Deserve Ain’t Got Nothin’ To Do With It, But the NRA Sure Does

Well, at least it was more exciting than playing baseball woulda been… The shock traveled to the practice field of the GOP Congressional Women’s team, affectionately known as the “Washington No-Senators”

Six years ago, I turned on the news to find that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was clinging to life after a mass shooting that took six other lives, including a nine year-old girl and a retired federal judge. It was hot on the heels of our nation’s descent into madness over Obamacare (and Obama), and I’d seen and heard enough “second-amendment solution” crap about our technocratic tyrant from certain quarters, that I was willing to believe the worst about the attacker(s) and their motivations — particularly when the news was saying there were multiple shooters, which they always do at first, as a long string of active shooter events would teach me over the ensuing years. A conspiracy is scarier than a crazy guy, and the news loves to make it scarier where they can.

Even though Jared Lee Loughner was merely batshit crazy, rather than part of a political conspiracy (seriously, if you make your kid’s middle name “Lee” then you’re asking for it), the events of the day really got to me, and I began to cry. I wasn’t bawling uncontrollably or anything, but this was an attack on our most cherished freedoms, our open democracy, and an incidental assault on our esteemed judiciary. It was at this point that my father, who was in the room, somewhat impatiently told me to chill out. It was a random event that I couldn’t get all worked up over, he said, and reading into it too much would not only do me no good, it was clearly annoying him as well.

Six short years later, after waking to find that five people were wounded in an attack on the Republican men’s baseball team practice, I expressed a sense of schadenfreude to my family, that the people who work every day to make America’s gun violence possible were the ones who got shot for once. Needless to say, they didn’t share the sentiment. I got more colorful with it as I met resistance, and, apart from a murmur of agreement from my mother, half of said family still has little interest in speaking to me four hours later. The same father who gently mocked me for my overreaction to a shooting that demanded a massive public funeral (at which my Captain delivered that heroic eulogy), was now trying to keep the peace in the wake of my boorish behavior regarding a less lethal attack, whose only fatality was the shooter.

I used to re-watch the eulogy every once in awhile, when I needed to feel something again. Now it’s too painful to remind myself that the president used to be a guy we could not only reasonably expect to speak English coherently, but to do so with verve and gravitas. The phrase “expand our moral imaginations” will be with me forever, and I mean that bigly.

I mean, I can sort of see why they got so annoyed. My brother was horrified that I was so glib when one of the victims had died, which put me in an uncomfortable position as a gun control advocate who’s been mocked for calling the shooter a victim before, and he further added that Donald “Sadiq Kahn can Suck a Diq” Trump’s reaction was outclassing my own right now — a suggestion for which he shall be punched in the face at a later date. My sister-in-law said she was uncomfortable at the idea of talking about people getting shot like bugs being squashed (a characterization I dispute), and my sister was appalled that I’d be glad about a shooting advancing any political aim, even if that aim is to make it harder to shoot people, and called me a psychopath. I came back at all of them defiantly, feeling fairly secure that it’s preferable, as long as mass shootings are accepted as an unchallenged constant of American life, that the horror is at least visited on the same people who have made them an unchallengeable constant of American life. Believe it or not, this exchange was even less productive than it sounds.

How did my younger self become so embittered, so quickly? How did a fresh-faced twentysomething, whose tender political consciousness could be so tortured by one Congresswoman’s shooting, become a bitter thirty year-old, giving sarcastic thanks that the latest lunatic with a legally-purchased AR-15 shot a halfway-deserving party for once?

Imagine, if you will, that there was a guy receiving between a penny and 99-cent cut of every bag of heroin sold in the United States. You wouldn’t look at that margin and call the recipient a mere “heroin advocate” collecting operating expenses from the commercial interests he represents, you would call that person a “heroin kingpin.” Now imagine that heroin lord openly buys half of our politicians and cops, also receives a cut from all of the legal opioid producers in the U.S., and uses the political position of pharma companies to provide cover for its thriving street drug operations [As a bonus: imagine that, every time the police kill one of the pharma companies’ black customers who legally uses their product on the mere suspicion that they’re using them, the kingpin rushes to the defense of the cops]. Now, finally, imagine that the only purpose of heroin is neither personal pleasure nor to forget your own problems, but the taking of another human life. That’s a rough description of the National Rifle Association as it exists today, and that’s my particular issue with anyone who carries water for death itself.

Shooter and Illinois resident James Hodgkinson, who was in the middle of uttering the phrase “da Bears” when this photo was taken. Also, as a die-Hard Clintonista, I’d like to point out that this is why responsible politicians don’t use the word “Revolution” under any circumstances, you long-balled, self-righteous fossilized hippie.

There are some holes in this analogy: you can’t use heroin to stop a crime in progress, even if a “good guy with a gun” generally is more likely to be the “good guy the cops shoot instead of the bad guy with a gun during the confusion of an active shooter event.” Also, it glosses over the fact that I’m registered to the very same Democratic Party that runs on the largesse of the legal heroin industry, whose members also occasionally cash a check from the NRA. Then again, given that the NRA also gets a cut every time there’s a business dispute in the illegal heroin industry (the so-called “storm drain tax”) I don’t feel that the analogy suffers much for a few inconsistencies.

Still, that is the state of the American domestic arms cartel known as the National Rifle Association: taking their rounded-up cut of every sale, leveraging their constituent manufacturers’ law enforcement and defense contracts to lend respectability to their street business, and putting every politician on the Hill, and in every statehouse, in their pocket. Wayne LaPierre is arguably a professional accessory to murder, and these people really are in the business of preventing any laws from passing that could affect their cash flow from street criminals, via the gun-show straw buyers whose business the group has fought tooth, nail, and claw to protect, because it is their business too. As for the world of “responsible legal gun owners,” at least heroin sells itself, and the dope game doesn’t have a cottage paranoia industry working to convince the heroin-doing public that the government is coming to take all of their heroin away every time anyone OD’s, thus compelling them to buy all available heroin.

It’s that cottage paranoia industry, and the GOP’s complicity in it, that stunted my sympathy for the Whip & Co. this morning. I’m old enough to faintly remember Charlton Heston’s visit to the Denver area after Columbine (and then I saw it in a movie), so I’ve now spent the past two decades watching these jackals offer up the blood of the innocent as a sacrifice to their bottom line. I’ve seen the vultures land on every corpse from Columbine to Blacksburg, from Fort Hood to Newtown, claiming that if the victims had stood armed and ready to kill in every quiet moment of their day-to-day lives, that they would still be alive. I watched gun sales spike before the victims’ blood had dried, time and time again, because hucksters told everyone that the liberals were coming to take their guns away, at least whenever the murderous lunatic was a fellow crazy white guy. On the rare occasions when the shooter was a crazy Muslim, I listened to the same hucksters promote firearms as a hedge against the horrifying randomness of the same terrorism which they ignore whenever the guy is white. I’ve listened to countless politicians decry and facilitate violence in the same breath, and I’ve heard more Christians say that plowshares are for pussies than I care to think about. All the while, 250+ black bodies dropped on the streets of my beloved Baltimore every year, and no politicians gave a fraction of a shit about them, nor did the open-carry crowd let their deaths disturb their grown-men-playing-Cowboys-and-Indians-with-live-ammo fantasy that they live in.

Here’s a fun theological dilemma. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, without which American chattel slavery could never have become what it was, and interchangeable parts, which is as close to being singularly responsible for the existence of industrialized warfare and modern gun violence as any one man could claim to be. Thus, the theological question is: Is Eli Whitney burning in hell right now? It’s a question of intent.

So yeah, maybe I’m bitter, and maybe none of the above makes it any less of a tragedy when, fifty miles from the Westside, dudes who indirectly armed the shooter take a few slugs. Maybe the fact that their party puts every cop in America at risk by flooding the streets with guns doesn’t mitigate the horror of two officers being wounded in the line of duty; nor would the hypocrisy of those they protect be anything but painful to the families they left behind, had the hits been lethal. Maybe the ugliness in American politics that gave us this shooting isn’t helped by calling out the relevant sins of the victims, or that they would have you believe that the Second Amendment is any less ceremonial or any more relevant to your life than the Third Amendment is, or that muskets are essentially the same thing as modern assault rifles (let alone handguns), or that any casual reading of “a well-regulated militia” could possibly mean what they say it means. Maybe it doesn’t matter how vile the lie is that any of this matters more than the protection of human life, let alone how unforgivable the calumny may be that a society of walking hero complexes, untrained, unsworn, and lethally armed, will make us collectively safer.

Maybe it doesn’t help to dwell on any of this, but maybe I’m past the point where I can ignore that, before he was more closely associated with a rifle than he’d like this morning, Steve Scalise got an A+ legislative rating from the National Rifle Association. The man has used his power and authority to arm as many people as possible in his career, as has nearly everyone else who went out to catch a few grounders with him. I hate the thought that anyone in such a wealthy and prosperous country ever has the calm of their school or work shattered by horrific violence, but this is a regular thing now, and it’s counter-productive to act like these tragedies are unique. Until these cowards finally admit that the purpose of weapons is to kill people, and that we are all emotional, excitable creatures whose rational faculties easily leave us, the cycle of tragedy will continue, and the legions of ballistic apologists will continue to get paid.

Australia fixed this problem by getting rid of as many guns as possible, and so can we, but we’ve decided that the lives of our citizens are less important than our childish national myths of the lone musketeers who sent King George packing. Those myths run deep, and I know this incident did nothing to advance my stated objective in the face of them: among the witnesses, Chris Collins has already vowed to carry at all times, as if he would have helped stop the shooter, and Mo Brooks delivered an off-the-cuff, reflexive defense of gun rights before his police interview was over. Still, we’re the only industrial nation that allows this child-slaughtering insanity, and until we surrender this foolishness, and until random shootings are no longer an accepted fact of life in America: you can call me heartless and partisan all you want for saying this, but next to a classroom of dead first graders, a handful of wounded flacks for the gun industry is damn near cosmic justice.

…And three people were shot and killed at a UPS in San Francisco this morning. Life goes on, the cycle continues, and the checks keep coming.

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Jack Walsh

Jack Walsh

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