This is the Country We Deserve
I’m going to stand in a different place on this Orlando shooting today.
It it a tragedy? Absolutely. Was it monstrous, despicable, and homophobic? Without a doubt. Was it the result of one man being able to access military grade weapons that were unimaginable to the framers of our constitution and wouldn’t be sanctioned by them now if they could see the destruction these weapons are capable of? Probably. Certainly.
So, yes to all of these things, but I am done with these arguments, and I’m left with only one thought this morning: This is the country we deserve.
It’s the result of insidious forces that have been at work for years, and it’s the culmination of active neglect on the part of voters to stand up for what they believe. It’s the outcome of our failure to hold legislators accountable for their decisions and the processes by which they have come to these decisions. It is also the end product of allowing more free speech to lobbyists and special interests and corporations and super pacs than we give to the individual citizens this government was created to protect, sustain, and support.
The culture we got is one that loves guns. I saw this in action yesterday as some dude filled his 44 ounce cup with Coca-Cola at a gas station with a .44 on his hip. He was a long-haired, shorts and T-shirt, combat-booted, Ted Nugenty kind of guy. He looked like he loved all kinds of things: America, his lady, working hard/playing hard, and a constitution that says he can take his guns everywhere, all the time, even when the greatest ambient threat is somebody taking the last of the nugget ice.
People love how guns make them feel. They love having them, lots of them, more guns than they have hands for, more guns than they have space for in their homes. Why? Because owning them says something. To be safe you just need to have them, hoard them, swim in them as Scrooge McDuck swims in his treasure. People hoard bullets, too. Guns don’t work without bullets, right? Even though the Constitution says nothing about bullets, we know that it means bullets. Because guns don’t kill people, silly. Bullets do. People create artificial scarcity by keeping their arsenals in their basements. Obama can’t take people’s guns because they are already squirreled away against the apocalypse. People believe guns will make them invincible and give them potency, respect. People think that guns are something Jesus wants for them. Of course he does. If he didn’t, why did make sure guns were in the Constitution?
People think that guns are not the problem, but in the airport, we have decided to have a different culture. In the airport shoes are a problem, so we take them off and have them scanned. Tiny bottles of shampoo are a problem. Laptop computers, belts, watches, and fingernail files are problems. We allow ourselves to be patted down, x-rayed, visually scanned, dog-sniffed, luggage searched, queued up, denigrated, and stripped of our liberties, with no end in sight. In the culture of the airport, we accept the fact that it’s not just the people but the things they carry that can and will put us at risk. So, we have the airports we deserve, too
Why? Because we don’t love the airport as much as we love guns. People are already scared of flying, so they want the Man to call the shots. They suffer the indignities of it all because they believe it’s the right call. In their airport it is, in fact, all about the guns or bombs or knives, not the people, because they search everyone (some more than others).
But once a man shoots up a dance club, movie theater, college, shopping mall, or elementary school, we all know it has nothing to do with the guns he has or the law or anything but the fact that more guns and fewer restrictions would have saved everyone. That is obvious to anyone with the eyes to see and ears to hear.
But guns never save everyone.
They never have. I don’t suspect they ever will. Guns are simply about a feeling. Happiness is a warm gun. Bang, bang. Shoot, shoot. That’s it. They are tokens of a sense of power, but once they start blazing, nobody is safer. If you have any doubts about this take a look at the laws of the old west frontier. Wyatt Earp didn’t cotton to guns in Tombstone, at all. Period. I think what we allow these days would blow his mind.
Orlando is the natural outcome of a culture that venerates all the wrong things. The dominant line of thinking has been guns, guns, guns, guns, guns.
So, congratulations America. This is the gun-country we allowed, the shoot-em-up bill of goods the NRA has sold us for fifty years now, the dream of rugged individualism that leaves widows and orphans in its wake, a world in which toddlers shoot more American citizens by accident than anyone from ISIL does. A world in which the ugliest thoughts imaginable can find mortal expression in a few seconds. We voted for this world, or more likely, our active neglected shaped it. There’s no one to point a finger at.
The enemy, it seems, is who it’s always been.