Saturday, January 15, 2011

Talking Past Each Other and Legislation By Victimization

It has been a full week now since the tragedy transpired in Tuscon. In just seven days we have seen our fellow Americans express their reactions in a multitude of ways.

Some of our fellow citizens were quick, way too quick, to point the "blood" stained finger of collective blame. Others were cavalier, way too cavalier, in dismissing legitimate criticism and denying responsibility
, not for what happened in Tuscon for no one is responsible for the actions of a mentally deranged and what is beginning to sound like the classic hallmarks, of a paranoid schizophrenic, individual.

No, what I am alluding to is the failure to acknowledge and accept shared responsibility for the widespread tendency, over the last thirty years, for Americans who do not share the same political viewpoint to talk past each other, not listen to what the other has to say, presume the worst and in knee jerk fashion, argue to the contrary, even if they do not know what they are arguing about or with whom.

To get the ball rolling, I will candidly admit, much to my embarrassment and chagrin, to be guilty of this foible of civic discourse on numerous occasions in just the past year. If you think I am just saying this to be magnanimous and support my own thesis, just scroll down and back in time to September of last year and read my entry entitled "Fiasco". Although I purposely did not go into great detail, the reunion of best friends from high school, which was nearly thirty years in the making, was ruined and a friendship possibly destroyed over an alcohol fueled debate on the merits of more tax cuts for the ultra wealthy, its negligible effects on job creation and the greater ramifications on a fragile economy.

Our discussion turned debate, turned yelling match, cleared out, and I literally mean emptied, a busy downtown Minneapolis bar, much to the staff's amazement turned anger. But do you think this stopped us? Hell, it did not even slow us down! That's how sure we Americans of different political stripes have become in our beliefs as to the correctness of our positions. God
help us!

With that said, let us turn back and reflect on the debate surrounding the tragedy that transpired this past week. In their heart of hearts, I do not believe that the critics on the left were saying that the Tea Party or other right wing activists were culpable for the violent actions of an individual displaying all the behaviors of someone suffering from a profound mental illness. Rather, I believe what the critics on the left were attempting to convey is that we, as citizens of the most powerful democracy in human history have obligations that come with the benefits that this country has so richly bestowed upon us.

Foremost of which is the responsibility to be informed and participate in our democracy in a constructive fashion. It is not illegal nor is anyone seriously suggesting making it against the law to engage in political speech that is immature, thinly veiled bigotry, racist and or borders on the intimidating and threatening with references to violent imagery. No, that is your constitutional right. But such behaviors and speech are not the responsible actions of good citizens.

I for one am a strong proponent of Second Amendment Rights, a member of a gun sports club and own numerous guns of all lengths and sizes including hand guns. I am also a Democrat and I believe to my very core that as sad and tragic as the events of the last week were, one of the worst reactions we could have would be to quickly ram through, in knee jerk fashion, some bad piece of legislation by victimization such as banning the sale of magazines over a certain capacity so we could feel good, that we have done something. I know it sounds trite and stupidly simplistic, but neither guns nor magazine capacity hurt people and banning something already in widespread circulation only leaves the banned item in the hands of the wrong people. Besides, it only takes me a second or two to push a button and drop the empty clip on my Smith and Wesson 9mm and jam a fresh clip in. It should be noted that I purchased this particular model of Smith and Wesson shortly before the last ban on clip capacity went into effect and I also purchased several extra of the soon to be banned high capacity clips.

Now having said the above, not to brag, but rather for purposes of context and credibility, I believe all responsible gun owners, be they on the left or the right, Republican or Democrat, members of the NRA or Ducks Unlimited, should join in with their disapproval and condemnation for any group or politician that resorts to the use of violent gun imagery as part of their civic discourse. Reasonable minds cannot disagree that there is no room for ads such as the one supporters of Jesse Kelly, Congresswoman Giffords opponent in last fall's election, caused to be published on the local Republican party website:

Back when I was in the sixth grade at Lewinsville Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, my teacher, Ione Johnson, use to exhort us to be good citizens. If we weren't, she used to put the offending student up against the wall of the classroom, in the corner where the hinges meet the door and then lean into the door with all of her 300 pound plus weight, and squeeze the bad behavior and nearly the life out of us. Where are the Mrs. Johnsons of the world now when we really need them?

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