Monday, January 10, 2011

Guns, Words, and Thoughts - Continued

Yesterday's post was, as so many of mine are, a set of thoughts in progress. I'll build on them and, partially, on Andy's comment.

What I'm concerned about is the effect of so much about guns in our national dialog on our (my!) thinking and potentially on a disturbed young man's thinking. I'm not thinking about gun laws as much as what all this gun stuff does to us.

The primary purpose of guns is damaging and killing animals and people. That's it. Punching holes in paper is a means to that end, and some may stop there. The guns in Andy's collection wouldn't be there except for that primary purpose, because they wouldn't have been built strictly as art objects. Skillful engineering and the history of its progress is to be admired and, at times, collected. My father collected typewriters for many of the same reasons. But a collection of typewriters doesn't present the same hazards that a collection of guns (or swords, or bows and arrows) does. They have different primary purposes.

Furthermore, guns make their purpose much easier to achieve than do other weapons. That was brought home to me in that target practice. My ranged weapon had been a rather old wooden longbow, not today's gun-like metal recurved, levered, and spring-loaded bows. It takes time to learn the flight angle of an arrow from what I still consider to be a real bow and how to draw and release so that you don't mess it up.

But a gun! Essentially flat trajectory of the bullet and much smaller angle between eye and aim. Use the muscle discipline you've learned for bow and arrow, and it's easy.

And the connection between guns and masculinity is real. As the national dialog focuses on that connection, or is motivated by it, it impoverishes the creativity and generativity that also is tightly connected to masculinity.

So we come to believe that military force will fix anything. Just look at those guys, duded up like superheroes! And, of course, those superheroes fix everything in no time at all! (Just wondering if all the troubles of "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark" could be taken as a metaphor for pushing that sort of masculinity to its absurd end.) Or we can revisit the relationship among sex, war, and death.

Or we can't have gun laws because that would emasculate all the "good" gun owners. I'm being glib there, of course, and NRA money is involved in the politics of gun laws. If there were a public reaction against the crazy idea that assault weapons, whose primary purpose is killing humans, not animals, should be available to everyone, the politics might come out differently. But supporting such a thing has been made to seem weak, not masculine.

And it oozes into other kinds of politics. Playing chicken is a well-known pastime of late adolescent males, high in testosterone. Lindsey Graham, who once seemed like a reasonable Republican, is now playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States, the country he claims to love. Is that to keep ahead of a Tea Party primary opponent or because some of the internet gossip suggests he's gay? Would it make a difference?

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