Self-Pitying and Selfish

 

“Aggrieved entitlement” is a term almost exclusively applicable to white, American men because it takes note of the historically high levels of privilege of that demographic relative to the rest of society, and how as the less privileged have demanded equal treatment some white, entitled American men feel an erosion of their privilege. They feel “aggrieved” about the situation particularly because they think their loss of privilege is unjustified. A less charitable way of describing how they feel is to call them self-pitying and selfish.

John Wayne Publicity Photo 1952
A 1952 publicity photo of John Wayne (1907-1979), the actor whose image represented for many throughout the middle of the 20th century the ideal of American manhood, and who is even now still revered by some.

 

There is good reason to feel uncharitable toward a segment of society when its most extreme members act out their anger and frustrations by shooting and killing other human beings, sometimes on a massive scale. A disproportionate number of mass shooters are angry white men. After every mass shooting, there are calls for tighter gun control and for better mental health evaluations and treatments. Those are measures worth acting upon, if government leaders can ever muster the political will and courage to pass significant legislation and allocate sufficient resources to support them.

The largest element underlying gun violence goes unaddressed, however, and that is the sickness of this society. This is a society that values athletes more highly than teachers, and rewards cutthroat capitalists with outsized political power and immunity from customary ethical standards of doing business with the public and cooperating with workers and government. This is a society that puts cartoonish displays of machismo in its popular entertainment and then exalts them as models of the male ideal. This is a society where the term “toxic masculinity” has become necessary to describe behavior we unfortunately have come to witness every day.


The Searchers was a 1956 western film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.

 

Until the society as a whole works to correct the conditions nurturing the ideas some white men have that the possession, worship, and ultimately homicidal use of guns is the best way to make themselves feel better, then mass shootings are likely to keep occurring. These men deserve our empathy, or understanding, so that we can more effectively pinpoint and effect societal remedies. They do not deserve our sympathy, or sorriness, for how they feel about their changing circumstances. Just as the majority of children who come from broken homes do not grow up to become criminals, only a very few white men are so wrapped up in their sense of aggrieved entitlement that they lash out violently. Everyone has problems; most people find peaceful, constructive ways to cope with them.

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, the warped character at the center of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver. The story is told from Bickle’s perspective, which helps the audience have empathy for him. It’s up to individual audience members to decide if they feel sympathy for him. Warning: foul language.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, a physical law first stated by Isaac Newton, and it seems it applies to forces within society as well. As women and non-white ethnic groups have fought for equal rights over the past 100 years or so, there has been an opposite reaction from men and white people, though not all of them in equal measure. As women have gained power in the marketplace and in the home, we have unfortunately seen the coining of terms like “man up”. As non-white ethnic groups have expressed their growing power in increasing numbers at the ballot box, we have begun to hear the phrase “take back our country” from some in the white majority who feel threatened by slippage in their dominant status. If meanness of spirit can be learned, then generosity of spirit can be taught, and society should emphasize the value in it. More Tom Joad, less Rambo.
— Ed.

 

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A Thought Experiment

 

Imagine two men standing about an arms’ length from each other who have freedom of movement from the knees up, but cannot move their feet. Each man is rooted to his spot. One man’s concept of enjoying his limited space is to observe his surroundings quietly and otherwise keep to himself, in no way violating the space of his neighbor. The other man’s idea of enjoyment involves occasionally swinging his arms about, nearly hitting his neighbor, and shouting as he does so. That man violates his neighbor’s space but is unconcerned because he feels entitled to enjoy his space as he sees fit.

 

Riña a garrotazos
Fight with Cudgels, a painting from between 1819 and 1823 by Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Unlike the thought experiment in this post, both of the men in this painting are violently violating the space of the other, a situation that often results from the refusal of society to step in and restrain the initiator of violence.

 

That’s the situation in parts of the country where shooting or target practicing is allowed on plots of land as small as one or two acres. It’s unfathomable that local governments allow people to discharge firearms within such close proximity to their neighbors. Besides the danger, there is the frightening, intimidating noise. There is no clause within the Second Amendment absolving gun owners of treating their neighbors with common courtesy. Go to a firing range. If that is absolutely impossible, then buy at least a quarter section of land (160 acres) for your own use only, not as an unofficial firing range for friends and relatives as well as yourself. Guns and ammunition are expensive, and if you can afford them you can afford a larger plot of land or firing range fees. Stop indulging yourself on the cheap just because you can, and stop endangering your neighbors and violating their right to enjoy their property in peace and quiet. No one’s trying to take away your legal guns; stop shooting up your neighbors’ quality of life.

MUTCD R1-1
— Ed.

 

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All We Got Are Thoughts and Prayers

 

Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, all we got are thoughts and prayers. After the latest mass killing in America, add “warmest condolences” from Supreme Leader, friend of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and hinter at how Gun Nuts could hide behind the Second Amendment to the Constitution in order to take out his political rival in the 2016 presidential election. Nothing will be done to stop the killing. This is who we are, what we have become, a sick society.

A scene from director Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film Full Metal Jacket with a cool, aloof discussion of two of America’s many killers, at least until the end, when one of the recruits appears to be personally affected.

Gun company stocks are up again in the last two days, after slumping since Big Cheeto took office in January. Obama was great for gun sales, because his presence in the Oval Office fed the paranoia of the Gun Nuts, despite the real power to control their activities with gun control legislation residing with Congress, which has been bought many times over by NRA lobbying. The crazy black man is coming for our guns! But of course they would use a much less genteel appellation.
A butterfly feeding on the tears of a turtle in Ecuador
Two Julia butterflies, Dryas iulia, drinking the tears of turtles, Podocnemis expansa,in Ecuador. Turtles bask on a log as the butterflies sip from their eyes. This “tear-feeding” is a phenomenon known as lachryphagy. Photo by amalavida.tv.

Big Cheeto was bad for business because the Gun Nuts believed he wasn’t about to come for their guns, but now with the latest mass killing there’s still the libruls and their Democratic allies in Congress to worry about. Better stock up! What Would John Wayne Do (WWJWD)? You better believe it. Shoot first, ask questions later, especially when confronted by one of them people, the kind who don’t stand up for the National Anthem. Amurica, love it or leave it, Commie. How did we come this far, only to fall back into the past? We never did advance as far as we supposed, only some of us did, and the rest, now with the backing of Orange Julius, are reacting against those advances – a word with a view they do not share – with massive retaliation. Making America Great Again, with warmest condolences.
― Vita

 

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Not in My Back Yard

 

In some areas of the United States, particularly the countryside, gun owners can step out the back door of their house and practice shooting targets, and some do so without satisfying even the minimum safety requirements of local ordinances. This behavior falls under the heading of “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should”. City dwellers may imagine that all rural homesteads are capacious enough to accommodate the whims of target shooters without endangering their neighbors’ lives or property, say 10 acres at least. That is not so. Many rural residential lots are 2 acres or less. Yet the law generally does not factor in lot size as long as the area is zoned agricultural or mixed use. Common sense and common courtesy should be a factor where the law leaves a gap, but unfortunately too many citizens possess neither quality. Combine that with gun possession and there will be the devil to pay somewhere along the line.

 

No target shooting
“No Target Shooting” sign located at mile 80.5 of the Seward Highway in Alaska, along 20 Mile Creek; photo by Lar. In some circles, this kind of thing passes for wit.
Discharging firearms on private property is a sensitive subject that gets tangled up in the Second Amendment to the Constitution when it really shouldn’t because of how the activity affects the safety, property rights, and quality of life of neighbors. The issue at hand is not a gun owner’s right to own guns and shoot them, but the right of the gun owner’s neighbors not to have to barricade themselves in sound-proof, bullet-proof houses, or to enjoy their property and the flora and fauna on it without having it all riddled by bullet holes. The Second Amendment guarantees the right “to keep and bear Arms”; it says nothing about discharging them responsibly. That is where state law and local ordinances step in, although in some places, again particularly in the countryside, they are far too lax. In many instances the decision by a government authority on whether a gun owner’s home firing range is safe and legal is left up to a judgment call made by a sheriff’s deputy who visits the property after being called by a distressed neighbor.

 


Some scenes from The Andy Griffith Show demonstrating why Sheriff Andy Taylor eventually issued Deputy Barney Fife only one bullet and insisted he keep it in his shirt pocket.

Enactment of a noise ordinance can help restore sanity to a neighborhood. It’s interesting to note that gun owners who are conscientious about safety advocate hearing protection for the person discharging a firearm, but rarely take into account how the noise affects those within earshot. Unlike the noise made by a lawn mower or even a loud stereo system, gunshots are an intimidating sound. Perhaps for some gun owners that is part of the appeal. A noise ordinance can also help restrict target practice to daylight hours, because as hard as it is to believe, existing private property firearm discharge ordinances often do not explicitly state that target practice after dark is not allowed. Apparently that is where common sense and common courtesy are supposed to fill in the gap.

 

Education of gun owners may help in a few cases, such as making them aware they are subject to reckless endangerment laws. Reckless endangerment includes things such as leaving a child or pet locked in a hot car, or disregarding safety rules in a dangerous workplace, as well as discharging a firearm without regard to where the bullets land. Some reckless endangerment transgressions are misdemeanors. Reckless endangerment with a firearm is a felony. Knowledge of that may change a few minds about forgoing the convenience and cheapness of stepping out the back door to blast off some rounds in order to travel miles away to spend money as well as bullets at a safe and legally instituted firing range.
Barn on North Haven
A New England style barn on North Haven, Maine; photo by Jim Derby. Never mind trying to hit the broad side of a barn, watch out for the people!
But you can’t talk sense to some people, the hard cases. For them, it appears, the only solution to keep peace and quiet in the neighborhood will be to have state and local laws that prohibit target shooting at any place but a legally instituted firing range. Can’t afford firing range fees? You can afford bullets, though, and they aren’t cheap. Still want the convenience, if not the cheapness, of stepping out your own back door to blast away? Fine, then go to the trouble and expense of acquiring the minimum amount of land that will allow you to qualify it as a legally instituted firing range. But these new laws will restrict the ability to target practice to only those of substantial means! Tough. There are lots of things in life that poor people don’t get a fair shake on, and if one of them is the ability to make their neighbors’ lives miserable, then so be it. Anyone of limited means who has moved out to the countryside with the dream of enjoying nature in peace and quiet only to have that dream shattered by the booming report of a nearby thoughtless neighbor’s gun firing, often repeatedly and at nearly all hours, and to satisfy no other purpose than that neighbor’s sense of fun or imagined readiness for the Apocalypse, will shed nary a tear when that neighbor has to jump through a few more legal hoops to ensure he or she behaves with common sense and common courtesy.
― Ed.

 

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