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Voices / Letters from readers

What society and conditions do we want to create?

In our debates about gun violence in the United States, one longstanding element in play complicates the issue and further drives anger, division, and inaction.

That element is our propensity for claiming we know causality with little to no evidence to back us up.

Rather than take the sometimes-hard effort to look for solid facts and debate their veracity and relevance, we knee-jerk grab our emotional “feel-bad” notions. These speculative exercises in blame and shame somehow satisfy our immediate need to express our anger and opinions.

However, what seems to us like common sense or conventional wisdom often proves completely causally unconnected when even a moderate amount of rigor is applied to the information available, our thought process, and how we come to conclusions.

As there are likely many contributing factors, this process of dumbing down our approach and restricting our curiosity seems suspect, at best.

It also leads to great and often pompous proclamations of who or what we need to get rid of or neutralize in order to solve the problem.

I have seen little evidence that this public wrestling match of conjecture has done us much good, but I’ve seen much evidence that it has further divided us and enraged our reptilian brains.

Lost seems to be discussion truly focused upon the society and conditions we want to create. Yes, triage demands we use Band-Aids. But we are unlikely to create genuine health if all we do is stock up on emergency kits.

What if we were to deliberately plan, then take coherent steps to create sustainable well-being in our body politic?

Neither banning video games (thereby creating a massive black market) nor arming every teacher (greatly increasing the opportunities for theft and counterproductive use) are likely to address school shootings. Nor will writing them off as issues of an individual’s mental health.

Might we look to our collective state of mind? How pervasive is our tendency to live in a “fight or flight” reactive state to get rid of what we fear, rather than explore and espouse creative, generative approaches to create the world we want?

I do not have enough expertise to suggest a better way forward when it comes to violent killings. But I strongly suspect it will take more than just knowing what we don’t like and our suppositional fits of pointing fingers and calling names.

What do we want? What do we do when we disagree about what we want? How do we handle situations where there is a tremendous amount of fear, money, and power that drives some people’s motivation?

Daniel Kasnitz

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Originally published in The Commons issue #454 (Wednesday, April 11, 2018). This story appeared on page D4.

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