Thursday, April 11, 2013

I want a well regulated militia, Part 2.

Romans 15:1, 1 Corinthians 8:9, Luke 11:21-22

In the April 2013 issue of Texas Monthly magazine, Joshua Trevino writes: "There is one big truth that used to hold from sea to shining sea and is now most keenly apprehended here: an argument against the individual right to bear arms is an argument that the average American is incompetent to contend with the most fundamental moral questions of life, death, and justice.  It is an argument that assumes ordinary people cannot be entrusted with democracy." (p. 52)

Trevino is right.  I don't trust you.  I don't trust you to defend me, rather than shoot me and steal my supplies, if civilization breaks down.  I don't trust you to take out a mad gunman in a dark, tear gas filled theater without taking out a couple of bystanders in the confusion.  I don't trust you to supervise your children well enough that they do not take your perfectly legal guns and shoot up their schools.  I don't trust you to seek psychological help for yourself or a friend or family member who may be losing touch with reality and start thinking that a gun is the answer to every problem.  I don't trust you to remember your obligation to your country, to not engage in domestic terrorism, and therefore imperil my rights as a citizen of a country that trusted you with a gun.  I don't trust you.

I don't trust you with a gun, and if that means that I don't trust you with democracy, I'm not alone.  When our nation was born, and our revered constitution first laid down, voting rights were only extended to white, land-owning, males.  And our Founding Fathers established the Electoral College specifically as a safeguard against popular elections going wrong.  Not even the greatest proponents of democracy trusted everyone with democracy.  Have we proved them wrong?  It depends on who's your favorite president.

And I don't believe that getting myself a gun is going to change all that.  Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) did not work as foreign policy during the Cold War, and it will not work as domestic policy now.  Promoting gun ownership will do nothing to help any social problem we have within our country.  Polls, surveys, and statistics can be made to say anything you want them to.  When two, and I'm sorry, but there is just no other word for them: shitheads can open fire at each other on a community college campus and hit several unintended targets, I can't believe any poll, survey, or statistic any more.

Trevino again: "In today's gun debate, Texas is a proxy for America's traditional view of itself." Trevino also quotes T. R. Fehrenbach's Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans: "The Texan's attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land.  It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions."  Trevino goes on: "Fehrenbach identified that mind-set as European, but it encompasses nineteenth-century America as well."

If our attitudes about our right to bear arms are rooted in the nineteenth century, then it is entirely inappropriate to apply them to twenty-first century technologies and mores.  Let's have either twenty-first century attitudes toward twenty-first century guns, or nineteenth-century weapons that match our antiquated ideas for their use.    

This goes back to the idea of a well-regulated militia.  Do we want to bring all of our technological prowess to bear on tracking guns, gun owners, gun activity and gun use?  I don't think anyone wants that.  It sounds expensive, time-consuming, and complicated.  And I still don't think taking away people's guns is a good idea, nor is it going to happen in any widespread fashion.

To my mind, if you can't hit your target in six tries or less, you have no business shooting anywhere but a range.  Get your skills up.  Magazines, semi-, and fully automatics are crutches for amateurs.  No one who can shoot worth a damn should need more than six carefully placed rounds at a time.  Let's go back to revolvers, or at least the calm focus they require for effective use.

But that's just handguns.  What about guns for hunting?  I accept hunting, when sportsman-like, as an acceptable form of land and wildlife management and an honorable way to feed one's family.  However, an AK-47 not only doesn't give any animal a sporting chance, it also ruins the meat.  Again, semi- and fully automatics have no place in mature, responsible hunting.  There is a huge psychological difference between 'the thrill of the hunt' and enjoying killing for killing's sake.  Feed you family.  Manage your land.  Take pride in your ability to do both.  But I have no respect for people who spend the weekend in a luxury cabin on a hunting lease so stocked with game they're practically stepping on it, stroking an automatic weapon like a new girlfriend.

After all is said and done, guns are not the problem.  People are the problem.  People think guns equal safety.  People think guns equal security.  People think guns make them strong, invincible, impenetrable.  People think owning a gun makes them a good shot, and reliable in a crisis situation.  People think owning a gun means that other people will respect them.  People think, deep down, that owning a gun makes them a man, in a way that nothing else has been able to make them feel as powerful, virile, and big.  People use guns as a way to feel better about themselves, when other methods of shoring up the self-esteem fail.  People use guns to, let's be perfectly frank here, compensate for something.

Guns deserve respect, but not worship.  They will not make you a man, or keep you safe.  Guns do one thing and one thing only: destroy whatever you point them at.  Guns destroy.  Period.  They destroy property, life, perspective, and conscience.  I wish that we could effectively regulate guns, without black markets, political extremism, and domestic terrorism breaking out, as gun owners and organizations have threatened.  To have a really well regulated militia, we will simply have to regulate ourselves, our ideas, and our insecurities.  As Christians, our values of love, mercy, and compassion must drive our attitudes towards guns, the authorities, and the safety of our fellow man.  When we can trust each other with guns, then we will no longer need to regulate them.  


I want a well regulated militia, Part 1.

Romans 13:1-10

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."-the US Constitution

"The Second Amendment is the only amendment to the Constitution which states a purpose." -Wikipedia 

I have recently become mildly obsessed with an artist named Ursus Wehrli.  He organizes things.  Lots of things.  Big things.  Things you did not think could be organized.  Things you did not realize needed to be organized.  But they do.  Oh, yes, they do.  His new book is called The Art of Clean Up and it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life.  

I like organized things; neat, orderly, tidy things.  In my home, there is a place for everything, and everything in it's place, and an inch of dust covering everything.  I realize I've begun to sound a bit ominous.  Don't worry, we'll get back to this.

When it comes to political issues, I tend to be a bit of a late adopter (I'll get to Steubenville sometime next year, though not literally, I can't imagine any woman ever wanting to set foot in that town again.), mostly because I have this horrible fear of looking stupid. Because whenever I see people jump into arguments immediately after an inciting incident, running on pure adrenaline, that's how they all look to me: stupid.

And indeed, once we all have a chance to simmer down, the rhetoric gets less and less inflammatory, and people start to look like friends again instead of unrecognizable fountains of panic and rage.  And if we're very lucky, that's when we get to see the real villains emerge.  

I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of links about the gun-control debate, mostly because you're all on Facebook anyway and can find these stats if you want to: the majority of Americans, gun owners included, are in favor of some sort of regulatory action on guns, just not too much.  Even James Bond now carries a weapon with realistic safety technology that insures only he can fire his own gun.  (Insert sex joke here.)  The NRA are in the pockets of the gun manufacturers, who are in it for the money, because let's face it, no one manufactures guns for the safety of it.

No one is trying to take anyone's guns away.  No one.  Seriously.  That was never even on the table.

But if you're going to hide behind the Second Amendment, you have to hide behind the whole thing, not just the clause you like.  See, that first clause there: "A well regulated militia,..."  That means two things: one, the government has always intended for guns to be regulated, and two, the government only lets the citizenry have guns in order to have a quasi-military force, self-equipped, prepared.  A militia, at the ready.

Why would they want that?  Second clause: "...being necessary to the security of a free state..."  Not necessary to the security of the state of individual freedom, but in defense of the state as a political entity.  A state that is still the vanguard of political freedom around the world.  A state that had, at one time, hoped that in dire straits it's citizens would rise up in it's defense.

So, to my mind, if you exercise your right to own a gun, you are also shouldering a responsibility equivalent to joining the United States Armed Forces Reserves Reserves.  That's not a typo.  If the 'Red Dawn' scenario becomes a reality, fulfilling some of the most macho masturbatory fantasies out there, you will be expected to stand up like a soldier.

But before you get too excited about that idea, remember that first clause again: "A well regulated militia,..."  You must be regulated.  Just like we have put reasonable limits on free speech (no shouting 'theatre' in a crowded fire), we must also have regulations on gun manufacturing, purchasing and ownership.  Guns are not for fun.  And you are of no use to your nation and fellow citizens if we don't know where you are or what you have.    

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'm exposed.

Matthew 18:21-22, 22:35-402 Timothy 2:23, John 5:13-18,

I've written briefly before about our culture of over-exposure, and my ambivalence at participating in it with this blog, and I'm not the only one.  One of my favorite bloggers, Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism, has written a post about this very phenomenon.  She doesn't take the mass-media aspect into account here, but she gets seriously personal, in a way I don't, and not just in this post.

And she takes on an idea that I have been avoiding thinking about for a while, but since I discussed my health problems two posts ago, I've been really feeling it.  Libby Anne worries about the ideas she shares in her blog, and the effect those ideas, and the way she lives them, might have on her family.  She has cause to worry, since much of what she writes about is telling the world all about how weird and awful her life was because of her family and their beliefs.  They don't read her blog, her blog is just strangers and people she knows since becoming an adult (I'm assuming, by my reading of the afore-linked post.)

But my blog is primarily read by my friends and family.  Well, my in-laws (Hi everyone!) can read it, my mother does not, so far as I know.  I don't Facebook where I work, so that's relatively safe, especially because I'm careful for anonymity.  I have not kept any friends from earlier than college, so school stories probably have some clearance.  But the way I discuss family, religion, and politics is definitely going to cost me something eventually.

I've been making you use your thinking caps a little bit so far, but I have not yet begun to disseminate.  And I cannot tell you how frightened that makes me.  I have enough trouble making friends and since I have prioritized my job over church, I have one less social outlet available.  If I start writing about how I really feel about gun control, abortion, environmentalism, sex, universal health care, education, and the state of the American church, I fear I may not have many friends left.  Honestly, the thinking caps are the least of our worries.  It's the moment I write about a certain topic and we all lose our thinking caps and start getting our feelings hurt that I worry about.

Whatever I talk about here, I'm never trying to hurt anyone's feelings.  I'm not trying to self-destruct, it really only looks that way.  We all go through seasons of testing what we believe, testing what is real in our lives, and what needs to go.  I don't want to hurt feelings, I definitely don't want to lose friends, but I am feeling very insecure.  Don't reassure me yet, you all know how unerring my instinct for the surgical strike can be.

Here's the real irony: last year I wrote somewhat mockingly about a book I cannot now forget.  In The Bait of Satan, John Bevere makes a really compelling point in a very straightforward way, a point that I am still wrestling with: Christians are not allowed to be offended.  I was, I will admit, offended by this idea.  Now, Bevere's point, as far as I read, was about personal offense.  When people hurt your feelings in a small, up-close kind of way, within community.  Social slights is as far as I got in the book, and I had to shut it when I came across the line (to paraphrase): Jesus's instructions to forgive over and over are literal and limitless; as Christians, we are to allow people to hurt us with impunity.

And then I put the book down.  Because that was a hard word, and I was not ready for it.  (Sorry, I keep slipping into Christianese.)  I couldn't even continue long enough to see if he was going to contextualize or qualify the idea.  And then I had to figure out how to solve the mental and spiritual Rubik's Cube stuck in my brain.

A recent blog post on momastery helped a lot.  The link goes to the whole entry, but if you do not like reading about gay acceptance and enthusiasm, I'll just tell you the relevant quote here: "...if a certain scripture turns our judgement outward instead of inward, if it requires us to worry about changing others instead of ourselves...then we assume we don't understand it yet, and we go back to what we do understand."  This is it exactly.  This is how I want to regard everything, and how I want my writing to be regarded.  Not as scripture, but as a litmus for myself and my thinking and my behavior.

This is how I keep myself from getting offended, even by John Bevere.  Will what I have heard require me to change myself?  How?  If something makes me uncomfortable, it is more valuable to examine my own discomfort than to accuse those who make me uncomfortable.  Am I telling you that you should always regard me with love and affection no matter what deliberately infuriating thing I say?  Yeah, kinda.

But I am also saying that I am obligated to regard all of my readers, near and far, with love and affection no matter their reaction to the deliberately infuriating things I say.  No matter how much I offend you, I still love you.  I have to.  Not only to be a good little Christian and keep the guilties away, but also to grow spiritually.  My weakness has always been showing compassion.  Showing compassion does not mean holding all of my thoughts inside so as not to offend anyone, but understanding and not retaliating when things inevitably get heated.

You have been warned.  If you have not already been offended by this blog, you will be at some point.  And when that happens, I will expect you to still love and respect me as your friend.  Because I am committing to love and respect you, too, no matter what.  Even if you're not a Christian, because then you can go ahead and get as offended as you like, I still have to love you.  And for the first time in my life, I want to.