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Over Easy – What I Learned From Richard de Berry, or Part 6 – the Conclusion

This is the 6th and final post in an ongoing series on gun violence. Click the hyperlinks for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

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From my back porch.

Good morning firedogs, and happy Tuesday.

We have now explored many aspects of the gun control and gun violence conversation in America. We’ve seen how our peer nations address gun control. We’ve seen how easy it is to acquire a gun in the US. We’ve seen how self-defense weapons greatly increase your risk of death by firearms. We took a good look at the NRA and the mental health crisis in America.

We’ve had an extensive conversation, to be sure. 1,036 comments thus far in this series. I thank you all for your participation. What I had hoped to do when starting this series, my initial concept, was to start an ongoing and extensive conversation among the great minds here about the gun problem. I feel I’ve accomplished that. I also hoped to develop and solidify my own firm set of beliefs around the issue, and I’ve accomplished that as well.

I believed in those early days (just 8 weeks ago!) that the only concrete solution to the gun problem in America was a ban on firearm ownership, similar to the laws in Australia or England that we took a look at in Part 3. I don’t believe that this ban would need to include seizures of guns currently owned, as happened in Australia. I think many American gun owners would fight, and many would die. This is not a viable solution. I do think a ban could succeed long term if it were enacted now (or soon) and manufacture and sale of firearms ceased. 100 years from now, with guns cast aside, rusted out, and broken, the supply of firearms in America would be greatly depleted, and we would be a much safer nation. Our great grandchildren, and their children, would not have to witness the yearly Sandy Hook or Columbine massacres that seem so common now.

Alas, this ban will not happen. America’s government is far too beholden to monied interests to boldly erase a giant economic sector like weapons manufacturing.

Given that the best solution is not politically feasible, what are we left with? For me, the answer to that question is simple. A better ideal.

Much of what maligns our society can be addressed without touching anybody’s guns. There are many loosely related problems today that, if corrected, could reduce the number of violent homicides in America.

How? you might ask. Richard de Berry showed me the way.

Here at last, firedogs and dear readers, is my conclusion, and my hope for a better future.

When we last saw Richard, or SouthernDragon, he was treating some of us to another serving of Marx in the Morning, his recurring series on the teachings of Professor Richard Wolff. Richard died shortly thereafter, losing his final battle to cancer.

Before leaving us, Richard opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective. Marxism was alien to me, and his Marx in the Morning posts taught me that I could look at the world in a different way. I had been focusing on the wrong things for so long, never really seeing the true core of any particular issue.

What Richard taught me, through the works of Marx and Professor Wolff, was that people are the core of any societal issue, be the issue economic, political, or any other. If we seek to understand our fellows, we can better serve them and address their ills.

I was left then, when pondering how best to wrap up this series, with a gnawing question. Why do we kill each other so much? There are a handful of answers, and I believe they are the basic problems that we need to fix if we ever hope to reduce violence in America. These are large national issues, but I believe their solutions stem from us working at a local or individual level. There is something all of us can do to reduce violence.

Our mental health system is sorely lacking.

How can we fix that? There are other areas of this site that address the political fixes. Corporate ownership of our healthcare system severely inhibits positive change. We can, however, love our neighbors and friends. We can pay more attention to what they’re saying, how they’re feeling, or what they’re going through. We can be more aware of their ups and downs, and reach out more often. We can listen when someone wants to talk. Simple acts of kindness among us can go a long way to making our society more mentally healthy as a whole. I’m not suggesting that we can take the place of mental health professionals, or prevent a massacre like Sandy Hook or Aurora, but how many suicides do you think could be prevented this way? My guess is a lot.

Poverty breeds crime

How can we fix that? Communism is my favorite solution, although I’d settle for some mild Socialism. Those things are not going to happen, though, so what are we left with? We’re left, again, with individual impacts. Some of us are secure, and can and should do more for those around us. Demi feeds homeless people as often as possible, and provides basic necessities when she can. What if these acts prevented a robbery that may have led to a death? Demi sets an example for us all, that when we see a need going unfilled, fill it if we can. If we share what we have, we help to elevate our fellows, and can thus erase some poverty. A small help, to be sure, but help nonetheless. Where our government has failed to provide a safety net for society, we can fill some of the gaps. Maybe we can prevent some crimes of necessity and reduce violence a bit more. How many deaths can be prevented this way? Some, to be sure.

Lastly, the issue of the American Mentality.

We are self-centered

I feel like this one needs a bit of explanation. Many folks commit violence without considering the consequences. A murder in itself is a shocking thing, but the true tragedy is the fallout, the void that is left behind in the lives of families and friends of the victim. Suicide victims are the same. They leave behind shattered people, those that spend their lives questioning what they could have done or said to make things different for their lost loved one.

Much of the gun violence conversation focuses on massacres, but the reality is people die every day in America at the end of a gun. What is it in our social consciousness that tells us that violence is the answer?

Rampant consumerism, self-centered egotism, the raw need to have and be and do always. These American traits are expressed in many ways. I need that new car. I need that promotion. I’m going to use this credit card to buy that TV because I must watch that reality show in this better definition. This is engrained in most Americans, a selfish and self-centered personality. We are taught from a very early age to work, consume, and die.

How do we change this, the American Mentality? Again, there will be no political fix. Communism or Socialism are not coming, especially not overnight. As individuals, though, we can live well and love. We can place our friends and neighbors above our things. We can value people more than products. We can touch lives, and try to light a brighter path to a better future. We can inspire each other, as many here have inspired me, to get involved in local activism and political issues, and we can change small parts of the world, one step at a time. Our impact will be fractional, the change incremental, but if we persist, we will reach people. Maybe not many, but some. How many lives could this save? Some. Too few, but some.

That’s it.

I’ve come to believe, my dear firedogs, that this is enough. I do not have the politically feasible answer to gun violence. I don’t have sweeping reforms or a revolutionary solution that will change things overnight. I can’t offer that.  What I can offer is my heartfelt promise, and a simple plea.

I’ve learned through writing these posts, and reading and participating in the ensuing conversations, that we are well and truly screwed. The gun culture of this country cannot go away through politics. We cannot save every life. We cannot prevent every crime. While it breaks my heart that more babies like these will die, I must know my limitations and accept them. Otherwise, all my works will be futile.

Here is my promise – that I will, each and every day, act and be in the manner suggested above. I will love my neighbors, reach out more to my friends and family, help those less fortunate than I, and value people above things. I will do these things in honor of the victims past and present, and in the hope that there will be fewer victims in the future because of my word and deed.

My plea to you, dear readers – that you will try to do the same. Please try.

Consider how amazing you are, a blip in space and time that has the power to mold and shape the future of someone near you. You are incredible, just being. You could be so much more. You could imprint your attitudes and actions on generations to come, and the next life you save could be mine. Or my wife’s. Or one of my sweet, innocent, beautiful daughters’.

That’s my solution, folks. My conclusion. Thank you again for reading along, and thank you ever so much for helping to show me the way. And to Richard, wherever you are, I love you. You helped to make me a better man, and I hope to show you that it was worth it.

I’ll see you in the comments.

Photo credit to my beautiful and amazing wife. She even proof-read this post for me. She’s awesome.

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I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

-D.H. Lawrence