Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guns and US

The US is such a gun-saturated culture that even many pacifists have mixed feelings about them. We are contaminated from birth by a cultural nationalistic DNA that affects millions. I'm one of the lucky ones whose father simply had no interest in them, sparing me the upbringing that involved shooting birds, rodents, deer, or anything at all. A World War II veteran of the war in the South Pacific, he had seen enough, I believe. His father was not a hunter either, preferring to express his machismo as an athlete. My grandfather had a full football scholarship but needed to drop out to go to work to help support his large Catholic family. My father, too, had no need to wield a weapon; he was a star hockey player. As a boy, I loved paging through the old scrapbook with newspaper stories of my Dad's hockey glory from high school to the University of Minnesota and on into the bush league pros, until my mother made him quit. Guns? Irrelevant.
Of course as a boy I had many friends who hunted, and I felt sorry for them, as it seemed to me that their trips out with their Dads were just about the only times they really bonded and it was all built around taking life. I was repulsed and literally, the very first time I met a vegetarian--I was 18 and had never heard of such a thing--I immediately became one and have been for 44 years. Live and let live. I have never urged anyone else to be a vegetarian--that is too personal for most Americans--but I have told people 'Don't let me around your guns or I might have to hammer them into plowshares. Been to prison for it and might go back.' Guns are different. Guns are not personal in the same way as eating meat, horrifying as that is. Guns and bombs and all weapons kill children and other noncombatants. That is unbelievably offensive, obscene and flat immoral. Does that make me someone who values human life more than that of animals? Yes, I confess, that even as a vegetarian, the idea of killing a human far outweighs killing any other animal for me. Guns are my enemy.

Can we protect all children always from all violence and injustice by nonviolence only? No, of course not, and no one with a rational mind would assert that any method is foolproof, certainly including violence. We choose how we train our children--communication, persuasion, assertion, de-escalation, compassionate challenging on the one hand, or violence on the other. Then our children default to training. Listen and think hard about how to reach the attacker or the one who threatens to molest you, or kick 'em in the nuts? Focus on humanizing the threat to himself so he can subsequently humanize you, or place your wager on violence? What skill sets do we impart? One set is hard to teach and one seems easy. But is the easy method the best bet? I will not claim to know, and how I wish there were methods that were perfect.

I was a married Dad for four years and a single Dad for the rest, until my youngest was 17. Although I was in the peace movement and was in fact a nonviolence trainer, I was not necessarily effective in imparting my own skill set to my boys. I have wished a million times I could redo so much, repair whatever I neglected or mistakes I made. Indeed, the lack of nonviolent parenting training is pandemic. I'm sure the Amish and Dukobars do it well by their own insular societies that don't feature physical violence between humans, but it's another world out here living in a society that valorizes violence, is awash in weaponry, and is the world's largest arms dealer with the most treasure devoted to its own military. The idea of training children to deal with threats using nonviolence is nearly invisible (probably except for dealing with physical restraint when you are nearly a physical match, such as some aikido training for children), even in the peace world. I hope someone changes that.

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