Saturday, February 24, 2018

Guns Are a Problem And a Symptom

© Eric and Heidi Eaton 2018

So I had a peaceful conversation the other day with a friend who, along with her husband, own at least two guns. She was raised by responsible gun-owning parents, and she exhibits rational and loving behavior. She believes that our current issues are "multinodal" in their causes, and I agree completely. Our collective short-term strategy may require stricter gun laws, but our long-term strategy should be to make guns irrelevant.

We did not get to the weaponization of America overnight, and we won't willingly disarm ourselves quickly, either. We must have an honest dialogue about what we fear, and why we see a solution in firearms. I am no pacifist, but I also don't trust myself with a gun. I can be too impulsive, for one thing. I would pass a background check easily, but I know myself and there is no way any good could come from arming me. I also do not trust many other people to make the same kind of self-assessment.

Our society has become reactive, not proactive, regarding the stresses and threats to our lives. We are constantly subjected to media that teach us to fear each other. It starts with the morning news, interrupted by ads for security systems, and drones all day long. We go to social media and buy into memes that can be overwhelmingly classified as propaganda. The average citizen believes they have no escape from this relentless stream of negativity, but there are positive choices. Physical exercise helps relieve stress. Owning a (shelter) pet helps immensely. Experiencing forests, mountains, meadows, deserts, and other natural habitats brings peace to both myself and my gun-owning friend. She advocates for bird conservation.

I have friends who pursue crafts like knitting with such enthusiasm they do not have time to worry, fret, and fear. They enrich the lives of others by sharing the gifts of their talents, mentoring youth, and channeling their energy into these creative pursuits. My wife sings in the church choir and plays handbells. I write, doodle cartoons, and venture outdoors frequently to find insects, spiders, and other overlooked wildlife that I can show to other people. We even have a Mile High Bug Club of like-minded souls. When I am actively engaged in something I am passionate about, all problems and anxieties fade.

We certainly need a diversity of experiences; and we need to expose ourselves to different cultures and communities to even have insight into, let alone appreciation of, the lives of others. I have not done such a good job of getting out of my comfort zone in that respect, and I am embarrassed. I believe that a certain degree of periodic discomfort is as healthy as the activities we take refuge in. How to stretch our boundaries little by little, day by day. That is the challenge.

We can have illuminating conversations about what plagues our collective psyche. We can craft innovative solutions and even laugh at ourselves in the process. I remember the comedian Gallagher espousing his own solution to gun crime: "Let everyone have a (hand)gun, but just require that the barrel be three feet long. That way, if you see someone limping toward you, you know trouble is coming." Humor is healthy, and in careful doses does not detract from the seriousness of our most heinous atrocities.

It takes a village to raise our children, but the village seems terribly hostile right now. We need to lighten up, support our neighbors, and reject the subscription to fear and anger that is the media and marketplace. Demand products of peace. Preach not "tolerance," but acceptance of those different from yourself in gender, age, ethnicity, religion, and sexual preference. Do not arm teachers with anything but love, an ample paycheck, and maybe a conflict resolution curriculum. We can do this. We must do this. We put it off at our civilization's peril.

We need to imagine a nation in which we are so equal and respectful, devoid of envy and the urge to aspire to material wealth and power that the thought of violence never crosses our minds. I will finally rest when there comes a day when someone cleaning out their closet, garage, or shed, finds a gun, and says aloud "Hm-m-m, I forgot I had this."

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