Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Good News On Gun Control

We may achieve some minor steps in that direction.  President Obama has hinted at that and several pro-gun politicians have expressed some willingness to expand gun control laws.

Even Joe Scarborough has changed his mind on the topic:

It is probably human nature to find horrors striking very close to oneself emotionally more powerful than distant horrors.  It's our back-brain asking what the risk is and whether we should run or hide to avoid that "saber-toothed tiger" (it's always that animal, for some odd reason, in those prehistoric sagas).  These dead children looked like his children, they lived nearby and belonged to the same social class.  The horror struck almost at his home.

It takes effort to extend that empathy further and further out, though it can be done, and we should all work at that task.  Still, our imagination is stretched less when the victims remind us strongly of our own situation, our own children, our own neighborhoods.

Some of those responses could be racist or xenophobic.  But a considerable part, I believe, has to do with our limited empathic imagination.  When we hear of a disaster which has killed 10,000 people, our reaction cannot cope, cannot fathom such numbers, cannot grieve 10,000 times as much as we would grieve for one neighbor, one family member.  We would burst into small pieces should such a magnification be possible. 

So we resort to reading about the individuals in that disaster, their stories, their deaths, and that is how we slowly, very slowly accommodate the magnitude of the horror.  I think something of that sort happened to Scarborough, especially because the stories were so familiar to him, so close to his family.

Another human common desire is to want something good to come out of horrors, to want the deaths made meaningful that way.  I share that desire as I share the limping nature of my empathy.  I'd like these deaths not to be wasted, even though all such deaths ARE wasted.  I'd like changes to gun control to come from this massacre, I'd like to have a future where I never need to write of yet another shooting with multiple victims, with the usual questions about why the killer killed.  I'd like to have no news about gun murders to cover.