The Gun-Crazed Hermit of the Applegate (Part 1)
The Gun-Crazed Hermit of the Applegate:
Chinese Philosophy, Machismo, and Gun Violence
By Nick Gier
(full version at www.NickGier.com/GunMachismo.pdf)
Guns may not kill people (on their own), but disaffected men
with easy access to guns and little understanding of how to
safely express their frustrations with the world certainly do.
–Emma Gray, The Huffington Post (12/18/12)
The school shooters and domestic terrorists all exhibit male rage. They attempt to resolve a crisis of masculinity through violent behavior, demonstrate a fetish for guns or weapons, and represent a situation of guys and guns amok.
—Douglas Kellner, UCLA Professor of Education
The things of the world carry Yin [female]
on their backs, and embrace the Yang [male].
They exhaust their qi [cosmic energy] in harmony.
—Dao De Jing, #42 (trans. Robert Eno)
It was the summer of 1960, I was a naïve 16-year-old, and I was smitten. Even though a family friend’s daughter had a mad crush on me, I had been seduced by something even more alluring and far less complicated than teenage romance.
A Guy and His Gun: A Love Story
I had bought an army surplus .30-06 Springfield rifle and I was in love. I spent many dollars on a new stock and a 3 x 7 Bosch & Lomb scope. A gun smith had completely refurbished the bolt action and barrel. There was a spring in my step when I picked up boxes of army ammo at the Railway Express Station.
The single shot .22 rifle that my dad bought me when I was 12 was just a plinker. This army rifle made me feel like a man for the first time. Instead of having a picture of a girlfriend in my wallet, I had a picture of my reblued, scoped rifle.
The Bushmaster Man Card
According two-year ad campaign by Bushmaster, the maker of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, I was a “card carrying man.” One of the principal qualifications for getting your card is being able to stare down a tough 5th grader. Adam Lanza started with first graders, but I’m sure that he was still allowed to carry his Bushmaster Man Card.
If I could have bought an M-1 Garand, the semi-automatic assault rifle of my gun-crazed days, perhaps I would become even a greater male. But the real men of today would be terribly disappointed with its 8-shot magazine. Today that unsuspecting deer, intruder, or grade schooler must end up like Swiss cheese.
The .30-06 was gun enough for me. There were lots of squirrels out at an abandoned army base near my home town of Medford, Oregon. Not realizing the ricochet dangers, I shot up dozens of boxes of ammo at the squirrels in the concrete foundations of dismantled barracks. I don’t remember killing a single animal, and I never became a good shot. That and my poor fly fishing skills have kept my karmic debt fairly low.
During my short hunting career I was lucky enough to get two deer at very close range. The one buck was lame (I kid you not). One chilly afternoon in Oregon’s Blue Mountains, I shot my first and only elk, a 500-pound spike bull. I emptied my 5-round magazine on him and I was amazed that he dropped. All the machismo drained out of me, however, when I went over and shot him in the head with my .22 revolver. The hollow-point bullets simply bounced off his skull.
My Slow Descent Into Unmanliness
Thus began my slow but steady descent into unmanliness. Any card-carrying man can send a request to Bushmaster to revoke another man’s card. If you are “a cry baby,” “a cupcake,” “on a short leash,” or “just plain unmanly,” you are unfit for male duty and cannot be trusted with a gun.
My first step on this slippery slope was a cowardly transfer from the hard sciences to the soft humanities at Oregon State University. Then I received a Rotary fellowship for a year in Denmark, where the citizens, softened by sissy socialism, refuse to protect their homes with firearms.
Denmark’s gun death rate of 1.45 per 100,000 stands in stark contrast to the U.S. at 10.2, but that is a small price to pay for the freedom to pack heat. For every Dane who kills himself with a gun, there are six Americans who go out in glory with their handy firearms.
Bushmaster’s “short leash” must mean that proverbial wifely tether. Well, here I must also plead guilty. When we arrived in Moscow and settled in, I brought out my .30-06 to show to my new Danish bride. She was not impressed. She told me that it was either her or the gun. For 16 years I chose her and a safe home for our wonderful daughter. Homes with guns have far higher child deaths.
Armed homes are not safe for women either. A study by the American Journal of Public Health concluded that women were eight times more likely to be killed in the home by abusive men if they were armed. In the same year Douglas Wiebe of the University of Pennsylvania found “that females living with a gun in the home were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun at home.”
To be continued . . .