Well, It’s Complicated: How to Stop Living by What You Think and Start Living by What You Know

Along with being Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, Steven Pinker is identified on Wikipedia as a  cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. All pretty impressive and even fairly broad in terms of his areas of expertise.

Pinker provides a few photos on his web page, just in case you need one.

I have used Pinker’s work in linguistics for many years, especially as I teach future English teachers and try to combat prescriptive approaches to grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Among my colleagues and friends in linguistics and English, however, we are apt to use Pinker’s theories of language—framing language as biological and building on the work of Noam Chomsky—as a point of debate. In other words, even though Pinker is regarded as a leading figure in his primary field, many credible arguments remain about his claims.

Consider, then, this review of Pinker’s Enlightenment Now:

Steven Pinker is at it again. Several years ago, the Harvard-based cognitive psychologist took time off regular duties to offer some gratuitous advice to humanities scholars about how to “fix” their discipline….

The Enlightenment may seem an ambitious topic for a cognitive psychologist to take up from scratch. Numerous historians have dedicated entire careers to it, and there remains a considerable diversity of opinion about what it was and what its impact has been. But from this and previous work we get intimations of why Pinker thinks he is the person for the job. Historians have laboured under the misapprehension that the key figures of the Enlightenment were mostly philosophers of one stripe or another. Pinker has made the anachronistic determination that, in fact, they were all really scientists – indeed, “cognitive neuroscientists” and “evolutionary psychologists.”

In short, he thinks that they are people like him and that he is thus possessed of privileged insights into their thought denied to mere historians. The latter must resort to careful reading and fraught interpretation in lieu of being able directly to channel what Enlightenment thinkers really thought.

Despite his recognized brilliance and accomplishments, Pinker—like a cognitive scientist and psychologist writing entire books on teaching reading—has fallen victim to reaching beyond ones area of expertise and treating an entire field as if those experts do not exist. Further, as the review unpacks, Pinker appears to suffer from a narcissism that spurs projection: I am great, therefore, let me find myself in the greatness that has come before me.

Pinker, then, represents a serious problem that confronts all of us: How to stop living by what you think and start living by what you know.

From the White House to the New York Times Opinion page to friends on Facebook, we are under constant assault by stuff people think are facts, although too often they are ultimately false.

In some cases, sharing and then living by misinformation are mostly just annoying, but the gun debate represents how this tension has real life-and-death consequences—too often for children, who have almost no political power.

For example, we must consider how fearmongering has kept the US focused on only one type of the slippery-slope argument—gun control = all guns will be taken away—while forcing us to live in another unexpressed slippery-slope reality—gun culture = inordinate mass shootings and perpetual gun violence.

My primary areas of expertise—in terms of my educational background, teaching experiences, and scholarship—are literacy, poverty, and race, the latter two mostly as related to education; although, much of that expertise has come from intense study built on my formal degrees. Since mass shootings have been all-too-common in schools, I have spent some of my scholarly and public work addressing gun control—recognizing that I, like Pinker, am stepping outside my field in some respects.

The shooting in Parkland, Florida has spurred another round of my public work calling for evidence-based approaches to ending our self-defeating gun culture in the US.

Debating gun control for me is doubly dangerous because it is outside my field and I am very passionate about the topic.

Since I engage in the gun debate on social media, I have been confronted by some very frustrating pro-gun or anti-gun control arguments that simply are not credible: pointing a finger at mental illness, arguing that gangs and black-on-black crime explain the gun violence problem in the U.S., imposing the mainstream slippery-slope argument that gun control means taking away all guns from everyone, refusing to acknowledge international comparisons that highlight the unique problems with guns and gun violence in the US, invoking the lack of God in school or society, blaming violence on violent pop culture (movies, video games, music), etc.

Although I am aware that evidence is not as effective as I would hope when debating topics with people who are more committed to what they think (and believe) than to what they know, I work diligently (and like a scholar, seeking bodies of research) to find the argument and evidence that will help others move to informed positions.

I want to share here just one part of that journey recently for me, a moment when I really could have made a serious mistake if I hadn’t checked myself when I had an idea, checked myself by realizing, well, it’s complicated.

Most arguments about violence are lazy and rushed, typically overstating the amount and threat of violence in the now of the debate, lacking as many debates do some historical context (a real go-to for me).

To combat the “violence today” arguments (violent pop culture, gangs, black-on-black crime, lack of God), I considered making a Wild West analogy, which on its surface seemed very compelling and obvious in terms of how violent I assumed the Wild West to have been.

The irony about how badly Hollywood misrepresents the Wild West is that characters popularized by Clint Eastwood may in fact give us insight into the tragic relationship between guns and toxic masculinity.

Until I checked myself with “well, it’s complicated.”

Luckily, I first did a quick google search and found a 2014 article by Glenn Kessler on Rick Santorum bumbling, yep, a Wild West analogy:

The Hollywood version of the Wild West is at the core of this exchange on Face the Nation, so perhaps it’s time for a history lesson. One-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum asserted that gun crimes were low back then because people had the right to carry guns. But he actually has the story backward.

The Wild West as a matter of history doesn’t square with the Wild West of Hollywood:

“Carrying of guns within the city limits of a frontier town was generally prohibited. Laws barring people from carrying weapons were commonplace, from Dodge City to Tombstone,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA’s School of Law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “When Dodge City residents first formed their municipal government, one of the very first laws enacted was a ban on concealed carry. The ban was soon after expanded to open carry, too. The Hollywood image of the gunslinger marching through town with two Colts on his hips is just that — a Hollywood image, created for its dramatic effect.”

Gun control, I discovered, goes back to the so-called Founding Fathers, in fact, as historian Saul Cornell explains:

I have been researching and writing about the history of gun regulation and the Second Amendment for the past two decades. When I began this research, most people assumed that regulation was a relatively recent phenomenon, something associated with the rise of big government in the modern era. Actually, while the founding generation certainly esteemed the idea of an armed population, they were also ardent supporters of gun regulations.

And just how violent the Wild West was, it turns out, is much like the debates my colleagues and I have about Pinker’s linguistics; it’s complicated, as Kessler explains in the Santorum article:

…“Gun homicides were far more rare than Americans have been led to believe,” [UCLA School of Law professor, Winkler] said. “Most frontier towns had fewer than two homicides a year during the heyday of the Old West. Yet that is not inconsistent with Roth’s research. The homicide rate was high in these towns because the population was very small. Even one murder in a town with only a few dozen residents leads to a high homicide rate. These towns were violent, but not nearly as violent as some imagine.”

In other words, no matter how one looks at the research, Santorum has his history incorrect. People did not walk around town carrying guns—but the homicide rate was unusually high.

When we take our time and consider the history of gun violence and gun control, we discover, well, it’s complicated.

What I discovered is not a new or powerful analogy* (thanks to Santorum’s very public bumbling), but a way to check ourselves when we are not sure if we are debating or living by what we think instead of what we know.

The amount of guns and access to guns in the U.S. are essential elements in why the U.S. sits below average for crime rates but is a extreme outlier in gun homicides and violence (see #2 here).

But even with those facts, well, it’s complicated, as Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober, both sociologists, explain:

A great deal of commentary attempts to tie mass shootings to a single issue. Often, that seems like the easiest way to make sense of atrocities. That’s why we get sound bites that lean on mental health (when shooters are white), terrorist ties and affiliations (when shooters are brown), gang violence and “urban decay” (when shooters are black), bullying (when it happens in a school), and overwork (when it happens in a workplace).

The truth cannot be boiled down to any single issue. As sociologists, we can look to the bigger picture, point out patterns, and identify common denominators. Our research suggests that gun control is, indeed, an important piece of the problem. But in order to understand the factors behind America’s mass shootings, it is also critical to consider the relationship between masculinity and violence.

And thus:

Scholars who study masculinity and mass shootings have consistently drawn attention to the fact that mass shootings are not only a uniquely American social problem; they are a problem with American menWe’ve argued before that there are two questions that require explanation related to gender and mass shootings. First, why is it that men commit virtually all mass shootings? And second, why do American men commit mass shootings more than men anywhere else in the world?

Adding to this, Jennifer Wright explains:

In many of these mass shootings, the desire to kill seems to be driven by a catastrophic sense of male entitlement. In some cases, the perpetrators seemed to feel that if people did not give them precisely what they wanted, then those people did not deserve to live. The only just world, in their minds, was a world they were the center of….

A great many mass murderers have a history of domestic violence. They range from Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub shooting, whose ex-wife claimed he took her paychecks, forbade her from leaving the house and beat her if she did not live up to what he perceived as being her duties; to Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic and had been accused of domestic violence by two of his three ex-wives.

With a historical, and checked, perspective, and a bit more care than most public and political debate allow, then, we can begin to construct a vivid and accurate picture of why the U.S. suffers so much gun violence and so many mass shootings.

And while, well, it’s complicated, we can safely say that the amount of guns, access to guns, a climate of toxic masculinity, and identifiable behaviors such as domestic violence provide a nearly complete puzzle that can provide a context for not only a productive debate, but also actions that a free people can take in the name of human safety.

The gun debate itself is complicated, but that sits against the simple fact that children slaughtered at school or dozens mowed down at an outdoor concert is not complicated but inexcusable in a free society.

The gun debate and innocent lives implore us to stop living by what we think and start living by what we know.

See Also

More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows

* Why Gun Control Backers Love To Talk About Duck Hunting


Resisting Resistance to Gun Control in the U.S.

My foundations of education class and I discussed the Parkland, Florida shooting a few days after the tragedy. My students tended to echo some of the most common and least credible arguments about the issue of mass shootings and gun violence. However, they were both willing to share and then eager to discuss and look at evidence.

One student, for example, noted that he is a hunter and gun control makes him uncomfortable. Others mentioned mental illness and made analogies such as access to alcohol.

So during the discussion we reached some key points I think are valuable to avoid the effort by the NRA and politicians to derail a reasonable discussion and real action:

  • Other countries have mental illness, and the US sits about in the middle of comparable countries in terms of crime rates (we are not an extreme country in terms of crime). But the US is an extreme outlier in terms of fatal crime and gun violence.
  • Other countries with almost no mass shootings and very little gun violence have people who hunt and people who have handguns in their home to protect their personal property. Making a country more safe with gun control is not about taking away all guns. That is a straw man argument.
  • The US is an extreme outlier in police fatally shooting and killing citizens (see the US compared to Germany for example). Our gun culture impacts every aspect of our society, even law enforcement.
  • Gun possession does in fact make people less safe, and the mostly wild-west approach to guns in the US is the biggest part of the gun violence problem.
  • Monitoring dangerous products is common in many aspects of our culture. That monitoring and care are not about taking away freedom, and we must keep in mind that freedom is not license. In other words, human freedom includes accountability for that freedom.
  • That people under 21 can buy assault-style weapons but not alcohol, or marijuana, is a serious commentary on a people with priorities out of line.
  • The best way to protect children in schools and US citizens in their daily lives is to end our gun culture—not to increase security; that is addressing the symptoms and refusing to cure the disease.

The larger point here is that everyone lives with irrational and uninformed beliefs, often living in ways that contradict what we embrace as our foundational ideals as individuals and as a society.

In order to check those contradictions, we must step back and begin again with evidence. I tend to be more cynical than even skeptical, but this discussion with my students confronted me with possibility that people can and will listen even in contexts that are difficult.

As I urged my students, I want no one to take the claims above as fact simply because I posted them here. The key is to study, investigate, explore our own assumptions and biases. And thus, start with some of these links below that reinforce the points above:

Guns Kill People. Gun Advocacy Is Complicit.

Americans like to promote ourselves as the land of the free and home of the brave.

These are lies.

Bald-faced and ugly lies—especially the part about being brave.

The truth is America is the land of the delusional and home of the careless.

Two powerful and corrosive lies we live by involve guns.

The first-level lie about guns is the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

Our founding documents and ideals certainly were grounded in needs that no longer exist. Owning guns to form militias and to protect private property, as well as the need to hunt for food, was essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in at least the first century, or more, of the U.S.A.

But a standing army and what many would call a militarized police force have rendered that need moot; in fact, owning guns has now made us less safe. The U.S. crime rate is below average compared internationally, but our lethal crime rate is an extreme outlier (see data here):

The second-level lie is that the NRA is a champion of the Second Amendment.

The truth is that the NRA uses the Second Amendment as a smoke screen for being a shill for gun manufacturers. The NRA works for crass commercialism, the worst of capitalism—not for democracy or freedom.

But as the election of Trump has proven beyond a doubt: America is the land of lies, a people prone to making grand claims and living lives that completely contradict those stated ideals.

When lead in paint was discovered as being harmful to children, lead was banned in paint.

Examples such as these are common in the U.S.—except when a gun is involved.

The Parkland, Florida school shooting involved a legally purchased assault-style rifle, and the shooter was able to buy the weapon although not old enough to buy alcohol.

Beer is regulated more aggressively than guns in the U.S. And marijuana, which is far safer than alcohol, remains illegal in most of the country.

So the simple fact is that America is not the home of the brave, but a cowardly country with cowardly political leadership.

Guns kill people. Gun advocacy is complicit.

Gun-Lust: This Is America. This Is Who We Are. Pt. II


I was neither surprised or even disappointed when comments on my Facebook page were shallow, insensitive, and simply ridiculous in response to my post against the gun-lust that defines the U.S.: Know guns, know violence; no guns, no violence.

The most ridiculous was the counter argument that if we had no guns people would still be violent with ball bats.

Not kidding. That was a rebuttal.

For the record, I am in full support for a complete exchange in the U.S.—all gun owners swapping those weapons for bats.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, and I was disappointed, however, when I waded into the Las Vegas shooting with my college students. My university population is skewed socially and politically conservative as well as traditionally Christian. Although the college was once affiliated with the Southern Baptist church, that ended decades ago and the school was never a religious college.

I always die a little on the inside when I share the research base solidly refuting corporal punishment, prompting several students to respond angrily in favor of spanking: “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” the typical rebuttal as hollow as the bat argument above.

Three first year students were more than bothered and eager to challenge the concerns I raised in our first-year seminar about access to guns in the U.S. and the uniquely violent culture of our country when compared internationally.

Their arguments fell into three categories: adamant commitments to owning guns for self defense (with the undercurrent that home invasions are somehow an ever-present danger), a belief that the Second Amendment was in part designed to allow U.S. citizens to defend themselves against a rogue U.S. government (and that remains relevant in 2017), and the recognition that many in the U.S. cling to gun ownership as a symbol for individual freedom (one student noted that his family owns several guns but they never use them in any way).

One similarity to my students’ arguments and the push-back on Facebook has been the sense of fatalism—there simply is no way to end all gun violence or all violence so let’s not restrict our freedom, again represented by merely owning a gun.

In class, I found data on international comparisons showing that the U.S. is an extreme outlier for rates of gun violence, and I posed the idea that wouldn’t we all take the rates of next highest nation (a much lower rate) if that were possible through policy change.

And with that, I argued that we are all complicit in our violent nation, our gun-lust: This is America. This is who we are.

My students who defended gun rights immediately balked at the carnage of LasVegas is something the citizens of the U.S. have chosen.

Facebook ignorance has become nearly as commonplace as mass shootings in the U.S. But I have tried to remain hopeful about young people, that the future can hold a better us: “This place could be beautiful,/right? You could make this place beautiful.”

As my students demonstrate, young people have been engrained with irrational but compelling beliefs that are not supported by evidence; entrenched symbolism remains powerful in the U.S. well beyond the origins of those symbols.

The practical and very real importance of guns in the founding and expansion of the U.S. certainly contrasts significantly with today—but the symbolism (guns equal freedom) endures.

Symbolism and the resulting fatalism are the death of us as a people—unless somehow we are able to make facts matter. Otherwise, our future is as dim as our past and our present.

Suggested Readings

How dangerous people get their weapons in America

Six things to know about mass shootings in America

When gun control makes a difference: 4 essential reads

1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days: America’s gun crisis – in one chart

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts

Visualizing gun deaths: Comparing the U.S. to rest of the world

@JamesFallows offers two dark American truths from Las Vegas

In the U.S., Where the Female Nipple Is More Dangerous Than a Gun

Deplorables Unmasked

Something deplorable happened on the way to claiming the U.S. is a Christian nation of free people where everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, or gender has the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And it wasn’t Donald Trump. Or better expressed, it wasn’t only Donald Trump.

Once Trump secured the nomination for president of the Republican Party, many scrambled to caution about condemning Trump’s supporters, not painting them with too broad and negative a brush.

Especially in the mainstream media, few, nearly none, would venture to utter words such as “racist,” “sexist,” “xenophobe,” or even “lie.”

Trump and his running mate have skated along literally piling lies on top of lies—including lies about not saying provable things, including Trump opening his most recent apology with lies.

But what is truly deplorable is Trump both represents and has unmasked the ugly truth about the U.S.: we are a nation of deplorables, not as outliers, but as a substantial population of our country.

As I was driving down I-85 in South Carolina on the morning after the suddenly shocking* recording of Trump being exactly who he has always been, I saw a large, black SUV in front of me with this bumper sticker:


It has become conventional wisdom to brush off Trump’s obnoxious bravado as part of his reality show persona, while adding that his supporters are more nuanced in their support for his candidacy.

But the harsh truth is that Trump is deplorable and so are his supporters—and so are many so-called decent Americans.

Cliches become cliches often because they are true, and one truism seems quite important at this moment: when someone shows you who they really are, be sure to pay attention.

And people often reveal who they really are when they think they are in private, when they think they are among their own kind.

Men hanging out with other men often sound like the Trump comments being rebuked now as if this isn’t common language and attitudes.

Having been born, grown up, and now living in the South, I can assure you when whites are in seemingly safe environs, the racism rears its ugly head in subtle and blunt ways.

But it is even worse than that.

Now that we have yet more evidence of who Trump is, who his enablers are, the carefully prepared political backpedaling tells us just as much as any hot mic:

“I am sickened by what I heard today,” [Paul] Ryan said through a spokesman, about five hours after The Washington Post published a 2005 recording of Trump boasting of groping women and trying to have sex with a married woman. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.

Gross, pig sexist being chastised by his more well-groomed but equally clueless sexist—as part and parcel of who the Republican Party has always been, as part and parcel of who many in the U.S. remain to be:

When Trump vilified Mexicans and Muslims, when Trump repeatedly stirs racism and caters to openly racist groups, the mainstream political response remains trapped in respecting human dignity only by close association—currently the hot take in the mainstream press is to speak with reverence about mothers and daughters.

A people has no moral compass, no ethical grounding if the only way anyone can respect human dignity is by association.

If you have to know or be related to people with other statuses than yours to care about their human dignity, you are deplorable.

Some may now try to burn at the stake the Frankenstein’s monster, Donald Trump, but to do so without acknowledging Dr. Frankenstein is misguided and shallow political theater.

Trump as bogus billionaire entrepreneur, as con-man reality star is the white male prototype of what it means to be an American: America built this.

And, as much as we wish to deny it, we are America.

The America who tells Colin Kaepernick not to sully our sacred football with politics—while failing to see that opening every football game with the National Anthem is political.

The America who responds to #BlackLivesMatter with All Lives Matter—while refusing to admit that guns matter more than any lives.

The America that polices how some people raise their fists—while “land of the free and home of the brave” proves to be false on both counts.

Something deplorable happened on the way to claiming the U.S. is a Christian nation of free people where everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, or gender has the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Something deplorable is right there in the mirror.

* One must ask, I think, why now? See More Than 150 Republican Leaders Don’t Support Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point.

In the U.S. Guns Matter More than Any Lives Matter

While I remain adamant that the All Lives Matter response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement is code for the exact racism BLM is confronting, I am also concerned that the tension created in that debate helps mask a much larger reality in the U.S.—one that fuels many of the issues confronting us as a people.

The truth is in the U.S., guns matter more than any lives matter.


“Since Sept. 1, 2015, when the state required the new reports,” reports Eva Ruth Moravec, “Texas law enforcement officers shot at least 169 people, 20 percent of whom were unarmed.”


I live in Spartanburg County and teach in Greenville County, both part of the Upstate of South Carolina. Nearby is Anderson County, about an hour’s drive away.

Last week in Anderson County, a 14-year-old white boy, homeschooled, shot and killed his father before driving to a nearby elementary school where he shot an adult and children on the playground. A few days later, one of the shot 6-year-olds died from the leg wound.

Media reports detailed that the 14-year-old shooter had been bought weapons, such as explosives and guns, by his mother, despite having been expelled from school.

This boy-shooter lives in a multi-layered gun culture—the U.S., the South, and his own home.


It is exhausting to write about gun violence in the U.S., but I feel compelled to offer briefly here something that must be confronted with care.

The caveat is that I am in no way arguing sameness of degree here. However, among those involved in gun violence as both ones using guns and ones being shot, there is a commonality of being victims within the larger gun culture created and/or tolerated by virtually everyone in the U.S.

In the U.S., a perverse cycle of gun culture exists that uses the manufactured and mostly exaggerated threat of gun violence to justify the obsessive ownership of guns.

Gun ownership and the right to own guns have been waved like the flag for so long as bedrocks of individual liberty and rights that we have lost the ability to be reasonable and ethical people, able to see through the false patriotism and bogus strict constitutionalism that are a thin veneer for crass commercialism: “gun rights” is an NRA campaign to fuel gun sales, period.


If any really want to move toward a society in which all lives matter (and I am deeply skeptical many of those people exist), the first step is to change course as a people who act as if guns matter more than any lives matter.

See Also

Trust Has Never Existed Between Cops and Black Communities, Stacey Patton

Who Do Sacred Texts Serve?

This rigid refusal to look at ourselves may well destroy us; particularly now since if we cannot understand ourselves we will not be able to understand anything.

“Lockridge: ‘The American Myth,'” James Baldwin

In my sixth decade as a son of the South, I know more than a little bit about Bible thumping.

Fundamentalist preachers, street preachers, and the faithful who hold the literal truth of Biblical texts sacred—these all embody literally and figuratively what “Bible thumping” represents: a sacred text.

The great irony of fundamentalism in the South where the King James Version of the Bible is thumped, slammed, waved, and quoted includes the problems with translation as well as the many contradictions in that text. Eye for an eye or turn the other cheek?

Not to dwell also on the cherry picking necessary for literalists: condemning homosexuality by jamming a finger on a passage from Leviticus but conveniently not pointing out the dozens of other Jewish laws those literalists trespass daily.

Throughout the U.S., however, there is also a powerful secular sacred text, The Constitution (notably the most thumped Second Amendment), that serves as a disturbing and extra layer of irony.

Yes, often, those most fervent about their Christianity are equally fervent about their guns. It seems what is important is being fervent, not making sure ones ideologies match up.

But in the wake of tragedy, we may have hope.

The Orlando massacre has spurred a powerful message about the importance of a diversity of voices in a free society.

In 2016, white males continue to have too many megaphones—we labor under, for example, the relentless drumbeat of many David Brooks who know little but pontificate endlessly simply because they can—but with the rise of social media, we hear more and more from women, people of color, and LGBT+.

After Orlando, those diverse perspectives have been willing to challenge that sacred text, the Second Amendment, noting that when the Constitution and Amendments were codified, the voices of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ were absent.

In other words, our secular sacred text is necessarily incomplete, likely flawed.

And the problem rests in by whom, why, and how “sacred” is deemed.

There is a straight and clear line from the genesis of the South Baptist denomination—thumping the Bible to justify slavery—and the perversion of the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms to form a militia—to suit the gun fetish, gun industry, and culture of violence that all characterize the U.S., a so-called Christian nation.

Sacred texts most often serve the wants and needs—and status—of the privileged, those who have the power to thump the text and anoint it with the power of God or State.

And those powerful depend on the powerless to cling to those sacred texts, empowered by that clinging through the sheer proximity of “it’s in the Bible” or “the Second Amendment!”

So we stand in a particular part of history now, one in which some voices have been “deliberately silenced,” “preferably unheard.”

But the oppressed and suppressed are demanding that they be heard, in part by challenging, as Adrienne Rich wrote, the “book of myths/in which/our names do not appear.”

In the U.S., sacred texts are as deadly as the murderous guns we cling to—until we choose to look at ourselves, to listen, and to act in ways that hold all humans sacred.

[Grammar Note: There was a time when we made a distinction between “who” and “whom”—a sacred distinction like “they” always being plural—but “whom” has died so long live “who” as a versatile part of speech!]