A particular quote from Ron Paul’s book “Liberty Defined” has always stuck with me.
“Ideas are very important to the shaping of society,” Paul says. “In fact, they are more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that governments and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts.”
For millenials in particular, there might be some misunderstanding on this. Something is lost on us about change, that we need it instantly and by way of politicians and force. Social media certainly doesn’t help, but it’s also bizarre how we use it.
After the Boston bombing, in which two brothers used pressure cookers to kill three and wound 264, people genuinely came together in support. The popular hashtag #BostonStrong surfaced, debates did not dominate the airwaves and people of all political stripes sent thoughts and prayers in unison.
But mass murder by way of a gun has routinely been more political than reverential. Throw religious fanaticism in the mix, and you have people from across the spectrum retreating to their thought tents, using social media as the preferred venue to let the world know the perpetrator in their individualized blame games.
Whether you’re tweeting about the NRA’s influence over Congress, lawmakers’ inability to “act” or stricter, and possibly ethnically biased immigration policies, the eagerness to push Washington D.C. to “do something” is not productive when it isn’t thought out, and is the easy way out to solving serious problems.
Social media is a great avenue to send and receive information quickly, but it is unfortunately a way to circumvent critical thinking. Wanting stricter gun laws is a valid opinion – just as is tougher screener for immigration – but not when it’s devoid of serious thought and tough conversations. There is routinely an instinct to think any ill in this country – beyond just gun violence – can be fixed with a law or an executive order, but in reality political action is the very last step toward real change. Real change starts with tough conversations around the dinner table, or with your friends and your ideological opponents, trying to understand each other instead of demonize.
Rhetoric in the wake of the Orlando shooting does the opposite. It’s divisive, aggressive and encourages the growth of the state. Beyond just debates over guns, the impulse to “do something,” to act before thinking, routinely leads to a larger, more intrusive government.
Urging politicians to quick actions without legitimate thought consistently leads to us being a little less free, and a little less just. Knee-jerk policy making in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks gave us the PATRIOT Act and a large, unsuccessful bureaucratic mess in the TSA. The desire to combat terrorism in the wake of those attacks led to long-term, unconstitutional wars and giving up on the idea of due process.
This stems from a misunderstanding of change. There is a misconception that civil rights came about with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and large, activist government, and not decades of civil disobedience and working to change people’s hearts and minds. We tend to think the New Deal got us out of the Great Depression, instead of taking the time to understand free market economics.
This kind of belief in change might end up leading us to elect someone president who vaguely talks about “change” as his or her campaign slogan. Wouldn’t that be something?
If you think politicians can solve each and every problem and need to so immediately, you’ll see the loss of your freedoms over the time. Forget about the second amendment for a second – that’s understandably been a thorny issue over the last several years. But think about the first, the fourth and the fifth. When have self-serving egomaniacs in Washington D.C. ever had the knee-jerk reaction to pass laws that make you more free in general? Government is able to continue based on ignorance, not in its endless pursuit to defend liberty.
Even if your conclusions still lead you to believing more laws prohibiting gun sales or prohibiting legal immigration are needed, it would be more beneficial to try to understand those who disagree, do comprehensive research and think about ways to tackle these problems beyond political means.
It’s easy to tweet “f*ck the NRA” or something Islamophobic. But those aren’t ideas. Coming up with real policy proposals about guns or immigration requires real thoughts. Saying we need “more gun control” or stricter immigration without specifics is lazy, and after serious thought, might not even be the conclusion you’re looking for.
Change takes time, and when lives are lost of course there is more of a rush than usual. But demanding action from politicians in every situation is not going to provide the best policy results, and will make us more divided and less free. We’d be better off if people realized change starts with changing hearts and minds, including maybe a reflection your own.