Sometimes I want to believe that you read past comments on posts and consequently are in the loop. Naturally, this would be asking entirely too much, so here I’ll share a bit of the back and forth I had with another blogger named Pete. And this sharing may help ease your fears after yesterday’s post.
The moment was way back on March 28th. The March For Our Lives had just accomplished nothing. Yet there was another Pete out there who wanted to chat. After exchanging a few clarifying comments, I read a post that he had written after Sandy Hook and I replied,
ME: “Again, my point is not to persuade–not yet–but to see if we each can paraphrase what we each are saying. After reading your piece, I think the fundamental difference between your and my thoughts is best illustrated by the ‘time to show the world…violence is not in our DNA.'”
See, I believe violence is in our DNA. Anyhow. I then tried to paraphrase our two sides to the debate and so wrote,
ME: “As I see it: I believe the issue is whether arms are a protected right anymore. You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close? I don’t think you’ll like what I said about you, but that’s the softest way I could come up with quickly.”
In my attempt to paraphrase his side, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the oxymoron which I couldn’t help but include in the phrase “non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum.” I chuckled because how in the hell does a non-violent person commit violence?
And yet, unlike all of you save one yesterday, he furthered the conversation and this other Pete wrote,
Other Pete: “‘You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close?’
Yes… sort of. I’m convinced that the U.S. can reduce gun violence by serious federal legislation, which we have never really had (just minor dribs and drabs, mainly at the state level). Gun deaths and their frequencies (and styles) are increasing. The NRA option of ‘more guns’ is shameful and a total joke. We can reduce gun violence if we would only elect responsible politicians, who do not sleep with the NRA, to pass significant legislation. While I personally have no problem with repealing the 2nd Amendment, we can still keep that wretchedly worded thing, without ‘violating’ it, with the common-sense proposals espoused by organizations like the Brady Foundation and other gun control groups. And I’m behind ‘March for Our Lives’ all the way.”
Now, the only way I can make sense of his “Yes… sort of” is that this other Pete thought I meant that fellas like me and him (don’t forget to include yourself and your friends and family) are actually benevolent non-violent types capable of coming together to keep the gun violence to a minimum.
And in that moment, I again lost all hope for written conversation making any headway. Pete read what he wanted to read. And Pete read what he wanted to read.
So now I write what I want. Again. Still. Because Pete cannot be wrong.
Side A: More gun control in some form or fashion.
Side B: The only gun control they’ll respect is repealing the 2nd Amendment–but then they’ll secede.
Sounds crazy, no?
Whether crazy or not, that Side A must advocate nothing less than ‘repeal’ is so obvious to me that I cannot see any other way. I almost want to lead the charge to repeal just to show them how it is done. Isn’t that what Side A wants? If not, if you’re on Side A, please do explain why you don’t want to repeal. I cannot understand how anything less than a repeal accomplishes what you want.
As a reminder, here is the opening of the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
While I have your attention, do be sure to read Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Alan Breck may just be my favorite character ever.
Okay, here’s how this review works. I describe the opening of the video, then I use a few lines from The Black Arrow to express my critical thoughts.
The Good Hope was, at that moment, trembling on the summit of a swell. She subsided, with sickening velocity, upon the farther side. A wave, like a great black bulwark, hove immediately in front of her; and, with a staggering blow, she plunged headforemost through that liquid hill. The green water passed right over her from stem to stern, as high as a man’s knees; the sprays ran higher than the mast; and she rose again upon the other side, with an appalling, tremulous indecision, like a beast that has been deadly wounded…
“Bootless, my master, bootless,” said the steersman, peering forward through the dark. “We come every moment somewhat clearer of these sandbanks; with every moment, then, the sea packeth upon us heavier, and for all these whimperers they will presently be on their backs. For, my master, ’tis a right mystery, but true, there never yet was a bad man that was a good shipman. None but the honest and the bold can endure me this tossing of a ship.”
That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? After you read my amendment proposal, you thought I misunderstood what I was supposed to read. You’re saying, “His friend clearly suggested the supreme court case involving Heller, then he goes and tracks down Joseph Heller’s classic Catch-22. Moron.”
Trouble is, I have read Catch-22, but, in fact, I have also read the opinions behind the latest second amendment decision of our highest court. And yes, I still maintain that my proposed amendment is both the solution to the issue and at the same time draws out the actual issue that has been raised by the school shootings of the recent past.
I previously wrote that I believe the school shootings raise the issue of whether the atom bombs dropped in WWII have fundamentally and irrevocably altered life. In other words, I believe it is time to fully address that life is not the same as it was before the bombs. The Law now wrangles a different sort of chaos. (One easy example that comes to mind is how jumping on an atom bomb does nothing for our friends–unlike stepping in front of a bullet or jumping on a grenade etc. Even Christ’s, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” must needs be seen in new light.)
Another way I could have put my belief, perhaps an easier to understand way, is that since officially ending WWII we have not declared war according to our law–the U.S. Constitution–and I wonder, “Is this because we believe we are forevermore in time of war?”
In my thought experiment wherein I’m pretending to interpret the ratified then challenged Amendment XXVIII’s language of, “In time of peace, arms shall no longer be secured by the people,” I see that the most difficult part to interpret, and the most essential, is the “in time of peace.” I believe we would find that when the founders used the phrase in the third amendment, they meant there was distinction between time of war and time of peace.
I look around and conclude, “No. No we don’t. We do not believe in the distinction.” And by my thinking, no distinction means we believe that we are in time of war.
But I’m a veteran. Not just any veteran, a veteran officer. My oath is lifelong, regardless the source of my income. So I can’t help but see war, no different than hammers can’t help but see objects to strike. But you? You’re not a veteran.
What do you see? What do you believe?
Rise and shine, Marchers! Have your dainty feet had time to heal? Must’ve been an excruciatingly tiresome week, what with such a physically demanding event last weekend. The sacrifice! You probably forgot to carbo load ahead of time, too. Darn it all! There’s always next time. When is it? I hear the next walkout is April 20th? Shh, come closer. Did you hear that that is Hitler’s birthday, too? Hopefully people won’t think you’re celebrating, ughh. Oh, how many steps did you log? That’ll help with your HSA incentives. (Yes, the jogging in place counts.) The celebratory ice cream probably went down with less guilt, didn’t it? I mean, you really made a difference, don’t you think? I feel safer, that’s for sure. And it’s all because of you.
From within the clouds at the top of Sinai, then, seeking clearance for a full-stop landing, having read in full and considered the District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), and borrowing some language from the repealed Amendment XVIII, I offer this revision for consideration.
Article I – After one year from the ratification of this article, in time of peace, arms shall no longer be secured by the people.
Article II – The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Article III – This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.
My question is, “Do you understand how I can competently reason that the first article of my proposed amendment does not contravene the second amendment (especially as it was interpreted in the Court’s most recent opinion on the amendment as indicated in the Heller opinion)?”
(I’m not interested in whether you agree with it or think it would ever be ratified. I’m interested in holding a conversation which assumes the amendment’s ratification, and subsequent challenge, and then we’re SCOTUS justices. You know, thought experiment style.)
Additionally, regarding late Justice Scalia–I do not think he would turn in his grave. My amendment in no way indicates that the right which is not to be infringed in the second amendment is “linked to or conditioned by serving in a militia.” What have I said that makes you draw that connection?
It’s Friday. I have the day off, and I need to get back to my study of the ancient people of Ugarit and their wedgy language. Before I do, I want to formally share my thoughts on the school shootings. I believe they are worth repeating.
I believe the school shootings, beginning when I was a senior in high school and continuing to this day, raise the issue of whether man’s creation and use of two atomic bombs has fundamentally altered the status of arms in the United States of America.
To understand how I can see this as the issue raised by school shootings requires me to explain that I believe the natural state of man is chaos. I believe that the manner with which we take a break from the chaos is “the law.” I believe that “the law” is the act of giving up freedom in order to obtain freedom. Philosophically, I believe the U.S. Constitution without the Bill of Rights (of course this document is not real–this is merely philosophical discussion) is “the law.” I believe the similarly-standing-alone-for-philosophical-explanation-only Bill of Rights is the rebuttal which declares preference for life in the pre-law, chaotic, and natural state of man in certain particular areas of life–being in our specific case: arms. Kind of a two-sides of the same coin thing, which itself manifests to the rest of the world the proud and distinct self-understanding of our people.
So that’s what I believe to be the issue raised by the shootings.
Here you’ll see again my solution to this issue, the real issue, the only issue, the issue that you have been up to now unable to say or write because you do not think for yourself, which is to add (second amendment stays) the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Amendment XXVIII: In time of peace, Arms shall no longer be secured by the people.”
…to assume you had character to begin with.
Not a single one of you accepted my challenge. Not-a one. Your silence allowed my mind to wander. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t think through my challenge before I declared it. Of course you wouldn’t understand you had been attacked and defend yourself. You don’t have character. Character requires perseverance, and perseverance requires overcoming some sort of difficulty. No, not the difficulties you’re thinking you have overcome. Neither exasperatingly stuck-open selfie sticks, nor completely spelling out words live under this umbrella. I’m talking difficult. I’ll give you an example.
H-‘s Spring Break was last week. (To new readers, she’s my seven-year-old daughter.) The entire reason I moved to Denver was proximity to the mountains. I wanted to live near the ski-resorts and I wanted H- to grow up skiing. The opportunity finally arrived to take her skiing. In short, the ski-lessons turned out to be a bust. She didn’t know the other kids, and the instructors were very un-ski-instructory.
The proper bunny hill, however, was open for another hour after the lesson, so I took her to the line for the unthinkably slow-but-brief chair lift. Suddenly she had to go to the bathroom.
“Too bad,” I said.
See, I have a younger brother. Once, when we were about to ride the Power Tower at Cedar Point–last ride of the night–as we crept closer to the terrifically terrifying thrill ride and heard the screams, he suddenly had to go to the bathroom.
I also said, “Too bad,” to him back then.
I can only imagine the transition H- experienced as she went from fear of the unknown, to fear of heights, to fear of how to get off the lift. But I don’t have to imagine her relief as I firmly held onto her and we successfully dismounted without hiccup.
“Ready for this?” I queried, absolutely certain she wasn’t.
She soon fell.
I didn’t help her up and I felt like a jerk.
Luckily, ever since she was very young, upon her falling down, I’ve been asking her, “Why do we fall down, Bruce?” and she answers with, “To learn how to pick ourselves up.” (Thanks, Mr. Nolan.)
We maybe made three trips up and down the bunny hill before we called it quits. If she ever chose to fall because she got going too fast and decided to bail before things got ugly, I would help her up. If she fell because she was afraid, I ski’d to her and told her to get up. That was day one.
Day two, we started fresh. After more of the same, she began to fall less and eventually proposed an intriguing deal.
“Hey Daddy. I was thinking. If I can ski down this without falling, can I have a stuffy (her name for Beanie Boos)?”
“I’ll make that deal,” I confirmed, quickly adding, “But you can’t fall once. But you’ve got a deal. It doesn’t matter if it takes all day either. If by the end of today you have made it down one time without falling, you get the stuffy.”
“Not once. Got it. Can I have one for every time I don’t fall?”
“No. But,” I continued, eyeing the larger mountain to our left, “If you go with me on that chair lift, all the way to the top, and ski down the green with me, then no matter how many times you fall, I will get you a second one.”
“So two total?”
“Yes, H-. If you don’t fall on this short one, and you simply go with me on the long one, you will get two stuffies.”
She agreed and we eventually boarded the longer lift. She seemed in awe of how much longer it was. I’m sure she was not looking forward to skiing down the mountain.
This green run took me about thirty seconds to make it down if I didn’t stop.
My mother, H-, and I took one and a half hours. Well, that’s not true. After about an hour, my mother just left us, unable to believe my treatment of H-.
H- cried most of the way. She fell about every ten feet. Only rarely did I help her up. At one point some stranger lady began giving H- tips, I didn’t acknowledge her existence. Probably five minutes went by before hah-sah-tahn concluded it was best to leave.
Are you getting the picture? I was aware that I was coming off as literally employing every horrible parenting tool out of the tool-bag. To these people, I was the tool. But they were mistaken.
See, they thought I was trying to teach H- how to ski. Far from it. It’s possible H- may never really take to skiing like I want her to. Instead, I was teaching her to have character. (Something I’m especially glad I did, considering I have since learned that none of you have it.)
Again, an hour an a half later, the last thirty minutes of which my dad and mom spent actively debating my sanity, H- and I finally made it to the point where she could see the bottom. Naturally she fell at that point.
“Get up,” I said.
Then, totally surprising me (for what reason, I do not know–this was the skill I was teaching) I hear her say to herself, “Okay. There’s the bottom. You can do this.”
I had to look away lest she see my joy; better for her to harbor whatever kind of ill will little girls can have for their fathers at this moment.
During the late lunch she further surprised me by suggesting that she probably shouldn’t get the stuffy because it took so long.
“A deal’s a deal, H-.”
Then she asked if after we go together a few more times on the bunny hill if she could try going by herself–after we ride up together.
Overall, H- did not take to skiing like my younger brother did at her age. She doesn’t turn much.
But she has something you don’t. And she will not forget it.
PS – The conversation with my friend didn’t go well, or develop at all really. We met. I barely and playfully broached the topic, and he said, “I’ve already replied.” It reminded me that he definitely carries the fire. But it also made me sad. Because I love conversation.
My good friend and I are trying to civilly gain some understanding of each other’s opposed views which have surfaced alongside this whole “March for Our Lives” thing. If you didn’t see, he left a much-welcomed and presumably expensive comment on yesterday’s post.
We belong to the same Toastmaster’s club, having serendipitously met there some six years ago. Tomorrow morning after the meeting we both have time to chat. In order to make the short time we have most fruitful, I wanted to respond to his thoughts here. I also cannot deny that I think our back-and-forth is the best one on the internet at the moment. Enjoy!
To begin, a word of caution. Please, please do not hear my assertions in the tone of, “I am god.” Instead, here me say, “This is how I see it.” We clearly disagree on many things; I am aware of this. Even after your thorough comment though, I am not sure you understand how I see it. My reasons for not being sure include that you didn’t say, “Well, Pete, we’re coming at this from two totally different angles. You’re taking a more philosophical approach, and I’m operating within the practical, legal approach. I’m also not even sure we are addressing the same problem.” Or some such thing. Maybe that’s what you do think. Time will tell.
That said, to be as clear as I can be, for me (and the status quo which I portend to represent) the issue is not gun violence. Moreover, I don’t think stating this makes me incompetent or ignorant or any other unbecoming trait. Nor do I think anything you have written marks you in such a way.
When I write, “I want these shootings to stop too,” I do not have in mind that I would prefer the violence to be committed by some other weaponry. More specifically, I guess I could have said, “I want the instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans (or any folks standing on American soil) who are attempting to better themselves to stop.”
It’s intriguing to discover that I fight my seminary professors’ views on the Bible for the same reason that I debate you about the second amendment.
While I am happy to see such a thought-out defense of some position on an issue that it would include taking into consideration grammar conventions of the late eighteenth century, I would never go that route. I would never go that route for the foremost reason that grammar conventions are nothing more than completely baseless speculations, unless you can show me that the writers included a legend or key of some sort–in which case the very conventions you highlight are no longer unfounded and speculative conventions but actual fact.
If the Constitution (icapitalizedtheenglishlettercatthebeginningofthewordconstitutiontoindicateimeanamericas), if the Constitution included some sort of definition of terms similar to what you wrote, then I have no way to disagree with what you wrote about the value of capitalization in interpretation. (And perhaps they did, though I have not ever heard of that section). If they did not, then I, and everyone with my point of view, am free to say, “I’m sorry, friend, but people do not live or die because of capital letters, and neither did the founders want us to think they thought so.”
Words matter, not their shape on paper.
Additionally, when I say, “the amendment,” I do not meant to claim that I know what the second amendment means in the sense with which you shared in your self-declared legal opinion. Besides what I wrote in that post, I believe that (philosophically) the law is the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free. With the so-called Bill of Rights, and specifically the second amendment, I believe we have, within the law and as one particular law, some one designated arena which the law is not–that being arms. In other words, I believe that in the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free, the second amendment declares that when it comes to arms, the law has no place. Put another way, I believe that the second amendment (along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights) declares (both philosophically and actually) that there are some rights which if given up do not beget freedom.
The beautiful part of the Constitution, and by beautiful I mean spectacular, is that it provides for change. And here is the pay dirt.
The founders lived in a pre-hyrdogen bomb world. Yesterday former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens advocated repealing the second amendment in a NY Times op-ed piece which featured an image of a musket juxtaposed against an AR-15. Ultimately the ex-Justice and I see the same reality. But he did not make the not the proper comparison. The proper comparison would have been that of the most destructive weapon of 1791 and the most destructive weapon of 2018. I’m imagining an image of a cannon vs. a mushroom cloud. One reason the second amendment could be repealed these days (and along these lines I think I might be fine with it being repealed) is because guns are melted by hydrogen bombs. Life is, I believe, fundamentally and irrevocably different today. The American people do not stand a chance against some dystopian American tyranny. Who are we fooling?
Do I think the American founders knew that future battlefields would be able to be melted by the heat equivalent to that of the surface of the sun when I support the Constitution so dogmatically? Do folks who think these weekend marches are pointless think the Constitution should never be changed? No to both questions. But I do think that the Constitution writers showed almost divine philosophical foresight in their writing, and I kindly ask that you re-consider whether these shootings (or, “these instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans ((or folks on American soil)) who are attempting to better themselves”) can be stopped by anything less than a re-evaluation of whether the overall arms circumstance on planet Earth has changed since the Constitution was written.
If so, amend.
If not, look in a different direction to stop the shootings.
Perhaps towards Christ.
In my last two posts (three if you include the book review) I have done my best to indicate that while I disagree with you, I do hear what you’re saying. I’m now asking, do you hear me?
In a surprising turn of events for me, whereas I initially wanted to effectively smear your claim, I have instead concluded that at the root of your claim, you are calling for the law. This is a very reasonable claim, a very humane claim. But there is a problem with it.
You think these shootings, the school ones especially, evidence that we are living in a state of chaos–in some situation similar to that which is before the law–and you desire to do something about it.
However, the law is already here. We are not in a state of chaos in the United States of America. Several hundred, perhaps even one thousand people have broken the law in the last twenty years in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. This is new, yes, but it is not chaos.
Hear me now. These events do not indicate that we have returned to the state of nature. They do not even indicate that we are in a trajectory towards the return to the state of nature.
Do you hear me? I’m asking you to listen. I listened to you. It’s the least you can do.
The law is not determined by elections. You (meaning literally you, the person reading this, and not meaning the generic “anyone”), you cannot vote the law out or in.
What to do?
The only option you have is to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that is a very real option which I do believe we (you and I–folks who disagree) should examine through civil discourse. But I wonder if you even know how it is done? If you do not, then you definitely are in no position to accomplish this possibly desirable task.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but I say this is the only option you have because I believe that every other option is anarchy–a subversive dismantling of the law. And this dismantling is a step in the opposite direction of what you want if you really want to keep certain firearms out of the hands of civilians while in the hands of the warriors.
In pictures from the marches, I saw a sign which said, “America, the world is watching.”
Do you hear them?
If you amend the Constitution, then we follow the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of our founders and teach the watching world the law. If you pass any other legislation–any whatsoever–then we demonstrate that we do not value the law. This, again, is the opposite of what you have said you desire.
And this is the precise point of disagreement.
Do you hear me?
The amendment is the precise point because I am confused by why you think there is any other option. I will listen and read anything you have which you think will help me see your point more clearly. I want the shootings to stop as much as you do.
Do you hear me?