April 7, 2013

Why the Gun Control Debate Doesn’t Matter.

We have never really been safe. And we never will be.

Last week a task force funded by the NRA outlined recommendations for improving school safety. The package is being called the National School Shield Program, and is led by Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican representative for the NRA.

The program outlines eight recommendations, including “encouraging states to make school safety part of their educational requirements,” and utilizing an “online self-assessment tool that schools can use to evaluate … their safety policies.”

The most controversial recommendation is “advising schools to train teachers and other school personnel to carry guns to protect their students.”

This is where I got lost: I can’t find any logic in an argument that says having more guns in schools is the solution to guns in schools.

We have been talking and arguing about the Second Amendment for a while, and about who is allowed to bear what and how many and what kind.

But I’m not sure any of it matters. No matter what laws we pass about which weapons people can or can’t have, if someone is intent on killing, they will find a way.

Which makes me wonder–are we having the right conversation?

Shouldn’t we be talking about how we got to this place, and how we’re going to get out of it, rather than trying to pass laws that make us feel like we are doing something about the tragedies among us?

Gun control or no gun control isn’t the solution. It’s just a band-aid to cover the real problem—as a nation, we are out of balance and focused on the wrong things.

We live in a country where Honey Boo Boo is more important than the war going on. We consume at the cost of our own planet, at a rate that will not sustain us.

We are slaves to money and things.

Many of our possessions require another person to suffer so we may have them. We have endless choices when it comes to food, clothes and cars—we believe that having more is good and that bigger is better.

All of this materialism has led us to neglect our souls. And now, we are soul sick.

We are so messed up that we are killing each other.

The NRA’s solution is the easy way out—arm everybody and hope for the best.

But all that means is that we don’t have to do the work. It means we don’t have to look at our pain, our disillusionment, our fear; we don’t have to look at what’s causing us to shoot and kill each other.

On Friday night I saw author Caroline Myss speak. At the end of the evening she addressed the current state of the country.

It is “American against American,” she said, “so much so that we are collecting guns to fire against each other.” She added, “How can we even consider such thing?”

She has a point. Seriously, step back and think about what we are doing. Our country is so polarized that we are arming ourselves against each other. How ridiculous is that?

We are supposed to be on the same side.

I’ve thought this for a long time, and Friday night Myss confirmed my thoughts: We are behaving this way because we are scared.

We are living in scary times; we never know when the next tragedy is going to hit, or who is going to be taken next. Maybe next time it will be us. We are struggling to pay our bills and feed our families. Everything is really hard.

And what we thought we were sure about has become an uncertainty. We used to be a safe nation, but as recent events show, we actually aren’t safe here at all.

But we have never really been safe. And we never will be.

In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron talks about how many of our problems come from our constant search for security.

“To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic. To seek for some lasting security is futile … Believing in a solid, separate self, continuing to seek pleasure and avoid pain, thinking that someone ‘out there’ is to blame for our pain—one has to get totally fed up with these ways of thinking … Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide.”

So if there’s no where to hide, and we really don’t have control of any of it, what do we do?

Myss said Friday that we pray. “Every day pour grace into the world,” she said.

That makes more sense to me than loading up our schools with guns.

We can also stop running from our fear, and get comfortable with uncertainty. We can, as Chodron says, “acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do.”

How do we do that? We do it with mindfulness.

We sit with our fears and take a good look at them without trying to get them to go away. We don’t reach for the vodka, cookies or credit card. And we definitely don’t buy more guns to keep the crazies at bay.

When we don’t seek momentary relief by doing whatever it is that makes us feel safe, we don’t attach to our fears. We become comfortable with not knowing, and we become more open. And this, according to Chodron, leads to less aggression in the universe:

“It starts with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the parts of ourselves that we feel are not worthy of existing on the planet. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful not only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we even aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change…

“If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others—what and whom we can work with, and how—becomes wider.”

This isn’t easy work to do. Sometimes, it’s really hard and feels pretty awful. But I think if we all did it, we would change our course.

“Gun control” isn’t something we can ever have anyway. All we really have control over is ourselves, and how we react to things, though we may think otherwise at times.

We won’t ever solve the problem of gun violence by arming everyone or by being on constant alert. We won’t solve it until we put in the time, and do the work.

Rather than covering our wounds by creating laws, maybe we can take a look at what has caused them. Instead of talking about who to arm, maybe we can begin to find ways to be kinder to each other.

We can stop gun violence by stopping the need for it.




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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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