What I’ve learned from my thoughtful, pro-gun, Republican friends

Passions are boiling right now. It’s impossible to go on Facebook without a full-frontal assault of opinions, petitions, and arguments. There is plenty of idiocy– on both sides– and plenty of people using passion and desire as a valid argument, also on both sides. The problem is that passion doesn’t solve anything. Arguing two sides of the same issue with logic (or otherwise) that only appeals to those who agree with you is pointless. Unless we can start discussing ideologies, rather than issues, we aren’t going to make headway. It simply won’t happen. Law, lobbies, and logic won’t allow it.

I have a unique view of the unfolding debate. I’m a Texas-born, New Englander. I’m a well documented liberal. I even drove a Prius for a while. But I have a deep roots in a part of the country that doesn’t give two shits about my East Coast diplomacy. On a range of issues from education to agriculture, guns, and business, what is seen as “obvious” and “common sense” here on the right coast, is seen as absurd and elitist when I head south. And before you crinkle your nose and get haughty, it has nothing to do with stupidity. I rarely engage in conversations with idiots. There are two legitimate sides of these arguments. For every issue I take a stand on, I later find I didn’t see the full picture. I didn’t do my due diligence of walking in someone else’s shoes. Regardless of whether my mind is changed, my understanding and perspective are broadened.

That said, I’ve developed a unique ability to understand another opinion deeply without agreeing with it. What frustrates me the most about watching my fellow liberal friends “argue” is that they aren’t arguing the right thing. In fact, they shouldn’t be arguing at all. Two mules with different, stubborn views are just two asses. The issue is not that my pro-gun friends aren’t seeing the issue clearly, or I’m not being clear enough in my articulation of the problem. The issue is that they do not agree. Like two divorced parents in a custody battle. They disagree. And they only way they will ever get anywhere is when they stop making it about themselves and find a common ground… like, I don’t know… their children?

But it’s important for those in favor of gun control to understand a few very key points. As a fellow liberal, I hope you’ll listen and understand so that when you engage in these conversations, you can do so without the blind passions that keep us from moving forward.

  1. Understand guns. The debate that is boiling about the AR-15, including the term “assault rifle” is quickly becoming a red herring. The AR-15 is not a hunting rifle. It’s a people killing rifle. But it’s not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to pull the trigger each time you fire. There are modifications that can be made, but they are illegal. It does carry a magazine, meaning the shooter doesn’t have to load the gun between shots. But it’s not an automatic weapon.(Which are already banned.) If you want gun control, you need to be articulate about the kinds of guns you’re talking about. You also need to recognize that saying “that one is bad” doesn’t help anyone. The military grade weapons that are being used synonymously with the AR-15 are different guns and there are “gun control” measures in place for acquiring those– sometimes heavy ones. Banning the AR-15 is like banning mayo. Miracle Whip is still out there. Focus on the type of gun, not the gun itself.
  2. Know the meaning and the intent of the 2nd amendment. Our founding fathers were fleeing a tyrannical government and wanted to ensure that the citizens of our country never faced the same. They were ensuring our ability to protect ourselves and our families. It was smart. Imperfect, and blind to the future, but fundamentally smart. Yes, those were muskets. But muskets were also what the tyranny was armed with. And that’s how this argument becomes circular really fast. If the question is “how armed?” then ask that question. But arguing against the 2nd amendment in its entirety is fruitless.
  3. Understand the phrase “the answer is more guns.” It took me the very longest to come to terms with this one, namely because I disagree the most vehemently. But that’s exactly why it’s important to understand it. To confident, legal gun owners, Pulse would have ended very differently if the shooter was met with an armed populace. Because they would have stopped it. People still would have died. But the evil would have been stopped earlier. Many of these people have military, police, or hunting experience. These are individuals with more experience and familiarity with… well… killing. From that perspective, it’s easier to fathom the act of protecting oneself. For most of us, the idea of packing heat at Salsa night is absurd. Or at a movie theater. Or a restaurant. To those who know, and love, guns– legally– they serve a very specific purpose. Responding that those who believe this are “dumb” or “uneducated” is childish. It also makes it even harder to have a real conversation. Disagreeing doesn’t make someone dumb. (Though believe me. I’ve heard plenty of really dumb arguments.)
  4. Read up on your gun control. Just do. Because not knowing makes it easier to undermine you. There are loopholes and bad, bad plans, but know what exists. Read about your state and understand how the process works.
  5. Be realistic. The largest mass shooting in US history wasn’t Orlando. It was the slaughter of the Lakota indians at the Massacre at Wounded Knee. And it happened under the pretense of disarmament. Since we didn’t recognize American indians as citizens until decades later, it “technically” doesn’t count. But it does count. And it’s a massacre that pro-gun folks know very, very well. When you say things like “disarming for the greater good,” you’re essentially reading from a transcript of that massacre. And history has a way of repeating itself.

I don’t have the answer to this problem. Not even close. I’m frustrated by the lack of transparency, momentum, and action on all sides. But I know that as a nation and a people, we will get no where arguing. We also won’t get anywhere with unfounded, passionate debate. If we want to affect change, we have to be smart, empathetic, and articulate. And, as every good lawyer’s daughter knows, that starts with knowing the other side as well as you know your own.

** I fully expect to be updating this as my friends berate me… 🙂

 

 

The African American from Jamaica who loves Kool-Aid

There is some serious shit happening in Ferguson. The serious shit isn’t really about this one black kid named Michael Brown being shot by this one white police officer named Darren Wilson. Truthfully, the serious shit isn’t even about a black kid being shot by a white police officer, or a kid being shot by a police officer, or, to be really truthful, anyone being shot. The shit in Ferguson is about racism and generation after generation of lip service to an ideology about racial equality that is nothing more than that: lip service. It’s about the difference between telling your child that the handicapped kid is just as worthy as they are and them believing it. Ferguson is the conclusion to a very long, very political experiment about whether you can force equality through legislation instead of education. 

Ferguson is also about white people like me, white people who are “totally not racist.” 

So you had a black friend in college, eh? Or maybe you had a black nanny or house keeper and y’all were totally tight and you loved her like a mother. You work with a guy who is black, right? I bet you’ve been to lunch and drinks once or twice. And you’d totally sleep with Taye Diggs or Zoe Saldana. Hell, even Djimon Hounsou gets your blood racing. Wait, fuck that. YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA. You’re a naturalized lover of the entire African American community. 

Except the part where calling someone African American references them being black by way of the continent of Africa, a general reference to American ties to slavery. Technically there is a ground zero ethnicity argument to be made, but it’s listed right next to “We’re all brothers from Adam” below the part about the Seven Dwarves. African American is a continental classification. Forget their country. Salma Hayek just became North American. Ryan Reynolds too. It’s not wrong, *technically* but it’s not exactly hitting the nail on the head. 

But putting aside for a moment the “totally not racist” white person’s inability to say the word “black,” or the underlying ignorance that fuels our nomenclature, or the fact that no one calls me European American hundreds of years after my ancestors left the continent (which, was actually the country of England….), TNR white people are actually a huge part of the problem. 

I read a great article on Quartz recently about racism, education, white people, black people, Ferguson– the entire cornucopia of buzzwords du jour was there. What struck me was how deeply my subconscious “me” vs. “them” feelings ran. Despite my “totally not racist” attitude towards the black community, I realized that I saw the entire Ferguson thing as another ignorant small town display of racism. Thank God I live in the city. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that shit here. Maybe I’ll go sit on a bench in Harvard Square and feel good about the number of white-looking African American kids I see roaming the Harvard campus! Yeah for me and my “totally not racist!” self! 

But then I had time to think about. (Because, as you may recall, I have taken temporary leave of my employment responsibilities.) I have this small boy, you know the one, and I am constantly thinking of the million and one things I don’t want to fuck up about him. It’s bad enough that he is showing unprovoked signs of being a sociopath, I don’t need him to be a homophobic racists too. But what does that mean that I have to do differently over the next 20, 30, 40 years? What does that mean the country has to do? 

Sometimes people of my generation celebrate the openness of the world we feel like we’ve helped to create for the next folks. We’ve fought for gay marriage and now my son can marry a boy and register at Bloomingdale’s and live happily ever after! THE END! But let’s take “the gay thing” and play it out like we did the “African American thing.” The constants are pretty much dead on. In addition to being “totally not racist,” I am also in the “totally love the gays” camp. 

So now what? Totally loving the gays is enough, right? Ehh… Nope. I don’t think it is. And that’s the problem. If thirty years from now I continue to introduce Author to men (or women) as gay, I’m putting a subconscious qualifier on my introduction and my feelings. As long as I tell a story and say “this black guy” when I would never say “this white guy,’ I am creating a division between people. If I refer to “the handicapped girl” instead of the “redhead” or “the girl who played the mouse in the Christmas pageant” I am subconsciously teaching my son to identify and objective people by attribution. A little by little he separates himself from them. If he is black, then I am white. If she is handicapped, then I am normal. And when he is asked to pick a team on the playground, he’s going to see that if he wants people “like him” he better choose white kids and normal kids. (Though to be fair, he’d have to be mature beyond his years to pick the handicapped kid to be on his kickball team, so I’ll let that one pass.) 

The Civil Rights movement (for blacks) marked an incredible advancement in theoretical social equality, but it didn’t mark an authentic chance in sentiment across the vast majority of “totally not racist” white people. We’ve continued to pledge our sincere devotion to anything that promises to eradicates racism, but we haven’t done the simplest things. We haven’t made an effort to confide in a black man or woman what we’re curious about, what fears we have, what we want to know. We’ve left questions unanswered and assumed that our differences are too great and our heritages too far apart. So while we are “totally not racist” we’ve created a divide so deep that we do nothing more than wave from a pedestal and feel intellectual outrage at a white cop shooting a black teen. 

And truthfully, I bet Darren Wilson was “totally not racist” until he confused his misunderstanding of the clothing, the walk, and the lingo of the unarmed African American kid with that of a thug. A dangerous gang banger. 

And he shot him. And it proved he was a racist.