Plausible distractor: gun control, contemporary culture, and school shootings

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Many or most, if not all, of my readers will be aware that there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, which resulted in 17 deaths and wounded 14 others. I shall not here identify the perpetrator, who appears to be a deeply disturbed and sinister young male – I certainly will not dignify him with the title “man.”

It has not taken long for the left-wing media – following Rahm Emanuel’s infamous dictum “never let a good crisis go to waste” – to politicize this latest tragedy, and use it as the latest argument in favor of stripping Americans of our God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to defend ourselves. The irony in that will not be lost on those who have not succumbed to leftist ideological indoctrination.

Fortunately, not everyone has, and a good friend of mine posted the above on Facebook. I shared it, with a few added points which I reproduce here:

  1. Automatic weapons were available to civilians for a brief period following the First World War, and prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, after which they were and are NOT available to anyone who is not the holder of a Class III Firearms License – which is very hard to get, and requires extensive background checks and monitoring (and expense). When they WERE available, use of them in crime was limited to gangsters, which in those days meant organized crime families (which is why they were limited). So “automatic weapons” or “assault weapons” are a non-issue: as regards the civilian population, they do not exist.
  2. And lest you say, “b-b-b-but large-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles…!” let me remind you that the Texas Tower shooting, the first “mass shooting” by modern standards, which occurred in 1966, was committed largely with bolt-action and pump-action firearms.
  3. Let me remind you further that mass shooters are highly motivated individuals, who are unlikely to be deterred by such minor details as lack of availability of their preferred (or any) firearms. The Oklahoma City bomber did not need guns to kill 168 people and injure 680 more. The 9/11 hijackers did not need guns to kill nearly 3,000 people and terrorize a nation, scarring its psyche in ways that still linger. Terrorists in various locations, including New York City last year, have not needed guns to kill large numbers of people by ramming them with vehicles. Someone who is sufficiently determined to cause a massacre will find a way of doing so. And while banning guns may make them think a little harder for a little longer, it’s not going to prevent it; it is going to make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves and their families, or use firearms for sporting purposes.
  4. And that “18 school shootings in 45 days” meme that’s making the rounds? That includes eight incidents with no injuries or fatalities, two attempted suicides, one shot fired during the course of a fight, and two others that resulted in a single student being slightly wounded. And that is according to records found at “Everytown for Gun Safety,” Michael Bloomburg’s anti-gun advocacy group, which uses a very lenient (one could argue, highly misleading) standard: “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds,” it counts as a school shooting, regardless of whether or not the shooting results in injury or death. While any and all of these are regrettable, placing them in the same category as what happened in Florida is disingenuous, to put it mildly.

It is very easy to place the blame for tragic incidents like the recent Florida shooting on firearms. But – although the military is working on autonomous (AI) weapons (a concerning development, but tangential to this) – no firearm currently available to civilians is capable of engaging a target on its own. It requires a human being to make that decision and act on it.

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The 1931 girls’ rifle team outside Huntington High School, Huntington, New York.

In the 1950s and 60s, it was commonplace for students to bring firearms to school, for hunting purposes, often leaving them plainly visible in gun-racks in their pickups on the parking lot, or sometimes keeping them in their lockers. Yet there were no school shootings. During the same period (and for decades prior), high-school shooting teams were common. Again, no school shootings. Teenaged students even carried firearms on public buses and trolleys, on their way from their homes (or schools!) to the outskirts of town to hunt. Again, no shootings resulted.

The issue is not a gun issue. That’s an obvious but a misleading target – a “plausible distractor,” in testing terms. The issue is a societal and cultural issue, and a moral issue. It is a whole lot easier to say “ban guns” than it is to wrestle seriously with where we, as a culture, might have been going wrong – might be continuing to go wrong. And there is no single answer to that question, either; it is almost certainly a multiplicity of wrong steps, in a variety of areas.

These include, but are not limited to, the failures of parenting Sandy mentions, plus breakdown of stable family units in general, the rise of media and recreational opportunities (including music, videos or other visual media, the video gaming Sandy mentioned, etc.) that glorify amoral or immoral violence while minimizing its consequences, the breakdown of traditional religious observances and the moral guidelines religion has traditionally provided (see Washington’s Farewell Address), and the breakdown of cultural cohesion – and the stability that provides – in a variety of ways. There are probably many others that I have missed.

And until we seriously and constructively address these issues, the problem will continue. Banning or limiting (any more than they are already limited, which is severely) firearms will not solve it, it will only make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens, and chip further away at our freedom.

P.S. I have seen a number of worthwhile comments come across my newsfeed today. Here is one:

“We have to understand that even if we secure every school to were a mouse couldn’t get entry with a pea-shooter, it’s a band-aid. What then: shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, hospitals? We have a much more fundamental, philosophical and spiritual problem. When was the last time the great works of western philosophy and ethics were taught in our schools? When did we last focus our children on the big questions of the human condition, questions addressed by the great thinkers of Western Civilization? Could it be back in the last days when we had no mass school shootings? Do we really believe we could turn our back on the great projects of Western Civilization and not loose a hold on civil society itself?”

Indeed. To tear a plant up from its roots and not expect it to whither is the height of insanity. And of course, the diminution and marginalization of traditional religious faith – particularly the Judeo-Christian religious tradition – and the moral standards which come from it has played a major role in stripping our society of its moral compass.

And then there was this comment, from a Washington sheriff, interviewed today:

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Here is the video clip, in which he reinforces a lot of what I’ve said, above – only a lot more succinctly:

We have viewed abandoning traditional social and cultural norms, traditional moral values, traditional religious faith, traditional child-rearing practices, and much more, as being “progressive,” and trumpeted this abandonment as great advances in the human experience. But as C.S. Lewis presciently put it,

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Amen.

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An Integralist Manifesto by Edmund Waldstein | Articles | First Things

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Jones provides strong evidence to show that historians have too often distorted our view of the Middle Ages by projecting modern constructions back onto them. But he is not merely making a historical claim. He is also making a normative claim…

Source: An Integralist Manifesto by Edmund Waldstein | Articles | First Things

“Aided by a philosophical and theological sophistication that is unusual for his profession, Jones challenges our most basic assumptions as moderns. He [speaks] of “an integral vision which included all of social reality.” In this integral vision, “church” and “state” did not exist as separate institutions; rather, spiritual and temporal authority cooperated together within a single social whole for the establishment of an earthly peace, ordered to eternal salvation.

“Nor was there an “economy,” in the modern sense of a relatively autonomous system based on private property and contract. Rather, the use of material goods was thoroughly integrated into the peace. “State,” “church,” and “economy” were not merely underdeveloped, waiting to be discovered. They did not exist, and would have to be invented. The vision of social peace gave way to an idea of social life as a violent, primordial struggle for power, and of sovereignty as limiting that violence by monopolizing it…

“Jones provides strong evidence to show that historians have too often distorted our view of the Middle Ages by projecting modern constructions back onto them. But he is not merely making a historical claim. He is also making a normative claim: The construction of modern society with its system of separations between different social spheres was a bad development that inscribes false ideas into our very way of life. Conversely, the integration of spiritual and temporal corresponds to the truth about humanity as revealed in Christ, and is therefore demanded by Christian orthodoxy.”

Provocative claims? You betcha! But fascinating to me, both as an academic medievalist by training, and as a Christian clergyman… and to me, they carry the ring of truth. I have long thought, and often stated, that we have lost much by forgetting or willfully discarding the insights of our medieval predecessors. There is no question that I shall need to add Andrew Willard Jones’ Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX to my reading list!

Here are a few more excepts from this excellent review by :

“In the vision of peace that Jones describes, the clergy, who wielded the spiritual sword, and the lay authorities, who wielded the secular, had distinct roles, but they were cooperating toward a single end. They were not engaged in a struggle for “sovereignty,” a concept that had yet to be invented; instead, they actively promoted each other’s power as a means toward their common end…

“Even a short time ago—with the ascendancy of the “religious right” in the Reagan and Bush years—it was plausible to argue that the separation of church and state was good for religion. The accelerating pace of secularization manifested, for instance, in the legalization of homosexual marriage [and, I would add, an increasingly militant atheism making an ever-larger noise in the public square] makes that position much less plausible today. Before Church and State offers an alternative vision, a vision that could be realized only by a profound and fundamental transformation of the whole of our society. I am convinced that in working toward such a transformation, we have nothing to lose.”

Why the Left Hates Thanksgiving | Frontpage Mag

The militant lefty is an overgrown brat who never made the emotional transition from the funk of total unfairness that teenagers inhabit to the appreciation for life of the mature adult.

Source: Why the Left Hates Thanksgiving | Frontpage Mag

I am coming to increasingly dislike the use of the word “liberal” to describe the American left-wing: there are very few authentic “liberals” out there. Most of what claims the mantle of “liberalism” these days is anything but; it is, rather, statist authoritarianism implacably opposed to everything that has contributed to the American ideal, and American success, for more than 200 years. As this essay accurately puts it,

“Resentment is the force that gives the left meaning.

“What animates the left is the conviction that everything (except their own tastes, preferences and opinions) is terrible and must be reformed until it too is like them. America is racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, arachnophobic and claustrophobic.”

Resentment, the essay continues,

“doesn’t just color the politics of a militant leftist. It encompasses his entire outlook on life. The personal conviction that the world is an unfair place fits neatly into an ideology that claims to be able to prove using science and history that the world is a truly unfair place…

“The left isn’t actually fighting for anything. It’s fighting against things. Big things and little things. It’s fighting against America. And it’s fighting against families sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.”

In contrast, as the linked essay also points out, “the best antidote to leftist resentment is conservative thankfulness.

“There are plenty of problems in our country and the world. But if we can’t stop to be thankful for the good things, we will sink into the same swamp of resentment as the left.

“To be thankful is to be reminded of what we are fighting for. The resentful left doesn’t really fight for anything. Its resentful causes have no end point. There will never be a time when race relations, the environment, social mobility and caloric intakes are good enough for them to hang up their hats. The left maintains a perpetual state of crisis because it justifies a perpetual state of resentment.”

Indeed! As C.S. Lewis pointed out, decades ago,

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

However, the linked essay continues,

“Conservatives fight for the things in our lives that we value. And these are the very things that we are thankful for. Our gratitude reminds us of what we want to conserve. These include the tangible things, our families, our homes and our lives, and the intangible things, our freedoms and our traditions.

“The left can’t be thankful because it can’t admit that there’s anything worth appreciating. Revolutionary movements don’t create, they destroy. But we can and should be thankful for what we conserve…

“If we lose our ability to be thankful for the good things in our lives, we lose everything.”

Amen, and amen!

Battle for the West: Hungarian PM Says ‘Silent Majority’ Will Prevail Over ‘Globalist Elites’ and ‘The Soros Empire’

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Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has launched a stunning denunciation of globalism, declaring that the “true spirit of the age” points to a resurgence of conservative values centred on country, family, and tradition.

Source: Battle for the West: Hungarian PM Says ‘Silent Majority’ Will Prevail Over ‘Globalist Elites’ and ‘The Soros Empire’

Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, is not to everyone’s taste. He can be brash and blunt, has a disdain for political correctness that I by-and-large share, and like many or most politicians, does not seem to be averse to taking actions and making deals that benefit himself or his party. But unlike many – again, perhaps most – European politicians (and many American ones, also), he is committed to his country and his people.

And in a world where billionaire globalists like Soros and his ilk – the “globalist elites, the bureaucrats who serve them, the politicians in their pay, and the agents of the… networks that embody their interests” Orbán mentions – are attempting to inaugurate a “post-Christian and post-national era,” dedication to one’s own people and nation cover a multitude of sins. At least in my view!

Orbán said NGOs tied to George Soros, the billionaire open borders campaigner, “have penetrated all the influential forums of European decision-making.”

He described how they “operate like the activists of the Department for Agitation and Propaganda of the old Soviet Communist Party.

“We old war horses recognise them by their smell. Although the Soros troops use somewhat more refined methods, they nonetheless want to tell us what to do, what to say, what to think – and even how we should see ourselves.”

The former anti-communist campaigner explained: “Migration is not the goal of the Soros Plan, but merely its means.

“Millions of people … are being encouraged to come to Europe; indeed they are even being transported here, in order to debilitate nations and deliver the coup de grâce to Christian culture.”

Looking at the situation from my point of view, as an interested observer here in the U.S., I cannot disagree. Whether it is an organized plan, or merely opportunistic exploitation – or, most likely, a bit of each – the mass migration of the present era is clearly being viewed by corporate globalists, plutocrats, and modern-day robber barons as a golden opportunity to disrupt the ties of nation, culture, social and ethnic unity, and religion that have heretofore stood in the way (though less emphatically, in recent decades) of their desire to transform the world into a hive of drones – producers and consumers, “whose god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19), with the aforementioned plutocrats on top.

As a side-effect of this – collateral damage, if you will – Orbán accurate points out that

“the Soros Plan also seriously endangers the security of our everyday lives… In Europe’s [multicultural] countries, acts of terrorism have become regular occurrences, crime rates are increasing, violence against women has escalated, and anti-Semitism is emerging again.”

“This is what we must prevent, and this is the threat against which we must defend the country. So when we say that we must defend Hungary, we declare that we must defend work, our families, security, the authority of our laws, our achievements … we must also defend our future.”

And not only in Hungary, or even Europe! But he also offers hope:

“We see tens of millions of Europeans working hard and struggling day in, day out to keep themselves and their families afloat.

We see how they yearn for security and order.

“We see how they cleave ever more firmly to their cultural identity, and fight every day for every square metre of their normal European life,” he said.

“Reality, flesh-and-blood people, real-life instincts, real human desires, dreams and hopes will conquer the globalist elite still ruling Europe today. And they will make Europe – and within it Hungary – great again.”

That is an outcome earnestly to be hoped for, in my opinion!

Richard Dawkins: Islam Is ‘The Most Evil Religion In The World’ | Interface Institute

Source: Richard Dawkins: Islam Is ‘The Most Evil Religion In The World’ | Interface Institute

I am no fan of Richard Dawkins, by any means. But it is interesting, to say the least, that although this über-“liberal” militant atheist has been largely lionized by the Left through decades of criticizing Christianity, the “PC police” jump on him when he dares to turn his critique to Islam!

Do they really think they wouldn’t be the first against the wall, or lined up on their knees to be beheaded, if the likes of ISIS or Iran’s “Revolutionary Guard” were ever to come to power in the West?

“In a speech at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the U.K., Dawkins slammed the moral idiocy of cultural relativism, arguing against the ill-conceived notion that all religions are more or less the same.

“’It’s tempting to say all religions are bad, and I do say all religions are bad, but it’s a worse temptation to say all religions are equally bad because they’re not,’ he stated.

“Refusing to submit to de facto blasphemy laws, Dawkins then dropped the bomb.

“’If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam,’ he said in no uncertain terms.”

Interesting, as a side note, that he uses the term “evil,” which is a theological term as well as a moral category (in the ancient world, from which our ideas of morality and ethics came, there was no clear-cut distinction between the two, as we sometimes like to pretend there is today).

If there were no objective moral standard, how could one speak of Islam as “evil”? It would simply be one of the best ideologies, at present, at achieving dominance – at least in certain spheres. And if there is a moral standard, where did it come from, in the absence of a Divine Lawgiver…?

Just sayin’…!

How Political Correctness Is Driving the Breakdown of Society | Intellectual Takeout

It’s a great thing to encourage diversity, but in doing so we should ask ourselves if that diversity encourages or discourages a common culture amongst the nation. If it does the latter, then perhaps it’s time we ask whether a doctrine of political correctness is truly healthy for the country.

Source: How Political Correctness Is Driving the Breakdown of Society | Intellectual Takeout

Very gently phrased, but very accurate! I have argued for a long time and in a variety of fora, including this one, that there are a limited number of common norms that serve as support pillars for a culture, a society, and a nation. Among these are common ethnicity, common language, common religion, common ethical and moral standards, a common history, and respect for common institutions (both political and social), customs, and traditions.

Like a well-made building, a society – or a nation – can survive one or more of its support pillars getting a little shaky, but if too many of them begin to experience breakdown, the stability and integrity of the culture, like the building, is at risk. That, unfortunately, is the break-point I see us moving towards with increasing velocity, if current trends continue.

The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

Modern society, if there are any doubts, is in serious trouble. Over the last two centuries, the institutions of civil, religious, and domestic society — State, Church, and Family — have been revised, reformed, and reinvented to the point that these chief props of human dignity have become, to all intents and purposes, meaningless.

Source: The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

“Nevertheless, the real issue is not encroaching State power, but human dignity: the sovereignty of the human person under God. Human beings, as Aristotle put it, are ‘political animals.’ Institutions, up to and including the State itself, were made by people, for people. This is so that people can meet their own wants and needs (primarily acquiring and developing virtue, ‘humanness’) by their own efforts within a justly organized society, ‘the pólis’ — hence ‘political.'”

We forget this proper order – that the State (whether a representative Constitutional Republic or a Monarchy) exists to serve the best interests of the People as a whole, not the other way ’round, and that the proper goal of people is to become more fully human, not merely to acquire wealth, at whatever cost to our humanness – at our peril.

And then there is this:

The common good is not, however, the aggregate of individual goods. It is the vast network of institutions within which individual human beings as political animals realize their individual goods, primarily the acquisition and development of virtue — ‘human-ness’ — a seemingly subtle but important difference.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding of human nature and essential human dignity has resulted in social justice and socialism being confused in both Church and State. This has changed Church and State from the chief props of human dignity outside of the Family, to the principal obstacles to virtuous human development.

Religion — ‘Church’ — has been reoriented and updated to focus almost exclusively on people’s material wants and needs. At the same time, politics — “the State” — has changed from overseeing institutions that make it possible for people to meet their own needs through their own efforts, to meeting them directly, after those in power decide what wants and needs are legitimate [emphasis added].

Follow the link for a much fuller and more detailed discussion of these issues.