Matt Wuerker, editorial cartoonist with Politico, just put out this piece:
It is an interesting cartoon that is sure to cause quite a bit of discussion, which is great, and not quite the type of discussion that I’m used to writing about, but I thought I’d take a moment to put in my two cents.
In this piece, there are two key words that I’m certain were carefully chosen.
Today, guns are bad. I get the mantra. Guns are bad. Repeat. Guns are bad. Bad, bad, baddy, bad bad!
People with guns are nuts. Nutty, nut nuts.
Ok. Maybe I’m going a bit far with this, and, in my opinion, that’s the fun of discourse. Take things to an extreme and then find a common middle.
Guns aren’t baddy bad bad.
People with guns aren’t nutty nut nuts.
Now for the middle. Is it really the gun? There are a number of reports on the number of mass murders committed with guns, and those numbers are also up for debate. Here’s a CNBC article that attempts to sort through the facts from fiction.
There are people who say we need to curb guns ownership, either via background checks or limiting types, to prevent future killings. The other side argues that there are millions of registered guns and not millions of mass killings.
I fall in the middle. Sure, no one needs to hunt an elk with a rifle designed to put large caliber rounds through the side of a heavily armored tank so why the need to own such a weapon? But a 9mm handgun can hold 15+ rounds and would have caused the same amount of damage as happened in San Bernardino. (Yes, people on social media, there are two “Rs” in the word!) So if we want to prevent mass killings–usually defined as 4 or more dead, or dead and wounded depending on the counting source–we’d have to get rid of nearly every gun.
Great! Guns are gone. Paradise has enveloped the land. Liberals and Conservatives live in harmony and peace feeding grapes to one another lounging in their pajamas while harpists, no longer fearing social ridicule, play gentle songs.
And then someone gets angry. Really angry. But there are no guns, you might argue. We are safe!
Just Google: How to make a molotov cocktail. I did in preparing for this article, and now I’m probably on some watch list. But, there it is for anyone to see. How to make a nice little piece of destruction. There are even videos. I didn’t watch; I figured I’m in enough trouble just googling that as it is.
But, it is just a glass bottle with other stuff in it (yeah, not giving you the directions, either. No accomplice to the fact for me!).
Well, this from the news today (12/4/2015). Molotov Cocktails kill 16 in Cairo: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-violence-idUSKBN0TN0JT20151204
For those of you who like to keep a body count, that is two more dead than the attack in San Bernardino (yeah, that missing “R” bugs me), and those two “nuts” had four guns and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition. Plus a few bombs.
And, if you are old enough to remember McGyver you might remember he taught us all how to make a bomb with fertilizer, some chlorine, and strips of newspaper. Again, not going into detail, I like life outside of jail. To put that into perspective, those are the same basic ingredients that Tim McVeigh used to demolish the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma city.
Add glass bottles, fertilizer, chlorine, and all the other things we need for either of these homemade devices of terror to the list of things we cannot own. Guns being number one, of course.
Angry people will still find ways to kill. We can legislate ourselves backwards through all the advances in weaponry until we are back at bashing each other over the heads with stones, but the fact remains, people will still kill.
And there’s the middle ground.
People will kill. We are a very violent society. Even in places where you’d not expect it. Fifth graders were recently arrested for wanting to cause damage to a high school with explosives. Message boards and comment sections for articles are rife with vitriol. If you are new to FTKC, you should know I love to read comment and message boards, but I really shouldn’t since they get me so thoroughly worked up. But time after time, there are perfect strangers threatening others with death because of something they typed. Be gone with you. To the trash, or the grave. We are a disposable society.
In someways that’s good. For most Americans it is easier to throw something away than it is to fix it. We’ve even made that a feel good idea by calling it “recycling.” But have we gotten so good at just tossing aside things that we’ve now brought that into our psyche? Relationships, marriages, even friendships are easily disposed of today. Sadly, often via a heartless text message. The people we loved are easily tossed aside because, like my iPhone, a better, sleeker, flashier model just arrived. Why fix it? Why bother to try to amend a relationship, to repair a broken marriage? Just recycle.
And that’s how we look at other people. Disposable. Their ideas, their opinions, their thoughts. Just listen to debates among groups of people with differing ideas. I don’t have to listen to you, you don’t think the way I do. And because of this, we are also becoming less empathetic. Why should we learn empathy? Everyone should feel the same. Or at least feel the same way I feel?
When you don’t? I’ll dispose of you.
For most of us, that just means “unfriending” the person on Facebook, or deleting their contact on our phones, but for some, they take it to a dangerous level. In our society, there are more and more of those people out there; people willing to dispose of others by terminating their right to live. We laugh when we watch Bernadette on the Big Bang Theory threaten people because her character is cute and adorable and sweet, but does anyone take a moment to ask ourselves: “Whoa? Did she really say that? Did my evening comedy show advocate the death of someone else because they were driving too slowly?” Or are we too numb to it all, too willing to accept the violence in our culture, to care?
The problem isn’t the gun. Or the molotov cocktail. Or McGyver. Well, okay, maybe McGyver, that was a pretty silly show. Do those help? Yes. I’d be a fool to discount the tool used. But, the problem is us. We need to start to find empathy again. We need to start fostering comradery as a society, as a community, as a people. We need to teach our children that not everyone is going to win a ribbon, and if you don’t win you don’t need to beat the crap out of the kid who did to get yours. (Parent punches ref because kid lost football game 10/5/15). We need to start respecting life, valuing others, their opinions, and, most importantly, their right to live. We need to stop glorifying violence; literally singing its praises. Does that mean we have to abolish violence in media? I sure hope not; I like a good political thriller where the good guy chases the bad guy. We just need to teach people there is a line. And that line is reality vs. make-believe. That line is respect for other people’s lives and their right to live it.
If we don’t, it will not matter how many guns we make nearly impossible to own. Angry people will find a way to vent their anger.