This my attempt to examine the way we deal with differing ideologies and viewpoints. I just discovered that a grade school Facebook friend has unfriended me because of my “stance on guns”. There were no preliminary exchanges before he did it. I didn’t know he had done so until I sought to look him up on my friends list and see what he was up to. (He didn’t appear in my friend list of course which was the first clue.) He is not the only one who reacts strongly to my views. But in the case of other friends who told me they were going to unfriend me, none actually landed up doing so….yet. I attribute that to the fact that by telling me their intention, they opened up a dialogue. And that dialogue engendered some willingness to tolerate what feels distasteful for the sake of friendship.
I have never hunted nor have I ever killed an animal on purpose in my life. I am not now nor have I ever been a card carrying member of the NRA. I actually go out of my way to eat vegetables instead of meat as often as possible for my health and the ecology. I recycle most everything. I voted for a democrat for president since my first vote cast. I also have something called hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Thus, if I do not feel protected and ready to engage threats I am in a constant state of increased anxiety. As a result, I may respond to my environment different than others. My closest friends can tell you that I am guarded in public and can consistently discern threats which others miss. It has served me well in dangerous situations, like living in the inner-city, evading Catholic school bullies, working with street gangs, representing criminal defendants and traveling across country on motorcycles and in cars.
It happens that I was riding my bicycle Sunday morning when a large man on a large motorcycle started yelling profanities at me. I had just gone around him on my bicycle at a stop sign. He caught up to me and yelled at me about breaking the law and what a fucking asshole I was. I stopped my bike and asked him why was he so upset. This seemed to enrage him. He clearly thought about getting off his bike. I calmly asked him why what he thought I did was making him so mad. I asked what harm had I done him. He kept yelling at me, strings of profanities, his face flushed. I tried using deescalating techniques, which I am well-trained in. It didn’t work. In the old days, before I carried a firearm I would have escalated the situation by meeting his aggression with greater aggression. It is very effective in averting violence to convince the initial aggressor that I mean to do him great harm if he pushes me. This tactic was precipitated by the fact that I am fearful of violence and experience dictated the best defense is an aggressive offense. My rationalization? If you sought to intimidate me, I would demonstrate what real intimidation looked like.
I found I didn’t need to escalate in that fashion when I have a handgun. I know that if I am armed and someone intends serious violence, I will be able to respond quickly and effectively to protect myself. This helps keep me calm. Most folks never have violence visited upon them. Not sure yet why I am so special. But between my past work, my travels and my being the odd looking one, I have seen dozens of assaults and I have been attacked or threatened with attack on dozens of occasions.
When the girls were young we sometimes went walking or hiking together in Tucson. One day we went walking but there was no sidewalk where we were. So whenever a vehicle approached around this curvy road, I would step more into the road to force vehicles away from my young girls. (If we tried to step off the road it was all cactus) A man pulled over and got out of his truck and started yelling at me for walking in the road. This guy went nuts. As soon as he had pulled over and I saw him getting out, in the middle of nowhere, I placed my hand on my gun in my pocket. I tried to calm him down but he just had to tell me that he had been proceeding safely and I had no business causing him to slow down. Understand? He is yelling at me and is highly agitated in front of my two young girls. Do you think I would have hesitated to prevent him if he made any physical threat? In fact if I didn’t have the gun, I probably would have used the rock which I was holding in my other hand.
So you may have handled yourself differently in all these encounters. You are more self-assured, more pacifist, more gracious. You are probably sweeter and more intelligent than me too. Maybe you go to church on Sunday and the good Lord keeps you and protects you.
We should be doing all we can to combat societal ills which are tearing at the fabric of or country and the world. I think we should recycle, be vegetarian, donate often to charity and be kind to strangers. If you do that then I admire you and I want to be just like you. Then you deserve a platform to discuss gun violence, an issue which gravely needs to be addressed.
I find no usefulness in yelling at or being yelled at about my political views and ideologies. There are so many issues which are critical to our survival and comfort as a species and they are all related. I suggest we attack violence holistically, as an ill which needs to be addressed at so many levels, including, but also beyond firearms.
I hope all can agree, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; a real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato It is my experience that all persons have boogeymen. Our world is many things and dangerous is one of those things. We are a vulnerable little eco-system of a human trying to thrive in an environment fraught with chemical, ecological, climatic and accidental perils.
My friends cover the spectrum of political ideology. I doubt any of my friends is wholly insensitive to the concerns of others, but most are quick to dismiss the viewpoints they do not agree with. I have urged friends to open their minds up to the discourse in a more loving way but it generally falls on deaf ears in any ideological discussion. Guns is one of many issues that tear at my friends and family. (My family is generally quite anti-gun and was very disdainful of my owning a gun range) In fact, I will continue to urge my gun owning pals to open their minds to the need to explore solutions not approved or encouraged by the NRA. I will continue to tell them that they only think they know what a liberal wants much less what a liberal thinks.
If you read this far, thanks. I keep saying I have nothing more to say about guns. But yesterday, a crazy man randomly stabbed a jogger to death on my regular bike trail. Being hyper-vigilant I remain alert when riding alone in wooded or isolated areas. I have no wish to die from the repeated stabbings of a lunatic. I don’t want someone to bash my head in as I ride beneath an overpass where homeless men with liquor sit or reside. So this incident yesterday, the death of a random victim makes me sad. But it makes my spidey sense tingle just a little stronger. Forgive my frailties and my lack of faith in . Forgive that I place faith in myself and my training and my weapons. I don’t pretend it is best, it is just my way.
So once again I will assure you that I wish to have no part in this debate. It is a polarizing issue which is complicated and divisive. I lose friends because of it. As Paul Simon the songwriter noted, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”. See ya on the other sid
So I just got off the phone with my friend Jerry. Jerry and I met 7 years ago and our friendship has revolved around 12 step recovery and hiking. Jerry doesn’t much like easy hikes. So we often hiked long and hard for hours on end. Jerry works in the defense industry and is very conservative. As friends are want to do, we discussed every topic under the sun.
We talked politics frequently and we did again today. We don’t talk as often as we used to because he has late stage cancer and between the pain and the nausea he is not often talkative. But as we talked today I was reminded that despite being worlds apart politically, neither one of us ever had to disrespect the other’s beliefs. We have always done a great job of accepting each other. We often threw each other’s candidates under the bus, but not each other.
So what makes some people civil and others not so? Why does someone have to disparage others who do not agree with them? What is so satisfying about feeling superior?
An author I like, Henri Nouwen authored 40 books on spirituality as well as countless articles on theology and psychology. Nouwen was a Catholic priest. He once said “As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their “right” place.”
Billy Graham offered this bon mot on judging. “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
I spent years in courts hearing judgments passed that I knew in my heart did not reflect my reality. I used to warn clients charged with crimes, that judges were so removed from the reality of the streets, that they would be well-advised to expect harsh results. Judges handed out prison time like candy. Juries were supposed to be my client’s peers but rarely came close. I left the practice of law for reasons related to the persistent ill-affects of judging.
Ever since I joined Facebook I hear persistent negativity spewed freely. Liberals this, Conservatives that. The harshest refrains are never true. They are junk. They rise out of the depths of ignorance and self-righteousness. Yes, that is a judgment I just made. I need to make judgments of sorts constantly. I need to judge situations and persons and decisions. I need to determine what is healthy and what is not. I need to decide who should be in my life and who should not. The judging I speak of is most often found in the political and ideological arena.
I had a radio show for several years. I interviewed dozens of guests from all walks of life. Some were nuts. Some were holders of opinions I found despicable. (I interviewed the Westboro Church family.) I interviewed the chief law enforcement spokesperson for The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He offered nothing but platitudes. I felt bad for him because he was so lacking in empirical data and made statements that were hollow about controlling violence. As my guest I did what I often do and tried to help him make his points. It was hopeless. I interviewed his nemesis John Lott. Lott is armed for interviews with statistics and anecdotes and is quite persuasive. I hear he has been discredited but in my experience those that attack him are very partisan.
I interviewed people who believe the US government blew up the Twin Towers. Gosh I actually interviewed quite a few conspiracy theorists. I tend to disbelieve conspiracies but I never found it necessary to put any of my guests down. I challenged them all. Friend or foe, I tried to facilitate discussions that illuminated the various opinions on the subject. I have interviewed cops and criminals, prisoner support groups, advocates for convicted sex offenders, supporters of 12 steps and disbelievers in 12 steps. That was then, this is now.
The transition to social media has been most pleasant in connecting with friends from all periods and places in my life. I love visiting with pals throughout the day who I might otherwise not communicate with. The photos and jokes and news is a welcome addition to my day.
But the flaming, judging and general pride in opinions leaves me wanting to wash away the dirty feeling. Buddhism has taught me some resistance to judgments. I learned humility in the monastery living amongst monks. I learned to bow to another human. Something I could hardly imagine doing in the past. But I think it makes a good point when said… “If you cannot bow to the Buddha, you cannot be a Buddha. It is arrogance.” Shunryu Suzuki.
So Jerry and I have weathered the same kinds of discussions that have caused unfriending. His tolerance of my liberal views has made his friendship all the more dear to me. His advocacy for political viewpoints I have never held or admired, taught me to listen beneath the words. Loving kindness makes me feel better about myself in a way that self-righteousness never has. Who knew? If you had told me I never would have believed it. I had to love my way into a new way of living.
People who despise guns and wish to control access or ban them altogether have no idea what they are embarking on. The war over abortion and other divisive issues will be minor in contrast to the polarization of this country if you attempt to criminalize and further demonize gun owners. If you could succeed which I do not believe you can, you would lose. You would have a country that mirrors Chicago, where gun specific courts overflow and the homicides rates are extremely high.
I marvel at how little I feel threatened in Dallas. There are areas to avoid but if I need to go there I take protection and I don’t need to get agitated that I am having to be there. I can enter communities which I could never safely enter in Chicago. There is very little graffiti here in contrast to Chicago. Poverty is always a threat to the stability of a community. Violence is always a companion of poverty it seems.
We allow people who have never had a felony convictions, who have not been convicted of a misdemeanor and who have no convictions for family violence, to carry a concealed gun here. They must pass a 10 hour class, take a shooting test and submit fingerprints to the state police. If they meet the requirements the state must issue the concealed carry license.
Blood does not run in the streets. Persons with CCWs do not randomly shoot people. They do not resolve disputes by pulling a gun on someone or shooting someone. They can defend themselves or third-persons from assaults when threatened with great bodily harm. Police officers who pull over a CCW holder, know instantly, more than they would ever know about someone who can only produce a driver’s license. A DL tells an officer that the bearer has a home address, and has passed a driver’s test. It does not speak to criminal history.
This path of criminalizing the possession of firearms will not succeed and what would be worse is if it did. If I could wave off those on this road, I surely would. If you think the people who own firearms are crazy now, wait till someone tries to disarm them.
Sadly, I am one of those who will resist if my government makes such an effort. Know who I am and where I live. It matters not. I wouldn’t be marched to an death camp given what I know about the Holocaust. I will not be disarmed even if it is mandatory and involuntary.And I am one of the nicer ones.
What follows was directed at the liberals in my audience. I have excerpted tiny parts in past blogs. This is the wellspring from which it sprung, wordy but I hope worthy.
Why is it that in a country where so many of my friends would zealously guard my right of free speech, so few want to preserve my other rights? If the pen is mightier than the sword, then speech is more dangerous than a gun, and worse in the hands of amateurs. One man with a gun can do only so much damage. Then he is apprehended or terminated. Tim McVeigh, the century’s greatest American criminal didn’t even have a gun, but he killed over a hundred people and injured hundreds of others. He paid the ultimate price for his acts. But the people that preached the hate that the McVeighs hear and take to heart, can’t be executed. In fact many of us who would prosecute McVeigh would protect the Nazi criminals that inflamed him, because their weapon is speech. While you despise what they stand for you respect the right of these militant maladjusted mutants to poison the well that these weak minded McVeighs drink from, while paradoxically spurning my right to protect myself from these 3rd Reich rapping rejects.
It has been argued that I can trust my government to protect me when it can’t protect itself. It is argued that our democracy can’t be thwarted by narrow minded bigots intent on the overthrow of a principled democracy. Yet you stammer in protest at the election of right wing, moral majority politicians who would lay waste to Roe VS Wade. While you stand tall for your recently discovered right to abortion, you have no heart to defend my long established right to bear arms.
You need not embrace my rights for yourself. In fact, you are free to not exercise any of your fundamental rights. But I respectfully request that you refrain from actively attempting to usurp my rights. I know you are driven by fear. It is a valid fear of violent assault against your home and family. I am afraid of the same thing! I fear the violence that visits when bad or good people lose their mental or moral compass and strike violently whether intentionally or negligently into my life. It is not only bad people who do bad things, good people under the influence of mental illness, drugs, alcohol, or passion do very bad things too. I know you want to keep the zombies and demons of darkness from descending on your home and family. We share the fear. You would feel better disarming us of firearms, but I would slip into the chaos of paranoia because I think dangerous people are more prevalent than guns.
Bad things have been happening for far longer than guns have been around. Evil has been with us before we even knew how to craft a weapon. You would ask me to trust you that no harm will come to me if I let you take my guns? Then ask yourself if you can protect me. Can you silence the crescendo of hate that has been directed at Jews, Blacks & other minorities? Can free speech prevent the rise of another Hitler? Hitler rose to power via politics. He took over Germany not by force, but by ballot boxes filled with the votes of people who were drawn to a leader who made them feel better about themselves at the cost of their humanity.
Are we Americans so superior spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually and morally to Germans? They build better cars and guns and electronics than we do. They are better educated. They have survived many more years of alterations to their economy, agriculture and infrastructure. Our 200 years of management are infantile and poor compared to the richness and maturity of the European culture. We aren’t smarter or more sound of mind, body and spirit than they, our language no more articulate or our heritage richer. What we have that all of Europe lacks is a constitution, and its accompanying inalienable rights. All these rights are dependent upon each other. Like the nutritional chart which requires contributions from all the food groups to have a healthy body, it takes a foundation of rights to have a healthy democracy. Many European cities have a richness of dialogue through numerous daily newspapers that is not present anymore in most American cities. England doesn’t trust its citizens despite the intellectual lip service that flows bohemian like from its media. The media can incite fear which may result in suppression of freedom, or exhortations to violence. So you say, a gun in my hand is a danger. I say hate speech is far more dangerous and explosive. The ability to inflame others through speech is a far greater threat to my well being than a crazed criminal with a gun. I am not a caricature or a cartoon. I am a Jew. and we have been run out of every country we ever resided in, and the bigots followed us here, ready and willing to scapegoat us once again for their miseries. Or just as bad, they are ready to convert us in the name of Jesus Christ, invoking powers greater than Hitler or any human hubris. They would strip me of all I have stood for now, 5,772 years, convinced that you can save me by destroying my culture which is rich in intellect and character and a wealth of spirit.
This will be achieved while you work up a good moral superiority. Sorry, I can’t give up my guns. I won’t give up my guns. I won’t be marched to ovens whether they kill with gas or with religious kindness. I respect your rights to proselytize your religion or your hate. I respect your right to believe differently from me and your right to persuade others to your point of view, whether I agree with it or not. But, I ain’t gonna trust you not to misuse your rights, and you are welcome not to trust me to misuse my gun. I will defend to the death your right to speak freely and in exchange, for you to preserve my right to protect my family and home from the criminals and crazies, dope fiends and zealots.I want you to defend my right to defend my life and liberty.