By T.G. Blankenship at The Gethsemane Blog
The shooting in Colorado has inspired many people who like guns and don't like gun control to post clever little pictures on their Facebook pages for everyone to see. Some of the images have messages on them that are directly connected to the tragedy in Aurora and some are run of the mill anti-gun control messages.
I don't have a problem with people voicing their opinions or for being against gun control. But it seems to me that most of the images/messages I see posted on the subject aren't of any value and don't contribute anything worth while to any honest conversations that are going on concerning the issue of gun control. In fact, most of these messages seem to cause more trouble than anything else.
I want to run through a few images and give some words about them just to demonstrate what I'm writing about. To be clear, I'm not trying to argue for gun control in this post in any measure. I'm simply trying to demonstrate the need for healthy dialogue and how people are failing at it through these tactics. All the images below are from actual pages of people I know and if I had seen any that existed for the opposite position I'd certainly include them.
In this first image there exists a very large problem. A guilt trip. A guilt trip that seeks to use a very recent tragedy to push someone's political agenda. They believe that if the theatre was not free of privately held weapons by citizens that the shooting wouldn't have happened. That's the implication at least. But because we've allowed this theatre to exist as a weapon free zone we should all feel bad because someone broke that common rule and committed a heinous crime. For some reason that's the community's fault. I say the community because this is a society which works together, votes together, and makes majority decisions much of the time. Not only that but it's a society that prides itself on unity. Regardless, images/message like this that use guilt trips with faulty logic to push someone's political agenda are flat out morally wrong and don't help a conversation because they aren't on the side of their opponent but rather try to prove themselves right at any cost, even the cost of devaluing a tragedy. This is nothing more than an attempt at a cheap shot.
This second image is unique because it doesn't villainize the community of which it is to be a part but because it takes aim at the authorities who govern the society. The logic in this post is sub par because it makes Obama or any person of political authority who is for people being unarmed in some fashion out to be 'dictators' as though that were some sort of terrible position by default. Someone may be a bad dictator but that doesn't mean all dictator's must be bad. I like democracy too but can we at least agree that it's possible for someone to dictate well, or as well as a group of people? Criminals may prefer unarmed victims if they plan to use violence as a tool (and even then fear and anger are greater preferences to an assailant than victims being unarmed) but that's because they have ill will within them and not because weapons are necessarily a good thing. This post baptizes weapons so that anyone who opposes them in the hands of the masses is in the wrong and thus a criminal (if a citizen) and a dictator (if an authority). In other words, if you're for people being unarmed, you're bad. Villainizing the people who disagree with you won't help the conversation. It puts you at further odds and grows a distaste for one another. What needs to happen is finding common ground through how we see the world and then moving forward together, even with differences to find the best solutions so we truly can be a united society. Maybe that begins by saying we're all against ill-will and not our authorities, each other, or even objects that people can use in harmful ways.
To the left is a perfect example of someone wanting to be heard but not wanting to listen. Often times we want to be the only voice in a discussion so we can frame truth and reality on our own terms, never giving an ear or benefit of the doubt to those we disagree with. We have to learn to be able to characterize and explain a position someone we disagree with holds in a way that would honor their viewpoint. That is, if we can't portray someone's argument in a way they would portray it then we dismiss them, elevate ourselves, and do not continue the conversation but instead act like a child for the sake of winning or appearing clever. This type of behavior is what I often calling "talking at" someone instead of "talking with" someone. There is no community progress when we talk at each other. This profess comes about only when we talk with each other and talking with each other demands listening and trying to understand one another's viewpoints. When we paint someone's view in the way we want it to look we clearly don't care about them or progress, just ourselves. Feeding our ego isn't going to help others and the goal from both sides is always helping others (I hope). Belittling the views of others instead of allowing them to be proven insufficient by a superior argument shows weakness of argument and character.
Okay, this is one of my favorites because the problem with it is so simple. Like the first picture, this message carries with it the idea that if only we'd agree with this person then we wouldn't have the tragedy that we do on our hands (and this sort of image is really trying to put blood on the people's hands). That aside, it's still a damaging post because the notion is silly. The fact is this: the situation may have been different if someone in the theater had a gun, it may not. We don't know. It may have been worse, it may have been better. Either way, I bet people would have died and we'd still have a tragic news story. The reason this post is so bad is because it doesn't operate within the confines of reality but rather hypotheticals that just aren't all that likely. This post assumes that just because someone carries a gun they can and will save people from tragedy and that's simply not true (even worse, it assumes that in a very specific situation this would have been the salvation of many people when it's highly unlikely). It's also not true that if people don't carry guns they will be kept safe from tragedy. This messages focuses too much on the weapon and not enough on those who are able to carry weapons. Guns don't kill people just like they don't save people. People who carry guns don't even save people. People with bravery and the right formula of factors save people. Can't we agree that these kinds of absolutes are unrealistic in the world we live in? People will be sinful and hurt each other without guns and knives. They may use rocks. Which brings me to the next and final image.
This may be one of the worst posts I've seen in terms of logic. Don't get me wrong, the opening line is correct. That's a rock. But the rest of this message refuses to be based on honesty. Honestly, most people do not consider the rock to be the world's first assault weapon (as we use the term). Yes, many people of the Abrahamic faiths believe that the rock was the first weapon used in a murder, used to assault, but none of those people believe the rock is to be classified as an assault weapon unlike an M16 which was designed specifically for killing. God did not create rocks for killing. Rocks have been used as weapons but were not designed as weapons. There is a vast gap between the two that we would be wise to recognize if we desire honest and reasonable conversation. Because of this difference and others (like the ratio of rocks on earth to the rocks on earth used to hurt/kill others vs. the ratio of assault weapons on earth vs. the assault weapons one earth used to hurt/kill others) it makes sense that people don't want to "take your rocks" like they want to "take" your M16. Also, let's add another bit of reality to this situation; most people that this post is aimed against ("liberals") don't want to take everyone's guns away. Odds are probably higher that those "liberals" want laws centered around safety and storage in regards to weapons for civilians who live in a country which has the largest budget for military in the history of the world and where the only major threat on their lives is their fellow country man and not a foreign military or revolutionary group which is heavily armed. Again, I'm not against the second amendment, I'm simply saying that we need to be more honest about other people's opinions. Generalized arguments that ignore reality and the logic and reason that create disagreement won't help further that conversation because they refuse to engage what matters to the group and only focus on what matters to self.
So it's true that Cain murdered Abel and the rock did not. It's true that guns don't kill people and that people kill people. again, the discussion must start in agreements of reason (such as, people of ill will are not something to get behind, and people will hurt people with any object if their desire is strong enough). But snide arguments that hide being the veil of cleverness aren't helpful. I mean come on, people taking your rocks? Really?
At the end of the day we just need to learn that we're meant to be on the same team, helping each other, working together to move forward. We all want peace, safety, and positive mutual affection to exist among us. We just disagree on what that looks like politically. If we won't listen to each other, use logic and reason, try to understand each other's views to the point that we can explain them as the owner of the view would, and care more about the community than ourselves then we won't progress and nobody will ever get what they want. If we villainize one another and try to use guilt trips instead of conviction then we're doomed to dislike one another and hurt one another.
Voice your pinion. Disagree with people. Be clever. Fill your Facebook wall. Write to your representatives in office. Go to local government meetings and share your view. That's all well and good, but only if you can do it in a way that builds others up. Otherwise, you're wasting your time and everyone else's. And for what it's worth, real conversations that bring change usually happen outside your Facebook wall so if you're going to post online and not have these discussions in contexts that can actually bring about change, then you're just complaining or training for discussions you'll never have, and doing so in a really annoying way. Let's make change, let's have healthy discussion.