The Greater Good

“Make good art.” –Neil Gaiman

I’m going to talk about gun control in a minute, but before I get there, I’d like to talk about bad art. See, I’m a diehard Trekkie, and out of all the Trek episodes I’ve seen (and I have yet to see them all), easily one of the worst has got to be “Sub Rosa”, a Next Generation episode that manages to be bad on a level that even “Spock’s Brain” couldn’t quite touch. The plot is bad on its own, but was apparently ripped off of a trashy Anne Rice novel (a redundant phrase, but bear with me), meaning that the writer of the episode not only couldn’t come up with anything good on their own, but couldn’t come up with anything bad either. It’s a sleazy romance set in space, one that centers around a supernatural lover who comes to life when an antique candle is lit and makes love to (basically, rapes) the successive generations of women in Dr. Crusher’s family as the candle is passed down. When Dr. Crusher sorts through her dead grandmother’s belongings, she finds a diary talking about her encounters with the lover, then, while having a chat with her friend, Enterprise counselor Deanna Troi, says, “I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother’s journal.” I’m quoting that line directly as a measure of how depraved “Sub Rosa” is. That Deanna does not respond to that statement by bludgeoning Dr. Crusher to death and calling it a mercy killing is baffling. It’s what I’d want my friends to do, anyway.

Violence, you see, is acceptable only as a last resort. More importantly, it’s much better to prevent the instigation of violence than to mow down the perpetrator like John McClane. This is why I have conflicted feelings about Quentin Tarantino movies. Oh, I’m not squeamish–the blood spatters and severed limbs and heads don’t offend me in the slightest. I just wonder why violence is Tarantino’s preferred vehicle for making social points. Ask him why he made a movie about a vengeful former slave, and he’ll tell you that he wanted to give oppressed black men somebody to look up to. Ask him who should see Kill Bill, and he’ll tell you young women should, because they’ll feel empowered. Ask him why his method of empowerment involved graphic violence, and he’ll turn angry, rude and defensive. Oh, I’m not saying that the woman in the interview I linked to with the Kill Bill remark wasn’t being a cunt, and I think it’s silly to assume that a young person who sees a violent movie will then commit acts of violence, but I also think that when you make films about real life tragedies or with messages about standing up for yourself, saying that the extreme gore is there just “because it’s fun” is a little bit irresponsible.

I want to reiterate that I’m not blaming action movies and first-person shooters for mass killings. I just think that movies, games, and other media give people an unrealistic idea of what violence is really good for. Did you know, for example, that a car door will not stop a bullet and that shooting a propane tank will not cause an explosion? I didn’t know that until I saw it on Mythbusters. Everybody knows that James Bond is not a real person, but not everybody is aware of just how much training and presence of mind it takes to successfully use a gun to stop a home invasion. I know people whose reaction to the Newtown shooting was that it was said, but since more people die in auto accidents, it’s not that big of a deal. On the same day as the Newtown shooting, a man in China entered a school and stabbed 28 children. Zero died. At Newtown, all 20 of the children shot died. You couldn’t design a more perfect experiment in a lab. Some issues are complex, but this one is simple. Fewer guns = fewer dead children. Gun nuts are addicted, and should be forced into gun rehab.

When I argued with a friend on Facebook about this, he (or a relative, I can’t remember) said that gun suicides shouldn’t count towards overall gun deaths because anyone who is truly suicidal can find a way to off themselves whether or not they have a gun. By that logic, the number of annual gun deaths in the U.S. is zero. We’re not talking hypotheticals, numbnuts, we’re talking facts. Michael Moore caught flack for staging the scene in Bowling For Columbine in which he started an account at a Michigan bank and was handed a free gun. True, he would have had to drive several hours to a vault to pick up that gun otherwise, but since the bank was still handing out free guns, I think his point holds. Don’t jump on any excuse to discredit a pro-gun control argument, is what I’m trying to say. There are people who will do anything to avoid the problem that is staring them right in the face. Because nobody understands them like their gun Vera.

I’m not psychologist enough to break down everything that underpins our fascination with guns, but I do know that sometimes, the problem is just an object that needs to be kept farther out of reach. Maybe for some, violence is a way of papering over masculine insecurities. For others, it just looks cool. But it’s never good.

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