John Culleton: Happiness more elusive this holiday

In this holiday season I wish a Merry Christmas to my fellow Christians and Happy Holidays to those who do not share our Christian faith.

Unfortunately "Merry" and "Happy" are difficult states to achieve this year. We must face the brutality of the Sandy Hook school massacre and the idiocy of the politics in Washington D.C.

Jesus of Nazareth did not favor violence, and was no fan of religious bureaucracy. The only time he is reported to have used violence was to drive the money changers out of the Great Temple of Jerusalem, and the only time he is reported as condemning anyone occurred when he referred to Pharisees and Sadducees alike as a "brood of vipers." John the Baptist used similar language about the same groups. Jesus always took the part of the poor and never that of the rich.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the armed servants of the High Priest came to arrest Him, one of his followers, by tradition Saint Peter, attacked them with a sword. Jesus told him to put up his weapon. He had legions of angels to call upon if needed. But that was not his way. He was not a man of violence. Indeed we call him the "Prince of Peace."

Fully half the weapons of the world are in the hands of our fellow citizens, who number but 5 percent of the world population. The reasons given for possession are various, for hunting, for home defense and in fear that some group will somehow take over the nation. The National Rifle Association stokes these fears and these resentments.

When as happens with increasing frequency some mentally disturbed person uses military style weapons to slaughter his fellow citizens there is outcry for stricter control of these weapons, followed by a rush of the NRA followers to buy still more arms and ammunition.

The NRA, funded and controlled by the gun and ammunition manufacturers, has a two part strategy. First they express sorrow over the deaths and state that the time for grieving is now, the time for consideration of gun control legislation action must be deferred.

Later they wrap themselves in the banner of the Second Amendment and stoke fear that if any restrictions are imposed the ultimate result will be the disarmament of everyone. We have seen this movie before.

This time may be different, with politicians who formerly followed the NRA line in order to be re-elected changing their public position in the wake of the slaughter of 20 innocent children. We can hope for a ban of manufacture, sale and possession of oversized magazines and of body armor. Two of the recent massacres were by men wearing body armor.

A gun buy-back of handguns and military style arms would reduce the violence. But the NRA predictably said on Friday that the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.

History shows otherwise. The position that the best way to cut down on gun violence is to have yet more guns borders on the insane.

What about home defense? Sadly, as so often happens, the mother of the killer in Newtown was killed with one of her own guns bought for home defense.

We need also to reassess the benign neglect of the mentally ill. We saved money by turning them loose from state hospitals. But now we find that we must spend money on schools to protect our children from the violent ones. The other sad issue before us is the imminent fiscal cliff. The one good thing about driving over the fiscal cliff was the mandatory cuts in our bloated defense budget. But the Republicans passed legislation to exempt the defense budget and transfer that cost to the social safety net. Fortunately, that legislation has no chance in the Senate. But it shows how they think. The richest nation on earth with the largest defense budget on earth and with 50 million people living in poverty must cut social programs to feed the insatiable military-industrial complex.

To quote a bumper sticker popular a while back, "What would Jesus do?"

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