Newtown: Guns Don’t Kill People

Statue of Minute Man John Parker in Lexington, Massachusetts

Statue of Minute Man John Parker in Lexington, Massachusetts

People do.

I started this post about a monthtwo months ago, when emotions were fresh and bitter. But I didn’t want to commit to what I wanted to write. My own words made me angry, and I don’t like being angry. Two months on, emotions are still fresh and just as bitter.

Guns don’t kill people. People do.

The people who colonized the United States of America saw themselves as people under siege. Many had been persecuted for their religious beliefs in their country of origin. They were living in a harsh land surrounded by hostile savages. And while they were subjects of a (somewhat) democratic country, they had no parliamentary representation. All these perceptions helped to create a siege mentality, which, even after a successful revolution against the “oppressors”, has persisted.

Today, it permeates popular entertainment and right-wing political discourse: our country was not given to us, it was hard-won, and we must defend it. Our enemies lie in wait all around, looking for signs of weakness, looking for a chance to take from us what’s rightfully ours. They’re jealous of our freedom and will destroy us if they get the opportunity.

When you’re under siege, it’s important to not appear weak, lest your enemies decide to test your defenses. Like many animals, who, when cornered, will puff themselves up to appear larger, more formidable an opponent to the predator, if you’re an embattled regime, having more, bigger and better guns will make you appear more intimidating to your foes. This strategy seemed to make sense during the period after the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the early days of the Cold War. Eventually, it became clear that it was a strategy of diminishing returns.

Still, from a position of weakness, guns might appear to be an equalizer, and they can be. But if more guns is your solution to the problem of mass murder by guns, then you don’t have a solution.

True, guns didn’t cause the violence. But they were the enabler. And the amplifier. Let’s not kid ourselves; the angel-making capacity of the .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle is far greater than the knife, the baseball bat, the bare hand, or whatever other weapon the average “bad guy” has at his disposal.

But I’m glad we have guns. Because when the mob is reaching for its torches and pitchforks, coming for my children because they want to blame autism or mental illness or whatever it is that makes us different from them, for the deaths of their little angels, I’ll protect my angels. You people will always have more sympathy for the pretty ones, the popular ones, than the sad, lonely losers. So be it. I’ll be waiting for you. With a couple pitbulls too. Maim your ugly, neurotypical NIMBY faces when you show up at my castle.

America is a wounded animal, frantically biting its own wounds.

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Anti-Western Protests in the Middle East: What Does It Mean?

Of all the news programming on TV, I like BBC World the best. They have without a doubt the most attractive selection of news presenters in the world (here, here, here, here, I can go all day). It may be one of the reasons why I think, for all the criticism of imperialism (and we must decry the tyranny of imperialism in all its forms), the English, as a group, in our age, have one of the broadest world perspectives and therefore the most entitled to comment on it. For all the socio-political-economic challenges brought by the resulting migration of peoples, I’m ever so thankful for the ethnic diversity. 

Anyway, my enjoyment of the newscasters has been marred by coverage of current events in the Middle East. And like any good American, my knee-jerk reaction was KILL THEM ALL.

I felt immediate disgust at myself. Not because my reaction was a contradiction of my liberal values. Rather, I felt I’d been manipulated. And I really hate that. The question is, by who? The media? Mmm–nah, that’s a (typically liberal) cop-out. Generally, I view all sources of information with mistrust, including my own empirical evidence (my world is a scary place, indeed). Was it that little shithead, lizard brain, reacting to some perceived threat to my survival? Yes, quite possibly, but being somewhat comfortable middle-class, somewhat educated, living in a Western society, I like to think we’re far enough removed from physical dangers that I’m able to shut down that crap quickly enough. I’m still working through this. To be continued…

But moving past that, and ignoring the motivations and actions of the master manipulators and bit players with agendas (and they are there too), I’ve wanted to try to understand the motivations of the “common people” who are now in the streets across the Middle East, protesting for… something. I feel like this is an even bigger minefield, fraught with so many potential bias judgements. It’s so easy to start talking shit. I do that quite well. But there is more at play than a First World mind can readily understand, even one who witnesses this first-hand on the ground. And maybe this is because we have cleverly learned to shut off that lizard brain.

Issues of poverty, fear, powerlessness, frustration, all coming in to play that are truly beyond our realm of experience, and consequently, I think, beyond our true comprehension.

We have never lived under threat of death by bombing, no matter how many bloody corpses and wailing mothers we see on television (though we got a taste of that on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center in New York was reduced to rubble). We cannot truly conceive what it feels like to be dying because we cannot put something in our mouths to nourish us, no matter how many earnest actors we see holding fly-covered children in their arms. We’re spectators of great dramas, the fourth wall. But for millions of other people in the world, these dramas are their realities.

I need to write about this. It’s important. Not because I can solve it. Not the world problem. Not even my own feelings. I cannot solve any of that. There is no solving here. It’s painful. I just need to feel it right now.