Violence & American Politics In 2015

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Yesterday’s shooting in San Bernardino, CA has drawn out entirely predictable political reactions. Much of the political left used the shooting as an opportunity to bring attention to horrifying statistics about American domestic gun violence, ultimately proposing that the appropriate prescription is increased gun control at the federal level. The political right—including proponents of the Second Amendment and the NRA—generally seem to see domestic gun violence as a complicated social problem that, at best, won’t be solved by simply increasing the government’s involvement in weapons regulations, and at worst might introduce tricky & unintended consequences. One of their proposals is to increase funding for mental health programs.

Regardless of where you stand on this debate, I can’t help but notice that when a disaster like this occurs and gets immediately linked to a terror organization like ISIS, the same parties jump to completely opposite conclusions. In these cases, the political right asserts that our “national security” is in jeopardy, and that the only solution is to increase the power of federal secret spy agencies and to take a more aggressive line in our foreign policy. The political left cites civil liberties, privacy, and the Fourth Amendment as reasons to not have the government more involved in a situation where increased activity comes with minimal upside.

There are nuances that I’m ignoring here, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable by illuminating this strange contradiction. One side will demand an immediate government solution to the violent case that fits their narrative, but they’ll vehemently fight back against government solutions if the violence is of a slightly different flavor. If you pay attention to the news cycle you’ll have noticed this pattern by now, and we’ll undoubtedly see more of it during the next mass shooting or ISIS-inspired attack.

And of course, no long-term resolution ever comes from these debates, mostly because nobody is actually looking for a true “resolution” in the first place. No effective compromise can be reached because all sense of reason, compassion, and cooperation has been completely abandoned in favor of individual, religious, party, and corporate interests. In 2015, violence is simply an excuse to yell loudly and accelerate your agenda. Whatever happened to simply “being the change you wish to see in the world”?

I often wonder why it has to be this way. If we really want to build a brighter future for ourselves and all of our children, human egos must find a way to submit to that common objective. The time horizon for our goals should be much further into the future than it is now. We won’t end (gun) violence next year, but over the next 100-1000 years it is absolutely a goal worth aiming for.

Politically, I don’t have answers. There are far too many interests and stakeholders in this game for my hippie head to handle.

But it seems painfully obvious to me that spiritually, we could really use a renaissance.

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