I have been intrigued by the debate in our nation since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. The anxiety since that shooting has rested on guns, but that anxiety is now starting to shift some--although I don't know how much--toward conspiracy theories. Of course, as I pointed out yesterday, conspiracy theories are more about trusting your sources than they are about anything else. And I think one of the greatest problems facing our nation today is the lack of a source of information that anyone can trust.
Oh, I know that some folks trust particular sources of information, but I do not think there is one agreed upon source that folks believe they can turn to so that they may get come clarity and understanding about a particular issue. More than a few times when posting on message boards or on social media, sources are challenged with commentary like, "That's a conservative website or organization. That's a liberal website or organization." Never mind what might be said is true--it is the underlying agenda which people point to in their deliberations.
Now, this might be getting closer to the heart of the matter of trust because I think everyone and every organization has an agenda. Everyone and every organization has something they are trying to accomplish; however, I'm not so sure everyone and every organization is abundantly clear on what it is they are trying to accomplish. Let me clarify that statement a little more. Perhaps some people are clear about what they are trying to accomplish internally, but externally, they are unable or unwilling to articulate it clearly to everyone else.
Let me try to tackle this from the perspective of the questions one tries to answer. As it is still a hot topic, I will use gun control.
Depending upon which question one is trying to answer, one will come up with vastly different solutions. Depending upon what one is trying to accomplish--what vision one has, one will come up with very different approaches to another who is trying to accomplish something quite different.
How does this play out in a real scenario? Well, let's deal with a couple of problems and the questions they pose.
Problem #1: Mass shootings.
Question about #1: How do we prevent mass shootings like Columbine, VA Tech, and Sandy Hook?
If this is the problem being addressed and the question posed, the solutions become easier to come up with. If I were to address this problem and offer my solution which would prevent, as much as we can, such a thing from happening, it would be thus: a complete ban on all guns except muzzle loaded weapons which could be used for hunting, defense, etc.
Why would I offer this solution for prevention? Nearly all guns on the market require minimal time to fire and minimal time to reload. I can load four cartridges into my hunting rifle in fifteen seconds or so. A gunman who can load this fast can still kill a lot of people in a short period of time. Similarly, a person with a revolver who has a fast loader can accomplish just as much carnage. To really and truly minimize the damage of a mass shooter, we would have to restrict firearms to those which take a full minute or so to load. Hence: muzzle loaders.
Problem #2: Lessening Gun violence
Question about #2: How do we curb gun violence in our nation?
If this is the problem being addressed and the question being posed, there is a much different response beginning with the fact that gun violence has been on the decline since the 1980s. You might never know that watching television and reading the news, but none-the-less, I assure you, it is correct. You can easily do a search and find this out at your convenience. For those who are convinced our society is more violent than at any other time in our history, I hope this is eye opening.
So, if lessening gun violence is the overall goal, perhaps we could say we should do nothing. It's already falling; however, if we want to precipitate it's decline, then perhaps closing some loopholes on background checks (private sales at gun shows, for instance) would be appropriate.
Problem #3: Saving Lives
Question about #3: How can we prevent murder and save peoples' lives?
If this is the problem being addressed and the question being posed, another response is required. Given that the murder rate is pretty much the same per capita across the board for industrialized nations, the solution to the problem is much deeper than any sort of weapon control we can impose. Dealing with murder means we have to address the hearts and minds of people as those who commit murder are often capable of doing so with all sorts of tools.
Referencing above's point that the murder rate is on the decline and has been for two decades, then perhaps we could say we are already doing something and we simply need to stay on course.
After going through the above process, think about the swirl of debate on this issue in our nation right now. Which questions are being bandied about? If you listen to any of the dialogue, you will hear every question and every problem introduced at some point of the discussion. Of course as our minds process all these different questions, different solutions keep popping up, and we cannot seem to get any clarity on what we are really trying to accomplish.
Here's my two cents: it's about clarity in what we are really trying to accomplish. I'm not sure we've even asked the questions clearly. And since we don't have clarity, we're forced to come up with our own answers--and of course, that leads to chaos, debate, anxiety, etc.
But it's not about guns, as I said earlier. It's about trust. Who do you trust?
Is it possible to be clear about what we are trying to accomplish? Is it possible to be able to articulate what we are trying to do and the questions we are trying to answer? Is it possible to lay our underlying assumptions on the table and invite people to come and see what we have to offer? Is it possible to allow folks the freedom to accept or reject what we have to say without trying to strong arm them? Is it possible to allow them the freedom to accept or reject what we are actually trying to accomplish but at the very least allow them to know what that agenda is?
It all comes down to clarity, I think. Clarity about what a person and organization is trying to accomplish and the questions they are trying to answer. Such clarity is often missing in our discussions.
I hope I might personally work at being clear--with the questions I am trying to solve and what I am trying to accomplish in life and in work.