Last night a small group came together for a deliberation on violence in America, particularly about guns. The deliberation was the final event in our series, Talking Together About Guns. We had Penn State students, university faculty, teachers, retired people, and elected officials. It was an interesting and diverse cross section of the Centre Region community.
Meeting people where they are and you are creates so many possibilities and enlightens each of us. Personally, I thought about things in ways that I haven’t before or have overlooked. How is gun violence propagated by the media, either through entertainment or leading with bleeding? How does culture breed it in some places? What role does poverty play? Health care? How and why do minorities, specifically African American men, face different challenges than other people? What are reasonable regulations, if any? How have attitudes to guns and violence more generally changed over time? What role does mental health play in all of it for victims and assailants? The gun industry lobby? The fact that our nation has been at war so much over the last 60 years? So much to talk about and work together on in our community. I hope we have some feeling or insight that moves us to serve the common good.
I personally feel much more acutely how much our nation could prevent gun violence (or opioid crises) if we had consistent mandatory support for one another. If we really fight to end poverty, to raise health, to plan for connected communities, protected clean air and water, and committed to good schools, we could build trust. It’s so odd how counterproductive our policies are to building good communities. We spend money on prisons and police forces and subsidize pollution and bad food while cutting schools and health care. All of that hits people who are poor while wealthy people insulate themselves with legal and literal walls and gates. Poverty multiplies threats to individuals, families, and communities, setting the stage for cascading impacts. Once the feedback of poverty and stress begin, it’s very hard to undo. The fight to restore communities from Appalachia to Baltimore, from Mobile to Standing Rock, is our great social challenge.
If you weren’t there, C-NET came and filmed the event. It’ll be available to watch online. I’ll post it when it’s up. Thanks to David Hutchinson for setting that up.