Legislators set to abuse religious freedom . . . again

State legislatures are busy again considering so-called “religious liberty” bills, and the year’s just begun. Over 160 bills have been filed by legislators around the country thus far. Seasoned observers, after years of watching politicians’ sausage-making, are not fooled by bills’ titles. In the case of religious liberty, it’s not that proponents really care about the important political doctrine of freedom of belief. Their interest is entitlement of Christians to have more rights than others. (In Islamic countries, that sentence works quite well by substituting one word.) Most Christian fundamentalists think little about the broad Enlightenment concept of freedom of religion, but a lot about claiming unrivaled statutory protection of their own.

Our Constitution was developed by leaders aware of widespread religious persecution and prosecution prevalent in the colonies. Curiously, schools still teach children that Puritans and Pilgrims came to America for the concept of religious freedom. They did not. They came for freedom of their own religions. Many Christians behave similarly today. Most, I think, don’t notice they’re doing so. Elected officials—by and large—rather than help them elevate their understanding of religious freedom, take the opportunity to capitalize politically on their misunderstanding.

Remember Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky, who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple despite the applicants’ legally guaranteed rights? She claimed her religious belief gave her the right to deny the rights of others. Neither she nor the religious leaders who flocked to her defense seemed to understand that while the personal Ms. Davis does have freedom of religion, the government official Ms. Davis does not. To applicants, Ms. Davis was the state of Kentucky. But that simple distinction was lost in the evangelical frenzy, demonstrated by, among many others, Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby Jindal, and Senator Marco Rubio, who declared: “[this is the] criminalization of Christianity,” (Huckabee); “I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when a Christian in America could go to jail because they decided to live by the precepts of their faith,” (Rubio); and “[this constitutes] jailing Christians for their religious beliefs” (Jindal). These statements were either intentionally misleading or shockingly naïve.

How would these same Christians feel about a Muslim state employee who chooses not to serve a female citizen who exposes her hair? How about a Catholic public school teacher who extols the priesthood and transubstantiation to students? Or a school principal who prays publicly before football games according to his Hindu beliefs? How about a police department that displays Allahu Akbar decals on its squad cars just because the chief or a majority of officers are Muslim? These individuals in their personal lives can believe anything they wish; they can follow those beliefs. We are duty-bound to help protect their rights to do so. The state does not have the right of religious freedom; individuals do. A person representing the state (teacher, cop, clerk, judge) cannot be allowed to impose his or her beliefs in the conduct of state business lest the rights of others be impaired. Religious freedom for individuals requires that persons when representing the government conform to the Constitutional limits placed on government as if they are the government themselves.

I’ve addressed the matter of any individual thinking he or she has a right as a public employee to foist beliefs on others or to act as if the government has chosen one belief over another. This is not a rare event in America, but occurs in virtually every municipality, public school system, and other arena. Some of these issues are argued in my posts on this blog that I’ve noted below. With the foregoing thoughts in mind, however, let me shift my focus to the specific area of religious liberty that has so flooded legislatures’ agendas.

As an electorate, we’ve decided that certain behaviors in this “free country” are so unacceptable that they should be prohibited by law. Excluding black customers when operating a public business is not acceptable. Exposing minors to certain dangerous conditions is not acceptable. Cruelty to animals is not acceptable. Recently we’ve made excluding gay persons from services by public business is unacceptable. My point is this: Whether or not a specific one of us agrees with laws to enforce those specific behaviors, surely we agree laws should be applied without favor, equally on everyone. A law applies to persons who don’t like it as much as to persons who do.

Yet some Christian bakers refuse to serve gay customers wanting a wedding cake. (The Supreme Court is now engaged with such a case.) As already discussed, some public officials have chosen not to serve gays seeking a marriage license. There are more examples, but my point is that some Christians think that since they do not like the law, they should be excused from it. I understand that they’d not say it that way. They’d contend that it isn’t simply that they “don’t like” the law, but that their God doesn’t. Their God, of course, is not available to give testimony, so believers’ “sincere religious belief” about what their God wishes is frequently treated as enough.

There’s a problem, though, in that their belief is not the same as the equally conscientious belief of other Christians and non-Christians. Those who profess to speak for God disagree mightily among themselves. Is belief qua belief sufficient to establish an exception to public policy? Would the total of all “sincere beliefs” not potentially set aside much of public policy? In giving certain religious persons and proclivities more rights than either non-religious persons or differently religious persons, the civil government will not only have chosen among opposing religious views, but between a religion-based public morality and a secular one.

Christians are not being asked to surrender their beliefs, give up proselytizing, or stop worshipping in the way they choose. Those rights are firmly protected. They are being asked—no, make that required—to do something they don’t like in order to avoid stepping on rights we as a nation have decided that persons have. That they might call that an act of war on Christianity does not make it so. Are laws to be binding only when a person’s religious (oops; sincere religious) beliefs do not forbid it? Is the official message to be, “This what the law requires you to do unless you think you shouldn’t”? Have you ever considered all the civilizing efforts since the Enlightenment that would violate what one or another sincere religious belief forbids?

(Pardon my emphasis on that phrase. I’m not sure what sincere adds except a patina of solemnity and sagacity not granted other types of beliefs. Should hanging the modifier religious on an action or predisposition render it more sensible or less deserving of challenge? Ever heard of “sincere speed limit belief,” “sincere nutrition belief,” “sincere policing policy belief,” or even “freedom of sincere speech”? But I digress.)

Americans already have freedom of religion. Except for occasional fundamentalist Christians’ attempts to hamper Muslims’ (or others’) access to that freedom, it is a precious right valued by most Americans, including me. The present flurry of religious liberty bills makes a mockery of that freedom, for they propose to use religion to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, and others. In some instances, they aim to divert public money to religious schools. There are even bills that would allow public school officials to pressure students to pray and to listen to religious preaching. Political leaders, some authentic, some not, appease and pacify fundamentalist Christian groups with promises of immunity from public policy others have to observe.

It is easy to overlook the fact that freedom of religion or, more broadly, freedom of conscience is a critical aspect of a free and benevolent society. Specifically religious values aren’t the only important ones we hold dear; in fact, historically they’ve often lagged behind secular ones. So it is that judicious balancing of our disagreements need not and should not rank religious sincerity over secular, nor religious notions of humaneness over secular.

Liberty of conscience—incorporating religious liberty—is so precious and so easily sacrificed that citizens and governments owe it vigilant protection. That obligation includes not damaging liberty with religious liberty laws.

 

 

Of more than 167 previous posts in this blog, “John Just Thinking,” these are particularly relevant to religious liberty: “Being civil about gay marriage,” June 30, 2013; “Perverting the meaning of freedom of religion,” Apr. 16, 2014; “America chose liberty this week,” June 27, 2015; “Sincere religious belief,” May 24, 2016; “The immorality of religion’s morality,” July 18, 2016; “So-called religious liberty bills,” Feb. 25, 2017; “Religion and gays as ‘the Others,’” May 9, 2017.

 

 

Posted in Church and state, Liberty | 1 Comment

Aiding and abetting injury to America

Donald Trump’s presidency (the Jerry Springer Show comes to mind) stumbles on with the outspoken or at least tacit support of almost all his party. But stumbling doesn’t mean getting nothing done. On the contrary, Trump is getting a lot done. He has degraded our already appalling political discourse to even lower levels. He has replaced any semblance of commitment to truthfulness with daily lies. He has advertised contempt for and attacked Constitutional institutions. He has infected national politics and degraded the presidency with his paranoia. He has normalized a despotic inclination toward dictatorship. He has roused a cult of personality to replace informed policy debate. He has supplanted judicious deliberation with shoot-from-the-hip impulsiveness.

How can newscasters still refer with a straight face to this unfit person as the “leader” of the United States, much less the free world?

(It’s been suggested of late that Trump’s behavior is due to advancing dementia. That’s possible, but makes little difference. Knowing whether Trump is unwell or evil neither increases nor decreases our responsibility to protect the institutions and fortunes of this country from further damage.)

How bad must the situation be before his party—the only resource capable of saving America from Trump’s madness—re-reads the oath of office all senators and representatives take? His party continues to treat the Trump debacle as a partisan matter, one in which Republicans fight with Democrats, like fire fighters arguing about their retirement programs while a building burns in front of them. Partisan advantage (including their re-elections) has been of more concern to them than America’s decaying global leadership and our domestic surrender to the sleaziest and most fact-free traits among us.

What are we to think of the president’s cabinet and White House staff groveling, each in turn, in nauseating obeisance to their king? Their jobs depend on salving Trump’s fragile façade of strength. Perhaps, as it has been said, they fear for the country that jumping this ailing ship would lead to Trump’s appointing even weaker, more ethically pliable servants. Whatever the reason, the White House has sunk to new lows. It appears more energy is spent there repairing the various internal rifts than supporting an atmosphere for careful consideration of policy.

But whatever the excuse for the toadying of that group, the behavior of senators and representatives is another matter. They do not work for the president, though Trump seems to think they do. Even they cower before the authoritarian man-child, though surely they all recognize his ineptness, unfitness, and superficiality. Members of Trump’s party not only accept his incompetence, but offer him their own version of sycophancy with terms like his “elegant” leading of the 2017 tax bill (Speaker Ryan) and “one of the best [presidents]” (Sen. Hatch).

But elected members of Senate and House, must be re-elected to keep their jobs. Whether leadership is really expected depends on the electorate. Perhaps statesmen and stateswomen are too rare a commodity to expect when a great proportion of citizens falls for the hollow messages politicians are skilled at contriving.

If coal miners really believe coal jobs are coming back; if a lifelong blowhard inspires confidence to “drain the swamp;” if a leader is trustworthy who self-contradicts at a dizzying rate; if a candidate is adamant in hiding his personal finances; if we entrust momentous policy choices to a candidate who deals only in ego-related transactions; if Americans are deluded by a supposed leader’s claims of “mental stability and . . . genius;” if voters see no problem that a president’s source of intelligence comes as much from Sean Hannity as the CIA; if voters think there is anything remotely equivalent between the shortcomings of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton . . . we can have little confidence in saving the great American experiment that our Founders left us.

Donald John Trump is not the primary problem in this threat to America and to the world. We are.

 

 

Previous posts particularly relevant to Donald Trump: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sept. 26, 2016. “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016. “You and I deserve Despot Donnie,” Mar. 20, 2017. “Prerequisites for the presidency,” May 30, 2017. “Our republic . . . if we can keep it,” July 3, 2017. “Fish rot from the head,” Aug. 18, 2017. “Moral courage and the Trump threat,” Nov. 30, 2017.

 

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I—an enthusiastic and secular humanist atheist—often wish someone a Merry Christmas, and I respond happily to others when they use the term. I react the same way to Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and other expressions of seasonal benevolence. Choosing to see the cheer and warmth in terms based on beliefs I don’t share in no way masks doubt about my irreligious core. I’ve not a shred of faith that there’s a god, life after death, religious miracles, salvation, or heaven-defined sin.

What I have faith in—besides reason—is that human beings experience a better, more satisfying life if we treat each other with openness, compassion, and joy. Just being nice goes a long way, farther than some religions do. And one doesn’t need fairy tales, made-up stories of angels, and sex-free procreation to wish pleasure, merriment, and enjoyment for all. Such supportive humanism is not only worthy of our attention year-round, but needs no creator-in-the-sky to command or even validate it.

Jesus is not the “reason for the season” as demonstrated by Christians’ time in commercial, feasting, and merrymaking activities on and around Christmas. Of Americans who celebrate Christmas (according to a PEW Research study) only about half treat it as a religious holiday. And lest we forget, not everyone is Christian to begin with. Americans are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Bha’i, Hindu, atheist, and more, as well as persons who claim Christianity but seldom darken the church door. The actual reason for the season, as jested by Dan Barker (co-president of American Atheists, Inc.), the actual reason for the season is earth’s axial tilt.

At any rate, even Christians don’t do much on Christmas that is specifically Christian. It was a borrowed (or stolen) holiday to begin with, appropriated from pagans who saw something noteworthy in geo-solar phenomena. Besides, pretty well everybody knows the ostensible Jesus of Nazareth was not born near December 25 despite our stories for children. Perhaps we continue with such delightful myths in adulthood because they grab our attention, slow us down momentarily from busy lives, and spread a bit of conviviality. That’s not all bad.

So why would a self-respecting atheist like me not be offended when the Christmas greeting is used by others? First, I just don’t get offended that easily anyway. Second, it’s difficult to avoid language that arises from philosophies neither you nor I adhere to. Third, I have an investment in using language a listener can understand. Every week I speak of Thursday with no need to proclaim each time that atheism dismisses Thor quite as quickly as Jehovah. These left-over terms are in the English language, and like you, I have more meaningful battles to fight.

One of those battles is relevant to the topic of this post. As much as I like Christmas trees, enjoy the December holidays, and welcome the charitable spirit of Yuletide, I abhor all observance of and support for religion by government. I am adamant that the government and all its representatives—like school teachers, police, and elected officials—diligently refrain from commenting on or supporting any religion or lack of it, whether about its dogma, its symbols, its celebrations, its theocratic complexities, or its holy books. (In large part, they do not refrain now.) However, as persons apart from their government employment, they have Constitutionally protected rights of belief and expression just as you and I. As public servants, they do not, for in those roles they are representatives of the state. (For further reasoning about these matters, I encourage you to take a look at previous posts found under the categories of Church & State and Politics on the right side of this screen, particular the posts listed below.)

My reaction to religious expressions, then, runs hot and cold. I am unyieldingly intolerant of government engagement in religion, but light-hearted and indulgent with respect to individuals’ words of kindness, even if cloaked in a religious expression.

So whatever season you acknowledge, celebrate, or just endure, I wish you a Merry Christmas or whatever greeting best fits your intentions for warmth, happiness, joy, and goodwill.

 

Previous posts particularly relevant to this post: “Freedom of religion requires freedom from religion,” October 8, 2014; “Our national day of prayer,” May 1, 2014; “Public education: Using the bully(ing) pulpit,” July 19, 2013; “Theocracy’s poster boy, Alabama’s Roy Moore,” December 7, 2017; “God-given rights,” December 9, 2013; “God-given rights—2,” December 9, 2016; “Perverting the meaning of freedom of religion,” April 16, 2014; “Atheists in public office,” November 25, 2013.

Posted in This blog, this blogger | 6 Comments

Theocracy’s poster boy, Alabama’s Roy Moore

Alabama’s twice-deposed judge, Roy Moore, exemplifies such a distressing feature of present day America that I admit to a little schadenfreude in view of his recent sexual behavior problems. Innocent until proven guilty applies to state action in a court, but not to voters’ political decisions. Were I an Alabama voter, my belief of the women would guide my vote. But had the recent revelations not even come up, Moore was already a despicable choice for public office.

Are Alabamians such committed theocrats that they excuse Moore’s actions that resulted in his being removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court twice? Is Alabamians’ opposition to religious freedom so great as to declare the state home to but one set of religious views? Is Alabamians’ affection for a renegade judge to unilaterally and without authority commit Alabama jurisprudence to a theocratic stance as long as his position mirrors their dominant faith? Do Alabamians seriously espouse frank violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Article 1 (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”)?

Then-Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Monument

“Yes” to each of those questions, at least as demonstrated in the elective success Moore’s enjoyed despite—or, more disturbing—because of his injecting his brand of religion into public policy. With his flamboyant encouragement, many of Alabama’s fundamentalist Christians obviously decided that preservation of the right to be of whatever religious view individual consciences dictate is less important than grabbing civic support and power for the current dominant view.

The hegemonic aspiration of religions is difficult to keep tamed, though it must be if separate religions are to be kept safe from other religions. (Disbelief has always damaged religions less than they have damaged each other.) Religionists entice government to support them since, after all, they claim divine patronage. Domination, if achieved, knows no natural stopping place, even though religious people should be first in line to maintain a wall between church and state. Although a weakened wall promises short term gains—e.g., churches getting favored tax treatment—it threatens long term loss of religious freedom, at least for the smaller or newer religions as the larger ones expand their civic imprimatur and its accompanying power.

The American Constitution made a valiant effort to protect religions, more so than predecessor documents and more than earlier colonial entities in North America. It attempted, not always successfully, to guarantee religious freedom while keeping religion and government out of each other’s way.

Allow me to quote from a portion of my post of February 7, 2016, “Flirting with theocracy” (others that touch on this topic are under the posts category “Church and state” in the right margin of this page):

“Fundamentalist American Christians as a group can no more be trusted to mean ‘religious liberty’ when they say it than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can be trusted to really mean ‘democratic.’ . . . . With precious few exceptions, they have little interest in religious liberty, but a great deal in Christian liberty or, more accurately, fundamentalist Christian liberty. As I’ve argued in this blog, the liberty they mean is not just the freedom to worship whatever and virtually however they please. . . their definition of liberty includes the freedom to tell others what to do (see my post ‘Perverting the meaning of freedom of religion.’ Apr. 16, 2014). . . . Remember it was Baptists who feared the hazards of being outside the in-group that prompted Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter about what he called a ‘wall of separation.’ It is that same wall that many of today’s fundamentalists (including Baptists) rail against. While Baptists then needed the First Amendment’s protection, many of them and other fundamentalists now endeavor to install their religion in the halls, lawns, courtrooms, and classrooms of government.”

American freedom with respect to religion is a critical ingredient of America’s constitutional democracy. Those who threaten it the most do so with the voice of flaunted piety.

 

 

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Moral courage and the Trump threat

During the Cold War, America spent much treasury on the ability to respond within minutes to a Soviet threat. How many months are needed to respond to our own homegrown threat from Donald J. Trump? Will lack of moral courage by Republican officials—since they are currently the only ones with power to act—allow damage to the United States and the world order in a way Soviet missiles did not? Do elected representatives in the Legislative Branch understand they are a separate branch of government? Apparently not. In the face of a presidency gone horribly awry, Republican officials have become Donald Trump’s bitches.

A Republican senator on TV this morning (I am writing this November 29), asked to comment on how Donald Trump is doing as president, fell back on the safe criticism that he tweets too much. Ridiculous. The problem is not that Trump tweets too much. The problem is what he tweets. After all, previous presidents have used direct, personal messaging to both domestic and foreign publics—FDR’s “fireside chats” are the oft-noted example. But unceasing, off-the-cuff tweets expose every unfiltered mental wanderings of the tweeter. And more than any American president in my lifetime, Donald Trump’s wanderings are beset with narcissism, trivia, and even precarious content.

I’ve written a number of posts using far too many, tiresomely repeated descriptions of Trump (see references to those essays below). He is an unfit and thoroughly despicable character, so obvious before the 2016 election to anyone not blinded by anger in search of a champion or the childish Lock Her Up mantra. (Juxtaposing Trump and character in the same sentence is a bit ludicrous.) Whatever the role of Russian chicanery in the election, the American electorate made an egregious error last November.

Election of this madman could have been (and was) predicted to jeopardize protections built into the Constitution.  His immaturity and ignorance confounded political choices within the Constitutional system with the system itself. Fighting over our differences about, for example, a southern wall, health insurance, and consumer protections are arguments the system was designed to enable. Damaging that system is to dismantle the very framework that protects our unum while valuing our pluribus. Doing so exposes the U.S. to the enfeebling of our system, not just differences of partisan opinion. Risking the American system to appease this man-child’s pathetic psychological neediness has shown in practice what many Americans feared would come to pass. But so what? We trusted the Congress to play its protective role.

One doesn’t have to be a Democrat to marvel at the ineptitude of the Republican party in dealing with Trump. The party was not in the best of health even before becoming forced chums of Trump on November 6. Conservative Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Bobby Jindal had lamented at least a year earlier that their party had become “the stupid party.” Conservative author Matt K. Lewis said that although conservatism used to have “big, thoughtful ideas,” it had “lost its intellectual bearings” (I agree in both cases). My post, “Batshit crazy, the stupid party,” appeared in this blog on March 15, 2016.

I fear, though, that our disease is more extensive than a malperforming president and malperforming Congress. As a country we can’t stop shouting that we hit a triple when, as the saying goes, we were simply born on third base. Stupid party, now stupid president; how close, then, is stupid country? Are so many of us still bloviating with our rhetoric of “best country on earth,” pronouncing our president the “leader of the free world,” and other blowings of our own horn that we think American greatness can forever rest on the work of the founders, that our Constitutional system is a birthright that fumbling and hyper-partisanship cannot damage? Are we akin to the child who breaks your Ming vase with absolutely no appreciation of the damage done?

Trump’s appearance on the scene at a time of his chosen party’s deterioration is a strong challenge for America. Not only intelligence and genuine patriotism (rather than the usual mouthings) are needed by citizens and officials alike, and a moral courage beyond partisan pursuits is needed in those elected to protect us. Although there is precious little encouragement to be found in the record of the past year, I fervently hope for America and for the world that we are up to the test.

 

Previous posts particularly relevant to Donald Trump: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sept. 26, 2016. “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016. “You and I deserve Despot Donnie,” Mar. 20, 2017. “Prerequisites for the presidency,” May 30, 2017. “Our republic . . . if we can keep it,” July 3, 2017. “Fish rot from the head,” Aug. 18, 2017.

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Men and #MeToo

In evolutionary biology, significant changes are normally thought of as gradual over incredibly lengthy periods. Yet sometimes major changes—according to some biologists like the late Jay Gould—occur quickly though infrequently, called in theory “punctuated equilibrium.” Political and social phenomena can be similar. An example concerns the role and treatment of women, a sensitive topic recently illuminated by instances of sexual abuse by powerful men, followed by the #MeToo crusade in the United States, Canada, and perhaps beyond.

Much has been written about the male-female social differential, of course, but #MeToo just might be a vehicle for real change, ushering in a punctuated equilibrium occurrence. There is a long arc of human improvement of which it is a part, so the progress in treatment of women it promises can as easily be but a small segment that fizzles and adds little, or a turning point that announces the revolution, like Seneca Falls or women’s suffrage. But whatever #MeToo’s eventual contribution to this portion of the human condition, I’m convinced that failure of men (and, in fact, women as well) to seriously consider what #MeToo promotes is to turn our backs on legitimate and overdue progress.

One source of guidance that has impressed me is the essay written by Nicole Stamp, first on her Facebook page, then in a slightly a shortened version published by CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/21/opinions/what-men-can-do-me-too-stamp-opinion/index.html. Stamp’s article conveys the obvious but easily overlooked point that the #MeToo message is just as much men’s issue as women’s. As the title announces—”What decent men can do in response to #MeToo”her focus is on offering concrete, uncomplicated tips for men, for example, being prepared to say to other men something like “that’s not cool” when they’ve said disrespectful things about or to women.

She urges care in introducing women at formal occasions, citing as an example the frequency male physicians at a medical conference introduced male physicians with the title “doctor” 95% of the time, but female physicians only 49% of the time. She even advises men how to behave during a sexual encounter: “If your partner hesitates, stops reciprocating, avoids eye contact, becomes quiet, tense or frozen, or otherwise slows the tempo of any sexual encounter, then you should STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING [uppercase in original; JC].

There is more to Stamp’s article than these examples, enough for me to suggest strongly that you follow the link above or read the longer version on her Facebook page. (There are other relevant writers on the topic, of course, though this post was motivated by Stamp.) We are warned that to focus solely on headline-grabbing, high visibility cases like that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, or Donald Trump is to miss the point. This is a more deeply ingrained matter to which men—and some women—have widely contributed, whether in a more odious way or merely by the toleration of behaviors that set the stage for private distress. We can learn to recognize behaviors that in themselves seem minor, but shroud and thereby make possible much worse treatment. We can learn . . . yes, even those of us who like to think—no doubt erroneously—that we are not part of the problem.

 

 

Posted in Morality, Secular humanism | 1 Comment

Are we crazy?

Are we crazy?

The Las Vegas death toll has shocked the nation, as all such events do. News channels are full of the usual hunt for information on the assailant, identity of the victims, and examination of the circumstances that made the scene ripe for mass killing.

Politicians will speak of their prayers and the condolences they’ve sent to victims’ families. The president will offer—as best he is capable—sympathy. But despite the dutifully repeated words of on-air journalists that we shall never forget those who died, we will.

We will forget them the way we always do. Politicians, in fear of the National Rifle Association with its deep pockets and gerrymandered districts with their concentration of right wing voters, will go right back to doing what they can to allow the country to be flooded with guns—guns that have no hunting or target practice utility, guns meant only to kill in warfare. The slightest of extra care about gun availability is rejected by hiding behind the 2nd Amendment.

I want to drive as fast as I’d like; my freedom of movement should trump government’s control on my highway speed. I have a Constitutional right to bear arms; so there should be no or minimal government control over the arms with which I choose to exercise my right. And even speaking of controls the way we would about passenger airplane maintenance, restaurant safety, and building codes produces a well-funded frenzy of opposition from the NRA and politicians acting as their apologists and megaphones.

Most of the nations of the world have a higher murder rate (recently 9.63 per 100,000 annually). But in the parts of the world to which we should be compared, viz., Canada, United Kingdom, Central and Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, murder rates are below 2.63. Ours is 5.22, twice as high. (These are murder rates, not gun murder rates; making a case that there’s a significant difference would be a hard argument to make. Moreover, these data omit suicides by gun.) We cannot stop murder, we cannot stop violence, we cannot stop gun violence; that we can is not my point. But we can make a far more reasoned, muscular attempt to stop being a nation sick with guns.

The media in the next few days will be full of examining the Las Vegas tragedy—the victims, the blame, and the perpetrator. Yes, there’ll be discussion of gun laws, but we’ve proven we’ve a habit of letting those matters fade. The White House has even commented that this is not the time for politics. Really?

All the data we’ll hear and read about the scene and perpetrator will be interesting, to be sure, but only broad social effects will address the issue, and that means politics. In fact, the concentrated criminal investigation, as imperative as it is for law enforcement officers, when it is the focus of citizens’ attention, actually interferes with demanding and persevering with an honest political resolution. Anyone who maintains that this is not the right time owes the country and future victims an answer. Just when is the right time?

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