Monday, 17 December 2012

Fools Rush In Where God Won't Deign To Tread

I remember being a primary school student in Scotland, and I remember on one particular day sitting down after lunch and having a pale teacher ask us all to stand and offer some extra prayers due to "something terrible" which happened at another school none too far from us.  When I arrived home my mother hugged me a little more tightly than usual, and I saw on the news that 16 children and one teacher had been shot and killed before the gunman killed himself.  It became known as the Dunblane massacre, and in its aftermath the UK government swiftly made efforts to restrict and remove firearms from the general population to attempt to prevent something similar ever happening again.

Why did it happen in the first place?  The reasons were complex and nuanced, explored through various enquiries over the next several years, but ultimately the issue at hand was that simply a mentally unstable man with a persecution complex who had not been sufficiently dealt with by authorities aware that he was accused numerous times of inappropriate conduct with youngsters eventually snapped and took out his frustrations on the children of the community he felt had all turned against him.  And he did it with guns, which were licensed and legally owned, but after such a swift and violent end to so many young lives, nobody could quite understand why.  Shooting was a hobby of his, but were hobbies really worth allowing all and sundry to easily access and store hand-held devices which could kill eighteen people in a few seconds?  The UK government decided no, and by the next year had banned the general population from owning handguns.

I bring this up because, of course, an eerily similar incident has occurred in CT, but sadly the response could not have been more different.  As the shock and pain subsided for much of the UK, the first thing on most people's minds was how to make such a thing unlikely to occur again.  Not to make it impossible, because it is nobody but a strawman impotently bludgeoned by the pro-gun lobby who argues that legal barriers would make obtaining a firearm impossible, but to make it less likely, more difficult, and therefore hopefully mitigated.  There have been numerous shootings in the UK since the handgun ban, including a handful of mass shootings, but these have largely involved larger firearms or gang-related violence, and not wholesale slaughter of random people within a few seconds.

In the United States, things have been rather different.  This shooting incident is one of a multitude this year alone, and after every single one little has occurred beyond hand-wringing and insisting that now isn't the time to talk about any political ramifications of such a tragedy.  Now that the latest shooting has involved very young children, a new sense of urgency has been injected into the debate, but the counter to that has been... unreal.

Literally.  The pro-gun lobby has invoked god, and essentially blamed him, because they would rather throw their beloved deity under the bus than their guns.  When the likes of Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer claim that the reason for massacres in schools is because their god "doesn't go where he isn't invited", he is too beholden to his Second Amendment fetish to realise just what a petty, vindictive and cruel master he makes his god out to be.  This meme has gained ground, appearing all over Twitter and Facebook, in the form of pictures and t-shirts bandied about by simple-minded Christians incapable of defending this vicious being whenever challenged.  For the most part they have not even thought about it, they simply are reacting the only way they know how, by obeying the authority figures they happen to trust.  And those figures are telling them now is the time to whine about the abundantly clear constitutional separation of church and state that prohibits public institutions like schools from establishing a particular religion.  Now, as bodies still lie in the morgue, it's time to score points for Jesus and drag the whole debate toward giving Christians their hard-earned privileged place above everybody else in society.  And they did earn it, they had the forethought to be born in the right place and the right colour and everything!

Beyond that, numerous suggestions have been floated that the real culprit in these deaths was gun control itself.  If only schools weren't gun-free zones, some lament, then the principal could have "taken the head off" of the shooter with her own assault rifle.  Because that's what schools really need on campus for safety - more guns.  And if you get into the teaching business, you better be prepared to kill somebody now and then.  War is peace.

Not enough guns and not enough prayer - those were the problems in this situation?  Earlier I talked about praying - in Scottish schools, prayer is perfectly acceptable in school, even led by staff.  I have political and philosophical issues with this, but that's another debate for another day.  The point is, we had prayer in public schools, and we had a school shooting just the same.  It is a childish fantasy to pretend that prayer protects against bullets, and it is a dangerous delusion to argue that a god must be appeased to prevent chaos and death in our schools or anywhere else in life.  Even if that were true - why worship such a monstrous, petty entity?  But it's not true and it's not smart to pretend it is.  Huckabee and his friends have let the cat out of the bag: they are authoritarians, pure and simple, and they believe might makes right.  If you do not do what they say, bad things might start to happen.  You've got a beautiful family, sure would be a shame if somebody were to shoot some of them, capice?  So you better give them what they want, otherwise their big bad bully in the sky will make sure something terrible happens to you and yours.  And the implement that maximises how terrible that something is?  Well, you should have asked Santa for a gun, so you could deal with the situation yourself.  That's all it will take to solve America's problems: more guns and more prayer.

I don't suppose praying to Darwin that the political ruling class of the United States grows the fuck up is going to be any help.  Until that happens, here's your much-needed moment of zen:

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