Thursday, December 20, 2012

Polarization in times of crisis

It's obvious that America is more polarized than ever before. People used to fall just on their preferred side of the center. As time has gone on, the gap has widened and we've gotten further and further apart. Biased media is said to be the culprit. Others pin it on information overload in the Internet age. Some others just call it the next step in the mindset of America. While the cause may not be clear, the effect sure is - we just don't agree on any-damn-thing.

As everyone in the country is painfully aware, there was a shooting at an elementary school last week (that's more of the archive viewing of this post later than it is for making you aware now). As expected, this lit the fuse on a powder keg of arguments over gun control. It takes a moron to find NO validation in both sides. I have my preference, but I can see at least a piece of the opposition's point.

Pro-gun folks say that gun control laws make no sense because whether there's 1 hoop or 100 hoops to go through to get a gun, criminals will ignore them all anyway. That's true. Pro-gun people also say that a gun is just a tool and a violent person will be violent with a knife or a rock or a stick or bare hands if so inclined. I agree with that also. Then there's the whole 2nd amendment argument. It is, in fact, a constitutional right.

Anti-gun advocates (or even pro-gun control) say that without guns it's one less tool for people to use to do harm. True. Can't stab people at long distances. I agree unless your arms are 50 feet long. The country has changed since that amendment was written and we need to adapt with the times. I definitely see the first half of that sentence, but not sure I buy off on the need to alter that document.

If you look at suicides, it's evident that gunshot inflicted wounds result in more completed suicides than any other method because there's no time to have that "oh shit" moment and rethink your actions. Impulsivity and guns are a pretty nasty cocktail. On the other hand, I own guns and they've never leapt up out of their cases and killed a bunch of people all on their own and I'm not of the exact flavor of mental instability to do that purposefully myself. So I see no harm in owning them.

The real item that needs to be addressed is the mental health situation in this country. Clinics and hospitals are being shuttered in the wake of a financial crisis and poor economy. The highest population of people deemed mentally incompetent are in the prison system.

So, what does it all mean? It means we don't know what to do. Something has to be done. It can't be ignored any longer. But I don't think anyone has a real solution. I don't want my guns taken away. I paid good money for them. Being stripped of that right is the least likely scenario though. If anything, we'll see increased difficulty in obtaining weapons and harsher punishments for those who gain/use them illegally. Not the end of the world.

It seemed like the same old rhetoric from both sides since the day of the shooting. Personal attacks, misquotes, skewing of both truths to prove their own points and a general disregard for civil discussion. No surprise. Then yesterday all hell broke loose when many retailers stopped selling Bushmaster brand firearms. Bushmaster was used in the CT shooting. That began the downward spiral of celebrating from the left and panicked stockpiling from the right.

None of this is the real issue. The problem amongst this nonsense is the lack of regard for human decency. The art of conversation has been totally lost. One such instance was when a Facebook friend requested that all pro-gun people "shut the fuck up" to which I asked if the point of Facebook was to discuss and ask and converse, etc. I was unfriended over it. Just goes to show that he can have his opinion for more gun control and that all who differ should be quiet. Any person who feels differently can't be his friend. To the contrary, the folks on the right aren't any better. They are requesting that anyone who believes in gun control delete them right now.

In a day and age where Americans of Israeli and Palestinian decent are posting photos on Facebook to show an ability let bygones be bygones, are we really ending multi-decade friendships over a personal opinion in a different category? I can be Christian and you can be Jewish and we stay friends. Even the digital era's religion of Mac vs PC has calmed to a point of peaceful coexistence (that was tongue-in-cheek).

Have we really reached a point of polarization so extreme that if people have an opinion the opposite of ours, we just choose to not be friends with them at all? We should all be aware that no matter how staunch one may be in their opinion, they hold no direct sway over the judicial system. The rest of the population that shares our opinion won't string us up for cavorting with the enemy if we stay friends with the opposition. Chances are, firearm views weren't the ties that bound us together in the first place.

Where is the focus? I just don't understand the need to add arguments and stress into our lives. You do your thing and I'll do mine. I'll shoot my guns and leave you out of it. I don't, however, want to hear from you if you need a weapon to handle a situation in life. Beliefs and convictions are not based on fair weather. If you feel them, then they span all situations. Likewise, I don't want the "I told you so" routine if/when something goes wrong. Why can't we put this in the same box as any of our other differences - race, gender, sexual orientation, etc - that we now choose to ignore as they are less important than other parts of life?

So that's that. I have my beliefs, you have yours. If you want to unfriend me over it, so be it. Just know that I'm stating, for the record, that I wouldn't have done that to you. I'm choosing the road of personal belief and tolerance of yours. I may not share your thoughts, but we both share the freedom to disagree. If we want to yell about the 2nd amendment, we have to yell about the first. You're entitled to think and say whatever you will. Just remember, I'm entitled to the same and the right to not agree.

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