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What happened on December 14 in Connecticut is extremely tragic. It is no surprise that the issue of gun rights has been all over the political pages on Facebook, as well as a few appalling statements from individuals on the far right with regards to God’s “absence” in our schools, implying that this is the “why” behind the tragedy that occurred.
The issue surrounding our “rights” in this country is clearly a powerful one; whether it’s gun rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, religious rights, all are important and worth rational discussion. The problem is that it’s rarely rational and serves as a divisive tactic from those who are in disagreement with progression in this country.
This comes from what is an extremist group within the GOP, the Tea Party, whose desire is to cause harm to others and to control with a regressive agenda, using manipulative and exploitive tactics to suppress and oppress those who dare to speak out against them.
None of the rights that the progressive left wishes to implement (and some independents too — see Senator Bernie Sanders’ website), cause harm to others. This is because giving others the gift of the freedom to choose what is right for them in their own lives, as long as it is not harmful and promotes the well-being and growth of society as a whole, is the very basic foundation behind human rights. It’s based in genuine agape love, makes room for human failure and allows us to learn from our mistakes, and offers compassion and empathy, while fostering personal and professional responsibility.
If we were forced by policy and legislation to be regressive and powerless clones, a hopeless, robotic, controlled collective entity, as some on the far right wish we were, we would be subjugated and abused. We would be robbed of the greatest right and freedom of all: that of free will.
I have a deep and abiding faith in God. It is private and personal to me. Part of living within the parameters of my faith, is the ability, every single day, to choose my faith, to choose God, which to me, means to choose love. I believe that if I were manipulated, guilted, or coerced into obligation with regards to my faith in God, it would not be real. I am comfortable sharing my faith with those I am close to, but I would never impose, nor “force” my faith or beliefs onto someone else. If I were to do so, it would be abusive and would cause harm to others, perhaps spiritually, emotionally, or both. The people and situations I pray about, how I pray, and when, is completely up to me. I want to honor and respect the rights of others in what they believe is right for them, based on the premise of free will. I want to trust that people are competent enough to make their own choices and don’t need my assistance; and if they do, they will ask! It is a right to allow someone to learn to trust themselves and their instincts. No one has the right to remove the choices we make every day.
So when those who are on the far right come out and make appalling statements that are meant to cause harm to others, with the implication that if all of us were somehow more faithful in bringing God (re: Christianity) into our schools, that somehow, tragedies like this would be avoided, I become angry at the ignorance and/or narcissism that it reflects. This is another good example of why education is so important, even about basic human rights, values, and principles; because when we have them, the religious pundits cannot get away with busting our boundaries in an attempt to remove our rights.
The issue as to the “why” question in this tragedy is not God’s absence in the schools; instead the issue was a young man who had a mental health disorder and who used his free will, choosing to do something unthinkable and unimaginable. God will never impose Himself upon man’s right to choose.
Ironic, isn’t it? Even God believes in the right to choose; it was the free will of a very sick human being that killed those people, not God’s absence in the schools. God was present at the school yesterday as teachers saved lives, as students who died went to greet Jesus and play and sit on his lap. God was there through the loving arms of those who were there to support parents and survivors. And God was there to greet the mother of the shooter upon her death. God was there, shown through compassion and love of others, just like He is through all of us. And guess what? You don’t have to believe it! It’s just what I believe because wherever love, compassion, and human rights are celebrated, my God is present. The political right wing tea party members are a shining example of why church and state must be kept separate, for if it does not celebrate human dignity, love, or free will, it is not of God, and it is not of love.
Many of the comments on the political pages I’ve visited have also been related to the issue of gun rights. The sentence most often typed is similar to this: “Now is not the time to discuss gun rights when 20 children and 6 adults are dead!” Initially, within the first several hours after finding out about this, I agreed, but then I began to cave as the news sunk in. Why? Why not now? We didn’t talk about this after the Thurston High School shootings in Springfield, Oregon. We didn’t talk about this after Columbine. We didn’t talk about it THIS week (December 11) after the Oregon mall shooting. What the hell is different about today, other than that 26 more people are dead this week, and now it’s children too? Putting off the discussion is denial, whether we say it’s because we’re grieving, or whether we say that we should still have the right to own assault rifles (even though we all know they were designed to kill many at one time). America is the epitome of a rampant narcissism and a highly apathetic, de-sensitized state in which our rights have been assaulted as we have slept. Perhaps all of these things, the push back against our rights, from those who mean us harm, was necessary for us to wake up and realize how deep our sleep has been.
I don’t like gun rights pundits much, but I realized that they have rights too. Even the right wing nut jobs have rights! They have the right to say appalling and horrific things. They have a right to possess and bear arms. But when those rights cause harm to others or interfere with a person’s free will, we have a problem. This is the fundamental difference between the parties.
Those who advocate for a removal of a person’s rights are violating the basic human rights treaty. When there are politicians in state held governorships who will not expand Medicaid to their constituents that would benefit from preventive medicine, who remove critical funding to Planned Parenthood, who advocate to put a stop to marriage equality and LGBT rights, who take workers’ rights away, who lower wages, subsequently catapulting many more into poverty. Those who scapegoat, demonize, and politically and socially terrorize ”lower” segments and demographics of society that are increasing in number by the day and where the burden of cuts, including to mental health services, is creating more human suffering and despair.
Something is terribly wrong. Free will is shelved, along with the very human beings who have the right to it.
I write a blog and educate others about personality disorders: Narcissistic, Sociopathic, Psychopathic and Borderline. I also provide support to survivors of those who have been victimized by them, personally and professionally. These disorders are, in short, incurable and are not treated with medication. Often, they are accompanied by other co-morbid disorders, such as depression, PTSD, and substance abuse or a previous trauma. The disorder is always there. It is characterized by the following, and this is a short list: lack of empathy, remorse, or guilt, low/no conscience, shallow affect, manipulation, gaslighting, verbal and/or physical abuse, rewrites history, incapable of love, chameleon-like behavior, impulsive, unfaithful, mirroring others (adopting their traits and pretending to know them), excessive flattery and love bombing, isolation, control, domination, power; what this means for the victim is inevitable harm. Those who have these disorders are often very successful and are not murderers like Charles Manson or Adam Lanza; they are CEOs, doctors, lawyers, and politicians. They are your spouse or your neighbor. And wherever they go, they cause tremendous harm and damage to the lives that they touch.
They will do all they can to remove your rights. It is very difficult to understand, for those of us with conscience and so much love to give, as well as the desire for all to exercise their free will, that there would be others in the world who would not want this, those who view our ability to love and our desire for others’ harmless pursuit of their right to marry, their ability to love, to practice their faith, to make mistakes, as a source of weakness and contempt. But it is true, and this is why it’s so important to know. You cannot reason with a gunman who wishes to blow you away with fifty rounds. You will not be able to reason with a determined sociopath who wants to remove your rights and to have power and control in your life.
With having these freedoms and rights come responsibilities to ourselves and to others.
I am for the rights of evangelicals to say what they wish, to live as they wish, as long as their “rights” do not cause harm to others, but as passengers of the vehicle to which their beliefs are driven, not upon God, but upon determined sociopaths who wish to keep them uneducated, controlled, and powerless, they either unknowingly or knowingly cause harm to others. This is not just in their role as scapegoats to forward the destructive tea party agenda, but with the fundamental human desire to want the best for others, to see others grow and reach their potential, to allow them to choose love. What they are doing, and what they are saying, has nothing at all to do with God, for God is a scapegoat too.
I am also a gun rights supporter. As long as it does not cause harm to others. This means responsible gun laws, such as a ban on assault rifles, and education with regards to gun safety, and other creative implementations that keep others as safe as possible. But the issue that needs addressing most of all, is the unacceptable spending cuts to social programs, and in this case, mental health, that prevents the care that others need to keep them, and the public, safe from harm.
And finally, along with the right to choose love, should come the right for gays to marry. Love is not limited; it is limitless. We can never love enough, but if we love ourselves, we can only love more. Tolerance is love. When you are exercising your free will harmlessly, growing, learning and loving others, it allows you to embrace and to give more love.
My friend Michael Garden is a great example of this (read Michael’s post: My adoption story: being gay and adopting in Oregon); together with he and his partner Joseph’s love, for themselves and each other, they can freely give more to children who need that love. When all is well, with free will and with love, all flows smoothly in the universe.
That’s what progression, free will, and rights that are free from harm to self and others exemplifies, but I don’t live in a utopian world, and the “haters” will still be there. It’s okay for them to stand in their corners and hate. But it’s not okay for them to be without conscience and to use power to remove what they hate most: love and free will.
Sometimes, we will find ourselves fighting to continue our right to love against those who hate. Showing love by example means we sometimes have to fight so that others can keep the right to choose, the right to love, to be free from harm.
This is also our responsibility in love. And it is our right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kelli Hernandez is a domestic violence advocate, working in particular with survivors of person’s with personality disorders, such as psychopaths and narcissists. She works with men and women in this arena and has also worked with LGBT survivors. She is a single proud Mom of six children: three girls and three boys, ages 18-30, and the proud grandmother of Kira, Landen and Kaili. Her son Josiah is gay, and she strongly supports LGBT rights. Kelli is a writer and is the author of the blog “The Ability to Love,” with a focus on education about personality disorders and the relationships affected by them. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, the company of family, friends, and her wiener dog, Hercules.