This has been one of the saddest weeks, nationally, that I can remember in years. Two men executed by police and now five Dallas PD officers killed by snipers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.
A constant in all cases: guns. When you pair rage and fear with a gun, horrible irreversible things happen. This is something we tolerate and I’m not sure why.
We are in love with guns and we are afraid. We believe that guns will save us, that guns grant us respect, that guns settle scores for us. And they certainly do scare people. I’ve seen them pointed at people and know how quickly it can shift an attitude. I know how I feel firing one.
When you don’t get the respect you think you deserve, a gun will make people fear you — which can feel like the same thing as respect, if only temporarily: If I cannot make you respect me, I will make you fear me.
I understand the impulse. I’ve watched my own fear and rage hold sway over me this week. But I know that words and actions are more powerful. They’re harder — much harder — but no one dies. No one gets paralyzed or blinded or crippled. Guns can’t kill the biggest monsters. They can’t kill fear or hate or rage or prejudice or bigotry. They can’t kill objectification and marginalization. They can’t kill blame.
People say they are “tired” of “political correctness,” which is what they consider any objection, criticism, or discussion of these issues. Yet they seem to have boundless energy for killing, for defending killers and guns. That’s because a gun is fast. A gun doesn’t think. A gun doesn’t have to be patient or tolerant or put up with your bullshit. A gun is a way of saying, “Shut your mouth. End of discussion.”
As someone with little to no patience for discussion of difficult issues, I can see the attraction of trying to solve problems with guns. I want to claw my face off when I’m forced to listen in a conversation. I want to be heard. My skin crawls when I have to understand the other person. I want them to understand me. Especially if I completely disagree with him or her.
We are not “tired” of discussing these issues — we just don’t know how. We’ve lost the ability to truly discuss. All we have are shouted talking points, pithy tweets, maudlin Facebook posts. We’ve lost the ability to sit with people, to sit with complex topics, to sit with our own complicated hearts.
Image credit: Discussion by Tim Nelson/Creative Commons CC BY 2.0