Enough

Gun control has long been one of the things I feel least intensely about in terms of issues. The reason is both that I don’t see the point of pushing it in a country where there is sufficient electoral math against it and because I understand why at least some of the gun-affectionate react so strongly when the rest of us demand sensible restrictions. It’s not that the restrictions (licensing, registration, mandatory training, constraint to hunting weapons) are unreasonable outright, but that guns signify culture, and those of us who want guns restrained tend to surround our demands with surplus amounts of performative contempt for the cultural worlds of the people who own guns.

But enough. Enough.

Who are the “special snowflakes” of early 21st Century America, the people whose underwear is too tight, who are too sensitive about everything, who can’t take even the least criticism? No, it’s not some exquisitely tuned 20-year old leftist at a selective private college. It’s the cultural right, the people who curl up into a Rush Limbaugh-endorsed fetal position every time anyone says even the slightest thing that perturbs the preciousness of their world. I get that everyone in all the wide world feels entitled to the integrity of the lifeworld in which they have grown and thrived as human beings. But that entitlement has its limits, and they are at a minimum the classic limits of liberalism: swing your fist if you must, but stop at my nose. In fact, stop well short of it. Right now we have a minority of people in the United States who insist that they can still flail wildly long after they have pummeled everyone else bloody.

If America is not great, it is not for a lack of attention to our sensitive right-wing snowflakes. They said: hands off our guns. Well, we stand now at the moment of the most intense judicial restraint on any attempt to restrict gun ownership and use in the history of this republic. They said: lower our taxes! We are the least taxed liberal democracy on the planet, we are 37 years into a national regime of ceaseless tax reduction. They said: cut the welfare state, get rid of the safety net! The safety net has been cut, the great revolution of the late 19th and early 20th Century in favor of public goods is nearly totally undone. They said: stop teaching our children what we don’t want them to know. Creationism is back in schools, the government is actively hostile to science, it’s ok for the top leaders of this country to endorse historical falsehoods and insist they be taught to the nation’s children. They said: we’re too free to see pornography and get divorced and live together outside of marriage and take drugs. And where is it that pornography is most popular and adultery flourishes and opoids and meth take hold? In Trumplandia, where people apparently need the Nanny State to stop them from doing what they blame on others who do it far less. They said: stop crime at all costs! And thirty years later, they’re still afraid in a country that locks up more of its own people than any other comparable nation, that allows cops to kill black men with impunity.

Basta! Enough! If America needs to be great again, it first needs to stop letting the people who love that slogan have their own way. They’ve been almost entirely in charge during a thirty-year project of degradation and loss. They’ve had their own way most of the time. I remain sensitive to how it feels to think that the world is changing and you didn’t decide to change it. I remain aware that liberals, broadly speaking, might be said to have spoken a language of unseemly triumphalism in the late 1970s and 1980s–often on behalf of and alongside people who had been victimized profoundly by this nation for the previous three centuries, mind you–but seriously, this is small beer.

What is not small is the catastrophe of this historical moment. That a nation with so much possibility, so much hope, so much to give to the future, should be now gripped so tightly by cruelty, fear and triumphal malice is one of the great tragedies of human history to this point. The President exemplifies it, but he is not where it all comes to rest. It comes to rest with the people who at every turn and at every moment bare their lightly bruised flesh and insist, against all common sense, that they bleed from stigmata. Who look to every pointless massacre that they wish to excuse and call for prayer, but turn to every other pointless massacre that they wish to curse and call for suffering.

Peace! Let us turn to all the killing and say enough! Let us turn to all the corruption and say let us demand more of all our leaders, and of ourselves! Let us say of all our riches, surely we can share some larger portion of them and re-knit our safety nets, remake our publics! Let us say to all our trespasses that we forgive them–but in expectation of forgiveness, urgently expected. For the time is very nearly here when all hearts will be hardened, because no forbearance is forever.

This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Enough

  1. JVA says:

    Terrific! (typo in para 5, l. 3: should be ‘degradation’.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Thanks; will fix.

  3. I only have one bad thing to say about this, and that’s that we’ve given up on saying throve and thriven. My spell check doesn’t even think throve is a word. We must fight this drive to regularize our irregular verbs. I know this doesn’t have anything to do with your post, which is dead on in every other way, and, as I said, it’s a small thing, but this has been a longtime irritation to me.

  4. Fritz says:

    This poignantly articulates the essence of the moment we find ourselves living in; thank you for putting words to that uneasy feeling I find myself living with every day:

    What is not small is the catastrophe of this historical moment. That a nation with so much possibility, so much hope, so much to give to the future, should be now gripped so tightly by cruelty, fear and triumphal malice is one of the great tragedies of human history to this point. The President exemplifies it, but he is not where it all comes to rest. It comes to rest with the people who at every turn and at every moment bare their lightly bruised flesh and insist, against all common sense, that they bleed from stigmata. Who look to every pointless massacre that they wish to excuse and call for prayer, but turn to every other pointless massacre that they wish to curse and call for suffering.

  5. I doubt you can find a single-pro-gun NRA member who would agree that Devin Kelly, or any other former soldier dishonorably discharged for domestic violence, should have been able to own weapons.

    In fact, neither does federal law. US Code 18.922 should have prevented this man from owning weapons, let alone pasting pictures of his weapons on his facebook page. The ATF should have been all over this guy *YEARS* ago.

    You can pass all the laws you want, but if there is no willingness to *ENFORCE THE LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS* then you might as well pray to the flying spaghetti monster to have Scotty Beam you up- there ain’t no intelligent life left down here.

  6. Timothy Burke says:

    Can I point out that this is an argument against laws against murder, assault, embezzlement, etc., in certain interpretaitons: you could look at *any* law and judge it a failure if people continue to commit the crime that the law circumscribes. In fact, in very few other cases do we do this. Quite the opposite. If the murder rate rises, if there are more reported assaults, if there are more break-ins, we usually treat it as a straightforward problem: improve law enforcement. Invest more in it, improve the ways in which we share data, improve prevention, etc. Only with mass murders committed with guns by white men, do we say, “Laws don’t work! Don’t bother!” or “Laws aren’t the solution, we can’t enforce the ones we have!” No one responds to an epidemic of house break-ins by saying, “See, this shows that there’s no point to having laws against house break-ins, because we can’t enforce the ones we have.”

  7. Doug says:

    This article was eye-opening for chapter and verse on exactly how the NRA has, intentionally and as a matter of institutional policy, hobbled enforcement of gun laws in particular, and good police work more generally:

    https://www.gq.com/story/inside-federal-bureau-of-way-too-many-guns

    The special snowflakes who run gun shops sometimes keep their registrations of sales on toilet paper because even writing down what they sell to whom is too much to bear.

  8. Andrew says:

    Other than culture and the 2nd amendment, is there some important reason to support gun ownership in any but the most rural areas of the country? I’m sure I’m missing something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *