April 23, 2007
A reader, Dan Hermann, apparently unfriendly to this blog, recently commented:
I think anyone who wants to own a gun should be required to join the militia, as the Constitution implies.
This remark appears to be a reference to our discussion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which is commonly (and properly) interpreted to mean that private ownership of firearms is a right under that document. It states:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Well, this gem of a comment struck a chord with my inner snark and she got the best of me on this one. So, I replied:
If they get a gun for personal defense, then technically they are already part of a militia, Dan.
We might also ask them, "If you see foreign invaders coming, would you be willing to shoot them?" And if they say "yes" then they are technically joining a militia as well.
Given that defense of the citizens of this nation is synonymous with the defense of the nation, it begs the question as to why those opposing gun ownership are opposed to national defense when that is not merely implied but stated in the amendment and elsewhere in the document in question.
If we were given to radical statements of vicious and ridiculous hyperbole, we might say that we think those opposed to private gun ownership should be tried for treason.
But we aren't prone to that are we, Dan?
Readers, pray, what is your opinion on this? What should be done with those who want to own guns? What should be done to criminals? What should be done to foreign invaders? What should be done with those who are opposed to national defense and security? Be creative.
I've told you what I think, but let's do solicit some other opinions beyond my own on this blog.
April 19, 2007
"The benefit of the doubt" is an expression that refers to the more flattering of two propositions when the evidence allows for both.
The benefit of the doubt is something you grant strangers by assuming they aren't criminals or crazies. Perhaps you see them doing something that doesn't quite add up, so you say to yourself, "I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. There must be a good reason for them doing something so weird." Like when I walked into the locker room the other day and this man was wagging his wang violently side-to-side. I assume this is because it was really wet and his towel wasn't doing the job. See? Benefit of the doubt.
This morning, a friend and I were talking about how Larry Birkhead now has custody of Anna Nicole Smith's baby. I remarked that if I were him, I would not want the baby. Further, I believe that he fought so hard for custody of the child primarily because he wants the money that would come with her.
My friend protested saying that I was judging that man too harshly. I don't know him, so he might be a kind, smart, intelligent man with a strong desire to be a good father to the child he sired. She said that because I don't know the man, I should extend to him the benefit of the doubt.
The benefit of the doubt is an extremely tenuous, fickle thing. Any amount of evidence to the contrary may push things beyond the point where "generosity" to the item in question becomes brash stupidity.
In the case of Larry Birkhead, what do I know of him? He's a Paparazzi who was romantically linked to Anna Nicole Smith. He is friendly with the likes of Howard K. Stern, the lawyer.
Francisco D'Anconia in Atlas Shrugged remarks something to the effect that what a man loves tells a lot about his character. Indeed it does.
And Larry Birkhead claimed to love a strung out ding-bat. Bless her heart, but Anna Nicole Smith was not a person to respect or admire in any way. She was idiotic beyond belief. From the looks of her television show, she spent most of her time drunk, high, and/or whining.
The best thing I can say about her is that she was very pretty and malice certainly wasn't one of her defining characteristics at all.
Howard K. Stern also seems to be a drunkard and a drug-user. He strikes me as being a first-class shyster.
And these are the people Larry Birkhead chose to keep company with. He chose Anna Nicole Smith as the one person in his life most qualified to be the mother of his children.
He makes his living taking photographs of celebrities and the more scandalous the photo, the better. And he now has custody -- and exclusive rights to -- of one of the most publicized celebrity children in recent history.
And if I were a young man such as he at a point in my career as his and unattached, why would I want a child? Even if the child came with a huge bankroll, it would still not be possible for me to be a dedicated father without sacrificing my personal happiness.
I do certainly want to raise children someday, but not today. And I really wouldn't want to deal with one that comes with a gajillion dollars that I didn't earn.
Given all of these things, it simply isn't possible for me to extend to that man the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his qualifications as a father or his motives in going to such lengths to gain custody of this child.
I could be wrong. That is a possibility. I really don't know the man. I don't know much else about his life other than what little I've seen on television, seen in the papers and magazines, or what I've read on the internet.
But all the evidence I do have indicates that he's not a man of great moral fiber.
One may say that he is, in fact, a fine, upstanding human being, but barring the presentation of some supporting evidence, such a claim has the standing of an arbitrary assertion.
April 17, 2007
As I thought more on the topic this morning, it occurred to me that not everyone starts from the "healthy brain" premise that I do.
I've mentioned in numerous posts that I find crazy people extremely tragic.
I rarely feel guilt or pity for people who get themselves into bad situations through making repeated idiotic decisions, but in contemplating the insane, I find that I'm scared and saddened by those people.
These are people with what I call "mechanical" problems in their brains. Literally, their brains do not function properly. Your brain in your basic tool for dealing with reality and if it doesn't do what it's supposed to do, like maybe it feeds you bad information about reality or something, I just don't know how to deal with that.
In the movie A Beautiful Mind, the main character figures out how to tell his hallucinations from reality, but is that really possible without medication? I dunno it's horrible to even contemplate.
So, if you find someone doing REALLY bad things like shooting up everyone at school, they may have some bad ideas, but they may also have a broken brain.
One of the amazing things about our human biology is that a healthy brain can make itself physically ill with bad ideas. Bad brains can spawn bad ideas. Bad ideas can spawn bad brains.
An unforeseen turn of events has distracted me from this post for the time being. Perhaps I will return to it another time.
April 16, 2007
A friend of mine in Atlanta sat on AIM and instant messaged me every time the body count changed.
Students at VaTech are talking about the outrage they feel because classes weren't canceled immediately after the first two shootings. (I'm not familiar with all the details, so I can't legitimately snark about armchair quarterbacking.)
Joe. My. God is using this as a reason to support gun control. I'm sure others are doing the same, but I am not clear on how anything shy of banning firearms altogether would do anything more than slow a determined would-be criminal. (I'm ignoring the reality of black markets for a second.)
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin and others are using this incident as a reason to oppose gun control.
Chip Gibbons, from whom I got the Malkin link, reflects on his days at VaTech.
A dear friend of mine remarked on the subway this evening that she thinks society made the shooter that way. Her remark struck me as the plaintive cry of what many people whose minds have been disarmed by the moral relativism of modern society must be thinking. There is an honest, desperate need to explain things like this.
How could someone go so wrong?
She told me about how she and a coworker today were reflecting on the "good, ol' days" when people would just commit suicide.
She further remarked that these extremely violent but nevertheless suicidal criminals seem to be craving attention.
Given two options: suicide or a suicidal killing spree, the unifying aspect is an overwhelming lack of value for one's own self, literally, selflessness.
It seems like one such person feels such utter despair and selflessness but simultaneous alienation from the community or society they value so much more highly than they value themselves that they want to take their solitude to its most pitiful, rational end.
The other sort seems to be driven to a primal scream of violence. Their despair erupts in rage. They want to be felt and heard. Their violence and ultimate destruction contain a social statement: if they are as worthless as they feel, then what can be said of the society that 'produced' them? I don't suppose that they can see the murder of their peers as any better or worse than their own murder.
I expect these people see murder and suicide as mostly synonyms, particularly when those seem to originate ultimately from some perceived indifference or even malevolence from society at large. Worthless group means worthless self. Worthless self means worthless group.
Communal philosophies like Christianity, Communism, and Buddhism seem to recognize this and advocate greater integration of the self into society, that is, even less "self." The problem, they say, isn't that these people haven't enough value for their own lives, but too much and everyone else the same. The notion isn't merely counterintuitive, it's contradictory.
One simple question illustrates one of the many problems with such a premise: if each thing is worthless unto itself, how is a whole herd of worthless thingies any better at all? 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 * n = 0
But my friend is right. Such thinking is dominant in today's society. If a person goes along with mainstream philosophy in this way, it's possible that a bout of extreme despair will result in some suicidal action or another.
It's a pitiful situation.
Objectivism takes the obvious solution to the problem. If selflessness results in codependency, then selfishness results in independence. If selflessness results in a diminished respect for others and one's own happiness, then selfishness requires pride, honesty, and justice.
Of course, I am taking the argument in reverse here. Familiarize yourself with the work of Ayn Rand if you care to see the point more plainly made.
"Selfishness" as Ayn Rand meant it is misunderstood, maligned, and misused. It's dreadfully unpopular. It stands only just shy of being a taboo in popular thinking. Only just barely still worth considering according to the majority of thinking persons and those who don't bother as well.
I'm sure that many probably think my remarks here overly simplistic and I'm sure that over the coming days, weeks, months, and years other attempts will be made to explain "what went wrong" today at VaTech. There will be a lot more talking.
People will continue to talk about the need for gun control. Some people will talk about needing to regulate violent movies and video games. Others will talk about a need for greater community.
In watching a very few minutes of the news coverage of the event, I am filled with disgust. Trite expressions, empty platitudes, banal outpourings of emotion all over the "nations worst instance of gun violence in history." Silly, ridiculous outcries about how easy it is for a person to enter a college campus are nothing but emotional, impotent mewlings for minds mutilated by selflessness.
Without a doubt, there will be many who remain confused and skeptical of these proposed solutions. Many will continue to beg for a better answer.
At least they're asking for an answer. That much gives me hope. If no one were talking about it, if the questioned were considered settled, then there would be little point in writing all this here. People can change their minds about the importance of "community" and recognize how important they are to themselves.
I'm sure someone somewhere is saying something about a wish for all those people not having died in vain. I have the same wish although I probably wouldn't say it like that. I just want people to be right. I want people to have the truth. I do want people to be happy, but it requires facing some pretty fundamental facts. The only way this tragedy will not be an utter loss will be if people recognize the root of the problem as selflessness.
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