Opinionated, instigating post #2: Vasudevam kutumbhakum?

Private Gun Ownership/Death Penalty

“The notion that anyone could think murdering fellow citizens reflects American values, and tells us a lot about the ways we have failed as a nation to ensure that all people understand, at its core, what it means to uphold those values.” –Sam Chaltain

I find there often to be a pretty glaring difference between a group’s values and how those values manifest. Many of the values that are important to Americans today were just as important to Americans early in our history. Yet, if we look back we find that American history is filled with errors and ridiculousness instead of proper and true expression of our supposed values.  The quote above pertains (if I remember correctly) to the idea of the death penalty, but one area I think this is particularly applicable is the arena of private gun ownership.

In my opinion, there’s really no valid reason any modern, private citizen should own firearms. I’m generally against virtually everything most militaries on our planet do, although I do value the protection they offer the citizens of their respective countries. Beyond military use, however, no one should need to own/carry guns.

Coming from a part of the USA where more people are for private gun ownership than are not, I’m familiar with the reasons folks think they need or want a gun. A very small percentage of that population mentions recreational use, like target shooting. I don’t really have any issue with that, unless it’s sport hunting, which I think is wrong. The vast majority of pro-gunners will cite their “need” or “right” to be able to protect their selves. I think this is pretty much the dumbest thing I’ve heard, and I also think folks don’t realize how telling this is in regard to who they think they are and how they see the world.

Fear-based mentality is the strongest mental shape that would allow a person to think they need a gun for self-defense. This same me-versus-them thinking is the root of the illogical, emotional insecurity and paranoia that cause someone to flip out. In the simplest terms, everyone having the opportunity to own a weapon actually increases the likelihood of people hurting other people with those weapons; AKA life is generally more unsafe than it was prior to everyone having weapons. Add to that mix the fact that some people out there are truly crazy and your cherished and so-called right to bear arms actually makes things much more dangerous, because that crazy person has the same right, but probably less self-control. This creates a horrible cycle where people are killing people because people are killing people and in the process no one actually feels safer. This very similarly applies to the death penalty; when a person is killed by others, but nothing is actually improved as a result, and no one actually feels better afterward. A recent conversation I was having with coworkers highlights the lunacy I’m talking about…

We’d been talking about all this gun stuff and two of them admitted that their brothers carry a concealed gun to church. Now first, what does it say about one’s faith and trust in their chosen deity if they have to bring firearms to worship services to feel safe. Secondly, I think the conversation we were having highlights the fact that folks gain a false sense of security by keeping firearms on them in daily life.

I’ll wrap this post up by quoting my beloved once again, as I’ve done in the past on account of his ability to say things in fewer words –something I admire in anyone who’s capable of suchery.

   “Every gun nut uses that defense to justify that they should be able to have 15 guns on them at any time.  It makes no sense.  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”…..with guns!  If NO ONE has guns, a lost LESS people would die!  I can understand having one for hunting or if you are a collector, or just even to have one in your house to feel safe.  But, it’s ridiculous to say that you NEED to carry one everywhere.  That’s just paranoia, and it means you believe everyone is out to get you.  It drives me crazy.  These are the same people who say that “Obama is taking away our guns” when gun laws have only gotten more lax since he’s been President (unfortunately).  There are ALWAYS going to be nuts out there who are going to do stuff like shoot up people in a movie theater.  Everyone having a gun is not going to prevent that.  Usually the person who does things like that is at the point where he/she doesn’t care about living anymore, so why would threatening him with a gun make any difference?  They are usually suicide missions they are on anyway.  And if everyone has a gun, then NO ONE is going to accidentally hurt someone because they have a trigger finger?  The whole issue just gets me worked up because their justification is so flawed!”

Om shanti


Opinionated, instigating post #1: (Ekam)Sat Nam

Apparently, the world needs to know my thoughts on a few things, including the theater shooting in Denver, the shooting at a Sikh temple, and gun ownership. I have many thoughts on these matters and I’ll do my best to keep them organized and well-written, in effort to make your reading as painless as possible. Here we go…

Firstly, it goes without saying that the two incidents mentioned above are heinous. I’ll refrain from going too much into how tragic I feel these events are. My heart goes out to those who caused and were affected by these events.

The Denver Theater Shooting:  

This seems to be getting much less television air time lately, which surprises me. James Holmes seems to be a pretty messed up individual, but likely not more so than anyone else. All verifiable mental illness aside, I think each of us acts based on how we perceive, process, and manage stimuli. Actually, I think our sciences prove this. The worst to deal with is that which seems to come from within. In fact, that which comes from within is the toughest because it automatically is perceived to be reality, when it often is not. Haven’t you ever just known that your spouse was doing something specifically to spite you, and when you dug deeper it turned out they weren’t even aware they were doing it, let alone that it was something that bothered you?

Emotions are invariably tough to control, but it’s possible with even a little effort. The mind on the other hand is immensely difficult to subdue, and unlike emotions, for most people will require perpetual guarding to maintain any control that is gained. So, if someone doesn’t have control over their own emotions (and most do not), they are also very unlikely to be in control of their mind (also to be said of most folks, and is applicable in reverse since a controlled mind is used to lasso emotions), and this has proven to produce a reactive individual (which most people are).

Because of this, our prayers and thoughts are well spent on the lives and states of people today; people like Mr. Holmes. Yes, fine, pray for the victims. It won’t do as much good as you think. What’s done is done and through this horrible event they’ve been released from their most recent opportunity to exhaust various karmas. They’re on their way to their next cycle of physical existence (or maybe not), as dictated by their karmas and samskaras and will proceed in the best way they are able.

A better use for the prayers offered as a result of something like this is for an improved and education and poised mental state of humanity in general during our time. We’re ignorant in every aspect of our operating existence and we’re reactive – often making choices based on anything but reality. And so in our delusion we end up likening ourselves to Batman’s Joker character and shooting at crowds in a theater.     

The Sikh Gurdwara Shooting:

I should firstly admit that, while I know little about the theater shooting, I know even less about the gurdwara shooting. However, I think this event is less complicated. A fool mistook one group of people for another and started killing. This actually should set a very poignant example for everyone. This idiot was so ignorant in the middle of his hate, and blinded because of it, that he didn’t even kill the ones he meant to kill. Looping this back to the lesson of Maya from the Denver shooting, we find another great example of how very stupid our entrapment within the physical confines of existence can make us. I mean, if you’re going to be stupid enough to plan to kill, at least make sure you have the right target, no? Fools.

Off with their heads!

So… the Denver shooting tragedy is all over the news and will be for some time, I suspect. In the clinic I work at, people have been very vocal regarding their opinions on what should be done with the Joker. I think partially because of the time we live in and partially because of the area of the USA I live in, many many folks have expressed their view that killing the man who killed others is the only way to make anything right. This is very “Old Testament,” very eye-for-an-eye, and I suppose it’s very human.

I need to say something about this, but without using my words. I’ll be using someone else’s. What’s shared below is the response I received from my beloved, who’s non-religious in every sense, when I asked him, “What do you think of the death penalty?” (This question was asked specifically in the context of the Denver shooting.)

I’m against the death penalty, for a variety of reasons.

Mostly because we are supposed to be a humane society.  Regardless of what someone does, it does not justify killing that person.  How are we any better than the criminal if we treat him in a similarly cruel way?  The death penalty is abused, used too often, and way too celebrated.  It’s the modern-day version of having all the people in a town chase someone with torches and pitchforks and lynching him.

Second, in a way, it allows the criminal off easy.  Rather than having to spend the rest of his days in confinement in an undesirable living situation, he gets to just have it ended.  It seems that a lot more satisfaction should be gotten out of knowing that a person who did a heinous crime has to spend the rest of his life in a prison, not allowed to enjoy the freedom the rest of us have.

Third, if we are supposed to be a “Christian country,” then everyone should hate the idea of the death penalty and it should be outlawed.  It goes against all of the ideas that Jesus taught, and how can someone claim to be a good Christian and still be completely FOR the death penalty.  Somehow it’s possible, because Christians seem to be the largest group who just love the death penalty. 

Lastly, I just think it’s morally wrong.  If we are supposed to have compassion, then how can we be happy to know that we kill anyone, regardless of what they have done?  I can completely understand how someone who has had someone taken from them can feel like they want the person who killed them to be killed as well.  That’s why we have laws and a justice system, so that we don’t take the law into our own hands and let emotions drive our decisions.  Any time I hear of a person/family who chooses to NOT seek the death penalty for someone, I have great respect for them, because they are able to overcome their own grief and do the right thing, and be better than the killer by showing them compassion.

What he’s saying above isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense, which actually leads to a very elevated and compassionate state of mind and action.

Christians(Abrahamists) aren’t the only ones who stumble here. I’ve been reading a book by an American guru. By virtually every account he’s incredible. He’s very well-educated both in western sciences as well as in so many things Vedic. He wrote a book, a manifesto which I’ll be bloggering about soon enough, in which he pretty much lays out what he sees as the revolutionary foundations for a new global and dharmic society. In this manifesto, he says so many things I couldn’t agree more with. Among other things, something he says that I fully disagree with is that the death penalty is dharmic.

I’m no guru, but I’m confident that even if you toss out the concept of ahimsa there’s plenty within our Dharma that counters something like the death penalty.

On that note, I’ll close by re-iterating what my beloved said and encourage you, reader, to give up the idea of killing another as any form of vengeance or retribution. It simply doesn’t work the way you think, and also brings you to the same level as the original transgressor. Be reasonable. Be compassionate. Be humane.

Be truly better than those you so despise.

Om shanti