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Archive for December, 2015

Those of you who know me well will be aware that I am no fan of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, typically finding him my ideological polar opposite. As such, when he and I agree on anything at all, there is probably some truth in it.

To quote from his opinion in District Of Columbia v. Heller:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms … the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'”

Also:

“We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the (government) a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.”

I have written a lot about guns these past few days, for obvious reasons, and have just about exhausted myself on the subject at this point. However, I would like to sign off with the idea that if even Justice Scalia, an arch-conservative constitutional scholar if ever there was one, believes there is room for reasonable limitations on the Second Amendment, there probably is.

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Thirty-five years ago today, the world lost a genius to an act of madness.

John Lennon. Not a perfect man, a flawed one. But he was blessed with a creativity and spirit which ring through the decades, continuing to inspire musicians and pacifists today.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all, however, is that since the day he was shot and killed, over a million others in America have met the same fate.

Surely we can do better.

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If you’re still trying to chip away at women’s rights, still trying to force the closure of facilities which provide much needed care to low income women, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME. Consider me a woman, then, for I stand with them.

If you’re still trying to find ways to block gay people from getting married, or to deny them any other rights currently afforded to heterosexuals, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME. Consider me gay, then, for I stand with them.

If you are calling for denying Muslims entry to this country, for forcing them to be registered in a database of potential criminals based solely on their religion, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME. Consider me a Muslim, then, for I stand with them.

I cannot know the fullness of what it means to be a woman, to be gay, to be Muslim. But neither will I stand mutely on the sidelines while they are attacked.

It’s time to stand up, to stand together. Do you truly want to “make America great again”? Then let’s reclaim our national dialogue from the overpaid buffoons. Let’s show that we are greater than the schoolyard bullies.

It’s time to stand up, to stand together, to do our nation proud.

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As the United States of America stares down the 240th anniversary of its birth, we are beset by an immense variety of troubles, the fruit of a world growing ever more complex.

It is tempting to say that “if we could just elect Bernie Sanders” or “if we could just elect Donald Trump”, everything could somehow be made right again. But deep inside, we know that no one person, not even a President, has that power. The Oval Office does not come equipped with a magic wand with which to wave away the problems we face both at home and abroad.

We, as a nation, are being divided at every step. We, as a community, are being drawn on one side or the other of a thousand battles, Christians against Muslims, white against black, Democrats against Republicans, pro-life against pro-choice, science against religion, homosexuals against heterosexuals, America against… just about anybody else. We are being told to believe not only that our “side” is 100% right, but that the other “side” is 100% wrong.

We are being polarized by our media and our politicians, torn asunder by our allegiances to one group or another, taught to think of one another as being “other”, and therefore somehow less pure, less human, less American.

It’s not as simple as that. Never has been, never will be.

Too many of us are driven by the preconceived notions which have been shoved into our heads, and too few of us are bringing any kind of critical thinking to bear on those preconceived notions.

Too many of us are stuck in the trap of thinking a certain way, and have been rendered unwilling or even unable to try to think in any other.

It is time for these divisions to end, for these wounds to heal.

I think we are all aware of the Golden Rule, which has existed since time immemorial: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every religion has some form of this tenet. Evolutionary science has shown its benefit as a means of protecting the group.

Most of us are aware that the Declaration of Independence declares the unalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – and that it specifically says that these rights are not only given to Americans, but to all human beings.

In the face of the ever growing threats faced by America, and by the whole of humankind, it is to these which we should now be turning.

When we deprive one another of life, of liberty or of the pursuit of happiness, we not only fly in the face of that Golden Rule, we threaten the very core of what it means to be human.

The only cure for division is for us to remember once again that there is more which unites us than there is which divides us. There is absolutely no reason a Democrat and a Republican cannot work together for the common good. There is no reason that Christians and Muslims cannot embrace as brothers. There is no reason why science and religion should be opposites, when each is given to the quest for understanding a greater truth.

The cure for division is unity.

Look over at the person nearest you. You have a lot in common with that person, things you can share, things you can enjoy together, and praise in each other. You have a lot of ways in which you are different as well, things which you can learn about each other, things you can use to develop a deeper understanding of the good in each other’s experiences, ideas and way of life.

Let us strive to look at another person in that way each day. Let us become united. We are, after all, the UNITED States of America.

The cure for division is unity.

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Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah, everybody.

(Because even if you don’t specifically celebrate that, I hope the next eight days of your life bring you both joy and wisdom.)

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Today marks the 353rd, 354th and 355th mass shootings in America in 2015.

We’re on course to have more mass shootings than days in the year. Considering the fact that the number of background-check applications hit a record high on Black Friday (itself a showcase of national idiocy), I would be entirely unsurprised if next year brings more.

This has gone beyond “problem” into “epidemic”.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, guns are guaranteed under the Constitution, there’s nothing that can be done”, you are part of the problem. The Constitution has been, and can be changed. They’re called Amendments, and even if you don’t know that there are 27 of them or how they work, you probably know about the second half of the second one.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, more people die from cars than guns”, you are part of the problem. Guns are designed for the purpose of killing, cars are not.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, I need a gun for hunting, that’s part of how I put food on the table” BUT are somehow trying to convince me that you’re going to tote a .357 into the woods to bag a deer, you’re part of the problem. Use a hunting rifle if you absolutely must, but you don’t need a handgun for it, and you certainly don’t need something that can pump fifty rounds into the deer, because if that’s the only way you can get it done, your venison isn’t doing you much good and you’re a lousy hunter to boot.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, here are the acts of mentally troubled individuals, the guns aren’t the issue”, you are part of the problem. When mentally sound guys can get guns, mentally troubled guys can get guns.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, all of that could have been prevented by having more good guys with guns”, you are part of the problem. For one thing, I can’t tell the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun until I’m staring down at my own sucking chest wound. For another, when Good Guy With Gun #1 sees Bad Guy With Gun, but Good Guy With Gun #2 only sees Good Guy With Gun #1 and erroneously assumes him to be Bad Guy With Gun, giant bloodbath ensues instead of being prevented. No thank you.

If you’re one of those people who says “well, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families” instead of demanding action, while their other hand is taking a campaign donation from the NRA instead, you are a big part of the problem. Inaction for fear of losing political power is the mark of putting one’s own benefit over that of the nation, and that is not a quality I cherish in my elected representatives.

The Declaration of Independence tells us that whenever Government becomes destructive of its own ends, it is the duty of the citizenry to effect change. Government which continues to allow its citizens to massacre each other has sure as hell become destructive of its own ends.

It is long past time to put an end to this madness, and enact meaningful gun control legislation. Praying for the families won’t stop the next mass shooting. As a citizen of these United States, I demand action.

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