A mass shooting is driving a wedge through our political culture yet again. This is a problem other developed countries don’t seem to face on anywhere near the scale that we do in the United States. The United States… That name seems a bit ironic these days. Why is it that we are incapable of looking at what the other side has to say these days? Why can’t we hold our police officers in the highest regard for the job they do, while at the same time take action to address and correct inequality based on race with our justice system? Why can’t we truly help those in need with government assistance programs, while at the same time recognizing that there is abuse in that system? Why can’t we respect the right of people to own firearms, while at the same time acknowledging a need to find a path to keep them out of the wrong hands? The answer is simple. It’s because of the greatest product we have to sell on the free market right now… Anger.
We all have friends with opposing political views. God knows I do. I live in Texas, and my views fall somewhere between staunch Libertarian and Bernie Sanders lover. I’m a socially liberal guy who likes to hunt. On the surface, I have very little in common with most of my friends concerning social issues. We argue and joke about politics constantly, yet we manage to be friends. But why? Well, they’re damn good people. We simply disagree. And we can talk about it and joke about it, and often times find common ground. Oddly, though, most of my conservative friends acknowledge a need for change in our gun laws. Most of them acknowledged a need for change in healthcare before the Affordable Care Act was implemented. On so many issues today, many of the conservatives that aren’t in politics are very reasonable. I know this situation is not unique to me. We all have good friends with differing views.
So why is it that we can’t have a conversation about serious issues on a national level when tragedy repeats itself again and again? A child is killed in this country by gun violence every three hours. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year by guns. I own several guns. I have no problem having a discussion about finding a way to prevent gun violence, and working to find a way to reduce those numbers drastically. Most of my conservative friends don’t have a problem talking about it. Why can’t we do that on a larger scale? Well, that’s easy. Anger.
You see… Most of the conversations that I have with my conservative friends are just that: conversations. Conversations are rare these days. Many people feel that communicating on Facebook or other social media is the same thing as having a conversation. It’s not. There’s a Grand Canyon sized difference between talking to someone and talking at them. We’re all Superman on the internet. It’s not much different with political parties. They’re Superman when there’s a camera. They talk at each other. There’s always a screen involved, be it a TV screen or a computer monitor. We talk at each other. There’s no need to compromise on the screen. On the screens we have a reputation to uphold, and the driving force on these screens has become anger.
Anger gets people involved. Anger gets people to the voting booth. Anger gives you an enemy. Anger gives you a sense of worth, because you’re fighting for something. At least that’s how it starts. Over time, that anger festers and grows. It consumes. It becomes a lifestyle. It becomes a way of gaining acknowledgement. It becomes who you are. It becomes a way for you to appear valiant on the screens, and it unites people around that one thing we don’t want people united by… Hate. And if you’re caught up in all of this national anger and happen to be mentally ill, it may go further… And that happens far too often in our country.
When a tragedy occurs, the seemingly intelligent approach to addressing the tragedy would include taking steps to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. We see this in every kind of tragedy except one. Terrorists on airplanes that kill 3,000 people? Change the entire security screening process nationwide. Too many people killed in car crashes? Enforce safety standards and make people wear seat belts. 30,000 people die by firearms in a year? Sorry, we can’t talk about that. Well, we can talk about it, but only if we talk at each other. We have to keep that anger alive. It’s who we are. We need our enemy.
It’s nothing short of an absolute damn shame that our politicians can’t have the same discussion that I have with my friends about how to approach the issue of keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. Over ninety percent of the country agrees that we need to make changes. We’re together on this, for the most part. Liberal and conservative. There is common ground. But politicians need you angry, or else you might not vote. Neither the conservative nor the liberal representatives have the balls to stand up to the gun lobby and show a unified front. We don’t do compromise. Compromising has become a sign of weakness on the screens. We have to be badasses at all times. It’s who we are.
So what’s the answer? Well, it’s obvious. Talk to each other. Talk about ways to prevent it. Have the courage to do that. Grow some f**king balls. Compromise. Stop trying to be an angry, valiant crusader, yearning to be a badass and incapable of compromise. People are dying. Let’s set our image on the screens aside for a while and ask our politicians to have the conversation liberals and conservatives alike are having every day across this country, and let’s not bite on the anger bait next time it pops up in our news feed. Find another way to be a badass. This way isn’t working out for anyone.