Dear fellow citizens:
How do you feel about our current events? Do they register with you? Do they effect what your actions will or might be?
I find myself in the crosshairs of formulating my actions. The events I refer to are: 1/ California fires, 2/ Las Vegas gun violence, and 3/ the conduct of Mr. Trump in the highest office of our country. In search for a descriptive word related to them, the one jumping to me is “traumatic.” Why traumatic – what does it mean?
Trauma – “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience” is something I experienced in a most profound way when, in 1968, tanks of the then Soviet Union rolled in the streets of my city, Prague, Czechoslovakia. They came to occupy the country and establish “socialist order” – as perceived by Russian “leaders” in the walls of Kremlin, Moscow. Then, as much as now for our current situation (I’ll explain this in a moment), it seemed utterly impossible to think about the demise and defeat of the superpower that was the Soviet Union. I, along with a vast majority of Czechs and Slovaks, was faced with the “fight or flee” dilemma. Or with a proposition to just “get by,” forget it all, and survive within the current boundaries and conditions. Traumatic, indeed.
Now, the commonality and the resulting trauma from our current events is rooted in the fact that it appears utterly impossible to meaningfully change or affect the reality of those events. This is especially true about making rational arguments against the irrational side of slogans and clichés that reduce logic into “black and white” pronouncements. Yes, you have heard – and are hearing them. Here is a sampling of those: It is not guns, it is people who kill. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The Republicans promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, they must do it. The insurance companies’ competition reduces prices. A good health insurance means access and low costs. And so on. I shall not even touch statements of Mr. Trump.
Let us take the gun violence. The statistics – twenty four thousand Americans injured and eleven thousand killed by firearms just this year, forty deaths every day – mean absolutely nothing. The comparison with other nations – just as true for the healthcare – means absolutely nothing. The mindset “owning a firearm makes me free” takes care of rationality. In the words of one Dutch publication, “American gun culture is a sickness.”
So, where were “the good guys with a gun” in Las Vegas? The sick shooter there answered this clearly. There is no protection against ambushes and shooting from the back! Except – but forget it – not to have guns around. Guns around, so easily accessible to every potential maniac, prior to his or her hideous actions, masquerading as “a law abiding citizen.” Such a citizen, of course, cannot be deprived of his – from the times of one bullet muskets some two hundred years ago – “right” to have a killing capacity limited just by available means and imagination. He has this right everywhere – except in halls of Congress, airplanes, Court Houses, some bars. What works? Guns in schools? Yes, silencers “to protect hearing of hunters?” Can you imagine the mayhem the availability of silencers would produce in the scenario of Las Vegas shooting? The rationality breaks down. Oh, not to forget. There is the rationality of money… for some.
Just like the Las Vegas murderer blew the “good guy with a gun” myth to smithereens, the California fires blew the “fire-line rating” of the insurance companies. We, citizens of Nevada County, pay home owners premiums up to five times higher (if we can get insurance at all), due to the perceived danger of trees around. Well, the cities in the wine country burned, irrespective of the discriminative “fire-line” rating!
Here is a dose of rationality about insurance, applicable to homeowners as well as to health. Two fundamental laws: 1/ insurance means sharing the risk equally, and 2/ the larger the pool of insured the smaller is the risk for any individual in that pool. I do not even have space to elaborate on stupidities and dogmas surrounding the insurance issue. Yet again – there is the rationality of money… for some.
I do not wish to end up this writing with a doom and gloom prognosis. After all, even the mighty Soviet Union disintegrated. And it was not by the force of guns in the hands of its citizens.
We need to be clearheaded and promote rational and making sense approaches wherever and whenever we can. Especially at the voting booth.
By Milan Vodicka, Ph.D.