You know, sitting here in my basement apartment, Dan Gibson's Solicitudes and Liquid Mind slipping slowly in my ears and cultivating a deep subconscious calm, a serpent's tongue of steam rising from my cup, I was going to write in depth about how it feels to be graduated. I suppose you're all expecting some radical change, some ephiphany of magnitude about life, a turning point from which I'm going to change my ways, right my path, and come to terms with "the real world," as all my jobless fellow graduates have denominated post-graduation life.
But, to be honest, it feels pretty much the same. Now that I've returned from Wallawa Lake, a week with my family, the Bowman passel as loud and beautiful as Rage against the Machine, I'm back to work: rising early in the morning, reading, writing, and working my day away, with some time for food and lovely individuals I all my crew speckled in like salt to season the hours. Every day, I still
- Pray the Lord's Prayer every morning as I roll out of bed.
- Devour oats, nuts, a bananna and a parfait pretty much every morning.
- Pass the rest of my day working on projects and otherwise living life to its fullest.
To be honest, I never had issues with senioritis like other students. Why? Because, well, I was never in school for school's sake. In every one of my classes, on every one of my assignments, I put my all into them, dedicating myself to tell the truth every word and never cut corners. It was exhausting, but it made for some excellent work and I enjoyed it, most of the time. The fact that I don't really see post-graduation any different, and that can't viscerally feel much difference is, well, expected because I don't see myself really doing anything differently. I still try to put my all into every moment of every day. That hasn't changed. So why should anything feel any different?
Oh, yeah, wait. There is that one thing: I'm no longer paying anyone to assign me work. There is that. Hey, hey!
So, what exactly am I working on? Well, for one, guns baby!
There's a very distinct possibility I'm going to do some travelling this summer and next year. Where, why? All over. Shooting (heh) documentary interviews about (dun, dun, dun!) gun control! I know, right? The pacifist gunning for info on gun control? There's gotta be some small-caliber irony loaded somewhere in there.
And if I'm going to be doing interviews, I want to know my stuff. I've been researching. So, what do I know about gun legislation and national personal and communal violence? Well, previous to the research, I knew absolutely nothing. My barrel was, and still is to a point, pathetically empty. But I've been loading up.
The first thing I've learned? American gun dialectic is steeped in ignorance, emotion, and intellectual apathy. Be careful what you see on the internet, kids. Or hear on the news. Or pretty much anywhere else.
The gun control conversation is between two camps, camps pitching their tents farther and farther apart every day. First, the gun lobby, groups like the NRA and individuals who believe gun regulations should be kept to a minimum for everyday, mentally and emotionally stable Americans. Second, the gun control lobby, groups like HCI (Handgun Control, INC) who think--a vast majority of them anyways--that guns are the most-evil thing to hit the states since Marylin Manson, and elimination of guns would have a great effect on reducing the lethality of violence in America, the most violent nation in the world!
And there's your first blatant sillyness. As Weir points out in his book, A Well-Regulated Militia, America is hardly the most violent nation in the world, contrary to what many control lobbyists like to assert. It's also hardly the most violent industrialized nation in the world. Or democratic nation, for that matter. Nations like Columbia, Brazil, and Russia have inordinately more homicides that we do. "There is so much crime here," says Everett G. Martin, a Times reporter in Rio de Janeiro, "and so much toting of weapons, that news of violence just doesn't generate much excitement any more" (Weir 225). The US has a homicide rate of 7-10 per 1000 people annually, somewhere in the middle of the global spectrum. Some of these nations--some of them very civilized, very industrial, and very democratic--have numbers from 30 to 80. 30 to 80 per 1000 people, that's incredible! Yet the popular media and gun control groups keep blathering on about this idea that the US is the most violent "democratic, industrialized, modern nation" in the world. We're not, but, with this rhetorical strategy, if you keep narrowing down the allowed attributes, sure, eventually we might get up there. But to say America has anything but a moderate violence level in the world is like saying of all the middle-class, popular Italian chain restaurants in the western hemisphere, Olive Garden is worst for your health. Sure, that might be true, but I'd much rather get devilishly unhealthy dinner at Olive Garden than the Arbys or Micky-D's down the street. Despite America's profuse, or so the gun control lobby sees it, amount of guns (~150 million as of 2004), we're hardly the most violent nation on the planet, or even close, for that matter.
And what does "modern" even mean? Is there this implicit assumption that industrialization and democracy are intrinsically the way all nations must take to become modern? Are these necessary attributes for a nation to join the hoity-toity gentlemen's club that is modernity and, by way of implication, us superior nations? Marx just rolled over in his grave. So did Ghandi, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Jesus, for that matter. Well, the latter depending on what you believe, but that's for a different blog post.
Two, what's this rhetoric about gun violence iordinantly affecting children and police officers?
“As surely a you’re reading this letter, right now, somewhere in America an innocent child is bleeding to death on a ‘Safe’ suburban sidewalk, caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting...Somewhere in America a police officer is about to be gunned down in the line of duty.” (Weir 114)
That's was leading spokesperson for the gun control lobby, appealing to all the concerned citizens about a grave danger to our children and law-enforement heroes, individuals affected greately--far more greatly than you or I--by America's gun epidemic. But do the statistics support his pathos? Nope. Truth is, less police are killed by guns per capita--any type of gun--than average citizens per year. There has never been a case of a child (unless you mean a teenage child, which isn't what comes across here) bleeding to death on a sidewalk of a drive-by shooting, unless, of course, the five-year-old was in a gang with a Saturday night special pointed right back toward the other gang.
This is the kinds of rhetoric politicians use to sway Americans on gun control issues, and political issues in general. And it's disgusting.
Next is this idea that guns are intrinsically evil, their only legitimate purpose being hunting or, I guess, killing Afghan women, children, and fathers in defense of "the greatest nation in the world", good God-blessed USA in our government-sanctioned "War on Terror". As for the first assumption of this statement, the popular bumper sticker that reads "Guns don't kill people, people do" (despite the fact it's stuck to bumper stickers of F350s driven by pot-bellied hillbillies who haven't read a book since trade school) does have some small truth to it. Even if you believe guns increase the lethality of violence, a gun must have a finger to pull the trigger, thus they are impotent to perform good or evil without an instigating force. "An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force." Guns can't unbalance themselves: no gun has ever picked itself up and shot a child for good or evil motives. Or a bear or deer or rabbit, for that matter. So, maybe the more intellectually credible provenance of Newton quote, when applied to guns, will appeal to those who reject bumper stickers on trucks with less than 20 mpg out of principle. And for the second statement? Saying a gun has only a single legitimate purpose of hunting is, as Weir notes, like saying no one needs a horse except to commute and other purposes shouldn't be tolerated either (187). Besides, nobody needs three televisions in the house. Nobody needs a caramel frap. But we don't live in a need-based economy, and I don't see very many transcendentalists of the Thoreau strain walking around preaching simplicity these days.
Truth is, most of the popular arguments for gun control are simply dumb, ignorant, and emotional, hardly backed by statistics, polls, or data. They're gut-instinct based hatreds propagated by the misleading rhetoric of big lobby organizations and the pro-control slanted popular news media. Most people when it comes to gun control are, pardon me for my incurable puns, shooting from the hip. And this is statement from yours truly, an individual previously to research (and still to a point) inclined toward pro-control.
But pro-control orgs are hardly the only organizations blowing smoke out their muzzles. Most of those F-350 driving, flannel wearing hill dwellers with pictures of Randy Weaver above their mantel will tell you that as soon as the NRA and America give one inch to the pro-control movement, soon they'll be coming for everything, even little Billy's BB shooter he uses to scare off the ferrets from the chicken coop. It's a "slippery slope" to give even an inch on their constitutional--no--God ordained right to bear hand cannons.
Now, to be fair, many of the pro-control movements have made their end goal very clear: total elimination of all guns from public hands in America. Disregarding this extremist view, if everyone took the same "slippery slope" stance on other issues, the death penalty, for example, it "might be argued that use of the death penalty for murder or long mandatory prison sentenes for serious violent cimes might lead t applying them to petty theft, then to minor traffic violatnion, and eventually to spittin gon the sidewalk or speaking anunkind word to ne’s neighbor.” (Kleck 82) If we're too scared to give any ground, we'll never make any progress and things will continue to polarize. Yes, there have been regimes where speaking unkindly or disrespectfully to your neighbor on the street has lead to executions. But if we take an incorrigible stance on every issue, how will progress ever be made in, well, anything ever? 'But they gonna take my guns!' Oie.
Now, when you finally dig through all the crap, through all the popular, callow whining on both sides, from what I've read--which isn't much to point, only a couple books-- there is a real conversation to be had. The debate, it seems to me, comes down to this. There's two debates going on.
- Does gun availability affect overall violence (assaults, burglaries, accidents, suicides, rapes) in America, and how do we reduce this violence?
- How do we reduce the lethality of the violence that is already present?
However, what is also agreed on by the plethora of pundits on either side is that guns increase the damage done by violent acts, regardless of their provenance. This is called "instrumentality," and it's the center of informed gun control discussion today. Essentially, there are myriad variables of why a nation has greater violence or less. But the violence that is already there is made far deadlier by the presence of guns. According to a 1968 study, in Chicago assaults, the death rate was five times higher when a gun was used versus a knife, the next most-deadly weapon. Essentially, if 100 assaults were committed with kives and 100 with guns, if 10 victims died from the former group 50 would die from the latter.
Likewise, guns or no guns don't increase suicide rates, but guns sure make those who decide to off themselves far more successful at it.
It's not really known whether guns in households increase or decrease robberies and burglaries, but what is known is that gun-armed robbers are far more likely to succeed than those equipped with non-firearms, and confrontations turn out more deadly.
So, the real question of gun control legislation or non is this: how much effect do gun control laws really reduce the lethality of America's violent acts, what policies could we institute to do so, and are they constitutional and worth dedicating resources for legislation and enforcement?
However, that all being said, the real issue facing America isn't question two, in my an Weir's opinion, it's question one. Regardless of other nations' rates of violence, America--especially urban, low-class America--is a very violent place, guns or no. As Zimring & Hawkins note, “Only a very polite society can be heavily armed without paying a high price...The United States of the 1990s is far from that polite society. Our considerable propensity for violent conflict would be a serious societal problem even if gun availability and use were low” (Nisbet 231). As Weir points out, social stratification, our degrading social communities and families, political polarization, a lack of a middle class and industrial jobs, and a host of other contributing factors have slowly eroded much of our communal foundation in America, resulting in a highly violent nation. And while gun interdiction may help minutely reduce the number of deaths from assault or prevent a few suicides from succeeding, the answer to why the former was assaulting and the latter trying to kill himself are questions you can't answer with guns, guns, guns, no matter how much politicians say you can.
“Some gun laws could help the situation--a little," writes Weir. "Call them band-Aids. The great advantage of gun laws is that they are cheap (except for gun owners). But to make any substantial progress against crime, violence, and murder, we need radical surgery” (236). Radical surgery is tough, though. Painful, expensive, and probably unpopular. And while we continue to bicker over how many days we force people to wait to get their precious 25th "assault weapon", the lower-class of America will continue to suffer and burn, turning to crime and violence to satisfy their most-basic economic needs, food and purpose.
More to come as I continue to research.
It's getting late so I'll be brief on this one.
I'm reading my Bible again; hardly as the inerrant "Word of God" but certainly a book of immeasurable value to me, which I won't go into right now. My spirituality is healing in many ways, but this healing is currently but a scab, and I'm not going to expose it too soon and risk it being prematurely ripped off.
I'm reading in John.
Okay, let's be honest, Christians. John's pretty much an antisemite. Sort of. "The Jews" did this, "the Jews" did that. He's not very kind to them, and it's little wonder how a surface-level reading of John could have led to books like On the Jews and Their Lies by our precious Martin Luther, not to mention the Holocaust and near 2000 years of anti-Jewish sentiment in the west. See Michale Walter's review of David Niernberg's book "Anti Judaism: The Western Tradition" for a survey of some interesting hostile pictures of Jews over those last two millennium. A sad, sad article, for all the truth it contains.
That being said, when you pay attention, the Jews really attacked by John's polemics are the hyper-conservatives. These are the Scripture scholars. These are the dudes that sit in their temple corners and read the Torah all day long, and can recite parts of it from memory. They are the theology nerds, the defenders of "correct doctrine," those who have it all figured out--or at least more than you--and they know it, making it very clear to you.
The Jews Jesus attacks in John's gospel are those so attached to their reading of God's Scriptures and their relation to God's Prophets they reject anything which could threaten to upset the fragile theological system though which they understand the Writings and spirituality itself.
Don't say this too loud, but they're the Southern Baptists of bible-times.
That being said, why are they so hostile? Why do they so vehemently reject Jesus' liberal doctrine? Because they care. Hell, for themselves and the Jewish people they love, is serious business, and with all the so-called 'messiahs' running around those days, performing 'miracles' and 'signs', they damn well had to be careful. Sounds kinda like today. What people believe affects their hearts, their hearts affect their acts, and acts bring either judgement or blessing. Hell or Heaven. And, as the guardians of Jewish spirituality, these spiritual leaders rightly take the beliefs of their treasured nation very seriously.
Conservatism is birthed of an ultimate care for those it seeks to intellectually repress, and every religious or political individual who gives a rip is dangerously inclined toward it. The danger of conservatism is becoming so concerned with correctness, so concerned with preserving the tranquility of the status quo, so scared of making the wrong step for yourself and those you lead, you miss possibilities for progress or positive reform, despite the possibility of messy upheaval in the process.
There are some good Jews in the gospel, though. Those willing to give Jesus a chance. Those willing to see things in a new way. Liberal Jews *gasp!*. Jews like Nicodemus, or so the story goes. Maybe John isn't completely antisemitic after all.
I was going to also write about John's brilliant use of miracles for rhetoric, but that will have to wait. Next week, perhaps.
My, my. It feels good to be alive! And after this year, it literally is a blessing to be sitting here, sipping hot liquid, feeling my eyes bulge from staring at the screen for too long. Good night! I leave you with a picture of my future cat. We will discover the world together.