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I was planning to do a blog on an entirely different topic.  Instead though, due to several conversations I have had recently,  I am doing a follow up on my last blog The Shame of the United States.

When talking to a person who is supporting the new Trump policy of separating families at the border, it is important to remember the facts.  Always.  Because you will have to reference them time after time after time.

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Fact 1:  There is no law requiring that those stopped for illegally crossing the border have to have their children taken from them.

Fact 2:  No President, going back at least as far as President Eisenhower, has ever promoted or tried to carry out a policy of separating families crossing the border illegally.

Fact 3: Not all crimes carry the same penalties.  Jaywalking and a mugging, for example, are both crimes, but not the same penalty.

Fact 4: Those crossing and then turning themselves in immediately to a border agent are not breaking the law.  They are instead following one of the procedures for asking for asylum.

  • Fact 4a. Yes, despite what the director of Homeland Security may have said, they are separating the children from their family for these asylum seekers too.

It is also important to remember the facts that some who are also outrages by this policy ignore.

Fact 5: The photo of children in orange prison jumpsuits is not of the immigrant children.  Instead, it first showed up as a photograph in an article about schools and prisons and was intended to make the point that more prisons are being built than schools in the United States.

Fact 6: None of the photos of children in wire cages are recent.  Or, at least none that I have found have been.  Most are from 2014. Now, we do have eyewitness accounts of the GettyImages_458329272conditions where many children are being held, and those eyewitnesses say that the 2014 pictures are accurate today too.  However, so far, none of these facilities have allowed photographs to be taken.

 

So, now we have our facts.  Facts that we will use to defend our view that this policy is immoral. The question becomes then, what argument are we defending it from?

 

From what I can see, all the arguments from those defending taking children from their parents are variations of “It is against the law” or “they broke the law”. Often these are used in conjunction with the observation that when we arrest American citizens and cart them off to jail their children are separated from their parents too.  So, the argument goes, why is it then immoral with illegal immigrants.

There are several possible responses that could be given.  One of them is to present Fact 4, that we have an asylum process in place in which immigrants seeking asylum immediately present themselves to a border patrol agent and claim asylum.  These people are not breaking the law.  They are following it. Yet they are still being separated from their children.

This can then be followed up with Fact 3, not all crimes carry the same penalties.  For example, you are not going to arrest and send someone to prison for speeding whereas you will for someone who commits armed robbery.  Both broke the law, but to give both the same punishment would be unjust.

In the case of illegally crossing the border, it is a misdemeanor in most cases. This then leads you to Fact 1, there is no law requiring that parents be separated from their children.  None. Zilch.  Legally it can be done, but it is not required by law.  In fact, historically it has not happened.

And this is where Fact 2, no president, no administration, going back to at least the time of President Eisenhower, and probably before, has ever carried out a deliberate policy of separating families who crossed the border illegally.    Now, suddenly we are.   Don’t give me legal requirement or historical precedent as justification because neither are.  Both are against this policy.

Also, there is a difference between separating a parent from child of  citizens with that of an illegal immigrant.  Those who are here usually have family and friends here who can take care of their children.  Illegals, not so much.  Those who live here are used to this culture, the food, the customs, the language.  With the illegal immigrants, their children are living among strangers in a land very strange to them. They are living among strangers speaking a different language, eating different foods, and dealing with  different customs. A scary place for anyone, but more so to a seven year old child without their parent.

Now, here are some tips on other strategies that will be employed in defending the indefensible.

They might try to bring up those pictures of children in cages and point out that these were taken during President Obama’s administration.  They then will try to ignore the moral problems of doing this today by saying “why didn’t you protest about these then, you are a hypocrite”.

Of course, whether I am a hypocrite or not really has no bearing on whether this is a moral policy or not.  It is a separate question. A separate issue. However, it is one that they love to employ to change the subject and divert attention.

However,  they are correct about when these pictures of children in cages were taken.  Yes, those pictures were taken during President Obama’s  watch.  However, they occurred because there was a flood of unaccompanied minors coming up from Central America. Minors with no family, no parent with them. So many that they totally overwhelmed the system.   In other words, it was not the result of a deliberate policy of separation.  And it was something Obama’s administration was working on to correct.

Along with this might be an attempt to show that some of President Obama’s immigration also resulted in separating families.  And that too would be true.  Again though, this separation was not the result of a deliberate policy but rather it was an unintended side effect in some cases.  And one that did not result in nearly as many separated families as what Trump’s policies are purposely creating.

And again, just like the hypocrite argument, how does what President Obama did or did not do effect whether this policy today is moral?  Does President Obama’s actions define morality and what is right?  No.  Again, separate issue.

5472Another important fact to be kept in mind is that our knowledge that the separation of the children of those crossing our borders from their families is what is immoral. Whether children are being put in these cages or not, whether they are being shipped in freight trains or not, whether they are being made to wear orange jumpsuits or not, is purely of secondary importance.  The main issue is that this policy of separating families needlessly like this is wrong and immoral.  This holds true whether the children are being detained in nice homes with nice people or whether they are being kept in cages.

Also, underlying this whole defense that these people were breaking the law is the assumption that all laws are moral. We are stating that this action is immoral. That holds true whether it is legal or not.

A final thought on this issue. We have not had a policy of separating children from their parents for those crossing our borders illegally or requesting asylum before, but there have been two times in our past when we did have a policy of separating children from their parents.

One of those times is with many of the Native American tribes. We would forcibly take children from their families and send them to “Indian Residential Schools” where they would be immersed in Euro-American culture, given normal haircuts, forbidden to speak their native language, and their name taken away and given a new normal name.  These schools were also known as American Indian Boarding Schools.  But, a rose by any other name…..

This black mark on our history started in the 1870s.  It did not end until the 1970s.  Looking back over the last two sentences, I hope those that read this consider this a black mark and stain upon our history.  If not, then you have a serious problem with your sense of morality and should start to work on that immediately in order to become a decent human being.

 

The other time when we have taken children from their parents was during the time of slavery.  This was done casually and without thought. Doing so was common.  A result of this can be seen in the nations newspapers after the Civil War. Those papers were flooded with ads from mothers, fathers, children seeking their loved ones.  Such as these one below.

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And now, today, we are adding to our history. In addition to the separation of children from families from the Native Americans, and from black slaves, we now get to add a new chapter in our history – taking children from those crossing our borders.  I believe that not only do most Americans now find it wrong and immoral and abhorrent, so too will history judge it to be so.

 

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

Yes, I know.  For this subject quoting this poem is something trite, something always done, and something common. However, that does not mean it shouldn’t be quoted.  In shutterstock_56386615these times we need to read and quote and consider these words more than ever, no dismiss them as being trite and overused.   After all, the reason that this poem from the Statue of Liberty is so trite is because it is an integral part of our history and, until recently, a part of who we were as a nation and a people.  It is one of our defining ideals, often fallen short of, but just as often clawed back to.

This time though we are starting to fall very, very short of this ideal.  Now we are not only turning away those  legitimately and justifiably seeking refuge in the United States, but area also separating families – taking children away from their parents, no matter the age of the child.  From what I have researched, we have never done that before.

With those crossing our borders illegally the excuse was that they broke the law and were trying to live in the United States illegally.  It is not a good excuse for such an inhumane policy, but it is something.  However, with asylum seekers, they do not even have that threadbare excuse. These are people who present themselves to officials requesting asylum.

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This, this is the threat to the United States?

While attention is on the ones coming to our southern border, this covers all asylum seekers.  For example, a Congolese woman presented herself to our border guards at the port of entry near San Diego.  Now she is being held in detention there.  Her seven year old daughter was taken from her and is being held in Chicago.  And it gets worse.  The Trump administration has cut funding for the program providing lawyers for migrant children.  So, now a seven year old, without benefit of parent or counsel, has to make decisions and navigate our labyrinthine immigration system.  Alone.

For an administration that, for some reason, is popular among a group that tout family values…well, this shows that the only families they value are their own.  For an administration that, for some reason,  is popular among a group that believe all humanity is related and brothers and sisters, who brag about missions to help the suffering in other countries…well, it seems that some  brothers and sisters are better loved and cared for than others.

Yes, we need to maintain our borders.  However, asylum seekers are not a threat to our borders (nor illegal aliens a threat to our country).  Instead, they are a testament to our nation and its ideals.  Ideals that are becoming more deeply tarnished by the day.

In our past anyone outside of our immediate community were considered “other”.  Often they were not even considered fully human within the community.  You could do things to “others’ that you could not do to those within your community.

It seems that we are moving back to those times, away from the recognition that no matter our nationality, no matter our race, no matter our religion we all share a common humanity and have a right to be treated as a human.   It seems that is no longer the case in the United States. Instead it seems we are in the process of blockading ourselves against the world; politically, economically and morally, and in doing so denying the humanity of those “others”

These families are not coming here on a whim.  They are not coming here just because they think the food is better.  Or even just solely for economic reasons.  They are fleeing.  Fleeing a danger to them and their loved ones.

Here is a link to a fact sheet about why they flee.

But, since I know most don’t click on links, and since it is short, rather than summarize it, let me copy and paste what it says here.

7 REASONS WHY FAMILIES FLEE:

  1. Northern Triangle countries are experiencing record levels of violence.
    El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are facing unparalleled levels of violent crime and all three countries continue to rank among the most violent in the world.
  2. Impunity rates for homicides in the Northern Triangle countries hover above 95 percent.
    This means that 19 out of every 20 murders remain unsolved, and the likelihood of being caught, prosecuted or convicted for murder is practically nil.
  3. Extortion is common, and the failure to pay can result in harassment, violence, or death.
    It has been estimated that Salvadorans pay more than US$390 million a year in extortion fees, while Hondurans pay around $200 million and Guatemalans an estimated $61 million.
  4. Lack of opportunity and poverty are serious problems.
    According to the World Bank, 60 percent of people living in rural areas in the Northern Triangle live in poverty. Honduras’ July 2017 national census showed that 64.3 percent of all households live in poverty.
  5. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault.
    El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are some of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman. In Honduras, 468 women were killed in 2016—one every 18 hours.
  6. Children and families under threat of violence and extortion often feel like they have nowhere to turn for protection.
    In all three countries, citizens do not feel that the police will protect them and often fear the authorities as much as criminals. According to a 2016 survey in Honduras, 83 percent of the population believes the police are corrupt.
  7. Being denied asylum or being deported can be a death sentence.
    Although the United States does not have a comprehensive database of migrants who were killed after being returned to their countries of origin, the Global Migration Group at Columbia University has created a record of over 60 people who had been deported to their deaths or to other harm.

Young girls are often raped  by gang members and forced into prostitution.  Boys are forced into drug gangs.  Many have seen family members killed.   Many have seen friends killed.  There is no law, no justice, no  protection.  It does not exist.  Only poverty, fear, pain, and loss.

This link provides some of those stories.  In this link you will read about:

2EDD631F00000578-3337589-image-m-30_1448745141324Two brothers, 13 and 7, found dead.  The seven year old, in addition to being shot as his brother was, was also tortured and beaten.

A grandfather with two granddaughters who fled the country with them.  Three of his four sons had already been killed by gangs.  He did not want to lose his granddaughters too.

A young woman who opened her door one day and found a plastic bag with body parts in it.  It was a warning of what would happen to her should she refuse to become the girlfriend of a gang member who liked her.

Nine children who refused to join gangs were found tortured and shot in the face numerous times.  Some of them had skin peeled from their faces.

So, these families do the sane thing. They flee for somewhere safer.  The United States.  And when they arrive and apply for asylum, they have their children, the children they are trying to protect, taken from them by our border agents, following a cold and cruel new policy.

Some may say that they should stay in their country and fight to make it a good country.  The ignorance displayed by this sort of argument is amazing.  Only someone who lives in a country that is safe and secure, that has a functional and responsive government could ever say such a thing.

Others argue that they should go somewhere else, that we are tired of holding that lamp up high.   And since we are tired, we are going to discourage them coming.  Idiocy.  Ignorance. Cowardice.

Some justify these actions as being necessary to discourage others from coming to our borders, seeking a better place, seeking refuge and safety not only for themselves but their children and families.  Safety from atrocity.  This justification not only betrays our ideals and humanity, it is also one that I do not think will work.

Ask yourself, if you lived in such a country, would this policy of being separated from your child really discourage you from fleeing and coming here?  It wouldn’t me.   However, instead of presenting myself at the border, I would be looking at ways to enter illegally and stay.  Further, as some of these parents are saying, it would be much better to be together, but even separated their child is still in a much safer and better place than back home.

And before you say – see, its not such a bad policy – ask yourself would you like to be separated from your child by thousands of miles, in a strange land, and have them live with strangers?  Would you like the thought of your child being alone among strangers uncertain and afraid? Do you think your child and you would not suffer from that separation?  It is only the direness of their situation that makes this a good option.  And only our labelling them as “other” and no longer worthy of being treated with the dignity and respect all humans should be till shown otherwise that makes this cruel choice a “good” one.

We talk about how terrible and like animals those of the MS 13 gangs are.  They are our ms13current bogeyman embodying the worst that humans can do to each other.  For that reason, to protect our selves and society we work to lock them up or deport them.  Now, imagine living in a country where the MS 13 gangs rule.  They cannot be deported.  They cannot be jailed.   And that is what we too often send these families back to.

As the saying goes “all fall short of glory”, and so we have. Badly. In fact, we have done so many times over the years since we were founded. But, the words and the humanity behind those words still remained as an ideal, though at times a badly defined one.  It is an ideal that we have worked towards living up to, towards making it real.  And though we never fully managed to do so, there were times when we approached glory.

Today though. Today, we are no long climbing for glory but, through our treatment of our fellow humans as other, as numbers, as the bogeyman, through our cold and hard laws and policies, we are reaching for hell. And hell is easier to obtain because gravity helps a fall.

I think it may be time to return the Statue of Liberty, The Mother of Exiles, to France, along with its plague bearing ideals we no longer seem to hold.  Maybe someday, soon I hope, we will deserve to have it gracing our shores again.

 

 

 

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Something that I see over and over again from conservatives, especially among the more extreme conservatives, is this idea that everyone should be treated equally regardless of race or gender.  This was brought to mind recently by a Facebook post by one of these individuals about Harvard having a separate graduation ceremony for blacks. Its caption read something along the lines of “Congratulations Harvard!  You have just brought segregation back”.

First, let me say that the story was inaccurate.  Harvard was not having a separate ceremony for blacks.  Instead, a private group had set this up and were holding it some days after the Harvard graduation to allow blacks to attend both, which I imagine all or most did.  In addition this was not a black only event, all races could attend.  Here is what the organization’s, Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, president Michael Huggins had to say about why they did this.

“It isn’t meant to replace the existing ceremony, but rather to add something that was missing.

“We really wanted an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless at Harvard. So many students identify with the African diaspora but don’t necessarily feel welcome as part of the larger community, and they don’t feel like their stories are being shared.”

So no, no segregation being brought back.

What is interesting is that even when I pointed this out, the conservative who posted this and some of his like minded friends argued that this was still wrong.  That it somehow cheapens the graduation.  That all should be happy with the one graduation without need for another and that what doing this does is encourage division and discord.  We should all be equal and colorblind.

Now I know that many people are going to say, what’s the problem with that?  Why have a separate ceremony? Why not be color blind and treat all equally?  And, this seemingly plausible argument based upon the premise of equality is also applied to hiring and voting and other such institutions and laws.

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My answer – nothing at all in regards to it being a good goal.  But to actually live it and act as if it is true only creates and sustains the racism still within our system.  The problem with this fine idea is that society – our governments, justice system, educational system, financial institutions, and businesses are not color blind.  All people are not treated equally regardless of color.

Conservatives use this ideal of equality  to argue against programs that benefit minorities, women, and the LGBTQ.   They use this ideal against those who protest inequality – Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.  They even use it to argue that those organizations that are for one group and not all are not only racist but promote racism and sexism and so forth.  The Black Caucus, the NAACP, NOW, and so forth are all racist and sexist organizations.

Their argument is that if these people would quit stirring the pot and agitating then the waters would still and everything would be all right.  They believe that there is no real problem with racism and sexism  in our institutions and society today.  Or, at least, one large enough to create such a fuss..

Consider the following though in regards to race.

  • When blacks were freed from slavery they were not given any money, any land, any possessions of their own, despite the fruit of their work having gone to their owners. In effect, they were freed only to too often become economic slaves with little difference from before.
  • That was followed by many long years of Jim Crow and KKK and voting restrictions and laws promoting whites but keeping down blacks. Laws that in their most blatant form existed until the 1970s.
  • The result of this, and more, was blacks were not, on average, able to accumulate land and wealth. Which meant they could not afford good school districts, good healthcare, good anything.  In effect they were not at the same starting point as whites on average.
  • Further, racism is still present in our society. It often takes the form of implicit biases, and so often easily not seen and ignored.  But nonetheless real.  As blacks know well.  As a look at the numbers show; any number – economic, educational, property, incarceration and arrests, etc.
  • Blacks get pulled over for driving while black.
  • They get followed more often in stores.
  • They get tossed out of stores for being black.
  • Resumes with obvious black names on them are turned down more often than the same resume is with a white name attached. Discrimination exists in hiring and firing, in grades, in getting loans, and on and on and on.

And this is only a few of the many inequalities in our society, inequalities that are ingrained in our society.  We have done the easy changes, the obvious ones, the in your face racism.  So much so that, even though it still exists, it is no longer thought polite to display in public.   But the implicit biases and institutional racism still exists.  It is just quieter in its expression, although its effects are just as damaging.   And this quietness of it is why dealing with it and finishing the job of creating a more just and equal society is so difficult now,   it is easy to deny and ignore.

Consider this idea of treating  everyone equal now a conservative kumbaya belief. However, this kumbaya is not real.  Current reality is not kumbaya.

We do not live in a world wherein justice is dispensed equally, where all have equal access to education and educational opportunities, where hiring and  firing and promotions are based solely on qualifications and accomplishments.

If you cannot admit or acknowledge the very real problems plaguing our country then these problems will fester, harming the lives of millions of Americans, until they explode.  The conservatives shout of equality and of the need to treat all the same now ignores the problem and is why, despite its seductive sound, it should be resisted.  Far from ending racism, it promotes it.

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Wednesday, we were able to add another school shooting to the ever growing list of school shootings.  Wednesday, we were able to add another mass shooting to the ever growing list of mass shootings.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe.

However, increasingly, in America every day is becoming a Wednesday.  The number of mass shootings is increasing. The number of school shootings is increasing.  The number of dead children is quickly increasing.  The number of Americans dead, wounded, or mourning is quickly increasing.

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And so far, all we have gotten is thoughts and prayers.  There is a time and purpose for thoughts and prayers.  But, they are not enough to stem this bloody tide.  There needs to be policy and actions and laws too. But those seem in short supply, for many reasons.  Something that is not the purpose of this blog to explore.

In this blog I do not intend to present specific policies and actions.  I do not intend to wade into numbers and research.  I do not intend to provide a specific way forward.  While I do have some specific ideas in regards to policies and actions, and have some specific ideas on ways forward (none of them quick nor easy), I do not intend to present them here.

Instead, what I want  briefly present are a few  very broad ideas of what a true solution to our gun violence problem would have to include.

But, before doing that, I want to define what a solution to the gun problem is and is not.

First, it is not armed guards and metal detectors and training on what to do when the seemingly inevitable happens.  It is not passing out guns to all the teachers, all the students, all Americans to use for protection.  It is not good guys with guns. One of my nieces stated it very well when she wrote:

The issue is not the good guys with guns not being around, it’s the bad guys with guns posing a threat in the first place and our country’s failure to protect their subsequent victims by arming them.

A true solution is not reactive, as were all of the “solutions” I mentioned already. Instead, it is proactive. It strives to prevent the act from happening in the first place.

I guess I should now mention goals.  What is our goal here?  To have everyone living in fear and tension but protected somehow by guns and machinery and such?

Or is it to have every child be able to go to school without a nagging fear in their and their parents mind about whether they will come home again, alive and unscathed; to have families, couples, individuals, groups be able to go to restaurants, movies, and malls without a tinge of fear contaminating their enjoyment.

My goal is for the latter.

So, a solution to this problem needs to be proactive and to promote a sense of being able to live your life safely.

Now, for a reality caveat.  There is and will be no perfect solution. Perfection does not exist in human affairs. No matter how good or how thorough, there will still be some gun violence. However, if we reduce such violence by 80%, 90%, or more…well, that would be good indeed.  When our government first started studying car safety in the 1960s, they did not eliminate all car fatalities.  But, they greatly reduced it and made driving much safer now than it was 50 years ago. As a result many tens of  thousands of individuals are still enjoying their lives, and many more thousands of family and friends are visiting these living people instead of the cold earth of their graves.

Second reality check. There is no one solution.  Gun violence stems from a variety of causes and happens for a variety of reasons.  Instead of a single solution, there will need to be many changes, many “solutions”.  And that is the main purpose of this blog, to highlight, in broad stokes,  what areas need to be changed.

 

UNLEASH THE RESEARCH

Currently the CDC is hamstrung and effectively prohibited by Congress from conducting any research into gun violence, its causes and solutions.  For over 20 years Congress has kept any money from going to research into the causes of gun violence and possible solutions to such violence.

That must change.  If we want to quit spinning our wheels on this issue and to find new and real solutions, we need information.  Ignorance, in this case, literally kills.

 

UNLEASH OUR STARVED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES 

Mental health is one of those things we love to give lip service to, but not money. It is usually one of those areas with the least amount of money allocated to it, but which, despite this, is still one of the first to feel cuts when the budget must be trimmed.

A caveat here though.  Most of the mass shooters were not mentally ill.  In fact, the great majority were not – for example, the Las Vegas shooter.  Also, the vast majority of mentally ill do not commit such acts of violence.  In fact, the great majority of persons who exhibit the exact same symptoms as the shooters  do not commit such acts.

However, this is still worth doing.  Further research and work may help us more accurately identify those at risk of engaging in mass shootings.  An even better goal though would be to create a system of mental health services where those who might have become so do not.

Consider vaccinations as an analogy. Even without a vaccination, not everyone would get sick.  Many would though. Yet with vaccinations most of those who would have become sick no longer will.

To make this a reality though is going to involve a great deal more money being spent in this area than there is now.  Money for the research necessary to understand better, both the conditions and its causes and its prevention.  Money to set up the structures and resources that can effectively deliver that knowledge in a timely manner.

In addition, the benefits resulting from the money spent on this research and for the resources to effectively use the findings of that research, would extend far beyond the effect it would have on reducing mass shootings and gun violence. It would improve the lives of millions and thereby help the nation.

 

UNLEASH OUT SOCIAL SERVICES 

We have too many cracks and gaping holes in our social services.  People do not get the resources and knowledge they need to deal effectively with what life has thrown at them.  Often this would work in tandem with the unleash mental health part of the solution.

The most recent school shooting in Florida is a good illustration of that.  Here is my one and only link in this blog, an article about how the shooter “escaped years of warning”.   It shows how the police and school and other services really had no way to effective deal with this young man.

This is something that happens all too frequently.  We should be looking at what can be developed and created to better serve our fellow citizens.  Again, like mental health, this would benefit not only individuals, but also our country as a whole.  But, it would cost money.

However, I strongly suspect that the costs of providing both better mental health services and better social services would, in the long term, not only pay for themselves but provide a net gain in terms of increased productivity, less crime, fewer people in jails and mental institutions, and so forth.  In other words, just as an industry will go into debt to purchase machinery  that it believes will result in better profits in the long term, so too should we consider the money spent for these two areas an investment in our human potential.  An investment that, truth to tell, even if it only benefited the individuals using those services and society, but not the economy, would still be well worth it.  However, as I said, I suspect that if done properly, this is not an either choice but an and choice.

A thought here too – new ideas will have to be found, created, and tried.  Some will work. Some will fail.  We must realize that failures are a part of the process and one of the ways in which we learn.  In other word, do not let the failure of one idea stop the exploration of others.  Or cause us to go back to the way we used to do things.   We already know how poorly those are working.

 

GUN CONTROL

Any solution to gun violence will have to include gun control.  In fact, I would imagine that this will be a large part of any such solution.  Let me now say though that gun control does not mean banning all or even most guns.

But it does mean creating better databases for background checks, and finding ways to make them more effective.

It does mean that it applies to all guns and all gun purchases.

It does mean that some guns may be banned (some already are), or that certain sizes of ammo clips, or types of ammo may be banned.

It does mean that other gun related items may have to have background checks, for example, ammunition.

It does mean all of these and more need a thorough look at and probably trial to see how well they work.

It does mean we do not give up when one law or approach does not work.  Instead, analyze why and see if only a modification is needed or is the whole idea bad.  As someone who has had to suffer through the installation and start up of new production equipment, and through the use of new computer programs, I know that initially there are always problems and issues.  Some of them major, all of them a major pain in the ass. However, to have stopped would have been a grave mistake in most cases, and after the issues had been worked out they proved themselves greatly beneficial.  We should not be making any grave mistakes of a similar nature here.

And let me quickly address the claims of many of those against all or most gun control laws that we already have hundreds or even thousands of laws on the books,  just enforce them.  The problem is that they are all local and inconsistent.  A city or state may have strong gun control laws, yet if their neighbors do not then they are not going to be effective.  Just drive across the city limits or state lines, buy your gun, and come back home again.   Instead of working together, these laws often work at cross purposes.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS COMPLETE WITH A WARNING

I do not know if this covers everything that would need to happen for an effective solution to our gun violence crisis.  I do know though that these are the minimum.  And I do know that for most of those items listed above, the benefits to the people of the United States and to the economic and social health of this nation would extend beyond just controlling gun violence more effectively.

However, we do need to be sensitive to individual rights and work to ensure that we do not violate them in the name of safety.

I know that many will interpret this solely in terms of the second amendment.   I freely acknowledge that the second amendment does include the right of individuals to own guns.  This, by the way, is a change in my previous position due to numerous debates and discussions and readings and research.  However, that same research that changed my opinion on whether the second amendment applies to the individual also convinced me that gun controls, including the banning of some, and gun registration, does not violate that second amendment.

Which is my long winded way of saying the rights that I am most concerned about are not the second amendment rights.  My concerns are for the personal rights of the individual.

The right of the individual to be different, unique, eccentric without being labelled and treated as mentally ill.  The right of those who are mentally ill to be fully informed and to give informed consent to all treatments, to not be abused, and to live their lives freely.  The right of the individual to appeal any and all decisions made in regards to them.

Newtown Commemorates One Month Anniversary Of Elementary School MassacreIMG_7319_1507149137045_67979013_ver1.0_900_675

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Town Of Parkland In Mourning, After Shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Kills 17

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Finally, it seems to me that the best memorial to the many lives lost and families shattered by gun violence are not flowers and candles, not poems and pictures, not services and statues, but seeing people live who might have died had we not changed how things are done.

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Recently I have noticed something that various disparate groups have in common:  climate change deniers, Biblical literalists, creationists, Constitutional literalists,  and most recently, Trump supporting conspiracy theorists.

While I am sure that they may share many traits in common, the one that I am looking at now is their belief that there is a plain and simple way to read words, even words grouped together in sentences and paragraphs and pages.  That such meanings are obvious and that anyone who doesn’t see the plain and simple meaning is either blinded by their own ideology or do not want to admit they are wrong.

going up or down

Going up or coming down?

This was brought home to me by my recent discussions with a Trump supporting conspiracy theorist.

Now, this person would and does say they are not a conspiracy theorist, that they have laid out the facts and timeline and are following clear and obvious facts; and that it is only my desire not to admit mistake or commitment to a certain political and social beliefs or hatred of Trump that prevent me from accepting what is obviously true.

The facts for the most part consist of words arranged in sentences, and statements reported in the press.

This person claims that the sentences’ meanings are obvious.  However, when I look at imagesthem, I see other possible explanations besides the one this person prefers. Of course, mine are wrong and just justifications and excuses and speculations while theirs are factual and actual.  I, obviously, do not want to admit the truth.

This person believes in literal meanings.  They believe it for the Constitution.  And for this.  They think that there is one and only one way to understand these words.  Never mind that they are often devoid of context that would help make the meaning surer and clearer.  And by context, not only the other words before and after, but also situational context.  All of that makes a difference.  But, not to Trumpian conspiracy theorists, creationists, biblical literalists, constitutional literalists and climate change deniers.

I must say though that this makes their arguments much easier for them.  Instead of trying to evaluate the situation and context of those words when challenged, they just say that it is obvious and no interpretation needed.  Just a plain and simple reading of the words.

Consider this though, that even when speaking to each other we often have to explain or say again in different ways; we misunderstand or don’t understand clearly what is being said.  There is at least a little back and forth, questions and answers.  And this is with the benefit of being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions and body language.  How much greater a problem is this lack of understanding with the written word?

Some things to consider for those who think that words do not need to be interpreted, that their meaning is plain to see, and that you are a fool blinded by ideology or ignorance to think differently.

The Bible is an atheistic book.  The Bible says so.

What is the one plain meaning of the word bark?  Or nails? Or Jam? Or stool?  Or….

Here’s a good one, showing how when words are woven into sentences and those sentences then applied to others and then to the world, there is not a simple and plain meaning.

“To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

So then, what laws are necessary and proper for carrying out “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”.  Plain and simple still?

Or what constitutes a religion, with all the Constitutional protections granted such things?

indexThe list goes on and on and on.  And it goes on because the idea that there is one plain and simple meaning that can be agreed upon by all reasonable persons is largely a myth.  There are few such things, especially when you move beyond simple descriptive statement such as red and blue (although even there are differences when the colors start to shade).

You can get agreement with most reasonable person on many things, but, usually there is discussion and sometimes debate beforehand.  You do not usually get it straight off the bat – unless of course, you limit the circle of those who are considered reasonable to your own.

Which, of course, brings up the question of what is a reasonable person?  Anybody care to provide their interpretation?

 

 

 

End Note Not Really Related to the Subject Above, But Thought I Would Toss In Because I Wanted To and Found It of Interest. 

The  Trumpian conspiracy theory is getting large, convoluted,  and very interesting.  It would be more interesting and less concerning if our President were not a member of it.

However, it now includes, from what I can figure without doing more in depth research, a story of President Obama hand picking his successor, Hillary, and, through cheating, getting her the Democratic nomination and then working to discredit and do in Trump – with the help of a “weaponized FBI and intelligence agencies” and most of the mainstream media.  Recently I saw where John McCain has now been included as part of this story.  Why it missed its timing in regards to do in Trump with the Russian story I am rather unsure of.  But, it includes a cast of President Obama (master manipulator and the most corrupt President in history), Hillary (no more need to said about “Killary”), Lynch, Comey, Bill Clinton, and many others, including McCain now apparently.

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There are two things I note about most of the most fervid Trump Supporters – their short sighted impatience, and their fantasies.  It is something that I see again and again, and something I have to remind some of these fervid supporters of when I engage them (and which they promptly then ignore or forget – which means I could also add in the short memory of such supporters).  So, now to take each topic in order.

ON THE SHORT SIGHTED IMPATIENCE OF SOME TRUMP SUPPORTERS

By short sighted impatience, I mean that whenever we point out that something is not good, if the sky doesn’t immediately fall down and the fires of hell roar up to meet the falling skies, they laugh and mock.

“Hey, I thought you said the stock market was going to crash”President Trump Holds 'Make America Great Again' Rally In Iowa

“I thought you said our economy would be in ruins.”

“I thought you said that America would collapse.”

And so forth.

Now,  I am going to speak for myself (obviously), but I think most liberals and rational people would agree with what I say.  I never once said disastrous results would happen immediately.  In fact, I explicitly said in one to two years.   And so far I will stand by this – although truth to tell, I thought Trump would have yanked us out of NAFTA by now and be well on his way to a protectionist policies and actions.  He has made some significant movements that way, but not as far as I had thought he would.

But, it has only been one year.  And, as I said, I have seen movements and actions trending that way.

And here’s the thing.  The vast majority of human disasters do not happen immediately.  Events lead up to them and create the conditions for such to occur.  For example, our recent Great Recession was caused by many factors – international trade imbalances, lax lending standards and lack of adequate regulations on entities such as banks and other financial institutions, as well as US government housing policies.  I would add that President W. Bush’s tax cuts and Iraq war also contributed to the recession and caused us to increase our debt more than we would have otherwise to get out of it.

So, many things contributed to this disaster.  And each thing came about at different times, and none of them immediately caused the disaster.

So, no, I did not think that once Trump was sworn in that everything would suddenly fall apart.  For one thing, we were in a very good place economically and in the world.  Good foundations take time to wreck.

The same with the tax plan.  Yeah, I know most people are going to see some money back.  That is not the problem.  The tax plan is not going to help our economy much, if at all, and will be a long term problem.  Not to mention the basic issue of its lack of fairness. But, in the immediate future, for at least the next one or two years, probably a few more, not much is going to happen due to it.

So, short sighted impatience.  If it doesn’t flop immediately then we are chicken littles and rabble rousers and gloom and doomers.

No, not really. But, we can see the signs and events happening that will lead to a disaster.

Trump and company are harming our alliances.  And our reputation in the world.    That is a set up for something bad to happen.

And all the workplace safety regulations have improved safety and reduced accidents and deaths, and all the environmental regulations being cut so that now we are in more danger from toxic wastes, and other environmental hazards.  Keep in mind, not saying that they will happen immediately.  But, they will accumulate and have a cumulative impact.

Trump and company are busy eliminating any and all regulations that protect us – regular people – from big business.  And protect the United States from major economic problems, such as what happened during the Great Recession.  Has it happened yet?  No, of course not.  Never said it would.  But, the pieces are being put into place for such things to happen.

So, for any fervid Trump supporter who may be reading this – drop the” all is good now”.  That is not evidence against us since we are not talking about an immediate right now effect.  What we see are the building blocks of disaster being put in place.  And so often, disasters are just a numbers game.  You can do something unsafe and get away with it – for awhile.  But do it too often, and it will catch up to you.

Trump and company are increasing the odds that bad things will happen, both politically, in foreign affairs, socially, and economically.  The signs are there for those who look – and they are not that hard to see.  But, soon, in a year or two, they will become very much clearer.  Although I fear that during this time the fervid Trump supporters will come up with a conspiracy theory to blame it on.

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FANTASIES OF MANY FERVID TRUMP SUPPORTERS

It seems that many of the fervid Trump supporters just cannot understand why so many are so strongly against him.  So, rather than deal with the reality that Trump really is the worst president that the United States has had in modern times, and possibly in all of our history, they create fantasies about why we don’t just adore him, or at least give him a “fair chance’.

The first fantasy is that we were just upset that Hillary didn’t win.  In other words, we were sore, pouty losers.  I haven’t seen that  one as much now as in the  past.  So, good.

This one though is the one I see most often, because it is the one most often tossed my way.  They seem to believe we are offended by his fucking language.  Or that he is not eloquent.  Or that he is not polished.  In other words, they have created a fantasy of us as being weak willed nitwits who are just offended at Trump.

Now, I will admit that I am offended at Trump. But, not for the reasons they say.

I really don’t care if he used shithole or shithouse in that meeting.  I am not offended by those words.  I know of at least two very good Presidents who cursed quite often.  I am however offended at the lack of  knowledge and the prejudice his question conveyed.

While it would be nice to have an eloquent person as president, there have been many very good presidents who were not eloquent.  So, I am not offended at Trump’s lack of eloquence.

Election Protests WisconsinI am offended though at his ignorance and that he seems to believe he is not ignorant.  His lack of knowledge of government and policies and of the world are appalling and dangerous for a President.  His lack of awareness of his lack of knowledge means that he is not even going to try to learn.  That, I find offensive in the extreme.

I am not offended at his rough manner. There have been good presidents in the past who were rough.

However, I am offended at his lack of feeling for others – his mockery of those with disabilities, his attacks upon military members who disagree with him, his racism, his treatment of women.

And I am offended at his lack of morals.  I do not expect presidents to be pristine and pure.  But I also expect them to not profit off the government in the manner that Trump has been doing.  I do expect them to avoid conflicts of interest, which Trump does not.

Finally, politicians will lie.  It comes with the territory and to be honest, some of it is necessary for being a successful politician.  A totally honest politician is one whose career is going to be very short and very ineffective.

However, I do expect them to be honest most of the time.  And to correct obvious misstatements.  Trump is not and does not.  He has taken lying to new heights and never ever apologizes.

In short, I  know that there have been presidents who are rough, not eloquent, commonly used rough language.  While I might prefer differently, that is not why I am so utterly opposed to Trump and appalled that he was elected president.

No, I am opposed and appalled because Trump is the most incompetent president we have had in my lifetime, and quite probably in the history of the United States.  I am opposed and appalled because Trump is an immoral idiot who thinks he is God.  And because this God has such a delicate ego he is in constant warfare with a significant part of the American people.

So, if you disagree with me – fine.  Do so based on the reality of me, based upon what I actually say, and not your fantasy of me.

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I confess. My title is misleading.  The Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) has not been lost at all, just well concealed and its knowledge revealed to a carefully selected few. For example, Cardinal Richelieu had read the Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) and successfully absorbed its lessons. However, today, with more and more Christian leaders having read this once secretive gospel and following its teachings, as is evidenced by so many of them endorsing and supporting Donald Trump and his subsequent election, the time for such secrecy is past.

Now, I do not intend to post the whole of this Gospel (it is the longest of all the gospels), only parts. My intention is to make Judas (not Iscariot) well known and force the publication of a new, revised Bible with this Gospel, the most influential of all the Gospels, taking its rightful place before Matthew and Mark as the first of the gospels.  So, without further ado, here are some select passages from the hitherto hidden Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot).

books-of-the-holy-bible

JnI 1:1 – 21

And certain of the Pharisees and certain of the Herodians were sent to Jesus to lure him and catch him in a trap of his own words.  And when they came they said unto him, Master, we know that you are true, and care for no man over that of God for you teach the way of God in truth.  So teach us Master so that we should know the way of God, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy and deceit said to them, bring me a penny that I may see it. And they brought to Jesus a penny.  And Jesus said, Whose is this image and superscription?  And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. And they outwardly marveled while their hearts were filled with anger.

After the questioners of Jesus and the crowds had left, Judas (not Iscariot) approached Jesus and asked him, Lord, is not Caesar God’s too?  And Jesus smiled at Judas (not Iscariot) and said, Truly, God has given you the discernment to see this.  And Jesus took Judas (not Iscariot) aside and said to him, Listen well most favored disciple, and learn these secret teachings of God. And I charge you to listen and learn and only reveal these to those whose discernment is the equal of your own and who can make Godly use of this wisdom.  And Judas (not Iscariot) listened well and followed the words of his Master, the Lord.

JnI 2:1 – 4

Jesus said that mankind is foolish and in their foolishness they follow their own thoughts and desires over that of God’s. For the glory of God and the furtherance of his will use those thoughts and desires against God’s foes. Sow confusion among those who oppose God’s will by using the confused minds of one against the desires of another so that neither can speak the same language, so that neither have the same cause, and so that both will fall when confronted by those following the way of God.

JnI 2:16

The ways of Caesar are not the way of righteousness and justice. Therefor when working with Caesar to bring forth the intent of God, your ways too do not need to be righteous or just.

JnI 2:20 – 22

While the meek shall indeed be one of the inheritors of the kingdom it is the rich and the powerful, the loud and the boastful who control the things of Caesar’s. Such men act upon their own desires, even to choosing to believe lies as truth and ignorance knowledge.  Let such men grab the secret parts of women and cheat the weak and powerless, so long as they listen to your words and so do God’s will.

JnI 4:14

When necessity calls, promises made in the past are of the past.apostle-saint-jude-thaddeus

 

JnI 4:24

When a man is harmed to advance the glory of God, then harm him severely such that his vengeance need never be feared.

 

JnI 6: 20

Faith need only be kept with god. Mankind is too fickle, weak, and greedy to expect or deserve faith. Keep faith with God and break faith with others when it serves your cause or God’s.

JnI 6:31

Do not hesitate to sin if it furthers God’s will. God will forgive such sins.  He will not forgive those who do not so sin and so fail to further God’s will.

JnI 7:3-8

For the things of Caesar, what is right is what those who have power say. Work hard to be the ones with power, for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

JnI 9:1

Men are deceitful creatures.  Because of that they are easily deceived. Use that to bring about God’s glory.

JnI 9:3-5

Men are nothing compared to God, only fools braying into the night, concerned only with what will get them through from moment to moment. Use that and you will always be able to deceive them for the glory of God.

 

JnI 12: 3

Only God commands both love and fear.  For man, if one cannot be both, then be feared,

 

 

I thought it apt to close with JnI 12:3 above because today we have every cause to be fearful as those of God and the followers of this gospel work through an immoral fool concerned only with his needs and his desires.  When Godly men to the devil turn, tis time for all good souls to be concerned

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