Friday, April 11, 2008

Guns good for China?

This week we were doing mock press conferences in English class, where students would be assigned controversial industries to defend and would have to be spokespeople for that industry while their classmates, the "reporters," would merciless grill them on this or that detrimental element of their industry. The classes are a riot to see students get fired up about issues they've never considered before and it's fun to watch the spokespeople squirm and manufacture the craziest answers to uncomfortable questions.

Since the details of a press conference weren't too clear to most of them, I volunteered myself to be an example of a spokesperson and I would take questions from the "reporters." I assumed the role as a gun lobbyist in China to persuade the government to allow the unrestricted manufacture and distribution of guns in China. At first the students were all over me- "Won't the crime rate increase?" "What about children who find their parent's gun and accidentally shoot their playmate?" "Won't China become more dangerous?"

Now having lived in America most of my life, the gun issue is nothing new and I know all the pre-packaged soundbites- "We encourage our customers to keep their guns unloaded and in a safe place in the house." "If the children are old enough to know how to use a gun, they are old enough to learn that they aren't toys." "If only criminals have guns, then yes, China will become more dangerous. But we plan to make our guns available to everyone. If the thief knows that someone in the house may have a gun, he will hesitate to rob that house. If everyone has a gun, everyone can protect themselves, so the criminals will think twice before attacking someone." The old J. Caesar approach- if you want peace, prepare for war.

And you know what? I inadvertently persuaded many of them. By the end of our press conference, they were nodding in agreement as I countered their classmates' arguments. I'm not anti-gun but my family doesn't own guns and I would rather nobody have guns than everybody have guns. I just never knew how convincing these canned answers can really be.

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