Activating Empathy…

Every time this gun debate happens, sooner or later, some frustrated soul says, “Well, I hope one of THEIR kids ends up on the wrong end of a gun!”  The speaker invariably looks horrified by what they’ve just suggested, retracts the statement, and begins apologizing profusely to whatever higher power they claim.  They don’t REALLY mean it.  After all, what kind of blithering, blind fool would wish harm on children because of the sins of the father?  But they ARE reacting to something many people know: there’s a large swath of people on this planet who lack empathy and the only way to get them to understand a thing is for them to experience it.

My American Heritage Dictionary defines empathy as “Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”  Basically, empathy is the capacity to accurately place oneself in another person’s shoes.  Because people who lack empathy cannot properly relate to another person’s position, they often come to erroneous conclusions about things – but only while those things remain abstract.  Once the “empathy-challenged” gain personal experience in a given subject, they often have a more…applicable attitude…

Gabby Giffords is one of the more obvious examples today.  She was a Congresswoman from Arizona.  She didn’t get a high grade from the NRA because she supported an assault weapons ban but, according to Foxnews.com, she has been “vocal about her support for gun owners’ rights.”  She supported and signed an amicus brief in support of gun owners’ rights in DC vs Heller.  These days, however, she fronts a gun-control group she founded with her husband.  What changed?  A bullet to the head.  Apparently, getting shot in the head is a very convincing argument for gun control.  For her, the entire gun debate left the world of “philosophical positions” and became very real, indeed.  It got me to thinking…

No, I’m not thinking we should shoot anybody who supports gun rights.  Listen, I support gun rights, though I acknowledge it might be a little difficult to tell from this particular piece.  But that’s because I’m tired of mass shootings and I’m tired of people standing in the way of common sense gun controls that might prevent them.  Yes, I know, they might not.  But suggesting that something shouldn’t be tried because it might not work perfectly in every possible situation just sounds stupid.  Because it is…

I know that more than 99% of gun owners are “responsible.”  But in fighting every suggestion – many proven by application in other countries – that comes down the line as an attempt to take away all guns, the 99+% aren’t doing anything to help society deal with the less than one percent.  It seems to me, the very best way to ensure that eventually, society will demand confiscation is to continue to protect and defend the people who misuse their weapons and the (lack of) process that makes it so easy.  It remains true: the few always ruin it for the many.

Yes, it’s a “mental health problem.”  But our society has decided to destroy itself through endless war so there’s no money to deal with mental health problems.  If we’re not going to treat those with mental health problems, we’re going to be left with no alternative but to take away the devices they use to express their mental health problems.  You feel free to cite all the pseudo-facts and “massaged” statistics you want.  No matter what you say, the other side of the ledger shows children cut to pieces by lead.  You want to deride that as an “emotional response?”  Have at it.  It won’t change a thing.  When a loved one is cut to pieces in a way that could have been prevented, statistics have no meaning…

But I digress.  This is about empathy.  To that end, I’d like to pass a law called ‘Giving The Finger To Shooters Act.’  It provides that every time there’s a shooting with six or more deaths, society gets to take one of Evil Wayne’s fingers.  (“Evil Wayne” is Wayne LaPierre, the current bastar…uh…CEO of the NRA.)  Look, I know it sounds harsh.  I’m not trying to be cruel.  I mean, we wouldn’t use garden shears.  We’d have a doctor do the work.  We wouldn’t start with “important” fingers, either.  We would start with the pinky of his non-dominant hand and work in from there, one at a time, as the qualified shootings occur.  Real-life practice currently identifies a mass shooting as four or more victims.  The ‘Giving The Finger To Shooters Act’ calls for six or more deaths, so there’s some grace there, too.

When you think about it, the proposal provides Evil Wayne greater opportunity to protect his fingers (and toes, eventually) than his rhetoric provides for children.  Besides, said law isn’t really aimed at Evil Wayne.  It would apply to whoever the CEO of the NRA is a the time of the shooting.  But I’ll tell you this; I’ve got to believe that if Evil Wayne had to give up a digit every time someone killed six or more people in one shooting, the NRA would have an entirely different attitude about gun control.  You see, Evil Wayne would have something tangible on the line.  His empathy would be activated.  These shootings are not abstract to the victims’ families and they wouldn’t be abstract for the currently carefully protected Wayne anymore, either.

I know.  I’m not going to get such a law – and I shouldn’t – because of civilization.  Evil Wayne is protected by (and gets to profit from) the reality that I don’t get to BE a barbarian in an attempt to stop barbarianism.  So let me, instead, try to activate some empathy by using a metaphor that a certain segment of our society once found oh-so-convincing.  Imagine you have a bowl of Skittles…

To the best of my knowledge, Skittles are nothing more than an enjoyable snack manufactured by conscientious people in a clean and safe environment.  (That’s my disclaimer for the people at Wrigley…)  In our bowl of Skittles, though, through some unknown anomaly of the manufacturing process, two of the Skittles contain pure poison with no known antidote.  They’re slightly misshapen, so if you could examine them closely enough, they COULD be routed out before anyone consumed them.  But you’re not allowed to look.  And those are the two we might have caught.  There’s also one Skittle that started out just fine but, again, through some unknown group of pressures, that Skittle has “broken” and morphed from being a “responsible” Skittle, to being pure poison, with no known antidote.  No one will find out about that Skittle until someone dies.  That’s just the risk we take for enjoying Skittles…

Now…and you don’t get to choose zero…how many Skittles are you going to put in your child’s lunch today?

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