Sticking To Our Guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” originated as a command given to sailors who manned guns on military boats, meaning they were to stay by their posts rather than seek cover, even when the boat was under attack.  Today it means to hold onto your convictions and stand up for your beliefs, even when others disagree or the evidence points to the contrary.  Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are choosing to stick to their guns these days, whether it is over issues of national importance or in their personal lives.

It’s one thing to be stubborn and insist on having things go your way frequently, but it’s another for a person to insist that he or she is right or has all the answers and correct viewpoints all the time too.  Some people just need to be right all the time, which makes them very difficult to work with and be around.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with people like this, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to get them to consider that anyone else might know more about something than they do or be better at something than they are.  And forget trying to get them to see a different perspective.  Once they’ve made up their mind about something, it seems they only see and hear things through a filter that supports what they originally decided was the correct viewpoint or interpretation of a situation.  That makes it even more difficult to get them to see things differently, because they have built up a mound of incorrect evidence in their own minds.  Plus, the more anyone tries to convince them that they are wrong or maybe partially wrong, the more they dig in their heels and insist they are right.

Ironically, when it comes to an issue of national importance, gun control is a perfect example of people “sticking to their guns.”  I’ve seen plenty of statistics comparing the fifty states regarding gun violence vs how strict their gun laws are, which show that states with stricter laws have less gun violence.  I’ve also seen similar statistics about other countries such as Japan and Australia where they have much stricter gun laws than the United States and hardly any incidences of gun violence. I’m a numbers person, so that’s what helps form my opinion on various matters.  What I have NOT seen is statistics backing up the notion that more guns = less gun violence or more guns = a safer society.

I am also thinking about how the laws have changed over the years pertaining to what we are allowed to bring on an airplane. Each time there is an incident involving a box cutter, knife, bomb, or anything else, the rules and regulations get stricter and stricter. Even a dog getting put in an overhead bin gets a new law passed within a few days.  No one balks at these laws and we all follow the new procedures, even though it makes packing for and boarding an airplane take longer.  That’s because we know that planes are now extremely safe, and there is no need to fear getting killed or injured on an airplane or having it hijacked.  People are not insisting that we all be allowed to board the plane with a knife, gun, and box cutter, just in case anyone else on the plane pulls one out so that we can defend ourselves.  And no one is insisting that stewardesses be armed with these weapons, just in case, either. Furthermore, no one is thinking that because they are not allowed to bring guns or any of these these items on a plane, that they are not allowed to possess them at all, ever.  Their second amendment rights are not being infringed upon.  But, when it comes to common sense gun laws outside of a plane, somehow the same reasoning goes out the window.  Then it makes much more sense to many people that any limitation on gun sales is somehow infringing on their right to bear arms, and that more people carrying guns, particularly teachers, makes much more sense.  I don’t get it, and the statistics don’t seem to back those ideas up, but the more anyone tries to convince someone who thinks along these lines, the more they “stick to their guns.”

It seems like there are so many issues today where people dig in their heels, regardless of what the numbers indicate or the majority of people agree with.  The need to be right overshadows the need for facts or considering other positions or viewpoints.  This only leads to us being more divided and less united than ever as a country.

I think the same can be said for our personal lives too.  There is too much conflict because there are too many people not willing to listen to others because they are already experts on everything and have a difficult time admitting that maybe they aren’t.  Or maybe it’s just people in my personal life, but I don’t think so.   If you are one who tends to do more talking than listening and who needs to be right or have all the answers, perhaps it would be worth making the effort to be a better listener and consider that other people sometimes have a good idea or a valid perspective too.  Being open-minded is a good quality in my book.

Walk Out vs. Walk Up

The National School Walkout Day was this week, a day that was intended to be partly a memorial for the victims of the Parkland shooting and partly a day for teenage activism against gun violence.  I saw many different videos and descriptions of how various schools chose to participate.  I also heard about districts that threatened suspension for any student who did walk out.  Some schools had very organized events supported by administration, while others were more of a protest handled strictly by students.  As usual, there were very opposing views of what they day was all about and how it should be handled.

Likewise, I saw many social media posts urging the students to INSTEAD “Walk Up”, meaning walk up to someone who typically sits alone at the lunch table and invite them to sit with you, or walk up to someone and just say something nice, or anything along those lines.  The idea being that many of the shooters in these mass shootings have been loners who are angry because they have been excluded and are trying to get even.  So if we all make more of an effort to be more inclusive, then perhaps that will be a preventative measure.  Even without factoring in the shootings, focusing on being more kind and inclusive is always a good thing, so I like the idea.

What I don’t understand is why it has to be one OR the other.  What’s wrong with the students protesting peacefully in order to have their concerns and opinions heard AND making a conscious effort to be more inclusive and kind?  The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with so many issues today though, where so many people focus on one particular facet of what they believe the solution should be and don’t understand that one thing alone is not going to solve the problem.  Gun violence is a perfect example.  Stricter gun control is one option that seems to be successful in many other countries, which many people support.  But there are plenty of people who believe the answer is more guns.  And there are those who think we need to focus on bringing attention and more resources to mental health issues.  Then there is the devaluing of human life because of the exposure to violence and trauma either in real life or in video games, television, and movies that many think is the biggest contributing factor.

The problem is that there is not necessarily one thing we can blame and that needs to be changed.  We don’t have to focus on guns OR mental health, for example.  It all needs to be addressed.  But when people retreat to their corners and only want to focus on the one issue they think is most important or the only solution, then we will not make as much progress with this issue as we need to.  Or any others for that matter.  People need to be more open-minded and more willing to consider ALL of the aspects of this or any other issue that needs to be addressed and make it a priority to set aside our differences and work together to make some significant progress.  If we all continue to “stick to our guns” regardless of the evidence to the contrary and only focus on one aspect of the problem, we will go nowhere.