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The Gun Problem is a Morbid Veneer over a Divided America
We should look in the mirror.
Colorado Springs, CO, USA. April 25, 2021. Dragon Mans Military Museum has lots of military weapons and artifacts such as these machine guns and weapons. They also have a gun range open to the public. Courtesy of Shutterstock.
The rage boiling over in America today is directed at the political class and that is warranted. Perhaps though, the problem not only lies with the self-aggrandizing representatives but with ourselves.
The slain president John F. Kennedy famously told a nation in a deeply prideful moment, “Ask not what your country can do for you - but what you can do for your country.”
The quote is often used to encapsulate the period of America’s story when citizens felt a renewed hope for America’s mythological promise and the nation-state’s ability to overcome ancient challenges. However, just as this moment of elation faded with the assassination of the 35th president so did our collective faith in each other and our country.
Still, the children of the 1960s are grandparents and some great grandparents. Since then, America has unified and discovered a new consensus around national life.
So, for some, it’s hard to say that this nation is still bitterly divided from a time that featured political assassinations and was seemingly a long time ago.
An indicator that connects us to the tumultuous mid-twentieth century is gun ownership. A Statistica survey found that gun ownership in America rose from 43% of households to 47% of households between 1972 and 1990. The ensuing decade saw a dip to a low of 39% of households saying they own a gun. Between 2000 and 2021 the number has gone from a low of 37% to a high of 45% in 2011.
Since the period of time when school desegregation crystallized and Roe v. Wade was decided, Americans have inhabited a nation awash in firearms. It’s hard to attribute it mainly to the culture wars. Many people like guns as collector’s items and also for protection.
However, many view them as objects to worship.
Thomas Lecaque writes about the relationship between a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, the fetishization of guns, and Christian nationalism in The Bulwark.
He describes Rod of Iron Ministries which is deeply connected to GOP candidate Doug Mastriano:
Rod of Iron continues the Unification Church’s tradition of apocalypticism, but adds to this framework beliefs derived from a variety of sources that include, most importantly, the rhetoric, imagery, and ideology of both QAnon and Christian nationalism. The younger Moon wrote a constitution for the messianic kingdom he and his followers believe will replace the United States following its collapse. The church’s website calls for people to join in defending “freedom” by standing up for the Second Amendment, which “applies to all freedom loving individuals—across the planet.” (Just how a part of the U.S. Constitution is supposed to apply to the whole planet is left unstated.) And members of the church perform ceremonies wearing bullet crowns and carrying AR-15s—even, following the elder Moon’s tradition, the occasional mass wedding. (One ceremony took place only days after the Parkland shooting left 17 students, teachers, and staff dead in 2018, making the church the subject of intense criticism.)
Here is where America’s societal fragmentation and the culture of guns collide at a dangerous level.
A Republican Party that inspires people to take family photos of everyone holding a semi-automatic is obscene when we have a problem with school shootings.
A former Republican president showing up to an NRA convention and reading the names of dead children as a bell tolls is beyond demeaning.
The Republican Party is also openly pushing for more guns and deflecting from the real problem instead of utilizing what little brainpower is available to them in 2022 and coming up with real-life solutions.
Still, the GOP’s ability to be wedded to major lobbies while pushing a faux populism is not only a consequence of years of race-baiting in a growing multicultural populace but also a consequence of Democrat malfeasance.
Democrat Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer has had plenty of opportunities to divide the Republican caucus with tough votes regarding more in-depth background checks, stronger red flag laws/databases, and bans on certain kinds of rifles. The Democrat rationale that they have no political capital to achieve their basic goals is a consequence of years of partitioning one’s own position to acquiesce to plutocratic forces while misleading one’s naturally populistic base about “the next time.” Today, Democrats govern out of the entity that holds the majority opinion in the country which means they can’t use insurgent tactics. However, it also means they have to rely on a sense of normalcy (that the less initiated parts of the base desperately yearn for) and keep those “suburban votes” (whoever they are) on board. This alienates the heart of the Democratic Party which sees trends started by the progressive changes made during the New Deal and other legislative periods being chipped away with the approval of moderates. The loss of those structures hurts vulnerable communities the most and so the more apathetic, adjusted, and financially stable part of the Democrat coalition seems to care little or just may hold the view that this loss is a consequence of an unfair political atmosphere.
It’s hard to tell, I’m not a psychiatrist, but many of the losses in voting rights and environmental reforms with the acceptance of open Republican social animosity can make one think about the Democrat’s own priorities, loyalties, and abilities.
To state it more elegantly, the party naturally breaks open because of this neoliberal paradox that is anathema to the party’s Jacksonian/Rooseveltian D.N.A.
It becomes a disheartening circus that reinforces the success of many business-politicians and local Chambers of Commerce, who pushed for tax-free havens with right-to-work laws all across America. That formed the center-right consensus of America today.
For better and for worse.
But, at the end of the day - it is us the people.
We decide on the government we get and the incentive structures our elected politicians operate under.
We also choose how we view each other.
We grow angry at the quality of politics the Republican Party relies on and we little reflect on how it is symbolic of a national disdain (or condescension) towards poorer and less connected spaces within the nation.
Trump’s reptilian senses knew that people were angry with the gilded political class but, they also need a shining flight path to understanding the government’s complex movements and multifaceted agendas.
The path President Trump created was shiny and spontaneous but often rife with blatant and tribal untruth.
He delighted in a dark truth that many of us who love America and are consumed with policy information reckon with daily: our nation is frightfully unprepared for a postmodern information age because it has, in the comparison to others, lived within a postwar party since the Silent Generation (the grandparents of Millennials) assumed global economic and military preeminence. Nobody thinks anything will change or matter (in a general sense) because they have accepted the Roman-like decadence of this powerful commercial empire.
For better and for worse.
A shell of comfort and distractions was placed over much of America (bread and circuses), especially after the hopes and dreams of the Baby Boomers faded in the 1970s.
Today we wake up to a decadent game host who plays the music loud enough to break the car windows and gain multiple noise complaints (the Trump rallies), but, he is the first one gone when the police and the parents return home the next day (recessions and radicalized Americans).
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