I was talking to a very interesting American on Steemit just last week. It was a fascinating exchange (he had some well thought out and considered views) and we covered a lot of ground. We were rarely reading from the same page, but as the conversation developed, it became increasingly clear that we were at least reading from the same book. It was pretty cool.
And as we talked, the discussion touched on guns. I have been here before, many times, and I tiptoed around the topic, because I know how it ends.
His first comment was to express incredulity that anyone wouldn’t want to own a gun, and was dismissive and scornful about those who might advocate taking his gun off him. He needs it for protection, you see.
From the other people with guns.
It would be funny, if it wasn’t for all the dying.
The thing is, though.
I think he might be right.
Cards on the table: I hate guns. I hate violence. I am a pacifist by default and by nature. And I think that we all are, when we get here. It’s our environment that makes us different. And, in 2018, America is often a violent, aggressive environment.
I don’t dislike America, by the way. I am not enamoured by its foreign policy since WWII, but superpowers have always tried to police the World. This is not an American problem – it appears to come with the territory. I am British by birth (but increasingly turning native in Ireland), and the colonial history of my country is shameful and appalling.
I have been to America a few times, and I have loved it. It’s a spectacular country, full of decent people. Some not so decent, but again, this is not an American problem. Dickheads are everywhere.
America, though, is unique. It is an outlier, in developed Western terms. There are countries that have far more severe gun crime issues, but they are politically unstable. I don’t want to get bogged down in statistics though; I believe that this issue transcends this kind of debating.
Gun crime in America is headline news. Again. And we all know that Florida was just the latest instance; we will be here again.
And online, and in the real World, the same heated arguments will be repeated. And nothing will change. We all know this. These conversations are pretty much a complete waste of time.
I realised something last week, chatting to the American fella. I live in a country where people don’t get killed with guns. It does happen, of course. There are some issues with gangland killings in Dublin, but I don’t need to worry about people with guns.
I have no idea what it is like to grow up in a country that has a gun crime problem. And I have conclude that if I did live in such a country, my attitude towards gun ownership would be somewhat different.
If I watched the news, and saw that day after day after day that my countrymen were being killed, then I might want to own a gun too. This thought is a revelation to me, and it strikes me that the thing that is always missing from this debate is empathy.
People on both sides of the debate use various rhetoric, statistics, memes and quotes, but what they don’t use is empathy.
It’s not a solution.
But it’s a start.