Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton have rightly triggered the conversation around gun violence and gun safety, like the one we had at a local Unitarian church sponsored in part by interfaith council. To be clear, there are two separate issues we are dealing with: Hate and threat of violence from rising white supremacy, and gun safety/gun violence. Both issues need to be addressed by more than just “sending our thoughts”. These issues require us to act- now. This post is a call to action and specific steps you can take, and not just about sending thoughts and prayers.
We can go on and on talking about these issues. There are numerous reports by law enforcement agencies that have been warning us about the rising threat of hate and bigotry from the white nationalists. That is a more difficult issue to tackle, and we should not pretend there are easy solutions. However, we cannot allow hate speech to continue, in the name of freedom of speech. Throughout the history, we have witnessed violence preceded by bigotry and hate speeches. Words help create an environment where hate results in fear and “othering” of those not like you, which in turn leads to violence.
The gun lobby has made us to believe that owning military style weapons is somehow part of our 2nd amendment right. There is no place to have an AK47 or similar style rifle in a civil society.
I am aware that some politicians are pushing for background checks. The bigger question is: who cares if you have a spiffy clean background. And why would anyone need an AK47 or similar military style rifles, designed to fire multiple rounds in a matter of seconds?
You don’t need it for hunting the ducks or to protect yourself from home robberies. And why would one need 100-200 rounds of bullets? It does not matter if you pass the background check, you simply don’t need it. 200 rounds of bullets are meant to do only one thing- as we have so painfully seen in so many of these mass shootings.
There is a passage in the Qur’an that refers to nations doing something to change their condition.
… Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. The Qur’an 13:11
And killing (or SAVING) innocent life is like killing (and SAVING) the whole mankind.
On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one killed a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed the whole people(mankind) : and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people (mankind). Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. The Qur’an 5:32
So what can we do to change our state? What can we do to help counter hate and prevent future such attacks?
I am under no illusion that these or similar steps will prevent future attacks. But we can take steps to help mitigate the odds and/or reduce the loss of lives.
It is indeed hard to legislate against hate but the expression of hate needs to be curtailed.
The best antidote for hate is love.
The expression of hate starts from the very top leadership in our country. The president has to held accountable for his expression of hate and bigotry. How do we hold him accountable? We can send messages to the White House for sure. And of course, we are blessed with the right to express our opinion during the election cycle.
Social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter need to be held accountable for allowing their platform to express/promote hate.
If you see a group that you feel is espousing hate, please report it to Facebook. If you hear the excuse that ‘this group is not violent, and we need to allow freedom of expression’, get others to join you. The truth is that these kinds of sites are good for their business. The hateful rhetoric tends to generate more responses and comments. The more ‘likes’ and shares or comments it generates, the more people Facebook shares it with-a model based on more eyeballs generating more business.
But if more people report and express their concerns, the business team is more likely to pay attention.
Secondly, the gun lobby needs to be effectively countered- a tall task indeed, realizing how powerful the NRA is. However, we can tell our representatives in the Senate and the House that they have a choice to make- they can either continue to listen to the NRA,(and not listen to you), or not stay in the office. Our representatives have to represent US- the folks who voted them in. Contact your representatives to ensure they sponsor, and/or support SERIOUS gun control laws that call for banning military style weapons. We need to tell them these weapons of mass destruction have nothing to do with the 2nd amendment.
So in short:
- Report all hate speech sites to Facebook/Twitter admin. Insist that they be brought down.
- Start a dialogue in your community/place of worship as to how best to address the rising hate. Reaching out to those on the other side of the argument is VERY helpful, and should not be avoided. These difficult conversations may turn out to be more fruitful than the ones with like-minded people.
- Contact the House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to introduce bills that call for serious gun control. 90% of Americans are in support of gun control laws.
- Contact your house representative, and the senator to sponsor and/or support such bills. Here is a link to find out who your representative is and how to contact them. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/
- Remember, you have a choice in November 2020 for those who still cater to the NRA, rather than their constituencies.