Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If not now, when?

I've said all I need to say about this, I think. But I saw a couple of things I thought were interesting. This, for example, was at Doonesbury:
"We think it is poor form for a politician or a special interest group to try to push a legislative agenda on the back of any tragedy."
-- NRA, after 2008 Northern Illinois shootings

"Now is not the time to debate politics or discuss policy."
-- NRA, after 2009 Binghampton massacre

"At this time, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate."
-- NRA, after 2011 shooting spree that wounded Gabrielle Giffords

"There will be an appropriate time down the road to engage in political and policy discussions."
-- NRA, after 2012 Aurora massacre

"NRA will not have any comment."
-- NRA, after 2012 Newtown massacre

If not now, when? But the NRA knows America. If they can keep this discussion off the table after a national tragedy, most Americans will lose interest,... until the next school shooting gets us (briefly) outraged again.

This is why fanatics have an advantage over the rest of us (not just when it comes to guns, either). They're a minority, but they really care about the issue. Most Americans can't be bothered. Our apathy is killing us.

Sure, we've got the Second Amendment. But we've got the First Amendment, too, which is a lot clearer than the 2nd - yet we can still regulate free speech (laws against slander, treason, selling trade secrets, deceptive advertising, incitement to riot,... it just goes on and on).

And a "well regulated militia"? Don't make me laugh! Is this what that means?

I thought this was interesting, too. It's a letter from a reader at Talking Points Memo describing how different the gun culture is these days. An excerpt:
The gun culture that we have today in the U.S. is not the gun culture, so to speak, that I remember from my youth. It’s too simple to say that it’s “sick;” it’s more accurately an absurd fetishization. I suppose that the American Gunfighter, in all of his avatars, is inescapably fetishistic, but (to my point) somewhere along the way - maybe in, uh, 1994? - we crossed over into Something Else: let’s call it Gonzo Fetishization. The American Gunfighter as caricature.

The guns that I grew up with (in the late-1970’s and 1980’s) were bolt-action rifles: non-automatic weapons, with organic fixtures - i.e., stocks - and limited magazine capacities. ... The folks I interacted with as a pre-adolescent and - less so - as a teen owned guns because their fathers had owned guns before them; because they’d grown up hunting and shooting; and because - for most of them - it was an experience (and a connection) that they wanted to pass on to their sons and daughters.

And that’s my point: I can’t remember seeing a semi-automatic weapon of any kind at a shooting range until the mid-1980’s. Even through the early-1990’s, I don’t remember the idea of “personal defense” being a decisive factor in gun ownership. The reverse is true today: I have college-educated friends - all of whom, interestingly, came to guns in their adult lives - for whom gun ownership is unquestionably (and irreducibly) an issue of personal defense. For whom the semi-automatic rifle or pistol - with its matte-black finish, laser site, flashlight mount, and other “tactical” accoutrements - effectively circumscribe what’s meant by the word “gun.” At least one of these friends has what some folks - e.g., my fiancee, along with most of my non-gun-owning friends - might regard as an obsessive fixation on guns; a kind of paraphilia that (in its appetite for all things tactical) seems not a little bit creepy. Not “creepy” in the sense that he’s a ticking time bomb; “creepy” in the sense of…alternate reality. Let’s call it “tactical reality.”

The “tactical” turn is what I want to flag here. It has what I take to be a very specific use-case, but it’s used - liberally - by gun owners outside of the military, outside of law enforcement, outside (if you’ll indulge me) of any conceivable reality-based community: these folks talk in terms of “tactical” weapons, “tactical” scenarios, “tactical applications,” and so on. It’s the lingua franca of gun shops, gun ranges, gun forums, and gun-oriented Youtube videos. (My god, you should see what’s out there on You Tube!) Which begs my question: in precisely which “tactical” scenarios do all of these lunatics imagine that they’re going to use their matte-black, suppressor-fitted, flashlight-ready tactical weapons? They tend to speak of the “tactical” as if it were a fait accompli; as a kind of apodeictic fact: as something that everyone - their customers, interlocutors, fellow forum members, or YouTube viewers - experiences on a regular basis, in everyday life. They tend to speak of the tactical as reality.

And I think there’s a sense in which they’ve constructured their own (batshit insane) reality.

One in which we have to live.

I, too, grew up with guns. I was given a BB gun when I was four (much too young), and a single-shot .410 shotgun not too many years later. I spent my childhood wandering the woods, hunting.

But back then, it wasn't about fighting off the black helicopters. (How crazy is that?) It wasn't about preparing for the upcoming race war or the entire collapse of civilization. Most gun owners were still sane back then.

But the right-wing in general has gone completely off the deep end. Face it, you don't see the reality-based community involved in things like this. You don't see evidence-based people going all batshit crazy on us. But on the faith-based right, it's just one thing after another. Batshit crazy has become the norm on the right.

So, are we going to finally do something about it? Yeah, fat chance, huh?

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