I have a great deal of respect for President Obama’s intelligence, character, and commitment, yet I’m not thrilled by his leadership or public speaking abilities (and I consider the latter an important part of the former). That said, he thoroughly impressed me at last night’s Guns in America town hall event on CNN!
Now already, in Philadelphia, we have news-worthy gun fire. In this case, despite numerous rounds fired, everyone (that is to say, both guys) lived. (Which, ironically, makes it kind of like TV.) To raise the public fervor ante, the shooter did it in the name of the Islamic State.
What was that curse about interesting times?
It seems like something out of a Tom Clancy novel…
North Korea tests an “H-bomb” (so they claim). China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan, as immediate neighbors, all freak out big time. The world in general freaks out in general. Regardless of what actually just went BANG!, it’s clear a paranoid nut-job is developing ever more powerful weapons. (Sadly in this case, such is the way with science, weapons, and Pandora’s Boxes, in general.)
Saudi Arabia and Iran get into it with Syria already a mess with Russian and USA fingerprints. Gas prices stay low, a problem for the Saudis on top of their fears about our supposedly shifting favor towards Iran. This could go wrong in so many ways.
Meanwhile, back home a carnival barker comedian channels the George Wallace campaign, stirring and inflaming a highly polarized electorate that operates from regional tribal allegiances. This isn’t new… we’ve seen this movie.
It’s really nothing more than a large-scale mob dynamic with a tribal us-them sensibility as fuel. Rocket fuel.
It’s bad enough what politicians do (and what cable news allows) to the dialectic. Donnie Boy just craps all over it. It’s as if someone came into your open house and took a dump in the middle of the living room floor. When you express your righteous outrage, your visitor protests that he’s just trying to start a conversation about your decor.
And, God help us, he’s probably going to win.
The awful thing is, there are real problems. Terrorism is a problem, and it’s a problem increasingly right here at home. San Bernardino at the end of 2015; two refugee men arrested, and now Philadelphia, this year.
And 80 people die by the gun every day here (about 2/3 of them suicides).
Whatever else: Guns Я Us.
We should probably be at least talking reasonably about this, and that town hall event last night was a refreshing start. The right, of course, is losing its shit in a predictable manner. (“They’re coming to take your guns away! Oh my! Oh my!”)
But they do have a point. The event did lean left, despite including some voices from the right.
(To be clear, the left and gun control proponents tend to be synonymous to my eye, and so does the right and gun rights proponents. At least here I’m assuming it to be true and using the left and the right as shorthand.)
As I try to listen past their usual polemic rhetoric, I think I hear a valid point, and maybe it is a pity this aspect isn’t reflected in the many debates.
There is, on the left side of this issue, a voice that doesn’t always actually say, but always implies: Guns Я Evil!
We hear it in the refrain: “Guns are designed to kill people!” (Which means both guns used in Philadelphia must have been poorly designed Both weapons were, in fact, cop’s guns, so perhaps the cops in Phili are using badly designed guns?)
We hear it in the refrain: “How many guns does someone need?” (Heart disease and traffic accidents kill more people annually, so logically we should limit the number of fast food meals or miles driven, because, after all, “How many hamburgers does someone need?” And do you really need to do all that driving?)
There are those — and some, it must be said, with very good reason — who absolutely hate and fear guns. In some cases the feelings are very personal and based on direct horrific experience. Their stance is understandable.
But unless you really believe in the impossible dream of a gun-free world (and that is a practical impossibility; see my FTR: Guns post for more), it is also a socially unhelpful stance. Public policy can’t be based on fear and hate.
Especially when it’s not at all shared.
On the other side are people who see guns as tools (which, like all tools, can be used in positive or negative ways). Specifically, there are those who see value in guns and in gun ownership (number me among them).
And the idea that guns do have value to many wasn’t well represented last night.
There was the woman, a rape victim, who spoke about owning a gun to defend herself and her kids, and there was the sheriff, and the SEAL widow, and the gun dealer. They all spoke in favor of gun ownership, but I don’t know that the idea of gun value was really embraced.
Certainly not by President Obama, and — I suspect — generally by the left. Or so I have the impression, and maybe that impression (if shared among the right) is a problem in the discussion.
If not, it may point to an irreconcilable difference in world view by the two sides. As the right sees the world in terms of small government, and the left in terms of bigger, perhaps the world view involving the value of guns is likewise a matter that cannot be resolved.
Regardless, conversation and compromise are the trick, and I thought last night was a decent start.
And, almost to my surprise (so much so I just had to post), I was very impressed with my President.
That’s an awfully nice feeling.
I haven’t said this, I believe, since 2008, but Go Obama!