Saturday, December 22, 2012


“You’ve slept too long in silence,” Mama said
Remember Mama said --ticking, ticking
“Crazy boy you’ll only wind up with strange notions in your head”
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

            from “Ticking,” on Elton John’s Caribou album (1974)
            Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Public discussion about the Newtown mass murder has been depressingly pat and predictable.  Conservatives generally blame video games and the lack of armed teachers and principals. (I’m trying to imagine my white-haired first grade teacher, Miss Borden, with a .357 magnum strapped to her 1970s school marm dress.)  Liberals generally blame the National Rifle Association and something they call “gun culture.”  Both sides call each other names and accuse the other of having blood on their hands.

Right wing nut jobs of the Alex Jones variety equate the mildest calls for stricter gun control with “fascism” and are quick to remind us that the first thing the Nazis (supposedly) did was take all the guns away.  Liberals emote irrationally against the idea that an armed security guard might be the best defense against an armed attacker.

The media, for all its hand-wringing, loves these stories.  Riveting wall-to-wall coverage of every possible angle sells advertisements and improves the bottom line.  I have a vague memory of watching a movie back in the 1980s or early 1990s.  I can’t remember the name of this movie for the life of me.  But what I do remember is a scene in which a local news station stumbles into taping live, exclusive, up-close footage of a hostage situation.  As the camera rolls and the criminal points his handgun right into the temple of the terrified hostage, the news producer is seen whispering under her breath: “do it . . . DO IT!”

I would have no objection if every state and commonwealth in the country went and banned semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines tomorrow.  If I were a state legislator, I would cheerfully vote for such measures if it would make our simple-minded electorate feel better.  (And according to polls, it would.)  But thirty seconds of reflection ought to be enough to see that laws like these would do virtually nothing to stop the determined Adam Lanzas of the world.  The country is swimming in hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols.  At close range, a couple of handguns with standard-capacity magazines can kill 20 first graders in 30 seconds or less.  Double the number of perpetrators – a la Kleibold and Harris – and the carnage of Newtown becomes extraordinarily easy to pull off.

I agree with the NRA that the Second Amendment embodies a basic right to self-protection with firearms.  (I could care less about the “rights” of hunters even though I have enjoyed bird hunting in the past.)  Liberals who correctly defend the integrity of the womb – while denying the integrity of the whole person in the face of violent attack – annoy the piss out of me.  Moreover, I’m not sure I want to live in a country where the only people with guns are criminals and the government.  While I have to fight back the reverse peristalsis I experience admitting it, the NRA is the one organization devoted to this important proposition.  Self-protection, however, does not require an attic full of military hardware.

If all schools had armed security guards, then a statistically negligible number of lives would probably be saved.  I would have no objection to putting armed guards in all schools (and libraries and bus stations and other places of public accommodation.)  But the NRA’s apparent belief that this single measure would end school massacres is as stupid and goofy as the liberals’ belief that banning assault weapons will measurably reduce mass murders.  And the trembling fear and loathing liberals feel towards guns is as stupid and goofy as the creepy fetish gun nuts feel towards the same inanimate objects.

With that throat clearing out of the way, I am whole-heartedly with those who contend that the reason we have these massacres is mostly due to the broad cultural rot in our society. (Still not sure what “gun culture” is.)  By saying this, I don’t mean to suggest for a second that I accept the absurdly reductionist argument that we can stop these things from happening if we just ban violent first-person-shooter video games and put God back in school.  (Indeed, the latter would probably make things worse; read your Old Testaments people!) But for a host of really complicated historical reasons, we have reached a point where these things are going to happen every so often and there is virtually nothing meaningful or practical to be done about it.  Just accept it, OK?  You are living on the down slope of a decrepit and corrupt civilization.  These things will happen.  If banning assault weapons makes you feel better . . . fine with me.  But you still need to accept reality, OK?

Elton John’s haunting song “Ticking” is about “an extremely quite child” who, unbeknownst to anyone, is a ticking time bomb of pent up rage and resentment.  I tend to think of American society in those same terms.  As James Howard Kunstler is fond of saying, we are a wicked people who deserves to be punished.  When reality really starts biting, and millions of Americans start losing the obscene standards of living to which they feel entitled, the Newtown massacre will look like a family argument over whether to max out the credit card to purchase granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, or a weekend in Vegas.

There are hundreds of millions of guns in this great big country of NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting Championship morons.  Brace yourselves for what’s coming.

In the meantime, would everyone please calm down a little bit?  Stop calling gun control advocates “Nazis” and stop telling the NRA that it has blood on its hands.