“Do something” demands are themselves harmful without real thought, empathy, and work

Note: This piece was posted shortly before the revelation was made that the Bushmaster assault rifle was actually used in the shootings rather than just “found in the gunman’s car.” I’ll stand by the sentiments, however, as I think both sides of the spectrum need to do more thinking and less demonizing of the other end of that spectrum. DSM, 12.16.12, 3:15 PM MDT.

By Dave Maney, Founder & Publisher, Economaney.com

What I am seeing today from my large, politically diverse group of social media friends, followers and acquaintances is “Do something!” to prevent future Newtowns/Columbines/Tucsons/Binghamtons/Auroras/Virginia Techs.

That, or angry denouncements of the idea that anything could possibly be wrong with our current framework for regulating firearms and ammunition.

Not good enough. Not even close. I’m going to challenge you all to think harder, less emotionally, and in conjunction with those you so angrily denounce (from either side) on Facebook and Twitter. Or I can assure you nothing constructive will happen, and we’ll have one more fundamental issue driving us farther and farther apart.

I don’t own a gun. Never have, and probably never will. The few times I’ve shot one — at clay targets or a pistol range or the one time I was taken on a “business” dove hunting trip — were mostly scary and/or unpleasant to me.

So I don’t really have a “position” on guns, other than a bit of a physical flinch. But I believe I can understand the feelings of my friends on both ends of the spectrum on the issue.

So here we are with twenty first graders and six of their dedicated caretaking adults brutally assassinated. And “Do something, do something, do something” reverberating across Facebook and every opinion journalism site this morning. And what feels like the beginnings of another polarizing, demonizing, brutal Americans vs. Americans fight.

Well screw that. That will take us nowhere. Left side, right side, listen up. Please.

Left side: If I read the accounts right, the only assault-style weapon this douchebag had was left in his car. So what “something” are you thinking is going to make a difference in actual security going forward?

A complete ban on all guns of every kind? All pistols? I can’t imagine that would ever happen, or that it could be enforced. What about the shooters themselves? Virtually all have been mentally ill or challenged males. Does “do something” mean prophylactically locking up every male who shows signs of schizophrenia, Asperger’s, or bipolar disorder? Or does it “just” mean metal detectors and armed cops and pat-down searches at every school in every bucolic suburb in the U.S.? Isn’t it ugly enough to see that at the airport? Is that what we want for our kids?

Right side: You better figure out what’s really, really important to you about the 2nd Amendment’s protections. You already live with the fact that it doesn’t mean you can own a fully armed M1A2 Abrams Battle Tank for weekend use. That hasn’t caused the end of liberty in America. So clearly all rights have limits. Just because this latest and most execrable killer wasn’t using an assault rifle doesn’t make claims that you need one to clear the prairie dogs out of your backyard more acceptable to the great majority of your fellow Americans. The last “my way or the goddam highway” absolutists I saw were the hardcore moralizing pro-lifers following Rick Santorum to Patheticville, paving the way for another four years of the very political regime those people feared most.

So both sides: You might want to hone your reasoning and try an actual dash of logic and figure out where you can find common ground with your fellow citizens from the other extreme. You “Mother Jones” subscribers and you “Soldier of Fortune” subscribers both need to realize that your world isn’t everybody’s world, and in fact your world’s actually pretty damn small and your worldview’s not all that persuasive to the great many of us in the middle.

Seems to me that, unfortunately, like a lot of the complex issues that beset our nation right now — the economic revolution, the extreme affordability crises in healthcare and higher education, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, crushing Federal deficits, the decline of our middle class, and sadly so many more — the answers to this mass shooting crisis are not simple and the solutions are not easy.

These Gordian knots — all of them — involve multiple, intertwined threads. What simplistic, aggrieved sloganeering does…ALL it does, in fact…is polarize, enrage the Americans at the opposite pole, and then cause the knot to be drawn tighter and tighter. In ALL of these issues. Same dynamic.

So before shouting “Do something!”, and before demonizing the other end of the issue from what you believe yours is, and before turning on the groupthink faucet to bathe in the warm waters of self-righteousness and the approbation of your social media pals, please…STOP. Educate yourself. Soak in the complexity of the problem that concerns you. Think. Discuss with people who know more about it than you do. Even talk with people who disagree with you. Try to think of what’s possible, instead of just what makes you feel good when y0u hit the “Post” button.

I have more children here or on the way (six) than almost all 1200 of my Facebook friends, so I think I have a decent grasp on the risks and the horrors and the disgustingness of what just went down in Connecticut. I love my kids more than life itself — literally — as I’m sure all of you do yours. But plaintive, poorly thought-through cries to “do something,” with the implied “and do it my way” — on this crisis and all our others — ensure the only thing that will be done is: Nothing.

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