It’s simply not enough to be mad about what happened at Sandy Hook.
Sandy Hook isn’t just about guns.
No one with a pulse could possibly have heard, seen or read about the tragic elementary school shooting last Friday without experiencing a sick feeling in their stomach. I wept, and I rarely do that. I imagined my son when he was that age enduring such terror, and it made me physically ill. As I watched everything unfold, I first heard that one child was killed and I was mortified. Then, I heard that the previous report was erroneous, and I felt a bit of elation, that the children had escaped harm, somehow. Then, the hammer hit. The number of dead kept growing, and so did my anger and my sickness at this, and what it meant.
I took to the Internet to express my sorrow and anger. Almost immediately, I was bombarded with the usual silly arguments, like the classic “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and the variation on that, “We have to stop the people; guns are just the tools. Going after the tools won’t stop this.” It’s the best they can do, because even the staunchest gunloon knows deep down there is no excuse for anything like this. So why aren’t we winning this issue? We should have had full-on common sense gun control by now.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should know the reason by now. It’s because a lot of progressives suck at politics. Not all of us, but enough of us to prevent good things from happening. A large number of us find an issue that’s important, pick a position on that issue, and let that position become the most important thing in the world, to the exclusion of all other possible positions. Another problem is that the issue then becomes specific to the latest tragedy, which means their solution doesn’t necessarily fit anyone's needs.
You’ve seen the “solutions.” When some progressives found out the main cause of the carnage was an assault rifle, some screamed, “We have to immediately ban all assault weapons.” As if all assault weapons in existence will suddenly disappear. Banning assault weapons is, at best, a tiny little bandage on what has become a gaping societal wound.
Then, when some found out the shooter may have been autistic or had Asperger’s, they shouted, “We need better access to mental health care!” This one made me cringe. If the shooter (you will never see his name on this blog) did indeed have Asperger’s, he was probably diagnosed at some point, and may have been under special care for years. And yet, his mother owned an assault weapon, kept it in the home and even taught her son how to use it. See the problem?
We all want a simple solution to this problem, and there isn’t one.
In his excellent film, “Bowling for Columbine,” Michael Moore asked a brilliant question regarding why the United States is like an armed camp, while Canadians don’t even lock their front door. He never really answered the question, and I don’t understand it myself, so I won’t proffer an answer here, either. But it’s still a question that begs for an answer.
Part of the answer is what we all call the “gun culture.” But that doesn’t answer the question, either, since you have to ask, “What caused the ‘gun culture?’" to come up with any cogent answers.
The problem is societal in nature, but we need political solutions to fashion something of a solution, in which people have hope and feel safe, and don't feel the need to stockpile weapons in their homes. We were actually on our way to becoming that progressive country back in the 1960s, but too many progressives lost their way and dropped out of mainstream politics.
Well, libs, it’s time or ALL of you to drop back into the mainstream. If you dream of a third party, great. Start with local school boards and work your way up. In the meantime, stop ceding all arguments to the far right wing in the political arena.
This is not just about gun control, because the problem isn’t the guns. Part of it is the far-too-easy access to guns by the wrong people. But there's more to it; it’s also an overall mindset. First of all, we have to ask why our country is so incredibly paranoid. But more than that, we have to address the issue of why so many Americans equate having a gun with personal safety.
That concept is absurd, of course; it is FAR more likely that a gun in the home will kill someone who lives there than an intruder. You don’t have to read the Kellerman study to know this; it should be common sense. First of all, home intrusions with the intent to hurt the people inside are still incredibly rare. But when they do happen, the intruder has a distinct advantage, in that he knows he's intruding. Therefore, in order for a gun to be effective, in many cases, is to be readily available. And if we can’t see the danger in readily available guns by now, we’re not paying attention.
For whatever reason, our society has come to believe that having a gun means a greater level of personal safety, in part because the right wing mindset that has overtaken the country has resulted in the government cutting spending, and largely blowing off its responsibility to keep us safe. There are to many laws on the books about things that don't matter, and not enough law about things that matter a great deal. Our police spend so much time on illegal drugs that probably shouldn't be illegal and setting up prostitution stings, they don't have time to actually keep us safe.
In addition, there is also a complete lack of responsibility on the part of the press to provide perspective on every issue. That means every problem we have seems to be exacerbated by a lack of perspective these days, so with every tragedy, the population tends to overreact. Every time there’s a mass shooting, we all talk about gun control for a week, at the same time we buy lots more guns. And yes, some of the sales are right wing gun nuts buying them because they expect Obama to ban them, but most are sold to people who are genuinely afraid for their lives, and think the gun will protect them somehow. The press makes us feel as if we're under siege.
Look at our reaction to 9/11. Our far right-leaning government didn’t calm everyone down and provide actual protection from terrorist attack. They started two wars, with the expectation that, with our soldiers over there, the terrorists would be less likely to come over here. They passed the Patriot Act, because the only way they could think of to catch terrorists was to limit everyone's freedom. The way our airport security is set up these days, you are considered guilty until proven innocent. And most Americans were and are okay with that. They see no problem letting government check their phone and library records, because they were told it was necessary to make them feel safe.
We don’t have a gun problem in this country, we have a mindset problem. It's something of a siege mentality. We can and should change the gun laws, of course. But until we change the mindset of the population, we can’t solve our “ gun culture” problem.
Progressives and liberals; this is out chance to change everything. But it’s going to take a major change in our own mindset to make it happen. Our problem is that many progressives see every issue through a prism, wherein each individual event is separate from every other event, and every issue stands on its own as a problem with a simple solution.
Welcome to the real world, liberals.
We have to build a progressive country, with a progressive mindset. We have to start with getting the right people elected. That means getting directly involved in the politics as it actually exists, and crafting a change in attitude on everything. Right wingers have dominated the political landscape for almost 40 years now, and that has had a profound effect on the thought processes of the average American. We must change that mindset.
Yes, we will have to change gun laws, to make it easier for law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. But to do that, we'll have to lose the "ban on guns" concept that tends to shut off debate. I have proposed a broad outline of a solution here. You'll note that it doesn't include a ban on any guns, at least for the time being.
Mental health care is an issue, but that's why we need to have a progressive change in mindset. Besides, beginning in 2014, Obamacare will make mental health care available to most people, so that problem is on its way to being solved, too, technically speaking. But that can’t be the end of it.
We have to build a society in which violence is unacceptable as a solution to a problem. It's disturbing to me that so many gun lovers lump their "stuff" in with their families as needing the protection of a gun. If shooting someone to death to protect your big screen tv is acceptable by a large number of Americans, then you can't say guns are the whole problem at all.
We also need to end the drug war, so that police can concentrate on actually keeping us safe. Ending the drug war would probably cut our gun-death rate by a large number, anyway, as well as provide us with more revenue to expand Obamacare and make mental health services available to even more people.
There is so much to do, progressives, and we're the people to do it. We have the ideas, the only question is, can we create the political will to actually put them into action. I'll be discussing ways to do that going forward.
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