Welcome to the Gun Show: An Examination of Power and Who Holds It
Today, 50 people were murdered and 53 injured in the attack at an LGBT bar in Orlando. It is the largest mass shooting in United States history thus far.
Thoughts and prayers are thrown about by people and politicians who support the NRA, people counter those messages, they react with disgust and on and on. Meanwhile, nothing is done about the roots of the gun violence problem.
It really has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is just a tool. The reason guns have become such a hot button issue in this country is because they are integrally tied to power, or more accurately, an artificial feeling of power. It is a want and a need by those who are adamantly pro-gun for security and power that they are currently lacking that attracts them to the shiny metal objects that can protect their loved ones and property by killing with such ease.
There has always been a fear of “The Other.” For centuries, it has been engrained in the heads of the most politically and economically powerful citizens (white men, for the most part), that they should fear anyone who is not like them. The Other will take your jobs. The Other will steal your women. The Other will instill a new power structure in which you are not at the top, you are at the bottom, and The Other does not forget the wrongs that have been done to them.
In an ever more economically unequal society, people are afraid, especially those who had some modicum of power in the past and are afraid of losing their grasp of it. It is slipping from their fingers as we speak.
A narrative has been constructed by those who maintain the power that it is not the rich who should be feared and rebelled against; no, it is the people below you, The Others, who are scrambling to get more rights and freedom that they have been denied for centuries and millennia who are to be feared. And there’s just not enough rights and freedom to go around. The Other will have to settle for the small piece of the pie you have. Why? Because the wealth and power that has been accumulated by the top one percent of the country hoards it. There is no sharing of their riches. Money buys freedom, and the huddled masses are coming to take yours.
It’s incredibly easy to distract people from the real offenders when you can invoke powerful emotions like fear and anger. When someone feels like his life or livelihood is threatened, he acts irrationally. He clings to his guns because he feels that is the only way that he can protect his family and the things he has accumulated and feels entitled to.
This is not necessarily an irrational biological reaction. Neuroscience and psychology have delved into the fear response humans have to find that it’s really a simple matter of stimulus and response. The brain receives a stimulus and responds with behavioral and physiological responses. It pumps out powerful hormones and neurotransmitters, which, combined with attention, memory, perception and arousal, create the conscious feeling of fear. It’s just that instead of a bear or wolf acting as the stimulus and provoking the fear response, it’s the more abstract stimulus of a loss of power.
To be clear, you feel a lot of power when holding a death machine that has the ability to take life from tens of people in the span of a few minutes.
The same people who stoke fear of The Other also stoke a fear of “The Government.” The Government wants to pass gun safety laws because it wants to take away your Second Amendment rights. The Government doesn’t care about you. The Government could kill you and your family at any moment, and you have to be prepared. To be prepared, you must have assault rifles, so that when the time comes, you will rise up to defeat The Government. Please mail your donation to the National Rifle Association, which is protecting your freedom. And don’t forget to buy a gun to support the Good Guy Gun Manufacturers while you’re at it.
Everyone has a right to be weary of an all-powerful government. We have seen time and time again how destructive dictatorships and fascism are. The predecessor to the Second Amendment, the Revolutionary War, happened because some assholes over in England wanted all the power with none of the sacrifices.
The problem is that everything in our society revolves around power and ownership and whether it will be you or someone else who dictates it.
So who do you band with when you feel a visceral fear reaction to The Other and The Government? The Same. A lot of the excitement about guns, especially assault rifles like the AR-15, comes from the want of camaraderie. When you are scared, you find people who are also scared to commiserate with. Just look at any gun forum today. People are chatting away with friends about the best way to repair their weapons, looking up more information about the guns and, of course, discussing politics. There will be talk about all of The Other — the liberals, the blacks, the Muslims, the women — who are looking to steal the societal power The Same holds, and how it is The Other that are the delusional ones. Wake up, sheeple! The Same is simply looking for a safe place to be themselves and talk about their own fears and emotions.
It just happens that their safety apparently comes before the thousands of powerless people who die from gun violence every year. And the safety of society’s most powerful comes before the safety of those with the least.
You can make jokes about “gun nuts” on Twitter, you can fight with your relatives at awkward family gatherings about the statistics and the realities of the situation, you can do anything you want, but until we start addressing the inherent inequalities that separate the most powerful Same from the least powerful Other, gun violence will persist and and average of 31 people in the United States will continue die each day.