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  • Carroll Devine

Blind Men and Elephant

An ancient Indian legend, immortalized in a poem by John Godfrey Saxe, tells the story that I find most apropos today:

“It was six men of Indostan,

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind."

The story follows that each blind man happened upon a different part of the elephant and took that to be the whole – in their turn seeing the elephant as a fan (the ear), a snake (the trunk), a tree (a leg), a rope (the tail), a spear (the tusk), and a wall (the broad side).

"And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right

And all were in the wrong!"

This poem reflects what I see as one of our biggest problems today, and the reason I posted days ago about my dismay stemming from the predictable responses from many to the Orlando killings, especially the response of the President.

The problem that triggered the massacre is many faceted, and there are no easy or simple solutions.

The one “cause” voiced most loudly is guns and their accessibility. And true, guns have been a major factor in several mass murders, but we need to look deeper and more rationally into this. Whatever your beliefs about gun rights, the fact is that guns are not going away, and history and statistics tell us that strict gun controls or disarming citizens have often had other negative consequences. To think that stronger gun control laws will solve the problem is naïve at best.

But those considerations aside, it remains that the use of guns requires someone to shoot them. So, let us consider the cause or causes for murder by gun. First of all is the mental illness and its alarming prevalence in our society today. Whether committed by gun or by any other means, murder, in my mind must involve some degree of mental instability. And how are we addressing that problem?

Some would argue that the Orlando gunman’s actions were the result of his hatred for gays and lesbians, but I would say that the hatred that provoked the massacre was not only directed towards this one segment of the population. It was an attack against us all. It comes from the culture of violence and hatred that is mushrooming in this country and around the world because it is being fed by everything from politics to pastimes, to the language we use. In this particular incident, the hatred was being driven by Islamic terrorist ideology, and as disturbing as it may be to admit it, we are at war.

To single out one element of the violence that recently killed more than 50 people and ignore the other issues is a mistake.

It’s been suggested that we need to have conversations about the issues. To date, we have mostly had shouting matches instead, with those who disagree with us. I wholeheartedly agree that we need conversations, but not ones based on emotions, hearsay, opinions, repetition of clever soundbytes, or favored or disfavored politicos’ personalities. We need ones based on research of the facts, and investigation into what real solutions there may be and what roles we might play in their implementation, even if that is only learning the truth before we speak out. It’s not enough, note even helpful, to just vent anger or trash someone else’s opinions or political choices and stances. We must recognize that this country we love, for all its wonder and glory, is in peril from the outside and from within.

I believe that we all (or most of us) want basically the same things – to be able to live peaceably and with the freedom to choose where and how we do that. We want to be able to make an honest living and feel satisfaction from our contributions. We want to love and be loved, and we want our children to have opportunities to follow their dreams, and we want them to be safe.

Where we mostly differ is the route to take us there. I for one am becoming exhausted with the rhetoric and vitriol expressed around the issues, but I’m excited at the prospect of being able to learn more of the Truth (which shall make us free). I’m interested in starting and keeping up the real conversations with whomever would like to join me. Even if I am shown to be wrong on some things, I take my cue from Nelson Mandela who said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

I would like to remind anyone reading this (and myself) of this advice from an unknown donor:

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

For what it’s worth, I’d like to suggest a couple of websites I stumbled upon that may be of interest for research: and Though they seem valid, I don’t swear by these as I’ve just begun researching, and I’m sure there are many more on various issues. I would be happy to hear about others. In the interest of saving ourselves and our country, what about starting the conversations and actually listening to one another, even if they don’t agree with us?

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