Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Few Things That I Have to Say

I hate politics, and I hate dipping my toe into the political. I have things I believe are right, and things I believe are wrong, and I tend not to talk about them, because I have friends on both sides of the line. I feel like a moderate, and that seems to piss everyone off.

Which, to me, just points out how damaged our country is. How obtuse and unwavering, how ignorant of any experience outside our own.

But, this MotherJones article brought up a lot of feelings in me. Conflicted feelings.

This picture has nothing to actually do with MotherJones' story
My grandmother lived in Broken Bow.
Two of my grandmothers died there.
My father is from there.
My parents lived there for a while.
I have a brother who lives there.
I have a sister who lives there.
I have many friends from there.
I lived there for a few years.

I understand this town, this area, to some extent. When I see people sharing this article, and venting their outrage, I cannot help but have some of the same feelings that I have when some people from the deep south (or, yes, Nebraska) talk about the "evils" of homosexuality. In essence, it's people with no actual frame of reference passing judgement on each other. Which really shouldn't surprise me.

First off, let's makes this clear...

I think this was a wrong policy move by the school board. In the light of recent events, I feel like connecting firearms with school is....foolish. I find it kind of unbelievable that no one in the community or on the school board questioned this. In a world where kids are shooting each other in schools, can't you see how bad this would look to the world? Even five minutes of reflection, or one person playing devil's advocate, might've shed some light in the cracks of judgement here. Especially in light of recent events.

But, here's the thing, the MotherJones article is inflammatory, inaccurate, and has no interest in actually investigating what is going on here. Only in getting people who would already be outraged more outraged. There are lapses of basic reporting that make it clear that not a single person at MotherJones was interested in actual journalism.

First example, knowing that people would just look at the picture, and not really read the article, they find the most inflammatory, and offensive in context picture from Shutterstock - a stock image website. It is false, it is a lie designed to manipulate you. Couple that, with the "article" that consists of reading the World-Herald article (which, for accuracy's sake is NOT the "local paper." Omaha is 230 miles from Broken Bow, and a simple Mapquest search would've cleared that up), and copy and pasting the most damning quotes. Inae Oh has no earthly idea what she is writing about, only that she is OUTRAGED, and wants to make the hillbillies in Nebraska look like Militia nutballs.

Many people I know, good and decent people with very real and very rational fears and problems with firearms, share this article without going any deeper. Many more are just seeing the picture and drawing a conclusion. Which is exactly what they want. MotherJones, Ms. Oh, you are not making the world better, you are not offering solutions, you are political muckrakers, you are Drudge, you are O'Riley, you are Limbaugh, and your only goal is to increase strife, argument and discord. To block understanding and mediation....because it makes you money.

Let's take a look at the World-Herald article.

Oh, look an ACTUAL example of the pictures in question
I'm immediately struck by this: "Amanda Gailey, director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, said that as long as the photographs are being taken off campus and the photo sessions are supervised, it’s not a big concern for the group." Why? Because here we have a gun-control advocate who can actually relate to the community, and has some understanding of what is going on.

Guns are NOT being brought to school. Photos are NOT being taken on campus with firearms. It's a decision to allow privately-purchased senior photos, which are being taken anyway, to be published in the yearbook. Hunters and sports shooters pose with the tools of their chosen hobby, much in the way a football or basketball player might pose with a jersey or ball, or how I posed with movie posters and piles of my comics. Senior photos are an expression of who you are, and for a lot of kids in Broken Bow, hunting and shooting are big parts of their life.

Again, quoting the World-Herald; "Hunting, skeet and trap are popular in the community and firearms are common, (Broken Bow Schools Superintendent Mark) Sievering said. Broken Bow’s annual Nebraska One Box Pheasant Hunt draws hunters and celebrities from all over the country, he said." Yes, one of the major cultural events in Broken Bow is the One-Box Pheasant Hunt, which has drawn celebrities, politicians, even a significant number of astronauts to this tiny town of 3,500 people.

You do not have to agree with those community standards, but you also probably don't live there. I would posit that 99% of kids who would want a picture like this treat their guns with extreme respect and care. They've taken safety training, they've grown up using them, and they understand their deadly implications as much as any gun control advocate.

I do not feel this was a particularly good policy decision, and I strongly hope it will be reconsidered. There are so many questions and incredibly valid concerns about the proliferation of firearms in our society, and those questions need to be grappled with. That said, I am fundamentally for the idea of some kind of understanding of the context  before one makes judgements. I have been in Broken Bow, I have walked its streets, I know people who live there, I know hunters, I have hunted (granted, very, very little), and I feel I personally understand the difference between the reality, which is a kid who hunts wanting a picture with his 30-06 hunting rifle, and the fantasy narrative that MotherJones is trying to write, of hillbilly gangbangers being welcomed into the school packing heat.

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