The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tragedy and Reaction

Sorry for the late post this week.

I'm commenting on the most recent school shooting this week (along with what I'm pretty sure is every other blog on the Internet). For my part, though, I'm going to look at what constitutes the right (or perhaps just a good) way to act in response.

There are a fair number of different choices, most of which we've seen before in previous such tragedies. Those very close to the victims are dealing with grief which most of the rest of us can barely imagine - I'm certainly not going to try for this post; I have no right to tell them how they should grieve.

As for everyone else... they're just doing the best they can, as usual. For some people that's a plea to avoid talking about the issue, or to avoid poisoning it with politics or acrimony. Most of those people, I imagine, want to help those close to the victims by avoiding too much sensationalism or hatred creeping into the discussion. Other people reject that approach and dive into the discussion, arguing as hard as they feel they need to in favor of what they see as the right solution. Their motivation is fairly obvious - to prevent, or at least limit, the incidence of any other events like this one.

Neither reaction, I would argue, is precisely wrong.

Some people, no matter how far removed, may wish to limit the discussion for their own reasons, or may imagine that keeping themselves out will limit the national discussion's cacophony, even if only by a small amount. Both those goals are acceptable to me.

Likewise, there is very little to disapprove of in the desire to reduce senseless violence, even if doing so makes people uncomfortable.

But there are two caveats here - two ways in which I do think someone can react inappropriately.

One is that you can't really control others' actions. Those people who want to limit the discussion are limited to what they personally can do - forcing others to remain silent does them a disservice and implicitly supports one side in the debate about how to react to incidents like this. (Likewise, forcing people to talk wouldn't be allowed - so no arguing that those who don't wish to discuss the issue have to do so. I think that's much less of a problem than the other way around is, though.)

The other is that no one gets a pass on talking points and emotional appeals, even in a highly emotionally charged time like this. In this time just like any other, we need to come up with the right answer - and passion and emotion might drive us to have those debates and to convince other people of the answers we come up with, but they won't help us as much when we're coming up with those answers. The paranoia seen in many gun advocates and the disgust of many gun control supporters only helps to a point.

UPDATE: I went back to Facebook after I wrote this, and read yet more posts from friends regarding the gun control debate... And now I just want to emphasize that last paragraph's point about fallacious arguments. I hate to call people stupid too obviously and/or act too arrogant about my own capacity for debate, but I guess the idea that this is the best we can come up with to react to this tragedy is getting to me more than I thought it was.

Also see this blog post from Almost Diamonds on Freethought Blogs - I had intended this to be more of a meta post about the debate as opposed to expressing my position on the debate, but now I find myself wanting to point out one of the main problems clearly, and I really can't do it any better than that post did.

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