Guns and Fear

This is a non-writing-content post. That’s why I’m putting it up on Sunday rather than Wednesday. Thank you for reading.

Why can’t we get some gun control into our politics, our debates, our laws, our nation?

I see black people and I fear they are violent, house-robbing criminals

I see brown people and I fear they are angry, job-stealing illegal immigrants

I see women and I fear they are baby-killers who will change things and make my concerns ridiculous

I see gays and I fear they will take away my manhood, my identity

I see soldiers and I fear they are government forces of oppression

I see policemen and I fear they will plant evidence, beat me and lock me up

I see the rich and I fear they will buy votes, divert the law and make the decisions

I see the poor and I fear they will need my money, suck me down with them

I see the depressed and I fear they will infect my soul with their sadness

Then

I pick up a gun

And suddenly the only thing here to fear… is me

In the American mind, guns really do equal freedom: freedom from fear. The only way to combat that is to work on the fear. Media fearmongering, hatred passed from generation to generation, cultural attitudes, political systems of appalling jingoism.

But how do you fight a fear that doesn’t really exist? Because the danger here isn’t poor people, oppressed people, desperately fighting back against the privation that kills them. The danger here is white males, the top privileged category of people in America, rich enough to buy legal weaponry and take their hatred out for a spin.

Those who say it’s a mental health issue are correct. Every single person who has shot up a school or a church is insane, by definition – one of the most obvious criteria for sanity is whether you and society can live safely and smoothly together. Obviously not. Mental health care for all needs to be provided, emphasized, destigmatized. It can’t be just for problems anymore. Everyone needs support.

Those who say it’s a gun availability issue are also correct. Countries who make it very difficult for their citizens to acquire guns are not suddenly overrun with shootings caused by illegally obtained weapons. The tendencies toward violence, robbery and hate crimes still exist, and those crimes still happen. But death drops right out of the statistics.

We have a culture that nourishes and approves of privilege, fear, and the illusion of control over one’s own life. A culture with too much us and them thinking, too much belief in our own perfection, so that we fear and demonize those who need help as well as those who are different from ourselves. These are the underlying issues that need to be dealt with before we will have any gun control in America.

Things that are needed to fight this: close the wage gap and/or institute a minimum guaranteed income… prioritize education, especially in teaching kids how to find their own information… funded health care, including mental health care as a matter of course… demilitarize the police. Once those things are in place, addressing our national racism and prejudice and instituting gun control legislation should be more possible. It will take time.

Most of all, it will take all of us. Consider, when you vote, that you’re voting for a trend, an ongoing process – no one politician’s term is going to fix everything. Vote for those who will make strides. Consider, when you educate your children, that the schools won’t teach them to think critically, learn how to learn, or find trustworthy sources for the floods of information available to them – do that yourself. Consider, when you speak and act and think and write, whether you’re advancing the causes of prejudice, fear and hatred or the causes of equality, justice and strength.

Be a positive presence in the world. We are climbing out of the darkness, as any long-term set of statistics shows. It’s a long climb and there’s a long way to go, but despair pulls us back, not drives us forward. Be part of the effort. Combat fear in yourself and everywhere you find it. Light a light.

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