Reader Arthur Milton writes:
This was originally intended as a response to Bruce Krafft’s ‘Schooling a Young Scholar‘ posted last week, but then realized I had quite a bit more to say. I once read a bumper sticker that said, “Our political discussion has been reduced to reading each other’s bumper stickers.” At the time, I chuckled and thought that it was fairly original for a bumper sticker and moved on. For the record, I generally despise bumper stickers, so this was novel for me. However, as time has worn on, our political and cultural environment has consistently brought that bumper sticker to mind. I now believe the statement can be expanded to say, “Our political discussion has been reduced to reading each other’s asynchronous communication.” I say this because I don’t believe there is any actual discussion taking place, or rather there is no actual discourse. We are living at a point where . . .
Twitter is frequently used and thought of as a political forum, but there’s almost no real discussion happening there. It’s the modern day equivalent of monkeys flinging poo at one another. True discourse is an interactive experience; it requires a face-to-face style of communication. Social media has enabled the homogenization of our political landscape. By this I mean, that it allows a given group the ability to control the information that it consumes. You only have to look at the Mom’s Demand Action Twitter feed to see the truth of this. They have no interest in hearing opposing viewpoints and will vehemently shut them down.
This problem doesn’t just impact our Second Amendment rights; it’s affecting our entire human experience. Normally I wouldn’t recommend a New York Times article, (“In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas“) but good journalism is good journalism. Even a stopped clock and all that. And the phenomenon is not just a domestic problem.
Now, I will give TTAG credit where credit is due. I often see the opposition’s viewpoints represented, with a bias of course, but that’s to be expected. However, this community is just as guilty of not being open to discussion as any other. While I read TTAG daily, I also read lots of other news outlets as well, some that vehemently disagree with my personal beliefs. But as Judith Shulevitz said in her NYT article linked above, I believe I need to challenge my beliefs in order to strengthen them and I need to be open to opposing viewpoints.
This doesn’t mean I have to convert to them, but I need to be able to understand them to be able to counter them. Simply stating, “No you’re wrong,” in a blog comment does absolutely nothing. Oddly enough, it’s generally considered, in many online communities, that if someone disagrees with your opinion, you’re doing it right and therefore your opinion is valid. I know that makes absolutely no sense, but I’ve experienced it personally on multiple occasions and can regale you with anecdotes ad nauseam from others.
The ultimate point is that nothing is going to change until we change the arena of discussion. We will continue to be frustrated at sound bites, tweets, YouTube videos, etc., until we realize that these are asynchronous and as such are not actual arenas for discussion and change.
The return of the Puritans…or perhaps they never left
To Puritan belief system, I think we can all agree, that it was an all-or-nothing ideology. You either agreed and were part of the community, or disagreed and were outcast and ostracized. Today’s American political landscape is pretty much the same way, you’re either a Republican or Democrat and there’s no middle ground for you to stand on. Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall reading The Scarlet Letter like everyone else and coming to the conclusion that homogeneous ideologies are a bad idea that leads to even worse behavior towards our fellow human beings.
To illustrate, I just finished reading Dana Loesch’s Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America. While I found it interesting and provocative as a 2A supporter, I have to ask who her intended audience was and her purpose in writing it. It’s certainly not a book I can recommend to my Anti-2A friends or fence-sitters, because it’s obvious she believes in God, and is pro-life. I’m not stating my beliefs one way or another, but I point this out because she’s making homogenized assumptions that if you are reading the book you also believe in these and other ideas as well.
If that was her intent, awesome, mission accomplished. The people who were on her side are still on her side and the people who weren’t still aren’t. Well done.
I believe Colion Noir said it well recently when he vlogged about the fact that his stance on 2A has no bearing on any of his other beliefs and he resents people assuming it does. I feel much the same way, and I believe that we need to start reacting to this.
The “traditional” 2A community is not particularly inviting, all things considered. Sure it may be on an individual level, but what are we doing to invite women, people of color (more on that later), alternative lifestyles, etc. to join us in maintaining our constitutional freedoms?
As a matter of fact one of our common terms is “OFWG” which in our communities is a term of denigration, but let’s pull the term apart for a moment. Old, Fat, White, Guy. Wow, we just managed to alienate whole groups of people with one term. Last I checked, we all get old, but it’s okay to heap scorn on our elders? I’m pretty sure it was my 75 year old father who taught me how to use, respect and love firearms to begin with. Oh yeah, he also happens to be overweight, white and yeah, yeah, a man.
We consistently use the term, “hoplophobia” in our discussions regarding 2A rights and those that would destroy them. But I have to ask, in order to support 2A, do I automatically have to be a xenophobic, homophobic, atheophobic, obesophobic, gynophobic, pro-life, Christian, heterosexual male? Because if that’s the case, I think a lot of us are going to have a hard time here.
I’m not saying that you should discard your personally held beliefs, but we should be focusing on the area on which we agree and pulling people into the 2A community. What you feel about a person’s gender or sexual orientation should play no role in your inclusion of them into the 2A community.
Anti-gunners count on the 2A community being insular and use it as evidence against us. To my knowledge, MDA doesn’t stand around referring to large swathes of their supporters as RSHMs (Rich Spoiled Helicopter Moms). The ultimate point here is that we need to start being inclusive. There are huge segments of Americans out there just waiting to be brought into our community if we could get over ourselves and start asking them and having an actual discussion with them rather than flinging poo in their general direction.
Bad rhetoric is bad
We really like our labels; pro-gun rights, anti-gun rights, pro-gun control, anti-gun control, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. We use them all the time. But the fact is a person is greater than the sum of their parts. These terms are antiquated and if we’re going to start having any type of legitimate discussion again in this country we need to start over and change the language.
The aforementioned terminology has become so mired in caustic thinking that to opposing viewpoints they are flat-out insults that are, once again, flung around like poo. Let me state that I think the terms pro-gun rights and anti-gun rights are some of the most ridiculous terms ever produced. First, a gun has no rights. It’s an inanimate object and by continuing to use the terminology, we continue to keep the focus off where it belongs, which is the will of the person behind it, period.
I, an American Citizen, have rights protected by the Constitution. They are not “afforded” to me by the constitution as some would mistakenly argue. They are protected by the Constitution, but were held to be innate to mankind by the founding fathers. I believe that every human being has the right to defend themselves in the manner of their choosing. Hell, if you want to walk down the street carrying a Hanzo sword to defend yourself, I think you should be able to. I might think it’s silly to do so, but hey it’s your right and I support it.
The way I see it, there are Constitutional defenders, and Constitutional destroyers, those who are pro-self defense and anti-self defense. That’s it, at least in regard to 2A.
The right to self-defense
Recently two teenagers in Philadelphia killed a man while walking his dog. Now, if you read this story in the various news publications, you might see descriptions of those involved in the incident along the lines of “African American teenagers” or “unarmed man” or perhaps even “white man.” I deliberately didn’t cite these details to make a point.
Two teenagers killed a man who was walking his dog. That’s what happened. It doesn’t matter that they were African American, it doesn’t matter that he was unarmed or that he was white. Or at least I don’t think it should matter. Here’s why.
Two human beings, without provocation, took the life of another human being. That’s wrong. Perhaps I could go as far as to say, that’s “evil.” Pure and simple, it’s wrong. It shouldn’t have happened. Murder has been a crime since the beginning of human history.
The part of this story that really irritates me is when is when the victim is cited as unarmed. Please, do not mistake my irritation as disdain for the level of this tragedy, and it is a tragedy. I am very deeply saddened that a family has lost its husband and father. But that being said — and I understand how insensitive some may find this next statement — he was armed.
He was armed in the manner he felt was necessary to protect himself as a human being given the circumstances. He wasn’t prepared to meet the force of the attacker on an equal playing field, but that was his choice. I will not pretend to know the details of this person or his life circumstances. I have no intention of, “blaming the victim” here. I simply wish to point out that, consciously or not, he chose to not be prepared to defend himself appropriately. It’s as simple as that.
People tend to forget that, historically speaking, and ironically for that matter, the term “arms” probably originated from the literal word “arms” as in our physical appendages. I imagine that someone probably hit someone else, with a fist, long before they figured out that picking up a rock provided a force multiplier. I would love to live in a world where my fists were sufficient to defend myself, or better yet have no need to defend myself. But history shows, that has never been the case, and most likely will be. That doesn’t mean we have permission to stop trying to avoid or deescalate violence, but that’s the crux of the issue here, and it returns me to an earlier point.
Being pro-self defense does not equal pro-violence. As a matter of personal experience, I don’t know a single 2A supporter that would advocate using a firearm in any other capacity than self-defense. We carry guns to save our lives and the lives of those we love. We have accepted that the world, no matter how much we wish otherwise, can be a brutal and violent place and we have the right, and duty to defend ourselves.
Unlike Neo, I don’t have super kung fu skills. I have piss-poor eyesight, I have arthritis in my knees and have sustained back injuries. I’m mobile, but I’m not what you would consider “capable of physical self-defense.” Carrying a firearm gives me a tool to properly defend myself against a more capable attacker. That’s it, case closed.
We need to shift the discussion away from the implement of defense and back to where it belongs, the innate right to defend oneself in a manner of their choosing. I’m sure someone is going to ask, “What if the manner of my choosing is a hand grenade?” To that I respond with, “Sure, if you think you can reasonably employ a hand grenade defensively in any given circumstance without unreasonable risk to innocents in the vicinity.”
I’ve been training with and shooting guns since I was a child. I’m confident that in the event of an emergency I would be able to employ my weapon effectively. In the event that resulted in the injury or death of an innocent, I would be subject to criminal prosecution. That’s a risk that I accept when I carry. That is my choice, my freedom to choose. Just as I can reasonably assume that a person who owns a set of kitchen knives does not intend to start stabbing people at any given time, I respectfully request that others assume I have no intention of doing harm to them. I believe this should be the focus of our 2A rights discussion. Too much emphasis is put on the gun itself, and not enough on the individual right and responsibility.
What are we going to do about it?
This is actually a serious question to which I don’t have an answer. I’m bewildered at this point. Given our polarized political climate it is virtually impossible to elect officials who accurately represent us a populace. We’re forced to choose between the lesser of two evils in any given situation. Who among us can honestly say with sincerity that we believe professional politicians have our best interests at heart? We have no reliable media systems as the media have become about entertainment and sensationalism and rarely about fact-based journalism.
I often wonder if we were able to bring the poet Juvenal forward in time what he would think of our American society. Colion Noir recently spoke about 2A celebrities and the lack thereof. We do have celebrities within our own community, people like Jerry Miculek, Ken Hackathorn, Dana Loesch, Chris Costa, and Travis Haley. I know this list is much larger. The point is, these are celebrities within our community, but they aren’t seriously in the national spotlight per se. We need to look to changing that.
In the classical sense of the word “celebrity” as in regard to stage, screen and television personalities, there are 2A supporters such as Clint Eastwood, Alton Brown, James Earl Jones, Brangelina, and Johnny Depp. Now, we know they exist, how do we get them into the national spotlight and supporting Second Amendment rights? I think we all miss the venerable Charlton Heston at this point, but we need more faces out there in the national spotlight. How do we gain mainstream media attention? Like I said, I don’t know how to answer this, but I think it’s an important piece we need to start addressing.