Archive for April 30th, 2007|Daily archive page

Mea Culpa

Hi Tom*,

I would like to apologize for coming into your blog, calling names and starting a fight. Basic decency should have held my hand. Again, I’m sorry.

Before you explode again, I beg you to perhaps give me a moment (well – several hundred words) to explain why I responded to your remark “Why, during this day and age (i.e. post 9/11) are we allowing someone who is less than a full citizen to purchase firearms? Any politician with half a lick of sense should strike while the iron is hot on this one,” with the comment “It’s just – sorry – just so racist.”

I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree about the racism thing which is why I’m doing this here and not directly posting it to your comments. Perhaps I am also posting it here to show my readers that, yes, sometimes, I am scum. If you would like to delete the link in your comments (and perhaps ridicule this), that would be fine. I think it should be your choice. I shall not return.

I think our problem is largely a matter of definition and perspective.

When I say you are supporting racist positions, it most definitely does not mean that I think you think or scream racial epithets at individuals; I don’t think you, personally discriminate against anyone specifically. That is what I tried to convey by saying that you are not personally racist. I think it very likely that you treat every individual you meet fairly and equally. I suspect you are fine at a personal level.

Unfortunately, I think you harbor a much more insidious type of racism; not hate based on race and not hate directed at individuals, but irrationally based fear directed at over-generalized groups. I suspect you fear a nebulous “they,” who are a threat to America and the world. Perhaps you are right; you think it is rational – I call it racist.

I am an American and have lived abroad for the past twenty years. I have seen enough cultures and enough peoples that I can no longer see the world through a “them” filter because “they” are always just over the hill or across the border. And I have also been “them”– both abroad and in America so I understand the issue from both sides.

Your question about limiting firearm ownership to full citizens reminds me of Americans who ask “Why do people in the rest of the world hate Americans?” Well Tom, apparently the mistrust is mutual. I have also seen first hand how international opinion has turned not only again American policies but against Americans individually (see also the PEW Report from 2006). Based on your reaction, you feel your mistrust is well founded. Just as you probably think the rest of the world is wrong in being sceptical of American citizens. Perhaps they simply fear you without any real evidence but they know they are right in doing so. Just as you know you are right about “foreigners.”

To me your position bears no difference to theirs and is no different than the positions of so many before you who feared outsiders.

Think back on American history. “They” have been, at different times, the Latinos (1980s-2000s), the Russians (50’s to 80’s), the Japanese (30’s and 40’s) and the Germans (1917-1940’s). As a matter of fact, if you go back far enough, it was the Irish and the Italians. You might not know it, but the first car bomb in history, well wagon bomb, was detonated 1920 in New York by Mario Buda, an Italian anarchist. The Irish were the criminal scourge of the late 19th century – or at least many thought so. Americans no longer fear the Irish or the Italians. They no longer fear Germans, Japanese or the Russians (most of the time).

Have these people, these nationalities as individuals changed so much in such a short time? Are “they” just suddenly nice, law-abiding, America-loving peoples? Or has the focus of fear shifted? I think it is the latter.

You write of being “most concerned about Middle Eastern immigrants” – a euphemism I take to mean Arabs and Persians as you are probably not too concerned about the Israelis. Right? Interestingly the statistics you quoted me from the Small Arms Digest (pg 178) would seem to show a disproportionate threat emanating from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa with the Middle East a distant fourth. But I’m sure you knew that, you read your sources thoroughly. So, are you concerned about the Arabs and Persians because of facts or because of a racial, political or a religious traits?

If it is racial – I rest my case. QED

If it is political, doesn’t your policy punish those who believe in democracy and flee to America because they think it is a better place; those who come to America for freedom not oppression? Doesn’t your policy give evidence to those who would claim that Americans arbitrarily discriminate against outsiders for no other reason than the fact that they are not American? Doesn’t your prejudice feed the al Quada propaganda machine as well as any terrorist success?

If it is religion, then you can’t really stop in the Middle East but must keep a close eye on those pesky Indonesians and those Muslims with European passports now spreading across the continent. You also need to be worried about the 1-2 percent of your neighbors who hold both the Islamic faith and the American citizenship. (But the last group poses a bit of a problem justifying the green card prohibition – right?) Of course, hating and mistrusting people because of their religion has deep roots. You are, perhaps, better able to understand the deep rooted mistrust of Protestants since your return from Ireland. Or was it the Catholics? Strange thing who “they” can be, huh?

I have my own fears Tom. I fear those who feel that there is an indefinable group to be dreaded. Specifically – I fear people like you.

Those who fear are almost worse than those who overtly hate; those openly doing the lynching and the killing. Those who fear but do not hate are the ones who honestly disapprove of the deeds but quietly understand the reasoning and silently applaud the results.

It is not usually those who explicitly hate that scare me; they are often easily identifiable. They are the blackshirts, the skinheads, the white-sheeted bigots. They are the Hitlers, the bin Ladens, the Ahmednejads. Even if you can’t immediately stop them, you at least know who they are.

Unfortunately, true power is not in hands of those people who hate and lead but in those who fear and follow.

It is those that fear. It is those that feared the Blacks, and the Mexicans and the Asians. It is those that feared the Jews; and the Catholics; and the Protestants. And now, it is those that fear the Muslims. And those that fear Americans. It is that fear that feeds hate.

You would prohibit those who have green cards from legally owning a weapon because you fear the consequences. I ask again, do you fear the German engineer, the Vietnamese cook, the Brazilian model or the South African ‘security expert’; the ones living next to the marginally medicated American with the .357 Magnum and a borderline disorder? Are they the problem? I’m sure permanent residents in the American military are among those you would disarm. Are they to be feared? Were these the mental images of “someone who is less than a full citizen” you conjured up when writing the post? If not, why not?

Seen in that light, was my reaction to your comment about denying gun ownership to those un-Americans with green cards that out-of-line? Using my perspective, my definition, would you consider what you proposed racist? Or is it just nationalist – excuse me – patriotic? Or would you say rational?

I feel you have yet to show me valid data supporting your hypothesis. No, a list pulled from Wikipedia is not valid data. And no, I don’t need to invalidate what you are saying because you have not shown any real evidence other than a gut reaction and the ancient idea of racial profiling. You see reams of evidence; I see media hysteria, smoke and mirrors. You urge a call to action; I see overreaction. Again, we will simply have to agree to disagree here.

I suspect we could argue statistics until we are blue in the face and never get anywhere. I would argue the statistics either don’t exist or are not openly available. I would nevertheless look to the centralized data from the FBI, collected and collated from information provided by local law enforcement agencies, for some statistical guidelines to evaluate the numbers you present. You seemed to think your idea was obvious. You fail to realise that if your idea is obvious, the data supporting it should be obvious too. It is not. In the end, neither of us would win but each would probably lose both tempers and time.

Outlawing gun-ownership to a minimal percentage of the people living in America would have zero effect on violence because there will always be enough weapons available for sale; those who want firearms will get them. That is why I found your idea so preposterous. In addition, arbitrarily determining that anyone without American citizenship (or merely “Middle Eastern”) is a public danger is preposterously unfair.

Perhaps after reading this you will understand why I labelled your idea racist.

Remember my response was based as much on fear as on distaste. You might chalk it up to my own particular brand of racism – regardless of color, creed or religion; a visceral mistrust of those that needlessly, irrationally fear.

Perhaps, in light of the fact that my definition of racism and racist thinking includes racial profiling, you might go back and reread your final comment. Was it rational or does it fit my definition of racist?

My parting shot Tom? You were spot on in calling me an SOB.

Not because we disagree. That’s fine. I suspect our definitions and perspectives vary; I suspect I have a much thinner skin on many issues. Nevertheless, I think we could find things about which to agree.

No, you were spot on calling me an SOB because I walked into your house – uninvited and unknown – and I started spouting invectives. It was inexcusable and you were right to call me on it.

Again; it was your blog; my misstep – my bad – my apologies.

Have a nice day.
Ben (the bad one)

[* I’m posting this here because I did the inexcusable – the internet equivalent of a drive by shooting, I think I overstepped the line at a strange blog, commenting and throwing invectives. I feel it is my duty to air my dirty laundry on my time, my bandwidth. His blog has seen enough.

I hope the person I have offended chooses to read this and not to delete the link to it. If not, I have complete understanding. I will not link to his blog because this disagreement is so totally different from the issues he discusses; I suspect the traffic drawn would be unwarranted and largely uninterested in his normal issues.

This is merely an open, personal mea culpa.]

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