2016

29 June 2016: Compassion will solve gun-rights debate

In last week’s column, I focused on the trigger man and the reason for the mass murder and wounding of LGBT patrons at the Pulse. The massacre was not the result of foreign-hatched terrorism, but of a self-loathing young man made such by fundamentalist religious indoctrination. The how of the executions, though, have become the focus of the political aftermath.

Congressional Democrats’ sit-in has brought that aspect of the killing—the easy access to military-style assault weapons—into clear focus. While Republicans speak in terms of political principle, a weak, self-serving reading of the Second Amendment, Democrats are giving voice to a moral principle held by the vast majority frustrated by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the name of self-protection.

Sometimes our leaders get it plain wrong. In its Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled enslaved African Americans were sub-human properties. It took the Civil War to undo that moral outrage. In Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional. A wiser and more moral court 58 years later unanimously overturned that ruling in Brown v. Topeka. That court succinctly framed the moral principle when it said, “separate but equal is inherently unequal.”

Today’s Republican Party has devolved into a coterie of ideological interest groups, the result of its thirty-year courtship with the hard-core right. If nothing else, one trait shared by Republicans is rigorous discipline, a universe seen in black and white. That rigorous allegiance to doctrine arises from fear, which emanates from either training, e.g., religious upbringing, or personal experience based on a real-life or a perceived threat.

One of the party’s outcomes of allowing itself to be dominated by such groups and thinking is it has ceded the moral high ground to the Democratic Party, which has become the pragmatic political alternative.

A more specific element of the Republican Party’s regression is that it’s become hostage to a morally bankrupt interpretation of the Second Amendment. What we have witnessed arising is a Rambo Christ archetype, a heavily armed Jesus closely mirroring Mango of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western genre of Hollywood, replete with shoulder holsters and rugged, masculine scowling. Christ not saying, “Love they neighbor as thyself” or “Turn the other cheek,” but “Make my day!”

This self-righteous, self-centered, filled-with-fear Rambo America, in addition to allowing pathological types intent on working out their psychological bedevilments by wreaking mass harm on innocent bystanders, has caused another deleterious outcome. Encouraging those who shouldn’t carry a gun, not because of mental disability or terrorist activity, but because they are quiverers, psychologically unfit and undisciplined, who would freeze in the moment or begin shooting randomly in a wild craze, likely creating more carnage of innocent lives to be armed.

The reality is that we now not only need to be aware of our surroundings because of potential loose screws, but also of well-intentioned, self-designated individuals with hero complexes coming to the rescue.

Those opposed to banning military-grade assault weapons, denying access to guns for those on terrorist watch-lists, and other thoughtful limitations on gun ownership might not realize they are projecting callous and cold worldviews, devoid of compassion and empathy. Gestures such as moments of silence in the wake of the latest bloodbath seemingly appear shallow, mere balm for their consciences.

Last week I wrote about the America we’ve become. But it’s not the America we are condemned to be. One wishes we would work, instead, on creating a society in which there are true moments of silence, when no gun is taking an innocent life. That would take courage and be an act of true leadership.

That column opened with a line from Arthur Schopenhauer wondering why when suffering that is not of immediate concern to an individual, nevertheless, becomes his/her concern and spurns him/her to action.

The answer to Schopenhauer’s query lies in the message the Dalai Lama, who is touring the United States, delivers regularly: the interconnectedness of all and compassion for all sentient beings. Along with detachment, we can realize the cessation of our suffering.

It is only through that understanding and the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount we’ll be able to find the answer to our gun-rights debate.

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