Usually I write about writing but not today. Everyone is trying to make sense of the massacre and attempted assassination in Tucson Arizona on the weekend. Everyone has a readymade interpretation of events to fit his or her view of the world. So do I.
We do our best to isolate this man and his horrendous actions. He is the other—the outsider. Not one of us. He is mentally deranged. He is a loner. We should have seen him coming and so we should. But the point is that he is us. If he is not us then we as a society are not to blame. He is a part of the human race and we cannot dismiss him as not human. The more we are able to categorize him as ill or mad or whatever, the more he is not one of us. Perhaps we did not see him coming because he really seemed like one of us. Despite his outlandish and frightening actions at school, no one in authority stepped in.
We can find so many places to set the blame. The incivility of political discourse. The availability of guns and the ease of getting one.
That raises the question of why anyone needs a gun. I can see someone in the wilds might want to shoot a bear, but what possible need is there for a person to carry a heavy duty arsenal to the shopping mall?
I know that in the United States the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Historically that right was based on fear several centuries ago that the newly founded government, might someday overtake its citizens and establish some sort of military dictatorship. Fair enough, but it’s now the 21st century. Is the government really going to do this? Since then, the gun culture has become so entrenched that I fear it will never be altered.
It’s not just the ability to buy and carry a gun openly that is the problem. It’s an old argument, but still valid. If you watch TV and movies, you can’t get very far in most films before the guns are drawn.
Speaking as a writer, it’s depressing how many plots turn on the firing of the gun or blowing something up. But dull plotting is a minor complaint. We get the idea that you solve your problems by shooting a gun or setting off a bomb. On some level, we think it’s the norm and that’s a problem. Gun culture is so deeply rooted that I doubt that it can ever be eradicated unless there is a conscious and concerted effort to do so.
I’ve lost count of the number of distraught, lone gunmen have destroyed lives. If they hadn’t had easy access to a gun, it would at least have been harder for the person to act. Unless the US can start changing the gun culture, there’s not a lot of hope for any significant changes. These gunmen swim in the same water/environment as everyone else. The gun culture is an all pervasive and teaches everyone that there is a right to bear arms in a shopping mall and if you don’t like what someone else is saying or doing, it’s all right to shoot them.
What do you think?