Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gun Control, Cyber-Trolls and "The Banner of Heaven"

"Good Christians"
Picture of domestic tranquility... and political chaos.


"Gun Cartoons and Gun Violence Bibliography"


Dear C,

Thanks for the cartoon.

Last night, I attended a "gun violence" meeting sponsored by a professional woman. Her husband is a top executive with a global corporation and between them they know lots of folk.

Of the dozen people who braved winter's first snow storm, I was surprised by talk of "trolls" disrupting internet discussions. 

Even more surprising, some attendees expressed fear that trolls would crash our ad hoc meeting just to be nasty and intimidating. 

One woman had considered sponsoring a similar get-together in Chapel Hill but decided the risk of visitation by crazy, mean-spirited, Second Amendment "Civilization Saviors" just wasn't worth it.

Several participants described their own nasty encounters with cyber trolls, and one of them -- a very tough woman -- spoke of multiple encounters with a real life troll. 

If "troll terminology" is new to you, these "under-the-bridge lurkers" are aggressively irrational conservatives, incapable of civil discussion and impervious to scientific finding. Their malevolent intent is to dominate-and-destroy by being loud, ugly and in-your-face. 

The phenomenon is a lot like asexual stalking.

Trolls have become a standard feature of America's political landscape, reminding us of Richard Hofstadter's milestone essay, "The Paranoid Style In American Politics." (American "exceptionalism" is the shadow side of ourpolitical paranoia. For a full century nativist xenophobia was triggered by Catholic immigrants who, supposedly, comprised a beachhead for papal empire.) 

It is not, I think, coincidental that southern WASPS are prone to vilify the recent migratory wave of Hispanic Catholics.

At last night's meeting, Orange County Commissioner Renee Price -- the daughter of a police office and a person who "grew up with guns in the house" -- encouraged the group to invite responsible gun owners to our next meeting in order to keep the discussion well-rounded and inclusive.

Ms. Price's suggestion was well-received.

Consider this disquieting parallel...

I am currently reading "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith." It is the story of five fundamentalist Mormon brothers all of whom were originally well-respected Latter Day Saints. Then "the Lafferty boys" were seized by the siege mentality and social self-absorption central to Joseph Smith's organizational vision. 

Acting on Divine Revelation (a practice encouraged by Joseph Smith, a sexual predator and treasure-hunting scam artist) two of the brothers slit the throats of a sister-in-law and her infant daughter because they were an abomination unto the Lord. (God wanted the toddler killed because she too would "grow up to be a bitch.")

In fact, Brenda Lafferty was a mainstream Mormon who objected to the misogyny, patriarchy and polygamy of fundamentalist kin.

Ron Howard is poised to make a movie version of "Banner." When it is released, America will finally have "the discussion of Mormonism" that was assiduously avoided during the 2012 presidential campaign.

It is no secret that a large current of theocracy flows through contemporary America. Less well known is that theocracy is largely informed by Bad Religion. 

"Bad religionists" are readily identified by their passion for personal salvation and their equally powerful determination to condemn "The Damned."  Privy to The Will of God -- just as the Lafferty brothers were informed by divine revelation that a toddler's throat needed slicing -- who better than "The Saved!" to separate the sheep from the goats?

Bad religionists are unflinchingly convinced of their personal salvation, simultaneously issuing Christian "fatwahs of damnation" by projecting their personal shadow onto "The Damned." In this way, they elevate themselves above the God-damned masses just as certain boors boost their spirits by "kicking the dog." 

Clearly, salvation is for a chosen few. 

Mathematician-philosopher Blaise Pascal, an exceptionally devout Christian, cut to the quick: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

Legions of "Good Christians" fall under Pascal's rubric, becoming singularly dangerous people to the extent they believe themselves unimpeachably good. (See "“Are Highly Religious People Less Compassionate?” Also see "Americans, Especially Catholics, Approve Of Torture."

America will not resolve its current cultural crisis until bible-banging "conservatives" undergo metanoia -- or return to the woodwork from which they recently emerged. (Prior to Roe v. Wade, most bangers considered national politics too tawdry for personal involvement: rendering anything to Caesar would besmirch their souls.)

An lesson in need of learning: 
Courage is the ability to live with ambiguity. 
And cowardice imposes "perfect" absolutism as the only acceptable norm.

"The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton, Catholic priest and Trappist monk -  ///

Pax on both houses,


Americans have used handguns to kill one million Americans since 1968.
Mario Cuomo rightly observed that the United States -- over time -- has been the most violent culture in the history of the world.

Shoot your enemies.

Or, if you're old-fashioned...

Nah. Shoot 'em.


On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 8:23 AM, CC wrote:

Are undocumented people leaving for similar reasons?

Begin forwarded message:

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