Monday, August 5, 2019

"Thoughts and Prayers"

When bad things happen, we tend to become surprisingly silent. Even normally loquacious politicians and pundits sometimes content themselves with offering that current commonplace "thoughts and prayers" Other politicians, pundits, and ordinary observers, more aroused to act against evil than stunned into silence by it, mock their colleagues' "thoughts and prayers" for the phony slogan it has become. In themselves, thinking and praying are good, of course. In fact, one might suggest that among our society's many personal and political problems is a radical insufficiency of both. But that cannot condone sloganeering "thoughts and prayers" in place of the thinking and praying that should really be going on all the time, much less in place of the personal and political action that needs to be taking the place of our widespread silence and inaction.

Whenever tragedy strikes, compassion is called for. But, especially when the tragedy is due to human evil, compassion calls out for action. One obvious action in response to our national orgy of mass shootings would be to foreclose the legal possession of weapons of mass destruction (i.e., guns) by private individuals. This, alas, is already familiar territory.

Saturday's terrorist attack in El Paso, like earlier acts of terrorism at a Black church and at a Jewish synagogue, also highlights an ugly, white supremacist dimension of our current political climate, which it is likewise morally obligatory for us to confront, personally and politically. 

Bearing arms in the service of one's society used to be acknowledged as one of the responsibilities of citizenship. The ancient Greeks, to whom we owe the earliest formative reflections on citizenship, relied on citizen armies to defend their cities (the remote ancestors of the "militias" to which our constitution's second amendment refers). At the same time, in those same Greek city-states those same citizen-soldiers went about unarmed. According to Thucydides, the Athenians were the first to exclude carrying personal weapons in the city.

By all means let us always think and pray. But one personal and political imperative of civilized life needs to be society-wide action against the continued individual private possession of weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment