Wednesday, January 6, 2016

America And Guns: The Cold, Hard Truth

Let's talk about guns, okay?
Specifically let's talk about America's culture and history which is intertwined with guns and gun violence.
Even before we became a nation, guns were a fact of life here. And, it could be argued that were it not for guns we would have never achieved our independence. After all, we won the American Revolution with guns. Throughout American history guns have been a way of settling scores both large and small.
Two of our founding fathers fought a duel with guns and one of them died.
Native Americans had bows and arrows. We had guns. We vanquished them with guns. The West was settled and tamed with guns. State boundaries were determined with guns. Territorial rights were protected with guns. Pathways, trails, waterways and roads were secured via the barrel of a gun.
It's no accident that the right to bear arms was written into our Constitution and that it is part of our hallowed Bill of Rights. It's not a mistake that this right was linked to the protection of individual and property rights as well as the right of the citizenry to be protected from all credible threats to their freedom and security, both foreign and domestic.
The gun history and gun culture of America has been bloody and messy. Brother turned against brother and sister turned against sister in a tragic dispute that ripped our nation apart. And it was all carried out with guns at a tremendous toll that haunts us to this day.
In my own lifetime a president and a presidential candidate have been assassinated and three other presidents and one presidential candidate have been the targets of assassinations (two of them seriously injured) and all of these were carried out with guns.
Guns in America have been glamorized, idolized, celebrated, venerated and, depending on the circumstances characterized as everything from playthings to the last, most trusted, most cherished line of defense against madness, mendacity and mayhem.
Guns are thoroughly intertwined with our popular culture.
If you doubt this, look at the lineup of our most popular movies (including more than a few blockbusters), TV shows and video games. In an age of haves and have-nots, guns turned Bonnie and Clyde into twisted heroes. And guns created Al Capone and the mob as well as their chief nemesis Elliot Ness.
J. Edgar Hoover would never have achieved the power that he achieved without an arsenal of gun-totting agents who did his bidding. And military leaders from George Washington to Ulysses Grant to Dwight D. Eisenhower would never have become heroes without guns.
Guns are written into our laws, they are popularized by our culture, they are intertwined with our history and they are part of our way of life.
This is nothing new.
It's been going on for a long time.
So when you talk about gun rights and gun control in America, you're pushing a very, very hot button. In fact, you're touching the third rail -- the one that says "Danger! High Voltage!"
Which is to say that if you choose to take on something like this, you'd better not go down this road alone; not if you really intend to make meaningful change, anyway. You'd better have clear, attainable goals. You'd better know what you're talking about. You'd better have reliable allies. You'd better be able to build bridges and form coalitions.
Because if you don't, and you can't, well -- you're just whistling in the wind down a lonely road with numerous hazards at every turn.
This is not a battle for the faint of heart.
And as much as you might hope to win it by shedding a tear, a few drops will not a sea change make. And that's what it'll take, literally -- a sea change.

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