Saturday, April 19, 2008

Frothing subjects

I'm reading a fascinating book on the early history of migrations in America. The thesis of the author is that Native Americans took a shoreline route from Asia to Tierra del Fuego, and not the land-bridge route that was formerly the received wisdom. When he talks about opposition to the shoreline route, he makes it clear that they are wrongheaded, pigheaded, and headed for a fall, but he is still respectful. Only one time does he blow his stack, and that's when he's talking about a group of people who think at least some of the Native Americans were Caucasian (an idea that has been around for a long time, by the way). He speaks of their arguments as "spewing venom," and gets kinda nasty about the whole thing.

He's right, I think. The "Europeans in America in 13000 BCE" idea is a little much. But why the fury? Why the names, the insults, the rancor? After all, they are no more wrong than the land-bridge people.

It's because these people have hit one of the froth-at-the-mouth buttons: race. The author of the book can't help himself. He has to come unglued. There are a number of such buttons, on both left and right sides of the aisle. Race is one, of course. Abortion, guns, sexual identity are three more. When folks light on these topics, they cease being rational beings and become robots. As soon as the topic of guns comes up, people rush to the ramparts to do battle on one side or the other. Our own Salt Lake Tribune weighed in today on guns, for example. They decried a move to make Utah's concealed carry permits good in other states. "Oh, sure," they opined, "that will make us safer." Well, actually, it will. And that's not just me talking. That's dyed in the wool, rock solid, brass plated, academic research. More guns equals less crime. Or, as Robert Heinlein put it, "An armed society is a polite society." Have I quoted that before? I'm having a burst of deja vu here. But that's not the point. The point is that if I rubbed the corporate nose of the Tribune in the facts, smothered them with data, their editorial position wouldn't change. Guns are the devil and that's all there is to it. Gays are perverts and that's all there is to it. All races are entirely equal and that's all there is to it. Sex except to make children is evil and that's all there is to it. Don't be smug, liberals, you do it too. Don't be cocky conservatives, you do your fair share. And me, so do I.

1 comment:

bekkieann said...

I'll try to keep the frothing to a minimum here. The Trib raises a pretty interesting constitutional question: states rights vs second amendment rights. It's a tough one as no-one can agree what those simple words in the 2nd Amendment mean, or if it actually extends to invididual gun ownership rights for self defense (see Wikipedia, for example). The Supreme Court has refused time and again to clarify that definition. But a current case before the Supremes, Wash D.C. v Heller may do just that--a decision is expected in June.

But assuming states continue to have the right to regulate gun ownership, Utah's gun laws make about as much sense as it's liquor laws. For example, why bother to regulate gun sales in one venue, and then leave it unregulated in another (gun shows)?

And finally, I'm not sure I agree more guns in more hands make us all safer. I don't mind that you own guns, or my brother-in-law who has quite a collection, and is a most responsible gun owner. But I personally know some gun owners who truly scare me. Remember, the VA Tech shooter who killed 31 people bought his guns legally.