I got into a conversation with a libertarian, as one does, on Facebook in the wee hours this morning.
I do have areas of shared agreement with libertarians. I agree that our military, insofar as we should have one, should be much smaller and not go around bombing other countries most of the time. I agree that the militarization of our police is a serious problem.
And then he brought up guns.
I am not anti-gun, per se. I like to think of myself as cautiously moderate about the issue. I think it might be useful for me to have a gun, locked securely in a cabinet for dire emergencies, someday, if I could afford one. But I don’t see guns as some kind of magical talisman for safety. And I don’t see guns as honorable or particularly American. I see them as weapons, that’s all.
The libertarian was not moderate. He said that his particular brand of libertarianism is “nonviolent” because he only believes in attacking in self-defense, as if shooting someone in self-defense, however justified, wasn’t violent. He explained that the worst misogyny there could ever be, in his opinion, was the misogyny of not letting a woman have a gun to defend herself.
And then he informed me, “I’m delighted every time I hear that a man attempting to rape a woman was shot and killed.”
I think I had already mentioned that I’d been raped in the course of our conversation. I think he thought he was empathizing with me, as if he knew the thought of a potential rape victim shooting her attacker filled me with glee.
I didn’t know how to make him understand.
I say this as a rape survivor. The circumstances of my rape were through a ruse by a con artist rather than something that a gun could have stopped anyway, but still– I say this as a survivor. My rape was the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me. But I am fairly certain that a close second, if not every bit as traumatic, would be being forced to take somebody’s life myself, in order to protect myself from rape.
If I were in that kind of danger, again– if that person were in my bedroom, reaching that hand at me, again, and I knew what I know now– and if I had a gun? And I couldn’t, say, pistol whip that person, or shoot them in the kneecap or something; if my only way to avoid that ordeal was to aim for the chest and kill?
I would probably do it. And I wouldn’t sin by doing it; it’s not wrong to respond to violence of that magnitude by protecting yourself with deadly force.
But it wouldn’t feel delightful.
To be forced to be involved in an act of violence of that magnitude, in order to prevent a rape, would not make me happy. Mind you, sometimes I feel that it would. Survivors feel like that quite a bit. It’s perfectly normal to feel like you want to inflict that kind of violence on someone who inflicted that violence on you. That feeling is born out of a truth– what they did was horrendous and, on some level, justly deserves that equal and opposite reaction. And I’ve had that feeling more often than I care to recount.
But the feeling is not telling the whole truth.
Violence wouldn’t delight me.
If I were forced to be involved in an act of violence like that– if my hand was moved by necessity to shoot to kill a human being– that would be another trauma, another severe abuse I would have to endure. People aren’t supposed to be violent. Violence is a result of The Fall. Violence, and the proportionate acts of self-defense that people sometimes have to commit to protect themselves from violence, are evil things, sins and painful consequences of sin. They hurt. They are injurious to everyone involved. And, if they’re honest, everyone will admit that they know this. It’s common knowledge that soldiers get post-traumatic stress disorder from fighting in battles, even when they fight honorably and only kill with proportionate justification. It happens so often that veteran suicide is an epidemic, right here in this country at this time. Even our president knows that. Shooting people traumatizes the shooter, no matter how just or honorable his reason. Killing is traumatic.
If I were compelled to defend my own life by taking a life– that I should have to pull a trigger, hear the rapport of the gun and the scream of my target, smell the loose bowels, watch the blood spray across my bedroom wall, watch a human being convulse and expire– that would be a severe trauma. That would be something that would haunt and hurt me every day of my life. There would be nothing worth celebrating. It wouldn’t be a victory for women, or for peace, or for defense. It would be a tragedy.
I could very well be wrong about guns. Maybe I should take an extremely liberal position. Maybe I should take a libertarian position. We can discuss that like grown-ups, and I think that we should.
But if it’s going to be honest, the discussion about guns, defense, or any other kind of violence has to begin with the admission that killing is a tragedy that hurts everyone. If you are delighted at the thought of a woman killing her attacker, you’re beginning the discussion from a completely erroneous position.
There can never be anything delightful about it.
(image via pixabay)