This is a short thought that I felt like writing down, but it’s longer than a single tweet and I hate stringing a bunch of tweets together and flooding someone’s feed.
I don’t like candid reality shows. (By candid, I’m talking Honey Boo Boo, Bachelor/ette, and yes, your sacred Duck Dynasty, etc.) They seriously bother me and make me feel uncomfortable, and up until recently I hadn’t been able to really explain why, but I think I figured it out. The entire premise for the viewing public is that it’s just fun to watch. Usually, when people recommend a reality show they’ll say how funny it is. I think this is my problem then. If I’m laughing while watching these reality “stars” on their show, I’m either laughing at them or I’m laughing with them. If I’m laughing at them, I’ve now put myself above them in my mind and think I’m better than them. In some things, I have no problem being a snob, but I try not to do that when it comes how I think about actual human beings. If I’m laughing with them, I’m definitely no better than the people we all know to actually be attention seeking fame whores, which makes me feel like, given the opportunity, I’d have no problem selling my soul to make a truckload of money and get on the picture box. Which is probably true, and makes me uncomfortable.
Sorry if I’m being a buzzkill.
I didn’t think my perspective was all that special or unique until recently. For those who don’t know, I am half white and half Hispanic. My father was Mexican (I want to say second generation American, but I’m really not sure), and my mother is white of, I believe, mostly Western European descent. Most of you would probably not guess that I’m anything but white. I don’t have my fathers’s last name (Garcia), both parents were lighter skinned, and I wasn’t raised in my father’s culture. Despite my father’s absence, I grew up knowing that I was a mixed race. My extended family would playfully remind me about that from time to time.
When I was a young child, I can remember taking my first standardized test. On the back of the test booklet was where you filled in your personal information, and in one section it asks about your ethnicity, and to mark all that would apply to you. So my first grader mind read that, then started looking for appropriate ethnicities. First, I looked for “Hispanic” and colored in the little bubble with my #2 pencil. Then I looked for my other ethnicity and saw the most challenging question in that whole test: “White (not of Hispanic origin.)” I actually raised my hand to ask to my teacher what to do, because I didn’t want to take the test wrong. I made light of it in the moment, as much as I could at 6 or 7. It may very well have been that moment when I developed a pattern I still hold on to: making a joke out of something that genuinely freaks me out to some degree.
This certainly isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like I’ve ever really encountered discrimination or racism the way many people with darker skin than I have. Recently though, a large swath of nut jobs have decided that White Hispanics are something the New York Times made up to turn popular support against a grown man who confronted, fought with, and fatally shot a young black man in an effort to support some liberal agenda. Regardless of your perspective on who was at more fault that night or the decision of the jury, the guy who pulled the trigger is a White Hispanic. His mother is of Peruvian descent, his father of German descent. I don’t see that being too different from my own heritage.
What bothers me a lot (but not more than someone getting killed who hadn’t done anything wrong), is that people on both sides of whatever debate is happening at the time want to point to George Zimmerman and say he’s either not really white or not really Hispanic. Identifying as a specific race seems to be so much more about how others perceive and treat you than it does anything else. No one has ever asked me to translate Spanish for them, or what the appeal of novelas are, or if I’d be more likely to vote against a Republican that voted for immigration reform despite my “firm family values.” People treat me like they would any white person with all the stereotypes that may entail. So when people hear neighborhood watch captain named Zimmerman, they will probably assume that’s a white person. That doesn’t make me or Zimmerman any less Hispanic though.
This could very well be my first real experience with racism or prejudice. Some “leading voices” have made the assertion that what I am doesn’t actually exist.
I guess I’m not a very good Christian.
I don’t think it’s a big deal when a sports star comes out and talks about how Christian they are. I also don’t think it’s a big deal when a different one comes out as gay.
I think Jesus had a lot more negative things to say about religious people than anyone else.
Even though I think the unborn have just as much a right to life as I do, I think they have a right to be healthy once they’re out of the womb, too.
I think rights and freedoms are two different things, and I don’t think either one of those things are under attack when someone else has them too.
I’m not interested in calling some girl I don’t know a slut because she got pregnant before she got married.
I don’t believe the Constitution, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, Supreme Court decisions, or the words of the Founding Fathers to be God-breathed.
I don’t think rape victims were asking for it.
I think there’s a big difference between being outspoken for your faith and plastering Bible verses on yourself just to make sure everyone knows what your beliefs are.
I think straight people are doing just fine destroying the sanctity of marriage.
I think most poor people would love nothing more than to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter their family without anyone’s help.
I’m pretty sure Jesus said that those who live by the sword die by the sword.
I’m also pretty sure the good old days everyone wants to get back to were only good if you were a white male.
Given the past 1500 years or so of human history, I’m not very comfortable playing the victim card.
I guess I’m just not a very good Christian.
I don’t know what to write about now. After writing that mega-post, it’s like a huge weight has lifted. I’m no longer keeping these really intense thoughts to myself out of fear of reactions. And now that I’ve written that, it’s like I need to dig the well a little deeper to see what else there might be.
That makes me wonder.
Prior to writing that, I felt like I could never be totally honest with what I wrote about because I was afraid of the reaction. Now, that part is out there and I’ve found myself struggling with what I could write about next. Like I said, I think I might have to dig a little deeper now. So now what I’m wondering is if that was what I was actually afraid of. That after digging out this thing that I had built to be so huge in my mind, there’d be nothing else underneath.
I’m sure there is, and I’m starting to think my New Years resolution had more to do with abstaining from writing because of fear than it did with my frustration with the internet’s level of discourse. I can’t write, or refuse to write, because of fear.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know everything. I’m open to being wrong. I don’t think any less of you if you disagree with me and hope to write this in such a way that you don’t think less of me for disagreeing with you.)
In keeping with my New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided that instead of copying and pasting my response onto everyone’s Facebook posts, I’d write this. My goal here isn’t necessarily to change anyone’s mind or push some kind of agenda as much as it is to point out what I see as some pretty big gaps in logic on both sides. I see so many memes tossed around, and I know how easy it is to press that “share” button, but I really don’t see anyone’s cause getting furthered through that kind of thing. If these kind of silly internet things aren’t supposed to be taken so seriously, then maybe the leading voices on both sides shouldn’t be saying them first. And if Ramona High School-educated me can point out all these holes in the arguments, than get better arguments.
The gun rights advocate:
- “Blame the person, not the gun.” I don’t think anyone is legitimately saying that it’s the gun’s fault that murders happen. I agree that it’s the person that pulled the trigger who is responsible for the life they take or body they injure, but let’s be real: having a trigger to pull makes the act of violence way more efficient.
- “(Cars, knives, power tools, etc.) kill X amount of people every year. Should those be outlawed too?” I get the point of this argument, but I really think it’s a false equivalency. There’s a big difference in things that can be used as a weapon versus a weapon that might be used as something else. I’m not an expert in the long history of knives, but I would guess that knives have at least as equal a utilitarian purpose as they do a weapon. I’ll also go on record and say that guns are tools, but it’s time we all admit that they’re tools for killing things. Their primary function is firing a high velocity projectile at a distant object with the intent of putting a hole through it. There’s really no other utilitarian purpose there.
- “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is actually one of the more reasonable things I’ve heard from this side of the debate. If a bad guy with a gun comes at you or anyone else, you would want a good guy with a gun to stop the bad guy. The problem here is that the concept cuts both ways. Maybe the bad guy has better aim, or is better trained, or has a more powerful gun. How many good guys with how many guns do we need? The underlying issue is that this becomes a personal arms race of good guys vs. bad guys. Psychologists still don’t know and can’t predict what the final straw is that makes a person turn to violence, and maybe the well armed good guy that’s a little overzealous is one bad breakup away from being a well armed bad guy.
- “Gun control infringes on the 2nd Amendment.” I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on the 2nd Amendment since the debate reopened after the Newtown shooting. First off, an assault weapons ban like the one in effect from ’94-’04, though unpopular, wasn’t seriously thought to be unconstitutional by a majority of the people. It didn’t end up disputed in the Supreme Court and a strict interpretation of the 2nd Amendment probably wouldn’t have overturned the assault weapons ban. Strictly interpreted, there are still plenty of arms to keep and bear even with an AR-15 type rifle out of the equation. Neither this administration, nor any previous one, has passed a law that would seize firearms from lawful citizens. For that matter, Constitutionally speaking, it’s only been a relatively recent issue in U.S. history that the Supreme Court has definitively interpreted the 2nd Amendment as meaning that it’s specifically an individual right to gun ownership as opposed to a collective right of “the people” as in an organized militia type scenario. In fact, the Supreme Court decision that decided that matter was Distict of Columbia v. Heller, in which Justice Scalia in his writing of the majority opinion of the court also took time to write that “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
- “Israel/Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership and a fraction of the violence. Guns aren’t the problem.” There are a few things wrong with this statement. First, the rate of gun ownership. The Small Arms Survey, a research project in Geneva, focused on gun ownership per country per capita in 2007. Prior to the recent boom in gun sales in the U.S., there were a reported 88.8 guns for every hundred citizens. Factoring in the gun sale surge since 2008, there are an estimated ~300 million privately owned guns in the U.S. and about that many people as well. This means on average, there is one gun for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. According to the same report, in Switzerland there were 45.7 guns for every hundred residents, just slightly less than one gun for every two citizens. The same survey reported that Israel had only 7.3 privately owned guns for every 100 citizens. Neither country is a particularly apt comparison, but for the sake of argument I want to point out some other differences with Switzerland as their rate of ownership is still fairly high. There are a couple of reasons why the Swiss have a high rate of ownership. The primary reason is that almost every male between 20 and 30 is conscripted into military training. Switzerland doesn’t have a standing army, opting instead for a citizens’ militia. As part of their service, they keep their service weapon at home and all service ammunition at a nearby depot. This is part of Switzerland’s very tight regulations on guns. Some of my information may be outdated (or poorly translated from Swiss German), but at some point recently they had and possibly still have universal background checks, mandatory permits to purchase guns, limits to three guns per citizen, and a requirement that each gun have a registered serial number. So even though Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership with a very low homicide rate, it’s still not a valid argument against strict gun control, especially when compared to the U.S.
- “Violent entertainment is just as responsible.” I don’t buy this for one minute. Just about every other country in the world has the same video games and watches the same movies we do and we’re still near or at the top of the list when it comes to violent crimes and murders among developed nations. So either other countries don’t have access to guns to carry out the supposed violent fantasy we’re all being inundated with, or the inability of separating reality from fiction is a distinctly American mental disorder. Also, when gun advocates say something like this to blame violence on something other than guns, I can’t help but find it hypocritical that they’re condemning a piece of media as “violent” that shows people actually using guns.
- “Changing gun laws won’t affect criminals who break the law.” In the most direct sense possible, this makes complete sense, but it doesn’t take into account what enforced regulations can actually accomplish. Let’s start with an assault weapons ban. I don’t think one would stop murders or mass shootings. What I think is that having 7-10 rounds instead of 30 in a magazine would cost a shooter more time and energy and reduce the body count. Now, in a ban like this there would still be plenty of these weapons and magazines available, but with them no longer being manufactured for commercial sale it makes them more difficult and expensive to get. To compare, you can still get a full auto machine gun these days, it’s just incredibly difficult and very expensive. Next, universal background checks. Of course criminals will circumvent the law in order to get a gun without submitting to a background check. Just as with a ban on a certain type of weapon though, the laws of supply and demand take over. People willing to take the risk of selling a gun illegally will know that they’re taking a much bigger risk by doing so. There’s never been a law written that’s 100% effective. The laws that are currently being proposed realistically can’t stop criminals from engaging in criminal activity, but they can make that activity far more difficult.
On a slightly different note, by giving this defense of “criminals won’t obey the law,” there’s an inherent absurdity in attempting to only make laws that criminals would obey.
- “More guns equals less crime.” I have a hard time believing this to be true. I’m not saying that guns as a defense don’t act as a possible deterrent to crime. What I will argue is that statistically speaking, crimes that do occur with a gun present have a drastically inflated chance of a fatality as a result. So maybe this is true, and a further proliferation of guns in the U.S. will make the crime rate plummet. If that’s the case though, I can almost guarantee that the number of fatalities (victim or perpetrator) per crime would sharply rise.
- “The 2nd Amendment exists to protect people from a tyrannical government.” This is absolutely true. From what I’ve read, that’s not the sole reason for inclusion in the Bill of Rights, but it’s definitely one of them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore. We have a government with nuclear weapons, predator drones, fighter jets, all manner of heavy artillery, and God knows what else. If an armed insurrection by the populace happened now, it wouldn’t exactly be musket on musket warfare. From this point though, you could equally argue that the 2nd Amendment has been made at least partially obsolete or that every American constitutionally needs access to their own personal arsenal. I think only the former is a realistic possibility.
The gun control advocate:
- “Guns make us less safe.” Based on the statistics I’ve researched, I understand what they’re trying to say. America’s violent crime rate is still the highest among developed nations despite its decline in recent years. Also, crimes tend to be much more fatal when a gun is present. This is maybe the worst way to make this argument though, because it still comes down to the actions of the person holding the gun. A more accurate, if less expedient, way to say this would be, “The ease of guns falling into the hands of those who would recklessly keep and use them make us less safe.”
- “The 2nd Amendment is outdated.” Again, I’ve done a lot of reading about the 2nd Amendment lately and there’s room for that argument. The problem is that by the same line of logic, everything in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is outdated and deserves another look, which is a whole other debate I won’t get into. The problem I’ve seen in hearing people’s use of the text of the 2nd Amendment is that depending on which side is doing the talking, they want to read very literally one part of the text and not mention the rest of it. There’s no denying that it says, “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” As long as the Bill of Rights exists in the U.S., this can’t be denied or done away with. What I will say is that the 2nd Amendment also starts with, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…,” and was written at the same time that the Constitution explicitly forbade the creation of a national standing army. I really feel like both sides are only getting their 2nd Amendment arguments half right. From what I’ve read and been able to understand so far, the Founding Fathers envisioned an America that relied upon citizen soldiers, much like the Minutemen that fought and won the Revolution. Oddly enough, it’s the first phrase of the sentence that has been made obsolete, but the second part that gets all the attention.
- “Gun control will save lives.” I think that although this will likely be a true statement, it’s impossible to accurately predict what would happen, and fairly misleading. This phrase makes it sound like enacting gun control laws like the ones being currently proposed will make the murder rate plummet overnight. If gun control advocates were serious regardless of the political costs, they would find a way to make handguns less proliferate. Assault weapons (and yes, I know the difference) get the most attention because they’re the scariest looking. Ironically, that’s also why they’re one of the top selling rifles in America. However, assault rifles are far from being the most used guns involved in shooting deaths. Where assault rifles are often used is in mass shootings, along with magazines capable of at least 15 rounds. Gun control may end up saving lives, but there’s no way to measure possible reductions in casualties.
Obviously, the arguments addressed above aren’t the only ones being made in this debate. The reason I’ve addressed so many more points being made by the pro-gun rights side is simply because I personally hear so many more arguments so much more loudly from that side. There were also a few phrases of outright insanity that I chose not to dignify.
After the hours of reading and weeks of writing this, I don’t think there’s a magic bullet (crappy pun) that will solve our violence and murder problem. There’s little we can do to change the collective heart of America’s people to make murders a thing of the past. Murders (and suicides for that matter) will always happen, and if nothing changes, America will still have a gun problem. As much as enacting gun control is treating a symptom instead of the disease, it has the potential to be very effective at preventing deaths. At this point, I can’t really see why it would be such a big deal to limit magazines to under ten rounds, require and enforce background checks on every gun buyer, have a short waiting period to buy a gun, and maybe even have trigger locks on handguns. If you think you need 30 rounds in a magazine, you probably just need better aim. If you have something to hide that would show up on a background check, the only person that wants you to have a gun is you. If you absolutely have to have a gun this very hour, I seriously question your motives. And if you need your handgun (as opposed to your shotgun or rifle) ready to fire that quickly, I pray you know for a fact who it is you’re aiming at.
If you’ve ever held or fired a gun, you recognize that beyond it being a well engineered piece of machinery, you’re holding the power of life and death in your hand. Guns are both a symptom and a problem. Other symptoms/problems include our collective value of human life and the state of mental health care in our country. Where I feel like all these things collide at a currently impossible obstacle is that in this country owning a gun isn’t just a freedom, it’s a right. Not the right to self defend or rebel against the government (which is constitutionally covered with our voting rights), but to specifically own a certain kind of weapon. A freedom is something granted and potentially has limits, while a right (like voting) is something you feel compelled to exercise. The difference is subtle, but important. I have the freedom to practice religion and I can choose not to exercise it, but if I don’t vote it’s like I’m spitting on the Founding Fathers’ graves. Let’s face it, there are some people who shouldn’t have the right to own the power of life and death. I’m sure gun owners and gun control advocates alike know people who own guns and think to themselves, “How did anyone let them out of the store with a gun?” At the end of all this, I really feel like the best first step that both sides could potentially agree on is trying to make it so that the only people buying guns are people who are responsible enough to own one and making people accountable for the guns that are out there.
P.S. While researching this it’s become incredibly clear just how big an issue suicide is in America. More are committed with a gun than people are murdered with a gun, and no matter what happens with gun laws I sincerely hope that mental health and helping the people who need it becomes a larger priority.
The message at church on Sunday was on prayer, specifically the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers the difference between a good prayer and a bad one right before giving the example known as the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor today made several good points about what prayer is supposed to be like and laid out a few things that were meant to encourage us to pray.
I’ve never been good at praying. For some reason it’s always felt so uncomfortable to me to talk to God the way we’re encouraged to by Jesus himself. The thing that is supposed to make it easy to pray is that Jesus refers to God as “your Father” who already knows what you want and who has your best interest at heart. What’s gotten me stuck for so many years is that it’s hard for me, and I imagine for others who grew up this way, that picturing God as a good and loving father is a completely foreign concept. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve finally been able to conjure up an apt analogy.
Maybe some of you grew up like this, maybe you didn’t, but did you ever have a friend whose dad was maybe just a bit scarier than yours when you were a little kid? Like maybe he was a bigger guy, or had a more intimidating look,or didn’t smile as much, or maybe just smelled more like alcohol or cigarettes than your own dad. That’s how every dad was for me when I was a boy for the simple reason that there was a masculine authority there that was completely unfamiliar to me. For me, praying to THE HEAVENLY FATHER feels like approaching my friend’s dad to ask for a favor that he doesn’t owe me. When you grow up without a dad (or with a super crappy one, I’d imagine) it skews your perception of who God says he is for the simple fact that our feeble minds can’t comprehend who God actually is and have to draw comparisons to familiar ideas. God is consistently referred to as a father throughout the Bible which says two things to me: that we are to see Him as approachable and loving, and that fathers have an incredible and important responsibility/opportunity in their child’s lives.
To me, praying is still in my mind the equivalent to interrupting my friend’s dad while he’s busy with his own kids to ask a favor I’m not owed. My honest hope (and prayer, I guess) is that through being an earthly father myself I’ll begin to better understand what a good loving father really looks like and feel more at ease approaching my own Father.
I’m finally getting around to reading the Steve Jobs biography that came out over a year ago. I’ve only read the first several chapters so far, but as I expected there’s tidbits that spin my little brain.
The thing that really got me thinking showed up in the first few pages. It’s a widely known fact that he was adopted at birth. He had grown up knowing that. According to the book, the first time Jobs had a negative reaction about being adopted was when a fellow child had asked him if that meant this his real parents didn’t love him enough. His adoptive parents made it a point to instill in him that it wasn’t that anyone didn’t love him, it was that they chose him because he was so special.
At this point in the book, the biographer tries to probe Jobs and people who had been close to him about his true feelings about the fact that he was adopted. His friends had recounted several instances of Jobs saying that he had a hard time with feeling like he had been out and out abandoned and how terrible that felt. Jobs’ own words were that his parents had always told him how special he was and that he knew he was usually the smartest guy in the room. He said that his being adopted didn’t really affect him and that his biological parents were nothing more than sperm and egg donors.
I grew up saying the same thing about my dad; that he was a sperm donor and that’s all I ever thought of him as.
There’s a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where the young cop (whose character’s name completely eludes me right now) who grew up in an orphanage confronts Bruce Wayne about being Batman. He tells Bruce that they had met before when he was still at the orphanage. He remembers Bruce getting out of his limo and smiling huge for all the other orphan boys, which is how he starts to piece together that Bruce is actually Batman. The young cop knows that every one of those orphans has a bit of a dark side to them that they practice hiding so that the rest of world doesn’t shut them out, and he had practiced faking that same big smile that he saw on Bruce that day.
I call your bluff, Steve.