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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This and That

I hadn't written anything today, and there is the idea that there is value in just putting something down every day as an exercise, and I don't know that I have anything specific to say, so I thought I'd just ramble on here for a while with small bits of things as they occur to me.

William Faulkner once wrote a sentence that was 1300 words long. I just came across that yesterday.

As I've looked back on the last several chapters of Drayton, I've seen that value of rewriting from the top, starting fresh and reconsidering every word. That's what we used to do in the old days of typewriters, and it was a good system for a writer. I'd really like to go back to using my manual typewriters, but it's not convenient right now. But once I'm a world famous novelist, I'll be able to do whatever the hell I want. You'll see!

There's been another shooting this afternoon, this one in the Omni Hotel in the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. The discussion about guns in this country tends to revolve around laws and restrictions, but rarely around the meaning of guns to our society. Since there is far more gun-related violence in the United States than in any other developed nation, there has to be a difference in the way that guns are perceived. And while gun control proponents will argue that differences in laws make for different levels of violence, I'm not sure that that is the whole story.

It seems to me that, culturally, Americans believe two things about guns: 1)Possessing a weapon means having power and 2)using a weapon is a good way of solving problems.

It has become a truism that our basic American myth is not that of the founding or the Revolution, but the story of the expansion into the West. Our shared cultural myth depends on a couple of notions if it is to function in any way. The first is that anyone who goes unarmed is either a fool or a coward and often both. The second is that The Bad Guys need to be killed, preferably with a pistol, and preferably in a showdown. Compromise and discussion are cowardly and useless. Violence is the only means to right wrongs.

The problem with this worldview is that it is wrong. Rationality, compromise, discussion, empathy, and compassion solve problems. Time-and-time again, they solve problems while creating fewer new problems than violence does. Being reasonable, of course, doesn't come with the childish rush of excitement that holding a firearm does, and it often calls for far greater courage than can be found at the butt-end of a gun, but it has its compensations.

Anyway, that's just a longwinded way of saying that I think that if we want to see the violence and senseless deaths diminished, we should start by examining our collective feelings towards guns even before we should change the laws.