Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don Quixote and the Windmill

Being a writer, I believe in the power of words. Words have enormous influence on our lives and those around us from our earliest babbling to our last ones. Words that encourage, words that express love,   words to teach, words that heal, as well as words that curse and words that condemn. I believe that words have meaning and carry gravity far beyond our comprehension.

I am, however, perplexed of late with this preoccupation of the modern world to bandy about words of invention to describe something that doesn't logically exist. One such word I've heard a lot lately is gun culture. Being a lifelong shooter and hunter, I can only assume that I belong to this so called gun culture and have for many years. A large number of my friends and associates belong to this same culture of the gun.

But I don't even know what it means.

I've been blessed with an active life across a lot of miles and I've met a lot of people- some I love and some I hold in less than stellar esteem. They've been from all walks of life and every political persuasion you can imagine. For instance- the subsistence hunters of Alaska's barren North Slope to backwoods farmers in Tennessee, from an Olympic champions to deeply suspicious White Supremacists, from police officers and army officers to out and out thugs and street gangsters it has been a wild and wooly ride. Looking at that group of people as a whole, I can't see many traits or factors that they hold them together culturally. In all but the broadest sense, all of those people had only one thing common- they were all gun owners.

Are they all The Gun Culture? Culturally all of these folks have their own identity- some of it racially derived and some of it self chosen but as a lot you'd be hard pressed to find a more diverse group of people in the U.S. It's like taking MMA, water polo, cricket and monster truck racing and calling it all "The Sports Culture". Is our culture derived by what we own? If that was the case then why isn't there a "car culture" or a "house culture"? There are certainly people who are enthusiastic about those items to be sure; but if those people were suddenly homeless or forced into a life of pedestrianism would they suddenly be absent their culture?


Culture goes deeper than that. One of the things that you constantly hear in the current gun debate is a comparison of America to other places that have similar rates of gun ownership. One never hears much about a Swiss or Austrian "gun culture" or a Finnish or Spanish or Italian or Australian "gun culture" even though all of the those countries have high rates of private gun ownership. One thing that strikes me odd is that most of those places don't have anywhere near the level of cultural diversity that America does. America certainly is a culturally diverse place but I think a gun culture is something we don't have. We have a lot of different cultures with guns.

The gun culture doesn't exist except in the minds of people who don't want it around- that windmill is still turning Don Quixote. Hit it again.

I realize we are in the middle of a great debate on guns in the U.S., and without revealing my personal views on the matter, all I can say is both sides of this debate are busy filling up the airwaves with meaningless drivel. Whether it's ridiculous legislation, fairy tale statistics, hyperventilating news reports or this latest trend...

Made up words whose power is just an illusion. A windmill to terrify the simpleminded.

Come on folks- we're better than this. If we're going to discuss the topics let's at least use language that means something and make an attempt at debate with integrity.

1 comment:

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Your point is well made sir. It reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson's point about they/them

'They' cant exist, all groups are a grammatical fiction which exist only in the mind of the speaker. Wether grouped together by ethnicity, gender, preference, or recreational interest, groups [aka they/them ] are comprised of individuals and therefore cannot, as your list of different shooters shows, be anything other than a disparate collection of viewpoints. Unless the speaker wishes to try to make common cause for or against his projected grouping.

While in most cases I've noticed attempts to police the use of language being a well-intentioned failure, RAW's idea of being watchful of our own utterances took my thinking in new and unexpected directions.
It also helped turn the mainstream media from a tragedy into a comedy, which was a relief.

Keep well