Responding to “A lethal mixture of fundamentalism and mental illness” — now the bad news.

by Kim on December 18, 2012

In one sense radical gun-control in the US is a no-brainer — with the problem being that a lot of Americans have even less grey matter than that. In another sense, however, I suspect that legislating the comprehensive decommissioning of these little weapons of mass destruction would be like passing the 18th Amendment/Volstead Act — prohibition: an illegal trade in arms would mushroom; indeed in some areas the law would simply turn a blind eye, so “deeply ingrained and highly cherished” (as Richard puts it) is the right to bear arms. Which is not to say that I am not all for such legislation — and for gunslingers to take the Pledge — I am.

But I think the problem goes even deeper than the fact that gun powder toxically flows in our cultural bloodstream. The truly salient Amendment is not the Second but the First, enshrining the freedom of religion, because the fact is, as Garry Wills has brilliantly hit the bullseye, “the gun is our Moloch”.

As I have written in a letter to the i: “What the British must understand is that in the US the Gun is not just a cultural artefact, nor even a fetish, but an idol, an object of worship. Its cult is the National Rifle Association, and its adoration is visible in the daily office of manslaughter, as well as in the feast days of multiple murder. It is the god that is implicitly venerated in the cathedrals of mass incarceration, the liturgy of capital punishment, and the missionary zeal of imperial crusades. Canon law to curb excessive bloodshed by all means, but finally only deicide will rid my homeland of our own Huitzilopochtli (the Aztec god with the taste for hearts).”

The Gun, that is, is a metonym for the (myth of redemptive) violence and (the culture of) death that is at the heart of the esse of the USA, from our founding acts of genocide and slavery, through our regular rampages overseas (Hauerwas calls war a “moral necessity” for the US), through the national slaughter of the Civil War, and in our daily domestic bloodshed, quotidian homicides, and periodic acts mass murder.

To put it most cynically — or is it most hopefully? — the abolition of the gun would actually mean the abolition of America, which, as Obama, with tedious inevitability, reminded a flabbergasted world in his recent victory speech, is “the greatest nation on earth”.

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Speaking Foolishly about God and Tragedy
12.20.12 at 2:55 pm

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Pam 12.18.12 at 9:13 pm

Well written, Kim.

In the preface to “When I Was a Child I Read Books” Marilynne Robinson quotes Walt Whitman (writing in 1870): “America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without, for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-overarching American Ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them.”

The greatest nation on earth? God’s Kingdom.


Kim 12.18.12 at 10:12 pm

Walt Whitman, the shaggy bard — born in my home town, Huntington, Long Island, New York.

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