[Dennis] Defensive Reflex | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Dennis] Defensive Reflex


Scott Dennis

I believe the first thing I ever bought on eBay many years ago was an old L.C. Smith typewriter. Because it was incredibly heavy, the shipping cost me more than the winning bid. I had it sent to my office, and I remember showing it off to some of my coworkers with engineering backgrounds who were amazed at the level of precision of this fully functional antique typewriter.

I work in the information-technology field, but I am not nearly as impressed with processors or circuit boards manufactured by some robot as I am with this beautiful, art deco apparatus of the 1930s. Computers are disposable. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore accurately predicted that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years. A typical consumer laptop from 10 years ago is, for all practical purposes, completely unusable today. Yet, here is this 80-year-old typewriter, with its awkward-to-master keys, which is still every bit as functional today as when it was first produced.

I have a close friend who collects Russian World War II rifles. I don't fully understand the fascination with guns—to me they are weapons with the sole purpose of destruction and death. No matter whether you're using a gun for target practice, hunting or protection, the fact is whatever is shot will most likely be destroyed, killed, neutralized or severely injured. In contrast, the few typewriters that I've collected over the years can be used as a tool of creativity, capturing intelligent dissertation. In the hands of a skilled writer, a typewriter (or any tool of writing) can be used to change the hearts and minds of most reasonable people better than any weapon ever could.

Being "reasonable" is the key idea at play here. A lot of good, intelligent, reasonable people need to come to grips with the fact not everyone in our society needs to have a gun. Not everyone in our society is balanced or responsible enough to have a gun.

Are we ready, yet, to have a serious and civil conversation about guns, violence, and hate?

I watched President Obama's address at the Arizona memorial service, and I believe he did an excellent job at setting the tone for how we, as a nation, should make every effort to work toward better cooperation in problem solving. I believe he is wise to condemn finger pointing, as it can stir hate and discord just as quickly as gun pointing. It is now time for those who would generally cry foul at the first mention of gun control to step up.

These tragic, senseless and audacious acts of violence should be, and largely could be, avoidable.

The biggest hurdle in working together is for people to avoid the immediate "defensive reflex." We live in a competitive society that generally rewards the stronger competitor, thus conditioning us to always be in attack mode. There are start-up militia groups and parties that would consider any form of perceptive dialogue as a sign of weakness, and we simply can't ignore the dangers of uncivil rhetoric.

I hope politics in our country will turn around and be truly productive. I hope our civilization can be one with great accomplishments and not a low-performance society, bogged down with each party occasionally winning a penalty kick. I hope disputes can be solved with rational thought rather than dissenting emotions.

This is a call to all sensible people to hone your skills of cooperative persuasion. I'm tired of seeing one side acting hell-bent on showing the other side the error of their ways, and then not understanding why there is no cooperation or accomplishment as a result. I'm tired of seeing the other side "stick to their guns" and prey upon fear and vulnerability, and then shrug their shoulders when a madman goes ballistic.

No offense to my close friend, but I'll take my old typewriter any day over his collection of rifles of the same era. Nearly 200 years ago, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote that the pen is mightier than the sword. That can still be true today. Please choose your words wisely; they can either change the world we all share, or they can continue a long and frustrating battle without victors.

Scott Dennis is a Morton, Miss., native who lives in Pearl. Dennis earned a computer-science degree from Mississippi College, and works as an IT specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and a small but growing family.

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