I have, as likely many among us, always been committed to the cause of justice. I have stood up for others, I have spoken up when others didn't, I have chosen a life path that is for me more morally than financially rewarding. I have participated in protest marches, and clicked on countless online petitions. I have devoted hundreds of hours to initiatives that I felt were right, and knew were doomed from the outset. I have proudly taken on overwhelmingly powerful entities, built strong trust-based relationships with partners in the cause, made enormous profits for those I was opposing, and worked hard to build effective partnerships and organisations that would stand with me.
I sometimes failed to recognize opportunities, often failed to follow through adequately on my commitments, sometimes violated my self-established principles, and have often been disillusioned. I only walk the path I do thanks to the support of others, and yet am not always the best steward of the resources available to me.
One important thing that I've learned is that it's easier to make enemies than allies. Spend 15 minutes in the world of a five-year old, and you'll understand that this is a general human condition. We are inherently, unendingly seduced by the thrill of combat with an enemy, and evil force, an oppositional entity. To our detriment.
"When the Buddha has a goal, he does nothing. He sits. He waits. He meditates. He moves through the world like a stone through water.". The image I carry from that is of a stone sitting solid as the river/world moves past it. More enlightened than I. But I do work harder to build allies than enemies.
It's easy to find opposition, and enemies. In 4th grade, I remember one of my schoolyard friends, Rick, seriously informing me and others of the establishment of a playground gang that it was incumbent on us to combat. Stirred by righteousness, I proposed that we immediately attack them - I'd already fought the ringleader over the issue of who could use the swings. Rick rejected that plan, proposing instead that we monitor and observe. On one level I recognized Rick as a natural leader, because he had a cool jacket, but on another level, I didn't recognize until years later that leaders needed followers, and for that they needed to create threats and enemies.
I'm writing this now mainly because of the gun control discussion. In many ways this is an easy target for the DK community, but in this topic, as many before, more energy is spent in attacking and vilifying enemies than in creating allies. There certainly is room for righteous invectives against the NRA and her defenders, but there's also been much energy spent attacking potential allies - those members of the DK community who are gun owners and gun advocates. Surely some are trolls, but more are committed members of the community - hunters, neighbours, military, veterans, LEO, and so on.
My feeling is that we're in a position to actually effect meaningful change on this issue, a topic I've been following since the Reagan era. We have a president who's willing to take initiative (and risk political damage), a receptive media, strong polling advantages, and truly terrible gun-related atrocities in recent memory, encouraging improvements.
I know and respect too many responsible gun owners, and have too much contempt for the long-running, well-funded, fear-based political juggernaut that is the NRA to have patience with DK discussions where those who defend responsible gun ownership are attacked irresponsibly. There are many examples in other countries where reasonable gun control measures coexist with significant levels of gun ownership, and drastically lower rates of gun violence.
It's always easier to create enemies than allies. And always far more effective to build allies, even when it takes time and compromise, than enemies.