On our most recent episode of the Midwest Peace Process podcast, we talked about the current level of frustration over gun violence in America, and the fruitless scramble to find the answer. This frustation is also evident among those we talked to in our subsequent "On The Street" interviews. This frustration inevitably leads many of us to engage in age-old debates, repeating the same conversations over and over again, accomplishing nothing of substance. We hop on and off the proverbial merry-go-round, expecting it to take us somewhere new each time, but we are always left disappointed.
People in positions of power are perhaps subject to this frustration moreso than the rest of us. They are in the spotlight, and they have high expectations placed upon them. If they do nothing, they could be viewed as out of touch, preoccupied, or the unpardonable sin of not caring at all. No one wants to be perceived this way, but politicians especially, for whom a lack of empathy can easily result in the end of a career. (I'll leave the discussion of whether choosing politics as a career should even be an option for another time.) A story in the Post today refers to an Alderman in Lake Saint Louis who said that "he doesn't know the answer to confronting gun violence in light of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But he thinks the city should say something." So he admits that he doesn't know how to fix the problem, but he feels compelled to do something anyway. This feeling that something must be done is natural for most people to have, I think. But should we give in to it? Isn't it likely that the steps we take out of sheer frustration will have unintended consequences that may be worse? As with many things, we may find that the cure could be worse than the disease.
So allow me to break some new ground here. We don't talk about ridding the world of influenza, do we? No, we long ago realized the futility of trying to control something that cannot be controlled. Instead, we talk about individual protection (through the use of vaccines). Perhaps it is time to stop talking about ridding the world of guns, or other similarly futile approaches to controlling them, and instead accept the reality that they are not going to go away, and focus instead on individual protection. Furthermore, in this country, we are fond of saying "freedom isn't free" when we talk about the hard-working members of our military. They are portrayed as paying a price (sometimes the ultimate price) for the rest of us, and we honor these sacrifices on holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Well, perhaps it is time for a new holiday where we reflect on the sacrifices made by victims of gun violence, and the price they have paid for the rest of us -- because our freedom to be armed is also not free. We already know the price of free speech is tolerance of hate groups like the KKK. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the price of our freedom to keep and bear arms is that we as a nation must occasionally endure tragedies like those at Sandy Hook. Perhaps it is time to step off of this merry-go-round.