Violence Recoils Upon The Violent

The powerful posts here about the Newtown massacre have generated many passionate and intelligent comments and also an unusually high number of abusive and trolling remarks. I started editing some out and it was difficult to do much more than cut the few most egregious cases without having threads fall apart. I could even see the verbal violence escalating between people as threads developed, one hard shove leading to another harder shove and so on.

I don’t pretend to know the solution to societal violence, but it might be a good start for us to at least not be violent with each other as we talk about it.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

72 thoughts on “Violence Recoils Upon The Violent”

  1. Dreams are good, Ken. I consciously took a step back and decided to interact civilly with a Brett on another thread here. He’s doing the same (the civil part–I don’t know if it was a conscious decision). Let’s not set low expectations.

    1. John, this is the most civil forum I have encountered in “public space” on the Internet. So my sad comment really was more appropriately about public forums in general than it was about this one.

      BTW, my observation is that Brett is a smart engineer and, what I find to be true of folks of that bent (among whom I count myself), prefers a sharp-pointed dart to the bludgeon of an ad hominum attack. I find that refreshing compared to most other public forums, where left-right disagreements more resemble SNL.

      Anyway, Keith, I apologize for seeming to belittle your good wishes for our civility. It’s the world at large for whom I despair.

      1. “BTW, my observation is that Brett is a smart engineer,…..”

        Aside from the fact that he and facts don’t live in the same universe.

        1. Lots of smart engineers are terrible at solving social problems because they assume that social problems have engineering solutions. Also, engineers tend to be very conservative, which isn’t a sin in itself, but it means they rarely agree with me and are therefore wrong. 🙂

          1. Andrew, Brett frequently disagrees with me but I have found him to be unfailingly polite while telling me so. Which was Keith’s point in the this thread. And which was mine, as well, regarding this forum. We could do better, but by Internet standards we’re pretty darn good.

  2. While you’re trying to clean up the comments, could you see about getting some method of having the new comments marked? I know the tech tools are there. Most of the Sandy Hook comments are now lost because there is no way to keep wading through such long threads of comments trying to find the new ones. A shame.

  3. Think thrice before pressing “submit”. On something like the Sandy Hook massacre, think thrice three times.

    1. Heh, yeah a lot of hyperbole committing mass murder of strawmen there, but I think the post served a valuable purpose in that it gave people a place to go and vent that stuff without being taken too seriously and ending up in escalating conflicts over the same old worn territory. There’s been enough of that already.

  4. Civil discussion is fine when dealing with reasonable and honest counterparts. When dealing with liars or those who are willfully ignorant of facts, it becomes useless. So the choice becomes whether to call out a liar, or let their lie stand. If you choose the latter, you get Fox News, public policy based on superstition, and all the evil that comes with it. If you choose the former, you get an argument that demonstrates a decided lack of civility because it always requires calling a liar a liar.

    Not a very tough choice, really. The former is preferred.

    1. Interesting timing: I just finished receiving a 25-minute lecture from my three gun fetishist-libertarian employees about their absolute “2nd Amendment rights” to own 100-shot high-velocity rapid-fire killing devices. Unfortunately I wasn’t my usual thoughtful-listening self because my resolve broke down last night and I read the biography/obituaries of he Sandy Hook victims. I guess I have some disagreement with Keith’s OP, but I’ll leave it at that.

      1. There comes a point when the best response is “F*ck Off”.
        I think we are past the time when we try to reason with these people.

        Maybe you should fire these guys. They are endangering your children.

        1. I’m not sure we fire these people, but I think treating rabid gun fetishists like lepers is a good start. Or a treatment maybe similar to Silverberg’s short story To See the Invisible Man.

      2. Yeah.

        We have one side more or less saying: “If you do not pay to arm yourself and your children and prepare for, at any time during any day, to kill another human being, possibly in self defense, then expect one of us to kill you, sooner or later.” And then they do kill us, over and over again.

        And the other side is saying, “we’d rather not spend our time on hair trigger awareness waiting for the chance to kill someone, and we’d rather not have to worry about someone at any time and in any place killing us. We observe that this norm holds in all other civilized places in the world.”

        And we, who, along with our families, are explicitly under murderous assault from these people who think that card carrying members of their sect constantly killing people is just another nonnegotiable facet of their freedoms, are supposed to be civil?

  5. People with guns kill people

    I think the anti-government 2nd Amendment justifications are nonsense. Antiquated nonsense. Fudgin” Branch Dividian Waconess. See how it ends. There ain’t a wacko “patriot” in suburbia that has a wife who will live through the toilet not working, much less all dreams held in 401-Ks and equities when your checking account is closed . You think there’s someone to shoot at? Tip the couch over in front of the picture window and … ? March on ??? You and what army?:

    Get real? They will drone your posterior while you’re sneaking over to the neighbors for a bucket of water while everything you ever planned on dissolves and the world never even notices.

    You tell me what the Federal Government of the United States Of America has to do that will ever get an organized group of NOT-CRAZY people ( I’ve been to Tea Party big events) to act in an armed manner.
    Then, after you finally stretch out all logic and history, whatever you put up, I will measure against school massacres.

    I propose that semi-auto pistols be illegal. No ammo magazines over 6 rounds – if you can’t take that deer down with 6, give it up.

  6. I agree that it’s always better to be civil. Calling someone a liar, if they are one, or if you believe them to be one, is not uncivil, imho. But, if you have the facts to show this, better to use those first. Either way, I wouldn’t expect much discourse with the person after that. And that may be okay.

    I wonder if this subject isn’t a bit like abortion. If you’re an adult and you’ve lived in the world and heard all the arguments, at some point there’s no longer any point in talking to the extreme of the other side. You just have to outnumber the other side, and talk to the people in the middle. And here, that might include a lot more NRA members than we think.

    1. Can’t we ensure reality-based arguments by saying that claims are “absolutely false” (or the like) and proving that with evidence and argument, without going to motive by calling the people who make them liars, i.e. peddlers of *deliberate* falsehoods?

      It seems to me that when ideological commitments are at stake, people genuinely come to believe a lot of stuff that’s belied by evidence. Perhaps some radio personalities who lead ideological camps are actually liars, but most of the rank and file are sincere and should, I think, be treated as such. This is no way to deny that the content of their beliefs can be harmful–even dangerous–to society. And saying that is in no way uncivil.

    2. Perhaps better than calling someone a liar is to say something along the lines of, “I’m sure you sincerely believe what you stated above, but it is incorrect, and here’s evidence to back up my claim.” And then stop talking.

      1. I prefer the formula: “I will not offer you the insult of assuming that you believe what you just wrote.” 🙂

        –TP

    3. I think I agree, one needn’t use the word “liar” in most cases. I just mean it’s okay to say so when someone says something that’s unfactual, without pussyfooting around too much about it. Sometimes people are *too* polite. Like, in our media, where “journalists” pretend that everyone’s ideas about reality are equally valid.

  7. You just have to outnumber the other side, and talk to the people in the middle.

    Marginalizing gun fetishization and motivating the majority are essential as well. But I agree that the extremes shouldn’t be given oxygen: “to oppose something is to maintain it.”

    1. Plus, it’s too darned tiring and it’s a waste of energy. Like these folks who say “arm the teachers?” We should ignore them.

  8. I haven’t had the heart to follow the discussions. Just too sad and sticks crosswise in my head.
    I saw a hasty post by Brett over on Obsidian Wings that seemed uncharacteristically disjointed for him. Maybe it’s starting to stick crosswise in his head too. When your logical legal theories keep crashing against cold hard rock it must be exhausting to keep up the defense.
    Anyway, I have been thinking this over in my slow way and I want to ask the die hard 2nd amendment absolutists, (Brett) sincerely:
    What do you think can be done to staunch these horror show massecres? Please exclude after the fact punishment and everybody packing heat as these are too late and hopeless, respectively.
    Gimme some hope for civilization, guys. We’re drownin’ here.

        1. ___

          EMILIE PARKER, 6

          Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.

          Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blond, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods.

          Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He’s sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.

          “I’m so blessed to be her dad,” he said.
          ___

          (via Huffington Post)

        2. You did not offer “something”. You would never ever vote for anything that improves mental health diagnosis/treatment and it is fascinating that self-described freedom-worshipers prescribe locked down prison cells for those who wish to opt out of your deranged sect’s inevitable collateral damage.

          1. two thumbs up.

            Brett’s “solution” it to make us all live in the same fear he lives in. No thanks.

      1. As far as I know Mr. Bellmore has never changed his opinion about anything. In thread after thread I’ve seen his logic chased down, cornered, and treed. Often brilliantly.
        He then disappears and reappears on another thread showing no signs of wear.
        I’ve never seen him admit to needing a re-think. Ever.
        Perhaps another RBC historian can correct me on this, as in no way have I plumbed the complete commenting depths…
        But until such a correction appears, dare to think about what it means to never (or rarely) change your mind about anything.

        Which is not to suggest Mr. Bellmore doesn’t have value. He has great value in the marketplace of ideas. And he should be used for purely selfish reasons: Honing one’s critical thinking skills by discovering the holes in his “proofs”. That’s great mental exercise. But don’t ever believe you are going to change his opinion with a sweet counter argument. Which is all to suggest, it is probably best to eschew the counterarguments and go for dissecting the flaws. As Mark Kleiman suggested many moons ago: That should be easy sport. Lastly, be thankful that Mr. Bellmore is here to expose his naked flawed logic in public and give you such fine target practice…

        1. I agree on this point. What’s interesting is that many of us here, myself included, have actually changed our opinions because of Brett. But usually not to his opinion–he just causes many of us to realize the intractability and blind hardheadedness of people like him. As a result, we’re forced to consider other approaches to reaching these unreachable folk.

        2. Amen. Brett has taught me something about the rules of discourse. He is invariably civil, quite intelligent, and generally (I believe) dealing in good faith. Such a person should be a fine interlocutor, especially as he disagrees with me on many issues.

          However, Brett will never, never, never admit that he is wrong. When flat-out caught (usually on incredible facts; he is bright enough so that his arguments usually cohere), there are a few days of radio silence. And then he’s back, with the same old shtick.

          This is a valuable learning experience. I now know that there are four things that destroy discourse, not just three:
          – Any bad faith, even in small doses.
          – Serious stupidity.
          – Gross incivility.
          – (thanks to Brett) Chronic refusal to admit to error.

      2. Oh, hey, we both linked to the same comment; we seem merely to differ about whether it contains any content. My position is that saying “it’s a darn shame some people have mental problems, wouldn’t it be nice if we could handle that better” is not substantive; Brett takes the opposite position.

        1. Well “Brett takes the opposite position” does seem to sum up the situation pretty well. Locking down public buildings is already pretty much done to the extent practicality allows and TV talking heads substituting derisive words for names of offenders is pretty weak tea, don’t you think?
          But I really didn’t intend to start a Brett Bellmore slamming fest.
          On the other hand Warren did point out (in his linked comment) some constructive ideas. I like madatory gun safes/locks idea*. I don’t think such a requirement is overly intrusive and should provide a feeling of security to gunn owners. Anyone who would argue that they don’t worry about their guns falling into the wrong hands is probably too foolish to be trusted with a gun.

          *My dad kept his guns and amunition in a locked cabinet. It kept my curious fingers from marring them as well as other kinds of dirt. Probaly reduced corrossion too. It’s a win-win guys. Preserve you precious hardware while avoiding those messy blood stains on the livingroom floor and walls, not to mention funeral expenses or embarrassment of explaining why little Johnny blew little Billy’s head clean off.

          1. But then they are not ready at the hair trigger for when the brown parasites who foolishly failed to prepare come looking for provisions in the end times.

            Or something.

      3. Warren demands his first amendment right to abuse others when he finds himself unwilling to engage in civil discourse. The OP suggests that the folks who provide this forum for us would prefer that it’s guests not devolve it into the “ad hominem based community”. Let’s not forget how rude it is to our hosts when we insult other guests at the party.

        For my part, I regret the “what part of this don’t you understand” attitude I copped a time or two during the discussions at issue, and resolve to reiterate my points more politely if I feel they’ve been overlooked, keeping in mind that it’s not unusual for two people to look at the same thing and see it differently. Dennis has the right idea.

        1. The gun control debate has moved into the same territory as the “blacks are racially inferior” debate.
          There are still some people around who are willing to argue the point but normal, sane people don’t lessen themselves by replying.

          There is no debate. If you try to argue against gun control you just reveal yourself as too ignorant or too corrupt to be worth talking to.

          1. I partially disagree with DGM. My little brother is a gun nut, of leftie persuasion and deep, deep hatred of the NRA. We’ve often tangled on gun control. He hasn’t persuaded me of much (except the difficulty of defining “assault weapon”), but has made many good points along the way. For example, there is a good argument that no politically feasible form of gun control will make much difference to gun violence. The horse is long out of the barn. There are good counter-arguments, too.

            On the other hand, I agree with DGM in that most gun advocates are scary creepy sorts, with whom there is no point in arguing. It’s not so much that none of their arguments have merit; it is just that discourse with zealot duckspeakers is a waste of time.

        2. Actually, if you read the comments you link to you will find that in them I accused Brett of being unwilling to engage in civil discourse, of deliberately propagating lies, and I said that I felt it would be appropriate to relax the normal commenting rules to permit commenters to label Brett appropriately in acknowledgment of his deliberate propagation of lies. I stand by this suggestion.

          I also don’t know what it has to do with the first amendment, which I didn’t mention, as none of this has anything to do with government regulation of speech.

          And I find it entirely unsurprising that you have no more interest in suggesting policies that might affect our incidence of handgun fatalities than does Brett.

          1. Actually, if you read the comments you link to you will find that in them I accused Brett of being unwilling to engage in civil discourse, of deliberately propagating lies, and I said that I felt it would be appropriate to relax the normal commenting rules to permit commenters to label Brett appropriately in acknowledgment of his deliberate propagation of lies.

            Yes, I’m familiar with the conversation. Brett linked to the sources of his information and you just called him a liar instead of arguing from fact while you tried to change the terms of the disagreement from what was predicted to why the prediction failed. Not what I’d call good faith, my friend.

            I stand by this suggestion.

            This suggestion? I’m suggesting that it should be appropriate to engage in personal abuse against Brett on this site, in violation of the normal commenting rules How nice.

            And I find it entirely unsurprising that you have no more interest in suggesting policies that might affect our incidence of handgun fatalities than does Brett.

            Not so. Just because you may disagree with a suggestion doesn’t mean it hasn’t been made. I’m open to critique of my suggestion and alternative suggestions as well, if you have one Warren. I don’t believe I’ve seen one from you on the subject yet either, but I wouldn’t accuse you of not offering one just because I haven’t come across it yet.

          2. Um, yeah. Brett propagated a lie about the stimulus that has been recognized and denounced as being a lie by basically every serious entity to examine it for years before this particular instance of its propagation. He could hardly be unaware that it was a lie, under the circumstances, unless his sources of information are so exclusively from within the Fox News Etcetera bubble that he couldn’t have anything worthwhile to say to people outside of it.

            And your only suggestion for our rash of gun violence is More Guns. And you ignored the responses to your proposal sensibly pointing out that (1) our teachers aren’t paid to engage in shoot-outs; (2) our teachers aren’t trained to engage in shoot-outs; and (3) the Israeli teachers you cite are trained, and perhaps even paid, to engage in shoot-outs. And that’s not even mentioning the potential risks involved in the notion that every roomful of unruly children in the country should be supplied with a loaded firearm, in the possession of a teacher who might not maintain control of it at all times, or might not maintain control of themselves at all times – a teacher who under your ideas would have that gun in their possession by means of right and entirely untrained, rather than as part of some well-considered policy involving training and foresight. Literally, your only suggestion to the gun-violence problem was not only more guns, but more unregulated guns, more guns willy-nilly and with no thoughts to training, regulation, insurance, etcetera.

            And if you haven’t come across any suggestions I’ve made, you haven’t been paying attention. You might try reading the subthread linked twice in this particular subthread, by both me and Brett, in which I mentioned proposals intended to be extremely moderate and possibly even acceptable to gun enthusiasts (that is to say, I didn’t mention other proposals I’ve encountered that I expect to be far more controversial (firearm registration, restrictions or even taxation on ammunition sales, clip sizes, concealable folding stocks, the cosmetic regulation of “assault weapons”, etcetera). Heck, one of the proposals I did make was cited in this subthread by Anomalous, who started this subthread.

          3. I invite you to re-read my comments on that post. You need look no further than the very same sub-thread I linked to find my responses to your objections, which I fleshed out further elsewhere in other comments on that post.

            If you wish to further debate appropriate responses to the Sandy Hook tragedy with me, please let’s do it on one of the Sandy Hook threads. The subject of this post is civil discourse.

          4. Your 2nd Amendment as interpreted by Roberts and Scalia:

            The funeral for 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jack Pinto was held on Monday in Newtown, Conn. Following the service, USA Today reporter Yamiche Alcindor tweeted this photo — a letter to Jack from his best friend, John, with pictures of the boys.

            The text reads:
            “Jack, You are my best friend. We had fun together. I will miss you. I will talk to you in my prayers. I love you Jack. Love, John”

            According to The Mercury, kids as young as 5 attended Jack’s funeral, including his wrestling teammates, wearing their gray Newtown T-shirts.

            In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, HuffPost spoke to experts about the psychological effects this trauma could have on the children who survived. “They’re likely to have difficulty concentrating, difficulty with trust, difficulty with dealing with the losses they’ve incurred… Many of these kids will never be the same kids,” said Russell T. Jones, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Virginia Tech. He added that closeness and support from the community will play a role in the students’ emotional recovery. […]

    1. I repeat: “Gimme some hope for civilization guys. We’re drownin’ here.”

      Is it kosher to use quotation marks to quote oneself?

      1. I don’t think all hope is lost. I think that if we made it harder for nutty or angry people to have guns that kill lots of people, quickly (however defined, and no, I don’t really care … an army of zombies is *not* likely to invade anyone’s home … so you don’t need that many bullets, sorry but you don’t, and NO, there is no 2nd At right to giant piles of bullets …), and beefed up our mental healthcare, we could get somewhere. And it’s certainly worth a try. So, why don’t we try it first, before we give up?

        As for this place, I guess I must have missed most of the incivility. Maybe it got erased already. I didn’t see anything I thought was so terrible.

        1. The one directed at me that got nuked was funnier than it was terrible, though it was hardly what we’d consider civil discourse. I considered replying as Tiny White Penis of Death if that gives you any indication.

  9. It is depressing to think that public policy on guns might be changed as a result of the predictable couple spree killings a year. Meanwhile more Americans die each minute from tobacco, extreme obesity, drunk driving, and other diseases of advanced civilization.

    The Koch Bros and other assorted malevalent billionaires would be endlessly pleased if the left wastes its scanty political capital on gun control rather than raising top 0.1% tax rates.

    1. State taxes average 7.5 cents per cigaratte. Gasoline is taxed at $.18 federally, and almost every state taxes as much or more per gallon. Bullets are not, so far as I am aware, currently subject to excise taxes.

      And I reject your insistence that we decide between, on the one hand trying to find something we can do about our Unthinkable Atrocity Rate and, on the other hand, trying to make the slightest gesture towards reining in the rate of growth of the rate of growth of inequality in this country.

    2. Almost all of the fatalities you list are due to an individual’s life choices, and affect only that individual (drunk driving being the exception).* The “couple spree killings a year” are not in the same category. I wouldn’t even wish it on you.

      Sometimes, I wonder why I even bother to respond to idiots like you…

      1. What’s idiotic is to think that human behavior is simply a product of “individual life choices.” Stupid moral theories don’t explain much.

    3. “The Koch Bros and other assorted malevalent billionaires would be endlessly pleased… ”
      I think that about sums up the strategy of progressives not wanting to risk gun control as a wedge issue.

      But your first point I think works in reverse. It isn’t as if mass shootings and handgun homicides have gone away as a moral position – they’ve merely been eclipsed by strategy in the face of lack of public resolve. But sometimes it takes something enormously emblematic of a deeper issue to fire people up, and this is exactly that emblem. The gun control side needs no reminding, but those who do are the people in the middle, who maybe don’t normally consider the issue very much, and have gone along with the idea that gun violence isn’t a big deal.

      This is a pretty big deal.

      Sure, it is an outlier as far as mass shootings go (which, still, are getting more common). But it represents a lot in terms of the lethality of guns, and ultimately, that they are not toys, but rather horrific weapons. On balance, the classic gun-rights arguments seem to fall away beneath a nightmarish, bloody scene of elementary school children shot through multiple times by a man with a high-powered semi-automatic assault rifle.

    4. And, seriously, do you not know what “couple a year” means? There was a spree killing at an Oregon mall on December 11, and then the Connecticut horror on the 14th. The rate here is “a couple a week.”

  10. This email to Talking Points Memo is something I believe everyone should read, especially people like Brett. Incredibly thought provoking.

    The question it asks: when did our gun culture turn from a primarily hunting-oriented, positive thing into a completely paranoid, tactical, arsenal-acquiring culture? And why did this happen? And why do gun fanatics not see the craziness of this shift?

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/12/tactical_reality.php?ref=fpblg

    1. American culture is, for whatever reason(s), saturated with violence. Sensible limits on gun ownership and ammo purchases are impossible to implement in the current environment because of the NRA and the many Fox-news-fed paranoid uneducated gun fetishists. Each new massacre moves the needle a tiny amount, but it’s not enough. There has to be a new, indirect approach that might slide under the crazies’ radar just enough to get through. Is there any chance that we could get Congress to pass a sort of sin tax on violence? $10 on violent video games and a couple bucks on movies? We already have ratings systems in place–just attach a dollar value to them. Make people notice a little more when they make a choice to support violent entertainment. Hollywood makes billions on glorifying violence–fine, but make it cost them a tiny bit. Call it the Sandy Hook tax. As stated many times before in this discussion, tax guns and ammo. Call it the Columbine tax. Give a name to each tax, and print it on the receipts. It doesn’t take away anybody’s guns, it just raises awareness a little.

      1. there is no data showing video games have anything to do with mass shootings.

        none.

        like the man says, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

        1. On the other hand, the police and the military use first-person shooters with the explicit intention of desensitizing their own shooters to the horror of putting bullets through people. Is that data? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly is a fact, and they certainly succeed in desensitization. I ran into a criminal justice prof with long law enforcement experience just this morning and first-person shooters were what was on his mind.

        2. Why do you suggest I am connecting video games and mass shootings? I was discussing violence-steeped American culture and how it might be changed. Mass shootings are terrible things, but the numbers involved are trivial compared to the sum of individual shootings that occur every day, and that (as has been pointed out) occur at a rate several times higher per capita than in other civilized countries.

    2. This mirrors my experience very well. Emphasis on hunting, and my family hunted a lot up to and through the ’70s, has been replaced with a powerful need to be able to kill other people. The entire elegance of the art of hunting has been overwhelmed by the ghettoized fetishes of the Freemans and Bellmores in this country.

      Firearms are tools. I was raised from an early age to equate a rifle as something akin to a fishing pole, though obviously there are mandatory safety practices that made a difference. (This is what I alluded to in my Cheney reference awhile back: you shoot a fellow hunter, ESPECIALLY one in your own party, you are guilty. You shot a human being instead of a small bird. It’s simply not possible to confuse the two unless gross negligence is involved. But that is not how the modern gun fanatic approaches the situation.)

      I would love to be able to hunt the especially plentiful game within a few miles of where I live. This is the best way, in every sense, to obtain meat to eat, if you’re a meat eater. Hunting bypasses the prevalent disgusting CAFO based meat industry, and helps one maintain an active acquaintance with the physical geography and the wildlife around you. The act of killing, then dressing, and then cooking the food you eat crystallizes the cycle of life (to get a bit mystical) when you explicitly close that circle. But since the Cheney episode I don’t trust my fellow (100% Republican) hunters, who amazingly gave him a pass. I wonder how they explain these new safety “principles” to their kids.

      A difference I have with the letter writer is from an early age I only very rarely missed a stationary target with a rifle. So punching holes in things with a rifle got kind of monotonous. I much prefer using a small-bore shotgun (there’s the elegance showing up) to shoot small things moving rapidly (and preferably erratically) through the air. Now that is a huge amount of fun.

      Hey, anybody out there share much of my views? We should start a hunting club.

      1. I too was taught that a gun is a tool to be handled with care and respect. To my dad’s everlasting disapointment I never learned his love of hunting but I respect the tradition.

        Some time in the 1990s living in a Delaware farm house I awoke with the sun on the first day of deer season to the expected din of dozens of guns firing out in the woods. Among the zealots’ noise was the sound of a machine gun. So much for tradition.

        On another occasion I was walking my dogs on our accustomed trail when we passed a pick up truck backed into the bushes. Across the dash board, window to window were lined up empty beer cans and on the seat the largest pile of shotgun shells I have ever seen. We turned and went home.

        And then one day my friend Butch and I went for a walk on a woods road. He had his shotgun and bird license. He was looking me in the face when a duck flew over our heads about 25 feet. He pointed his gun up and fired while still looking me in the eye and a black duck dropped at his feet and he picked it up with a casual smile and put it in his coat pocket. I have never witnessed such grace.

        I would never want to take Butch’s two shot gun from his skilled hands but that guy with the AK47 needs a short leash.

      2. I was lucky enough in high school to be taught by a reasonably famous writer who frequently wrote reflectively about his own hunting.

        From him, I learned that hunting was an elegant, meaningful craft that could actually be humane and ecological.

        Fro Ted Nugent and the NRA, I’ve learned that it is a brutal bloodbath sport of cruelty toward both animals and (all too frequnetly) your fellow humans. With awful people like this around, many of the reflective pursuits of the past have taken on a profane quality. They are now tied directly to conservative white-man survivalism–vaguely racist, blatantly violent, fairly misanthropic. This is contrary to Brett’s indirect assertion in another thread that inner city hip-hop culture is to blame. It saddens me.

  11. It’s not a good idea to deplane in New York, even just to catch another flight, no mater how well your legal i’s and t’s are anointed.

  12. (the link got filtered)

    It’s not a good idea to deplane in New York, even just to catch another flight, no mater how well your legal i’s and t’s are anointed.

  13. Whenever I see a back-and-forth here involving Brett B, I read until I hit the first eye-roller then skip the rest of the thread. Life is short. Ignoring him makes my life better. If folks never engaged him, maybe their lives would be better, too.

    1. brett serves much the same purpose here as the whetstone serves in my kitchen– a hard, abrasive block that allows me to sharpen my tools. culinary tools in the kitchen, intellectual tools here.

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