IRRELIGION AND SUPERSTITION IN AMERICA
Rabbi Jacob Krantz, who traveled from Jewish community to community during the late 18th Century, told stories collected as Parables of the Preacher of Dubno, described by Nathan Ausubel in “Jewish Folklore,” 1948.
Two collectors of alms visited with two affluent merchants in order to solicit charitable contributions for the poor. Actually, the seekers had one unfortunate man in mind. The first of those rich men, eating heartily and consuming voluminously the finest vintage wines, dismissed them out of hand. “I don’t believe in charity!” he declared flatly. The other rich man closely questioned the alms seekers about the putative recipient. After gaining all of the available facts, the second rich man declared, “that man you’re gathering alms for is a swindler! He is lazy and a drunkard. I don’t give away money to lazy drunkards.”
Thereupon, the charity collectors arose and said with scorn, “Your friend told us plainly he did not wish to give a donation because he did not believe in charity. Well and good – he has a right to do as he pleases. But how dare you, who never had the intention of giving in the first place, insult and slander an unfortunate poor man!”
The Tenth Commandment admonishes a transgression known as covetousness. Suppose one spots a driver and an automobile merrily rolling along Wilshire Boulevard: the car is a late model Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, bright gold, and as efficient a vehicle as it is gorgeous in design. One reflects, I plan to seize every opportunity and work as hard as I ever could, so that someday, I might be able to own such a car. That is envy. Covetousness means, THAT driver ought not to own THAT specific automobile. He should be deprived of his title, which should be transferred to me, forthwith. Because of who I am, I have a superior claim to that car, which he saved up for and purchased with his own, hard-earned money, because I am essentially, better than he is. That is covetousness.
Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican Chair of the Budget Committee of The House of Representatives, has now proposed a series of federal budgets that work this way. A single working mother of two small children receives $100 a week in federal assistance. At the same time, Mitt Romney, for doing absolutely nothing, “earns” $20 million per year, based upon an estimated net fortune of $250,000,000.00. Through the devices of the tax code and cuts in social programs, Paul Ryan wants to see to it that Mitt Romney will thenceforward receive an annual income of $20, 000, 005,200.00, and the working mother and her children will be rendered destitute to achieve that result. To understand the capitalist dynamic of shifting poverty income to starvation wages, again I suggest reference to Emile Zola’s masterpiece, Germinal, 1885, tr. Havelock Ellis, 1894 (there is no misery that can avoid being shared):
“And these two men, who felt contempt for each other – the rebellious workman and the skeptical master – threw themselves on each other’s necks, sobbing loudly in the deep upheaval of all the humanity in them. It was an immense sadness, the misery of generations, the extremity of grief to which life can fall,” p. 473.
Improve upon that, Ayn Rand!
I keep waiting for the telephone to ring. Pent in his English, looking noseward down persona, Piers Morgan simply wrings his hands in anguish over America’s infatuation with guns and flails himself against a wall of misunderstanding. If he ever had the guts to ask me, this is what he would learn. Americans are among the most superstitious people on earth.
Before his body and vacant mind were considered too sacred to confront, regarding the epochal calamity of Iraq or anything else, in 2000, George W. Bush, Governor of Texas, and Republican presidential nominee, was questioned about capital punishment, since Texas was (and is) the State that leads all others in executions. The interviewer pointed out that historically, analytically and statistically, there is no evidence to prove the case that capital punishment deters capital crime.
As Bush was silent as to these facts, the questioner went further. He asked, then, if capital punishment were justified as canalized vengeance. He replied that vengeance is not justice. Good for him! He then went on to insist that he still believed capital punishment IS a deterrent. There is no explanation for such persistence of myth, but superstition. In America, as opposed to most other advanced nations, capital punishment is driven forward by the same dynamic that causes us to knock on wood. [There is a whole other way of understanding Americans by virtue of the superficiality of our culture, but more about that later and elsewhere.]
The American infatuation with guns is not rational. Amongst us, there is simply a dumbfounding populous phallus worship, attached to guns, that yields the corollary, to wit: any attempt at gun control is tantamount to castration. Mr. Morgan just makes himself look silly when he cites public opinion polls favoring various forms of regulation of military-style firearms, of grand enhancement of ammunition perquisites, as well as universal background checks. Public opinion polls are based upon a theory (not a science) of probabilities. It is actually desirable that most Americans should not believe public opinion polls, because there is no scientific proof that a sampling of any 3,000 people could possibly reflect what 300 million people actually think or regard as in their own enlightened self-interest.
Moreover, many who respond to polltakers are likely to say what they believe poll takers want to hear; other respondents are fearful that their candor might be read as politically incorrect.
When M. La Pierre insists that the only answer to a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun, he is wrong, but he has every American superstition and heroism fantasy on his side. No matter how many practicums have demonstrated that armed citizens faced by armed intruders will invariably be outgunned – and often outwitted – the superstition persists that guns in the hands of potential victims are the great equalizer. As I have pointed out time and again (Mr. Morgan being merely a source for output who has little capacity for input), the killer always has the advantage because he accounts life – the lives of his victims, as well as his own – as amounting to nothing, whereas the guardians must always value life; otherwise, why would they be guardians?
Mr. Morgan has studiously avoided addressing my arguments. He has failed to make the impeccable record I have called for regarding the right and obligation of the Congress, not the courts, to differentiate between firearms that bespeak what is a PERSONAL right to keep and bear arms, as opposed to the right of the military to exclusive access to weapons of war. He has also refused stolidly to address my thesis that there is no constitutional right to outgun a police force, substantiated in part by the history of his own country.
Reactions to my articles on newsvine.com, when I have backed my critics into a corner, have always reduced themselves to a purported right to acquire enough arms and ammunition to repel the very government of the United States. Impervious to argument, these gun reductionists have neither the wit nor the education to understand that what they advocate, where no one is safe, is nothing short of anarchy.
Mr. Obama has very gracefully, nay, daintily (through his Attorney General) abjured any intention to use armed drones against Americans on American soil. Still, the phallic worshippers remain convinced that were the President to change his mind, their stockpiles of semi-automatic weapons and thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition could stop a drone-launched missile from interrupting their morning second cup of coffee. If that is not a superstition, my rabbit’s foot rubbed just won me a million dollars in the lottery.
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and a lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.