Writing this final installment on my cultural violence series has been very difficult. I know what I want to say in a rather amorphous way, but finding the words to explain my point of this whole series has been much like a difficult birth. When my wife Elizabeth was pregnant with our daughter, and she came up on her due date, her doctor had to induce labor. Even so, Elizabeth was in labor for almost 12 hours. She really had to work at the birthing process. I know what she went through because I was there with her. Writing this article reminds me very much of what I witnessed that day.
The purpose of this post is to try and wrap up what I e said in the first three installments into a nice neat package. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Culture is part of life. Therefore, it is Barry difficult to wrap culture into a nice neat package. I will do the best I can and hopefully, what I say will make sense to all of you. But, be forewarned. Much of what I will say here will be theoretical constructs, not actual reality in the sense that most of you understand reality. My own understanding of reality is that reality is nothing more than the mental constructs of the collective minds of a group of humans who share certain beliefs about the nature of things. In other words, each culture, more or less, creates its own reality. Granted, humans everywhere you share a limited number of beliefs in common. That is why there is some common elements to all cultures. Probably the most common and the most ancient is the incest taboo in its most basic form. Humans do not make with their parents or their siblings. That is true in every culture I know of and probably gates far back into prehistoric times. We are probably the only species that has this taboo. Understand, this taboo is not genetic. It is not biologically determined. It is a sociocultural convention that humans have unconsciously agreed to for many millennia. All this stuff about birth defects and bad recessive genes is allowed of “scientific” mumbo-jumbo used to make us believe that there is some rational/scientific reason for the incest taboo. I seriously doubt that prehistoric humans a couple of hundred thousand years ago had any understanding of genetics. It is highly unlikely that the incest taboo started because of concerns about birth defects or bad recessive genes. There were social and cultural reasons for the development of this taboo, a discussion of which would make this article even longer than it is. If you’re interested, post a comment here or on my Facebook page and I will give you some references that explain what I mean.
Let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty! As I said in my earlier installments in this series, there are three major cultural symbols that will with the easiest one first and that will lead us to the other two. Americans glorify what I call the cowboy mentality. We see the cowboy as the ideal American: a rugged individualist, self-reliant, and someone who does not expect others, even law enforcement, to do his dirty work for him. And yes, the cowboy is very much a macho man, spilling his testosterone all over the place. The classic example of the cowboy mentality are the roles played by John Wayne, an American icon because he epitomizes what most Americans understand what being an American means. Two movies that I want to cite as examples Are “The Green Berets” and “True Grit”. I am reasonably sure you all have seen at least one of these if not both of them, so I will not belabor the point. I think you understand what I mean.
Two other actors who have done numerous movies that epitomize this American self-understanding are Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis. Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and The Man With No Name movies are absolutely drenched in American machismo. Obviously, the Bruce Willis’ movies I have in mind are his “Die Hard” movies.
It is this American machismo that is at the heart of our cultural violence. We do not trust law enforcement or politicians or even the military to handle the bad guys. We feel that we have to be like the Revolutionary War Minutemen who answered the call when the British marched on Concord and Lexington to confiscate illegal caches of arms. We still hear the pounding hoofbeats of this horse and the voice of Paul Revere crying, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” The entertainment industry and the media just love these kinds of stories, whether real or fictional. They hold these up to us to admire and to emulate. Trouble is, emulating that behavior is actually illegal and will get you sent to prison, although in the movies the American cowboy always get off because the jury refuses to convict him. In real life, that doesn’t happen very often. But those who worship this culture of violence tend to ignore that reality angled blissfully around spouting cowboy propaganda.
What makes it even more disgusting is that these cowboy propagandists use, more like hide behind, the US Constitution as a justification for their promoting cowboy machismo. As I tried to explain in my article on the Second Amendment, the Bill of Rights was written 225 years ago when America was a much different place and the level of firearm technology was nowhere near where it is now. Also, the United States did not have and could not afford a standing army and everything that such an army would require. The defense of this country was in the hands of volunteers, the same Minutemen who volunteered to fight the British in 1775. Today, firearm technology has advanced to the point where you really don’t even have to be a particularly good marksman to kill somebody or something. Single shot black powder muzzleloaders have been replaced by semi-automatic rifles with magazines that hold a dozen or more shells which can be fired quite rapidly. So if you missed the first shot, you’ve got 11 more before the deer or other target disappears from sight. Also, the range of these semi-automatic rifles far exceeds the range of a muzzleloader. I know this for a fact because I had shot both. To be honest with you, I much prefer the muzzleloader as a hunting rifle. You have to be a marksman and you have to be a hunter in the traditional sense of the word. Traditional deer hunting involves a great deal more than just sitting up in a tree stand sipping brandy from the flask. You have to have stealth skills and tracking skills that, I suspect, most members of the NRA do not possess. Nor do they possess the marksmanship of a traditional hunter, which is kind of amusing in a very ironic way, since the NRA was started in 1851 in order to teach marksmanship. Back then, the NRA did not want people with guns running around shooting willy-nilly and God knows what. Funny how times have changed, isn’t it?
The Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to ensure the security of this country, not individual security. The right to bear arms was guaranteed so that volunteer soldiers could grab their rifles and rush out to defend this country. By the way, the term for this volunteer army was “militia” the Second Amendment stresses the need for a well regulated militia. What the NRA wants is unregulated gun ownership. That was never the intention of the Second Amendment. In fact, in my humble opinion, the framers of the Constitution would have left out the Second Amendment had the situation been like it is these days. The Second Amendment is an anachronism and probably should be repealed, if for no other reason than for the safety of our children. The school shootings have to stop. Arming teachers, armed guards in the schools, and, God forbid, allowing students to carry concealed weapons would only aggravate the situation. W I e would have even more violence in the schools, not less.
Finally, and this is the most egregious of all, the opponents of gun control, the American cowboy macho man, not only hide behind the US Constitution, they also hide behind their religion, Christianity. That is absolutely hypocritical! The central figure in any denomination of Christianity is Jesus. These macho Christians are also quite often those who see the Bible as the “literal” Word of God. They see Jesus as the son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. The Trinity is one being, one substance, but three persons. So, for all practical purposes, for Christians Jesus is the same as God. What Jesus says is the Word of God. Okay, so what did Jesus say? “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Or, to update the technology, those that live by the gun, died by the gun. Jesus also said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” If you love someone, shooting them would be a very poor way to show it. Finally, Jesus said, “love one another as I have loved you.” That was his parting epigram to his disciples at the time of his Ascension. Though last time I looked in my Bible, there is no mention anywhere of Jesus shooting, nice things, spearing, beheading or crucifying anyone ever. If you consider yourself a good Christian, and I know most of you do, how can you condone this sanctimonious culture of violence wrapped in a very distorted understanding of who and what Jesus was?
The peace that passes all understanding and the love of Jesus be with you all!