Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I don't get mad, I get odd.

This started as a comment in someone else's FB post, and then I decided that it was enough of its own thing that I should put it here.  It was a post on the subject of gun violence and gun control.  The quote that inspired my reaction was, "It's time to get mad.  We do no have to be nice to these people."

I'm going to disagree with half of that.  True, being nice in this debate is not necessary.  But I think it is not time to get mad.  It's time to get compassionate.  In all of our emotionally-charged, highly-polarized debates, we have no lack of angry participants.  Let me ask you: how far has that gotten us?  Yeah, I thought so.

We need compassion.  We need understanding.  And if you think that taking the time to understand the opposing viewpoint is "losing the battle" then you have already lost.

Let's say you advocate for gun control, because you believe that reducing the availability of guns will reduce gun violence and the associated death, injury, fear, and other badness.  If you fail to recognize the fact that we do, in fact, have a constitutional amendment that guarantees a right to bear arms, you will fail.  My understanding of case law is that the current interpretation does in fact hold up the right of individuals to bear arms.  Which means that those who see gun control laws as an attempt to infringe on their constitutionally-protected rights have a valid point. Yes.  You need to acknowledge their stance as valid, even if you disagree with it.

You need to do that because it is both the right thing to do and the most effective way to get what you want.


Follow along with me for a moment, folks.  When you dismiss as invalid (or unimportant) the gun rights advocate's concerns of the government infringing on constitutionally-protected rights, you will fail.  You will fail because you are ignoring an important and valid part of the debate, because it's inconvenient to have to accommodate it.  That's like saying I want to drive to London from New York and ignoring the fact that my car is not a boat, because it's inconvenient to admit I can't sail my car to the UK.  If I actually want to get to London, it is vastly more effective for me to admit that my car is not a boat, and either buy a ticket to fly in an airplane, or look for an actual boat.  If I lose sight of the end-goal because I find the current state of affairs distasteful, I'm going to fail to achieve my end goal.

Now, just as I can choose various options like a boat or a plane to get to London, we can have a debate about how the second amendment should be interpreted.  But that's a different debate. You can try to get it re-interpreted or you can attempt to change it, and there are legal processes for both of those things.  But any attempt to change laws and behaviors needs to accept the current legal state as it is and go from there.  Otherwise you'll end up parked at the bottom of the Long Island Sound.

This cuts both ways.  Are you a gun rights advocate?  Do you believe in the individual mandate interpretation of the 2nd amendment?  Do you not trust the government with a registry of who has what firearms?  Fine.

Understand that all over our country people are being shot and killed every day, and that people are really sick and tired of their friends and family getting killed, and they want solutions that will curb the violence quickly.  If you want to keep your guns, then you need to accept the need to find ways to reduce gun violence and be able to propose effective, politically acceptable solutions to the gun violence problem.  You might even need to be willing to bend a bit on what sorts of restrictions you could find acceptable.  Whatever approach you take, you have to accept people's concerns as valid, and be willing to offer solutions and compromises that address those concerns.

Again, you need to do this both because it is the right thing to do and because it is the most effective way to get what you want long term.

If you entrench too hard, you may find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly overrun when the tide of public opinion shifts.  Each time another mass shooting occurs, there's the chance that it is the spark that will light the blaze of righteous fury that overturns the second amendment completely.  Look at how quickly the Arab Spring overturned several governments.  And then look at what the excruciatingly oppressive government in Myanmar did in response.  Now, look at who's still in power there.  Yeah.

So, no, don't get mad.  Get compassionate.  Understand that we really all do want to make this country a better place.  We may disagree on how to get there, we may disagree on the priorities.  But we all want to live well, in liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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