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Anonymous Rex

Anonymous Rex

Anonymous Rex, a Louisiana native, is a former national Democratic political consultant who gave it all up to raise the perfect liberal elite culture-warrior.  His interests include gender studies, feminism and North Louisiana.

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Friday, 14 May 2010

Dodging Bullets in Church

 OK, NOW YOU’VE DONE IT…

Now you’ve gone and made me mad.

And embarrassed me. And made me ashamed of my home state…

I could overlook the simple provincialism of trying to legislate against the way teenage boys wear their pants.  I could understand that no one has the backbone to stand up against animal cruelty, (because hey, Billy Bob may need to leave the huntin’ dawg tied up outside for three days running…). I could even understand the pinheaded, petty, Babbitt-minded, thuggish vindictiveness of legislating against that Environmental Law Clinic at Tulane. (Don’t you guys realize how simple-minded and brutish that makes Louisiana sound when they report it on NPR? Do you care?)

But now the House of Representative’s of the Great State of Louisiana has voted 74-18 for a bill by Rep. Henry Burns of Haughton that would allow guns in houses of worship as a way of protecting said worshipers from attack.

Oh God. I mean “oh, God… please forgive them… they’re idiots. In Your image, perhaps, but seemingly drawn with only a 16-box of crayons – missing the Blue and Burnt Sienna and maybe a few other colors. 

When I tell my friends in Washington about Louisiana’s House of Representative’s voting to allow guns in church, they all say the same thing: THAT IS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS! So I want to take some time to pull apart some of those levels and try to point out what seems so wrong about guns in church to many in the rest of America.

Let’s start with the “security” level. I understand that this legislation has been pitched as a “security” issue. But security against what? How paranoid, how insecure, how frightened, how scared witless do you have to be to feel that you need armed people – ready for a shoot-out – in your sanctuary?  Well, apparently there ARE people who feel this scared, this terrified, this horribly vulnerable. Listen to Durell Tuberville of the Shreveport Community Church -- "Our babies in the nursery are subject to attack while the mother is in the sanctuary worshiping. We want to protect our people, our sheep."

Is this true? Is Shreveport just like Ciudad Juarez, with bad-ass gangs toting Uzis and “Little Friends” about to storm First Baptist to try to wipe out rival gangs or ransom their precious children? That’s what it sounds like to the rest of America when you say things like that, Durell… They can’t imagine ANY SCENARIO where gunfire would be required during prayer services.  Here in Washington it is beyond our comprehension that the babies in your nursery are subject to attack. Is that really true? How bad is it in Shreveport… my hometown? Should I move my Mom up here to DC? What attacks was Rep. Burns thinking of? Did he ever say? We here in the civilized world have never heard of such a regularity of attacks as to cause us to ruin our houses of prayer…

And while we’re on the “security” level, if the bad guys did attack the nursery, or the deranged person did shoot the minister, wouldn’t all of those types of attack – sudden, unprovoked, maniacal – happen before they could be stopped? So what kind of security are we talking about from armed parishioners – killing maniacs after the fact? Isn’t that what the police and/or our courts are for?

Next let’s consider the morality level of guns in church. And by morality I’ll go with the dictionary meaning: “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” My friends up North see this as so wrong because to introduce guns, and people who believe in carrying guns into a church setting, is to mix… well… gunpowder with Jesus. Doesn’t it seem apparent that these two don’t go together? It appears Rep. Burns and all who voted for him got that question wrong on the Abstract Concepts section of their I.Q. test.

Indeed, Rep. Ernest Wooton, a Republican from Belle Chasse clearly got that part wrong. He forthrightly states: “I want to see in the Bible where it says you can’t bring a gun to church.” Now let’s give good Mr. Wooton the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not merely being facile, glib, disingenuous or stiff-necked. And let’s grant him that the Bible is the ultimate moral authority in these matters – a point that I and many, many others – Christian or otherwise – would not be willing to grant under ordinary circumstances. But doesn’t the fact that guns didn’t exist when the Bible was written make this statement stupid in the extreme? Doesn’t it make his point superfluous and dissembling? Is he a moral moron? Doesn’t his quote qualify as civil and political bad behavior? How come no one down there calls him out on this stuff? And come to think of it, my understanding of The Sermon on the Mount pretty much DOES say don’t bring a gun into church – isn’t there something about “resist not evil” and “turn the other cheek”?

And what about the political level regarding this legislation? How did this bill pass the House? Did small town churches lobby for this? Did big city synagogues demand their members with guns (?) be able to shoot up the Temple? Why did this bill pass?  Was anyone paid to lobby for it? Isn’t this activist Big Government interfering in our lives – they think that’s a bad thing down there, right? Doesn’t anyone see state-sanctioned vigilante-ism IN CHURCH as a bad thing? It sure looks bad from up here. And why did 74 Representatives vote for it? Were they afraid of “the gun lobby” -- but not their Lord? Were they afraid of attack ads come election time? So they are willing to allow shooting melees in their constituent’s churches rather than stand up for safety over “security,” stand up for common sense, stand up for sacredness, stand up for sanctity? Cowards. I’ll say it again. Cowards… Pathetic Cowards…

And finally, (and believe me, I’m trying to hit the rant brakes…) let’s look at the religious level of guns in houses of worship. Granting that out of the tens of thousands of places of worship there have been a handful of violent incidents over the years. Is that slim, earthly, venal fact really a reason to soil the Holy? Because that ultimately is what makes guns in Holy places so hurtful, so egregious, so wrong. Holiness. Sacredness. Sanctity. Transcendence. The Ineffable. The Divine. God. These things are harmed by violence, by the threat of violence, by the presence of weapons. Isn’t that evident? In my heart, I do not believe there is anyone in Louisiana who would argue that guns in a place of worship makes that place more Holy, more Divine. And that is the measure of a house of worship – Holiness. Guns are such an inherent, palpable contradiction to Holiness and spirituality that it just seems mindbogglingly impossible to rationalize their presence in a House of the Lord.

Can anyone explain to me what I’m missing?
 
One of my favorite novels is a book written by Tennessee Williams towards the end of his life, called “Moise and the World of Reason.” In this book, the protagonist, for various reasons, throws a party specifically to announce that he is leaving the World of Reason. 

I thought of this title recently when I saw a story in The Shreveport Times on “Operation Exodus,” a project of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department, headed by Sheriff Larry Deen. The Times reports that “Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen's policing plan involves "a mostly white group of ex-police volunteers and a .50-caliber machine gun" and was inspired in part from the Book of Exodus in the Bible.”

Funny, I don’t remember my Bible’s Book of Exodus mentioning anything about a 50-caliber machine gun…

The story gets better… “The volunteers will be equipped with shotguns, riot shields and batons, the newspaper says. A .50-caliber machine gun will be mounted on what the sheriff's office calls "the war wagon."

This being the Age of Media, the story has a video to go with it. The video shows about thirty middle-aged, balding white guys, who would generously be described, as Paul Simon said, as being “soft in the middle.” These terrorism-combaters are shown doing the sort of Karat-tay moves that young kids use when they think they are being Bruce Lee.

In the words of Doyle Dempsey, Chief Deputy for support services, if the project is successful "we will be ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting Islamic extremists." In the video he states that the purpose of the operation is to create “an overwhelming show of force prior to any (terrorism) event taking place, so we can hopefully prevent it before it ever happens…”

Now think about this for a minute. Sheriff Deen is talking about ‘Islamic extremists’ who have repeatedly shown themselves willing to blow themselves to smithereens, to fly themselves and passenger jets into tall buildings, and he is maintaining that 200 pudgy white guys are going to prevent them from… from what? Attacking Bossier?

Well, says Sheriff Deen… “"The buck stops with Larry Deen… I am the chief law enforcement officer in this parish, and it is incumbent upon me protect all of the people in it."

Oh really, Sheriff Deen? And you don’t think that repelling ‘Islamic extremists’ might better be left to the FBI or Dept. of Homeland Security? You think you and 200 Barney Fife’s armed with shotguns is the right response? Is that a hookah pipe you’ve been smokin’, Sheriff?

This is the sort of thing that makes the Yankees up North snort with derision at the yahoos in the backwoods. This story has it all – good ol’ boys, guns and fightin’.’bad guys’… Could there be a more compelling demonstration of provincialism? Wouldn’t this make a hilarious episode of ‘Mayberry R.F.D.?” Is that why USA Today picked up the story on their On Deadline website – are they laughing with us or at us? Doesn’t Sheriff Deen’s “Operation Exodus” seem to discredit the very idea of professional law enforcement?

But then I thought a bit more about this farce when I read about the Hutaree Militia. Looked at through that lens, the Bossier story did not look quite so tinhorn funny. A law enforcement officer, taking a bunch of “volunteers” and arming them with shotguns, war wagons and 50-caliber machine guns certainly seems to qualify as creating a militia to the good liberals citizens of my blue patch of suburbia.

No, no, says Sheriff Deen, nothing militia of the kind. "We run from that word," he says. "We're just the opposite of that word," says Sheriff Deen. Well, I guess that's true… if you’ve left the World of Reason…


Ps.     I have a friend I’ve known all of my life who is a deputy with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s office. Through my friend, I know the hard work the Sheriff’s department does – the crazies they have to deal with in the name of keeping the peace. I don’t mean to dishonor or disavow any of the fine law enforcement activities the department delivers for its citizens. But this is one ‘Operation’ that seems like an ‘Exodus’ from good public policy.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Louisiana Finally First

This is a blog about Louisiana. A blog written from not-Louisiana; reporting on Louisiana as observed from the rest of the country. The idea here is that a good Louisiana boy, born and bred, transplanted Up North to seek his fame and fortune, now shares with you Louisiana as it appears to the other good people of America.

Frankly, it's never been an easy tale to tell. Usually all the newspapers here report is 'Congressman Indicted' this and 'Senator and Prostitute' that... along with stories about just how backward things still are in the land that President Jefferson swindled from that French dandy, Napoleon.

But I thought I'd inaugurate this maiden voyage with an inspirational report, a stirring story of how Louisiana is leading the nation. Just to get things off to a nice start. Here is the headline in The Washington Post, Page A4, from Sunday, December 13th, 2009:

"Louisiana serves as model in teacher assessment"

Now there's a headline you don't see everyday -- Louisiana serving as a model of civic improvement. Especially in education. This is a banner day in news from my home state.

The article starts off in Room 46 of J.W. Faulk Elementary School in Lafayette. Now I couldn't find out who J.W. Faulk was from the first ten search pages in Google, but I'm sure he or she is related to Amos Faulk, who used to guide my daddy and brother and me when we went duck hunting out of Chateau Charles down in Hackberry. So I know that we are talking 'heartland' Louisiana. The reporter tells about a teacher preparation program that the U.S. Secretary of Education calls "a model for the nation." It states that "Louisiana has become the first state to tie student test scores into a chain of evaluation that reaches all the way to teacher colleges."

"A lot of people are talking about doing it," said Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College of Columbia University, "but Louisiana got there first." Now that's THE Columbia University, where the North keeps it's big brains -- saying that we got there first. You don't see that every day...

And it just makes me so proud. To think that great minds in my home state have been working hard during the past three governorships to design a program to palpably improve teacher training and classroom learning -- to think that we lead the nation in that task -- just makes my heart glow.

There's so much to be done. From the Upper 49 it always seems so clear that the easiest thing Louisiana could do to raise itself up is competently educate it's citizenry. Our standing in the rankings is not good, I'm at pains to say. Yet here, here is progress, here is promise. And in a school that is 96% African-American...

Wait a minute... I thought we'd gotten past segregated schools...

Oh well, I suppose there's always more to be done.

Let's see how it goes...


- Anonymous Rex

LAProgress

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