In our polarized country we need a new plateau of perspective rising above the two standard, reactionary viewpoints.
The political Right and Left responded to the Newtown school shooting, this tragedy of exaggerated proportions, with similar and understandable extreme. First everyone feels terrible about what happened. Soon after, sorrow turns to fear and anger and ideology takes the driver’s seat.
In response to the shooting, the Left sees the opportunity to push government and gun control, seeking legislation to curb gun ownership. The Right pushes their own ideology of strong defense, independence, and no need for government. All we needed was an armed teacher or security guard.
Of course both sides are correct. (It’s not as if either side is grounded in something absent of any reason.) The first thing we ought to realize is: yes, it would have been harder for that young man to get the guns and ammo had tougher laws been enacted; and yes, an armed guard or teacher would possibly have stopped the killing. Seeing this makes for better understanding of one another, offers respect to your ideological other, and most important, opens your heart and brain to the best solution.
However, because of the “heels-dug-in” status of many Americans, the truth they cling to is only a half-truth, ignorant of that which the other side stands on. Half-truth is enough to keep many folks content with their position, but the result is lot of wobbly political philosophy and a bumpy, inefficient ride toward the solution.
The Right misses the glaring, blaring truth that the U.S. is a trigger-happy, deadly country. I remember first learning about this 10 years ago when I watched Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. I was floored when learning that the U.S. outdoes its foreign counterparts in gun deaths by a ratio of something like 100:1. Today I’m sad to see that the numbers haven’t changed in the last decade. There’s obviously something very wrong with Americans and/or American culture.
With such devotion from the Right to their side and by ignoring such an obvious problem, it’s no wonder the Left wants no part of what the Right advocates. But, naturally, the Right’s partisan stance is one reacting to the Left’s favorite remedy, Law.
As if the words on paper will suddenly take care of a problem, and with an eye toward their politicians like a child toward their parent, the Left would hail any legislation restricting gun ownership as a huge victory. But with a concern about government competence, the government controlling the distribution of guns to the people, the right of an adult to own a gun, and a growing nanny State, there’s something to be desired from the Left’s solution, as well.
Looking at either side, we see the good and bad. We see the problem advocating more guns or more government. We see how short-sided either solution is. Most important, though, we’re led to the heart of the matter: America’s unstable citizens have created an epidemic of gun violence, and many deem it necessary to arm themselves for protection.
Now what’s the solution to that?
We’re not going to address this issue in any meaningful way by being led by fear–by wishing the government to protect us; by arming ourselves against the crooks and crazies. The answer lies in the opposite motivator: love, and by simply doing your part to make your country or community better. If everyone who wished for more government/guns took an hour out of their week to tutor a troubled youth, or donated to a worthy cause, or supported those who devote their careers to the mental/emotional stability of our fellow citizens, or did anything to give of themselves to this cause, we’d be a lot closer to living in the place we all want.
A better country, which is only a decision millions of individuals can make, wouldn’t have produced the killers at Columbine, Red Lake, Aurora, or Newtown.
Sure, on the front end it costs money or time. But we all know deep down that good deeds are a reward unto themselves. And just being purely practical, the back end expense is much higher. By not diffusing the responsibility to us all, a few very unlucky people are spending Christmas with one less family member this year. For the rest of us, the back end cost is sorrow, worry, anger, and fear. Then we react to all this and demand a response for response’s sake. But the answer lies not in appeasing our fears. Fear is the reason America has this problem, the perpetrators all being overcome by it.
Love your fellows; make this a better place to live. Then we’ll have less of a need for guns or gun laws.
to new plateaus,