This post is, perhaps, a bit more of a rant than most. So . . . enjoy.
The horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut was a national tragedy.
I think that that is one thing on which most of us can agree. I will not regurgitate the upsetting details here. Because I want to talk about the response to the shooting—the things on which we do not all agree.
A lot of people are blaming the lack of access to mental health services in many places in the US.
A lot of people are blaming the easy access to guns throughout the US.
There are some loony people who are blaming outlandish things. I mean, for one thing, the idea that prayer being “banned” from schools is responsible for the shooting would be an absurd and, frankly, insulting concept even if prayer were banned in schools. But, I mean, it is not. I went to public school. Some students pray before they eat their food at lunch. My high school did not, to my knowledge, have an Abstinence Club, but there was a Fellowship Of Christian Athletes and they certainly prayed. I know that students might pray fervently and silently before, during, and after taking particularly important tests. Some students pray during the raising of the flag in the morning, though for the life of me I have no idea which school club or what is responsible for doing that.
What people complain about being banned is mandatory prayer in schools. And people complain about exclusive prayer in schools. When you go to a friend’s house and his or her family prays before a meal, it is polite to remain silent as it happens and to wait before you eat and perhaps to hold hands—depending upon the customs of your friend’s family. That’s called being polite, and you are at a friend’s house of your own volition. School is a very different situation. No mandatory, teacher-led, or student-let classroom prayer could ever be “non-denominational” enough to not exclude at least some of the religious students. And, oh by the way, not all students are religious at all. There is no need to bully students of minorities (or majorities) by excluding them. Formal and informal student-groups and afterschool clubs are more than sufficient for any student religious group.
I have even heard some proponents of “bringing prayer back to our schools” speak as if those students (and parents) who object to institutional prayer in schools are invading parties. That is not the case. Even if that mattered, I know that my family has been in this particular county of this particular state since before the Civil War. We have not invaded anywhere recently.
Interestingly, Mike Huckabee and the Westboro Baptist Church (that’s the “God Hates Fags” group) seem to have similar views on the shooting. Mike Huckabee has blamed “taxpayer-funded abortion pills” (his concept of reality is a little shaky) and other signs of the US having laws differing from those of conservative Christianity for the shooting. The Westboro Baptist Church (that’s Fred Phelps’ thing and, oh by the way, he is …
… also a monstrous child-abuser, so his “God Hates ALL The Things” signs are certainly not his greatest evil) believes in celebrating every terrible thing that happens, particularly to the United States, but also to the world. Every dead soldier and other tragedy is, to them, a part of their God’s judgment upon the world for, among other things, tolerating homosexuality and otherwise defying Biblical law (not that different from Mike Huckabee’s position, really—they just use more inflammatory language). They also use events that gain a great deal of publicity in order to increase their notoriety and attract attention, hoping to gain more followers.
(Have you guys been following what members of the worldwide hacktivist movement, Anonymous,* have been doing to discourage and harass the Westboro Baptist Church members who vowed to protest at the Sandy Hook funerals? It is very inspiring.)
You know how there were a few days when everyone was talking about how the Sandy Hook shooter may have had Asperger’s Syndrome? That was, without a doubt, the most piece of garbage thing that I have even heard about having been on the news since the election. Asperger’s is so far on this end of the autistic spectrum. People with Asperger’s are not mentally ill because of it, and they do not “just have something missing.” Their brains work slightly differently. You know what, my awful stepfather was literally the worst person whom I have ever met. He may very well have Asperger’s. That is not why he is an awful person. That does not explain why he is an awful person. I have a few wonderful friends who have Asperger’s. It has no more of a role in a person’s moral character than that person’s hair color or a minor facial feature (aside from mustaches—anyone who voluntarily has a mustache is not to be trusted. You know it. I know it. I’m not kidding).
So, let’s talk about guns for a moment. Eddie Izzard said: “The National Rifle Association says that ‘Guns Don’t Kill People; People Do.’ But I think the gun helps, you know?”
Honestly, that kind of sums up my view on it. There are always going to be awful people. And I am, of course, quite leery of slippery slopes (there are countries in which baseball bats are illegal, for example). But, um, seriously. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons should not be in civilian hands. I like preparing for the zombie apocalypse as much as anyone else, but, um, that is not going to happen. We’re not going to rebel against some corrupt government in some dystopian future. Or now. If the US government and military lost their minds and every civilian with guns were our last line of defense, we’d lose. Because we do not have tanks or fighter jets or predator drones or aircraft carriers. Thankfully.
A lot of people who oppose further gun-control legislation cite the Second Amendment. First of all, no matter how much respect I have for Benjamin Franklin and a few other Founding Fathers, oh my goodness I do not care what a bunch of dead men who could not be bothered to guarantee women’s sufferage, outlaw domestic violence, or condemn institutional slavery did or did not intend for this country. My attitude towards the Founding Fathers is “Okay, we’ll take it from here. Thanks!” Because they’re dead and we’re alive. Sometimes, that means that we are alive to clean up their mess.
But, also, I think that it is fairly obvious that the Constitution was written at a time when machine guns (which, unless I am mistaken, were not used until the American Civil War) and the sorts of weapons currently available were difficult to imagine. They lived in a time when hunting was a real necessity for many people (if there is anyone in the United States who, right now, needs to hunt in order to eat, he or she should certainly be eligible for food-stamps. Crisis averted). They lived in a time when armies marched towards each other like pawns on a chessboard (which made sense when the Romans did it with spears and shields—not so much with bayonets). They did not live at a time when a pair of bullied middle school students or an unstable twenty-year-old could massacre dozens of people in the time that it took me to write a sentence.
I am not an enthusiast for gun-control. In many ways, I am the far-right’s worst nightmare. I want the total abolition of state’s rights—and the states as entities. A powerful federal government that outlaws homeschooling (and many private schools). I want an end to elections, powerful environmental protections in place, universal health-care including access to birth-control and abortion (without parental consent), an end to family farming, a ban on hunting, and to make it easier for perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault to be prosecuted. Gun-control is not a passion of mine, but it makes sense. Maybe we do not ban guns completely. In that case, a lunatic might walk into NYC’s Central Park with a revolver and gun down six innocent people—but not twenty. Or thirty.
No one solution is going to prevent school shootings and other tragedies. That includes imposing a particular set of religious views upon an entire classroom, and it also includes restricting access to murder weapons. But it is an important discussion to have, and now is the time to have it.
*I recommend following @YourAnonNews on Twitter. There are occasionally anarchist, anti-drone, anti-police, and and anti-capitalism messages from this particularly Anonymous news source, but there is also a lot of great and important information. As Sasha Pasulka, this blog’s founding editor, once said: “I don’t always agree with Anonymous, but I’m glad they exist.” I completely agree.