Sunday, June 21, 2015
The Fear and Hate Runs Deep
Most everyone has probably seen some version of the family stick figure decals adoring the back windows of SUVs and minivans. They are usually themed with the stick figures representing the parents and kids expressing their enjoyment of some family-centered activities or interests. I've seen many with the family wearing mouse ears or holding fishing poles. A couple of years ago though I saw one that quite frankly made my blood run a little cold.
These family stick figure decals, complete with dad, mom, and several offspring were represented by various models of military-grade weapons. The “dad” was represented by some heavy assault weapon I don't remember, while the “mom” was displayed as a M-16/AR-15 variant. The three children had sub-machine models all standing in for them. And yes, there are semiautomatic versions of those compact weapons that are readily sold to civilians with the makers claiming they are fantastic for home defense.
The fact that the vehicle they were adoring also sported several pro-gun rights bumper stickers all more or less saying cold and lifeless hands would be the prerequisite before anyone took their precious weapons was the typical passive-aggressive threat you could expect with such people. After seeing such absolute gun-nut sentiment my first thought was that I'd hate to be their neighbor. My second thought was that for a bunch of years, all long past now, I wallowed in a similar insanity going as far as to own an assault weapon myself.
Frankly, when I think back to those years I am embarrassed. While I never sold my soul to the idea that a weapon made me a better, more powerful person no one should mess with, I bought the insane notion that all decent people needed something to protect themselves from a world filled with bad people. What turned me away from the Dark Side was getting heavily into scuba diving, and me wanting my own equipment. Much to the chagrin of my family, I have always nursed liberal and science-centered tendencies and scuba diving brought both of them out.
For years afterward I held a laissez-faire attitude about weapons, I didn't really care if a person was massively into any type of weapons as long as they didn't bother me with their obsession. Then the shootings at Sandy Hill Elementary occurred, when I saw the pictures of those small children and thought about the fear they must have endured something inside me broke. I still own a semiautomatic pistol and small caliber rifle fit only for rabbit hunting but both are stored away and have literally not seen the light of day in years. I guess I should sell the things but after all the deaths of innocent people in this country over the last few years both those weapons remind me too much of how I flirted with a fatalistic obsession over largely imaginary boogeymen.
That is what now turns my stomach when I hear some talk-head on television touting the benefits of “gun rights” and how we would all be safe if more “good guys” had weapons. It just never seems to turn out that way, sure if you dig deep enough you'll find an instance where some civilian with a gun gets the drop on a bad guy, but they are overwhelmed with examples of evil and crazy people rushing into a public place and committing mass murder.
For the sake of staying on point I will not even begin to get into the unanswered question how barely trained civilians are supposed to readily identify the evil individual shooting up a public place, like the theater in Aurora, Colorado when several others draw their weapons in an attempt to save the day. Long story short, I see an almost exponential increase in deaths as wannabe Clint Eastwoods all pull out their favorite concealed weapons and shoot each other during the chaos.
One of the many issues with American gun culture is how it was largely owned and operated by racists who while couching their words carefully always come back to the belief that the boogeyman there are terrified might hurt them is either African-American or Hispanic. Right-wing pundits like the dinosaur Pat Buchanan and the truly bizarre Ann Coulter write entire books about how America is turning into a third-world country and how true Americans are going to be overwhelmed by a flood of illiterate savages out to rape their women. This forces the common rank and file right-winger—never a deep thinker to begin with—to believe that his, or her only recourse is to heavily arm themselves.
I's amazing really in a sick an twisted way. Here in the United States several industries make their money stroking the fears of people who often spend more time deeply discussing the implications of some washed up athlete gender transition than trying to understand why the country is literally falling apart. Action movies portray wise cracking guys—usually white--solving all sorts of problems with mean looking assault weapons. Gun makers employ teams of advertisement agencies looking for the best way to market their products to men, women, and even children emphasizing to all that their lives are always in danger. Of course you can't forget the right-wing propaganda media whose only purpose in existence is the Orwellian pursuit to create enemies and engineer justification for more conflicts for the unwashed masses. Where all this sleaze exists, politicians follow always eager to give their voters what the want, quick sound bites that will allow them to return to their tidy consumer driven lives. Sorry folks, I quit blaming politicians a long time ago, they are just reflections of the people that allow them to hold office.
All this insanity creates a bizarre paradox here in the land of the free and home of the brave. All these fears tie the United State to a past that is largely fictitious. The Second Amendment was never meant for a time where jet fighters armed with cluster bombs and attack helicopters with 20mm cannons patrol the skies. Assault weapons are designed to shred human bodies so a gravely wounded soldier would require one or two others to treat his injuries, pulling them away from combat. High capacity semiautomatics were designed for police work, a civilian home owner possessing such a weapon speaks more of a lingering paranoia of darker, more sinister forces than just the desire to deny a criminal entry.
All this leads up to the terrorist Dylann Roof who last Wednesday night entered the Emmanuel AME church and kill nine worshipers simply because they were African-American. No society can long withstand the malignant forces of hate and fear, especially when the worship of weapons makes up the backbone of the culture. Make no mistake, the only thing Americans worship more than money and their cars are guns but while the first two are bad in their own way only the last one is designed to kill.
Throw in racism, America's lingering psychosis, and you pretty much have our current society. Gun owners, who even now fret over losing their true loves, shouldn't worry, the usual suspects are all lining up to defend the God given right allowing people to possess small arsenals—as long as its the right type of people. Being slightly tongue-in-cheek I have this half-assed idea that the only way gun control legislation would stand a chance in this country is for media outlets to show African-Americans buying the same military-grade weapons as the family I first mentioned who seemed to base their existence on car window assault weapon decals.
Here is a fantastic article that nails the situation here in America:
This is obviously a catastrophe for Americans, and not only because of the damage guns and racism inflict both separately and when they collide, as they did so devastatingly in Charleston. It also feeds a corrosive cynicism. Americans are already skeptical of their democracy, which can seem more like a dynastic plutocracy, a perennial battle of the House of Bush against the House of Clinton, bankrolled by unseen corporate giants. But when they see a US president apparently impotent in the face of the gun menace, what are they meant to think of their own power to change things for the better?
Americans like to tell themselves anything is possible, that their destiny is in their own hands. Politicians describe the country as “this great experiment in self-government”, insisting they can make America anew if they want to. Yet the persistence of arms and racism and armed racism suggests that the people are, in important ways, powerless: a nation still ruled by its ancestors; a nation that has forgotten the wisdom of one of its greatest revolutionaries, Thomas Paine, who understood that “government is for the living, and not for the dead; it is the living only that has any right in it”.
All this matters beyond America too. US influence in the world does not rest solely on its wealth and military might. It also requires America to be admired. As Bill Clinton said five years after the Iraq invasion: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.”