I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.One of the sports stations I listen to on my commutes (93.7) has a morning show that discusses movies, politics, and popular culture more than sports. One of the hosts, who typically rants about a lot of things, complained that he doesn't want to hear firearms details from gun nuts who call in whenever shootings make the national news and a public gun control discussion is occurring. He finds it tedious, he finds it irrelevant, he finds it annoying.
Oh, I don't support the ban. I support the argument.
I support the argument because it's honest and specific. It doesn't hide the ball, it doesn't refuse to define terms, it doesn't tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly.
That elevates it above most gun control dialogue.
Once one is alert to the idea that for at least some percentage of gun-regulators, this is not about safety, but about culture war, comments like this jump out at you. When you take the time to read at least a few of the firearms-details arguments, you see pretty quickly that the details are not irrelevant. People use terms like "assault weapon," or "weapons of war," or "reasonable for self-defense" with absolutely no clue what they are talking about. President Obama, for example, that Omar Mateen had a Glock with a lot of clips, and an assault rifle. Then, after illustrating that he doesn't know much about guns, he wants to more deeply regulate them, sure that he knows enough - the details don't matter.
My brother, and two dear Christian women who are my friends posted similar things this week. They are all sure that they know enough to have a decent opinion. If pressed, they believe that other anti-gun people who are wonks on the subject and pay attention to these things know enough to craft decent legislation about it - and their job is to rally support whatever that legislation is. Intelligent people often fall into the trap that they can pick up 90% of what they need with minimal effort, so they can move on to other subjects.
Actually, everyone believes that, but intelligent people at least have some empirical experience that this method works. They got through school this way, and navigate conversations this way now. They know a little bit about Egyptian loan-words in Biblical Hebrew, or Hungarian elections in the 2000's, or the Treaty of Westphalia, and instantly know more than 95% of everyone about those subjects. I get this.
Believe me, I get this. I am that guy, having kited my way through conversations for decades by knowing more than the 95%, enough that I can usually at least hang out with people who actually know a lot more. I also believe in most situations that drawing in a few bits of information from a source or three I consider reliable, plus a little oppositional contemplation, puts me way ahead of just about everyone else. It works. The number of people doing this is pretty much the list of "smart people" that you know.
Here's the huge problem: This doesn't actually work with some subjects. It works in limited areas of mental health, but in other places you have to actually know something. You can't fake it. There are discussions of law that historians or political scientists can enter and be usefully knowledgeable in. But in others, you just need to know something about law in general, and particular rulings in specific, or you are just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. In those instances, a realtor discussing real-estate law with an attorney might be more accurate than a brilliant Ivy-League professor of history. The hard data sometimes matters, and matters a lot. Psychologists, and parents, and grant-writers may know a lot about educational interventions; they may know more about the topic in general and have ideas about changing the system that are better than special-ed coordinators. But if you want to write an IEP, you should talk with a person who is a specialist in IEP's. Theory is gone. Rubber meets road.
Slight tangent: Is the Christian left actually worse on this than the secular left, or is that just an impression from my particular circle of friends?
So. I have generally chalked all this up to the mild arrogance of those who get by by overgeneralisng, combined with the quick sympathy of soft-hearted people for those who suffer (with a bit of "I've thought about ethical and moral issues and most haven't"), topped off with the infographics of those socially skilled enough to imagine what should be persuasive. Those people aren't your go-to source for solutions to political problems, but neither are they evil incarnate. They're just wrong, speaking beyond their knowledge but meaning well.
Or are they? This week I wondered if there actually is some evil involved for these nice people. I have wondered if culture war actually is more than half their motive, and if this is particularly true (though disguised even to themselves) of Christians who lean left, in defensive counter-reaction to the stereotype that they are suspected of rightist sympathies by secular progressives, and they want to get out from under. As with the sports-ranter above, it is their own words and their types of arguments which raise red flags for me. I don't think they are usually the hard-edged SJW's who want their opponents to be not merely defeated but humiliated. They have absorbed a Christian lesson of not-hating quite well, and hope that even those who disagree and lose out in the halls of power feel okay about it and don't feel disrespected or unheard. They want everyone to go home with a little gift.
And yet. And yet. This time around my suspicions are darker, on the basis of their own words. Their first goal actually is to win, and to make sure everyone knows how much they care about humanity and their opponents apparently care about something else. Not very nice, though often mentioned indirectly or disguisedly. They don't know the important facts, and they know that they do not know, but cannot be troubled to reconsider. Perversely, not knowing about the details seems to be a badge of honor - they aren't one of those icky dangerous people who know about guns and have some sort of obsessive, Aspergery interest in the details. (Watch out for that guy. He could be the real danger.) They are good people who care about the arts. They are on to showing how gun manufacturers, and the NRA, and congressional Republicans are morally dangerous. They won't say "evil" but it's pretty clear they think that there are some evil pro-gun people out there. (The rest of you nice hunters and home-defenders are just misled, and perhaps a bit primitive in your morality - but they have hopes that you will come around, because you are Christians - maybe kinda sorta, even though haven't you read what Jesus said... and oh dear, not as well read as we are, but not bad people really. Except actually, you are. Just a little bit, by which we mean "a whole lot," but we don't talk like that because it isn't nice. But we would never say it, because that would hurt your feelings, and we aren't the sort of people who hurt others' feelings).
Here is my challenge: Most of those are anti-Trump because they fear there is far too much fascist, or at least authoritarian in him. I see that. But the actual fascists last time were not drawn from his type of crowd, but from yours. I should never have brought up Trump. Lost my head there. This isn't about Trump, it's about you. Who goes Nazi? I am no longer sure about you.