Monday, December 17, 2012

A look at, and word to, the worst-of-the-worst of the Connecticut massacre pontificators

It didn't take long after the Connecticut mass-killing of children and teachers for the accusations to start flying. There were the predictable responses, across traditional media, social media, and by word of mouth: there are too many powerful guns too readily available to the mentally ill; there aren't enough guns in society. Sometimes people phrased those things in reasonable manners, and sometimes it seems like they deliberately tried to be as abrasive and obnoxious as possible (like, suggesting that the victims were partially to blame because they weren't heavily armed or in the vicinity of weaponry – as if that is or should be a normal expectation for life – while at the same time ignoring that the only victim who was near arms was murdered with her own weapon by her son; or suggesting that said victim, Nancy Lanza, was responsible for and even deserved the massacre because she owned a weapon).

Then, of course, there were the people who threw any shred of decency to the wind, and decided to exploit the murders of multiple children and adults to the fullest degree in order to push their religious or political views.

I'm not even talking about the widely shared screen cap of the Christians on Facebook “observing” that the murdered children were actually getting the “BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER” by being shot – so that they can be with God, of course. While I've got my opinion of anyone who could look at a child's murder as a positive, much less 20 kids' murders as good things, random nitwits, one would hope, are not representative of a larger problem.

For the larger problem, we look to the talking heads, the thinkers (and I do use the word lightly) and the movements whose thoughts become the beliefs of their faithful followers. And we needn't look far.

Tea Party Nation, for instance, was happy to oblige with this screed on the Tea Party Nation blog (there are other posts there in a similar vein; one, for instance, is entitled, “Liberals are responsible for the tragedy”):

If people are serious about stopping this sort of thing they will take a number of steps:

1. Homeschool. Take away the power of the radicals in the classrooms. Makes your kids safer, too.

2.Back Right to Work legislation for the public sector. Teacher’s unions have helped cement much of this in place. As long as we have group think in the classrooms we will never see the end of this.

While there are a number of interesting points addressed in the piece (including the need for a “frank discussion of race” -- from which discussion we learn the ever important lesson that no tragedy is exempt from conjuring the specter of “black thugs,” even if the perp in question is an “evil white kid”; or the bit about how George Zimmerman, had he been there, would have kept those kids safe), these two are particularly noteworthy because of the sheer, callous irony of blaming “radical” teachers and “teacher's unions” for tragedies where teachers died to protect their students. The very same people that he vilifies as being responsible for these types of tragedies were the ones who died to save those kids. Whether the author appreciates the absurdity of his point or not, I cannot venture to guess; but he and others like him are pushing these ideas as if they should be taken seriously: we need only to get rid of evil teachers and teacher's unions, have more “George Zimmermans” around kids (because that worked out well), go to church more often, etc., and voila! Problem solved. Nevermind that teachers' unions have absolutely nothing to do with this, nor did, as far as any one can reasonably ascertain, race: this is where we need to look. Don't ask why (because you won't be answered). Just believe. And, of course, be afraid of those “black thugs” (actual quote).

But it wasn't just the Tea Party Nation at work showing its' “heartless asshole” bona fides. Prominent Republican and former (potentially future?) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and other Christians, were hard at work doing the same, being the Scarecrow to the TPN's Tinman in this scenario.

In the response to the shooting, he said:

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?

Unsurprisingly, attempting to conflate an atmosphere respectful of all faiths with a godless carnage breeding machine, particularly in an instance where the perpetrator was an adult, not a student of the elementary school where he committed the massacre, raised some eyebrows. Which isn't to say that it was not widely repeated. Of course, it was. Social media and religious outlets were abuzz with similar pious nonsense, spouted by a bunch of people who apparently miss the contradiction between a merciful, loving god and a god who sits back to make a point to completely unconnected people while elementary students are being massacred. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association had an even more pointed explanation: “God is not going to go where he is not wanted”. 
 His remedy is to start every morning with a prayer. Fischer's God, it would seem, is indeed a petty, cold-hearted creature, if a few words of praise and adoration each morning will turn his head enough to ignore the whole “free will” bit in order to stop the shooter (which, really, turns on its head the classic answer to the question, 'why doesn't God stop evil if he exists?', but I digress), but he'll condemn to death a bunch of innocent kids because he didn't receive his daily dose of flattering.

At any rate, Huckabee had no intention of backing down from his comments. On the contrary, he reaffirmed them, and took them to an even more astonishing height. Not only is Huckabee's God on strike when it comes to answering the desperate pleas of elementary school students as they're being murdered because he's mad at some secularists or atheists somewhere else, but he's also teed off about “tax-funded abortion pills”:

Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax-funded abortion pills. We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are sinful and we call them disorders. Sometimes, we even say they’re normal. And to get to where we have to abandon bed rock moral truths, then we ask “well, where was God?” And I respond that, as I see it, we’ve escorted him out of our culture and marched him off the public square and then we express our surprise that a culture without him reflects what it’s become.

It would be interesting to remind Huckabee that we've also stopped calling a lot of things that he would probably not consider sinful sinful, if only to hear his response: like eating with forks, being left-handed, having migraines, being a woman who practices medicine, etc. At any rate, the problem seems to be that Huckabee wants to be able to cast guilt-free judgments on particular persons. Excuse me: God wants Huckabee to be able to cast guilt-free judgments on particular persons. And as a result of that not being the case, he will sit idly by and let school kids be murdered. But, let us not forget, this god, whose opinions coincidentally align so well with Huckabee's, and who will let kids die over the “abortion pill”, is a merciful, loving, benevolent god. And I suggest that you let go of any thoughts that that is contradictory...because I've no doubt that too is a grave sin.

But never fret. Huckabee isn't alone out there on the "God's letting kids die because he hates abortion" limb. Social conservative James Dobson's god is also ignoring the pleas of dying children for the same reason. Much like the pro-lifers who are content to see children around the world starve and die while they fight for the "rights" of non-sentient fetal tissue, Dobson's God is willing to let elementary school students die as a “consequence” of the destruction of zygotes, embryos and fetuses. And the fact that we allow people to exercise their free will (that he supposedly gave people) to believe, or not, in God. And, of course, the gays!

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

Ultimately, for these people, it all gets down to this: if only we had more God in government and public life, he'd be saving us from carnage, horror and death. I imagine the crusade, jihad, inquisition, witch trial, and heretic-burning victims of history would beg to differ. I imagine the Cathars and the protestants massacred by Catholic governments, and the Catholics massacred by Protestants, would disagree. Indeed, I imagine any of the victims of theocracy, past or present, Christian or otherwise, would have something to say about the joys of theocratic realities.

So please, people tempted to spout off that your god would have been happy to protect innocent kids if only we did what you say he wants; remember that he's not protecting innocents even in his own house (think: sex abuse victims), nor has he ever. Pretending that your self-serving, snake oil solution will make it all better only fools the already fooled; but it exposes your own cynical motives to the rest of us, and clearly. The same goes for those of you who think that spouting off about the evils of teachers while discussing hero teachers who sacrificed their own lives for their students. You don't have an argument there; it's simply rhetoric. Some people will nod along; but those are the people who already believe what you're saying! If that's your goal, to assuage the troubled consciences of the base that virulently attacks teachers as well as any attempt to regulate weapons, consider yourself successful, at least amongst the willing-to-believe. If your attempt is to sway others to your way of thinking, you're going to have to try a little harder. Formulating a cogent argument, and actually illustrating how your solution applies, would be a good start. 

And until such time as you can offer pertinent input, please, for the love of all that is good, shut the hell up. No, I'm not trying to take away your freedom of speech. You have the right to talk. But please remember that there are people, real, living, people, who are grieving dead mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. You might score some points with your followers; but you do so at the expense of dead innocents and living sufferers. Please show some humanity. That too would go a long way in making the rest of us take you seriously.

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