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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RECIPE FOR EXTREME VIOLENCE: WHITE HISTORY, ROSE-COLORED GLASSES, AND TONS OF GUNS



I grew up with guns. Country guns. Shotguns. .45s and .38s and beer cans on fence posts. That was back before public gun violence became a daily routine. If somebody got shot, it was a drug deal or domestic violence. There were guns all around me, practically under my pillow, and nobody got hurt. No one I know ever threatened another person with a gun. The few violent men I knew fought with their fists. Pulling a gun to settle a score wouldn't be worth the shame. Guns were for targets and critters. It seems like some kind of mythical world now.


From my experience traveling in northern Europe consistently the past few years, I offer a theory that is beginning to take shape in my mind. I'm in the UK now; their gun laws are famously rigid. The Olympic pistol team had to leave the country to practice. Intentional homicide rate is maybe a third to a quarter of the U.S., but I don't think the stringent gun laws are entirely responsible.
More interesting to this essay are other countries I've been to regularly: The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland. Canada is notably similar in that there are a lot of guns, but not much gun violence compared to the U.S. Almost every grown man in Switzerland has an assault rifle issued by the military. They have gun festivals with shooting competitions for the kids.
All these countries also take care of their citizens. You can go to school, see a doctor, or take a year off work and have a baby without worrying about losing your home or other financial catastrophes. Taxes are high, of course. Gotta pay for that stuff. Canada is closer on the scale to the U.S.: lower taxes and less social spending than most of northern Europe, but more than the U.S.
In the U.S. you are mostly on your own. If you have a strong family and/or community, you're set. If you don't you're screwed. 50% of foster kids become homeless when they turn 18. Three million U.S. citizens are homeless. That's one percent of us, sleeping on the ground, going to jail to get a decent night's sleep and breakfast. College? You know how that goes. I have friends in their forties who are finally paying off their student loans. Need mental health care? That's not covered. The ACA is not a national health care plan. It's a way to force everyone to pay for the same miserable shit that was available before. Very few people are better off with it. I'm one of them and I can still see it's a bad deal for the country. If you lose your job in the U.S., it can be life-threatening. How would you react to a life-threatening situation?
When millions of people live close to the bone in a country that doesn't seem to care about them, and the most effective weapons in the world are widely available, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to paint the resulting picture. It's not much harder to own a gun in Germany than it is to own one here. We have laws that prohibit convicted felons, the mentally ill, and non-citizens from owning guns. There are loopholes, but that's also true elsewhere. For instance, self-defense is not an acceptable reason to own a gun in the Netherlands, but being a member of a shooting club is. If you want a gun for self defense, you join a shooting club. Duh.
The availability of guns seems to be a problem in our country, but not a problem in others. As always, extreme viewpoints are suspect- "Guns are the problem" is just as extreme as "I should be able to openly carry an assault rifle into a department store." We do have laws. Colorado, one of the most gun-lovin', property-rights-conservative states in the union, passed a great piece of legislation after the school shooting in Columbine, legislation that was successful largely because part of its focus was to protect the rights of gun owners.
I appreciate everyone's passion on the issue. Sharing links from far-left and far-right sources is not likely to generate a productive discussion. Real people don't think that way. Real conversations don't happen in platitudes and memes.
Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms. Elected officials have a directive to ensure public safety. Humans have a responsibility to take care of each other. We're not all keeping our end of the bargain. I think socialism and the second amendment ought to meet and work things out. Education, health care, and a living wage might make guns fun again.
I'm not a political guy but it seems important to talk about this national crisis- a spiritual crisis, really. Does this sound foolish to anyone? Does it feel like a new way of looking at it? Did anybody else have a time in their lives when guns were kind of innocent and fun?
*************
Please no yelling, name-calling, or other horseshit on my Facebook page. Imagine we're all gathered around after a funeral. Because we kind of are. Just share and let share. Thanks.

J B


This reportedly southern white man is saying the same things a more "woke" northeastern white man, Michael Moore, has said already if you take all of his documentaries combined.

Unlike Michael Moore, this white man doesn't appear to understand that you can remove the guns from U.S. citizens a lot more easily than you can remove the American-ness from U.S. citizens.


Guns are THE PROBLEM until you somehow change the influence of 400 years of history that shaped this individualistic, turn a blind eye to everything that doesn't affect you-and-yours culture into what it is.

As a white man he may think all this self-centeredness, spiritual deficiency, unrelenting competitiveness, raging entitlement, and aggression is recent in those that have plenty. But as a black woman I can assure you that all of this has been present in since the first European set foot on this land now called the United States.


A friend of mine, a white woman from Scotland, thinks that the most aggressive of the aggressive came to this land from Europe and Britain in the first place. And may be that IS the difference between Europe and here.

Or maybe predominantly white Europe has done so much killing of one another (England, France, Germany, Spain wars over centuries) that they have a different cultural maturity (for lack of a better phrase) regarding violence. And more recently, experiencing white-on-white violence in the form of the Nazi's in person may have chilled most of them most of the way out.


But these cultural violence theories explain the difference between Europe/Britain and the United States. But these theories do not explain the difference between Canada and here. Canada actually has more guns and much fewer shooting deaths and mass shootings. I'd have to know more than a thimble full of information about Canada to even be able to guess. But this guy has not found the answer. He's taken his rose colored glasses off about the present but not the past.


This exactly what happens when you only know history from a white perspective When the fact that
that this country was founded on genocide and slavery slips your mind (especially in the South - damn), you can think the world was wonderful just a short time ago. 


We don't even have to talk about the current, fake drug war and the imprisonment of black people. When you white wash history you grow up thinking white people didn't find ways to extend slavery, almost exactly as it was, via prisons like Parchment Farm and convict leasing through 1970s. When you white wash history you erase the same desperation, poverty, hopelessness, and lawlessness that white people executed and experienced when they first landed here in 1600s, 1700s...1800s (There wasn't a bunch of kumbaya sentiment between the various groups white folks when they first got here. They fought, robbed, and murdered--- tried to do it to those that didn't look like them. But they weren't always successful. Furthermore, they counted people like the Irish as non-white until they couldn't separate them out as easily) 


And if cannot see this country's history as it really was then you will refuse to see the culture that history built. And this culture combined with access to millions and millions of guns and bullets leads to high numbers of deaths by guns.

When gun deaths are seen as primarily among black people in poor neighborhoods, then white news outlets say black culture is defective instead of gun deaths being caused by the desperation and hopelessness that comes with extreme poverty. But when the shooting deaths are among white middle class who have enough, if not everything they need, you can't see that this predominantly white culture is defective -- not even knowing that this predominantly white culture was built, relatively recently, on genocide and slavery?

* * * * *


Let's make the gun problem smaller.  Let's use smaller numbers to make the problem more accessible and the personal threat more real.
When there's only 1000 people for murderers, mass shooters, and the mentally ill to pick from, you know that  you or somebody you care about will eventually be shot to death.

Example:  If a fifth grader wanted to stop shooting deaths among a population of 1000 that she herself lived in --even after seeing ten other populations of 1000 people in them not-experience  anywhere near the same  number shooting deaths-- she would know to remove the easy access to guns and figure out why her 1000 people are different from the other groups of 1000 later. 


A fifth grader should be able to figure out that cops and military need rapid access to guns. The rest of us can wait to be screened, registered, and insured. And there's no need for anybody, outside of the military and cops, to have access to more than x bullets outside of a shooting range.