I began this blog many weeks ago, forgot it, but now finish in pared-down form.
I wonder to what extent the visceral anger at “thoughts and prayers” is a way of expressing fear and anger at our inability to control irruptions of evil into our ordered lives.
When a tragedy occurs — particularly one that involves gun violence, like Sunday’s mass shooting in Texas — two things are quite predictable in the aftermath: First, lots of people, including politicians, will offer their “thoughts and prayers.” And second, an increasingly large cadre of critics will react to these offerings of “thoughts and prayers” with outrage.
Why? It seems people think “thoughts and prayers” are a lazy substitute for embarking on some real political action that might help prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future …
Contrary to the enraged certainties of many anti-gun liberals, there are actually few policies we know of that could serve as easy remedies to things like gun massacres …
The urgency and vigor of those who despise the notion of “thoughts and prayers” would only be justified in their reaction if there were indeed a magic button we could push to fix the problem tomorrow. And there isn’t.
But there’s something more fundamental at play. This isn’t just about guns. It’s about how we see political action. The implicit, maybe unconscious, but clear premise of the anti-“thoughts and prayers” line is that the only proper response to bad things happening is always political action. But turning everything into a political battle ensures that every single issue will become a conflictual one, leading to the progressive fraying away of social norms and of the belief in shared American values — which is what allows for political debate to begin with.
(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, In defense of ‘thoughts and prayers’)
Derision of prayer and demands (tacit or explicit) for legislative magic are extensions, it seems to me, of our broadly modern notion that the public square is full of “problems” that need scientific or political “solutions.” I believe a ban on semi-automatic weapons would lower mass murder rates very slowly at best, with the interim full of demands for banning private gun ownership entirely—or so I expect gun owner suspicions run. They’d rather endure the evil of occasional mass murder than face that prospect.
Insofar as the gun control cause is “liberal,” and liberalism is most famously instantiated in the Democrat party, this seems like a very bad issue for Democrats serious about regaining some political power:
- We have no answers, and perhaps no real concern, for the economic and social pain of you Trump voters.
- We despise your prayers.
- We want to take away the guns you so bitterly cling to.
Were I still a Republican, I’d be thrilled at such folly.
What do the perpetrators of the massacres at Sandy Hook, at Aurora, at Orlando, and at Sutherland Springs have in common? They were all men under 30 and they all used versions of the same kind of firearm, the AR-15, the semi-automatic version of the military’s M-16 and the bestselling gun in America.
It might be difficult to make this connection because as I write this, the section on the use of AR-15s in mass killings has been deleted from Wikipedia by a user called Niteshift36, who claimed that including such a section at all was inherently biased. According to his user profile, this no-doubt scrupulous and disinterested editor of the world’s most widely used work of reference is “proud to be an American,” “a native speaker of the English language,” “skeptical of anthropogenic global warming,” and “supports concealed carry laws.” He is also a veteran, a Tom Clancy and 24 fan, someone who thinks we should “say NO to political correctness,” and a self-professed “Jedi.”
With all apologies to Jedi Master Niteshift36, this is ridiculous. If the killers had all worn Mickey Mouse sunglasses or been found with Metallica tattoos, it would be considered noteworthy. It’s not biased except in the sense that reality itself is biased against childish gun enthusiasts. But whether he wins his edit war or nay, he has done a great service by reminding us what we’re dealing with whenever we try to argue. He fits a profile, of revoltingly adolescent, video game-addicted LARPers who think that their hobby of playing dress-up with murder weapons is a constitutional right.
The AR-15 is not just a gun. It is a hobby, a lifestyle, an adolescent cult …
(Matthew Walther, The adolescent cult of the AR-15)
Lest you think Walther’s mocking approach nearly as useless as prayer, be assured that this is aimed right at the source of the problem:
Lewis does not apologize for the fact that The Screwtape Letters is an entertaining and amusing read. Indeed in the opening pages he quotes Martin Luther and St. Thomas More on the need to take Lucifer lightly. Luther says, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” For his part, St. Thomas More writes, “The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.”
(Dwight Longnecker, Laughing at Lucifer with Lewis) Walther:
Which is why I am not optimistic about our ability to pass any kind of meaningful legislation. The Republican Party owes too much of its support to people whose economic well-being it gleefully neglects but whose ill-considered attachments to dangerous toys it has safeguarded as a kind of poisoned consolation prize. Nor do I think that if we were somehow able to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of all such weapons and carry out a more or less successful confiscation scheme we would never see anything like what happened in Sutherland Springs again. The real causes are chthonic; AR-15s are only the accidents that have in many cases enabled them.
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