The Vegas Shooting: a loose thread in the Gordian Knot


I awakened almost a year ago with insight about a solution to the race problem, a five-step solution I’ve discussed many times since then:

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person (leading to  the notion of “Num”, that there is one soul looking out through many eyes)
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your tribe.  Don’t engage with sleepers or snakes. Be strong enough to fight monsters.
  5. Win with integrity and compassion.


I’ve also discussed The Hero’s Journey,  Musashi (especially “Do not think dishonestly”), Sun Tzu, and the notion that anger is fear…and where these ideas go.   I’ve explored these, expanded them, given endless examples. And applied them to other arenas like gender, sexual orientation, and politics.  But I’ve never tried to apply them to the gun issue. Because, frankly, I’m pretty ignorant about the subject.   Had to wait for an inspiration. And this morning I awakened with one.




For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other’s assistance just as the left hand helps the right.“–Sun Tzu, “The Nine Situations” chapter 11



What is more important?  For you to win, or for your opponent to lose?    I hope you realize that if you focus on your opponent “losing” you can lose too, like the scorpion that stings the frog.

Focus on winning.  And if possible, if at ALL possible, help your opponent to win as well.  But the trick is: each of you may need to shift your definition of “winning”, go deeper than the surface issues, to do so.


On a basic level, you can start with the assumption of equality.     I fight for it, whether the subject is race, gender, or politics.  I will slowly, gradually, at great cost, be hauled away from that position.  Get attacked from both sides, which is fine by me.

I see many who start from the assumption of INEQUALITY. They too can be moved away from that position…but painfully, gradually, at great cost…and they snap back to those earlier assumptions first chance they get.  And yes, oppressed peoples (or those who consider themselves oppressed) are just as likely to consider themselves superior as oppressors, make no mistake.  Black people about white people, women about men, gay about straight, atheists about the religious.

It’s human stuff. Miss this, get politicized, and you might not notice when your allies slowly turn on you, until they manipulate you into a “heads I win tails you lose” situation, using fear or guilt to disarm and control.  Its fascinating to watch, really.

What’s even more fun is when they think I don’t notice.

To focus on the common ground is a tactic of phenomenal import, EXPECIALLY if you are deadlocked.  If one side is stronger than the other, there is the potential to simply strike and crush.    But if not?  Time to think differently.  Maybe not judo, which, while gentle, is still about “I win, you lose.”  Maybe Aikido, which asks us to find common ground.  We can both win.  If I must hurt you, we both lose.

You lose with broken bones of course.  Ahem.  But my spirit has been damaged because Num.



The Las Vegas shooting is a perfect example of a situation of common peril.  A stormy sea which endangers both “armies”.  If they can step back from their hatred and fear and selfishness and tribalism, they can grasp the core of the problem, and find common ground.

There are a few things about the Gun Control debate that I think all sane people can admit if they will take a deep breath.  I don’t think any of these points require much more than assuming shared humanity, and a little logic. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say “Right” as “second amendment advocates”, and “Left” as “gun control advocates” without any pejoratives attached to either. Can we do that?

(BTW:   sorry, but I’m not calling this man a “terrorist”.   I think there has been a corruption of language.  A terrorist in my mind isn’t someone who inspires terror or causes violence.  It is a person who USES violence to cause terror with the intent of manipulating the minds, emotions, and actions of a population thereby. You can also cause mass death as a saboteur: a simple urge to damage the infrastructure of your opponent.  OR: you might simply wish to create a tableau,  and have no real caring about how your victims FEEL  about it. The victims aren’t human. Have no “inwardness”  They are just material to paint your canvas.  Of course, you may also simply enjoy killing, for the sheer pleasure.  Many of these seem to have increased joy if their victims are afraid.  But without a political will to leverage that fear to create some larger effect…not “terrorism.”

Such people are more dangerous than “terrorists” by the way.  They have stepped away from their humanity.   Be very, very careful. They have embraced their monstrosity.

Yeah, I’ve heard that the CIA changed the definitions. But if you don’t think intelligence agencies manipulate language to control populations, you might want to pay closer attention.

Anyway, as Rod Serling used to say, “Submitted for your approval”:


  1. Both Left and Right believe their position enhances chances of survival. For different reasons, yes.  But they do. You don’t have to agree with them, but you’d better believe they aren’t just engaging in political theater.
  2. The event in Vegas is a nightmare to both sides.  The Left because it is a primary nightmare of a killing machine leveraging the power of modern firearms and efficient tactics to slaughter the innocent.
  3. The Right because the “a bad man with a gun can only be stopped by a good man with a gun” idea about armed citizens simply doesn’t work in this situation. He had high ground, a massed group that could be devastated by unaimed fire, and a distance that negated hand-guns. Bim, bam, boom.   Horror show.     If the crowd had been armed with automatic rifles it wouldn’t have helped much, let alone handguns. Imagine hundreds of terrified people “returning fire” against a hotel wall of hundreds of rooms.  The death toll would have doubled.   And let’s not forget an unfortunately politicized reality…the identification.  Its not unreasonable to think Country Western fans skew more Right.  And if you are Right, you are more likely to see yourself, your neighbors, your children there than some other sorts of concerts.  You know perfectly well what I mean, and don’t pretend you don’t.  When the affected group is like you, it is Harder to “other.”  YOU could have been in that group.  Easily.  Helpless.
  4.  This is, in other words, a nuclear event, where the “the answer is an armed population” doesn’t work IN THIS INSTANCE for anyone sane. But that doesn’t mean that a person who admits that is interested in “giving up their guns.”
  5. Don’t be dishonest and say “no one wants to take your guns.”  Bullshit.  “No one”?  Are you kidding? All you have to do is scan FB feeds, and you’ll see people who are in favor of total gun confiscation.   THAT is the truth. Now…”there is no major political movement to take all guns” is probably true.    THAT can be defended and discussed. For God’s sake don’t pretent that there isn’t a difference.  If you lie, you lose the right to expect your opponent to tell the truth.
  6. And here is where the opening is.   Those willing to speak the truth, on Left or Right, who are willing to see the common humanity (“we both want to live. We both love our children”) who are willing to look into their own hearts (“we are both angry, because we are both afraid”) have the chance to put down their rhetorical weapons and look at the shared reality:
  7. BOTH WANT TO STOP MASS MURDERS.    And the safeguards currently in place, whether seen as “gun regulation” or “gun availability” both failed. In THIS instance, it is not, I believe, unreasonable to say that more guns in the hands of “good guys”  wouldn’t have helped a damned bit.  But if you don’t grasp that the “opposite side”  is listening and reading your threads, just as YOU are reading their threads and listening to THEIR threads, and they KNOW what some of your people are thinking…then lying about it is not only dishonest, it destroys the slender thread of trust that can lead to the future we want.
  8. What do we all want?  Happiness.  To have that, we all need some combination of security and freedom.  We ALL want our children to grow up and live happy lives.    Imagine a world with far more happiness, say two generations from now.   It is the result of decisions and actions taken by our children.  We don’t need to know what they are, as long as it leads to that Happiness, that balance of security and freedom.    Take your mind, for just a moment, off the fixed picture you have of what that balance might be. Or the need to be so egotistical that if YOU can’t think of an answer, or an answer hasn’t been found in your lifetime, there IS no answer.  Multi-generational problems can require multi-generational solutions.     Let our children work that out, if that’s what it takes.
  1. What WE can do is stop lying. Stop acting as if the people on the other side are our enemies. Why?  BECAUSE IT HASN’T WORKED.   Simple.  It.  Hasn’t. Worked.  Because it was based on politics (“How can we win?”) as opposed to philosophy (“what is true?”)  Stray from the path of truth, just one foot, and you lose the right to complain that your efforts don’t work.   If you decide to run east, you give up your right to see a sunset.   The truth is that you DO have extremists on each side who exemplify what the other side fears the most.  IF you’re one of ’em, you may be a good person. You may even be “right.”  But if you lie about it, I submit that I do not trust you, or anyone who lies about the fact that you are there.    The truth is that both sides think their approach leads to greater safety.  The truth is that we have a clear example of ONE SITUATION in which the theories on the Right don’t work.  One situation. Try to generalize from that and you had better qualify your words, and be VERY careful not to make “universal” statements which are great politically (your “side” will love that) but lead right back into gridlock.  Want more gridlock?   Just keep that shit up.
  2. So here is the answer:
    1. TELL THE TRUTH.   There are extremists on each side.  Admit it.  People who would take all guns. People who think they have the right to own a Nuke.    Yes, there really are.
    2. FIND COMMON GROUND.  What are the things we all can agree on?  We all want to live, and for our children to live.  Each side is afraid of the other’s approach, each interprets the same document to support their own position. 
    3. GET OUT OF YOUR EGO.  Because YOU don’t see the answer doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer.  It means that we may be too time-bound, culture-bound, politic-bound, history-bound and ego-bound to see it. Or simply not smart enough.  No one person, time, or culture has all the answers.  If this is the “Dark Night of the Soul” then the way through is the “Leap of Faith.” ONLY those with faith in themselves, their fellow citizens or a larger, greater pattern will guide us through.  The rest will fall back in an endlessly repeated, exhausting, and defeating “Road of Trials.”
    4. START WITH THE PIECE WE CAN SOLVE.  Find the loose thread in the Gordion Knot. Unravel as much as we can see, and trust tomorrow, and the next generation if necessary. That loose thread is: we are both afraid, we have common interests.
    1. Love yourself enough to agree that you’d rather live and be happy than be “right” according to yesterday’s definitions.  Get out of your ego.
    2. Love another human being enough to imagine horror happening to your child, your spouse, your brothers and sisters.    Now ask if counting coup on your “opponents” is worth the blood of those you love.
    3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.   Also, grasp the Long View.  Human beings have resolved countless apparently insoluable problems.  Sometimes, often, usually, not within a single human lifetime.   Get over yourself. Your miserable little lifespan ain’t all that important.  Don’t sacrifice the future because you want it to happen NOW, immediately, before you take the dirt nap.   Maybe it can happen fast…but if so, those who facilitate that will be the ones who can see beyond their @#$$ ego-need to be “right.”
    4. Support your tribe.  In THIS instance, your “Tribe” is people who want that healthier, happier future, and is willing to focus on the future (happiness, security, freedom) rather than some particular opinion about the tools and strategies that can get us there.  People willing to speak the truth:  “I am afraid.  I want to live, and for my children to live.”   “On both sides there are extremists.  Because I tilt more toward them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and I won’t lie about it any longer.”   “I can admit that the other side has valid concerns” and “it is possible for intelligent people of good will to interpret a 200 year old document differently” and “we must find a way to live together, and build a world that works for our children.”  People willing to come from love, and see their own soul looking out from the eyes of those they disagree with.
    5. Win.  With integrity and compassion.  Winning is reaching that future of greater happiness, freedom, and security.  I feel safe in saying that NEITHER OF US IS SMART ENOUGH TO DESCRIBE THE FULL PATH TO THAT FUTURE. But I believe I’ve detected the first step.  Just the first.  And if you take one step, you’ll see a little more clearly. And ONLY those who can take that step will mark the path that enables someone stronger, smarter, more honest to take two more. So that someone else can take three steps further. Musashi’s Thousand Mile Road.
  1. This won’t happen fast, because I don’t believe many people can do as I suggest. But just for a moment, imagine a world in which people could do as I’m suggesting.  Don’t you think they could, brainstorming among millions, find an answer?   Do you really think this is the worst problem humanity has faced?  If so, you never took Step #3.
  2. And what are the immediate advanages?  A decrease in the net amount of fear and anger in our culture. Which diminishes the amount of cause-based violence, and increases communication.  Which leads to brainstorming, which leads to answers undreamed of.   The “Tribe” of people willing to communicate honestly gets to grow.   I think they will make good neighbors for each other, even if they disagree.


That’s my answer.  The first step.   Meet each other with love, and honesty. Don’t give each other reason to INCREASE their fear or shame or guilt or anger.  That causes them to shut down.  You may feel better, but you have accomplished NOTHING.  But man, have you ever been “virtue signaling” to your side of the aisle.  “Showed ’em good!!”  Yeah.  Real good.


Those who lie, or scream, or cannot see the common humanity CANNOT be part of the discussion.  Let them sleep, or slither away. The monsters are crouching in hotel rooms, grinning down on the crowd.


Steven Barnes


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