Saturday, March 27, 2021

Mass Shootings & Stigma

 In under the span of one week, two mass shootings occurred.

Eight victims lost their lives in one shooting; ten victims lost their lives in another.

One massacre appeared targeted, the other random.

Most victims in one in one shooting were of color, most victims in the other were not.

In both shootings, both gunmen were Caucasian.

One shooting may be terrorist or a hate crime, the other may be escalation from uncontrolled mental health issues.

In both shootings, the lives of multiple families were turned upside down.

In both shootings, a community was devastated and a county left stunned.

Again, two massacres leave us without answers.

Two tragedies occurred in less than one week's time. Two mass shootings. Eighteen lives have been lost. Eighteen families have been devastated. Many other people have been forever affected. They can never forget. Again, many tweet or post their condolences: "Thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims. Our hearts are broken." Again, many call for a moment of silence. Once more, we are asking "Why?" to a question that cannot be definitively answered. 

We live in a society where, to be frank, life has become cheap. In this age, people tend to turn to death to "take care of my problems." Instead of filing for divorce (which in itself points to some sort of failure), spouses may choose to "get rid of" a spouse by snuffing their lives out. Rather than reach out for help with alternatives, women go to places designed to "terminate the unwanted or unplanned pregnancy." Instead of turning to family, friends, or counselors for help, too many people desperately end their lives.

What is the cause of all this? It is complicated. Lack of available or affordable mental health services is a big issue. The legalization of abortion as a "right" has been a major factor. The glamorizing of violence, thanks to video games, some movies, and, more recently, the former President, have played major roles. It does not help that guns have become more widely available, even assault weapons meant for military, not civilians. Many people of faith would say that being driven by hate and rage is the main cause of all violence.


The motive for one mass shooting appears to be rage and hate for one group. Authorities are still investigating this scenario, though proof of a hate crime appears doubtful. At least, they seem to struggle with proving a hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In the first shooting, six of the victims happened to be women of Asian descent. It took this shooting to make violence against Asian-Americans as a group, a topic of national conversation.

Our former President has stirred up much violence against Asian-Americans by calling COVID-19 "the China virus." He has repeated this phrase over and over. His inflammatory rhetoric created an atmosphere where those with implicit bases against those of Asian descent, feel empowered to attack them. Yet Asian-Americans tell us that violence or discrimination against them pre-dates the former President. But because of the former President's inflammatory rhetoric against any minority groups, he created an atmosphere where many people felt emboldened to act out their hate or rage.

Yes, I understand the frustration of many people with what is known as "identity politics." Often, it seems like many on the Left care more about representation in leadership positions than they do about finding the most qualified persons for positions. Certainly, those from protected minority groups can qualify for leadership positions like anyone else. Frequently, it seems like many on the Left act like racism and race relations define everything. However, most of those on the Right have ignored and even dismissed racism, especially systemic racism. Many on the Right need to pay much more attention to racism, including when it may motivate or fuel mass shootings.


The motive for the second mass shooting appears to be random. The shooter, according to authorities, has a history of "mental health issues." This raises the question of the stigma of mental illness. This happens in many crimes. Sadly, it seems the time mental health comes up as a topic is when a crime is committed. And the only measure toward those with mental illnesses often seems to be proposals to keep guns out of their hands. 

I cannot count all the times when mass shooters have been profiled as shy, quiet "loners" without social skills. One of the shooters was said to be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is no longer an official diagnosis, nor was it a mental illness then or now. (It was replaced with Autism Spectrum Disorders--ASD'S). Sadly, that was one of the rare times the media covered anything about Asperger's (then) or ASD'S (now). Yes, I know that, too often, mass killers and other violent criminals tend to fit the profile of the "quiet loner" who is actually a "ticking time bomb."

Sadly, the media tend to cover these senseless shootings and mental illness and related disorders like ASD'S, get mentions mainly when perpetrators are profiled. Yes, I realize that the media must cover these crimes and must do so accurately. They must focus on the victims and devastated communities. I get frustrated because they place far too little on prevention. And they place way too much stress on what to do when the crimes are committed, lives are lost and communities are traumatized. That is too late! 

Legislators, fund mental health services!
Lawmakers, work together to enact sensible gun safety laws!
Churches, help those who seem different feel welcome!
Young people, get into into the field of mental health!
Citizens, organize or participate in events for mental health and gun safety!
Pastors, address the root causes of violent crimes in your sermons and Bible studies!
Parents, make sure guns stay out of the hands of children!
Gun owners, takes responsibility for your guns!
Everyone, treat all suicide talk seriously! 
Everyone, reach out to the "loners" among us!

This is an article about gun violence in relation to school shootings. Read this article.

This is an well-researched article about gun safety and mental illness. Read article.

This article addresses gun violence and mental illness from a health perspective. Read article.

This article provides the timeline about the former President's long history of inciting hate and violence. Read article.

Hate crimes increased over 200 percent in 2016 alone. Read article.

According to this article, the former President and Western media are to blame for the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes. Read article.

Hate crimes surged 20 percent under Trump. Read article.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Universal Basic Income; What Can Be more Life-Affirming?


Imagine having a financial cushion if you lose your job.
Imagine not experiencing the stigma of using a "welfare" program.
Imagine knowing that you need not face poverty even with a low-paying job.
Imagine finding it easier to save money for emergencies.
Imagine a baseline source of income that is the same for everyone.
Imagine the fear being taken out of getting pregnant without financial resources.
Imagine having enough money to start that business you want to go into.
Imagine having more dollars to put your children into a private school.
Imagine more money toward the university of your choice.
Imagine funds to train for a better job.
Imagine more income to have and raise your children.
Imagine exchanging government programs for income that is the same for most.
Imagine being able to put away more dollars for retirement.
Imagine having more dollars to avoid crushing debt.
Imagine more money left over to give generously.

\I'm talking about scenarios that would be reality if we adopted something called Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is government-based and administered, guaranteed income that would available for all (with income caps). It would provide a monthly stipend of $1000 to most individuals from the government, apart from employment. This is something I became aware of when businessman Andrew Yang ran his Democratic primary campaign for the 2020 Presidential Election. He made UBI a major issue in his campaign. Of course, Yang did not win the Democratic Nomination. I am unclear on how many politicians, including our current President and Vice-President, stand on UBI. I suspect that it may never become law. But I thought I would explore it, anyway, and make my case for what makes UBI an attractive option to help combat poverty, level the playing field between people, and help build a culture of life through economic incentive.

I'm aware that many, maybe most, conservatives, would view UBI as another form of welfare. They would express concern that it would remove people's incentive to work for their livelihoods. Likely, they will declare that it costs too much. In other words, it would add to the high national debt. It would divert dollars from other government priorities. To sustain UBI, we would have to raise taxes on everyone or borrow from other countries. Maybe we would have to raise the debt ceiling. And I don't hear many moderates or liberals advocating for UBI.

Let's imagine that more lawmakers showed support to make UBI law across the United states. If we have gleaned anything from this pandemic, it is that tying people's incomes and health insurance to employment may be unwise. As my late stepdad would say: "Everyone is a job away from being forced into the streets." This pandemic has heartbreakingly demonstrated this reality; we see how so many people lost their jobs, and with them, income, health insurance, and even shelter. For awhile at the beginning of this pandemic in 2020, I heard some people make the case for UBI. However, advocacy for it has died down. If UBI had been law and in place at the time of COVID-19, the economic losses of so many could have been much mitigated. 

Aside from this, scrapping means-tested "welfare programs like SSI, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance to Families In Need, WIC, and others, would remove the stigma from these government programs. Even scrapping so-called "entitlement" programs like Social Security and Social Security-Disability (SSD) would do the same thing--remove their stigma, especially for SSD. For the baseline income for most would be the same. 

There is the pro-life case that can be made for UBI. UBI would give families incentives to pursue parenthood, even in cases where they would have limited family size or delayed having children for economic reasons. UBI may encourage larger families, in other words. Most of all, it would encourage girls and women to keep and parent their children--if they knew they would have an economic incentive. In other words, UBI has the potential to prevent many abortions that women seek because they cannot afford to become parents. UBI would eliminate the need for Paid Family Leave, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, or Sick Leave. Also, UBI may be an incentive for more families to adopt, because they would be in a better place financially. Caregivers for ill or dying loved ones or close friends would be less tempted to push assisted suicide or euthanasia for economic reasons, if UBI were reality for them. Simply put, UBI could strengthen families!

Would UBI discourage the motivation to work? This is one of the biggest arguments against it. Would it encourage laziness and stifle initiative? I do not see why it would do that with most people. For $1000 a month, in many cases, may not even be enough to pay the monthly mortgage or rent. It's not meant to be the only source of income, but only a baseline. So it seems to me that knowing this, itself, still provides plenty of incentive to supplement this baseline income with gainful employment, to round out one's income. 

As far as promoting a culture of life is concerned, we who are pro-life or believers ought to support anything that would give people incentive to choose life. What is to gain by begrudging or withholding incentives from those who face barriers to choosing life, whether for inconvenient unborn children or dying loved ones? UBI is not directly pro-life but it surely would remove many "excuses" people give for opting for abortions or other life-destroying choices for economic reasons. Yes, I understand what makes people withhold support for this measure. I see many more reasons, though, to support UBI than to oppose it. 

A measure with so much potential needs our serious consideration!

This is a balanced article about Universal Basic Income (UBI) and it explains the pros and cons of UBI. Read this article.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Politicizing Life & Death?


Covid-19 handmade face mask

"Wear a damn mask!"
"Masks save lives!"
"Wearing masks works."
"Everyone, mask up; save thousands of lives."
"Get your vaccine as soon as it is your turn; don't wait."
"Vaccines save lives!"
"Vaccinate teachers & open the schools!"
The Texas Governor lifts the mask mandate in his state.
The Mississippi Governor lifts the mask mandate in his state.
Reports describe incidents of violence in public places over wearing masks.
"My body; my freedom!"
"Wearing masks is oppression!"

It has been about a year into this pandemic. More and more people are getting vaccinated. Under President Joe Biden and a new Administration, vaccinators are putting about 2 million needle jabs into people's arms daily. The rates of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization in the United states have gone down considerably. However, the number of cases and the numbers of deaths per day remain unacceptable high. Still, an estimated 30 percent of all U.S. citizens states that they will never take a COVID-19 vaccine. And experts tell us that we need to reach about 85 percent of all people get vaccinated to reach "herd immunity" and see life return to "normal."

Two people in my own family have stated that they will not take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their turn to get it. And I know others who may not take vaccines. Many experts talk about something called "vaccine hesitancy." This refers to a fear of taking the vaccine because of past history or anything else that causes doubt or fears surrounding vaccines. Many African-Americans are leery of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, based on racism in the medical profession. Mainstream media have been covering this well. However, my family members, like others I know, aren't merely "vaccine hesitant." They are hard-core "anti-vax" people who refuse to ever get the vaccine. These hard-core people are the same people who refuse to wear masks or observe other coronavirus safety guidelines. 

There is another group of people who experience "vaccine hesitancy" but the mainstream media rarely cover this. I'm talking about many Christians and those in the pro-life community who want to get vaccinated. However, we experience doubts and fears because certain vaccines have been/are being developed using means that go against our convictions. Many of us are not hard-core "anti-vaxxers." We support wearing masks and other coronavirus safety guidelines. Yet many even in our camp, along with hard-core anti-vaccine people, have made this pandemic a matter of politics. Those who politicize this pandemic view safety COVID-19 response as a matter of individual rights and liberty. Those who subscribe to science and medicine view the pandemic response as temporarily placing the collective good and giving up some individual liberties above one's personal rights.  

How have life-saving matters like getting vaccinated and wearing masks come to be seen as political issues? For decades, people have opposed vaccines because they blamed them for causing autism and other medical conditions. Many "anti-vaxxers" persist in believing that vaccines cause autism or other medical conditions, though science has debunked such believe as myths. Yet even in those cases, we have pretty much achieved "herd immunity" in infectious diseases like the flu, Swine flu, HIV AIDS, and others. But COVID-19 is much worse than any others of these infectious diseases. It is more pervasive, more easily caught, and more deadly. This makes herd immunity even more important for COVID-19 even than for other infectious diseases. 

Should a matter of life and death become a matter of politics? Whatever your political party, you are probably affected by this COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people have had to work from home for the first time, or oversee their children's learning online. Many millions have contacted this virus; some still have lingering symptoms. All of this has happened to liberals, conservatives, and moderates. The hundreds of thousands of Americans (not to mention this worldwide) who died of COVID-19, come from all political parties. People of all political parties have become infected by coronavirus. And people of all ideologies have been among those who have lost homes, jobs, businesses, and have had to stand in food lines to feed their families. We are all arrayed against a common enemy that we cannot see. But we can very much feel its impact. 

In the same way, this virus does not care if we are Republicans or Democrats,. It doesn't care if we are liberal, moderate, or conservative. It doesn't care if we lift all CDC restrictions when meeting with our loved ones or good friends. In the same way, we may be tired of dealing with this virus. But it has not gotten tired of us.

It is every bit as pro-life and life-affirming to wear a mask, physically distance, and rigorously wash our hands to protect others' lives, as it to march, donate, or advocate to protect the unborn.

Epidemic is a podcast series by Dr. Celine Gounder, Epidemiologist, Internist, and Infectious Diseases Physician. You can listen or read transcripts. This series is devoted to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Note: the earliest podcast in this series does indicate that Dr. Gounder subscribes to the pro-choice perspective): Visit the podcast website.

Medical News Today contains many articles about the COVID-19 virus. This section is devoted to the pandemic. Visit this website.

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