Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/03/2010

Please shoot me so I can do unto you as I would have you do unto me and shoot you back

[Addendum: please click on “comment” below and follow the link to the short article by Jane Gilgun, a reasoned statement about the murderous rampage in Connecticut a couple of days ago. Thank you, Adelaide.]

So now we have the two extremes, the Right Hand Fringe and the Left Hand Hem (it’s hardly substantive enough to be called a “fringe” anymore) vying to see who can sooner be armed and ready for the war that seems to be inevitable inside the United States.

Republican functionaries (led by Sarah Palin, apparently) are calling on people to exercise their Second Amendment

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” Δημοσθένης

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” Δημοσθένης

right to keep and bear arms and get their guns (with or without permit) ready for the war. And the other side is publishing articles in major (once-thought-to-be) liberal magazines calling on liberals to arm themselves (Dan Baum, “Happiness is a worn gun: My concealed weapon and me.” Harper’s Magazine, August 2010.)

Am I really the only person left in America who is horrified—even terrified—at the thought that the person walking down the hallway toward me in my apartment building might (no, probably does—this is Texas) carry a gun that I can’t see, but that she is willing to use at the drop of a hat? Why is she carrying it if she’s not prepared to use it?

What ethicist—or even more unlikely, church or synagogue leader—what sensible person is going to write next month’s Harper’s article explaining why it is simply wrong (even though we have the right) to go around with a gun, ready to shoot people?

That’s why people carry guns. To shoot people.  Why else? To do a little skeet shooting on Ross Avenue in Dallas? Maybe shoot a duck for dinner on Madison Avenue in New York? Oh, I know—shoot a terrorist in Douglas, Wyoming!

What on earth is the matter with you people? You’re just plain crazy. That’s all. I don’t need to explain myself or offer any logical explanation. You’re all just plain crazy. And Dan Baum, however logical and reasonable he sounds, has one major problem that he can’t overcome. What he is saying and doing is simply morally indefensible.

But even less morally circumspect are the people who are sitting idly by, saying nothing, refusing to say out loud what they are thinking. That is a majority of us, isn’t it? The scales have not already tipped into the gun-toting camp, have they?

Why aren’t people—everyone who is reading this—writing letters to editors, to Congress people (that’s a no-brainer—not a one of them would stand up to the NRA), to the Supreme Court which unleashed this madness a few weeks ago? To your friends? To bloggers? Are we really going to sit by and become an armed camp? Really?

The problem is, of course, that it’s a moral issue, not a rights issue. The United States has never been able to question if a person should carry a gun even though she has the right to. And the problem with moral issues is that they are complex. You can’t simply say things are black and white, armed or unarmed. Carrying a gun won’t solve moral dilemmas. Americans, in this age of Tea Bagging viciousness and vitriol, this age of xenophobia and out-of-control racism, this age of leanings toward theocracy, are undesirous—I won’t say “incapable,” but the longer the ability remains unused, the sooner it will atrophy—of thinking in complexities.

Karol Edward Soltan explains the need for complexity both in the center of the political spectrum and in the social structure by which we all (supposedly) live:

. . . But at bottom, politics of the center is an effort to move away from extremes, however defined. It is also a battle against violence, destruction, and their influence in politics and in life generally, against war and revolution, but also against coercion (1).

Carrying a gun is not an “effort to move away from extremes.” Rather than doing battle against “violence, destruction, and their influence in politics and in life generally,” carrying a gun means that one has joined the battle on the side of those things.

Call me whatever name you want. Justify your insanity any way you can. Make up cute slogans about whether people or guns kill people. Quote all the statistics you care to. That’s argumentation by distraction. Carrying a gun is a sign of the intent to do violence—to coerce someone into doing something, or to kill. Period. Neither you nor Charlton Heston nor Sarah Palin can prettify that fact. A gun is meant to kill. And if you carry one, even if you’re as nicely liberal and upper-middle-class and intellectual and articulate as Dan Baum, you intend to do violence.

Soltan continues his discussion of the necessary complexity saying we need

. . . .to sketch a politics that pursues a different ideal: a complex center, reflecting and favoring moral, ideological, and institutional complexity. . . .If we want to build a better world when we face moral complexity . . . . we need to be prepared to develop a complex program full of hybrids. If we want to maintain and enhance uniqueness of persons, cultures, institutions, and natural locations, then we must both protect and promote complexity (2).

It would, of course, be absurd to insert here anything like spiritual seeking. That’s too complex. Carrying a gun or not carrying a gun has nothing to do with one’s spiritual life or the essential nature of human existence. It’s a RIGHT, so every other consideration is moot, purely academic. I, however, find amazing and incomprehensible that the same

"Father, forgive them. . ." Victor Gugliuzza, personal collection

"Father, forgive them. . ." Victor Gugliuzza, personal collection

people who want to proclaim this as a “christian” nation are so willing to ignore the most basic teachings of christianity—even those christianity has in common with other religions. The Golden Rule, for example.

But Golden Rule reasoning. . . does require that we decide who our neighbors are and how to accord them reasonable and impartial—fair—treatment. Even if it . . . requires us to think again about the reasonableness of the positions that we do hold, and about our grounds for dismissing some of the positions we reject. This is not to claim that those holding views out of line with Golden Rule reasoning will. . . abandon their intuitions or change their views; it is certainly worth bearing in mind the maxim. . .  that it is futile to try to reason people out of positions they were never reasoned into (3).

No one was ever “reasoned into” carrying a concealed weapon. It’s an absolutely visceral response.
(1) Soltan, Edward Karol. “Liberal Conservative Socialism and the Politics of a Complex Center.” The Good Society 11.1 (2002) 19-22.
(2) ibid.
(3) Duxbury, Neil. “Golden rule reasoning, moral judgment, and law.” Notre Dame Law Review 84.4 (2009): 1529+.


  1. She didn’t write next month’s Harper’s article, but she does show how important it is to be accountable in a similar situation to the ones you outline.

    by Jane Gilgun on Scribd.

    Great lady, great counsellor.



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