Our latest Bloggingheads diavlog spawned an enlightening discussion on gun control and the Second Amendment (smart crowd over there), but it left me with one unanswered question: the title of this post.
I asked what their appeal was; I understand that it's much deeper than pragmatic, like the appeal of cars (which I viscerally get), but that's as far as I can go. The old Freudian "gun=penis" equation is way too obvious and reductive. All people could say by way of explanation was "It's part of our culture," "It's part of our tradition." And our mythology. Well, yes. It's how we won the West, dared to go forward into hostile territory and face down its inhabitants, and it's also all there was for justice out there for a long time.
But there's something more, something that grows out of that history but is deeply psychological and bedrock American, and I've been thinking about what it is. Here's my one-word answer: Individualism. Like a car, a gun is supremely singular. It doesn't take a village to fire one.
That made me think of the scene in "Witness" (a movie whose patronizing of the Amish only becomes evident after a few viewings) where the farmhouse is under siege by corrupt cops from the city, and the Amish grandfather makes a hand gesture to the little boy that looks like he's saying "Get the gun" -- for a moment you think pragmatism has triumphed over pacifism -- but no, what he's saying is "ring the bell," and the whole community comes running with their hoes and pitchforks. The bad guys are done in by bucolic things like grain silos as well as by guns. But the movie implicitly says this is the exception, not the rule: it's OK for them, but we leave at the end with John Book, the cowboy cop. We couldn't live like that: so helpless singly, so bound and constrained by community. The gun makes us self-sufficient. It sets us free.
What do you think?