Friday, February 16, 2018

The Dilemma of Guns

The topic of conversation for the last few days has been the school shooting in Florida this week.

I understand that the process of burying the victims begins today. It's a necessary ritual, but it is sure to fan the flames awhile longer.

It is important for everyone to understand that, in the aftermath of such an event, we all want to feel safer, but individual definitions of safer tend to vary widely. Emotions dominate the discussion. That is precisely the time when cooler heads need to prevail.

I'm going to say something now that is sure to be ridiculed and misunderstood, but I'm going to say it, anyway.

We need to have a rational and logical discussion about this.

Both extremes on the political spectrum go into kneejerk mode when something like this happens, and that gets in the way of having a meaningful conversation. The extremes actually represent a fairly small portion of the population, but their arguments are so shrill and their insistence upon being heard is so dedicated that they drown out everything else. Talk about sucking the oxygen out of the room.

I don't really have to describe their by–now quite predictable arguments, do I?

Deep down, I often suspect that both sides secretly love it when children account for most of the victims of a tragedy like this because it magnifies both causes. Both would deny that, but it is surely true. Dead children give the extreme left a chance to trot out its favorite position — America must outlaw military–grade weapons in civilian hands (psst: That's already been done).

And they give the right a chance to argue that everyone should be armed because a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun. Like many things, that looks good on paper but not so much in practice.

Both extremes are uncompromising, and that is simply undemocratic, but it is the inevitable outcome of our tribalistic, polarized culture. It is a clear indication of just how polarized we are that each side blames the other for this. The right blames Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. The left blames Ronald Reagan or the Bushes. The truth is that no one is blameless. This problem predates all of those presidencies. The buck has been passed for many decades.

This nation has faced many problems in the past, and it was through compromise that we found solutions. But sometime — and I am not sure when — it was apparently decided that compromise equals weakness. That is undemocratic.

No one is willing to compromise anymore. No one is willing to listen to the other side — or even to acknowledge that the other side might have a legitimate point or two to make.

We need to pull back from the extremes now and have this conversation from a more centrally located perspective. If we can do that, we will have taken the first crucial step to finding an answer instead of making the situation worse.

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