On being … silent

By Ingrid Sapona

On being … is meant to be musings on things that happen in everyday life that trigger reactions or behaviours that I think are common, if not universal. As such, other than in the year-end alphabetic review, I don’t write about politics or things going on in the wider world.

So, today’s column probably seems like a departure from what On being… is supposed to be about. While the recent massacre in Florida is weighing heavy on my mind and heart – as I’m sure it is with many readers – strictly speaking, that’s not what I am writing about today. Instead, what I am writing about is the question of why so many people in America don’t even engage in discussion about gun control.

I’ll never forget being at a weekend yoga retreat with friends of friends in New England just a short time after the Sandy Hook shooting. Nearly everyone that attended the retreat had school-age children and so I was quite sure the incident would be a major topic of conversation. And yet, it wasn’t. Indeed, other than my raising it – it didn’t come up at all. Ok, I thought, maybe this is their “weekend away” from it all, or maybe it was too unspeakable a tragedy for them to give voice to it so shortly after it happened. But still, I found it odd that no one talked about it.

Since then I’ve raised gun control as a topic a number of times with American friends, and there just seems to be a total disconnect. The people that want guns are not silent about their “rights”, but people who oppose guns are silent. How can that be, I wonder. Do they not know that silence is essentially assent? Or, do they think that ignoring the issue will make it go away? Or maybe they are scared…

After each of these shootings there’s always lots of talk about hatred – about how the shooters hated this group or that group. While I understand the desire to try to understand what may or may not be motivating shooters, I think the focus on the shooter’s motivation is because the discussion of gun control is taboo in the U.S. While addressing the root causes of hatred, or mental illness, or whatever is behind such incidents is important, these are not things that can be addressed through laws or policy changes. But, preventing people from being able to buy guns and assault weapons is something that can be addressed as a society. Or, to put it another way, we may not be able to do much to prevent hatred, but we can take steps to prevent those with hatred or mental illness from being armed.

I decided to write this column today – no, I feel compelled to write this column – because if you believe, as I do, that U.S. gun laws have to change – you have a duty to talk about the issue, rather than go silent. I have to believe the majority of Americans – like most of us in the rest of the western world – don’t think individuals should have guns and assault weapons. But, so long as the majority remains silent on this issue, each and every person who simply sits back – or who refrains from pressing for gun control – bares some responsibility for such tragedies. So, as I always do, I hope this column makes you consider where you stand on gun control and reminds you of the price of silence.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona