TL;DR: Gun violence is awful, but terrorism/domestic terrorism/mass shootings may be caused by social failure to incorporate men rather than by access to guns.
I’ve been thinking and feeling a lot of things about the Las Vegas shooting, the situation and response in Puerto Rico, and our lack of good leadership. I see the flags at half-staff and feel that they mark not only the loss of human life in Las Vegas but the loss of everything good about the US. Like many of you, I suspect, I’m caught in anger, sadness, and despair…despair that this will just keep happening.
On the one hand, I want to destroy the NRA and the ammosexuals and their pet Congressmen. I am a gun owner, I even have an assault rifle (an AR-15, like many other Americans), but I don’t think it’s a right. Guns don’t give me a chubby and I’d be happy enough without them.
I’m not illiterate; the Second Amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I absolutely support the right of any American to keep and bear a single-shot flintlock or musket, assuming they can prove membership in a well regulated militia.
Heck, I’d be willing to concede that the Framer’s Intent is to ensure that citizens can fight back against an over-reaching government. So if the US limits the military’s equipment to what a citizen can obtain (cause ain’t no amount of AR-15s or bump stocks going to help if the President busts out the US military on Americans), and also requires Americans to show proof of membership in well regulated militias in order to keep and bear arms, I’m down with that. After all, I’m a technologist and futurist, and technology advances. I believe our founding fathers knew it did too – I mean, look at Ben Franklin.
So that’s the Second Amendment part of the discussion. Now what about the NRA/Congress part? The NRA has also changed; it’s no longer about anything except making money for weapons and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. It is completely, unforgivably, evil and craven. As I said, I own many weapons and have never and will never be a member of the NRA or give them one penny.
I don’t know how you teach empathy and responsibility to people who were born without either. It’s firmware, not software you can install once someone reaches adulthood lacking a soul. However, they do care about money, and their pet Congressmen care about money, power, and face. So I would like to see European-style bold, public, and over-the-top protests targeting both. Perhaps drones dropping animal blood equaling the amount of human blood from victims of gun violence in the US on NRA HQS, or on the Capitol building. Or red paint to avoid the biohazard. Get a truckload of dolls, one for every man, woman, and child who had their life ended or irrevocably damaged by gun violence and dump it on the Capitol steps or the front lawn of Congresspeople who take money from the NRA and vote accordingly. Project images of the dead on the homes of the Congresspeople. They bear some of the responsibility for each death.
I’ll stop short of going full Hammurabi and suggesting that NRA members, executives, and NRA Congressmen lose a family member each time their weapons kill a person.
Another way to hit Congress is in the pocketbook and power zones. If people stop going to nightclubs, stop attending college in their states, stop paying to attend large outdoor events like music concerts, sports, or inaugurations, business owners and local Chambers of Commerce will change out the elected officials.
In short, there’s still stuff you can do.
But the title of this post isn’t “Raq demonstrates that she’s a Slytherin.” It’s “Getting to the root of the problem.”
I own an AR-15 and a Sig Sauer P226. My son has a Ruger .22 boys’ rifle. We have a Remington 870 shotgun for home defense. I’m from New Mexico, for Pete’s sake. I knew many people who had been shot or shot themselves by the time I was 18.
Every other weapon in our safe is a collectible/antique from WWII or earlier, though, so a lot of ammosexuals would say that doesn’t count. We are also hardcore about safety – the weaponsmithing workshop has layers of locks and security and the best gun safe you can buy. The Remington is stored elsewhere but likewise secured with multi-factor authentication (something I know, something I am, and something I have).
I would happily get rid of all of them if it would save a life.
But (again). A lot of Americans have a lot of weapons, and while those are unquestionably a factor in far too many deaths, I’m not sure the guns are the root cause of mass shootings like Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Columbine. Lots of Americans have lots of weapons, and hundreds of thousands of us never go out and shoot people. And yet, at least annually and sometimes more, a (usually white) man between teens and geriatric age will do just that. Why?
Let’s look first at history: as humans, we’ve always had problems with violent tendencies in the male half of our population. We used to be able to give them a release valve via hunting, tribal conflict, war, exploration and pioneering, or just allowing men to be violent and awful. However, it turns out that that last one is really counter-productive for society, so we’ve as a group agreed to constrain those actions. That social change came about much later than the evolutionary one that selected for aggression and violence, though, and not all men can shift those tendencies into sports, business, or becoming online trolls.
We can no longer exile these problem cases to lives of piracy on the open seas, and lives of cyber-piracy on the open Internet doesn’t scratch the itch for them. Plus you need skills for that, and most of the domestic terrorists lack skills (a point for more discussion). We can no longer exile them to the Wild West or send them to slaughter Lakota (but their ancestors did that; so many shooters come from Western states).
Possible solution: Get that Moon base and Mars colonization going. Start undersea exploration and use wildcatters for it.
Possible solution: Rework our educational system to be better suited for boys. Completely undo the factory-like approach we use now. Teach skills. Maybe actually invest in an educational system.
I don’t know though…I’m still not convinced.
Let’s look next at who DOESN’T do the mass shootings. Women. Men between the ages of puberty and senility who are minorities, and/or come from rough backgrounds (like, oh, New Mexico). White men who are Jewish or Catholic or Hindu or Mormon.
That suggests two different veins of psychosocial ore to mine: one, men who get a certain level of violence in their daily life don’t need to go create more, and two, what do all those groups have in common?
Looking at the first one, if it’s the case, then it would suggest that we could end domestic terrorism and mass shootings by ensuring that everyone grew up in economically strapped, prosepect-poor, violent communities. I don’t recommend that. Also, if we consider global terrorists like ISIS as well, many of them came up in underprivileged and violent societies and still turned to violence. They just aren’t female, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, or Mormon.
Another approach might be to work to end all economic and educational disadvantage and then just deal with the spasms of the annual mass shooting.
Maybe, if we somehow get amazing leadership and amazing unity, we could end all economic and educational disadvantage AND screen for men who are going to crack and kill. Or remove all weapons. And then we’re in Logan’s Run and let’s face it, we’re more like chimps than like bonobos. I’d rather work on possible solutions.
So here’s my thought, and also where I piss of my agnostic, atheist, and white evangelical friends (if I have any of the last group left).
I think it’s a failure of communities to teach social responsibility via coming-of-age ceremonies.
Women get coming-of-age no matter what religion or culture, because you start your period and you start getting raped (or men at least vocally indicate the intent). Women are also more socially responsible by nature – give a girl a bunch of toy trucks or guns and she’s likely to decide they are a family and will go on adventures together or play house.
Both women and men in black American cultures have some coming-of-age elements. Black men get told “you are a man now” and given the list of expectations about what that means. It’s not always great, and can be overwhelmed by other social pressures.
Same for Latino men, who are largely Catholic and get it through the Church. Confirmation in the Catholic church happens in early adolescence, when young men and women are able to understand the laws of God, and it comes along with an understanding that you as an individual must observe and uphold those for the good of the community.
Same for Judaism, with bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah, and Hinduism. Coming of age ceremonies signify that a boy or girl is mature enough to understand his responsibility towards family and society, and they provide a powerful psychological ritual that members of the religion can use as a foundation throughout their lives. You belong, and belonging means that you have a responsibility, and your community says that they trust you to uphold it.
Perhaps Islam and evangelical Christianity, which both lack coming of age rituals and lack that messaging, are what we need to change. Perhaps if the underlying message in both moved away from the selfish and self-centered, away from the “you aren’t responsible” and towards the “you are adult enough and strong enough to be responsible for your people, and they tell you this via this ritual,” the puberty-and-up men of those groups would start acting like adults.
Why don’t authors spend as much time researching foreign policy as they do science? Andy Weir got some of the science wrong in The Martian, but just small details. Then he got ALL of the foreign policy so laughably wrong it discredits the rest of the book. He might as well have written that a team of brown and black poor people left a Muslim abandoned on an island, and Donald Trump selflessly contributed all his money to the rescue effort, swimming out himself to bring the guy to America, where the whole team was made citizens.
If you read that, you wouldn’t care how good the Muslim guy’s science and problem solving was, or how funny his quips are – you wouldn’t be able to take the story seriously, nor would you think the overall problem had been resolved in any realistic way.
I don’t mean to bag on Weir, who is a friend of a friend (but who isn’t?)…he’s just following in the footsteps of so many other creatives. Authors and filmmakers strive to get the science and technology and military aspects right. They don’t always achieve it, but they try. Police and medical and legal procedural aspects are sometimes researched and generally only abused when the author/filmmaker needs a lazy way to create or resolve conflict. But whenever diplomacy and foreign affairs are included in a story, it’s clear that not one shred of research has been done, and not one bit of verisimilitude is desired. Why?
Theory #1: No one’s bothered about it before, and no one complains, so why expend the effort?
Theory #2: “I watch the news so I already know everything about this stuff.”
Theory #3: It’s really complex, and not at all sexy. I mean, they don’t even use guns!
Theory #4: “All the people who work for international agreements have to be as dumb, fucked-up, and selfish as Congress, right? I’ll just write them like Congress.”
Theory #5: All of the above.
Foreign affairs practitioners, be they the diplomats and military and espionage professionals ofthe JSOC and the JTTF (as character-assassinated by Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War), Foreign Service Officers (even if you assume that a guy wouldn’t know he was fucking a dude, to give Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly its premise, no FSO is going to exclaim “I got promoted to Third Secretary!”), or the magical science and technology liaisons of the world’s space programs in The Martian, are the Rodney Dangerfields of fiction. They get no respect.
The work, and the world they work in is incredibly complex, and by failing to show the same respect for the profession that they show to the military, our media tells the public that it’s OK to be uninformed or misinformed, and OK to disregard foreign affairs. Then you get Obama (at best), who had to learn it on the job and never really undid the mess left by Bush, or you get Trump (I’m not going to say “at worst,” because while Trump’s presence as the GOP nominee is unimaginably bad, it can always get worse), who can sell the idea of a wall along the US-Mexico border, paid for by Mexico as a possible thing.
Please. Don’t include the foreign affairs career in your work if you aren’t going to treat it with the same respect you’d show any other element.
ETA: A friend reminded me that this is one of the two reasons I quit watching Black Mirror (the other was the gaspingly atrocious misogyny): the unrealistic depictions of politicians and leaders in service of the plot. For the story to happen that way, the creators replaced the experts with characters who had the professional expertise of a rutabaga.
It’s been a good long time since a random stranger told me to smile. It really stopped in my 30s, and when I had a kid. Guys don’t tell mothers to smile. Guys also don’t tell middle-aged women to smile, or so I thought. At least this guy apologized, but WTF.
I was walking into work from my car, and either the rainy weather or the season or something made me think of a dear friend of mine who passed away suddenly a couple years ago. I could see his old office window, and I was struck with a wave of sadness and missing him. A man about my age coming out of the building said “Good morning hon – you should smile, it’s not that bad.” I was a couple steps past him when his words sunk in.
I am no longer a scared 20-something. I turned and said, politely, “Sorry it took me a second – I was just thinking about a friend who died.” The guy seemed a bit surprised at getting more interaction than he’d expected, and I continued, “He used to work right there (pointing).” The guy’s expression softened right away and he said “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” By this point we’d both stopped, so I added “Look, I know you probably meant well, but telling me to smile…(a wince and hand gesture, like “bad move”). People have things going on in their heads all the time, and it just seems kind of heartless…”
He totally got it, and said “You just looked so sad, I just wanted to wish you a happy day” and I replied, “And for that, thanks” and we parted and I came into work.
On the one hand I was glad he turned out to be a decent dude and there wasn’t a confrontation. On the other hand, I was maybe jonesing a bit for a confrontation to make up for all the times in my youth I didn’t say anything. On the third hand, no reason to punish this guy.
On the fourth hand, or the feet because it’s the basis for all of this – I hate hate hate the sense that I am supposed to be a null entity with nothing going on in my head or my life except that which reflects the emotional needs of men. Even mellow decent guys like the guy today clearly feel that unconsciously -if he’d seen a man my age looking sad, he would not have said “you should smile.” He would have assumed the man had a reason to be sad, and probably left it alone.
Not everyone does this, of course – my dear departed friend never did. I miss him. And I probably look sad right now. And that’s OK.
I think a lot of the negative comments on Carrie Fisher’s appearance in SW:TFA are due to the fact that people aren’t used to seeing a middle-aged woman in a movie. Or, really, in any media. Not only does this movie put a realistic-looking older woman on screen, her character is not a stereotypical “old woman” – she’s a mother, a wife, and a military commander. She is leaning the fuck in.
As any mother knows, you do the best you can. Every kid is born with their own personality, and a child of the Skywalker lineage was going to be non-neuronormative. I’ve always sort of wondered what the mother of the villain feels…there’s probably a certain sense of guilt and responsibility, but maybe also “Well, at least he isn’t mediocre.”
So she no longer rocks the metal slave bikini – Han still loves her. And let’s face it, he’s aged also (plus the scar from the plane crash didn’t help). I believe that these two had a passionate marriage all the way up to having a passionate separation.
Unlike the guys, she’s still fighting. Luke peaced out and went off to hide (which seems weird for him but who knows). Han did the male midlife thing of trying to go back to the things he
did as a youth, and ended up as a Mal Reynolds who couldn’t keep his crew. Chewie (who has aged the best of any of them) probably shrugged at Leia and went to babysit Han and talk him out of the red convertible speedster ship. Leia, OTOH, kicked New Republic ass until they took the First Order threat seriously and then recruited the best pilots and got to work.
So sure, I wish Fisher hadn’t immobilized her face, and I wish the costumers hadn’t dressed her like Nien Nunb – those two decisions were unfortunate together. But she’s wearing the body of a woman who’s had and raised a child, had a marriage, and had a life, and that’s the kind of body we need to see on screen more often.
To the current Presidential Administration and the Congress of the United States of America:
Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick!
A gun is a tool that is specifically and efficiently designed for killing another living creature, usually another human, while putting the killer at the least risk possible. Mostly gun owners use their guns for killing their own children, spouses, and significant others, sometimes accidentally, and for fantasizing about killing people like me and you, who work for the federal government. Some of the guns are used for killing innocent animals for “fun.” This is completely creepy and disturbing, but it’s also normal primate behavior. Some humans, like some chimps, enjoy killing. These humans would probably throw their poo at me for writing this, but they can’t get to it through their Realtree camouflage waterproof hunting pants. Also they are too drunk to find their own ass.
I know you are sort of thinking about gun control legislation, in a way that will be nonspecifically and inefficiently designed for appeasing some voters, while putting you at the least risk possible. You’re not going to touch the people who use their guns for hunting, because they are poo-throwing drunks who demand their right to participate in their “sport” (although come on, it’s not a sport if the other side doesn’t know it’s playing). We’ve already got murder and manslaughter laws to deal with the people who kill their spouses, significant others, enemies, random individuals who got too drunk hunting and walked into the wrong sprawl-home, and children. I honestly don’t care about the people who kill their own kids accidentally. I’d like to think that was punishment enough, but I have never seen any statistics on how many of those people continue to be gun owners and NRA members. The way I look at it, the kids of idiots like that are better off dead, and that means fewer future NRA members. Gun safes are not a particularly difficult concept.
What I’m concerned about, and what you claim to be concerned about, are the few individuals who haven’t adapted well to being human, and who would be the crazy (usually young male) chimps that the other chimps tear to shreds. These are the people who can use all the freedoms the NRA has bought for them to bear more arms than they have arms. These are the people who then go and kill lots of people who couldn’t kill them back, even if they too had guns. These are the people who will never stop trying to kill our babies, our defenseless children, and they should be easily identifiable because they are crazy.
I think it says something that, as difficult as meaningful gun control is in America, you think it’s easier to try for THAT than to fund science that would help identify and treat crazy people. I think it should be achievable to have a background check for crazy, even based off a very fast and non-intrusive test. You guys believe in the polygraph, you should believe in guns that read physiological indices (such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity) and won’t let themselves be fired. I would like to see you, our leaders, take a pro-active rather than reactive stance for once. Use all that money the NRA gives you to pay some big brains to create guns that can’t be used by crazy people. And yes, you’re going to have to define “crazy.” And yes, that’s hard. But if you ran for the job you have on the belief that you would never have to do anything hard, you should quit now. And don’t pick up a gun, because you are crazy.
It’s hard, but it’s possible. Because this is America, land of arm-bearers, elected leaders who serve the people, and really amazing innovators.
By the way, I know you guys don’t read the Internets, but your whole gun-control thing? Made totally moot this week. Some of those amazing innovators have made it possible for anyone to print their own gun using a 3-D printer. Those are available in lots of public places, and the price is coming down. They’ll cost less than $2000 in a couple years. If this doesn’t scare the poo right through your hunting pants, you aren’t thinking.
So yes, as usual you guys are half-heartedly debating legislation that is already OBE. But you, like the country you serve, can change quickly if you decide to. You can’t keep guns from getting into anyone’s hands. But you can help keep crazy people from going on shooting sprees in public places. You may have to ask the American public to step up and help you with this, but you know what? WE WILL.