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No one asked for your non-opinion

Dec 17, 2012

The first I heard about the Newtown tragedy was in the form of several Facebook posts from people already getting huffy about other people offering their opinions on the incident. As per usual for this type of post, the Class Monitors announced that there had already been enough posts about it and announced that their post would be the last word on the subject. You know like “Nothing to see here, folks. Just go back to posting pictures of your lunch and maybe some cats or something.”

I was later appalled by Jay Carney’s statement that “This is not the day to talk about gun control.” Which, you know, was not a thing he said out of concern for the families involved. It was said out of concern for the delicate feelings of the pro-gun types, who were already on standby with statements about their stupid cold dead hands and such. You know, because they are a very charming, compassionate people. I can assure you that in the event that anyone I loved was ever a victim of such a tragedy, I would certainly hope that someone might want to talk about how things like that might be prevented. It’s not something we’re worried about doing in any other circumstance. I mean, once upon a time a dude hid a bomb in his shoe and we’re still taking ours off at the airport. And shoe bombings are certainly less frequent than mass shootings.

I am almost more annoyed by the “don’t anyone talk about this” contingent than I am by the cold dead hands crowd and the statements of people like Mike Huckabee and Victoria Jackson about how forcing school prayer on children would have prevented this tragedy. I would rather talk with someone who disagrees with everything I believe in, care about and hold to be true in life than have the Class Monitor tell me to hush up now.

In every situation like this, there are also the people who announce that the media is encouraging such behavior by reporting on it and thus somehow creating celebrities out of the killers. Which is ridiculous. That is the media’s job. To report on things. And it’s not wrong to want to discuss these things and to think about how they come to pass, and what we can do to prevent them. We live in a scary world, and scary things are going to happen- even if all anyone ever reported on was sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

I always get the feeling that such people imagine themselves as poor put-upon martyrs constantly having to deal with the bickering of those with opinions they have not bothered to have themselves. I get the feeling that they imagine their neutrality makes them far more wise and mature than the rest of us.

In real life, militant neutrals are the sort of people that if a mutual friend did something really, truly horrible to you, like stabbed you in the face or something and killed your dog, would be all ear muffs and horse blinders and “Oh gosh, well, you guys are both my friends so I don’t want to hear it,” should you godforbid complain about all your wounds or say you missed your dog or something. Or, you know, like the kids in school who stood around and didn’t say anything when another kid was getting picked on- in my opinion they were always just as bad as the bullies. Or like the sort of parents or teachers who would punish both kids who got in a fight even when only one was to blame.

My dislike of militant neutrals is probably also why I’ve never been able to bring myself to be all that thrilled with President Obama, who, let’s be honest here, has never had a firm opinion on anything, ever, and appears to aspire to be more like a human Rorschach test than anything else. I don’t believe for one second that he’s going to do a thing about gun control and have no interest in pretending otherwise. I mean, if he does, it will be lovely, but I’m not holding my breath.

Being neutral isn’t always a virtue. I mean, take Switzerland going around pretending to be so neutral, all the while hoarding Nazi gold. It’s also absurd to pretend that not having an opinion on something requires some level of self restraint that the rest of us mere mortals do not possess. It takes a lot more courage to take a stand on something than not to, and to invite conflict rather than to so steadfastly avoid it. Perhaps it might behoove these types to actually take a moment and come up with their own opinion rather than chiding those who have done this as being somehow childish- and maybe think about the fact that choosing to be neutral on a subject is still taking a stance, albeit a pretty mealy mouthed one.

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