Fundamental fuel of civilization

Stanley Crouch Syndicated Columnist

October 2, 2013

There is a strange, resilient and somewhat unbearable sorrow that attends the news of the slaughter of Americans, which has become a dangerously familiar blood sport in these times. A number of people are shot in Chicago over a weekend, and another person massacres people in the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard.

There is no connection to gun safety as a simple governmental response to the blood on the ground, in cars, on civilian or military property. Those who say anything at all are as often as not heard to mutter in a tone of helplessness how nonsensical it all is, or how impossible it is to comprehend the actions of the loons among us — the men who do not carry water but buckets of blood, ready to paint every street everywhere with the sticky red stuff that arrives with gunshots to human flesh.

Meanwhile, our national gun lobby says that we can do something by peddling more guns and connecting them to a troubled condition of safety from shock and horror, because nothing makes a person feel safer than being armed and ready to tell trouble it has no chance to dent a moment in our collective lives, because bullets will shut down all difficulties.

Bullets can do a limited number of things in a narrow arena, the arena of immobile or living and breathing targets. There are many kinds of sensibilities, many kinds of imaginations, but bullets are not interested in varieties of any sort. They are perfect servants, because they do only what they are told to do in a restricted relationship of a primed weapon, ready with no feeling whatsoever to be propelled through a barrel and strike a target.

So the senseless part of gun violence resides in the bullet itself, something designed for destructive effects that might be quite accurate if the design is good enough. Bullets are not anxious to be fired, and they are not anxious to remain in place doing nothing. They neither care nor do not care. They are perfect expressions of indifference. That is why military personnel are so paranoid about weapons, because they may have learned the hard way that bullets strike whom they are aimed at, or are not intended to hit.

Their range is perfectly mathematical and determined by weights and balances and what happens when things get out of control and chaos takes over. Then we understand the meaning of guns jamming, or how loose things get when bullets ricochet. The final moment of it all may be when the innocents are slaughtered, for fun, ideology or beyond intention.

Talking and negotiation are preferred by the public all over the world, especially if it has known the lethal and disfiguring forces let loose by weapons designed to do damage to immobile and mobile things. Lethal violence is acceptable best when far away. Once the public learns that, bombs blow up what living things are within their range — the good, the bad and the ugly. Then abstraction disappears. Life takes over.

The absolute indifference of weaponry makes it dangerous because it never cares, never spouts any ideology, is never self-righteous. Weaponry is a perfect servant that never gets beyond itself. We cannot blame it for bad things. The trouble is bad people. Hmmm. Bad people?

Feathers in the wind or confetti, they have no control of themselves. The wind must be blamed, a natural force. Since everything is somehow innocent, how do we escape chaos? We have to settle for clutching our guns to our chests and pretending that is an effective form of control, when we know it is not.

Perhaps through law and order we can collectively create a stance against murderous and maiming disorder. Uh-oh. In this land of counterfeit rebels, empathetic policy might build a well-thought-out bridge over the troubled and troubling waters of paranoia, threats and pretense; those waters burning like oil fires set and reset by mouthpieces for profit made through the sale of weapons and all of the paraphernalia that goes with them.

That is where American women come in and where women the world over will begin to have their say. When one sees the women from Newtown, Conn., or a legislator like Claire McCaskill or Kirsten Gillibrand, one can be assured that the power of money is doomed to become limited, as it should be.

Victory for common sense takes time. Part of the defense of profit from irresponsibly allowing lethal force is the constant muddying of all clear issues. Motives and back stories are pretended to threaten us all when they do not.

There will always be women like Sarah Palin who want to shoot animals, and they should be able to feel that freedom as long as it does not endanger others, or allow others with dark intentions to pretend that they are equally harmless as a careful group of sportsmen.

The amount of paranoia allows those unlike Joe Scarborough, who believes in the Second Amendment but understands that the National Rifle Association has been so taken over by the weapons industry that it now sits on the knee of that industry like a wooden dummy totally controlled by its ventriloquist. That makes it impossible for it to accept any kind of reasonable background checks — even those that the NRA itself proposed in the 1990s. Indifference and corruption and irresponsibility move much faster than reason.

But the national mood is slowly swelling against corrupt power and will pull it down, no matter how long it takes. Courage is shown by the degree of difficulty faced and imposed by profiteers who understand math as long as it adds up to gain, regardless of how many might be murdered, maimed or unforgettably wounded in order for the industry to continue to make deposits.

Yet as blood continues to slide under the doors of the banks, the path to them will eventually become so hazardous that the industry will take a fall from which it will recover, but with less power to sustain national paranoia. We are growing out of something, yes. It is difficult to become adults, but we are. That is the very best way to address what has already happened and how we can ward off as much of the bloody future as possible. Reason and adulthood are truly possible. Keep watching. You will recognize it when arriving and shining through the collective and irresponsible wounds we all have felt.