosphere, wherein Senate candidates talk about “Second Amendment remedies” and elected members of Congress call President Obama an “enemy of humanity”.

And the half-guv, of course, has her part to play, both in refudiating any role her noxious metaphors may have contributed to that atmosphere, and to serve as a rally point for those who insist that no one even consider politicizing these killings.

Sticks and stones may break my bones/but words may never hurt me.

What rot, for in what other media do we perform politics but in words? Of course words matter!

You don’t need to delve into the ontological dimensions of the speech-act to grasp that this is the primary way we relate to one another—that our language itself is a marker of our species. We are not only linguistic creatures, but we would not be who we are without language. And we would not have politics without language, without words.

Of course words matter.

That’s not all that matters. Loughner was able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon (which would have been illegal under a law which expired in 2004)  and carry it on his person, concealed, with no permit whatsoever.

Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

True—in this case, Jared Loughner used a semi-automatic gun to kill six people.

Don’t suppose we should politicize casual access to deadly weaponry, either.

But Loughner was nuts, right? Suspended from school, scaring the hell out of his college classmates, a sui generis psychotic—can’t blame rhetoric and guns on this crazy man, could we?

I’m not trained in either psychology or psychiatry, and if I were, I hope I’d be disciplined enough not to diagnose someone I only read about in a newspaper. But I do have my own history of mental illness, and I do know how what I once called a “bad brew” of chemistry and history lead to acts of self-destruction great and small. I never tried to hurt anyone else, but it was very important to me that I hurt myself. And no, I didn’t consider myself crazy.

It made sense to me not only that I would kill myself, but that I should kill myself.

This decades-long belief didn’t come from nowhere: it came from the reactions of people around me to my erratic behavior, from romantic notions of the successful suicide, from my own constant intake of movies and books and television shows about depression and suicide, from The Thorn Birds (long story), and, of course, from my own depression and personality.

I was the one making the attempts, and I was the one who worked out the rather elaborate moral justification for my suicide, but I got help from the society around me.

No, society didn’t know it was helping me—I don’t blame society for my troubles—but it gave me the pieces I needed to construct a an overwhelming and destructive narrative of my life. It all made so much sense, then.

I don’t know what, if anything, makes sense to Jared Loughner. All I have are a very few inadequate pieces—violent rhetoric, weapon, possible mental illness—but enough to know that, even if this wasn’t a conspiracy, it certainly wasn’t sui generis, either.

h/t Daily Dish, Huffington Post, New York Times





(Nearly) No comment

21 04 2010

Boo-fucking-hoo:

Scott Roeder: Abortion Doctor’s Killer Complains Of Treatment In Prison, Files For Early Release

(h/t: Huffington Post)