The Newtown, Connecticut tragedy has naturally been dominating the news and conversation here in the US the past several days. As happens after any horrific event like this, debates arise over the cause and how we can prevent such atrocities from occurring again. Similar to previous school tragedies, this recent event involved guns and a troubled soul. Predictably the media and the public debate homes in on gun control and mental health diagnosis and care.
I had a discussion with several of my amateur radio friends, all advocates of weapon ownership. I own several weapons myself, though I limit my activities to sporting and don’t really get into personal protection. One of my friends took the position that we need to equip teachers with weapons to prevent or lessen these now more frequent violent events we’re seeing in schools. I countered that it’s not practical, besides raising a host of day-to-day safety issues, equipping teachers would require massive amounts of training to really be effective. Weapons in the hands of the untrained are statistically more dangerous than beneficial, and training needs to go well beyond merely being able to hit a target. Most people, myself included, just don’t have the time or inclination to get this training and maintain it. It’s essentially a lifestyle, and one that I don’t care to live. I don’t want to continually be preparing for the worst and have to carry a weapon in my daily activities. To me it’s quite honestly a deplorable and depressing existence, one that we shouldn’t have to live in this day and age.
My friend responded that to an extent as an amateur radio operator, I do live that existence, preparing for disaster. He saw amateur radio as part of a regime of self protection and preparation for bad times, and presumably got his license for just that purpose. The difference between our perception of amateur radio immediately struck me, to the point that I had difficulty formulating a response. I’m in amateur radio because I enjoy radio, not because it may help me get through a disaster or combat an enemy.
There is a sort of society that has developed in the US over the past several decades, one of a combination of “preppers”, doomsday-ers, cynicists and political prognosticators. They have a rather apocalyptic outlook on life, where no one can be trusted, especially the government. The ills of life can be tracked back to legislation, taxes, freeloaders, or merely those with opposing viewpoints. These people seem to make it their mission to inject their mantra into day-to-day conversation, whether it’s at work, at church, or even on the air. You often hear this tuning across the phone portions of our bands. Often they feel some need to “educate” others, fire up outrage, or just spread their narrative of negativity, a tapestry of plausible but often incorrect quotes and statistics.
I sometimes think of my estranged father who past away two years ago at 62. He often complained about the course of the country. His death was untimely and unexpected. I don’t know whether he’s with a creator now, or if such a creator exists, but his death made me aware of the futility of agonizing over bad scenarios when our time here is so limited. While we certainly want to make this a better place for future generations, does this agonizing over what is possible but not probable serve a purpose? Looking at this another way, what good is stocking up on guns and ammo if you’re very overweight and you get taken out by a heart attack?
I’m here to enjoy life. We’re beyond feudal societies, the threat of barbarians invading, and drinking out of lead cups. The world is not coming to an end, not from this tragedy in Connecticut, not from whether I may have to register my weapons, not because we don’t teach religion in schools, not because I have to pay taxes, not because any particular person is President, not because some state legalized smoking a plant or allows any two adults to marry, and certainly not because someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I don’t want to spend my life as though everything is going to hell in a handbasket or live in continual fear or disdain of some enemy, real or manufactured. But we seem to have a segment of our society living in this bubble or abyss, determined to pull the rest of us into it.
Why are you here, here on Earth? Is it to live or just survive? Perhaps you are concerned about the world, but are you concerned about it for everyone, or just for yourself, your wealth, and your rights? We have a problem that needs fixed. Venturing further into the darkness that led to it won’t solve it. We need to focus on living, and not just survival.