The latest news from Norway is the prison that might, for the next 21 years, be a home for Anders Behring Breivik. After reviewing the videos and photos, I must say, Ohio State offered me no better when I went there on scholarship some years ago (and my scholarship was only good for four years). My dorm mates were generally more presentable, perhaps, but I never got a hot blonde personal trainer. Halden Prison almost seems designed to entice the vacillating young psychopath, who has not yet worked up the gumption, to go ahead and follow through on his dreams.
It is a subject that, for the modern American, is begging for ridicule and parody. I myself nearly dipped into it in the first paragraph, and I admit that the idea of a man murdering so many innocents and thereby earning an all-expenses-paid stay at the Halden Resort rankles a bit. The fact that the descendants of the Vikings are responsible adds another fascinatingly perverse element to it.
And yet… does the modern American, currently occupied with mocking Scandinavia, not have a closer target for his contempt? Is the prison system that he is forced to subsidize any less perverse and appalling? Might one not even argue — I almost hesitate to type the words — that the Norwegian way, though indisputably stupid, is superior to the American way? Not if one is running for office, of course, but those of us not connected to politics, i.e., those of us who can still afford to use our thinking organ, might wish to examine things with a critical eye.
One thing about Catholics is that, when it comes to partisan politics, they’re split pretty evenly. Only deeply ignorant people lump Catholics in with the “Religious Right” since about half of them are on the religious left. Many are admirably antiwar, and of course, there is even a nice anarchist pacifist tradition, in which one finds Dorothy Day or Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.
Some Catholics, however, are absolutely terrible on issues of nationalism and war. This article below, written by a priest with whom I broadly agree on almost all theological and liturgical issues, was particularly tasteless. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, who is generally sound when writing about things that he actually knows something about, always ends up toeing the neoconservative line every time he ventures into foreign policy. Most clergy can be safely ignored when opining on political matters, and this case is no different. The text of his irreligious column is below with my comments in brackets.
Usama Bin Laden … Rest in… well… whatever… [How classy. Zuhlsdorf must have forgotten about Matt 5:44.]
by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
Pres. Obama announced tonight, fairly late on a Sunday night, that Usama Bin Laden was killed a week ago, as it seems.
I am guessing that he made this announcement tonight, USA, time, so that people rising in other parts of the world would get the fresh news during the morning at the beginning of a week, as markets open, etc. Had it come at the end of the week, it would have been fodder for Friday evening Muslim sermons. [Because all Muslims liked Osama bin Laden, you see. This assumption that all Muslims support violence is at the heart of the neocon ideology. Always ignored is the fact that a majority of "Christian" Americans support the dropping of American bombs on Muslim women and children.] It still will be, but after several days.
Nevertheless I find the timing of both the event of his killing by a small team of US operatives in a fire fight and the release of the news interesting. One friend called me to opine that they actually found him at a Taco Bell in North Carolina and flew him back to Pakistan before… you know. [ho ho] Moreover, the President seems now to be ready to quote a standard of American patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance, with its strong invocation of God, when for sometime he couldn’t bring himself to quote the Declaration of Independence [written by an anti-Christian Deist] correctly with its reference to a Creator who gives us our rights. [Yeah! Why can't Obama be more like Bush who once said that the Constitution "is just a goddamn piece of paper."] Color me cynical.
There are many responses one might consider for the vile and hateful Westboro Baptist Church, which plans to picket the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old girl murdered along with five others in Saturday’s shootings in Tucson. My initial thoughts, admittedly not in keeping with my philosophy of non-aggression, involved swinging a baseball bat. Hard.
Fortunately I am nowhere near Tucson, and cooler heads have prevailed; one good approach, as organized by resident Christin Gilmer, is a so-called “angel action” — people wearing tall “angel wings” who surround and block out the Westboro slimeballs so that mourners will be able to grieve and say farewell to Christina in peace.
There are also not-so-good ways to handle this, as the Arizona legislature has demonstrated by attempting to restrict the Westboro picketers, who nonetheless are free to carry on their disgusting crusade in public areas. (The worst thing you can ever hear a politician say is “I’m gonna fix this,” as state senator Kyrsten Sinema did.)
If roads and parks were privatized this would not be necessary; I doubt many property owners would want to be associated with such demonstrations, and no cemetery owner with any respect for the dead would allow them near the entrance. But so long as the state monopolizes roads and other rights-of-way, we have to put up with these fools. Better to have them shunned and blocked from public view by private citizens than to have them silenced by the state.
One of the hot button issues in recent years has been gay marriage. Socially conservative people may well object to calling a gay union “marriage. That is, of course, completely understandable. Marriage and religion have been closely intertwined, and the most popular religions in the world today do not generally regard a same sex union as a marriage. I was considering the various positions taken by libertarians on gay marriage. I have seen opinions from libertarians that marriage licenses should not be issued to gays because a state marriage license enables aggression against third parties. That is true. Also, some, such as Stephan Kinsella, argue that it is a good that gays get the legal protections which come with a marriage license.
Second bests are divisive issues for libertarians. We all wish for the state to leave people alone, but we are all too painfully aware that it frequently does not, and that there are political debates raging around us where policies are promoted which have real world consequences for us all. Many of us seek to minimize the harmful effects of these policies by stating a preference of one over the other. Such is the case with gay marriage. Libertarians of varying stripes, mutualists, paleolibertarians, anarcho-capitalists, all agree that the state should get out of the way and not interfere with free interactions among people. Yet different ideologies among libertarians often cause us to differ wildly on what state policy we would prefer, from the likely choices being supported by the public.
I have long been of the opinion that state licensing should be extended to the point that it is meaningless. However, a license which allows aggression against others should give any libertarian pause. In order to consider the problem more effectively, I did a thought experiment involving a much more severe form of aggression than those normally associated with a marriage license: murder.