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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘newton’

The Sandy Hook Tragedy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The 26 murders at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday have triggered yet another nationwide debate over how something so horrific could happen in the United States.

We’ve seen similar discussions after other mass killings, but usually they are forgotten in a matter of weeks. Perhaps the Newtown massacre, with its sheer number of dead and the heartbreakingly young age of most of the victims, will prove to be different.

In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, most are still focused on the adequacy of gun control measures and the attention paid to the special threats posed by the mentally ill. And these concerns are obviously on point.

Yet far too little attention is being paid to the steady diet of violence and depravity – including depictions and even celebrations of murder, torture, dismemberment and rape – being served up to our young people in movies, song lyrics, video games and of course on the Internet.

While more details about the Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, are sure to become known in the days ahead, we already know he spent an inordinate amount of time behind closed doors playing violent Internet games.

Understandably, as a nation that revels in free speech we tend to be reluctant to dwell on these matters, but a clearer understanding of the long-term effects of this kind of exposure would seem to be crucial in understanding and possibly preventing such unthinkable violence.

In the meantime, we join our fellow Americans and indeed the rest of the world in expressing our deepest sorrow and sympathy to the families and friends of the children and teachers whose lives were so senselessly ended last week.

Gun Control and Gun Control Culture

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Hardly had the blood been scrubbed off the floors in Newtown than everyone who was anyone had begun shifting the blame from Adam Lanza to some intangible social failure.

Back in 2002, Michael Moore trundled his bulk over to Colorado to exploit the Columbine massacre for a general rant about gun culture, American foreign policy and how hard it was to find a shop selling bacon grease by the ton at two in the morning.

In his film, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, Moore gave his audience what they wanted, lots of scenes of “hicks and hillbillies” buying, selling and giving away guns all over the place to illustrate the murderous ravages of American gun culture. Some of those scenes were staged, but it didn’t matter since Moore was catering to an audience that had nothing but contempt for working class Americans and would believe any awful thing about them.

What did gun culture have to do with a plot by two disgruntled dorks upset over being called “Faggots” a few times too many? About as much as gun culture has to do with Adam Lanza, another award winning product of the, “Maybe some people deserve to get beaten up” club.

Your average school shooter is unhappy and angry, irreligious, incapable of fitting into a community and filled with rage that he exercises through violent fantasies. His culture isn’t gun culture. It’s loner culture. Video games do not cause him to kill, but they are how he entertains himself until he can get a taste of the real thing.

Adam Lanza, Dylan Kleibold, Eric Harris, Seung-Hui Cho, James Holmes, One L. Goh and Jared Loughner had as much in common with what the Michael Moore Fan Club thinks of as “gun culture” as Michael Moore does with the working class. Whatever gun culture they had was not the American Scots-Irish culture of the hunter, the rancher and the militia member, but the urban posse of emasculated men of no worth that brandishes weapons as a way to get respect.

The gun culture of the school shooter is the lobby scene in The Matrix, the frag or be fragged multiplayer gaming culture of Halo and Doom, and the Joker killing his way across Gotham. None of these products of mass entertainment make one a killer, but they are also far more illustrative of the type of gun culture that defines school shooters, than anything that Michael Moore and the MSNBC talking heads mean by gun culture.

For most Americans there is no gun culture, only the ownership of guns. To the extent that any gun culture has developed it was in response to a gun control culture that sought to demonize the ownership of firearms. The traditional and religious culture of the American gun owner has little in common with the power fantasies of the school shooter. To the gun owner, a firearm is a necessary tool. To the school shooter, it is a way to stop feeling powerless, a way to get beyond the ersatz joys of killing bots and avatars, of watching Keanu Reeves spin through the air while filling a mob of policemen full of lead, with the joy of the real kill.

But that has not stopped anyone and everyone from opining on the great malady of American gun culture. Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse basketball coach, took the time out to blather on about it for ten minutes. A Washington Post writer named Max Fisher claimed that American gun culture was “unique” because Americans own a lot of guns. That is roughly the level of fact-based discourse on gun culture that you can expect from gun-control culture which asserts that ownership is identity.

The Battle Creek Enquirer ran an editorial which asserted that “The gun culture in this country is insane” and then failed to define what that gun culture consisted of except to say that, “The insanity of America’s gun culture is that in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary, the gun lobby successfully peddles the lie that we are safer when we ease access to firearms.”

The definition of gun culture insanity then is believing that when a dork who has seen the Matrix or The Dark Knight or blood splatter on his monitor a few times too many comes bearing lead, it is better to be able to defend yourself than to be a target. It’s absurd, of course, we are told by gun control culturalists, to believe that ordinary civilians can do anything in such a crisis except wet their pants and hope that the SWAT team doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

Guns, Guns, Guns

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

If you’re the biblically minded sort, then the trouble began when a jealous Cain clubbed Abel to death, but if you’re evolutionary minded, then it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ question. Violence had no beginning, except perhaps in the Big Bang, it was always here, coded into the DNA. If people are just grown-up animals, more articulate versions of the creatures who eat each other’s young, and sometimes their own young, there is as much use in wondering about the nature of evil as there is in trying to understand why a killer whale kills.

But debating how many devils can dance on the head of a pinhead is largely useless. We are not a particularly violent society. We are a society sheltered from violence. No one in Rwanda spends a great deal of time wondering what kind of man would murder children. They probably live next door to him. For that matter, if your neighborhood is diverse enough, you might be unfortunate enough to live next door to any number of war criminals, all the way from Eastern Europe to Asia to Africa.

The issue isn’t really guns. Guns are how we misspell evil. Guns are how we avoid talking about the ugly realities of human nature while building sandcastles on the shores of utopia.

The obsession with guns, rather than machetes, stone clubs, crossbows or that impressive weapon of mass death, the longbow (just ask anyone on the French side of the Battle of Agincourt) is really the obsession with human agency. It’s not about the fear of what one motivated maniac can do in a crowded place, but about the precariousness of social control that the killing sprees imply.

Mass death isn’t the issue. After September 11, the same righteous folks calling for the immediate necessity of gun control were not talking about banning planes or Saudis, they were quoting statistics about how many more people die of car accidents each year than are killed by terrorists. As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy; three thousand deaths can always be minimized by comparing them to some even larger statistic.

The gun issue is the narrative. It’s not about death or children; it’s about control. It’s about confusing object and subject. It’s about guns that shoot people and people that are irrevocably tugged into pulling the trigger because society failed them, corporations programmed them and not enough kindly souls told them that they loved them.

Mostly it’s about people who are sheltered from the realities of human nature trying to build a shelter big enough for everyone. A Gun Free Zone where everyone is a target and tries to live under the illusion that they aren’t. A society where everyone is drawing unicorns on colored notepaper while waiting under their desks for the bomb to fall.

After every shooting there are more zero tolerance policies in schools that crack down on everything from eight-year olds making POW POW gestures with their fingers to honor students bringing Tylenol and pocket knives to school. And then another shooting happens and then another one and they wouldn’t happen if we just had more zero tolerance policies for everyone and everything.

But evil just can’t be controlled. Not with the sort of zero tolerance policies that confuse object with subject, which ban pocket knives and finger shootings to prevent real shootings. That brand of control isn’t authority, it’s authority in panic mode believing that if it imposes total zero tolerance control then there will be no more school shootings. And every time the dumb paradigm is blown to bits with another shotgun, then the rush is on to reinforce it with more total zero control tolerance.

Zero tolerance for the Second Amendment makes sense. If you ban all guns, except for those in the hands of the 708,000 police officers, the 1.5 million members of the armed forces, the countless numbers of security guards, including those who protect banks and armored cars, the bodyguards of celebrities who call for gun control, not to mention park rangers, ambulance drivers in the ghetto and any of the other people who need a gun to do their job, then you’re sure to stop all shootings.

So long as none of those millions of people, or their tens of millions of kids, spouses, parents, grandchildren, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates and anyone else who has access to them and their living spaces, carries out one of those shootings.

But this isn’t really about stopping shootings; it’s about controlling when they happen. It’s about making sure that everyone who has a gun is in some kind of chain of command. It’s about the belief that the problem isn’t evil, but agency, that if we make sure that everyone who has guns is following orders, then control will be asserted and the problem will stop. Or if it doesn’t stop, then at least there will be someone higher up in the chain of command to blame. Either way authority is sanctified, control or the illusion of it, maintained.

We’ll never know the full number of people who were killed by Fast and Furious. We’ll never know how many were killed by Obama’s regime change operation in Libya, with repercussions in Mali and Syria. But everyone involved in that was following orders. There was no individual agency, just agencies. No lone gunman who just decided to go up to a school and shoot kids. There were orders to run guns to Mexico and the cartel gunmen who killed people with those guns had orders to shoot. There was nothing random or unpredictable about it. Or as the Joker put it, “Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying.”

Gun control is the assertion that the problem is not the guns; it’s the lack of a controlling authority for all those guns. It’s the individual. A few million people with little sleep, taut nerves and PTSD are not a problem so long as there is someone to give them orders. A hundred million people with guns and no orders is a major problem. Historically though it’s millions of people with guns who follow orders who have been more of a problem than millions of people with guns who do not.

Moral agency is individual. You can’t outsource it to a government and you wouldn’t want to. The bundle of impulses, the codes of character, the concepts of right and wrong, take place at the level of the individual. Organizations do not sanctify this process. They do not lift it above its fallacies, nor do they even do a very good job of keeping sociopaths and murderers from rising high enough to give orders. Organizations are the biggest guns of all, and some men and women who make Lanza look like a man of modestly murderous ambitions have had their fingers on their triggers and still do.

Gun control will not really control guns, but it will give the illusion of controlling people, and even when it fails those in authority will be able to say that they did everything that they could short of giving people the ability to defend themselves.

We live under the rule of organizers, community and otherwise, whose great faith is that the power to control men and their environment will allow them to shape their perfect state into being, and the violent acts of lone madmen are a reminder that such control is fleeting, that utopia has its tigers, and that attempting to control a problem often makes it worse by removing the natural human crowdsourced responses that would otherwise come into play.

The clamor for gun control is the cry of sheltered utopians believing that evil is a substance as finite as guns, and that getting rid of one will also get rid of the other. But evil isn’t finite and guns are as finite as drugs or moonshine whiskey, which is to say that they are as finite as the human interest in having them is. And unlike whiskey or heroin, the only way to stop a man with a gun is with a gun.

People do kill people and the only way to stop people from killing people is by killing them first. To a utopian this is a moral paradox that invalidates everything, but to everyone else, it’s just life in a world where evil is a reality, not just a word.

Anyone who really hankers after a world without guns would do well to try the 14th Century, the 1400 years ago or the 3400 years ago variety, which was not a nicer place for lack of guns, and the same firepower that makes it possible for one homicidal maniac to kill a dozen unarmed people, also makes it that much harder to recreate a world where one man in armor can terrify hundreds of peasants in boiled leather armed with sharp sticks.

The longbow was the first weapon to truly begin to level the playing field, putting serious firepower in the hands of a single man. In the Battle of Crecy, a few thousand English and Welsh peasants with longbows slew thousands of French knights and defeated an army of 30,000. Or as the French side described it, “It is a shame that so many French noblemen fell to men of no value.” Crecy, incidentally, also saw one of the first uses of cannon.

Putting miniature cannons in the hands of every peasant made the American Revolution possible. The ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would have meant very little without an army of ordinary men armed with weapons that made them a match for the superior organization and numbers of a world power.

At the Battle of Bunker Hill, 2,400 American rebels faced down superior numbers and lost the hill, but inflicted over a 1,000 casualties, including 100 British commissioned officers killed or wounded, leading to General Clinton’s observation, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”

This was done with muskets, the weapon that gun control advocates assure us was responsible for the Second Amendment because the Founders couldn’t imagine all the “truly dangerous” weapons that we have today.

And yet would Thomas Jefferson, the abiding figurehead of the Democratic Party, who famously wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”, really have shuddered at the idea of peasants with assault rifles, or would he have grinned at the playing field being leveled some more?

The question is the old elemental one about government control and individual agency. And tragedies like the one that just happened take us back to the equally old question of whether individual liberty is a better defense against human evil than the entrenched organizations of government.

Do we want a society run by the flower of chivalry, who commit atrocities according to a plan for a better society, or by peasants with machine guns? The flower of chivalry can promise us a utopian world without evil, but the peasant with a machine gun promises us that we can protect ourselves from evil when it comes calling.

It isn’t really guns that the gun controllers are afraid of, it’s a country where individual agency is still superior to organized control, where things are unpredictable because the trains don’t run on time and orders don’t mean anything. But chivalry is dead. The longbow and the cannon killed it and no charge of the light brigade can bring it back. And we’re better for it.

Evil may find heavy firepower appealing, but the firepower works both ways. A world where the peasants have assault rifles is a world where peasant no longer means a man without any rights. And while it may also mean the occasional brutal shooting spree, those sprees tend to happen in the outposts of utopia, the gun-free zones with zero tolerance for firearms. An occasional peasant may go on a killing spree, but a society where the peasants are all armed is also far more able to stop such a thing without waiting for the men-at-arms to be dispatched from the castle.

An armed society spends more time stopping evil than contemplating it. It is the disarmed society that is always contemplating it as a thing beyond its control. Helpless people must find something to think about while waiting for their lords to do something about the killing. Instead of doing something about it themselves, they blame the agency of the killer in being free to kill, rather than their own lack of agency for being unable to stop him.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Terrible Tragedy in Newtown

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Any attempts to explain the horrible event at Sandy Hook Elementary today will – for a long time – come across as pat, as superficial and insensitive, as hubristic in the face of the inexplicable.  Jeff Dunetz at Yid with Lid asks, “Dear God: How did you let this happen????”  Mark Galli, at Christianity Todaysays the slain in Connecticut “are not alone, nor without hope.”  He acknowledges that “It is a mystery why God allows the innocent to suffer. But he does.”

Yet what are the parents of the slain children to do with that? – or the husbands and mothers and children of the slain adults, whose families have been rent asunder? In the face of such grief – such brutality unjustly assailing the spirit – what can anyone say that will make a difference?  What good are words at such a time?

Mary Katherine Ham and Allahpundit have been updating this unfolding horror at Hot Air throughout the day.  The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, reportedly used his mother’s legally purchased and registered handguns to kill her in her home, and then drove to Sandy Hook, burst in on the school principal, started an argument, and killed 20 young children and 7 adults (including the principal).  Police comments early in the day have suggested that another slain adult, discovered in a separate location, may be related to the Lanza killings – and that Lanza’s girlfriend is missing.

Neighbors have told reporters that Adam Lanza, who killed himself at the school, was peculiar, and perhaps suffered from a psychological disorder.  According to the Allahpundit blog:

Ace is right that the typical mass murderer is a mentally-ill sad-sack loser who’s bad at work, bad with women, and who finally snaps in frustration at his own momentous loserdom.

True enough; and there may have been a real disorder making it even more likely that Adam Lanza would lose judgment and self-control.  The world can never be made safe enough for people in this condition to live with complete independence.  We will learn in the coming days what Lanza’s state actually was.  There are presumably a number of people who know.  Although his mother is gone, he appears to have a father and two brothers still living.

There will be a political debate also in the coming days, as there must and should be.  Gun-restriction advocates will insist that new laws must be made (although Connecticut has some of the tightest restrictions in the country, and Mrs. Lanza was in full compliance with them).  Gun-rights advocates will point out that Adam Lanza had psychological problems, and that the rights of the majority must not be restricted in the way that may be appropriate for the impaired.  If it emerges that Adam Lanza was known to have dangerous anti-social tendencies, others will make the case that as a society, we have too laissez-faire an attitude toward the psychologically impaired.

It matters how all the rest of us will live, or be required to live, in the aftermath of this awful incident.  Every bit of the political debate will be necessary and appropriate.  Not one syllable of it will be inherently thoughtless or cruel toward the victims.  We govern ourselves, and we are entitled to debate, advocate for, and oppose any policy moves suggested in the coming weeks.  More than entitled, we are responsible for doing this, and we will be accountable if we don’t.  Policy must not be made precipitately, based on sentiment or emotion; hundreds of millions of Americans have to live with whatever policies are made, and law must be rational and enforceable if it is to be respected.

So we will have the debate.  The opening arguments have already burst out on both sides of the issue.  For tonight, however, our thoughts and prayers must be with the bereaved families, who have already had their last hugs, their last hellos and goodbyes, with the ones they loved – though when this morning dawned, they did not know it.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative.

From Sandy Hook to Netiv Meir; from Maalot to Newton

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Thirty-eight years ago, Palestinian terrorists attacked a school in Ma’alot and murdered 22 Israeli school children. It was no different than the horrible massacre that just took place in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and 7 adults were murdered. I have no words to ease the pain of parents who have lost children, those who have lost their beloved relatives – not then, not now, not ever. In Ma’alot, we knew the motive – it was hatred and a belief in a radical interpretation of Islam that allowed, encouraged, and blessed murdering infidels, even if they were children. Perhaps especially if they were children.

What we understood in Ma’alot, we cannot comprehend in this tragedy. In Newtown, we are lost. Why? What makes a human being do such a thing? There was anger after Ma’alot; but here, there seems to be only tragedy. There is such sadness and pain for the families, for the community, for all of America.

If there is any comfort to be found for those in Newtown, it is the universal mourning that takes place today throughout the world. Even from the family of the young man who did this. From the father, Peter Lanza, these words must offer comfort.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired.”

It’s impossible for Israelis not to think of Ma’alot when we hear about Newtown; impossible not to think of children becoming victims in a place where they are supposed to be safe. And for me, it brought back a thought I’d had a few weeks ago. I had wanted to write about it then, but I didn’t have time to get to a computer and it slipped my mind.

A few weeks ago, Elie picked up Aliza and my heart stopped. He was joking; she was laughing and still I felt such pain. He has picked her up since she was an infant, but never the way he did this one time, with his arm hooked under her legs.
It reminded me of a picture from Maalot, of a brother, who was serving in an elite combat unit, who had raced north when he heard his teenage sister’s youth group was being held hostage in Ma’alot. She and her group were sleeping in the school when Palestinian terrorists went in and caught the world’s attention.
There were 115 hostages, including 105 students, teenagers from the city of Safed. The terrorists threatened to kill our children if Israel did not release 23 convicted Palestinian terrorists. Twenty-three, can you imagine? At the time, it was so many; today it would be considered so few. Then, they asked for 23 in exchange for over 100; it’s just over a year ago that we released more than 1,000 for Gilad Shalit.
That is what happens when you give in to terrorists – but back then, in 1974, they were holding children. What could we do? Golda Meir announced the decision to negotiate. At that time, the decision was almost unprecedented. She explained, that Israel “cannot wage its wars on the backs of its children.”
The Palestinians had come to kill and death was their goal more than the hostages and they opened fire. When the terrorists hurled grenades at the teenagers, some of them managed to jump out of a window, a ten foot drop to the ground. One of the wounded was a 15-year-old girl named Tzipi Maimon. Waiting below was her brother. Somehow in all the confusion, he saw her jump, ran to her, picked her up and carried her to safety. The pain, the terror, is clear. I cannot let my mind think what thoughts were in her brother’s head, what agonies he suffered while waiting helplessly outside that school. He was a combat soldier trained to respond, trained to act, to do; and he was forced to wait, to watch.
The picture of Tzipi Maimon in her brother’s arms came to mind when Elie picked Aliza up and I tried hard to push it away even as I told him to put her down in a voice that sounded, even to me, strained and upset. No one was hurt; they were both playing, laughing even. I don’t even remember why he picked her up – he really never does anymore. But I wanted him to put her down; I even told him to; I’m not sure if I explained why but the image of Tzipi Maimon went through my  head and it made me sick to think of Elie ever holding Aliza that way.
It also shows you how images remain – even almost 40 years later. Ma’alot is a wound that will never heal – that is the reality of Ma’alot and it will be the reality in Newtown. We will never forget the images, the agony, the pain and yes, the sacrifices and the miracles – not then, not now. What you learn is that there are tragedies that stay with you all your lives.
In 1974, I was about the same age as the Ma’alot hostages, as those who survived. They have gone on to have families of their own, quietly remembering that horrible experience. I wasn’t there but I remember the hours of waiting, knowing the terrorists had booby-trapped the school and though I was, essentially, a child at the time, I remember the panic and horror of knowing that those being held, those being terrorized, were the innocents of the world.
May the survivors of the Sandy Hook school be blessed with the knowledge that God watched over them and may they dedicate their lives to living and being happy. May the wounded, of body and soul, be granted a full and speedy recovery.
May the families of those who died find comfort somehow in the knowledge that God will care for their loved ones in a better place than this world could ever be, that many are grateful to the teachers and principal who tried to protect the children. And may the Lanza family also find comfort for what they have lost.
No Palestinians ever expressed shame or pain for what their relatives did in Ma’alot. I hope the families of the victims and survivors will find comfort in the knowledge that no one celebrates what was done in Newtown.
From around the world, we mourn with them. From a country that understands so much what it is to have someone attack their children, we send our love and our prayers.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/from-sandy-hook-to-netiv-meir-from-maalot-to-newton/2012/12/16/

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