Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Sunday, December 16, 2012

OUR MOLOCH by Gary Wills

Gary Wills expresses this far better than I ever could.

Please read it:

First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood 
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears, 
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud 
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire 
To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)

 Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometime this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

 The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings.

Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence. Adoration of Moloch permeates the country, imposing a hushed silence as he works his will. One cannot question his rites, even as the blood is gushing through the idol’s teeth. The White House spokesman invokes the silence of traditional in religious ceremony. “It is not the time” to question Moloch. No time is the right for showing disrespect for Moloch.

The fact that the gun is a reverenced god can be seen in its manifold and apparently resistless powers. How do we worship it? Let us count the ways:

 1. It has the power to destroy the reasoning process. It forbids making logical connections. We are required to deny that there is any connection between the fact that we have the greatest number of guns in private hands and the greatest number of deaths from them. Denial on this scale always comes from or is protected by religious fundamentalism. Thus do we deny global warming, or evolution, or biblical errancy. Reason is helpless before such abject faith.

2. It has the power to turn all our politicians as a class into invertebrate and mute attendants at the shrine. None dare suggest that Moloch can in any way be reined in without being denounced by the pope of this religion, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, as trying to destroy Moloch, to take away all guns. They whimper and say they never entertained such heresy. Many flourish their guns while campaigning, or boast that they have themselves hunted “vermin.” Better that the children die or their lives be blasted than that a politician should risk an election against the dread sentence of NRA excommunication.

3. It has the power to distort our constitutional thinking. It says that the right to “bear arms,” a military term, gives anyone, anywhere in our country, the power to mow down civilians with military weapons. Even the Supreme Court has been cowed, reversing its own long history of recognizing that the Second Amendment applied to militias. Now the court feels bound to guarantee that any every madman can indulge his “religion” of slaughter. Moloch brooks no dissent, even from the highest court in the land.

Though LaPierre is the pope of this religion, its most successful Peter the Hermit, preaching the crusade for Moloch, was Charlton Heston, a symbol of the Americanism of loving guns. I have often thought that we should raise a statue of Heston at each of the many sites of multiple murders around our land. We would soon have armies of statues, whole droves of Heston acolytes standing sentry at the shrines of Moloch dotting the landscape. Molochism is the one religion that can never be separated from the state. The state itself bows down to Moloch, and protects the sacrifices made to him. So let us celebrate the falling bodies and rising statues as a demonstration of our fealty, our bondage, to the great god Gun.


Jerry Critter said...

Guns + Money = Power

Those with both rule. Those with neither are ruled.

Shaw Kenawe said...

The evil thugs of the NRA:

"Over the past two decades, the NRA has not only been able to stop gun control laws, but even debate on the subject. The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Anonymous said...

I told someone the other day, when they expressed their hatred of Barack Obama, that they needed to be careful because obviously GOD is promoting Barack Obama.

I mean, McCain was ahead in the polls till our economy collapsed and we all know that free market capitalism is the strongest in the world, so only an act of GOD could have brought our economy down and in turn lead to Barack Obama winning the election.

Then, it looked like Romney would win in 2012 but then came Hurricane Sandy, another act of God.

Now we are watching as Satan, the Republican Party, wrestle with the serpents from hell, which would be Grover Norquist (Americans For Tax Reform) and starting next week, the NRA.

Obviously, I was having this discussion locally with an evangelical Christian....

The only way the NRA can continue down the path they have set for themselves all these years is to claim that the massacre in Connecticut was nothing more than collateral damage in our fight for freedom...

The price we pay to live free in a civil society. All this talk about freedom and patriotism is starting to make people realize that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose...."

When first graders cannot go to school and be safe then we really don't have much more to lose do we?

Jerry Critter said...

Where is the freedom when school children get killed and we have more people in prison than China?

Anonymous said...


Its doublespeak, kind of like claiming that our invasion of Iraq had something to do with protecting our freedoms...

Its like claiming that gun control is some insidious plot on the part of government to create a tyranny...

When in fact unfettered access to guns and the ability to carry them and use them at will, which is viewed as the epitome of freedom, and the voices that scream this the loudest fashion themselves as "patriots" and "defenders of freedom" when in fact it leads to nothing more than a state of nature, the survival of the fittest, and where everyone is at war with everyone else.

Obviously, then "freedom is when you have nothing left to lose..."

Anonymous said...

"Even if you believe, as most Americans do, that the Second Amendment grants Americans the right to bear arms, one must also acknowledge the right of other Americans to not bear arms and be safe.

Where are the voices for those who choose not to — or are not old enough to — own guns? Are the gunless to have no advocate? Will our politicians forever cower before the gun lobby?"

Anonymous said...

Maybe Newtown should make guns illegal within their city limits, and fight for that to the Supreme Court. At least it should start a nationwide conversation.

Jerry Critter said...

Rights are not unlimited.

KP said...

@JC "Guns + Money = Power. Those with both rule. Those with neither are ruled."

I don't know, Jerry. I don't have money and don't own a gun and I don't feel like I am being ruled.

KP said...

@JC "Guns + Money = Power. Those with both rule. Those with neither are ruled."

I don't know, Jerry. I don't have money and don't own a gun and I don't feel like I am being ruled.

Anonymous said...

Tyranny... Least understood by those who gleefully think it could never happen here.

Rights without a foundation grounded in ethical and moral principles are but the playthings of tyrants.

Silverfiddle said...

I am Adam Lanza's Mother

skudrunner said...

"In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous"

Maybe they should have lost funding because how much taxpayer money was spent to come to that conclusion.

Why not go after the problem which is mental illness.

Craig said...

Gary Wills expresses this far better than I ever could.

Thanks for reprinting this. I didn't know he blogged at NYRB. I read his book, A Necessary Evil, when it first came out and it had a profound impact on me. He dissects the 2nd Amendment. Agree or disagree, he made a compelling case for why (paraphrase), "we may have a right to own guns, but it's not found in the Constitution."

Silverfiddle said...

Violent crime is down from 2000 to 2009, as is the use of a firearm in commission of a crime.

Here is a link to an DOJ report:

US DOJ Report: Criminal Victimization, 2009

Some excerpts from the report:

For overall violent crime, firearms, knives, and other weapons were used in about equal proportions

Weapons were used in 22% of all violent crimes in 2009

Between 2000 and 2009, the overall rate of firearm violence declined from 2.4 to 1.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older (table 10).

Firearms were used in about 8% of all violent crime incidents in 2009. During the 10-year period,
about 6% to 9% of all violent crime incidents were committed with firearms

I respect heartfelt outpourings such as this. They are a part of searching for answers in a time of unfathomable tragedy.

Established facts must be our departure point in our search for answers.

Shaw Kenawe said...

SF, I know you are a strong advocate for not giving up a single right. I understand. But no one is advocating taking away people's right to own guns. What we need are stricter controls on who owns guns [mentally ill] and what sort of guns are sold.

I'm also pretty sure you have a young child[ren], and like me, are heartbroken to see the photos of those children. In my case, two of my grandkids look just like two of those children who were slaughtered. That's why I agree with the president who said those children are OUR children. Maybe I'm too empathetic, but, man, I felt physically ill all day Friday, and had nightmares all weekend. And I don't think I'm the only American who's been so deeply disturbed and appalled at what we've become.

Even Joe Scarborough has changed his views:

"I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything. We all must begin anew and demand that Washington's old way of doing business is no longer acceptable. Entertainment moguls don't have an absolute right to glorify murder while spreading mayhem in young minds across America. And our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.
It is time for Congress to put children before deadly dogmas. It's time for politicians to start focusing more on protecting our schoolyards than putting together their next fundraiser. It's time for Washington to stop trying to win endless wars overseas when we're losing the war at home ... For the sake of my four children and yours, I choose life and I choose change."

Shaw Kenawe said...

Damn comment moderation! I was certain I pushed the "publish" button for the comments people left here after my last post @11:37, but they're not here, and I don't know how they were deleted. And I'm sorry. I was in a rush to get out to an appt. I probably did it by mistake.

Republican Racism said...

The best you might get is a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. Why did Republicans let it expire? They hate America and could care less about children. You are being ruled, by unnecessary violence, but like most Americans it hasn't ruined your life, yet.

Silverfiddle said...

Anon: An assault weapons ban would have made no difference. The same damage can be done with a 9 mm pistol and a pocketful of low-capacity magazines.

It would actually be the better choice if you want to escape detection before the crime and if you want to prevent people from rushing you, since a rifle is easier to grab than a pistol.

Silverfiddle said...

@ Shaw: "Damn comment moderation!"

I can sympathize. I don't know how many times I've had comments fall into the Blooger Black Hole...

I'll try to restate what I said.

First off, no apologies necessary for being "too empathetic." This is a horrible tragedy.

First off, the Supreme Court has settled the 2nd Amendment question with the 2008 Heller and 2010 McDonald decisions. Personal gun ownership is a preexisting right, and the constitution bars the government from infringing upon it.

I know you are not advocating a total ban, but other are, so it must be addressed.

We must also look at storage. People who fail to secure their firearms should be held legally accountable if their weapons fall into the hands of a criminal.

Finally, we must address the mental health aspect. Most of these recent shooters were obviously mentally ill as attested to by those around them.

We can't just pluck people off the street and lock them up for acting weird, but we can do better.

I also wonder how many of these perpetrators were or ever had been on psychotropic drugs or ADD medications.

This is the basis I believe our conversation should start from: The fundamental right to own firearms, as reenforced by Supreme Court decisions; Weapons storage; and identifying and helping those with mental problems.

Silverfiddle said...

Reason Magazine does a good, dispassionate discussion of the issue. Being a libertarian joint, they take Huckabee to task for his reaction...

4 Awful Reactions to Sandy Hook

BB-Idaho said...

IMO, the NRA is a major problem.
Intriguing, how far they can over reach . Read somewhere some wag suggested a free tombstone stature of LaPierre
for the grave of each child killed
by gunfire....

skudrunner said...


The NRA is a major problem in gun deaths just like the NEA is a major problem for poor grades in schools.

Blaming a advocacy group is such a simplistic approach to a complex problem.

There is no way to take all the guns off the streets so a different solution must be found and our elitists in Washington are not the answer.

The first approach might be to enforce the existing gun laws. I would support tougher background checks but in this case that would not have made a difference.

Shaw Kenawe said...

skudrunner: "The NRA is a major problem in gun deaths just like the NEA is a major problem for poor grades in schools."

skudrunner, that is an inane comparison. The NRA promotes the unfettered sale and use of deadly weapons--weapons that killed school children. The NEA does no such thing.

skudrunner: "Blaming a advocacy group is such a simplistic approach to a complex problem."

No. It. Is. Not. The NRA is a cowardly evil organization that ignores its own membership on issues of gun control. The NRA has been silent. Not one word about the latest massacre. Cowards.

skudrunner: "There is no way to take all the guns off the streets so a different solution must be found and our elitists in Washington are not the answer."

Wrong again. Our representatives in Washington AND the American people are fed up with excuses like the ones you've given here. Something is going to be done.

skudrunner: "The first approach might be to enforce the existing gun laws. I would support tougher background checks but in this case that would not have made a difference."

Wrong again. Gun laws across this country are not uniform. Anyone can purchase a gun or ammo at a gun show without background checks. We need uniform gun laws and RESTRICTIONS on certain weapons.

I would go farther and take the sale of firearms away from private business and nationalize them.

Your comments appear to support the status quo, which means you'd do nothing about the insanity that is our gun culture.

That means more dead children.

BB-Idaho said...

The NRA is more extreme than much of its membership. As far as the NEA, it
has, and is being eviscerated in
Wisconsin/Michigan and other states. We know how lazy and overpaid teachers stepping in front of a lunatic with
a 30 round Bushmaster to protect
'their' kids. Apples and oranges here...rotten apples.

Jerry Critter said...

No one is advocating taking ALL the guns off the street.

What gun laws are not being enforced?

She Said said...

Id love to see all the guns gone

skudrunner said...

"I would go farther and take the sale of firearms away from private business and nationalize them."

It is federally regulated and restricted now.

"Our representatives in Washington AND the American people are fed up with excuses"

That really doesn't seem to be the case because we keep re-electing them which means we accept the ineptness.