We Have To Talk

In America, fear has replaced trust in God.  The most potent symbol of that is our mandatory gun worship.  Our money says “In God We Trust,” but “In Fear We Trust” is our true motto.

We can no longer even have a conversation about gun control because the pro-gun people will shut it down. In truth, some Americans are so afraid of each other that they think they need a gun. And not just one gun, lots of them.

And what is worse, they are so afraid, that any attempt to discuss gun violence is met with violent, hate-filled rejection.

In the small village of Constantine, Michigan, a village council member decided to open a conversation about gun violence.  Village President Pat Weiss had read a December 2015 NYT editorial decrying gun violence, and felt the issue deserved a wider hearing.  Alarmed by the growing risk of dying by gunshot, she worked hard to make those conversations happen.

Her timing was perfect, because nearby Kalamazoo was reeling from a mass shooting of its own.  On Feb. 20th, 2016, a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage that killed 6 people and left 2 others critically injured.  Gene Kopf, father of one of the victims of that killing spree, attended the final Constantine village meeting to talk about the need to address gun violence.

It’s important to understand that this was only a conversation. There was never a question about banning guns or even remotely challenging the right of the citizens of rural Constantine to bear arms.  And yet, Ms. Weiss was verbally attacked and threatened in a series of angry meetings for daring to suggest that gun violence is a problem around here:

http://woodtv.com/2016/04/18/constantine-residents-spurn-nyt-editorial-on-gun-control/

In the end, the debate was shut down.  And after Ms. Weiss’ experience, it is highly unlikely anyone else in Constantine will have the courage to try again.

How did so many of us ever get so mean about this?

Maybe it was when the National Rifle Association, not content with selling guns to hunters, began marketing them to women and children.

Or was it when some of us decided to blithely ignore the obvious correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of shooting deaths?

I think the tipping point occurred when our ultimate security become invested in a weapon, instead of fair laws and peaceful neighborhoods where we cared for, and about, each other.

Ultimately I don’t think it’s about guns at all.  I think it’s about the fear that has somehow replaced America’s trust in God and each other.  And that’s the scariest thing of all.  Because when fear becomes the higher power we worship, then weapons become sacred and death becomes our bitter offering.

Please, stop worshiping the wrong God, America. Disarm.  Australia did, and saw the risk of dying by gunshot in their country fall by over 50%.

It has to be possible for America to stop worshiping fear.   We have to talk about that.

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6 thoughts on “We Have To Talk

  1. Thank you Kathy for your insightful post. Your point is warranted, people are scared. In the midst of ever increasing gun violence it is as if people are clinging to their weapons instead of their faith. We do not have to look very far to see that this mentality is creating more suffering rather than not. Rather than looking at the statistics of gun violence, maybe we need to start talking, exposing each and every story that is attached to those statistics.

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    • I think that’s very true. As a pastor, I’ve learned the importance of stories. About 90% of the task with frightened people, is getting them to tell their stories. Dealing with my own fear, that’s generally where I start. Dr. Thistlethwaite often says, “follow the money” if something in the public arena doesn’t make sense; to that I would add “follow the story,” when someone’s outsize fear doesn’t appear to make sense. Thanks for re-focusing me on stories!

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  2. Great post, Kathy. It’s a sad day indeed when we can’t even have a conversation about topics we disagree on. Guns have become such a volatile issue that even a dialogue seems to freak people out. I think you are right about fear. I don’t really think it’s fear of “danger out there” that makes people want to carry guns, though some might claim it’s that. I think it’s the fear of powerlessness and loss of control that we all feel if we let ourselves get caught up in it. With guns, perhaps the not letting people take them away is even more of a security blanket than the guns themselves.

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  3. Here are some perspectives on guns from someone who has owned them, used them to kill, likes to shoot, but no longer owns anything more lethal that the BB gun that used to be long to his father.

    On one level, I think of guns in much the same way I think of stuff in my tool box. A gun is a tool, an efficient way to stick a hole in something from distance. Sometimes it’s a matter of “the right tool for the right job.” One of my “jobs” as the pastor of a small congregation in rural Texas, was to eradicate the armadillos before they dug up the front lawn of the church, looking for grubs. I could never get close enough to an armadillo to poke it with a stick, so I had to shoot it from a distance in order to effectively remove it from the property. It should also be noted that they were particular immune to my powers of verbal and gestural persuasion. Since permanent removal was the goal, the gun proved to be the quickest (I supposed I could have poisoned them), most efficient means of accomplishing that goal.

    Doesn’t that just sound like a perfectly rational excuse for killing a creature of God’s creation without getting my hands bloody in the process? In retrospect, I have had to ask myself, what if I could kill an armadillo with a stick? What if I could beat it to death, pick up the pieces of its shattered and bleeding carcass and toss them over the cow pasture fence? Would I feel the same way about extinguishing that life as I did by merely shooting it? I did kill a rat that way once and the answer is no.

    I am not against hunting, but I don’t know that most hunters take to the deer blinds on the first day of the season saying to themselves, “I am just doing my part in wildlife conservation by helping to cull the herd and prevent more car-deer accidents.” Though much social good is done when hunters donate venison (sounds so much better than Bambi-burgers, doesn’t it?) to local food pantries, feigning noble motives seems a bit disingenuous to me. I have hunted game animals, shot a few, and eaten what I killed. At some visceral level, I enjoyed the kill (Norway rats not withstanding). I say that now as a confession.

    I think what the furor over gun control legislation is all about is the fear that someone or something is going to challenge my “right” to indulge an unspoken, primeval, deep in the lizard brain urge that is stronger than sex – the urge to kill.

    In short, there is no rational basis for discussing guns. The lizard owns both sides of the debate. One the one side is the irrational fear than any restriction on the shape, size, caliber, or magazine capacity is one irretrievable step onto a slippery slope leading to jack-booted agents in black confiscating every hand gun, shotgun, BB gun and squirt gun in the house and forcing the now defenseless populace to watch political correctness movies 24/7. On the other side are well meaning, but often ill informed and equally irrational, people who really believe that a tool shaped like an AK-47 can kill more people than a similarly equipped deer rifle.

    The NRA argument is that a gun is the great equalizer. A 5 foot tall, 98 pound person with a Glock-9 is just as deadly as the 220 pound fullback with ill intentions. We are all safer when we all have a gun. Accidental shootings by kids and people unfamiliar with the use of a weapon are problems that can be corrected with proper education and gun-safety habits. If the NRA stance is the logical extension of the nuclear arms policy of the Cold War era – mutually assured destruction, then that logic dissipates when everyone has the bomb. When N. Korea has the bomb and ISIS has the bomb, the world is decidedly not a safer place.

    Right now, personally, I am terribly ambivalent about owning a weapon, especially a handgun. You don’t hunt deer or shoot armadillos with a Glock-9. The only reason to own such a tool is to mortally harm another person. Shooting targets just makes you better at using the tool for its intended purpose. I can see owning one. I can imagine being threatened by 220 pound fullback with evil intentions. I can imagine the terror of feeling defenseless against an intruder intent on doing me or my family harm. Yet, I have not taken that step of ownership. I guess it’s partly because owning the device takes me one step closer to doing what I now only imagine. Could I kill another human being with as little moral regret as shooting an armadillo, especially if I felt scared enough and justified enough in doing so? I think I know the answer. That is why I haven’t taken that step.

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  4. It’s the one that yells the loudest that wins. It’s amazing that people fight so hard when it comes to the rights of gun owners while they let children die in the streets. What about their right to grow up without the fear of getting shot? In the post I did I was struck by the conversation between teenage friends sbout the possibility of being shot. Our children should not have to worry about dying at 15 due to gun violence.
    It’s the same mentality that staunchly supports right to life but refuses to act to help ensure that each child has enough to eat or adequate education.
    It’s time that people realize that there are consequences to the choices that are made.
    With the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories I wonder if this country will ever regain the ability to engage in rational discussion. Thank you for you post

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  5. Your statement: “Our money says “In God We Trust,” but “In Fear We Trust” is our true motto” is very inciteful and has such depth to it. Where we spend our money seems to reflect that fear is of greater control than our faith. Money talks but is it saying the right thing here in our purchase of weapons? I also find it interesting that the motto “In God We Trust” was added to our currencies in response to the Red Scare and McCarthy. Even that motto comes from a place of fear rather than faith.

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