Saturday, July 28, 2012

She's not a girl who misses much

I don't know if you've noticed, but the American right is doing it's damnedest to really fuck over working people, what with favoring slashing social program so that the ultra-rich can never pay any taxes ever, opposing economic stimuli that would help end the recession, being adamantly against any minimum-wage increases (or minimum wage, period, if they really had their way), and of course, you know what they think of the idea that people without money should be able to get healthcare.  It only stands to reason that, under those circumstances, people would feel angry and scared and uncertain.  They're not always sure why, because in our public debates such things are almost never plainly laid out; instead they're couched in airy abstractions which republicans (and, sure, plenty of democrats) favor because it makes them superficially look less sociopathic, and which the media reinforces because they're supine.

But!  Even while they're working their asses off to disassemble our lives, there's still one comforting thing: republicans everywhere will go balls to the wall for your right to own as much heavy weaponry as you can carry.  You may still be prey to the right-wing policies that are really hurting you, but at least you have the illusion that when the Bad Things come, you can just gun them down, like a Real Man.  One might think, well, yeah, but people ought to be able to understand the differences between real and fake fears, but the problem for those of us interested in social justice is that guns are way more concrete and comprehensible than tax policy, and us humans just aren't very good at dealing with abstractions.  Why should we be?  We never evolved for this.  Back in the day, you knew you were doing okay if you weren't currently being eaten by a smilodon, and that's about as far as you thought.  As with so many things, society has evolved well past our ability to correctly understand it, and it's hard to overstate how powerful the effect on our imagination is: witness, after the Batman murders, the usual suspects lamenting how gosh darn it, if only some law-abiding citizens had been packing their own heat, nunna this woulda happened.  That's self-evidently insane, yet people said it in all seriousness--people who weren't necessarily what you'd call "stupid" on an objective level in other respects.  Rational thought is no obstacle to these primal, atavistic urges.

So this is what I'm saying: no, in most cases it probably isn't an especially conscious impulse, but at bottom, republicans don't care about guns qua guns; they really just care about them as a means of social control.  And a damned effective one at that.  It's why democrats have wholly capitulated on the issue; why there is no danger of any reasonable gun control outside the crazed fever dreams of Wayne LaPierre.  They know damn well that, given the circumstances, there's nothing they could do to assuage NRA-stoked paranoia.  If we lived in a better country--a country in which everyone could reasonably expect secure, comfortable livelihoods and know that, if necessary, they would receive proper medical care--the problem would resolve itself: people wouldn't be scared, gun ownership would plummet, and people who still had firearms would, as a rule, be mentally stable and unlikely to go on killing sprees.  But as it stands, I do think that agitating for gun control in this socioeconomic environment is putting the cart before the horse, attacking the symptoms rather than the disease, and other relevant metaphors.  Sure, temporary fixes wouldn't come amiss, but as long as we live in a society committed to social injustice, the root problem will never go away.


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