In the wake of yet another mass shooting here in the United States, yet another new multitude of blog posts, op-ed pieces, and the like have come out commenting on the issues of gun control, gun rights, mental health, and so on. I found one by David Roberts, published on VOX, particularly thought-provoking.
I’ll admit, I skimmed over a considerable portion of the article dealing with how liberals’ and conservatives’ brains are (apparently, according to research) observably different. I’m no neuroscientist, but from what I’ve read on that subject, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like there may be a correlation / causation issue here. Do people become liberals or conservatives because they’re born with (genetically, physically, chemically) different brains, and thus see the world differently, and think differently? Or, are their brains different because of how they’ve developed, due to exposure to experiences, lessons learned from parents & teachers & media, etc.? Are our brains different because of how we think, or do we think differently because of how our brains are?
But, Roberts then goes on to talk about the psychology, ideology, philosophy, whatever we want to call it, of “Why mass shootings don’t convince gun owners to support gun control,” that is,
To our gun owner, another mass shooting is not an argument for getting rid of guns. It’s a confirmation of his every instinct, another sign of moral and societal decay, another reason to arm himself and defend what he’s got left.
With that in mind, and then reading about the latest textbook controversy in South Korea, I got to thinking… Maybe this is PoliSci 101, super basic. I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never taken an actual Political Science class. But, I wonder if there’s something to be said of the political left & right in many countries – or, perhaps, in all, by definition? – that the left might take the positive aspects of one’s history as given, thus seeking the negative in order to persuade improvement, while the right takes the positive as being in constant need of re-affirmation, or reassurance.
It really is no wonder that our politics today (in the US at least) is so polarized – not because of beliefs about gay marriage, or abortion, or Islam, per se, but because of the deeper *emotional* or existential roots of why people feel, or believe, the way they do. If you believe that whatever good in your society is under constant threat of crumbling, then of course you’re going to want to “conserve” it, and not only will you be conservative in your views, but you might take it as a deep existential and emotional crisis… How are we, as liberals, progressives, whatever the word is, to combat that? We can try to combat that by pointing out the faults, the negatives, in what the conservatives are trying to conserve – point out to them that the good things they’re trying to restore or conserve aren’t so good after all, or that the ‘good old days’ never really were real – but any such arguments only reinforce their notion that things are falling apart, and that it’s our fault, that the liberals /want/ to tear it apart… When such things come down to so many people’s very core fibers of their being, when it has to do with feelings of existential threat, I don’t know that rational argument or critical thinking can win the day. And that goes for both sides, in their own senses…
What resolution can there be when people come from such fundamentally different views of the world? As an American raised on particular notions of democracy and civics and so forth, I want to believe that the solution is that we need to re-learn how to once again come together to discuss our differing opinions together, rationally and compassionately considering the merits of all sides of an issue, in order to come to some kind of agreement, or compromise. Such are the ideals upon which our country is based. But, I’m not sure I see such removed, thoughtful, respectful discussion even in our university classrooms and quads. Are such ideals attainable? Were they ever?