24 June 2009

Guns solve everything, right?

Like Roger Ebert needs my help promoting his writing. But since this article isn't about movies, I thought I'd provide one more forum for sharing, in case you missed it (thanks, Tricky).

Much has been said recently about the possible influence of [Bill] O'Reilly on the murder of Dr. George Tiller by Scott Roeder. Such a connection is impossible to prove. Yet studies of bullies and their victims suggest a general way such an influence might take place. Bullies like to force others to do their will, while they can stand back and protest their innocence: "I was nowhere near the gymnasium, Sister!" A recent study of school shootings found that two-thirds of all the shooters were victims of bullying, and perceived themselves as members of persecuted minorities.

I'm all for personal accountability. An individual ultimately has to answer for their own actions, especially when those actions cause harm to someone else. But the buck doesn't always stop with the perpetrator. If Ebert is to be believed, O'Reilly -- and probably others in the right-wing media (Limbaugh, etc.) -- are inciting hatred and egging their followers into taking action. You can hear it night after night on O'Reilly's show. He yells, he bullies his guests, and then he implores his viewers to DO SOMETHING! Really, it was only a matter of time for someone to take matters into dangerous hands.

Bob Hebert, columnist at the New York Times, wrote an interesting Op-Ed last week with a similar theme:

Even with the murders that have already occurred, Americans are not paying enough attention to the frightening connection between the right-wing hate-mongers who continue to slither among us and the gun crazies who believe a well-aimed bullet is the ticket to all their dreams.

He speaks specifically to people who think that the way to deal with the possibility of gun control initiatives in the US is to shoot as many people as possible before the guns get taken away. I feel like there's a common thread, though, between what Ebert and Hebert say (tee hee -- their names rhyme): while violence does happen as a result of liberals (protests gone wrong, etc.), it feels like the worst of the targeted violence comes from the right-wing; the same people who claim that liberals are ruining society.

The conservatives, self-proclaimed protectors of Morals and Values, seem to be willing to unleash all kinds of violence on opposition at any cost.

And it's not unique to the US. Currently, Iran is reportedly dealing with opposition to the disputed election with beatings and shootings of the protesters. Those enforcing the status quo in Iran are conservatives.

I think that difference is important. Whether it's racial, ethnic, cultural, political or culinary, I think that different perspectives, different experiences and different flavours add to our understanding of the world, reduce boredom, and enhance our experiences. And every time someone experiences something different, a little bit of ignorance gets chipped away. I don't always agree with the differences, but they're there for a lot of good reasons, and who am I to question those?

But I have a really hard time with people who don't embrace differences, who actively work to suppress differences in the name of "saving" us from something. That's when my enjoyment of differences starts to wear thin and I gag a little. While I'm sure there's some inherent value in having a world with completely intolerant, bigoted people milling about, I can't figure out what that could be, unless it's to show the rest of us what not to be.

People have different ideas of how to make the world a better place. I have the idea that, if people spent more time listening to what people actually need instead of assuming that they know and trying to force it on them, then we might actually accomplish some improvements that benefit all of us.

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