Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Killing for Sale

"More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in combat in the Second World War."  (In other words, more than 418,000.)

This statement is one of several that stunned me in an article by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker (June 27), whose topic, the making of money from the sale of firearms,will probably surprise few readers. But the accumulation of facts he presents is unforgettable, especially about the way a massacre, such as happened near me in Orlando earlier this month, will send stock prices of outfits like Smith & Wesson up.

After the attack in Orlando, the CEO of Smith & Wesson, the leading maker of firearms, said, he was "very pleased with the results that we got."  Surprised? Sickened?

Experts like Osnos tell us that sales of weapons, once purchased for sport, are now mostly purchased for protection. Out of fear. Gun sales continue to break records, this article states.

The mass shootings that horrify us result in just two percent of gun deaths. Most of the time, Osnos says, Americans shoot each other impulsively, up close, without political motivation.  Handguns in the wrong hands remain a major problem that our Congress is unwilling to deal with, as are assault weapons, which have no place in American homes.

How can people who consider themselves pro-life be opposed to strict laws on the sale of weapons?  The answers are complex and involve the American myth of freedom and independence; they also involve good old-fashioned capitalism and greed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hate and terrorism: in my own backyard

The worst incident of mass terrorism in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001 took place not far from where I live in central Florida.  Today, I met a young woman whose closest friend was among the 49 clients at the Pulse nightclub who were mowed down and killed early Sunday morning while I slept--along with about 50 others wounded.

She, like many of us here, are sad and of course angry and confused:  Is this latest attack a sign that gun violence is out of hand, or is it a hate crime, as it appears to be?  The killer targeted gay people and was known to hate homosexuals, raising the question, has the progress made in gay rights led to more homophobia?

The killer was also a Muslim who claimed some connection, still unknown, to ISIS. So we ask yet again, why can the U.S. not persuade Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations from sponsoring extremism in schools and mosques around the world?

And of course, there is the most immediate question: When, oh when, will this country get serious about gun control?  Why should a man suspected by the FBI of being a potential terrorist be allowed to purchase an assault rifle?

Who outside the military needs an assault rifle?  The right of self-defense with firearms has nothing to do with the easy availability of guns in America, which has become, like other parts of the world, marked by hate and senseless violence.

As I pray for the victims, many Hispanic young men, and their families, I pray too that Congress will get serious about gun control and that the federal government will do much more to stop Islamic extremism.  Fifteen years after 9/11, we face the same issues and feel unsafe in our own communities.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

True Freedom

People have always sought one form of freedom or another, it seems: freedom from oppression of various kinds, from injustice, from abuse and danger and so much more. But Rowan Williams singles out something more fundamental: freedom from self-orientation.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury is quoted by Richard Rohr, whom I quote:  "You can have political or economic freedom, but if you are not free from your own ego, from your own centrality inside your own thinking, I don't think you're very free at all.  In fact, your actions and behavior will be totally predictable.  Everything will revolve around your security, survival, self-protection, self-validation, self, self, self."

That this is the great age of self-centeredness and narcissism is seen in the  rise of Donald Trump, who thinks that, as long as the world revolves around him, everything will be fine.  Truth, facts, knowledge, taste--none of these matter.

As Michael Sean Winters writes today in NCR, toddlers can get away with combining viciousness and feigned innocence when they are caught in lies. Apparently, many American voters see their own self-interests mirrored in the narcissistic Mr. Trump.  The consequences are alarming.

The mature person knows that if we think only and exclusively of ourselves at the expense of others, we diminish our own humanity.