Protecting us from ourselves

We are all afraid. The massacre in Parkland, Fla., jolts everyone. Everyone can feel the pain. It is easy to identify with the agony of parents and loved ones who have lost someone in this tragic shooting. So many suggestions are now presented to stop tragedies like this. Some want to stop the sale of assault guns. Some want to have teachers armed. So many suggestions come forth from so many with different attitudes, but most likely all suggestions are sincerely made. Everyone has a viewpoint that might have some element of validity. Ban all weapons is the extreme on one side. Arm all teachers or some teachers is the extreme on the other side. Stricter rules to own a gun and never to own an assault gun that is used only by soldiers is one suggestion. Take all restrictions from guns and let everyone have a gun is the other extreme. The Second Amendment was written when there were few police. The one-shot rifle which needed to be reloaded after one shot was the ordinary weapon. There were no 911 calls in those days. Guns were needed to protect oneself because there was no one close by to help. There were no emergency phone calls. Today, anyone 18 and over can own an assault rifle, and almost anyone 21 and older is able to purchase a gun. It certainly hasn't made our country any safer. Even in the Old West when almost every man carried a gun, towns often had rules to check their guns when they entered town because there had been so many impulsive killings in various towns.

Everyone wants to have a sense of safety. I think the real problem is that we need to protect ourselves from ourselves. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Impulsive buying, eating, and drinking and video games of violence inundate us. If a person must wait more than a couple of minutes in line to purchase something or pay a bill, patience runs thin. So many young people are killed accidentally in homes where guns are present. No amount of psychotherapy or psychotropic medication or religion is going to make everyone emotionally and spiritually healthy. Our culture is growing into a culture that stays in its head and avoids feelings that need to be experienced and worked through. Watch adults and children. So often we aren't relating to the person next to us. We are on our phones texting or sending a Facebook message to someone else. We want instant feedback and instant likes and positive comments. But we don't relate with the person next to us by speaking affirming and loving words. We become too busy playing violent video games or simple fun games that keep our minds occupied.

We live in a culture which mistakenly believes that more power is the right way to save a culture. Where has this gotten us? We have bigger guns and bigger bombs. All under the guise of protecting us. The number of deaths by gun violence in the United States is 3.85 per one hundred thousand people. We are the 31st in the world in violence by guns. That doesn't sound so bad but compared to other large countries we are the most violent. The South American countries are much higher in gun violence than we are because of the drug cartels. The only Middle Eastern country that has more violent deaths by guns than us is Iraq. In an average year there are 13,000-gun homicides in the United States. That is 96 people a day that are killed by guns. For every one person killed by a gun two more are injured; 1,300 children die each year from guns and 5,790 are treated annually for gunshot wounds. In 2015, toddlers accidentally killed more Americans by guns than terrorists did.

Under the guise of protecting ourselves we have nuclear arms that could destroy the whole planet by the pushing of a button by the president. And of course, other countries want the power to do this also. It is like who is going to have the biggest stone to throw at another person. We are not an emotionally healthy nation and so many other countries are not either. Watching violence day after day on television, video games, and seeing so much violence in the world is not helping our young people to become more peaceful and calmer. We have a president who has a following of very violent people because they most likely think he agrees with their concept of violence and white superiority. I personally don't think he endorses their way of thinking but he certainly has brought them out in the open. In one way that may be a good thing for all of us to realize that there are so many people willing to become violent. It is even a better reason to realize the importance of protecting ourselves from ourselves.

Let's get real. Power isn't what is going to make the world a safer place. More guns in the hands of people will not at all make this world safer. We need to be protected from the ability to kill each other when we are emotionally hurting or frightened. Have you ever had a road rage or a rage at someone else and you were grateful you didn't have a weapon at that time? There are 1,000 violent deaths in the home each year. It is from a lack of control. Between 2005 and 2010 60 percent of all violent injuries in this country were inflicted by loved ones or acquaintances. Of the 3.5 million assaults and murders against family members between 1998 and 2002 (the last time a study was done) almost half the crimes were crimes against spouses. Also, suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths in the United States. Most of those self-killings happen at home. Sixty percent of all suicides happen from the use of guns. Of all murders in the United States, 60 percent were by firearms compared with 31 percent in Canada, 18.2 percent in Australia and just 10 percent in the United Kingdom of England.

The more invested we are believing that power makes us safer, the more delusional we all become. Guns and bombs do kill people. When these guns and bombs are easily accessible to everyone we make the world a very dangerous place.

The first three centuries Christians were the minority and did not carry firearms or fight back their being put to death with weapons. When Constantine the emperor became a Christian, Christians became part of the establishment and then rationalized that war was just. Later we had the Crusades which were a blot on all of Christianity. We had Nazi Germany years later, A Christian country who allowed a dictator to take over and kill so many Jews and Christians. What overcomes evil is not power or guns though it certainly has ended wars like the atomic bomb ended World War II. But what really keeps peace in the world is the courage to love and let go of being more powerful than my neighbor. To carry a gun around is to carry around the thought in my mind that someday I will use this. To have a nuclear bomb is to carry around the thought that someday I will have to use it. The more that thought is carried because of the weapon that is present, the more I am going to use this weapon when I perceive myself vulnerable. This attitude is the most dangerous weapon in the world and it has been activated so many times over so many years. With this attitude we will eventually destroy each other thinking we are protecting each other and thinking we are being virtuous.

When will any of us have the courage to be peacemakers? When will Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and the whole world have the courage to love without the need to have weapons? Maybe never but when will you or me have the courage to be peacemakers in our own personal lives without the attitude that someday I may need a gun or weapon to kill someone. I have been a psychologist for 43 years. I have never owned a gun. If I did I would then have to face an attitude of mistrust or suspicion toward anyone who seemed angry or upset. That attitude would not help me to get alongside of another person with care and compassion and help them disarm emotionally to go to a deeper and more loving place in their life.

The courage to make the world safer is the courage to disarm myself and be more loving and caring and have the courage to have rules that protect us from ourselves. Maybe these rules will be the beginning of making the world a safer place. When someone approaches me with love and compassion, I am more compelled to lay down my arms.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Feb 27, 2018


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