Friday, August 23, 2013

Guns (my other OTHER perspective)

I've written one or two pro-regulation/anti-NRA posts, and I think I've made my opinion in regards to those two subjects quite clear. I realize I may come across as a "gun grabber." This is inaccurate. While I know some individuals on my end of the political spectrum would very much like to ban all guns, even they (most of them, anyway) recognize that any legislation of the like is unfeasible, if not impossible.

I don't want to ban guns. Believe it or not, I kind of like them. But before I elaborate on those feelings, I'd like to address the pro-gun crowd once more.

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

If you've ever read a news article on the internet that is about, or even tangentially related to guns or shootings, you've read this in the accompanying comment section. And you've seen it over and over and over again, either as a response to a pro-regulation comment, or an inb4. 

 The two most common counter arguments that I've seen, mostly just on my facebook newsfeed, are as follows:

"We know. That's why we want background checks on people. That's why we want laws for people."

And...

"Guns don't protect people, people protect people."

I think most gun owners would agree with both counterpoints, much like how most of them disagree with the NRA. It has to be frustrating having an organization with so much influence and visibility, claiming to represent you, making you look fucking bonkers. I understand this frustration, because I've tried talking to foreigners about our government. You think you understand how convoluted and degraded our political process has become, but the international perspective is pretty damn sobering. I recommend trying it. If nothing else, it is therapeutic.

But I digress. Gun owners, I'd like to ask that you make an effort to control your urge to prove yourselves responsible. If we're having a nuanced, intellectual discussion, or even just a quick back-and-forth on Facebook, I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I think a lot of unarmed citizens feel the same way. We don't buy into the stereotype, because we've grown up with guns as a part of our culture (a totally different topic for a different day). We're used to seeing people from all walks of life protecting their property with guns. In your efforts to prove yourselves sane and responsible, you sometimes come across as too eager (crazy). You've almost created a new stereotype. Almost. I want to do my part to stop you before it is written in stereotype stone.

That being said, I'm both happy and proud to say that the only gun owners I know are indeed sensible and responsible. A few of them are good friends, and apart from their friendship in general, I am ever grateful for their knowledge and perspective. They've shown me the awesomeness of firepower, and I appreciate how this has influenced my view of the weapons themselves.

Guns are not toys. They are meant to kill people. When you fire a gun, you feel that power. Your ears ring, your bones shake, and you know on a visceral level that the power to take life is smoking idly in your hands. I've only ever gone out shooting twice in my life, and both times I struggled to contain my evil grin. In short, both experiences were both fun AND educational. Some folks have an irrational fear of guns, just as some folks have an irrational fear of their neighbors.

Guns can be cool. I object to the NRA's fetishism, but I do fancy weapons. I have no intention of owning one just yet, but my weapon of choice would be a revolver. It's the novelty of the thing. There is a wide array of more accurate and efficient handguns available, but I could do worse. I didn't watch a lot of Westerns growing up, so I suppose my fascination lies in the simplicity of the revolving chamber. There is beauty in there, you just have to be extra cautious looking for it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why I Used to be More of an Asshole, and Why I'm Still Kind of An Asshole

As a freshman in college, I came out as an atheist. I was very vocal about it. I'm still an atheist, but if you think I am as scathing and critical towards religion today as I was five years ago, you haven't been listening to me.

And that's fair. Maybe we've lost touch. Maybe Facebook only shows you the few articles and statuses I post that pertain to religion. Maybe you're inclined to accuse me as having some sort of clearly stated anti-religious agenda, based on minimal evidence, because rash conclusions are part and parcel with your worldview.

It's okay, we've all been there.

I have two thoughts I wish to express.

Foremost is that while I make no bones about being an atheist, I'd like to invite all of us to calm down. I'm not nearly as much of an asshole about it as I was before. But of course, religion is a sensitive topic. That's part of the problem.

I don't claim to speak for all atheists, but I do believe I know very well why I was so very, very angry those first few years.  I felt I had been betrayed, plain and simple. I know I've expressed as much, because I've read my own words from that time.

Compulsory belief in anything is a cheap way of winning over anyone. Sure, you have numbers. But "quality over quantity" is a cliche for a reason. Some Christians view challenges to faith as a kind of "test." I suppose that's a much more positive spin on it, but it's still presumptuous and can be kind of condescending.

So basically I felt like I was being scared into a certain set of beliefs. But I found ample reason to not accept the core ideology. Pardon me for feeling frustrated and let down when the best response you had to offer was "oh, well, we weren't really trying to SCARE you."

Sorry. Too little, too late.

But the other idea I've been bandying about, which is only tangentially related to anything written above, regards abortion.

"Whoa there. Slow down, cowboy."

Long story short, it seems compulsory for certain groups of Christians to be against abortion. It also seems such an absolute view of that matter may run contrary to other beliefs Christians have regarding helping others, caring for the already living, etc.

But maybe it's not so contradictory. The absolution has its place, as the brands of American Christianity I've had the most experience with do not lend much credence to the realm of ambiguity (perhaps they should, but that's another topic for another day).

Suffering is essential to Christianity. Remember, Jesus died on the cross. You don't even need Mel Gibson to paint the picture for you. Jesus was up there for a while, and all popular accounts of the event make it sound pretty awful. If not for the fact that Jesus suffered as a man, his sacrifice (as God killing himself/his only son) would ring rather hollow.

One of the biggest arguments in favor of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is that the child may suffer so many more times over in life than they would if they were never born at all. It's about quality of life over quantity. The same goes for the mother.

If suffering is not necessary (regardless of how realistically unavoidable it is, because remember, we're comparing a non-absolute worldview (pro-choice) to an absolute worldview (anti-abortion)) then maybe man did not fall so hard when he ate that damned apple.

Man could not have fallen because he had nowhere to fall from. He is mortal, and that's the big bummer that Christianity seeks to address. Man is and always was an animal. When Republican politicians compare homosexuality to bestiality, we giggle because they (have established a certain precedent for) sound(ing) like closeted goat fuckers. And while that's probably true in some instances, I think it largely has more to do with homosexuality (being completely natural, and all) reminding these good, Christian men of their own mortality.

If two people can love each other outside and beyond the purpose of creating new life, then we might as well be animals. We are. And if suffering can be prevented, then perhaps nature is more awesome and complex than we are willing to comfortably give it (and ourselves) credit for.

So while I may not be willing to call it a "tenet" or an absolute, I will have to say that by and large, I really do prefer quality over quantity.

Unless I'm boozing. Then it depends on my mood.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I am a Floridian

Today I got my driver's license renewed. I am no longer a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I now belong to the State of Florida.

Everything that is wrong in Florida is wrong somewhere else.

The DMV was beautiful, by my departmental standards. It was highly computerized, it had a cafe. It was easy to find!

There were some snags in the form of me not possessing the proper documents, but it was nothing a few phone calls and faxes with my father could not fix. Yes, in the highly computerized and automated DMV of St. John's County, the clincher in me getting my license was a fax. Ass backwards, it felt.

Tiffany laughed at me for referring to the process as declaring "citizenship" rather than residency or domicile. I guess I gave off the vibe that I was expatriating to a new country.

 Florida is weird, and everyone is from everywhere else. The northern part of the state is mostly "the South." The southern part of the state is, likewise, "the North." Northerners never think of the North as the North, but that is besides the point.

What many like to view as the Confederate States of America, I prefer to think of as the Microcosmic States of America. It seems like everything America is bad at, the South is the worst at. Education, pollution, pregnancy (and associated care), mental health, etc.

Florida has been cast in a negative light recently, and deservedly so.

But it is important to remember that, while the craziness might be cooped up in Florida, it's coming from somewhere else. It's a part of something else.

I still see a lot of beauty and potential in this state. I could have easily renewed my license at the DMV last week while I visited Pennsylvania. I hadn't been back for eight months, which is apparently my longest stretch away from Berks County. I figured, given my current situation, it was most logical and most critical for me to become a Floridian.

As a Pennsylvanian, I can merely bitch about Rick Scott and his fascist cronies. As a Floridian, I can vote against him and them.