Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guns

"Guns" Andy Warhol (1981)

"I am a big man yes I am and I got a big gun." - Trent Reznor


In a recent post, Firmin Debrabander writes “An armed society...is the opposite of a civil society.” Agreed. And like Debrabander, I disagree with a popular gun rights saying that foolishly, fearfully claims “an armed society is a polite society.” No, when everyone is armed, they’re scared, and thus, never able to truthfully speak out of fear of getting shot. Guns are truly anti-cosmopolitan (arguably the reason Americans love them.) Accordingly, guns do bring people together -often, crazy people- but nevertheless people. Accordingly, those who hunt, collect, or just enjoy shooting-up beer cans consider guns a “way of life” and may just do everything in their armed power to protect it. 

The gun has isolated and fragmented our society into militias, gangs, doomsday preppers, and active shooters. All represent what Debrander suggests as “a fatal slide into extreme individualism.” Arguably, an isolated individualism that enables larger power structures to better manage and control an increasingly fragmented, fearful population into more manageable pockets of exclusion. When considering the successful revolutionary movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, I see non-violence and the will of an organized collective as successful modes for achieving change instead of by armed insurrection. 

Gun advocates refuse to admit that their guns do not liberate them. If they did, then we should also rightfully begin considering what other objects or items “liberate" us: marijuana, sex, rock-and-roll. Guns do not liberate. Guns isolate us into pockets of fear.

One can support the Second Amendment, or the Right to Bear Arms, which states, 

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Recognize that the sentence starts with an important phrase “well-regulated.” Yes, Americans have the “right to bare arms” but not without regulation. And why not? Of course, the sentence also concludes paradoxically with the reminder that this right “shall not be infringed.” And so how we interpret “Arms” technology today against the “well-regulated Militia” days of muskets and bayonets is a frustratingly outdated point of contention.    

Predictably, the gun lobby has been insistent on painting President Obama as a tyrant hellbent on “taking our guns away.” No. Obama is making proposals to address the proliferation of military style assault weapons on our streets (similar to those made by former Presidents Reagan, Bush, and recently by Mayor's and local officials.) Hopefully, real legislation will be brought to vote in Congress. If Obama was a tyrant, he wouldn’t be asking for anything - he would just demand it. 

If gun owners were really concerned with values of liberty and freedom then they would turn their misguided attention to some of the more invasive forces controlling our society such as from the surveillance and security state. Or, more specifically, the complete and utter inequitable and unjust criminal justice system that continues to incarcerate a growing number of Americans often, for non-violent offenses or petty drug charges. Ultimately, how can a society define itself as ‘free’ when so many are kept in cages (more than any other country in the world)?

Nicholas Kristof asks “do we have the courage to stop this?” Our elected officials have presented some very clear pieces of reasonable legislation. But what now? Can Congress ever even begin voting? And even if they could, once it got to the floor of the Senate the bill would be stripped-down of any real legislation. Congress continues to accommodate the demands of the gun lobby. Depending on the polls you look at, Most Americans agree on universal background checks, re-instating the assault weapons ban, and banning the sale of extended magazine clips. Of course, we need not look only to our government for real change - there are steps we can all take to reduce violence (and expand love...) in our society now.

After all, what do we really need these guns for? Since Newtown there has been this many deaths in the United States from gun violence. 

I question if this country will ever be ready to shake its gun addiction? We really do, love our guns and no amount of suffering seems to ever undermine this unhealthy relationship enough to make us break it. I suppose as we wrestle with this difficulty in our understanding, we must realize that this is not only about Gun Safety it is also about preserving our civic responsibility to freely exchange and express ourselves without living in fear of our thoughts being silenced, permanently. 

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