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Tuesday, June 14, 2016
You don’t need me to preface the gun debate in America. If you’re one of the 4 people who reads this blog then you already know what’s happening out there.
I usually don’t weigh in much politically on this blog because I think we are all already inundated with that stuff in our digital lives. So I will try to keep this short.
Numerous times in the past couple of days I have seen people (re)post memes about the meaning of the term “assault rifle”. Usually the jist is, “Hey liberal pinko pansy, let me explain this to you, since you clearing don’t know what you’re talking about.” Essentially the technical difference between an assault rifle and a not-assault rifle is that an assault rifle can fire fully automatic (a lot of bullets come out at once) while a not-assault rifle requires you to pull the trigger for each bullet.
What strikes me about these (re)posts is that the gun guy doesn’t see that such a post hurts his position. In a reasonable conversation the pinko pansey would respond, “Wait, so you’re saying the guy who killed 50 people in Florida didn’t even have an assault rifle?! Well then I take back what I said about assault rifle control, clearly we need more than that.”
But we do not live in reasonable times. For the record, I am in favor of as much reasonable gun control as we can get. However here I deviate from most of my lefty liberal pinko pansy contemporaries: I do not think gun control really is the answer.
Let’s take a look at that NRA chestnut of fortune cookie wisdom: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” (Eddie Izzard has a wonderful rebuttal to this BTW, you should google it.)
I agree, guns - on their own - do not kill people. People do. So let’s talk about that.
Our conversation never gets that far. It never gets anywhere close. That particular conversation is the invisible third rail of American life.
I promised I would try to keep it short, so let me state this as plainly and concisely as possible: The American relationship with guns is a fetish.
It is not about the Second Amendment. It is not about anyone’s rights. It is not about the role of the Federal government in our lives. It is not about Obama. It is not about backwoods rednecks. It is a fetish. Among many Americans there is a desire and need for guns that is wrapped up in it a kind of frenzy of sexual excitement.
This is not an attempt to be analogous. I am saying that many people get off on their guns. The way I feel about whiskey and strippers, some people feel that way about firearms.
When I meet a person (and I have met many of these, I’m from the deeply red Central Valley of California) who owns many pretty guns that serve no legitimate purpose in their lives, in my head I file them in the same file cabinet drawer as furries and those people who get off by rubbing their junk on balloons. This is psycho-sexual just like any other fetish.
Look, I don’t care. In my life I like to play the role of judgey curmudgeon, but really I do not care. I simply do not care what gets people off. As long as it is consensual and nobody gets hurt, then go for it. You let your freak flag fly and you get up on that vaseline covered balloon. Good for you.
But here’s the thing: people are getting hurt. A lot of them.
I think the dudes in Texas and Arizona who feel the need to walk into Taco Bell with rifles strapped across their chests, those guys are basically like public flashers. Like the dude in the trench coat flashing kids in the park. They aren’t doing it because they give two shits about anyone’s rights. They’re doing it because in an exactly Freudian way it allows them to waive their dicks in everyone’s faces and cloak it in patriotism. It is a power thing and a sex thing and it is a kind of bullying we would not tolerate in any other quarter of life.
Your conceal-carry guys aren’t much better. This is a power thing too, but it is linked to a fantasy of gunning down a “bad guy” in the Costco. Their satisfaction is derived specifically from the fact that no one knows they’re carrying. In some cases I think this is linked to the John Wayne/Dirty Harry version of masculinity that an entire generation of American men was raised on. Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, that kind of thing. Movies and TV that BTW, were written, produced, and green-lit largely by a generation of American Jews still subliminally working through the horrors of the Holocaust; a David and Goliath persecution narrative that has been co-opted by the cisgender, straight, white, American, Middle Class male, arguably the most privileged class of human ever to have walked the earth (Full disclosure: I’m one).
In other cases the conceal-carry thing is even more insidious. Possessing hidden power can be wildly erotic. Knowing something others don’t. Looking around the crowd of people in Costco and thinking, “I could kill every fucking one of you” makes some people - I believe - feel like Jason Bourne. These guys, I think, are a lot like the dudes who periodically get caught covertly shooting up-skirt videos on the escalator at your local mall.
There is a version of the gun debate that could and should be reasonable. That, however, is not the debate we choose to have. We avoid that conversation because we would have to acknowledge that America is a country that gets off on guns.
But people are getting hurt. A lot of them.
The American gun fetish has now reached and exceeded child-molesting-Catholic-priest levels.
So what do we do?
We will not pass new gun control legislation. Not because people don’t want it. Every poll you look at tells you Americans want it. Every poll you look at tells you that most NRA members want it. But real gun control requires laws and those won’t get passed. The NRA is a lobbying group bigger and more powerful than any other in the US aside from perhaps oil. The NRA does not work in the service of its members. The NRA would be just fine without your piddly ass membership fees. The NRA makes its money from the firearms manufactures and their sales skyrocket every time there is a mass shooting. I’m not getting conspiratorial on you or suggesting that those manufacturers are nefarious. I’m just saying that they make more money when people buy more guns and people buy more guns after a mass shooting. Mass shootings are good for the gun industry. That is just math.
And the NRA has enough money to bully lawmakers into doing nothing, so nothing gets done.
See how frustrating this gets? See how not-simple it is?
So what do we do?
We have to change the conversation.
We have to acknowledge that this is not simple. So stop posting memes.
We have to acknowledge that the American identity is a violent one. Finland has some great gun control laws, but they also don’t have our history.
We need to reframe the way we talk about this and think about this. Rightly or wrongly, some of your fellow citizens derive a portion of their identity from their ownership of guns. A lot of them get off on their guns. And they don’t even understand that that is why they want to own guns. Let’s accept that and reframe our discussion accordingly. If you’re one of those people BTW, then look yourself in the mirror and ask why your guns are so important to you. Actually do that, I’m not being hyperbolic. If you’re honest with yourself, I think it will change your life.
This is not about politics. It is not about laws. It is not about rights.
We are never going to get anywhere because we are not having the right discussion. And here’s the thing, none of us want to be. You know why our politics are divisive? Because we want them that way. You know why our government isn’t working? Because we want it that way. We are all so willing to burn the fucking building down that when school children are murdered, our nation collectively sighs, “We don’t actually care.”
We need to change the way we talk to each other. We need to change the way we treat each other. We need to stop acting like people who disagree with us are idiots, even - and this is the important part - if we do actually think they are idiots. Being an idiot does not mean they are being disingenuous about what they believe. Every idiot you have ever met gets just as many votes on election day as you do, so maybe we have to learn to tolerate each other.
I’m sorry that these are not simple solutions.
I’m sorry that this point of view is not meme-able.
But I think that this is actually a way forward. I think that this is a prescription for progress. I think that we can make useful change this way. But it is a long game and it requires that we all actually give a shit about this as much as we pretend to.
I am hopeful, but I am not optimistic.
Monday, June 13, 2016
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