Over at Times and Seasons, Dutch blogger Walter van Beek has posted a rant about American gun culture and gun violence. Not sure if the rant part is helpful, but I understand the impulse. I also generally agree with what van Beek has to say.
I especially found myself connecting with the following:
This, I know very well, is a very European reaction, swimming against the American current, but it is deeply felt and very much part of my Euro-Mormon DNA. Guns and family do not mix, just as guns and gospel do not mix. For us from across the Atlantic, the USA has become a gun crazy country, totally in love with murderous hardware. Of course, we here in the ‘East’ can relate to the fascination of guns, these extended masculinities, and yes, we would be very bored sitting through a Western movie without any Smith & Wesson in action. Some Sundays ago our young Elders Quorum President avowed in his priesthood lesson that he was member of a shooting club, exuding some of that fascination to his audience, especially the youngsters. But then, the reaction set in that this was playing with fire (also addictive!) and that we were fortunate to live in a country where you could not just buy a gun in a shop. For me as a distancing anthropologist this meant that we in Europe had the good fortune that the monopolization on violence by the government was effected before democratization set in; in the USA this was the reverse, and this is one major drawback on the wonderful freedoms you-guys-across-the-ocean have accomplished. A house with a gun is not a home.
I am half Dutch. My mother was born and raised in the Netherlands and my grandparents lived there their entire lives.
I have long felt that I am a Rousseauian trapped in a land of Hobbesians pretending to be Lockeans. From Rousseau’s perspective, Locke was a benevolent figure who made many wrong assumptions. However, he thought Hobbes’ perspective was vile. Americans claim Locke’s ideas, but cling to Hobbes’s view of human nature. For evidence of this, see the comments in van Beeks post.
As van Beek points out…though not very clearly…the difference in cultural attitudes about guns between Europeans and Americans is partially rooted in a very different conceptualization of the relationship between the individual and the state. For Hobbes and Locke, freedom is rooted in nature. For Rousseau, freedom is rooted in the democratic republic. However, all three thinkers acknowledge that freedom is not enjoyed outside of a well-ordered society…with a well-ordered government.
Over at Difficult Run, Nathaniel Givens (also a permablogger at Times and Seasons), reminds us to stick to the NRA. After all, we all know that special interest groups are the place to find the truth amidst the noise. Reminds me a bit of Mormons who send copies of The Ensign to their friends in faith crisis/transition.
I think a deranged commitment to outdated ideology with a heavy dose of special interest politics may be the hallmark of American political culture. To the extent that American gun culture is a form of cultural psychosis, American political culture is even more degenerate.