Everyone Is Terrorized by Gun Violence

According to a recent CNN article, 1 in 6 Americans have personally witnessed gun violence, and 1 in 5 Americans have someone in their family that has been a victim of gun violence. These are unbelievable statistics. If you include the fact that witnesses or victims of gun violence will talk to everyone they know about their experience, and add the fact that every school child in America has had to participate in active shooter drills, this means that every single American has been terrorized by a gun. It is as though some foreign entity has set terrorists into our land to terrify all of us, and make us their pawns through fear—except that this so-called “foreign entity” is not foreign at all, it is us, we the people. We have done this to ourselves. As the classic comic strip character Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
When I was in high school there were no guns. I went to a multi-racial school with gangs and bad guys. The toughest boys had switchblades and would show them off in gym class; that was the top weapon. There were fights, and occasionally you could read in the paper about gang violence where someone got stabbed. But other than that my high school was peaceful, and was a wide open campus. Anyone could walk in from anywhere, but there was never a threat from an outside interloper. We were safe.
How did we get from then to now? It seems obvious that not much has changed as far as people’s mental state are concerned. There were violent and mentally ill people 60 years ago, just as now. There were conflicts in shopping malls and parking lots, just as now. But no-one got shot back then. Why? Because there were less guns. In particular, there were less assault weapons.
Who created this horrific situation? Was it the politicians, the gun merchants, evil interlopers from Mars? More to the point, why are we all passively putting up with this unparalleled situation like deaf and blind sheep? Let’s not denigrate sheep; sheep are smart. When it comes to guns and gun violence, we’re dumber than sheep. I particularly feel for our children, who through no fault of their own are forced to go to school in what amounts to maximum security prisons with armed guards. And some public figures recommend that we hire even more armed guards.
We are not in the midst of a traditional civil war. This is not Northern Ireland, or Yemen, or Syria. Real terrorists are not blowing up our schools or government buildings to achieve power or some political goal. And yet it is as though we are living inside a hot civil war, with armed insurgents everywhere. These shooters are not killing their perceived enemies, not attacking recognized adversaries from the “other side.’ They are, for the most part, killing at random, releasing their blind rage on whoever happens to be in range. Many of them are suicidal; they want to commit “suicide by cop,” as the saying goes, and take as many people with them as they can.
It is, of course, a crazy situation, one without parallel in history, ancient or modern. What is even more crazy, to my mind, is that we put up with it. We listen to our leaders mumble platitudes like “thoughts and prayers,” we trudge like zombies to funeral after funeral, and go about our business as though this is some kind of normal life.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” I am reminded of the 1950s Sci-Fi classic “Forbidden Planet.” The plot revolves around a distant planet ruled by the Krell, an evil race. A genius human scientist, Dr. Morbius, lives on the planet and has studied the Krell, trying to understand their power to destroy. It turns out that the Krell’s weapon of power, a destructive force ray, comes from the “monsters of the Id,” which essentially are the murderous fantasies that lurked in Dr. Morbius’ own unconscious. The Krell had found a way to utilize these monsters emanating from Dr. Morbius to create a powerful weapon.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe the evil power of guns is something from emanating from the monsters of the Id within us, in our own society, manifesting our own terrors and fears. Maybe, in some backhanded way, the gun enthusiasts are right who say, “Guns don’t kill people. People do.” It’s also true that “guns don’t manufacture themselves, people make the guns.” Underneath the seeming normality and banality of our everyday lives as Americans, deep in the bowels of our own unconscious projections, there are monsters, and they are killing us. Maybe—and this is my pure speculation—these monsters are connected to the centuries of slavery and genocidal violence that helped create the country we have today.
Dr. Morbius on the Forbidden Planet tried everything to defeat the force ray of the Krell, but he couldn’t. The more he tried the more the Krell could use his unconscious murderous impulses. It is the same in America. The Id is with us; we are it. Pogo was right. The only way to fight this enemy is to look in the mirror and keep looking until we see what we are really doing to ourselves.
How long will that take? How much damage and death will we incur while we are doing that? Let’s keep counting. I read that in the first 100 days of 2023, there have been something like 150 mass killings—a record pace. It’s not going to get better on its own. It will only get worse.



One thought on “Everyone Is Terrorized by Gun Violence

  1. I have been asking similar questions in regard to those murders for years, and still haven’t been able to have any satisfactory explanation for those.
    There are many reasons/motives for someone to kill another human being. Gang related violence to me is simply a ‘business’ model, very similar to many big corporation ways of doing things. One being inside the general/dominant permissible cultural framework of a society, the other outside, but they do share a lot in common.
    Human in general have an implicit ‘will’, the will to go on, to move on. And when something comes to ‘nag/obstruct’ this will to move on, we try different thing in order to remove that ‘obstacle’. Violence can be seen as one of those ways by which to get rid ‘once and for all’ that which ‘slowed us down’ in our will to move on.
    This will to move on, is quite strong, and inhabits all of us and as us. We wishes to survive as individuals, as families, as nations. As a nation, we wish to move on, Ukrainians wishes to move on and so are Russians. The will to survive is one of the many faces of this will to go on, other can include things such as a ‘divorce’, where one conclude in its own mind that if I wish to move on, it is better to do it alone, or with someone else. Gang mostly fight other gang, of course there are ‘exceptions’ to this rule, but they do so in order to move on, gain more territory, etc. Killing/removing that which prevents you from a having a peaceful and secure life does makes a lot of sense after all for some.
    We all wish to move on ‘as’, as individuals, as a corporation, as our gang, as our nation, as our religious group or political system, etc. I even think that life itself as a whole is/has this ongoingness ‘will’.
    For me, the problem has to do with ‘as’, for this ‘as’ is always as a unique and distinct entity, which is quite different of yours. As me is quite distinct from as you. As I identify myself as/to my nation, it surely isn’t the same as yours. Implicit in this is an absolute; that I am absolutely distinct, as if a thing in itself whose sole purpose in life is itself, entirely distinct and separated. What if we were to begin changing this ‘absolute’? What if we were to say ‘partially distinct’? For example we could say that we as ‘my’ nation are partially distinct from you as your nation, Ukraine is partially distinct from Russia, etc. My gang being partially distinct from your gang. My own self being partially distinct from your own self. It kind of erodes this implicit sense of absolute distinction and separation and ‘tries’ to shift the emphasis on what we share, what we have in common. What is this ‘foreign entity’ after all, if not a ‘radically/absolutely’ different/distinct entity?
    Responsibility comes with the sense of belonging, and by sharing many similarities to other partial distinctions (if perceived as such), it kind of makes us mutually responsible for each other, especially when it is not as this or that seen and felt as absolute. Within this framework, we could still move on, but way more as a collective sense of sharing way more similarities than differences/distinctions.
    As for ‘blind mass murders’, one needs to get into the ‘psyche’ of the ‘killer’, which of course we can only speculate about. You see, in my ‘universe’ such a thing is an impossibility, I just cannot see myself waking up one morning, and decide to go on a killing rampage. The question then is to ask oneself, what makes those possible within the ‘psyche’ of those who do so. What makes a man rent a room in a Las Vegas hotel, break the window and start shooting on people below? In what kind of universe such a thing is possible for this man? Maybe once more because of this will to move on, I am quite convince that somehow this person feel it is ‘stuck’, that he or she cannot move on the way he or she has always done so. Something is nagging him or her, what this nagging is, I have no idea, but if he or she cannot find a ‘peaceful’ resolution to this nagging, then violence will erupt.
    It is also possible that this nagging has no-face, which gets to be canalised into a this or a that. Categorising this ‘nagging’ as rage or hate, only serve as to ‘permanently’ fix it. But I do not think that it is this simple, the boundaries between let us say, fear, frustration, hate, anger, or even love (as many could kill for love; love for our country, family, etc. Is it really hate or love?), are not as ‘clear cut’ as they seem to be. This nagging is as if it is a big ‘undifferentiated’ big ‘ball/nag’ without any particular face, which eventually becomes a this or a that, which get to have this or that face, in order to ‘exorcise’ the nagging; to call up (spell out his name) the evil spirits of hate (or whatever) in order to drive them out of oneself. Van Gogh wrote something similar to his brother, writing that he felt being possess by a ‘power/nagging’ without any faces.
    And so, somehow creativity and violence might share something in common; this nagging, the ‘felt’ impossibility of going forward, and the enduring and quite powerful will to do so.

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