Something strikes me as I read and listen to the voices on both sides of the gun violence debate. (I shy away from calling it a “gun control” debate because there are so many more parts to it than simply the presence of guns.) What strikes me is the way people on both sides characterize the actors, the citizens, the people of our country, the world.
The issue of “good” versus “evil” comes up often for those who support guns. It usually comes with a religious reference of prayer or needing the help of God to chill everyone the f*** out. And that to me is part of the problem. The ideas of good and evil, whether we like to think so or not, are subjective, like judging artistic points in Olympic ice skating.
One person’s “good” could result in the murder or subjugation of thousands of others. The ideas of good and evil reflect a society and its power structure. And those concepts of what’s accepted as good or evil shift over time. Yes, there are some aspects of “evil” or “good” that we all agree on, the ten commandments are always cited for example, but to me in our world now, that division seems a slippery slope.
It’s easy to assume that another way of life is “bad” because we see ill effects, or don’t see the whole picture, from our vantage point.
People do awful things sometimes, maybe often, but the core belief at the heart of the gun debate comes down to our fundamental belief in human nature.
Are people inherently good? Or are inherently evil?
What I’m noticing is that the pro-gun faction seems to believe that people are inherently evil. (And maybe that comes from the religious influence that teaches the same, depending on your faith.) This belief posits we need outside protection from the inevitable evil when it comes, as it always does. That more guns will keep people in line or create a sense of civility among people who are just evil. If everyone is armed, then we can all protect ourselves from the “bad” guys.
On the other hand, as someone who thinks guns exacerbate violence to the nth degree, I believe that people are inherently good. There are no racist babies. There are no children who immediately come into the world thinking they must dominate others. Are there different worldviews? Certainly. A difference between pessimism and optimism? Certainly. Is there a natural instinct to create a packing order? Certainly. (But we also know this now and can actively teach kids how to work with others, to respect all opinions, and find their place in the world without having to put others down.)
There are personality differences. But you can be a generally pessimistic, negative person without being a racist or gigantic asshole. An equal opportunity Debbie Downer if you will.
Instead of the dichotomy of good versus evil, I propose we start looking at the world through the eyes of love versus fear.
Love and fear are clear concepts that fuel our beliefs, decisions, and actions every day. They speak to the underlying motivations for one’s beliefs and actions. They are not subjective.
If your decisions, beliefs, and actions are based in love for humanity, love for others, nature, animals, and the dream that I think all of us have of having a free, independent, and prosperous, then you’re acting for the greater good. If you believe there’s enough for everyone and that with the proper support, all will thrive, then that feels like love. Hope. Possibility. Progress.
If your decisions, beliefs, and actions are based on fear of “other”, of losing something, having not enough, or lack and scarcity, then I’d argue you’re acting out of fear. You’ve got to protect what you have, build walls, and get what you can before someone else does. Or ridicule and dehumanize others when they threaten your life and/or status in any way.
You can literally feel the difference in your body, says the yoga instructor of course. If you’re acting out of fear, you’ll feel more constricted with short breath. Whereas if you’re acting out of love, you’ll be able to breathe more easily feeling expansive and relaxed. It sounds totally cheese ball, but if you’re in tune with your body, you can feel the difference. If you’re not in tune with your body, then get to a yoga class! 😉
Fear breeds hate and hateful actions.
Fear keeps us stuck. Fear makes us do things that we otherwise would not do in order to protect ourselves from whatever we fear. Other people. Being seen. Losing out on what we believe is our right. Spiders.
Love on the other hand, believes in abundance and assumes the best in people. Love puts the spiders outside instead of squashing them.
And you may jump into argue that for all of human history, there have been wars, and slavery, and hate, and strife between people. Yes. The fight for survival is real, and there will always be those who strive for power and influence over others.
However, imagine a world where we know how brains work. We know what works in educating people so they grow up to be confident, responsible, and caring individuals because they feel safe in their world. Safe as who they are and able to speak up and stand up for what they believe without fearing violence or ridicule.They also respect others and different cultures because they’ve been taught the notion that there’s not only one right way to live. There is a basic understanding of human rights and that extends to all.
We know and appreciate that all people regardless of station in life, color, creed, ability, gender, or blood type are equal individuals. We all thrive when we have the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, and wifi – er – connection to others.
Then imagine on top of that a place where people are encouraged to pursue their own creative dream for their life, no matter what it is. Where people feel connected to their communities, and valued for who they are and what they bring to the world by the simple fact that they are alive. I highly doubt that many people will dream a dream of dominating others, stealing people’s shit, or killing others.
That’s a sign of fear long ignored. That’s insecurity and lack.
If you believe that love wins and people are inherently good, that given the social safety net of equal treatment and opportunity no matter who you are, then your world doesn’t need guns.
That’s the world I hope we’re working toward. Is it naive? Possibly. But I don’t care because I look around and I see how being heard changes lives. I see how inspiration and opportunity spark revolutions of love. I see how close we are to shifting toward love. (Despite the major backlash of recent events and attitudes.)
Are we there yet? No. Could we be close? I think so. If you look at neuroscience, we know how brains work and how both love and fear impact decisions and actions. If you look at political and social science, we know what impact certain state and national decisions will have on a populace.
We have seen patterns repeat historically, but I for one hope we are evolving past those patterns of fighting, dehumanization, and power grabs. Or at least that we’re on that trajectory.
Fear keeps us clamoring for safety, the past, the status quo. Fear builds a wall.
Love opens up for new possibilities and allows people to connect.
Love listens. Love understands how people make unfortunate decisions out of fear.
And love fights to create a world where everyone is heard, safe, and free to contribute their best.
The question is: What motivates your beliefs and actions?
I personally want to be on the side of love. If that leaves me at a disadvantage in the event of some military threat or a zombie apocalypse, then so be it. Eat my brain. But I will have spent my whole life fighting for love.