Friday, October 4, 2013

Addiction or Madness?

What is the technical distinction between addiction and insanity?

For instance, is America addicted to guns, or just crazy?  We can distinguish between kinds and shades of madness.  The guy who shot up Fort Hood was fanatical.  The kid who shot up Sandy Hook was crazy. The guy who shot up the Washington Navy Yard was delusional.

So, as a nation... What's our excuse?

The killing goes on, but Heaven forbid we should have a substantive or productive national debate about gun control.  The all mighty NRA will continue its broken record-like tirade, claiming that more guns are the answer, not fewer.  Through their mock tears and empty platitudes in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA posited the theory that schools are targeted by the deranged and suicidal for one simple reason:  Schools are gun-free zones, and therefore vulnerable.  (Huh.  'Never knew the deranged and suicidal were that pragmatic.)  Of course, this argument fails to address mass shootings which take place at heavily armed facilities such as military academies and Navy yards, where the victims were not defenseless children but trained killers.  That crazy woman who just tried to plow her car through the White House gates in defiance of an army of cops wasn't even armed.  (What if she had been?)

A renowned (and published) American military sniper was, a short while ago, fatally shot by one of his own students, a troubled young man whose mentor apparently felt would benefit from channeling his dark impulses into focused gun use.  The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter apparently had the same reasoning regarding her son, whom she trained with her legally obtained firearms before he shot and killed her, a school full of kids and himself.  We're a country immersed in the culture of the gun.  It seems part of our national soul, part of our identity as a people.  Senseless shootings in our streets still shock and sadden us, but not to the point of getting guns under control, as other countries (Scotland, New Zealand, Korea, etc.) have effectively done in the wake of their national tragedies.  No, to us as a nation, gun control seems unthinkable.  Almost sacrilegious.  At the first feeble stirrings out of the Obama administration regarding the possibility of gun control, the gun nuts start hiding and stockpiling their precious firearms, conjuring disturbing images of underground militias and rural rebellion.  No matter how many mass killings happen, no matter how many schools or government installations get shot up, no matter how many innocent people die needlessly, the gun nuts will continue their stale litany:  "Just 'cause there's a few bad apples out there, they wanna ruin it for all of us."  They always seem to miss the larger point:  One bad apple is all it takes.  That's why we need gun control.  And, what is it that's being ruined, exactly?

Why do so many Americans cling to their guns?  Partly out of fear, naturally.  But, that's not the whole reason, or even the primary reason.  There are other ways of defending the home against intruders, after all.  Reinforced steel doors, alarm systems, panic rooms.  No, the gun is more, psychologically than security.  It's power.  More than that, it's identity.  Freedom, or at least the illusion of it.  It's bred into us, from the blunderbuss of the pilgrims to  the flintlocks of the revolutionaries, to the six guns of the old west, and perpetuated throughout our culture in romanticized celluloid images, made flesh in Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, etc. etc...

The gun has, for the American psyche, become both madness and addiction.  Some seem to equate disarmament with castration.  We've even perverted the meaning of the Second Amendment with artfully warped logic, conveniently ignoring that part about a well-regulated militia and twisting an amendment which was clearly about a nation's collective right to raise an army into the demented idea that an individual has a sacred, God-given right to own a gun.  (Not healthcare, of course, but a gun.)

We're not individually addicted to guns, but as a people we clearly are.  Like all addicts, we need to break that addiction, or it must inevitably destroy us.

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