by Brendan Beery
The murder of a TV reporter and cameraman this morning might have had a little to do with gun violence. Just a smidge. So, as one pokes around the internet for reaction, one sees here and there that reasonable Americans are discussing the roles of guns and gun laws with varying degrees of pluck, disgust, or resignation. Predictably, many afflicted with pathological conservatism have already begun to rage about “lib-tards” and such. And naturally, they accuse anyone who mentions gun violence of “politicizing a tragedy,” as though there is ever a day in this country when one can discuss gun violence without a recent tragedy as backdrop.
Every time one of these sensational shootings takes place, we are witness to the spectacle of millions of Americans humping their guns with a fetishism normally associated with the prurient desperation of a psychosexual deviant. And every time, the question arises, what is with these people?
This is not a comment about gun owners. It’s a comment about gun advocates. Those would be the nutcases – or what some would call “ammosexuals.” What is it that drives the irrational intensity of their pining for cold steel?
This may sound mean, but let’s get real for a minute. Conjure in your mind the vision of a gun-rights advocate – the typical person you see agitating for more guns. Not the pin-striped NRA lobbyists, but their unpaid minions ‘on the ground.’ If I were to ask you to describe that person to a sketch artist, what would you say?
It might go something like this: white; male; late 30’s or early 40’s; pasty complexion; a belly made of pudding; unshaven; eyeglasses with thick, foggy lenses tethered together by a rusty paper clip; confederate-flag bandana; sleeveless t-shirt and jeans that have their own sideburns; cowboy boots; and long, greasy hair that’s whitish with a beige overlay that could either be a trace of pigmentation or a lacquer of emulsified dust and earth. He spits when he talks and wears holsters on both thighs.
It’s not a pretty picture. It’s almost impossible to understand what a person like this thinks when how he thinks is such a mystery. We must try to understand nonetheless. The point is that, to understand, we have to try thinking from a different – and sad – place.
It should be uncontroversial to say that we all like to see ourselves as formidable beings. Nietzsche called this “the will to power.” It is part of the human condition. It is immutable and, as with any immutable characteristic, any stab at changing it is not just futile but deeply unhealthy. So we’re not going to get anywhere by telling people that they shouldn’t want to feel powerful. That would be like saying that a person shouldn’t want to feel sexual attraction. There’s no choice in the matter: you can’t make rat droppings taste like Cocoa Krispies just by wanting to.
So people will need to be powerful whether they want to need it or not, and they will find some way to sate that need just as surely as a closeted gay mega-preacher will find his way to a glory hole. This is a nice segue to the next point: there are healthy ways to fulfill one’s needs and unhealthy ways to fulfill one’s needs.
Most of us have healthy outlets for feeling powerful, or at least for feeling like serious human beings. For healthy people, power does not mean dominion over others, but rather dominion over one’s own existence. It is good and right that each of us should want to control his own life, provide for his own self, and merit the respect of others in his pack. In this endeavor, we are aided by tools – like intelligence, humor, charisma, attractiveness, skillfulness, and prowess.
Query: What if your tool belt is empty? What if you are dull, humorless, besotted, uninviting, inexpert, and crude? What if you have neither the wherewithal nor the inclination to control your own life? What if, worse still, you lack the wiles to create even the illusion of control or seriousness? What then?
Here’s the thing about a gun. When its presence is known, it changes the dynamic in any interpersonal transaction. If you are in a room with another person and you have a gun and the other person doesn’t, then you are in the power position. You can have an IQ of 40. You can have a quarter-inch dick. You can be the sloppiest, crudest, pettiest slug on the block. And still, with your gun, you can command the attention (isn’t that easily mistaken for respect?) of a human being who is your superior by any measure conceivable.
Is it any wonder that the most vociferous gun advocates happen also to live the most pathetic lives? Where else is a loser, in spite of his own impotence, to find some sense of power?
To the gun advocate, having a gun means being powerful without having to earn power. It is the lazy way to relevance. And using that gun, of course, is the lazy way to immortality.