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Two Letters to President Obama About Gun Control
The battle over gun control is really about fear.
Dear President Obama,
I respectfully ask that you take no action to further limit Americans’ right to own firearms. I make this request not so much to protect my right to own guns, but because, like millions of my fellow Americans, I am afraid. I am afraid of the seemingly endless ways the government tells me what I can and can’t do. I am afraid of the increasingly frequent ways that, in the name of "government" and "democracy," it feels like the religious beliefs and moral values I share with millions of Americans are being trampled on. I am afraid of living in a nation, a great nation, that is moving in directions with which I disagree, but over which I have no control.
On top of all these factors, I am afraid for my future and my kids’ future. Not from climate change or terrorism, but because my wife and I are losing the financial ability to provide for the comfort and safety of our family. We work hard, but costs are rising and wages aren’t keeping pace. My wife just had to take a second job, but we still can’t save much anymore; for our kids’ college education, or to buy a home of our own, or even for a nice vacation. Like tens of millions of our fellow Americans, it feels like, economically, the bright American Dream future we were raised to look forward to and work toward is getting further and further out of reach, and it feels like we can’t do anything about that either.
I guess what all this boils down to is how scary it feels not to be in control of how our lives are going, or of our future. Not economically. Not in terms of how we’d like to live according to our values and beliefs, but society is telling us we can’t. Not in terms of something as simple as owning a gun to protect ourselves, something that could give us at least a little feeling of control against these scary times. I am sure you can understand, Mr. President, as a person and as a father, how profoundly threatening it is to feel like we can’t control how our own lives are going.
I understand that this fear is hard to accept for people who are concerned about gun violence, as all responsible gun owners are. I respect that some people might even be somewhat worried that they will be a victim of such violence. But our fears run far deeper. They are a constant corrosive presence in our daily lives. Not being able to live your life the way you want to, or shape your future, is far more threatening than how worried people might be about being shot, which most people know is highly unlikely, despite occasional high profile shootings that get lots of attention in the news.
Our deep fear is why we are fighting so passionately on this issue, to assert control somehow, some way, over our lives. Restrictions on a constitutional right feed our fears, and that will make a fight that is already dividing America even worse, which no president should want.
A. K. Fortisevn
Dear President Obama,
I write to encourage you to expand government controls on guns. While there are many intellectual arguments in favor of such controls, my plea is more emotional. I’m afraid. I’m afraid when I think about my kids in school. I’m afraid when I go to a store and see someone with a handgun on their waist that it seems like anybody could grab. I’m afraid when I read about the latest shooting. I’m afraid I might be shot and killed.
I am also afraid of the way the Supreme Court seems like it’s taking over the law to advance a conservative agenda. (I am not a member of either political party.) It’s frightening how Justice [Antonin] Scalia twisted the language of the Second Amendment, which clearly says that allowing people to own guns was so that a young nation that didn’t have an army yet could put together a militia to protect itself, to give everybody the right to own guns. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...” is the reason people should be allowed to “bear arms.” I tried to read his ruling in the Heller case, but confess I got lost in the tortured grammatical argument he made to get the ruling he wanted to get to. It’s scary to think that the ultimate arbiters of disputes over what the law says aren’t being impartial, the way judges are supposed to be, and that they’re interpreting the Constitution so that America works they way they want it to. That feels like they are hijacking democracy itself.
And I’m afraid of the leaders of the NRA, a small group of extremist libertarians who lie and tell people that the government is coming to take their guns away and scare millions of voters into threatening to kick their government representatives out of office if they support any kind of reasonable gun control, even though the vast majority of Americans — including many gun owners and even many NRA members — want such controls.
But mostly I’m afraid that there are so many guns around, and that they are so easy to get, that the chance of being shot is becoming increasingly real. The basic job of government is to pool society’s resources and protect us from threats that we can’t protect ourselves from as individuals. I don’t feel protected. I feel unsafe. I feel scared, for my kids and myself and my friends and neighbors, and for America, if the values of a few can put the lives of the majority at risk.
Please do your job, Mr. President, and expand controls on guns.
image: Getty Images, Andrew Burton
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.