Thursday, May 06, 2010

Absolutism: Gun Rights and Terrorists

Absolutism is a position that holds under any and all conditions, allows no exceptions for any reasons, circumstances, or possibilities. An absolutist is one who holds such positions.

Should known or suspected terrorists be permitted to fly on airplanes?
Should known or suspected terrorists be permitted to buy guns?

Reasonable people would say no to both questions.

There are folks in Congress who answer no to the first question but yes to the second.  Absurd? Yes. But it illustrates the nature of absolutism.

The National Rifle Association and those in Congress it has bought or sufficiently intimidated are absolutists, along with any who might be absolutists by conscience or conviction.

Beware of absolutists in politics -- and religion.

For a delightful look at terrorists and their right to buy guns, see:

 or Toles' cartoon in the Washington Post:

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sarah Palin Right About Something?

Her I'll let somebody else say it:

Insufficient Information and Bad Thinking

Suppose 87% of the people in  Strange county jail are people with bright fuchsia eyes though they constitute  only 2% of the population. Seems like something is wrong here. But suppose that 87% of the crimes in the county are committed by people with  bright fuchsia eyes. As my Dad would say, "That brings on more talk."  Doesn't seem so wrong, unjust, or unexpected now does it?

We need all relevant information to avoid confusion and bad thinking.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

I Am Opposed to Celebrating Independence Day: A Response to the Furor Over Confederate History Month

Since I did not  support Confederate History Month (though a southerner), I am opposed to celebrating  the Fourth of July. This is a nation whose original constitution regarded enslaved black people  as 3/5 of a person, a nation that committed near genocide against Native Americans. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Only property owning white males voted. The vote was not given to women until 1922. Women still do not have equal rights in all areas of life. Many churches deny them ordination to the ministry; their pay  in many jobs still lags behind that of men. Homosexuals have been and still are treated badly and often are subject to violence and cruelty, denied basic rights, e. g., to marry.

We are still a racist county in many ways. Theologians both North and South defended slavery on the basis of Scripture and natural law well into the middle of the 19th century.  Slavery existed in both North and South.  Especially New England, but also  New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, got wealthy in the slave trade. 
To this day, it's difficult to find an old North institution of any antiquity that isn't tainted by slavery. Ezra Stiles imported slaves while president of Yale. Six slave merchants served as mayor of Philadelphia. Even a liberal bastion like Brown University has the shameful blot on its escutcheon. It is named for the Brown brothers, Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses, manufacturers and traders who shipped salt, lumber, meat -- and slaves.
Soil, climate, and the invention of the cotton gin, not moral superiority, accounted for the persistence of slavery longer in the South than in the North. When the state of Georgia was founded, slavery was prohibited, but envy of wealth in  slave states led to its legalization.
The treatment of laboring people has been ghastly and often violent. Wage workers were left in their old age to fend for themselves. Sometimes their economic status and quality of life were no better than that of some Southern black slaves, whose masters provided for them until they died.
I will mention our imperialism only in passing but will point out that we have participated in the overthrow of democratically elected governments. Especially notable was the  deposing  of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, leading to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the threat we now face regarding nuclear weapons in Iran.

Let us move on to the  unnecessary and profoundly tragic wars in Vietnam and Iraq. We are the only country to use a nuclear weapon against another, though that was probably no worse than the Allied and US bombing of Dresden in WWII. How does the honoring of Confederate soldiers differ from honoring those who fought in Vietnam and Iraq?

On second thought I will gladly celebrate Confederate Day and the Fourth of July  if they are set aside as a time for confession of sin and commitment to fruits meet unto repentance.

Profiling and Clear Thinking

Suppose than in Banktown, 90% of the bank robberies are committed by white men 80 and older with beards. (For the record I fit that description.)  Would it make sense for police to pay close attention to people who fit that profile hanging around banks? But wouldn't that  be race, age, and beard profiling? The question illustrates the confusion surrounding the current discussion. We are supposed to be against all sorts of profiling, right?

Perhaps a relevant distinction (than which nothing is more useful) would be helpful. If profiling means focusing suspicion (stopping, questioning, detaining, etc.) on people merely because they fit a  particular profile and for no  reason relevant to the crime or other offense at issue, that is prejudice, is wrong. and should be prohibited, as in "driving while black."

If, however, the profile is relevant to the crime as suggested in the example given, profiling would be sensible policing and should be commended and promoted. If would be foolish to ignore white men 80 and over with beards when they are in or near a bank in Banktown.

Sometimes a relevant distinction can clear things up beautifully.