Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Intolerance Does NOT Breed Tolerance: We need to talk

I and a vast majority of people in this country would choose to defend ourselves and our loved ones by making it impossible for individuals to buy or possess weapons designed for military use. Unfortunately, the absurd misreading of the 2nd Amendment by a 5-4 majority of the Scalia court and the irrational shilling for arms manufacturers by the once reputable National Rifle Association (read their history—they only went crazy a few decades ago when greed, marketing, and outrageous right wing ideologies took hold of their national leadership) has caused the dangerous proliferation of weapons in this country.

I am approaching 70 years of age, and I guarantee that this horrific proliferation of gun deaths and mass murder is a very recent phenomenon that is spiraling exponentially. Rational, civic dialogue and reasonable restraints on access to firearms must occur. Play out in your own mind the actual scenario as espoused by the NRA, congressional Republicans, and Donald Trump. Guns in the hands of every teacher, every administrator, and every student in every school from kindergarten to college; guns in the hands of every employee and every employer on every job; guns in the hands of every driver on the road; guns in the hands of every passenger on every bus, train, or plane; ad infinitum. This will make us SAFER?

It is an absolutely absurd and unworkable vision, foolish in the extreme, yet just this kind of argument is trotted out whenever some horrendous tragedy occurs.

I actually encourage complex analysis, nuanced positions, and civil discourse. Put simply, we shouldn't tar whole cultures, religions, races, or nationalities with the brush of a violent few, yet we have to find ways of limiting or eliminating that violence as best we can.

Of course, we will never completely or permanently eliminate violence from any society; still, it seems clear that we have actually done a worse job than many. The proliferation of personal weapons and the increasing deadliness of those arms has certainly not made us safer. Our interventions in the affairs of other countries since WWII have had little to do with "protecting freedom"; in general, they have had much more to do with maintaining or increasing political domination of a region for private profit.

I do find that an alarming number of violent incidents (especially mass murder outside of war), are performed by those who I would characterize as having a fundamentalist point of view—the particular religion is irrelevant. They justify their actions on the grounds of a religious or political view that both encourages and justifies deadly behavior, whether attacking a black church, burning a clinic, killing a doctor, attacking a gay gathering, blowing oneself up in the middle of a crowd, or flying a plane into a building.

Intolerance is at the heart of most of these inhumane acts; a few are simply the work of some tragically unhappy or disgruntled person whose rage at "the other" has overcome his own self-pity, humiliation, loneliness, and emptiness. The problem with intolerance—whether factions, sects, or other “us vs them” groupings—is that intolerance does not breed tolerance. On the other hand, tolerance, in the long run, may actually confront, confound, and convert intolerance. The problem, of course, is that it can take decades, even centuries, to accomplish. Still, although so many of our compatriots do everything that they can to discourage tolerance and encourage intolerance because of their identification with their "team," this country, despite all its historical flaws and contradictions, really has moved slowly toward wider acceptance of others, from Roger William's "Bloody Tenent of Persecution" in the 1600's to our current battle for women's rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, et al.

As to the NRA’s advocacy of gun proliferation and Trump’s cheerleading for violence and discrimination, do I think that “good” civilians armed with AR-type rifles or most other weaponry will make us safer? Not on your life or mine. I feel quite certain, both intuitively and intellectually, that more and deadlier guns will make us much less safe; neither do I consider those who purchase these weapons on the pretense of defending or protecting this country to be heroes by any definition.

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