Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Big Issues: We Need to Hear More from Sam Harris About Guns

In my last post, I pleaded for Americans to have a real conversation about guns after Newtown. Predictably perhaps, I have been despairing since as that conversation again failed to achieve any kind of sentience. Then, on Wednesday night, almost out of nowhere, one of my intellectual heroes came through with what may yet be the most courageous and important piece of commentary on “The Riddle of the Gun”.

Sam Harris is a writer who regularly receives death threats for courageously upending the worldviews of the majority of the world's population, yet I suspect that "The Riddle of the Gun" may be his most courageous piece of writing to date. 

I have two reasons for crediting Sam's courage in writing this. The first is that he knows it will alienate many of his most loyal readers and will draw rebuttals from many of his allies - Sean Faircloth of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science was quick off the mark with this considered piece. The second reason requires an entire post to itself so I’ll come back to that soon. 

This post is dedicated to why I believe the "The Riddle of the Gun" is so important...

I believe that "The Riddle of the Gun" is important because around two thirds of its approximately 6,000 carefully selected words represent the most complete and understandable summary I've seen on “the case for guns in America". Sam is one of the most rational and eloquent Americans alive today. His words are always worth reading and this piece is no exception. I urge everyone to read them and to be challenged by them. I urge everyone to reflect upon his words as honestly and as rationally as Sam reflected while he wrote them.

Call me a hopeless optimist, but I want to believe that these 6,000 words are the beginning of the conversation that we’ve all been waiting for. We all know and respect Harris enough to know that if he continues to participate in that conversation, then his presence will draw in other qualified intellectuals. We know know that he will debate politely and rationally. He will hear polite, rational, and honest responses to his case. He will reflect rationally and respond honestly and politely to them, drawing further qualified and respectful contributors to the conversation.

Ranting ideologues on both sides of the debate will be excised, and the parts of Sam’s argument that are robust enough to withstand sustained intellectual scrutiny will prevail. Where his position is shown to be lacking, he will expand, or he will concede.

I really want to believe that Sam Harris has at last sparked the conversationThe conversation that will leave Americans and the world with a better understanding of the many truths behind “the US gun problem”. The conversation that will leave individuals and policymakers across the political compass with actionable intelligence to shape a more sane future.

This conversation can never happen in the mainstream media, but Harris has started it in the blogosphere - It is possible that such a complex issue can be deconstructed fully by an engaged citizen media.

Thank you Sam Harris! I'll be watching, and hoping...

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