Finding Our Political Voice: I or We?


Democracy is beholden to the will of the people, not truth.


It is up to the people to align their will with truth. But what standard of truth will be used? The Truth or a truth?

When we speak from the perspective of "I" we honor our truth. This subjective truth consists of our past experiences, and the thoughts and feelings authored by those experiences. The perspective of "I" is frequently at odds with that of "we," the objective, collective, aggregated, statistical, data driven domain of scientific truth. To which should we pledge our allegiance?

The grieving parent unwilling to accept nothing short of an assault weapons ban and the gun owner that believes more guns make us safer, both speak from the perspective of "I," and both find themselves at odds with scientific data. But that does that negate their thoughts and opinions?

An assault weapons ban would surely help curb the epidemic of mass shooting that plague our schools. But data shows that assault weapons account for less than half of all mass shootings and only a tiny fraction of overall gun deaths. Still, if you just lost your daughter to an AR-15, an assault weapons ban speaks wholly and completely to the one effect of mass shootings with which you are most concerned: the loss of your daughter. It eliminates the weapon that took her life, and in so doing, provides some assurance that it won't happen again, which lends purpose to the otherwise meaningless death of your daughter.

Similarly, data shows that homes with guns are significantly more prone to suicide, and to a lesser degree, homicide. But gun owners frequently claim having a gun makes you safer. After all, they own guns and have not been victimized by suicide or homicide. However, this confidence comes from the perspective of "I." The data does not show that owning a gun guarantees homicide or suicide; the statistical perspective of "we" only says it makes it more likely, thereby, on average, not safer. If these studies were controlled by variables like mental health, proper training, and safe storage, then I am sure the numbers would lean more toward safer, which is a solid justification for stricter gun laws. Naturally, we all want to think we belong to the responsible group, and we might; but few people buy guns thinking, "This will make me more prone to suicide and homicide." Gun owners purchased guns thinking it would make them safer, not increase their risk of homicide or suicide.

It seems to me that both "I" perspectives have merits and faults. I think we have a responsibility to voice our truth, but in the body politic, all these I's have to become a "We." There has to be compromise. When our perspective hardens, it prevents us from solving problems. The hardened perspective of gun advocates tends to obstruct common sense regulations that would keep certain weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people, and moreover help ensure proper handling and storage. The hardened perspective of gun control advocates tends to forestall physical security measures that would make our schools safer for our children and their teachers.

It seems to me that when our will is informed by subjective truth, but ultimately tempered by the objective standard, compromise is more likely, and compromise is indispensable in a democracy. The hardened "I" leads to obstructionism. It gets us nowhere. America has to return to the perspective of "we," or no progress will be made on issues like guns and healthcare.

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