Two Wrongs: The Desire to Repay Evil With Evil

So the other day I was on my lunch break and one of the people I sit with mentioned that an imprisoned child rapist was gang raped by 20 cell mates, stitched back up, and then had his stitches torn back up so he could be gang raped again. Just everything about this story left me horrified and disgusted, but I think I ended up even more disgusted when the person who told me the story said “Good, he got what he deserved.” When I replied that they didn’t deserve that, they replied that they should get worse, because they did the worst thing you can do. This was probably just a throw-away moment in her day, but it has stuck with me and left me really troubled for a number of reasons.

Look, I’m gonna make a controversial statement here: child rape is bad. However, that doesn’t mean that this guy deserved to be brutally gang raped. NO ONE deserves to get raped. It’s the whole reason why we consider it to be bad in the first place. And just because he violated this principle in such an awful way still doesn’t mean that he deserves to have his basic human decency taken away as well. I have a hard time wrapping my head around how a perfectly normal person can say that this was a good thing. I mean, I think that they probably aren’t really thinking about the implications of what they are saying, because if they are then that’s a really screwed up outlook on life. When I was younger and far more conservative, I might have agreed with their sentiments, but I didn’t even view criminals as real human beings in a sense, nor would I have actually examined what I was advocating. I mean, think about what you’re saying: you’re claiming that it is good for a person to be forcibly gang raped until they are left bloodied, and then thrown back to the wolves immediately after being given medical care to be gang raped again. You’re saying that it is good for someone to suffer so severely. You’re saying that it’s good to make a conscious decision to commit an act of brutality on someone in a really sadistic, torturous manner to maximize suffering.

Society does not get better by the principle of an eye-for-an-eye. Violence only breeds more violence. I’m obviously letting my own faith and sense of morality shine through here, but c’mon… there’s a reason why vigilantism is illegal, why revenge isn’t a free pass to commit crime and why religions have been drilling in the idea of forgiveness as the height of morality for millenia. Awful stuff like this doesn’t solve anything or fix the fact that a child was raped and killed. A proper legal system will determine the punishment this man should receive, and any retribution beyond that should be dealt with as if the man were totally innocent as far as I’m concerned. I’m extremely curious to see how this story would be received by feminists, Christians and especially Men’s Rights Activists (since one of their few valid goals is seeking the elimination of prison rape)… I might have to take this story to Reddit to get a general consensus, but my suspicion is that they will all be pretty evenly split between disgust and gleeful retribution, since this comes across more as a personal morality litmus test than a group signifier.

On another note, the victims’ reaction to the recent Charleston shooting has shown a really powerful example of how we should respond to injustice. When faced with the man who had killed their friends and families, a man who was fueled by pure hatred, they forgave him. Dealing out revenge may be cathartic, but it is ultimately shallow, selfish and doesn’t bring any real justice to the world. Repaying evil with mercy is a truly inspirational act and makes the world a better place, helping to undo some of the evil which was initially perpetrated. As David Wong put it so eloquently, the rape of a rapist doesn’t cancel the other out, it just means that there’s more rapes in the world, and ultimately means that “rape” wins. Just try to remember that the next time you feel wronged – you can get some temporary personal satisfaction, or you can make the world just a little bit nicer.

I know which one I’ll try to live out.

SHOULD Christians Support Capital Punishment?

This weekend, I stumbled upon a news article that absolutely floored me. It was called “Why Christians Can, And Should, Support the Death Penalty” by Mary Ramirez, and was posted on The Blaze in response to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial verdict… bloody hell, I never expected that I would be writing so many damned posts on religion when I started this blog back up…

Look, I can understand why someone would potentially support the death penalty, so this isn’t intended to be a political critique. This is an issue that can cut across party lines (but tends to be more common amongst conservatives). Where I take issue with this article is that Ramirez claims that there is some sort of compelling evidence that makes it so that Christians should support the death penalty, which is just a baffling statement. Now obviously I don’t know Ramirez personally so I’m going to have to go off of some speculation, but I would argue that Ramirez’s political and cultural stance has definitely coloured her opinion on this issue, far more-so than any actual Biblical study.

First of all, she cites a single verse to claim that the Bible condones capital punishment, Romans 13:4:

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (NIV)

It would seem pretty cut and dry if not for one problem – Paul is not Jesus, and the gospels themselves are pretty cut-and-dry on the issue of capital punishment. John 8:3-11 states that:

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Now, I am well aware of the textual issues of this passage, but I quite like a pair of justifications for it: that it was removed from the earliest copies of the gospels to avoid claims of condoning adultery (which I can totally see happening), or that it was a well-known event which was recorded elsewhere and added to the Gosepels at a later time. That said, even if it is not a part of the original passage, I have two rebuttals. The first is that it is consistent with Jesus’ other teachings (eg, Matthew 5, Matthew 7:1-3, Matthew 22:36-40). Secondly, its original “authenticity” should irrelevant to a Biblical literalist, since they believe that the Bible was basically written by God and is inerrant and without contradiction (in case my tone hasn’t given it away, I am not a literalist myself).

This leaves us with Jesus making one definitive statement while Paul makes another, so what should we make of it? Well, I would look at it thusly: Jesus’ commands supersede Paul’s. Paul’s writings are still important obviously, but he still boils down to a major evangelist interpreting the gospels and preaching them to people. This also can go some way to explaining some of the problematic or outright false statements in Paul’s gospels*. For example, read the rest of Romans 13 and you’ll see what I mean. Are we supposed to believe that the Taliban or ISIS are God’s servants because they have been put in a place of authority? Are we wrong to call out government programs, such as apartheid, unjust since Paul says that only wrong-doers need fear the government? Is state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing an acceptable use of the government’s power? Obviously the answer to all of these is no, which flies in the face of what Paul’s actual writing says if you’re a literalist.

That said, you don’t have to throw out this verse by any means – with the context of John 8:3-11 in place, Romans 13:4 suddenly changes from a command to support capital punishment to an endorsement of separation of church and state. It is within the state’s abilities to perform capital punishment, but it is not the place for a Christian to partake in it.

Anyway, moving on to Ramirez’s second point, she decides to focus in on the literal meaning of the commandment “thou shalt not commit murder”. I’m honestly not entirely sure why she does this, because it doesn’t seem to support her argument all that well, but I’ll go with it for now. It seems to me she’s trying to justify capital punishment by saying that the Bible doesn’t count it as murder, because the commandment against murder applies to unjust and unlawful killing only. This… is a strange argument, to put it lightly. For one thing, it feels like a regression on her previous point (and my arguments regarding that point have basically already refuted this point as well, so the more I talk about it, the more time I feel that I’m wasting). This just feels like someone grasping for a technicality to try to justify their own position, as follows:

Premise 1: The Bible commands that “thou shalt not commit murder”.
Premise 2: Murder refers to an unlawful and malicious act.
Conclusions: It is permissible for the government to perform capital punishment.

As you can probably see, this is a rather shaky argument and one that could easily get knocked down (eg, sure, maybe it doesn’t count as murder, but does that mean it’s still okay for the state to kill people? When it is permissible?). In any case, it feels redundant even giving time to this point.

Finally, Ramirez addresses a third point, the defence of society. You’ll probably notice that this isn’t a “Christian” argument, it’s a political/personal one. Now this is fine normally, but for an article that’s supposed to offer Christian reasons why to support the death penalty (and is doing a fantastically poor job of convincing me), this is an out of place point and simply illustrates that she is shockingly lacking in evidence for her actual point. Again though, let’s just go with this one in any case. She starts her argument referring to a movie where someone overcomes conscientious objection in WWI, arguing that the need to defend their loved ones supersedes their convictions regarding killing. This is a fair enough point honestly, and one which I am not sure where I lie: as much as I like Benjamin L. Corey, I have trouble getting entirely on board the Christian pacifist train, despite largely agreeing on a philosophical level.

However, this point is rendered moot when Ramirez throws down the most outrageous sentence in the whole article:

“Did you ever stop to think about how ending the life of a monster like Tsarnaev is an act of self defense?”

This is just an insane mischaracterization for so many reasons. Most importantly, it is comparing two things incorrectly. If she was comparing conscientious objection to a police officer having to shoot someone who is actually an active danger to the public, then that would be one thing (in fact, this can be applied to Tsarnaev’s brother without a second thought). However, Tsarnaev himself is in custody and would have faced a lifetime in prison if he hadn’t been handed the death penalty – put simply, he isn’t going to hurt anybody anymore (and in fact, he’s probably going to get the shit kicked out of him by the other prisoners). Strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty or life in prison, because in both cases, as long as he serves his sentence, then that it justice. Considering that Tsarnaev isn’t a danger to the public, a Christian should hope that his death penalty sentence will be overturned and he will instead get life in prison.

There are a few very practical reasons why a life sentence is preferable to death. First of all, from the Christian perspective, it would be pretty reprehensible to take someone’s life without allowing them to attain salvation. On a related point is that so many years pass between the sentence and the execution that people generally have changed significantly. I’m not saying that they should be released by any means, but what are the chances that in ten years, Tsarnaev will understand the enormity and evil of his actions? Having someone who can speak out about extremism and delusion is far more valuable than eliminating them outright. That brings us to our next practical reason why not to execute prisoners, and that is that Tsarnaev will become a martyr to the cause. This has happened time and time again, and you could argue pretty convincingly that this is what Tsarnaev wants right now – which, again, is reason enough to deny it and work at reforming him. Also worth considering is the costs: many people think it’s too expensive to keep prisoners locked up, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of executing a prisoner, due to the necessity of the appeals process. And why is the appeals process necessary? Because of my last point, because innocent people have been executed in the past. Obviously Tsarnaev isn’t one of them, but in a more general sense, people have been sentence to death unjustly. I know that the existence of people executed unjustly flies in the face of Romans 13, but trust me on this one – in principle, the state should not end lives on the presumption that anyone can be exonerated if evidence of their innocent exists.

After all of that though, I have to say this: Mary Ramirez is more than entitled to support the death penalty. I myself supported the death penalty when I was in high school, which was probably the most devout period of my life up until this past year. However, my support of the idea at the time did not come from my faith, it came from my political principles at the time. However, if you support the death penalty then that’s one thing, but if you’re going to try to use the Bible to justify it and to claim that all Christians should do so as well, then you’ll need to do MUCH better than this.

*Paul’s epistles tend to be rooted very specifically in a time and place, but this conflicts often with “modern sensibilities” (slavery, feminism, etc). It was a reality at the time that slavery was a thing, that men were the uncontested heads of the household and that capital punishment was a common punishment for damn near anything. However, considering that times have changed and that these (amongst any other issues in Paul) are no longer everyday realities, can we argue that, for example, women are required to submit to their husbands or cannot lead a church congregation? I would argue that no, they do not – Paul’s letters were intended to teach the people of the day in the climate of the day, so interpretation is far more necessary than in other sections of the Bible.

Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You Know What

So if you live in Ontario like me, then you have probably heard that there’s a bit of a kerfuffle regarding Kathleen Wynne’s sex ed curriculum, with social conservatives/religious folk going mildly insane (to put it lightly). My parents have said that if this curriculum was in place when my brothers and I were going through school, they would have home schooled us instead of putting us through the public school system. However, as much as I dislike Kathleen Wynne, I actually think that there’s a lot of fuss being put up unreasonably here. Don’t get me wrong – coming from a socially conservative background, I can understand why a subset of people are freaking out about this, but I believe that the amount of things that they would find objectionable are significantly less than they would expect (in case you didn’t notice, there is A LOT of ridiculous misinformation and hyperbole being passed around conservative political circles to try to create a public outcry out of sheer ignorance).

Let’s go through some of the more “controversial” aspects of the curriculum. First off, is the fact that the curriculum starts in Grade 1 (ages 6-7). This might seem a little early to some people, but it’s not like they’re actually learning about where to stick their naughty bits. Is it so horrifying for children to learn the proper names for their genitals? I don’t see a problem with this at all. I think in Grade 1 I was tittering like a madman whenever someone mentioned a “pee-pee” and quite embarrassingly didn’t realize that “boobs” were not the same thing as “nipples”, leading to me to idiotically claim that some other kid was showing off his boobs. Boobs-aside, I was basically 100% ignorant about what made girls different at this time, but having children be aware of these sorts of things is hardly going to destroy their innocence. If anything, it’ll be good to pave future groundwork, hence why they’re starting the very, VERY basics so early. If nothing else, it’ll make for the funniest day of class for a first grader.

After that, I can’t really see anything else that’s potentially objectionable until Grade 6 (ages 11-12) and Grade 8 (ages 13-14), where they bring in the idea of gender identity and sexual orientation. Now I personally do not see the issue with this, there are some that will argue that the intent here is to cause kids to become more open to homosexuality and trans-gender people and view it as something “normal” and “natural”. And you know what… as a Christian man, I say FREAKING GOOD. I’m obviously intimately aware of how difficult the subject of homosexuality is in the church (and for good reason, let’s admit), but the general consensus at the moment in the evangelical church seems to be “love the sinner, hate the sin”. However, the historical approach to homosexuality has shown anything BUT love to these people. What Christians have shown is centuries of exclusion, belittlement, ignorance, outright hatred and violence towards homosexuals. Children have been forced out of their homes for being gay, lost friends, have been kicked out of communities, have committed suicide, have faced barrages of insults, have suffered with AIDS while the government ignored them (“because it was just a disease that affected the fags, so good riddance”), etc. If this can be stopped, then bring it the hell on as far as I’m concerned, and maybe we’ll start seeing less disproportionate vitriol thrown towards these “sinners”. Not saying that the church will/should suddenly become a-ok with homosexuality or start performing gay marriages, but we at least should give them equal treatment and avoid discrimination and judgement… y’know, like our religion instructs us to do.

Furthermore, homosexuality and gender identity IS A THING THAT EXISTS, as much as some people may want to ignore it and regardless of the causes. If anything, Grade 6 might be too late to bring this topic up, since many people who identify as homosexual claim that they knew it at a young age, and the other kids were definitely calling each other “fags” long before this… In any case, it’s obviously a topic that has to be raised at some point, and pretending it doesn’t exist or isn’t something natural (which it is, like it or not*) isn’t going to make it go away or help your children when they encounter it for themselves… or, God forbid, identify as queer in a religious family.

Grade 6 also brings in the concept of masturbation, a very… er… touchy subject for the religious folk. For one thing, it happens to be something that kids are going to be encountering around this timeframe, and considering that almost every man (and a great deal of women as well) does it, it’s kind of hard to call it something “unnatural” (and that’s not even mentioning the damn, dirty apes). It’s also worth noting that it’s a rather grey area in Christianity at least: it isn’t considered an inherently sinful thing, but the argument is that it is straddling about a half dozen other sins, so it’s best to avoid it. Some people, like my parents, believe that this curriculum teaches children to masturbate, but that’s not really the intent – like I said, many kids are already going to be starting this practice by this time, so it’s more meant to come across as “yeah, you’re not crazy for doing this, basically everyone does”. As for whether kids are going to start because of this… well, that’ll be up to the kids I suppose, but there’s a good chance that they already have heard about it by this point. If you don’t want your kids doing it, be sure to shame them for it early so that they’ll feel awful about it for the rest of their lives when they inevitably start doing it.

Anyway, moving on. In my opinion, one of the more ridiculous controversies is how, in Grade 7 (ages 12-13), students are taught about oral and anal sex. Well let’s get this out of the way first – they already teach this in the current Grade 7 curriculum if I remember correctly (or, at the very least, my class was taught about it). In addition, kids are probably already aware of these concepts by the time they hit the 7th grade. Again, I grew up in a sheltered home and I was still at least dimly aware of both of these concepts, even if I didn’t understand why someone would want to do either (and I’m sure my classmates were far more familiar than I was). It’s not like this is a new idea they were implanting in our heads. With access to the Internet, kids are going to come across these ideas earlier and earlier, so it’s important to educate them at a realistic time period. Finally, the curriculum DOES NOT ADVOCATE ANAL SEX. My parents are in an uproar about them teaching the butt-stuff because they view it as an abomination and figure they’re trying to get kids to try it out. However, the curriculum explicitly states not to do either of these activities because they can give you an STI. I believe that by Grade 7 I had heard the old jokes about how “Catholic girls do it in the ass”, and that is a stereotype in the first place because girls try to avoid getting pregnant, losing their virginity (because it only counts if it’s vaginal apparently…?) and/or getting an STI. Letting them know that they can still get an STI is probably going to help to discourage some people from trying it out. Similarly to masturbation, anal and oral sex are things which exist, and science can’t determine if anal sex is going to make God angry. If you want to bring the your own moral compass into it, then supplement your childrens’ education with your own teachings when they get home.

Anyway, moving on again. In Grade 8, students “analyze the benefits and risks of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy”. I can definitely hear my parents saying that this is encouraging kids to have sex, but I’m not so sure I agree. If anything, it’s being realistic and getting kids to make an informed decision, because I good deal of them are likely going to do it anyway within the next few years, no matter what they have been brought up to believe (for reference, I am aware that at least a half to two-thirds of the professing Christians I grew up with had sex in high school without a regret, despite all of them having been taught by the church and their parents as well likely not to do so). Being aware of the risks may not get them to abstain, but at least they’ll be aware of exactly what they’re getting into if they do decide to go forward with it.

However, there are also some positive elements that those who decry the curriculum fail to acknowledge. First off, starting the curriculum so early will actually help to prevent child sexual assault. In many cases, exploited children are unaware of what constitutes exploitative behaviours and so they go unreported. For my own part, we were simply told not to talk to strangers, but we had no idea why or what they were trying to protect us from. I easily could have gotten abused and not realized it. Leaving it at “don’t talk to strangers” also ignores the fact that the vast majority of molestations are committed by family members or their friends.

The Grade 3 curriculum is pretty realistic. I can remember pretty clearly quite a few kids “going out” at this time, so best to get those under control so they’ll start to get the groundwork for more realistic future relationships. Developing safety guidelines for Internet use is also extremely critical, and would hopefully be supplemented by parental discussion. Grade 4 (and Grade 9) is pretty similar in that regard – kids seem to be getting cell phones earlier and earlier, so sexts and snapchatting and various other things will need addressing, PRONTO.

People also seem to be missing one of the overall messages of the curriculum – it recommends not having sex until you are physically and emotionally ready (be that in marriage or whenever, that’s up to the individual, as it should be). Holy shit, are you telling me that this evil curriculum co-written by Satan himself and contracted by a diabolical lesbian who is hell-bent on transforming our children into lustful paedo-orgy machines actually teaches kids not to have sex? Conspiracy! Furthermore, the emphasis on consent is EXTREMELY important in a day and age where “rape culture” is becoming more and more visible, and will probably result in less sex as well. Identifying STIs is pretty important as well, I think we might have gotten 1 day of that in sex-ed back in grade 7 or 8, and I can’t remember a single thing from it. I couldn’t tell you what any STI looks like, let alone specify them.

The high school curriculum is quite good as well. I had about 2 days of sex-ed in high school, in grade 10, and only because I took phys-ed after it became an elective (most people ditch it after grade 9). 1 year of sex-ed, when a lot of people are already engaging in sexual activity and when some of them are going to be giving birth or freaking married in a few years, is woefully inadequate. Even if you are against having your kids having sex in high school, this stuff is still extremely applicable for later in their lives to help them make healthy choices and relationships, and will probably make their marriages more fulfilling.

Beyond all of this though is the major issue of growing up in a world where the Internet has always been a thing. Kids are now getting more access to sexually explicit material and misconceptions at a younger and younger age, making frank, honest, realistic education absolutely crucial. Sure, perhaps you happen to be an amazing parent, but so many children won’t get the necessary information at home, and if we keep the current system then we’ll only continue to churn out children who think that “donkey punching” or yelling “fuck her in the pussy” on live television is hilarious, who joke about rape and sexual assault, and who don’t even have the presence of mind to realize that pressuring someone into sex is wrong.

I’m going to have to put some special grilling towards the Campaign Life Coalition as well, since they’re one of the main organizations protesting the curriculum changes… and because they’re batshit insane. The hypocracy of CLC (a pro-life organization) protesting these changes is that they will probably LOWER the number of abortions compared to an abstinence-focused curriculum. Educate kids on their bodies, encourage them to make healthy choices and provide them with contraceptives, and suddenly teenage pregnancy rates drop significantly, reducing the need for abortions. Of course, CLC is obviously more of an ideological mouthpiece rather than an issue-focused organization, so this should hardly be surprising (their website is also good for a laugh with their extremely one-sided insanity).

CLC’s delusions about kids in Grade 7 still being sweet and innocent is so ridiculous that I have to go on my own little mini-rant about it. As they get further from kindergarten, kids become less “innocent little angels” to more “dirty little bastards” in my experience. Most boys are introduced to pornography when they’re around 8-12 years old, and while I was super sheltered as I have mentioned, one of my brothers and I actually fit into this one like a glove (I was 11 or 12, and he was a year younger). I had an abusive prick of a friend who invited both of us over one night, and we were hanging out when he mentioned that his sister had a porno tape. We didn’t really believe him, nor did we really want to find out if it was true, but he threw it on anyway and… well, yeah… I was too young and too sheltered to get any sort of enjoyment out of it, and it was probably mildly traumatic for me at the time. Many kids stick with it from that time onwards though – I can remember another group of friends when I was 13 or 14 talking about their favourite types of pornos (I distinctly remember one saying they blindfolded a guy and then hid a drop of honey on a naked woman, and he had to find it with his tongue). Maybe I just had really screwed up friends, but it kind of shows the sorts of things you probably weren’t aware that your kids were aware of… and c’mon, if we ditch this curriculum, then are we really going to be stupid enough to leave our childrens’ sexual education up to freaking pornography?

To summarize things, I believe that enlightenment is far preferable to so-called “blissful ignorance”. Taking kids out of this environment might make them accept their parents’ ideology… for a time. I know that for myself, discovering that an authority has held information back from you for no real benefit to yourself makes you want to look into the stuff that was withheld from you. My advice to parents protesting these changes: put your children through it, but be sure to talk with your damned kid about the things you disagree with, because they’ll probably agree with you until they’re old enough to make up their own minds about it. Teachers can influence their development of course, but a parent’s advice almost always holds major sway. Treat it kind of like how Evangelical parents treat evolution already and I imagine the results will be pretty similar. I went through science classes but always rejected evolution because I had been previously taught that it was incompatible with my faith. However, over time, I reexamined the relationship between science and religion, explored other theological ideologies outside of conservative evangelicalism and came to my own decisions about how that all works. That said, many others stick with their initial beliefs, but at least they make their own decisions in the end. If nothing else, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the knowledge gained later in life when they find themselves entering into relationships – whether you approve of them or not.

*And by this I mean that homosexuality/transsexuality isn’t exactly something that people choose, it’s something they’re either born into or develop over time (science seems to be still uncertain of the exact causes). Considering that it happens in nature is a further support that it is something which occurs naturally. Whether you believe that homosexuality only exists because of sin, I don’t think you can make a really convincing argument that it is something which is unnatural (in our modern world at the VERY least).

Religious Musings: Part 1 – TEH POPE IZ TEH ANTI-CHRIST!!!11!!eleventy!

I was extremely close to delaying my last blog post and replacing it with this one. If I hadn’t been delayed by work then I definitely would have put this one out first because the first half of this post is almost old news now… oh well.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve a friend posted an article on Facebook about how Pope Francis said that income inequality was immoral, which caused Bill “heart blacker than Don Cheadle” O’Reilly to state that “I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that”. Later, I was talking about how, despite not being Catholic, I liked Pope Francis’ progressive views. However, I was immediately shot down by my brother’s fiance who said that she had heard that the pope had said that all religions are true and there was no hell. I was pretty floored. I mean seriously, what the hell? Being progressive is one thing, but at a certain point you totally jump the rails and basically just say “religion is the lulz, eh?” Of course, pretty soon this whole thing became very suspicious to me – even if Pope Francis was an extremely liberal Christian, the Vatican isn’t just controlled by him. Why would the other leaders in the church allow him to say something so obviously against fundamental Christian doctrine?

Ultimately, I decided to track down the source of these claims. Turns out that this is a viral story which has spread quite a bit, although mostly by blogs and news sites of ill-repute… not to mention featuring a smattering of duped Christians declaring that Francis is the anti-Christ of the week and liberal atheists stating that this would make religion actually make sense now (what, have they never heard of the United Church and how abandoning fundamental principles results in rapidly-declining membership?). Hell, I even saw a Muslim comment on how Islam is the best religion because it doesn’t abandon its core teachings like this evil pope. Of course, the source article was pure satire, a fact lost on all of the people who spread it (and especially the idiots in news blogs who failed to do any sort of fact-checking).

However, I want to look at the original article and examine some of the claims which were made in it which are actually a good thing without being heretical. In case you need the link to the original article again, here you go.

“In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

This one is pretty much a no-shit declaration, not to mention that it’s Biblical anyway. Everyone is welcome in the church, whether we agree with them or not. Discrimination is the work of humans, not God.

“…those who would dare to turn immigrants away, be they legal or undocumented, turn their backs on Christ himself! A racist is not a true Christian. A racist casts aside his humanity to become a beast, a demon! He is the embodiment and personification of evil, a Satan! …because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God! To reject them to is to reject God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!”

This one pretty much links with the first quote – intolerance and racism are a human legacy which has soiled the reputation of Christianity. A racist can be forgiven of course, but it is undoubtedly wrong.

“In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”

Yes, yes, YES! Discrimination against women in the church by traditionalists is honestly ridiculous. Yes, I know that Paul wrote that women should not be above men, but why does the Bible also give women such prominence (not to mention that women are also hailed as deaconesses in the exact same books)? There’s also the context of those books, at which time it would have been odd for women to be in a position of power in the church. Beyond all of that though, there’s just modern day common sense. Women are seen as equal to men in society now. Women are fully capable of holding positions of power over men. Is God going to condemn us for suddenly allowing women to have equal stake in religion? Somehow I don’t think so.

I think I’ll end this discussion here for now. However, be sure to come back for part two of this religious musing next week – I’ve done some theorizing over quantum mechanics and religion which might just blow your mind.

Quick Fix: Follow-up + Current Events

Okay, due to the nature of last week’s quick fix, we’ve got a bit of follow-up on some of the “top stories” which were in that post. First of all, I caved in and got that Elgato Game Capture HD I had been looking at and it seems to work quite well. I suggest that you see the results for yourself if you don’t believe me. Currently I’m stuck with PS3 footage, but I’ll be getting a PS4 before the next blog post is up so expect footage at some point soon thereafter. In fact, you can always reach my Youtube channel by clicking the link in the sidebar near the top of the page – now that I’ve got this Elgato, updates should be fairly regular.

Also as follow-up, the AVP miniatures game has been announced and has already gotten underway on Kickstarter! I’m a bit torn on it to be honest… on the one hand, the minis are amazing and it looks like it’ll be a pretty fun game. Plus it’s FREAKING ALIENS AND PREDATORS (if that wasn’t clear enough)!!! On the other hand though, the game company’s communication has been lackluster and it’s rather expensive… even more-so with the stretch goals getting unlocked which are largely paid expansions. I mean, I’d LOVE Alien Warriors and Predator Hounds, but the notion of paying 30GBP on top of my 75GBP pledge isn’t particularly appealing. On the plus side though, the freebies are starting to pour in (at present, pretty much everyone’s getting free Facehuggers, a 10GBP add-on, a Berserker Predator [SQUEE!!!!] and almost certainly a model on a 40mm base once we hit 2000 backers). On the whole, I’m still happy about the project and will probably even increase my pledge, although I hope that the news is only positive from here on out. If you’re interested in checking it out, the Kickstarter is underway here. You can also check out the awesome minis on their Facebook page.

Now, onto current events. It’s been a little while since I last tackled a recent news story, but this one’s a doozy which I just can’t escape when I turn on the TV. I’m talking of course about Rob Ford, the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. Honestly, I wish he’d just step down because then I wouldn’t have to listen to the media drag this thing on indefinitely. In all seriousness though, Ford really does need to bow out – he has become an international embarrassment to himself, his city and his country. Saying that he’s going to keep working just makes no sense – does he think that no one else can run his job as well as him? Obviously there’s something up there.

Now I hate conspiracy theorizing, but I’m going to do some speculation so take the rest of this paragraph with a huge grain of salt. An acquaintance on Facebook made a post after the confession came out, suggesting that Ford might have called out a hit on gang members he had been famously photographed with (in front of a suspected crack house), one of whom was murdered recently. Now while I didn’t think there was much to back up this statement, it was certainly an interesting take on the situation. In any case, it is likely that Ford knew more than he was willing to admit to the press leading up to his confession. For one thing, there’s a story going around that his office hired a hacker to try to destroy the tape before it could fall into police custody. I can’t exactly verify it, but based on the information and evidence it presents, I’m willing to believe it. If it’s true, then there’s probably some seriously illegal and corrupt actions going on in the highest levels of the Toronto government. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of a film I watched called Tycoon: A New Russian, where a gangster funds a politician, but keeps a sex tape to blackmail him with (according to the story, it is thought that the Dixon City Bloods have a Ford sex tape as well) in case he ever turns on them. I wonder if a similar sort of situation is going on here which will be revealed in due time… Again though, this is almost entirely speculation and unverified information, so don’t take this as anything more than that.

News Dump

Sorry if this blog post feels a little scatter-shot, but my update day happened to fall on the same day as my two final exams, and so I’m writing this in the time between them… then it’s off to see Kick-Ass 2!* However, in the meantime let’s take a look at some of the wild news I’ve had bookmarked for you wonderful people…

We’re gonna start off with a bit of older news, but it was so funny that I couldn’t not post it. You may remember a month ago that Toronto was hit with severe flooding, with total costs of the damage reaching nearly $1 billion. The scale of the flooding made for many stunning images which were a reminder to all of the unpredictability of nature… nah, just kidding, it made people put on their tinfoil hats and go online:

These were literally the first comments on the article (you can check it out yourself, they’re still the top comments on the linked story). Of course we have an apocalyptic harbinger, because suddenly a flood actually affects you and it must mean that the Bible was speaking directly to you when it said there’d be increasing floods (what are the chances that people said the same in centuries past during floods?). Bruce Lees’ comment is the real gold though, the detail of his post really makes me think that this isn’t just trollbait. If you’re looking to start a flam ewar, why would they go into detail about the “Woodpecker” and “HAARP”? Furthermore, these are actually involved in conspiracy theorizing, so they don’t just pull words out of a hat and laugh – there’s a very good chance that they actually believe that the government is controlling the weather. Even better, they tell us to “read the science people, now”, which obviously will just further refute their special blend of insanity. Then, rounding out the stupid comments is “SCIENCE” who seems to be trying to mediate to no one in particular (and everyone at the same time). Actually that describes them pretty well because they don’t seem to be settling on a point at all: they are saying, more or less, that sometimes people are wrong, but not always. Not the same level of stupid as the other comments, but it’s one of those typical Internet commentators who thinks they can wield a level of control and pacify millions of anonymous people’s opinions. Good luck with that.

Oh and speaking of crazy people, there’s the woman who claims to own the sun and is going to charge us for using it. I think I can leave it at that because that’s another special brand of crazy (…or perhaps she’s shrewd like a fox).

Anyway, moving away from insanity to something more political, I was entertained by an article recently about why the media is not liberal. I know that the term “liberal media” gets passed around a lot by self-acknowledged conservatively-biased news networks (such as CNN and Sun News Media… and, uh, by my parents as well). I don’t really agreed with that assessment, but this article actually points out why it’s a flawed idea quite well. If anything, the media is (in general) probably closer to a centrist position, taking bits of conservatism and liberalism. There’s also the possibility that more conservatives are becoming increasingly alienated by gay rights, marijuana legalization, libertarianism (which is actually a conservative trait generally), etc so so assume that the media is automatically biased against them. That’s just my thoughts at the moment, but I’m planning on reading into it more and coming up with a more concrete opinion.

And rounding out this blog post is a diatribe on the biggest cancer in TV today, TLC, and their 1 hour special The Man with the 132-lb Scrotum. Apparently back in the day TLC used to be an educational channel, but then they realized “hey we can make a lot of money off of derivative reality TV and sensationalist garbage”. Hence a line-up of mindless TV shows about antique hunters, pawn shops, guys making cakes, retarded rednecks and now a guy with a scrotum that weighs almost as much as I do. It’s total tabloid attention-grabbing, exploiting the guy (who is in serious need of medical attention) like he’s a freak show attraction. TLC is a terrible TV network and this latest special just further reinforces that idea.

Finally, just a note on the next retrospective series: since I’ll be done school today, I’ll finally have time to work on it. As a result, the new series will begin next week. Be sure to tune in for it, it’s going to be funner than a barrel of monkeys!

*POST-SCRIPT: I actually quite liked the movie, I know it’s getting savaged by critics (28% TomatoMeter as of 20/08/13), but if you’re a fan of the original it retains much of the elements which made the first movie so good. That said, it’s not as good as the first one was, but it is far, FAR better than the comic it’s based on.

“Best of the Public”

If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, chances are you’ve heard of the batshit insanity which is Conservapedia, a wiki with an extremely abrasive, right-wing, Christian fundamentalist bias. Featuring such enlightening articles such as how all liberals are totally stupid, corrupt degenerates and a list of college majors that’ll turn you into a dirty liberal, the site is clearly totally unreliable to anyone with half a mind to think for themselves – and yes, I’m including plenty of conservatives in that estimation since the site alienates all but the most hard-line fundamentalists. However, Conservapedia does include one interesting little tidbit to be stumbled upon that I’ve been mulling over lately. The site’s founder, Andrew Schlafly, famously declared in an interview that “the best of the public is better than a group of experts”. Unlike most things espoused on Conservapedia, I think that the best of the public is a philosophical idea which actually deserves some examining to determine whether or not it actually holds any water, and to see why Conservapedia might want to promote such a doctrine.

The primary philosophical idea which Conservapedia tries to combat with the best of the public is that of “gatekeeping”. Gatekeepers refer to those who control the flow of knowledge, and can affect the social perceptions of individuals. This is also how experts are created because they are educated within the social system – as a result, their beliefs are often tempered towards the status quo. This also ties into credentials, since having good credentials signals that someone is an “expert” and therefore more powerful on the social hierarchy than someone who has no credentials. As a result, people will continue to support the status quo in order to avoid losing their authority. This is the basic idea that the editors of Conservapedia put forth to support their best of the public philosophy: since “experts” are compromised by the status quo, they cannot support the truth. The public is free from such conflicts of interest and therefore a non-expert can look on a subject without bias. However, since they are not credentialed experts, the best of the public are often shot down by experts for not having experience. In its most basic form, the best of the public actually seems to offer a decent argument for why the public can be better than the morally compromised experts. Continuing this Philosophy 101 line of thought, Conservapedia experts seem to feel that the best of the public are like those who were released from Plato’s cave, individuals who aren’t trapped in a monolithic structure and are able to see the truth that the experts are ignorant of.

However, the whole philosophy has some pretty enormous logical holes. First of all, how does one determine who the best of the public are? Does any random Joe Shmoe off the street qualify? The only way I can give the idea any sort of credence is if the “best of the public” has extensive knowledge of a subject in question, otherwise they’re just “the public”… of course, this dramatically lowers the number of people who can qualify, and overlaps significantly with “experts”. The examples on the best of the public page don’t really help clarify matters any – how the hell is the Virgin Mary an example of the “best of the public”??? Is anyone who did anything without getting credentialed for it first suddenly considered “the best”? Geez, I must be the best Tim Horton’s employee ever because I didn’t do my training videos to get credentialed!

Pfft, look at those “experts”. I’d take ’em all on in a Timbit war, blindfolded.

There’s also the problem that the best of the public just makes less sense than credentialing. Put simply, the expert opinion social structure has more sound reasoning behind it. Experts are considered as such for a reason – they (generally) know what the hell they’re talking about. They’ve studied the topic for years and so should have a good idea of the arguments and counter-arguments within the community. Comparing an expert to a guy who read all about a topic on Wikipedia Conservapedia and then claiming that the uncredentialed guy has more authority on a subject than someone who dedicated their life to studying and experiencing it is just lunacy. Oh and of course, if the uncredentialed person in question is a liberal then they’re disqualified from being the best of the public by default regardless of their stance.

This really leads into the obvious problem with the best of the public – it’s espoused by Conservapedia and therefore has an extreme fundamentalist-conservative bias. Conservapedia’s editors will claim that the experts are biased and the best of the public aren’t, but their entire conception of who qualifies is based on their political leaning – disagree with Conservapedia, and you’re suddenly exempt from qualification. Conservapedia also seems to be at odds with itself in determining the best of the public and experts, because they still cite “reputable” sources on their pages and Andrew Schlafly’s own page is just a rundown of all the credentials he has. It’s pretty clear that the best of the public is just used by Conservapedia as an excuse to discredit ideologies that they disagree with (eg, evolution) and replace them with pro-fundamentalist ideologies (eg, creationism and/or intelligent design).

While the best of the public is probably not a very great way to go about reforming the social construction of knowledge, it does have some good insights. Experts might be given too much credit sometimes, as it’s very easy for them to throw out their credentials or experience and rub it in someone’s face, rather than addressing counter-arguments directly. Ideally, the best of the public can stand beside expert opinion and shape knowledge together… but they’ll have to put politics aside first if they want the idea to have any sort of chance of working.

For the love of God, please put the politics away before someone gets hurt.

For further reading on the issues with the best of the public, check out the RationalWiki’s article on the subject. Just a note of discretion, RationalWiki is basically just the anti-Conservapedia-wiki so it’s not like its unbiased, but the points they make are certainly quite valid and helped shape my own ideas on the subject.

Quick Fix: Zimmerman Verdict

I’m sure by now everyone’s heard the virdict in the Zimmerman trial – not guilty. To a lot of people, Zimmerman just got away scot-free with murder. Of course, “a lot of people” have only the most cursory knowledge of what transpired and how the trial actually went, so this is mostly based on their political leaning, race, emotional state, etc. To be fair to everyone, I’m in that category myself as I have only really read when the case first hit the news and then forgot about it til a few days ago when the verdict was handed down (and then a few responses to it as well). I myself think that Zimmerman deserves to be tried for murder… but that said, I don’t know the whole story. My opinion (and the opinions of others) on the matter has been influenced by what we have been told, and that’s where the biggest issues in this case lie in my opinion.

First off, I am infuriated by how this trial was politicized as soon as it hit the airwaves. Obviously I’m furious that some people might use it as a defense of moronic “stand your ground” laws, but I’m actually more angry that it was turned into a racial war by liberals. This is irresponsible on the part of the media and served to make the actual details of the case itself irrelevant – all that matters now is that Zimmerman represents white oppression and Martin represents the black margin. Of course, the other effect which probably left the media salivating with anticipation was that the verdict would be inflammatory either way, driving up viewership. People are in an absolute frenzy right now, but if Zimmerman had been charged then there still would have been protests from people whining about how whites are now marginalized by minorities, that minorities can play the “race card” to do whatever they want and people would be attempting to keep “stand your ground” laws in place. I quite liked Disturbed frontman David Draiman’s take on this case’s treatment by the media.

The second major issue with this case was that people are infuriated that Zimmerman was not found guilty by the jury. Of course, this is another side-effect of the politicizing of the trial, but what’s important is the legal procedure itself. Verdicts aren’t passed out by people’s own sense of morality – considering how much moral variance there can be between people, the legal process would be impossible. Instead, they have to pass down a verdict based on the laws of the State and the rules of the court. Based on that criteria alone, Zimmerman was clearly in the right – in the legal sense, he was acting in self-defense and there was “reasonable doubt” that he committed murder. If you’re going to be infuriated at the verdict, place the blame on the legal system, because I’m pretty sure that it’s now obvious that the law isn’t concerned with what you think is right. While it might be odd to cite The Onion in a post about a serious issue, I think that their article about how screwed up the laws are is quite a good take on the injustice of the justice system (in fact, I think satire is a fantastic way to “rage against the machine” so to speak). In fact, as far as the trial went, Zimmerman’s lawyers actually acted more professionally and had a better case.

Bottom-line: while I don’t have all the facts in the case, I think that Zimmerman should probably have been sentenced for 2nd or 3rd degree murder. That said, the first part of that sentence is the important part: I don’t have all the facts. I have no real justifiable reason to be completely outraged by the outcome of this trial. I think what we can learn from it is that the law needs to be changed in order to not obstruct justice in the future though, because if Zimmerman was actually guilty then we can’t have this sort of thing happening again.

Free Speech

I’ve been mulling over this blog post for a couple weeks. It has been sitting in an unfinished state in my drafts folder, with little more form than nearly a dozen news sources and a jumble of ideas swirling around in my head. However, now that the issue has largely passed, I think I’m finally ready to put forth my opinion on something which most people wouldn’t really think needs defending – free speech.

A little background first: recently, at Carleton University, a group of libertarian students put up a “free speech wall” in order to promote the free flow of ideas. Well that sounds reasonable (if a little pointless in a liberal university setting) to me – sure it can be a little dangerous, but free speech is rather dangerous in its very conception. However, the twist is that the wall was torn down… by a gay-rights activist. Even stranger, it was not in response to anything which was written on the wall directly (someone wrote “abortion is murder”, which had already gotten contrary response, and “traditional marriage is awesome”), but the very idea that someone could write something he didn’t agree with. He claimed that the free speech wall was an act of violence against the gay community.

Understandably, this caused a fair bit of controversy, not only in the school, but the national media as well. In order to really get a grip on what occurred and why, it’s probably a good idea to go into some further contextualizing. I will then lay out my own opinions on the matter and on this free speech debate.

First off, let’s delve into the main figure of this controversy, Arun Smith, a 7th year human rights student. I had actually never heard of the guy prior to this, but it turns out that he’s a bit notorious around campus for aggressively pushing his political agendas very publicly. Seriously, read those articles. A private, offhand joke to a friend turns into calls to resign for not respecting victims of sexual violence and because his apology was not sincere enough? Seriously? I can honestly say that my sincere response in this situation would be “F— off”. The other one was even more ridiculous – a game of water gun tag around campus (which sounds fun as hell) apparently promotes gun violence. Admittedly, Arun seems to back off a bit on that one, but still, he really comes across as someone who constantly has to push for his unilateral agenda as publicly and frequently as possible. Suffice to say, this, in addition to the wall incident, didn’t exactly endear Arun to me very much when I looked into this.

In response to Arun’s constant antics like this on campus, that some students ended up turning him into a meme (from the always unbiased Xtra!: Canada’s Gay & Lesbian News). While I’ll admit that some of them are funny, the fact that they’re directed at a specific person was exceptionally mean-spirited and wrong (not to mention the medium they went with is incredibly juvenile). However, when one of the guys who started the memes confessed, Smith once again said that the apology lacked sincerity. The student, Deketele, stated that he acknowledges that what he wrote was offensive, but he was intending merely to insult Smith, not threaten him in any way. The following from the article is also of note:

“Despite what [Deketele] wrote in the apology, he blames Smith for publicizing the incident. 
‘If he doesn’t like you he will try to assassinate your character. I was worried that if I came forward he would do that, and it happened anyway. Just my luck that it only happened to me; I’m the only person who had someone rat on them. I feel bad about what I did, I really do,’ Deketele says. 
Prompted by Deketele’s apparent lack of remorse, Smith says he will provide Deketele’s name to police and seek legal counsel.”

Smith also stated that:

“So long as Raphael continues to be a student, there’s still a fundamental question of my safety, whether we’re talking about my emotional safety or my physical safety,” he says. “There has to be some actual justice, and right now there is no justice.”

What I draw from this incident here is that here we have another example of Arun Smith ignoring freedom of speech as a legitimate tenet. On one hand, I sympathize with the man for being mocked as he did (even if it was in response to his very public actions around school), but his response to the ordeal and constant, public badgering of Deketele is excessive. Also, justice was served, although I’m sure that Smith doesn’t really support the police or university management either… from my experience with activists at school, there’s likely the sense that they reproduce patriarchal hegemony. This may be true to a point, but that also just reiterates the subjectivity of Smith’s claims in the end. I think the comments on this article are also rather interesting, since there’s about a 50/50 split between people arguing about Smith’s methodology – surprising considering that the articles were published on an extremely biased news site, as I mentioned (not picking on gay news outlets in particular, just any overtly biased news site in general… don’t worry, I’ll piss off the right-wingers soon enough when I call out Sun News Network).

Finally, Smith was also involved in a protest against allowing anti-abortion groups on campus. I think it would be irresponsible for me to go much further without admitting that I’m personally against abortion, but at the same time I don’t believe that I should be dictate what people do with their bodies… so I guess that makes me technically pro-choice? I dunno, clearly the whole issue is more complicated than the opposing sides would like to make us think. Anyway, the Carleton University Students Association’s view on the matter was that:

“It looks like it will finally help them respect the free speech of pro-life students,” Richmond says. “If you’re saying that a group cannot have the same privileges as other groups on campus simply because they take a particular stance on a human rights issue . . . that equates to discrimination.”

Honestly… I’m inclined to agree with them. You by no means have to agree with pro-lifers, but as long as they’re not being abusive or hateful then I don’t see why a group should be banned from the campus. I mean, a few years ago Anne Coulter tried to come and speak at Carleton, but she was banned before she could. However, despite being staunchly left-wing and considering Coulter to be a complete idiot, I was one of the few who actually supported her coming. Why? Simply because she has the right to free speech. By shutting her out, you’re turning her into a bit of a martyr. Furthermore, those who were going to see her are likely inclined to agree with her opinions in the first place, so banning her from the university is not going to change anyones’ opinions on the matter. Similarly, banning anti-abortion organizations from the university doesn’t change anyones’ attitudes – it’s just hiding them at best. Also, I’m not entirely sure of the exact reasoning why allowing anti-abortion groups creates an unsafe place for homosexuals on campus (which is what Smith’s position in the article is about), as long as these groups are kept from making hateful comments. There’s an argument that these groups do not believe their conduct to be discriminatory, but… I dunno. The abortion debate is a clusterf–k of ideologies clashing all over, and I really don’t want to get into it much further beyond this.

Anyway, all of this happened before the wall incident, and so I believe that these incidences pretty conclusively suggest that Arun Smith views freedom of speech as a hostile idea to his own ideology. Smith seems to support the typical issues of gay-rights and women’s-rights activist would be expected to uphold… although he also seems to take this to the extreme, being a very confrontational individual who might be doing more harm just because he has projected a very distastefully unilateral public persona of himself. Anything which could potentially infringe upon his political agenda is seen as a target which must be eliminated at any cost. This is, of course, great if you agree with his narrow point of view, but he does not seem to want to try to convert others to his cause, being more likely to just shoehorn people into it instead. This is just what I have gleaned from my research, but based on what I have read and heard from others, it sounds fairly accurate.

Moving back to the free speech wall, I think the reasons for Smith’s tearing down the wall are pretty apparent, especially considering that he now considers Carleton an “unsafe space” since CUSA changed its abortion stance to “neutral”. However, I think that Smith really overstepped his bounds on this one. In fact, the only overt references to sexuality on the wall were pro-gay. As a result, Smith is putting his own opinion ahead of not only those he disagrees with, but of other gays who support free speech as well. Honestly, it’s a hypocritical and one which I really cannot say was justified at all in this case.

Smith will argue that free speech will inevitably lead to hate speech and that society has created inequality. My response to this is two-fold. For one thing, hate speech is an unfortunate trade-off of free speech, but it is also balanced by many, many positives in the other direction. On the other hand society, the thing that Smith is so abjectly against, ensures that hate speech is mitigated as much as possible. Furthermore, society is a social construction – we cannot expect our sole opinion to govern the process, and we honestly shouldn’t expect it to. Competition of ideas generally leads to a more neutral ground which will please a larger number of people… after all, we’re living in a nation built up of the opinions of tens of millions. Put simply, free speech is one of the best things about this society that we live in because it allows our ideas to get out there and for us to decide for ourselves what we will think… I think your activist predecessors would have much reverence for the notion.

Anyway… I think people put too much effort into university politics. In closing, I’ll leave a link to another person’s thoughts on the matter which I found quite interesting… except for the part about Sun News Network being a great, unbiased source of news. Seriously, wtf?

Quick Fix: More Gun Stuff

I’m getting tired of ranting about gun control on here, so I promise I’ll move on to something else soon. However, I keep getting caught up on it because there is a lot of talk about it in the media and current events are constantly relating to it. For example, today I heard on CBC news a story about a 12 year old boy who shot his brother. My initial reaction was actually that it was a murder case, but it’s looking like it’s actually another gun control and safety issue. Unless the owners had the gun and ammunition stored separately in a locked cabinet and the kids just circumvented these restrictions (which I’m not inclined to believe), this is a pretty clear case of poor gun safety. I’m not a gun owner myself at the moment, but my aunt is, and she drilled into us as kids (much to our disappointment) that you are to keep your guns locked up, out of reach and unloaded. Oddly enough, Sun News Network of all sources backs me up on this issue.

So while gun control is a priority (in the US at least), gun safety is a key issue as well – banning assault weapons won’t stop people from being complete morons and leaving loaded handguns lying around their kitchens and closets. Gun education should be stressed as well, especially among owners with family.

Opinion: Stop Harper’s “Crimes Against Humanity”

Preface: I am not a conservatively-biased person. I tend to swing towards far left of the political spectrum, but that doesn’t stop me from agreeing/disagreeing with issues on either side. I would also like to say that while I would not vote Conservative, I think that Harper is probably our best candidate for Prime Minister – he is a very shrewd politician and hasn’t had any major personal gaffes in his term in office (pretty amazing, especially considering the socially networked world we live in now). I’d prefer a Conservative-led minority government over one of the alternative parties taking power.

As a Canadian university student, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that I frequently hear people espousing their denouncement of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies. Most recently, a campaign has been going around campus called “Stop Harper’s Crimes Against Humanity”, and it’s hard to find someplace on campus where someone hasn’t plastered one of those stickers on the wall. Like I said in the preface, I don’t really like or support the Conservative party all that much, but the campaign left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth from the start – what supposed “crimes” has Harper committed? Of the small bullet-points listed on the sticker, none of them were “crimes” at all. Of course, this prompted me to actually check out their website and investigate for myself… and I’ve gotta say, my initial reaction wasn’t really challenged very much by the result.

The page lists the “Top 10 crimes against humanity” which Harper has committed, so I’ll go through each of these briefly. The first is the blocking of climate change bills and environmental destruction, which I actually find the hardest to refute. It seems as if the Conservative government does not care about climate change (probably because it’s a prisoner’s gambit), and doesn’t really give much ground on the issue. I won’t try to defend them on that issue. That said, this is clearly not a crime against humanity, unless you’re an environmentalist.

The second “crime” is probably the one I take the most offense to, that Harper is promoting “endless war”. This pretty much betrays a pacifist bias on the part of the campaign creator, Yves Engler. First, he complains that the Conservative budget increased military spending… which is kind of ridiculous to me, because it’s pretty much public fact that the Canadian army is poorly equipped and in dire need of the money. Unfortunately I can’t find a source to back this up, but when Canada deployed to Afghanistan, we didn’t even have desert camouflage to outfit out troops in. Our troops’ equipment has been a joke for decades as well, because of our role as a “peace keeping nation” throughout the Cold War era. Even if you are against war, I think it’s reasonable to not want our troops to get killed because we have poor equipment standards (not to mention that national defense is an ever-present, although not exactly pressing, concern). In addition, Canada really is historically a “warrior nation”: we participated in many major global conflicts since Confederation, so denying that history and branding the Prime Minister a criminal is just blatantly pushing a pacifist agenda. So no, Mr. Engler, as a Canadian I do not support your position on this “crime”.

The third point is similar to the first, that mining companies are destroying the environment. I don’t have an issue with the concern either, aside from the fact that it seems to me that this should be largely against the mining corporations themselves, rather than against Harper. I mean, sure he could legislate against them, but ideally this should be directed towards the corporations first. Again… not a crime.

The fourth point is that the government has lied about the War in Afghanistan. Again, this is a political issue more than anything else. Yes, the government said they would pull out of Afghanistan by 2011, but if they have not accomplished their mission, is there any sense in leaving until it was accomplished? Afghanistan was under the Taliban simply because the West pulled out of the country when it stopped being in our best interests (kicking out the Soviets), rather than educating the people and helping them. I think that leaving before we have actually helped them is a mistake, and will lead to similar problems in the future. Engler also mentions elements like Canadians killing surrendering Taliban and Afghan police raping children. To this, I say it’s the horrors of war… when you have a war, there’s so much bureaucracy that sometimes you can’t prevent police from raping people because it’s out of your jurisdiction. And when you and your buddies have been shot at by the Taliban for months, sometimes you shoot one that surrendered. Not to mention that PTSD and just plain insanity settle in as well, at which point I find it difficult to call Harper a criminal because, quite simply, war is hell. Clearly, Engler wants a transparent, pacifistic, open government, but I’m not entirely convinced that he represents nearly as much of Canada as he thinks.

The fifth point is a little murkier – the Conservative government’s support of Israel. Put simply, the entire situation in Israel’s a clusterf–k with no real perfect solution anywhere. That said, ever since becoming a nation, Israel has been constantly under threat of military attack. I fully support the right for Israel to defend itself, even if it is partly to blame for the attacks in the first place. With that in mind, I also fully support Palestinian statehood, and don’t understand why we can’t all come to a compromise on it. I’m sure there are more political issues behind the Israel-Canada relationship, but we are generally not privy to that information. This is one of those points that is murkier and, due to the nature of the very issue, there isn’t really a right answer. Harper’s inflexibility on the issue is troubling, but he is basically just supporting his ally. If anyone can be pegged with crimes here, it’d be Israel, not Harper.

The sixth point is another environmentalist one, relating to “dirty oil”, the tar sands. The obvious reason for the Conservatives to back this is money. If they can harness these resources, then Canada stands to make a ton of money and create a phenomenal amount of jobs (in fact, quite a few members of my own family have moved out west to work on the oil rigs – it’s big business). Yes, it’s going to hurt the environment, but I really cannot blame the Conservatives for not throwing away a cash cow, especially with oil reserves slowly drying up.

The seventh point regards supporting Middle Eastern dictators, something which also tends to be supported by the USA (to be fair, Harper tends to align quite well with American interests). This one’s tricky because, on one hand, ideally we should be promoting democracy (or something which is in the interest of the people anyway). On the other, democracies are typically dysfunctional, and the fear is that the people will vote in extremist parties which will be against the best interests of our governments (hence the fact that we support them in the first place). I don’t make a habit of it myself, but my parents were watching Sun News Network, and one of the Conservative pundits was lamenting this very thing as a consequence of the Arab Spring movement, saying that our interests in the region have now been lost. I think I’d prefer if a better solution could be brought about, but this point is more against conservative self-interest than anything else. This is another point I’m a tad murky about, because there isn’t exactly a good solution.

For point eight, indifference to Haitian suffering, I can’t really say much. I’m not sure why the Conservatives would want to prevent a Haitian peoples’ uprising, or would keep aid money away from them (in the news recently, they actually cut funding because they want to see the Haitian government distribute it to the people efficiently… or that’s what the official release says anyway). Since Engler’s page isn’t exactly the most unbiased source, I will refrain from making a judgement call on this issue. However, if he is actually giving the facts here transparently, then that’s pretty screwed up (but based on the nature of the information, something tells me that we aren’t getting the whole picture).

The ninth point is basically the same as the seventh, supporting Latin American coups. Although I’m less knowledgeable on the issue than I am with the Middle East situation, I’ll just say that my points in regards to the seventh “crime” stand.

The tenth point is once again in opposition to Engler’s pacifistic side, the Conservatives’ dislike for arms controls. In regards to the cluster bombs issue, Canada generally goes to war alongside the USA. If we didn’t put the condition into the treaty then we’d basically break it every time we supported them (because like hell the USA will ever stop using cluster bombs). In the end, the Conservatives just want weapons to defend their country with (or enforce their interests, let’s be honest), it’s not like they’re legalizing cluster bombs for domestic use. That is something I would oppose with flaming vitriol. So again, Harper is not committing a crime against humanity here, he’s not suggesting that we cluster bomb puppies personally or anything like that. In the end, he just wants less regulation on weapons in order to retain the Western status quo.

The page ends with a final “potential crime”, stating simply “War with Iran?” I think you know where I’m going with this: Israel and the USA are our allies, and it’s sensible for us to back them. I’m not entirely sure where I stand on the issue, but I can understand why we would support them in it.

In closing, calling these points “Harper’s Crimes Against Humanity” is just plain wrong for quite a few reasons. First, it’s hyperbolic, and really just makes you sound like a sign-waving lunatic, rather than someone with legitimate concerns about the way that Harper manages his foreign policy. Second, it places all the responsibility on Harper, a figure, rather than his party. If we went to the literal conclusion of this campaign, we’d throw Harper out of office. Of course, that wouldn’t solve anything – he acts based on the policies of his party, rather than dictating everything for himself. The campaign should simply come out and say as much. Finally, the campaign moralizes political values in most of its “crimes”. Engler is basically saying that unless you’re a left-wing, environmentalist, pacifistic and/or pro-Palestine thinker, then you’re morally objectionable and don’t represent Canadian values. It also is dangerously close to demonizing the opposition, a definite faux pas in a truly reasonable debate, and which doesn’t make Engler appear any better than, say, Sun News Network.While I have a lot of problems with the form of the government and democracy in general (which we can get into later), Engler espouses a pro-democracy ideology. However, the Harper’s Crimes campaign comes across as anti-democratic, like the losing party is just whining about how the one which was voted in came to power (the old “I support democracy, except when I don’t win” issue). By all means, this sort of page is a part of freedom of speech and is therefore encouraged, but I think they’re also a great danger when they contain misinformation and become one-sided and masked political grandstands like this one.

Quick Fix: Merry Christmas Everyone!

Hey, quick post today. Have a great Christmas (or whatever you are [not?] celebrating this season), I know I am. In response to political correctness and the “war on Christmas”, I offer my (humble, as usual) opinion. I have no problem with “Happy Holidays” or any other non-committal season’s greetings – if someone doesn’t want to list out every bloody holiday being celebrated in December, then that’s fine by me. Similarly, no one should be chastised for saying “Merry Christmas” or any other religious greeting. I met a guy at my work who was greeting people with “Merry Christmas” and was actually told a few days ago by a customer to stop saying that because they did not celebrate Christmas. I obviously wouldn’t say this to their face, but my honest opinion to this is “I’m sorry that you are offended so easily by my beliefs”. I don’t care that you don’t celebrate Christmas, suck it up and stop being so self-entitled. It seems to me that instituted secularization is causing this sort of entitlement among people, and it’s honestly laughable. Similarly, I do not like corporate/federally-instituted secularization, on a personal level anyway. I can understand if the government or a company wishes to remain neutral, but if they are telling their employees or politicians how to speak or what to believe, then that is just wrong.

Anyway, that aside, I know I’m going to be enjoying my Christmas. I hope you enjoy your holiday season too! 🙂

Re: Gun Control

A friend I’ve known online for years, Samantha, recently made a post in response to the gun control debates in the states. I was quite impressed by it and decided to repost it here for others to appreciate. If you want, you can read the original debate here. As a preface, I should say that I don’t 100% agree with her (in particular, I think points 3 and 4 are excessive), but it is a very good gun control argument.

Gun control is something I’ve always felt strong about. I posted most of this on my facebook on Friday, and some of you may have seen it, but oh well.

For the past two days at work, I’ve been inundated with people saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Which is true. Guns aren’t sentient. Except in rare instances where the gun is faulty, it’s not going to randomly go off and kill someone. But guns make it a THOUSAND more times easier to kill people. Scott already posted a link to the knife attack in China where not a single person was killed. The facts are that if someone wants to kill a bunch of people, a gun or two is going to be the go-to method. Bombs are difficult to construct, which is why they aren’t used nearly as often. 

For the simple fact that guns make it easier for people to hurt other people, there NEEDS to be a complete revamp to gun policies in the states. Can anyone think of anything else people are allowed – and even encouraged – to buy or have that has the potential to hurt others like guns do? Because I sure as hell can’t.

The second amendment was added because founding citizens were concerned with not only the British coming back, but of the fledgling new government turning tyrannical, and the founding fathers felt that it was best to include a clause that allowed people to arm themselves. Keep in mind that this was in the 1700s when when firing a normal musket meant that you had to reload after every shot. I’m not sure if anyone knows what it’s like to reload a musket – the closest we have today is probably black powder guns. There is a very specific and precise way you have to load the gun that takes time. It can be kept preloaded for a shot (I would have to ask my father to verify how many shots it can do, but I believe it’s only one at a time), and then the person shooting it would have to take the 30 seconds to reload it. That’s the kind of firearms people had readily available to them in the 1700s. The drafters of the Constitution could have NO possible way to foresee that method changing as it was the norm to them. And in fact, the first machine gun wasn’t available until a hundred years later. Shooting multiple people with a single shot musket would have been nearly impossible – which is why I’m sure the founding fathers felt comfortable adding it to the Constitution.

However, it’s been over 200 years since the US has felt any kind of threat from another country invading. The government is well established now. At this point in time, there is zero threat to everyone’s personal liberties, at least coming from a government aspect. Because of personal beliefs some people might feel their rights are being stepped on because of homosexuals being allowed to marry, but that’s a whole different ballpark. So why is it that Americans still feel the need to own a gun? We have a fully functioning military to protect from outside threats, and a fully developed internal police system that is 3 cell phone buttons away. Because of GPS locators, you don’t even have to tell 911 of your location. This is how far our technology has come. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that guns are useless. I fully believe in and support hunters because it’s been shown that the animals that are culled during hunting season drastically help the entire animal population. If deer populations get out of control, then they’re more likely to spread diseases, which hurts more deer in the long run. And people do have to eat, and I completely understand the economic reasons someone wouldn’t want to buy all their meat from a store – it’s expensive. And I’m not suggesting that we stop that tradition. But handguns are pretty useless to anyone doing anything legitimate except for police officers. Hunting with a handgun is impractical. And ok, I guess if people want to show their accuracy or something they might want to shoot a handgun. But is that very necessary? Think of all of the gun crimes committed in the states, and then see how many of them use handguns as their weapon of choice. Hell, the shooter on Friday had two semi-automatic (which is a whole other terrible idea) handguns on him. The usefulness of handguns lie in that they are compact and discreet – which are two attributes someone looking to do harm absolutely love. So why are they necessary?

Oh, self defense, you say. I need my handgun to protect my home and family from intruders. That is an absolute load of bullshit. And here’s why. 

Unless you are practicing weekly with your handgun, you are not likely going to be prepared to defend yourself with it properly if the situation arises. In fact, it’s even more likely to cause problems. Sure, as a scare tactic, a gun works occasionally. But you know what else works? A black airsoft gun that can’t kill anyone. They look exactly the same, and if you’re trying to frighten someone that’s a good method to go. But do you know what guns do? They escalate situations. 

Let’s think for a minute that you’re sleeping in your home, and are awoken by a loud noise of a window breaking. Someone’s breaking in. You grab your pistol from beside your bed, still a little groggy, and start to make your way downstairs. You yell “stop I have a gun.” The intruder is in your living room, trying to steal your television. He had intended to only get in, take the TV, and leave. But now that he hears you’re armed, he gets nervous and pull out his weapon. You now have 2 loaded weapons in an enclosed space, with both people wielding them on edge. That situation could end, very, very badly with either the home owner or the thief getting shot. Adrenaline does not make for a very steady hand. Take that and couple it with a shooter who doesn’t practice regularly, and maybe the shot they meant as a warning takes someone’s head off. There are VERY FEW people who should be using guns as a means of self defense, and those people are the ones that have been trained to use weapons for that exact purpose. Normal Joe Schmo who bought the pistol and fired it once and then sleeps with it near his bed “just in case” is not likely to be very accurate with it at all.

And wouldn’t the above situation – which had the potential to escalate very quickly – have been better handled by shouting “I just called the police, they’re on their way”? That way the intruder knows that more people are already coming and that he should probably leave. He benefits nothing by pulling his weapon, because the authorities have already been notified. What’s really mind boggling is the fact that people feel like they have to defend their stuff, like a physical belonging is that important. Home insurance would cover the damages anyways. So is it worth risking your life or the life of the intruder? No.

Don’t you dare say something about “well what if the intruder had the intent to hurt you anyways?” That situation is EXTREMELY less likely, and then I’d like to refer you back to gun-proponents favorite argument – that if someone wants to kill you bad enough, they’ll find a way. Maybe they’re a crazy psycho killer breaking into your home armed with just a knife, and you’re a regular ‘Murrican with guns stashed around your house. Congratulations, not only are you dead, but you’ve armed a psychopath with a gun! Great fucking job. 

The fact of the matter is that most Americans will not experience a situation where they have to defend themselves in their own home. And if there were stricter gun control laws, the amount of incidences of anyone having to defend themselves in public would dramatically decrease. We have a seriously stupid logic when it comes to guns. There’s an incident of gun violence? Then every citizen should arm themselves. But that’s just a never fucking ending cycle of stupidity.

Gun violence –> more guns in the general population –> more gun violence because the weapons are more available –> people buying more guns. When does it stop? When is enough enough?

This is what, at least in my opinion, needs to be done:

1. Handguns should be limited to those in law enforcement/military situations only. Special circumstances can be made for security officers and bodyguards provided that there is reasonable proof for the necessity of them, and that each individual guard is able to pass a federally approved psych test and background check. All handguns should be relinquished by anyone using them in a professional way at the end of their jobs (ie when an officer retires). Handguns for personal use should be abolished. Handgun production should be limited ONLY to the supply required for police and military usage. Anyone requesting a handgun for bodyguard purposes would have to go through their local police department and would essentially be renting them. Any decorative handgun should be made unusable before being returned to the owner. Any person found possessing a handgun illegally (be it selling them or just carrying them) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m not talking a slap on the wrist community service stint or a couple months. Years in federal prison. This would deter people from seeking handguns out, and make it more risky for criminals to carry them. Any handgun that is confiscated by law enforcement should be destroyed. This is the only way to cut down on the number of handguns already available.

2. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons should not be available to anyone who is not in a military setting or in certain police related instances. There is absolutely ZERO need for any regular person to have them. Anyone found possessing them should be arrested immediately and detained under terrorist laws. Sorry folks, but if you own an automatic weapon, it should be assumed that you’re going to do harm with it. 

3. Hunting weapons such as shotguns and rifles should not be sold in easily accessible stores. They should be limited to 1 store per county, and the price should be set in some way by the government to prevent the inevitable price gouging that would occur. It would be best if hunting guns could be sold by the state troopers or something. The amount of guns a person owns for hunting purposes should be limited – if they decide they would like a new gun, one of their old ones should be traded in for it. This will help cut down on the amount of unnecessary weapons hanging around people’s homes. The procedure to purchase a hunting weapon should be extremely strict – they must go through a background check, agree to be fingerprinted and put in a gun-owner database that can be accessed whenever there is a gun crime (however it should be accessed for other reasons – kind of like how there is a separate database for all the kid’s fingerprints they take while you’re in school and only used if you get kidnapped. The gun database should not be used to connect you with any other crime you may commit but a gun crime), and then have a face to face meeting with a certified member of government to discuss why they want to own a gun. Each gun should be registered to a specific person, and if it’s found in the possession of another person, the original person should be questioned about why they do not have it. Every hunting weapon sold should come automatically with a gun lock so that it can be kept trigger locked while not in use.

4. Ammo for hunting weapons should also be regulated – you can only buy ammo if you have a gun registered to you. 

I realize that this isn’t going to happen. Gun ownership in the states is still thought of as a right when really it should be a privilege. The Constitutional necessity for gun ownership has long passed, but sadly the idea that all Americans should have a gun is much too ingrained for it to change any time soon. But there are a few simple tweaks that can be made to gun law now that would help cut back on violent gun crimes. Like, if doing anything illegal while carrying a gun around other people – even if it’s never produced – was charged as attempted murder. And if the penalty for having an illegal weapon that is not registered to you was doubled, and there was no option for community service. Or even if all states do what New York does with it’s handguns and requires that you have a face to face sit down with a trooper before you’re issued a permit. If people have to jump through hoops to get a gun, and then the penalty for having an illegal one is increased, then they’re less likely to do it. 

And for people who say that limiting the number of guns available in the US will just cause guns to come to the states from other countries, I’d like to point out that the US is the number one arms exporter, followed by Russia. We are WAY down on the list of importers, because there are so many guns that are made in the states that we don’t need to bring them in from other countries. If gun manufacturing was limited in the states, then the number of guns in the states would decrease. Simple as that.

Sorry this is long, it’s just really frustrating to me that people are so selfish.

Samantha also added the following:

This is a whole other topic that deserves some discussion, I think.

I was reading today about the mental health system in Massachusetts, and I know a little bit about how it works in NY since I work in a pharmacy here. I can honestly say it’s complete shit. If someone has a problem, and ends up in the hospital because they’ve threatened their own lives or another person, their insurance company gets to dictate how long they are allowed to stay. Their insurance company gets to decide if they want to pay for them to go to a facility where they can receive long term care, or if it’s not in their contract and they just go home. There are thousands of people who just slip through the cracks and don’t get the help they deserve because an outside company just looking for money is telling them what kind of care they need. Doctors can fight it, but only to a certain point. And private run homes where they can get the health they need are very pricey.

I’ll give an example from my job. There’s a single mother in her 30s that comes in a few times a month to get meds for her daughter, who is 9. We’ll call the mother D and the daughter M. M has oppositional defiance disorder among a slew of other diagnoses. Also living in the home is D’s elderly mother who is diabetic and needs to be on a medication schedule. D works full time, and the grandmother often watches M when she’s not in school. M has been on quite a few drugs since I started there 2 years ago. They’ve pretty much settled on Zyprexa as being her go-to drug (which D’s insurance puts her copay at $80 for the brand and $40 for the fairly new generic). D sometimes doesn’t have the money, and we try to help by loaning pills, but there are sporadic days when M will go without her meds.

This 9 year old girl is terrifying. She was molested as a young child by her father, and has extreme attachment issues with him. For a short stint he moved back in to help, and when D kicked him out, M had a break down at our counter, ripping our posters off the wall and kicking her mother who couldn’t get a hold on her. M can be very sweet if she wants something (the other day she told me that she hopes Santa brings me lots of money), but then she can be vicious. D didn’t want to buy something for her, so trying to be helpful I took the item and hid it and M started screaming at me how she wanted to stab me and that I was terrible. She’s 9 and much smaller than I am so I’m not really in any harm, but the way she looked at me then was haunting. 

A few months ago, D was telling us how the cops had to be called on M 5 nights in a row because she was being violent towards the grandmother. The grandmother is frail, but she’s still capable of getting around by herself. She just can’t live on her own.

D said at that point that she was looking to put M in a home. The next week she came back and cried at our counter because her insurance would not approve M to be committed somewhere, stating that she hadn’t been in the hospital enough times for self harm to justify it. I repeat: M is 9 years old. I’ve heard her say that she wants to kill herself, and I’ve heard her threaten others. She just doesn’t know HOW to do it yet, which is why it hasn’t happened. D even said that M’s psychologists recommended it, but the insurance wouldn’t budge because it was their policy.

So, the grandmother had to go into a nursing home. She’s doing well there, and her care is paid for because it’s for medical (not mental) reasons. Poor D is stuck with M and is trying to cope, but it’s so easy to see that it’s difficult for her.

This is what a lot of families who have children with mental illness go through. My adopted cousin is schizophrenic, and my aunt and uncle have a terrible time getting him help. He was covered under medicaid, but now he’s 18 and I honestly don’t know how they’re affording it. 

There needs to be a change in the system to stop this all from happening. The latest articles I read said the shooter had a personality disorder, possibly Asbergers (which does not have violent tendencies, so I don’t know why they’d suggest that), and also that he wasn’t receiving help for it. 

I don’t really know what I’m ranting about. It’s all so frustrating. 

This article was a good read about the plight of a family with a mentally disturbed kid.

Also, the police response time where I am is very quick, maybe 5 minutes max. And even back in my hometown when I lived on a dirt road, the only time we ever had to call the cops, troopers showed up within 10 minutes.

Opinion: Connecticut Shootings

Obviously everyone’s heard about the shootings in Connecticut by now. Words can’t really do justice to the crime that was committed or the lives that have been devastated by one psychopath’s actions. Offering my condolences is just a drop amongst tens of millions doing the same though, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m anything special for doing so.

Moments after this shooting happened, I think pretty much everyone knew that this shooting would be the catalyst for gun control debates. Hell, pretty much every public shooting for years has instantly renewed gun control debates (which, of course, went nowhere as we have seen). As a Canadian, the end result of this debate doesn’t really affect me, but every time I see this sort of crap in the news it makes me smack my head at American politics.

Simply put: why the hell do Americans need guns so badly!? Yes, “guns don’t kill people” and all that bullshit, but access to guns makes it a hell of a lot easier. I’m all for people being allowed to have guns, but there needs to be a freaking limit: no automatics, no handguns, no weapons in public, etc. I think these are pretty damn reasonable in a civilized society. And for those who say “if everyone had a gun we’d all be safe!!!”… you’re a tool. If there’s a shooter and someone else pulls out a gun to shoot them, then no one’s going to differentiate between the “savior” and the “shooter”, and there’s a good chance you’re going to cause collateral damage. Bottom line: less access to guns = less public shootings.

Also, it’s totally low-hanging fruit, but I’d like to address Conservapedia’s response to the shootings. In their news ticker, they wrote that:

“Liberal claptrap for gun control begins within hours of today’s tragic murders, which would not have happened if laws banning guns for self defense in public school were repealed.”

Well no shit Sherlock. For one thing, you’re disparaging them for politicizing an event by politicizing it in your favour (bias by Conservapedia? NEVER). For another, guns in schools are a terrible idea. Period. Maybe for teachers, but even then I somehow doubt that the tragic murders “would not have happened” if they had weapons. There’s also escalation to take into account – if they go on a school shooting and know there will be guns to worry about, I get the feeling they’ll start packing body armour (another relatively easy thing to get ahold of in the States)… I’m surprised they didn’t bitch about how Connecticut is a “liberal” state…

Also posted on Conservapedia’s front page:

“Will authorities admit whether this young mass murderer was addicted to violent video games?

Earlier this week, the Oregon shooting by video game player mimicked Grand Theft Auto game

That game features ‘mall rampages’ whereby a player shoots randomly inside a mall.”

Again, politicizing the event (but God forbid that the liberals do the same!), but in a rather hypocritical way. They will defend their guns to the death, but it’s video games that need to have laws set against them. Not to mention that video games haven’t been linked to actual acts of violence (they may cause aggression in some, but that does not constitute violence itself… in any case, the studies have been inconclusive). Video games are so common in society now that it’s pretty unlikely that someone who went on a school shooting would not play them. That said, I think some parents should stop being morons and keep inappropriate games out of their kids’ hands until their old enough, but I don’t think they’re going to turn into psychopaths if they don’t… if they’re psychotic, then they would be whether they played Call of DutyGrand Theft Auto, etc or not. Blaming video games is really old now. Start blaming… I dunno… Smart Phones, they’re the new media now. Radio waves are frying our childrens’ brains! Burn Steve Jobs’ corpse for witchcraft!

In conclusion, the Connecticut shootings are a huge tragedy, but I can’t honestly say anything consoling about them. I hope it doesn’t happen again? Haha, yeah right, with the current gun laws and the number of weapons spread across the country, it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when” the next shooting occurs. Even if you’re a gun nut, you have to admit this. America, if you want this sort of thing to ever stop, or at least slow down, then you have to cut back on your gun fetish. Make some small concessions and in the long-term you’ll all be a lot safer.