It's not even clear that opinions on guns and gun violence remain amenable to argument. Over the past few decades, gun ownership in the US has evolved from a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters to a kind of gesture of tribal solidarity, an act of defiance toward Obama, the left, and all the changes they represent. The gun lobby has become more hardened and uncompromising, pushing guns into schools, churches, and universities.
This has taken place in the context of a broader and deeper polarization of the country, as Red America and Blue America have become more ideologically homogeneous and distant from one another. The two sides are now composed of people who quite literally think and feel differently — and are less and less able to communicate. The gun issue is a salient example, but far from the only one.
A friend of mine posted the above linked essay on my facebook page a couple of days ago. Here's the comment I made:
Okay, really good essay. A couple of thoughts.'Nuff said.
First, I think one can successfully argue with another identity. You just have to take a wildly different approach. You can't just say "here are the facts." You've got to appeal to other conservative ideas. You've got to use emotion. You've got to be nice and you've got to be mean. The point is that dealing with identity is just a totally different process, more propagandistic than argumentative.
And it takes a lot more patience, time, and understanding. That's the key. Understand who it is to whom you're talking.
Second, I think I might be, deep down, conservative myself. Not in terms of ideology, but in terms of personality. I've struggled with pretty intense anxiety for over a decade, and I think I might be genetically prone to it. But my intellect, honed around communists and artists in Austin years ago, won't let me take the right-wing bait. So I'm afraid, but I don't really know what I'm afraid of. Or rather, I see different monsters from the ones ideological conservatives see. Something like that.
I mean, I grew up in a conservative family in a conservative neighborhood, and went to a conservative church. In lots of ways, I'm comfortable around Texas conservatives, who still kind of feel like my people. All this goes back to my first point, that conservatives can in fact be persuaded. I feel like I'm evidence of that. But it's a totally different game than simply duking it out with facts.