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Y’all go get your guns…I’ll wait here (until you’re gone)

Persephone,

I’m so glad to hear about your increased mobility and its benefits. It could happen to a better person, but I don’t know that there are better people.

Gee, I don’t know about the gun thing chasing off evil spirits. My gun mojo is not nearly as positive.

I grew up with guns. My dad was a reactionary gun freak–very second amendment but anti-ACLU. There are few things more frightening than an anti-Vatican II, millennial, end-times, Fatima freak with a gun. Instead of porn or shoe obsessions, it was gun and rosary fetishes.

I wound up being second-amendment ambivalent, particularly after watching white guys in suits and caddies selling brand-new Taurus, Cobra, Ingram, Ruger, Beretta, and Remington machine pistols, semi-autos, and revolvers out of their trunks to kids and crack dealers in the park in front of my house for $35-$75/pistol. Seeding the market, I think they call it. Getting inner-city miscreants hooked on crack and meth went hand-in-hand with getting them hooked on guns. Those $35 deals turned into regular, full-price gun sales as citizens got spooked and the NRA and gun companies responded with intense marketing. Saturated with all kinds of cheap guns, the inner-city, at least here in KC, fueled the illegal trade, which depends, of course, very heavily on the legal trade.

I’m a Bill of Rights guy, ACLU member, highly critical of centers of power. So, I don’t have a problem with second amendment. I have a problem with the NRA doing gun-company marketing under the guise of being a nonprofit political advocacy corporation; and making gun owners feel that if they do not send in NRA dues they will lose the right to bear arms. I have an issue with corporate domination of the trade while undertaking principle-distorting public relations campaigns to convince people that people kill people. True, but they do it more easily with guns whose makers and manufacturing, distribution, and trade is unregulated and amoral, and whose ethics center on increasing profit. Imagine what our collective murder rate would be if you had to go back to killing people with knives, clubs, and bare hands. That’s not easy. Standing across the room and exacting petty revenge or indulging momentary is.

In short, I think the Second Amendment has become less about the right to bear arms than another aspect of the conscious prevention of serious and intelligent discussion about the changing nature of a highly technological and increasingly complex society. Unlike H.L. Menken, I believe that if anyone offers simple solutions that reinforce one’s visceral feelings, you should run from them because they are more dangerous than a maniac with a gun. We have a history of firearm use that’s more often ugly, un-dignified, and pitiful (Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”), and complicated and ambiguous (Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West”) than honorable, righteous, and upstanding (insert the title of any John Wayne movie here).

Despite that social/political/economic/cultural complexity, the drivers of the capitalist machinery, those with money and power, want you to believe the old days were golden, that a man or woman chained to a gun or car or house or land was free, and that simple solutions to complex problems are not motivated by manipulative profit- or power-seeking motives.

In addition, I can’t stop thinking about the issues of:

1. Federally subsidizing arms manufacturing and corporate profits with tax dollars, shifting more of the gun burden to the people most affected by gun violence;

2.Tightening military-government-contractor bonds, and increasing the government’s interests in maintaining and increasing private gain at the expense of labor, the working poor, and the lower-middle class–in a sense, extirpating another little bit of wealth we gain from sale of our labor and returning in profit to those who already have wealth and power;

3. extension of racial stereotypes regarding poverty and violence, using those stereotypes to maintain violent social division the 90 percent of us who work for a living, and exaggerating alleged threats of gun control to increase sales;

4. the expanding and increasingly martial nature of American life;

5. and our uncritical view the use of mythical American values in the marketing of expanding military budgets and military contractors.

That all said, due to the nature of my mental illnesses, I go to bed firing an M60 or assault rifle a free floating anxiety made of self-hatred, constant embarrassment over who I am and where I come from, and self-doubt. Destruction, it seems, is what puts me to sleep at night.

So, Persephone, when it comes to guns, I like ’em. I’m tangled up with them. My history is made of them. The relationships I have with other workers depend on them.

First, when someone asks me to take them out on the Missouri River, I always ask them if they have a rifle or fireworks. (It’s kind of a free-fire zone out there. I like to start every morning on the river with a celebratory salvo of the non-Portnoy nature: a bottle rocket offered to the gods of heaven and earth as a show of joy at being alive.)

Guns and fireworks–gratification of the immediate desire for results, destruction, and power.

Next, I grew up with hunting, not as a way of life, but as a way to appeal to a nostaligified and mythical past. I shot a few things but could never get over the connections, what I would now call the DNA-similarities, between me and those I killed wantonly, expecting some sort of power gratification that, when tasted, was bitter. I didn’t need them to eat or for any status. My family didn’t need them. It was just an expression of our general lack of power as working-class stiffs. And, ultimately, that’s the nature, I think, of the thrill of killing, beating on weaker people, molesting children, etc.

But many of my union and nonunion crafts- and labor friends cannot imagine life without guns and hunting. I can talk to them because I speak that language. We have a connection, then, because of guns–some from true gun-conservation/preservationist culture and need, some from simple power/gun fetish, and still others from modern, corporatized and marketed gun culture.

I can’t and won’t shoot any living thing, including an attacking human. Hell, I don’t eat meat. I won’t even fight back an attacker except to strong-arm my way into being able to flee. I have pulled fisticuffers apart and thrown them to the pavement, stepped in front of guns pointed in anger, and diffused who knows how many situations. I go out after a rain to return earthworms to the grass from the sidewalk.

I suppose violence is our lot or is a destiny we choose. Death, of course, is inevitable. Violence is everywhere. (My family was made of violence–physical, psycho, emotional.) Death is inevitable. People can get plenty of each on their own. I don’t need to contribute, or contribute by assent.

And, again, guns become the connection between me and men and women who think being a vegetarian somehow makes me a out-of-the mainstream freak. After all, they, their lives as rural people, and industrial workers and craftspeople are consistently under assault by well-meaning if insensitive touchy-feelies who treat them with derision and scorn.

Generally, a discussion that starts with the common ground and language of hunting and fishing general leads to me stating my origins, my killing fatigue, the reasons for it, and my principles. One thing that many people understand and respect is principle and the person who holds true to principle. If that practice is based on and includes understanding and love for the priorities and lives of around me, I don’t get shit, and, in fact, gain a lot of respect. Backing everything up with brawn and determination on the job tends to help.

I’ve only ever gotten gentle ribbing on the subject of meat and guns. Stuff like, “I know one thing that moved on its own you’ll stick in our mouth…” Birthdays and holidays, I reply, and the conversation ends.

I hope you will forgive me if this discussion offends you. Second-amendment people tend to take the gun issue personally. I hope you understand my intent: another part of an ongoing conversation I want to keep with a very intelligent and passionately socially involved person.

Yours,
Patrick

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