Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

Who Lives By The Sword

March 22nd, 2019

Since New Zealand responded to the recent white supremacist atrocity against Moslems at prayer in Christchurch by quickly moving to ban the types of weapons used in the attack, the American media has been scratching its head and making clucking noises regarding the unavoidable question, why can’t our political classes seem to muster a similar sense of urgency about protecting their constituents from mass murder?  One hears about the power of the NRA, “our”  (every time a pundit employs that pronoun, one can be sure bullshit is about to follow) “gun culture,” and the Second Amendment as construed by “Justice” Scalia (R, Asshole).  What never gets mentioned is this country’s history of toxic race relations.  This omission is particularly strange in light of the geographic distribution of resistance to gun control in the U.S.  The states most strongly opposed to gun regulation are those of the former Confederacy and of the Mountain West, the very places most recently and enduringly polluted with that toxicity.

It seems to have been forgotten that until 1863 slavery was legal here, and that the ultimate reason and purpose of the Civil War was to abolish this abominable practice.  Whites in the slave-owning territories lived in constant terror of slave revolts, and reserved to themselves a monopoly on violence and on the means of violence, which they used with unremitting brutality to suppress even the vaguest hints of rebellion.  After the brief Reconstruction period that followed the Civil War, during which there was some attempt to treat freed blacks with decency, white supremacists once again took control in the South, oppressing blacks in every way they could devise, including horrendous terrorism and casual, daily violence.  As formerly in slave-owning times, whites enforced their dominance with firepower.  The overall oppression was so severe that for the first half of the twentieth century blacks fled the South in droves, seeking a tolerable life.  It was called the Great Migration.  (One might suggest a parallel in what is producing the so-called “crisis at the border” today, but that is a subject for another time.) What they left behind was a society permeated with racially based fear, in which whites used firearms as a means of social control against the black underclass.  The undercurrents of racial separation, fear, and reliance on a gun as a sort of social-psychological comfort blanket, continue today.

The non-coastal Western states suffer from a lingering frontier mentality, which includes recent history of genocidal, exploitative interaction with Native American tribes. Whenever someone speaks of gun ownership in terms of self defense, I hear, in addition to the slave-owner terrified his chattel will rise up against him, the voice of an early white settler in Montana or Iowa, alone with his kin, nearest neighbor perhaps miles away, feeling a real or imagined threat from outraged indigenous people.  The Indian Wars started in the East in 1622 and continued right up until the 1890s, moving westwards all the time.  In historical terms, a hundred twenty years is not that long ago.  Reflexive attitudes, such as finding comfort in firearms, die slowly, particularly when the origins and reasons for them are largely unacknowledged and unexamined.

White people, long the majority, whose dominance over other groups was obtained and buttressed with bullets, today are a declining demographic in the United States. In a few more decades, if present trends continue, they will be only a plurality.  Meanwhile, unless they can adjust healthily to their lessening dominance and find a way to feel secure among demographic groups many of them traditionally have hated and suppressed, who they have some reason to fear may feel reciprocally, many whites will feel increasingly embattled and despairing.  We see signs of this already in slightly declining white life expectancy and elevated rates of addiction and suicide.  A healthy adjustment is perhaps in doubt. Assuming the worst, they will not be inclined to accept restrictions on the weapons they traditionally have leaned on for social control and individual security. Resistance to gun control in America will relax only as the collective political power of white people ebbs, and as white people learn to get over themselves and live in peace among the people surrounding them.  I hope the latter occurs long before the former reaches its nadir.

land of chickenshits

April 18th, 2013

Some thoughts on the U.S. Senate’s failure to do anything about gun violence today, in the face of a filibuster.  The following came tumbling out of me in a comment on  Facebook, and I thought it worth repeating here:

As any thinking and feeling person must be, I am appalled by the intellectually threadbare, morally barren, opportunistically craven attitudes that give the gun lobby its political ascendancy. I’m not convinced that the gun control measures currently under discussion will actually do much to provide relief from gun violence, but if they could save even one life, they would be worth it. Against that, however, is counterbalanced the vast fearfulness that has made a lie of the claim of this country to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” for longer than such a claim has been made. Fear of god, fear of indians, fear of black people, fear of brown people, fear of yellow people, fear of white people, fear of irish, fear of germans, fear of jews, fear of catholics, fear of communists, fear of working people, fear of government, fear of women, fear of men, fear of children, fear of adolescents, fear of illlness, fear of death, fear ultimately and most deeply of each other, whoever we are. Fear of losing their guns, which for so many of our fellow citizens are the fetish items that they use to hold these other fears at bay. We’ll know this is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave when that changes. It doesn’t really have all that much to do with filibusters.

Small Bore

April 14th, 2013

Last night I had one of those odd encounters that makes one question the place of reason in human affairs.  I was having dinner at our area’s sole Korean restaurant.  It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad, particularly if you avoid the Chinese items on the menu, which seem to be there mainly to provide something for those who think they like asian food but whose nerve fails them at the last moment as they venture upon this new ground.  At the table next to mine sat a man in his late sixties, with flowing grey hair, an impressive grey moustache, taupe dress slacks and a brown pendleton-style shirt, and a woman who was probably his wife.  I won’t describe her, because that is the best way to convey her passive demeanor as he held forth on a variety of subjects.  Judging by their dress, they were middle or upper middle class.  Judging by his vocabulary and manner of speech, he was a college educated, possibly retired professional of some sort.  In the small, quiet dining room, I couldn’t help overhearing his discourse and her occasional brief murmurs of assent to whatever he was saying.  So… dinner theatre, or background noise.  You choose.

At some point he caught my attention with a somewhat emphatic reference to “tree huggers,” and then he veered off to the topic of gun control.  He informed his wife that some people advocate protecting schools by placing armed guards in them with automatic weapons, paused as if thoughtfully, then said, “I agree.”  Pause.  “After all, how do we protect the president?  Wherever he goes, there’s a group of guys around him with guns.”  This last in the tone of voice one uses when delivering the clincher, slam-dunk, unanswerable argument.  Having done so, he moved on to his General Tso’s chicken, leaving me to swallow my unspoken rejoinders along with my haemool jigae.

Okay, so this is a guy with sufficient intellectual capacity to wield a fork, if not chopsticks, and to speak in reasonably grammatical, complete sentences.  On this basis alone, he should be capable of discerning without much more than an instant’s reflection the different situations of the President of the United States, target of the well organized and deadly animosity of a substantial portion of humankind, and on the other hand a bunch of, say, South Burlington first graders; he should be aware of the distinction between the highly trained, carefully selected, elite security professionals and the massive backup operation that supports them in safeguarding POTUS, on the one hand, and the type of schmo that is likely to end up patrolling the halls of George Washington Carver Elementary School in East Flea, Alabama, semi-automatic stuck in his waistband, on the other.  Not to mention that if even the Secret Service is subject to such occasional lapses as drunken whore-mongering, how much confidence can we safely repose in our bored pinkerton in East Flea?  Not to mention that mass shootings have taken places in schools with armed guards, and on army bases, yada yada yada.  Yet here is this man, in an unbuttoned moment, sharing his intimate convictions on the subject with his lifemate and captive audience, and his intimate convictions spring from a complete obliviousness to the real world.

How do you get through to these people?