December 22, 2012
I have a head cold. I bring this up because it’s been nearly thirty years since I’ve had one and I’d forgotten how crappy they make you feel and how hard it is to write a sensible sentence – let alone a sensible blog post – when you have one. Right now I’m still at the eyes-feel-like-two-burn-hole-in-a-paper-bag, blow my nose every two minutes and know there’s still more to come, tickly tightness and cough in the chest but thank goodness I don’t have a fever or nausea stage.
But today I feel better than yesterday, so I’m going to go ahead and write the blog post anyway. Bear with me.
Like many Americans this week, I’ve been following the debate over guns and violence and what to do about it that’s developed since the horrible shootings at Newtown a week ago. The deaths of so many of our children in such a short time seem to have awakened us in ways that previous mass shootings have not. Whether that awakening will last long enough to get us through the usual pre-packaged, ideologically and money driven platitudes that seem to abound when these things happen still remains up in the air.
The President has ordered a task force to investigate and report back to him in a month on what steps can be taken to reduce gun violence in this nation and make our schools safer. I will not question his integrity in doing so, but I’m not hopeful that meaningful suggestions will be forthcoming or that long-lasting solutions can be enacted.
For one thing, the various institutions of and in this declining empire derive too much of their power from keeping us divided and fearful of one another, to relinquish that power and allow us to come together. We have been fractured into so many groups, driven by the notion that only our (their) solutions are the correct ones and the other group’s ideas are driven only by a burning desire to see our right to [insert favorite endangered right, here] taken away from us. Too often we are obsessed with ideology instead of ideas – whether guns, gods or greed – and justification rather than just solutions and too fearful of the evil other getting a toe-hold to stop and examine which is which. And too much money has been made by industries and institutions whose sole purpose seems to be designed to stoke those fears and drive us to spend more money feeding them.
Strangely enough, the wealthy and powerful that run these are gripped with the same fears they encourage in us.
Somewhere in all this, they and we have forgotten that life is risk. Period. And no amount of religion, political affiliation, propaganda or financial gain can take away the risks inherent in simply existing for a period of time on earth. That’s as true for the rich and powerful as it is for those of us who are neither. The rich and powerful can spend money to manipulate the laws and tax code to benefit them by giving them more power and money, they can live in gated communities and buy the best of everything trying to protect themselves from life’s dangers, but they and their families are subject to the same losses we all suffer. They die, their wives or husbands get sick and die, their children get hurt or die. They lose their fortunes, their houses their cars. They may live on a different scale than most of us, but they live there with the same fears we all do. And we all live under the same delusions, that more will somehow insulate and protect us from the risk that is life. More money, more power, more things, more manipulation of each others’ fears will somehow keep us safe from … Life. It doesn’t.
There are things we can do to reduce risks, but there is no such thing as no risk. And reducing your risks by raising those risks for others isn’t a particularly useful strategy. At some point, raising the risks for others to protect ourselves will only raise the risks for everyone. We seem to be there, now. We’ve reached the point where we either move past our individual fears and find compromises that reduce the risks for all of us, or the species itself won’t survive. Whether it’s violence, climate change, wealth distribution or resource depletion, we’ve got to drag our fears out of the ideologies and justifications where we’ve tucked them away for safe keeping. We have to look at them realistically and let them go. It’s the only way we can work together to reduce the risks we can and support each other when we inevitably bump up against the risks we can’t.
Well, that’s about as far as my stuffy head can take it this week. I’m going to post this and then go feed my cold. Have a good holiday season, whatever you celebrate.