Sunday, January 20, 2013

The change in gun culture

I have really done a disservice to myself by not following Talking Points Memo. Right now Josh Marshall is highlighting a number of reader followups to another reader's comment back in December, a comment Marshall featured in an entry entitled "Tactical Reality".
The gun culture that we have today in the U.S. is not the gun culture, so to speak, that I remember from my youth. It’s too simple to say that it’s “sick;” it’s more accurately an absurd fetishization. I suppose that the American Gunfighter, in all of his avatars, is inescapably fetishistic, but (to my point) somewhere along the way - maybe in, uh, 1994? - we crossed over into Something Else: let’s call it Gonzo Fetishization. The American Gunfighter as caricature.
The fetishization this reader, whom Marshall dubbed "SS", described sounds like it arises from the same mentality that fetishizes military boot camp-style team-building retreats. There's this notion that carrying around paraphernalia that looks like military gear and aping pop-culture interpretations of military behavior makes you a species of military bad ass.

Renaissance faires and science-fiction/fantasy conventions wouldn't exist without adults who like to play dress-up. But the kind of play-acting that involves real guns is quite different from the kind indulged in by fans of Avatar or Game of Thrones. The latter don't often forget they're play-acting, and if they do, we are quick to label them "delusional". When gun fetishists lose themselves in their fantasies of armed resistance to tyrannical authority, they're called "patriots" in the right-wing media echo chamber that serves them.

It's important to remember — or at least to hope, unless the evidence proves otherwise — that most gun owners in this country are like "SS". They don't fetishize guns; they're simply comfortable with them. Guns are not the be-all and end-all of their lives. They are not primarily interested in using guns for their own defense because they are not fearful beyond the norm.

The trouble comes from the minority of gun advocates who are fearful, irrationally so. They are the fetishists. They support the extremist positions advanced by the NRA and other irresponsible organizations. They are the ones to whom we must not listen if we are to arrive at a sane firearms policy — one that respects the right of people like "SS" to own weapons while respecting the right of others not to live in the NRA's fantasy world of universal gun-slinging.

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