We are deeply saddened for the families of those who have lost a loved one to gun violence this week, and every week. But we are even more deeply concerned with the escalating spiral of rage and finger-pointing that are nurturing more opportunities for such violence. Once again we implore you to abstain from feeding these online dialogues that only further entrench those whose opinions would differ from yours behind their own walls of social media righteousness.
It’s foolish to say to a group of adults that the desires of the nation aren’t just black and white. That’s obvious to anyone capable of even the most rudimentary measure of critical thought. We know that the nation, and humanity lives in the nebulous grey gradient between those poles.
We each live behind our own fog of war, and believe me, we have allowed ourselves to escalate this conversation into a war. This fog rolls in thick from behind our heads, condensed from the ether by our own social positions and opinions. We reject opinions contrary to ours with our own personal violences: We name call, we unfriend, we bait, we battle strangers in comment threads. We don’t listen. We wait for our turn to tell others how the world should change to better reflect our opinions. Sometimes we don’t even wait.
Each and every one of these exchanges feeds a national online dialogue that increasingly polarizes the population. Each of us adds little pressures to massive, groaning fault line between us all.
And each time we do, we thicken the fog around ourselves, and push those whose opinions would differ from ours deeper into the murky distance. We do this so much so that we even seek it out in our political candidates. Every political cycle they become more and more just… caricatures.
And we retreat a little further back into the polarized battlefield, nourishing our opinions on memes and like-minded media outlets, always believing our side to be white, and those whose opinions would differ from ours to be black.
And the faces of acquaintances whose opinions would differ from ours become caricatures. Less human, and whose opinions do not matter as much as ours. And who are incapable of seeing the grey that our nation lives in.
The grey we used to see so well.
The grey that is indecipherable behind our fog of war, so far back in our entrenched lines.
The grey that has become a no man’s land.
The grey that does nothing more than catch innocence within the crossfire of our best intentions.
This is the grey we are supposed to live in, but we are willing it into abandonment.
So I stand here, a murky silhouette in the middle of an abandoned American ideal, waving a flag of truce and begging my brothers and sisters in this great experiment called America to stand up from their trenches and throw down their arms.
This has nothing to do with gun control. I’m asking you to throw down the armaments you use to defend your opinions with extreme prejudice and step out into the no man’s land to have a listen.
No, not to me, and not your media outlets, your memes, or the voices from back in your polarized entrenchment. Listen to each other, stripped from the offensive weapons we use to berate and belittle each other. And listen to how we are afraid. Standing alone together in the grey of no man’s land, the artillery of agendas hissing past our heads and hear the fears of those whose opinions would differ from yours.
And remember what you already know: We all want the same things.
The safety that can only be provided by a government.
Safety from the government abusing the gift of our trust.
Safety to be with our friends and neighbors.
Safety from our friends and neighbors.
Safety to have an opinion.
Safety to have that opinion respected.
These safeties to extend to our families and all those we hold dear.
The safety that those we hold dear would never need to fear the loss of these safeties.
Maybe if enough of us listen rather than tell, we can thin this fog of war back enough to see one another again.
How many more people need to die before we realize the fact that we are all responsible for the environment we have created. We’ve willed it into cold reality through the self-righteousness of our own opinions, and our impassioned willingness to instruct others on the right way to think. If you don’t believe me play the following thought experiment with yourself.
When you read the title of this post, “A Call to Disarm, America,” your gut instinct immediately made you think “gun control.” Before even digesting the first sentence of the post, your brain had already filtered the concept of gun control through your opinions and you had a feral, emotional response toward the word “Disarm” and how you feel about the concept of sweeping gun legislation. That emotional response entrenched you with, or against the post emotionally, and you started your praise or rebuttals.
Did you have a reaction? Positive or negative? Did you bristle or nod quietly to yourself before you read the post? Did it color the way you read the post?
If so it might be time to accept your part. Disarm yourself of your opinions, your memes, your like-minded media outlets, and the fear-mongering braying mules who seek fame at the cost of dividing our nation. Step out from your fog and join me in the no man’s land with ears open. Because a war is coming, and we are escalating it. Each and every one of us. Every single day.
I’ll be there, waiting. On the groaning fault line in the grey. Afraid. I hope you join me. One nation, indivisible. With liberty, justice, and safety for all.
Post Script: To those of you who would argue that a conversation can never stop a war I would say this in response: In October of 1963, a conversation was had that implored leaders of nations to listen to the fears of those whose opinions would differ from their own. That conversation peeled back a fog of war so thick that the only “rational” response the day before was nuclear war. Conversation won’t get us all the way there, but it will go much further for the health of our freedoms than rhetoric and violence.