Letter to my Liberal Friends: War With Islam, and 9-year-olds with Guns
Jon Stokes 08.28.14
Is the West at war with Islam? My conservative dad and I used to argue about this. He answers in the affirmative and maintains that the GWOT is a war of all of the West against all of Islam. My position has typically been that no, we’re not at war with Islam, but if people keep thinking and talking the way that he does, we eventually will be.
I like nuance and context, and not just because I’m a former academic. I like these things because they’re life-or-death important. In the case of the “War with Islam?” question, nuance and context lead me to this position: Islam is a huge and varied religion, and we shouldn’t take the actions of a small, dangerous minority of it and make them stand for the whole. So we have two options for how we relate to Muslims.
The eliminationist approach, which eventually does lead to an all-out war between Islam and the West, is where we lump all of the Muslims together with the extremists, consider ourselves enemies of them and their way of live and all they stand for, and express a desire to eliminate them so that their religion and culture disappear from the world.
I got my first gun at nine years old, and that wooden-stocked, lever action .22 was a physical, tangible connection to my father, uncles, grandfather, granduncles, and church elders.
The alternative, which I’ll call the bridge-building approach, is to say to Muslims, “Hey, we know that only a small minority of you are a threat to us, and the rest of you want peace. So stand with us against the crazies, and let us help you keep these crazies ostracized, alone, and hunted by everyone who isn’t as crazy as they are.”
This second approach is a better approach, or at least it would have been, but now it may be too late. We could very well be at war with all of Islam, or at least very close to such. See, if you pick the eliminationist approach first as so much of America has, then you’re forcing moderate Muslims to choose sides between Muslim crazies versus non-Muslims who want to eliminate their entire way of life. The moderates are eventually going to side with their own crazies, rather than consent to being destroyed, in which case we ultimately find ourselves at war with the moderates plus the crazies (instead of just the crazies).
What does this have to do with 9-year-olds and guns? Every time a kid gets hurt handling a gun that their parents gave them and it makes national news, liberals take the eliminationist approach with respect to gun culture. And it’s having the same effect with gun owners as it has on Muslims, i.e., we gun owners are going to stand with the crazies, rather than see our way of life eliminated.
Depending on the maturity level of the child, nine years old can be old enough to have your own gun. I got my first gun at nine years old, and that wooden-stocked, lever action .22 was a physical, tangible connection to my father, uncles, grandfather, granduncles, church elders, and all of the other Southern men in my life who hunted and who raised me to hunt and to value nature, self-reliance, personal responsibility, and so many other things. That gun was totemic, and receiving it from my father along with proper training on its care and safe use, was a rite of passage. Yes, it had a very real element of danger to it, but rites of passage for children and adolescents often do in most world cultures.
I am so far to the left of Obama that in the last presidential election I cast a protest vote for the Green Party candidate. But whenever I read the articles and editorials decrying youth gun ownership as something disgusting and twisted that must be totally eliminated as an act tantamount to child abuse, I immediately find myself wanting to circle the wagons with all other gun owners–even cranks and cartoon villains like Ted Nugent and Wayne LaPierre–and defend a way of life and a heritage against those who don’t understand it, who hate it, and who want to eliminate every trace of it.
I have pleaded with my many lefty friends not to take this approach. I’ve begged them not to take a very small handful of people who are crazy and irresponsible as representative of all gun owners. I’ve begged them not to see themselves as waging a war against all of gun culture. But they don’t listen. To them, anyone who puts a gun in the hand of a nine-year-old is a disgusting Other to be shamed, persecuted, and eliminated. So when one of the millions of children in this country who have been authorized by their parents to handle a gun gets hurt with a gun or hurts someone else, I have to hear slandered as child abusers my father, my grandfather, my uncles, the elders in my community, and so many others whose values made me who I am.
My gut reaction on reading this type of thing is, “Woah! This jerk just called my dad a child abuser and wants to end our way of life! It’s on like Donkey Kong now, punk. Molon labe, but be warned, if you come for my guns I plan on giving you the bullets first.” In other words, I’m immediately radicalized on a gut level, and in that moment I’m happy to join hands with The Nuge or anybody who’s out to defend the same thing I am.
But then I calm down and I think, hey, it’s a free country. You’re free to talk that way. If you want to be at war with all gun owners everywhere, even the liberal ones, then by all means, keep up this “youth gun ownership is disgusting child abuse” rhetoric. Keep trying to pass laws that are clearly designed not to keep guns from criminals or the insane, but to harass and threaten law-abiding gun owners to the point where they just give up on the notion that their heritage is something that they can realistically pass down to their kids.
Update: For the record, putting a full-auto in the hands of a child is crazy and irresponsible, in case it wasn’t clear from my article. Again, let’s not lump all parents of young gun owners together with the parents who put a full-auto Uzi into their kid’s hands.