Posted by: martinworster | December 2, 2013

NRA Meditation

Don’t judge a bloke by his cap. Meditation on suffering…

It’s amazing how easy it is to misjudge people and jump to the wrong conclusions. I try to be nonjudgmental and open minded but often – I admit – I fall short. It can be particularly tiring in the US as I frequently find I come across people who have very different views on many things, sometimes quite extreme. A couple of weeks ago I was coaching my son at football (soccer) and it was the Saturday afternoon game where all the parents turn up to support. On the touchline I spied an older guy wearing an NRA cap. For English readers – the NRA is the National Rifle Association – a lobby group that vehemently defends American’s rights to own and shoot guns. They aggressively lobby the political parties to keep gun control and regulation laws as lax as possible. Despite 90% of American’s wanting background checks to be a part of the gun ownership process, this hasn’t even come close to becoming law. Which is strange when considering we live in a supposed democracy where majority should rule. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the NRA leader caused outrage at the time by suggesting that teachers should be armed to stop future attacks and the espoused the flawed logic that ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun’. (A logic that falls short when considering recent mass shootings at military installations at both Fort Worth in Texas and in Washington DC – places where you would presume there are many ‘good guys with guns’)

So I was quite offended to see this man on the touchline so blatantly advertising his affiliations. I also personally found it a bit tasteless considering the football game was being played at an elementary school. Should I have been? I considered going over to him and making my views known, but as I was the team coach (and referee) I thought I’d leave it. So I blew my whistle and the game commenced.

After the game we had a pizza party (a common occurrence when coaching football in the US) a couple of slices of pizza for the boys and beers for the adults. At the restaurant I found myself sitting opposite the man with the NRA hat – who was a relative of one of my players. I engaged him in conversation – first thing I asked him about was his cap. He started going on about how he liked to hunt. I went pretty easy on him and was respectful despite initially feeling quite irritated. As with many American’s he was of the view that gun ownership was protected by the constitution and it was a right he wanted to preserve. It’s quite a strange logic really – one that many European’s would find hard to grasp – that gun ownership is a right. As with many different beliefs and value systems it’s an idea that’s taken shape and grown via the States different historical trajectory, a nation developed and expanded by a frontier spirit perhaps facilitated by guns. In many ways I can understand why people feel they should be free to own a gun for hunting and why should the government step in? However, that’s fine if the guns are single shot rifles – not when it’s semi-automatic multi-round weapons as used in many recent mass shootings. The NRA is of course a lobby group funded by the gun industry – a rich and powerful group – so it’s in its own interest is to sell as many guns as possible. Yet another example of government by corporation.

As I started talking more to the guy I found out that I quite liked him. He was quite an interesting and older – early 70s man – who was a retired Jewish doctor with European roots. I didn’t agree with many of his views and I didn’t like the way he glaringly advertised his views but once I started talking to him and humanized him my original feelings were soon over turned. Although I still feel he’s a bit of a cunt for turning up to an elementary school with an NRA hat. But don’t judge a man by his cap.

My next case of mis-judging someone occurred last week. I met **** at a meditation workshop (I know, very LA). He seemed like a decent chap and we exchanged numbers and became friends on Facebook. I didn’t think I’d see him much as he lives in Arizona. One of my posts on Facebook was about the failings of the US healthcare system and how socialized healthcare as in most European countries as a more humane and hence better way of doing things. I am of the belief that all members of society should have access to healthcare. Through a run of bad luck and other unforeseen circumstances anyone can fall on hard times and if that’s the case they shouldn’t remain untreated if they fall ill. Not bankrupted through expensive medial bills or left to fester in sickness. I think socialized healthcare is the mark of a more civilized and compassionate society even if we may collectively pay a small burden through higher taxes.

**** responded with his views. I’d say he’s an extreme libertarian who – I think – believes that any form of government intervention via taxation is tantamount to theft. Everything should be left to the individual without any intervention from the state and socialism is hence an extremely dirty word.  It’s an extreme right wing view where self is put over society. This is quite a common thought system in the US and one that I find both callous and misguided. I was quite taken back that this character **** had such views, especially considering I’d met him in a mediation workshop. Meditation seemed to be a practice at odds with ****’s thought system. Surely allowing those sick and suffering to get treatment is a more compassionate way of doing things. I hope **** meditates on this. Perhaps he was meditating to exorcise some demons?

Those who argue against big government and higher taxation on anything don’t seem to want to pay the price to live in an improved and functional society where it’s people and infrastructure are invested in. They also probably haven’t thought through the whole argument rationally. The roads they drive on, the schools their kids go to, the military and police that are meant to protect them, public utilities, the judicial system or the emergency services that rescue them when there is a national disaster – all funded by taxes. **** is probably best living off grid in some bunker hoping he never has kids who need to be educated or if a tornado hits him he will refuse the emergency supplies that would be airdropped to him by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

I found ****’s extreme view of the self and society both depressing and a little bit disturbing. I appreciate it is a different view point to mine – and not that it’s simply just a case of ‘I am right and you are wrong’.  It’s just I’m more comfortable living in a society where the sick are not left to suffer. Or that men don’t turn up at elementary school soccer games wearing NRA caps.

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