To quote the late Walt Kelly, in the words of his character Pogo.

There is no “Them.” There is only “Us.” We humans are all in this together. We are connected, interconnected, in ways that we cannot see, probably cannot imagine. Each one of us has all the potential that is exemplified by the best of us and the worst of us. Oh, of course some have physical or mental conditions that mean the potential–for good or ill–could never under any conditions be realized. But it’s there, and we go on ignoring that at our great peril.

Maybe there was a time in human evolution when dividing the world up into “Them” and “Us” served a useful purpose, promoted survival. That time has passed. With  communications technology expanding even as we use the latest thing, the connections, the interconnections, between us become more apparent every day. Someone in the remotest village has the possibility of knowing things about people anywhere in the world–things that someone in the most developed countries could never have known just a few decades ago. We learn about a disaster on the other side of the globe in minutes–sometimes we watch it as it happens–and not that long ago, as history goes, people might learn of a disaster in the next state, county, maybe even town only when someone traveled from there to tell the news.

There is a woman in India whom I know online. She is a generation younger than I, from a different culture, a different socioeconomic class, a different religious background–everything. Yet we have discovered that we have many values in common, that we have similar parenting styles, that we have elements of our personalities more like each other than like the people around us. What a wondrous thing such an acquaintance is, and how short a time it has been possible! But with this evidence in my own life, how can I believe in “Them” and “Us”?

In the current strife over guns, so many people see the other side as the enemy against whom they must protect themselves. But as Pogo said, the enemy is us.

Many fear gun owners, and so argue for more control, particularly to protect children. The Sandy Hook killing of 20 children was terrible, but the United States Government Accountability Office reports that more than 5 children die EVERY DAY from abuse. Yes, the U.S. has the worst record of children killed by guns, but we also have the worst record among industrialized nations for children killed by abuse. And it isn’t some “Them” killing these children; child abuse is found at every socioeconomic level, among every religious and ethnic group: “Us.” Where are the celebrities speaking out against that? Where are the bills introduced in the national and state legislatures? Where is the attention to protecting those little victims, 5 a day, every day, month after month, year after year?

Others fear the home-invading stranger, the thug on the street, and so argue for everyone to own a gun for protection. But just this week, what are the big stories? First, the military’s best sniper is killed at a shooting range, surrounded by guns that didn’t protect him–killed by someone he knew and was trying to help. Next, a young couple, then a police officer, are killed, and two other police wounded, by a former member of the LAPD and former navy officer. You don’t have to be a Google expert to find, every day, a story of a child accidentally killed with a parent’s gun or a domestic situation that turns deadly. That’s not “Them” doing it, that’s “Us.”

I am not making an argument for or against guns, nor for or against gun control. I am saying that statistically, the greatest danger to you from another person, whether by gun or any other means, comes from someone you know, maybe trust, even love. As long as we define “violence” (of whatever kind) as something “Them” does, we have no chance to defeat it.

One last point that ties into this: I cannot control what anyone else does. You cannot control what anyone else does. We can try persuasion (there are many kinds), and if we have the bent for it we can try force, but in the end each of us can control only the self. If there is a dividing line, it isn’t “Us” and “Them,” it’s “Me” and “Everyone Else.” The only thing I can do that will absolutely, certainly make the world more what I want it to be is to be that way myself. And that is true for each human.

 

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