Good luck trying to evade the heated arguments and hyperbole spewing from the current gun hysteria—and I’m talking about hysterical zealots from both sides of the gun control debate. While it can’t be argued that guns make more efficient assault weapons than do knives, baseball bats or sausages, the person who applies a Louisville Slugger to the side of a head is acting from the same impulse as the one who picks up a Glock 19. In my opinion, gun control is a distraction, and gun violence only one symptom of a shattered, dysfunctional society. Who would put a bandaid on a broken bone and expect it to heal? At any rate, with an estimated 300 million privately held firearms in the U.S., that horse left the barn a long time ago.
For the record, I’m a gun owner who’s ambivalent about gun control. I don’t see anything in President Obama’s 23 executive orders amounting to more than pedantic, political bullshit that will neither curb gun violence nor grab guns. Yet, while some folks buy into the bullshit as progress, others gnash their teeth, wad their panties and make another mad dash for Wal-Mart’s gun counter. They all seem to be overlooking the fact that the NRA owns Congress, having long ago shifted its efforts away from citizen advocacy in favor of lobbying for firearms and ammunition manufacturers and sellers—and the payoffs from this reportedly $12 billion a year industry are huge. Don’t think for one moment that the NRA doesn’t love the talk about gun control…check out firearm and ammo sales following Newtown. It’s a win-win for the NRA and their exclusive clientele, and we’re being taken for chumps. So, I’m willing to bet my left ovary that any kind of gun control coming out of Congress will be absolutely toothless.
Can we move past the hot rhetoric then, to something of substance? Are we finally ready to do some hard soul searching and look for the root of our systemic violence, rather than slap another dressing on the wound? It takes an astonishing level of hypocrisy to demand safety for our own children, yet simultaneously ignore—or even defend—the expansion of U.S. drone strikes that regularly kill children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, or turn a blind eye when drug cartel hitmen, armed with weapons trafficked by the United States government, slaughter Mexican teenagers at a birthday party.
Violence is institutionalized in this country, and we export it to the world. And I do mean we—you and me—because our tax dollars are spent waging war around the globe and subsidizing firearms manufacturers here at home. We acquiesce to let the fools in charge run things as they see fit, and for their own profit. But policymakers don’t fall out of the sky. We put them in positions of power, and they come from our neighborhoods, churches, schools and homes. In short, they are us.
Surely we can agree that blind-eyed evasion is not the preferred mindset for introspection, nor for initiating cultural change. What we need to do now is set aside self-defensiveness; acknowledge and explore our own roles in cultural violence; implement changes within our personal spheres of influence; and then settle in for a paradigm shift—because paradigms rarely shift overnight. But neither do they need majority compliance. Instead, a paradigm shift requires just enough recognition, innovation and implementation on a personal level to morph into an early majority. And then we reach critical mass.
I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness. – Walt Whitman
I’m not a sociologist, but maybe the shift has already begun. After all, the violent crime rate in America is in decline, and has been for decades. Yet, fear of violence is on the increase. That’s irrational. Fifty million children went to school on the day Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary…are we really going to respond with bulletproof backpacks and armed security guards in schools, or will we allow the better angels of our nature to prevail?
So, make your demands if you want to—sign petitions, beseech lawmakers to “do something,” to more stringently screen potential gun buyers, lock down access to automatic weapons, limit magazine capacities. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of this. But if that’s the extent of your involvement, if that’s all the responsibility you’re willing to take, then nothing will change. We have to own the violence and bear accountability for every child murdered in Sandy Hook and Pakistan. And I’ll tell you what, doing it hurts like a motherfucker. But pain, as they say, is a motivator, and own it we must.
If we could just find a few minutes everyday, each of us, to step back from the mayhem, quiet our thoughts and breathe mindfully, we’d likely find ourselves less manipulated by fear and more able to respond logically, compassionately and with a calm mind. We could visualize a better way to be, and put it in motion. We must, from this point on, reject the violence inherent to our system, treat our children with respect and exemplify lovingkindness for them—because that’s where it begins. It’s undoubtedly the work of generations, but enough is enough. The time to start is now.
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him. We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Ghandi
About the Author: Teri Wills Allison is nobody special…just an angsty, dirt-worshiping plant whisperer who functions best in the company of horses and barnyard fowl (although currently, and paradoxically, she has neither chickens, geese nor garden). She embraces the Gaia hypothesis, hates wearing eyeglasses, frets over the Oxford comma and labors under the illusion that her words might somehow have an impact on someone, somewhere. Teri deeply regrets not having done more to leave her children and grandchildren a cleaner, greener, more peaceful world and dreams that her efforts to make up for lost time will bear fruit beyond the wildest imaginings. Her favorite quote is from Isadora Duncan, to wit: You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.