Last week I talked about art but the issue that has been jerked to the top of our national conscious- ness once again is FEAR.
We should probably look at how we, in this country, handle fear.

Truth be told, the response of many Colorado citizens to a mentally deranged kid walking into a the- ater and killing 12 people was exactly the same as HIS response to whatever fears were rattling around in his own damaged mind—go out and buy more guns. This is a growing and disturbing reality in our country.

We seem to have gotten stuck in some time warp anchored in the romanticized old West of Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Whatever there is to be afraid of can be shot and the problem’s solved. Of course, in the movies the bad guys can never shoot straight and the good guys always win. Innocent bystanders hardly ever get killed in the crossfire.

These days we proclaim that it is an absolute right, in fact, a necessity, that anyone and everyone can, and should, have guns. Any attempt at a REASONABLE  limit on who or what kind or how many is met by massive outcries that the government is trying to take away ALL of our guns.

Now, I’m not anti-gun. I was a “marks kid” back in summer camp and actually went on a couple hunting trips with friends [fortunately, no creatures were harmed during these adventures). And we own a gun now—a .357 magnum my partner inherited. It came with massive hollow point bullets. One day I was at a meeting when I got a frantic call from him. There was a huge diamondback
rattler that our dogs had cornered out by the workshop.  Now, I’ve lived in the wild most of my adult life and while I don’t have anything against rattlesnakes, in general, I don’t want them in or around my house with the dogs, cats and kids—so I usually beg forgiveness, then murder them. My usual weapons are a shovel and a lot of adrenalin.

This was my partner’s first encounter and he didn’t relish the idea of getting that close so he opted for the cannon. Problem was, we had been good, responsible gun owners, had a trigger lock and had separated the ammo from the gun—and being of the age we are, we had forgotten where we put the bullets!

While still on the phone with him, I suggested a few more places to look and stressed that my method was more efficient, and hung up. When I got home the snake was dead with two holes blasted through him/her with apparently no effect whatsoever—my mate finally dispatched that snake with the trusty shovel.

But fear of rattlesnakes is not driving the nation’s paranoia. The loudest protests come from those who fear our own government. Time for a reality check—do we REALLY think the government is going to even attempt to take our guns?

You mean OUR government that took ten years to find one terrorist is going to actually come into every American’s living room that owns a gun and take it away? And do these people think that having an AK-47 in the closet will hold them off if they DO decide to come “get them?”

Yes, there are real “dangers”—our government is not the most intelligently run nor has it been the most democratic in recent decades—but I don’t see a shootout between us and “them” any time soon. Most of our problems can be solved by intelligent dialogue among the various players.

If the American people took their responsibility to educate themselves about the issues seriously, instead of depending on talk show hosts, pundits and TV ads to inform them— and, further, demanded that their elected choices actually engage in intelligent dialogue with each other (ALL of the parties), then most of our problems could be dealt with. Won’t see it in my lifetime, unfortunately, but neither are they gonna hunt me down for my .357!

The other main scenario driving rampant gun ownership is allegedly as a defense against armed bad guys. Last week a citizen with a gun, in fact, did face down a nutcase with a knife in a grocery store. Unfortunately, the timing of that event on the heels the Aurora incident will see it touted as justification for everyone and their grandmother needing to always be armed. But, seriously, when’s the last time you heard of something like that actually happening?

And, given the number of people with guns in this country, how often have they been used for a successful defense as opposed to accidentally (or, on purpose) killing/maiming friends, relatives or other good guys. Even a former vice-president screwed up and shot a friend!

There have been several news commentaries about what kind of horrific scene would have ensued if the many, presumably armed people in the theater that day had started firing back. Chilling!

But I want to suggest that the fears that inspire us to be armed are just a symptom of something far more insidious. Over the past 50 years we have been deliberately bombarded with a culture of fear—actually indoctrinated and taught to fear things that are almost pathologically irrational. This has been done primarily to FIRST, scare us, and SECOND, sell us things or ideas or actions, to supposedly alleviate those phony fears.

We have become a nation terrified of strangers, people who look or think differently, germs on our kitchen countertops, poison in our Tylenol, and of course, the destruction of the institution of marriage!

We’re terrified that attempts at trying to solve social inequity will lead to “socialism,” or that if we don’t get just one more expensive pill or treatment or surgery we will DIE—don’t forget underarm odor or bad breath!  So, nationally and individually, we arm ourselves with all kinds of really BIG weapons of mass destruction capable of wasting the planet or our neighborhood several times over; we arm ourselves with unending exhortations of moral outrage and cower at the medieval threats of an angry, vindictive god by proxy.

We arm ourselves with personal arsenals of herbicides, germicides, insecticides, stain removers, sun block, deodorant sprays—and spend grotesque amounts of money on both real and imagined health problems. And we’re still terrified!

What we should be afraid of are the “remedies” we’re sold by the very same people—political/religious ideologues and corporations—that made us afraid (and/or CAUSED the problems) in the first place.

What IS out there that we really need to spend precious time in fear of—I mean, really? Concern, yes, for a lot of reasons—fear, no. As Frank Herbert, said in “Dune” “Fear is the mind-killer . . . it is the ‘little death’ that brings total annihilation.”

 

Read more stories in this issue of Vivacini!