Common Ground

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We have only just gotten over the presidential election. It was harsh and full of unhealthy, unhelpful comments and political adds. So many of us were happy to see that time go! Yet, here we go again with divisiveness about gun control. We have gun rights advocates yelling that liberals want to take their guns away and disempower them, leave them vulnerable, or maybe it’s nazi’s that are doing this. The name calling begins. We have those who advocate gun control or restriction yelling that these tea partier conservatives don’t care about our children and besides, their logic is so bad, they’re, well, stupid. Again with the name calling.

Where is our common ground? Isn’t it true that all of us fear loss of safety, loss of control? Isn’t it true that all of us want our children to be safe? The values that all of us want to sustain, to support, involve the care and safety of ourselves, our neighbors, our children; they involve freedom from oppression and freedom from fear and loss of choice. We know, because we’ve been there, that when we start name calling and yelling that we don’t hear each other well. We know that when we begin from a place of fear that we don’t hear each other well.

I am dreading the intensification of this debate. I don’t want to hear people stigmatizing others and calling names. I grew up around guns in an area where having a gun or pistol handy was a safety issue, there were too many rattlesnakes and other predators. We kept firearms handy, always. I had firearm safety hammered into me as a preschooler. I knew that the firearms kept me safe when they were in the hands of my parents but there was never any thought of pointing one at another person. I have enjoyed doing some mounted shooting and target shooting but could I ever point a gun at a person and pull the trigger?

Who are these people who are willing to pull a trigger when facing another human being? Lt. Col. Dave Grossman wrote a book, On Killing, about the ability of people to pull that trigger. My belief in our common humanity was affirmed when he discussed that most people cannot, will not pull that trigger. He wrote about the willingness of good men to go to war and face a rain of bullets and how they still could not bring themselves to kill. He wrote about the excessive efforts that the military goes to in order to overcome this.  Our world is full of courageous, good hearted, caring and compassionate people.

Those few people who are willing to inflict such great harm, such pain as we have recently seen in mass shootings are aberrations. They are our modern day monsters; those who strike fear into our hearts and drive us into reactionary debates and we do not know who these people are until they act. We live in uncertainty and it makes sense that we want to do something about this. It makes sense that our emotions are involved and we feel very deeply about this. More than anything we want to know that our loved ones are safe. Some of us believe that we must meet force with force in order to maintain this safety; some of us believe that we must limit the ability of all people to enact such harm in order to be safe. We all suffer from a deep desire to believe that these things cannot happen to us, to our loved ones, that somehow we would do something different and avoid this pain. We want to assert our control. This is common ground.

So as we begin this debate, this process, I would hope that we can remember that we all want the same thing even if how we approach this is different. I would hope that we can stop calling each other names and acknowledge our common humanity. We all face horrific loss, we all feel helpless when faced with mass shootings. More than anything we want to keep our loved ones safe, we want children, and students to be safe. I would hope that we would go beneath the rhetoric and address our common values, our common humanity.  I would hope that we can go beyond our fears and understand that we have much more in common than that which separates us. I hope that we can reach beyond our fears and see the common humanity that unites us.

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