A dynamic, long-apparent relative to the reasoning and language used in this very decisive debate about gun control and gun-related violence is to be seen in the machismo rhetoric and language coming from the mouths of many of the "stasis" proponents.
Charlton Heston is dead, I think, but his famous grizzled over-the-top challenge to Al Gore, resonates deeply in the chests of many of our citizens:
"So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"
Gun legislation is equivalent to many with "taking their freedoms away," and the famous actor's implication is that, if a vice president wants to restrict his use of weapons, he will only succeed after a lethal gun battle. He nearly challenged the VP to a duel. Of course Chuck was President of the NRA at the time, so this was not simply the voice of a befuddled old actor trying to make the most of a soliloquy.
Charleton spoke for a huge political pro-gun power and the applause must have been thunderous. This kind of over the top dramatic grandstanding combined with fear mongering that usually precedes it, as it did in the case of Heston's speech, can happen on EITHER side of this discussion.
Pro-regulation activists can take it too far, implying that every gun owner is a violent reactionary, a Neanderthal that has no place in contemporary society. This insults Neanderthals as well, btw. The fringe of the pro-stasis crowd, own the other hand, neo-nazis, survivalists, preppers and the like, get extreme with their taunts, sweeping in assessments of all who do not goose step to their tune, and their language is blindered to any grasp of the spectrum of thought on this issue.
Today's blog looks at the gun regulation and violence issue from a slightly different angle. In what sense does the gun debate, to use simple words, mirror or mix with contemporary American concepts of what it means to be an adult male? I have been blogging on issues linked to guns, violence, war, peace, non-violence, since I signed on at Patch.com and my experience is that, quite often, the replies and comments run across the street from the issue to a CONTEST of MALENESS.
I should begin by stating very clearly at the outset that I am a man. You can ask my mother or anyone who knows me. I say this, both to reveal my bias but also because in this country (at least) when a man speaks up or takes action for non-violence, for peace, against wars, for better gun-regulation or even, in the current discussions, for trying to LESSEN gun violence, a significant part of the opposition will question his MALENESS ... or maybe more concisely, challenge his MANHOOD.
I found myself in this situation at a young age when, during what turned out to be the waning years of the Vietnam War, I filed for and eventually was awarded CO status, appealing the initial rejection and persisting with my stance that I would not agree to kill people I regarded as my brothers and sisters due to my religious training.
I can assure you that if you don't want to burn Asian peasant when your country says "go" a lot of people will determine you are a coward along with an anti-American, and most certainly that you are not a man. So over the years I have become used to this position and dynamic. Enough about me however! If there is anyone who has the pulse of the greater cross section of people who buy guns in mind, it should be those who advertise the weapons they are considering buying. Politicians certainly are good at telling us what we want to hear, and Heston was functioning in that capacity with his challenge, but the people with the most deeply vested interest in tapping into the gun buyers psyche are the manufacturers.
They hire the best ad people they can access to come up with campaigns that are most likely to hit the hot buttons of would be customers. This matters a lot to them. The results are worth billions give or take. So I thought, why not google up some reputable manufacturers and checkout what they believe will speak to the greater balance of their clientele and will draw in new buyers. Surely they must know what sells the weapons. I started with the "Bushmaster AR 15", by now, a household term for it's most infamous recent application in the slaughter of twenty first grade children. You might expect, to go by the rhetoric of many proponents of stasis regarding laws, that Bushmaster would carefully be scripting their message in rational fashion for intelligent mature law abiding folks, male and female, who merely are interested in the admittedly rare but possible event that they would be accosted and have to defend themselves with a gun. Let's see what language Bushmaster uses.
The Bushmaster ACR, adaptive COMBAT rifle, in it's very name suggests, not defense, but military conflict and war. Never mind the potential double entendre of the company name, "Bushmaster," the category of weapon here is defined in part by the word combat. This is no surprise as Bushmaster supplies weapons to the militaries of more than fifty countries and the design was a military design initially. The second page of the Bushmaster 2011 catalogue is a very fascinating image I wish all of you, those who haven't seen it, would take a look at.
TO MY AMAZEMENT, it features a young black man, with some sort of weapon at his side, reading some sort of small book. He is intent on the reading. Is that a Bushmaster at his side? Is Bushmaster, in a once a year catalogue, advertising first and foremost to the young black demographic? What does the copy read? Surely there is clarification. In BOLD FACE TYPE, are the simple cryptic words ... ANY PROBLEM ONE SOLUTION. The young man is wearing a tan or olive drab shirt ... he may be a soldier ... a good guy ... But if that is the intention WHY DON'T THEY SPELL THIS OUT CLEARLY ... put a helmet on the guy, an insignia, battle jacket or a war zone backdrop?
Even in the case that Bushmaster had NO IDEA how potentially outrageous that ad could look, how EASILY it could be mistaken, in that case this message is still clear: any problem may be resolved with this solution: an AR15. I personally think the "problem" suggested or intentionally or at least consciously left as a distinct possibility is that a young black man is reading a manual for the weapon at his side. It's a play to the great archetypal white racist fear of the armed and dangerous young black male.
That, of course, is MY opinion. But that a major arms manufacturer's ad agency would not consider that SOME of their customer base might read this from the ad would frankly be beyond my belief. On page four in red bold face the weapon is described as, "one rifle for an infinite number of extreme scenarios." I don't think hunting, unless you are hunting bear or a dangerous predator, presents the extreme scenarios a combat weapon was designed for, nor are they speaking to hunting scenarios. IMO. ONE of their many AR offerings, by the away, is called a "Bushmaster Hunters Rifle," thrydo make a Varmit rifle,etc. presumably to attract those primarily interested in hunting with this weapon. Bushmaster" A-TACs Predator" rifles are "coated in A-TACs digital camoflauge for superior concealment." Presumably not concealment from coyotes that are being fired upon I think. They would be busy vaporizing.
Bushmaster ORC Carbines (tell me they are not using the completely malevolent bad guys from the hobbit movies as names for their weapons) are touted in red type with the words: "Any optics. Any purpose. Anywhere." p 11 On page 18 we find the Bushmaster ACR Patrol, which according to the red face type, "with it's 161/2 inch cold hammer-forged barrel and AAC blackout flash suppressor is perfect for the law enforcement professional." Are law enforcement professionals the only people allowed to buy this weapon? And who needs blackout flash suppression? A hunter or a sportsman shooting targets? Surely not someone merely defending themselves in a home intrusion. In a room it's going to be pretty obvious where you are once you pull the trigger if not before. Of course, beyond what is, to my mind, a borderline subliinal racist fear mongering ad...the only picture ad with a human in the manual happens to be that of an armed young black male (why not have his white soldier buddy with?), the catalogue is a catalogue and is long on specs.
Advertising camapigns for the company are where they go in your face with the macho bull shit. Consider Bushmasters "Man Card" campaign. A quick click on this link takes you to the essence of their efforts to attract buyers, manly men. If you found the young black male with the weapon equivocal, this man card approach will come across much more clearly. On the backside of the man card the text begins, "The bearer oft oscars has averted humiliation." it goes on, "Today (evidently when you get your Bushmaster Man Card), he is a man." I have to agree with the author of this piece on salon.com. "There are lots of reasons to own guns: Hunting, self-defense, clinging purposes, but also to bolster your deflated sense of masculinity. This is not some glib liberal notion about how men only buy guns to compensate for their inadequacies, this is the explicit aim of an ad campaign from Bushmaster, the maker of the assault rifle that was used to kill 27 people last week in Connecticut." Later, after describing the test one must take to qualify for the card,he notes, "But watch out, manly friends.
Don’t let those emotions show or that glass be full of anything but non-light beer, because your buddies can “revoke” your Man Card at any point. Revokable offenses include being a “crybaby,” a “coward,” a “cupcake” (we have no idea what that means either), having a “short leash” (presumably thanks to a wife or girlfriend), or being just generally “unmanly” (this one has a woman icon)." And this is the angle on the conversation I would like to begin..... What in gods name does manhood have to do with whether or not we pursue strickter or clearer gun regulation in this country?