Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lunch at the diner

Today I walked into the local diner for lunch. Being mindful of such things, I immediately noticed the guy at the end of the bar with a 9mm Glock on his hip.  He was not in uniform, but did have his badge next to the gun. 

Immediately I felt happy to know a cop was there in case anything went down, not that I assume that will happen, or live in fear, but simply as a matter of factual recognition. My co-worker and I sat down next to him leaving the obligatory We're-not-with-him space at the bar. I did not really think twice until I saw another person, in plain clothes approach our weapon carrying neighbor. A second; and third openly carried firearm, this time by an attractive young lady in a pants suit and gentleman in a golf shirt; their badges the only indicator that they were law enforcement. At this point, I took a quick look around to take a better inventory of my surroundings. This is important because as a citizen who carry's a gun with me every day, I have to stay mindful that officers can sometimes react poorly to cries of "a guy with a gun" so I take a quick nonchalant check on my shirt to make sure I am covered completely.  I am. As I looked around though, I notice two more officers, another lady and another guy in a t-shirt and jeans (who had the most built shoulders of anyone I have ever seen) openly carrying their weapons in normal everyday clothes.  

Five semi automatic firearms in a diner that seats 25 people. More importantly, I look over and see families. I see kids 6 year olds, 10 year olds with their moms out for a play date perhaps. I see people, moms and dads and business men and servers completely comfortable surrounded by weapons for the sole reason that those weapons are wielded by someone that although they look like normal citizens has a badge.

Recently during the Newtown Starbuck's situation an overly emotional editor for a local paper attempted (and in many ways succeeded) to elicit negative response toward gun owners by painting a picture. It went something like, "Image you are sitting in Starbuck's with your kids, when ARMED people walk in!" Is that not exactly what happened in my diner today? People with kids and people with guns in the same room, eating the same greasy food, drinking the same average coffee.

See the people who do not understand the gun culture imagine that if law abiding citizens take to regularly carrying guns then the result would be a bunch of crazy gun owners walking in to a coffee shop with camo outfits, face painted with green and black stripes waving a Gadsden flag, or maybe even a guy in a ghillie suit, holding their weapons out shoving their weapon down your throat literally or figuratively. Its just not like that. Why? Because I am that guy. I walked in with my firearm on my hip. If those armed officers were not there today, there still would have been people with kids and (at least one) person with a gun sitting together in the same diner. You may not have seen it, you may not have known, but there I was, weapon holstered quietly concealed eating my lunch. 

This is a scene that plays out all over the place. People with guns in our everyday life. However, because they are mostly concealed society has forgotten they are there. As generations pass, less people carry because its not visible. Out of sight out of mind. When a person stops a tragedy, they are called a hero, but quietly and with no regard for what they used. When a person succeeds in committing a crime however, their weapon is what is demonized.

I'm circling here because there is a point. Lets go back to the officers in the diner. If guns are evil and need to be removed from our society, then officers should conceal their weapons. We adults would know they are there as a necessary evil, but kids should not even know they exist. If on the other hand guns only take on the character of those wielding them, then why leave open gun carry to criminals and cops. why should a business man, or a mom out shopping with her kids not also be seen regularly to be carrying. The gun is there either way. Enough people carry on a regular basis that in any situation where more than 20 people are around, there is likely a gun. Why should our society not want to see firearms being associated to responsible citizens as opposed to only seeing them in the hands of criminals and cops, or worse, as depicted by Hollywood. It would seem we are not showing our true colors. 

There is a growing movement around the country, including here in CT, that where it is legal to openly carry a firearm, law abiding people are doing just that. Many prefer to carry concealed from a tactical point of view, but are carry openly to raise awareness. The next time you are out and see someone with a gun on their hip take a look. If you don't see a badge, don't worry. Its legal, good and right. If you want, feel free to ask the person about it. I'm sure they would be open to discussing. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

4 Temperaments

The Four Temperaments takes the traditional psychological categories and adds spiritual insights. As a protestant, I don't agree with all the theology here, but this has been amazing to reflect on (something as a Sanguine I am terrible at doing).  If you have ever thought a DISC profile was helpful, this will knock your socks off.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Atlas Shrugged

"You have reached the blind alley of the treason you committed when you agreed that you had no right to exist. Once, you believed it was "only a compromise": you conceded it was evil to live for yourself, but moral to live for the sake of your children. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your children, but moral to live for your community. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your community, but moral to live for your country. Now, you are letting this greatest of countries be devoured by any scum from any corner of the earth, while you concede that it is selfish to live for your country and that your moral duty is to live for the globe. A man who has no right to life, has no right to values and will not keep them." -John Galt

Having spent 6 months reading this monster of a book, I find it only fitting to convey a few takeaways. If you have not read it, it is incredibly difficult to sum up an 1,100 page book. To try would be foolish. Take the below comments as thoughts and ideas as you read.

The plight of the industrialist has not changed. 
Modern society leans too often toward marginalizing the affects of the real game changers.  The men who built this country, the men who truly innovated, names like Rockefeller and Westinghouse, John Pierce and Barney Oliver... we pretend to think that we now deserve inherently the fruits of their invention as if we could have thought of it ourselves, or worse, that their innovations are now meaningless because they have been copied so often or enhanced through iterative improvement.

We must restore a sense of value in ones work. When an individual provides value to millions, or provides a lot of value to a few, they should reap the rewards of that value.  It is only fair for a successful person to be successful financially.  Too many people live under the false notion that their need dictates what they should be paid, either by an employer or by welfare. For a company or community or nation to be successful, people must add more value than they take.  For ever person who fails to do so, another must add that person's value without taking it.  Would that we would return to that ideology.

Our morality of selflessness
"I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

Ms. Rand is unapologetic in her lack of appreciation for selflessness. It is not an altogether undesirable position.  Is not the cry against the "greedy corporations" or "evil wall street" that they are living for their own sakes at the expense of other men? Can you simply add the second clause, nor ask another man to live for mine,  and make selfish ambition work?  Alternatively, is the total and utter pursuit of selflessness found in many religious circles really godliness?

One need only look to the critics of John Piper's Christian hedonism to find a visceral reaction against the idea that allowing yourself to be self-serving is evil. However, his position is not without support from some of the greats. CS Lewis writes: If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 

I believe that in either case the root evil is found in the idea of allowing or expecting another person to live for your benefit. To combat this evil, Ayn Rand proposes a society where you live fully and only for your own benefit and so long as you expect everyone else to be doing the same it will all work out.  I would propose that a less radical solution is possible, and far more realistic.  If every man would take the position that while still refusing to ask another man to live for their sake, they pursue adding more value than they need and consuming less than they make so that if they should succeed they are in a position materially and mentally to assist others and if they should fail, that another might show the same charity they were willing to give.

This moral code is consistent both with the selflessness required to avoid hedonism and fulfill our communal obligations to those less fortunate while acknowledging that the pursuit of our own good is right and honorable.

It would be easy to normalize this book into the political landscape of today, but doing so would not do the work justice. The complexity of Ayn Rand's pure capitalism approach is unrealistic, and while I would love to think that it could work, it won't. The libertarian in me would love to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. However, its obvious that people are going to take advantage of others both by accepting what is unearned, or earning more than they should via others.  Short of a catastrophic meltdown akin to the book's version of events, human greed and lust for power will be an ever present force by which we need to have some measure of control and regulation. The only way to change that is through a return to love and respect for other individuals.  The best way I know to do that is a return to true godliness (not what we see in most of the Christian community today). No political ideology will change the root problem of man's evil.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gun Control, Demystified

Or, We are more together than apart

With so much hate and divisiveness being used in this debate, my goal rooted in love, is to point out a few observations, hopefully build a framework for real dialog, and challenge each side to come together.

All gun control laws can be grouped into one of three categories. Laws that punish criminals, laws that attempt to limit criminals’ access to guns, and laws that attempt to limit everyone’s access to guns. (There is a fourth, laws that track all guns. This is a non-issue as no one has made any real headway in trying this, so we will leave it out of this discussion.)

The first, laws that punish criminals, is obvious. We have laws on the books for sentencing law breakers with time in prison, even the death penalty in some places.  The very basis for our criminal justice system is rooted in the idea that corrective discipline is normal and works.  It works as a deterrent to crime, and as a corrective system for those who have committed crime. The effectiveness of this model is outside of the scope of this discussion, but generally this is an area where people are in agreement. We want “easy wins” where we can make “real change” with "bi-partisan support"; this is where we can have it. Enforce and make stricter gun crime punishments.

The second, laws that stop criminals from getting guns, there is also large support from both sides. While I am disappointed at the NRA for not backing proposals in this category like universal background checks, etc., I am not surprised.  The NRA is a lobbying group, and you would expect them to take the far position.  However, more and more pro-gunners are following their lead and buying into this position of “give up nothing!” "I can sell my gun to anyone I want" just does not work today. As gun owners we need to recognize that we have a crime problem, and that we have a responsibility to limit access to criminals.

The last, laws that limit everyone’s guns, is where the majority of the division is happening.   On this topic, we are polarized.  Laws in this group include the so-called assault weapons ban, and the high capacity magazine ban.  The problem with these laws is that they are actually limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Now those rights are limited all the time, and there is precedent to do so, but the negative reaction from the gun community is based on the idea that we see no real benefit to society as a result of these changes. I have discussed this at length, so I do not want to do so here.

The problem is that all of these topics are getting lumped into one big group of “upcoming gun control laws” and because we do not have the proper framework to discuss them, we fall into all or nothing discussions.

Instead, lets work to understand each proposed law.  Classify each in one of these categories. Universal background checks are not at all designed to limit law-abiding citizens access to guns, therefore we should support them.  Those who support banning certain guns need to understand that you are squarely in the third section which has dangers, and yelling about it wont help. If law abiding citizens are going to give up more of their rights, there needs to be a solid discussion on the benefits of doing so before you will convince anyone.  Educate yourself. Its hard for the gun community to take seriously calls to ban “assault weapons” when you still think they are “spraying bullets into a crowd.” Even better, show some measure of respect for the people that actually have knowledge of the topic. Their, our, opinion should matter to you because we own these devices, and we understand them. Recognize that this is and will be the hardest aspect of these types of proposals, and you should expect pushback. Ignoring that pushback puts you no better than the change nothing crowd.

If we come together, we can gain real traction on the first and second groups of laws.  If we have open and healthy discussions on the third, there may be some compromises that can be reached.   However, if we continue to argue from opposing viewpoints with all or nothing positions, we are no longer on the same team fighting for the same goal. We have instead embraced us versus them, battling each other, instead of crime.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On guns, God, love and hate.

Nothing is so clearly and poignantly evil than the murder of innocent lives.  Evil is rooted in hate. Hatred of self, hatred of others when fully realized leads to the most deplorable of evil acts.  Perhaps this is at the heart of the apostle’s letter when he says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” or in Jesus’ equating of murder to hatred in the sermon on the mount. 

The idea that at the root of murder is hate stands as a warning to us all.  When we allow ourselves to be filled with hate, we succumb to the evilest passions of our being.  To hate is to reject God and the message of our common depravity instead embracing our supposed goodness over the object of our hatred.  Hatred is the very antithesis to God, because God is love.

The recent communal discussion on guns and the role they play in our society has taken a significant turn toward hatred. With time passing farther away from the latest tragedy many pro-gun individuals feel free to express this hatred through mockery or disdain for anything or anyone who would ‘take our guns away.’ Similarly, still impassioned by the heinousness of this crime others are calling people lunatics, or wishing people rot in hell who simply believe their rights are being taken away. This too is rooted in the same hatred. 

It’s easy to hate. It’s our natural stance because we are evil. The sad irony is that the church who has supposedly been set free from evil control is leading the charge from both sides. 

Instead, choose Love.  Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father in heaven. If you love only those who love you what reward is in that?  Everyone does that. Its time for us to recognize that we must love one another in spite of our differences. We must realize that people are in different places, and have different ideas.  We must remove the idea that we are better then anyone else.

I can foresee the supposed hypocrisy in this statement. Am I not saying the same thing; that I am somehow better than those that have chosen to hate. I am not. I have done the same things. I have enjoyed the quiet ridicule of those who have no idea the difference between a M-16 and an AR-15. I have, at times, allowed the idea that because I may know more than others on this topic, I am somehow better then they are. However, I am not the standard, God is. His rule, his morality is the standard, and I am consistently trying to reject those ideas and replace them with love. That love may not lead to my changing my opinion on a topic, but it aught to change the way I interact with another person who holds a different idea. I have seen very little love. 

We are a deeply divided people, which means the light that shines from our choosing love instead of hate will shine brighter than ever. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Open Letter to our State officials

Many individuals are concerned over the upcoming barrage of new gun legislations. Obviously, emotional responses are strong as people weigh the freedoms we have vs the real danger of crazies and criminals. We are too close to Newtown to not be deeply effected.
What I fear is that we have succumb to the polarization of us vs them.
For the gun rights folks, we fear our reduction in liberty and invoke the spirit of Henry Tucker who said: "[The second amendment] may be considered as the true [safeguard] of liberty. Wherever the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty is on the brink of destruction."
Our counterparts say that the death of innocent children is just such a pretext worth prohibiting liberty. Theirs is a powerful and palpable stance in these troubled days.
Obviously, there will be outspoken people from both extremes however, I believe that most constituents want realistic measures put in place that reduce crime. It is critical that we recognize this mutual goal together and find the common elements where we can come together. Without setting that framework, we will argue and fight and nothing positive will prevail.
My request, my challenge as you go to Hartford is to fight the root causes. Those are the issues with bi-partisan support.
Those root issues are weak families, weak community, weak morals, and a culture of death.
You want the Assault weapons ban in place? We already have it. You want magazine limits, they wont help, but go for it, or let Washington do it. But do not pat yourselves on the back when those are done because all you have done is slapped a bandaid on a bullet wound. Those are the simple, surface level issues. If CT is going to lead, we need to tackle how to restore strong families, communities and morals to our culture. We need to restore love and respect for every human being. We need to respect authority, serve those less fortunate, and ensure that people are free to talk about their problems with someone who loves them. I’m not sure how you legislate those issues. I have a few ideas, but that’s your job. However, simply banning a few guns is not enough. These deeper issues are what we desperately need resolved.