Friday, January 18, 2013

How my tribe thinks

a handgunJosh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has posted some thoughtful personal pieces about guns in the last week, which I found very thought-provoking and useful. They were based in an attempt to explain/define how somebody could accept the notion of gun rights while still feeling personally uncomfortable -- not morally, but rationally -- with the notion of widespread presence of guns in public life. I find that I relate very much to his viewpoint, and also find in his explorations the seeds of the reason that we find differences on this topic so difficult to bridge.

His first piece is titled Speaking for My Tribe, and attempts to lay out how he views the issue and a bit on how he got there.

More than this, I come from a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien, as I said. I don’t own one. I don’t think many people I know have one. It would scare me to have one in my home for a lot of reasons. Not least of which because I have two wonderful beyond belief little boys and accidents happen and I know that firearms in the home are most likely to kill their owners or their families. People have accidents. They get depressed. They get angry.
This is one of many viewpoints that tend not to be expressed during gun debates, because it's more personal than dogmatic, but I agree that it's a not uncommon position.

The second piece follows up discussion generated by the first, and is titled Guns Kill People.

My friend Steve Clemons talks in the context of international relations of high-trust versus high-fear relations between states. ... I think something similar applies to civil society. Maybe everyone carries guns but everyone is deterred from firing them in anger because everyone else has a gun and someone will shoot back. But even if we buy that mass gun deterrence vision, that’s a high fear society, not one I want to live in. It’s also not a vision of freedom that I buy into or want to be a part of.
This seems to me to get at the heart of the divide. Nobody wants everybody getting shot up by crazy people, but some "tribes" think that the obvious solution is deterrence through widespread arming of the population, while other tribes think that it's obvious to prevent the crazies from running wild or having access to guns.

On the pay-walled PTM Prime site, I added this to Josh's analysis:

I think you've hit on a really good metaphor here -- that "everybody should be armed" is really a Mutually Assured Destruction approach to public safety, and I'm not sure that's a way that I (or society) want(s) to live. But in that regard, the divide mirrors the Cold War divide about the relative merits of a big nuclear arsenal versus disarmament -- is it more important to deter a bombing or to prevent having so many that accidental launch (via mechanical failure or a crazed actor) becomes more and more likely? I don't think that anybody on either side really ever convinced the other, and it may be that this divide mirrors the Stern Father versus Nurturant Parent frames with which different segments of our culture approach the world. Which is frustrating to think about, but maybe helpful in accepting that there are integral differences at work that can't really be reconciled but can maybe still find some common ground.
I personally find that the identification of this divide as one that's not susceptible to rational argument makes me feel a bit hopeless about progress. But perhaps those in the midst of negotiations (Biden??) can already recognize the two positions represented here and find some zone of sanity between them. Anyway, I found the discussion useful in itself either way.

No comments: