“We have met the enemy and he is us,” noted the comic strip character “Pogo.” Within one week of the Newtown Massacre, the nation has returned from a “tipping point” on gun control to a battle between advocates of gun control and advocates of armed principals and teachers to protect schoolchildren.
Newtown, itself, is a town renowned for gun manufacturing and a plethora of hunting clubs and shooting ranges. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a powerful lobbying group for gun retailers, has its headquarters across the highway from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Consequently, Newtown remains at a divide between long-term residents seeking to preserve its traditions at odds with new residents seeking haven from urban violence.
The problem? Pogo was right. We are the enemy in seeking solutions to gun violence among other societal issues (abortion, right to die, death penalty). Why? Our political, legal, and economic systems, though better than alternatives, are, at their roots adversarial, polarizing our society along competing and intractable values. As a result, we approach complex moral issues as combatants not peacemakers.
The solution? We need the competencies and commitment of utilizing consensus building as a process to transcend our differences from defending positions to seeking agreements that meet and promote mutual interests. This process (incorporating constructive dialogue, creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and mediation) is challenging but not insurmountable in proving Pogo wrong.
The alternative? A return to the blame game with opposing groups standing on either side of 26 graves pointing fingers at each other.
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.
Manhattan Beach resident