My Response to the Indy Star 03/11/18 Your Turn Faith & Values

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Mr. Mark Havel a Guest Columnist, writes:

“Maya Angelou talked about words, once spoken, as having the ability to stick to the walls and furniture in a room.  She believed a spoken word – good or bad – could crawl underneath a rug or hide beneath a couch cushion and that the power of the word – beautiful or ugly – could have influence long after it is uttered.

I believe her.  And I believe something like this is true for all the things we carry around with us and with which we surround ourselves.  It’s why I wear my wedding ring – to remind me of my love for my wife, her love for me, and God’s love for us both.  It’s why we put photographs, religious symbols and inspirational quotations on our walls, lockers, car bumpers, refrigerators and T-shirts.  It’s partly why so many Christians want Bibles to be allowed in schools, which they are.

If what we carry around with us – literally, figuratively, spiritually and otherwise – influences our lives in literal, figurative, spiritual and other ways then what must it do, for and through us, to have weapons of violence, in the form of guns, in our pockets, under our mattresses, on our night stands, in our closets, locked away, safely even, in basements and attics, and more?

Even if we use a weapon to hunt, which I believe is any adult’s prerogative; it bestows upon our psyche the sense of power, might, violence and death over another living creature.

Even if we keep a weapon for the sake of our own protection, which I believe is an adult’s prerogative, it means we are living with the expectation we will need it.  We are living with some measure of fear, tension and anxiety that something is out to get us.  And we are living under the pretense that we are willing and prepared to hurt or kill another human being, if necessary.  Again, I believe self-defense is every adult’s prerogative and that there are times when such protection is warranted and worthwhile.

But, if what we carry around with us matters, if the guns we carry on hips, hide under mattresses, or lock away in closets are surrounding us with expressions of power and might, with the anxious need for protection, with nothing more or less than the potential violence they can produce, then I wonder if the guns we carry weigh us down with more than the steel, plastic and firepower of which they are made.

It’s why I’m convinced the issue of guns in our culture is a spiritual one.  And I mean “spiritual”, not religious.

My hope is that if we acknowledge the influence that violence, power, fear and self-preservation at all costs have on our nation’s collective spirit – and which seem to be the impetus for the gun culture we have created – maybe we will be moved to do something about it, together.  Maybe we can be inspired to lay down our weapons and be relieved of the grip they seem to hold on our way of life. ”

My response is below…

We all suffer, to some degree, from confirmation bias. We tend to seek out and approve of content with which we already agree.  Many writers and commentators fall short, by failing to anticipate counter-arguments, leaving themselves open to rebuttal and refutation.  Assuming readers already agree with or will be persuaded by their arguments, they ignore one of the main purposes of debate; to provide the un-informed or un-decided with arguments and ideas that can persuade them to agree.

I believe Mr. Havel goes too far in ascribing influence to items we surround ourselves with.  Certainly, our wedding rings can serve as reminders of love and commitment, but will we forget these if we don’t or can’t wear them for whatever reasons?  No one denies words have power, but if we go too far with this reasoning, we start thinking that the abolition of free speech is good.  After all, to some of us, “words are violence”.  Positive affirmations and images can be helpful, but only in so far as we couple such motivations with positive action, and even then, only if we wish.  No one can make another person feel better with quotes on a cat poster, unless that person wishes, or allows themselves, to be cheered by it.  This speaks to a truth that many choose to overlook, choice and human nature.

Self-defense and hunting are not the sole justifications for owning firearms.  However, since those two were brought up as acceptable to you, let’s discuss the feelings and motivations you project onto those who would use them.

For many women and children (and yes, children also have a right to hunt and to defend themselves and their families), and not a few men, the idea that they can protect and defend themselves, their loved ones and their property against harm is a form of empowerment.  It gives them a sense of peace and security that nothing else can.  After all, when seconds count, the authorities are only 11 minutes away on average.  For most, it isn’t fear that motivates them to own and learn to use weapons, but the sure knowledge that they are far less likely to be a victim (and more likely to be a survivor) of any attack, by man or beast, when able to present a ready defense against it.  Hunting also frees many from the fear of hunger and want for their families.

Empowerment, not power, power over fear, not fear.  A weapon is a tool, nothing more and nothing less.  What people will do with them have more to do with Choice and human nature.  I am all for a spirited debate upon measures that might increase safety, but I deal in the realm of the real.  As a Christian and Minister, I could give you many quotes about owning weapons and self-defense.  As an Army Persian Gulf Veteran who assisted in Liberating the people of Kuwait from their Iraqi “neighbors”, I can assure you that much of the world have no weapons to resist violence and suffer because of it.  The authorities will not always be there, and in some parts of the world, will be the threat.

We now know that our government spies on us all, 24/7 and yet, time and again, they fail to protect us against harm.  Until someone can explain how gun control will be any different than the “war on poverty’ or the “war on drugs”, I will recommend that all law abiding citizens be armed.

Yes, let’s all “lay down” our weapons.  I wonder what that may do for our way of life.  I am sure all the criminals in our midst will do the same.