Dec 16, 2012

On Guns, Hate and Fear—The Common Effort

National rally for peace; D.C., October 2003
Update: I recommend Richard Falk's column on the massacre, as typical an analysis springing from reason and empathy. Writes Falk: "No amount of tears, however genuine, can make our children and citizens safer in the future, and even gestures of gun control seem likely, if treated as solutions rather than palliatives, are likely to be no more than a spit in a national ocean of sanctioned violence." 
I know many people who own guns.

And I can guarantee to a moral certainty none of these people would cause harm in the course of firing guns.

Had a spirited conversation in 2008 with a friend who advocates a complete ban on guns in America.

Still, I believe such policy is wrong.

One problem with gun control is the lack of an accompanying discussion of criminal sanctions. Do we really want to make criminals out of people who own guns?


The answer to the mindless menace of violence—including especially the prison-industrial complex—is to organize a society based upon rights, love and peace.

Not exactly a new idea, but one that American politics systemically suppresses—attempts to think and imagine are seen as needed to be stricken from discourse as 'socialist,' 'European,' 'radical,' any term connoting something alien and scary.

Hate and dehumanization have consequences. In the words of RFK:

I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet. ... We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort.

We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.

But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

- RFK, April 5, 1968

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