Culture of Fear
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Culture of Fear • Posted: Apr 25, 2008 09:53:39Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

At a remote rural location, two men meet. One has items wrapped in plastic inside a brown paper bag. The other looks inside the bag, shifts the items around, and nods. Papers are spread out upon the hood of a pickup. The second man squints, again nods, and money changes hands. Satisfied, the second man takes possession of the bag of items along with the papers. Both men return to their vehicles and drive away.

It isn't hard to imagine the transaction involves the sale of handguns, and not one handgun but several. Collectors? Perhaps. Perfectly legal? Perhaps. Then again, maybe not.

Last weekend in Chicago, 9 people died of gunshot wounds. That number represents a spike. But similar spikes are occurring in most urban areas across the U.S. Officials attribute the surge to Spring. Nice weather makes it easier to get out and take care of business, business that's been brewing behind closed doors for months.

While many of us become uncomfortable around guns, some do not. Those that do not often claim a need for protection. They regard guns as having the power to stop potential harm in its tracks, controllable power not unlike a flashlight with its ability to selectively illuminate dark corners. But a flashlight spilling illumination accidentally beyond where it is pointed is not lethal. Gunfire is. That's why many people get extremely uncomfortable around guns. The spectre of potential harm from guns and gun owners is far more salient than from anything else in the environment.

Fear is felt when control is lost. But the remedy for fear is not always to hand over control to those who are fearful, especially lethal control. Imagine handing over the controls of a commercial airplane to a passenger suddenly seized with a fear of flying. Definitely not advised. In the same sense, is it really advisable to hand over lethal force to anyone who might fear facing lethal force wielded by others? Wouldn't a better remedy be to control the potential for ever having to face lethal force wielded by others in the first place?

And how might we do that? Perhaps we need to pay more attention to our overall culture. Perhaps we need to develop a culture of empowerment without victimization. Imagine empowering people to get what they need without having to victimize anyone else in the process. Now wouldn't that be a novel development.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007