Usually, I start these blogs with words and end with a related meme. The words, so to speak, are the main dish and the meme the dessert. I use memes as related illustrations, as a kind of coda. But this time is different. The meme is the theme and says it all. Here we have a surveillance camera in the unmistakable form of a pistol. Arms and a country I sing. My song is a minor-key dirge. What the legion was to Rome, guns are to America: not the right to life, but the right to take life. Guns are not the American dream but the American nightmare. They are ubiquitous, and they are used, too often fatally...
When I was a kid, my greatest wish was to have a cap gun. I eventually got one, belt, holster, and all. We boys exchanged loud fire with each other from behind rocks. The only harm done was mental. We learned years before puberty that real men carried and used real firearms. Of course, we always identified with the good cowboys, often sheriffs, who were clean-shaven and wore white hats, not the bad guys who sported mustaches and had hats that were black. Not only that, but the good cowboys typically had horses with names like Trigger, Silver, or Tony. The baddies whipped their nameless horses mercilessly and ran them into the ground in their eventually futile attempt to get away with the loot. John Wayne’s character was never far behind. Moreover, the bad guys were always terrible shots, missing their lone target who kept gaining on them regardless of the number of times they fired. Real American men rode white horses—what else in white America?—and never missed their man: a nation of clean-cut, effective killers.
My late father-in-law, Robbins Barstow, Jr., in his prize-winning home movie, Disneyland Dream, illustrates his family’s all-expenses-paid trip to Anaheim, California’s Disneyland a year after the theme-parked opened. At one point four-year-old Danny, whose entry to 3M won the Barstows this trip from Wethersfield, Connecticut, goes into the Disneyland general store and comes out with a holstered six-gun. My lovely 71-year-old brother-in-law was just living every American boy’s dream back then, to pack heat Wild West style. Later in the movie, as the family in their boat encounter an attacking hippo on a fake African river in Adventureland, he did the only sensible thing and joined the boat’s captain in shooting the critter. Thanks to these efforts, the family arrived safe and sound at their next attraction.
Marshall Rosenberg in his non-violent communication work encourages us to sanitize our language of aggressive terminology. We should “try” something, for example, rather than “take a shot at it.” If our country really is “of Thee,” we have in Robert Frost’s famous line “miles to go before we sleep.” Alas, the next mass shooting, at a school or elsewhere, lies just around the next bend.