“Responsible Gun Ownership” Is A Myth

I’m not arguing the second amendment here. It exists. What it actually says and intends us to do as a result — that’s an argument for another blog post. The fact that any discussion about guns in America automatically becomes a discussion about language shouts volumes. But then, Americans are good at putting lipstick on pigs, thinking “All men are created equal” while institutionalizing slavery, and selling utter nonsense as “religions” that other Americans gobble up as gospel truth. We’re culturally acclimated to seeing one thing as its opposite — take Manifest Destiny. WE still tell ourselves that was a “good thing”. It wasn’t. In fact, Manifest Destiny wasn’t even a legitimate idea based on legitimate thinking. It was a myth — invented by white people to justify their terrible behavior. “Responsible gun ownership” exists in that context — a myth invented to justify… well, in this instance, not “terrible behavior”. But, behavior that can lead to terrible things happening.

It all starts with people believing a myth is real.

I’ve fired a gun before. In fact, I really enjoyed riflery the six years I got to do it when I was a kid going to sleepaway camp. I got a few NRA badges to prove it! Back then (this was the mid 1960’s), the NRA was still a “gun safety organization” and the thing I remember most from my six years of riflery, aside from the fact that I wasn’t half bad at it, was the constant refrain of gun safety, gun safety, GUN SAFETY. More than anything, the NRA-backed training I got back then imprinted the idea that guns can kill you. Even if you do everything right, there’s always the possibility that you could ONE thing wrong and you or someone could get hurt. That’s why you have to be hyper vigilant. You can never let your guard down whenever a gun is out of its locker. You have to be “responsible”.

See, I was taught “gun responsibility”. I believed in it. Just like everyone else in America, I got it into my head that while some people will only ever use guns to do bad things, most people (who just so happen to be white), only every want to use their guns to do “good things” — like hunt (debatable as a “good thing” — it certainly isn’t good from the hunted animal’s point of view) or target shoot (a perfectly good thing!) or defend themselves (a perfectly dubious thing). It’s inside that last thing — “self defense” where most of the “responsible gun ownership” mythology lurks.

For starters, it assumes something very, very dark about the rest of America — outside that gun owner’s front door. Whereas, in most other countries, it’s assumed you don’t need a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and fellow citizens, in America, it’s “normal thinking”. Of course danger awaits outside your front door! Of course you need a lethal weapon to defend yourself — the threat outside is hell bent on murdering you! That excuse gets played regardless of which direction crime statistics are headed. The urge to “defend one’s home and hearth” isn’t based on statistics. It’s based on fear. In America, that fear is based on racism. The whole “good guy with a gun” vs “bad guy with a gun” quietly casts the good guy as almost certainly white and the bad guy as almost certainly Black. Hmmmmmm… now where could such an idea have come from?

Racism touches or has touched almost every facet of American life. Guns are no different. The whole point of our gun laws, at present, is to feed racist fear. If we could magically remove racism from peoples’ brains, here in America almost every bit of the incentive to own a weapon would evaporate. My upper middle class Jewish family — politically very liberal — still succumbed to racist fear during the riots the followed Martin Luther King’s assassination. Though Pikesville — where I grew up — was miles and miles from the parts of Baltimore that erupted in violence, my parents (and others), went out and purchased guns. They were afraid of angry Black people (angry for a very legitimate reason) coming to our neighborhood and being violent. No such thing ever happened. Did it occur in any of the angry protestor’s heads to do such a thing? Probably — but, so what?

It’s a testament to how good white people are at diving and conquering everyone else that Blacks and Jews — two groups with way, way more in common than not — could be set against each other like that. The overwhelming majority of Jews arrived in America after slavery was gone. Jews were never considered “white people” in Europe. Jews occupied the first “ghetto” — in Venice, Italy — to which they were segregated starting 29 March 1516.

Quick side note — the “ghetto” (it’s an Italian word), was a swampy island connected to the rest of the city “…by two bridges that were only open during the day. Gates were opened in the morning at the ringing of the marangona, the largest bell in St. Mark’s Campanile, and locked in the evening. Permanent, round-the-clock surveillance of the gates occurred at the Jewish residents’ expense.[fn] Strict penalties were to be imposed on any Jewish resident caught outside after curfew.[fn] Areas of Ghetto Nuovo that were open to the canal were to be sealed off with walls, while outward facing quays were to be bricked over in order to make it impossible for unauthorized entry or exit.[fn]

Jews fled Europe because of racism. They hoped for a better life here where (hopefully) racism wouldn’t constantly destroy their communities and steal their wealth. Fortunately for the Jews, America was already doing that to Black people by the time the Jews got here. And, while not considered white by most Europeans, Jews were just “white-adjacent” enough in America that white people didn’t make a point of taking their wealth as white people had historically in Europe. While Jews prospered, Black people struggled — as the Jews had in Europe — but also with the additional burden of slavery; Reconstruction’s failure kept slavery on the table.

You don’t have to dig down too far inside just about an gun law in America to find the fear it rests upon. And that fear is of former slaves getting guns and coming for payback. That’s the base justification. It’s irrational. It’s unspoken. But it’s there.

Ever notice how “normal” it is for right wingers and militia types to show up at right wing rallies armed to the teeth — even INSIDE government property where they’re using their arms to literally threaten legislators? Were those people all “responsible gun owners”? No one got shot that day. Good thing, I guess… are we then to measure the relative success of “responsibility” by lack of body count? No one died, all the gun owners acted “responsibly” this time. Is that it?

The difference between a “responsible” gun owner and an irresponsible one is the unexpected event. Take Nancy Lanza — mother of 20 year old Adam Lanza, the guy responsible for the Sandy Hook school shooting. By all accounts, prior to that event, Nancy Lanza was a “responsible gun owner”. I bet Nancy Lanza thought of herself as a “responsible gun owner”. Until the day she wasn’t — the day her son murdered her with her with one of her own weapons before heading out the door and murdering 26 MORE people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them CHILDREN.

One moment Nancy Lanza was as responsible a gun owner as anyone and the next — a gun violence victim. Killed in her own home by her own gun. Trying to see how the “self defense” angle fits here. No one broke in to do this to her. She set herself up for failure — and then, she set up the very community she loved and was part of for even worse failure.

And pain.

The full measure of a gun owner’s “responsibility” doesn’t occur when their gun is sitting safely inside a gun safe. The gun was not designed to do that. If you really want to know how responsible a gun owner is, you have to measure their responsibility when the gun’s outside its safe and in their hands — where it always has the potential to do real damage just by operating within its design specs.

In their defense, most gun owners will never have happen to them what happened to Nancy Lanza. But none of them can guarantee that they won’t. They can’t.

And the second they tell you they can? They’re acting irresponsibly.

The Slippery Slope Into Bullsh*t

A huge chunk of America believes bullshit is true. Literally. You could hold up the truth and bullshit — side by side — and they’d gobble the bullshit right up without even thinking about it. Hmmmmm… Without even thinking about it. How is it so many Americans do things — like vote for Donald Trump — without even thinking about it? Sure, sure — there are tribal Republicans for whom the American flag means everything while the Constitution it supposedly stands for means nothing. They’d worship the flag even if we ditched the Constitution and became an official authoritarian shithole instead. Let’s set them aside (please!) I’m talking about that still sizeable slice of Americans who’ve been genuinely bamboozled by a news media incapable of doing the job it’s been entrusted with.

To be fair, America has always had a flair and a talent for “outside the box” thinking. You can’t accomplish big if you don’t dream big. And when it comes to manufacturing bullshit, ordinary Americans have to contend with bullshit that’s been created by “outside the box” bullshit artists. How good are they? They convinced America that keeping slavery was a good thing. That’s some serious bullshit.

White people have a remarkable talent for inventing bullshit, living according to bullshit, dying because of bullshit and passing bullshit on to the next generation so they can proliferate it too. Take “Manifest Destiny”. Does bullshit get any whiter or bullshittier?

White, Northern European culture — the spawning pool for white supremacy — took the good fortune of living where it lived (I’m all in with historian Jared Diamond’s excellent “Guns, Germs & Steel”) and assuming it meant they were anointed by God to manifest their destiny. The irony was that the continent on which the Europeans landed (some Southern Europeans — not an improvement on the Northern ones) had been eons ahead of them culturally and developmentally. Check out Charles C. Mann’s excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”. When Paris and London were shithole adjacent — glorified villages at best — sizeable metropolises thrived in North America. For real.

Strange how we still haven’t incorporated that into our history. To this day, America has it in its head that European culture is a “superior” culture to all others. It isn’t. It’s just one of many cultures. What gives American culture an edge is DEMOCRACY and the fact that so many cultures are part of American culture. Diversity is what makes America exceptional.

It’s just natural to believe in “Manifest Destiny” once you believe God smiles upon you especially when the “God” you’re talking about is yours. An African American’s God probably doesn’t want them to be enslaved — that includes the Christian God that was shoved down the African slave’s throat. But then, a good, strong case can be made that plenty of ardent theists aren’t all that theistic actually. Dig a little, ask them some questions, and you’ll realize: they don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God. That’s monotheism’s trap — the God you hear inside your head is YOU!

And once you start believing the stuff you believe was inspired by “The Divine”, you’re just a heartbeat away from giving Jesus (or God) “the wheel”. It ain’t YOU doing “it”, it’s God! This, right here, is bullshit’s spawning ground. Regardless of whether there is a God or not, you’re convinced now that there is — and that YOU’RE version of God is THE version of God.

I convinced myself that I was responsible for my own molestation when I was fourteen. I was wrong, of course — it wasn’t my fault. But that bullshit — that’s what it was — tormented me for the 45 years I kept it a secret, mostly from myself. The bullshit undermined my confidence without me even understanding that bullshit was my problem. That’s how effective bullshit is lying to you. That bit of bullshit led to a suicide attempt four years ago.

But, in the aftermath, while recovering, I realized not only how dangerous that one piece of bullshit was, I realized that my little secret about me wasn’t the only bullshit impacting my life. Bullshit was contorting me into pretzels, giving me whiplash. Some bullshit — you need it frankly, just to get through a day. It’s the small stuff you need to let go of but can’t, so you bullshit yourself about it — keeping to a diet, for instance, whether for weight or health reasons. Sometimes, a piece of bacon just won’t be denied.

Sometimes, frankly, bullshit tastes good. Sometimes it feels good. Until it becomes one too many. Ah, bullshit…

The trick is learning to judge which bullshit you can tolerate living with and which you can’t. If we all dealt with our own bullshit first — before even thinking of looking at anyone else’s, that’s all we’d do — manage our own bullshit. As I began to recover from the decade-long depression that came to a head when Trump became POTUS, I actually felt better for addressing my own bullshit while forgetting about everyone else’s. I recommend it.

The Donald Trump presidency was a kind of “Golden Age Of Bullshit”. Trump personally took bullshit to bold, new heights almost every time he opened his mouth. You could hear the bullshit soaring in his voice — and his voice sailing aloft, lifted in turn by the bullshit. The news, just from repeating Trump, felt like a daily bullshit tsunami.

Our news media is split on the subject. Some of them assert it’s no their job to sort bullshit from truth — that’s our job. But, when you present bullshit as a possible alternative to truth (without labeling them so), bullshit gains credence. Until only recently, the NEWS MEDIA regularly hosted discussions pitting climate scientists against climate deniers. They’d put these two “points of view” (as if bullshit could HAVE a “point of view”) side by side in a fifty-fifty shot that gave both speakers & both points of view equal screen real estate. In the visual language (and it is a language), a 50-50 screen says “these two points of view have equal heft, weight and likelihood of being true”. See how that works? Because they didn’t understand the language they broadcast in, American journalists regularly had conversations on their air where they were determined to equate bullshit and truth.

It’s a strange thing about humans — it’s sooooooo easy to sell them bullshit yet sooooooooo hard to sell them truth — even as they’re zooming down that slippery slope, unable to stop themselves. Bullshit is what makes that slope so damned slippery.

Americans Need To Get It Out Of Our Heads: We DO NOT Do Everything Right

My gut is, this very American attitude — “How WE Do It Is How It Should Be Done” — flows from, the MALE of the American species. It’s definitely got a “I alone can fix it” pong to it.

You know how men are kind of “famous” for refusing to ever ask for directions when lost? Yeah — same chromosomal character flaw. We don’t HAVE to know how to do something, we assume we can figure it out. Then, when we stare at the wreckage our ignorance produced, we can blame the manufacturer or inadequate customer service for the mess. Men — dirty little secret here that I just KNOW I’m gonna pay for — are a lot like Ikea product instructions. You’re never going to “read them” through first; instead you’ll plunge in and get two-thirds of the way through before you realize you put the key piece on BACKWARDS at the very beginning and now the whole goddamned thing has to be taken apart so you can start over.

That’s men. That’s us. No kidding.

Men were mostly responsible not so much for founding the country as taking credit for it and making up all the rules. Women’s role in the founding has gone — shocking, right? — under-reported. I guess, in the men’s minds, someone had to “put the kettle on”. Being men, in whose same minds they were always right, they applied that fallacy to the document (and the country) they created.

If we — White Christian Men — say a thing is so, it MUST be so. Now go and Manifest Destiny already.

White Christian Men decided that slavery was okay. They thought it passed muster that black people were 3/5 of a white person. These things are embedded in our character. They’re part of our swagger (along with the things for which we’re justifiably celebrated as a culture). It’s a package deal. Like everything. Good is a fellow traveler with bad.

But, in our case, that “bad” has caught up with us. I blame the high bullshit content of our swagger.

America does not do healthcare right. We don’t do public education right. We don’t do secondary education — college, university, trade school — right. We don’t do taxes right. We don’t do humanitarianism right any more (we’re hellbent on the exact opposite). On healthcare — we’re the only country that ties healthcare to employment. There’s a REASON we’re the only country stupid enough to do that.

During WWII, employers weren’t allowed to give raises to employees (the money was redirected toward the war effort). To keep good employees from leaving — and to entice new hires — companies offered up healthcare instead. Lots of companies did that. Then the war ended. But that job benefit didn’t. The companies found it hard and expensive to keep providing healthcare. Insurance companies took over the workload — and sank their hooks in deep. They put themselves at the core of American healthcare.

The first question you get asked when you seek medical attention in America isn’t “How can we help you?”, it’s “And how are you going to PAY for this?”

Money, sadly, sits at the heart of what ails America. Greed has undermined the Greatest Experiment in Human Self Government Ever. Let’s be honest, if greed’s involved, the fix is always in. Nothing “trumps” greed. Ever.

America’s greatness flows from its largesse — which, in turn, flows from its diversity. Nothing but cold, Christian calculus (as opposed to Jesus-like, Do-Unto-Others thinking) flows from the White People who believe THEY and they alone are the keepers of the American Flame. They’re the remnant of the Boys Club that — thinking it was always right — sat down to make up the rules some of us still follow that others (Republicans all) blatantly piss on.

I guess “doing it right” is a matter of perspective. If you’re the majority of Americans — we feel in our gut that children dying on our southern border is us DOING IT WRONG. If you’re a republican however… if you’re Donald Trump — you’re a guy waving his dick around, thinking how awesome you are — and how “right” everything is in the world.