Monday, May 26, 2014

Thoughts on Mass Violence, Guns, Sexism, the Law and our Hearts

Last year, my friend, Dr. Chris Dowdy, and I had a dialogue about gun policy, violence and the effect of the law on hearts and minds.  Chris is a brilliant social ethicist and writer, and he asks good questions.  I made a note of it as a potential blog post here whenever it became timely again.   This was not a question of if it would be ever timely, because it would be inevitably current, soon enough. 

In the wake of the Isla Vista terrorism, I point back to that conversation on Chris’s blog and hope that it may be useful:

Yes, people will be violent. People will be cruel. People will murder and maim. Even so, we can and do make the means harder to obtain, and we make the means harder to obtain quite successfully. Automatic machine guns are illegal, and the shooters in Aurora and Newtown did not use them. Rocket-propelled grenades are illegal, and they were not the weapon of choice, because they are much, much harder to obtain. The FBI has been quite successful in keeping terrorists from bombing on American soil since 2001, because gathering the materials for a bomb and assembling it are illegal and because law enforcement is pretty good at enforcing the law.

We are not faced with a binary choice, to either flood the world with weapons or to ban them altogether. That choice is a failure of just and righteous imagination.

Also, this article by Laurie Penny is a strong and right diagnosis of what we saw last week at UCSB:  misogynist extremism.   The killer was a warped man, fed by sexist ideology, armed by society, and unleashed by a subculture that validated his fear.  

This is how extremism works. It takes the valid and substantial anger of the dispossessed and tortures it into something twisted. It promises the lost and despairing that they will have the respect and sense of purpose they have always longed for, if they only hate hard enough. 

As we seek justice and good teaching, we must confront the horror and injustice in our society and prepare our students and ourselves to understand and subvert it.

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