I love history, and I love imagining what it would be like to live in certain eras. I am especially fascinated by imagining what it would be like to be in the wrong side of history. Let's revisit the polite anti-segregationist from the South.
I remember reading that many politicians and business leaders would express sympathy for ending segregation to the Civil Right leaders in private. However, they thought it would be imprudent to push for too much too soon. Although they disliked segregation, they couldn't take a public stand on it because it would upset their segregationist friends and customers. In other words, they were too polite to their bigoted circle of friends. All what they had to do was to challenge people a bit and show social disapproval. But they couldn't do it.
What this created, in practical terms, was that the loud segregationists had consensus through silence. When they stated that no white people wanted the end of segregation, they were speaking the truth: the non-segregationist people were too cowardly or too polite to challenge the warped view of the segregationist.
Now, wonder: wouldn't it suck to be that anti-segregationist who wouldn't speak out?
So let me share this: we are those cowardly anti-segregationist when it comes to gun violence.
(Yes, there are exceptions on this issue just as they were back during the Jim Crow days. You know who you are; this is not about you; and thank you for your courage.)
As a society we have allowed gun extremists to dominate the conversation for too long. In person we allow our gun nut relatives run their paranoid mouths without any real checks on how illogical and crazy their statements are. As a society we surrendered the topic to the NRA and except for a few people dedicated against guns, just gave up on the topic.
Just like the polite anti-segregationist we argue that nothing positive can come from challenging our relatives and friends. We will just get into a fight. As a society, we felt that it was too emotionally charged, and it politically led nowhere due to the influence in Washington of the NRA.
So since the 90s we have let the
segregationist gun extremists enjoy a consensus that they don't deserve.
This has made it possible that many will make statements that, with different words, will converge to this message: access to assault weapons as more important than protecting the lives of first graders through sane gun regulation.
Read that statement a few time. Somehow our collective silence has made this statement socially acceptable. The people offering it don't couch it with any qualifications the way people about to say something racist state that they are going to be "politically correct." Nothing. They just jump in and say that having easy access to buy their lethal toys is more important than protecting children.
We must make these kinds of callous statements to be as socially inappropriate as putting on a black face show at a high school.
It is more than just calling them out. We need to show social disapproval for their disregard of human life. They will still believe it, but let them whisper it between each other in shame.
One of the greatest victories of the Civil Rights movement was that being outspokenly racist became a socially unacceptable. This was something that gay activists later picked up, and now being outright homophobic is seen as being socially unacceptable to most Americans. Outright misogynistic statements towards women is begin talked online as the next kind of speech that must be challenged when we hear it or are exposed to it. We should add gun extremism to the list.