Responding to Internet Comments: "If Not Gun Control How About This?"

Thursday night, October 1st, I got home from a long day at work to the horrifying news that there was another mass shooting in Oregon. I wanted to personally dig deeper into what I thought some of the potential solutions for what could minimize future violence in this country without increasing gun control and came up with ten ideas, which to me, sounded at the time, and still do, like things which, if we were able to achieve or come closer to achieving, would ultimately reduce violence in our society through creating more opportunities for empathy, overall health, and giving people all the skills they need to chase down life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without running one another over. You can read the full blog, and the comments section, here.

When I last took a look at the comments, there were more than 800, and I didn't read them all, but they came in a variety of categories and careful internet nuance falling rather generally into four large buckets: (1) support of the overall premise; (2) telling me I'm an idiot; (3) telling me I shouldn't hope for a better world, or (4) calling me some form of socialist / Marxist / Stalinist / totalitarian /liberal/progressive/phrases that would cause my mother to blush, etc.

Rather than try and respond to each of the carefully crafted comments I figured another blog could be fun for those following along. How could this strategy go wrong?

While I was not surprised at the number of people, who if they disagreed with me, immediately thought I was a horrible person, I was surprised at a few generalizations it seemed were being made about what I wrote.

First, I'm startled at the number of people who refuse to believe that a better world or a better way is possible. Though we as a nation may differ as to how we should create a better world for all of our citizens and residents, I always assumed everyone at least wanted a better world and this was the underlying value in our system of government. Despite knowing people all across the political and belief spectrum who are working towards a better world, given the commentary on the blog my assumption is clearly not true.

Guess we need to work harder at creating a better world team! I'll perhaps chose naiveté then and continue to willfully give people the benefit of the doubt that they do indeed want to create a better world for all people until they prove otherwise. What's the point in giving in to fear or the status quo?

Second, I was surprised at the number of people who immediately assumed I was seeking government intervention or legislation as the primary means of creating change in every instance. Yes, some of the points would require some government legislation; many though would not, or at least would not necessarily. A summary is below for those of you questioning my logic. I also tried to work in a request or a question for all the folks who are hoping I could get a clue. Here's your chance to give me one.

  1. Giving everybody an outstanding education. First off, who disagrees that people should get a great education? Maybe it would take some more government funding to make teaching a more attractive profession, but maybe lowering spending on the DoD, TSA, etc. could offset increased educational funding without increasing spending at all.
  2. Mandatory service. Yes, this would require government spending or a significant philanthropic investment and I recognize it would be problematic to implement, but does anyone deny the benefit of service to creating better citizens? How else can we build universal empathy and help everyone realize there actions impact their community?
  3. Accessible post-secondary education that doesn't leave people crippled in debt. Certainly the banks and schools could figure this out on their own. Whether or not they want to is another question. Let me know if you'd like to be in a lot of debt for the next 20 years.
  4. Livable wages for jobs. I get it, mowing your neighbor's lawn may not be your career, but why couldn't working full time in lawn service be a pathway to a life with dignity? This doesn't require the mandating of a minimum wage either. Some companies believe in paying and treating employees well. Take a look at COSTCO or Starbucks, or remember Ford who believed it was a requirement that his workers could afford to buy the product they made. Companies can chose to pay better and still be highly profitable even if it meant lower stock returns for investors. Please raise your hand if you don't want this. There is a lot more we could go into here around income disparity, the rise of CEO salaries and the stagnation of workers' salaries, but none of that is a requirement of the free market or would require government intervention to change. We have the resources necessary for this; we just chose not to use them in most cases.
  5. Universal access to health care. Again, I'm quite certain the insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals, as well as employers, could make this happen. Government intervention could make this worse just like private companies could make it better. Who doesn't want to be able to access health care?
  6. Clean air, clean water, and healthy food. Again, companies could choose to respect and support these things but many do not so the government intervenes. Please let me know if you don't want any of these things and what level of polluted air, dirty water, and unhealthy food you'd like to consume. As far as access to public lands, yes that requires government intervention and I'm ok with that. While we're at it, we need to refund the Land, Water, & Conservation Fund.
  7. Supporting people on the journey in life as they grow and change...no need for the government here, just don't be a jerk to people.
  8. Humanize police work; remove the private market from the business of incarceration, and lower punishments for non-violent, low level offenders. I'm literally asking for less government on this one.
  9. De-militarization and decreasing private sector influence on the military industrial complex. The government pays for all of this either to a private firm or a public agency, so again, I'm asking for less government spending.
  10. Equal rights--as long as you let others have them, there's no need for government intervention. Anyone have a certain set of rights they'd like to give up so they can exclude someone else's same set of rights?

Maybe seeking understanding through interacting with internet commenters is a fool's errand, but I believe in the inherent good of people, why else try this thing called America?

I promise my next blog though will be just about my cat.