Bowling for Columbine Highlights Meaningless Ideology

There’s a small battle being fought in the comments of my previous entry about Bowling for Columbine. It should be no surprise that gun rights are a very serious matter for many people. Nonetheless, guns are involved in a huge number of homicides in the US each year. And so those who would seek to prevent or limit those murders find themselves battling gun owners who would rather ignore them.

I must admit that I find myself conflicted in this matter. We can point to other countries where guns are highly controlled and have very few gun related deaths, but filmmaker Moore also offers Canada — where guns are apparently widely available, but where few gun related crimes are committed — as a counter example. In the end, I believe strongly in civil liberties as laid out in our Bill of Rights. Gun ownership isn’t particularly important to me, but it comes second to freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights. And that’s part of the irony: how many flag-waving gun owners will claim their second amendment rights but deny first amendment rights to those who wish to burn a flag in protest?

Despite that irony, and the ongoing conflict, are the two groups really that far apart? It’s called the narcissism of small differences in some fields, and it’s a way of explaining how two groups of people which both oppose gun violence — we all do oppose gun violence, don’t we? — can grow so far apart. That gap is exercised and widened by politicians who use it to galvanize support for broad political agendas.

Despite the complexity of gun rights issues, it all gets boiled down to “pro-gun” and “anti-gun,” and the two major parties are well polarized along those lines. But arguments over gun control really only distract from issues like taxes and the coziness of business in government matters. It’s harder to discern differences between parties on those points.

Finally, when we compare the US against other countries, we usually only look at gun control laws in relation to gun violence. However — and this is where it ties together — when considering the gap between rich and poor (executives in the US earn as much as 450 times as much as average workers!), we find that gun violence (and homicide rates in general) fall as the gap narrows. Perhaps people who feel they live in a just society (with decent housing and health care) don’t kill other people?

8 thoughts on “Bowling for Columbine Highlights Meaningless Ideology

  1. Casey touches on a point here that I have often wondered about: How change the polarization of our politics. Third parties are a solution, but under our current first-past-the-post electoral system, they just aren’t viable. But what if we changed the law so that the House of Representatives was elected on the basis of Proportional Representation? That is, people would vote for political parties rather than candidates, and each party would be apportioned seats in the House based on their percentage of the nationwide vote. A small change, to be sure, but I think it would bring fresh air to our political process.

  2. who does on the person sitting in the seat after the party is elected? the party? i’m not comfortable with that.

  3. The majority of Contental European countries use the PR system.
    Depending on the exact flavor, you may vote for just the party, or a list of candidates. (I admit it, I was incorrect) Read about the different variations at: http://www.fairvote.org/pr/whatis.htm#prbasics

    According to the Center for Democracy and Voting website:

    “The plurality system has been on the wane worldwide because it is often unfair and undemocratic. Among other things, it routinely denies representation to large portions of the electorate, artificially restricts the party choices offered to voters, and forms a barrier to the election of women and minorities to office.

    The source of these faults can be traced to a fundamental flaw in the plurality system- it is designed to ensure representation only for the majority of voters in a district. Only those who vote for the winning candidate get any representation in this system. Everyone else- who may make up 49% of the electorate in a district- are considered losers who do not merit representation. All of those in the minority in a single-member district are thus effectively disenfranchised- their vote is worthless because it cannot serve to elect anyone to represent them.”

    Read the rest of the article at: http://www.fairvote.org/pr/amy_intro.htm

  4. mark-

    this sounds good, but how would a system like this be installed? I dont see congress and the senate passing it- they stand to lose power. As much as I think I am with you on this matter- short of a revolution- i don’t see it happening.

  5. How do we implement this?

    Section 4 of Article I of the Constitution reads:
    “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators.”

    (For commentary on this, look here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/article01/18.html#1 )

    So, it seems that the plurality system is not Constitutionally mandated. To change to the PR system would simply require changing the law.

    The powers of Congress as a body remain unchanged by this. When you say that congress stands to lose power through this measure, I think you mean that certain MEMBERS of congress stand to lose power. And you are correct.

    Like anything else, this would require a constituency. It could be billed as the ultimate campaign finance reform, since candidates become less important than parties and issues.

    I think that if the PR system and its benefits became common knowledge, a lot of people would be interested in it.

  6. I just wanted to say thank you Michael, I am an African American woman who at the moment is enroled in crimes in schools, and the book that we are forced to study from teaches me and the 20+ white students that African American are the cause of every crime, in and out of school?????? My teacher who is hispanic showed us this movie and was told to write a 5 page eassy. After watching the movie I rushed out and purchased 3 copies. I am sorry for the ignorance some of the people (James nicoles for one)showed in the movie, when asked why? their children do what they did. For example what’s up with the game they have called shot the geek??????was or was not Eric and his partner geeks??? And what is up with the nsame of the school “Columbine High Schoolthe Home of the Rebels”?????Then there was Charlton H. I think he needs serious help, and someone needs to hepl him in-order to save our children. Thank you sooooo much for this movie!!!!!!!!!! Keep doing what you are doing and don’t let anyone stop you from exposing what needs to be exposed….

    [tags]tag three[/tags]

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