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Friday, September 19, 2014

Guns, Culture, and the American Way

Culture involves at least three components: what people think, what they do, and the material products they produce. Thus, mental processes, beliefs, knowledge, and values are parts of culture. Culture also has several properties: it is shared, learned, symbolic, transmitted cross generationally, adaptive, and integrated.
   --  John H. Bodley, Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System, 3rd ed. 1999

I would add that culture is also about what we value and what we find acceptable. Somehow, our national culture has decided that violence is an acceptable way to settle a dispute.

About ten years ago, my son Michael and I were watching a movie together. It's called The Valet, and it used subtitles because it was a French film. The story involves a car parker, a valet, who falls for a pretty young thing who is beholden to an older, wealthy man.

At the dramatic high point, the valet storms up to the older man as he sits in his expensive car. The old guy (OG) opens the car down and gets out. Now the valet and OG are face-to-face.

"Here it comes," I said. "Boom. He's going to whip out his gun and shoot that old man."

"Yeah," said Michael. "Make my day."


He didn't. The valet yelled at OG, shook a finger in his face, and finally slapped him.

It felt strangely unsatisfying. Later Michael and I talked about it. We could have both sworn that violence would ensue.


Because that's how we've been taught that problems will be "solved."

So it's not about the gun. At least, not entirely. The gun is just a means to an end. It's about our mindset, our willingness to believe that might makes right. That bad guys should die. That the good guy will triumph, even if he has to take another man's life.

And what does that say about me? About us?

Because I'm also to blame here. I have my characters use guns in my books. That means I am definitely part of the problem!

It says we need to hit the reset button. We need a national commitment to rethink who we are and how we solve problems.

Do you agree?


Kathy Wright Brunson said...

I agree that our world is too violent, and the weapons aren't the problem - the mindset is. I'm for our 2nd amendment, because the criminals will always have weapons and we should be able to defend ourselves. We have become a country that believes if we are "offended", we respond with vitriol or violence. When did we become a country where everyone has to think alike, instead of being individuals? If I have to be tolerant of those I think are wrong, don't I deserve the same tolerance? I'm sorry - I have hijacked your blog!! Love your writing, and love you!

Joanna Slan said...

Kathy, you did not hijack my blog. You responded with passion-and you know how I LOVE passionate people.

Sue Farrell said...

I'm probably not part of the proble. There are no guns in our house---not even for hunting. About the only thing I can kill is a spider. However, I must say I do fear people with firearms--even the police in the last few years since they have become so quick to use them.

Joanna Slan said...

That's the point, Sue. To a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail. I've read that tasers might someday replace most of the guns that LEOs use--but that would first take a change in mindset.

starlipermom said...

I'm a 2nd Amendment supporter & agree yes, it's 'mindset'. A gun doesn't kill people just like a spoon doesn't make you fat.
And yes, movies are so predictable it's hard to even watch them anymore.

Amy Gill said...

Watched a tv program years ago entitled "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" The point was that all the hype about burglar alarms, etc was aimed at telling us we must be fearful.

Yesterday we watched a child wandering around pretending to be alone. No one noticed him at all. The point was that no one offered him help. The side of the issue not talked about was that no one tried to attack him either.

The subtle point was that the child was in danger. In actuality, the danger is possible but generally not probable.

Joanna Slan said...

Starlipermom, you are right. With the wrong mindset, we're all in danger. As per my previous blog post, if you think a boy in a hoody is a danger to you, how do you respond? With violence? That's so not cool

Joanna Slan said...

Amy, it's a matter of focus. We're too busy being fearful and not busy enough being helpful.