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Let’s Change The Pronouns In The Gun Debate

To the Editor:

On Thursday, April 11, I had the chance to sit in on a hearing of the Newtown Ordinance Committee, having been invited by three resident friends. I wrote to them afterward, and they felt that you might like to hear my comments also.

I appreciated the chance to observe a local group striving to deal with the issue of legal use of guns within their jurisdiction. Their efforts on a local stage can support and inform the larger nationwide debate. Newtown is acting responsibly in a worthy cause. Keep up the good work. Newtown is a small stage, but your voices resound today.

The Constitution of the United States of America should become required reading for everyone: school children, of course, but -- more importantly right now -- every adult in the country. The Constitution begins “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In the United States today, I think, we have got our pronouns wrong.

The preamble lists six vital reasons for establishing a constitution. One of them refers to “defence,” on which the pro-gunners and their supporters seize to protect their precious rights – putting the emphasis on “their.” The other five, note, refer to union, justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty, the beneficiaries of these protections to be “ourselves and our posterity.” Note the pronouns: we, ourselves, our. Not I, not my, not myself. Note also that all six objectives are presented as of equal value.

The point of current debate on the gun issue must not be to attack the right to arm and to practice shooting. It must be to expand everyone's consciousness of his or her obligation as a responsible citizen. At the Ordinance Committee hearing, a thoughtful gentleman proposed that the tranquility of the young of Newtown should be considered, that they might be further traumatized by the continuing sound of gunfire. The gun people were silent. Does their silence shout: I will not surrender my right to play with guns whenever I want? Are their rights paramount? What do the words “domestic tranquility” and “general welfare” mean anyway? Who are “our posterity”?

I have wondered what could be the message of Newtown's slogan “We are Newtown. We choose love.” Perhaps, this is it: perhaps, “We choose Love” can really mean We see beyond the immediate, beyond the individual, beyond the single act. We know the dialogue and the healing must involve all because they are about all.

  Too many people who do have a public voice in the national debate are using the wrong pronouns. Let's try to change the pronouns.

 Let's change i to we.  Let's change my to our. Together is stronger.

Les Harriman

Linda Lane, Bethel                                     April 17, 2013


The British spelling was used in the preamble [c1]

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