Different Ways of Looking at Issues
Editor’s Note: As usual with our blog, opinions expressed are those of the author only. Our mission statement includes opposition to poverty but doesn’t include the issue of “gun violence.” Our general policy is to accommodate a variety of different strategies—including different laws or public policies—to advance our mission, provided those strategies are nonviolent and honest. Sarah Terzo is on CLN’s board of directors.
by Sarah Terzo
Members of the Consistent Life Network freely decide what public policies to support on issues such as gun control, immigration, and other issues not directly tied to our mission statement. Different members address issues as they see best and, as long as they’re in accord with our mission statement, members often differ in how they see our core issues best addressed.
People have different ways of looking at issues. We don’t always see things in “black and white” terms. While everyone in CLN should oppose “poverty” and “gun violence,” we may have differing views on the best approaches to move forward on those issue. We’re a network including people with different political philosophies and perspectives, united by our common desire to protect people from violence.
I know someone who believes there should be armed guards in schools. To me, that seems like a violence-promoting position. But if you drill down to the reasons why he believes this, you see that his motive is not to increase gun deaths. He feels that armed guards will be able to stop an active shooter situation and save lives or, in the best-case scenario, prevent shootings from happening in the first place His point is that if every would-be school shooter knew the school had armed guards, they would think twice about initiating a school shooting. It would therefore act as a deterrent to school shootings. I disagree because I think this approach will create a climate that will lead to more violence, not less. Yet my friend is not motivated by a desire for more kids to get shot, but by his belief in an alternative way to address the violence.
My friend also cited a case during the 1992 Los Angeles riots where a violent mob attempted to murder a family. The father held them off by firing a machine gun in the air. This caused the attackers to flee and saved the lives of his family. My friend believes guns can sometimes act as deterrents for violence. I disagree with his position strongly. But I would not call him anti-life or pro-violence for his position because that’s not the intent of his position. To say he wants to see dead children is untrue.
People can also legitimately differ in their views on how to address the issue of poverty. Some people feel the government should provide support such as food stamps and housing vouchers to the poor. Personally, I agree, and very strongly. But I have a friend who believes these things should be handled by private charities and doesn’t support such programs. She personally gives a great deal to charity and works in a soup kitchen. She claims that her reason for opposing government programs is because the programs’ bureaucracy and all their rules and regulations cause them to be less efficient – not because she thinks poor people should starve.
I’m very much a supporter of government programs, but even I see some major problems inherent in them. For example, recipients of disability and Medicaid can only have a net worth of $2,000 or they lose their health insurance. The people being helped by this program are getting free health care, but they’re also being trapped in poverty by being unable to save money. They also cannot get a part-time job, many of which do not offer benefits, to improve their finances — because if they make too much, their health insurance is taken away. They are, therefore, forced to remain in poverty and dependent on the government.
I know because this is my exact situation. Many other government programs have similar flaws that actually work against the poor.
I believe these government programs should be overhauled and fixed. My friend thinks they should be replaced. My friend and I aren’t disagreeing that poverty should be alleviated. We’re disagreeing on the method of alleviating it. To say that my friend supports poverty and wants people to starve would be untrue, especially when she’s actively giving of her time and money to help the problem.
What constitutes meaningful opposition to gun violence, poverty, and racism isn’t always clear. It would be untrue to claim that my friend who supports guns in school wants dead children or my friend who thinks charity should replace government programs thinks the poor should starve – even though they take a very different position from mine on how to address the issue.
To take certain positions on issues, even if those positions seem entirely logical to us, and to accuse anyone who doesn’t share those positions as being “anti-life,” may not be a fair or honest characterization. I believe it will work against understanding people with different ideas.
It also will work to demonize people on the “other side” and make it harder for people to work together. In not considering that there could be diverse solutions to problems, we may sow division in a way that is not really necessary based on assumptions that are not accurate.
For this reason, while we may agree on opposing “poverty” or “gun violence,” I think it would be a mistake to expect all members of the Consistent Life Network to support the same legislative solutions. Even if we all do support the same legislative solutions (which may be possible) I think it would be a mistake to make that too a requirement. We don’t expect people to have the same view on how to address problems. We should only expect only that we oppose killing people.
My point is that some positions are obvious (people shouldn’t be executed, we shouldn’t drop bombs) while other aspects of social problems can have alternate solutions about which reasonable people can disagree. We expect people to use their own best judgement on how to resolve complex social issues.
Other CLN blog posts from Sarah Terzo:
See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.