The Tucson Conversation

The collective conversation following the events in Tucson last week focused on two primary aspects: gun control and language control. Arizona is vilified for its loose amalgam of laws pertaining to gun control. But here’s an interesting thread: if, as defenders of our right to bear arms are quick to point out, guns are only meant as a means of self-defense, wouldn’t we expect that at least a few people in any Arizona crowd are packing heat? The fact that this lone gunman was able to empty a 31-round clip into the crowd shows either that no one had their gun with them, or that those who did were loath to use it. Is it possible that loose gun control laws do not lead inevitably to a large number of concealed weapons threatening the public safety? And follow this thread with me, please. What if, for argument’s sake, someone had brought their own pistol for self-defense. Would we today be lauding a hero who managed to stop a crazy gunman after he had fired just a few rounds into the crowd? Or would we be condemning the vigilante justice, the gunplay on a crowded street, or proposing laws to restrict the possession of guns within 1,000 feet of a political rally? And what if, while firing to stop the lunatic with the gun, the would-be hero managed to lose control of his own weapon and forensics showed later that several of the dead were killed by the person intent on saving them? What if the final tally was Gunman 2, Rescuer 3? How would our conversation be different today? Do any of these questions change your point of view around the gun control issue? Regarding the other half of the conversation, I applaud efforts to remove violence from our language. The stories we tell create our world, or at the very least, construct a way of seeing and relating to that world that affects how we feel about our life. A language that is rife with violence can only create a violent world. There are a myriad of ways in which the words we use enforce a worldview that is short on compassion and healing. Please be mindful of how violence creeps into your own conversation, both with others as well as during your own inner dialogue. Lastly, what about the conversation we are not having? We have, despite being a society that claims to care, ignored for decades the mentally ill citizens that struggle (usually alone on our streets) to survive without proper attention and care. We have closed the facilities that attend to these folk, refusing to spend our collective resources to help those who are unable to function appropriately. We have needlessly subjected them to ever-increasing terrors and paranoias by refusing to fund their medications and doctor visits, in order to spend a few more dollars projecting our power around the world, or to allow those that already have and are still healthy to have some more. It is inevitable that from time to time, one of these marginalized individuals will rise up and make a statement, a statement that we find inappropriate at best, heinous at worst. The conversation we should be having is a search for the compassion and love in our hearts that would lead us to change our priorities and to finally care for the poor and ill souls that surround us.

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