Gun-Lust: This Is America. This Is Who We Are. Pt. II


I was neither surprised or even disappointed when comments on my Facebook page were shallow, insensitive, and simply ridiculous in response to my post against the gun-lust that defines the U.S.: Know guns, know violence; no guns, no violence.

The most ridiculous was the counter argument that if we had no guns people would still be violent with ball bats.

Not kidding. That was a rebuttal.

For the record, I am in full support for a complete exchange in the U.S.—all gun owners swapping those weapons for bats.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, and I was disappointed, however, when I waded into the Las Vegas shooting with my college students. My university population is skewed socially and politically conservative as well as traditionally Christian. Although the college was once affiliated with the Southern Baptist church, that ended decades ago and the school was never a religious college.

I always die a little on the inside when I share the research base solidly refuting corporal punishment, prompting several students to respond angrily in favor of spanking: “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” the typical rebuttal as hollow as the bat argument above.

Three first year students were more than bothered and eager to challenge the concerns I raised in our first-year seminar about access to guns in the U.S. and the uniquely violent culture of our country when compared internationally.

Their arguments fell into three categories: adamant commitments to owning guns for self defense (with the undercurrent that home invasions are somehow an ever-present danger), a belief that the Second Amendment was in part designed to allow U.S. citizens to defend themselves against a rogue U.S. government (and that remains relevant in 2017), and the recognition that many in the U.S. cling to gun ownership as a symbol for individual freedom (one student noted that his family owns several guns but they never use them in any way).

One similarity to my students’ arguments and the push-back on Facebook has been the sense of fatalism—there simply is no way to end all gun violence or all violence so let’s not restrict our freedom, again represented by merely owning a gun.

In class, I found data on international comparisons showing that the U.S. is an extreme outlier for rates of gun violence, and I posed the idea that wouldn’t we all take the rates of next highest nation (a much lower rate) if that were possible through policy change.

And with that, I argued that we are all complicit in our violent nation, our gun-lust: This is America. This is who we are.

My students who defended gun rights immediately balked at the carnage of LasVegas is something the citizens of the U.S. have chosen.

Facebook ignorance has become nearly as commonplace as mass shootings in the U.S. But I have tried to remain hopeful about young people, that the future can hold a better us: “This place could be beautiful,/right? You could make this place beautiful.”

As my students demonstrate, young people have been engrained with irrational but compelling beliefs that are not supported by evidence; entrenched symbolism remains powerful in the U.S. well beyond the origins of those symbols.

The practical and very real importance of guns in the founding and expansion of the U.S. certainly contrasts significantly with today—but the symbolism (guns equal freedom) endures.

Symbolism and the resulting fatalism are the death of us as a people—unless somehow we are able to make facts matter. Otherwise, our future is as dim as our past and our present.

Suggested Readings

How dangerous people get their weapons in America

Six things to know about mass shootings in America

When gun control makes a difference: 4 essential reads

1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days: America’s gun crisis – in one chart

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts

Visualizing gun deaths: Comparing the U.S. to rest of the world

@JamesFallows offers two dark American truths from Las Vegas

In the U.S., Where the Female Nipple Is More Dangerous Than a Gun


Deplorables Unmasked

Something deplorable happened on the way to claiming the U.S. is a Christian nation of free people where everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, or gender has the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And it wasn’t Donald Trump. Or better expressed, it wasn’t only Donald Trump.

Once Trump secured the nomination for president of the Republican Party, many scrambled to caution about condemning Trump’s supporters, not painting them with too broad and negative a brush.

Especially in the mainstream media, few, nearly none, would venture to utter words such as “racist,” “sexist,” “xenophobe,” or even “lie.”

Trump and his running mate have skated along literally piling lies on top of lies—including lies about not saying provable things, including Trump opening his most recent apology with lies.

But what is truly deplorable is Trump both represents and has unmasked the ugly truth about the U.S.: we are a nation of deplorables, not as outliers, but as a substantial population of our country.

As I was driving down I-85 in South Carolina on the morning after the suddenly shocking* recording of Trump being exactly who he has always been, I saw a large, black SUV in front of me with this bumper sticker:


It has become conventional wisdom to brush off Trump’s obnoxious bravado as part of his reality show persona, while adding that his supporters are more nuanced in their support for his candidacy.

But the harsh truth is that Trump is deplorable and so are his supporters—and so are many so-called decent Americans.

Cliches become cliches often because they are true, and one truism seems quite important at this moment: when someone shows you who they really are, be sure to pay attention.

And people often reveal who they really are when they think they are in private, when they think they are among their own kind.

Men hanging out with other men often sound like the Trump comments being rebuked now as if this isn’t common language and attitudes.

Having been born, grown up, and now living in the South, I can assure you when whites are in seemingly safe environs, the racism rears its ugly head in subtle and blunt ways.

But it is even worse than that.

Now that we have yet more evidence of who Trump is, who his enablers are, the carefully prepared political backpedaling tells us just as much as any hot mic:

“I am sickened by what I heard today,” [Paul] Ryan said through a spokesman, about five hours after The Washington Post published a 2005 recording of Trump boasting of groping women and trying to have sex with a married woman. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.

Gross, pig sexist being chastised by his more well-groomed but equally clueless sexist—as part and parcel of who the Republican Party has always been, as part and parcel of who many in the U.S. remain to be:

When Trump vilified Mexicans and Muslims, when Trump repeatedly stirs racism and caters to openly racist groups, the mainstream political response remains trapped in respecting human dignity only by close association—currently the hot take in the mainstream press is to speak with reverence about mothers and daughters.

A people has no moral compass, no ethical grounding if the only way anyone can respect human dignity is by association.

If you have to know or be related to people with other statuses than yours to care about their human dignity, you are deplorable.

Some may now try to burn at the stake the Frankenstein’s monster, Donald Trump, but to do so without acknowledging Dr. Frankenstein is misguided and shallow political theater.

Trump as bogus billionaire entrepreneur, as con-man reality star is the white male prototype of what it means to be an American: America built this.

And, as much as we wish to deny it, we are America.

The America who tells Colin Kaepernick not to sully our sacred football with politics—while failing to see that opening every football game with the National Anthem is political.

The America who responds to #BlackLivesMatter with All Lives Matter—while refusing to admit that guns matter more than any lives.

The America that polices how some people raise their fists—while “land of the free and home of the brave” proves to be false on both counts.

Something deplorable happened on the way to claiming the U.S. is a Christian nation of free people where everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, or gender has the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Something deplorable is right there in the mirror.

* One must ask, I think, why now? See More Than 150 Republican Leaders Don’t Support Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point.

In the U.S. Guns Matter More than Any Lives Matter

While I remain adamant that the All Lives Matter response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement is code for the exact racism BLM is confronting, I am also concerned that the tension created in that debate helps mask a much larger reality in the U.S.—one that fuels many of the issues confronting us as a people.

The truth is in the U.S., guns matter more than any lives matter.


“Since Sept. 1, 2015, when the state required the new reports,” reports Eva Ruth Moravec, “Texas law enforcement officers shot at least 169 people, 20 percent of whom were unarmed.”


I live in Spartanburg County and teach in Greenville County, both part of the Upstate of South Carolina. Nearby is Anderson County, about an hour’s drive away.

Last week in Anderson County, a 14-year-old white boy, homeschooled, shot and killed his father before driving to a nearby elementary school where he shot an adult and children on the playground. A few days later, one of the shot 6-year-olds died from the leg wound.

Media reports detailed that the 14-year-old shooter had been bought weapons, such as explosives and guns, by his mother, despite having been expelled from school.

This boy-shooter lives in a multi-layered gun culture—the U.S., the South, and his own home.


It is exhausting to write about gun violence in the U.S., but I feel compelled to offer briefly here something that must be confronted with care.

The caveat is that I am in no way arguing sameness of degree here. However, among those involved in gun violence as both ones using guns and ones being shot, there is a commonality of being victims within the larger gun culture created and/or tolerated by virtually everyone in the U.S.

In the U.S., a perverse cycle of gun culture exists that uses the manufactured and mostly exaggerated threat of gun violence to justify the obsessive ownership of guns.

Gun ownership and the right to own guns have been waved like the flag for so long as bedrocks of individual liberty and rights that we have lost the ability to be reasonable and ethical people, able to see through the false patriotism and bogus strict constitutionalism that are a thin veneer for crass commercialism: “gun rights” is an NRA campaign to fuel gun sales, period.


If any really want to move toward a society in which all lives matter (and I am deeply skeptical many of those people exist), the first step is to change course as a people who act as if guns matter more than any lives matter.

See Also

Trust Has Never Existed Between Cops and Black Communities, Stacey Patton

Who Do Sacred Texts Serve?

This rigid refusal to look at ourselves may well destroy us; particularly now since if we cannot understand ourselves we will not be able to understand anything.

“Lockridge: ‘The American Myth,'” James Baldwin

In my sixth decade as a son of the South, I know more than a little bit about Bible thumping.

Fundamentalist preachers, street preachers, and the faithful who hold the literal truth of Biblical texts sacred—these all embody literally and figuratively what “Bible thumping” represents: a sacred text.

The great irony of fundamentalism in the South where the King James Version of the Bible is thumped, slammed, waved, and quoted includes the problems with translation as well as the many contradictions in that text. Eye for an eye or turn the other cheek?

Not to dwell also on the cherry picking necessary for literalists: condemning homosexuality by jamming a finger on a passage from Leviticus but conveniently not pointing out the dozens of other Jewish laws those literalists trespass daily.

Throughout the U.S., however, there is also a powerful secular sacred text, The Constitution (notably the most thumped Second Amendment), that serves as a disturbing and extra layer of irony.

Yes, often, those most fervent about their Christianity are equally fervent about their guns. It seems what is important is being fervent, not making sure ones ideologies match up.

But in the wake of tragedy, we may have hope.

The Orlando massacre has spurred a powerful message about the importance of a diversity of voices in a free society.

In 2016, white males continue to have too many megaphones—we labor under, for example, the relentless drumbeat of many David Brooks who know little but pontificate endlessly simply because they can—but with the rise of social media, we hear more and more from women, people of color, and LGBT+.

After Orlando, those diverse perspectives have been willing to challenge that sacred text, the Second Amendment, noting that when the Constitution and Amendments were codified, the voices of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ were absent.

In other words, our secular sacred text is necessarily incomplete, likely flawed.

And the problem rests in by whom, why, and how “sacred” is deemed.

There is a straight and clear line from the genesis of the South Baptist denomination—thumping the Bible to justify slavery—and the perversion of the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms to form a militia—to suit the gun fetish, gun industry, and culture of violence that all characterize the U.S., a so-called Christian nation.

Sacred texts most often serve the wants and needs—and status—of the privileged, those who have the power to thump the text and anoint it with the power of God or State.

And those powerful depend on the powerless to cling to those sacred texts, empowered by that clinging through the sheer proximity of “it’s in the Bible” or “the Second Amendment!”

So we stand in a particular part of history now, one in which some voices have been “deliberately silenced,” “preferably unheard.”

But the oppressed and suppressed are demanding that they be heard, in part by challenging, as Adrienne Rich wrote, the “book of myths/in which/our names do not appear.”

In the U.S., sacred texts are as deadly as the murderous guns we cling to—until we choose to look at ourselves, to listen, and to act in ways that hold all humans sacred.

[Grammar Note: There was a time when we made a distinction between “who” and “whom”—a sacred distinction like “they” always being plural—but “whom” has died so long live “who” as a versatile part of speech!]

In the U.S., Where the Female Nipple Is More Dangerous Than a Gun

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez are back with  the long-awaited Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The films are both based on Miller’s graphic novels—with the graphic novels and films sharing distinct visual impacts on readers and viewers.

So it is fitting that the first released poster for the second film is visually provocative:

Eva Green in the Sin City poster banned by the MPAA. Photograph: Troublemaker Studios

As an unapologetic comic book and film nerd, I must admit that the first things I noticed about this poster were the gun, immediately, as well as the visual similarities (and differences) with the first film (the red nail polish and lipstick, her green eyes, the glistening diamond). In fact, the poster made me wonder if this film will maintain the striking mostly black-and-white look of the first.

But not the Motion Picture Association of America, as reported at The Guardian:

A poster for the upcoming Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, has been banned by the Motion Picture Association of America for depicting its star, Eva Green, in a state of relative undress.

Green appears in the poster wearing a revealing thin gown – to use the powerfully erotic words of the censor board, the poster was banned “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

It’s a fittingly controversial image for a film whose first installment became notorious for its ultraviolence.

Other than giving Scout Willis more fodder for her “free the nipple” campaign, this censoring of a film poster captures once again the baffling Puritanical streak in the U.S. that exists beside something between a dull ambivalence toward and a brutal bloodlust for violence—represented in our near fetish for guns.

There is brilliant and nuanced routine by George Carlin I first heard on his albums Class Clown and Occupation: Foole. As part of his classic seven words you can’t say on television (including the censoring of the word “tit,” which Carlin finds outrageous), Carlin muses about replacing the word “kill” with the word “f***” in memorable lines like “OK, Sheriff, we’re going to kill you now, but we’re going to kill you slow,” “Kill the ump,” or “You better watch out, Bob, you’re going to kill that engine”:

And here we are forty-odd years later in the U.S.—where no one ever has been killed by a nipple/areola, but where school and mass shootings are more common than in any other so-called civilized country—censoring film posters while states have moved since the Sandy Hook school shooting to relax, not restrict, gun ownership.

Perhaps there was a time when all other nations looked up to the U.S., wanted to be the U.S., maybe. But increasingly we are a people to be laughed at, not with because we are wont to have both our guns and the female nipple concealed.

If the U.S. were a Carlin comedy album, it’d have to be Nation: Fooles.

UPDATE 1: Appears Rihanna has failed to understand the right to a concealed weapon (and she has already been banned by Instagram!):

UPDATE 2: As I note here, “Apparently Eva Green’s thinly-veiled nipples are not only more dangerous than the gun she is holding in the new Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, poster, but also more offensive than Jackman’s nipples (despite the violence and extended sequences of a topless Jackman, the film is rated PG-13 “for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language”).”

The Wolverine (2013)

UPDATE 3: Appears GQ offers a series of shots that sort of prove the point. Can you figure out what is taboo?

UPDATE 4: Bosom Baddies

In Memory: Sandy Hook Elementary, One Year After

I fear that we have become either callous or numb—either is a tragic consequence of mass shootings, even those at schools, becoming commonplace.

Here, I invite you to read from a group of pieces I wrote after and about the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, one year ago, December 14, 2012:

“They’re All Our Children” (AlterNet)

  • Alongside discussions of mental health and gun control, we must use the lessons of Sandy Hook to reframe the debate around education reform.

Remembering Sandy Hook: Protecting Guns, Sacrificing (Some) Children

Misreading the Right to Bear Arms (AlterNet)

  • Confronting gun ownership is an argument about violence — not about autonomy and freedom.

Protecting Guns, Sacrificing (Some) Children

Protecting Guns, Sacrificing (Some) Children

“In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740,” details Protect Children Not Guns 2012 (Children’s Defense Fund), “—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years” (p. 2).

Tragedy is often reserved for single catastrophic events, but cumulative loss is no less tragic, particularly when the lives of innocent children and teens are placed in the context of daily violence.

continue reading at Truthout