Yesterday I reblogged a very clever satire reflecting on the issue of gun control as it is currently being argued in US politics. The most popular theme in this debate right now is the idea that guns don’t kill people, just like spoons don’t make people gain weight, and shoes aren’t responsible for kicking people.
I would like to cite this newspaper clipping which has been circulating around the internet as a prime example:
Yeah, we get it. Your inanimate gun doesn’t do anything when left to its own devices.
Um, you do realize, sir, that you just left a shotgun, and the requite ammunition, on your front porch? You left, for all intents and purposes, a loaded lethal weapon where you, yourself, admit the mail worker, the trash worker, and a small child had immediate access to it.
Let’s just assume, for the moment, that this isn’t also a satire. (And I am going to cross my fingers and squinch my eyes and just hope against hope that it is. Because, let’s be honest – we all know at least five pinheads who would do this just to make a point.) Let’s assume “Walter New” actually left his personal, legally obtained, rightfully owned Remington 870 sitting on his front stoop.
In Walt New’s version of this satire, the gun sits there, lazy, lonesome, innocent, and unharming.
That. Is. Convenient.
Because in my version of this story, a man purposefully leaves an essentially loaded weapon on his porch within arm’s reach of a mail worker. …They don’t have the best reputation for keeping their cool under pressure.
He leaves an intriguing piece of lethal mechanics available to little Ida Mae’s curious hands as she walks Coco the schnauzer down the road. She takes it down to show Bobbie Jean, and ends up blowing her prepubescent head off. Of course she can work a pump-action rifle – what do you think this is? France?
He leaves a ready kill shot available for the trash worker, a guy out on work-release after getting a skip on that questionable manslaughter case. It would have been a hard fifteen year sentence, but, man, he had a great lawyer.
Yeah, sure, guns don’t kill people on their own. It’s irresponsible people with guns that are on the stand here, and you, Walter New, have just made that case. So, thanks.
Mr. New posits in his letter to the editor that the news media suggests that guns kill people. I think Mr. New is misinterpreting the news. No one, no one, is suggesting that guns are walking around on spontaneously-evolved hind legs and shooting people with their own brand of artificial intelligence. We’re three, four years from that kind of technology at best.
But let us be honest about what a gun is – it is a weapon. It’s only function is to shoot things. You do not dust with it. You do not clean belly button lint with it. You do not groom your dog with it. You do not fluff your down pillows with it. It is for shooting and shooting only. It was made to kill. So, though guns can do no harm without a human shooter, let us not pretend a gun is something that it is not.
People do not propose gun control legislation because the guns themselves are out of control. To suggest that this is the issue at hand only brands one’s self as an ignoramus. People propose gun control legislation, Mr. New, because gun controllers are not controlling their guns.
Even though your decision to leave a loaded killing machine within the grasp of school children is deplorably irresponsible, no one, Mr. New, wishes to take away your right to bear arms.
(Unless you run a meth lab. Do you run a meth lab, Mr. New? Because if you do, I should also point out that those places are crazy volatile and can blow at any second. It is possibly even a worse place for your Remington than your front stoop.)
What I find most ironic is that Walt New cites in his letter to the editor that most gun violence is a problem of “criminals who misuse them.” (See what I mean about the meth lab?) And yet, gun-toters are the same census group who voted down the criminal background checks and waiting periods before being able to buy a firearm.
So, those who want the legislation agree with you – guns need operators to kill people. Those who do not wish to lose the right to bear arms agree that it is criminals who misuse guns who cause the most damage, and cause the largest threat to society. And yet it is again those same voters who turn down measures to attempt to keep the guns in the hands of responsible American hands, and refer back to the argument that guns needs hands to operate them?
This is my argument. I’ll leave it in your hands.
Driving home the other day I was behind a van, permanently adhered to which was a bright yellow bumper sticker that read, “I will keep my freedom, guns and money, you can keep the change.” I read this bumper sticker, then three things happened.
One, I said “Okay, clearly that guy is a Republican.” Out loud. In my car. To no one.
Two, I passed the guy; bright yellow bumper stickers are kind of distracting, and I have a hard enough time driving while also listening to the radio, dictating to my smartphone, and thinking all the brilliant thoughts that will eventually make it into my blog.
Three, I mourned whatever educational system had failed this man, because clearly he doesn’t understand entropy.
I get that the bumper sticker was a response to Barack Obama’s “Change” campaign. Ten points for the clever word play. But know, Driver/Van-Owner/Bumper-Sticker-Adherer, that I award these imaginary points begrudgingly. No amount of clever word play can make up for this futile, eyes-shut, fingers-in-your-ears resistance to change. Why? Because everything changes all the time.
On a cellular level, everything is always changing. Even you, Driver/Van-Owner/Bumper-Sticker-Adherer, are not the same person you were an hour ago, a day ago, a year ago. When I passed you, I noticed your long (and somewhat obnoxious) beard. (I’m just sayin’.) You didn’t have that when you were ten. I know this because ten year old boys do not possess the necessary levels of testosterone it takes to grow a beard. That is change.
I am willing to bet that is not the only thing that has changed since you were ten. When I was ten I was in love with a New Kid On The Block and refused to wear clothes that weren’t dyed fluorescent any color. Perhaps you had similar misconceptions that are general to any ten-year-old mind? Did you think you would be an astronaut? Did you think you could live your life on pixie sticks and roller skates? No matter what, I’m fairly certain you didn’t imagine yourself driving up and down the turnpike with an old minivan touting political views on bumper stickers. That’s a reality reserved for twelve year olds, at least.
People change because as they experience things, their perception of life changes. That is why your sixteen year old self is so much more morose than your nine year old self. Why your thirty-five year old self would willingly slap your twenty year old self if given the chance. Why your eighty year old self wishes your fifty year old self had been so different.
This isn’t just true for individuals, it’s true for culture as well. No culture, society or politic can remain static, because none of the people or peoples within it remain static. It is impossible to “keep the change”; even if you don’t change, change will still happen to you. Even if, for the rest of your life, you cast your Republican vote, and every year for the rest of your life Republicans win every election, things will still change.
There is a sociological term called “social entropy.” Entropy itself is a physics term, describing how within a thermodynamic system some amount of energy will always be lost. But entropy is so cool on a conceptual level that pretty much every other branch of study has stolen it for their own purposes. Sociologists have used it to describe what I just described – the inevitable change in culture, resulting in the decay of particulars within that culture, and eventually the culture itself.
Take the Amish for example. The Amish are an American Christian culture who do not use electricity. Anything that connects them with the world outside of their own culture is more or less forbidden, because it would disrupt their relationship with God. They are perhaps the most determinedly resistant people to change because their relationship with the Almighty depends on it.
And yet, even these guys have Visa cards. Why? Because that it how people pay for shit in 2013. Their horse-drawn buggies have battery-operated headlights and taillights. Why? Because in Pennsylvania it is illegal to operate a vehicle on the road at night without two working headlights and two working taillights, even if said vehicle is literally horse-powered. Many Amish women have their babies in hospitals. Why? Because this baby is breech and I really, really need a cesarean. Because I have preeclampsia and will die if I do not get modern medical help. Cause why contract in pain for forty-seven hours when you can go to Lancaster General and get an epidural?
Yes, the Amish still plough their land with wooden, ox-drawn cart. Yes, they still churn their butter by hand. Yes, they still hand-stitch their quilts, hand-milk their cows, hand-wash their clothes, hand-paint their fences, hand-make their fine, maple furniture. (What can I say – the Amish perform a lot of hand jobs.) Yet even these guys will accept a ride in one of them new-fangled automobiles if they have to walk to town in the rain.
The entropy of the Amish culture is succumbing to the progressions of the culture around it – the rest of America. Our entropy is, in most ways, yet to be seen. But, if we’re looking to delay the brand of deadly entropy that is the eventual end to all cultures, we can learn from history. The fall of the Roman Empire is a prototype for what the US has to face in the face of entropy. So perhaps we can learn from history and stand the test of time by learning these three lessons: One, don’t get smallpox; Two, keep the water clean; and, Three, don’t be resistant to change. Because you will start with something little like, say, persecution and genocide of a targeted religious group, just to convert to said group a couple hundred years later.