Today’s episode of Fresh Air featured an interview with Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold. As I drove home, I listened as Teri Gross asked why Klebold pushed for videotapes made by her son and his partner, Eric, to be destroyed. Klebold responded that allowing others to see those images — of young men, shooting and showing unfettered affection for their firearms — would desensitize them, make the behavior seem normal. Adventurous. Acceptable.
When I got home, I saw Jeb Bush tweet a picture of a handgun. The tweet said “America.”
And that was all we got.
I understand the complexities Jeb(!) faces of appealing to an ideological base where the commitment to metal — molded to fit perfectly in one’s hand, the billboard says — is unparalleled. I understand that Jeb(!) needs to ride the modicum of momentum he has to a finish in South Carolina that will justify the tens of millions of dollars he has spent to win a presidential nomination, and that the frustration of being constantly outshone by a former reality television star weighs heavily. I understand that maybe Jeb(!) really does believe a personalized handgun is his most prized, patriotic possession.
What I don’t understand is why Jeb(!) believes a handgun is the best symbol to represent “America.”
The issue here is not about gun control — though it may be pertinent to note that 80 families will lose a member to gun violence today — but rather the disgustingly eager and full-hearted glorification of the handgun itself. A picture of a hunting rifle this was not.
Jeb(!) could have tweeted out a photo of a flag, his family, a mountain, a damn bridge and called it America. Jeb(!) could have praised any other right guaranteed. Jeb(!) could have picked from 26 other amendments to signify why he contains pride for his country. Instead, Jeb(!)’s tweet perpetuates the notion that the object best suited to symbolize the nation is an object whose only purpose is to perpetuate violence. Make your arguments about self-defense, protection, safety — but the only consequence of pulling the trigger is the harm of an other, alleged moral justification or otherwise. What else could happen when a bullet leaves the chamber but tragedy?
Jeb(!) most likely intended his tweet to be a celebration about what he believes, to paraphrase his competitor, to make America great already. Instead, his handgun highlights the ugliest flaws of the nation. That in spite of the teachers forced to train under simulation of the unthinkable, or a person of color fearing the law enforcement officers designed to protect them, or the husbands, wives, children, siblings, and parents who are forced to confront the worst of humanity in physical form, inflicted on and through their flesh, in spite of the terror of it all, others still exalt this handgun as if it is a savior. Because to them, this handgun is normal. Adventurous. Acceptable.
To Jeb(!), I say: Your exaltation is a safety unlocked; your refusal to see the suffering is a trigger pulled; your tweet is a bullet shot.