A Challenge for Saturday

Is there any topic in American politics that is more depressingly impossible to productively discuss than the issue of gun violence?

Discuss.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Quick Takes
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Abortion.

  2. @Doug Mataconis: Maybe, but I am not so sure if one factors in the fact that gun violence actually needs a solution.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    American politics is just not good at talking about what goes in the lives of actual adults. It’s also completely unable to talk about private property as anything other than a thing we all automatically seek. Guns are weaponized private property, basically. In their three hundred million they are signs of some violent retaking of American property by real Americans.

    But imagine if Obama proposed to eliminate private schools and integrate all public schools economically and racially. Or if he proposed a guaranteed basic income. You would see similar reactions from other quarters–government is taking away what we by our freedom earned.

  4. Jeremy says:
  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Maybe, but I am not so sure if one factors in the fact that gun violence actually needs a solution.

    Ah, but saying that gives away which side of the unbridgeable abortion gulf you stand on. For people who believe that fetuses are children, ten thousand murdered innocent children per year needs a solution, every bit as much(*) as ten thousand shooting deaths.

    (*)Or indeed more so, since as best I can tell most fervent abortion foes have a lot more sympathy for the unborn than they do for the typical victims of shooting death in the US.

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    I second abortion. I’m a pro-choice moderate and I can’t even discuss the issue with my own “side” without wanting to jump out a window.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: If “pro-life” really were worried about the problem, they’d be yelling at the government to fund the R&D of uterine replicators tout suite.

    (I want to see a uterine replicator developed simply for the reason that it’s going to piss off all sides and force them to confront exactly what it is that they really believe. Certain feminists are worried what the MRA types will do with uterine replicators–let the MRA types have them! Let them have as many egg cells as they want! As soon as the first birth comes out, they’re going to learn very very quickly that having a kid is far more than just being pregnant. And if Daddy doesn’t want to raise the kid, there’s no Mommy around to dump the chore off on.)

  8. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    No.

    (Sorry, that’s all I got.) 🙁

  9. @DrDaveT: Actually, it does not reveal my position, but that is a whole other discussion.

    I did not intend to turn this in to a discussion on abortion 🙂

    I will concede that it was probably best to amend my question with “apart from abortion.”

  10. Sometimes I really do not understand certain downvotes…

  11. I phrased my response above poorly:

    that gun violence actually needs a solution.

    More accurately I meant that there appears to be a solution to this problem from a policy POV because we can look comparatively around the world and see we are an outlier. There has to be a way to improve this situation, but we are unwilling to even discuss it.

  12. Pinky says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I don’t know why anyone else would have downvoted you, but to me this seems like a depressingly unproductive thread. If you didn’t want people to answer the question, then why did you ask it? Or did you just want people to say “yes, you’re right, gun control is a depressingly unproductive topic”? Or did you want to start a third gun control thread – and if so, did you imagine that it would be more productive, with or without that starter question?

    Anyway, a couple of days ago I heard a host on a sports talk radio show point out that age and college requirements exist only in football and basketball, both of which are largely African-American. I’m feeling like every topic in the world is depressingly unproductive these days.

  13. Chris says:

    It is disheartening that so many political discussions become unproductive because of the us v them and if you disagree, you must be evil or unamerican mentality. Where is the empathy?

    Most unproductive in my opinion in order
    Abortion
    Gun control
    Maybe immigration and climate change are a tie for 3rd

  14. Pinky says:

    I don’t understand why, but I’ve seen Common Core get a bigger reaction than probably any other issue at times.

  15. Gustopher says:

    Poverty. Race. Health care.

    They might not get as big of headlines, but they affect a lot more people than gun violence. Guns kill 30,000 a year (about the same as cars), half through suicide. It’s not nothing, but in a country of our size, it’s pretty rare.

    Inaccessible or unaffordable health care? Kills way more. A cycle of poverty that lasts generations? Not sure how to calculate the lives lost or wasted. I think we are slowly getting better on race, so that one is at least not relentless misery to think about.

    And, people are as intractable on each of them as they are on guns.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: spite? At least, that’s why I down voted this comment…

  17. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Sometimes I really do not understand certain downvotes…

    Well yes, I’ve pointed out the stupidity of the voting system on this site for several years and I really don’t understand why you keep it.

    More accurately I meant that there appears to be a solution to this problem from a policy POV because we can look comparatively around the world and see we are an outlier. There has to be a way to improve this situation, but we are unwilling to even discuss it.

    A couple points:

    – There appears to be a solution from a policy POV? What, exactly, would that solution be? Please be specific.
    – We are an outlier in more ways than gun control policy. It’s a mistake to think that adopting the policy of Finland, Japan, Germany, Honduras or any other country regarding gun control, education or a host of other issues will result in the same outcomes those countries experience.
    – I think people are willing to discuss it, but the problem is that the discussion isn’t honest. The gun control side wants a de facto repeal of the 2nd amendment without actually having to do the legwork. They can’t show through actual evidence that the limited gun control measures they actually advocate for would be effective. The gun rights side wants as little regulation as possible since they view any restriction as the proverbial camel’s nose, but they don’t have a solution to gun violence either and their proposals (arm everyone or keep guns from crazy people) don’t have much evidentiary backing either. So what is there, actually, to discuss? I don’t think either side has a solution and the actually solutions they would like, but can’t say out-loud, are not possible politically or constitutionally.

  18. David M says:

    Climate change, probably easier to address than gun violence, effects more people, but still is not even acknowledged by one of the two major parties in the country.

  19. @Andy: The bottom line remains that we alone in the developed world have this problem and yet we do not want to address it.

  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    More accurately I meant that there appears to be a solution to this problem from a policy POV because we can look comparatively around the world and see we are an outlier.

    OK, yes, that would have gotten a very different response from me.

  21. @DrDaveT: Ah well. I try to be as clear as I can, but I do not always succeed.

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: we are also alone in the developed world with respect to our health care system — even with ObamaCare we are at the bottom of the heap in terms of access (including cost) and protections for workers with health issues.

    And we have much, much free-er speech for hate groups.

    Given how many of the mass shooters are mentally disturbed and fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and hate, I don’t think it is just the guns. The easy access to guns just makes it easier for deeply damaged people to act out, but we’re not doing enough to stem the damage before it gets that bad.

  23. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: You suggested it was a policy problem, so what, specifically, would you suggest? What, specifically, can “we” do to address it?

  24. @Andy: We could start by acknowledging that regulating guns is not confiscation and that making it more difficult to acquire deadly weapons is not a massive infringement of freedom.

    This might make it possible to curtail some (clearly not all) of this violence.

    I am not sanguine on the chances that we can move in that direction.

  25. @Gustopher: It is a complex nexus of issues, to be sure.

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: I’m sorry, Pinky, but “abortion” does not answer the question in the context in which it was presented. Please note that he was asking for a discussion (!!!). So far, I have not seen one related to why abortion is ‘as depressingly impossible” a topic on which to have a productive discussion. And your coming to the rescue of this bunch of mouthbreathing droolers did nothing to add productivity.

    @Andy: What can “we” do is the best ya got? Really? Shurt!

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I do have something to add now to the discussion. The reason that gun violence is so depressingly impossible to have a productive discussion on is because we are so paralyzed at facing the irrationality of our gun ownership ethos that we will reach for any bit of sound-bite pseudo genius that we can find to derail the discussion. Not even Doug, who will blather endlessly on anything or nothing at all did not elaborate. As if derailing the question is all that matters.

  28. MBunge says:

    How about rape culture? It’s a horrific problem but have you ever seen what happens to the discussion when it moves beyond the “men are scum” stage?

    Mike

  29. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: No, we can’t start there because starting there (or anywhere else as far as that goes would mean having to face the possibility that our society is completely dysfunctional on this topic.

    Derailing the question is the goal. Always and forever!

  30. MBunge says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: we are so paralyzed at facing the irrationality of our gun ownership ethos

    “We” is the right word. I don’t see too many on the Left interested in examining the role their fecklessness during the long ramping up in America’s crime rate played in the fetishization of gun culture.

    Mike

  31. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Ok, arms are already regulated and have been for some time, so framing the issue as one of regulation vs confiscation is not accurate. Secondly, on the one had you point out how we stand alone with regard to developed countries in terms of gun violence and policy, but on the other hand, most of those developed countries have gun confiscation in one form or another. If the goal is to approach the levels of gun violence consistent with other developed countries, then how do you accomplish that without confiscation? The heart of the matter is that Gun-control advocates don’t believe it’s possible without confiscation because that’s what other countries do and that’s how they’ve maintained very low rates of gun ownership in conjunction with restrictions on ownership. Confiscation is, to put it charitably, problematic in the US for a host of reasons, so gun rights proponents get suspicious when people claim they don’t want to confiscate guns but cite examples of other countries where gun confiscation is policy.

    Secondly, “making it more difficult to acquire deadly weapons” means what exactly? Make it more difficult for whom? Everyone or some portion of the population? Which deadly weapons? Anything from a single shot .22 to a machine gun is deadly given the right circumstances.

    Point being in all this is that details matter. If you think that additional regulations on gun ownership in the US will reduce the kind of violence you want to reduce then I think you need to make your case both in terms of policy with enough specificity for analysis as well as evidence or a coherent case that the policy will actually have the intended effect.

    So, I’ll ask again, what would you propose? What do you think would be effective short of confiscation and what is your evidence (if any) that the policy would have the intended effect?

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    What can “we” do is the best ya got? Really? Shurt!

    If someone suggests there is something that “we” can do, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for specifics. “We,” of course, being the American people.

  32. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I didn’t permit my research writing students to write on guns, gun violence, or gun control. This weekend has reminded me of why–they don’t learn nuthin’ about creating a logical and well formed argument from researching it.

  33. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Andy: And you’ve been on Zoltar for the past 3 years? Really? As I said, derailing the discussion is all that matters. Thank you for your contribution.

  34. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Andy: I mean, if you want to be disingenuous and play “I’m Lois Lane and can’t figure out who Superman is either” go ahead. But don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  35. Andy says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I didn’t permit my research writing students to write on guns, gun violence, or gun control. This weekend has reminded me of why–they don’t learn nuthin’ about creating a logical and well formed argument from researching it.

    I don’t mind not being taken seriously by a teacher who doesn’t permit his/her students to write about a difficult topic.

  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Andy: Go in peace, then.

  37. Pinky says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Maybe you meant Doug? I didn’t raise abortion or even mention it. As for the “mouth-breathers”, I’m not sure who you’re referencing that I came to the defense of.

  38. Tillman says:

    @MBunge: the fact that prison rape is a commonly-accepted joke is disgusting.

  39. @Andy: I get the sincere feeling that there is not a single policy I could detail that you would support, based on past threads on this topic especially since you seem to think that the only policy option left on the table is confiscation.

    It is currently extremely easy to buy any number of weapons, and in many cases without a background check. I further see no reason why one should not have to take a gun safety course and be licensed to own a weapon.

    Regardless, it should be possible to look at other countries an seriously ask why they don’t have this particular problem while we do. We are not, however, mature enough to do so and too many do hold guns up on a pedestal unnecessarily.

    It would likewise be helpful if the NRA and their allies would focus on gun training and responsible gun ownership and cut out all of this “good guy with a gun” nonsense.

  40. @MBunge:

    I don’t see too many on the Left interested in examining the role their fecklessness during the long ramping up in America’s crime rate played in the fetishization of gun culture.

    A few thoughts:

    1) Are you deploying the cliche that “the Left” (a vague designation) is soft on crime and therefore citizens have to defend themselves?

    2) You do realize that overall crime has been getting better for quite some time, so this assertion makes no sense, empirically.

    3) We, as a country, have done an excellent job of putting people in prison (and not in a way that is soft), so even your basic premise makes no sense.

  41. @Andy:

    arms are already regulated and have been for some time, so framing the issue as one of regulation vs confiscation is not accurate.

    This is logically incorrect (and is the exact thing that @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker was talking about above) because you are ignoring that there is a great deal of variation within the concept of “regulation.”

    You also seem to think that all of the countries to which I am referring ban guns–while this is the case in some, it is hardly the case in all.

  42. michael reynolds says:

    This is why I keep saying dealing with gun violence has to be a hearts and minds matter first. First: stigmatize gun ownership and drive down rates of gun ownership. Because it’s quite true that things like requiring trigger locks are effectively useless – gun nuts won’t lock their guns. Every gun nut in the country is already lying about how safely they store their weapons.

    2d Amendment attacks are useless, small-bore (heh) gun control is useless, the solution insofar as there is one, is to turn the American people against guns. There are laws against smoking in public, but they became possible only after people acknowledged that it was a filthy habit with dire consequences, and only after rates of smoking were dropping.

    Hearts and minds first, not courts or legislatures. Start with the people.

  43. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Hearts and minds, huh? I don’t particularly care about this issue; I’m someone who could be persuaded either way based on the evidence. You once told me that people like me get off on the idea of killing. Do you think you’re going to win hearts and minds by saying things like that? You compare gun-rights people to ebola: do you think that sounds reasonable to someone who’s on the fence?

  44. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Please don’t make too many assumptions about what I might support, I’m actually quite ambivalent about gun control as long as solutions are politically acceptable and coherent in terms of means achieving ends.

    The problem I see is that policies advocated by gun control enthusiasts do not do anything to address the problems the purport to address. For instance, the ideas of background checks and licensing sound good in the abstract, but implementation and the details are not so simple. A bigger problem is there is little reason to believe that licensing or more stringent background checks (even leaving aside the issue of lack of enforcement of current checks) would reduce the type of mass shootings that proponents of these policies claim they want to reduce.

    Regardless, it should be possible to look at other countries an seriously ask why they don’t have this particular problem while we do.

    I agree completely. Why don’t we look at the what these other countries actually do differently. These are countries where gun ownership is highly regulated, all legal weapons and weapons transfers are tracked by government authorities and there are very few guns that exist outside of this system of regulation (ie. there are very few illegal weapons). These systems work because they are comprehensive and because it is difficult to transfer a weapon without the government knowing about it. Thus the key to their success is not background checks or safety course, but strict regulation of all weapons. What happens authorities find weapons that aren’t licensed? They are confiscated.

    By contrast there are, by some estimates, more than 300 million guns in the US and there is essentially no regulation for the transfer of weapons between private parties, no government tracking of weapons and their ownership, no comprehensive licensing system, no laws mandating the confiscations of unlicensed weapons, etc. So yes, let’s examine the difference and see what we would need to do here to get to where they are there. Background checks and gun safety classes aren’t going to do it.

    So that is why I ask for specific policies. Because I think that both sides would agree, in private, in a dark room, over many adult beverages, that the way to reduce gun violence is to actually adopt the policies of these other countries – policies that are currently unconstitutional. And neither side wants to admit that reality for their own reasons.

    At least that’s my view, but as I’ve asked several times now, if you or anyone else can name specific policies that would actually impact gun violence in this country, then let’s hear it. Handwaving about background checks and safety classes doesn’t cut it.

    This is logically incorrect (and is the exact thing that @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker was talking about above) because you are ignoring that there is a great deal of variation within the concept of “regulation.”

    I disagree, it is logically correct. By “confiscation” I don’t mean that the government seizing all guns in the US. I think anyone with half a brain knows that is impossible in a country with an estimated 300 million guns. Even if we dispense with the second amendment, the government would have an impossible task to try to get all those weapons into a comprehensive registration system that would be necessary to actually regulate weapons. Confiscation is what happens to weapons that are discovered outside the regulatory system. This is how other advanced countries operate in practice.

    So confiscation is a necessary element to the regulatory regimes that these other countries use. Our disadvantage is that there are so many guns already out there that to get them all into a regulatory system would take a long time and many people would hide them and refuse to cooperate. What do you do about that?

    I mean, I could go on, but the point here is that it’s easy to talk about registration, “universal” background checks,etc., but those policies are much harder to operationalize because the implementation details matter. That’s why I always ask about the details to see if people have actually thought through all the consequences and permutations of the policies they claim they want. “Universal” background checks sound great to most people until you point out them that universal means all weapon transfers. And the reality is you can’t enforce such a system without tracking weapon ownership

    At the end of the day, as I said before, I’m personally ambivalent about gun control. If most of people in the US want to repeal the 2nd amendment, then I wouldn’t oppose that. But I object to what I see has either dishonesty or ignorance from the gun control advocates in this country who advocate for policies that quite obviously would not materially impact the problem they claim they want to solve.

    @michael reynolds: Michael, I think you are completely correct about winning hearts and minds. The problem is that you don’t actually seem interested in winning hearts and minds since your comments on this topic are (as Pinky suggests) designed to alienate the very people you need to convince. IOW, your strategy is sound but your tactics contravene that strategy.

  45. Tony W says:

    @Andy:

    I think that both sides would agree, in private, in a dark room, over many adult beverages, that the way to reduce gun violence is to actually adopt the policies of these other countries – policies that are currently unconstitutional. And neither side wants to admit that reality for their own reasons

    I don’t know why you keep insisting that gun regulation – even confiscation of illegal weapons – is somehow ‘unconstitutional’. We would not allow you to keep a nuclear weapon or any similar weapon, why is it not permissible to regulate a bit further down the WMD continuum to outlaw, say, the AR-15? Why can we not license and carefully track those that own guns and confiscate illegal weapons from those who break the law without changing the constitution?

    A poorly worded 2nd amendment preventing the government from ‘infringing’ the right to keep and bear arms – at some reasonable level – does not prevent the government from determining what that reasonable level should be.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy: @Pinky:

    All due respect to both of you, I know exactly what I’m doing, and more importantly I know exactly who I’m targeting and guess what? It isn’t either of you.

    Both of you (and me, too) are the past. This issue will be resolved in the future by the people who occupy that future. That’s who I’m talking to.

  47. bookdragon says:

    @Andy: You raise some good points, but overlook how one country has very successfully allowed all citizens to have firearms, but effectively regulated their use. That would be Switzerland (the country with the ultimate in a well-regulated militia).

    Their solution is simple: restrict the availability of ammunition to gun ranges and military exercises. Anyone can, and may even be required to, have a gun or guns. And anyone can enjoy sport shooting, but only at a gun range.

    Now, I realize this is a problem for hunters and in the US we’d need to make some reasonable accommodation for that, but since no real hunter uses a handgun and no competent hunter needs to be able to spray a deer with multiple rounds from an AR, I think a monthly allotment of appropriate ammo, during hunting season for people with hunting licenses, would make sense.**

    **It’s been along time since I learned to use a rifle – which was way back when the NRA actually cared about young people knowing how to handle a gun before they got a hunting license – and longer since I hunted with anything but a camera, so maybe I’m wrong about what hunters today consider reasonable wrt to weapons and number shots necessary to take down a couple deer or ducks or turkey. But I hope not.

  48. al-Ameda says:

    When it comes to guns we have a supply problem, we are awash in weaponry that is relatively easily available to our citizens. Couple that over-supply with alienated, angry, depressed young men and you have a formula for periodic mass shootings throughout any year. We’ve passed the point where we even attempt to have an honest discussion on this subject.

    I’ve come to believe that our strong culture of gun ownership in this country is a public health problem. I also believe that nothing will change it until there comes a time when (as with tobacco use) gun ownership becomes somewhat stigmatized. I believe (as Michael Reynolds probably does?) that this is a process that will take at least a generation.

  49. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Do you see how maybe making yourself look like an extremist reduces your ability to influence the next generation?

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W:

    A poorly worded 2nd amendment preventing the government from ‘infringing’ the right to keep and bear arms – at some reasonable level – does not prevent the government from determining what that reasonable level should be.

    Agree, except I don’t regard the 2nd as particularly poorly written. It was intended to protect armed state militias, and says so. Any current confusion flows from the Roberts Court deciding in effect, “That thing about “well regulated militia” confuses me, so let’s ignore it.” There is confusion because people are determined to be confused.

    We don’t need a new amendment, we need Justices who haven’t been brainwashed by The Federalist Society, and worse.

  51. gVOR08 says:

    This thread has already been hijacked as a non-productive gun good/bad thread, so I hate to bring it up, but I considered nominating religion and evolution. Certainly contentious. Any thread on religion seems to devolve into people talking past each other as some argue religion isn’t true and others argue religion is good, endlessly. Evolution is argued as a subset of religion. Fortunately, while religion impinges on many issues, neither religion nor evolution are large issues directly.

    However, I agree with @David M: Discussion of AGW doesn’t get as emotional as guns, but it seems equally fruitless to discuss it. And it’s more consequential than guns.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Really, dude? You’re going to tell me how to communicate with young people?

  53. C. Clavin says:

    The reason none of these things can be discussed, guns and abortion and climate change and evolution, is that one side of the discussion is basing their argument on lies and mis-information.
    Guns…reasonable people see the need for common sense regulation, the other side of the discussion is operating from fantasies about 2nd amendment remedies.
    Abortion…one side is operating from a reasonable enough stance, the other is claiming that a single celled organism is a person.
    Until Republicans learn to understand facts and science, instead of relying on emotion and mythology, we are not going to be able to discuss any of these things.,

  54. Andy says:

    @Tony W:

    I don’t know why you keep insisting that gun regulation – even confiscation of illegal weapons – is somehow ‘unconstitutional’. We would not allow you to keep a nuclear weapon or any similar weapon, why is it not permissible to regulate a bit further down the WMD continuum to outlaw, say, the AR-15?

    Obviously, not all regulations are unconstitutional and I think it’s fair to say there there is a wide range of legitimate opinion on this topic. I don’t claim that the question of constitutionality is certain one way or another – various conflicting arguments are legitimate and compelling. However, I think the history behind the purpose of the 2nd amendment shows why the comparison between nuclear weapons and AR-15’s isn’t really relevant.

    @al-Ameda:

    We’ve passed the point where we even attempt to have an honest discussion on this subject.

    What is an “honest” discussion? Just sayin’

    I also believe that nothing will change it until there comes a time when (as with tobacco use) gun ownership becomes somewhat stigmatized. I believe (as Michael Reynolds probably does?) that this is a process that will take at least a generation.

    I do agree with that though.

    It was intended to protect armed state militias, and says so.

    It was intended to protect the people of the US against a tyrannical federal government. At the time the means to defend against that perceived that was the state militia. If you read what the people at the time wrote in reference to the amendment I think it would be difficult to conclude that the right to bear arms only applies to organizations and not the people who were expected (by culture, values and tradition) to participate in that organization. Not to mention the federalist and anti-federalist arguments, the amendment’s roots in common law, etcl.

    @michael reynolds: There’s no doubt you can communicate with young people. Engaging fiction, however, is not the same thing as influencing them to adopt your preferred political positions once they reach the age of consent and become politically active.

    @C. Clavin:

    The reason none of these things can be discussed, guns and abortion and climate change and evolution, is that one side of the discussion is basing their argument on lies and mis-information.

    Ah, so things can’t be discussed until opponents adopt your position first. Good luck with that!

    @gVOR08: Ok, I plead guilty to hijacking the thread. What I lament is that people seem less willing to agree to disagree. People seem less willing to acknowledge that contrary points of view carry any legitimacy. People seem unwilling or unable to distinguish between opinions based on utility vs opinions based on values (or tradition, or fairness, or any other moral concept). At the same time people seem all too willing to seize any opportunity to shove their preferred policies down everyone’s else’s throats. To me it’s rather depressing and I don’t think it’s healthy for a diverse, democratic republic.

    Anyway, I think I’m done with my this latest, infrequent foray into the OTB comments section. See you all in a couple of months.

  55. @C. Clavin: You are basically saying that conversation can only happen when everyone agrees with you–which isn’t much of an invitation to dialog.

  56. (It is hard to state that the other side is at fault for not talking if your predicate for talking is capitulation).

  57. @Andy: I appreciate the time taken to thoughtfully respond here and think that there are areas upon which a discussion could be built.

  58. al-Ameda says:

    @Andy:

    Anyway, I think I’m done with my this latest, infrequent foray into the OTB comments section. See you all in a couple of months.

    I’m sorry you feel that it’s not worth your while to post here more often.

    This place (OTB) is fairly moderate, at least compared to other blogs I’ve been where political opinions are discussed.

    I think it’s human nature to want to discuss issues where people will be in agreement with one’s views, however my experience these days is that conservatives will torch opposition views more readily and strongly than will liberals.

    Perhaps my view is somewhat colored by my personal experience of being one of the very few liberals in a very conservative law enforcement family of 8 siblings, also, most friends of family include many police and fire personnel. I’m always the token liberal, my opinions are vehemently disagreed with, and always talked over. I don’t mind, I’m used to it. If they do not want to hear my opinion they should not ask or bait me into a reply that they’re going to torch. Fun for the entire family, right?

    OTB is unlike that in tone. I suppose it’s a matter of degree, right?

    See you later.

  59. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    There’s no doubt you can communicate with young people. Engaging fiction, however, is not the same thing as influencing them to adopt your preferred political positions once they reach the age of consent and become politically active.

    Depends. You’d be astonished – we were – by how many kids now graduating from college or grad school credit books my wife and I wrote for their choice of career path as adults. Have you noticed how thoroughly the young female action hero has become entrenched in popular culture? Buffy was first, Rachel from Animorphs was second (and first in kidlit.)

    Have you noticed how easily kids have adopted the notion of gender fluidity? We created a character 20 years ago who was a melding of DNA from males and females. I’d argue that we helped to set the notion of physical fluidity in kids’ heads. Once you’ve accepted the notion that you can become a hawk while still maintaining your core personality, it’s easier to imagine yourself with a different sort of human body, no?

    It’s not as simple as 1 + 1 = 2 of course, but people tend to overlook the effects of popular culture. Without Will and Grace, Ellen and Modern Family do you think society would have been quite so ready to suddenly accept SSM? I don’t.

    Going back further, don’t you think the elevation of black music, especially the blues, and its transformation into rock and roll, laid part of the groundwork for the civil rights movement? It’s harder to hate black people when you’re dancing to Chuck Berry, or when you find that your rock idols like Keith Richards in turn idolized black guitarists.

    (I have long maintained that Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle should be read in every classroom in America as a perfect illustration of totalitarianism.)

    Creatives have been pushing many of the myths the gun cult now takes as holy writ: the lone gun-totin’ avenger, the one brave man with the gun who stands up to evil, etc… But that’s starting to change. Fictional good guys are as likely to be armed with a test tube and a science degree as with a gun. Have you noticed how you seldom see a gun in a Marvel or DC movie? The gun-totin’ cowboy is gone, replaced by the mutant with powers. The gun-totin’ soldier has grown to become a character weighed down with ambiguity.

    Books, movies and music all stay in people’s heads longer than political rants. It’s a long, slow process, but fiction bends the arc.