Sunday, July 22, 2012

Massacres, Morals and the Law

Another massacre in America; another man (they seem to be white, for the most part if not exclusively) very well armed and determined to kill many people, for reasons unclear.  This one was not inclined to kill himself, however.  That may or may not be a benefit, in the long run.  If it provides us with information regarding why we have people so despicable and uncontrolled they are inclined to kill because they are in some sense unhappy, this may be useful.  But there are moments when capital punishment makes a kind of furious sense.  It would not be unfortunate if this man had died, and would have been fortunate if he had died sooner.  No loss, really, if he had died.  In fact a gain if he had died, before.  This is the simple truth.  No amount of fond hopes of rehabilitation makes it untrue.

Are we too accustomed to these events?  Observing the media, politicians and pundits react to this one I'm inclined to think we are.  The responses are disturbingly predictable.  If evil is not banal, there is a banality to our responses to evil.

Inevitably, the question of guns and the law arises.  We're told that guns don't kill people, people do.  This position, taken by such as the NRA and proponents of the Second Amendment, came to my mind with respect to the "Fast and Furious" scandal playing itself out on our riotous national stage.  If the guns of the administration killed someone, and those responsible for providing those guns should pay for it, how maintain that other guns don't kill people, and thus there is no need to regulate them or blame those who provide them?  Don't politicians think of such things?  Many of them are lawyers, and lawyers think now and then, or at least do so when considering an argument.  For money, it's true.  Perhaps those politician-lawyers attacking AG Holder were not being paid, for once.

I've noted before in this blog that guns hold little attraction for me.  I would not care if we had none.  I would not care if we had them and did not use them, even to kill harmless animals for what is oddly called "sport."  I think killing animals with guns is unworthy, but have no desire to deprive hunters of their guns.  If we assume we have a right to bear them, though, it doesn't follow that we have a right to bear any kind of gun or any number of them, and that the acquisition of particular weapons, at least, should not be limited or at least raise questions.  What does one purchase an assault rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunition for, one wonders (or should wonder).  To discourage the government from taking them, or our other guns, or in the event government seeks to further control us?  The idea of fighting against government incursions is a fantasy, rather like the Batman film which may or may not have played a part in the fantasies of this shooter. 

Regulation of certain weapons makes sense to me, therefore, because they serve no purpose but to kill and kill many, and I have problems considering this as some kind of right.  However, the claim that weapons themselves don't kill has a certain validity.  Merely regulating weapons more than we do will not prevent such as this shooter from wrecking havoc in the future.

And so we don't limit ourselves to debates regarding laws, but address what are called social ills, and their effects on individuals.  And among those debates will be debates regarding the lack of morals (particularly as a young man is involved) which will inevitably turn into debates regarding lack of religion.

Assume there is a connection between religion and morals.  Do we compel our fellow citizens to be religious?  That's a bit of a problem there also, from the constitutional and other perspectives.  We are prohibited from teaching religion as well, at least in public schools.  Do we amend the constitution for this purpose?  Some may want to, or at least may want to interpret the Constitution to allow the teaching of a kind of general religion, nondenominational I suppose, but no doubt unthreateningly Christian, in our schools.

Plato, I think, if he accomplished anything kicked the legs if not the Ideal Form of Legs from under the contention that a belief in God is required for there to be morality.  As a consequence, I think we can teach morality in public schools, just as we can teach how to think, without worrying about the ACLU (unless, of course, it believes that religion and morality are one and the same).  Given our population, there will always be lunatics to contend with; there always have been, so far as we know.  Perhaps ethics and logic should be added to our curriculum, early.  It would have to be done carefully, and could not be complete, but teaching responsibility, honesty, respect for others, the ability to think critically may be possible and useful. 

We should be able to agree that at least certain of what have been called virtues are beneficial to us all, and take steps to inculcate them.  Who knows, perhaps even philosophers may agree to such a thing--outside the philosophy classroom, of course, just as they agree, judging from their behavior, when not on the job with so much else they dispute among themselves.

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