Did you ever wonder where all the batshit crazy people come from? You know who I’m talking about. Everyone has their own favorite. My favorite batman at the moment is Alex Jones. If you are looking for someone who embodies the batshit craziness lurking throughout this country, you have to look no further.
In case you somehow missed it, Alex Jones is the talk show host/conspiracy nut job who recently went on a rant on Piers Morgan Tonight, claiming that there will be another revolutionary war when they cum to git er guuns.
I grew up in the 50’s and like most men (and not a few women) my age, I was raised on “The Western.” In “The Western” society was divided into two parts, Good Guys and Bad Guys. Good Guys wore white hats (sometimes) and Bad Guys were not allowed to. Good Guys could ride white horses, but Bad Guys never mastered the art. All the Guys had guns – which they used to shoot rattlesnakes – and if there weren’t enough rattlesnakes around then they were allowed to shoot each other. Apparently, there was a dearth of rattlesnakes in the 50’s.
Good Guys got their own shows and their pictures on cereal boxes. Bad Guys never lasted long enough for you to remember their names. Unfortunately, Native Americans were usually portrayed as Bad Guys, as in “them thievin’ redskins,” which made it ok to shoot them whether there were rattlesnakes around or not. When they weren’t being portrayed as Bad Guys, they were usually given the role of Sidekick. This meant you couldn’t shoot them because they made your coffee on the trail each morning. “That right, Kemo Sabe.”
The target audience for The TV Western was The Children. We sat glued to our sets watching Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, and the Cisco Kid. There was also the adult TV Western ala “Gunsmoke,“ but I wasn’t allowed up that late.
Now, in the world of The Western, if some Bad Guys shoot up a schoolhouse (and, by the way, that could never happen), it is perfectly logical to bring in the Good Guys and their guns. That’s how we solved our problems every week. The Good Guys are called in and, there being no rattlesnakes, they shoot the bad guys, Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers sing “Happy Trails to You,” and there’s a commercial before the trailer for next week’s episode. Problems solved.
Putting the Bad Guys in jail was not wise because the judge didn’t come ‘round ‘cept every other month and in the meantime a bunch of well-meaning but misguided citizens would form a lynching party and the Good Guys would be forced to face them down. This was very messy since Good Guys should never draw down on Good Guys, however misguided.
There was a certain nobility to The Western. Good always won out over evil. When people got shot they clutched their chest and died a (mostly) bloodless death. You could tell who the Good Guys were because they had their white hats or white horses. Of course, All the Guys were white except for “them thievin’ redskins” which marked them as Bad Guys immediately, unless they were making your coffee. When you saw anyone who wasn’t white ride across the mesa, you pulled your hat tightly over your scalp and circled the wagons.
You can no longer see The Western on prime time American television.
There are reasons for that. All three major networks had ceased creating new Westerns by 1969. Urban parents who, now that WWII was a more distant memory, were concerned that there was too much violence in the TV Western wanted it gone. There was too much chest-clutching and bloodless dying for their kids to be watching. Never mind the fact that the evening news was filled with the bodies of American and Vietnamese soldiers.
And, as metropolitan areas continued to grow, there was a growing demand for less “rural” and more “urban” entertainment. All that Good Guy/Bad Guy stuff was unrealistic and all those smelly horses didn’t fit the new urban ideal, and besides, it took time away from the Flugelhorn lessons. So The Western gave way to a transition period with wholesome family fare like “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” before landing squarely on “Law and Order, SVU,” which, of course, is wholesome family fare about urban rape, murder, crooked cops, and other heinous deeds that would have made Gene Autry puke. This period is referred to in television history as the “rural purge.”
Unfortunately, purging the “rural” from television did not remove it from the country. It simply made it invisible to the urban portion. If you want to see it today, simply look at an election map. See the red? While it’s a gross oversimplification, that red represents the America which the “rural purge” made invisible… the “other” America… the one you don’t see if you live in the population dense, blue areas of the country. It isn’t just that it’s an area that voted Republican. Lots of people in the blue areas voted Republican. It is well worth your time to study all the maps. It’s an education in how America divides itself.
Now I know that our President has said that there is only one America, The United States of America. I admire our president, both for what he has done and for what he is trying to do, but on this one point, sir, you are just wrong. There are at least two Americas. And they not only can’t talk to each other, they sometimes refuse to admit that the other exists.
Actually, the president is very aware of the “other” America. He ran afoul of the political correctness mavens when he suggested that one of them “cling(s) to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” And while sweeping generalizations seldom yield accurate outcomes, he was talking about that swatch of red through the heart of what is supposed to be the United States of America.
Theo Anderson referred to it during the election as “The New Confederacy.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a part of our country that was purged from television along with The Western. It is the part that urban America doesn’t see because it didn’t want to see it. It embraces the fantasy of The Western: Good Guys, Bad Guys, all of them White Guys, and you solve your problems at high noon on Main Street. But, it’s there, and it has circled the wagons.
And it is pulling its collective hat closely around its scalp, and it is afraid.
And why wouldn’t it circle the wagons? It is under attack from all sides. The secularists are attacking its most precious belief, religion. The government has grown to the point where there’s not only a judge in every town every day, there are federal judges in most of them. And nobody riding across the mesa is white any more. And now they want to take the guns!
Enter Alex Jones, who is not only very afraid, he’s very angry. When you are under attack and you have circled the wagons, there’s only one thing you can do in that confined little space while you wait for the inevitable war whoop you know is about to follow. You rally the homesteaders. You make them as afraid as you are, and you make them angry, because they will fight better if they are. They are homesteaders, after all. They actually shoot rattlesnakes with their guns. It doesn’t matter if you tell them the truth about what’s coming. It only matters that they are afraid and that they are angry, and that they have their guns. Because without their guns, all is lost. Everything… wagon…wife… scalp…everything !
And from the standpoint of the other, other America, that’s just batshit crazy. That sounds like some stupid western from the 50’s. That’s not reality; that’s some sort of twisted fantasy from a paranoid mind! But it’s not a fantasy to Alex Jones. It’s very real. And it’s very dangerous, because it’s desperate.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA VP, created a media stir when he suggested that the way to keep more violence out of schools was to put more “good guys with guns” into schools.
This does not qualify Wayne LaPierre to join the ranks of the batshit crazy. It’s a legitimate suggestion, and it represents the views of just under half the country. It’s a bad idea, but it is not, by itself, reason for admission to the crazy club. What could be more normal than Good Guys with guns? I would nominate Roy Rogers, but I think he was stuffed.
LaPierre’s assertion that the problem isn’t guns but violence in video games and the media contains just enough truth to take it outside the realm of crazy as well. Off point, but not crazy.
But the NRA’s assertion that the gun control issue is about the Second Amendment is completely disingenuous. Partially, perhaps, but for that other America, and they make up a significant portion of the NRA membership, it is about fear and survival.
The NRA backed gun control when it was the Black Panthers who stood with loaded rifles and shot guns on the steps of the California statehouse in 1967. No less a cowboy than Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford act which made it illegal in California for anyone other than the police to carry a loaded weapon in public and was meant primarily to end the Black Panthers’ armed police patrols. At that time it was the Panthers and other black groups which rejected Martin Luther King’s nonviolent protests who played the Second Amendment card, not the NRA.
Faced with armed black men following police patrols and shouting legal advice to other blacks pulled over by the cops (while doing nothing illegal themselves), the NRA had no problems with Reagan’s statement that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
Forty six years later, after the most recent gun tragedy in which 20 children and six adults were gunned down inside their school, the NRA opposes limiting even the size of ammunition clips based on Second Amendment rights?
The Second Amendment is not the driving force behind opposition to gun control in this country. It is a factor, yes. It is ambiguous in our modern world, and it is a legitimate topic for discussion and debate. The media is having a field day with it. But the real driving force behind opposition to gun control is fear.
It is irrational, paranoid fear from one perspective, but it is fear. Listen to Alex Jones. That isn’t discussion and debate you hear. That’s batshit, crazy fear. And anger.
They took prayers out of our schools. They took the nativity scenes out of our parks. They instituted a welfare state and made us pay for it. They are letting the damn foreigners overrun the country. Hell, they even elected one president. They are taxing us to death, removing our rights one at a time (and it’s the same they who took The Western off our television). Now they want our guns. Well, we’re the Good Guys, dammit. We wear the white hats, and they can’t have our guns. Not the Bad Guys. Not without a fight. What good does it do to circle the wagons if we don’t have guns to defend ourselves? Without our guns, we lose everything. And we hear the war whoops of those godless heathens riding across the mesa loud and clear!
Yes, I realize that Alex Jones is an extremist wingnut. He probably does not represent a majority of the opinion even of the other America. Even Glen Beck thinks he’s a nut job. But it doesn’t matter. He and those like him are out there, fanning the flames of fear and desperation. Ted Nugent, a member of the NRA board said, “The war is coming to the streets of America and if you are not keeping and bearing and practicing with your arms then you will be helpless and you will be the victim of evil. “ James Yeager promises to start “killing people” if Obama tightens gun controls.
People, people perhaps without the most finely tuned critical thinking skills, are listening. A quarter of a million people have joined the NRA since the latest round of gun control conversation started. And I’m not convinced they all joined because they think background checks are going to curtail their right to go duck hunting.
When Barack Obama rode over the mesa and was elected president, gun sales rocketed in this country.
The NRA is comprised of (at least) three distinct groups. There are those who simply wish to support an organization which does great good in its educational and safety programs concerning firearms. They appreciate its support of their understanding of the Second Amendment – that they should be allowed to own firearms -but they realize that some regulation of that “right” is necessary. There are those who wish to further the interests of the 6 billion dollar a year gun manufacturing establishment. Profit is the overriding motive here, not the Second Amendment, although it is a powerful ally. And then there are the batshit crazies with their conspiracy theories and fearful paranoia.
Of course, it is neither politically nor socially acceptable to call people batshit crazy, so you won’t hear that term in any presidential briefings, congressional proceedings, or special committee reports. And, as President Obama found out, if you allude to the fact that there are bigoted batmen out there who cling to their guns and bibles out of fear of things which “aren’t like them,” you will be attacked from all sides, including your own. So, you will hear very little about that third component.
As a result, the gun control conversation will continue, relatively politely, and hopefully some progress will be made this time around. Saner minds may prevail. Small gains are gains, none-the-less. We’ll have the Second Amendment debate (again). We should. It’s germane to the issue. Almost everyone will pretend that this is what the whole gun control issue is about. There will be some talk about the profits made by the gun manufacturers who benefit from all the fear and paranoia. With all the public clamor this time, something will happen. But there are trade-offs.
No matter what small gains we make, we are also doing Alex Jones’ work for him. We are going to make those self-defined Good Guys in that circled-up wagon train even angrier, even more afraid, even more dangerous. Because we just presented them with more evidence that they are right. We are coming for their guns.
And this should concern both sides of any legitimate Second Amendment debate. It should be of special concern to the more moderate members of the NRA, those who actually are willing to have a discussion about what the Second Amendment should mean in the 21st century and not simply use it as a battle cry. It should concern them because what those frightened, angry batmen are frightened and angry about isn’t that they won’t have semi-automatic weapons and hundred round clips to go duck hunting and target practicing or to protect them from the individual Bad Guy who breaks into their home. It’s that they won’t have them when it comes time to overthrow the government. The government, after all, has lots of guns. And now it wants theirs.
“Hitler took the guns. Stalin took the guns. Mao took the guns. Hugo Chavez took the guns,” screams Jones. And if you try to take our guns, “1776 will come again.” Revolution.
That’s a far cry from the original NRA charter to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” It’s a far cry from education and safety programs. And it’s a very far cry from seeing “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
The NRA should be seriously concerned that it’s getting harder and harder to separate its views from those of the batmen within its ranks when the leadership refuses to even discuss measures to halt gun violence in schools. Unless, of course, its views actually are those of the crazies within its ranks. And in that case, we have an organization of nearly 5 million fearful, angry Americans with incredible political clout hanging on to their guns for the coming revolution.
I would like to think that’s just batshit crazy. I’d like to. Or should I just start circling my wagons?
In the words of my favorite Native American sidekick, Lone Watie, “We must endeavor to persevere.”
Your Humble Servant,
The Willowbrook Curmudgeon