If you care about gun violence in the United States of America, I think you need to also care about militarism in the USA. We're not going to solve the domestic problem until we solve the global one.
It can't be a coincidence that the most weaponed-up nation in the world also suffers regular epidemics of gun violence in schools, colleges, movie theaters, shopping malls, parking lots. We're talking about gun control and getting nowhere, and this is because we're not discussing the root cause. Domestic gun violence and militarism are co-dependents. They enable each other.
A militaristic sensibility permeates our culture, and this is enthusiastically supported by our federal government. How many people do you know who sincerely believe the United States of America is currently at risk of totalitarian invasion or violent civil war? And how many people do you know who are employed by the US military, or are directly or indirectly supported by it? Militarism permeates our lives, at many levels, in many ways.
Militarism permeates our brains. We soak in it. The current debate in the USA over gun control should be about how Americans co-exist in cities and towns and neighborhoods and communities. Gun control is, or should be, a domestic issue. It's really not about war.
And yet, the popular arguments against gun control often rely on military scenarios -- mainly, the "Red Dawn" scenario in which honest
Romney-voting American citizens are forced to take their Bushmasters and Tec-9s to the streets to fend off swarms of would-be tyrants. It's all too easy to mock these apocalyptic scenarios ... but, unfortunately the hyper-charged ethnic, financial and economic tensions between the USA and various other nations around the world makes these scenarios appear all too normal.
Our foreign policy is awash in manic paranoia -- how can we expect our domestic society to not reflect the same manic paranoia, and amplify it?
The dimensions of this problem occurred to me when I read a letter written to California Senator and gun control advocate Dianne Feinstein by a retired US Marine named Joshua Boston:
Senator Dianne Feinstein,
I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma’am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.
I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America. I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.
I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.
We, the people, deserve better than you.
Cpl, United States Marine Corps
Unfortunately, the public dialogue over this letter hasn't resulted in any epiphanies. Wonkette treats Joshua Boston snidely in the article linked above -- but gun control advocates like me must realize that Joshua Boston is not the problem. It's the revolting level of militarization that dominates American society from the top down -- from the federal government down -- that makes letters like this one possible.
I'm glad the United States of America is currently talking about gun control, and I'm even glad that Corporal Joshua Boston is speaking up. I disagree with him, but every voice deserves to be heard. We all need to start drawing down, but let's face facts: it's not going to be Corporal Joshua Boston who puts his weapons down first. Not in this paranoid nation.
The draw-down is going to have to start from the top, and it needs to start now. We can take a good first step by asking why our defense department needs to spend $633 billion a year every year.
This article is part of the Philosophy Weekend series. The next post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Why World Peace Will Happen. The previous post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Military Spending in the USA is a Big, Big Problem.