Fear leads to dying, not winning

Time to state the obvious. Bringing guns to the Oregon state Capitol is a bad idea.

Some Oregonian politicians don’t like the bill being presented that will place a cap on carbon emissions. The Democrats have a majority and it is expected that the bill will pass. Republicans are desperate to block it, and have responded by fleeing (probably to Idaho) so that there won’t be a quorum, and the vote won’t be valid.

Up to this point in the story, I personally support the actions. It’s childish maybe, but non-violent and powerful. Although I am in support of a cap on carbon emissions, I admire clever humans who find a way to work within a system and get their voices heard. Fleeing a vote has been done before, but not very often. It’s drastic, and has definitely hit the news now, which promotes a continued discussion. All good stuff.

The problem is fear.

In Oregon and all across the U.S. are these grass roots militia groups that fancy themselves saviors of American ideals. They’ve bought into the Trump-sponsored belief that there are only two kinds of people: Democrats and Republicans, and you can’t safely have both, and one must oppress the other. These militia people are usually country folk and usually align themselves with the Republican party. They are mostly good people who take their kids out fishing and have the neighbors over for a barbecue, and are quick to offer a hand to a stranger with a broken down truck, and donate to a good cause. But mention politics and they transform.

I left my tiny Idaho town with dirt streets and one traffic light a long time ago, and so I have memories of that childhood. Right now I live in another tiny town with TWO traffic lights. In the meantime, I lived in city after city and can no longer call myself a real country girl. I’m not close enough to the people to speak for them, but I’m gonna be an asshole and do it anyway. I’ll probably get some stuff wrong. So bear this in mind, my blog is my opinion, not fact.

Politics and power trigger within country folk a deeply held fear of losing a way of life, while they desperately cling to jobs that are part of lagging and changing industries. People on TV talk about systems automation and unmanned transport trucks and using hydroponics to grow crops and making burgers in a petri dish, and this is frightening at a gut level, for folks who don’t know the first thing about all that, and have families to support right now by driving long-haul rigs and feeding the cattle, and repairing the combine, and clocking in at work each day. Those news stories seem like they’re about the same environmentalists who talk about reintroducing wolf populations too close to a sheep farm and advocate for gun control when guns are a safe and necessary part of country life.

So it gets all mushed up together and amplified with Fear Sauce in the common consciousness: “The people who talk about regulating firearms are the people taking away the jobs.” and  “The people who want to put a cap on emissions are the people who want to take away our guns.”

It’s a common refrain in small towns: “You can take away my firearm when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

Fear. It’s fear masked by angry words.

What will the future look like to country families who for generations have lived their lives in a way that seems to be disappearing? It is either frightening, or unknown. And not knowing is scary too. It is so tempting to pull out a gun when feeling threatened, especially if you already own one. Or six of them. Legally owning multiple guns is not uncommon at all in rural Oregon.

Ok, back to my point. So Oregon may be on the brink of economy-changing legislation to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Thursday, soon after the Governor said that law enforcement would be sent out to haul them back to their jobs if they left, the Republicans skipped town. One of the Republicans retorted that he is prepared to shoot any police officer that tries it. (Can’t you hear the fear in that comment?) And then the aforementioned militia groups rallied, convinced that they aren’t being listened to once again, and convinced that the only response left to them is firearms. They announced they will move on Oregon’s Capitol (Salem) to protect the Republicans, even though the politicians declined the offer of assistance. This has shut down the statehouse today.

If the militias want to defend American ideals, they need to focus on the primary one: democracy. Our country wants to be founded on the Rule of Law, not oppression.

Talking through difficult decisions is a skill that politicians need, and a skill that the rest of us need too. Being direct when things are uncomfortable is the only way to work through a problem like being afraid of what might happen. Imagine feeling so disenfranchised that you convince yourself that the only way to be heard is to threaten to shoot someone. It’s an awful situation for those not holding a gun, but try to imagine how bad it is for the person holding one. As hard as it is, we have to face what frightens us, and start asking questions.

I can’t stand conflict, and I will contort myself to avoid talking about scary stuff, but it never resolves the problem. In fact, come on, say it with me because we all know the truth: avoiding the problem just makes it worse.

You know one way to avoid a problem? Bring a gun.

Guns scare the other people, yes. It shuts them up for a while, yes, so you can yell the stuff you want to yell. But it does not resolve anything! A protest group at the Capitol is going to be filled with fear, and hiding their fear behind angry shouts. And probably, somebody in their agitation is going to make the wrong move, probably by accident, and all hell will break loose. There won’t be any way to protect lives. Right to life doesn’t apply when there is a fearful mob and loaded guns.

Democracy turns out to be difficult and scary. Having to talk about decisions that might change your life forever is scary. Putting it all out there on the table means you might have to give something up. But you’ve got to believe in the process of negotiation and consensus. You’re probably going to have to let go of some things you want, no matter how it goes. You have to give up the idea of zero sum. The only way to win is to listen to each other, and to be brave enough to explain why you’re so scared.

If there is a gun in your hand, that will never happen.

7 thoughts on “Fear leads to dying, not winning

  1. Very well said Crystal. What’s happening here in Oregon the past couple of days with the threats from armed militias is deeply disturbing to me. The threats are bad enough. But I’m not sure closing the state government is an appropriate response. It makes it appear that the threats worked and may encourage similar unacceptable behavior again. I’m unsure of the “right” response to these recent events, but we are not headed in a good direction.

    1. David you are absolutely right to think about the right/wrong of shutdown. That is another discussion that warrants some time, and I intentionally left it out of this post. I have weighed in before on the side of not giving in to bullies (like when the release of the film The Interview was canceled after Kim Jong-un threatened to hack Sony) but I haven’t taken the time to think on this one, and didn’t want to put my opinion out there unless I had.

  2. Change is inevitable and so many don’t know how to accept that things have to change. This us and them has to stop. We are all on this sinking planet together. If one goes down, we all go down. It’s time to work together. You said this very well, Crystal.

    1. I tried to say it clearly, Marlene, so thank you for letting me know. You found the central idea: “this us and them has to stop.” I should have said that. We all want the same things, and we’re all in it together, so why is it so hard to work as a team? All I know is, as long as some of the players are holding guns, there will be no cooperation and no listening.

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