Gun control in America is an unsolvable problem.
So why even read on about what I might have to say about the issue of gun violence here in my native land, these United States of America?
Why not just despair, throw our hands up, and assume the worst for our land of “shoot em up westerns……..easterns…….northerns……..southerns” these days? These years?
Why not scroll down to some more pleasant and upbeat reading material? There’s plenty of other blog posts and social media. Why bother staying with a story about an unsolvable problem?
Because America’s real story today is about a real problem that is solvable. Really solvable.
Which happens to not be a gun problem.
America’s real problem is fear. Fear of the other.
Pick your enemy. The other political party. The other news station. The other color. The other nationality. The other class. The other faith, or non-faith. The other pronoun. Other age. Other size. Other driver.
Or how about just the stranger in general? Stranger danger!
We have a fear problem. And we can’t talk about it because it’s the proverbial elephant in our living room. Taboo. We are terribly afraid to talk about our terrible fear.
America may as well be a cancer patient talking about our lack of appetite for foods necessary to put the weight back on, as if weight loss and poor appetite was the problem we had to first address. How about if we shrink the deadly tumors first? Make sense? Then we’ll see if weight and appetite even remains an issue.
Fear of the other, alongside fear of the unknown in these rapidly changing times in which we live, is like a growing band of tumors spreading throughout the populace we call Americana. It’s like a psycho-social cancer which I’ve spent my own academic and professional life learning how to treat. Starting with a will to talk about the actual problem, and not some pseudo problem for which there is no solution (like getting 20 more pounds onto the cancer patient through tastier food recipes).
Whenever we start with a fear problem of any nature, there is a trail of instant bread crums leading to what we simply call “controlling behaviors.” Fear triggers a craving to take control. So stay on that trail awhile longer and see where it leads. There are multiple paths forward, but if one were to generalize into such areas as “controlling behaviors for the rich” vs. those for the poor, one might notice such patterns as buying one’s own business and becoming one’s own boss. Or hiring a great attorney to represent one in court. Or a great lobbyist to represent one in legislative committee. Perhaps even marrying, maybe also divorcing, a wealthy spouse. Many human fears land their victims at the door of a bank vault, believing money has the power to control. Be in the money, be in control, be out of fear.
But what of those who have a fear problem but lack the money to do such things as noted above? Such power is expensive. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Now what?
Follow the bread crumbs further down a few other trails. Some lead off into areas of education and hard work, climbing a career ladder. Others may veer toward the power of good looks and more subtle control over others in that department. Dress for success! The latest hair style! Body art! Some still veer heavily into religion and the power of faith to assume control over the less-faithful along their paths. And still others find their voice of control over others as represented by some populist political leaders.
But then there is this other trail. It may have been less traveled years ago, but today it is one of the widest paths forward anyplace. It’s the path marked “control over fear” spelled with three simple letters: G. U. N. Be armed, be in control, be out of fear.
Guns are an increasingly common and accessible solution to America’s fear problem, easier to come by than hiring attorneys and lobbyists, or even than supporting political-religious interest groups. They will claim a large share of our fear market that drives so much of our household and national (think military defense) financial decision-making. Granted, they will also contribute to America’s burgeoning health care market and the criminal industrial complex that follows our opioid death march. Drugs are interwoven with guns as commodity solutions to our unspoken fear problems. All about taking control, even as death assumes control over life.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have choices. Choices with happier consequences. Choices that require changes. Here, then, are 3 of them to think about if we are ready to seek out the happy consequences that would make us proud to be Americans facing forward.
Choice #1: Change from trying to talk about and solve our gun problem (symptom) to talking about and solving our fear problem (cause).
Choice #2: Change from trying to solve a fear problem by means of fight or flight, instead finding actual solutions that do not simply exacerbate and perpetuate the fear problem.
Choice #3: Apply the actual solutions proven to serve as anti-dotes and transition our financial resources into supplying these solutions (invest in plowshares instead of buying more swords).
As a pastor and therapist with 76 years of living under my belt and more than a few decades of credentialed professional service behind me, I can almost guarantee our 3rd choice in this critical sequence will lead us to the discovery of fear’s natural predator: love. Love tells the truth where fear lies to us. Love multiplies itself (by kenotic transfer) as it empowers others all the while fear is working to disempower others. Love understands with empathy while fear misunderstands with apathy (or, even worse, antipathy). Love wins with altruism while fear is busy losing with narcissism. Love gains through influence with others while fear is busy losing control over others (fear being the ultimate future of an illusion).
Love is the perfect solution when it comes to the problem of fear and the perfect replacement for the symptoms of fear (e.g., guns, drugs, stressful disease and whatever else we now suffer from). All it takes is for a critical mass of Americans to make 3 very different choices than we’ve been making by using the loving and rational brains God has given us to over-rule the fearful brains that have been otherwise driving our choices. There’s no reason happier consequences cannot then follow.
Where our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is concerned, it may be the one set of choices we Americans have yet to accept control over.