January 26th, 2011 11:25 EST
Let's Broaden The Gun Rights Debate Into a Debate About Violence
The gun rights debate is too narrowly framed
Sometimes a debate is framed so narrowly that both sides end up throwing bolts instead of casting light. This has befallen the gun rights debate.
The question is now centered on the Second Amendment to our Constitution, granting us the right to bear arms. But what if the question were centered instead on violence? Without the element of violence, after all, there would be no debate.
Doesn`t it seem odd that year after year Americans polarize themselves around the gun rights issue without considering the media culture that misshapes their discourse?
Our film industry loves violence. The electronic game makers can hardly think of a decent game without it. Television thrives on it. Much of our literature celebrates it. Our defense budget is eating us alive. Guns alone did not create this culture, and the Second Amendment did not foresee the media culture that frames our issues.
Violence is the MacGuffin of American culture. And the argument for it used by tastemakers is that the American public bathes in it, devours it, lusts after it. If that is not part of the debate, then surely the debate is rigged.
Why isn`t it part of the debate? Who wants it left out of the debate? The National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates are right to say guns don`t cause violence, people do. But would they be willing to indulge a larger debate about violence itself? Or do they prefer to limit the debate?
And if the debate is limited, can it be authentic? Or is it theater?
And what about the progressives who agitate for stricter gun controls? Why are they not demanding a broader discussion of the causes of violence? We know, for example, that homelessness cannot be detached from mental illness. Can violence? And are we as a society willing to address mental illness at a time when we`re curtailing mental health services?
What about the connection between drugs and violence, between poverty and violence, between failing schools and violence, between racism and violence? Why are such issues shortchanged when violence is discussed? Is it because when we consider a range of issues it becomes impossible to reduce the debate to sound bites? Have we devolved to a point where so-called television news defines our society and what can`t be reduced to a sound bite is ignored?
Why are we having this phony, hopelessly redacted debate, instead of looking the larger issue of violence full in the face? Is this paradox rooted in our collective unwillingness to address a wide array of problems, preferring instead half-truths and lies, polemics and rant?
We have let banks get away with preying on us. We have let the credit industry pick our pockets. We have let developers corrupt local government. We have let politicians lie their way to Washington and state capitals, blaming Washington for problems they failed to confront at home. We have let presidents con us into wars. And we are having an overheated debate about a twisted synopsis of the real problem.
Unless we accept that the Second Amendment made us violent, a proposition in itself too absurd to contemplate, we must accept that other factors are at work and therefore the current debate is too narrowly framed.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com