It’s been two days since a disturbed individual shot 49 people and injured 53 in an Orlando nightclub. Just now we are starting to learn about the victims. There are no words to express sympathies to those affected.
It’s been two days of shock, disbelief and reaction. Well-known. Eerily so. Why is it that we already know now that nothing will change in the wake of this tragedy?
I have a theory.
A polar shouting match in the media
First of all, there are two sides to this story and they are all too familiar:
On the one hand are the outraged liberals and democrats. Reminding eager followers that the problem is not just the deranged mind of an individual but the ease of access to guns. Especially the AR-15, the high caliber assault rifle that was used in so many recent mass shootings. Samantha Bee goes on a big rant on her show. Conan O’Brien does as well and the president and one presumptive presidential nominee are calling for a ban of assault weapons. As usual, this by now famous Onion piece gets circulated alongside expectedly new brilliant material.
On the other side of this virtual boxing ring are those who oppose even as much as a discussion on gun control. Florida Senator Marco Rubio talks about the unavoidability of shootings. Many conservative and libertarian news outlets run stories on why pushing for stricter gun laws is counterproductive. They talk about assault rifles being rarely used in mass shootings, that gun laws make us less safe and have little to do with the terrorist threat. Another presumptive presidential nominee meanwhile, in his charactersitic boisterous manner, calls for drastic actions banning Muslims from entering the country, re-checking Muslim citizens and residents, and calling for the president to resign based on accusations of hindrance of security measures and inactivity.
Do you like participating in the shouting match?
Have you found yourself partaking in the discussion? Arguing fiercely for one side or the other? Nodding rigorously to a commentary from your favorite news anchor, late-night talk show host, editorial?
Stop right now. This is not helping. We’ve done it before: The repetitive and all too familiar back and forth between two directly opposing sides whose bickering eventually will silence and stop. Forgotten until someone else comes along. Killing. Senseless. Why…?
Nothing happened after Newtown where 20 children were killed. How could anything possibly happen now?
Already the voices are getting quieter. Already we start moving on. Already we start to forget. After all, there is an election going on. A few sport events. The weather is warm and sunny.
This is why: Unlike what the media (who I quote exemplarary above) are trying to make us believe, people of the US are not as polarized on this issue as it seems. There are many who recognize that this is not a black and white picture. This is not an issue of gun control alone. This is not an issue of terrorism alone. This is not an issue of homophobia alone. This is not just the works of a lone rider with a disturbed mind.
It is all of the above. And more.
There is no sense in yelling insults out of opposite corners of the ring. There is no sense in accusing “the other side” of inactivity or compromising freedom and the rights of the individual. That has led us nowhere.
What will make a difference?
Have you ever wondered why there has never been a true effective bipartisan effort to SINCERELY talk about gun control and the threat of terrorism?
I have. And what I am about to say is controversial. It will sound like a conspiracy theory to some. But, I’d like to start a conversation. Think about it.
If the US are a country controlled by two immensely powerful parties, would they not both benefit from creating a country of deep controversy? A country whose citizens believe that they have no other option but to choose the lesser of two evils?
I believe that this is what keeps them “in business”. When the parties create extreme emotional views without even a shred of willingness to compromise, we lose our ability to become part of a moderate majority movement.
Sense and sensibility are the two-party system’s greatest nemesis.
Can we take the country’s current turmoil to create just that? A nemesis? A true alternative to a system based on ultimate controversy? Starting a dialogue of compromise?
If people on both sides of the spectrum communicate earnestly – which involves (let a linguist tell you) turn-taking, listening, and responding – a solution might be possible. But as long as there is an advantage in creating a false sense of disagreement, it won’t happen.
What do you think?
What do you want?
And what will you do about it?