The nature of this post has changed a bit since I first decided to write it in light of Newtown, Connecticut. At this point, I’m not sure what the impetus was (something about human desperation) but in light of personal interactions since the shooting, I’ve felt the need to let this morph into something both personal and political. Bear with me as I try to make my points without rambling. To me the thoughts behind them and resultant ideas here are intimately connected but I may not be able to articulate them as such. I am intentionally not going to address the 2nd Amendment in this post. My interpretation of it is literal but, in my opinion, bears no relevance here. Later, possibly. Now, no.
I am a healer, a mystic and part of our gun culture. In my opinion, we all are in this country whether we own & use guns or choose not to do so. In my case, I own and use. I have two silent sentries, that until I apply a determined, measured squeeze, remain quietly in their respective spaces.
I have found it very interesting (and sometimes unnerving) the responses I get when initiating discussion about gun issues. Friday evening, while discussing Sandy Hook, I was told through spittle and ire, “I’m not going to argue with you!” I’ve been told I can’t possibly be a healer or I need to decide which side of the fence I want to be one–healer or destroyer. Each time I’ve had a response along this vein, it has come from people who don’t know me and think that I should fit into their blueprint of how & who I should be: either in terms of healer or gun owner–not a multi-faceted person whose variety of life experiences have led to unique choices. The implication from my end is two-fold. First, that because I’ve (we’ve) been pre-defined, anything that doesn’t fit said definition is dichotomous to who I’m (we’re) supposed to be. Second, because it doesn’t ‘fit’, any options or life-choices are not ‘right’ or ‘valid’ and that must be communicated loudly, with scorn and derision.
Thus my first point of this post: Judge not. You don’t know me. And, because this goes beyond an individual experience, you don’t know others or how they have come to their own conclusions about life and why they choose to move through the world the way they do.
Here is how I can be a life- and world-changing healer who is proficient in firearms use:
Before this healing gift landed in my lap I was a civilian law enforcement consultant and before that a kick-ass probation officer, criminal justice shit-pot stirrer, social programs developer. My areas of expertise included community capacity development, gang intervention, the mentally ill in the community and criminal justice system & corrections, and community supervision of sexual offenders. I learned to shoot not to fulfill duties of the job. I learned to shoot long before I entered that career for reasons deeper than that. As a child, I spent a lot of my time worried about my physical safety. As an adult, I realized that I could take control of that so I learned guns. I learned proficiency with said weapons, though, for an entirely different reason. As a female in the male-dominated world of law enforcement, I felt the only way I could gain a measure of respect and be accepted for my skills rather than my tits, was to out-think, out-drink, out-run and out-gun my male colleagues. And, although I’d like to think that self-confidence, intellect, empathy, grace & occasional goofiness had something to do with how I moved through that community, in large part, my skills with a weapon (and my capacity to to change situations so weapons were not necessary) led to my success there.
My comfort level with guns is one of the factors that helps me plan my trip to central Africa next year. While I move through the DRC, Uganda, potentially both Sudans, and Rwanda, I will be responsible for my own safety. And, if needed, my weapons will be used to protect my life and those of others. With deadly intent and accuracy for my plan is to come home.
If you only knew me in that context, with only that information, how would you judge my decisions regarding firearms use and ownership? Would that change how you communicated your thoughts and opinions with me? Would that create the opportunity for and willingness to listen openly, respond measuredly through your own life lens? Does my opinion become more or less valid? Does it validate your own? Would you ask questions or merely attempt to shut me down?
My second point:
One of the things that has struck me most in the follow-up of the Sandy Hook murders is our unwillingness to engage in dialogue with others. Whether it’s my own interactions immediately after the shooting where someone said with disdain & spittle, “I’m just not going to argue with you”, watching couples I know skip simple differences of opinion to move directly into “I’m right” mode or seeing via media the insta-experts appear ad nauseum in full argumentative armor. It seems to me that we (yes, I’m using a large brush here) don’t want to discuss, share or learn. We want to be ‘right’, correct in all manner and expect that our views be the ones others hold in esteem. Even before Newtown, I’d noticed more intolerance of others views in things spiritual, food, non-profits, celebrity, and other things of arguable importance. It’s as if, even in the littlest of things, we are so hell-bent on being validated that we can’t see how we denigrate others or choose to do so intentionally. Instead of , “So, can you tell me what you mean by that” or “What inspires that conclusion” we revert to “It’s a fact”. Superiority and hostility or coy cynicism seem to have supplanted humility and openness.
I think that before there can be significant change in our culture–particularly in relation to something that appears to be so divisive as our relationships with guns–there must be a willingness to share opinions respectfully, in a way that engages individuals and larger communities. I feel that can only happen if we are willing to acknowledge that our experience of the world is our own, and that while we may share it a bit with others, their experience is their own and no less valuable.
Does the fact that I own and know how to use guns make me less of a healer? I don’t think so. Does my willingness to use a gun or any weapon limit my humanity? I don’t think so. Do I believe your opinion about gun ownership (or health care, abortion, GMOs, style of dress, sexuality, cooking, football, civil rights, etc) or use limits either of us? No. It’s just an opinion. I don’t take yours personally. I appreciate it and you. I believe the derision of those people with whom you don’t agree, however, does limit all of us.