Saturday, December 15, 2012

Luke 16.26 again

The moralizing in the wake of the Connecticut child murders is predictable, mostly.

I was unpleasantly surprised by one reaction, from a man I have otherwise learned a lot from: "Twelve thousand people are murdered in the US every year, so why is this so special?" What we call in the trade a major empathic failure. Regardless of how the media play it or Obama* plays it, ---irrelevant either way--dozens of mothers and fathers just found out their that their babies were slaughtered at school, that they died terrified and that they will never see them again. Another very Right guy decided that they were not "innocent victims" because no one is innocent in contemporary America. Again, major character flaw.

What worse thing can happen to a mother or father than to lose their child? Especially in a culture like ours, where investment in them is so high . My sister, a grown woman, died suddenly in a car crash several years ago. Aside from what it took out of me, I watched my poor parents. It was without doubt the worst thing that ever happened to them. But it could have been worse: how someone dies makes a significant difference in the effect the death has on loved ones. Not all deaths are equal. An accident is one thing, a murder another.

Anyway, the dominant theme in public reactions, of course, is to call for outlawing guns. This follows every murder, either the constant low-level murdering that Blacks specialize in and which account for the vast majority of killings the US or the spectacular outbursts which Whites and Asians seem to prefer. (Muslims, of course, are virtuosos at both.)

My thought here is not moralizing, but more philosophical. Not about the children and their killer, but about people's reactions to crimes like this. I think the Liberal reaction (Ban guns) and the Right reaction (make gun ownership more widespread so someone can take these guys out) reveal deeper and different background attitudes and assumptions about the world and about human nature.

My bias, of course, is no mystery.

Liberals seem to think that peace, safety, prosperity and good order are the natural state of things. One of the reasons I think they react so emotionally to events like this is that it runs up against their belief in the basic goodness of human nature.Plus, their faith teaches them that laws and regulations can fix anything, can end poverty or end domestic violence or end racism. (Has any law ever ended what it proscribed?)  Oddly, their naivete about human nature does not extend to one half of the species: men. Liberals see men as a fundamental problem because they (rightly) associate men with violence and with the direct exercise of force and power. Loving victims as they do, Liberals really fear and hate natural power. And such power is a male specialty. So banning guns lets them maintain the illusion that the law can fix any problem and lets them strike a blow against masculinity.

Conservatives think of peace, safety, prosperity and good order as hard-won and fragile achievements, not at all the state of nature. "A republic, madam, if you can keep it." Because they know that humans (each gender in their own way) are flawed by nature, they recognize that so-called final solutions to anything are illusory hubris. Much as Madison, rather than trying to eliminate ambition from government, used competing ambitions to self-contain government, conservatives think that having a lot of guns around is a more realistic way to deal with the inevitable violence that will always occur, regardless of any rules that God or man can devise. Plus, conservatives like masculinity, so they are in favor of training men to be decent men rather than trying to eradicate them into de-gendered "nice persons."

As opposite as they are on violence, Liberals and conservatives both converge and diverge, though, when it comes to legislation about sex. But that's for another post.

*My loathing for the man aside, I see no reason why, as a father, his tears were anything but real.

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