The Cold War and why we’ll never willingly get rid of guns

Another dude walked into a public place an shot at people today. This time it was lawmakers. So it goes.

I’ve given up on gun debates. If the senseless killing of innocent children at their elementary school doesn’t move people to change, a watershed moment is not coming for gun regulation.

The problem isn’t really about gun ownership either. It’s about gun access. Even the ones we already own. I don’t own a firearm, but I can get behind eccentric hobbies. And if all you ever want to do is participate in shooting sports with assault weapons, there are ways to make that safe for everyone. If guns are kept in guarded, secure, centralized locations, own as many as you want. Enjoy your marksmanship games. Hold up your paper with the bullseyes and smile for Facebook. Then lock your rifle up at the gun bank. (I don’t suggest locking every firearm in a third locaiton, which is why I don’t mention hunting rifles and the like. But assault weapons that can cause such devastation should have a home that is not yours or mine).

The catch: Americans will never agree on whom should be the neutral third party to hold weapons. Ain’t no way the American electorate will ever willingly hand over their guns to their government. And who can blame us, right? As much as I’d love to keep guns off the streets, a Trump administration seizing all the weapons (while telling us that no personal digital information is private) is the prologue of a ham-fisted attempt to cross Kurt Vonnegut with George Orwell and McSweeney’s for a tired sci-fi novel.

Admittedly, “never trust your government,” is sort of the whole raison d’être of the constitution. But what can’t be discounted is the effect Cold War administrations had on public trust of the systems that lead. The first half of the twentieth century was defined by patriotism, civics, and general bipartisan cooperation to make the world better – at the very least, it was these things to white people who, by and large, are the ones so skittish now. But the Cold War poisoned all of that. Rampant delusional idealism, toxic paranoia, and a run of bad presidents led to the revelation that the guy in the foil hat was right. They were listening to conversations. They were toppling governments. They were killing innocent people. They were lying to us. 

You can’t put that woke back into Pandora’s lockbox and pretty soon you have chemtrails, flat-earth truthers, and Pizzagate. If anything can be a lie, everything can be a lie. It goes all the way to the top, man. We live in the Matrix and whatnot.

And now, we have a world where Americans base their trust not on whom they can believe, but on whom they definitely will not believe.

News media, politicians, religious leaders, parents – there’s no one.

In other words, it’s going to be a slow, difficult grind toward gun safety. There won’t be one, or two, or ten, or fifty-eight thousand five hundred ninety-five moments that change the hearts and minds. It will only happen with long-term, consistent effort from those in the trenches, who need our support. 

Because the day is not coming that paranoid, gun-lovin’ white people again trust that their government has their interests first in mind. If it does, it’s not in the kind of world that gives two shits about gun regulation.

american pride

My Special Lady works at a center for refugees and immigrants here in Louisville. It’s a place that was founded to help them participate in community, find proper healthcare and housing, and develop skills needed to work and thrive in their new home. Participants hail from all over the world–101 countries currently. The most visible part of the center is the youth programs.

The youth summer program is wrapping up and today they held a talent show. I stopped in for a few acts. As a rule, hanging out with them is generally a great idea.

There was lots of dancing. Numerous groups of pre-adolescent girls doing dance routines (often to the same song). A young boy timidly rapping into a microphone as big as his arm; girls doing gymnastics; a boy showing off his basketball skills (with a little help from two older guys trying their best to making him look good). All the while the whole crowd of kids were shouting along with every song and cheering on their friends.

It was a far more entertaining talent show than I’ve ever been a part of. Far more interesting than hearing that awkward Taylor Swift cover 7 times in 90 minutes (your kid does it beautifully, btw). It was so spirited, so warm. But, mostly, it was just different than my experience.

There is a process any young person has to go through when they begin to explore the world. When I first traveled abroad, I looked back at America as a boring, bland place where nothing exciting ever happened. In other worlds I saw cultures that lived differently and more vibrantly and it excited me. I grew cynical about my own world and envied another wherever I went.

As I’ve grown older and traveled farther I’ve learned that I was correct about all of the problems–problems that are often most visible with distance and perspective. But what I have found more recently is the excitement and promise that really is here. It’s a cliché and it shouldn’t be overstated to drown out the struggle of those in need, but opportunity is here. We are great, too. We have a rich, colorful culture to share with the world . And culture is always better when it’s melted into another.

I’m thankful for the experiences that have been shared with me, abroad and at home. I’m thankful for love in the world, and how breathtakingly beautiful human beings can be.

Today, I was so proud to be American. And I’m so happy to share what I can with these people, just as they are aching to share with me.