Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Talking past one another on gun violence

When I was in college many years ago, as both an art technique exercise and a meditation, I hand-drew a large copy of the ancient illustration at left. You may not be able to see the details well here, but what's most striking about it for me is how happy and industrious the monks are in contrast to the stolid world-weariness of the elephant.

The Courier's letters section has been awash in chatter about guns and gun violence since the Newtown massacre. The current round is larger in scale than usual, but not much different in quality than the reactions to any previous mention of guns on the op-ed page. I'd like to be optimistic that people are waking up to the seriousness of our national problem with guns, but, well, you know.

It would just be nice if for once we could hold back on the rush to frame the issue, which is really all that's going on.

The gun lovers want to put the frame on the individual who did the deed, and in this case they're focusing on his developmental disability, blithely unconcerned about tarring everyone who's mentally challenged with the broad brush of scary difference.

The gun despisers want to put the frame on the weapons and the truly insane ease of access to them in this society, unconcerned about the many owners of firearms who keep them safe and under control.

Both these perspectives include essential truths. Both insist that there's nothing more to the picture, and as long as we refuse to put our arms completely around the problem, we can never come close to a solution or even useful alleviation of the incessant damage.

When will we accept the wisdom that we're unwilling and perhaps unable to see the whole picture? Could we at least reject the relentless framing, which amounts to putting out our own eyes, and open ourselves to seeing and hearing something new here?

The letters and comments are a complete waste of time, so I'm not linking to any of them.

It's a day for resolutions, and I'd like to hope that as a nation we can resolve to be better people, take better care of one another, pay better attention, and fear one another less.