Time to Stop Talking About Understanding and Compassion, and Actually Practice Some.

So I’ve been on the fence about whether I should write about the tragedy in California from a couple weeks back. I usually try and stay out of these conversations, but some interactions I had caused many opinionated people got me thinking way too much about it not to write something.

I couldn’t figure out what this post should be though. Should it be about gun control? no… Plenty of people write about that… Mental health issues… misogyny? Well… Plenty of interesting stuff has been written. But I think there is a deeper (and possibly a simpler issue that should be discussed.) We continue to have incidents like these through our country and everyone’s actions seem to repeat like a broken record. Every time we have a new shooting it’s like everyone pulls out their cue cards and repeats the same rehearsed dialogue they’ve had since the last shooting. And then we go through the same process again. Nothing ever changes. When the next tragedy happens, we’ll pull out our cue cards and repeat the same cycle of finger-pointing, accusing, mourning, and ultimately doing nothing to actually help anyone feel better or prevent further incidents from occurring. But maybe the way we can change is simpler than gun control itself. Maybe if we learned to show and feel genuine compassion for the people hurt and killed, and true compassion for everyone else, it might help us find a solution that would be more universal than just gun control, or just mental health, or anything like that.

This is kinda where I'm going with this. but I think there's more to it than this.

This is kinda where I’m going with this. but I think there’s more to it than this.

Here’s what I’m talking about. I was having a debate about gun control with some folks on Facebook the other day (I should remind myself before responding to anything on Facebook; No one actually posts to have a real conversation on Facebook. People only post stuff to be validated. So I should’ve just kept my mouth shut. Facebook isn’t the place to have these debates). I was trying to make the case that we could take what some countries had done about gun control and see if we could implement them successfully. The conversation came to Australia and their gun control efforts, and how they reduced gun homicides by over 50%. I received the retort that even though gun homicides had been reduced by 50%, in the same year total homicides in Australia were ONLY brought down by about 70 from the year before. ONLY 70 people. That was as of 2007 according to him, which meant that even if those numbers remained unchanging, potentially only 490 people were saved by 2014.

Now, I’m not writing about this to try to convince you that gun control is the way to go in the US. I’m writing this because his response rubbed me really the wrong way. It fell in the same line of that joe the plumber comment about “Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.” It came off as “sure, they may have decreased murders, but 70 people aren’t worth me losing my toys.”

That sort of attitude makes me really uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Shouldn’t saving lives be important to us? Are we really that unwilling to sacrifice for others? Are we really that mistrusting of others? I know I’m speaking of an ideal that is probably unattainable, but I really do feel like a little more compassion would go a long way.

It really is harder than it sounds. But I believe it's doable.

It really is harder than it sounds. But I believe it’s doable.

Here’s another unrelated example. I’ve already mentioned how I’ve participated in multiple Christian faiths, and recently done so at the same time. Intentionally (I know. Crazy, right? You can read a little more about that here if you want) Now, I’ve applied for new jobs recently, and some of the jobs I’ve been looking for have been through churches. One pastor from a church emailed me and let me know he was throwing out my résumé because of my LDS connections. He let me know that my theology was all wrong and I couldn’t possibly be compatible with the position they were looking for. I couldn’t understand it. It was clear that I’d worked with multiple churches. It was clear that I wanted to gain more from learning from their perspective and working with them. But without more than a glance, I was out of the running.

These are just two examples: The common theme? To me, it is complete unwillingness to even consider another person’s plight. I’m not saying 2nd amendment supporters should cave to the gun control folks demands (some of which even I’ll admit can be pretty absurd). I’m not saying those with religious conviction need to give up their beliefs for the sake of those who don’t believe differently. That would be silly. I’m proposing some genuine compassion for those who think or act differently. Here are a few examples of how that would work (at least in my mind)

Christians (since I already brought you up): a little genuine compassion and sympathy might help you understand and accept that other faiths want the same things you do. They might express it differently, they might have a different name for God, but (with the exception of the few religious extremists) all they want is peace in this life and salvation in the next. I bet you can relate to that. We all have more in common than we have apart. Besides. God told us not to judge, but to love each other as he loves us. Sounds like this should be right up our alley.

And while we’re at it, we could give atheists a little more slack too. We could remember that for some folks it’s hard to see God in a world that is so imperfect, and when life is so hard. Faith is not easy coming to some people, especially when so many things in the world seem to contradict our scripture (especially if you take every word literally)

The atheists could help us Christians out with a little compassion too. Yeah, I know, our zeal to share our beliefs can be frustrating at times. But understand that if we didn’t feel our faith made life better, we probably wouldn’t have it. Maybe even understand that some people need faith to make it through all the world throws at us. Maybe even try to have a little compassion towards those religious few that mock science and its findings. It just might help us all bridge the gap between our widely differing systems of belief.

Since I brought up that 2nd amendment stuff, folks who are fighting to keep the 2nd amendment effective as it has been in this country, understand that the people who want to change it, though they may occasionally misguided, but they are doing the best they can to try to save lives. They aren’t trying to step on your rights. and for those who are on the other side of that coin, understand that most of the folks who are fighting for their guns might feel frustrated that often it seems like they are being blamed for the actions of the crazy few who continue to do harm to others. You would probably be angry if someone started clamoring to take away your rights because of the actions of a few (we all know how much it sucks going through an airport because of the actions of a few people.)

I could continue with numerous examples, but the theme remains the same: Instead of trying to prove we’re right, try to understand the other sides view. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but just trying to understand where they’re coming from, you just might find it easier to be sympathetic and accepting of that point of view. And then an even better side effect might happen: On tough issues like gun control, maybe we could actually come to a solution that makes everyone feel a bit better. Maybe on religious and social issues the conversation won’t be so charged. Maybe people won’t be so quick to get offended or go on the defensive. Maybe You and I won’t be so quick to go on the offensive. Maybe then we can get back to working together to find real solutions to our problems.

Good advice, but this one is only in here 'cause I watched "Lion King" today. Man, that is a good one!

Good advice, but this one is only in here ’cause I watched “Lion King” today. Man, that is a good one!

Is this being overly optimistic or naïve? Probably, but try it. If nothing else, it might help keep your blood pressure down!


6 thoughts on “Time to Stop Talking About Understanding and Compassion, and Actually Practice Some.

  1. 3boxesofbs

    Great post and I wish more people would practice what you preach.
    I’m not saying 2nd amendment supporters should cave to the gun control folks demands (some of which even I’ll admit can be pretty absurd)
    They aren’t trying to step on your rights.
    Those two lines are incompatible. Gun Control advocates are trying to step on our rights. What is worse is they don’t even see how those rights have been compromised — stepped on badly — for over 80 years. Start with the National Firearms Act of 1934 and move forward to see how many restrictions and liberties have been taken away.
    Gun control advocates don’t do that. They want to start from NOW and move forward with more restrictions; sort of makes understanding and compassion a little difficult when the other side doesn’t recognize the loss of liberty, eh.
    On tough issues like gun control, maybe we could actually come to a solution that makes everyone feel a bit better.
    I know this is going to sound cold and uncompassionate but I don’t care if a law makes ‘every feel a bit better’. I care if it addresses the causes of violence and reduces said violence. I fully understand the desire to do something. Heck I think most pro-gun rights people fully understand the gun control advocates world view; most can make the arguments better than the antis can.
    But just because a law would make someone feel better should we support it? NO. That is an inane idea. Show me a law that affects the mentally ill or criminals more than the law abiding AND reduces deaths and injuries; then we’ll talk.
    I know in some way I’m validating your idea that both sides need to be more open but I can tell you from personal experience most of the openness is very one sided. Pro-gun rights people are willing to listen, willing to discuss, willing to show evidence and try to convince people. Few — much fewer –of the gun control crowd are willing to do that.
    Bob S.

    1. elmerfgantry Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I understand your passion and your frustration. As I said, I don’t think we have to agree with the other side to be sympathetic.

      I see what you’re saying with those two lines being incompatible. But my point was that I don’t think that those in support of gun control (at least in my experience; everyone’s experience is different) aren’t trying to step on rights. I think they see it as trying to save lives, and that I think that their heart is in the right place.

      But I also know as well as anyone that especially these days with gun control, it’s so hard to keep a level head because every time the issue comes up, it’s surrounding a tragedy where life was lost, and more often than not young life. So it’s going to be an emotionally charged discussion, which is why both sides should try harder to give the other some slack.

      Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your thoughts!! I appreciate it!

      1. 3boxesofbs

        Could you help my understanding. This is an honest and sincere request.
        But my point was that I don’t think that those in support of gun control (at least in my experience; everyone’s experience is different) aren’t trying to step on rights.
        I am trying to understand that world view — that people advocating for greater restrictions aren’t ‘trying to step on rights’. This is utterly baffling to me; honestly.
        Some of the proposals include a mental health exam before purchasing a firearm and recurring exams. How is the government mandating I a.) get screened for mental health, b.) be judged against some criteria politicians create and c.) pay for the ‘privilege’ not stepping on my rights.
        Finger printing, photo ids, background checks to own firearms in some states or to carry in most states; how is that not stepping on my rights. Illinois for example has a Firearm Owners Identification Card just to purchase a firearm- the loss of privacy is a major invasion of my rights.
        Please understand I’m not saying you are doing or advocating these; I’m just trying to understand a person who does.
        Bob S.

      2. elmerfgantry Post author

        I’ve lived in states where just to get a job you have to get a finger print clearance card and have a thorough background check. I completely understand that. Especially if you have someone who works with children. If someone is going to work in a school close to my kids then I want to know That they don’t have any skeletons in their closet. I don’t think that’s unfair.

        I’ve been finger printed for a job. I never saw it as a violation of my rights. I understood that they wanted to make sure I wasn’t some sort of rapist or had a collection of child porn or whatever. Again, I would want the same thing for any job where my kids had to interact with those people on a daily basis.

        I think the gun control ideas can go too far at times, and I do understand that frustration. but I think it’s the same basic principal of people wanting to know that you are competent to maintain that firearm.

        And I get where this is a scary thought: how far does it go? If you have a traffic violation could they deny you your weapon?

        So the fingerprinting and background check I don’t have a problem with, mostly because it’s been done to me already anyway. As far as mental health screenings, I have no idea. Unless you’ve had some crime or episode in your past, I don’t know how one could be deemed mentally unfit to own a firearm. I honestly don’t have a good answer for you there. I guess you’d have to ask a psychologist or something

  2. 3boxesofbs

    Thanks for trying and I guess it does help a little – but the idea that there is no difference between a private contract (employment) and what a government can and should do is a little scary to me.
    but I think it’s the same basic principal of people wanting to know that you are competent to maintain that firearm.
    And the idea I have to ‘prove my competence’ to anyone prior to exercising my right is absolutely abhorrent to me. We don’t make people prove they will be competent parents, blog writers, religious adherents, etc. We don’t make people prove they can bath their children or watch them swim; even though there are more accidental drowning deaths of children then firearm related accidental deaths. Yet the testing to show competence — and in some jurisdictions the ability of local law enforcement to deny purchase or carry permits is a huge restriction on people’s rights……how can anyone claim otherwise?
    Nor does any of the proposed laws affect the criminals more then the law abiding; does a gun control advocate seriously expect Markie the Country Meth Head to get a background check before he steals a gun or Timmy the Town Thug to be stopped by not having finger prints on file when he gets a friend to make a straw purchase of a firearm?
    This is where the ‘feels’ good part of gun control laws come in. We know that straw purchases account for nearly 50% of all firearms used in crimes and stolen firearms account for another 25% — nothing in the proposed laws will change those numbers; yet the antis still push them….so they can say they did something.
    Sorry if I’m getting verbose but I hope I can explain the pro-gun rights side a little to those who may be gun control advocates.

    1. elmerfgantry Post author

      Don’t feel bad for being verbose. I appreciate the discussion and your willingness to share your thoughts. I had hoped that this post would inspire some conversation :).


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