“Come now, and let us reason together . . . . “
As I write this column, there have been in the course of a week three mass shootings in the United States; in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. At least one of these shootings appears to be racially motivated. All three were committed by young men carrying what is termed in the media as “assault-type” firearms. All three are being characterized as acts of domestic terrorism.
In the past three years I’ve written five different columns dealing with mass shootings. These types of events have become so common in our country that it seems we are no longer surprised by them. We can be thankful at least that we still are stunned when they happen and feel the loss of the victims. We have not become so hard as a people as to accept these horrific acts as normal.
What we do not seem to have learned to respond with meaningful action. While some call for more firearms regulation, some call for efforts to combat racial hate or hate of immigrants, some call for more efforts to combat mental illness, or anti-Semitism, or even video game violence. Some place the blame at the feet of the President and some blame the decline of the moral and religious values of the American people.
Obviously there is no single cause of this type of violence and people do seem to recognize that. It means there can be no single way to deal with the violence. So what are we to do? I don’t presume to know the answer, so I’ll just say we need to do everything. We need to talk about how we rein in the proliferation of firearms in our country while preserving the protections of the Second Amendment. We need to talk about hate and how it can be overcome. We need to talk about mental health, and ethics, and the glorification of violence in our entertainment, and how politicians use charged rhetoric.
And we really, really need to sit down and talk about how we talk about things.
We used to be able to hold differing viewpoints and still get along. We used to be able to have a neighborhood cookout with differing opinions and still relax, find common interests, and enjoy being part of a community. At the same gathering today you would be more likely to be speared with a flaming shish kabob. There have always been differences among us, but there were also people willing to reach across the divide. Today the divide has become so wide you have to wonder if we all still live in the same country.
In his web article, Five Modest Suggestions to Improve Civil Discourse, (https://thebluereview.org/five-modest-suggestions-to-improve-civil-discourse/) David Gray Adler, President of the public policy group Alturas Institute, suggests five ways to improve public discourse:
- Stop Political Labeling
- Citizens Must Be Fair to One Another
- Avoid the Politics of Destruction
- Avoid Ideological Rigidity
As the 2020 elections draw closer, all of us can use these suggestions to evaluate the issues being discussed and the people discussing them. We can also use these suggestions to examine our own positions. If we cannot analytically defend those positions to ourselves how can we persuade others?
Americans have a lot to talk about between now and November 2020, but to have these conversations, we have to be able to talk with each other. We need to resolve to reason together.
IRA L. GOLDSTEIN, President