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Defining and Re-Defining Allegiance

By tt stern-enzi · April 24th, 2013 · The Alternative
How often do we think about what it means to pledge allegiance to a group or a set of ideals? Are we truly committed to hitching our personal wagons up with a mule team that, at times, barrels down a path contrary to our moral compasses? 

Do the ends justify the means and, if so, how long are we willing to wait for the roads to align?

When we put our hands over our hearts and stand silent as The Star Spangled Banner swells, do we consider the modern complexities that still keep us from achieving the potential we see as a birthright? Forget slavery and equal rights for women, what about protecting us from ourselves? In the Queen City, we’ve been squabbling over parking; we’re talking about parking (shades of Allen Iverson) when the Senate can’t even rally around the basest of notions — background checks on gun sales. 

No national registry, the other side argues, but guess what? A national registry wasn’t even part of the legislation in question, although I don’t see why not. We register cars and no one screams about this impinging upon our civil liberties. 

I grew up at a time (and in a state) when I was taught gun safety during physical education classes in middle school — hell, we shot at targets in the school gymnasium — and were allowed to get a hunting license. 

I had a hunting license before I entered junior high. Let me tell you, I think I realized even then that there was something wrong with this situation, but that was part of my all-American upbringing.

The current gun debate is troubling, though, because I find myself conflicted over an unlikely ally.

MSNBC’s Morning Joe host, Joe Scarborough, has been castigating his Republican comrades over their wrong-headed position on this issue, but he does so with a battle cry that grates my nerves. 

His deafening mantra is that you need background checks to protect us from “the rapists and terrorists” among us who have easy access to guns. 

Scarborough is less vocal about his stance on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, but where I take offense with him is over “the rapists and terrorists” who, in order of concern, should probably be much further down the priority list. 

Our focus on guns has come as a result of school shootings, attacks at malls and movie theaters, where multiple lives have been lost at once. Thanks to logic like Scarborough’s, we end up lost in the weeds rather than planting the seeds of change.

Does it matter if our reasons and rationales are at odds if somehow, despite the specifics, we fall on the same side of the issue? I’ve been debating that question with my wife over the last couple of weeks, beginning with Sen. Rob Portman’s announcement of his public embrace of same-sex marriage after revealing that his son is gay. My wife believes such changes, especially for Republicans, based on personal impact rather than a larger moral imperative, are less convincing. 

Not merely playing Devil’s advocate, I pointed out that almost every change of heart requires a certain degree of personal investment, so why does it matter? 

Yet, here I am quibbling over an alliance of principle founded on what I attest to be shaky ground. But there’s far more at stake when it comes to gun policy. 

There are too many factions splintering the debate, muddying the waters. Red states versus blue states. Rural versus urban. The NRA administrative body versus the rank and file membership. Fear versus awareness. So, you can see how easy it is to throw up arguments or spin the data to confuse and confound the public. 

In fact, I hate hearing the polling numbers on background checks. All of the rallying cries state that this is a “90/10” issue with 90 percent of the public in favor of some level of checks, but I can’t trust that number and neither should you. We’re talking about respondents to surveys with smaller sample sizes than we’re aware of, and that means, just like with elections, we’re never truly capturing anything close to even 50 percent of the American public. 

I would be more inclined to take notice if that “90/10” number included all of the people I see at sporting events with their hands over their hearts. 

We need a bit more mindfulness and maybe a little less blind, thoughtless passion. Let’s make some hard decisions about who we are and acknowledge the “strange” diversity of our bedfellows. 

CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: letters@citybeat.com



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