This time I don't want to talk about guns. I want to talk about the response I get when I talk about guns. I know there are those out there who believe, passionately, in what they interpret as the Constitution-given right to bear arms--of all kinds and in all places. I happen to believe, with equal passion, that their interpretation of the Constitution is mistaken, that those who wrote those contested words could never have imagined the kind of weaponry that would become available, nor the situations in which they would be used.
Here's the problem: when they express their opinion, I am free to disagree with them as strongly as I wish, but I choose not to do so with anything other than reasoned words and language. Whenever I express mine, however, I am met with an immediate barrage of scorn and vitriol. Even hatred would hardly be too strong a word. I am treated at best like a witless child, at worst like a pariah and enemy of the United States and all it stands for.
So I'm curious as to why this should be. What is it about those who disagree with me that they are so easily enraged by what is no more than an argument, a discussion I believe to have some importance for our society to engage? What is it about the words I chose that inflames them so?
I believe, too, that this phenomenon has wider implications than the matter of guns. Am I wrong in thinking that there is quiet reason on the liberal side of things (I'm not talking about left-wing hotheads, just people like me) and often rabid rhetoric on the right? The scorn with which the word "liberal" is most frequently accompanied on the lips of Republicans is a small indication of what I'm talking about. I'm almost sure that I don't, myself, use "conservative" with the same intonation--though I do confess to speaking at times with something less than respect for those out on the furthest limb of the conservative tree.
I realize that we all have a tendency to be blinded by our deeply-held opinions to those on the other side of the fence. That's human. But am I right about the tone of the respective sides of the dialogue? Or am I simply prejudiced myself? Interesting question, and one that I keep needing to ask.