Good Friday Morning! We’ve gone from a week of mourning to non-stop arguments over gun control and the Second Amendment. I have a few follow-up thoughts from last week and what I’ve written since then. I also have write-ups on Bill Graham and an essay by Andrew Sullivan on the opioid epidemic. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
Here’s a fundamental point you should tuck away for most arguments over the constitution. In general, you cannot strip a person of their constitutional rights without due process. Period. Full stop. Any attempts to do this get met with fierce resistance from civil rights activists (correctly so). One of those rights is the Second Amendment. Mentally ill and the disabled have full constitutional rights, and when you try to strip them of those rights without due process, you will run afoul of the constitution.
The nation is consumed by gun control debates
Every debate in this country over gun control is circular, destructive, and leads nowhere. And the chasm these debates create is only widening and deepening. I think I side with David French on this point, who eloquently argued the discussion, especially after the CNN town hall, risks tearing the country apart:
Unlike the stupid hysterics over net neutrality, tax policy, or regulatory reform, the gun debate really is — at its heart — about life and death. It’s about different ways of life, different ways of perceiving your role in a nation and a community. Given these immense stakes, extra degrees of charity and empathy are necessary in public discussion and debate. At the moment, what we have instead are extra degrees of anger and contempt. The stakes are high. Emotions are high. Ignorance abounds. Why bother to learn anything new when you know the other side is evil?
It takes more than a constitution or a government to hold a nation together. The ties that bind us as Americans are strong and durable, but the great challenges that formed them are receding into the past. Geographic differences create cultural differences, and cultural differences hasten ever-greater geographic change. Like clusters with like, and it results in the fury we saw last night, when one of the bluest communities in America vented its rage at the red emissaries in their midst.
A nation cannot endure forever when its people are consumed with such hate.
He’s right. The case he makes is no different than Abraham Lincoln’s point in the Gettysburg Address. America is “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” We aren’t in a civil war, but we are straining heavily against the bonds that tie us together as a nation.
The debate won’t go anywhere. As I showed in a personal piece, “A Note to All the People Arguing About Gun Control in My Social Media Timelines,” no gun control legislation could have prevented what happened in Florida. Not one.
Watching kids die in a school is horrific. Viewing a school as it goes through active shooter drills is horrific. Nothing about this is good. I have friends that are teachers that live with this reality every day. That doesn’t mean passing random legislation would prevent any of this from happening.
You can march all you want, write chants, post on social media, and none of it will matter. There are ways we can make current gun control laws better, but pretending you can end gun violence is a utopian fantasy that will never happen. And if you did want to stop it, the number of people you’d have to kill and jail to enforce it doesn’t come close to describing “utopia.”
As long as there has been human history, there have been many incidents of children being senselessly murdered (take a look at female infanticide in China and India). It will continue to happen. And until you’re ready to grapple with the reality of why that is, you’re not prepared to debate the Second Amendment or gun control.
And what makes this entire debate more sickening is that the local police and FBI made countless errors that allowed this event to happen. The school resource officer who arrived a minute and a half AFTER the gunfire started never entered the building. The number of errors, bad choices, and just flat out incompetence in this mass shooting is startling to behold. Those same officials go on CNN to blame guns and the NRA. I’d agree with Jeff B:
If the Broward County Sheriff had any integrity he would resign tonight. But then if he had any integrity he wouldn’t have gone on the CNN town hall last night to blame the NRA as he sat on evidence that the incompetence and cowardice of his own ppl let the shooting happen.
The next mass shooting will be just as horrific, just as divisive, and we’ll get the same reactions. One wonders how long a country can hold itself together.
The passing of a giant – Billy Graham
Regarding the impact on the modern world in raw power and reach of his message, you don’t compare Billy Graham to other preachers. You compare Billy Graham to Popes, Mother Teresa, and other people who shaped and impacted the global Christian church.
People genuinely don’t grasp the impact Graham had in the world. He wasn’t mega-church preacher or a televangelist; he was an evangelist who literally reached the world. For reference, go no further than his 1957 crusade to New York City, where he held services in a packed out Madison Square Garden… for 16 consecutive weeks:
As we’ve written on the blog previously, the Crusade in New York City in 1957 was monumental in the early ministry of Billy Graham. It lasted 16 weeks. In the course of 110 days, there were 100 services, attended by some 2 million people, with more than 56,000 making decisions for Jesus Christ.
Addressing the diversity of the New York population, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a friend of Billy Graham’s, offered an opening prayer at a service and met with the team during the Crusade to help them understand the racial situation in America more fully. Another first happened in 1957 – Billy Graham used an interpreter in the U.S., holding a Saturday afternoon meeting for the city’s Spanish-speaking population.
Imagine that today, a Christian evangelist packing out Madison Square Garden for three months, or 100 services in 110 days. It’s unfathomable to the modern mind.
I don’t have a ton to add to that. A friend sent me an excellent video of Kathie Lee Gifford sharing both her faith and memories of Billy Graham. It’s excellent, and I highly recommend. She encapsulates him better than anyone else.
The Opiate Crisis and America
Andrew Sullivan wrote an outstanding piece on the opioid crisis entitled: “The Poison We Pick: This nation pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it.” It’s a longish essay, but worth your time to read and digest.
Sullivan traces the history of the opioid crisis and compares it to other drug wars and the AIDS epidemic. I want to highlight two passages he writes after the background and history sections:
One of the more vivid images that Americans have of drug abuse is of a rat in a cage, tapping a cocaine-infused water bottle again and again until the rodent expires. Years later, as recounted in Johann Hari’s epic history of the drug war, Chasing the Scream, a curious scientist replicated the experiment. But this time he added a control group. In one cage sat a rat and a water dispenser serving diluted morphine. In another cage, with another rat and an identical dispenser, he added something else: wheels to run in, colored balls to play with, lots of food to eat, and other rats for the junkie rodent to play or have sex with. Call it rat park. And the rats in rat park consumed just one-fifth of the morphine water of the rat in the cage. One reason for pathological addiction, it turns out, is the environment. If you were trapped in solitary confinement, with only morphine to pass the time, you’d die of your addiction pretty swiftly too. Take away the stimulus of community and all the oxytocin it naturally generates, and an artificial variety of the substance becomes much more compelling.
One way of thinking of postindustrial America is to imagine it as a former rat park, slowly converting into a rat cage. Market capitalism and revolutionary technology in the past couple of decades have transformed our economic and cultural reality, most intensely for those without college degrees. The dignity that many working-class men retained by providing for their families through physical labor has been greatly reduced by automation. Stable family life has collapsed, and the number of children without two parents in the home has risen among the white working and middle classes. The internet has ravaged local retail stores, flattening the uniqueness of many communities. Smartphones have eviscerated those moments of oxytocin-friendly actual human interaction. Meaning — once effortlessly provided by a more unified and often religious culture shared, at least nominally, by others — is harder to find, and the proportion of Americans who identify as “nones,” with no religious affiliation, has risen to record levels. Even as we near peak employment and record-high median household income, a sense of permanent economic insecurity and spiritual emptiness has become widespread. Some of that emptiness was once assuaged by a constantly rising standard of living, generation to generation. But that has now evaporated for most Americans.
What he’s describing, in a sense, is a destruction of purpose or design. In past generations, men could pull their meaning from jobs, communities, or other types of associations. A lot of those are gone now.
It’s strange though because we live in a world where moral relativism reigns free. If you want to throw off the trappings of morality in the sense of Christianity or other traditions, you’re free to do so, and as Sullivan points out, that’s precisely what is happening.
But instead of producing a Nietchean Übermensch, a person beyond good and evil able to self-create purpose, meaning, and values, we’re instead much closer to what C.S. Lewis described as Men without Chests:
We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’. The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. The operation of The Green Book (a book promoting relativism) and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. … A persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment… It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.
And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
The modern world, in trying to throw off the “trappings” of the old, instead finds itself in a place without purpose, meaning, or heart. Ruled by a perverse form of reason alone, instead of filling like liberated Supermen, people are turning to opioids to numb their existence on earth.
As Richard Weaver observed in “Ideas have Consequences,” “Man is constantly being assured today that he has more power than ever before in history, but his daily experience is one of powerlessness.” And in that powerlessness, and absence of purpose, man has turned to the oldest drug he knows: opiates.
Links of the week
An Epidemic of Dishonesty on the Right – Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
The People We Deserve – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
Trump Directs Justice Department to Ban Bump Stocks – Robert Verbruggen, National Review
What Conservatives Get Right About Guns – Lois Beckett, GQ Magazine
The New Old European Obsession – Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine
How Much Will Redrawn Pa. Map Affect the Midterms? – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
Flashback 30 Years: Guns Were in Schools … and Nothing Happened – J. Christian Adams, PJMedia
Trump rebound has Democrats fretting over midterms: Concerns are growing that they’re focused too much on the president’s ‘carnival’ — and not enough on what they’d do in the majority. – Heather Caygle, Politico
MSNBC Anchor: Kids Or Guns. What Do You Value More? – Allahpundit, HotAir.com
CNN Town Hall Crowd Cheers Idea of Banning Every Semiautomatic Rifle in America – Jack Heretick, The Washington Free Beacon
That story about a 20-year-old who said he was ‘able to buy’ an AR-15 in five minutes with no ID is an outright lie. – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
Satire piece of the week
Russia Announces New Plan To Just Let The U.S. Tear Itself Apart Unaided – The Babylon Bee
MOSCOW—After years of meddling by Russian agents and Russia-funded bots and hacking attempts, the Kremlin announced Thursday it would be withdrawing from all activity in the U.S., and would instead be allowing the country to tear itself apart without any help from them.
“Our spies and bots simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace at which America is destroying itself,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a press conference Thursday. “They’re on the verge of tearing each other to shreds. Really, it’s quite impressive.”
Putin stated his spies stationed abroad tried their hardest to divide America, but were outpaced and outclassed at every turn by the country’s highly motivated politicians and partisan activists, who are doing “a far better job” than his own spies could at ripping the country apart.
Thanks for reading!