Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guns: A Loud Noise

Well, when I said yesterday that I was "sticking my neck out" with my remarks about guns, I did so advisedly. The piece came out in a slightly different version on the Huffington Post and immediately attracted a number of angry and indignant comments--20 as of this writing--several of them starting out with a derisive "Well, Pete..." Ouch! Several referred to my supposed desire to remove guns from people's hands. Though I'd be happy to do this in many cases, what I actually suggested was that we might a bit more careful about whose hands they ended up in. I also specified that I was talking about assault weapons, but this small detail seems to have gone unnoticed in the fury. I suppose this is but a trivial indication of why it is those politicians choose to skirt the subject, whilst the craziest amongst us continue to be able fairly easily to obtain the means to impose mass-slaughter on the innocent in schools and supermarkets and, yes, even churches.

My critics, I note, did not hesitate to be insulting. "Morally corrupt" was but one epithet hurled in my direction. Hmmm... Guess I need to look at that. Voicing mild opposition to easy access to assault weapons does seem, well, morally questionable to say the least. The Buddhist teachings, by the way, enjoin us to "Right Speech," which includes "abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter." (Access to Insight.) Have I resorted, in this instance, to "divisive speech," I wonder? Or "abusive speech"? I confess that did use the word "yahoo." And now I find myself resorting to sarcasm. Tsk. And, frankly, taunting. Is this another example of the paper cup and ice cube syndrome? (See The Buddha Diaries entry of 12/7.) Or have I indulged merely in "idle chatter"? All questions to be pondered. But to show the depths of my depravity, the truth is that the response simply makes me happy that I took the trouble to write about this thorny subject.

I noticed, by the way, that the third lead editorial in yesterday's New York Times addressed the same issue, and made much the same points as I did. My thanks to everyone who spoke in reasonable voices on this subject in comments on The Buddha Diaries.


the living mandala said...

I have to say, it's difficult to blog about controversial things and still maintain a Buddhist philosophy about it all. I chose to stop blogging for a while because of an incident where something I said got blown out of proportion, carried into the media, and created a HUGE storm of angry angry people. I thought that if something I had said had created this much anger, then what I said must not have been worth saying.

I'm questioning that now. I had written a post specifically aimed at a particular celebrity who was very rude to the staff at an establishment I ran. I had suggested that just because he was famous did not give him the right to be rude. That ALL people deserve to be treated with respect (I also suggested the idea of karma and the 'what goes around, comes around' effect).

Was this wrong of me? Who knows- I certainly used humour and sarcasm in my post, and for that I appologized to him. But I think it's difficult to point out an injustice (or what you see as an injustice or a situation requiring change) while still engaging wholly in 'right speech'. At least for me, I've not been able to find a good balance. It's something I struggle with every day, and I think your post draws attention to this very important idea.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for sharing this experience. It IS hard to find the balance between speaking an important truth to those with whom one disagrees and the principles of right speech. I judge that I went a little overboard today, with the sarcasm and the taunting response to those who had the nerve to disagree with ME!

jen said...

it's the greatest lesson, isn't it...temperance in the face of attack.

you are always kind, well written, open minded, Peter. i may not always comment, but i do read. and your pieces reaching farther into the mainstream will inevitably bring all sorts of responding voices, but your message is true.

and thank you for your comment my way today. i'd be happy to talk further about it over email sometime if you want.

They call him James Ure said...

I agree with your remarks. I am not for making guns illegal but I do disagree with allowing assault weapons. I believe and find that there is a compromise for just about everything.

I am very outspoken in my views, especially on my political blog but I don't feel it is exactly "Wrong Speech." I really believe in Engaged Buddhism. I think there is a difference between being an ***hole and standing up for issues that matters to a person.

Just because we are Buddhists doesn't mean that we can not debate important issues--In my humble opinion. I believe in that balance which has been mentioned in this thread. Although it is indeed hard to find exact equilibrium as already stated.

I think it comes down to what feels right to us. We know when we've gone to far but we also don't have to riddle ourselves with guilt either. Internalizing excessive guilt is a less skillful action I've found. I've fought with a major guilt complex my entire life as I was raised to live by guilt, fear and shame in the church I was raised within.

I am working each day to live in less fear, with less guilt and less shame so that I can live more honestly, hold my head up high and live without regrets.

Yes, I make many mistakes but I am now aware that doing so isn't the end of the world nor make me necessarily a "bad person" as I was taught to believe before. My Mormon upbringing emphasized perfection and since that is impossible, I always felt inadequate and flawed.

That kind of programming is so very damaging.