There is a paradigm in this country … and world … that holds that "might means right." This is the paradigm of militant thinkers and it purports, at its base, that positive solutions can come from killing. The theory is that we can rid ourselves of our problems by shooting someone, by killing them. Or perhaps, at least, we can scare them away. The paradigm includes that extrajudicial killing, killing without the right to a trial, is not only necessary but is expedient and of great value. From the top down, in our culture, and in similar cultures, we see this belief played out in the affairs of each day.
The pro-gun people frequently wave the phrase, "Guns don’t kill. It's people that kill."
There is a bit of truth here ... so far, although this is rapidly changing, weapons are not autonomous — they require human operators. The weak link in this chain of thought is, however, that guns are the machines people have come up with in order TO kill each other, and to do so most effectively. Guns are the tool of choice. Their speed, their accuracy, their stopping power, their portability, their range, the ease with which one can conceal this weapon, make guns the ultimate weapon in today’s world.
Behind the gun is a person, however, as the enthusiasts point out. The question is, what sort of person is this? What is his or her motivation for carrying a gun? What do they intend to do with this killing machine? My position is, that there is a serious, pervasive, culture of violent thinkers in this country … further, that people who buy handguns or assault weapons, by and large, have a similar mindset regarding violence. I come to this conclusion in part by reading the threads of gun control blogs… a large number of respondents or bloggers believe that, when push comes to shove, if they have a gun in their hand, they are the justice and will do justice. In a phrase, "Might, makes right."
Another lunatic has struck innocent people with a gun. The police responded quickly, within 3 or 4 minutes, according to the press, but six people were dead and three wounded by then. This man was a skilled gun owner, and a vet. Given the fact that the victims were Sikhs in a Sikh temple, we can assume this man was a bigot, a racist and full of hate. That is the man behind the gun … a sick man, a merciless man. We will learn more about his weapon, but, suffice it to say, for now, it wasn’t a stick or a stone.
The man was part of the paradigm of violence that increasingly holds our world hostage. Dubbed, a domestic terrorist, as he was focused on attacking a group of people and was a US citizen, this man felt he was better than others, feared the presence of people who think differently than himself and, with his training in violence, decided to execute these people simply because they are who they are, are different than him…and that doesn’t meet with his agenda.
The President was quick to express his personal sorrow at "senseless violence." I am deeply sorry to say I find that absurd coming from a man who spearheads the drone program and who personally decides to kill people on a regular basis, knowing full well that innocent people will also be harmed. Anyone who has a computer can figure out quickly that drones, while having many tactical advantages, have killed hundreds of children and probably thousands of innocent adults in their deployment. They are not winning's OK for the President to kill innocent people who are different than us, but its senseless for a mentally ill man to do so. The paradigm is flexible.
I believe guns need to be better controlled, that serious training should accompany permits and that, in general, the arms industry should be regulated … 70 percent of the weapons used by drug cartels are produced in the U.S. This means that the fantastic profits of this industry come to a large extent from vicious criminals … people involved in killing our own DEA agents, in smuggling drugs to your streets, etc. This is one example. Is this honorable? Something to take pride in? Is this a business in need of some regulation? I believe the proliferation of this sort of gun is something to monitor, to restrict, and to do all we can to curtail.
The larger issue, however, is the paradigm of violence. I have a rejoinder to the “Guns don’t kill … its people that kill,” maxim. It is this:
"Guns do not make security nor do they bring peace. It is people that bring both."
The approach to take is not a one-point action … more restrictive laws for hand guns and other people killers. It must be multi-faceted and, to my mind, should include strong education against the use of weapons to solve problems. There has been a lot of headway on curbing the bullying of kids in schools with school programs that delve deeply into this serious issue. The same could be true with handguns. Bullying has become stigmatized and the people who turn in bullies now are not seen as "chickens," or worse. Education could start to turn this boat around. That education can be public and private, school based but also, critically, coming from our houses of worship.
Where, in all of these recent events, is the Church on the topic of violence? Where are the leaders of the main religions … and why don’t they lead in terms of speaking out against violence, racism, bigotry and other forms of hatred? This boggles my mind. It is the paradigm we must change over time if we are to ever have a more peaceful planet. We have to learn that physical might and economic might do not necessarily make right. We have to learn that to safeguard the “least of these” we must evolve in our methods, exceed the myopia of the past and develop a new paradigm that includes “justice for ALL.”
In short, in order to move from a paradigm of might makes right (violence as a solution) to a paradigm of cooperation, respect for our interdependence, and real justice for all, we can not live as we have lived. We must change. We can not be at ease in a country that supports its economy by warring against small countries, by strong arming them economically, by indebting them to amounts they can not repay and then forcing our will upon them politically. We can not model the culture of violence. Our headlong push into drone warfare, and further…into autonomous killing machines, must be harnessed. We must stop torturing prisoners and must remove this from protocol. We must study the psychology of violence, look at the horrific history, recognize our guilt in promoting the same and begin to develop new education to move from this medievalism.
Many say this is impossible and relegate themselves to a world in which conflicts are perpetual and violence has replaced diplomacy. Most of these are members of the strongest countries in the world…strong from a military standpoint. I believe that each of us must live with himself or herself however, and that, in this issue, possibly more than most, there is no mid-ground. To accept the status quo, in the case of this paradigm and the consequences is to be on the side of violence.
Maybe living for peace will not change the whole world quickly, but the small changes made will all be improvements. Communities will see that they cant fear new groups, people of different faiths or practices….and will teach their children not to fear, not to hate. Schools can speak up against gun violence. Letters can be sent to congressmen. Study circles can form. Peaceful resolution can be upheld as a virtue in our culture as distinct from violent solutions with overwhelming military force.
PS. Profound condolences to the Sikh community for their great loss this past week. May we all look for ways to live in unity and true brother and sisterhood. Only people can bring peace.