Paul Hughes

The evolving story of a hopeful skeptic.

Thoughts, Prayers, and Other Things That Don’t Work

America reels from another school shooting, this time at a highschool in Parkland, Florida. We send our thoughts, we send our prayers, we argue about gun control, and we do nothing to prevent the next school shooting.

School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL

Image taken from: nytimes.com.

I want to stop children from being shot at school. This is a problem that needs solving. But how do we do it? We have been trying for years, and although the rate of gun violence in the US has steadily declined, we nevertheless continue to hear news of school shootings. At time of writing, there have been eight school shootings so far this year. While that seems like a small number in relation to the 100,000 public education institutions in the country, it is eight too many, and we all want to solve it.

There is something that I have accepted, that I think we all need to accept as a premise if we are to be most effective at getting this under control: We need to stop talking about additional gun control laws. I am not here to suggest whether they should be changed, or to what extent. That could be debated forever, which is exactly what we do every time we hear about a shooting. We spend all of our energy arguing with each other about one possible solution that we cannot agree on, when we all do want the same result: children to stop being killed at school.

Here is why we need to drop the gun control law debate as it concerns school shootings:

  1. Gun control laws of any consequence won’t get passed. The NRA will not allow it, Congress is in their pocket. Be as upset as you want, take the time you need, and then adjust to this fact.
  2. Existing gun control laws are poorly enforced (in most cases, the shooters should not have had access to the firearms they possessed); if we passed new ones, we should only assume they will be as poorly enforced as the existing ones.

“But it would fix it.”

It doesn’t matter. It can’t happen.

“But it works in other countries.”

Are you listening? It doesn’t matter. Even if it worked EVERYWHERE, it still cannot happen here. Laws will not get passed.

“But why?”

Dude, don’t ask me. The NRA, for starters, but also, philosophically speaking, the US was built with skepticism toward government’s benevolence (and with Trump as our president I’ve been more convinced of the wisdom there than ever before)… Regardless, additional gun control laws don’t get passed. You don’t have to take my word for it, just look at exactly what has happened every single time a school shooting has occurred in recent years. No laws get passed.

We need to stop treating that like an option, because it isn’t. Even if it should be, it just isn’t. I’m not arguing an opinion on legislation—my opinion on it doesn’t matter, like everything else about it—I’m simply talking about reality.

Have we finally reached this resignation together?

Ok, so what can we do?

We can spend all of this energy searching for other solutions to protect our children that operate under that premise, that gun control legislation will not change. Here are the benefits to figuring out a way of doing this:

  1. Everyone is back on the same side. We can now work with EVERYONE, not just our tribe that agrees regarding gun legislation. We are more likely to achieve things (specifically, protecting children’s lives) when we are on the same team.
  2. We can work faster. Government is slow, and so even if we pretended that gun control legislation could be passed (it can’t), it will be way faster (infinitely faster, in fact) if we can skip that whole process. Even if the government doesn’t work, we can.
  3. There are probably things we could do tomorrow that would help to prevent shootings at schools (even legislation wouldn’t be able to work that fast).

If we want to save children, we have to swallow our pride and our idealism, and get to work.

I’ll get the brainstorming going with some ideas that have come to my mind. I don’t like all of them, but they passed through my consciousness and this is a brainstorming session. “No bad ideas” at this stage.

  • Have a police officer on campus at all times during session (or more, for large schools). This will help deter. Plus they can form lasting community bonds with the kids, which will serve the community overall for years to come.
  • Have metal detectors upon arrival. I don’t like this solution, because I don’t think it would be effective (kind of like at the airport). It also has a dystopic feel to it, though I don’t care much about things like that if it’s protecting children’s lives (obviously).
  • Ask our friends how they protect their firearms at home. If they don’t protect them well in safes, that only the owner/parent has access to, or have bad practices, they’ll likely be too embarrassed to say OR if they are ignorant of safety, help get them hip to it.
  • Take yourself and your family to get firearm safety training, even if you never plan to own a firearm. The country has guns around (300 million of them); being trained in their safe use is nothing but a good idea. And if it is a trend (“Let’s all do this together, nation!”), perhaps some owners who wouldn’t otherwise will get a brush up.

Those four came to me in less than 5 minutes. None of them are refined, but they’re getting my brain grapes working… What ideas come to your mind? Share here, and share with your community so we can get this fixed, together.

February 15, 2018 Health, Politics

Victim Card? Go Fish.

Hello, everyone! It has been a while since last I posted, mostly because I’ve had an insanely busy summer (luckily I haven’t lost my touch for silly post titles!). Amongst my busy schedule this summer, I’ve been doing a lot of observational “research,” if not actual data synthesis. One of the things I noticed (and then began actively watching for) is people’s inclination toward finding (and talking about) ways in which they are or have become victims. Now, I would like to say right off the bat, that in almost every single case, a given person is a victim in some way, whether it be due to sexism, racial discrimination, or a restaurant that got a bunch of bad reviews on Yelp—indeed, I believe that all of us are victims in one way or another, and some people more than other people. The point of this post is not to invalidate anyone’s status as a victim; let us take for granted that everyone is, in fact, a victim every time he (or she1) claims to be, and ignore any false claims that may exist.

I Am Not A Victim

Image taken from: hrfishbowl.com.

I feel it is important to note that I have come from a background where I was relatively ignorant to such things as racism, sexism, and religious persecution. It was a “privileged” background. Even with that said, in my privileged formative years, would see ways in which I was the victim, even though my victimization was nothing compared to what many people deal with. Seeing that in myself, and watching others during my “summer of observation,” I’ve come to the conclusion that from our earliest years, we innately have the predisposition to be a victim. You can observe this behavior even in young children, when they fight over who has had it worse. A conversation generally will go something like this:

“My summer was really terrible! I broke my arm when I fell out of a tree and had to wear a cast for two months!”

“Oh yeah? Well I broke my leg when I fell off my scooter doing a jump and couldn’t walk for almost THREE months!” Continue reading →

August 30, 2013 Miscellaneous, Science ,

Abortion: Is This Progress?

I know I’ve already written about the topic of abortion, but I feel a need to write about it again. In the last post I wrote regarding this controversial topic, I wrote that I was disappointed that there is no “common ground” between the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers. However, I am happy to report that I may not have been entirely correct in that assertion. But first some background on where I sit in the debate…

Fetus In Womb

Image taken from medtrakker.blogspot.com.

It is important that I note that I completely understand both sides of the argument. For the pro-life camp, the embryo and fetus are seen as a person; it is as simple as that. It is an un-disprovable (or rather, “unfalsifiable”) perspective that is just as valid as any other viewpoint.
It is a person, and there is no reasonable excuse to kill an innocent person, including rape, incest, etc. After all, what did the baby (and I use the term deliberately, in this case) do to deserve death? The pro-life people claim to see it as no different from killing a 4-year-old. That said, I also can understand the pro-choice argument. To the pro-choice arguers, it is a simple belief that the fetus is not a person until a certain stage of development (on where that is, not all of them agree, but the basic premise is the same). For all intents and purposes, it is not a person—it is still a part of the mother, thus making it her choice whether to keep or remove it. I absolutely understand this argument as well. Ultimately, neither argument is provable or disprovable; rather, it simply comes down to the question of what an individual believes about the embryo and fetus’ development. Continue reading →

March 11, 2013 Health, Religion , , ,

Thoughts On Justice For Xena

I don’t know if you guys have seen this “causes” petition floating around Facebook, but I certainly hope you have—and I am curious regarding your opinion on it. The digest describes a man, John Dugan, and his heinous act of gutting and disemboweling his dog, Xena, who had swallowed some of Dugan’s heroin packets. Allegedly, Dugan admitted to committing the act, but his lawyer is requesting the charges be dropped, which the petition requests the judge not do. The petition ends with, “In signing this petition we also implore [the judge] to impart the maximum penalty of 5 years incarceration as defined by MA law if Mr. Dugan is found guilty upon trial.”

I’m not going to talk about how these petition pushers might better spend their time trying to avenge the many human lives that have been taken away that deserve justice, because I absolutely agree that animal cruelty is a terrible thing that must be stopped; animals suffer in the same way that humans do, and I can’t even imagine what confusion and fear the last few moments of poor Xena’s life must have embodied. I am, however going to talk about how silly I think it is that these people are petitioning a judge not only on how to run his trial, but also on what penalty he should impart on the Dugan. Am I crazy, or is the judge supposed to look at evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, receive (though not necessarily adhere to) advisement from the jury on the extent of the penalty, take into account past precedent, and make his decision based on those factors alone? I can only hope I never find myself in court with a lot of enemies in the American public—the day a judge starts making his decisions based on a petition is a sad day for the American judicial system.

February 9, 2013 Law, Miscellaneous , ,

You’re Not Tolerant!

Image taken from Doctor Mom

Ok, “you” is a bit direct. I’m really speaking more generally—I just thought the title was stronger in the second person. Anyway… The Oxford dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” We shall ignore the fact that the definition in fact uses the word from which it derives, and move forward hoping that we all have a suitable personal definition of the word “tolerate.” It is the second clause of the above definition with which I am most concerned, and the absolute requisition and misuse of the word by many Americans. Continue reading →

February 6, 2013 Miscellaneous, Politics , , , , ,

The Afterlife… Why? And How?

Egyptian Afterlife

Image taken from www.guardian.co.uk

The process of evolution by natural selection has fascinated me ever since I started reading more in-depth about it a couple years ago. I’ve written plenty about it, so don’t worry—this blog is only tangentially related to the evolution of species (but operates under the assumption that it is how humans came about). In any case, it is necessary to open with a few words regarding the course of the evolution of homo sapiens. In general, we can look at pretty much everything about us and say, “This trait has an evolutionary advantage of __________.” It makes sense, otherwise why would a given trait have stood the test of time (and natural selection)? But I find it very strange when there are two traits that one would think are a byproduct of natural selection, yet do not make sense together. The two traits in question are our natural fear of death (pretty obvious why that came about), and the solely human affinity for religion and, more specifically, the belief in an afterlife. Most people who believe in an afterlife still fear death. But why? Because they nevertheless evolved to do so, regardless of that other trait telling them they have nothing to fear in death.

Now, there are some people who disagree with the idea that religion is just a byproduct of evolution; however, there are perhaps more people who argue that everything about us simply must have come about through evolution by natural selection—perhaps variation might allow for some trait to exist for a short period, but ultimately, if it doesn’t offer an evolutionary advantage, it will disappear. I find myself in the former category. Why, you ask? Why would such a staunch believer in evolution deny a trait’s existence by natural selection? While at first that may seem to be my argument, it actually is the opposite. I would argue that ideas, such as religion, actually do undergo evolution by natural selection of themselves, rather than the thing that originally created them. Continue reading →

February 2, 2013 Religion, Science , , ,

Abortion: Think Before You Speak

It’s been a little bit since I last posted in this blog; I won’t go into detail about why that is because I’m sure that you really aren’t all that curious about it. Anyway, here we go.

Image taken from wikinut.com.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life discussing the topic of abortion with people; in fact, it used to be one of my second-date questions. I didn’t bring it up because I particularly cared about the other person’s viewpoint, nor did I bring it up because I thought I could change anyone’s opinion on the subject (let’s face it—how many of you have ever successfully accomplished that?). No, I brought it up because I always found the discussion thought-provoking, and it was always a pleasure to hear the variety of reasons that someone would cite for feeling the way he or she did. It was always an especial pleasure bringing up the subject in groups of people who, it often turned out, disagreed with one another; any argument someone would make invariably turned out to be generally futile. There is one argument that the pro-choice caucus makes that I find particularly bothersome not because I think it isn’t valid, but because it is one of the most useless arguments to make in the debate regarding abortion. Continue reading →

January 30, 2013 Health, Religion, Science , , ,

Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem

Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem

Image taken from Sound Doctrine Ministries.

I’ve seen many people posting this phrase within their Facebook statuses or in the form of a picture on their walls… “Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem.” I think we all can agree that peace in Jerusalem (and its surrounding areas) would be a very good thing.  You’ll be happy (I hope) to know that I’m not about to pick a side to support over the course of this post, so if that is what you came to watch me do, go somewhere else to read a one-sided argument (you should be satisfied with either one—they sound similar). Instead, I’m going to merely suggest that there are better things we could be doing with our time than praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

Now before you start huffing and puffing, please hear me out. This is a short post, and you owe it to me (well, not really) to read the whole thing. Here’s the truth: I see no evidence that anyone’s God gives a darn about peace in Jerusalem, unless the darn he gives is that peace in Jerusalem never exist. I also see no evidence that anyone’s prayers are going to convince said God to change his mind. Continue reading →

November 18, 2012 Politics, Religion , , ,

Neglecting Children The Right Way

When a child is deprived by its parents of the care it requires, the parents are often tried criminally for their neglect. And so they should be! I expect no one who reads this blog would have it any other way (although if you would have it another way, don’t hesitate to express your differing opinion! I should hate to have put false words into your mouth). In cases in which the child dies, often times the neglectful parents are charged with murder; there may be some of you who disagree with that, but I expect we can all agree that the parents should at least be dealt with severely for their recklessness, murder charges or otherwise.

Faith Healing

Image taken from annalsofpsychotherapy.com

There are, however, parents who have escaped harsh sentencing, and all of them have one thing in common (other than responsibility for their children’s deaths): they all belong to some type of religion that practices or encourages “faith-healing.” As long as you were depriving your child of medical attention because you were making sure God was attending to him, the judge will likely be quite lenient to you. Continue reading →

November 15, 2012 Health, Law, Religion , , ,

Reasons To Believe In God

Eye of God Nebula

Image taken from sodahead.com.

Hello, everyone!

It’s been about 12 hours since my last post, so fear not—this one is quite short. I simply wanted to pose a question to you that I ponder myself on a frequent basis. Do you believe in God? Or a creator of some sort? I would encourage you to comment on this post and tell me (and the other blog readers) about it. This is not a post in which I will try to refute your claims, but simply one by which I would like to discover more about those of my readers who are religious, and see what points you bring up regarding the topic. So I encourage you to bear witness and tell me, why do you believe in God? Thank you for all of your insight in advance!

November 14, 2012 Religion ,