13 January 2011

January shorts

The first thing I did this morning was to see what President Obama said in his address to the memorial meeting held yesterday evening (in the middle of our night) at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I was so grateful for both tone and content of his message. I posted the video to my profile on the social networking site vkontakte.ru that I use to keep in touch with most of my students.

In comparison with his remarks, much of the rhetorical noise around the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents, a shooting that left six of them dead, shrank back into perspective. If the only way politicians can criticize overwrought and violent rhetoric is to use more of their own, how are they helping? Of course, you and I would never use inflammatory rhetoric; it's only over the top when it is coming our way!--and then we can say, with serene righteousness, whatever we want to defend ourselves. Nobody has had more hard-core offensive rhetoric aimed at him or her than Obama, and I deeply appreciated his putting the priority on healing rather than hitting back.

I'm not arguing for lazy sentimentality. There are people in the USA who come very close to arguing that current White House policies justify armed rebellion. Right now, most of that noise is coming from the radical right, but not so long ago, it came from the radical left. As always, the poison isn't necessarily ideological, it is the primordial sin of naming one's opponent as alien, irredeemable, less than human. All that, plus conveniently forgetting that a certain percentage of the audience does not know how to deal with metaphors. If you use crosshairs as a symbol, for some reason they think of a gun!

I'm sure that some of us are just the right ones to confront this kind of communication (without adopting the same tone!!). But if we are to live up to the expectations of our children, as Obama put it, some of our leaders need to shift the whole conversation to a new plane--of common values, common challenges, and a common future.

On that last point, I appreciated this post from slactivist.

Winter 2010-11
--more Yalagin Street photos by Judy

 warmer inside...

inside the classroom:

Inside the kitchen:

New Year's Eve:

A sad note about guns.... For years, I've been listening to arguments back and forth about gun control in the USA, particularly about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
In the wake of Tucson's tragedy, students here in Russia are also asking me about gun violence and gun ownership in the USA. For better or for worse, part of our American national DNA is this awkward amendment putting private gun ownership up there with free speech, free assembly, and freedom of religion. Part of me wishes it weren't so--perhaps the part that still grieves my sister's murder with a sawed-off shotgun--but it seems that keeping and bearing arms will continue to be part of the exciting, scary, and messy package that is the USA.

Freedom of speech, press, and religion are clearly elements of democracy, but why does gun ownership evoke the same level of emotional support as those other freedoms--if not more? The "well regulated Militia" hardly seems to explain it. Aside from the frontier ethic of defending "what's mine," there's also a lingering sense, dating to our revolutionary past, that the citizen's gun is also a last resort against government itself, a form of insurance against tyranny.

Whatever the origins of this passionate support for guns, it seems useless to argue that it shouldn't exist. Dozens of shocking episodes of gun violence have come and gone and the U.S. gun lobby seems as strong as ever. But all other constitutional freedoms have their defined limits: speech cannot incite riots; press cannot libel; assemblies can be regulated as to time and place. After due process, even the sacred right to vote can be denied. Can we now find a critical mass, including gun owners, that will come together and define what IS and is NOT meant by "infringing" the Second Amendment? Yes, you have a right to keep and bear arms. But we collectively have a right to do whatever it reasonably takes to restrain you, or your unbalanced neighbor, from spraying bullets in the direction of our fellow citizens--especially our children! Where is the lobby for this right?

"The best of NASA space shuttle videos."

"Decency, hope, friendship: the real story from Moscow's race riots."

"Everything you think you know about the Dark Ages is wrong." Thanks to J. Christina Hodgson (via Facebook) for the reference.

"Roots of Contemplation/Roots of Action," a Quaker study retreat at Mt. Angel, Oregon, March 4-6.

A wonderful match of voice and guitar and band... Michael Burks in Denmark.


Karen Street said...

Are there not the seeds of violence in obtaining information from sources that say that we readers are special somehow in a positive way, and that others are special somehow in a negative way?

Johan Maurer said...

Karen--yes, the seeds of violence are present anytime we manipulate people.

One of the things that makes good marketing ethical is that it doesn't depend on manipulation; instead it seeks the right market by building the audience's capacity for true discernment. Then they can presumably make the best choices based on their values and interests, rather than through the trickery of someone with a hidden agenda.

Some might say that ALL attempts to influence or persuade have the seeds of violence in them. I guess I'd prefer to say that since we apparently live in contexts of limited and unevenly distributed resources, all life has the risk of violence. That's in part why evangelism is so crucial; in God we do not live to acquire, we live to love.

Carol H. said...

Thank you for reminding me of slacktivist, Johan. I discovered him when I was writing a term paper for my ESR studies on the Left Behind series. I've put links to two of his posts on my Facebook page.

And, thank you, Judy, for the wonderful pictures. I want to come. I want to come see it for myself! I can't explain it. I just want to come!

Jeremy Mott said...

Jeremy Mott said:
I think we must not entirely give up
on restricting gun freedom in the
U.S.A. We probably will have no success for many years, perhaps until after most of those reading this are dead. Still, we must begin.
Even without changing or repealing the 2nd Amendment, there are some
entirely reasonable laws that might be passed.
For one thing, the possession and use of assault weapons and
automatic weapons (including extended ammunition clips) should
be severely restricted or forbidden. For another thing,
children under the age of 16 should
not be allowed to possess or use handguns, and those under the age of 14 should not be allowed to
possess or use long guns. Even these ages are much higher than we
allow for driving a car. And the
verification systems for mental illness, as well as its treatment, are woefully inadequate. Surely,
a child under 21 should have training and a license to use a
gun of any kind.
If we don't begin pressing for restrictions of these kinds, we
will never succeed in obtaining
them. The NRA will not be all-
powerful forever.
I am in tears for my country.
I live a few miles from Blacksburg,
which had the worst gun rampage in
U.S. history. My daughter and her
partner live and work there. Just
because we have a tradition of in-
sanity in regards to guns in the
U.S.A., we do not need to give up entirely. It must be changed.
Jeremy Mott