Your Child Died Because ________

Another week, another mass shooting. The biggest one in recent history, the headlines tell us. And while it’s awfully, tragically familiar, I draw some small portion of comfort from the fact that I’m not so numb that I don’t feel angry and disgusted.

In the TV series American Gods, there’s a scene where a faulty railing at a weapons factory gives way, a middle manager falls into the molten metal below, and eventually the insurance company settles with the victim’s family. All of this is because there’s a god of guns, and he needs the occasional human sacrifice. When it aired, some people lost their shit over it, because rawr rawr rawr Holy Second Amendment and how dare you bad-mouth guns, which have never done anything bad?
And then another shooting happens, in Las Vegas or Orlando or Blacksburg and you realize that the authors’ error lay in him only demanding one sacrifice, not twenty or fifty or a hundred.

I got into a discussion about this today. I say “a discussion” and not “an argument” because I did try to remain civil, to listen to the pro-gun side, and see what they had to say. I didn’t want to stereotype gun advocates, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised before, so who knows?

Unfortunately, what I got was long on rhetoric and short on facts. My interlocutor was apparently quite willing to have shooting after shooting after bloody shooting in order to preserve his right to have whatever kind of gun he deemed fit.

He kept bringing up self-defense, which is fair. But surely you don’t need a semi-automatic to defend yourself against muggers, rapists, and burglars, do you? So he pointed me at an article about why yes, you do.

The post starts out laying out some basics, including the fact that in the case of a burglary or home invasion, the main thing is to stop the intruder from intruding, and whether that involves him being shot or killed, well, that’s a secondary issue. But the point of the article is to explain why a handgun isn’t sufficient:

Now you can shoot somebody once with a feeble handgun round, and instantly incapacitate them.  Great.  You won.  But on the same token, we’ve got people that have been shot a dozen times with duty ammo who walk under their own power into the ambulance.   Humans are amazing.

So if people can be so amazing, and I want to stop them right now, then I want to maximize the amount of trauma I inflict on them.  This is where rifle caliber carbines and shotguns rule.

This is where I call bullshit. This is an action movie plot, not a real-life category of crime that we should be worried about. This isn’t a thing. If it is, show me the stats. Show me the stats on burglars who take two or five or ten bullets and keep coming. From the FBI or CDC, not your Walking Dead fanfic.

Which leads me to my gun debate challenge: If you’re going to argue for gun rights, do it in the form of a letter to the parent of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook. Begin with “Your child died because …”, and make your case for who should be able to own which weapons, and how you propose to prevent abuse, and deal with the inevitable mistakes. And if you’re not a garbage human, you’ll at least try to end with “… so that fewer parents have to endure the heartbreak that you did.”

I also got the inevitable “guns are for shooting at government representatives in case of “tyranny” line. But while I’m not unsympathetic to this line of reasoning, the fact is, that ship sailed long ago. It may have been possible, in the XVIII c., to envision a citizen militia posing a serious threat to the federal government, in the 21st century, the idea is laughable.

Look at Ruby Ridge. At the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. At Afghanistan. At Iraq. At Cliven Bundy, and at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. As much as people complain about needless violence and death, and rightly so, still, in every case, the US government is holding back.

I think the closest analogy to what the people arguing “tyranny” have in mind is Afghanistan: loosely-organized, highly-motivated coalitions of citizen fighters waging a guerrilla war against the US military. And yet, the US does not engage in Dresden-style carpet bombing. It uses memes (what used to be called propaganda) to try to win hearts ad mind. It uses satellites and reconnaissance to try to distinguish friend from foe, and limit civilian casualties. But all that is thousands of miles away from the average mainland American, who hasn’t been asked to help the war effort by planting a victory garden or collecting scrap iron, as in World War II.

Now, imagine that, by some miracle, the rebels grow stronger, and the “tyrannical” Government decides that its very survival is at stake so it stops holding back, stops trying to take them alive. The rebels hold Fort Knox, and have all of the Uzis and Kalashikovs they think Obama confiscated, and who knows how many buildings full of bullets?

Against that, the US military has several thousand Tomahawk cruise missiles, just to name one off the top of my head. And bombers, and drones, and nukes. What I’m getting at is that the US military is very very powerful, and very very good at its job when it wants to be, and its job is to ruin your day in the worst possible way.

So yeah, I’m not buying your argument of shooting at federal employees because of “tyranny”. Power fantasies are not a solid basis for public policy. You’d think that would be obvious, but apparently it needs to be repeated:

Power fantasies are not a solid basis for public policy
, you fuckers.
I get standing for principle. I do it all the time. I even agree with Ben Franklin’s dictum that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. But note that he didn’t say, “don’t give up an inch of Liberty”. It doesn’t even say, “don’t trade Liberty for Safety”. What it does say is, if you’re giving up some measure of liberty, make sure it’s worth it.
Yeah, I get that you want to protect yourself and your family. I also get that it’s fun to shoot guns. But if that Liberty means a permanent loss of Safety such that we have to endure one mass shooting after another, until the pictures of dead children all run together, then the price is too damn high.
To quote The Onion, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”. Literally every other first world nation on the globe has figured this out.
So that’s where I now stand: if you’re going to argue for gun rights, you have to explain yourself to the parents of a dead child. Have at it.

A Republican Drama

Via @Billy, Just Billy, who saved screenshots:

I understand that the reason his insurance claim was denied is that he was using his own car for his job (delivering pizza), but had a personal insurance policy, not a professional one, which costs more but covers job-related accidents.

So now he’s running a GoFundMe campaign to pay his bills. As of this writing, he’s raised $2,225 of his $15,000 goal.

In a book or movie, this would be the point where Our Hero has an epiphany: that accidents can happen to anyone, even the young and healthy. That medical care is fucking expensive (and replacement cars ain’t cheap either). That having to ask people for money while you’re busy getting your spine, your car, and your job back together is another pain in the ass.

It might also lead one to wonder: what if he didn’t have 30,000 Twitter followers who could chip in? Or if he didn’t happen to be young and photogenic? How long would it take him to pay his medical bills on a pizza delivery guy’s salary?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to have something like a GoFundMe that scales? Maybe something where people pay in while they’re healthy and able to draw a salary, and can then get help paying unexpected bills so they don’t go broke from being sick or in an accident? What if, in short, there were such a thing as medical insurance?

However, we don’t live in a movie, and as of this writing, Sassy Gay Republican still seems to equate universal healthcare insurance with tyranny or some similar right-wing talking point. But while he may be cutting off his nose to spite his face, the rest of us can use him as an object lesson.

Of Course BillDo Endorses the Nashville Statement. What Did You Expect?

Bill Donohue, aka Our Lady of Perpetual Aneurysm, has issued a statement in support of the Nashville Statement, a non-binding statement by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to say, in brief, that it intends to keep its sexual mores anchored in the 18th century for as long as humanly possible.

BillDo writes:

“Hateful,” “homophobic,” “anti-LGBT” are among the hysterical condemnations of the statement flying around print, broadcast and social media. But the statement is none of those things.

Unless, of course, you consider statements like

WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

to be somehow anti-LGBT. And besides,

the statement does not single out homosexual or transgender persons. It emphasizes that all human beings are called to “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage,”

See? It doesn’t say that only gay and trans people are horrible and should live lives devoid of sex. All they need to do is to get married. To someone they’re not attracted to, per Article 1. Because God ordained one-man/one-woman sex specifically so that evangelicals wouldn’t get funny feelings in their down-there areas.

Of course, BillDo belongs to an organization that considers suffering to be a gift from God, so his opinions may or may not match yours.

What’s Missing in the George Pell Story?

It’s just come to light that Cardinal George Pell is going to appear in court in Australia on sexual assault charges. Good. It’s about damn time.

But what I’m not seeing in all of the coversage I’ve read so far is any mention of the church cooperating with the investigation. They are not, as far as I can tell, sending along any documents showing where Pell may have been at the relevant times, any notes from his personnel files, letters to his past, present, or future supervisors or colleagues.

Credit where credit is due: the Catholic church in Montreal has started a program whereby priests and church volunteers will be fingerprinted before being allowed to work with children and other vulnerable people, and will not be left alone with them. And this seems to be voluntary, as a result of public outcry stemming from earlier sex crimes, but not imposed by a court. So bravo. However, this is just a local program.

The church as a whole still has not come clean, and continues to impede criminal investigations. So don’t let anyone tell you that the scandal is over, because the coverup continues.

Pope Accused of Covering Up Child Rape in Argentina

Just a reminder that the Catholic Church’s child-abuse coverup scandal isn’t over.

According to Le Monde (in French only; sorry. But here’s a story from last year about this case), lawyers are accusing the Catholic church of covering up child rape and abuse in Italy and Argentina, the current pope’s old stomping grounds. Not only that, but they say that Jorge Bergoglio, now better known as Pope Francis, was personally warned about fifteen abusive priests in 2014, and that he did nothing.
One of the victims claims to have given a copy of the letter to the pope in person, in 2015. So this isn’t ancient history, and it can’t be blamed on the previous administration.
The current case involves children at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Mendoza, Argentina. Not only were the victims children, which is bad enough, but they were deaf, meaning that they had additional difficulties making themselves understood, since sometimes even their own parents didn’t know sign.
Although the Catholic church has allegedly conducted its own investigation, it hasn’t shared its results with the Argentine authorities. In other words, the Catholic church was shielding child abusers from justice, as of just a few years ago.
That makes it a criminal organization. If you’re still a Catholic, why?

Satire Is Officially Broken

Here are two items from recent media:

Sean Spicer Walking Around White House In Sunglasses And Baseball Cap To Avoid Press

“After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged. ‘Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,’ he ordered.

Quiz time: which of these is from the Washington Post, and which is from the Onion?

Answers: the first is from The Onion. The second piece is from The Washington Post.

Triggered by the Right Side of History

There’s a bit of controversy going on at Yorktown High School in Virginia, where teachers have put up signs:

Screen capture of controversial sign at Yorktown High School

Patriots Know:

Facts are not political
Diversity stengthens [sic] us
Science is real
Women’s rights are human rights
Justice is for all
We’re all immigrants
Kindness is everything
We are Yorktown

I gather that “Patriots” is the name of the school’s sports team, and by extension refers to the student body, not simply people who love their country.

What’s odd here is that conservatives have complained about these signs being overly-political. TV personality Tucker Carlson is quoted as saying,

Carlson called the signs “the sneakiest type of propaganda… propaganda passing itself off as obvious observations.” He asked [senior student John] Piper if anyone at the school thinks that science “is not real.”

Oh, I’m sure you could find some Juggalos to tell you that

Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed

but I’ll concede Carlson’s point: pretty much everyone thinks that science is real, or at least supports that notion. But of course not everyone knows that science isn’t a body of knowledge, but a method for figuring out what’s true. Not only that, but a lot of people are very selective about which scientific findings they accept. And, well, not to put too fine a point on it, one major US party (hint: it rhymes with “Reschmuglican”) has turned into an anti-science party.

And therein lies the problem: as long time reader Fez pointed out, if the statements on the signs are seen as political — and specifically leftist — it’s only because the political right has rejected much that should be uncontroversial. Like the reality of climate change, and it doesn’t matter how many jobs you save if New York is under water and Nebraska is too arid for anything to grow.

Likewise, even though it’s obvious that women’s rights are human rights, since the eighties the Republican party has been running on the idea that imply, even if it’s rarely made explicit, that women take a back seat to men, and that their rights rank below those of a pre-sentient (not merely pre-sapient) bundle of cells.

Likewise diversity, justice for all, and tolerance of immigrants. The American political right is on the wrong side on all of these issue, and I think they know it and feel defensive about it.

This all reminds me of something Patton Oswalt wrote a little while ago:

But when I Tweet something POSITIVE, or HOPEFUL, in support of a group that’s been made to fear or doubt because of Trump and his ghoul brigade’s actions? A helpful link for peaceful action? Praising someone who speaks up eloquently against the smirking racism of Trump’s parking lot carnival of an administration?

THAT’S when the responses get violent, and threatening, and ominous. As if the language itself — the grammar of thoughtfulness — lands in their guts like glass shards. Empathy and understanding literally feel like an attack to them.

I don’t think he’s quite right about this, but I have to say that the Yorktown HS kerfuffle is data in his favor.

So if positive ideas bother you, or the implications of those ideas (e.g., if we’re all immigrants, then maybe someone who looks and speaks differently from you, whose cooking smells weird, and whose accent you can’t decipher, might move in next door to you), perhaps it would be a good idea to think about what it is that bothers you, and whether your fears are justified. Or, for that matter, whether you’re on the right side of history.