Criminal Responsibility for Global Warming

September 21, 2021

For the podcast, please click here.

Trying to light a fire under the public and our public officials, I’ve advocated declaring war on global warming, sought the clergy’s moral leadership, pressed the urgency of protecting a livable environment for the poor and minorities as well as the wealthy, and described the earth’s reaction to our failure to protect it.

But I found myself in tears during the Jewish High Holy Day services. Repeatedly we’re told that God bids us to be good to each other but I look around and see mass suicide and murder. Whether we’re religious or not, what do we want on our conscience?

Unfortunately, too many dawdle while politics squelches action despite the growing damage. Many turn away from climate change because they think it’s beyond what they can do – though effective action is as near as our polling places. All of us, our children and grandchildren would benefit if more Americans took responsibility. Ultimately this is a moral cause: to stop the rape of the earth that gives us life; and to stop the inevitable slaughter if we don’t protect our and each other’s earthly home.

Under New York Penal Law, a person who “recklessly causes the death of another person” is guilty of a form of manslaughter. Under federal law, “killing of a human being … without due caution” is involuntary manslaughter. We could argue forever about the meaning of those terms except that scientists have been warning us for decades and we now have clear evidence that global temperatures are rising, and accelerating forest fires, drought, sea rise, severe storms and temperatures so high that  people are already being killed. It has become clear that the predictions of the scientists are conservative – global warming is happening faster than they expected and with increasingly severe consequences. So when does it become reckless not to act – to write, to speak, to vote or to organize? When does it become lack of due caution to let the damage, destruction and death continue?

Do we have the moral, religious or legal freedom to turn aside while it is still possible to stop further global warming, and prevent killing much of the earth’s population? When we know the consequence, as we do, are we being appropriately cautious about the harm to others unless we do what we can to prevent rising temperatures from drowning, starving and incinerating millions? When does it become reckless?

Is it reckless not to insist that our governments engineer the transition of our economy from products and practices that belch greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, to more healthful and efficient products and practices? Is it reckless to mismanage the fields and forests that could absorb some of the greenhouse gasses? Shall we engrave on our tombstones, “Here lie people who contributed to global warming even though they knew the consequences”?

Many won’t bother with tombstones, but will that hide us from our descendants’ memories, so long as they survive, or from the eyes of the Lord? Again, I try to put this in ecumenical ways, but I think fire and brimstone are absolutely appropriate. We have to act.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on September 21, 2021.


Religious Voices on the Environment

September 14, 2021

For podcasts of my commentary, please click here.

I called recently for religious voices on climate change to ring out more strongly. I’m not alone.  As Christiana Figueres wrote in the Guardian, “It is time for faith groups and religious institutions to find their voice and set their moral compass on one of the great humanitarian issues of our time.”

I promised to return to those religious voices who have spoken out about climate change.

Forest Clingerman teaches religion at Ohio Northern University and wrote we are “laying siege” to what Psalm 19 calls “God’s glorious ‘handiwork.’” Zayn Kassam, a chaired Pomona College professor of religious studies, warned that mishandling the environment brings the Earth “a little closer to the fires of Hell,” citing the Qur’an as well as the Bible’s Book of Micah. Love Sechrest, teaching the New Testament at the Fuller Theological Seminary, invoking Jesus’ call for “service … to the common good,” warned that rolling back sustainable “climate policies … threaten the health of the planet.”

Warnings have come from the Irish Council of Churches, leaders of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the United Church of Christ, the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Church World Service, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the AME Zion Church, The Episcopal Church, and United Methodist Women.

Across the globe calls have come from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Baha’i, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Jain, Shinto, Sikh and Tao leaders and interfaith groups, underlining our obligation to protect the environment which gives us life.

One listener kindly sent me a link to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, on Care for our Common Home, which reads in part, the earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” Pope Francis pointed to the “sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. … [T]he earth herself, burdened and laid waste … ‘groans in travail’….” He quoted Pope Paul VI, that by its “exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying” the work and blessings of God.

And on September 1st, Pope Francis, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby joined “to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability” and, citing Deuteronomy, called on “every person of good will … to choose life, so that you and your children may live … [by] play[ing] a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation.”

Reports about polar bears and ice flows or rising waters and storms aren’t enough, nor endless scientific reports with measurements that boggle ordinary minds. Religious and other moral voices must ring in our ears to invigorate the crusade about the great moral crisis of our time. As men and women of faith helped drive the abolition movement, so their message must help drive the movement to protect the environment we depend on, lest we come “a little closer to the fires of Hell.”

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on September 14, 2021.


Hohfeld’s Covid

September 7, 2021

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This was scheduled to air on one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. I think this commentary, which was recorded a few days earlier, is appropriate because law and religion both get at very significant moral issues – in this case, how we handle Covid.

So, are you game for a little legal philosophy? Law students are generally taught traditional legal concepts but more rarely the underlying fundamental logic of the law. Now you’ll be able to lord it over all the lawyers you know.

Wesley Hohfeld was just 39 when he died in 1918. A member of the faculty at Yale Law School, he had published two remarkable articles that continue to enlighten study of the law. Hohfeld gave meaning to the phrase that law is a seamless web because there is always a rule that defines what is and isn’t OK; there is never an absence of government.

Hohfeld began by asking what it means to say I’m entitled to something? What does it mean to say I have a right, or a privilege, or freedom? We bandy those terms about as if they’re the same, with simple, obvious meanings. But Hohfeld explained that someone’s right means someone else’s duty. My right to clean air means someone else’s duty not to foul it for me. They may claim another right, like the right to ditch masks, but then we’re claiming conflicting rights.

Someone may claim the privilege of going unvaccinated without a mask. But then the owner, manager, tenant or employer has no right to kick them out. Again we’re dealing with conflicting claims of rights. We can’t have legally conflicting freedoms.

Rights talk makes us think government is the heavy when it tells us what we can’t do. But Hohfeld revealed that law and government always tell us what we can or can’t do. To say nothing commands someone because the legal implication is that one of us can do what we want and the courts will penalize those who interfere. To say I have a right means government and the courts will protect me from your interference, not the other way around.

But then how should government choose whose rights to protect? Flip a coin? Take bribes or campaign donations? Play favorites, duck bullets or consider the general welfare?

Sometimes there are reasonable ways we can protect ourselves from the consequences of others’ exercise of their rights and privileges. Then maybe it’s worth it to make us do those work-arounds.

It sounds reasonable for me to protect myself and my family by keeping our masks on. But it’s about percentages – how effective are vaccines, masks and other precautions? Everyone’s precautions affect everyone else’s chance of getting sick. If encountering too much of the Delta variant in public means unwittingly bringing it home, do we all have to wear masks both in public and at home in order to protect our families? Is our home our castle where we have a right to safety and intimacy? Or did that right or privilege just get reduced?

Because government can’t protect us all without limiting privileges others claim, it’s never true that law and government can avoid choosing whose rights are more worth protecting and whose aren’t. What people call limited government is just government that favors the rich and powerful or people who talk tough. But I think I have a right to a government that makes reasonable choices, not one that lets some people do whatever they want, as if anyone’s rights are that broad. It’s not about getting government out of our lives – law is a seamless web. I’m fed up with sloppy claims about rights to commit wrongs – whether about masks, vaccines or guns.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on September 7, 2021.


Unrestricted Capitalism A Poor Second to a Blended Economy

September 2, 2021

For the podcast, please click here.

My last commentary addressed the risk to democracy of unrestricted capitalism that leaves too many too desperate to see the benefits of cooperation. Democracy works poorly when the few holding the levers of power can convince the rest of us that they deserve the benefits and we deserve the scraps. Unrestricted capitalism mimics the game of monopoly, bankrupting all but the wealthy winner. It creates desperate people who’ll pin their hopes on demagogues’ empty promises, or celebrate their emperor’s new clothes.

We used to celebrate a blended economy in which public and private institutions each contributed whatever would work best. That was before those so wealthy as to need nothing convinced the rest of us that anything and everything government did for ordinary folk was “socialism,” as if a drop of government support destroyed the country and the difference and effectiveness of government programs was irrelevant. We used to be smarter than that.

Something very crucial is lost when we expect private companies to take care of everything. It’s naïve to believe that business will take care of everything. Companies do what they can profit from, so most of our needs are excluded from what they care about. And they hide a lot of the damage they do while making us sign documents that protect them and leave us to fend for ourselves if anything goes wrong, knowing the courts will back them up. The game is stacked and the public interest locked out of the marketplace.

We once believed government should serve the public interest, to do what business wasn’t motivated or good at doing. We understood it’s often cheaper to provide everyone with public services and utilities, and share the benefits of a well-educated, healthy and productive public. We once understood that regulation prevents a lot more suffering and expense than individual consumers can do for themselves and that it’s a waste to hospitalize people to treat what was preventable. We used to care that people have decent pay for decent jobs and we liked it that way. We celebrated public agencies that did their jobs well, not for ideological reasons, but because we expected government to help where it could. We expected government to serve and unleash everyone’s strengths – not just the wealthy.

The systemic poison goes deeper – money corrupted the sense of responsibility of too many public officials. If capitalism is poorly suited to serving our needs and public officials have been so corrupted by capitalism that they fail to protect the water supply as in Hoosick Falls, or are willing to poison the population to save money, as in Flint, Michigan, then we have to fight back. 

When the people who control the money also control the media and convince Americans that the capitalists are the solution instead of the problem, that we should all pay tribute to our oppressors, that they are entitled to larger and larger shares of the pie and workers small and smaller, then the disparity between the few and the many grows like a cancer, and the muscle of ordinary people in their own government shrinks.

The result is an America where smart capital leaves for other countries because we’ve disabled our own population with a disparity of wealth that leaves little opportunity at home, and poisons the possibility of self-government. We need to relearn the benefits of a blended economy and give ourselves better alternatives.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on August 31, 2021.


Unrestricted Capitalism Eating the Heart Out of America

August 24, 2021

For the podcast, please click here.

I keep searching for a formula that catches on to say that America does well when we ALL do well. The prosperity of each of us is good for the prosperity of all of us. America does poorly when we are left fighting for the scraps off the tables of wealth.

Some of our politicians want us to believe that what they call “a rising tide” will actually lift all boats. But of course, that depends on where the boats are. They want us to believe that prosperity depends on capitalism. But that depends on whether capitalism is played like a game of monopoly where all but the fattest capitalists on the board end up bankrupt. That’s a game that weakens America by impoverishing many of us, by reducing what is available to share, by limiting what each of us can contribute, and by turning us against each other.

That’s the real problem that Trump capitalized on – the sense of grievance when the few have been grabbing the wealth for themselves led to a battle for the scraps. That sense of grievance led to claims that some people’s own selfish desires should be treated as more important than anyone else’s – where no lives matter except their own, and efforts to be counted, like saying Black lives matter, have been treated as attacks on the lives of Trumpists and the very idea of mutual support has come under fire.

Many writers, economists, political scientists and others have been warning for years about the danger of rising inequality in America, a danger to our democratic system and the danger of a takeover by a despot feeding the people empty rhetoric instead of the blessings of general prosperity. It actually goes back to about 1970 when corporate America started cutting labor out of the rising tide, when workers were increasingly excluded from the benefits of rising productivity and corporate wealth was increasingly siphoned off for the benefit of a few. But the people who controlled the money also controlled the media and convinced Americans that corporate wealth was the solution instead of the problem, that we should all pay tribute to our oppressors, that they were entitled to larger and larger shares of the pie and workers less and less.

My last book was aimed at that problem. I’d have done better telling readers to start at chapter 9 and read backwards, or, better yet, convincing my publisher to republish the book with a revised sequence of chapters. Unfortunately, the book also came out too late. Trump was already on the march and the problem became much more immediate – not how to fix America but how to short circuit Trump’s preference for nastiness and brutality over sharing and good citizenship.

I think it’s pretty clear that President Biden understands what needs to be done – to govern for the general welfare of all of us – but whether we still live in an America where that’s possible remains to be seen, whether we are so focused on ourselves that we can no longer see the benefits of cooperation and mutual support.

I plan to follow up next week. I hope you’ll be listening.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on August 24, 2021.


Earth’s Revenge

August 17, 2021

(For the podcast, please click here.)

I want to continue talking about the climate because we need to put what has been happening in another perspective. We’ve been talking about droughts in some places, overwhelming rain and floods in others, the intensification of storms, hurricanes, cyclones, and global sea rise. All of those bring climate refugees and tragedy, deaths, destruction and embittered lives to the survivors. And the phenomena are spreading. More and more ice fields are thawing, raising global water levels and increasing the climate effect – decreasing ice shelves, sea ice and glaciers reflect less of the sun’s heat back; decreasing types of ground covering absorb and hold less heat and carbon dioxide. The problem multiplies. Scientists have been describing that process for many decades and reality has been much worse than their predictions.

In other words, the earth has been reacting in ways that don’t prevent further problems but intensify it. It might as well be punishment by the earth for our misbehavior. It is not like a prison sentence because we don’t get out; we get extinguished. For crimes we insist on guilty intentions and only a few would be punished. But earth does not make that kind of discrimination. We are all punished, with extinction, regardless of our intentions. Men, women, and children, in every continent and country, will be punished. The punishment earth is inflicting on humanity can be avoided only by fighting back, fighting all the processes producing climate change, replacing all the systems, structures, habits and behaviors that are producing the problem, with better environmentally friendly processes.

Does that sound too hard? That’s why I spoke recently about a war against climate change – no effort is too great in war. We are at war and have to fight this enemy in every way.

Does my characterization sound misplaced because the earth is not some form of global police force? I am trying to describe the effect of natural processes that are observable and that follow well-known natural rules. Calling it punishment is certainly using an anthropomorphic term. I claim no conscious decision though our religious scriptures repeatedly describe God as punishing humanity. I am trying to put this in a completely ecumenical way so that nothing depends on which religious tradition you do or don’t follow. But the effect on us is not less without conscious decision. If it were a deity’s conscious decision, we could bargain or try to appease it. But we can’t bargain with the rules of nature – rules imposed in the creation of the world, rules that scientists have spent their lives studying and describing. We can only respond according to the rules of nature and of nature’s God. We can’t reduce flooding by spitting the water back. We can only deal with these tragedies, which I’ve described as of biblical proportions, by following the rules of God or nature and stopping those things that trigger the natural processes leading to the extinction of humanity and life on earth. If we do not, we will baking at unimaginable temperatures and as lifeless as all the other planets we have been able to investigate.

Do we have the will to fight back? Do we have the willingness to obey? Or are we doomed like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on August 17, 2021.


The Environmental Justice for All Act

August 10, 2021

(For the podcast, please click here.)

Last year, Rep. Raúl Grijalva [D-AZ3], now chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act in the  House and Senator, now Vice President, Kamala Harris introduced it in the Senate.

This year the bill has been reintroduced in both houses – in the House by Rep. Grijalva with Rep. Donald McEachin [D-VA4], and in the Senate by Senator Tammy Duckworth [D-IL], chair of the Environment and Public Works, Fisheries, Water and Wildlife subcommittee.

To save the climate, we’ll have to involve everyone. The Environmental Justice for All Act is certainly part of that battle.  I hope the infrastructure bill will end up including the environmental infrastructure President Biden has been fighting for. Republicans once claimed to support improving the national infrastructure but apparently want to fix as little as possible for as few people as possible and heaven forbid they leave improvement of environmental infrastructure in the President’s package, or become involved in the fight to save the climate that gives us life.

My African-American clients weren’t so reticent about the environment. I had a client in St. Louis called Black Survival, formed to seek environmental justice, led by Freddie Mae Brown. They sought my help to stop emission of toxic gasses in a minority area, resulting in a consent agreement with Monsanto. And they sought my help to stop a highway through their community.

Freddie and I had an understanding about how to fight the highway – I’d fight for an environmental impact statement, which would buy them time and publicity, but Black Survival would organize and canvass door-to-door for signatures on a petition to stop it. I got testimony from experts in just about every area of scholarship, both natural and social sciences, and we focused on the damage being done to the people. Ultimately I accompanied Freddie when she presented an enormous petition to the Mayor of St. Louis. To stop the highway, we took our local support to the head of the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, who killed the project.

In addition to driving people out, that highway would have separated people from their churches, businesses from their customers, professionals from their clients, and people from their jobs. Only those whose property would have been taken to build the highway would have been compensated by eminent domain. All the business value and all the social strength of an ongoing community would have been wiped out. So-called urban renewal was never a blessing for the communities that were supposedly renewed. All over the country projects were built to destroy Black communities. It’s about time we put some effort into repairing the damage. We’ll all be better off encouraging Black communities to thrive. And there’s a lot of support in the Black community to improve the environment.

On so many pieces of legislation, Sen. Manchin of West Virginia is crucial. We’ll see how much he can bring himself to support. West Virginia has had its mountains strip-mined, its waterways fouled and its coal mining collapse, so there ought to be support for the environment, infrastructure and the jobs provisions in the bill aimed at states like West Virginia which lost employment in fossil fuel industries. They should all wise up. My heart is in the passage and signing into law of the Environmental Justice for All Act. At last.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on August 10, 2021.


Where is the Religious Voice on Climate Change?

August 2, 2021

(For the podcast, please click here.)

I don’t understand why so many leaders of our religious institutions haven’t zeroed in on the climate crisis as the major moral issue of our time. We are already watching the murder and mayhem it is producing from California to Europe and climate refugees in Africa and Latin America.

Global warming brought devastating floods to the Eastern seaboard, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the Gulf Coast as well as a large part of Asia.

Global warming changed the climate over the Pacific, bringing drought and huge fires to the west coast. Oregon towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix, and Talent are substantially destroyed. Ironically, the town called Paradise was largely destroyed in California. Fire took Malden in Washington and hundreds of thousands of acres.

Droughts, fires and floods, kill, devastate and drive people from their homes, towns, regions and countries. These are tragedies of biblical proportions. And they create huge flows of refugees – “climate refugees,” because they’re fleeing places where the natural environment has become unlivable.

If humans can do something to stop or reduce it, dealing with dehydration, starvation, death and displacement of millions of people annually, is a moral crisis. All our religious traditions make us responsible to prevent tragedies if we can. Scientists by the legions across the globe and at all levels, in all relevant fields, are telling us we can stop climate change. That being the case, it is a violation of the word of God, a sin in any language, to turn our backs on the growing problem, to keep silent, and elect leaders who won’t deal with the climate crisis.

The clergy can be a force for change. They played a key role in turning white Americans against slavery and for civil rights. I suspect the reticence of too many clerics in dealing with the number one moral crisis of our time has been emptying the houses of worship for decades as people see religion as less and less relevant.

Religious leaders stood with Martin Luther King. Where do religious leaders stand on the climate crisis? Where are they on fossil fuels that heat up the climate and contribute to forest fires? Where are they on the human origins of climate change that lead to drought in some areas, increase flooding and seawater rise in others, and push us to the edge of tipping points that will put the climate on a glide path to hell and our own extinction? Our kids come home from school and tell us to turn off the lights to save power. Where are the clergy?

Some clerics are too fixated on individual behavior to see our contribution to community, corporate and national behavior? A cleric on a panel with me told us that we have no business making corporations behave because we are the enemy in our individual, private actions. He refused to see the systemic problem, the ways that only organized behavior can solve large social problems, the ways that only popular movement to force our legislators to deal with the climate crisis will make a difference.

It would make a big different if clerics would start using their voices and moral authority to spread the movement to deal with the climate before it is too late to save anyone – ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and each other’s. Clerics have responsibilities too. And please tell me the exceptions.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on August 3, 2021.


Time for War Against Climate Change

July 26, 2021

We’ve almost pulled out of Afghanistan and some are already looking for the next target for our superpower – Iran? North Korea? Americans like to act tough, with fists, muscle, knives, bullets and bombs. To demonstrate our overwhelming force we need another war. Ronald Reagan got that right. We showed them in Granada!

Nothing pulls America together like war – except when Bush 43 told Americans they could win a war by going shopping. He did – you could look it up. But war justifies sacrifice and Americans are up to sacrifice – they crave it – to defeat an enemy. They won’t sacrifice for each other – that raises the classic problem of who’s the each and who’s the other. But war needs all of us. We dig that.

Actually, I’m ready for war – against climate change. It’s serious and threatens all of us, now.

Internationally, beyond the flood damage in Europe, as global warming unfreezes Siberia, the map reveals that Russia will likely become number 1, the biggest superpower. We’ve got to defeat climate change if we are going to continue to be number 1.

Domestically none of us is immune.

  • We’re already struggling over who gets water – Florida and Georgia just fought a legal battle over water. California farmers and cities are fighting for water. It’s an existential problem for both. Less water will destroy many and kill some. Some of you may have read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath about how a persistent drought, which became the legendary dustbowl in the breadbasket of America, turned legions of good, hard-working Americans into refugees in their own country. Climate change is already doing that to parts of our country plus forest fires and resulting tornadoes.
  • As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, clean water will become as precious as gold. Where will we collect it and where will we send it. That alone could pit us against each other – better to fight against climate change so we’re all on the same side.
  • New York has the reverse problem, predicted to be much wetter, fighting floods and storms instead of drought.  Hurricanes Irene and Sandy did damage we weren’t used to. Irene brought my secretary to work in tears about the destruction to her town and to her friends and neighbors in the Schoharie Valley. The next year, New York City subways became aqueducts and much of the city was flooded – a 91-year-old cousin on her building’s sixth floor couldn’t get out for necessities. It’s hard not to notice how we’ve frequently been pummeled by rain since. Farmers we deal with have lost crops.
  • The problem becomes political as someone has to decide who gets what from taxes, FEMA or other agencies to rebuild. What dikes or dams will we build to restrain encroaching sea-water or flooded rivers?
  • And how will we protect infrastructure from floods and other damage. As an engineer told me, New York City will no longer function like a city if the water rises – the roads will be covered, subways won’t work, there’ll be no way to get around.

Repairing the damage is an increasingly expensive battle against the inevitable. The best way to fight for the world we love is to fight the change in climate that is making all the damage happen, not just to cushion the blows to the property owners but to bring all the workers threatened by dying industries into the battle, with the jobs we and they both need to fight for the America we all love. Let’s go to war to save the climate.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on July 27, 2021. For podcasts of my commentary, please click here.


An Author of our Constitution on Risks from How we Choose the President

July 16, 2021

Those of you who are regular listeners to my commentary may have guessed that I’ve been working on a study of the American Constitutional Convention. So, going systematically through some of the records, I happened on a statement by Gouverneur Morris – that’s his name, not a title. He and his family were quite wealthy – they owned much of what is now the Bronx – but he had good friends in Pennsylvania and his friends there invited him to join the Pennsylvania delegation to the Constitutional Convention, in which he played a prominent role. A few years later, he wrote a letter to the President of the New York State Senate about the method of choosing the President of the United States, a subject which drew a lot of discussion in the Convention, both for and against. Morris wrote:

[E]very mode of electing the chief magistrate of a powerful nation hitherto adopted is liable to objection. The instances where violence has been used, and murders committed, are numerous; those, in which artifice and fraud have succeeded against the general wish and will, are innumerable.  And hence it was inferred, that the mode least favorable to intrigue and corruption, that in which the unbiassed voice of the people will be most attended to, and that which is least likely to terminate in violence and usurpation, ought to be adopted.  To impress conviction on this subject, the case of Poland was not unaptly cited.  Great and ambitious Princes took part in the election of a Polish King.  Money, threats, and force were employed; violence, bloodshed, and oppression ensued; and now that country is parcelled [sic] out among the neighboring Potentates, one of whom was but a petty Prince two centuries ago.

No method is perfect. As George Washington wrote in a letter I quoted a couple of weeks ago, little can protect a country “in the last stage of corrupted morals and political depravity.” No matter how they see themselves, those who tried or supported the effort to take the presidency by intimidation, violence and force of arms, came close to laying this country open to violence from every quarter – marauders, gangs, thugs and civil war – which can only result in despotism. No one can know who will be on top or for how long. Stalin did a systematic job of executing those who helped the Communists take over. Putin and similar dictators around the world seem to be doing the same thing.

I don’t know if any of the various gun-toting, white supremacists and extremists who think of themselves as conservatives or patriots ever hear or give my commentary a moment’s thought. Nevertheless, reaching them seems to me one of the most important things a commentator can attempt. Somehow, I wish I could get across the notion that resolving our disagreements with guns is the most dangerous thing any of us can do to our country and the least likely to end up creating the world they or any of us want to believe in. If they think of themselves as supporting the little guy, look at Columbia or El Salvador – the very places people are desperately trying to flee. The likelihood is strong that those who live by the gun, not only die by the gun but turn themselves into thieves and crooks along the way. There is no patriotism in that, no way to make America great again, better or greater in the future. It is universally self-destructive.

— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on the WAMC Northeast Report, on July 20, 2021.


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