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July 4th: Guns, Freedom, and
in the news: A July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois ends with another mass shooting. Why the young assault rifle-toting gunman did it is something of mystery—although his planning makes it hard to argue that it was simply an unthinking random act of hate. Certainly it tarnished what should be a day to celebrate American freedom and democracy. The massacre came at a time when many concerned citizens were already upset by news from the previous two weeks. By testimony to the House Committee investigating January 6 2021 about how American democracy was nearly toppled by insurrection. And by headlines like 1) "Polarizing US Supreme Court Decisions Headline Blockbuster Term" (Voa News,) 2) "Election deniers have taken their fraud theories on tour — to nearly every state." (NPR,) and 3) "Top election officials in Arizona county leave amid threats." (Washington Post).
commentary and analysis:
This last headline got my attention since it refers to running elections in the county where I live. And it fit right in with what I'd been doing.. My last week in June 2022 was dominated by participating in something a cynical person would have no part of. I found myself interviewing candidates for the Arizona legislature—some with little chance of winning—as part of a progressive organization's deciding whether or not to endorse the office seeker. This is about as close as I get to the sense of civic duty described in the "Service to Others" (theme #21B) that is paired with "Cynicism" (theme #36A) in choice #32.
(Quick aside: these two worldview themes are part of the 104 themes paired together to define the 52 choices found in Project Worldview's Choices We Make—A Framework for Global Education. See note #1 below for more about this freely available resource that has literally been decades in the making.)
I'd heard one of the candidates our team interviewed briefly speak at an event two months earlier celebrating a wild Arizona river threatened with development. That late April morning I'd also done most of the work in digging holes for the trees we planted that afternoon along the river. Gossip I heard weeks later suggested supporters of an extremist right-wing candidate seeking that same office were behind threats that caused our county election officials to resign (thus the Washington Post account noted above.) And, sadly, I later heard of the intentional destruction of those trees we'd so idealistically planted that day, trees which were blessed by a Native American elder. I suspect that cynical, bomb-throwing type people— hell-bent on destroying institutions, symbols of their opponents, or whatever—were behind this vandalism.
With respect to my teaming up with others in interviewing candidates, I knew most of the interviewers I was working with. As for one guy I didn't know, I relaxed when I saw what he had chosen as his backdrop to these Zoom sessions: a banner that said "Be kind!" With all the media attention hate crimes get, one might think that random acts of kindness are in short supply? I hope not. I like to think those oriented toward being kind and serving others still outnumber the hateful cynics and bomb-throwers. And that thinking people outnumber those who "shoot from the hip" first, and ask questions later.
What else can I say about those prone to make seemingly uncaring, selfish, unethical, sometimes dangerous decisions? That undoubtedly they are more comfortable with the title of a best-selling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, than I am! Why have millions of people bought this book? I suspect its title appeals to those who connect America with "the freedom to do whatever you damn well please." My conception of freedom pairs it with responsibility. And, as my association with that previously mentioned Choices We Make booklet suggests, I am a fan of "when it matters, choose wisely—don't act randomly or mindlessly, act deliberately after much reflection." And I generally prefer people acting from a "Rational, Dispassionate" (theme #18B) position in choice #20 rather than in "Passionately Impulsive" (theme #18A) fashion. This orientation is especially important in an America that has over 400 million guns in the hands of private citizens!
With respect to some of the other 52 choices in the booklet, it seems July 4th in America is a day for those "Proud to be an American"—that is, fans of "Proud Identification & Tribalism" (theme #37A) in choice #36. In terms of differences from past Independence Day celebrations, besides this year's violent killing during the parade, it seems that increasingly Americans celebrating July 4th prefer "Authoritarian Followers" (theme #20B) over "Education for Democracy" (theme #31) in choice #29. Hopefully this is still a small minority—but minorities can have big impacts!
Recent Supreme Court decisions about gun control, abortion, separation of church and state, climate change, etc. represent views not shared by a majority of Americans. In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court majority came down clearly on the side of the "Sanctity & Dignity of Life" (theme #44A) in choice #42, to the dismay of those who prefer the "Hands-Off My Body" (theme #44B). Polls that show a big majority of Americans—and an even bigger majority of Europeans—take a middle ground position between the two extremes: no abortion allowed under any circumstances or unlimited abortion regardless of how advanced the pregnancy. This supports my assertion that, generally speaking, most healthy worldviews find a way to value (at least to some extent) both of the themes paired together in those 52 choices. Granted one theme may be preferred over the other, but not to the extent that zero value is assigned to the less preferred theme. (See note # 2 below.) Of course this can not be said about the worldviews of extremists.
Many who feel grateful every July 4th that they are Americans also recognize the need for everyone to do their part in battling global climate, and increasingly appreciate that other theme in choice #36—"Global Citizen" (theme #37B),But with its restraining the U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act—something the 230 year old plus U.S. Constitution says nothing about—the Supreme Court majority parts company from those folks. Rather, in siding with those who want "Freedom from Limits" (theme #204A) in choice #40, they are essentially saying the hell with "Sustainability" (theme #23A) in choice #44, and "Environmental Economics" (theme #40) in choice #52. Likewise it seems the Court's recent ruling invalidating a New York law regulating carrying guns is shaped by worldviews that value "Freedom from Limits" (theme #204A) over its choice #40 alternative "Limits and Ethics" (theme #204B).
But, don't look for consistency here and think the decisions of these legal giants always place individual freedom, or freedom to operate a business, etc. above limits big government might impose. Some of the Court's other rulings—notably declaring Roe v. Wade unconstitutional, and upholding laws that give state governments ultimate power over pregnant women and limit the control they have over their own bodies —tell us that!
When the U.S. Constitution clearly is not applicable in guiding their decision-making, we expect Supreme Court Justices to use common sense and rule based on best available evidence. And with the expectation that they are helping to steer society toward a positive future. This balancing is presented as choice #1 in the booklet, which pairs "Evidence-Based" (theme #201A) with "Positive Expectations" (theme #201B). I fear too often the Court ignores relevant evidence, ignores what is best for society, and rules in a way that reflects "wishful thinking" (i.e. the way they'd like the world to be, not the way it is,) and a worldview divorced from reality. And I fear many of the Court's Justices are unable to escape prejudicial constraints. They need to value open-minded deliberation / "...Intellectual Freedom" (theme #30) and escape the "Group Think Imperative" (theme #15) in choice #12,
Beyond that, I'd like to see their worldviews evolve in a "Mind Open, Vision Global" (theme #101A) direction that can balance the "Mind Narrowly Focused" (theme #101B) in (choice #2) mindset some Justices seemingly possess. I wish I could help them identify contradictions in their individual worldviews —potentially an important step in learning to better interpret laws and better understand the real world context in which they are to be applied. I was pondering what to do when an op-ed headline got my attention: "How the Supreme Court could make it legal to steal the next presidential election" (MSNBC.)
Scary stuff! What to do? Rather than planning on leaving the country, I decided to launch a high level educational effort. It will begin my investing around $10 in postage and sending each of the nine Supreme Court Justices a copy of Project Worldview's Choices We Make—A Framework for Global Education booklet. I hesitate publicizing my offer to help the Supreme Court given choice #3 considerations. Some may feel I'm arrogantly asserting "I Know What's Best For You" (theme #2B) and forgetting those words of the "Humbly Unsure" (theme #1A): "I can't forget the complexity of the world or the smallness and ignorance of any one person." (see note #3) There is much I don't know. I'm certainly not on expert on legal matters, and my spirituality —thought of in terms of my relationship to what my head and heart tell me is fundamentally important—is still evolving. But I can read, and I feel the Supreme Court majority conveniently ignores some important words in the U.S. Constitution. In this regard, consider the following...
Imagine, as both Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Congresswoman / January 6 Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney have recently suggested, the U.S. Constitution really is "divinely inspired." While I am skeptical of this suggestion (see note #4,) let's accept it for a minute.
Consider the words the Second Amendment begins with: "a well-regulated Militia". What can we make of them? Many claim "Militia" are antiquated and no longer "necessary to the security of a free State." I don't have a problem with ignoring that word. But I argue that ignoring the words "well-regulated" is a mistake. I'd say they show that the Constitution's framers accepted the need for regulations. And that freedom has limits. Based on where this phrase appears, we can logically conclude that the right of individuals to bear arms has limits. I fear that those pushing the freedom of young men, like the killers of Uvalde, Texas school children or the Highland Park July 4th parade goers, to own assault weapons, are forgetting these important, perhaps divinely inspired words in the Second Amendment. And the logical conclusion the Supreme Court ought to be making: gun ownership in America needs to be well-regulated
#1 You can view a smart-phone friendly copy of the Choices We Make —A Framework for Global Education booklet by clicking here. For more about the uses this booklet can be put to, click here. It is also available as a .pdf for free download, If you're a teacher with high school age or older students eager to learn, I'll send you a free, colorful, 28 page printed copy of the booklet if you'll send me a comment making that request (see "Your Comments" below) that includes your mailing address. (Note: if this blog post goes viral and I'm swamped with requests if may take awhile to get yours to you!) Also note this booklet is part of the Appendix in the recently published Choices We Make in the Global Village—a 424 page "manual" Kirkus Reviews described as "a thoughtful and well-reasoned guide to making lifestyle decisions."
#2 The Project Worldview website includes computer-based tools to quantitatively analyze worldviews—for more info click here.
#3 These words were written by my
mentor and later collaborator Donella H. Meadows, co-author of the 1972
book The Limits to Growth. For a perspective on it, see
Infamous 1972 Report That Warned of Civilization's Collapse. How does it
hold up 50 years later? (from Wired –July 2022)
#4 a June 22 press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation starts by saying "The U.S. Constitution is "godless," not "divinely inspired" and chastises both Bowers and Cheney for making an "erroneous assertion."
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