Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I couldn't resist reproducing a brief item from James Taranto's Best of the Web Today:

The Other Catholic President
We heard from well over 100 readers who objected to our observation yesterday that "perhaps just as Bill Clinton has been called the 'first black president,' George W. Bush will one day earn the honorary title of 'first Catholic president,'" on the ground that John F. Kennedy was Catholic.

Oddly, though, no one made the point that Bill Clinton isn't really black and thus has no right to usurp from President Rice the title "first black president." Oh, we know what you're thinking, but the liberal media are going to make Hillary the first female black president, just you wait."
He often gets me to smile, maybe even chuckle a little—but this one had me laughing out loud.

I also encourage you to take a look at his piece about the NYTimes letter-writing Jack Nargundkar, whose email to Taranto (in response to Taranto's criticism of his original letter to the Times—still with me?) generally charges:
While I find the "culture of life" argument appealing, conservatives use it only where it is convenient. For example, conservatives have abused the Second Amendment to promote a "culture of death" with their unbridled support for all kinds of weapons, which are rarely purchased by law-abiding citizens but more frequently by criminals and visiting aliens (who probably export them to terrorists abroad).
He goes on to induce this reasoning to a broader narrative about how we must keep church and state isolated because "religion has been the cause of the world's major problems throughout history" while accusing the religious of "defending political behavior and governance under the garb of a particular religion."

Taranto responds that he will not address the letter point-by-point, but stick to the underlying message as Nargundkar requests. He says:
The problem here is that very few people really believe that "defending political behavior and governance under the garb of a particular religion" is wrong--or, we should say, almost everyone who claims to espouse this principle applies it selectively. If you applied it consistently, you'd have to say not only that the "Christian right" is of a piece with Osama bin Laden, but that so was Martin Luther King, who made no effort to separate his belief in racial equality from its roots in Christianity. For that matter, just about everyone has found at least something to praise in the politics of Pope John Paul II, even though they were indistinguishable from his Catholicism.

This doesn't mean that those who urged on religious grounds that Mrs. Schiavo not be killed were the equivalent of Dr. King or the pope (though the latter was among their number). Nor does it mean they were right. But equating them to fundamentalist terrorists is a cheap shot, and an intellectually indefensible one.
I think Taranto dispenses with Nargundkar pretty easily here, but I would like to address his point about the Second Amendment. Those of us who defend it do so for many reasons, at least one of which has to do precisely with the "culture of life." Setting aside the fact that we shouldn't have to defend a part of the Constitution, since by the very nature of its place there others shouldn't be allowed to cut away at it, let's move on.

Law-abiding citizens don't buy guns?? Those that are bought are probably sent overseas to terrorists? Are you kidding me?

The reason we support the broad right to gun ownership is because people should be able to protect themselves. There should be restrictions of course (kids shouldn't be allowed to bring loaded weapons to school, for example), but if you had a reasonable suspicion that all of those guys around you were carrying guns, would you be likely to hold one of them up? Guns take lives, yes—but they can also save lives by their presence, and their use by law-abiding citizens who want to stop someone who is using one to kill.

Do I want a man to be gunned down in public? Ideally, no. If that man is killing those around him, do I want to wait for the police to show up? Again, no. I'd much rather someone else nearby was armed to the teeth and tossed grenade in his direction. (Before you all flip out, yes, that's hyperbole).

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