A peacemaker speaks

The shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind all weekend.  I’ve been somewhat silent as I watch friends on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere rally behind a cause that essentially says “more violence = less violence”.  This whole concept is just abhorrent to me.

It feels low.  It feels base.  It feels like moving backwards.

The suggestion that arming teachers and administration would somehow have prevented this tragedy tells me that people I used to respect and like would rather see more violence, more fear, more aggression than try to establish peace and compassion.  The fact that these suggestions are often accompanied by “evidence” that seems suspect or at least slanted doesn’t help their cause with me.  I will not say that the other side doesn’t have skewed statistics either, but at least they are not advocating for more violence so that definitely wins out for me.

Let me be clear.  I hate guns.  I don’t hate people who carry them or use them, but I hate the item itself.  I have never touched out nor will I ever consentually touch one.  It’s sort of the opposite of a fetish for me.  A gun actually repels me.  A gun makes me feel less safe.  Even when in a mediation with a cop who is trained to handle a firearm the very presence of a gun in my vicinity gives me an extreme amount of dis-ease.  I’ve had gun-lovers tell me that if I just learned how to fire one that I would be far more comfortable with it.  Sure, and if I just hold a tarantula all my arachnophobia will go away, right?  Nope.  Not going to happen.  This is not simply a phobia, this feels older than that.  A blocked memory perhaps, like the way someone who has been abused might feel when they encounter the instrument of their abuse again.  I can’t fully describe it.

So given that context, you could dismiss everything I could have to say on the subject. I am a lost cause.  I will never be converted into believing that a firearm should be in every building or on each person.  I will never be converted except under extreme duress that I should ever hold this weapon or wield it as such.  Maybe opinions such as mine should be dismissed and ignored…they certainly have been for years already.  But I believe my experiences and indeed these beliefs have something to contribute to the subject.

Gun advocates claim for example that arming women will prevent a whole list of horrible crimes, not the least of which is rape.  In their eyes a woman who is walking alone to her car should carry a weapon just in case she’s grabbed from behind and a penis is shoved in her vagina.  This naive logic denies the very issue of rape and the majority of experiences with rape.  By extending the stranger-danger principle to adult women it denies any responsibility for the majority of women who are raped by men that they know and trust.  It denies even the plausibility of date rape or marital rape much less providing any sort of meaningful public policy response to it.  It preys upon the fears of men that “their women” will be brutalized without the big, strong man there to protect them and gives them a false sense of security that arming women would be the solution to the absence of the big, strong protector-man.  It views women as weak and helpless and it becomes a convenient ploy for the gun lobby to sell more firearms to lull a populace into thinking that a gun would prevent you from being raped at your annual office Christmas party or in your bedroom after dinner and a movie.

In 1996, I was raped.  First year of college.  Raped by the best friend of a guy I was in a friends-with-benefits arrangement with.  I won’t go into the details of it…it’s another post.  I would never have brought a gun to go hang out with my friends in their dorm room to watch a movie.  What reason would I have to arm myself against people I knew?  A friend of mine, who carries a concealed firearm, was on a date.  He threw her purse, containing her gun, out of the window before he raped her.  Tell me how it is supposed to help in that situation?

By telling us that we “should have” been carrying is a form of victim shaming that is doubly traumatizing.  Oh, only if I had had a gun the moment he shoved my face into a pillow and I couldn’t breathe, I would have been able to stop it.  Right.  Because my aim would have been perfect and I would have disabled him enough to get away.  Or maybe I could have used it right after when I was bleeding, nonverbal and in shock.  Right.

You all can fuck off if you think I could have done anything more than I did and if you use that as some justification for the proliferation of weapons across society.

But now the women argument isn’t enough but the same flawed logic is being applied to schools, to businesses, to anyone who has ever been the victim of a crime.  It’s clouded in this weird propaganda of “don’t be a victim” –that makes you feel ashamed if you actually have been the victim.  The idea of arming teachers and administrators (especially in an environment where there are usually armed police officers in each school) is terrifying, frankly.  I would pull my kid out of school in an instant if I found out his teacher was hiding a gun in his desk.

Not only do we assume, quite wrongly, that each teacher or principal would WANT to be armed (and would we shame them if they didn’t want to be), but that each person carrying a weapon or with access to them has the stability and presence of mind to NEVER harm anyone other than a “sicko” or “psycho” with it.  We live in a world where people jump at shadows.  Where they make death threats over things they saw on facebook, where people still attack others for simply having a difference in religious beliefs.   I want evidence that each person who is armed can handle difficult emotions . That they harbor no ill will toward humanity in general much less someone specific.  No one can guarantee that.  But why not put a weapon into their hands anyway and give them the excuse of protecting kids.  Nothing will stop them from taking it home to kill their wife who they suspect is cheating or to shoot the neighbor’s dog the next time it barks.

But more than anything in these arguments I’ve seen that my gun-toting friends make, I have yet to see reason or compassion pour forth.  I see anger, I see froth, I see boiling hatred toward anyone who believes differently than they do.  THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME FEEL SAFER.  In fact, if anything it makes me more worried that the levels of violence will increase to deafening levels.  Well, they already have.

A back-up argument is that  “well, criminals don’t follow the law anyway” is misleading.  If you’ve ever run a red light, fudged a little on your taxes, playfully punched someone in the arm or lied about your weight on your driver’s license, you’ve broken the law.  You’re a criminal too.  You might not be serving time for it, you may never have been caught for it, you may never be prosecuted for it.  But you’ve broken the law.  By that same logic, a criminal is a criminal. Period.  What’s to stop you from going on a killing rampage the next time your ex sets you off?  After all, laws won’t stop you.  You’re a criminal, you worthless bastard.  Yes, you.  And you.  And me too.  What’s to stop me from killing you?

And when that doesn’t work, we just distinguish the people who do these things as “sickos” or “psychos”.  Except that until the day this happens they were considered “one of us”, a member of society.  They didn’t magically escape from the sicko colony we founded on the moon to come down and kill their mother and a classroom of children.  No, they were in the post office with us buying stamps last week.  Or bowling with us that morning in gym class.  Or flirting with us online a month ago.

We don’t ever recognize these individuals as ourselves.  As a harsher, more desperate, more skewed version of ourselves.  Oh no.  They are psychos and they were broken from birth.  They were were someone else’s problem and obviously those other people never did a good enough job of recognizing that person’s inherent, inborn evil and now we all have to pay for their incompetence.  Or so the thinly veiled accusation goes.

And you can dismiss what I am about to say if it doesn’t fit into your black and white, good vs. evil world view.  But these people were not born evil.  They are us.   They were made by us.  We bear responsibility for the events of their lives and moreover for our failure to cure how those events were addressed and healed.  We shove them aside as someone else’s burden or we put them back into the world because they aren’t broken enough to justify levels of psychotherapy that could have addressed the issues.  There is no evil in the world other than that we create in one another.  We are each a product of our experiences and none of us are disposable.  So don’t dismiss these killers as “sickos” because then you fail to ever recognize your own potential to turn into one.

Look, my job in RL is as a peacemaker, a mediator. So maybe these friends’ arguments make me uneasy because day in and day out I’m in the thick of it trying to help everyday people find peaceful solutions to their issues with one another. I’m trying to diffuse strong emotions so that people don’t feel the need to resort to violence either a solution or as an expression.   And it’s been suggested to me more than once that I should carry a firearm with me just in case tempers flare up.  What a fucking hypocritical thing for me to do.  To try to teach people how to trust and move forward, the whole time carrying a weapon because I don’t trust them.  That will never solve anything.

But more than that I’m trying to sow the seeds of peace in future generations. Yesterday I helped two middle school boys find a way to stop bullying and how they could intervene if either of them witnessed the other being bullied. It’s a small step, but one that could have a positive impact on them for the rest of their lives. They both have a strategy moving forward on how to help each other feel less isolated and alone…which I think has to be part of the solution as well.

Yes, the CT shooting is about guns. It is also about mental health.  But more than anything it is about facing ourselves as a nation and addressing our pathological denial of our own responsibility for the deaths that happen each and every day.  It is about deciding that all human life is valuable and changing our policy priorities to reflect that. It is about accepting the responsibility and a duty to respect and protect each other not with weapons, but with connection.

I am in support of creating a kinder, more compassionate world.  One that feels less like an invaded, war-torn territory where I feel the need to protect my own hunk of skin.  I want to create a world where we see each other as equals and we open our hearts with powerful courage and connection.

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