A reluctant atheist. Author of "Confessions of a Rogue Missionary," "Good Guy with a Gun," and "Loss of Consciousness." I believe that the greatest threat to civilization right now is our own tribalism.
As a National Merit Scholar majoring in physics and math at Rice University, Henry Rambow thought of himself as a rational person. But primed by years of Sunday School and haunted by a promise made as a terrified child, he nevertheless fell head over heels into a fundamentalist sect of evangelical Christianity. Confessions of a Rogue Missionary is an account of his ensuing struggle—and eventual failure—to reconcile his faith with reason.
At times dryly humorous and at times sober and contemplative, the story is set in motion when Henry is “born again.” Brimming with newfound zeal—but plagued by doubt from the very beginning—he travels to Beijing as a missionary in the guise of an English teacher, where he tries desperately to embrace the culture and win disciples for Jesus. Culture clashes and miscommunications result in a series of cringe-inducing encounters in unlikely settings, ranging from a brothel to a military base.
Eventually, the very questions that troubled him from the start prove to be too much, and his faith collapses entirely, leaving him feeling disillusioned—but free.
For some, the appropriate response to mass shootings seems clear: We need more guns. Such thinking is behind a law in Texas that allows concealed firearms in university classrooms. Even many elementary, middle, and high schools have decided to arm their teachers. And one can now find children’s books that extol the virtues of carrying a gun.
Good Guy with a Gun is a darkly satirical response to these disturbing trends. It tells the story of a gun-toting boy named Cody who initially saves the day when an attacker opens fire at his school. Cody is awarded a medal for his heroism, and everyone else decides to carry a gun as well. This sets the stage for certain terrible events that will drive home the book’s true message.
For years, my response to the most vocal critics of religion was to say, “By all means, rail against the extremists, but leave the moderates alone. They haven’t done any harm.” I was unconvinced that moderate religion gave shelter to fundamentalism, and I could find no justification for criticizing those familiar, comforting forms of the Abrahamic faiths that play a prominent role in the lives of even the most peaceful citizens of modern society.
But then I looked in the mirror.
It was after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. A pair of brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had stormed the magazine’s offices and executed unarmed cartoonists, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” The incident reminded me of another pair of brothers: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing. In each case, I saw myself in the younger sibling.
While the rest of the world was holding up signs saying, “I am Charlie,” I was thinking, I am Cherif. I was not, nor had I ever been, a terrorist. But I saw disturbing similarities between the younger gunman and myself, and I could not stop dwelling on them.
My religion was not Islam, but Christianity. As a child, I attended Sunday school classes in which I was taught about Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath—all the classics. Our church was moderate, and there were likely many adults there who didn’t take the stories literally; but no one ever told me that. All I saw were people who revered the Bible and regarded it as the ultimate authority in matters of morality, if not history and science.
In my teenage years, I asked questions, of course. I had doubts. But when I reached the age at which young people feel a drive to do something significant with their lives, I still turned to the Bible for answers—because I had been primed by eighteen years of religious upbringing, moderate though it was, to do so.
I remember it clearly. Just after graduating from high school, I decided to open the Bible that my church had given me when I entered the third grade. I started with the Sermon on the Mount, and I found it intoxicating. My first thought was that the words were truly divine. And my second was that I had to follow them at all costs.
It soon occurred to me that my church, precisely because it was moderate, was failing to adhere faithfully to Christ’s teachings. What was needed, I thought, was a return to the fundamentals. And that was my first step down a potentially dangerous road. It was entirely logical—after all, if you really have a divine book on your hands, you’d be stupid not to devote yourself to it.
Unbeknownst to me, my brother, two years my senior, was undergoing the same transformation hundreds of miles away. We told each other over the phone about our experiences, and immediately, our connection as brothers deepened. It was clearly an amazing part of God’s plan that we should be born again at the same time.
We fed off of one another’s faith. As the younger brother, I was probably more influenced by him than he was by me; but it still went both ways. Within a matter of months, we had both become what I now regard as fundamentalists: We agreed that the Bible was the infallible word of God and that nothing in life could possibly be more important than doing God’s will.
When we visited each other, we would attend church gatherings, pray unceasingly, and rise early in the morning to read our Bibles together. My brother introduced me to many of his friends at church, and I felt as if I had been inducted into an exclusive organization of cosmic importance. We saw ourselves as soldiers in a spiritual war.
Now, as I look at the chilling security footage of Dzhokhar following his brother on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, it is impossible not to see myself. I suspect that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar also prayed together; and I imagine that Tamerlan excitedly shared religious media with Dzhokhar, just as my brother had done with me.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it occurred to me that the Kouachi brothers’ experience was likely similar. And that was what led me to think, I am Cherif. It was a sentiment not of solidarity, but terror—terror that the same evil might lurk within me. And, equally horrifying, I had to admit that I felt a sense of understanding.
While the rest of the world saw nothing but a monster, I saw in Cherif a young man who was desperate to accomplish something of eternal significance with his life—a desire that I myself had felt. I saw someone who probably found purpose in a literal interpretation of the book that he had been taught was the word of God—a purpose to which I myself had once clung.
Most frightening of all, I saw in Cherif a man who was doing what he thought was right. He was not a nihilist or a lunatic; rather, he was a young man with an all-or-nothing attitude who was acting on imperatives that followed logically from a set of very bad axioms. If my circumstances had been different, I might have become the same kind of monster.
The forces that engendered in Cherif a will to destroy human life are not unique to radical Islam. Even now, Steven Anderson, pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, preaches that all homosexuals should be put to death, and there are many Christians who share his attitude—a fact that should give us pause as we recoil at the sight of ISIS casting gay men from rooftops.
The likeness between Anderson’s and ISIS’s visions for society is striking, and one must wonder whether those visions were acquired in similar ways. When asked by Mark Curtis of USA Today how he had arrived at his views, Anderson said, “I grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until I read the Bible cover-to-cover at age seventeen that I discovered the truth of what the Bible really says.”
Change the age to eighteen, and Anderson’s words perfectly describe my own experience. He, too, was primed by years of religious upbringing to accept the Bible’s contents as the word of God when he picked it up as a teenager. And he embraced all of it, including the most abhorrent parts. How many jihadists have had similar experiences with the Koran?
In both Islam and Christianity, it is easy to dismiss fundamentalist doctrines as perversions of scripture. But the fundamentalists have a ready defense against this charge. When Curtis suggested that Anderson might be perverting Christianity, Anderson said, “Let the viewers read for themselves. Let them pull the Bible off their shelf and look up Leviticus 20:13, and then let them be the judge.”
The disturbing truth is that Anderson is right: If you look up the verse, you’ll find that it says exactly what he claims it says—just as the Koran says precisely what jihadists claim it says. This simple fact is what makes it so easy for fundamentalist clerics to convince vulnerable youth to subscribe to destructive doctrines.
Islam and Christianity are not the only religions subject to violent interpretation, of course. And as it turns out, the phenomenon of a young man becoming radicalized after reading his religion’s holy book for the first time has been around for thousands of years. The Bible itself describes one particularly famous case: that of King Josiah.
According to the accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, Josiah became king of Judah at a time when his people had fallen away from God. Here’s what the Bible says happened:
“Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan . . . And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.”
2 Kings 22:8-11
At this point in the history of Judah, the Book of the Law (Leviticus) had been lost for some time. It is therefore safe to assume—and the text makes it clear—that the people of Judah had not been following the commands described within it; and that was a good thing, because it meant that they weren’t executing people for non-crimes.
But when Josiah was confronted with the words of Leviticus, the very same thing happened to him that happened to Steven Anderson. He committed himself to an unwavering, literal interpretation of it—and turned the kingdom upside down. Here’s what he did:
“He put down the idolatrous priests.”
2 Kings 23:5
“Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.”
2 Kings 23:14
“Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them.”
2 Kings 23:20
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.”
2 Kings 23:25
The Bible describes these as righteous deeds. But it’s clear that Josiah slaughtered large numbers of people and that these were not acts of goodness at all. Josiah was a religious fundamentalist, an extremist, and a terrorist—little different from those of today. The reason he became one was that he was exposed to the teachings of the book of Leviticus at a vulnerable age.
This radicalizing effect of a religious text—what I call the Josiah Effect—is not uncommon. It happened to Josiah, it happened to Steven Anderson, and to some extent, it happened to me. Perhaps it also happened to the Tsarnaev and Kouachi brothers. What I would like to point out here is that this effect is an inevitable consequence of even moderate religion, which is culpable in at least three ways.
First, moderate religion primes children—by the millions, if not billions—from an early age to accept without question the authority of the very same books that serve as the basis for fundamentalist ideologies, and it teaches children that the gods described in those books are worthy of worship. This renders these children susceptible to fundamentalist ideology when, as young adults, they begin seeking a purpose for their lives.
Second, moderate religion propagates and legitimizes the vehicles of fundamentalist ideology—both the texts and the rituals. The fact that millions upon millions of Americans believe that the Bible is a holy book drives publishers to print millions upon millions of copies every year. Bibles are available in every home and on the back of every church pew. And all it takes for a fundamentalist to be born is for one lost soul to pick up a copy and find a powerful sense of purpose in a literal interpretation of the text. The same is true of the Koran.
Third, moderate religion lends credibility to fundamentalism by claiming to believe in the very same gods and the very same divinely-inspired texts that are exalted by fundamentalists. If not for moderate religion, the absurdity of fundamentalist beliefs would be much more obvious. But those beliefs are not as easy to identify as absurd when billions of people worship the same god and study the same scripture. The result is that fundamentalist beliefs are seen not as ridiculous, but as merely unorthodox or misguided interpretations of an ideology that is, on the whole, widely regarded as correct.
The absurdity of the situation would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. For generations, we have been printing billions of books containing verses that command us to kill idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, and unbelievers. We teach our children that these books are holy and then cross our fingers in hopes that they won’t take those verses seriously. Then we have the temerity to be shocked when, like King Josiah, some of them read the texts with fresh eyes and decide that they should be taken literally after all.
I don’t deny that there are nuggets of truth and beauty to be found in the scriptures of the major religions. But just as in a cable TV package, the real gems are bundled together with far too much garbage, from misogyny to homophobia. When the stakes are high—as in the case of religion, wherein doctrinal error can mean the difference between heaven and hell—those bits of garbage become every bit as dangerous as a loaded firearm left out in the open for a child to find.
To be sure, there are issues of politics and international relations that must also be addressed. But in the meantime, as long as the scriptures continue to be reproduced and revered in their present bundled forms, the Josiah Effect guarantees that every generation will produce its own crop of extremists. Until the mainstream religions break up these bundles and explicitly disown the abhorrent verses, each new generation will have to rediscover on its own just how dangerous they can be—and that discovery will always come at a high price.
Originally published on June 14, 2016, at Quillette
I couldn’t remember what it was called or where I’d seen it; but over the last couple of years, the image had been coming to mind again and again, and I realized that I’d begun to think of it as one of the most profound pieces in the history of art — one that perfectly captures what it means to be a scholar, an inquirer, or anyone who feels compelled to break through boundaries. It wasn’t until this fall (of 2017), as I was teaching a lesson on imaginary numbers, that I finally resolved to track it down and get a poster of it for my classroom.
Some trial and error on Google eventually led me to it. It’s called the Flammarion Engraving, after the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, in whose 1888 book it first appeared (L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire). Interestingly, no one is sure where the image originally came from — whether Flammarion commissioned it for his book, engraved it himself, or found it in some now-lost repository. This mystery only added to my delight.
When I searched for a poster of a colored version, I found one available for $430 — which was obviously out of the question. And so I decided to create my own. The original black-and-white image is in the public domain (available through Wikimedia), so I downloaded a high-resolution copy, had it printed on a 2-foot-by-3-foot piece of paper, and began to think about how I would color it in. Water color? Colored pencil? Bolivian yak’s blood mixed with cuttlefish pigment?
Here was what I would be working with:
I ended up going with colored pencil, since yak’s blood has an unpleasant odor — and since the art teacher at my school was willing to let me borrow a set of Prismacolors. I began by picking out the colors I’d use for the sky. I wanted a sunset that faded from yellow to orange to red to lavender to deep purple. After an afternoon of coloring, I ended up with this:
On the second day, I colored in the sun, the moon, the tree in the foreground, and the robed figure:
Then I spent a day coloring in the mysterious heavenly realm beyond the celestial sphere. I picked what I thought of as vibrant, other-worldly colors:
Then it was time for the distant part of the landscape:
And the foreground:
And then the water: (I also went over the sky and the robe a second time here.)
And finally, I filled in the border and then went back to make some of the other colors a little more vibrant (especially in the heavenly realm):
The last step was to take a high-resolution photo of it and touch it up digitally. (There’s one coloring error that I fixed. Can you find it?) I also decided to make the region outside of the border black instead of white, in order to detract less from the brightness in the interior of the piece. And I thought the text would look good in gold. Speaking of which, the text (which was Flammarion’s original caption for the piece) says, “A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch…”
Altogether, the project took me about three weeks. The image at the top of this post is the final version. (Click on it for a semi-high resolution version.) I’m really proud of how it turned out! Feel free to share it — but please give me credit for the coloring.
Perhaps I’m just being supremely arrogant (I wouldn’t deny this at all), but I believe that I actually know the answer to the Primordial Existential Question1: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
The canonical response is to reject the premise of the question—namely, the assumption that a state of pure nothingness is somehow more natural than any other state. Philosophers now tend to agree that there is no good reason to hold this assumption, and the question therefore does not require an answer at all beyond the cheeky one given by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Well, why not?”2
While I don’t disagree with the above reasoning, I have a different response that I think is more meaningful. Specifically, I believe that the question contains yet another false premise: that “something” and “nothing” are mutually exclusive states. The question assumes that since we observe the existence of something (our selves, at the very least), it therefore cannot also be true that there is nothing. Although this assumption makes intuitive sense, I now believe it is wrong.
My initial epiphany was born out of my frustration with trying to make my voice heard over the din of the clamoring masses. While surveying the cacophony on the media, on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and now in the realm of podcasting, I realized that we are fast approaching a state in which everything is being said. And once the multitude of voices drown each other out in utter static, we reach a state that is equivalent to one in which nothing at all is being said. Thus, “nothing” and “everything” are, in a sense, equivalent. This idea is, I admit, little more than a faint analogy, a mere inkling—but it is one that I believe is worth pursuing further.
Imagine a blank projector screen. (It doesn’t matter whether your concept of blankness is pure white, pure black, or even pure gray.) Now let an image—any image—be projected onto the screen. Then let a second image be superimposed on top of it, and then a third, and a fourth, and so on. Consider the limit in which all possible images are projected onto the screen (with the intensities being averaged as each new one is added, if you like). Such an operation can actually be carried out with calculus, using discrete sums for digital images or continuous sums for analog ones. Either way, the result will be the same: convergence to an utterly blank screen.
The key point in the above exercise is that the very act of projecting everything onto the screen gives rise to nothing. Crucially, this phenomenon is not limited just to the superposition of images on a screen; it can be generalized to any information-bearing medium to show that the sum of everything, in terms of information content, is nothing. Perhaps also relevant here is the result from information theory stating that the signals that contain the most information are those which, paradoxically, are composed of completely random static—i.e., nothing.
Consider also the famous quote attributed to Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” I like to modify this idea as follows: A block of stone contains within it every possible form—a dolphin, say, or an airplane, or a tree—until the sculptor chooses one and carves away the excess stone from around it. In other words, when you have a big block of marble, which is, in a sense, nothing (since it has not yet been sculpted into any form at all), you have at the very same time everything. And if you were to attempt to carve all possible forms out of the block, every last bit of marble would be scraped away and you would end up with nothing. In other words, creating everything will leave you with nothing.
Perhaps all of these analogies add up to nothing more than a rhetorical trick, and perhaps I am deceiving myself; but right now I think there really is something to it. I suspect that nothing and everything really are opposite sides of the same coin. In a very real sense, everything resides within nothing—while at the same time, nothing resides within everything. Moreover, I suggest that it is not even possible to have one without the other.
And so I think the best answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is this: There is something precisely because there is nothing—for each one is contained within the other. Everything is necessarily born out of nothing, and nothing is necessarily born out of everything. Thus, the reality we inhabit is a bubble of something within the great cosmic soup of nothing and everything. With this in mind, I once again present the following little “poem” I posted previously, which captures my understanding of existence and the meaning we find within it:
Everything from nothing,
And nothing again from everything.
Meaning is in the middle.
And here are some other related tidbits I’ve run across:
“I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” —John Cage
I’m trying to teach my son to be as forgetful as I am. Most nights, when I put him to bed, I go through something like the following script with him. Note the bit about “letting go” at the end of the second paragraph. (Also note that my son is only three years old, so the language is intentionally simple and repetitive.)
It’s time to go to bed, and it’s time to go to sleep. And we love going to bed, and we love going to sleep because we get to rest, relax, and look forward to tomorrow. And we love looking forward to tomorrow because tomorrow will have new opportunities to learn and grow.
But before we go to sleep, we think about everything that happened during the day. We remember all of the good things that happened, and we hold onto those memories so that we will always have them with us to make us happy. We also think about the bad things and the mistakes that we made so that we can learn from them. And after we learn from them, we let go of them so that they will never bother us again.
[Here I ask my son to tell me his favorite parts of the day—friends he played with, fun things he learned, etc. Then I say, “Hold onto that memory. Whenever you feel sad, think about that, and then you’ll be happy again.” Then I ask him to tell me about something bad that happened or a mistake that he made. “We won’t do that again,” I might say. “And now let’s let go of it so that it will never bother you again.”]
I believe this is a good exercise that we should all practice, no matter how old we are. The busier we get, the harder it is to find time to reflect on our experiences. And if we don’t reflect, we’re probably not storing up all the good memories that we’d like to have in the future. We’re also probably not learning from our mistakes. I hope that one day my son will see this habit as a gift I gave him—something he will always hold onto that will make him happy long after I am gone.
For two months now, I’ve been trying to remove a shotgun-blast-shaped cranberry juice stain from the wall beside my bed. When I say this, it sounds like I’ve tested various stain-removal remedies—soapy water, bleach, an abrasive sponge, etc.—and that none of them have worked. But in fact, the problem has nothing to do with how difficult the stain is to remove; it’s just that I can’t remember to wipe the damn thing off.
Every night goes something like this: As I get ready for bed, I set the contents of my pockets on my nightstand, and my eyes fall on the stain. I think, Oh, that’s right. I’ll clean that up as soon as I finish changing clothes. But then, by the time I’ve changed—which takes all of thirty seconds—I have completely forgotten about the stain. Or, on one of my sharper nights, I will actually walk into the kitchen intending to get a wet cloth to clean the stain, but then, upon arriving at the sink, promptly forget why I went there.
That this has only been going on for two months is also a bit odd, because it was six months ago that I actually spilled the juice. The difference of four months is how long it took me to notice that there even was a stain on the wall—and when I noticed it, I had to think for a long while before I realized where it had come from. Thus, my powers of observation would seem to be just as bad as my memory. (In my defense, though, at the time of the spill, I was frantically engaged in getting the juice out of the carpet and soaking up the puddle from the nightstand, so it’s understandable that I missed the splatter on the wall.)
Every time I repeat this nightly ritual of forgetfulness, I mentally kick myself, and a worry bubbles up inside of me: Am I losing my mind? Are these the signs of early-onset dementia? But I dismiss the question every time for the same reason, which is that I distinctly recall having this problem all the way back into my childhood. And when I remember that, I’m forced to acknowledge another ugly (but not as frightening) truth: I just have an abysmal memory.
Sometimes I wonder what things I’ve forgotten without ever realizing I forgot them: How many times have I ordered takeout from a restaurant and then gone to the store, bought groceries, and cooked dinner? (Would the restaurant bother to call me and ask why I never came to pick up the food?) And how many times have I set a drink from McDonald’s on top of my car to free up my hands so I could put my son in his child seat, only to drive off and lose the drink somewhere along the way? (There was at least one occasion on which I arrived home and discovered the cup still resting on top of my car.)
Few things are more terrifying to me than losing my memory. Memory is a big part of what gives us our identity, after all. Sure, you could keep living after losing your memory—but without memories, the person you once were would be every bit as gone as if you had died. On the other hand, memory loss can be a blessing. How many jokes have given me a fresh laugh a second, third, or fourth time because I’d forgotten the punchline? And how many of my relationships have been saved by the forgetting of grievances?
I suppose that forgetfulness is not all bad. Even in the case of this cranberry juice stain, it has given me a reason to laugh at myself. But I would like to move on. And so, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can walk over to the kitchen right now, wet a cloth under the faucet, head to my bedroom, and wipe that infernal splatter off the wall once and for all.
I was talking about the glow-in-the-dark dots on my son’s new space-themed pajamas. He was excited about them, as only a two-year-old could be, and he wanted to show them off to me. But they were invisible to my eyes.
“Why?” he asked.
I thought for a moment. I would probably be able to see them in a few seconds, once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness; but it also occurred to me that my sight just wasn’t as good as it used to be. Eliot’s was better.
“My eyes aren’t as good as yours,” I said.
“Why?” he asked.
Once more, I paused.
“Because my eyes are old,” I said at last.
“Why are your eyes old?” he asked.
“Because I’m old!” I said.
This time, Eliot was the one who paused. During the silence, I began to make out the stars on his shirt, but I couldn’t see the expression on his face as he looked at me, processing what I’d just told him. When he finally answered, his voice was much quieter and more serious than it had been just moments before.
“You’re dying,” he said.
I stared into the darkness. He was only two. He had seen plants and flowers die, but as far as I knew, he’d had no cause to think about people dying. Had someone told him about the connection between old age and dying, or had he just known? I suddenly had a spooky feeling that perhaps Eliot’s mind was connected to some well of universal truth—a source we all begin life connected to but then lose touch with as we grow out of childhood.
“Daddy, are you dying?” he asked.
“No, buddy,” I said. Not yet.
After we said good night and I closed his bedroom door, I couldn’t get his little voice out of my head. Daddy, are you dying? Just how much did he know?
It wasn’t until the next morning, as I was walking him to the playground, that I would get another hint as to what was going on in his mind.
“Daddy,” he said, “I don’t like you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re old.”
I laughed, even though it actually hurt a little.
“Well,” I said, “when you get old, I will still like you.”
What it says to me is that without knowing it, we’ve been engaged in a very real war right here on American soil — a more costly one than any of the others we’ve ever fought. We freak out over terrorism — which is indeed a real and frightening threat — but perhaps we ought to be devoting more resources to combating routine gun violence (which is a bigger problem precisely because it has become “routine”).
The question, of course, is what to do about it. Some simple regulations might help. Kristof writes:
Gun proponents often say things to me like: What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them!
Cars are actually the best example of the public health approach that we should apply to guns. Over the decades, we have systematically taken steps to make cars safer: We adopted seatbelts and airbags, limited licenses for teenage drivers, cracked down on drunken driving and established roundabouts and better crosswalks, auto safety inspections and rules about texting while driving.
And then there are people who assert that we’d be safer if more people carried guns (an idea that conjures an image of the Wild West in my mind). To them, I want to ask: If that were true, then shouldn’t it be the case that in places where more people carry concealed handguns, the percentage of self-defense shootings ought to be higher than in other places? And shouldn’t it be possible to show that the percentage of overall shootings that are justified acts of self-defense increases when conceal-carry laws are enacted and more people begin to carry guns? For that matter, shouldn’t we hear about self-defense shootings much more often than we do?
Maybe the logic behind the above questions is flawed. But even if that’s the case, I’m sure they could be modified into a logically valid form. And it should be easy to do some research and find the answers. With a little research, it really is possible to figure out once and for all what kinds of action need to be taken in order to reduce gun violence. Right?
Oh, yeah. Congress has banned research on gun violence. And it’s the NRA that lobbied for the ban. Which is funny, because the NRA states with great confidence that more guns are better, and more guns make us safer. But there’s something funny going on here, because if that were true, the research would bear it out.
What is the NRA afraid of? They should be encouraging such investigations if they are so confident that guns make America a better place. Until they do so, they might as well just admit what they clearly know to be true: Common sense gun regulations and/or fewer guns would result in less gun violence, making America much safer.
In the meantime, we’re losing a war.
Please go here and sign the petition to end the ban on gun violence research.
If you want the sheet music, click here to download it.
And here are the lyrics:
She was just a little girl, Dreamin’ bigger than she knew she should. She’d seen how cold the world could be And had in mind to change it if she could.
She said, “I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world. I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls. I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness. I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”
Well, life made her a widow With a baby boy to bring up on her own. And she spent all of her energy Providing for that boy till he left home.
And all too soon, the years had slipped away, And she lay dying in her bed. As the tears were streaming down her cheeks, She looked me in the eye, and then she said:
“I searched so hard but never found Those healing words. I never sang that song. I never lit that fire, never led the march, And now my dream is gone.”
And I told her, “Mama, your dream will never die. I watched you live your life. You made me who I am. I heard you sing your song and saw you lead the march. You lit the fire inside of me, and so your dream lives on.”
“And now I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world. I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls. I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness. I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”
Well, that was forty years ago, And now it’s time for me to go as well. As the tears come streaming down my cheeks, I take my daughter’s hand, and then I say:
“I searched so hard but never found Those healing words. I never sang that song. I never lit that fire, never led the march, And now the dream is gone.”
And she says, “Daddy, your dream will never die. I watched you live your life. You made me who I am. I heard you sing your song and saw you lead the march. You lit the fire inside of me, and so your dream lives on.”
“And now, I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world. I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls. I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness. I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”
“I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world. I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls. I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness. I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”
‘Cause she was just a little girl, Dreaming bigger than she knew she should.