Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guns Blazing

Guns point straight to the dark heart of American Gothic.  They forebode the eruption of sudden and widespread violence.  When wielded by the disgruntled or delusional (whether in fiction or real life), they turn areas of everyday life--the workplace, shopping malls, movie theaters--into grim, gore-spattered arenas.  And as seen in the school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, back in December, guns can instantly transform an idyllic community into a site of notorious massacre.

In "Guns," an essay published last month as a Kindle Single, Stephen King takes aim at the hot-button issue of gun control in America.  He begins by critiquing the mass media coverage of mass-shooting atrocities in this country (e.g. "the slow and luxurious licking of tears from the faces of the bereaved" by cable news networks).  Next King offers a detailed explanation for why he decided to pull his novel Rage from bookstore shelves.  The author also challenges the N.R.A.-promoted notion that a "culture of violence" in America is the real culprit behind incidents like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
The assertion that Americans love violence and bathe in it daily is a self-serving lie promulgated by fundamentalist religious types and America's propaganda-savvy gun pimps.  It's believed by people who don't read novels, play video games, or go to many movies.  People actually in touch with the culture understand that what Americans really want (besides knowing all about Princess Kate's pregnancy) is The Lion King on Broadway, a foul-talking toy named Ted at the movies, Two and a Half Men on TV, Words with Friends on their iPads, and Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindles. To claim that America's "culture of violence" is responsible for school shootings is tantamount to cigarette company executives declaring that environmental pollution is the chief cause of lung cancer.
King, though, isn't just spouting personal opinions; he backs up his points for the control of assault weapons with compelling evidence.  He is speaking out here less as a liberal than as a reasonable human being (which resonates with someone mostly apolitical like myself, who ultimately approaches the issue from a position of unabashed self-concern: wanting to keep my own hide safe and unperforated when venturing out in public).  The essay is a poignant and persuasive piece of rhetoric, and arguably forms one of the most important works the author has ever produced.  It warrants reading no matter which side a person falls on the bipartisan divide.

Because just remember: political leanings are irrelevant once someone is laid out flat by a bullet.

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