Truth is never convenient

What “Don’t Politicize It” Really Means

November 6th, 2017

It happens every time. Within minutes after news breaks of yet another American mass shooting; when people start raising legitimate questions about the gaping holes in American gun regulations, gun proponents solemnly chastise the inquiry with the scold “Don’t politicize it.”

People who say that think that they’re taking the high road, that they’re respecting the dead, that they’re staying above the fray in the pious haze of reverence and decorum. But it’s a sham.

What “don’t politicize it” really means is this – that mass murder with an AR-15 military assault rifle that just happened? There’s nothing we can do about it. As President Trump himself said today, (mouthing the script handed him by the NRA), we don’t have a gun problem – we have a mental health problem. And if there’s anyone who knows anything about mental health it’s Donald Trump.

When they say “don’t politicize it” what they’re really saying is there is no reasonable, measured policy approach to curbing gun violence. No closed loophole, no law, no well-intentioned regulation is going to save even one life, so why bother? They’ve completely and utterly given up.

Fine. But we don’t have to, and in fact we aren’t going to. Don’t waste your breath arguing with gun proponents. Go around them.

For what is “politics” anyway but our values and morals manifested in the field of action. Our policies and laws are an attempt, ham-handed and ineffective as they often are, to codify our values and moral principles. Beneath them all is the most sacred right enshrined in our Founder’s documents – the right to life. We make it illegal to pollute the air and water because we need clean air and water to live. We mandate safety equipment in automobiles because that equipment saves lives. When I buy Sudafed at CVS I have to show a photo ID and am limited to one box, because we’re trying to hamper those who cook crystal meth, because crystal meth destroys lives. (Go back and watch “Breaking Bad” if you don’t know what I mean). We regulate human behavior in myriad ways for one simple reason – the protection of life. Law and politics are ethical principles put into practice. When you throw up your hands and say laws don’t work, what you are really saying is this – that human nature is irredeemably evil and all efforts to protect the innocent are meaningless folly.

Yet when it comes to sensible gun regulation – restricting certain categories of weapons, ammunition clip size, or re-sale policy – the alarmists trot out every slippery-slope fallacy they can think of, that if we ban bump stocks or even military-style assault rifles (something Ronald Reagan favored), then the next think you know, the 2nd amendment goes up in smoke and Hillary Clinton will come out of retirement to personally confiscate your guns. I don’t know, we have speed limit laws right? I’m still waiting for them to come and confiscate my car.

When someone says “don’t politicize it,” don’t buy into their shaming tactic. Politics is how justice happens. Never rest in the struggle for justice.

Today the future victims of senseless gun violence are walking around breathing, drinking coffee, hugging their kids — unaware that they will one day soon pay the ultimate price for our paralysis. Help them stay alive. Get between horror and its cause. This is no time for vacillation or equivocation.

Peter Bolland

Peter Bolland is the philosophy and humanities department chair at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California where he teaches world religions, Asian philosophy, world mythology, and ethics. Bolland is also a columnist for both Unity Magazine and the San Diego Troubadour. An award winning singer-songwriter and poet, Bolland draws on the world’s wisdom traditions as a frequent lecturer and performer throughout the San Diego region.
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