Some scattered moments in the past week have given me pause; some because I was having difficulty processing external events, some because I needed to process and think about my own convictions and opinions, a few to reevaluate friendships and acquaintances, and several because I was attacked – for lack of a better word – by people who don’t even know me for comments I made on several friends’ facebook postings.
The irony of the hate mail I received is only apparent when considering my responses to these posts, which were largely cautioning against name-calling in the upcoming debate. I’d already read so many black-and-white viewpoints (not that I expected anything else) that I felt the need to remind my friends to be mindful. Coming from an upbringing in which guns were part of my life, but being a strong proponent of legislation that would heavily regulate gun sales, possession, licensing, and other aspects of gun ownership puts me at odds with people on both sides of this alleged “debate”.
In my opinion, which I am starting to recognize I’m allowed to own, there is no debate. No one’s talking to anyone. Sure, people are talking at each other, but since we’re incapable of having adult discourse as a population, all it comes down to is an outpouring of emotional bullshit in which people say incredibly hateful, ignorant, disrespectful things that in no way are productive or effective in moving forward. And that goes for both sides.
My anti-gun friends throw around words such as ignorant, red neck, idiots, thugs, and say things like, “if you think guns are ok, you have blood on your hands because you’re part of the legacy of violence in this country.“
My pro-gun friends say things like, “It’s my Second Amendment right to have guns,” and call people who believe in regulation hippies, stupid liberals, morans (sic), and many names that are worse.
In response to me attempting to bridge this gap, these are some excerpts of what I received in my inbox:
- Your a stupid twat! You think all the guns taken away will solve our problems and see how great it is when you cant protect yourself from criminals any more.
- Congrats, you’re an idiot. If you think anyone should be allowed to have a gun, I hope your own children get shot someday so you can really understand how painful it is for those of us who don’t like guns to have to live with people like you who don’t recognize there’s a problem.
- People like you are the problem with this country. You want to have your guns so bad you think your desires should supercede the safety of others.
- reject GODS GLORY and HIS WORD you will see more of killing in our school as this NATION becmes a GODLESS NATION this does isnt about metal illness or guns this is about having NO PRAYER in are lives and NO GOD in ou r schools. you are in ATHIEST and i will PRAY for you ad hpoe GOD has mercy on you more then he has mercy on those poor little baby’s that were killed in the school becxause of athiests.
There was more. A woman told me that I was crazy and stupid if I thought it was ok to have a gun in my home. Another told me that if I think guns have any place in our society, I should be held responsible for those who are killed. One person said that I am a moron and I’d be sorry for allowing the government to dictate yet another aspect of my life by regulating something the Constitutional founders set in place to protect my freedom as an American citizen. One man from England, in response to a comment* I didn’t think could be construed as inflammatory at all, said, “please clean up your own back yard before moaning about others! IN THE U.S.A.THEY SHOOT 20 CHILDREN AND 7 ADULTS AT A TIME, THAT IS MORE THAN GET MURDERED IN ENGLAND IN A YEAR!”
* The comment in question was in regard to this article about a possible kitchen knife ban in England.
Again, the irony is that my initial comments that spurred this were that people should take care to be mindful of name-calling and accusations, as this doesn’t promote healthy dialog.
Let me explain something to all of you who responded to me in this fashion: You are perfectly entitled to your opinions. But what you are doing doesn’t constitute dialog. This is monologue. This is not discussion. This is accusation.
I could find a hundred things about your personal philosophy with which I disagree, but let me ask you: To which of the following approaches are you most likely to respond?
- “HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU BE SO STUPID?! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU FEED YOUR KIDS THAT INSIDIOUS GMO SHIT! YOU’RE A TERRIBLE PARENT AND I HOPE YOUR KIDS DIE OF CANCER SO YOU CAN SEE HOW BAD THIS STUFF IS!”
- “Did you know that GMO farming decreases biodiversity and, because far greater quantities of pesticides and herbicides have to be used, these crops have been linked to increased risk of cancer? Here are some statistics that might interest you, and here’s an article written by scientists to supported by information from regions that have been recording this data for a while now.”
We’re no longer engaging in conversation, and, from Capitol Hill to my next door neighbors, all I see these days is an ocean of pointing fingers, a roiling mass of angry people who refuse to rationally approach subjects about which they feel passionately.
It has taken me some time to realize that, just because I feel safe with a gun in my home and just because I can be a responsible gun owner, just because I like to shoot recreationally and grew up eating venison my stepdad brought home from the hunt — just because I feel these things doesn’t mean it is right for society as a whole. But it is only because of the gentle discourse of a small group of my friends, in conjunction with the violence that has taken place, admittedly, that I feel this way.
Here is a tip for making a point: do not make assumptions about what others feel. I do not live in fear, despite what you may think. When you make assumptions about my lack of ability to cope, it is my natural reaction to push back, to bristle, to balk. My blood boils. I feel the need to defend myself against your judgment of my character. You assume I live in fear because I grew up accustomed to having a gun in my home, when the reality is that this fear you’re feeling – perhaps rightfully so – is being projected by your own unease. There is also irony in that. If you have a non-emotional reason we should or should not do a thing, this is what I want to hear. But never assume to know my heart. You don’t know my fear. The gun is not on my mind. The potential danger of someone breaking into my home is not on my mind. I fear being in a mass of fiberglass hurtling at high speeds down a highway alongside people talking and texting on cell phones while also hurtling along in their fiberglass death-mobiles far more than I fear someone breaking into my home and finding me without a gun. I never, in fact, think of that scenario. More often, I do think of how I would go crazy-ass wild Tasmanian devil with my own goddamned bare hands on anyone fool enough to assault me.
When you take me to that place, we are no longer conversing, and you’re no longer making a case. You’re just pissing me off and sending me into a defensive stance.
I was particularly struck by an article I read on Jezebel that slammed the woman who wrote the “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” blog post that went viral the day after the Sandy Hook massacre. The writer of the Jezebel article criticized this unknown blogger for the way in which she was trying to personally relate to the tragedy. Why is it so important for us to invalidate other people’s opinions? If we gave half the energy we spend deriding our fellow humans for their differing beliefs and put it toward making forward progress, we’d all be living in a Utopian paradise. Human nature, I suppose. But perhaps it’s time to evolve. Let’s leave our baser selves behind and open our hearts and minds.
I’m big enough to allow my opinions to change when alternate evidence is presented. I have, through the course of my life, been heavily influenced by the words and thoughts of others in the moments they are offered without judgment, especially when backed by hard facts.
We need to start acting like adults and having real conversations again. And when we start doing that, maybe our elected representatives will see we’re ready for it. Maybe the media will stop preying on our fear of each other. Maybe we can teach our children how to be effective, productive, peaceful communicators.
Maybe we can finally change things when we make an effort to understand and love each other, when we remember how to just talk with each other again.