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Brian Hodge

  Homo Sapiens means “wise man.” It is a little self aggrandizing if you ask me. I will give you that in a span of 300,000 years our species has gone from arguing over burning sticks to arguing over nuclear power. However one could be forgiven for having George Carlin levels of cynicism about how wise we are judging by a few moments glance at Twitter, Facebook or TikTok.

  It is not a popular message to hear, but the gut wrenching stories we hear coming out of Uvalde, TX are for the most part rare. Not only that, it seems that if we are going to live in modern society we have to face the fact that in part the cost of that society is going to be millions of dead children. Throughout most of history death at or shortly after childbirth was astoundingly more common than it is today. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and a host of other complications that once routinely killed mothers and children are at all time lows. Today prenatal death is very high. There are between 800,000 and 1 million abortions each year. Practically all homicide of infants is perpetrated by adults or much older siblings. Even though deaths, particularly infant deaths, by war or violent crime are at historic lows, the world is still a very dangerous place. Given all that, I would still be hard pressed to find someone who argued that the gunning down of schoolchildren was necessary for us to live in a free society. Maybe it isn’t necessary but it is most certainly consequential.

  On subjects such as mass shootings the question boils down to this; can we prevent these tragedies or do we simply have to learn to live with them? I firmly believe that these things are a part of life. We should do all that we are willing to do to mitigate unnecessary suffering and death, but we have to be realistic that there are limits to what we, collectively, are willing to do. Whether the topic is gun violence, gambling, abortion, drug abuse, or kneeling during the National Anthem there is no law or policy that will stop these things. We have to learn to live with them. We don’t have a law prohibiting people from sticking their hands in blenders. Why? Because for the most part people see that it is not in their interest to do that. If you want to change people’s behavior I believe you get there much faster through compassion and appeals to reason rather than through legislation and punishment.

  Very distraught parents assert, to the point that it has become cliche', that "we need to make sure this never happens again." Good luck with that. Especially when politicians and pundits lecture us about the wrong problem, the availability of guns, instead of the actual problem, gross hypocrisy and a dearth of human compassion. "Experts" who happen to fit a certain political mold decry "assault" rifles as the problem, even though most gun deaths, especially those that result from mass shootings, occur from handguns. They act as if they are mortally wounded over the mere possibility of a dead children in a school shooting, even though vastly more children are killed through abortion procedures than gun violence. They demand background checks, paid for by the gun purchasers of course, even though a great many of these homicidal maniacs broadcast their intention to kill to all and sundry on social media. I'm not for banning guns or abortions, but I implore my fellow citizens to use their common sense and not just take political blathering for holy gospel without applying a little independent thought to it first.

  Another thing that is helpful to keep in mind is that when a politician presents a simplistic answer to a complicated problem you should beware.

  It is reasonable to think that police, especially given the broad range of control over us we grant them through our laws, have a duty to protect the public from criminal activity. As I learned recently that is not the case and the verdict comes down from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

  If the Uvalde massacre does not serve any purpose other than to be an instructive reminder it will be this: the police are under no binding legal obligation to protect innocent victims from criminals. For all that you hear from mayors, to governors, to presidents when they campaign and tell you that they have a plan that will stop the carnage, remember that allowing the government to have powers that are personally invasive and humiliating in exchange for bodily protection is no bargain at all. There are many people who claim to be brave men and women who work in law enforcement. There are many others, brave or not, that want to help people and will risk their lives to do so. But there are also cowards who are liabilities rather than assets to their organizations and their wider communities. These are the ones that police departments would do well to identify and replace.

  The relevant case if you want to look it up was Deshayne v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1982). A family sued a department of social services for failing to intervene in a case of a child who had been repeatedly abused by his father even after the department had well documented instances of abuse for more than a year. The abusive father eventually broke the child’s skull causing permanent brain damage that lasted the rest of the child’s life. The finding by SCOTUS in a majority opinion written by then Chief Justice William Rehnquist was that the purpose of the 14th amendment was “to protect people from the State, not for the State to protect them from each other.”

  This might be infuriating to you. But rather than getting angry and compartmentalizing this fact away in your trauma closet, keep it in mind the next time you have a warm fuzzy feeling after watching a campaign ad.

  The government, the police might protect you. But the only safety that is remotely reliable is the safety you create for yourself.

  I learned about the philosopher Rene Descartes (a drunken fart) by watching Monty Python years before he came up for me as a topic in college.

  Aside from a rhythmic jab about Descartes’ supposed alcohol-induced flatulence, what this taught me was that Descartes applied fundamental doubt to everything. As historian James Burke put it: if someone tells you that something is certain, consider it probable. If someone tells you something is probable, consider it possible. And if someone tells you it is possible, forget it. Descartes has something to teach us in this respect about politics and humility. We are all too ready to believe things just because we like the package the message is wrapped in. However, it is better to be a skeptic proven wrong than a sycophant who thinks their candidate can do no wrong.