I’ve been arguing about guns on Facebook for basically 48 hours straight.
What I’ve noticed is that after all the statistics and info graphs - after all the stories and anecdotes and emotions - the two sides seem to represent two world views.
Pro gun control: I believe the government can do something that will improve the situation and I want to try. The world is scary and I want laws to help make it less so.
Anti gun control: I do not believe the government can do anything to help and will most likely make it worse. I feel unsafe as well but government interference makes me feel even less so and I’d rather just defend myself.
Look. Both sides are valid. Both sides are little bit right. After all, government is just a reflection of ourselves - both our best AND our worst. Government can’t fix everything, but it’s not going to ruin everything either.
What I’ve also heard a lot from some of those opposed to legislation is that our country is getting worse and there’s nothing we can do about it. That America is some sort of lost cause.
Now, THAT I do not agree with.
Are there real challenges and truly scary problems? Yes.
But I believe in the great American experiment. I believe I drink from a well I did not dig and that it is my duty and moral obligation to keep digging.
I just finished Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States about the Revolutionary War and I'm sure Washington's barefoot soldiers wondered about the impact of marching line by line into the British army’s bayonets. I'm sure the abolitionist thought things were pretty dire in the face of an entire economy built on slavery. I'm sure Alice Paul felt despondent about the state of affairs when she was being force fed raw eggs. I'm sure the protestors on the bridge in Selma wondered if things were really going to change - if what they were doing was really going to make a difference.
BUT IT DID.
I believe in us. I believe that we can figure this out and it won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect but it will be something.
We will disagree. We will argue. That after all is the real brilliance of this great experiment.
One of my favorite parts of the Sarah Vowell’s book is the observation that it was the patriots ability to sit around and argue that basically led to the Revolution.
“Arendt suggests that the American colonists revolted ‘not because of any specifically revolutionary or rebellious spirit but because the inhabitants of the colonies’ benefited from - and here she cites John Adams - ‘ ‘the right to to assemble… in their town halls, there to deliberate upon the public affairs.’ ‘ The colonists, Arendt continues, ‘went to the town assemblies, as their representatives later were to go to the famous Conventions, neither exclusively because of duty nor, and even less, to serve their own interests but most of all because they enjoyed discussions, the deliberations, and the making of decisions.”
I’ve enjoyed the discussions and the deliberations in our virtual town hall. Sure, one person was mean but everyone else was thoughtful and insightful and civil and earnest - even with disagreeing passionately with me.
But the discussion and deliberation can’t be the end of it.
We’re Americans. We act.
We debate. We deliberate. One side backs down. The other side backs down. We reach a consensus and then we act. If that doesn’t work, we start all over again.
But we don’t give up. We don’t throw our hands in the air and surrender to problems seemingly too big to address.
This is America. There is no such thing.