I’ve never been one short on words. But in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I have been at a complete loss. In part out of utter shock at the horror of this most recent shooting, and in part by the truly shocking comments and flippant soundbites people have spewed off to downplay the news while also expressing condolences for the lost lives. I simply cannot follow the logic that connects the two.
What I find so disheartening in this renewed talk about guns and our increasingly commonplace experience of mass murders, because that is what they are, is the cognitive dissonance of our worldviews.
The utility of social networks makes dialogue a nonessential and so, we monologue. We monologue all day long. Sometimes at each other, and sometimes to no one in particular. But what social media doesn’t do is forget. So those things you said emphatically months ago are still living and breathing as you say what you say today. We’ve laid plain the chasms in our logic for the world to see, but still ramble on about opposing philosophies, staking reputation, friendships and respect on the validity of one current opinion.
Cognitive dissonance is the term used for anyone holding conflicting thoughts and experiencing pain as a result. Through social media and traditional media, I see serious cognitive dissonance on assault weapons. This is causing anguish, political inaction and allowing more tragic massacres to go unaddressed.
Of all the opposing viewpoints, these are the conflicting philosophies I find utterly confounding:
- Pro-life, pro-gun paradigms
- Christian brothers and sisters defending assault weapons in the name of protection
- The un-amendable amended amendment
Sanctity of life
One of the hardest things about this recent loss of life is the sweet, innocent age of a majority of the victims. Many of these kids likely fell asleep on car rides, thought “guts” was a bad word, and were expectantly waiting to see if Santa would give them what they had asked for this Christmas. They were babies.
During the election we learned that the overwhelming majority of conservative republicans believe life to begin at conception. Some states when so far as to enact laws stating all women were pregnant each month until proven not pregnant. The push was firmly rooted in concept that all life is precious, and babies, even those not yet born, deserved a protected environment where no one could willfully harm or kill them. Because, they were babies.
This is where the disconnect occurs for me. Many of the people so deeply offended by abortion also believe everyone has a right to own gun, and not just a gun, any gun. I understand this is a traditional conservative perspective. It was even one I held for much of my life, though I don’t anymore.
What I don’t understand is how someone who is pro-life can concurrently advocate for the right to a weapon created for war, created solely to end lives?
Christians advocating for assault weapons
One of the great NRA soundbites refers to an inalienable God-given right, when referring to our guns and other “arms.” But as a Christian, I find this rhetoric far more reverent to the identity of a nationalist than to the identity of someone following Christ. In fact, I find them strictly in opposition of the way Jesus lived and commanded his followers live. the familiar directive is that Christians are called to “turn the other cheek,” to give not only their cloak to a thief on the road, but all of their clothing.
Further, looking to how Jesus lived and died leaves little to no room for weapons in the name of our personal rights. Jesus was an innocent man who willingly allowed Roman soldiers to give him a criminal’s death. When Peter tried to fight off guards, he yelled at him to stop saying, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who take up a sword will die by a sword.” In a moment of total vulnerability, being led to his death, he commanded peace.
I wonder where my fellow Christians have received the doctrine that these directives from our God were somehow amended to allow for our right to guns. Our right to protection through violence. Our right to willingly take the life of another person. In the argument of self-protection against robbers, I look at the lives of the early Christian monks. You couldn’t ever still from a monk, because there was no way you could take something from them they weren’t willing to give you. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “there was nothing the world could hold them by, for the world only snares us by the fringes of our garments, the frivolous exteriors of our lives.”
I don’t see any room for assault weapons or violence in a Christian paradigm without seriously amending the bible. Which brings me to my next thought.
Why can’t we amend the second amendment?
The favorite statement is that the government is trying to take away all guns. They’re not. Sure, the most extreme liberals might. But overall, people for gun control just want to keep access to war machines limited to those in the military and law enforcement.
This idea that we have an entitlement to any weapon we so choose is seriously incorrect. We do not. We may not drive a tank, we may not target shoot with grenades, we may not shoot rocket launchers for sport, and we are not constitutionally permitted to shoot torpedoes, even during hunting season. The second amendment is not an open door for access to these weapons of major force and destruction. Why? Because they’ve been developed for war.
When we look at the weapons used in any of the recent shooting massacres, we can clearly see that they too are created for war. At the very least, created to take a large number of human lives in a matter of seconds. And that’s exactly what they do.
I won’t even go into the idea of overthrowing the government with our stockpile of weapons. Do a quick Google search of “drone strikes” to understand why. You would have better luck defending yourself from the destruction of a tsunami with my drugstore umbrella.
I didn’t write this to put myself or those who agree with me on a pedestal or because I know every important fact on this issue. In fact, I have no doubt there are friends and family who know more about one, or all, of these things and may not agree with me. I’m ok with that, and I’m open to hear their views.
I wrote this because I remember watching the news of with my friend (now step-sister) and her remarking that her dad (my now step-dad) was one of the SWAT members rushing in to pull kids from the bloodied Columbine library. Because I grew up staying home from school every April 20th from that year through graduation, because I was afraid of a repeat.
I wrote this because went to college at a time when every lecture hall could be likened to one at Virginia Tech. In the weeks following that shooting, I never entered a classroom without considering how I could possibly escape if someone else had the same horrific idea.
I wrote this because began school in a time where school shootings were unheard of, flukes, uncommon flashes of evil. As I grew up, I watched that rapidly transform. I’ve heard every argument of arming teachers, students, undercover cops. And, I have attended two schools where they have foiled copycat plots, complete with ammunition, pipe bombs and hit lists of students.
Finally, I wrote this because I want you to know that for me, the thing causing the greatest cognitive dissonance in my life is the idea that guns create freedom. In my life, I’ve only known them to create fear, the opposite of freedom.
I hope anyone who reads this can take a moment to shift this prism of politics and see where the light hits from the place I’m looking in on the issue. I assure you, there is light on this side as well. Not all of it, but certainly some.