Thought for the Day – October 6, 2020

From a review of Carlos Lozada’s book, A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era:

Messing around with the notion of truth is a luxury that comes with affluence. We have spent the past 50 years undermining the basic institutions of society — not just our sense of common purpose and identity, but also normative values like truth and duty and expertise. The politics of consumerism — and grievance — have overwhelmed the politics of unity and responsibility. Among Lozada’s favorite books is the conservative thinker Yuval Levin’s “A Time to Build”: “Popular culture compels us to ask: ‘What do I want?’ Institutions urge a different query, Levin explains: ‘Given my role here, how should I act?’

Reading Material – September 2, 2018

Must Read

John McCain did not plan the Vietnam War. He didn’t lie to the American people about the nature of the conflict, the atrocities it entailed, or the probability of its success. He merely trusted the civilian leadership that did. There is no reason to doubt that McCain believed he was in Vietnam to risk his life – and then, to endure a living hell – in defense of our nation’s highest ideals. His willingness to sacrifice his own well-being to what he believed to be America’s interests deserves our awe-struck admiration. (As an upper middle-class “soyboy” – whose most heroic feat of self-abnegating physical endurance probably involved a full bladder and broken-down A train – I have no doubt that I’d prove myself a lesser man than McCain, were I ever asked to accept years of torture for a cause that I believed in.) As the senator is laid to rest, one can reasonably argue that respect for his family, and legacy, compels us to isolate his act of transcendent patriotism from the indefensible war that produced it.

But there are hazards to such myopia. McCain’s loved ones deserve to take pride in the sacrifices he made at the “Hanoi Hilton.” But we, as a nation, do not.  The United States asked John McCain to risk his life – and kill other human beings – for a war built on lies. We asked him to give some of his best years on Earth – and the full use of his arms – to an illegal, unwinnable war of aggression. The story of McCain’s time as a prisoner of war should inspire national shame. It is a story about our government abusing the trust of one its most patriotic citizens. But it’s (almost) never presented as such. Instead, in stump speeches, op-eds, and obituaries, McCain’s service is typically framed as a testament to our nation’s greatness, or an affirmation of its finest values.

This distortion invites broader misconceptions. The selfless sacrifices of American soldiers are supposed to be lamentable costs of war, burdens that can only be redeemed by the justness of the cause that demanded them. And yet, the way we remember McCain’s heroism threatens to invert this principle. In celebrating his discrete act of patriotism – while ignoring the question of what cause it served – we risk treating the selfless sacrifices of American soldiers as ends in themselves…

[What] the “men and women who serve our nation in combat” truly deserve is a country that reveres their lives more than their suffering – and, therefore, that only asks them to endure the latter in wars that are just, winnable, and necessary.

If we wish to honor McCain’s wartime-sacrifice, we must remember it less as an example of the kind of heroism we wish to emulate, than of the kind of tragedy that our nation is duty-bound to avoid repeating.

Should Read Continue reading

“If heaven is about a Mixmaster, then heaven in meaningless.”

Good thread on Twitter critiquing the theology of pro-Trump Christians.  Here’s the first post of the thread:

My favorite line, “But if heaven is about a Mixmaster, then heaven in meaningless.”

Ban the Open Carry of Firearms

From John Feinblatt’s, Ban the Open Carry of Firearms:

When militia members and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday with Nazi flags and racist placards, many of them also carried firearms openly, including semiautomatic weapons. They came to intimidate and terrify protesters and the police. If you read reports of the physical attacks they abetted, apparently their plan worked.

They might try to rationalize their conduct as protected by the First and Second Amendments, but let’s not be fooled. Those who came to Charlottesville openly carrying firearms were neither conveying a nonviolent political message, nor engaged in self-defense nor protecting hearth and home.

Plain and simple, public terror is not protected under the Constitution. That has been the case throughout history. And now is the time to look to that history and prohibit open carry, before the next Charlottesville.

Historically, lawmakers have deemed open carry a threat to public safety. Under English common law, a group of armed protesters constituted a riot, and some American colonies prohibited public carry specifically because it caused public terror. During Reconstruction, the military governments overseeing much of the South responded to racially motivated terror (including the murder of dozens of freedmen and Republicans at the 1866 Louisiana Constitutional Convention) by prohibiting public carry either generally or at political gatherings and polling places. Later, in 1886, a Supreme Court decision, Presser v. Illinois, upheld a law forbidding groups of men to “parade with arms in cities and towns unless authorized.” For states, such a law was “necessary to the public peace, safety and good order.”

In other words, our political forebears would not have tolerated open carry as racially motivated terrorists practiced it in Charlottesville. They did not view open carry as protected speech. According to the framers, the First Amendment protected the right to “peaceably” — not violently or threateningly — assemble. The Second Amendment did not protect private paramilitary organizations or an individual menacingly carrying a loaded weapon. Open carry was antithetical to “the public peace.” Lawmakers were not about to let people take the law into their own hands, so they proactively and explicitly prohibited it.

Thought for the Day – February 14, 2018

Charlie Pierce observes:

The NRA argument [for gun privileges] boils down to a belief that massacres are part of the price of constitutional liberty.

Yes, let’s call it what it is.  Nothing has changed since Newtown.  As a society, we consider the periodic slaughter of children and other non-combatants an acceptable price to pay for the privilege of owning and using guns.  The polls suggest that a significant majority support “common sense gun control” but look at who we elect to government. Americans have had opportunity after opportunity to elect representatives who would act forcefully to reduce gun violence and we don’t do it. We vote in NRA supporters instead.

Let’s recognize what we do when we do that, condemn it, and choose to act differently. Contemporary gun advocacy is not about outdoorsmen having the opportunity to hunt and it has nothing to do with self-defense. Contemporary gun advocacy is in the tradition of the genocide of Native Americans, terrorism of African-Americans, and seditious conspiracy against democratically-elected government. White supremacy is central to it. More generally, gun advocacy is part of a culture – our culture – that celebrates violence as a means of holding power over others. To be honest, I’m skeptical that more gun laws now would address the core problem. They might help but they’re secondary. Until we stop celebrating and rewarding violence of any kind, mass shootings and other gun violence will persist.