An Open Letter to Alyssa Milano
Hi! My name's Marushia Dark (at least that's what I go by on the Internet). You don't know me, and it's likely you won't even read this letter, but on the off chance that you do, I just wanted to say a few words to you directly. I hope that you'll please hear me out.
Firstly, I know you've been going through a lot of stress lately and I'm sorry for that. You strike me as a kind and loving soul - a decent human being who's just trying to do some good in the world. If I could give you a comforting hug right now, I would.
I was a huge fan of yours when you appeared on Charmed. It was among my favorite shows growing up. Your show even helped inspire me to learn about real Wicca and occult paganism. I loved watching you work your magic and kick demon butt as Phoebe Halliwell, which just makes it all the more sad - heartbreaking even - that, as I've grown older and become more interested in politics, we suddenly find ourselves on opposite sides of ... well, many issues.
This isn't something unique to you, but is sadly something I've experienced with a lot of people I looked up to and admired at one time or another. I have lost friends and family as a result of recent events and not because I wanted to or because I left them, but because they left me.
Often over simple misunderstandings.
I wish I had a dollar for each time someone I thought cared about me suddenly started calling me the most horrible things to my face over political bullshit, without actually listening to what I had to say or trying to understand where I was coming from. People who were in my inner circle or even my immediate family suddenly telling me they're no longer sure they can trust me, even though I remained the same person I'd always been.
Suffice to say, there is a great deal of pain felt on both sides of the aisle, even among those people you consider your enemies.
There is one issue in particular I'd like to address with you, though.
I've followed you on Twitter for a while and listened to a lot of the things you've said, particularly about gun owners and Trump supporters. You seemed so angry and afraid. Many of your tweets made me angry too, and made a lot of other people angry and afraid. Though others might not give you this same courtesy, I'm at least willing to consider it may all just be a huge misunderstanding between us. I know that's not you and that's not what you intended. I know you wish you didn't have to feel that way or make others feel that way. That wouldn't it be great if we could all just sit down and talk things out like civilized human beings the way we used to do?
I know there may be times in which that seems hard, if not downright impossible, but I think it's a challenge we can overcome together if really tried.
Part of what I've set out to do is to help people on both sides see past their ideological differences. To work to #HealTheDivide and to find a common language where it seems like we're mostly just speaking past one another. I know you'll probably say I don't really know anything about the real you, and that's certainly true; but I assume, at the very least, we have that much in common. As you put it, to listen to each other and bridge the divide.
Recently, I watched this short clip of you speaking to an NRA member at a rally.
This may surprise you to hear, but I actually dissent with the people "on my team" who are calling you a hypocrite. I actually thought you were fairly reasonable in that exchange and I wanna thank you being so reasonable, and moreover for clarifying your position on guns. It helps resolve a lot of unanswered questions while at the same time prompting still others.
I hear what you're saying, I do, though I still disagree with it adamantly.
And I want to let you know that, even though I might disagree with you, I am not against you as a person. At the end of the day, I'm only human, and I make mistakes like everyone else, though I do at least try not to resort to petty character attacks against people if I can avoid it. Instead, I prefer to show them a different way of thinking, because I believe that if people knew better, they'd do better.
Now, I don't have the benefit of being able to sit down and have a dialogue with you in this format - to ask you questions and delve deeper into what you believe and why. Maybe you'd care to have that conversation with me someday, as someone reasonable and willing to listen to you and treat you with respect; but barring that, I'd like to share with you (and others) why I disagree with what you said in that video, and with what I've witnessed from your general statements on Twitter.
I pray you'll hear me out.
You said you have no problem with lawful gun owners and that you even have two at home. That your problem is with "the gun lobby and the fact that they buy off our politicians," adding that "80% of Americans want sensible gun reform" and that's all you're asking.
Again, thank you for bringing that information to everyone's attention. That saves a lot of time arguing back and forth over assumptions. I accept that that's your position and will take you at your word.
Now, I have a couple questions about that. I know these may sound rather silly and the answers self-evident to you; but bear with me a minute and I'll expound upon each of these in turn to show how they're a bit more nuanced than you might first imagine:
What do you mean by "lawful"?
What do you mean by "sensible" gun reform?
Who are "the gun lobby" and what is your proposed solution to that?
Do you believe that 80% of people (or any form of majority for that matter) have the authority to overturn someone's rights?
What do you plan to do if otherwise law-abiding citizens refuse to go along with these new reforms of yours?
Again, I know, they sound like stupid questions to you and you're probably rolling your eyes in disgust and contempt, but let me just walk you through my thought process here.
First is the question of what do you mean by "lawful" gun owners? This is a place where I think people on either side of the debate are speaking two different languages and mean two different things even though they're using the same word. I'm not a mind-reader and can't know as I write this what your definition is. I can only give you mine and what I think yours might be based on how others with similar positions as you have used it in the past; but maybe if we dig down, we can hopefully find some common ground.
Most people think the term "lawful" means "whatever government says," or "whatever the majority says," as in the case of a democracy. That's not what I mean and it's not what the law means by it either. To me, and under the law, that particular definition - the false, common definition - is really nothing more the arbitrary whim of the legislature, or mob rule, which is not necessarily the same idea as law, morality, or justice. It may be popular and desired, but that doesn't mean it's good.
To me, the law is very simple and can be summed up in three words: do no harm.
That's it. Essentially, you are free to do literally whatever you want, for whatever reason you want, and no one has the right to stop you, so long as you don't use that freedom to infringe upon the rights of others. Such infringement could be breach of contract, rape, theft, assault, murder, trespass, fraud, vandalism, arson, ... things like that. Basic moral crimes that are universally bad. What are known as "mala in se" crimes, or crimes that are bad in and of themselves. Things that even a child could understand because they're built up from first principles.
To keep your word and to keep your hands to yourself, would be another way of putting it. Other than that, anything goes. In that sense, you and I are in complete agreement (or at least I hope we are).
Where we seem to disagree is this. You and others seem to wanna expand that definition into what are known as "mala prohibita" crimes or crimes that are bad only because someone said so, often in an arbitrary sense. In other words, prohibitions - and we all know how well those work, which is to say they don't. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess you're probably against the war on drugs, which criminalizes people for nonviolent offenses like possession, and that you know about the ban on alcohol in U.S. history and how it led to an increase in violent crime, such that we'd never think of reinstating it, even though drunk driving claims countless lives every year.
I think we can both agree that such bans would constitute a cure worse than the disease. The same, I'd argue, would be true of most forms of gun control.
In this video, you talk about being a UNICEF ambassador and how you don't wanna see children die of preventable causes. Of course no one wants that. No one at the NRA wants that either, and if you find someone who does, we can denounce that person together.
We agree that such deaths must be prevented, but it seems a large part of the issue comes down to us having two different understandings of how such prevention works in practice.
Now, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, so please correct me if this isn't actually your position; but based on the totality of the things you've said over the years, you seem to wanna ban people from owning certain types of weapons. Namely so-called assault weapons and weapons of war, even though guns like the AR-15 aren't actually either of those. They just look like them in terms of design, but the military uses very different weapons in a functional sense - weapons, by the way, that are already banned from general public use.
This leads into the second question of what do you mean by "sensible" gun reform?
Sensible means different things to different people. To me, it doesn't seem sensible to limit people's options for what they feel is the best way to protect themselves and their families. To me, it doesn't seem sensible to tell people that just because someone else did a bad thing that has nothing to do with them, that now they must be punished as well. To me, it doesn't seem sensible to tell someone they can't donate to a political campaign just because they're a card-carrying member of a certain group. To me, it doesn't seem sensible to rely on the same argument for gun reform that the KKK used to try and disarm black people during the Reconstruction era and the Jim Crow years.
Not you, per say, but many others have made this exact argument.
To me, it doesn't seem sensible to try and regulate certain weapons when you've repeatedly made ... let's call them mistaken claims about the capabilities of those same weapons or about the actual crime rates or what laws are already on the books.
(We can fuss about details like that some other time, I'm just making a general point.)
To me, it seems sensible to be armed "just in case" something bad happens to you. To me, it seems sensible to treat all weapons as if they're loaded and only use your weapons for defensive purposes as a best practice for staying safe. To me, it seems sensible that a bad guy wouldn't try to harm anyone if he knew he was in the presence of lots of armed people intent to enact justice against him if he did (or at least if he felt it was more likely than not the person he tried to mess with was armed).
People claim they want sensible, common sense gun laws but rarely do they delve into the specifics of what that actually means or whether what they're asking will actually achieve their goals of less violence.
At least if you give specifics, we can test whether or not they work in practice.
I get that you're not doing this just to be mean to others. That you're not doing it to make others less safe. Just the opposite. You care very much about human life and people's safety. That's why you're doing this, because you care. I'm not denying you have good intentions, but the fact of the matter is, it's been proven time and time again that the specific policies you're asking for don't actually make people safe. If anything, they make people less safe. I've written two articles on that already, explaining why.
Again, I know that's not what you intend, but that's the end result.
And guess what? I care about people's lives and safety too, including yours and the lives of the children that you're giving a voice to; and so do the overwhelming majority of gun owners and card-carrying NRA members, even though you might not think so. That's why they own guns, and I'd imagine it's why your husband does too. It's just that, in the heat of the moment, people tend to get emotional. They get defensive. They cling tightly to their side out of fear of one thing or another - what you called their fossilized politics - and so that sense of tribalism kicks in and makes it hard to listen and communicate effectively how we really feel.
That's part of being human, and #ItsOkToBeHuman.
I've done it. I'm sure you've done it. We've all done it at some point. We've both experienced it from people we've interacted with; but the truth is, we're all in agreement on the morality of the issues and on the importance of keeping people - especially children - safe from preventable deaths, because that's ultimately the only sensible position anyone could possibly take.
This then brings me to my next question of who do you mean when you're referring to "the gun lobby," since you already said you don't have a problem with NRA members or citizens or regular lawful gun owners but then mention the NRA giving money to politicians. I would have thought that's what you meant by "the gun lobby," but if that's the case, the NRA's really just the aggregate voice of all those individual people trying to persuade their elected officials to stand for their natural rights against those whom they believe are out to strip them of their inalienable right to keep and carry their own property, and who would force them to give up their ability to protect themselves and live how they see fit.
I know you wouldn't want people doing that to you, right?
Yet, rightly or wrongly, that's how they see you and that's how they feel towards you and people like you who call for gun control. Can you put yourself in their shoes and see that maybe you'd be just as pissed if someone tried to do the same thing to you? Imagine if someone said (or appeared to say) that they were going to take your husband's guns away and make you and your family less safe, less free, as a result. How would you feel?
I'm sure you wouldn't like that at all.
Again, I hear you when you say that's not your intention. But by and large, we already have the sorts of laws you're asking for on the books right now, unless there's a new one you've come up with that I missed. Ultimately, it's just that these laws are either not being enforced or they aren't working the way you'd hoped because they're simply bad laws that need to be done away with in favor of greater liberty.
Either way, adding more on top of them isn't going to fix the problem or make people safer.
Now, if all you're asking is we do a better job of enforcement, you'll get no argument from me or the vast majority of gun owners. But again, I'm not a mind-reader and I don't know if that's what you want, though I know a lot of people are asking for a lot more than just that.
As to the issue of whether it's right for people to come together to advocate for political change as a group and to give large sums of money to political campaigns and try to sway our elected officials to act favorably towards that group's particular interests ... isn't that what you're doing? I'll stop just shy of calling you a hypocrite here because being a hypocrite entails knowingly doing the same thing you're faulting someone else for doing and I suspect that maybe you just never really thought about it in those terms before.
I don't know if you've given money for your particular cause, but at least in terms of organization and persuasion, that's what you're doing.
If you're talking about bribery, that's a wholly different matter. Bribery's definitely a crime and I'd agree with you that should be stopped. But as far as people lobbying for their own particular interests, that's just par for the course.
Now, if you wanna ban all lobbyist groups instead of just making it about "the gun lobby," specifically, I'd be willing to stand with you on that, since that's at least fair and unbiased. Get rid of corporate donations, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Agro, insurance companies, union lobbyists, teacher's union lobbies, banking and Wall Street lobbyists ... all of it, and just have people donate as individuals. I'd be all for that if that's what you wanna do; but whether it's due to the specific narrow context of the situation at hand or the fact that I'm simply wrong about you and you really are only interested in going after gun lobbies and nothing else ... either way, it certainly seems like that's your sole concern, which in turn makes those people double down as they feel like they're being unfairly singled out for standing on their principles and beliefs.
Again, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, so please just help me better understand where you stand on that issue. I'm just highlighting the disconnect between us.
In your video, you said you felt that this relationship between "the gun lobby" and politicians "prevents all of us from being safer." Here again, that sounds like a subjective statement. Some people - certainly a lot of gun owners - would feel safer with an AR-15 and could make the argument that tragic mass shootings could be averted if there were simply more weapons around, since predators would be less inclined to commit crimes if they knew their chances of getting shot for it were nearly 100%.
Some people are even ok letting their children shoot, and train them well enough to be able to, even if you might choose to do otherwise. That's fine. That's what freedom means, as long as no one's willfully endangering anyone or acting with gross negligence.
Whether you think the lobbyist activity is good or not really is an extension of whether you think the particular laws and policies being considered are good or not. Again, I talked about that in my previous articles, so I won't rehash it here. My only point is to try and show you how it's not quite as self-evident as you might think, that their actions are making us all less safe.
Since we're talking about the effects of legislation, this segues into my next question. Do you think that any majority of people has the authority to override a person's natural rights?
This may require a more in-depth lesson on the origins of Natural Law, but to just keep it simple, I think you and I and most everyone can agree that it doesn't matter if 99% of people vote to take away our lives or to throw us in jail or take our stuff without due process that such a policy would be a violation of the very laws and principles that exist to protect us. That that would be an injustice and a bullying tactic and is wholly invalid. The only question is then where do those rights end?
As I said before, I think those rights end when they start to abridge other people's freedoms. Other than that, your rights are unlimited and not so neatly divided along, "this gun is ok, but that one isn't."
If your concern is safety, you can still cause a great deal of harm with a handgun. In fact, most gun crime is carried out with a handgun, or by gang-related activity. In places like the UK, they've completely banned guns and are looking to ban knives too, yet London just recently surpassed New York City in terms of its murder rate.
That's something that shouldn't even happen if gun control actually worked!!
Contrast that with a place like Vermont that has the lowest gun murder rate of any State and some of the lowest of anywhere on Earth, in fact, yet nearly a third of its citizens own guns (which is roughly the national average). Again, that shouldn't happen if gun control actually worked as claimed.
So maybe it's not the guns, but the people holding the guns, and we need to come together to focus on removing the underlying motivations and factors that lead people to commit these crimes in the first place. Things like mental illness, poverty, prejudice, gang-related activity, and the like.
Most die-hard gun owners understand this. Whereas you count yourself among gun owners, I'm sure you understand this too and would agree with it.
So then, to my last question, what happens when people don't go along with these new policies that don't work and are a violation of people's natural rights? When they come to you and say, "I really don't care if 99% of people told me it's for the best, you're not the boss of me. I've not done anything wrong, so you don't get to tell me what to do." What then?
Well, you passed a law, and laws have to be enforced or else they're just suggestions. Opinions without teeth. In the case of government, that means sending men with guns out to first intimidate them into compliance and then to ultimately use violence against them if they refuse to be intimidated.
Given that your ultimate goal here is people's safety, preserving their lives, and a reduction of violence in the world, I kind of feel like that would fly in the face of everything that you stand for, right?
Rather than reduce the amount of preventable violence and bloodshed and tragedy in the world, it would only add to it. Don't get me wrong, there are clearly bad people in this world. People who definitely shouldn't be anywhere within fifty feet of a firearm but slip through cracks that could have been prevented, like that recent shooter who was being monitored by the FBI. Duly convicted criminals, the mentally ill, and children under the age of ... let's say eight for sake of argument, or even eighteen if we're consider them as being wholly without any kind of supervision.
People like that, we can agree, should not have guns; and ultimately, it'd be up to the parents and other legal and medical professionals to decide that on a case-by-case basis.
But anytime you pass a law, you're ultimately declaring a willingness to use violence to produce a certain outcome or affect a particular behavior. That extends to everything up to and including the use of deadly force. You may not consciously intend that, and many people will comply with the law long before it ever reaches that point, but only because they subconsciously know what's coming if they don't; and even then, you'll still have some people that are willing to go to the extreme that have to be put down or our laws mean nothing.
This is why we have to be very careful about what laws we pass, and to limit the government to only enforcing those handful of rules that actually protect our rights, because anything else is unacceptable.
Anything else is actually preventable violence.
When die-hard gun owners say, "Come and take it from my cold dead hands," they really mean it, and it's not because they hate children. It's because they love their own lives, their own liberties, and those of their family and friends whom they'd be protecting. I know you know this and you probably feel that way too. At least, I hope you would.
The question then is, how will you answer them?
Are you willing to take their guns from cold dead hands just like they dared if they refuse? Would other people look at that and say you were justified in doing so, because those were clearly bad people that needed to be stopped, or would they only see you as an aggressor and a bully and a moral busybody for trying something like that? You claim to have no problem with lawful gun owners, yet it'd mostly be lawful gun owners to whom your new rules would apply.
I know you're a good person who abhors violence, but I feel like you maybe haven't thought this through to the end, and what the ultimate consequences are for what it is you're asking.
I'm telling you this, because I've seen it happen before in other countries and throughout history, that what you're asking for is indeed very reasonable ... but it always starts out that way and never actually ends there in the long run. There will always be someone pushing just a little bit more when they realize it didn't quite work the first time. Maybe not you, but certainly the person who comes after you to build upon the foundation that you're laying.
It's a slippery slope that always ends in either genocide or civil war; and in either of those cases, it's not the people holding the guns that will be the losers, but it'll still end in a bloody mess.
No one wants that. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else.
Like I said, I do think you are a kind-hearted and reasonable person and I hope that we can continue this conversation like civilized people. To listen to one another and ask thoughtful questions, to hopefully #HealTheDivide between us. We both would like to see a world with less violence. We agree on the goal, we just have different solutions for reaching it.
Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for reading this and for being so awesome. You will forever be a Charmed One to me. May you find love, happiness, peace, purpose, and will in your life.
~ Marushia Dark