Can We Talk About Guns? Can We Talk About Anything?

It’s not time to talk about gun regulation when people use guns to kill for fun, politics or revenge. It’s not time to talk about human contributions to climate change when hurricanes sustain category five winds for 36 hours or dump five feet of rain in a few days. It’s not time to talk about health care when GOP politicians are rushing a vote on damaging legislation through secret meetings. It’s not time to talk about the antiquated electoral college despite two of the last five popular vote count winners losing the election. It’s not time to talk about Russia interfering with our election because Trump said there was no collusion. It’s not time to talk with North Korea because we’re not willing to offer anything. It’s not time to talk about obesity because few will listen to a Black first lady telling them to eat their vegetables. It’s not time to talk about certain infrastructure being years past prime and needing major renovations because ‘The Wall’ needs to get built to keep out those shifty Mexicans. It’s not time to talk about university tuition indebting generations, opioid epidemics started from profiteering pharma, police and minority relations continuing to strain communities, poisoned drinking water or the incessant pollution from fossil fuels.

It’s not time to talk about anything because no one is listening! If you are a Hillary voter, could someone convince you that Trump is a good leader because he’s saying honest things that no other politician is willing to say? If you are a Trump voter, could someone convince you that Hillary was going to be good for the country because she is a powerful woman with a moderate and progressive vision for America? If you agree with Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, could someone convince you that it is a foolish objection and that any Black person killed by police must have been guilty? If you think kneeling is an affront to our flag and nation, could someone convince you that Black political, personal, social and cultural suppression is real and present in 2017?

America is becoming separated into little enclaves of beliefs reinforced by segmented and divergent media. There are the extremes of alt-right tiki torchers and antifa black masks, the religious nuts and atheist extremists, also the disagreements of city mice and country folk, with the classic Republican and Democrat finding their own corresponding information. Locked away within our personal confirmation bias of who is wrong and why, there is little room for debate with someone’s opinion because to disagree with his/her opinion means to disagree with his/her reality.

Extreme right ideas: Obamacare needs to be repealed because it was from an illegitimate Kenyan president. DACA should not be allowed because immigrants are criminals. Guns are a 2nd Amendment right and regulation only punishes the innocent.

Extreme left ideas: Transgender bathroom use or military presence represent no problems to anyone. Immigration is good no matter the country of origin. Guns are a 2nd Amendment right and regulation might stop some killers from killing.

All the above are incomplete ideas and open for debate. There should not be a razor’s edge where no reasonable answer can balance. We need a decent mesa of acceptable ranges of solutions, a place to discuss and hear the other while sustaining an openness to find satisfactory resolutions.

The recent terror in Las Vegas will inevitably result in America’s biannual shitshow of arguments after a mass murder between guns are cool beans and guns are weak sauce. The fact that we have laws against murder didn’t stop this man, but the fact that we legally sell semi-automatic rifles with scopes that can be easily manipulated into automatic dispensers of death certainly helped that man. The answer could be metal detectors in every hotel, transit point, school, shopping mall, restaurant, movie theater, and public building. The answer could be to stop outdoor festivals or any massive gathering. The answer could be restricting, limiting or even outlawing some or all guns and accessories.

Guns should face more regulations and controls but laws cannot change in America (see Sandy Hook). If every gun was taken away, those dedicated to homicide could use a 3-D printer to make their own firearms, manufacture homemade bombs and set them off at a tailgate party, drive cars into pedestrians at a farmer’s market, stab people in a crowded subway, throw acid in strangers’ faces, drive a bus off a bridge or a plane into a mountain. We know that guns aren’t the only way to kill large groups of people.

But guns are the most impersonal. I heard a Radiolab podcast that dissected the runaway trolley question. (A trolley is out of control and headed on a track to kill five workers. You can pull a lever to switch tracks whereby the trolley only kills one worker. Do you pull the lever to save five but kill one?) 9 out of 10 people will pull the lever that saves more lives. But, when the situation is changed and you have no lever, and you must push a fat man standing next to you onto the track, now 9 out of 10 do not push the man. The situation is the same, five will die if you do nothing, but most people (True fact: aside from psychopaths and Buddhist monks who both would push the man) feel that pushing a man to his death feels different than pulling a lever.

Take the gun away, and the ease of which they kill may derail some murderous/suicidal plans. While true that guns don’t kill people without a human to pull the trigger, that is some chicken and egg logic there. Would there be over 30,000 gun fatalities (2/3 of which are suicides) every year if America were gunless? Is it our unique culture of violence or our unique culture of gun possession?

We must concede that 7.4 billion humans aren’t going to live together peacefully, at least not yet. There is so much trust involved in daily interactions, utilities, internet and simple rule following that is taken for granted. In a given day I trust the water to run and flush, the electric to turn on, cars to stop for a red light, weather predictions to be accurate, chefs to serve clean food and to not be murdered by a maniac. We expect things to work neatly in our neat little worlds, in our neat little neighborhoods, in our neat little houses.

The world humans created is not always neat and is approaching a cataclysm, a future beyond prediction, overpopulation, unbearable heat waves, fishless seas, ruthless droughts, recurrent floods, unabated migrations, lethal diseases, or any combination of frightful events, including mass killings. The effects of soaring human population with capitalistic winners and losers, factory farming, loss of species and habitat and climate change will certainly have negative repercussions. That is not pessimism, that is reality; however, my dark yin is accompanied by a bright yang. Humans are more than capable of solving problems.

We’ve made a nice little domain here on Earth. We’ve created comfort with entertainment, dispensed vaccines and eradicated diseases. We’ve decreased poverty and global hunger by half in the past thirty years. We’ve sent ships to spy on distant planets, submarines to the bottom of the ocean, investigated the deepest jungles. We’ve made human life an art form. Granted, millions still struggle every day, and until they are brought out of their misery, humanity will communally suffer, some literally and others through that painful knowledge. Violence is just one more problem we seek to solve as a united society. A few governments hold the key to total destruction with nuclear weapons and individuals have the existential power to end their own or another’s life at any given moment.

The fact that people made guns to erase life, but also concocted medical shots to prolong it displays the intriguing yin/yang of a human psyche.

America has too many gun deaths, India has too many untouchables, Yemen has too many starving, Syria has too many homeless, Japan has too many suicides, Congo has too many child soldiers, North Korea has too many prisoners, and Somalia has too many pirates. All forms of tragedies are played out daily around our world. Las Vegas was a tragedy and felt like a turning point for new legislation, but I don’t think it’s going to generate firearm restrictions. The entrenched sides have been dug. It’s sad to accept the unavoidable fact that humans have killed, kill and will kill again—ourselves, each other and millions of edible animals every day.

 

Advertisements

UGH, Guns.

The always delicious, sometimes obfuscating gay rights fast food chain Chick-Fil-A had a slogan that read: “We didn’t invent the chicken sandwich, we just perfected it.” They are correct; their chicken clouds my thoughts some days knowing that a feast of crispy nuggets and hot sauce dripping, extra pickled, peanut oil fried chicken sandwiches are so far out of my reach. I love that restaurant. Waffle fries, when salted correctly, beat all other fried potatoes. I’m pretty sure that they could not only fund anti-gay groups, but also fund pro-gay groups and still stay in business. I’d bet all my savings that despite their stance on homosexual relationships, there was a gay couple in a Chick-Fil-A the day after the news broke sitting in a corner booth, guiltily scarfing down fried yard bird saying to each other: “Getting married isn’t THAT important, is it?”

All chicken aside, I believe the USA could have a similar slogan to illustrate their collective history as a 237-year-old nation: “We didn’t invent gun violence, we just perfected it.” America loves guns more than any fried food, including Twinkies, Oreo’s or butter. Our media reports it daily, our movies glorify its power, our military uses them with devastating efficacy and our major cities are polluted with their influence. We all know the news of last December in Newtown, of last summer in Denver, of VT, Columbine and so on. There is gun violence all over the world, but it seems the “New World” has the most frightful statistics of late. There are the known offenders of Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and, of course, USA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

Africa is still the world leader of total murders; however, the majority of those murders are not GUN murders. More likely machete or strangling, who knows? I don’t claim to understand much about that large, intimidating continent, besides, it’s not like Africa is looked to as a stable continent in the forefront of civil rights and world peace. Yet, I doubt America is either anymore. How could we be? We’ve been involved in so many wars and skirmishes and interventions and secret bombings and coups and overthrows that the world may well see us as a hindrance instead of a helper.

American foreign policy is well known to be destructively self-interested, and that’s great, if you’re an American. Other countries and other innocent people have not fared so well. I’m digressing only to show how our obsession with guns led to the overarching, omnipresent military industrial complex that we find ourselves so firmly rooted to today. Americans must share in this blame. Americans are on TV expounding the virtues of a well-armed populace. There are those worried about some futuristic dystopia where Americans follow the helpless (read: GUNless) citizens of Cambodia or USSR and are taken hostage by a tyrannical government hell-bent on enslaving its own populace to toil in the desolate coal mines of West Virginia and oil fields of now treeless and lifeless Alaska to power the thought police helicopters that report to King Obama. As if a ragtag band of bearded, underwear recycling, soup can stockpiling Doomsday Preppers would be able to take on the most efficient and proficient army of the modern world because they were able to express their 2nd Amendment rights to own a few handguns and an AR-15. It’s a flawed argument that we need armaments to protect ourselves from our own government. Another flawed argument is the old: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” That didactically silly idea stops as soon as you accept that sometimes a gun misfires, is dropped and goes off, an errant drive-by gunshot kills a pedestrian or gun is mistakenly thought to be unloaded. Guns kill people much easier than knives. People are required to operate them, and humans make errors.

So, what is it about America and the serial killers, the gun obsessions, the self-defense theories, and the 2nd Amendment proselytizing? We were born through revolt is the easy answer. But, I think it’s more ego based. I think America likes being the dangerous place it is. I think it is in our national character to tolerate killing because we have been exposed to and justified it for so long in our politics, cities and our lives. We have over 13,000 murders a year, political assassinations, televised suicides, murder/suicides, abortion, death penalty, DUI manslaughters, as well as the seven major wars of the last 100 years. Death is all around us, as it is in any country, but somehow America reacts differently. We are sad and preachy to ease the pain, and then when someone suggests change to prevent another tragedy, there is uproar. What are we hiding? Who are we protecting? The NRA is the scapegoat of liberals, but they, like any other group in a capitalistic society is guarding the bottom line. It just so happens that their bottom line is soaked in blood, whereas somebody like the pharmaceuticals bottom line is doused in overmedicated mental illness and depressed teenagers on Prozac.

Why don’t we look for an answer with our greatest natural resource: Hollywood. Our last ten best picture winners: 5 of the last 10 have featured guns in major roles, and besides The Artist, The King’s Speech (during a World War) and Slumdog Millionaire (set in a very dangerous place), the other two were violent—with a female boxer dying and a Middle Earth war. Violence is sexier than sex sometimes—if sexy can mean attractive and interesting. It’s at least more tolerated than sex. TV and movies don’t have to edit out the atrocities of death, but damned if a nipple slips at halftime or a thong is shown during primetime! Even our comedies have guns: Dumb and Dumber, “Harry, you’re alive! And you’re a terrible shot.” Our favorite childhood movies: The Goonies—the Fratellis have a gun in almost every scene, (although the guns are more props to show they’re bad guys.) Even romantic comedies can sometimes work a little gun violence into the mix: The Bodyguard, Whitney was targeted by a stalker with a gun disguised as a camera. Also, it seems that all our futuristic movies involve guns. It’s like we can’t even imagine a future where there are none. Even Demolition Man, where there was a leader crazy enough to completely outlaw guns, thereby turning everyone into calm law-abiding citizens eating Taco Bell and never cursing; it turned out he was actually crazy and purposely allowed a gun-loving criminal and a gun-loving cop to blow that peaceful world up with a few leftover guns from the museum. Even the imaginative, inspired writers of southern California can’t create a world where gun violence doesn’t exist. In the 21st century, we look to our celebrities for guidance, and if they’re all firing guns and surviving to Live Free and Die Hard again, or surviving a Skyfall and multiple gun attacks, then why can’t we?

More gun legislation probably won’t help. It’s not like we pass a law and all the crazies and baddies will show up like Kevin Spacey in Se7en and turn themselves in to the authorities with bloody hands and admit they were wrong. The 2nd Amendment protects our right to have guns, but if we’re going to get all Constitutional, let’s let the 1st Amendment out of the bag also and get some real free speech and real freedom of assembly. Don’t push away those Occupy Wall Street people because they don’t fit Wall Street’s greedy, insatiable agenda. Let the naked poets sing, let the NC-17 movies play; let the freedom of speech extend as far as we can take it. If you want no limits to what kinds of guns/ammo you can own including the maddeningly idiotic armor-piercing bullets, then lets have no limits on the other great freedoms. Allow a mosque in lower Manhattan, nudity on television, or protests by the insane and hopeless Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK. I think you can see the slippery slope of either more or less legislation. Those men who created America did a good job, but it is a different world now. Perhaps it’s better to have no naked chicks kissing on the channel opposite SpongeBob. Perhaps it’s better to keep religion in neutral areas where there wasn’t a massacre (tell that to any Native American tribe.) Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to limit ultra-effective killing machines and metal penetrating ammunition also.

America is a great country, a violent, hypocritical, generous, diverse country. We produce amazing people and products. We lead the world in many ways. Our goal in the future should be to lead the way to peace. The old Roman expression: “If you want peace, prepare for war” is apropos for this argument. We are certainly prepared for war, so perhaps peace is on the way. It most assuredly will have to start in the Homeland.

2014_SchoolShootingsSinceNewtown1 gun_gray guns-per-100-people domestic violence