In spite of or To Spite

Hello at what is the continuation of a brutal and crazy week.

I am trying to understand how we have become a country who has found it possible to no longer care about the less fortunate, unless it is a headlining emergency, who no longer opens ourselves up to protecting those who are placed in situations, often not of their own making; and how did we become a country who sees “the other” with overwhelming disdain and suspicion? Before you begin your conversations about executive amnesty, following the laws of the land, or some other sound-byte-piece-of-crap used by the present administration and our bigoted Attorney General Sessions, you can see how I will respond to that attempt to justify what seems to be the latest embarrassing “twitter-storm” or bullying response by the President or some of his elitist, entitled cabinet or advisors. Further it to say, in terms of DACA, President Trump believes this will force the Congress to act within the next six months on some kind of comprehensive immigration reform. I will note that I might even want to agree with that logic, if Congress could exhibit some kind of logical process in their actions regarding immigration (or anything else). Note, I actually somewhat agreed with the President on this course of action. It is actually a place where he acknowledges the balance of powers. Yet, both Presidents George W. and Obama have proven that is a tough sell (in either getting Congress to do their job or the balance question). The bipartisan Gang of Eight, as they were known, are yet one more example of reasonable attempts in Washington (there is an oxymoronic phrase) to deal with an important issue that, in typical-Washington-fashion, fell apart. I am pretty sure the President thought what he did as a business person would automatically work like it did from Trump Tower or on The Apprentice. Perhaps all those who somehow voted for him were as delusional, thinking they all collectively knew or expected the same. He continues to respond and tweet away in a manner, which to me exhibits he is either also delusional like his non-thinking, non-wavering, somehow-still ardent supporters or, more likely, he simply does not care what people think. I am getting to the point to expect the unexpected, which transforms unfortunately into nothing can be unexpected from the pumpkin-head with blonde hair, or whatever color that is. Whether it be DACA, his promise that he is draining the swamp, as his cabinet spends and then justifies 100s of 1000s of dollars on flights (yes, Price resigned, but Mnuchin justified), or blaming Puerto Rico and the mayor for the consequences of two devastating hurricanes, he is simply following up on another bigoted, racial promise or treating people with the same disdain and disrespect he campaigned on. Why are some so surprised? Even more so, why should we be surprised that  we have become more the actual nationalistic, “other-hating,” country that epitomizes the less than popular-vote winning minority that elected this ass? As I have told most people as I address this elephant in the room, I am sadly and simply embarrassed.

This week we have faced yet another tragic issue of someone using a number of guns (and many of them semi-automatic and legal along with what is called bump stock  ~ twelve of these devices were in the shooter’s hotel room – Fox News 10/3/17). As I noted on my Facebook page, I am not against owning guns and I am not trying to speak out against the Second Amendment, but I am quite sure that the authors of the United States Constitution had not an inkling of what we could come up with for firepower when they spoke about “the right to bear arms.” It is still amazing to me that what seems to be common-sense gun law restriction should be considered an attack on a person’s right to bear arms. If a semi-automatic weapon is legal, and automatic weapons prior to 1986 are legal as I understand it, why shouldn’t a 50 caliber be legal or an RPG, or a frickin’ Howitzer? It is the same logic. The point is, we do have restrictions and people still seem to own a lot of weaponry. According to research by Christopher Ingraham, a former researcher at the Brookings Institute and Pew Research as well as a reporter for the Washington Post, he estimated that in the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the number of guns in the hands of citizens of this country actually outnumbered the population of the country (October 5,  2015 ~a bit ironic on the date). His article went on to chart by 2013, the number of guns was actually larger than the population by 40,000,000. Yes, you have read that number correctly. The article appropriately asks questions regarding attrition (which is more complex than you might think), but also noted that the increase in number of firearms produced between 2009-2013 went from 5.6 million to 10.9 million. That is astounding. The perpetrator of the Las Vegas tragedy had 23 guns in his room and he had purchased 33 rifles in the past year. I do understand some people collect guns. I had an uncle who did so. What I also know is studies indicate places that have more guns (be it municipalities, states, or countries) have more gun related violence. Seems like a somewhat reasonable cause/effect. Again, the Economist magazine in early 2015 ran the following quote on their pages.

Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air
pollution in China: an endemic local health hazardwhich, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic andpolitical reasons, the country is incapable of addressing.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary teared up, and appropriately so, in the press conference the day following the massacre, but then said it was not appropriate to address issues of gun control at the present time. As Jimmy Kimmel, again appropriately or aptly, questioned, when is the appropriate time? Why was it not appropriate after Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or when a number of 6 year olds had their bodies pretty much blown apart at Sandy Hook? When is it appropriate? When is a good time? How many people do we need to continue to lose?Perhaps listening to the life-long, gun-toting, NRA-supporting, guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, a person named Caleb Keeter, said it best, “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus,” Keeter wrote. “They were useless” (Emily Yahr, 2 Oct 2017). As Chris Richards, another reporter for the Washington Post wrote, “Country music aspires to tell the story of real life in America, but American life continues to feel unreal.” The headline of the piece was “Country artists have the ear of American gun culture. They need to speak up” (2 October 2017). But at what cost some will say? The NRA is powerful, powerful enough to castrate the Republicans, who have kissed the ass of the NRA as they sit the Congress, and this has been shown again and again. To consider gun control a national health hazard, like bird-flu or some more lethal kind of cancer, as noted above is asinine. And yet, that is what we seem to do. It is embarrassing (and it was difficult for me to explain to our Russian Fulbright scholar, but it is also inhuman, unconscionable, and beyond thought. For many, and a number who claim, “I am a conservative Christian” and proclaim their faith in a loving God as they line up for carry and conceal permits, it is beyond hypocritical.

Ironic that was referred to as pure evil. What is pure evil? Furthermore, the person who claimed it as such seems a bit less than trustworthy in their own right. It brings to me a larger issue and back to what I titled this particular blog . . .  I am sure that some are asking where is God in all of this? It might be easy to find myself in the position of one of my philosophy colleagues who argues there is no God. It certainly seems that God might have been on a coffee break or a vacation or something. I do not mean this to be flippant, if it sounds so, but I think we are often prone to question where is God when terrible things happen. I have my freshmen students reading The Book Thief this semester. If you have not read it, both the book and the movie are well done. I find them particularly intriguing because the omniscient author is death. Yes, again, you read that correctly. What is amazing is by the end of the book, or the movie, you find yourself sort of liking the author. Death seems almost personable. Some will argue if you are going to argue for the ultimate good, conversely, you must allow for the ultimate evil. Is pure evil death? Is there a possibility that death can be somewhat compassionate or kind? I know in times of unbelievable suffering death is considered compassionate or preferable, but is death actually an entity? Could it be this way . . . “Liesel Meminger lived to a very old age, far away from Molching and the demise of Himmel Strasse. She died in a suburb of Sydney. The house number was forty-five — the same as the Fiedlers’ shelter — and the sky was the best blue of afternoon. Like papa, her should was sitting up. In her final vision, she saw her three children, her grandchildren, her husband, and the long list of lives that merged with hers. Among them, lit like lanterns, were Hans and Rosa Hubermann, her brother, and the boy whose hair remained the color of lemons forever” (Zusak 543-44). Will death be so kind? Is God there?

What I know in my own piety is I do believe in a God and my gift of a housemate for the past weeks, for me, is the only proof I presently need. It is hard for me to imagine sometimes how this God works. It is frustrating to me that I cannot figure it out more. These might seem to be strange words for a former Lutheran pastor, but I will argue it is precisely because I was that pastor that I find much of this so inexplicably frustrating. When I saw people die and had to comfort them and promise a sense hope when that death seems completely random and unfair, I found myself questioning God. When I had to speak with the mother of a two year old diagnosed with virulent leukemia, I questioned God. When I had to explain to my 4 year old nephew and 3 year niece that their father would not be coming home anymore, after dying at 26, where was a loving God? It is not surprising that the words of the 22nd Psalm seemed more appropriate than any words I could offer. How does God work then? Back to the housemate. Little did I know that a young 18 year old beautiful brown Egyptian girl in my class would continue to be in my life. Little did I know that somehow, through twists and turns in both of our lives, we would continue to remain in touch and grow to appreciate each other more completely, trust each other more profoundly. Yet, that is precisely what happened. Little did we expect that she would need a place to live during a rotation, or that her older brother would come to check on her because this young amazing single Sudanese/Egyptian Muslim would be staying in a house with an aging single white male Christian, and he was unsure of her safety. She was not pleased, and I was amazed and humbled by the love I saw of an older brother for his younger sister. I had little idea, in spite of all my reading, about the five times of prayer for this young Muslim with her prayer carpet and shawl, but I was fascinated, and once again, humbled to know more. It is amazing to me that God (or Allah) works in spite of us . . .  yes, there is always a bigger more comprehensive thing going on, and sometimes we get in the way, but it will still come to pass. I believe now that Shiama’s accidently being in my summer class six years ago was for a much larger reason and that reason continues to manifest itself in our lives. As she left last week, I think I cried harder than perhaps I have at any time since my grandmother passed and that was 40 years ago. Perhaps it is because I am older. Perhaps it is because I am more keenly aware of what it means to have someone so blessed and beautiful in my presence. Perhaps it is because I realize my own finitude in ways I did not before. Yes, God works in spite of us, and the plans He has for this creation go beyond our understanding. As the passage says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.” So true . . .  be it what is happening in our country, how we seem to treat those different than us, or how we continually decide that guns seem to be more valuable than human life (and yes, I am aware of the controversial nature of that statement, but it’s what I seem to see). While God might work in spite of us, I am afraid what might happen if he chooses to work to spite us. Maybe death will be more compassionate than God.

I leave you with the following video to ponder . . . the ironic nature of it is intentional

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

Published by thewritingprofessor55

As I move toward the end of a teaching career in the academy, I find myself questioning the value and worth of so many things in our changing world. My blog is the place I am able to ponder, question, and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. It is the place I make sense of our sometimes senseless world. I believe in a caring and compassionate creator, but struggle to know how to be faithful to the same. I hope you find what is shared here something that might resonate with you and give you hope.

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