Mourning in America

Guest Post by Hank Stone of Rochester Peace Action and Education and Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace..

I read an article entitled: “Why mass shootings don’t convince gun owners to support gun control.”

The writer observes that each new mass shooting looks to gun control folks like a reason to regulate guns.  But the same event looks to gun rights people as a reason for MORE guns.

He argues that guns have

evolved from a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters to a kind of gesture of tribal solidarity, an act of defiance toward Obama, the left, and all the changes they represent. The gun lobby has become more hardened and uncompromising, pushing guns into schools, churches, and universities.”

I read another article that said this year there are predicted to be about 33,000 gun deaths in the U.S., more than the number of automobile deaths (about 32,000).  Holy crap!  Cars get us from place to place, but what is the equivalent benefit to society of guns?

Other articles say there is a difference between the way conservatives and liberals think, in general.  Liberals tend to be more positive, and accepting of gray areas.  Conservatives have more anxiety and fear, and respond to challenges with an effort to reassert control.

This idea makes sense of the Republican presidential primary, where shrill and warlike candidates fall all over each other to “reassert control.”  The complicated international scene gets reduced to good guys (us!) versus bad guys (those different from us, whom we see as threats).

Why are conservative White men angry?  They lost slavery, and with it a sense of White power.  They then lost Jim Crow laws, and now have even lost the presidency to a Black man.  They have lost control of women, which leads some to attack Planned Parenthood.

White men have lost control of religion.  The straightforward Biblical ideas, and Manifest Destiny, have given way to a multi-galaxy Universe, in which we humans are just a footnote.  And the Internet puts us in intimate contact with people with quite different religions and ideas.

White men have lost control of money.  A working man used to be able to earn enough to feed his family and build a nest egg.  Now government and fat cats have moved solid manufacturing jobs to China, or automated them out of existence.  And bankers have stolen the equity from their houses.

Conservative White men keep losing in discussions of climate change.  Despite fracking and the idea of asserting American energy independence,  the world is turning away from fossil fuels, and fossil fuel wars, and toward renewable (liberal, tree-hugger, Prius-driving) energy.

Cultural stories in which White men are independent, in control and especially favored by God, are in decline.  White men went from brave heroes in World War II to bullies and victims in the recent embarrassing oil wars.

TV mocks White men with buffoons like Archie Bunker, Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin.

The world has become topsy turvey and threatening.  So when it comes to guns, and the right to protect his family and property (against foreigners or the government), there can be no further compromise.  Guns become a symbol, a line in the sand against any further loss of personal power.

Suppose you are an angry White man, working hard but having less earning power and job security, being mocked on TV for your values, watching your country losing status and relevance in the world.  You will probably just make the best of things, and get on with your life.

But a small minority, perhaps especially people who are unbalanced, alienated or influenced by stories on TV, will act out their rage and their sense of loss with gun violence.

Looked at in this way, gun violence is part of the mourning process for the loss of American cultural stories.

The get-well plan is not, as some fear, to go door to door confiscating guns.  The story that Obama was going to “take away your guns” was invented by gun manufacturers to increase sales, and it worked.

We need new cultural stories suited to the requirements of these times.  Stories about wars against people of color, immigrants, Muslims and oil-producing countries are small-minded, obsolete, and ultimately embarrassing.

Instead we need big stories, requiring real bravery, and involving everyone in achieving a safe, sustainable and prosperous human future.


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