I’m probably opening up a whole can of worms by writing this. I don’t usually share my political views or take sides when everyone starts screaming about the next big thing we’re told to be incensed about. Usually because I hate drama and I don’t like being screamed at. And I’ve dealt more than enough with our cultures current “You have to think how I think or you’re stupid” mentality where we can’t just actually sit down and have a calm rational discussion and compromise about things.
But I was in the shower yesterday after a long day of riding and thinking about the current state of things. It was such a relief to get out among the mountains and the hills and the sun and just ride, without any political talk or anything else. Just riding with some amazing people on awesome bikes. But coming back, you couldn’t help but be swept up back into the world. Yes, I admit, I’m a Facebook junkie, as much as I abhor some of the things it creates within humans. Like trolling, because it’s easy to be mean or be a bully from behind a computer screen. Especially as it’s become nothing but a non-stop feed for people telling me what to think or feel with nothing more than fake news and catchy little memes.
I’m talking about the student walk outs and the gun control debates and everybody either screaming that you’ll take their guns out of their cold dead hands or that everyone who owns a gun is a monster and ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Well, let me say this. I am not a member of the NRA. I do not have children. I do not now own a gun. I do live in a house with guns. I have shot guns before. I like guns. I worked for eight years in law enforcement sitting at a front desk and a year and a half in college working as a reserve deputy for a sheriff’s department. I grew up in the country in a gun free household, went to a small school where 100 people were the largest class, and have been to college (several times, as much as I hate to admit it). I have screwed up things in my life more than once. I have also done some pretty cool things.
I understand kids want to go to school in safety. I understand teachers do not want to have to arm themselves in order to do their job. I have seen violence and anger and hatred close at hand. I lived in a neighborhood where I saw drug deals, and gangs, and wondered every day whether I would come home to my house being broken into. Wondering every night whether that odd noise was someone breaking into my house. Sick with fear that some idiot was going to harm me. I understand and wish that we could end violence and hate and this insane idea people have that other people’s lives don’t mean anything. I wish we could get back to a world where you could walk down the street at night without worrying who was going to jump out of the shadows. Have children who could live in a world where they didn’t fall asleep at night to the lullaby of gunshots and police sirens. Where our kids could run around outside without worrying some creep in a van was going to snatch them up.
But I also understand that hatred and violence and greed are things that live deep within the human DNA. Have lived within us from the first time man had a conscious thought. I have seen that violence and hatred. I have looked it in the face. And it doesn’t care about your wishes, or mine.
It’s all great to wish that banning all guns would make the world a safer place. But that world is where unicorns and My Little Ponies and Carebears live. Where Barney runs under the trees and cupcakes fall from the sky. It’s a great world to dream about. A world I truly do wish could actually exist (especially because I love unicorns and free cupcakes).
It’s an easy thought to ban guns. It’s an easy thing to be mad at. Because the true problem we need to talk about is not as tangible. Not as easily banned or regulated. Because the true problem is not something that many people want to hear. Because it means looking at themselves, deep within themselves. It means being honest. It means not taking the easy way out. It means doing the hard work.
You will never stop violence. You can only understand it. And teach people about it so that they understand why it is wrong. To choose to not give into it.
We tried to stop addiction by taking away alcohol. It didn’t work. We tried to stop drugs by banning them. It didn’t work. We created laws to stop theft, abuse, burglary, fraud, murder…yet those things still happen. They happen with knives and bombs and fists. And guns. But they still all happen.
Because the tools are not the problem. The problem is a society that doesn’t teach that lives are sacred. That it is not worth taking a human life. That it is okay to bully someone because they are not rich enough, or drive the right car or have the right cell phone. It is a society that makes people with mental issues feel like they are crazy, with no one to turn to. We shut people out and make them feel like their opinions don’t matter. People who are struggling to survive because of the society we’ve created have no way to get up after they’ve been knocked down. A society that creates celebrities out of criminals, glorifying their crimes and giving them their 15 minutes of fame. A world where we allow people to bully other people from behind computer screens. Where we glorify people screaming at each other and behaving like animals and we call it ‘reality TV’ and entertainment and news. Where we call that acceptable behavior. Where people can go for days, weeks, months without actually talking with another human being. Where we have forgotten simple things, like compassion and forgiveness and talking to people instead of just blasting them away. Where everything is at our fingertips, we’ve forgotten how to work for what we need. Where we teach that if you don’t have something, just take it from someone else who does.
Those are the things we really need to talk about. How parents let the TV teach their children instead of them. How kids can’t go out and play outside, skin their knees, learn that life isn’t all sunshine and roses but hey, you get back up and you keep running. Where we let experts tell us what’s right or wrong without trying to figure out things for ourselves. How no one can just agree to disagree and respect other people’s thoughts, how life should not just be “my opinion is the only one that matters”. How life is not a video game, where you can just take someone’s life because they made you mad. To understand our history, and how violence and greed and hate have woven themselves throughout not just our history but the history of the world. To understand what we are and who we are. To stop bullying people just because they are different. To stop thinking that just because we believe this, doesn’t mean all people have to believe this.
It’s easy to be mad at guns for all the violence. But believing that taking them all away is going to have any difference is like believing that if we just wish hard enough, unicorns are going to appear. It’s nice to dream. But it’s not going to happen.
I have lived around guns for a very long time and I can tell you this. Guns do not just jump out of closets and shoot people. It is the people who pull the triggers. It is the people we need to deal with. And that is a conversation few people are willing to talk about. Because we are unwilling to actually talk to each other anymore. Unwilling to see the other person’s side. Unwilling to hear what they are struggling with. What they need help with. How they are feeling.
I didn’t want to write this because I knew the shitstorm it might bring into my life. Because everybody loves to be a troll and tell you from the safety of their computer screens how life really is. They love to tell you from the safety of anonimity just how stupid you are and what a fool you are being instead of looking in the mirror at themselves. I didn’t want to write it because more and more I just want to be left alone. Don’t touch my stuff, I won’t touch yours. Yet I also feel like I had something to say. Because I am tired of being told what to say. What to think.
That is the great thing about our country. We are suppose to be taught to think for ourselves. But more and more we are being told what to think, and that we must think it, or we are wrong. And that is the scariest thing I can think of.
Because when people are not free to think for themselves, they are not free anymore.
You can ban all the guns you want, but it will not stop the violence. Please march and show solidarity with students to stop the senseless killings, but stop screaming about the guns and start being friends with the kids who you ostracize. Stop trying to take away other people’s tools, because those tools are not the problem. The problem is within ourselves. Violence does not need to exist. But banning a tool will not stop it. The only way to stop it is to stop wishing for a land of unicorns and accepting what reality is. That violence doesn’t have to occur. But only if we take the big step of looking at ourselves in the mirror and banning it from within our thoughts and minds. In teaching that human lives matter. To getting back to talking and settling things without a quick and easy answer like killing someone. To stop glorifying that which we hate.
It would be great if we could live in a land of unicorns. It would be amazing, in fact. But the truth is, unicorns don’t exist and never will. Because humans are not pure. Inside of each of us are the hardwired instincts for hatred and greed and violence. But we are also hardwired for compassion and friendship and community. We can be a better people, but we have to choose to be. That is the real debate here, not guns. Who do you choose to be?