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52 Poems, Week 8: Dover Beach (Matthew Arnold)

Sunday Night Journal, February 18, 2018

I seriously considered not going to Mass on Ash Wednesday. In fact I came pretty close to not going. My reason was partly that I just didn't want to bother, and was possessive of the time involved, because I had some other things I wanted to do that day. But the strongest reason was my desire to avoid hearing the song "Ashes." I don't know whether I should call it a hymn or not. Perhaps I should, since it's a piece that's sung as part of a worship service. But the word sort of sticks in my throat when I try to use it for this and many other...songs that are sung at Mass. I'll give "Ashes" this much credit: in tone it is more hymn-like than many such compositions. 

But for reasons that (1) I would have difficulty articulating and (2) probably should not try to articulate because doing so would involve some distinctly uncharitable thoughts about the song's composer, and even more about the apparent consensus among music directors in Catholic parishes that it should always, always be sung on Ash Wednesday--for these reasons, I'll just say that it produces a reflexive antipathy in me. It puts me in an entirely undevotional frame of mind, which is a bad way to begin Lent. I've been hearing it for a good many years now, and the reaction is not as potent as it once was, but it's still fairly strong. Part of my method for coping with it has been to treat hearing it as a penance and the attempt to control my reaction to it as mortification.

(In case you're a regular reader of this blog and are wondering: our Ordinariate group is so small and scattered that we ordinarily don't meet apart from Sundays, and on other holy days I often go to the local parish, which as contemporary parishes go is not bad liturgically--but still, I could be reasonably sure of hearing "Ashes.")

Most of that is true every year, and I wouldn't have considered not going, however little I wanted to, except that it dawned on me this year that Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation (for non-Catholics: these are days, apart from Sunday, when Catholics are officially required to go to Mass). I think I've always just somehow assumed that it was. But of course it isn't. So I thought "Hey, I can skip it without being in technical violation of the rules." But that, obviously, is entirely the wrong way to look at it. As our priest said in his homily today, it's usually Satan's voice saying "I wonder if this is really a sin." (At least for most of us--it's a very different matter for those who are troubled with excessive scrupulosity, in which case it may be Satan's saying"It's probably a sin," and God's voice saying "Don't worry about it.") 

Not to say that it would have been a grave sin if I'd skipped Ash Wednesday Mass. It would have been a relatively minor one, and in some circumstances for some people not a sin at all. But for me it certainly would have been: it would have been a deliberate and conscious refusal of something I knew to be a duty toward God. 

In the end, though, it wasn't the desire to avoid that sin that convinced me to go. It was a sense that the observation of Ash Wednesday, and especially the actual reception of ashes, is not a private devotion, and that my participation in it along with a few hundred other ordinary lay Catholics is important--important to me as a recognition of my place in the community of sinners, and to me and the whole Church as a recognition of its mystical nature, something more organically real than a simple collection of individuals. To have stayed home would have been a sort of insult to that body. It would have been a sort of denial that I am part of it, and a sort of denial of its significance. Both it and I would have been diminished by my absence. Only I would have been aware of that diminishment, but it would have been real nonetheless. Only I--and God, of course.

So I went. And I did hear "Ashes." And I thought bad thoughts about it. But it was sung during the imposition of ashes, and the closing hymn, which I can't remember the name or words of now, had a melody by Bach, and that was what remained in my head when the Mass was over. 


I've noticed that some Protestant groups have taken up the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. This is a good thing in general. Some Protestants have always done it, I guess, but not most. Definitely not the Methodist church where I grew up. But I have some reservations about what one local Protestant church was doing this week: offering drive-through ashes. That church is on the same street as mine, and when I passed it on the way I thought I saw a sign to that effect, but wasn't sure I'd read it right. On the way back I took a closer look, and yes, that's what they were doing: the sign said "Drive-In Ashes," and there were two men at a table in the parking lot. Can't say it's wrong, exactly, but somehow it doesn't seem quite in the spirit of the thing. I assume they had a service in the church building itself. 


And we've had another massacre at a school. If anyone reads this ten years from now he probably won't know which one I'm referring to, which is a pretty sad commentary. The usual argument about gun control immediately started, with the usual proportion of heat (lots) to light (very little). I've sometimes considered putting together a page of basic facts about guns and gun crime in the U.S.A. with the intention of trying to get the misinformation out of the way so that a rational discussion could take place. If I ever do that, it shouldn't be on an occasion like this one, when even to use words like "rational" and "fact" only opens one up to the charge of heartlessness. Maybe I should say "productive" instead of "rational." It seems to me that the strength of one's belief that there is a clear solution to this problem is in inverse proportion to one's knowledge of it. 

But here's one observation, made from a step or two back from the detailed argument about what should or should not be done: Americans seem to have a very hard time dealing with the fact that some serious problems do not have "solutions" that can be attained if we feel very very passionately that they must be solved, and can pass laws saying that it should be so. It just goes against the American grain to say "Well, this is a terrible problem, and there doesn't seem to be a way to get rid of it." If any of us had been a witness to the ravages of alcoholism among the poor at the turn of the 20th century, we'd no doubt have a better understanding of how Prohibition came about. To many very well-intentioned people it seemed necessary, the only humane and reasonable response to a scourge. More recently, we've attempted to handle the drug problem in a similar way. We see the results of that. There's a sardonic remark circulating: "Let's make guns illegal. That's how we solved the drug problem." 


Sadly, once again during Mardi Gras a certain number of people were trampled and devoured by dragons.



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"trampled and devoured by dragons."

Great name for a record!

I have a weird album by a UK band called Oldsolar that's titled Many Visitors Have Been Gored by Buffalo.

You are so funny every year about that song, Mac. I think I've only heard it once in the years I have been receiving them (11 now). The reason is that I go to the earliest service, and usually not to a big church. For a long time it was the Sodolity Chapel at SHC. This year the Visitation Monastery at 7 am. No music, no song, a little chanting by the nuns. I think you should plan next year to remove yourself from that song!

As far as the school massacre, you already know my feelings about guns. I'm for the military going door to door and taking guns from our citizens at this point. But I realize that I am around the bend on this issue. Gee, maybe at least the semi-automatic weapons. I have no sympathy for these people and see the NRA and its supporters as complicit in murder, period. If anyone is going to hell, it is them.

I have never heard this 'Ashes' - at least not consciously. I zone out during the hymns.

I admit I also loathe old fashioned 'dirge' like hymns. I detest 'O Come Emmanuel' for instance. Yesterday I was at a very traditional parish in Chicago, where everyone speaks and dresses and acts like its 1955. They closed out with 'Forty days and forty nights' - another of my bete noires. So I was doing my staring into space thing and a man two pews back forced a hymnal into my hand. So I pretended to read the words until I could shuffle out.

I'm going to the Byzantine Catholic liturgy now twice a week. I know all the tunes because we sing the same things every time. I've been going since the middle of last Lent, when I heard the PP at the Cathedral say that we don't need to give anything up if it makes us bad tempered. I really like the Byzantine liturgy a lot. If they had it every week I would go. But I still need to get to a traditional parish now and then for confession and such.

I mean twice a month - they have it every other week in the chapel in our theology department. Its full.

Im not an anti-gun person. I just found the piece by Brett Stephens that I shared on facebook very interesting, because it made me realize that the second amendment right to bear arms and gun ownership are not one and the same thing. Not having the right to own a gun and the government rounding up all guns are not one and the same thing. I had not realized that until I read Stephens article.

I still don't have a view on this, I just thought Stephens' article was worth thinking about. His distinction shows that the facebook memes about guns and drugs are not about analogous things. No one who wants to legalize pot wants there to be a 'right to take drugs' enshrined in the Constitution. Legal arms and every single person in who wants to owning a gun are not one and the same thing.

I never sing any hymns. In England I at least knew the hymns I didn't sing. In America, at our Cathedral parish they seem to sing different hymns every time I go there, and I have not picked up the tunes to hymns in 7 years. Im not very musical so I asked a colleague if its true there are different hymns all the time. He said yes it was a deliberate policy to make us learn them. So Im one of those people liturgy directors complain about, who stare into space with no hymnal in their hand.

The tribe of starers-into-space is very numerous. I don't know if it's increasing or not. The liturgy directors are in great part responsible for this. Must be 25 years ago that a book called Why Catholics Can't Sing was published, and it's probably still accurate. The songs are part of the problem. Amplified and theatrical choirs are part of the problem.

I'm not sure I know "Forty Days and Forty Nights." Might recognize it if I heard it. In our Ordinariate group we mostly use the traditional Anglo-American hymns, and though I like some better than others there aren't any that I hate.

I can't believe you've never heard "Ashes". I freely admit my dislike is not entirely rational, but there it is. If fingernails on a blackboard bother you, you can stifle your reaction, but you can't make the sensation stop.

Stu, as far as I know there is no place on this side of the bay where there's an Ash Wednesday Mass with no music.

Grumpy, I think you're misunderstanding the legal aspects of the gun situation. The analogy with drugs is about the attempt to ban by law something that a whole lot of people very much want and do not agree should be banned. Should anti-abortion people get their wish and a complete national ban on abortion were put in place, there would similarly be massive resistance and disobedience.

The 2nd amendment is important but wouldn't necessarily have to be. Repeal is extremely unlikely. It's difficult, by design, to change the Constitution. You probably know this, but the 2nd amendment is not something passed because gun owners demanded it. It's like the guarantee of free speech and free press--for all practical purposes part of the original Constitution. I'm pretty sure a majority of the population would oppose repealing it.

What would be almost as good, for the gun controllers' purpose, is a Supreme Court ruling that the 2nd does not apply to private individuals. That requires reversing a previous decision but is not totally far-fetched. But what then? Stu's desire for the military to kick in doors and seize guns is a recipe for a whole lot more violence than we already have.

Whether pot advocates want their view enshrined in the Constitution is not really that important. They want essentially the same guarantee that gun owners have, that they should be able to (mostly) do what they like in that respect. I'm sure they'd love to have it in the Constitution but they don't have to have that to get what they want.

"Not having the right to own a gun and the government rounding up all guns are not one and the same thing."

Well, this is the heart of the matter as a practical question. That's true in the abstract, but gun advocates would say that having the former is what prevents the latter, because the gun controllers do want, ultimately, to round up all the guns, or at least most of them.

There's a really significant parallel between the politics of gun control and the politics of abortion. In both cases it's clear that the opponents of the thing want it banned, totally. So when they propose some lesser restriction, the other side says "No ****ing way. We know you don't plan to stop there. Give you an inch and you'll take a mile, and eventually you'll ban it altogether. So we're not budging." And from their point of view they're right. Dedicated abortion opponents do want to ban abortion. Dedicated gun controllers do want to ban guns. That's the reason for the dig-in-the-heels resistance to apparently "common sense" measures in both cases.

...and as proponents for *life* those who are against abortion should also be against guns. Guns are made specifically for *death*, as is an abortion.

Although I am crazed about it, all I really want is for the school shooter to show up with something that doesn't have the ability to spray bullets a mile a minute.

Some moron from Congress was on Face the Nation yesterday morning, and mentioned a shovel as being a good weapon. Nancy Cordes did a good job pointing out that the Las Vegas shooter would have had trouble killing 58 and wounding 500 with a shovel.

I'm for some form of rational gun control. I have no idea what that would be.

It seems reasonable that large magazine guns should be more controlled. On the other hand, I do think the LV shooter had a lot of guns, so even if they had not been large magazine guns, he could have gotten a lot of people, but probably not as many. I think the Columbine boys had more than one gun, too.

I suppose you could ban the clip completely.

"Guns are made specifically for *death*, as is an abortion." That is a misleading statement, especially since most gun-owners use them for hunting animals, not people, or for shooting, which doesn't kill anyone or anything.

The questions are and should be: How do we prevent people from killing innocent people*? What role does restriction play in that? How successful would efforts in that direction be? Should the restrictions be on the supply side or the consumer side or both?

If we ban the AR-15 and the like, something else will take its place. Like bombs. I'm from Oklahoma City. I know of which I speak.

The idea of abortion for sport is one that I wish I had never thought of.

*"innocent" in this case means persons whom you are not authorized to kill (like policemen, soldiers, and, in some jurisdictions, executioners are). Wisconsin, by the way, hasn't had CP since 1851. I probably should not have brought CP up. It will deflect the discussion.

"I'm for some form of rational gun control. I have no idea what that would be."

Yeah, that's a big part of the problem. The "obvious" and "rational" and "common-sense" measures often turn out to be either unfeasible or of little potential impact. One of the basic facts I mentioned in this post is that the vast majority of homicides by gun are committed with handguns. If you could make "assault weapons" disappear tonight, you might reduce the number of fatalities in incidents like the Florida one, but the overall death toll would not change much.

The guns-abortion analogy doesn't even begin to work. A gun is an object, an abortion is an act. The analogy would be between homicide by gun and abortion. And nobody is in favor of the former.

Took me a minute to figure out "CP" must mean capital punishment. 1851? Really?

There is a pretty crucial distinction between abortion and CP, but they're at least in the same general vicinity, unlike abortion and guns.

Death is death, guns are made for death, abortion is death. Are guns not a tool put together in order to shoot another person, or an animal? Even to defend your home with one is with the idea that you will harm another person. I don't care about people going to shooting ranges, find another hobby! Mine is buying books, which in no way harms anyone other than my wallet. I suppose you could bludgeon someone to death with a book. No one needs an AR-15.

This is why these conversations never get anywhere.

"No one needs an AR-15."

True, but not really a useful argument, since no one needs a LOT of things that we have that are dangerous when misused.

I'd be in favor of careful restrictions on the production and sale of rapid-fire weapons.

Also, if one were to take Stu's statement at face value, the conclusion would be that guns are made for abortion. I'm sure that isn't what you meant.

The parallel is properly made between guns as a means of causing death and D and C instruments as a means of causing death. Guns have other uses that aren't about killing innocent human life. D & C instruments do have other, legitimate uses besides killing innocent human life.

If you are against hunting--or at least banish it to make people safe, well, okay. That's going to be a REALLY hard sell.

As for self-defense, stats show that a house-hold gun don't really make a person safer because a lot of people don't know how to use them properly or are too nervous to do so. I got this from a gun-owning former highway patrolwoman.

Once again, I am in favor of reasonable gun control. Gun proliferation makes me nervous, too--especially since very bad ones seem to so easily fall into the hands of unstable people.

Archbishop Chaput's statement on the Florida killings:

Nineteen years ago I sat with the parents of children murdered in the Columbine High School massacre, and buried some of their dead. Nothing seems to change, no matter how brutal the cost. Terrible things happen; pious statements are released, and the nation goes back to its self-absorbed distractions.

The latest massacre in south Florida requires two things from all of us. We need to pray for the victims and their families because — as I witnessed firsthand at Columbine — their suffering is intense and long lasting. And we need to be angry: angry at our lawmakers for doing so little to prevent these catastrophes; angry at our news and entertainment media for simultaneously feeding off these tragedies and fueling them with a steady stream of sensationalism and moral incoherence; angry at ourselves for perversely tolerating these things, and then forgetting them until the next round of violence.

This is Lent. As a people, we have a lot to repent and confess. And let’s not lie to ourselves that tighter gun restrictions — as vital and urgent as they now are — will solve the problem. We’ve lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result.

That's good. I'd go further--that we're in a many-faceted cultural decline, of which this is one facet, and it's not likely to be reversed. I'd have to ask Chaput: what specifically do you have in mind that we should do? How do I, personally, go about not tolerating these things?

Re Robert's "The parallel is properly made..." Yes, and thank you for making it. Every time I get into a discussion about this I feel like a Vulcan, always saying "That's Not Logical," which is really not my natural self. But, Stu, your arguments really aren't, especially that part of it. I understand your strong feelings, but buying a gun is not comparable to performing an abortion.

I'm not a gun enthusiast and don't have any objection in principle to those "reasonable measures" people talk about. But I find myself arguing the pro-gun side because so much of what the anti side says is either misinformed or unworkable.

According to the report below, the FBI really, really should have caught this kid before he did anything.


There is an important difference in expediting the prevention of a nutter from obtaining a gun, or taking his gun from him, if he does not have a 'right' to own a gun.

I think the point of banning any kind of 'repeater' gun, with a clip, is to prevent mass shootings, like in Las Vegas or the school shootings. It might not bring down the overall number of shooting deaths very much. Gangsters would keep on shooting each other with handguns. But it would mean that children did not have to live with 'school shootings' as a part of their childhood experience. That could be worth it, even if the overall total of gun deaths was not much changed by there being a couple of dozen fewer such deaths per year. One nine year old boy told his mother he had volunteered to be the person who held the desk against the door when a shooter came. He said he wanted to be the one who sacrificed himself to stop the shooter. If one could stop children from having to grow up thinking like that, it would be worth it, even if the overall number of gun deaths didn't change much

"banning any kind of 'repeater' gun, with a clip"

I don't think you're clear about what that means. That description fits some huge proportion of very ordinary guns, both handguns and long guns. The best you could do in that respect is put a limit on the number of cartridges a clip would hold. That might make some difference. But the Virginia Tech killer did his evil with two handguns--32 dead.

But in any case I don't think (very amateur opinion) there's any fundamental legal obstacle to restrictions like that. I think it's mainly a matter of whether you can get the legislation passed. Automatic weapons, for instance, are effectively banned, and as far as I know there is no serious attempt to get that changed on 2nd amendment grounds.

And regarding the nutters: you don't need to repeal the 2nd amendment for that. The right is not absolute. There are all kinds of conditions under which you can lose it, and being seriously mentally ill is one of them. I think even the NRA agrees on that. I assume the laws on that score vary from state to state. The big difficulty there is in implementing it effectively and consistently, in identifying such people before they shoot up a school or something, and keeping guns out of their hands.

Stu is right in suggesting that the only *real* solution is to make the guns go away. But that just isn't possible.

Regarding repeal, here's a discussion of what would be involved in doing that. It's Charles Cooke, whom I think you know from reading NR. Interesting guy: Brit who thinks the 2nd amendment is a great thing. He talks about confiscation, too, but the first part is about repeal.


Oh well, it just makes me very unhappy. I think there is something wrong with anyone who wants to own these sort of weapons, so it comes as no surprise if they suddenly use them to kill a number of people. What else are they good for? I do not understand any arguments "for" at all. Lots of people in my family of course have guns, and some of these even vote Democrat as a rule. None of them have anything beyond a regular rifle, shotgun, or handgun. No "repeater" anything. It is because they are sane. That Louisiana congressman who was shot, and his belief in guns did not waver at all, is an obvious lunatic who should be committed.

This debate always reminds me of the old All in the Family exchange:

Gloria: "Daddy, did you know that sixty percent of the people murdered in this country in the last ten years were killed by guns?"

Archie: "Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?"

In principle I agree with Stu about semi-automatics. But they still exist, and while they exist bad guys are going to be able to get hold of them. I think the first step in any sort of "reform" is to begin to enforce stringently the laws that are already on the books. New laws will solve nothing if even the old ones aren't being followed.

But ordinary gun-owners suddenly using them to kill a number of people is not what happens, and they very naturally resent or just ignore jibes like that. It's more the other way around: first the desire to kill people, then the acquisition of guns.

The "I don't see any reason" response doesn't get anywhere. I don't see any reason why anybody should have a luxury so-called SUV. I don't see why any but a few people with big families should have Chevy Suburbans and other huge SUVs at all. And if the climate-change people are right they're collectively doing more harm than the occasional loony mass shooter. But they don't care what I think.

Cross-posted with Rob. I was replying to Stu, in case that's not obvious.

Here's a good piece by David French on a proposal which could actually make a difference and could be supported by all sides:


I like the idea of collective punishment better.

I don't know why I let it upset me so much. Why do I even care? Let shooters shoot up schools every day and no one needs to do anything. It is simply a reflection of our society. Bow to the second amendment. It is the most important thing to be able to buy guns. Hooray! The USA is already an embarrassment with the president, so it should be ridiculous in many other ways too. I'm ready to bail from this place, the older I get the worse I think it is.

I was really tempted to skip Mass on Ash Wednesday, too. I had been babysitting at my daughter's house since Sunday morning, and I could have just gone home after dropping the kids off at school, and I really wanted to get home. All the early Masses were over or in progress by the time I dropped them off, so I had to stay in town until noon Mass. It's really the first time I've even considered not going to Mass on Ash Wednesday.

I did go, and we didn't have music.


"I think there is something wrong with anyone who wants to own these sort of weapons, so it comes as no surprise if they suddenly use them to kill a number of people."

Anyone who wants to own a multiple shot gun is mentally ill?

I'm sure there are four classes.

Ones who want them but are not clinically mentally ill but who would NEVER use them to kill people without reasonable cause (self-defense). Whether the reason they want them is a good reason is a separate question.

Ones who want them but are not clinically mentally ill but who would use them to kill people (cold-blooded)

Ones who are clinically mentally ill but would NEVER use a gun to kill innocent human beings.

Ones who are clinically mentally ill but would use a gun to kill innocent human beings.

What is the proportion of each? Should we treat each the same under the law?

Thanks for all of the good points everyone. I especially enjoyed hearing Archie Bunker reply to Gloria in my head. I realize I am mentally ill when it comes to this subject, but I do not have an AR-15 at home so everyone is safe!

:-) What a relief!

It's interesting to look back on Archie Bunker now. That time was the beginning of the Great Dividing in this country.

Thanks for the link to the David French piece, Mac. I'd never heard before of those gun-violence restraining orders he talks about. They sound sensible, and as French points out, "the proper application of existing policies and procedures could have saved lives, but the people in the federal government failed. And they keep failing. So let’s empower different people. Let’s empower the people who have the most to lose, and let’s place accountability on the lowest possible level of government: the local judges who consistently and regularly adjudicate similar claims in the context of family and criminal law".

About whether they "could be supported on all sides," though, I'm not too hopeful. This piece says there's been a Democratic-sponsored bill in the House of Representatives since last May to authorize them, but it's "gone nowhere in the Republican-led Congress". The NRA has been against them.

That's disheartening. But there's nothing to stop local and/or state governments from doing it. This is a proposal to have the federal government fund it, which is an expectation that I think has become a really bad habit.

I simply don’t get your Vulcan type logic. The French do not have a constitutional right to own a gun and French people all over the countryside are pop pop pop away at birds, rabbits etc. There have been Islamist jihadi massacres in France But I do not know of any school shootings by native Frenchies. The Frigs have nearly all of Americas social ills eg familybreal down and violent cideo games.

We had one school shooting in the UK, in Scotland, in 1996. As a result most handguns were confiscated and there have never been another school shooting in the UK. Plenty of farmers still have guns of course and aristos still shoot birds. There is still gun crime but there are no school shootings

The main thing I'm saying is: the guns are not going away anytime soon, so forget any response based on that and think about things that actually have a chance of working. Comparisons to France and the UK don't tell us anything. We have a very different culture and we can't make that go away, either, or turn it into something else. An attempt to legislate the confiscation of handguns in this country would not get off the ground, and if the attempt was somehow made to do it anyway there would be a lot of violence.

You may be 100% right in the abstract that if we didn't have a 2nd amendment we would have fewer problems. But it remains abstract because the 2nd isn't going away anytime soon, either. Maybe someday, but not now. Did you read Cooke's piece?

The example of the French is intended to show that they have no right to iwn a gun and yet their forests ring with the sound of bullets fired at small animals

I read Cooke’s piece. I do not think he kind of been intended to convince anyone who is not already committed

Maybe not, but it's a valid challenge: you want to repeal the 2nd amendment and get rid of all the guns? Here's what you need to do.

I understand the point of the example. I just don't think it signifies very much, because this is not France. The U.S. is different enough that saying "Why can't we do it their way?" is not very useful. Same reason I think that the NHS is fine for the UK but would not work very well here. I always tell Europeans that the most essential thing to understand about this country is that it's crazy.

You seem to be saying that the fact that we have a constitutional right to bear arms and they don't is a big part of the difference. Ok, let's grant that for the sake of discussion. Let's assume that if the U.S. didn't have the 2nd amendment, we wouldn't have as many gun killings, and therefore we should repeal the 2nd amendment.

Now what? Those who believe that should get to work on repealing it. That's where Cooke's piece comes in. There are good reasons why there has so far been no serious effort in that line. Amending or un-amending the constitution is a difficult process by design. It requires the consent of a whole lot of people:


I don't think the answer to school shootings is gun control, but school security. Every jewelry store has a door that you have to be buzzed in to enter. My church even has this. Why can't schools lock down when classes start and have a couple of doors where people have to be approved to come in?

And/or armed guards. It sounds sort of horrible but maybe it would be better. Maybe the children would feel more secure. I have wondered why the people who DEMAND THAT WE DO SOMETHING NOW don't propose this. It's something that could be done right now and would be pretty effective, which is a lot more than can be said for any proposed change in gun laws. It doesn't require a lot of federal-level wrangling over legislation. I would think any local school system that wanted to do it could just do it, at least if they could come up with the money.

Is your church in a dangerous neighborhood?!?

At the school in the parish where I worked there is only one door where people can enter and I am pretty sure it has a Maglock. All the teachers are required by law to have walkie-talkies. It is in a bad neighborhood, but I don't think that is an issue in school shootings.


I think that any confiscation plan (voluntary or involuntary) would have to involve some sort of monetary or tax-related compensation for the owners, like when they had that "buy-back" plan years ago for so-called Saturday Night Specials (small, cheap, low quality pistols.)

"I have wondered why the people who DEMAND THAT WE DO SOMETHING NOW don't propose this. It's something that could be done right now and would be pretty effective, which is a lot more than can be said for any proposed change in gun laws."

The anti-gun crowd has it in its mind that Guns are the Problem! and thus tend to give other suggestions short shrift. As is usual with ideological types right and left, there is no patience for balance or nuance, because they are perceived to be outside the DO SOMETHING NOW template.

Oh, I see you said church. Well, there have been church shootings. Do you mean the church or the office?


In other gun related news, a police officer was killed here in Mobile last night. My ex-wife is a cop and it was her partner, she was standing right next to him.

I think there is something wrong with American males and guns. Other countries have high gun ownership, I think Switzerland for instance. You don't hear anything happening over there.

We are diseased in some way, probably residual craziness from the effects of slavery on all peoples not only African Americans. Just a thought.

But anyway, guns are just too dangerous. Think about all of the little kids who shoot themselves by mistake, or another child.

Although I am in the DEMAND THAT WE DO SOMETHING NOW crowd, I am not a politically motivated person, or an extrovert. I can barely handle working and taking care of my dog, and doing the amount of reading I want to do, and spending a little time with friends and family. Other left-wing nut jobs will have to do the work for me.

By the way, the discussion about the 2nd amendment was sparked by this piece by Bret Stephens, who is a sort-of-conservative-ish writer at the NYT.


We just need to keep guns out of the hands of men, that's all.

This is the shooting Stu is referring to:


Well I may be the only one commenting here who didnt go to church on Ash Wednesday. I had the flu, I felt dreadful, and I didn't want to share my bug with other people. Its the first time in my life as a Catholic, since 1982, that I didn;t go to mass on Ash Wednesday

Sad to break your streak, but the flu is a really good reason. Apart from your own dreadful feeling, the people you didn't pass it on to are very grateful.

Yes. My daughter with her baby with
underdeveloped lungs is always very grateful to people with flu who stay home.


I was talking the other day with a friend about gun violence in Canada. Here we have significant barriers to legal gun ownership: all kinds of bureaucratic red tape to cut through. We have nothing comparable to the 2nd Amendment.

There was, for a while, a national gun registry, though now it is only for "restricted" firearms, which does not include most guns you'd find on, for instance, farms.

Perhaps partly because of these restrictions and barriers, the rate of gun ownership is about 1/3 of what you have in the US. Our rate of gun-related death is about 1/5 of the US rate (per capita).

We do have mass shootings here too, though not as frequently and not on the same scale as in the US. Our population is also 10x smaller than yours, so I'm not sure how the rates would compare if that were controlled for. We've had shootings at schools, mosques, government buildings.

As for Ash Wednesday, I'm happy to say that I've only *heard* the song "Ashes" once. It seems not to be popular in these parts. I wonder if anyone has looked for a correlation between incidence of "Ashes" and incidence of gun violence?

I mentioned a week or two ago that there was something wrong with the comments. It's happening now: a very long delay between a comment being posted and its appearing on the blog. Craig posted a comment an hour or so ago and it appeared on the "dashboard" of the TypePad app. But it still hasn't appeared here, or in the Recent Comments list. I'm posting this at 15:47 CST. Let's see when it actually appears.

So if you post a comment and it doesn't appear, that's probably what's going on, and it will probably appear eventually.

Immediately, as it turns out. And now Craig's is there, too. Annoying.

I read it when he posted it.



Regarding Canada and guns etc., it's certainly my impression that Canadians in general are not as crazy as Americans in general.

Several years ago when I was discussing this matter with someone, I looked up the statistics on firearms deaths per capita. The U.S. was of course pretty high, though I don't think it was the highest. The really strange thing was that one of the highest was one of the Baltic countries. Estonia I think. I'll have to look for that again. I can't remember now whether it was only homicides or included suicides. That makes a huge difference in the U.S. stats because there's about a 2-to-1 ratio of the latter to the former.

Never thought of an "Ashes" connection but it seems worth investigating.

This is sobering. And it is only since 2013

Of course, not all of the incidences had fatalities, but 1,875 is a lot of deaths.

I had thought maybe I got this link here, but I see no evidence. If it is a repeat, sorry.


You meant for there to be a link in that, right?

There was an interesting conversation on Commentary today. Sohrab Ahmari said he felt that a coupke more school shootings would lead him to abandon the 2nd Amendment. He said he was not yet with his friend Brett Stevens is but he could get there. John Podhoretz said that militarism Is part of the wharp and woof Of American culture and you could not take it away without destroying the culture


I would like to hear at least parts of it, but--52 minutes! I may listen to it in pieces over the next couple of days. Wish there was a transcript.

I fixed Robert's link. All for lack of a /.

I just listened to that discussion, Grumpy, and what Podhoretz says about if we destroy the gun culture in America, we damage the willingness of America as a country to fight when needed in world affairs is interesting, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Mainly because Australia, which has severely limited gun ownership now, is still enthusiastic when it comes to military matters.

Re the mass shooting stats: yes, that's bad, but I think the picture is deliberately painted in a way that makes it look scarier than it is. At least it's been that way with other similar stories I've seen. Why is 4 chosen as the definition of "mass", for instance? Just scanning the graphic it looks like the total number would go way down if the cutoff point was 5.

People see "mass shooting" and they think of something like what just happened in Florida--random crazy person shooting at random innocent people. But some big portion of them is, to put it crudely, gunfights among criminals.

People in other countries, or in those country but in fairly insular environments, see those numbers and think that it's a state of war and you risk your life going outside. But of course it's not like that at all. The violence is fairly concentrated in particular high-crime areas. I don't have any numbers handy but I think if you take out all the criminal-on-criminal violence, a large part of which is linked to drugs, our murder rate is not that far out of line with those of other countries.

None of which is meant to say it's not a big problem, but things like the Florida shooting give a misleading impression. People are not walking around in fear for their lives in most places. Most of us are much more likely to die in an auto accident than from a gunshot.

I haven't listened the discussion but Podhoretz's reason for keeping the 2nd doesn't strike me as a very good one.

I may not have gotten all Podhoretz said correctly, and it may not even be his argument but his restatement of an idea that's out there. It's also not the only reason he gives. Anyway, I often find podcasts of discussions pretty hard to follow, and also wish there were transcripts.

It will be interesting if the people start voting these politicians out of office who refuse to give up their NRA support. There could eventually be a "sea change" with regard to the whole thing. The public is for stricter gun measures. The percentage of people who like to buy and hoard semi-automatic weapons is very small.

Hoard, yes. Buy, no. They're extremely popular. There may be a sea change eventually but it isn't going to happen soon.

I have to drive to Mobile today, which I used to do every day but only rarely do now. I may listen to that podcast on the way. I must say though that I'm not a fan of John Podhoretz's "Let's you and him fight" view of our war-making.

Well, I listened to a podcast, but it was the wrong one. On my phone, I went to the Podcast app and looked for Commentary. I played one that was named something like "Response to the Florida shooting". It was excellent. Made some really good points about the way the non-debate goes--if you refer to data, you're a bad person, etc. And debunked the idea of the NRA buying Congress.

But I got to the end and there was never any mention of militarism. Apparently I was listen to the previous week's podcast. I'll try to get to the other one.

I'm with podcasts as Grumpy is with online music. Seems like something squirrelly always happens.

Mac, I wonder what it would like like if limited to "random". I'd bet it would still be shutteringly high.

shudderingly. That's what I get for looking at this blog while at work.

:-) I think it would be less than half but I could be wrong.

Im addicted to the Commentary podcast. Its like a comedy with set steriotyped characters. Podhoretz wants to talk all the time and sometimes shouts the others down. Noah Rothman is a young secular whif conservative. Abe Greenwald is very grumpy and reasonable. They fall into the same roles in every podcast so that it’s very amusing. Most recently a fourth character Has been added called Sohrab Amari. Hes an Iranian convert to Catholicism.

The one I mentioned is the one I linked to up above.

Unless there is a Jewish holiday they normally do to a week so unless you follow the link you probably won’t find it

Whig conservative

Its not what any one particular person says that I find entertaining. Its the comedy of their interaction.

I very seldom listen to it when I’m doing absolutely nothing else. I listen to it when I’m cleaning the kitchen or doing the dishes or the ironing

As it turned out I spent a long time in the kitchen this evening chopping up stuff (which I am very slow at) and listened to the one you linked to. I didn't find it especially funny but it's very good.

Not sure I totally agree with the point about undermining the military will of the country, but for the most part I thought their comment on the gun question were excellent. I especially liked that last point: that treating every gun owner as a potential mass murderer is not a way to win them to your side.

I'm impressed by people who can talk off the cuff so intelligently and coherently. I certainly couldn't. I'd be blundering around for words and not half making sense.

Glad you enjoyed it. I find it very funny

I've listened to one or two of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen podcast with Kevin Williamson and Charles Cooke. They're good, too.

David French also has a podcast -- I think it's called "Liberty Files" -- and it's good too, based on my limited exposure. There's only one of him, though, so the comedy is likely not quite as rich as on Commentary.

Yes, I like Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I've not tried Liberty Files. I don't really like The Remnant - that's Jonah Goldberg. With other podcasts, they just have one new guest after another and you don't get this comical 'Three Stooges' effect, of the same characters each week battling it out.

The only other podcast which has this great 'dynamic' is the GLOP podcast - that is Steve Long, Jonah Goldberg and Podhoretz.

I get Jonah Goldberg's weekly Goldberg File email. It's usually insightful, often funny. I stop reading at the second part where he tells what his dogs have been doing over the week.

I like the whole thing. I love hearing about his dogs. His podcast was a disappointment.

I'm not the dog lover that you are.

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