Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If you want peace...

"If you want peace (less violence in our society), work for justice."

Now this isn't a platitude or an attempt to be flippant.  I don't assume to know the solution to gun violence in our country but I'm confident I know the nature of the problem.  It's only thought debate and discussion that we can find effective solutions.

Why so much gun violence in this country?

The reason why weapons are out there is people are afraid.  They are afraid of many things.  It's reasonable, at some time in your life, to fear violence from someone (crazy neighbor that you can't move away from, stalking ex partner, drug addled relative, or just a high crime neighborhood like the Central District).  At those times, it makes sense to be able to protect yourself in the most reasonable way for you possible.

Now, there are plenty of professionals and civilians out there who have a measured, serious, and objective relationship with firearms.  To this person, they are tools.  They are not objects of affection or delight.  They are necessary parts of a larger picture, be that picture serious and necessary hunting for food, actual sport, or the use of weapons to defend someone from imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death (generally in the hands and the responsibility of law enforcement.) These people look at firearms one way; they are to be respected, but not loved.

But the problem is, most of the people who really really like guns, the people who collect, the ones who are strident NRA members have a different kind of fear.  They are afraid someone will take their shiny toys away. They are afraid of being mugged in Bellevue Square Mall.  They are afraid of the Muslims (hell, all brown people).  They are afraid of -- someone, anyone who will take way their security.

And on top of this...

They really, really, really like guns.  They like them in a way that surpasses the normal fetish for anything else.   I've met people who like motorcycles, power tools, bake ware but I have rarely met watch-nuts who loves their watches like some gun-nuts love their guns.  I've been around these people.  I've worked with them, served with them and, for the most part, had to work with them.   Some of them are nice people.  Some of them I trust.  But I have seen some of the most idiotic and disturbing behavior around firearms from the very people that claim to be "responsible gun owners."  Their affection for firearms clouds their judgment way too often and, the problem is, they either don't know it, or ignore you when you point it out.

Like the so called "security professional" who thought it was funny to turn weapons "off safe" in the weapons rack of the security control point (our office) in Iraq.

Or the two "security professionals" who decided to get into a yelling and shoving match, including the chest bumping, while carrying sidearms.

And that's that problem. It's so emotional.  We are up against a group of people that love guns.  They love them in movies.  They love collections of them. They love cowboys. They love violent video games.  And yes, some of them sleep with them under their pillow.  Seriously.  It's a deep deep culture of fear and violence and it's built on good guys vs bad guys, protecting yourself from perceived threats (some not at all real), and a machismo that poisons our society.  Half of them are afraid and insecure and the other half have a inflates sense of self-described Walter Mitty heroism that is undeserving of the true meaning of the word "hero".

Hence my thought of, "If you want peace, work for justice."

It's only when our society is just, where people are truly free, where the income inequity is gone, where the police treat all equally, where justice is equal to all, no matter their station, that we will eliminate fear and violence from our society.  It's only by eliminating the necessity for so many firearms in our country that we can whittle down their numbers to the fetishists and, hopefully, train them to love something else, or simply wait them out and breed them out of our society.

But like I said, the solution is not obvious.  It can be found, though.  The solution to any human created problem can be solved by humans.  But it's only by admitting there is a problem, by looking it square in the face, that we can take the next step.  That step is being willing to discuss and debate the issue openly and honestly.

That is the only path out of the woods and into a society where firearms are irrelevant.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Violence in the Movies and Gun Nuts

In the wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, I'm starting to reconsider how useful it is to support any movie that plays so much on gun violence.  That is: why see them in the first place?

As someone who used to despise what I called the "cowardice of the gun loving culture", where violence was easy and less risky to the person wielding handguns I have to look back at my journey.  In short, I felt that handguns make violence *easy* for the aggressor. They are at much less risk than, say, using a knife, a club, or your bare hands.  True, a handgun can be used to defend yourself from the imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death (grandmother against 200lb rapist).  I have no problem whatsoever in their use to equalize force and for defensive means.  Everyone, no matter who you are, has the right, the responsibility even, to defend themselves from violence.

I never was drawn to violence.  I was a target of it many times in my youth.  I became a skilled martial artist for many reasons, the first one being my own survival.  As my journey continued I became more and more competent at many types of non-firearm weapons.

It was during this time that I disliked guns intensely, though I was quite capable in their use from a layman's perspective.

Then I started thinking about defending others at being, dare I say it, a "professional" at it.  I became a police officer.  That meant I had to carry a firearm.  It was part of my profession.  I thought I'd make a good officer.  Actually, I did make a good officer.  At the same time, the corruption in my department was too much to bear.  I left.

Later, I brought those hard won skills to bear as a private security consultant (mercenary) in Iraq.  My job was to protect others from violence at the hands of insurgents.  If I could keep the bad guys away from the warehouses where all the trip flares, mortars, mines and grenades were stored, I might stop a few IED's from killing people.  I did a good job there too, before returning home.

But all through this journey, learning the way of competence with a firearm, I was never a gun nut.  I inherited my father's collection and, over the years, slowly disposed of it.  In retrospect, I should just have destroyed the things instead of selling them.

So, back to gun violence in our culture and specifically in the movies.

I see trailers for gun violent movies all the time and I've become less and less enamored of them.  Sure, there are movies where guns are part of the story but, here's the rub; they aren't the main character.

I think that I may start avoiding movies where firearms are basically the main characters, or main supporting characters.  I've done that with video games. Why not movies?

I'm not a gun nut and never wanted to be.  They are tools to me -- nothing more; used for specific purposes and situations.  I've never really 'liked' guns and I will confess to not totally understanding those that do.

And I'm OK with that.