It took me some thinking to come up with a name for this new blog. Some of you reading this might remember my Cup O’ Joe blog from a few years back (which accompanied my radio show), but that was a much more politically-oriented blog than I intend for this one to be. Not that I won’t talk politics here, but it will be just one of many things I intend to write about.
But on those occasions where I do discuss politics, I find I’m not doing much more than repeating some of the same arguments over and over again, and mostly preaching to the choir. To me, a lot of the talk about what’s going on is painfully obvious, and it feels a bit frustrating when people with a very strict ideological bent don’t see things the same way, or assume that my arguments are based on premises as ideological and inflexible as theirs.
Take, for example, the issue of guns. People who are “pro-gun”, for lack of a better term, tend to have a fairly simple argument: Everyone should be armed, at all times, with however many and whatever kinds of weapons they can get. To this they also add, in an attempt to make us think they want the world to be a better place, that An armed society is a polite society, the logic being that people would be forced to be less rude if they knew there was danger involved. This, to me, is only true if you believe that deadly force is actually a deterrent, or if you feel that deadly force is the first, or perhaps even the only acceptable response to any disagreement or showing of disrespect.
Pro-gun people tend to give two main reasons to explain their philosophy: self-defense and government tyranny, though some will jokingly (and not jokingly!) add zombie apocalypse to that list, meaning a breakdown of society in general. But as I see it, only certain types of weapons are best for self-defense: I don’t understand why anyone would think that an AK-47 is a “defensive” weapon, as it’s really designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Seriously: if you can’t kill someone with six shots fired at close range you have no business owning a weapon of any kind in the first place. As for government tyranny, well, it seems to me there are better ways of preventing that than simply having everyone armed.
And no, I don’t buy the argument that compares other devices to guns in terms of safety. Yes it’s true that any item can be used as a weapon, but just because people use them as weapons doesn’t mean that’s what they were designed to do. A lot of people get killed by cars but the purpose of a car is transportation. Even knives, which were designed as weapons, are more useful in other applications. I hear some people use the argument that guns are designed to fire a lead pellet using expanding gas. No. That’s function, not purpose. And yes, the purpose of bows and arrows and swords is to kill as well, just because people use them for other things doesn’t negate that. Guns just make it easier, and particularly assault weapons, which as I mentioned earlier are clearly offensive weapons.
Now some gun owners among the “pro-gun” crowd don’t use those arguments. Many of those are hunters who don’t concern themselves with issues of “self defense” or “government tyranny”, they’re hunters. They tend to prefer rifles to handguns, and use their rifles for a very specific purpose. Not that all of them are responsible with their firearms: as my friend Bob Kincaid points out, there’s only one letter of difference between a lawful gun owner and an awful gun owner, but on the whole my impression is they’re pretty responsible with their weapons. Sadly, they are a very small minority among the pro-gun crowd.
Another hot-button issue is abortion, with the people who oppose abortions calling themselves “pro-life”, which to me is rather odd when you consider that many of the same people who call themselves pro-life are also pro-gun. But I’ll not get into that. The pro-life crowd doesn’t even really have an argument, they have a statement, which is Abortion Is Murder. When asked to expand upon that, they tend to fall silent. If abortion is murder, I like to ask, Then who gets charged with the crime and what is the penalty? That seems to me to be a pretty straightforward question, and I for one would like to hear an answer to it, but I never do. At least if they said, Well, the mother and the doctor should be charged with infanticide, and face whatever penalty that comes with a conviction, we could probably come to some kind of agreement. But I have yet to hear, and all the arguments I hear from the pro-life crowd have to do with how beautiful babies are and how we should save them all. Hard to argue against that in emotional terms, but in practical terms, what would it mean to make abortion illegal? Again, it’s not even brought up.
Now to me, in both these issues, there are better ways of dealing with them. Most of the people I discuss them with assume, falsely, that I and others like me are diametrically opposed to their point of view and just as stubborn. I’m not pro-gun, therefore I want to take everyone’s guns away. I’m not pro-life, which means I think abortions are just fine. Perhaps if they ever bothered to talk to me rather than talking at me they might see that in some cases I agree with them, or at the very least that I recognize some of the more valid points they make.
Personally, I would rather that no one would be armed except trained professionals such as police or soldiers. But I recognize that this is unrealistic and seeing how some police are today, and how militarized we have become as a nation, I just don’t have much faith that either the police or the military will behave responsibly. And I can certainly see the need for people to keep a handgun in their house for their safety, even though I think being armed actually makes you less safe. I read too many news reports about domestic fights or petty disputes escalating into gunfire, and too many stories about irresponsible handling of guns leading to unfortunate deaths. I’d like to see more clear definitions of what constitutes a defensive (or hunting) weapon as opposed to an offensive weapon, require renewable licensing and regular training, and clear and reasonable penalties for failing to follow the law. And such laws need to be national in scope: I hear people talk about how strict gun control is here in Chicago yet we still have a lot of gun-related deaths. Well, obviously (obviously to me, anyway) people aren’t buying guns here in Chicago, they’re buying them elsewhere and bringing them here. I am opposed to concealed carry laws, and any laws that allow people to carry weapons with them. People are just too irresponsible for that. I support background checks, waiting periods, traceable ammunition and oppose the idea that all gun sales must be private and secret. None of these things, to me, affect anyone’s ability to own a firearm for their own protection, even if the reality is they’re no safer than they were before. There’s more, but I think you all get the idea.
As for abortion, well, I don’t like them, and I don’t know anyone who does like them. I do think they should be legal, however. I just think if you want to prevent abortions there are much better ways of doing it that don’t require making it illegal. Sex education. Birth control. Building a society where we’re more accepting of sex for the pleasure of it, where we neither repress nor exploit it. Better adoption laws: why do we make it so difficult for a couple to adopt a child when any two people, regardless of economic circumstance or mental capacity can have one, and we demand they care for it? Also, more people who are more willing to adopt minority children or disabled children or children from drug addicts. Building an economy where simply having a child doesn’t crush you financially, which I think is the biggest reason people have abortions in the first place.
Look, I’m not qualified to say why these people believe what they do, or take the attitude that they do about these issues. I’m neither a psychologist nor an anthropologist. In the case of the pro-gun crowd, my feeling is that they just love guns and are looking forward to the day when they can blow someone away. That the “pro-life” crowd refuses to address any of these issues seems to me to indicate that the only thing they really want is to feel morally superior to others for being “pro-life”.
Now these things seem painfully obvious to me, and it’s difficult for me to even write about it because I feel it should be painfully obvious to everyone else, or at least I hope we can try and find better solutions. There’s a difference after all between what I don’t like and what I’ll accept, I wish it was that way for others. In any event, that’s why I came up with the name of the blog. I hope someone reads it some day.