Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Effect of Imposing Our Will

There is a phenomenon that is unique to humans. I’m sure it has a scientific name or behavioral pigeonhole. I don’t know the official name but I know we see it every day… in the news, in each other.

People hate to give things up. The longer an idea or tradition has been entrenched, the more people will grasp at it and claw at you to stop you from trying to change it.

Such as it is with the nature of power, social position, or guns.
The longer a politician, has been in their job, the harder they will fight to keep it. Often going far beyond their original charge to do so.

People will fight to keep “The War on Christmas” from overtaking them, even though all of the trappings of Christmas with the exception of the manger scene are Pagan and Christmas itself was ILLEGAL in the US up until about 150 years ago. Too much Popery, not enough real Bible. So, yeah… Christmas with the founding fathers? Didn’t happen.

So too, is our fascination with guns. It goes back to the image of the American as a do-it-ourselves, we-don’t-need-your-help, kind of person. The cowboy bringing law and order to a border town with nothing but his fists and a pair of six guns. The landowner protecting his family from the greedy developers, standing in the doorway with a shotgun, saying , “Get offa my land.” The soldier who becomes a hero by getting off that last shot that kills the villain, before succumbing to wounds too severe to survive, (but not before a ragged close-up and dying nobility speech).

It is not the gun that fascinates us, but the effect of guns as an implement to impose our will, that enraptures us. And, as such, makes some members of our society cling to them with the claws of demons. Some will even go so far as to twist the words of the Constitution, (like nobody is going to check). A “well-armed militia” doesn’t mean a stockpile of auto-mags in your basement, there, Chuckles. The phrase was meant to give citizens the right to protect themselves from invading troops by banding together to protect the common good. Under well-trained leaders.

The Second amendment means the National Guard.

When something tragic and horrific happens, you can be sure that a few well-honed responses will arise. First the gun-rights person, that talking head who’s first response to a shooting massacre is, “Oh no, liberals will want to take my guns!”, (if that’s your first response, you suck as a human being). They respond with something along the lines of, “Look over there! It’s the mental health system in this country that has failed! It’s not guns!”

The well-meaning liberals jump up and shout, “Is it time now for a reasoned debate on gun control? We’ve been waiting!”
But, the gun advocate hears, “Guns are scary and I want them all banned!” and then retaliates based on what he wanted to hear.

And the medical community comes out and says “The mental health system in our country is broken and needs to be fixed.” And you can almost hear the crickets. There’s no glamour in fixing a broken system. Not while we can watch the liberals and gun-rights people slug it out. Again. And again.

And the really awful part is that they are all right.

We’re humans. We’re soft and squishy. We survive by the barest of circumstances, no matter how much we like to think otherwise. Guns make it really easy, but not necessary. You could kill us with almost any blunt object. We’re easy to kill.

The mental health system is broken in this country. It suffers from another romantic infatuation that we refuse to release… the idea that people who suffer mental illness are somehow less worthy of our attention and compassion than those who suffer physical illness. As if contracting malaria is beyond our control but schizophrenia is your own damn fault.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and you’ll never remove all the guns from our streets. It would be pointless to try. But, asking that current laws be better enforced and reasonable restrictions be enacted is not pointless. It is, in fact, necessary. But that, on its own, will not make the changes we need. Rational gun control is necessary but it’s not the whole thing.

We need to change the value we place on the effect of guns. We value the winning spirit, and we love it when the hero kills every bad guy along the way to get to the reasonable end. A movie can show the hero kill forty or fifty people with a machine gun and that’s awesome! On TV! But, they cut the scene where you could see that woman’s nipple, because that would be wrong to see. Think of the children!

We glorify guns and their effect every day because we refuse to give up on the idea that America is the greatest nation on Earth. We could be. We once were. Being better than everybody else at blowing shit up is no longer enough. We are falling behind in every measurable discipline and it is precisely because we refuse to acknowledge that we have allowed it to happen.

We refuse to accept the idea that we need let go of some of the time-honored ideas of the past and start embracing some new ideas. Like guns are bad. Sure, we’ll always have them and some people like them, but they have one purpose - killing things. That is bad. You might be able to justify that in certain circumstances, but it’s still bad. Christians, back me up here… only God has the right to kill, yes?

We need to release the idea that asking for help makes us less. I know, women already know this. Men, we need to shit-can this idea right quick. It is the fundamental idea that keeps mental illness in the stigma-burdened state it’s in. We have to let go of this idea that if it’s in our heads, we can fix it ourselves. Sometimes, gasp, we need help.

While it’s a glorious thing to sit back and imagine a world where there are no guns, no violence and we can all hold hands and sing kumbaya, we have to acknowledge that while most people are basically good-hearted, (I have no stats for that assumption, but without it, I just can’t go on), there are always those who prey on the weak and/or the stupid. There will always be those who feel this in their bones, and refuse to be prey.

They want guns.
Too bad. It is what it is.

You can’t walk into a crowded place and kill a bunch of people with anything other than an explosive device or a gun. If a person tried to do it with, say, a hammer, he would be stopped before the death toll rose. But one senseless killing is too many. The focus needs to be on how we can foresee this kind of pattern in a kid and stop it before it becomes an adult problem. I don’t know how that is to be done, but it’s pretty obvious that the current system ain’t workin’. If we continue to centralize our mental health approach around prison, we’re going to be incarcerating a lot of people and turning them into people who belong in prison.

We need a better solution, and somebody smarter than me needs to step up. And not just one of you eggheads, either. We need a truck load of really smart people, unencumbered by politics and HMOs, to step up, sit down and put together a position paper on how things need to be run. Get it in front of the American people, and do it now. We’ll take it from there. Politicians may be too afraid of special interest groups, but none of them have ever had to face a unified force of scared shitless American Moms who are willing to kick someone’s ass to keep their kids safe. I know some moms, and I’m here to tell you… they know how to get shit done. Put ‘protecting the kids’ in the mix, and watch the ass-kicking commence.

And, by the way, all you people pointing fingers at guns, video games, heavy metal, etc. just shut up. There’s a reason that stuff sells. It’s because we love it. We love to watch a good guy splatter a bunch of bad guys. It serves our sense of righteousness. And it is that very sense of righteousness we have given away and no longer deserve. And, we’ll be needing to come to terms with that, too, if we’re going to make any headway here.