America’s Love Affair

Popeye-vs-Bluto-the-Fights-Where-We-Knew-the-EndNot long ago, Everytown For Gun Safety got some ink by reporting that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. While it turns out that number was…, let’s say inflated (there have been 10 documented Sandy Hook/Columbine-type shootings in that time), I think we can all agree there have too many. Of course, whenever we talk about this sort of thing, the subject of gun control comes up. Often, those in favor point to Australia as beacon of what America could be like if only we’d give up our guns. I’m sorry, but the Australian model probably won’t ever happen here. Why? Because Americans are so wedded to the idea that might makes right it is ingrained in our national psyche.

Americans are in love with violence. In the aftermath of a shooting that should have, by any sane measure, awoken us to the fact that violence is off the rails in this country, the response of all too many people could be summed up in the words of Wayne LaPierre, who said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. In other words, the only way to combat violence is through more and even harsher violence. As Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone said in The UntouchablesThey pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” It’s a sad day when a mediocre movie that plays fast and loose with historical facts epitomizes how we deal with tragedy.

Walter Wink said in his essay “The  Myth of Redemptive Violence” that Americans are we are steeped in the idea that “violence saves” from childhood. The television shows kids watch, the movies they see, the video games they play all reinforce the idea that might makes right. Wink says the violence is the real religion of society today. More and more, it seems he was right.

The American love affair with violence is particularly odd because it exists most strongly in conservatives, many of whom identify as Christians. I say this is odd because Christians follow a man who instructed his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Christians follow a man who said “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” and then healed one of the men who came to lead him away to a rather gruesome death.The belief that violence is the answer to any of the problems we might encounter suggests that our faith in Christ is of a rather shallow and superficial nature. It’s like saying “Jesus is the answer – but not in the real world.”

In my mind, the problem is not the ready availability of guns or anything else, it is our eagerness to use those readily available guns. In other words, guns aren’t the problem; they are a symptom of the problem. Once we deal with our love of violence, with the idea that anything is solved by murder and destruction, guns will cease to be an issue. If Americans weren’t so ready to do violence to anyone they perceive as a threat, we wouldn’t need gun control because people would control themselves. Who knows, they might even be willing to give up their guns and live a peaceful life.