To the people of the United States of America,
Every time I hear outcry over the tragedy of a school shooting, it reminds me about self-driving cars. Yes, the road is a bit long, but I’m prepared to do all the driving for you. As long as you don’t jump out along the way, we’ll end up passing through education, gun control, and abortion as well. So, buckle up or whatever? Really, it doesn’t matter if you wear a seat-belt. This is a purely intellectual journey, and you won’t be badly hurt if my driving ends us in a collision.
Or will you? Perhaps intellectual injuries are worse than physical ones? Certainly they are harder to detect, diagnose, and treat. If the analogy has any merit, the danger of throwing yourself bodily from this mental journey while it is half-finished and hurtling along could be even more deleterious, in the long-run, than the equivalent physical action. On the other hand, if you don’t like where I’m going, perhaps you will feel you have no choice.
So here’s my proposal. I’ll take this article slowly and carefully, making plenty of stops along the way so you can safely leave if you feel like it. In exchange, please strap in, and keep your arms and legs inside the reasoning at all times. Comfy? Good. We’re ready to begin.
Since I’m picking you up, it should be where I expect to find you, grappling with:
The tragedy of school massacres.
This tragedy of hopelessness, resulting in death, is heart-breaking. The loss of young life in the flower of innocence, without necessity or benefit. The pointlessness of it all. Like plague, death comes seemingly without meaning. And, just as curbing the horror of plagues of the past required an understanding of our physical context, so too I think curbing the horror of school violence requires that we lift our heads and examine our surroundings.
But we can not clearly scout the landscape with tear-clouded eyes. These present and pressing deaths remind us of the precariousness of life, and our tenuous mortality. We will all, though the day be near or far, one day confront that final foe, death. The victory is won, but it is not yet grasped, and in the meantime it is good that tears wash our sight. Tears over wasted lives. Tears over senseless hatred. Tears over sin, which ends in death.
So we arrive at our first stop, at the recognition of the appropriateness of deep grief over the death of the young and innocent. Allow yourself to come to terms with that grief, and when you are ready, we will proceed with a:
Partial consolation over the deaths of the innocent.
I have several friends who have suffered the loss of unborn children. Though I have not endured that trial myself, through God’s mercy, it is harrowing even by empathy and proxy. One begins to question if God desires the death of the species, that our race perish from the earth. Why offer such hope, only to have it dashed? To answer these questions I often turn to the book of Job. In the prologue Job loses all he holds most dear outside himself, the crowning grief of which is the death of his seven sons and three daughters. Through the physical and intellectual sufferings which follow (and I encourage you to read them all, and especially contrast mankind’s impersonal understanding of God with His own personal descriptions of nature) Job hints that he hopes to share, in some way, with God’s divine life. And at the end of the story, in a passage that never fails to move me to tears, God restores all Job’s treasures, and doubles them. Precisely doubles them. At the end of the book, Job is given another seven sons and three daughters.
In her grief over many miscarriages, a friend of mine expressed belief that she felt cursed of God, and that God hated her children. To the first I dare not comment, for who can tell God’s purposes. But as to the second, I was given a word which I share with you now, that God loves those children who die in the womb, and loves them so eagerly and deeply that he snatched them from this life to be at once in His full and perfect presence. We who live may be cursed. God gives us few assurances, and all conditional. But about those who die in innocence, He makes no conditions. Their life is hidden in His own, and if we have grief, it must be that our God has not yet granted us admittance to share in their unbridled life, of which ours is, at best, a fleeting shadow.
So we arrive at the second stop, where our grief is for ourselves who remain, and not those that have died. Allow yourself to salute the innocent dead, and aspire to join them when God should call you to account.
I see you glancing at the roadmap,
so before resuming our journey, let us consider the trend of the road. Surely the simple conclusion is that this road is leading us to kill all children! Yes, it’s true that I could drive over a cliff, but it is just those roads which skirt the cliffs which offer us the best views. And it is clarity of sight, and context that I desire, not all this blind outrage which seems to pervade what passes for public discourse in the intellectual slums. So, yes, I intend to drive along dangerous roads, and to stay on the roads, and to look out at wide vistas. But you are fore-warned, and if you can’t stomach the possibility that my errors may plunge us into a moral free-fall ending in ruin, then at this juncture I bid you farewell. For the topic we address next is none other than:
The real tragedy of abortion
which is a far greater tragedy than school massacres. If dead school children grieves and enrages you, consider why. Is it because they are innocent? The unborn are more so. Is it because they are denied the potential of their blossoming life? The unborn are denied more. Is it because their deaths are both violent and preventable? The deaths of the unborn are more so. Is it because their deaths were pre-meditated? The execution of the unborn are not only pre-meditated, but scheduled. Is the outrage over those dead in school classrooms and hallways great because of the number, five or ten or twenty? If we include mass-shootings in general, perhaps even fifty. Fifty senseless deaths in a day! How shocking. And yet, how many dead from abortions in a day? Two thousand, or more. Forty times the worst mass shootings, every day of every week. Is it because we have greater emotional attachment to someone once we have seen their face and dressed them up and heard them tell us “I love you mommy” while their warm little body snuggles against us? Yes, I think so. But this is sentimentality, not justice, and anger was made for more than whim.
The tragedy of “mass” shootings is that they are not massive at all in comparison to the massacre of the unborn which we, as a society, propagate in an unceasing human sacrifice to the abominable gods that we dare not even name. And do we cry out over it? Do we mourn and weep and wail? Do we seek, without sleep or comfort, justice for the innocent dead? Do we stand unyielding against this gross injustice and cry out at every assembly to dis-arm the aggressors and rend our world as we know the infants are rent from the womb? I hope so, for the sake of us still alive. But if we do, the clamor has not reached my ears so much as the clamor over the much less notable handfuls of deaths of the less innocent. Yes, I understand we grow more attached to people with whom we can converse. Yes I understand the fallacy of sunk costs presses hard on our reasoning. Yes, each school shooting deserves every syllable of defamation that is heaped on it.
I merely point out that, if we were at all consistent, we would not have more than a word or two to spare for school shootings for all our outrage over abortion. We would have long since outlawed the practice for the loathsome eugenics that it is. We would have publicly slain every secret practitioner who dared to flaunt the law. We would have gone to glorious war with China for their barbaric slaughter of infants, and perhaps we would lose that war, and our mothers and sisters and wives would become the concubines of our conquerors, but at least we would not be craven impotent hypocrites who scrabble at the speck in the poor man’s eye, and wink at the log in the eye of the giant.
So our third stop, on the bridge we have built over the stream of the blood of the innocent, which fore-figures the river of the blood of the guilty flowing from the wine-press of the fierce wrath of God. I don’t know why you would stop here, but that is your freedom to do so. I offer no consolation for abortion other than that already offered over the death of the innocent. May God have mercy on our wretched souls.
Where are we going again?
So I have been saying that we are going on a journey, but in truth I have been hovering over two very similar tragedies, the child slain at their desk, and the heap of infants slain in the womb. At this point we have not gone very far. We are still at the scene of the crime, as it were. True, it is a massive crime scene, and portraying a sense of its scope has taken me all these hundreds of words. I could go faster, but as I said at first, I’m trying not to hurry you. I am attempting to give you every opportunity to safely leave this exploration un-bruised and whole.
But now that we have a sense of the two tragedies I resume the course I suggested at first, and seek some context in:
The partial tragedy of the family.
It is not entirely a tragedy, because there is still much good in our families, even those broken by alienation. And, as this is not my main point, I merely gesture out the window at the landscape of towers, turrets, and moats which have been portrayed better and with more care so often before. Abortion did not become an institution because of spontaneous human hatred for children. It became as close to a necessity as any naked wickedness can come by the failure of men to be fathers, and of women to be wives. It arose, like some dark spectre, and indeed in many ways like the angel of death, from the land of our slavery to comfort and ease, in order to reap down our first-born. This vast slaughter which our society praises as freedom is vaunted to the same degree that it is valued as a slave for the seeping wound of our many fatherless homes and fruitless marriages.
As deep an injustice as abortion is, it is after all merely a symptom of our licentious sexuality and our irresponsible attitude. We will never be able to address it properly without first treating the injuries we have been inflicting on marriage. For marriage is indeed like a child, like a new life which grows and learns, and children are the heart of marriage. We have torn out that heart, as if we tore the heart from a child and then wept that their body grew cold, and then found that our marriages grow cold as well. We have turned sexuality into an economic transaction, and found that we have re-invented prostitution. That “oldest profession” which is the ancient patron of the death of the newborn, and whose art we have only succeeded in perfecting in convenience for its perpetrators in often avoiding the labor of giving birth.
It seems probable that there will be some disagreement over the specifics of what we are seeing here. But my intent is, as I said, to gesture at the broad shape of this metropolis in which abortion has become so common, and see that it bears a strong resemblance to a whore enthroned with authority, on whose forehead the name of all great cities is written. Yet this is but the perversion of the family, not it’s destruction. It is the forced and desperate striving after a good we know we need, but have forgotten how to obtain.
So much for the fourth leg of our travel. Far from being a senseless and causeless evil as it may first have appeared, abortion is couched in the complexities of our societal failings, and can not be effectively addressed in isolation, much like the context of:
The partial tragedy of education.
For education, while not an evil in itself, has become in our modern practice something fairly disgusting. And like the perversion of the family, this perversion of education provides much of the cause and context for the evils of school violence.
Now it seems all but certain that there will be disagreement over my observations here, and vehement objection too if I stated them in a straightforward way, just as jumping to the top of a mesa via a ramp would alarm the passengers in a car. But to the top of this mesa we must ascend, if I am to point out the context I feel is necessary. So allow me to make a digression by way of a parallel which will hopefully bring us, via the switchbacks, the long way around to my point.
Ideas are like children.
They have a beginning, and grow within us, and we nurture them and develop them. And over time they mature, and we begin to share them with others. And hopefully, if they live long enough, we can let out into the world to have what effects they will. Hopefully they will be good effects, but we let them go, and they have a life of their own, more or less independent of us. I recognize that there are many dis-similarities between physical objects and ideas (which I invite you to explore with me elsewhere) and all the more so between people and ideas. But this similarity remains.
The similarity is, in fact, strengthened by many of the allusions we use when referring to education. We talk of “planting the seed of knowledge in fertile young minds” much as used to be spoken about a man’s seed in a fertile woman. We talk of founders of schools as the “father” of the institution. In our very language of ideas, we speak of one’s affection for an idea by saying “that’s his baby” and in writing and creative work we are told to “kill your darlings”. I am by no means saying it is a perfect metaphor, only that it is informative as far as it goes. And where it seems to go is that:
Education is like impregnation
The process of engendering young minds with ideas, and forcing them to hold and nurture these ideas and carry them out to fruition, to the point where they can be shared with others, has a strong parallel with childbearing. School terms are nine months long, with regular examinations along the way to ensure the ideas are developing well, and a painful and intense few hours at the end of the term where the ideas become fully revealed to the world. In many ways this is a beautiful parallel, with many potent lessons to be drawn on both sides.
This marks our fifth stop, shading our eyes from the glory of two wondrous bodies of excellence greeting each other as if in a mirror. But the lesson which I seek to draw attention to is less wondrous, and even a bit horrific, none the less because of the role I see it playing as the context of the tragedy we first surveyed. Therefore, as the road ahead will no doubt be to some degree shocking, offensive, and insulting I encourage you to be wary of proceeding with me. For I speak next candidly of rape, which is the parallel to:
The tragedy of compulsory education
In this context, compulsory education is nothing less than the tragedy of institutionalized rape. I do not particularly want to explore this parallel, but we are on our way to understanding, and the road lies through this corrupted campus. As a rough sketch of the metaphor, I hold up “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. Having never read the book myself, I beg your indulgence of my appropriation of this shocking bit of speculative fiction, and ask you kindly overlook my possibly unfounded allusions. I reference the work mostly because it was from my contact with its themes that the idea of this parallel grew in the first place.
Lest I seem to make too strong a point, let me again admit that this metaphor is incomplete to such a degree that to name all the divergences would be a fruitless task. Compared with rape, compulsory education pales in both kind and magnitude to near insignificance. As do, as I have pointed out, the instances of school massacres pale when compared to abortion. But as the lesser evils appear, for the moment, to be the ones of most interest, let us explore their context more fully and see if we can not find some sense in it.
For it seems that all the “best” reasons for institutionalized compulsory education can be made in favor of institutionalized handmaids. Education is good? So is pregnancy. Education is necessary for the stability of society? So is motherhood. We can expect the best education to come from those most qualified to teach? The same can be said for producing the best children. Some would choose ignorance, if given the option? Some would choose childlessness, if given the option.
And just as the glory of children within marriage gives way to horror in the presence of compulsion, so to the joy of learning within child-like curiosity gives way to disgust in the presence of compulsion. This, I propose, is the looming context and cause for the majority of the outbreaks of violence in our schools. The compulsion to attend and engage creates vast social pressures which would be nearly entirely dissipated if attendance were voluntary. Certainly this would allow some form of sloth to emerge. However, the solution to sloth is not slavery, but hunger, for hunger is the natural desire that prompts one to ambition. This is the same sensibility of natural desire which continues to result in children being born even without compulsion. But we are too “charitable” to let children go hungry, and force them to bend over the desk to prevent their minds going to waste. It would be just as sensible (though I admit a great deal more reprehensible) to force pregnancy on those unwilling in order to prevent wombs going to waste!
So, our sixth stop arrives, seeing the whole of our modern system of child-rearing through the horror of a chilling metaphor. As I said before beginning this leg of the journey, I will not begrudge you parting ways with me at these resting points. I even understand if you believe that this whole vision is instead some nightmare fantasy which I have cunningly invented for my own nefarious ends. However, as we pull away on the seventh day, and leave off the labor of reasoning for the rest that is pathos, I insist that:
These Are My True Feelings!
I insist that this horror is precisely how the attempts at justifying these practices struck me when my own education was thrust into my unwilling mind, and my intellect made to bear to fruition the corrupting seed of modern thought, not once only, or twice, but sixteen times for each of the sixteen years of my education! These hollow justifications fell on unbelieving ears, and I vowed in my heart that however much I would forgive, as we all must forgive our oppressors, and however much I would love my teachers, for we should all love our enemies, I would never forget the utter God damned falseness of the so-called “necessity” of “education”.
And lest you dispute over numbers and contend “Ahh, but only eleven of those years were strictly necessary, the other five you chose of your own free will!” Yes, I concede that after being repeatedly violated, not without some kindness and affection, I bear no particular ill will toward my individual teachers who were, as far as I can tell, very representative specimens of humanity… I say after being made to bend and bear I was tacitly offered the choice between another five years of slavery and humiliation and then a promise (false, as so many have discovered) of wealth and respect, or immediate release and a lifetime of repulsive drudgery, poverty, and ignominy… Yes, when given that choice, I chose to suffer a little more. But may I just point out that this is essentially the choice offered to the handmaids in the exemplar distopia!
And as we have taken leave of our reason on this Sabbath of the argument, I feel no need to justify the leap to asserting that widespread child labor laws prevent the young, even if they had the opportunity to escape the clutches of mandatory education, from making a life for themselves. And doubly so where the establishment of a minimum wage creates a false scarcity of demand for labor, which is all-pervasive in our society! And if these difficulties hinder me, a white male from an in-tact upper-middle-class home, from pursuing a career and starting a family, then what hope can we hold out for those less privileged? How can we be at all surprised that this state of affairs has not only led to the tragedy of the young killing the young, but in fact has also contributed not a little to the much greater evil of the dispersal of the family and the consequent ritual slaughter of the unborn?
For now you see the horrible unity in my choice of examples, hidden from my own eyes until this moment. The blame for both abortion and school shootings hangs squarely on the evil of laws that prohibit work. Especially laws that prohibit the young, the uneducated, and the unskilled, in a word the poor, from work. Union protections, minimum wage, child labor prohibitions, mandatory degrees for licensed roles, all these seem to be good ideas, at least on the face and to some people, I make no accusations that those who championed them had anything but the best of intentions. But just as a way seems right to a man and ends in death, so too the ways that seem right to our society have ended in death.
We prevent the young from labor, and they can not afford marriage (so they think) and so kill their children. Then we force the children not killed in this manner into such desperate straits that they kill each other. Are the issues more complex than this? Yes, of course they are. Are there a variety of causes that result in these evils? No doubt. But as all seem to be casting about for the cause of these killings, I point, if not specifically, at least generally in a cardinal direction and say:
As long as we continue to enslave the children of the poor, God will continue to kill our own children!
He will do it through the school children themselves, for He is poetic even in sober matters. But even if we somehow manage to defend ourselves against that avenue, a defense that appears to require unlawful concessions on our part, He will certainly continue to do it through abortion. Has He not told us that the poor and the widow would cry out to Him when we oppress them, and He would wipe us from the face of the land? See! The sickle is already reaping us down! We have marched, in drunkenness and greed into the wine press itself. God’s foot descends!
But perhaps there is still time! We may be saved from slaughter, if only as those who have passed through a fire. Repent! Let us turn away from our greed, from our licentiousness, and from our rebellion. Perhaps God will be merciful to us, for He delights to show compassion. Perhaps if we unburden the poor, the orphan, and the widow, God will see fit to unburden us from the heel of His righteous foot which mingles, in mercy, with our mangled corpses, even as we are tread down, the precious blood of the wound inflicted by the father of our all our lies which we style as progress.
So, the seventh and final leg of our journey is at an end. I have much more to tell you but am, at present, exhausted of both argument and feeling. The accusers have left empty. If God’s spirit does not condemn you, then neither do I condemn you. Go in God’s grace, and sin no more.
Paul Spooner P.E.
Epilogue: Wasn’t I going to talk about gun control and self-driving cars or something?
Oh! Yes. There are two more points I’d like to make, in a somewhat lighter manner, as a sort of epilogue to the discussion.
The one is about:
which is often proposed as a solution to school violence, and which bears some discussion.
Guns may be classified into three general types. Some are for short-range, some are for long range, and some are for war. The short-range versions, handguns and shotguns, are useful for self defense, as well as for hunting birds. Those for long range can only fire at a limited rate, which makes them useful for large game hunting, and they are occasionally called “sniper” weapons. Those for war fire very rapidly, or with very large calibers and can destroy masses of people or vehicles, and are therefore also useful in a rebellion.
Now, many make arguments these days for self-defense and large-game hunting, and I feel no need to repeat their arguments here. But it seems that guns which are useful in an armed uprising against the government are the only class of weapons which could possibly be protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and it is just these weapons which are most often outlawed in actual practice.
This issue of armed rebellion will always be difficult for the USA to address with any kind of moral consistency, considering the way that they won their independence from England. Personally, I would be happy to have guns commonplace (as they are in Switzerland), but if they must be restricted, the restrictions should be first and foremost on those tools which are of no use to the armed overthrow of our own government, and which also happen to be the most difficult to conceal into a school or theater. Contrariwise, I would be happy to have weapons broadly banned (as they are in the rest of Europe), but if they must be banned let us first amend the constitution and dispense with the pretense of the possibility of a morally justified rebellion.
I think there is a strong case to be made that rebellion is never morally justified, and that gun control is never practically justified, but let us not get muddled and justify guns morally while banning them practically.
The second is that of:
which causes us USAians to preen and strut, where it meets with:
which we seem to pretend does not exist these days. If we can not take responsibility, we should not have freedom. This seems fairly straightforward. And the greatest death toll, putting aside abortion, slippery sidewalks, and influenza, are automobile accidents. As we seem to be socially unable to require personal responsibility while piloting a car, it seems we should also relegate the freedom of driving, as we have with so many other tedious and needless freedoms, to machines which can execute the duties with unflagging attentiveness. Indeed, the death toll from automobile accidents far eclipses those from school shootings, and it seems to me that if there is such an excess of eagerness to express social outrage, and if abortion is a bridge too far in our present morally compromised state, perhaps the championing of self-driving cars would be a more profitable outlet for our energies. It would address a greater number of deaths at least, and infringe on none of the constitutional protections.
Plus self-driving cars would afford us a safer and cheaper way to shuttle our remaining guns and our remaining children to wherever it is we feel our outrage is next in greatest demand. As if by the heat of our outrage alone, could we accomplish the righteousness of God.