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The way things used to work doesn’t work anymore

I’ll be one of the first people to admit that I wish things were like they were 20 years ago. I was a teenager, and the world was mine for the taking. I was in college, and I had a ton of places that I would go “conquer.” My friends and I played soccer once or twice a week, and I knew El Paso and Juarez like the back of my hand. There was little to no violence there. The Columbine shootings were not even “a thing” back then. We solved our issues in high school the old-fashioned way. No guns, all fists.

The US Congress and the President got together and passed a pretty good — albeit not perfect — gun control bill. Yeah, Clinton and Gingrinch shut down the government over budget disagreements, but none of the Republicans said that they wanted to shut it down on purpose, or because Clinton was not an American. Things were much simpler, from my point of view.

And that there is the key phrase in all this: MY point of view. In every generation, there has always been a “golden era” where everything was pretty good. Taxes were low. Politicians were honorable people. We fought wars for righteous causes. I remember my grandfather telling me about the 1940s and 1950s with a little bit of glee. He would even hum songs from that era as he thought about it.

Dad was the same way. For him, the golden era was somewhere between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. By the end of the 70s, he would become a father, and things certainly got complicated then.

As I read the local newspaper website today, I got curious and headed over to the “letters to the editor” section and found this letter from a local resident. In it, he gripes about gun control and political correctness, and about the “lack” of God in our government. Check it out:

“Another mass shooting has occurred in yet another school in our country, and the president of the United States has once again stepped up to the microphone and blamed the carnage on guns. Not a word was spoken about the spiritual deficit that exists in our country today because of an ungodly political correctness that has been accepted in America. Ours is a country where once God was honored and children were taught about his goodness and love.

There were definite standards of right and wrong, and children were made aware that God sees all that we do. Many of today’s youth are sadly lacking in this education and are no longer taught that Satan is real and active in our world today. A terrible price is being paid for the lack of this education. Since the separation of God from our government, evil is now accepted as good. It is considered right to allow women, by choice and by law, to have their unborn babies killed for any reason. It is no wonder that life has been cheapened. Our young people, in their formative years, freely watch movies and read books that negatively affect their minds, and play video games full of violence and slaughter in the name of entertainment. Without God and his standards being impressed upon their minds, evil and perversion have grown and overtaken our country through laws making wrong seem right to those who do not know God’s word.

Mr.President, until you and the law-makers and judges in America begin acting upon the Christian principles that many of you claim to have, there will only be more and more violence and crime and senseless killings, no matter how many gun control laws you make. What is needed is “God control.” He is the only one who can heal the sickness of this nation.”

My first criticism of this letter was to point out that the “spiritual deficit” has nothing to do with gun violence. Plenty of righteous people have taken up arms and killed many out of a sense of religiosity. The second criticism was that there has always been a separation of God from this government. Though the line has been blurred by the words and actions of many in government over the years, the line is still there. This is a country where the most unbelieving of unbelievers have a God-given right (if you’ll pardon the expression) to life, liberty, and all those other good things that we are all given out of the fact that we are human.

This person is basically stating that we are seeing gun violence because there is no inculcation of religious values in young people. There is porn and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or whatever, instead. But it is not up to the government (the President, law-makers and judges) to do this for us. It is up to parents and the adults in our communities to “put the fear of God” in children, so to speak. This person makes it sound like the excessive gun violence we are seeing in some pockets (mostly cities) in the country is some sort of punishment by God, the same God that this person claims is full of goodness and love.

When God was in the hearts and minds of all our children

When God was in the hearts and minds of all our children

I hardly ever dive into religion on this blog because I am more about science than religion. A, T, C, G… That is the code that I like to read. But I will also admit to you that I am a believer in a higher power and that I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I’m a Christian. As a Christian, I can tell the writer that the government has zero to no business telling anyone what to believe, much less to act “upon the Christian principles” of anybody. Jesus laid it out very clearly that there should be a rule of law. He subjected Himself to the judgment of the courts of His day.

We should all be that principled.

No, what we need to stop gun violence is sensible gun control, as I’ve stated over and over and over. Even the most perfectly Christian person is prone to act upon their impulses and do some messed up things if there is a gun nearby.

(But what if there’s a knife? Should we outlaw knives? I’m yet to see a knife mow-down a large group of people.)

What the writer of that letter to the editor is calling for is understandable, though. He is looking at the current situation through a lens of his “golden era”, when he didn’t see or hear about mass shootings in schools and attributed it to some sort of government-mandated religious teaching in the education system. He does this instead of attributing it to the proliferation of guns of all types and capacities, instead of seeing the world through a lens of today. And I really can’t fault him for that. We all do it.

I just wish that our policymakers and others in positions of authority saw the problems of today and solved them with the solutions and technology that we have available today. Thinking that you can interpret the Constitution to mean what it was intended to mean back in the 1700s is dangerous…

That’s another thing, by the way. When Thomas Jefferson said that the “tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” he was describing a sort of Liberty that changes and evolves, that is “refreshed.” So it is hilarious to me to see “patriots” use this quote to advocate for going back to “the way things were” (which is nothing more than a White utopia where minorities of all shapes, sizes and sexual preferences don’t exist because the government said they didn’t exist).

No, dear writer of the letter to the editor, things are not the way they were. They are the way they are, and we must deal with them as such, always holding true to the very cornerstone idea that religion and government shall remain separate entities, lest we end up with a theocracy in need of some very harsh refreshing of its own.

You know who else wants God in every aspect of society? (HINT: They're terrorists.)

You know who else wants God in every aspect of society? (HINT: They’re terrorists.)

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

5 replies

  1. Let’s talk about the good old days for me.
    My earliest memory was of my mother telling me to stop squirming, while she was changing my diaper. I wanted to crawl off and squirmed anyway, the diaper pin nicked me in the lower abdomen and while crying, a brilliant idea occurred to me: Wait until mommy pins my diaper and finishes.
    OK, that’s my earliest memory.
    My next clear memory was when mom sat me, frantic to get the curtains down to be cleaned, in front of the television and said, “Watch the President, he’s important”.
    Shortly after, her curtain cleaning halted for the day, as I ran to her and said, “Mommy, the President was just shot in the head!”.
    OK, not too much good old days there.
    In my youth, I saw live the images of the civil rights demonstrations. I couldn’t comprehend how people were seeking equal rights, as dad had his crew over all the time to our home for coffee and conversation after work.
    Not so golden era there either.
    Perhaps the 1970’s, let’s say 1976, the bicentennial time, living at that point just outside of Philadelphia. Heady times, I read a *lot* of the documents of that era, I might even still have the replica documents of that era, complete with copies of the money in use in the colonies.
    And the carbon monoxide poisoning suffered in the back of my uncle’s station wagon, driving into the city for the celebrations, due to a faulty muffler.
    Hm, not so good.
    Let’s move toward the late 1970’s, when I was in high school. A friend was high on PCP, hallucinated, lost control of her car and killed herself and three classmates.
    OK, let’s move to the early 1980’s, Saint Reagan was President. I was newly in the military, had a new wife, totally golden, yes?
    A close friend was killed on a Pershing Missile launcher/erector, courtesy of an event that “never happened”.
    Long and short of that was, the Soviets recruited a young man, found him mentally unstable midway through training and cut him loose. He triggered that event, our missiles were ordered on alert and the mission tapes began to run (the missiles were a new fangled computerized missile and were programmed by a PDP11 mainframe computer, tucked inside of a “hut” on site, once the tapes completed programming, the launch was automatically initiated). Things were, um, rather tense.
    Fortunately, five seconds from end of run, the call came to abort and we’re all still here.
    The individual who was mentally unstable and precipitated the entire crisis that few know of was subsequently found in his apartment, a victim of a suicide. He had shot himself in the head three times with a bolt action rifle.
    Our side certainly had no knowledge, that left only one other side that could have assisted and that time was not one that required subtlety.
    Shortly after, the Pershings were removed, thankfully, courtesy of a treaty and I, having a rather decent clearance was asked if I was interested in some adventurous work.
    Being young and stupid, testosterone was unintentionally substituted for a neurotransmitter and I joined things special.
    We were special, as we never learned how to quit and also managed to keep our minds somewhat operational during rather punishing sessions of training.
    We’ll suffice to to say, the Saint Reagan administration was extremely interesting, but not in a very good or fun way.
    Google Able Archer some time.
    The other things that made it not a great time for individual survival in our field remains something I can never discuss. I know never because, we still have secrets classified from WWI that remain classified.
    Let’s look at the 1990’s, well you remember them well enough, not too golden, huh?
    Y2K wasn’t all that fun either, well the decade after the following year.
    I’ll not even go into the war, let’s just say that I drink a bit too much for a reason.

    So, let’s suffice it to say, I’ve investigated my parents “golden years”, that gold was really rust. The Great Depression, WWII, loss of father prematurely, loss of siblings, yeah that gold was rust viewed through rose colored glasses (something I remember from Hippies).

    As for solving our gun related murder cloistersmurf, I can suggest taking firearms derived from selective fire military service rifles and placing them under the National Firearms Act, but that doesn’t even wink toward the handgun violence.
    Would that we had a culture that rejected violence, rather than each and every individual think he’s John Wayne with his six gun!
    But, that letter to the editor did smack of regurgitated talking points. Many, many, many talking points.
    Amazingly, they’re not NRA talking points, they’re a religious right talking point I’ve thus far not managed to isolate the original source of.
    But, we have a John Wayne attitude, desperate poverty, easy access to firearms.
    And let’s face it, the maximum effective range of a hand held knife is a bit over a meter, thrown, perhaps ten meters, but one runs out of knives far faster than one could run out of bullets that are under .50 BMG caliber.
    The latter, heavier than a knife and hence, still limited.

    An example, some operators carry up to ten knives, a typical infantry load is maybe four knives and 220 rounds in 30 round magazines. The operator carries more rounds, but uses them sparingly, lest a shot be heard and an entire team compromised.
    Clearing buildings in these wars, I’ve carried a rifle in, got it tangled in narrow hallways, occasionally grabbed to limit it and either used my pistol or a couple of times, a knife or tomahawk.
    Most of the time, I held back, it was a guy trying to protect his wife and kids. Early on, I did screw up and treated the poor guy, who survived without event.
    Occasionally, it was someone armed.
    I only drink over one screw up.
    I’ll only discuss that in person. After a few drinks.

    What needs to be addressed are multiple societal issues, with loads and loads of firearms already in the wild.
    Leaving us with what Operators use as their primary weapon, the mind, to address the issue within the constraints of the environment.
    Got an idea? I’m all ears, eyes and mind!


      1. In the tradition of “mi casa es su casa,” this blog is your blog. Being a follower of it for so long gives you some privileges.


        1. We still have a bit of time for that beer that you threatened me with. 😉
          Maybe a week, tomorrow a meeting will define the limitations.
          May heaven protect me from corporate dyslexia.


        2. BTW, “mi casa es su casa” has Arabic (and hence, regional) meaning.
          The guest is doted upon and protected.
          Even today, in Islamic culture, the guest is protected at all costs.
          There were occasions we hated that cultural protection.


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