Fear Eats the Gun Owner’s White Male Soul

Former US President Bill Clinton has just made a really interesting speech, that I think raises fresh questions in my mind about gun control.

Former President Bill Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that gun control stirs among many Americans.

“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said. ” A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things.” Clinton said. “I know because I come from that world.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/bill-clinton-to-democrats-dont-trivialize-gun-culture-86443.html#ixzz2IcKyuFpO

One thought I had as a result of Bill’s speech, from my conflict experience is applying what I call root cause analysis. Why are guns so important to the core demographic group who own most of them: white males without college degrees in rural and ex urb areas? I suspect that it is because they are afraid. They are fearful about the future.

They see a world that they no longer understand, in which minorities and women are moving up and they are moving down and their future realistically is pretty bleak economically. They have not shared in much of the economic growth of the last 40 years. There are no well paid jobs coming to their area or local towns any time soon. They don’t respond to this by understanding what is going on, its causes, the new economy, globalization etc. Or by changing, moving, getting better educated themselves. They respond to it conservatively with fear, and guns help them feel less fearful, as if the forces that are affecting them are something tangible that guns could help with to see off those pesky women and minorities….

And so what do well healed, well educated, urban liberals do with their fear? Do we seek to understand it; talk to them and ask them about it? No, we make it worse by trying to take away their guns, their comfort blanket, their totem of some power remaining. The Second Amendment to them is a last remaining guarantee that white males still count….

They always thought President Obama would come and take their comfort blankets, their guns away, because he is African American; and lo  and behold, as in their worst fears, that is just what he is doing. I say all this not to patronize white males. I am one. Not to say what a bunch of wimps they are, though like many people in the human race, some are pretty paranoid; though given their view of the world and some of its reality, even that may be understandable. And not to say the President is flat out wrong, but that unlike Bill Clinton, he is not really understanding the psychology of what is at stake. He is, as a result, likely to fail in his efforts to make us safer, worthy though they may be. The direct frontal assault on guns is typical policy wonk out-of-touch with the emotions of those involved President Obama approach, and  this is why it will fail.

It does raise a wider issue. If we want to avoid a reactionary back lash from white males such as those central to gun culture. If we seriously want to re-unite the country around needed to solutions to our broken education system, to rebuild our manufacturing capacity, and move forward competitively in the world economy, then we need to find a way to address the deeper fears of this group, without conceding them the power of veto over the catching up women and minorities are doing. Life is not a zero sum game in which women and minorities progress need take away from white males, provided society and the economy are moving forward in a gainful way. And it is not…

The gun control issue is to me a symptom of a far deeper malaise in America and it is not the one seen by fearful white males. It is a failure of nerve, of education, of science and of government well described in Edward Luce’s excellent recent book ‘Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent’ that I will review in a separate post.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Book Reviews, Conflict History, Economic Conflict, Uncategorized, US Political Conflict and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fear Eats the Gun Owner’s White Male Soul

  1. Gwynne says:

    Really enjoyed this post, and look forward to your book review. Would love to participate in a discussion group–anything like that on the horizon?-Gwynne

    • @Gwynne. thanks. I teach my conflict stuff from time to time; and will let you know next time I am doing so. I taught it four times last week to environmental activists… 🙂

      • louploup2 says:

        Where are you conducting these sessions (geographically)? Are those learning opportunity available on line? I am active on environmental issues (that has been the focus of much of my life’s work).

      • @louploup2. Thanks for your interest. I teach in and around Ann Arbor, MI and also in the UK, and anywhere else I get invited for a good audience. And as for conflict, if it weren’t for current gun control issue negative resonance, I would say ‘have gun will travel’ after the old Western of that title. There is a webcast of my teaching on The Stewardship Network site in the archives. My webcast was in February 2012 and you can see it titled ‘Handling Environmental Conflict Creatively’ at: http://www.stewardshipnetwork.org/site/c.hrLOKWPILuF/b.6249901/k.9490/Webcast_Archives.htm
        You may have to pay $10 to Stewardship Network to access it.
        I am an executive volunteer advisor to the Stewardship Network, which does hands on grass roots protection of natural lands and waters and while based here in Ann Arbor, are expanding to many states at present. They are not associated with my controversial blog. 🙂

  2. The true fear behind the staunch defenders of the Second Amendment? Perhaps the true fear not be about minorities taking over, but 30 years of rising economic inequality as real wages for the middle class have remained stagnant as jobs have been lost to computerization/technology and outsourcing/free trade agreements, while $21 trillion to $31 trillion of potential of corporate and wealthy tax revenue (from the world’s richest) is diverted to offshore tax havens and prevented from circulating many times over in communities for basic living necessities such as food, shelter, energy and health care. These basic life issues transcend race or religion.

    • @Between the Lines. Absolutely! I agree with you 100% about the underlying reality and have posted elsewhere in this blog about the benign effect of using the US Marines to occupy the tax havens and take back the $21+ trillion to its rightful owners in many countries who worked to create the real wealth by doing real jobs. The problem is the journey needed to move the victims of inequality from blaming each other white males vs immigrants vs women and so on, to seeing the real root causes of their economic situation. An even harder journey is then to much more effectively distribute sustainable wealth creation so rural and urban America (and other countries in similar inequality crunch like the UK) can actually produce needed goods and services efficiently but in ways that make economic power more evenly distributed. Buying local and helping large numbers of new small businesses grow up is part of this. As is greatly diminishing corporate power over our politics, which is not even in the corporations interests unless they want to live in Shanghai…thanks for your comment.

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