Thursday, September 19, 2013

Another Massacre

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email asking me if I was interested in seeing a short video called The Business of Guns.  Apparently, my occasional gun related posts had resulted in my contact believing I might find the video interesting.  I watched the video a few days later, then watched it again, today, in light of this past weekend's massacre in Washington DC.

First, here is a link to the video if you are interested.  It appears to be a (mostly) unbiased presentation of facts as related to the gun industry.

I also did some research about mass shootings and found this detailed list of mass shootings with "mass" being defined as 4 or more fatalities.

Finally, I looked for articles with data about gun ownership in America and found these two, interestingly enough with different conclusions.

As I have said many times before, I prefer stronger laws to control guns based on the assumption that many gun deaths, and a significant percentage of gun related violence is the result of impulse rather than a planned crime or event.  People get mad, i.e road rage, domestic quarreling, bad day at the office, etc, and act without thinking, act our of passion, or just plain lash out at what is nearest.  Having the availability of a gun in these situations increases the chance of a fatality.  For me then, the less guns there are, the less chance they will be used irresponsibly and/or with unplanned consequences.     

It has been argued that this logic does not apply to most mass killings, in that most seem planned.  If we glance at the list compiled in the link above, there are not that many spur of the moment killings.  Rather, the perpetrators have reacted to a specific event or have killed as a result of a mental illness.  Still, I would maintain that the ease of attaining weapons with high killing capabilities, makes it all the more easy for them to fall into the hands of those with bad intentions.  That being said, I agree wholeheartedly with those responsible gun owners who make the case for tighter enforcement of current laws that limit the sale of guns to those with a history of mental illness.  The problem is that the mentally ill are still able to procure guns since they are so readily accessible via holes in the legal process and illegally.

For me, the most insidious aspect of the gun debate, is the gun's industries soaring profits as detailed in the video.  Of course, much of the blame for why people buy guns which produces the sales and results in the profits, is our own, the people of the United States.  We continue to buy in to the notion that violence offers a solution to the problems we face, whether personal or national.  And then, we complete the charade with the rationale that if only we could keep the guns out of the "bad" guys hands, and get more into the hands of the good guys.  I would love to see the app that a gun dealer could use to determine who is good and who is bad!!

The good news is that despite the increase in guns in America - we are #1 in the world according to the video - the rate of homicide, overall and by guns, has not increased in the past 30 years despite the seemingly endless barrage of news stories detailing gun violence and the increase in mass killing.   As the gun-ownership-is-down link suggests, I am a firm believer that man, as a whole, continues to evolve spiritually and that in so doing we more and more embrace the concept that killing each other, whether for reasons of religion, land, money or love, is slowly, ever so slowly, becoming a trait not compatible with the survival of our species.  

And so I hope that one day there will be a world without guns.  Not through legislation, although it is a nice way to move us forward, but through the shared realization that violence, whatever its manifestation, solves little, destroys much, and is a poor choice of solutions for our problems.      


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another 9/11 Anniversary

September 11, 2001. 


Regardless of how you say it, the events of this day will forever have an impact on the people, politics and future of America.  Today marks the twelfth anniversary of that fateful day.  And, as was true of all past anniversaries, memorials are taking place all across the country.  We remember where we were when we heard the news, what we did as he horror unfolded, how we united in our suffering, and, to this day, how the lump in our collective throats is just that much bigger when we hear our national anthem played and recall the sacrifices made by both the victims of that terrible event and their families.

Coincidentally, we are also involved in a national debate about Syria. Despite the history of the citizens of this great country to respond to injustices throughout the world, polls indicate that we are not all that eager to get involved in punishing or otherwise addressing the horrendous treatment of the Syrian people by President Assad and his military.  Would we be so reticent to slap down a bully like Assad had we not spent the last dozen years in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to a past bully?  Have we grown tired of our role of world policemen, especially in face of the vengeful response of those we have labeled terrorists, the indirect assistance that these groups have received by countries like China and Russia who are supposed to be our friends, or at least not our foes, and the unappreciative attitude of those countries that claim to be our allies but are loath to contribute monetarily to the ever increasing bill we face to "keep the peace"?

Interestingly, I just finished reading an article in this month's Smithsonian about the muriqui monkeys.  See link below.

A remarkable woman named Karen Strier has been studying these primates for the past thirty years, and in the process has helped focus the world of primatology on animals other than just gorillas and chimps.  In so doing, she has also opened up this field of study, and in conjunction, the study of the most evolved of the primates, man, towards the consideration that competition, aggression, and territorialism, all the precursors of war, are not necessarily common among all primates.  That there are other traits that primates share that are not based on violence.

In the world of the muriqui, cooperation, and physical and emotional support are the rule of the day.   They do not compete for food, but share it with each other, old, young, healthy and infirmed.  Males do not fight each other for access to mating rights, but are invited to mate by the females who do not appear loyal to one male over another.  As a result, infant muriqui do not need to be protected from males eager to kill off another's progeny.   Hugs and embraces have replaced fighting and killing.

As a believer in evolution, specifically that all primates evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago, it is uplifting to think that our aggressive traits may be the result of environmental pressures and specific situations as opposed to the more common belief that we they are inbred and  impossible to avoid, or worse, some type of "original" sin that God has inflicted upon us.  Perhaps if we stopped for a second, took our heads out of the swirling sands of materialism, greed, and winner takes all cutthroat competition, we might begin to understand that helping each other, those in our direct "pack", those in neighboring packs, and even those in packs that have different customs, language, skin color, religion, is a better way towards species survival. 

If we believe that primates do what they do, the good, bad and the ugly (sorry Clint) out of a desire for access to food, shelter, and sex, then we need to address what forms this desire might take, and what methods provide the most food, shelter and sex for the most people.  Clearly, killing all the competitors can produce this result, but only if you are willing to accept the possibility that you, as an individual, will be killed by someone with bigger muscles, whether those muscles are the ones on a body or in the form of tanks and bombs. 

But, if we decide that peace through war is the ultimate oxymoron, then perhaps we might imitate the muriqui who do not measure their wealth by how much one has more than another, but by the collective resources and happiness of the group.