In the bubble, the vision is clear. Seeing outside it is the hard part.
Last week I tried to enter the bubble. The gun bubble—that hazy, somewhat blurred, and always bulletproof sphere that protects the gun idolators from fact.
I hadn't meant to go there. I was simply responding to someone who tried to convince me that the proliferation of guns was the answer to our ineffective government (ineffective since January 2021, I presume) and poor parenting.
Fundamental to his argument was the belief that armed Americans protect themselves and others 1.5 million times a year.
It's not true, of course. It's an estimate based on a sampling of people claiming to have used a gun to protect themselves. It makes no mention of the severity of the threat or the seriousness of the so-called crime. It simply verifies the incidents as viewed by the gun owner. (If some lunatic waves an AR-15 at some children playing on his lawn, did he save a life? Did a "sour man" protect himself and others by shooting someone who turned around in his driveway? Who exactly was protected in Hartford last week when a 12-year-old girl was shot and killed?) Still, that figure, extrapolated, comes out to 1.5 million Americans who owe their well-being to weapons.
It's nuts. The news contradicts that daily. Hourly. But again, facts cannot penetrate the bubble.
As for the argument about ineffective government, that isn't easy to contradict. Yes, most Americans favor sane gun policies with simple age restrictions and background checks. Still, the elected politicians are so frightened of the gun lobby withdrawing its money that no rational laws can be passed. And so, ironically (or perhaps tragically), those who need weapons to survive an enfeebled government are themselves responsible for its weakened state.
And poor parenting? As if this were a 21st-century phenomenon? Did anyone read King Lear? Or the Bible? (Deuteronomy has some suggestions about how to treat a rebellious child.) Those examples probably get no mention in Shooting Times.
And so it's stifling inside that bubble, and it's awful, not because of the guns but the hatred. Inside it, mankind is the enemy, a world of individuals lying in wait to do us harm. There's little room for humanity, compassion, or empathy. Those are weaknesses in a society where only weapons wield authority, where the only way to resolve conflict is by murdering the dissenter.
This cancerous residue of the Trumpian worldview has legitimized the Calvinist belief in man's innate corruption: men and women were born evil and can do nothing to better themselves. Maybe the angry Calvinist God will smile on them, but probably not. Better have a gun or ten.
Good works, charity, benevolence, empathy—all the qualities that used to define the American ethos are ridiculed in the Trumpian world, and the "wokeness" of treating each other as fellow mortals and not as combatants in some holy war has made this a country defined by its inhumanity. Anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-woman, anti-Semitic—one would have thought such a turn of events to be impossible in merely one generation. Still, Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill" has been subsumed by a weaponized militia guarding nothing but their own driveways.
The foundation of this country evolved from just such a dichotomy—when the woke people in the 18th century believed that we deserved better than to be under the thumb of a foreign power—that there was an essential worth in all individuals and that they needed the freedom to develop it. Even then, there were those who believed the opposite—the dour, conservative fundamentalists who felt that man couldn't be trusted with self-rule or even knowledge, that the world was a battlefield with Satan lurking behind every tree. Beyond that bubble, then and now, lie continuing proofs that human nature is a positive attribute that, if nourished, develops strength. It was that attitude that gave birth to this nation. Automatic weapons trained on innocents can hardly be the to protect it.
At least, that's what most Americans believe, but outside the bubble, those beliefs lack the power of gun-lobby money. And so for the craven Congress forever on the take, that nearly infinite supply of thoughts and prayers will never be exhausted—while its constituents continue to bury their children.