BY VERN TURNER
We Americans like to think of ourselves as fearless defenders of righteousness – you know, the home of the brave and all that. Yet what we present to the world is a people so terrified and hateful of one another that we shoot each other to the tune of 30,000 per year. The gun has become the symbol of our country, replacing the eagle of majesty and grace. What are we so afraid of?
I am sick and tired of seeing flags at half-mast. I’m sorrowfully tired of seeing weeping mothers, daughters, fathers and sons filling my TV screen because one of their loved ones was mindlessly shot to death by someone with a gun. I’m beyond disgusted with those who presume to govern, telling us about their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of our national pornography of horror. When have thoughts and prayers prevented anybody with a gun from killing somebody else? It doesn’t seem to matter whether the shooter is a crazed, psychological wreck or a supposedly highly trained police officer. The gun decides who lives and who dies in this country.
Perhaps we have been afraid since before we became a nation, and that fear has prevented us from viewing the gun as anything but an instrument of our salvation. Some portions of this country who thought bonded humans working as chattel [some still think that] was their right and led them to help write the Second Amendment in order to keep firearms legal for slave uprising suppression and runaway slave posses. I guess they needed the gun to make them not fear for their lives from people who didn’t want to be worked to death by greedy capitalists – even in the 18th or 19th Century. Back then, of course, we had no standing army, and the British still wanted to take us back into their empire. We were also afraid of the Native Americans whose land we were taking without asking. The gun gave the invaders the advantage they needed to complete that takeover and bring those native populations to near extinction. From this history, it would seem that fear and “self-defense” were the keystones of our nation building all supported by the gun.
Well, now it seems that the gun has become a political and a kind of religious symbol by which we scare the living daylights out of one another. The police must be absolutely terrified of everyone because of the gun laws allowing every citizen to have the ultimate judge and jury on their person, either exposed or concealed. The police have seen enough of their number being killed by someone pulling a surprise gun on them. “Surprise! You’re dead!” Is it any wonder, then, that the cops are shooting first and asking questions later? Who can blame them? Well, maybe we all should blame them as well as ourselves and those spineless cretins we elect to govern.
Demagogues have fanned the flames of fear from time immemorial. Today, the NRA, once a quaint club for hunters and recreational shooters, has been hijacked by people more strongly connected to the gun manufacturers than the dues-paying members who don’t want to be lumped in with the crazies with guns. The rank and file membership, for example, are over 70% in favor of gun registration.
Yet, propagandists like Wayne LaPierre constantly beat the drum of fear and hate as he scares the weak into thinking that the government tyrants are coming for their guns. Mind you, these so-called tyrants are the same people the NRA pays off to weaken and avoid sensible gun laws that might prevent lunatics from shooting up schools, movie theaters and nightclubs.
Why does the NRA keep doing this? Money. Every time a great fear movement comes oozing from the mouth of LaPierre, or a right-wing politician, gun sales skyrocket. This raises the stock of the gunmakers and makes the owners and the stockholders even richer. This is called a racket. This racket pushes the sale of assault-style weapons because they can. They try to soften the rhetoric by labeling them recreational or hunting weapons. They are neither.
There is also the lie about self- or home-defense. The statistics show that gun use to prevent or stop home invasions is so small that it doesn’t even make the pro-gun media. Moreover, the number of mass killings stopped by some private citizen with a gun is ZERO. Worse, little children having somehow gained access to guns, end up killing themselves or their parents at a far higher rate.
But some American males, lacking a true understanding of their masculinity, cling to these “macho” toys in order to fulfill some longing for strength and power over others, or are merely extending their military experience where they were trained to feel naked and vulnerable without their weapon in close proximity. Either way, our society suffers when one of these gun worshippers loses his way psychologically, and becomes a self-ordained assassin.
Clearly, this issue, like the tar baby of Uncle Remus stories, is very difficult to overcome and solve so that the killings will slow down enough where we don’t lead the world in gun deaths per capita anymore.
Our fears go deeper than just the gun mongers. We have an American version of the Taliban living among us. They fear women and women’s rights, both social and sexual. They, like their Muslim equivalent, want women to be jobless and at home to be brooders of future Americans. They eschew reproductive rights and cover their fear with religious-based dogma that defies logic, human rights and reason. The domestic Taliban also want to suppress voting from those they fear have different agendas than they. This “movement” is euphamized with terms like “family values” or “conservative values” or other such yummy-sounding labels.
The fact is these ideologues want to use their rights to suppress or eliminate the rights of those they disagree with. Again, fear is the driving force here. The males in the domestic Taliban are terrified of women usurping their roles in the house or on the job. They fear losing control or at least giving up some control and actually having to work as a cooperating adult instead of the “lord and master” nonsense produced by certain religions. They fear homosexuals for reasons bordering on pure fiction. So far, homosexuals or marriage equality laws have NOT prevented anyone from getting married in any way they see fit. It’s fear of the “other” in society that has these very weak people scurrying for cover. In my opinion, they are too eager to follow the rants of some religious demagogue and too lazy to work out the reality and the logic themselves.
The politicians who answer to the American Taliban will not offer any legislation to help limit gun ownership and use by those who shouldn’t have them. If they did, they’d be violating their covenant with their donors, the gun industry, via the NRA. The fear in government starts with the fear of not being re-elected. The NRA and other right-wing groups stoke those fears.
The Koch Archipelago and their star chamber of hyper-rich feed the maw of corruption based on those electoral fears. They have scared the daylights out of mostly Republican politicians who lack any real agenda that serves their constituents, thus securing their safety from laws that prevent them from getting richer still.
When people talk about our nation being taken over by the “other,” they are really stoking more fears about those who do not share their religious beliefs. They lie about what the Constitution says about religion. They lie about the true meaning and court rulings regarding the Second Amendment. They lie about where money should be spent.
Our wars are all about oil and control of people who are “not like us.” Except that in the strictest sense, the Muslim Taliban and the conservative Republicans are very much alike. Check it out. Their “values” and social backwardness are very, very similar. In essence, today’s Republicans want their own version of sharia law. OK, maybe they won’t order stonings for women who have abortions or actually have dates, or for homosexuals. Then, maybe that’s only a generation away from being OUR reality.
I want to end this piece on a positive note. Give me a minute. OK. We are about to have two of the more interesting political party conventions in memory. Candidates from both major parties have toxic disapproval ratings; deserving as they are. Now what?
Well, there are movements in each party that want to overturn the “presumptive” candidate and draft someone else. Good luck with that. Clearly, Donald Trump is out of his mind and could not manage a beer bust in a brewery, never mind the executive branch of government.
Hillary Clinton has been caught lying to the FBI and the American people about e-mail usage. Never mind that she and her predecessors had to use their own private servers because the government systems were so antiquated as to be unusable. That’s what austerity looks like in our government.
Clinton, on paper, will do just fine as president. The trick is getting her a Congress that works. That means ousting the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Without the American Taliban festering in those houses, we might be able to find our way to becoming a nation of reason instead of one of fear, more fear and fear strong enough to keep killing each other. Maybe.
WE THE PEOPLE need to do our job, because this current lot of “representatives,” with a few exceptions, is certainly not doing theirs. Maybe when they are not so afraid, we won’t be either.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.